Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bobby Jindal Vs. the Protestants --
Over at Crooked Timber, Henry Farrell looks at the the recent controversy over some old writings of Louisiana Republican Bobby Jindal.

There’s a lot of excitement in the netroots over a piece written by Bobby Jindal in which he tries to persuade Protestants of the benefits of Catholicism. After reading the piece in question, I’m at a loss to understand what all the fuss is about. It seems to me to be a standard – even banal – exercise in Catholic apologetics.


But if the netroots are blowing it out of proportion, the ‘Jindal on Religion’ website and accompanying TV ad, put up by Louisiana’s Democratic Party, are actively dishonest.

Farrell proceeds to argue that the quotes used are taken out of context, and I think he is correct. That being said, I believe that the Louisiana Democratic Party ought to take those quotes out of context for political purposes. Democrats underperform in elections because they suck at negative campaigning. That deficiency needs to be rectified.
(10:11 AM) 0 comments

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The War on Science, Transgender Edition --
This account of a J. Michael Bailey, whose work on transgendered people was not well-received by the subject matter.

In his book, he argued that some people born male who want to cross genders are driven primarily by an erotic fascination with themselves as women. This idea runs counter to the belief, held by many men who decide to live as women, that they are the victims of a biological mistake - in essence, women trapped in men's bodies. Bailey described the alternate theory, which is based on Canadian studies done in the 1980s and 1990s, in part by telling the stories of several transgender women he had met through a mutual acquaintance. In the book, he gave them pseudonyms, like "Alma" and "Juanita."

Many scientists praised the book as a compelling explanation of the science. The Lambda Literary Foundation, an organization that promotes gay, bisexual and transgender literature, nominated the book for an award.

But days after the book appeared, Lynn Conway, a prominent computer scientist at the University of Michigan, sent out an e-mail message comparing Bailey's views to Nazi propaganda. She and other transgender women found the tone of the book abusive, and the theory of motivation it presented to be a recipe for further discrimination.

This controversy gets revisited by the conclusions of Alice Dreger, described as an "ethics scholar and patients' rights advocate".

Dreger is the latest to arrive at the battlefront. She is a longtime advocate for people born with ambiguous sexuality and has been strongly critical of sex researchers in the past. She said she had presumed that Bailey was guilty and, after meeting him through a mutual friend, had decided to investigate for herself.

But in her just-completed account, scheduled to be published next year in The Archives of Sexual Behavior, the field's premier journal, she concluded that the accusations against the psychologist were essentially groundless.

For example, Dreger found that two of the four women who complained to Northwestern of research violations were not portrayed in the book at all. The two others did know their stories would be used, as they themselves said in their letters to Northwestern.

The accusation of sexual misconduct came five years after the fact, and was not possible to refute or confirm, Dreger said. It specified a date in 1998 when Bailey was at his former wife's house, looking after their children, according to dated e-mail messages between the psychologist and his former wife, Dreger found.

This points to a chilling effect for those who want to do research in politically controversial areas. Eventually, the only people who will do research into anything with political implications will be scientists whose funding sources have an agenda.
(4:29 PM) 1 comments

Sunday, August 12, 2007

If I Called It a Catfight, I'd Be Called Sexist --
Over at Firedoglake, Jane Hamsher complains about the low visibility of women bloggers and remarks that an announced installment of PBS' To the Contrary with Bonnie Erbe is having a panel on women bloggers without having an actual woman blogger on the panel.

In the comments, Jennifer L. Pozner, Executive Director of Women In Media & News rebutts:

Actually, Jane, your entire premise of this post is faulty. Erbe had a panel without any women bloggers? False. She had me. As (just one) part of my work as the director of Women In Media & News, I run the popular WIMN’s Voices group blog on women and the media, in which dozens of women blog about different aspects of media content, policy and advocacy. I was on the panel as a blogger, a media critic, a feminist non-profit director, and (yes) an attendee of YearlyKos who has a valid critique of the overwhelmingly white and male speaker roster. I never said on the show or anywhere else that no women spoke or were involved, and I believe I actually mentioned FireDogLake on the show (though I was often shouted down during the taping of the show and I haven’t seen it on air yet, so I’m not sure how the segment turned out). But the argument that a few prominent women involved means that there isn’t a gender equity problem is myopic. It’s similar to traditional all-white, all-male corporate boards of directors saying, “We don’t have a diversity problem - we’re crawling with those people” when they have one or two women and/or people of color on a large board. Yes, it’s progress — but it’s not equity.

I’ve read an interview you’ve done - can’t remember for which outlet or blog - where you implied that people who complain of marginalization of women’s voices online are off base because if women were better writers, people would read their blogs more. That implies that there is no institutional discrimination in this culture, and that American culture (online and offline) runs entirely on meritocracy. If only that were true. But clearly, not so much.

Whether we agree or disagree on that point, I do want to encourage you to actually check your facts before you post. I can’t believe the irony of you griping that Erbe’s show ignored you when in fact we did mention your very blog, and complaining that the show included no women bloggers when in fact the guest list included a woman blogger who was at YearlyKos (me). The group blog I write for and manage — WIMN’s Voices — has been around for about a year and a half and has been linked from and discussed on Huffington Post, Feministing, AlterNet/Peek, Echidne of the Snakes, Shakespeare’s Sister/Shakesville, Feministe, Broadsheet/Salon, Women’s Voices for Change, Our Bodies Our Blog, PopPolitics and many others, and has been successful in generating discussion in larger independent and corporate print and broadcast media. That you don’t even know that it exists, or know that I’m a blogger (that you could claim that Erbe’s show included no women bloggers when I was at the damn conference) illustrates my point about marginalization of women writers online.

Jane Hamsher has a one-line response:

I occasionally change my own oil. I don’t call myself a mechanic.

Pozner replies:

Are you seriously implying that just because our blog is only a year and a half old, I’m not a “real” blogger?

Because if that’s true, my friend, you are part of the problem. You’re saying that as a media critic I can’t hold the same critical lens toward online media as I do toward old media, and in particular that my point about the underrepresentation of women’s voices in power circles online is off base because, oh, YOU have a popular blog — but then you’re saying that I’m not actually a blogger because, why? I haven’t been doing it as long as you have?
How long do I have to have been blogging before I can claim to be a “real blogger” in your estimation? Is it totally insignificant that I singlehandedly created a platform for several dozen women to blog who might not have
otherwise? Does it make any difference that in 1996, I was involved in online feminist activism circles and women’s leadership listservs and community discussion groups connecting women all across the country who used the net to advocate against violence, for reproductive justice, against media
consolidation, for clean elections and campaign finance reform and other issues many years before anyone dreamed up the phrase “netroots”? (Do you think you, Markos and Matt Stoller created online activism?)

Or am I simply not allowed to have any sort of critique — and am I not allowed to call myself a “blogger” because you have the trademark on that identity, simply because you’re winning the online popularity contest?

I’m really shocked, Jane, that you’d be so hypocritical in complaining that you
and other women bloggers are supposedly being overlooked (in response to a discussion about how women are actually being overlooked), yet you would say I’m not a blogger. WIMN’s Voices has very healthy traffic. We have dedicated
readers who devour our posts. We generate discussion in the blogosphere. We generate discussion in the media. And we create space for a wide range of diverse women to monitor media. If you think I’m not a blogger simply because I’m critiquing your friends (or because I think it’s great that you have a popular blog and I say that when I talk about blogs, but I also say that attention to a handful of women’s blogs does not equal equity) then you’re
really slow. Which is surprising, considering that you are often a very astute writer.

And, Rootless2, about this:
Does it? To me it illustrates that all those women bloggers who you mentioned who are much more well known than you would have been good choices to invite to the panel. Why were you chosen as the sole representative of women bloggers?

“To The Contrary” is a half-hour public affairs show that runs three segments on air and then one web-only extra feature. This week, one of those topics was about blogging and YearlyKos. Typically, the show features politicians, journalists and leaders of non-profits. I was booked on the show as a media critic and as the head of a women’s media analysis, education and advocacy group — NOT at all as a “the sole representative of women bloggers.” In fact, I was booked for the show about two months ago, and they only chose to include blogging as one of the four segments they discussed a few days ago. It was a coincidence that I was there during the week of this blogging discussion, and it’s a good thing I was because at least they had someone on the show who does, indeed, blog, and who was able to say that there is not any one monolithic way to describe “the blogosphere,” that there are amazing women blogging all over the net, and that people who say there are no women bloggers aren’t really looking for us. Also, to another point: guests on public affairs programs need to be well informed about a wide variety of topics. I wasn’t brought on as a “blogger,” I was brought on as the head of a non-profit that works on media issues. I do happen to know that the show has taped an interview segment with a couple of well known women of the blogosphere, that will air at some point in the near future — hopefully more of these issues will be raised during that show.

I have to admit, it's really, really hard not to see this as Hamsher whining on some level about specifically her own personal non-involvement.
(10:13 PM) 1 comments

A Non-Manichean View of the Democratic Party --
Renee in Ohio doesn't have a dog in the upcoming Harold Ford-Markos Molitsas Meet the Press debate, finding one to be flat-out wrong and the other to be an "arrogant ass" who only cares about winning. Guess which one is which.
(2:37 AM) 0 comments

Friday, August 10, 2007

Catholic War Hypocrites --
Michael Joseph at Vox Nova calls out Father Richard John Neuhaus for his hypocrisy in criticizing U.S. bishops for being willing to meet with a group of Catholic Democrats to discuss the war in Iraq. He also questions Diogenes of Catholic World News.

Michael Joseph concludes:

It is a true shame when individuals such as Fr. Neuhaus and Diogenes, both of whom have a wide readership, either refuse to engage in rational discourse by villanizing the USCCB or deride the USCCB out apparent ignorance. In any case, Neuhaus and Diogenes are not reliable voices on this matter and each deserves to be called out for his very poor understanding of the relationship between politics and Catholic faith. One of the biggest challenges faithful Catholics in America must overcome is the perpetuation of the misinterpretation of Catholic social teaching conducted within so many so-called "orthodox" and "intellectual" circles. But I think we're up to the task of reclaiming our Catholic patrimony in the social sphere from those who distort and convolve it through the conceptual misappropriation of what Vatican II truly meant by the "autonomy of earthly things."
(12:30 AM) 0 comments

Monday, August 06, 2007

Anti-Catholicism in the Republican Party --
Sam Brownback and Mike Huckabee find themselves in a Christian catfight.

The current tensions stem from an e-mail message sent to two Brownback supporters by Rev. Tim Rude, the pastor of an evangelical church in Walnut Creek, Iowa. In the message, Mr. Rude, a Huckabee volunteer, compared the religious backgrounds of Mr. Huckabee, a Baptist pastor, and Mr. Brownback, who is Roman Catholic.

“I know Senator Brownback converted to Roman Catholicism in 2002,” Mr. Rude wrote. “Frankly, as a recovering Catholic myself, that is all I need to know about his discernment when compared to the Governor’s.”

Of course, Huckabee disavowed his supporter, as a candidate ought to do quickly and without much fanfare. Brownback, on the other hand, has had his campaign create a perception of whining. The absolutely wrong image for an aggrieved candidate to cultivate is that of a whiner, no matter how right one happens to be.

Shockingly, William Donahue of the "Catholic" League actually addressed this, writing:

Discernment. Evangelicals have it, and Catholics do not. But are those evangelicals who express themselves this way capable of discerning the difference between persuasiveness and abrasiveness? Do they really think all Catholics are rote-minded robots who let the Vatican do their thinking for them? We thought we’d gotten beyond such nonsense, but apparently some stereotypes are proving hardier than others.

“Like Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee is a man of character, and as such he would never choose to be associated with such bigotry. The blame for this incident lies squarely with Rev. Tim Rude, pastor of the church. Unfortunately for him, he has now compounded his problem by saying that he did not intend his e-mail to be made public, and that in any event, ‘All I was trying to say is that Protestants should vote for Protestants.’ Great. But now that his gig is up—everyone knows about his stealth campaign against Brownback—the time has come for Rev. Rude (what a great name!) to fess up and apologize. He might also take this opportunity to explain his lack of confidence in the ability of Protestants to discern whom they should vote for in the election.
(11:33 PM) 0 comments

The purpose of the UN --
In response to this Matthew Yglesias thread, I note:

The purpose of the UN is to counterbalance the world's superpowers. Everything else is just fluff to keep the nations of the world something to care about to keep them involved. Of course, the US is the only superpower these days, so the UN is a weapon whose only real target these days is America, so I can see why neocons hate it.
(10:18 PM) 0 comments