Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Be Afraid of Big Organics, Be Very Afraid.

In addition to Big Pharma, we have to watch out for Big Organics. I shit you not. This is prompted by the Wild Oats/Whole Foods merger that's on the table. As Tom Philpott says on Grist,

In defending the merger from a challenge by the Federal Trade Commission, Whole Foods claimed it faces plenty of competition from conventional grocers such as Kroger and Safeway, as well as superstores such as Wal-Mart -- all of which are scrambling to grab a piece of the growing organic pie.

To me, this isn't a problem specific to the grocery industry or even Big Organics. This is more of a problem with how our economy is set up. We reward stores that resemble the corporate structure, even if they're advocating something that theoretically liberal. Consumers look for chain stores because that's what's familiar. We really don't give much credit or support to independent retailers. Instead, it's not enough to be a good corner store. If you have a good business model, you aren't supposed to inspire other store owners in other cities, you're supposed to form a franchise and open up your own stores in other cities. We're far too dependent on the brand name.


Via SFChonicle:
A study released Tuesday by a group of Bay Area organizations serving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families found that same-sex couples raising children in California are more likely to be people of color and that their median household income is 17 percent lower than the income of married couples with children.

Health Care and Immigration

You know how conservatives like to blame uninsured illegal immigrants for the rising costs of health care? Well, the Economic Policy Institute released this graph that shows change in the share of the uninsured with and without post-2000 immigration increases.* Don't you love it when you can point to a graph to prove your point?

EPIhealthcare immigration

*This post originally said this was a change in overall health care spending.

Cross posted at

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cleavage At Work

Karen Salmansohn seems to be the resident cleavage expert, even appearing on the Today Show to talk about Cleavage At Work. She calls it an "evolutionary step" for women to be able to dress "femininely" while at work. Then, she releases the following pearl of wisdom:

Personally, I've never believed a woman has to make a choice:

1. feminine

2. successful

Pick only one of the above.

I've always been a believer that a woman should be her full feminine self at the office. I'm into what I call "feminine-ism" - which unlike some of the hardcore "feminism" I knew growing up- "feminine- ism is about being feminine and powerful both - in one tasty spoonful.

Hm. Notice which ranks higher on her list? It's unclear what her message is, because she says that women who are good will get promoted no matter what they look like (I'm not sure that's true) but then says, "if you're a business woman reading this blog -- remember -- cleavage IS power - and you must be aware of using your cleavage power responsibly!" Her advice subtly implies that women should dress sexy to succeed.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Presto! Gender Gap Reversed!

I'm highly skeptical about this post (via Ezra) that claims women seem to be reversing the gender gap worldwide. Good news! All those feminists can pack up their bags and go home! Inequality doesn't exist anymore!

While it's certainly good news that women are making leaps in closing the education gap, I tend to think that this doesn't actually translate to equality in wages or status. The same goes for the labor participation factor. Sure, women around the world are working more, but they're working for extremely low wages. The claim that, "More couples will have a more educated wife whose income earning capacity will exceed that of their husbands" is rosy and optimistic. I'm no economist, but I think this will actually be a much slower transformation than Hausmann seems to predict.

Political Alamony

This morning I saw this story about Argentina's first lady becoming Argentina's first female president. It reminded me of Rik Hertzberg's column last week (that I read on the train but couldn't blog about and therefore forgot about until now) that talked about political dynasties, but what interested me was what he said about women taking over in the wake of their husbands:

In most cases, the tie has been broken by death. In South Asia, which seems to lead the world in female national leaders, violent death is invariably a factor. In Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, a total of four female heads of state have come to power in the wake of male relatives’ assassination; in India, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru’s daughter, was herself assassinated, as was her son and successor, Rajiv. (Her daughter-in-law, Sonia, now heads the ruling Congress Party.) Burma’s imprisoned opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is the daughter of the assassinated independence leader Aung San. And the father of Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s two-time and perhaps future Prime Minister, was a Prime Minister whose life ended at the gallows; her return to Karachi last week was marked by a suicide-bomber attack that claimed more than a hundred lives.

In the United States, the widow-of and daughter-of pattern has been gentler. Of the two hundred and forty-four women who have served in the House and the Senate, forty-six succeeded their husbands and twelve their fathers. The wife-of, as distinct from widow-of, method of conferring power has been a relatively minor theme, found mostly in the nether parts of the country—one thinks of Governors Ma Ferguson, of Texas, and, especially, Lurleen Wallace, of Alabama, through whom George ruled when term limits forced him out of the state house.

He notes that Hillary Clinton is different because she was pretty successful all on her own. The thing is, though, that women who are successful all on their own don't seem to make it as far as the women who are successful, but then take over for their dead or retired husbands. Would Clinton be running for office if she weren't a Clinton, but just Hillary Rodam? It's hard to say, but my guess is probably not. Unfortunately, we still live in a world where women can be hugely successful on their own, but to really make it in political office, they have to tailgate on the roles of their men.

It's true that this makes sense on one level. Marriages are partnerships, and it makes sense that when one of the partners can no longer carry on a political agenda, then the other might take up the cause. But I'm waiting for the day when men ride in on the coattails of their wives. As of yet, I haven't really seen it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Re: Che

Indeed. The piece I wrote about Che Guevara wasn't favorable. It also wasn't targeted at people like Kirchick that have already written Guevara off as a bad guy -- it was targeted at the idealistic lefty college student wearing the Che T-shirt.

But the bigger point here is this: Kirchick has written Che Guevara off as "evil." This is a pretty dangerous thing when you're talking about leaders, whether current or historical. The world, much as people like to think, isn't made up of "good guys" and "evil" leaders. It's a good way of dehumanizing opposition. I recall the word "evil" applied many times to Saddam Hussein before (and after) the invasion of Iraq. I was trying to look at Guevara as a human being, and a very imperfect one at that. Forgive me for trying to have a nuanced view of this infamous historical figure.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sick of the Global War on Terror

I agree with Ezra that I'm a bit tired of the discussion on the "Global War on Terror" as well, since, as Ezra said, it's "overwhelmed by Iraq." What's more, the way the discussion has been framed, since the term was dubbed by the Bush administration, suggests that we're all in this together. This couldn't be further from the truth. Instead, it's this fierce "us against them" ideology purported by the Bush/Cheney administration. And as Lynne Cheney demonstrated last week on the Daily Show, that doesn't include terrorist attacks on our allies.

Five Minutes with Greenpeace

I have an interview with John Passacantando up over at Campus Progress. He's really good at articulating the conflicts in the environmental movement. He also has some thoughts on the new Shellenberger and Nordhaus book:

I haven’t read the book. But as far as the discussion that it has provoked, it was useful in that it was critical of the mainstream environmental movement. Criticism can always be useful.

I watched Shellenberger and Nordhaus present their thesis at a conference in Middlebury, Vermont. They leveled their criticism at national environmental groups and then at local groups. They pretty much said, “A pox on all your homes,” and, “We don’t really have the answer.” [They believe that] all these [progressive] issues need to be rolled into one—sort of a rainbow coalition of gay rights and anti-war and anti-global warming and jobs.

But that’s not how things work. Historically, people pick an issue and they win on that. They don’t link it to another issue and another and another and another to make it more powerful—that makes it weaker. And so I thought their premise was incorrect. It was rather sloppy.

Read the whole thing here.

The Women's Vote

Today Women's eNews has the same kind of story I complained about yesterday in the Globe. It makes more sense in Women's eNews. Today, though, it occurred to me. For once, what women think is really valuable, and candidates are vying for my vote. It's kinda nice for a change.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

XX Reviewed

Slate's new blog "The XX Factor: Women blog about politics, etc ..." got its first reviews. Most women are sort of disappointed. It's true, though. There are dozens (if not hundreds) of blogs (probably this one included) out there about women's issues. But women need to stop segmenting themselves off and start joining in the game. I recognize the need for a "safe space," but those spaces already exist on the internet with smaller, fringier publications and blogs. A large online magazine like Slate can easily say to themselves, "Hey, we want to have a blog about politics, but this time, let's make sure it's not filled with wonky white dudes. Let's make sure it's gender-balanced and include some people of color." That would make a lot more sense to me.

Musings on Clinton

I hate to rehash this old argument, but I couldn't help but roll my eyes when I saw this story in the Globe today. I wish that we lived in a world where, if a woman were running for president, the only thing relevant about that is that you have to refer to her as "madam" or "madam" instead of "sir." But we don't live in that world. Instead, we live in a world where there are endless articles about how Clinton is a woman, Clinton is a feminist, and the oh-so-popular CNN tagline "Is Clinton feminine enough?"

As a feminist, I recognize Clinton's accomplishments, but I also recognize her failings and hawkishness when it comes to foreign policy. But with endless stories about her gender, and her appeals to women based on her gender, it's really hard for gender to not be a factor in the election. The Globe story pointed out things I've found to all be anecdotally true. For example, "But analysts also see a political calculation: She is less popular among older, married women who are more likely to prefer a more traditional role for women. Clinton's focus on women this week was a bid to consolidate her support among female voters, who account for much of her lead in many polls." I heard a friend recently refer to a Midwestern relative that fits this description exactly. Come to think of it, my mom might, too. It's frustrating, though, to see women be so judgmental of other women. Men's personal lives (see Rudy Giuliani) have little to do with their professional electability.

Calculated by the Clinton campaign or not, I wished I lived in a world where I didn't have to read such stories and could judge candidates on their policy proposals and experience, rather than on their gender or personas. It seems, though, that I will have to endure this for as long as Clinton is running for president, and perhaps if another woman runs for president, too.

Health Care Advocates

Something like this demonstrates the extreme disparities we have in our health care system today. There is now a profession where you can charge $150 an hour, $3,000 a year, or $30,000 for a lifetime membership to someone who can consult with you on your medical services. That's all well and good, but there are people out there struggling to buy and receive medical care out there, so why are we creating new professions for the affluent to navigate this care? Shouldn't this be a model we use for the low-income people, who have to fill out endless Medicaid forms and don't even know where to go to the doctor when they're sick? It kind of shows how fucked up things are.

Code Pink Clashes with Camo

The SF Chronicle reports from a scene in Berkeley where Code Pink protesters faced off with a Marine Corps recruiting station. This is representative of a tension within the anti-Iraq War movement. Although the recruiters are probably extremely supportive of Bush's policy in Iraq, there are many military personnel who don't feel the same way.

To me, especially because the military is entirely composed of people who choose to be there, this is really significant. By tapping into that pro-military antiwar sentiment, it sort of gives a legitimacy to the movement that it hasn't previously had. In a lot of ways, I feel like the antiwar movement has matured since the 1960s. Those who favor withdrawl draw up well-thought-out plans on how it can be done and carefully weigh the consequences. The movement has acknowledged that the military serves an important role, in a way that the hippie antiwar movement of the 1960s isn't represented (at least as far as I can tell).

But Code Pink positions themselves as radical. They use inflammatory tactics like calling Donald Rumsfeld a "war criminal" (and I acknowledge that these accusations aren't groundless). They try to, as the story from Berkeley shows, shut down a military recruiting station. I've written before about my complicated feelings about Code Pink. Sometimes I find their methods irritating, and I wish they would offer up real alternatives rather than simply calling people war criminals.

Not everyone that serves in the military kills people, but some of them do. Identifying that the military serves a complicated function in our country could go a long way in legitimizing the Code Pink antiwar protesters.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Women Are Sexist, Too

The Boston Globe reports that about a third of women surveyed judge candidates on their marriages. This is always baffling to me. Why the marriage judgment? How does that have anything to do with their, um, job? As always, Stephanie Coontz swoops in with insight:

Stephanie Coontz, a marriage historian and Ladies' Home Journal contributing editor, said ratings for the twice-divorced Giuliani appeared to be a sign "people are willing to give male politicians, at least, a second, or even third, chance at happiness."

Clinton's relatively low score is a sign that women are more harshly judged than men for not having a happy marriage, Coontz said.

She said Hillary Clinton is blamed for "not packing up and leaving her husband" after he had an extramarital affair with a White House intern.

Happy Death Day, Che.

I have a piece up at Campus Progress about why Che Guevara isn't such a great icon.

At best, Guevara’s politics advocated for a mindless devotion of the working man (with an emphasis on “man”) to socialism, but left out other causes many progressives have worked long and hard for: equality for gender and sexual orientation. In fact, gays were persecuted following the Cuban revolution. (Poet and novelist Reynaldo Arenas, who included descriptions of his openly gay lifestyle in his writings, was killed as the result of the government’s prosecution of gays.)

Guevara was raised with a Catholic outlook on life, in which the “good” girls saved themselves for marriage. Wealthy Argentine boys tended to sexually exploit the family mucama, or servant girl, and Guevara was no exception. [Jon Lee] Anderson tells of a cousin who once “watched in astonishment from his place at the dining table through the open doors leading to the kitchen as Ernesto had quick sex with the muchama on the kitchen table, directly behind their aunt’s unsuspecting back.”
Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Here's My Question

Do you think Stephen Colbert will appear on the Daily Show and the Colbert Report to promote his new book?

Banning the Archbishop

St. Thomas University, a Catholic university based in St. Paul, Minn., has banned Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu from speaking on a campus event organized by PeaceJam, as reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The group has since found another university that will host the event.

Officials said St. Thomas is being more careful about appearances since Ann Coulter came to their campus in 2005. That's right. They're responding to a controversial speaking event that featured Ann Coulter by banning Desmond Tutu. Sounds like their either overcompensating or they're practicing good old bias against the left at a conservative Catholic university.

The Strib reported that university officials said "that local Jewish leaders they consulted felt that Tutu had made remarks offensive to the Jewish people in a 2002 speech about Israeli policy toward the Palestinians." I saw Archbishop Tutu when he spoke on the University of Minnesota campus in 2003. He then compared the situation of Palestinians to apartheid in South Africa. Perhaps not such an inaccurate comparison, since Palestinians are more or less held hostage within a state where they have no legal status.

Arguments about Israel aside, it seems silly to go around banning peaceful figures because they're too controversial. The whole point of events like bringing controversial speakers in is to foster discussion and open up students minds to encountering something outside a narrow tunnel vision. I have to say I'm with the protesters who hold up a large banner that said, "Let Tutu speak!"

Cross-posted on

Dear Abby, I need an ally ...

Abigail Van Buren, officially known as Jeanne Phillips, came out in support of gay marriage. Besides, not doing so would just be rude.

SF: Get Those Homeless Off the Streets

The San Francisco Chronicle had a column that I probably wouldn't have clicked on, except I did so accidentally. Apparently SF residents are getting fed up with seeing "some guy ... standing on the corner throwing up on himself." Wow, well, that's disgusting, but I can't help but think that the SF residents cited in this article are less concerned with solving the homeless problem than with having to deal with looking at it. Maybe instead of complaining about it they should give some money to their local homeless shelters--or better yet, lobby their local government to make sure there are enough resources devoted to the homeless.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Picking at Apple Picking

Via Ezra. Apparently Daniel Gross writes of the "economically inefficient" apple orchards. Since I went apple picking this weekend, I feel obligated to defend the practice. It seems to me that Gross is viewing these apple orchards in entirely the wrong way. It's as if orchards only serve one function: to produce apples. But think about it this way: the hobby orchards where people drive out and pick apples themselves is a form of entertainment--just like movies, camping, or any number of ways people spend their free time. As Ezra said, the day was nice, and I managed to get out of the city for a little while.

Biking is safe(er).

This makes me feel good about buying a bike helmet yesterday.

Moderate Bias on Campus

Both Inside Higher Ed (free) and the Chronicle of Higher Education (sub. req.) highlight a study (PDF) by assistant professors at Harvard and George Mason universities. This study is slightly more valid than what's been thrown around in conservative circles by people like David Horowtiz in recent years. What the study shows is that while the numbers of self-identified conservative professors are low--under 10 percent--the number of moderate professors is growing and the number of liberal professors is declining.

So what does this all mean? Inside Higher Ed cited Larry Summers' analysis (yes, that one), "pointed to a problematic liberal domination at elite research universities."

What's confusing to me is why this is "problematic." No one surveys investment bankers, although they mostly all are likely to come out somewhere in the libertarian camp. No one surveys social workers for "liberal bias." To me, how a person identifies politically has very little to do with his or her job. But in the last couple of decades, both professors and journalists have come under fire for having political beliefs.

It's confusing to me, though. After all, the people who read newspapers are mainly grownups, and all the people taking classes at major universities and colleges are at least 18--legal adults. What this suggests is a kind of infantalization of grownups: They can't think for themselves, so we have to make sure there's no bias whatsoever in college classes or newspapers.

Cross-posted on

Saturday, October 6, 2007

My Roommate Observes

  • The reason Ugly Betty will fall back in love with Henry is because he can't get a job in Tuscon and therefore doesn't have health insurance for his pregnant ex-girlfriend.
  • Controversy over Ann Coulter's "women shouldn't vote" comment just proves how bankrupt the conservative movement really is. Republicans truly are the party of the white man.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Screwed out of GI Benefits

Jesse Singal has a link to a great piece today on how the Minnesota National Guard ended up serving deployments of 22 months, and just one day short of being able to collect a significantly greater amount of money toward GI Bill education benefits. I wrote about this a while back, but now we're actually seeing the effects of what many feared about education benefits take place. It's really infuriating, especially considering the National Guard is often billed as a way to serve your country and pay for college. It's a serious problem that's just beginning to get play, but I'm sure we'll hear more and more about it.

Friday Minnesota Senate Horserace Blogging

Al Franken has been out-fundraising Norm Coleman this quarter. What the debate is quickly shaping up around, though is the source of those funds. Coleman is boasting about 16,000 "Minnesota donors," and the Strib article quotes this line from Coleman, "It's difficult to compete with the checkbooks of the Hollywood elite."

Franken right now is positioning himself as the anti-Coleman -- people are sick of the war, so they should be sick of Coleman, too. While that's all useful, he should also be positioning himself as a true progressive, one in the vein of Paul Wellstone. That name still carries a lot of weight with Minnesotans, so carrying on the tradition begun by him would be a good thing.


I've been out this week doing journalism trainings for kids at Ithaca College (Buzzsaw Haircut) and Cornell (The Cornell Progressive) for Campus Progress.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Monday, October 1, 2007


Jessica Clark has an interesting article up on TAP's website today about working in "meatspace" -- a phenomenon where freelancers meet in a slightly more traditional office setting with people that they don't work with.
For $25 a day (or $175 a month for a 3 day/week commitment), you can drop into the space, use the wireless, meet with clients in the small glassed-in conference room, and, often, find folks to grab a drink with afterward. The feel is part dorm lounge, part ad agency and part cybercafe, and it's a hit.
I have a number of friends who are either full-time freelancers or have flexible enough jobs that they don't have to go into the office regularly. This always drove me nuts, since I'm the type of person that needs structure to help me get things done. In college when I set my own office hours as an editor, I rarely made it to them. I'm not disciplined enough on my own to work well with that kind of flexibility. Furthermore, the contracting trend tends to lose office collegiality and social interaction that comes with having a physical work location. But having a place to go like this seems to be a good solution for people who want social interaction and to get out of the house. What innovation.

Wal-Mart and Birth Control

Liberals love to hate Wal-Mart, but as Kaiser's daily women's health policy report says, Wal-Mart is now adding some discounted generic drugs to its "rollback" prices, including $9 generic versions of the popular Ortho Cyclen and Ortho Tri-Cyclen forms of birth control.

This seems to me a matter of necessity. Wal-Mart appeals to the religious conservatives for its bill as the American Dream, but customers to the store are overwhelmingly in the low-income bracket. If the company is willing to offer much-needed birth control to those who often have the most difficult time getting it, it's hard for me to not see this as a good thing. I will, however, wait for individual pharmacists to start refusing the drugs to women thanks to some pretty sexist legislation.

Happy October

Today is the first day of October, which may be my favorite month because it has my favorite holiday: Halloween. I guess it's time to start planning my costume!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...