Thursday, January 31, 2008

Deborah Howell And The Role Of Ombudsman

A couple of nights ago I attended a panel discussion with NPR’s new ombudsman Lisa Shepard and the Washington Post’s ombudsman Deborah Howell. The panel was a discussion “what good are ombudsman” but I would ask “what good are ombudsmans at the Post if Deborah Howell’s the best you can find.”

I’m tentatively more optimistic about Lisa Shepard (disclosure, I’ve met her once before, going to her house before for a function). One of the problems with Deborah Howell’s tenure at the Post is that she is so entrenched in typical journalism habits that she’s unable to see when part of the problem is a failure to adapt to changing times. Shepard, however, is going to be a radio ombudsman and has no experience in radio. I actually think that’s a positive. Someone who doesn’t self-reflectively identify with both the reporters and their most common practices, can oftentimes be a better judge of certain situations.

The panel turned into a lot of punching bag questions from DC activists who were upset about various issues of local coverage (why some kids names were misspelled on a photo, why the DC paper isn’t covering this, that, or the other thing, why isn’t *my* protest/candidacy/cause getting any coverage), but I thought the central premise: is what good are an ombudsmans, is a good question to ask. The answer the panel came up with was basically “to be a pressure valve” (or punching bag) so the public thinks someone hears its complaints. But the only real clout they have is the clout of influence. They have no ability to change the practices of the newsroom, let alone long-established columnists, except by convincing editors/reporters/publishers that their analysis of a situation is correct.

As Deborah stated, all she can do is write her column “which they can’t touch.” But they don’t have to listen to it either.

I have heard people in the media express outright distain for their own ombudsman. And if the ombudsman’s opinion isn’t respected within a media outlet, then what good is it?

I’ve never heard a lot of respect for her outside of it. Some of that has to do with the fact that she’s never expressed a solid understanding of the new nature of online news and how might that change the role of a ombudsman at a newspaper as prestigious as the Washington Post. (At the panel she mentions she often deals with issues like someone failing to get their paper on time. It’s not that I doubt she gets those problems but should answering those kind of circulation problems actually be something the ombudsman spends her time on? Quite frankly it’s several levels below her pay grade.)

One remark that just alarmed me was Howell mentioned that someone told her she should have links in her stories and it suddenly opened up her eyes to the fact that her online readers had more information than those that read her column in the print edition. I’m glad she’s adapting but should the Washington Post have hired someone who had to learn such a fact on the job? It’s not like links were invented last year. And we already know that Howell doesn’t seem to grasp the difference between a comment on a message board and an email sent to server (other than both use seem to have an alarming amount of obscenity hurled at her).

But she is so unsavvy about the use of information online that I suspect when she gets a mass of complaints that are driving by Media Matters, or blogs picking up Media Matters alerts, she thinks of them as all part of a dues-paying membership. As if Media Matters is like a union that sends it members out to do the bidding of the leadership instead of a collection of like-minded individuals who are acting in concert out of conviction.

This led me to ask my only question of the panel. Because Lisa Shepard mentioned that she appreciates when people cite numbers to her when they make complaints of frequency, I asked her if, in her new tenure at NPR how she planned on handling complaints from organizations like Accuracy in Media, Media Matters? Because the one thing I think Media Matters is good at is demonstrating evidence of their complaints. You can disagree with their interpretation, but they do usually provide evidence to back up their assertions.

So I was hearted to hear that Shepard said she listens to such groups. “In fact just the other day Media Matters pointed out a mistake that Scott Simon made,” she said.

She said she views them as another set of “eyes and ears” listening to the station and measuring them.

At this point Deborah Howell jumped in, and added “but they are a partisan eyes and ears, and you have to account for that.” By “account” I took to mean discount, based on the way she stressed the word, “partisan.”

There were a few things I learned at the panel. One being that only 40 newspapers have ombudsman and NPR is the only broadcast station with one. (I didn’t realize CBS dropped its Public Eye only recently). NPR is also expanding foreign bureaus, and when was the last time you heard of a media outlet doing that? (Thank you Ray Croc! You might have poisoned us all with your fast food but in exchange we get more NPR. I guess this is one of those “every cloud has a silver lining” kind of things…)

Other bits:

Lisa Shepard has “one and a half” assistants to help her answer mail. So actually they act as a defacto filter in a way. Deborah Howell said she gets between 200-300 emails a day, goes through them all herself, but has an obscenity filter. So I guess if you SHOUT DIRTY WORDS IN ALL CAPS too much, she won’t even know you sent her anything.

Oh yeah, and Deborah Howell only has a year left on her contract. Thank god. Maybe in 2009 when the Post hires a replacement they will look for someone who understands that more people read the paper online than in paper. And why being spammed is not the same thing as getting a bunch of angry emails from people who have read an item from Media Matters.

But likely they won’t. Deborah Howell is 67 years old “I’ve been in the newsroom for 50 years.” (Yes that’s a direct quote). She also said “They like senior people [to be ombudsman] at the Post. I think they like having someone who has been around the block.”

Yeah, been around the block with Guttenberg maybe.

Jeff Probst Really Wants To Watch Shows About Gladiators

I was a pretty die-hard fan of Survivor at one point, but, starting sometime around season five, the producers allowed Jeff Probst off-his-leash and suddenly he became as much a player and an asshole as the contestants. (And sometimes much more than them).

I stopped watching two seasons ago, but I’m probably going to watch the new Fan Vs. Favorites season, if only because some of the favorites come from seasons I actually watched. (Plus, there really isn’t much else on).

But Jeff Probst’s sexism always tended to grate on my nerves and part of what drove me away. That’s why Miss Alli’s post on Television Without Pity is kind of a revelation. It’s not that Probst isn’t a sexist asshole, it’s just that he’s a fan. Of shows. About gladiators. And since the women on Survivor tend not to be as physically buff as the guys (and many aren’t even buff for women) they just don’t merit Probst’s admiration.

He's so torn, because he wants to just make it a game of men, a game where big guys wrestle each other and fight to the death and tear at buffalo hides with their teeth. This is where his heart is. He isn't much interested in strategy at all. He doesn't like diplomatic maneuvering; it doesn't move him. He considers the entire Fiji season a failure -- he says so in so many words -- despite the fact that it had an enormously likable winner (if not a physically overpowering one) and contains perhaps the greatest and most satisfying episode in the game's history, in terms of pure strategy. He shrugs that it was the show's decision not to have excellent strategist Yul in the cast -- Yul being the most popular winner in recent years, and possibly the most popular winner ever, in one of the show's most popular seasons. His only mention of most of the women cast as "favorites" comes from discussing the fact that Parvati (whom he still calls "Poverty" in what's beginning to feel like a passive-aggressive slight) might or may not ever go beyond "flirting," and Ami probably will go for another -- his words here -- "girls' alliance." Getting by on your wits instead of your muscles simply isn't interesting to him, and he can't fake it.
Miss Alli explains that Probst is basically one of those guys who just gets doe-eyed when talking about a football player he really admires and can’t like, also admire a chess player. So its not that he doesn’t disrespect women, it’s just that they can’t play sports as well as men – especially in direct competition to them. So, he just can’t admire them. (The few times in Survivor when a woman outperforms a guy in a physical challenge is about the point that Probst does start respecting her). It’s an interesting take on his attitude.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging: Ahhhh Relax, It's The Weekend

This week I'm trying something a little different and I'm stealing an image from Keeper of The Cats' Catbook pics.

I'm starting to feel like I'm beginning to exhaust the number of positions and places I can show Al and Lena in my apartment. So if any readers of NewsCat want me to host pictures of their cats for Cat Blogging Friday (and I'll include a link to your blog if you have one) feel free to send me some pics. One cavat, guest cat images must include some newspapers or at least some motif of "the news." Send pics to catrina_dirk (at) hotmail dot com.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Yet Another Awesome Blog

Until your friends start blogging sometimes you don't know how awesome they can write.

Anyway here is Airing of the Grievances, by my friends Dennis and Jonathan.

Heh, now that I've blogwhored you guys how about some link love..hmmmm?

What William Saletan Never Gets

Jan. 22 is the anniversary of Roe Vs. Wade and it’s typically a day for pieces about abortion. So of course Slate’s William Saletan felt the need to weigh in another moralizing piece about why don’t pro-choicers just don’t say abortion is bad (while trying to defend it). Many people have said what exactly is wrong with this strategy, better than I can. I think part of what bothers me/us-Saletan-haters the most about him, is that he thinks he’s pro-choice. But he’s not. He’s pro-choice with a side of “I want you ladies to feel really guilty about what you are doing.” He doesn’t view his own ideologically allies as the Right to Life association but I wish he would just own up to the fact that he’s not a pro-choice WRITER. I think it’s the bait’n’switch that bothers me more than anything about his pieces. It’s like listening to Joe Lieberman lecture the Democratic party about the right way to be a Democrat (to vote like a Republican).

So Saletan’s pieces are always coaching pro-choicers that the right way to be pro-choice is really to adopt the morals and language of the anti-choice crowd.

But the part of where he talks about teen sex really got to me because for the last two weeks I’ve been enveloped in the world of abstinence-only education programs. Yesterday, as a matter of fact, I was searching the internet for the most perfect example of how crap these programs really are. Something better than a program in Texas that tells sixth graders that “men sexually are like microwaves and women sexually are like crockpots….” Or the East Texas abstinence lecturer who uses (a quite common tactic) of tearing up two pieces of tape and as the tape collects dirt it shows how having sex with multiple people gives up your “stickiness” and you can no longer bond with another piece of tape. (Also a person who has lots of sex is full of dirt).

Here are some examples of abstinence lesson plans…can you spot what is wrong with them?

Worth The Wait

The curriculum explains that a mayor of a small town had a beautiful statue placed in a park, and told the townspeople that the lustrous golden metal would turn “a putrid shade of green if handled too much.” A year after the statue was erected, the mayor held a celebration in honor of the statue, only to find that the golden statue had turned green, because everyone had thought that “one touch would not hurt.” The story ends with the statement, “what each person thought was a harmless touch turned into the total destruction of a beautiful statue.” (Worth the Wait, Section 2-27) The curriculum makes a quick analogy to sexual activity: “sex is special. When someone is able to save this gift for his/her wedding night, it is a gift that is irreplaceable. However, if a person has had numerous partners and numerous sexual encounters, sexual activity loses its special quality.” (Worth the Wait, Section 2-27) Like much of the curriculum, the story portrays sexual activity as a destructive and harmful force and implies that those who have had sex outside of marriage are tainted—they have gone from lustrous and beautiful to a “putrid shade of green.”
Why kNOw?
The same lesson plan instructs teachers to construct an eighteen-foot long Speedy the Sperm © out of what essentially amounts to a pillow and a piece of rope. Speedy is designed to be exactly 450 times the size of a penny, because “the HIV virus is 450 times smaller than a human sperm.” (Why kNOw?, 8 th grade and high school, p. 96) The teacher is told to stretch Speedy © out to his full length, then hold up a penny and ask the students: “If the condom has a failure rate of 14% in preventing Speedy © from getting through to create a new life, what happens if this guy (the penny) gets through? You have a death: your own.” (Why kNOw?, 8 th grade and high school, p. 96) While the curriculum does not actually state that condoms may have holes large enough for the HIV virus to travel through, this is clearly the implication behind this activity.
Heritage Keeper
A similar message of shame regarding STDs is presented in the “Pink Water Game.” The teacher prepares one clear plastic cup that is 1/3 full with ammonia. Each student is given a cup that is 1/3 full of water. Students are told to “swap fluids” with one another and the teacher by pouring their liquid into someone else's cup and swirling it around. Each student is told to swap fluids with three other people. One student, however, is taken aside by the teacher and told to abstain from the activity. After all students have swapped, the teacher is instructed to reveal that one cup was “infected” and that students “will find out who has been ‘contaminated.'” (Heritage Keeper, Teacher Manual, p. 51) This is revealed when the teacher puts a drop of the chemical phenolphthalein in each cup. Those that have some ammonia will turn pink. The teacher then discloses the name of the student who was abstinent, notes that his cup is not “contaminated,” and points out that while other students probably felt nervous about getting tested, the abstinent students had no questions about the results of his test. Once again, the curriculum is setting up a dichotomy in which students who are abstinent are good and those who have been sexually active are, in this case, contaminated.
And this is just some activities; it’s not even the crap that the abstinence speakers spew to the kids. Don’t think these are just the “bad” examples. They’re all like that. They all use a fear-based curriculum that says sex is bad, you can’t possibly be responsible enough to avoid all the diseases we’re going to tell you about, and there’s no way you can do any kind of sexual activity that doesn’t involve penetration. (I swear the narrow view of what constitute “actual” sex, bothers me the most of all. The fact that some men never get the idea that sex can involve a penis *not* entering a vagina/mouth/anus and STILL BE SATISFYING SEX, bugs the hell out of me.)

I honestly think that the truth that dare not speak its name is that most parents really don’t want their children to be virgins on their wedding night. Setting aside even the issue of virginity, what if you heard of a couple that was getting married that had slept with each other yet? Most people would not think that was a wise thing to do, get into a marriage without exploring that part of a relationship first to find out if you are even compatible.

But it’s like we’re in some kind of Peter Pan world where we all just clap our hands and pretend that the norm is not to have pre-marital sex (or not to have sex in high school). But we all have to hang on to this pretense because otherwise Tinkerbelle will die.

I strongly want to ask William Saletan when he lost his virginity and if it was before the age of 20, does he think his teenage sexual antics ruined his life? Because I think what a lot of people haven’t gotten over is the fact that teen sex may not be an inherently bad thing. The key word is “inherently.” Sex for 13 year olds is not a good idea. Some 17 year olds probably shouldn’t have sex. But in between there is a lot of healthy sexual exploration between high school and college that is actually positive and can be a maturing experience for understanding as much about yourself as growing up does.

But what Saletan doesn’t ever get, is that his ideological allies in abortion and teen sex, do not view the world the way he does. They have a rather unhealthy view of human sexuality, which is that it is inherently sinful except in marriage (and even then…unless you’re doing it to make babies…its still bad). Saletan lives in a dream world where there is a perfect compromise. He never gets that he doesn’t live in a perfect world and just because he thinks he’s being reasonable that if one side lays down their arms the other side won’t rush to fill it with a theocracy. Saletan might think that all teen sex is bad but early 20something sex is probably okay, if not healthy. But his allies don't. He doesn't get that.

Heh, as I was composing this post, I found this.

Friday, January 18, 2008

One More Time: PAS Doesn't Exist

As a follow-up to this LA Times article about men and abortion, Sarah Blustain has an article in The Nation about the tactic and why, as ridiculous as it sounds, you'll likely be seeing more of it and why we can't just laugh it off.

But in light of something I have been challenged about, the validity of the so-called Post-Abortion Syndrome, I wanted to highlight this passage.

The data to prove the existence of PAS come from a combination of deeply flawed original research--featuring tiny samples and lack of controls--and the manipulation of large samples into correlations from which pseudo-researchers claim causation. Among the most prominent forms of "data" circulating in the American political system are a few thousand PAS testimonies collected with the express purpose of being used in court to help overturn Roe v. Wade--hardly a scientific sample.

This is not to say that some people don't experience mixed emotions after abortion. Indeed, experts suggest that complex feelings after abortion are common and compare these to similar dynamics around marriage, childbearing and other major life decisions.

But PAS advocates aren't talking about everyday ambivalence or even sadness: they're talking about devastating, life-changing pathology, which mainstream research simply does not support. Post-Abortion Syndrome does not exist in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the widely used guide to accepted disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Meanwhile, the American Psychological Association convened a task force that is completing a major review of all the postabortion research; this year it is expected to offer a serious critique of those studies and the methodologies used to compose them. Indeed, studies tend to show that the biggest predictor of postabortion troubles is preabortion troubles. Of the link between abortion and postabortion psychological problems, Nada Stotland, president-elect of the APA, says "it's a dead horse."
PAS doesn't exist. It Does NOT EXIST. Having an abortion does not cause or correlate to long-term unhappiness or unhealthiness. Do people who have abortions sometimes have long-term unhappiness or unhealthiness, yes. Did abortion CAUSE THOSE OUTCOMES? The sciencetific community that has evidence and studies for every other pschological diagnoses says no. Other factors prior to the abortion are the likely cause.

Now does having an abortion (or seeing the woman you had sex with have an abortion) cause emotions? Sure. So does getting a divorce. Doesn't mean we outlaw divorce. It just means if it effects you, maybe you should get counseling. Not recommend that maybe the law should have stopped you and everyone else from getting a divorce.

I am *so* looking forward to APA's task force's findings on postabortion research. I know it won't put the "syndrome" to bed but for a lot of the media if the APA definitively says "it doesn't exist" then they'll at least use the phrase "so-called post-abortion syndrome."

If Its Ok To Torture Then Why Aren't You Recording It?

Marty Lederman over at Balkinization makes an eye-opening point about the scandal of the destroyed CIA torture tapes. Not just that the destruction of them was criminal but the decision to stop recording prisoner interrogations also was likely criminal because the CIA knew that what was going on was legally shady.

It’s a good point, and makes me wonder if even the right wing nutjobs who say things like CIA covert-operations chief Jose Rodriguez is a hero, would agree that all CIA interrogations should be taped. Or do people who track that far to the right feel like Col. Jessup in A Few Good Men? Namely that there are somethings the American public really doesn’t need to know about what is done in their name…and that might include being above the law.

That’s the whole point of not wanting interrogations recorded, after all. If everything is legal and above board then what the tapes would show shouldn’t shock the conscious and, perhaps even more importantly, the recordings are useful for evaluating the evidence and as a tool for future interrogations. But if what is going on can not ever see the light of day, because it is too shameful, then those who ordered the recordings stopped knew, or likely guessed, they were breaking the law.

If they want to argue that the “law doesn’t matter” or that some CIA personnel should be above the law, then I want to see that argument made in public. Because if you say the interrogations shouldn’t be taped (because they’d be too shocking for the public/our enemies to know about) it’s the same thing as saying that some people should have a license to break the law.

And if you want to redefine torture to not mean torture, then showing what is “no longer torture” shouldn’t be a problem then. For example if waterboarding or 24 hours of standing upright or making someone sit in freezing temperatures no longer is legal torture, then it should be A-OK to tape our gov’t doing it. If someone wants to argue against such mandatory recordings then how is it not an advocacy of the gov’t being allowed to break laws?

Spencer Ackerman also is on to this issue.

UPDATE: After I wrote this I found this article on The Stranger about Seattle police cars and video tapes. There's a case where there's a controversial arrest and the tape could implicate, exonerate or fail to ameliorate the situation. But the Seattle Police refuse to turn over the tapes. Again, if what the police are doing is legal, then presumably taping them should have no drawbacks.

I understand there's a big difference between CIA and local police, but, as far as I know, the what the CIA does, in all cases, is supposed to follow the law.

Friday Cat Blogging: The New Baby

Al is sniffing at the new rival for my heart, my beautiful Trek FX 7.2 bicycle. It truly is my brand-new baby. Unfortunately its hard to bike in the snow today.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

So Why Don't You Read The Paper?

A certain paper of a certain area is apparently asking around town what they can do to attract more readers below the age of 35. I'm curious how many of the people who visit this blog read the paper version of their daily newspaper? I'm both under 35 and a reader of the daily newspaper, but that was a conscious decision I made a little over a year ago that I was going to become a "newspaper reader." (I think I always got the Sunday paper, mostly for the ads).

There was also a benefit that reading the daily paper directly helped me with my job at the time. (I needed to watch trends, find little underreported stories, etc.) Reading the paper version, as opposed to the online, helped me find stories that I missed when I merely browsed the online version.

But part of the reason that I decided that I needed to make myself read the paper, was also an identity issue. I'm a former reporter. I also grew up in a household where breakfast (mostly with my father) was shared over the morning paper and TV news. In my early 20s I dropped the habit of getting the daily paper delivered because I wasn't reading them.

But I suspect that, except in cases where reading a newspaper is a valid career-helping exercise, people either have newspaper habits or they don't. Meaning if you never read your daily newspaper, its not something you are likely to just automatically take up reading, no matter what the content is.

I will say this, when I visit my parents in Ohio and I read the Akron Beacon Journal I thank my lucky stars I at least live in a town with a real paper. Because despite the problem I have with the Washington Post, they are niggling compared to what is wrong with the Akron Beacon Journal.

I don't think people who choose not to read their daily newspaper need to defend themselves. I suspect that if the only reason you are told you need to stay informed is "civic duty" then that's a lousy reason to hang onto a product. Either you are reading the paper because its something you enjoy, or you read it because it provides you with information you can't obtain in other (simpler) means. I would imagine if someone listens to the radio and watches TV news they probably do not feel they are "missing" any major information out there that they need to know about. It's not like they wouldn't know who won the New Hampshire primary or whether the schools were closed. So what exactly are non-readers missing if they don't get a daily paper. I think newspapers need to explain that to the non-readers. Its no longer self-evident.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Fear Of Mongol Hordes

Anyone who thinks that small town USA is somehow kinder and “more American” than large cities should read this story about Taneytown, Maryland. It’s a town of 6,700 and, despite the fact that it’s foreign-born population is likely about 24 individuals, two members of the city council decided it was a good idea to pass a resolution which basic point was “Brown people are not welcome.”

The focus of the fast-sharpening dispute has been a City Council resolution, which was narrowly defeated Monday night, that declared: "The City of Taneytown is not a sanctuary city for illegal aliens." It warned that the town "does not welcome individuals who are in the United States illegally," suggesting they would harm the quality of life. It would have directed local officials to assist residents in supporting the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

Paul Chamberlain, the council member sponsoring the resolution, acknowledges that Taneytown has no problem with illegal immigrants. But he sees an apocalypse coming: the gangs, the trash, the crowding that communities in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia have attributed to an influx of impoverished, often undocumented Mexicans and Central Americans. And he hopes that putting up a virtual keep-out sign will steer them away from the corner of Carroll County.

"This is a preventive measure. Other places are passing laws against illegals, so where will they go? To the places that welcome them," said Chamberlain, a dapper man who sells recreational vehicles. "I am not trying to spew hatred against anyone, but I will not cower just because someone calls me a bigot. We have got to send a clear message that people who break the law are not welcome here."

I will point out that the town’s mayor did not want the resolution passed, and so it failed, three to two.

But the real meat of the story (and why I’m so glad the Washington Post sent a reporter to the town) is in the quote reporter Pamela Constable got.

Away from the heat and glare, residents expressed more complicated, often contradictory opinions. Many said they were worried about reports of foreigners flooding larger towns in the region: the Hispanic laborers who came to pick apples in Pennsylvania and stayed, the Muslim group that is trying to buy a farm in nearby Walkersville and turn it into a retreat. Yet no one reported having any negative encounters with immigrants, and a handful of employers praised them as hardworking.
The Walkersville Muslim group, by the way, which is a Silver Spring Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, are not in any way illegal immigrants. So this isn’t about whether anyone is “breaking the law” but about keeping the Mongol hordes away from their white sanctuaries.
Kevin Few, 42, a construction worker, said Hispanic migrants are driving down wages in Maryland and making it hard for people like him to find work. "Personally, 99 percent of them seem nice, clean and hardworking," he said. "But they come here, do our work for nothing, cram into apartments and buy new cars, while the rest of us are struggling to make ends meet. It's not fair."
They are coming here, working hard and BUYING NEW CARS! Oh my god, the horror! The horror! You might even call them an uppity people.

This one, however, takes the cake.
At the local McDonald's, retirees meeting for coffee said they were not aware of Chamberlain's resolution but were nervous that illegal immigrants would come to the area. One woman, who said she was afraid to be identified, explained, lowering her voice: "If I tell you my name, the illegals might look up my address and come after me. They've already broken the laws, so what do they care?"
Yes, the Mongol hordes are after you ma’am. Who knows what they will do to you if they only know where you live.

The real story is that Taneytown is dying. And if anyone is going to rescue it, it will be the new blood of immigrants coming in. Who do pay taxes and start new businesses. Maybe the white people would rather the population dwindle to nothing but remain pure?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging: Wait For Caturday

I'm going to postpone Friday Cat Blogging today so that I can bring you a picture of my new baby on Caturday!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Clinton And The Feminists

There's a lot of talk going on in the feminist blogosphere about Gloria Steinem's op-ed for Hillary. I don't have a whole lot to add because I think Ann Friedman covered it. I do think that "feminist" debate is actually masking is debate over centrist verses leftist politics. (Although I am getting rather sick of older feminist icons telling younger women they don't know how to be feminist enough...and are they not voting for Hillary because they resent their moms or something like that.)

Its funny because, aside from the issure of Iraq, what makes Hillary centrist is actually her economic policies (well and her militarily hawkish position...which can be a whole 'nother issue). It's a debate you don't hear about from voters trying to decide between Edwards and Obama. (Around early 2007, quite a few veteran progressive campaign workers were having an internal debate about whether to join Edwards' or Obama's camp, I rarely heard of a anyone trying to decide between Hillary and either of the other two.).

I'm not sure if it's good for Democrats that the debate about "centrist verses leftist" politics is masked by "feminist verses anti-feminist" terminology. It could be though, because it prevents Obama from having to run as the liberal candidate (which I'm hoping is how he would govern).

But I basically have to agree with Atrios about Hillary verses anti-Hillary. I make not like her politics as much as I prefer Obama's or Edwards' but her enemies are not my friends.

I don't know if reaction to the media treatment of Clinton had anything to do with voter choices yesterday, but I certainly know people in real life who a) don't want Clinton to win and b) are tempted to vote for her every time they're exposed to the way she's treated by the deeply broken monsters in our mainstream media.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Really? Really? REALLY???

Oh god please tell me the new anti-abortion movement propaganda is not going to be based on men's tears?

"It's a rule of thumb that if you want to get a law passed, you have to tell anecdotes that grab people," said Dr. Nada Stotland, president-elect of the American Psychiatric Assn. Antiabortion activists have done that well, she said. "They've succeeded in convincing a lot of the American public" that abortion leaves women wounded.

Now, those activists see an opportunity to dramatically expand the message.

The Justice Foundation recently began soliciting affidavits from men; one online link promises, "Your story will help legal efforts to end abortion." Silent No More encourages men to testify at rallies.

Therapist Vincent M. Rue, who helped develop the concept of post-abortion trauma, runs an online study that asks men to check off symptoms (such as irritability, insomnia and impotence) that they feel they have suffered as a result of an abortion. When men are widely recognized as victims, Rue said, "that will change society."

Abortion rights supporters watch this latest mobilization warily: If anecdotes from grieving women can move the Supreme Court, what will testimony about men's pain accomplish?

"They can potentially shift the entire debate," said Marjorie Signer of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an interfaith group that supports abortion rights.


But the activists leading the men's movement make clear they're not relying on statistics to make their case. They're counting on the power of men's tears.
What's so fucking sad is even the few ancedotes the article uses are from men who didn't give two shits about their former girlfriends abortions when they were in their 20s...and it certainly didn't effect them at all, right up until the point they found religion and hit their midlife crisis.

And despite the fact that pregnancy is what happens to women and they haven't talked to these ex-girlfriends in decades still somehow, this dude knows just how she feels because, god, doesn't he just feel bad. Not that he ever thought about what the pregnancy situation might have felt from her perspective before.
But would his long-ago girlfriends agree? Or might they also consider the abortions a choice that set them on a better path?

Aubert looks startled. "I never really thought about it for the woman," he says slowly.

"On one level, yes, maybe she got an education, married a great guy, has six kids and everything's wonderful now," he said. But he can't believe it could really be that uncomplicated. "It might bother her once every 20 years or once every five years, or every day, but there's a scar."

He has not talked with either of the ex-girlfriends, but he says he can imagine what they feel because he knows how the abortions affected him. He never had the nightmares that other men describe, or the crying jags, the drug abuse, the self-loathing. Yet he knows he has been tarnished.
Tarnished, yes. Clearly. I would say your capacity for self-awareness has been deeply tarnished.

Friday, January 04, 2008

I Wish This Girl Wasn't Anonymous

My Seattle-area readers are pretty familar with The Stranger's "I, Anonymous" column. It's basically a space the alternative weekly uses for anyone to publish anything, anonymously.

This week's author though makes me really wish I could reach out to her.

You think you are a man because you are a manager at Safeway, but I cannot believe how selfish and childish you are. Does it make you feel like a man to knock a girl up and then leave her out for the trash? I know I caught you off-guard by telling you I was pregnant—but believe me, I am the one who will suffer the consequences. I ask myself: Do I go through the aches and pains of pregnancy and labor and have the baby and risk not having a supportive father in its life? Or do I have an abortion and risk the chance of possibly never having children again because God will think I am a horrible person and punish me for not being responsible when sleeping with an asshole that I thought was finally a nice guy in my life? I hope this haunts you for the rest of your life. I hope your dick becomes infested with 1,000 fleas. Better yet, I hope you get another girl pregnant and aren't as lucky this time and she has your bastard child and screws you for everything you've got. Maybe instead of that Porsche you are driving, you will have to downsize to something else... maybe a Honda, with a car seat in the back. Have a great life, loser.
I don't know if she's religious or just misinformed about abortion. But it's the writings of a person who is truly struggling with her choice, and is more than pissed off at the guy who's decided it has nothing to do with him.

I wish I could tell her that she can have other kids even if she had an abortion now. She doesn't need to be guilt-ridden if she decides she doesn't want to have a baby with a person who doesn't want to be a father.

Friday Cat Blogging: I'm In Ur Mail

I've been told some of my Friday Cat Pictures are good for Lolcat submissions. However I've never been a fan of Lolcats (sorry Elisabeth!) Still sometimes when Al feels the need to mess with my mail holders I can't help but think "I'm in ur mail and getting all ur billz."