Saturday, March 31, 2007

Dismal Numbers

Cambridge, MA -- My colleague Garance Franke-Ruta presented some data that showed some pretty intimidating numbers about the pool of people that the upper tiers reach from: opinion magazines like The Nation, TNR, The American Prospect, Reason, and The American Spectator. By far, women more often have titles that include the word "assistant" and don't get promoted as often as their male colleagues. Even the bylines are dismally disproportionately male.

A/B and AIDS

Today the NYT reported that the AIDS effort lead by Bush are limited by his restriction on spending, according to a panel of medical experts that testified in Congress yesterday. The three major problems they found were:

¶The requirement that 33 percent of all money for prevention be spent teaching chastity and fidelity, even in countries where most cases are spread by drug injection.

¶The need for separate Food and Drug Administration approval of AIDS drugs that the World Health Organization has already approved.

¶Laws forbidding the use of taxpayer money to give clean needles to drug addicts.

These testimonies are hardly surprising. I've long thought that such focus on AB or "abstinence/be faithful" instruction will do little to stop such an epidemic. Perhaps we should be listening to medical experts when it comes to a medical crisis like AIDS.

What's the place of feminism in the media?

Cambridge, MA -- At the WAM! conference, women are discussing the role of minority and gender-based publications versus more "mainstream" policy-oriented publications. Both consider themselves as writing from a feminist or anti-patriarchal perspective, but they often compete for the same funding or find frustrations in the narrowness the coverage they see in each others' publications. What I've noticed is that the people of color see the media through an entirely different lens than the policy wonks see it.

My instinct is that more collaboration between these two different kinds of outlets would be mutually beneficial, but it's hard to get the two kinds of approaches to connect in a meaningful way. The nature of the business is both collaborative and competitive. I don't know what the answer to this is, but it seems like there should be more cross-pollination between the two outlets. Links are an easy and free way to do this, but more time- and cost-intensive ways are also useful.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Admitting Defeat

It's hard. I know it's hard. No one likes to lose, especially Americans. But in a recent WSJ column, I was reminded of the ever-so-popular argument against any kind of funding reduction or timetable for troop withdrawal.
There is no precedent in American history for succeeding in a war when the commanders were taking battlefield direction from members of the House and Senate.
It sounds like someone is in denial. What the right still maintains is that somehow, this war is still "winnable," even if they're not really sure how to define a win. What I would like to hear from the right, like I'm starting to hear on the left, is what would be considered an end point. Right now, conservatives seem to be advocating a vague and indeterminate time in the future when the war will have been won, and peace and democracy reign in a free Iraq. In that case, we'd be there for not only months, not only years, but decades.

What much of the American public is starting to catch on to, along with what the left has known for a long time: that the war is hopeless, there's nothing more we can do, and the violence will only continue, no matter how many troops we may have on the ground.

Although the argument that Congress cannot manage a war is somewhat arguable, but I would say it holds little water. The people are using democracy to stop a government from doing something that they disapprove of -- using the good old checks and balances. Besides, saying that Congress is passing legislation that is unconstitutional is a bit in poor taste, when the Bush administration has taken to slashing up the constitution in any number of ways.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Guns and Girls

This AP photo that the WaPo had on its homepage tonight shows the reality that Iraqis are living with. Whose fault is it again? Oh yeah.

Female PTSD and Rape

The NYT magazine story about women in the military has some startling quotes from women:
''You're one of three things in the military - a bitch, a whore or a dyke,'' says Abbie Pickett, who is 24 and a combat-support specialist with the Wisconsin Army National Guard. ''As a female, you get classified pretty quickly.''

'They basically assume that because you're a girl in the Army, you're obligated to have sex with them,'' Suzanne Swift told me at one point.
Not so surprisingly, when approached for sex by their commanders, women feel coerced into saying yes, since the demand comes from a position of authority. The worst part is, these kinds of assaults seem to be on the rise in wartime. Although the VA has made progress in making it easier for women to report the assaults, it seems that women report that the overarching patriarchal culture discourages them from even reporting the assaults. There's a sense that women must fight the stereotype and be just as "tough" as the men.

I have problems with this attitude. Many women who work in extremely male-dominated fields seem to adopt attitudes about higher standards and an acceptance of harassment. By adhering to the standards, accepting the attitude, these women are in a way saying it's "okay" to treat women this way. It's true that the personal cost for reporting harassment is often discouraging enough, but I think we should reward the women that are willing to come forward and take a stance against such patriarchal dominance. No woman should have to choose among three choices: bitch, whore, or dyke.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


I realize that Congress is responsible for changing the laws on immigration, but "I'm just a simple member of the executive branch"? Come on.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Enigmatic Acadamy

My apologies for so few posts lately. In the meantime, my part two is up.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Don't You Walter Reed Me!

The interesting thing about this ongoing Walter Reed story is that veterans services are finally taking the center stage after years of low-profile status. This is one instance of investigative journalism actually bringing an issue to the forefront. What's more, the story didn't just get someone fired (as good investigative journalism is wont to do) but it also managed to open the door to a wider range of Veterans issues. It seems that VA hospital conditions around the nation are often sub-par.

Phillip Longman's poorly timed book on VA health care, entitled Best Care Anywhere, says that veterans receive better care than anyone in the country on average, but it seems that even the "best care" is bad. There's a sentimental feeling about veterans. That because they risked their lives (especially in a bad war) they deserve good treatment once they get home.

This is where moderate Democrats go to work: decrying the poor work of the Bush administration, passing reform rules and increased funding for veterans. Since so many people are saying that VA care is bad, then maybe we should look at a good way to overhaul the entire system. Is there anything out there that would favor a quality universal system?

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Das Leben der Anderen

Really brilliant film. Really.


Robert Kuttner has an article on the future of newspapers over at CJR. He delves into the differences between newspapers and online journalism and ultimately concludes that one cannot exist without the other. What I thought interesting, was Kuttner's history on my (sort of) hometown newspaper, the Strib.
At greatest risk are newspapers in between—the mid-sized regional metropolitan dailies, like The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. For example, when McClatchy bought the hugely profitable Star Tribune from the Cowles family in 1998, the paper was one of the Internet pioneers. The family had invested heavily in But when the dot-com bubble burst, and profit margins fell from over 30 percent to under 20 percent, McClatchy began disinvesting. To make matters worse, the innovative was ordered to convert to the technology of McClatchy Interactive, which was based on the successful site of another McClatchy paper, the Raleigh News & Observer. “We lost at least a year,” says one reporter. And not long after the technical overhaul was complete, the paper was sold again; the Web staff is now scrambling to disengage from an alien technology that it never liked. Sources at the paper say that Web traffic and Web advertising revenue were close to flat in 2006, while they rose sharply at most newspapers.
Kuttner also delves slightly into the Google Books dilemma, but I foundJeffrey Toobin's article inthe New Yorker (Feb. 5) much more informative. Google Books is somewhat of its own subject. The problems with Google books have a lot more to do with copyright and public access. The opponents to the project may end up actually helping Google:
A federal court in New York is considering two challenges to the project, one brought by several writers and the Authors Guild, the other by a group of publishers, who are also, curiously, partners in Google Book Search. Both sets of plaintiffs claim that the library component of the project violates copyright law. Like most federal lawsuits, these cases appear likely to be settled before they go to trial, and the terms of any such deal will shape the future of digital books. Google, in an effort to put the lawsuits behind it, may agree to pay the plaintiffs more than a court would require; but, by doing so, the company would discourage potential competitors. To put it another way, being taken to court and charged with copyright infringement on a large scale might be the best thing that ever happens to Google's foray into the printed word.

By setting a legal president, which Google has every reason to think it would win, they would break open the wall between copyright and online. I was surprised when doing a recent search for scholarly articles that these in particular are password protected more than any other kind of information on the Web. This seems counterintuitive. The research was conducted in the interest of adding to collective knowledge. By saying that this kind of information is at a premium, it's pushing a kind of elitism about academic research. Not only do you have to be of a certain class to study a topic, but you also have to be of a certain class to access information on a topic.
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