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    • It’s Not OK To Think Everything Is OK Or Getting Better and Better
      I’ve discussed the better than ever world argument before. I find it questionable, for a number of reasons and if that interests you read the linked article and the articles it links to. What I’ve been watching is WHO likes and buys the argument. They fall into two groups: the first are techies; the second […]
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Wednesday: The Satire is Strong in this one

I’m talking about Charles Pierce. His piece on the Women’s Media Center’s recommendation that the FCC take a more proactive role in monitoring the public airwaves is priceless. But before we get to that, the Women’s Media Center* has a good point:

Spectrum is a scarce government resource. Radio broadcasters are obligated to act in the public interest and serve their respective communities of license. In keeping with this obligation, individual radio listeners may complain to the FCC that Limbaugh’s radio station (and those syndicating his show) are not acting in the public interest or serving their respective communities of license by permitting such dehumanizing speech.

The FCC takes such complaints into consideration when stations file for license renewal. For local listeners near a station that carries Limbaugh’s show, there is plenty of evidence to bring to the FCC that their station isn’t carrying out its public interest obligation. Complaints can be registered under the broadcast category of the FCC website: http://www.fcc.gov/complaints

This isn’t political. While we disagree with Limbaugh’s politics, what’s at stake is the fallout of a society tolerating toxic, hate-inciting speech. For 20 years, Limbaugh has hidden behind the First Amendment, or else claimed he’s really “doing humor” or “entertainment.” He is indeed constitutionally entitled to his opinions, but he is not constitutionally entitled to the people’s airways.

I happen to agree with this for the most part. As much as I would like to exile Rush to blogtalkradio, it’s not necessary to drive him completely off the airwaves. The problem is not that Rush gets away with murder unchecked. The problem is that he takes up so much space on the airwaves and he has spawned an industry of like minded blowhards like Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly. Right wing friendly media corporations like Clear Channel own much of the spectrum so anti-female bloviating saturates the airwaves. It is not in the public interest for them to be so dominant.

Before anyone accuses the WMC of advocating censorship, let’s just nip that in the bud. There are plenty of ways for Rush’s voice to be heard. His free speech rights are not curtailed if he is left with nothing but a few radio outlets and blogtalkradio. He could even start his own internet network, like Leo LaPorte has done with TWiT.tv. Leo’s doing pretty good business and the internet presents a relatively low barrier for entry. But the public radio spectrum is not an infinite universe. And when one political party owns or dominates an overwhelming majority of it, it has an obligation to not spew toxic crap all over the place to the detriment of others, especially women who, after all, must continue to live as female. There’s not a lot we can do to change our gender, or that we even want to. It’s not a disease or a disability. So, why does 53% of the American population have to put up with this constant, discriminatory and hateful crap 24/7?

In the past, I have told critics of this blog that we do not practice censorship here when we bump trolls into moderation or the spam filter. The internet is vastly, amazingly big in the Douglas Adams sense of the word. You can start a blog in numerous places and pollute it to your heart’s content. Your free speech rights are not infringed if I moderate you. However, if this was the only blog on earth I would feel morally obligated to let you say whatever you wanted here. The same goes with radio and TV spectrum. If we had unlimited stations and everyone could own one at a low cost, Rush Limbaugh wouldn’t be a problem. But radio frequency and signal strength is rationed. There aren’t an unlimited number of stations so there is a moral obligation on the part of the FCC to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard. This is not political. Those licenses belong to the public and the public should have a right to revoke them when a particular point of view is so prevalent and toxic that it drowns out all other points of view and is harmful to particular segments of society.

Pierce says the WMC’s suggestion will lead to President Romney appointing the next FCC commissioners and says it will be a huge election year distraction. But that is not his target:

The first inkling that the FCC might take this suggestion seriously would set off a howling from the flying monkeys of the Right that would be audible on Saturn. It would quickly become The Only Issue in the campaign. You would have thousands of hosts in smaller markets pumping out hour after hour of very effective paranoia. (There is, after all, a genuine First Amendment issue in play here.) This paranoia would start turning into votes very, very quickly. It would cement the image of the porcine junkie sex-tourist as a victim just as the country — and its rich people who own companies and buy advertising—- seems to be turning on him all on its own. Good god, this is the same crowd who thinks the Affordable Care Act is the thin edge of the socialist-fascist blade. Can you imagine the ensuing ruckus if the FCC actually moved on this misbegotten plan? The president has enough trouble with these people. He doesn’t need to give them another excuse to draw little mustaches on his picture.

It’s a pattern with Obama. He didn’t stick up for homeowners, the unemployed, Shirley Sherrod or women whenever their reproductive health concerns got in the way of passing legislation. Don’t expect him to make a forceful first amendment argument against extremists either. I too suspect that he really is more worried about defacement of his campaign posters.

* Before you sign any online petition, ask yourself if the organization that will shortly flood your email inbox with bulletins and sell your information to third parties is being sufficiently demanding of Obama and the Democrats. Women’s organizations sold themselves to the Obama campaign in 2008 and it is partially their fault for the toxic crap that Rush is spewing today. If women’s rights advocacy organizations had held Obama, the media and the DNC to a higher standard and accountable for the misogyny of the 2008 election season, politicians wouldn’t be able to pass the anti-woman legislation without penalty and “entertainers” who really serve as propaganda mouths of Sauron for the Republican party wouldn’t have felt safe to call women feminazis and sluts for so long.

***********************

Have you been following Doonesbury this week? Oh, that’s right, your local paper may have been so distraught by Gary Trudeau’s satire of the slut shaming, anti-woman legislation that it has pulled his cartoon to protect you from what looks like an alternative view. Rush, Fox and the Washington Post can say whatever toxic or mindless drivel they want. But have a cartoon character get directed to the “Shaming Room” before her compulsory transvaginal ultrasound, well, THAT just crosses the line of decency and civility.

***********************

Heard on the DailyShow last night:

What’s the difference between a fertilized egg, a corporation and a woman in Oklahoma?

One of them is not considered a person.

(hint, it’s the woman)

Bring on the smelling salts.

Wednesday: Melange

A mixture of things from around the web:

1.) Charles Pierce writes that Obama’s press conference yesterday featuring Slutgate and contraception left him uneasy.  In Standing Up for Sex, Pierce writes:

Not a simple, mumbling word about the right to decent health-care, let alone the right to choose. Given a golden opportunity to say flatly that he and his administration were foursquare behind these rights, he gave the whole thing a pass. I’m sure he’s got poll numbers that tell him not to say “abortion” in public but, damn, this was disappointing.

This is what I mean when I say that this issue can only be a political winner for the Democrats if they go out and make it one. How hard would it have been for him to say, “Look, it’s probably not a good time in history to be using the war metaphor, but there’s no question that the Republican party is a vehicle in an organized campaigh to roll back women’s rights in the most personal sphere of their lives, and, as long as I’m president, that won’t happen.”?

I’m glad he called Sandra Fluke. I just wish he’d show that he appreciates the incredible political gift she gave him.

Obama thinks his party affiliation speaks for itself and we should read into his statements what his real thoughts and intentions are.  And this worked so well in 2008.  Everyone thought he was a liberal even though he didn’t embrace liberal or even Democratic or New Deal principles.  Everyone thought he was an anti-war candidate even though this was all premised upon what he *might* have done had he actually been present at the IWR vote.  Everyone thought he was a feminist, which flew in the face of hard evidence that we watched and heard with our very own senses.  In the past four years, he has shown himself to be none of the things he was assumed to be so, and, as far as I’m concerned, we should not assume or presume that he is onboard with sex being guilt free for adult women.  More likely, he has no natural empathy for women in this regard so he’s more inclined to do what’s good for him politically and not for women socially.  And right now, he thinks it is good for him politically to reach out to evangelicals and the women’s vote will just flock to him because women are assuming he is not as bad as the Republicans.

I think he is just as bad, if not worse, because his attitude encourages complacency.  It will all be taken care of, don’t you worry.  A year from now, women are going to be kicking themselves for not being more demanding of him.  You’re only going to get a commitment from him under duress and until you hear him choke it out in a high squeaky voice, don’t assume anything.

2.) Speaking of beliefs that may or may not have any basis in fact, have you checked out the Richard Dawkins Belief Scale?  Unlike women’s rights, you don’t have to commit to a god or atheism.  It’s perfectly Ok to land somewhere along the scale.  I’m a 5.78324.  Some people might round that up.  Here it is:

  1. Strong Theist: I do not question the existence of God, I KNOW he exists.
  2. De-facto Theist: I cannot know for certain but I strongly believe in God and I live my life on the assumption that he is there.
  3. Weak Theist: I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.
  4. Pure Agnostic: God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.
  5. Weak Atheist: I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.
  6. De-facto Atheist: I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable and I live my life under the assumption that he is not there.
  7. Strong Atheist: I am 100% sure that there is no God.

Assuming that there are not as many 1’s out there as the Beanie Boys would have you think, why should we allow the 1’s to run the country based on judeo-christian biblical principles?

3.) More on belief.  Pat Robertson may have exceeded his stupidity quota.  When asked on the 700 Club about why God kills people with tornados, he had this to say:

There ya’ go, tornado victims.  Let this be a lesson to you.  Don’t buy a farm in the middle of tornado alley.  Don’t be a person who earns a living in tornado alley either.  And woe to you on the west coast in the earthquake zone.  The kinfolk say, move away from there!  Californy is NOT the place you want to be.  Also, if you are anywhere where you could be swept away by a flash flood, get caught up in a hurricane or Nor’easter, burnt to a cinder in a wildfire, trapped in a heat wave, engulfed in a blizzard, frozen in a cold snap, eaten by wild animals or poisoned by insects and plants, or irradiated by a particularly unusual and strong solar flare, well, it’s your own damn fault.  Did God promise you a rose garden?  You should have bought one of the time shares in Glenn Beck’s underground bunker cities and retreated to it with your 6 months supply of dried ravioli and Tang.

I guess Stephanie Decker, who protected her kids from the tornados with her own body and lost her legs as a result, should be thankful that God didn’t demand more of a sacrifice for living in the wrong place.  But I have faith that with the help of doctors, physical therapists and prosthesis engineers, Stephanie *will* walk again.  Hang in there Stephanie.

4.) A couple of days ago, a PR person for Chris Viehbacher tried to do a What Chris Really Meant response to Chris’s insensitive and clueless presentation of the reasons why his company was getting rid of its own scientists and turning to cheap and desperate small company scientists for potential blockbuster drugs.

Now, Viehbacher’s point seems to be that small biotechs and mid sized companies are more nimble and innovative than big behemoth pharma companies so, and here’s the logic of the bonus class in all it’s glory, big pharma scientists just aren’t as good as those in smaller biotechs and therefore deserve to have their jobs eliminated.

This ignores two things that Viehbacher is either denying or completely ignorant of.  The first is that those of us who up until recently worked in big pharma until we were dumped for working in big pharma, did not start our careers in big pharma.  Nooooo, we were in medium pharma.  The first pharma I worked at only had 3 research sites and the one I worked at in Princeton was relatively small having about 400 people total working on about 5 different therapeutic areas.  It was all self contained with chemistry, biology, animal facilities, structural biology, analytical, scale up, everything in one building.  But then came the mergers and more mergers and we added more facilities and companies and satellite research centers in different companies and then we got consultants to come in every couple of years and rejigger everyone, just to keep it light and breezy.  Every time there was a merger, work would come to a screeching halt for two years so the managers could play musical chairs and find a department headship position, usually by doing a real Julius Caesar meets Brutus in the Senate scene.  So, big was never OUR idea.  It was the bright idea of the finance guys, the consultant guys and the Viehbacher guys who got big bonuses from every merger they made.

The second thing that undermines Viehbacher’s argument is that all of those big pharma scientists that he thought were no good are now working for the small companies and acedemic groups that Viehbacher is planning to rape.  Now that they’ve been liberated from the shackles of big pharma wage slavery, they are working more nimbly and innovatively at small biotechs and university labs with vastly reduced salaries and benefits.  And this must warm the cockles of Viehbacher’s heart enormously.

5.) Finally, Titli Nihaan, my new favorite internet chef (until #1 child gets her own show), shows us how to make a Cassoulet and gives us some French lessons as a bonus!  This is the halal version.  I tried it the other night but made some even leaner substitutions.  Delicious. Er, Magnifique!

Why Obama’s cave looks bad depending on your gender

I noticed that Charles Pierce at Esquire is getting a deluge of “you’re wrong about this one, Obama totally scored” comments on his post about how braindead stupid Obama’s cave to the Catholic bishops was over the birth control controversy. Here’s what Charles said about it in his How Obama’s Lady Parts Deal Empowers the Church:

The Church has claimed — and the president has tacitly accepted — the right to deny even its employees of other faiths the health-care services of which it doesn’t approve on strictly doctrinal grounds. That is not an issue of “religious liberty.” That’s the enshrinement of religious thuggery in the secular law. By accepting that frame, the president has left himself dependent on the avaricious to bail him out against the arrogant. This is not a comfortable place to be.
And that’s not even to get into the obvious fact that women’s-health issues have been treated as little more than a bargaining chip by a Democratic president. Again.

[…]
I see from the peanut gallery that it is suggested that I may have underestimated the president’s political jujitsu on this issue. However, I’d like to hear a clear exposition of the following: What political advantages has the president gained from his accommodation on this issue that didn’t exist in the status quo ante? Before the controversy broke, health-insurance plans had to cover contraception, except in the case of explicitly religious organizations engaged in specifically religious work, and all the polling data suggested that the American people wanted it that way. According to all available polling data, the bishops were already a marginalized opposition holding firm to a marginalized opinion. The traditional Catholic policy on birth control already was as unpopular and ignored as it had been since 1965. The Republicans were already on the losing side of this issue. Yet, in less than two weeks of ginned-up phony outrage, the marginalized opposition got the White House to move off its original position. Now, if you want to argue that all of these political advantages have been increased and sharpened because of what the president did — e.g. the bishops now look even more unreasonable — I guess you can, but I’d argue that they don’t really give a damn about that, and they never have. I’m less sanguine than Amanda is that the White House will be running “We Saved The Pill!” ads this fall. I think the whole argument for “religious liberty” — a phrase the president never should have used in its current political context — is going to spread throughout the campaign now, and it’s going to revitalize all the social issues. I do not believe in cooler heads prevailing, or that this is a reasonable nation willing to listen to reasonable accommodations. But, hell, I could be wrong, too

This issue is going to look different to you depending on your gender. If you’re male, or simply a loyal Democrat who doesn’t want Republicans to win this fall, you’re probably all “what’s the big deal? He helped out the Liberal Catholics who were looking for cover. Slam dunk! Partay!”. If you’re a woman, you see this as capitulation to the very idea that anyone needed cover to do the right thing.  Obama just blew oxygen into a dying ember giving new life to a very unpopular position. If you’re a woman, it’s now necessary to jump through yet another hoop to get the medical services you want and need. It’s another fucking bothersome workaround in a world of workarounds.

Do any of you guys know how difficult it *still* is for females to get recognition in school for talent in math and science? I’ll give you an example. In 7th grade, the advanced math class in my daughter’s school learning algebra in one year consisted of 21 children, all of them there on the basis of a teacher recommendation, not merely math scores from the previous year. Of those 21 children, 14 were boys and 7 were girls. The selection was made solely at the discretion of the previous year’s math teachers from their classes in 6th grade that were 50/50 in gender representation. It is much harder for a well qualified girl to get into a math class like that in the 21st century because girls get rewarded for compliance and good behavior, not making leaps of mathematical logic.  Girls who are left out and are still determined to take advanced math have to go through complex workarounds.

We are forced to workaround and workaround and workaround for services and resources and recognition. It’s absurd that this decision by Obama to give liberal Catholics cover is treated as some kind of victory for him and women. The problem is between liberal Catholics and their anachronistic, unrealistic, celibate, patriarchal church hierarchy. The rest of American women don’t care what Catholics do and we should not be under any obligation to give them cover and make it easy for them while making it harder on ourselves.

But it’s worse than that. Because now that Obama has allowed religious liberty to creep into the election year issues, he has taken the bait for the religious conservatives to push their agenda and for Republican operatives to use it as a way to split the Democratic base. Once again, Obama has failed to treat women as adults and equal citizens who shouldn’t be forced to endure yet another workaround to appease some religious institution. And that religious institution is even more despicable because they know that there’s no way to enforce their rigid belief system on their own female adherents much less the rest of the country’s women. It’s simply an inconvenience that must be endured so that some liberal catholics can save face.

The same thing happened with abortion. It was merely a few workarounds, a few inconveniences. If you really need an abortion, it will still be there for you. You just need to assuage the consciences of a few religious people. That’s how it started. But how has it ended? In some states, there is only a single provider and women have to risk losing their jobs to get an abortion. It’s no longer just a few workarounds. Now, it’s a major ordeal. How is that fair to women who have no religious proscriptions about getting an abortion? The same thing is about to happen to birth control. This is no time to celebrate or think it’s no big deal. It is THE BIGGEST DEAL.

It wouldn’t matter if it were birth control or abortion. When you tell women to take the backdoor to these things for no other reason than that some religious institution is going to be displeased if they don’t, you leave the way open for the religious to make other demands.

Rick Santorum gave some preachy little sermon on women in the military praising their special contributions. Oh, please, if Rick Santorum had been president back in the 80’s, would we ever have had a Sally Ride in space? Or would her earthbound position have been praised as “special”? Yesterday, Janice Voss, space shuttle astronaut of 5 missions, died at the age of 55. What a thrilling life she must have had. But if she had been born 20 years later, she might have spent a lot more of her life jumping through hoops, going through workarounds and hacking her way through the system to get recognition and praise and equality.  Life in the hard sciences for women is still pretty rough and praise is extraordinarily rare. Females have all of the opportunities of their mothers but they have to hack through an ever thickening jungle of regulations on their bodies. We have gone backwards in the past 20 years. The election of 2008 accelerated that process for women because the man we elected used every trick in the book to appeal to conservatives instead of his base. He’s going to continue to capitulate because men do not know what it’s like to be constantly inconvenienced. So, no, this was no triumph. Obama has shown over and over again that he is no feminist and women are getting the message that they are on their own. We won’t forget.