Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Back Home and Outta Here

Well gang, some changes for the greyster.

Starting today, I'm going to begin blogging at a new site and in conjunction with a fellow blogger. I'll be joining with "Lynne" from the blog "Big Fat Liberal" at the new blog site:

Bending the Third Rail

Lynne brings a different perspective, but a nice complement, to what I try to do with blogging. So now you can get the best of both on one site!

Please join us at Bending the Third Rail and enjoy the same pithy, accurate, terrific, fantastic, informative and all-around cosmopolitan posts that you've come to expect from GreyBlog.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Out o' Town

I'm outta town the next day or so. I'm having a postponed New Year's Eve. We weren't able to get out of Sonoma County (or back in if we had gotten out) on New Year's due to the flooding/slides/storm, so we're doing it today.

Back on Tuesday!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

They Always Suspected

Now they know for sure. The Arab world must laugh their asses off when they read a story like this.

It's too bad the Pentagon, or White House, didn't hire me. I would have come relatively cheap. And I could have told them there would be an insurgency and saved a lot of grief.

But then, they wouldn't have listened to me either, now would they?

Friday, January 06, 2006

Happy Anniversary!

To the Cates! Go to Ms. Jan's and you'll see.

More For Foer

Eric Alterman let's slip a little tidbit in his Think Again column in The Nation:
The New York Times held its story on domestic spying for more than a year and published it only when it became apparent that it would appear in a book by its reporter James Risen.
Here I was actually going to give the NY Times a teeny bit of credit (well, in my mind anyway) for finally doing the right thing, resisting White House pressure, and publishing the news of Bush's illegal domestic wiretaps....finally. If Alterman has this correct, and there's no reason to believe he doesn't, they only published the story because Risen had a book coming out that would scoop them.

Aside from the obvious reinforcement of the image of the Times as a self-serving co-opted institution, this sorta renders moot Franklin Foer's rant against the negative attitude by the "liberal bloggers" towards the Times good deed, now doesn' it.

Boot on the Ground

Here's the opinion of someone up close and personal to the Iraq situation:
WASHINGTON (AFX) - Sectarian rivalries and inefficient Iraqi ministries could turn the Iraqi security forces into 'militias or armed gangs,' Lt. General John Vines, the senior US operational commander in Iraq, told The New York Times.

The comments came as it emerged that US forces suffered Thursday their deadliest day in Iraq since August last year.

In what the newspaper called 'perhaps the bluntest public assessment yet by a senior military officer' of Iraq's future, Vines said in an interview published Friday that the security forces were currently better organized than the Iraqi government.

'The ability of the ministries to support them, to pay them, to resupply them, provide them with water, ammunition, spare parts and weapons is not as advanced as the competence of the forces in the field,' Vines said.
It looks like "some" in the military have decided that their spokesman, Jack Murtha, wasn't able to get the job done. Wonder how long this general will have a job? Then again, maybe he's ready for retirement given the situation he's in:

International Hearld Tribune:
As the operational commander for more than 150,000 American troops and 20,000 coalition forces, Vines has day-to-day oversight, along with his Iraqi counterparts, over what troops here call the battle space around the country.

In the weeks leading up to the December election, however, Vines split with his boss, General George Casey Jr., the overall American commander in Iraq, over how and where to assign critical resources to ensure a peaceful and successful election.

According to interviews with several senior army officers, who were granted anonymity to avoid their getting caught in the middle of a disagreement between their two top bosses, Casey wanted to beef up operations along the border between Iraq and Syria, as well as the Euphrates River Valley, to make it harder for suicide bombers to infiltrate and explode themselves in Baghdad during the elections.

But Vines and his field commanders said the center of gravity was Baghdad and its predominantly Sunni Arab suburbs like Falluja, the officers said. Vines wanted to position more forces there to increase the Sunni Arab turnout, a major political goal of the Bush administration but also a means to help reduce the insurgency.

The two senior commanders eventually worked out a compromise to put troops in both places, but there were tense moments before the two generals said they would have to agree to disagree, according to senior officers.
Sounds like two bulldogs fighting over a bone. Not enough troops maybe?

I feel sorry for these guys. Nation-building is not their job. Everybody in Iraq hates them, with a whole bunch of them trying to kill them. There's not enough of them. They can't trust the Iraqi's who are supposed to take over from them. Political leadership at home is miserable. And who knows when it will all end.

Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place. It's a wonder they're not tearing each other apart.

Faux Outrage

Mike over at Born at the Crest of Empire (a great blog btw) updates us on the outrage of Senators Warner, Graham and McCain (aka the usual suspects):
When Bush signed the defense bill containing the torture amendment, it was hailed as a significant moment, but, at the same time, Bush also quietly signed an "interpretive signing statement" which states how the president intends to enact the law he just signed.


The problem is that this bill was overwhelmingly passed, spearheaded by Warner, Graham, and McCain specifically to stop Bush from torturing under this claim of executive power. So, needless to say, those are some angry republican senators.
Ah yes, those pesky "interpretive signings". I wrote awhile back, right after passage of the bill in fact, that there was no way Bush was going to allow himself to be constrained by the anti-torture legislation. Whether it's field manual changes, ignoring the legislation, or "interpretive signings", Bush see's Presidential power as unfettered during "time of war". That's his rationalization. That's how Bush can believe he's following the Constitution. If we didn't have this "War on Terror", then he'd consider checks and balances. But because we're "at war" then he can do whatever he wants. After all, isn't that what Lincoln did? (no, he didn't, but don't try and tell any wingnut that).

So back the the usual suspects. Frankly, the outrage of any Republican legislator is ridiculous. We've heard it before....many times. Graham saying that he wasn't going to allow the torture investigation to stop at some sergeant, McCain's outrage at torture, and Warner being .. well Warner. It's all window dressing to try and save the 2006 and 2008 elections. Any serious attempt to check Bush would result in a disaster for the Republican party, much more so than Bush. Bush knows it. The Senators know it. So they play this kabuki dance of outrage and Bush just goes about his dictatorial business.

Don't believe any legislative attempts to rein in Bush unless a) it happens after the 2006 elections and is instigated by a Democratically dominated house of Congress, or b) these "outraged" Congress folks actually like, do something.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

NY Times In Jail?

So apparently there is some legal standing to consider prosecuting the NY Times for "leaking" the NSA illegal domestic wire tapping story according to a story by Harvey Silvergate:
A variety of federal statutes, from the Espionage Act on down, give Bush ample means to prosecute the Times reporters who got the scoop, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, as well as the staff editors who facilitated publication. Even Executive Editor Bill Keller and Publisher Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger Jr., could become targets — a startling possibility, just the threat of which would serve as a deterrent to the entire Fourth Estate.

Legal means are one thing, but political will is another
First there's the obvious, and well-written about, irony of Bush going tooth-n'-nail after this leaker vs. the Plame leaker. And there's the obvious differences that any moron can see between a whistle blower and a dirty trickster. But other's have spoken to this in detail. I want to ask something else.

Would Bush actually go after the Times?

I hope he does. Maybe something like a crisis between the fourth estate and the government needs to occur to give the media gang the message that they're in danger. The crisis that occurred between the Nixon administration and the media over the Pentagon Papers release/publication galvanized the media in defense of itself. Silvergate speculates about the possibility of such a trial:
Such an indictment could be brought in short order. It would be unnecessary for the DOJ to complete the leak investigation before indicting media defendants, since the mere publication of the story would be the alleged crime regardless of the identity of the leakers. Nor would the Times’ publisher, editors, and reporters be able to claim ignorance of the top-secret nature of the information published: surely the president and his aides made that very clear at a meeting held with Keller and Sulzberger in the Oval Office last year. Besides, the Times’ voluntary postponement of publication for a year prior to that meeting could readily be spun as indicating knowledge that harm to national interests was possible.
Silvergate thinks that there's legal standing to indict, and that an indictment might not be too difficult to acquire. But then there's this:
Defense lawyers would doubtless argue, probably effectively, that their clients performed a public service by exposing official wrongdoing at the highest levels of government. Bush would, in effect, be placed on trial, along with the New York Times. One can imagine defense counsel quoting Thomas Jefferson that "between a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, I would surely choose the latter." It would be one helluva fight — the fight that we never got to see between Nixon and the media.
Publications like the Times have been trying appeasement for years to try and manipulate their relationship with politicians and have only ended up being tools of the government. That's not how it's supposed to be. It's supposed to be war. Government and media are not supposed to get along. That's what makes it work as the media is another check on government abuse. And frankly, government has upheld their part. It's the media that has become overly solicitous, flabby, and ineffective.

For those who may argue that such an attack by the government might have a "chilling" effect on the media, I say so what? Can it really get much worse at this point? Perhaps an attack by the government and a spirited legal defense by a prominent media outlet would amplify/clarify some of the law around the first amendment and educate the American public to the abuses on both sides. And I specifically distinguish such a legal action from the sham that was Judy Miller's stand to protect sources due to Miller being de facto on the governments side.

So as Bush might say, "Bring it on!"

A Little Humor Please

Our national religious nutbar, Pat Robertson is at it again!


Sometimes blogging is a particularly frustrating experience.

You sit out here in the internet hinterlands writing a gazillion words that a few brave souls dare to read. But once in awhile, you actually get ahead of the conventional wisdom. Once...in...awhile. You're certainly not the only one out front. But you're one who gets out in front of the mainstream.

This is one of those times.

I've been writing about messaging. A lot. You don't have to go far into the archives to find me ranting about the importance of Democrats de-wimping themselves. My support of Paul Hackett over Sherrod Brown is almost entirely based on the fact that Paul Hackett "gets it". I'm leaning toward Russ Feingold right now for the same reasons. Americans are afraid (you could write a book about this topic) and are desperatly looking for reassurances and bravery. Bush and the Republicans have been fueling that need, albeit on purely political grounds while Democrats have played "me-too". By that I mean, the G.O.P.'s not promoted bravery, they've exploited fear for personal gain, while the Democrats have been largely silent.

The liberal blogosphere is finally starting to promote the theme of bravery. Atrios has a post today promoting a piece by Glenn Greenwald and mentioning a post by Digby and Kos about the whole "we have nothing to fear but fear itself" thing.

Aside from my "told ya" moment. I wonder why it's taken so long (Digby excluded)? 9/11 is now nearly five years old. Patriots are just now starting to stick their heads out of their hidey holes and saying, "hey, let's stop being such frady cats and be like our forefathers.....brave". The blogosphere is usually way out front of the media on such issues. And yet, the mainstream bloggers are just now starting to push this theme.

Makes me wonder?

Dripping Again

Here's NBC's statement about removing Andrea Mitchell's referral to Christian Amanpour (via AmericaBlog):
Unfortunately this transcript was released prematurely. It was a topic on which we had not completed our reporting, and it was not broadcast on 'NBC Nightly News' nor on any other NBC News program. We removed that section of the transcript so that we may further continue our inquiry.
A non-denial denial. As John says, it's a virtual confirmation that NBC has information that Amanpour has been tapped.

For context, Christian Amanapour is an international correspondent for CNN. She is also married to Jaime Rubin, former Clinton administration spokesman for the State Department and Democratic party activist.

Don't ya just love it? Andrea spills the beans accidentally. I never thought of her as the brightest bulb in the package and this does nothing to change that view. Wonder what else the media knows that it's not reporting?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Undrip, Undrip, Undrip

At least if NBC News has it's way regarding Andrea Mitchell's little "slip" in her interview with James Risen. Here's the transcript before cleansing:
Mitchell: Do you have any information about reporters being swept up in this net?

Risen: No, I don't. It's not clear to me. That's one of the questions we'll have to look into the future. Were there abuses of this program or not? I don't know the answer to that

Mitchell: You don't have any information, for instance, that a very prominent journalist, Christiane Amanpour, might have been eavesdropped upon?

Risen: No, no I hadn't heard that.
Here's what it says now:
Mitchell: Do you have any information about reporters being swept up in this net?

Risen: No, I don't. It's not clear to me. That's one of the questions we'll have to look into the future. Were there abuses of this program or not? I don't know the answer to that

Mitchell: You are very, very tough on the CIA and the administration in general in both the war on terror and the run up to the war and the war itself Â? the post-war operation. Let's talk about the war on terror. Why do you think they missed so many signals and what do you think caused the CIA to have this sort of break down as you describe it?

Risen: I think that, you know, to me, the greater break down was really on Iraq. It's very difficult to have known ahead of time about these 19 hijackers. They were, you know, probably lucky that they got through and they did something that no one really assumed anybody would ever do. And I think that made 9/11 a lot like Pearl Harbor. That even when you see all the clues in front of you that it's very difficult to put it together.
Guess the White House called to cancelled those cocktail party invites unless NBC got out the white-out.

Wonder if Franklin Foer thinks we should defend NBC News due to their journalistic ethics.


Making It Real

MsJan makes the Sago mining disaster real.

Drip Drip Drip

The drip drip drip of revelations continues. Andrea Mitchell, asking such a question, would likely only do so if she'd "heard" something. Via AmericBlog:
From NBC News:

New York Times reporter James Risen first broke the story two weeks ago that the National Security Agency began spying on domestic communications soon after 9/11. In a new book out Tuesday, "State of War," he says it was a lot bigger than that. Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell sat down with Risen to talk about the NSA, and the run-up to the war in Iraq....

Mitchell: Do you have any information about reporters being swept up in this net?

Risen: No, I don't. It's not clear to me. That's one of the questions we'll have to look into the future. Were there abuses of this program or not? I don't know the answer to that

Mitchell: You don't have any information, for instance, that a very prominent journalist, Christiane Amanpour, might have been eavesdropped upon?

Risen: No, no I hadn't heard that.
Let's see. The government illegally wire-tapping journalists.

Nothing to see here...move along...

Illegal Tapping Before the Illegal Tapping

So, now it appears that the NSA sorta, on it's own initiative, decided to start the illegal domestic wire tapping before Bush ordered the illegal domestic wire tapping. WaPo
Even before the White House formally authorized a secret program to spy on U.S. citizens without obtaining warrants, such eavesdropping was occurring and some of the information was being shared with the FBI, declassified correspondence and interviews with congressional and intelligence officials indicate.

On Oct. 1, 2001, three weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who was running the National Security Agency at the time, told the House intelligence committee that the agency was broadening its surveillance authorities, according to a newly released letter sent to him that month by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). Pelosi, the ranking Democrat on the committee, raised concerns in the letter, which was declassified with several redactions and made public yesterday by her staff.

"I am concerned whether and to what extent the National Security Agency has received specific presidential authorization for the operations you are conducting," Pelosi wrote on Oct. 11, 2001. The substance of Hayden's response one week later, on Oct. 17, 2001, was redacted.
This brings up a few other questions, like who did order the initial illegal taps? This smells like Cheney to me. Maybe his "undisclosed" location after 911 was a bunker with headphones in his ears. Pay attention as further details of this story dribble out. Bolton is involved in this somewhere spying on Bill Richardson and who knows who. We are still only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

As I've said before. Osama bin Laden has to be surprised and amazed beyond his wildest dreams at just how fragile we Americans are, and just how effective the his terrorist operations have been.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Congressman/Judge/Preznit Bush

I sent this around today via the famous "greymail", but decided it was just too important to not elaborate.

I ran across a piece this morning in Slate's "Today's Paper":
And what's not in the papers … Yesterday's Post noted President Bush's penchant for "signing statements," which give the White House interpretation of a law being, well, signed. The idea is to have challenges to a law on paper and thus give the administration a potential leg up in future court cases. The signing statements are an attempt to "address specific provisions of legislation that the White House wishes to nullify," said one presidential historian. He added that they are "also in an effort to significantly reposition and strengthen the powers of the presidency relative to the Congress."

The Post did a great job burying the above trend: "ALITO ONCE MADE CASE FOR PRESIDENTIAL POWER." Also, what the WP didn't pick up on—and what nobody else seems to either: The White House issued just such a signing statement—an apparent attempt at nullification—for Sen. McCain's anti-torture amendment. The statement says:
The executive branch shall construe [the amendment] in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power, which will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President ... of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks.
The president acceded to the McCain amendment just a few weeks ago and ended up praising it. Anybody care to ask the White House whether, given the above language, it considers the government absolutely bound by McCain's ban?
So now Bush has these little formal "signing" ceremonies which include his own legal findings on laws he's to sign, designed to bolster Presidential power in the courts and clarify exactly what he thinks the law should do. And the Bushies apparently use these "signed findings" with a force of law. Cool. By arranging a neat table and a few pens, and then signing whatever Velma was told to type up, Bush becomes a legislator and a judge, all in one swoop of the pen.

Beyond the obvious abuse of power and unconstitutional nature of this. I have another "issue" with this practice. Why hasn't the media covered this more thoroughly? These actions are nothing short of further attempts to grab more dictatorial power. His style as President has been to assume it's ok unless and until a terminator-like character comes to the White House door, beats it in, puts his foot on the Preznit's chest and says, "no Mr. President, you can't do that". And given a Republican Congress, that just hasn't happened. I guess our press, who is so deserving of our respect and protection just thought this one wasn't worth of paper/ink. Or maybe they were too busy at the holiday cocktail circuit to be bothered with a measley separation of powers problem.

Anyway, Bush just keeps making it up. Here's yet another instance where we'll see if there are any honest Republicans left.

A Hammer Instead of Tweezers

Here's what the American presence in Iraq is more likely to look like in 2006:
BAIJI, Iraq, Jan 3 (Reuters) - A U.S. air strike killed several members of a family in the oil refining town of Baiji in northern Iraq, Iraqi security forces said on Tuesday.

The U.S. military, responding to an inquiry, said aircraft had targeted a house after three men suspected of planting a roadside bomb were seen entering the building late on Monday.

The military statement made no mention of casualties and said Iraqi police had handled the scene after the attack.

Local people at the scene of the blast said seven bodies were recovered from the rubble, including at least two children.


A statement from the U.S. 101st Airborne Division in response to an inquiry about the deaths said soldiers monitoring video footage from a reconnaissance drone [likely from a facility in Nevada] spotted three men apparently digging a hole around 9 p.m. (1800 GMT) "following the common pattern of roadside bomb emplacement".

Bomber pilots were alerted, the military statement said: "The individuals left the road site and were followed from the air to a nearby building. Coalition forces employed precision guided munitions on the structure."

The statement did not say whether a roadside bomb was found.
We're going to see a withdrawal of ground troops and increase in air strikes. And who will be calling in those strikes? Probably Iraqi's ... maybe with an axe to grind.

Even when done well with quality intelligence and appropriate targeting, using air power to fight an insurgency is madness. Can you just picture it? Some kid sitting at console screen outside of Vegas eating a mustard dog spots some Iraqi's "digging a hole" and then orders air strikes.

But the U.S. doesn't care. We've routinely killed so many civilian innocents that using airpower makes sense. With fewer American casualties, the pressure on the administration will diminish because the American public just doesn't give a damned about the deaths of a bunch of "them".

Remember, no matter what the press reports. The study published in Lancet in 2004 (now over a year old) conclusively proved that there had been over 100,000 Iraqi's killed. The press continually spits out the 30,000 number, based on "media reports" that the tabulator freely admits are wrong. Of course our stellar media, in an attempt to remain "fair", trumpets the smaller number despite the evidence to the contrary. Besides. It's obvious the 30,000 number is wrong. I know this because Bush uses that same number.

The United States. Winning hearts and minds one bomb at a time. But hey, those Iraq children have some swell new paint jobs on their schools!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Foer What?

Why do I read The Plank? Why do I daily cause a stress induced blood pressure increase?

I guess because I generally like Michael Crowley. But the other folks who write on the blog are not my cup of tea. Reading the likes of Jason Zengerle and Franklin Foer remind me of exactly why I abandoned "The New Republic" some time back.

Anyway, Franklin Foer expands on his bitch-a-thon about liberal blogs today. He's just dumbfounded that everyone isn't fawning over the NY Times after they revealed Bush's illegal domestic wire taps .... a year after they got the story. Well Franklin, yes, they finally did break the story. But given the consequences of their hesitation due to the cozy whore-like relationship with the administration, I can't get too worked up in praising the Times. It's a bit like the old saying, "other than that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln?"

Foer specifically mentions Atrios with a snarky comment about Atrios not having broken any big stories like the NY Times. Huh? Is that a stupid statement or what? Let's see. And individual blogger using a free blogging program and his own time/effort is supposed to be equivalent to the NY Times? Note to Foer. Trying saying that to Josh Marshall or any number of bloggers who specifically hold themselves out as investigative blogs (which Atrios does not), and who regularly beat the "press" to new stories using far, far less resources.

Remember, Foer is supposed to be writing from a liberal perspective. Here is Foer's second paragraph comment in it's entirety:
These attacks [by liberal bloggers on the NY Times] should be meaningless, except they're not.The administration has now launched an investigation into the leak that produced the Times story. This is a dangerous case that could seriously threaten the ability of reporters to do their jobs. And liberals should be apoplectic about the threat it represents. But instead of apoplexy, many in the MSB are sitting on their hands. The Bush administration has opened a new front in its war on the press, and the press has no defenders. Thanks to the MSB's sweeping, reckless criticisms, the Times has lost much of the credibility and authority that it needs to mount a robust defense. For this, the bloggers deserve some credit. Well done, guys.
I want to take excerpts a little at a time:
These attacks [by bloggers on the NY Times] should be meaningless, except they're not.
The NY Times has degenerated into neither fish nor fowl. It can't decide to be a tabloid yet, but it won't invest in quality journalism. So, just what should the blogging public do when the Times is incompetent while still holding itself out as "the paper of record"? And is the Times so incapable of defending itself? And if the criticisms are without merit, who cares what bloggers say? Unfortunately, attacks by bloggers have only worked because the Times has been the poster-child for incompetent journalism.
The administration has now launched an investigation into the leak that produced the Times story. This is a dangerous case that could seriously threaten the ability of reporters to do their jobs.
Ohhh....kayyy...... This is nothing new by the administration. They've been after the press since day one. I can guarantee you that liberal bloggers did not elect George Bush preznit.
And liberals should be apoplectic about the threat it represents. But instead of apoplexy, many in the MSB [my emphasis] are sitting on their hands. The Bush administration has opened a new front in its war on the press, and the press has no defenders.
This paragraph is an example of the new "journalist" reporting, and why bloggers go ape shit over "stories" written in this way. Who says that liberal bloggers aren't concerned about the administration going after whistle-blowers? Who exactly are the "many in the MSB (mainstream bloggers) that he refers too? I read any number of posts criticizing the administration. But I also know that the administration released this bit of news during the holidays, a time when all news is muted. Let's see where the investigation goes. And the press having no defenders? Defense against what? Nothing has happened yet. This falls into the famous "some say" category of spin used by the administration and press when they have no sources.
Thanks to the MSB's sweeping, reckless criticisms, the Times has lost much of the credibility and authority that it needs to mount a robust defense. For this, the bloggers deserve some credit. Well done, guys.
Oh pleeeeze.... The government abusing it's power is a problem for the citizens of the country. The press has at it's disposal any number of tools to inform the citizenry, if they choose to do the legwork, be willing to piss off power, and spend money on resources. Ask Sy Hersh about journalism. I bet ya he's never been invited to a inside the beltway cocktail party.

Loss of credibility? Yep. Jason Blair, Judy Miller, Bill Keller, Arthur Sulzberger, Bob Woodward, "Steno" Sue Schmidt, Michael Isikoff, Bob Novak (yes, he still has a column), not even mentioning the cable news hacks, if they count as "the press".

It appears to me that publications such as the Times and the WaPost don't need any help from bloggers to render themselves irrelevant, incredible, and vulnerable. They've done that to themselves quite nicely thank-you-very-much. Maybe someday Franklin Foer will get out of the 1970's an, like, actually understand what's happening in journalism.


Linda Hirschman, who retired as the Allen/Berenson Distinguished Visiting Professor at Brandeis University, has written an article in this month's American Prospect. It's a very thorough, well-written perspective on modern feminism that I think contains much important information.

Hirshman notes that the advances of women in the workplace have stalled in the late 1990's. She believes that this stall has been created by renewed emphasis on homemaking and child-rearing, with the default cultural response being that women perform the task. She cites abundant data to back up what is happening. What she lacks, is abundant data as to why it's happening.

The premise of her article can be summarized by the article heading:
“Choice feminism” claims that staying home with the kids is just one more feminist option. Funny that most men rarely make the same “choice.” Exactly what kind of choice is that?
An interesting thought. I can think of many reasons for the "choices" made by both men and women. But Hirshman has some specific thoughts.

Hirshman's article goes on to examine why, postulating that it never really has been a choice and that women are forced into their roles as homemakers. Further, she claims that when the homemaking role is chosen, it's a bad choice:
Here’s the feminist moral analysis that choice avoided: The family -- with its repetitious, socially invisible, physical tasks -- is a necessary part of life, but it allows fewer opportunities for full human flourishing than public spheres like the market or the government. This less-flourishing sphere is not the natural or moral responsibility only of women. Therefore, assigning it to women is unjust. Women assigning it to themselves is equally unjust. To paraphrase, as Mark Twain said, “A man who chooses not to read is just as ignorant as a man who cannot read.”
Ok. So housework can be mind numbing. And I agree that it is a better choice to pursue a rounded existence that includes involvement outside the home. And I also think it's better for society when women are equally involved and representated in our institutions. But just how and why is the "assigning" done?
Women who want to have sex and children with men as well as good work in interesting jobs where they may occasionally wield real social power need guidance, and they need it early.
This statement is the crux of Hirshman's point. Throughout the article, Hirshman's implication is that having a choice is not a good approach. And I can totally agree that those women who want to expand outside the home need support and encouragement. She evens outlines a detailed plan for how to reach women, encourage them, and promote equal involvment of women in our decision-making society. She further elaborates:
The privileged brides of the Times [an article written some time back about well-educated women staying home as homemakers] -- and their husbands -- seem happy. Why do we care what they do? After all, most people aren’t rich and white and heterosexual, and they couldn’t quit working if they wanted to.

We care because what they do is bad for them, is certainly bad for society, and is widely imitated, even by people who never get their weddings in the Times. This last is called the “regime effect,” and it means that even if women don’t quit their jobs for their families, they think they should and feel guilty about not doing it. That regime effect created the mystique around The Feminine Mystique, too.
Again, I agree with the second part. But how does Hirshman know that the interviewed wives only "seem" happy? There are two areas about which I'm unclear in Hirshman's arguments, or with which I disagree.

First, I just don't see how you get the "choice" out of it. Force young mothers to work? What of women who proclaim their honest desire to be stay-at-home moms? There's a premise to Hirshman's article that there is an enormous pool of women staying at home who really really don't want to. I don't know, perhaps she's correct. But maybe she's not. Maybe with the feminist movement of the 70's women (particularly wealthy women) were really freed to make a choice. And many have made it. And isn't it possible that many have happily chosen to stay home? Could there be biology at work here, a tug stronger for women than men in early childhood rearing? And what of the economics of the situation? Aren't there people (of both sexes) who may prefer to stay home and child-rear rather than work, but work out of economic necessity? Hirshman might argue that a "requirement" to work is a good, fulfilling element of a quality life. But what of individual liberty ... to be able to choose a more limited existence? It seems to me that this choice is not one limited to one sex or the other.

Next, Hirshman paints a glorified image of life outside the home that makes one think that everyone, absolutely anyone with half a brain would want to be in the working world. Perhaps that's just not true. Certainly since the feminist movement, many men have chosen to be stay-at-home dads while wives are the primary bread-winners. From a masculine standpoint, couldn't it be argued that for a lot of men, there's the tyranny of "having to be the breadwinner" while women retain the "choice" to work? While Hirshman admittedly is talking about "elite women", what of the vast majority of the rest of femaledom? Unlike the picture painted in Hirshman's piece, most jobs in the economy are not glamorous decision-making positions where individuals achieve enormous self-esteem and personal satisfaction from being a part of the working world. In fact many, maybe most, jobs can be as mind numbing as housework.

Of course, Bobo (David Brooks) had a response column in the NY Times, expressing the neandrathal point of view. I agree with much of the takedown done by Pandagon on Bobo's article. But because Bobo criticizes Hirshman also doesn't mean that Hirshman is therefore correct.

I have no doubt that there remain a large group of woman who feel stigmatized to stay home, who feel guilty when they have careers and families, who do double duty as workers and homemakers with little help from husbands. Support for these women to assert themselves into lives of personal satisfaction is a fantastic goal. But make no mistake about it, achieving that goal is something not given. It requires these women step outside themselves and to take the equality of choice. Power of this sort is never given. It's to these women that Hirshman's article is valuable.

I also have little doubt that many, many people, in the final analysis, pretty much do what they want or need to do. On evaluation, I think most of us look at our choices, weight the consequences, and live the life we choose. Sure, we all grumble, bitch, and complain about whatever choice we make. That's de rigeur . But most of us are right where, for a variety of reasons, we've chosen to be. And in a free society, that's our right. For those who aren't (btw, both male and female), support should be given to their honest efforts to change and better their lives. This is an issue that I see as being a personist issue, not just feminist.


In reading my morning paper, I found this AP report:
STAMFORD, Conn. - Jessica Smith thought she was a shoo-in for a cashier's job at an Office Depot in Minnesota this past summer.

The store manager was encouraging, saying he just needed to run a criminal background check.

But a week later, Smith received a rejection letter that cited a lengthy rap sheet, including drug convictions in Washington.

"I have no record," Smith, 19, said as she flipped through court documents. "They all say felony and guilty. I've never even been to Washington."

Smith, who fought for six weeks to clear her name before eventually landing the job, was a casualty of one of the latest trends in business hiring. Companies increasingly rely on pre-employment background checks to ease security concerns and protect against costly lawsuits.
I'm an unabashed civil libertarian. How many cases like this occur where an individual is actually damaged and doesn't pursue it, or where the damage is not revealed? Or perhaps you pop up on a screeen and get an FBI tail (with a record)?

The proliferation of databases, private and governmental, represents and incredible threat to the right to privacy. That's really not news. And those who argue that giving up some privacy for protection would disagree with my focus on privacy.

But let me add this.

I've worked on databases all my life. Most recently, I've been working on a campaign database for a candidate for which I'm volunteering. And like past experiences, the errors in data input and maintenance are enormous. Even after many hours of "clean-up", I wouldn't be surprised to find a data error rate of 10%. As the old saying goes, "shit in, shit out", databases are only as good as the input and the maintanence. And make no mistake, the larger the database, the more likely the errors.

Creating and maintaining databases is a very laborious and therefore expensive endeavor. A governmental database, usually mined and compiled from many sources, becomes a herculean task perhaps involving thousands of individuals (or varying skill sets) to keep accurate. And no one who works with this information will guarantee it's accuracy. So anytime anyone tries to sell the "efficiency" of using information to catch bad guys, or screen for terriorist, or for any other purposes of security, just remember that for every possible catch, there may be hundreds if not thousands of false hits, resulting in enormous inconvience if not damage to those involved.

Databases have an incredibly weak link.


Computers are stupid and depend on people for efficiency and accuracy.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Did I Miss Something?

Here's Kevin Drum's take on the politics of the illegal wire tapping done by Bush. Remember, Kevin is on our side:
This whole thing is kind of depressing, isn't it? I don't mean in just the obvious sense, but also in the sense that this issue seems like such a clear loser for Democrats. Once again the president will be allowed to paint this as an issue of either wholeheartedly supporting the fight against terrorism or else being one of those whiny liberals who's allied with Osama in all but name. That the real issue is that Bush secretly broke the law instead of getting congressional authorization for it — which would have been a slam dunk for any remotely reasonable program — will end up lost in a whirlwind of the jingoistic bloviating we've come to expect from Fox News and Dick Cheney.

Let's see. The President performs an impeachable offense and the best Kevin Drum can see is that Dems will be painted as whiny? Granted, at times the Dems have been quite adept at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. But isn't Kevin pretty much repeating, in fact expanding, on G.O.P. talking points? And excuse me Kevin, but isn't your response just the type of analysis that leads to the outcome you predict?

When are "centrists" Democrats gonna get it. It's not the issue. It's how you message the issue. Sure, if Democrats go around citing federal code in cool analytical tones, they'll come across like wimps. But what happens if we let Paul "Bush is a son-of-a-bitch" Hackett give the Democratic response? Suppose Dems spend some pundit time incensed at the Constitutional violations, outraged at the breaches on privacy for ordinary Americans. Just suppose the Dems respond aggressively to Bush's illegal activities?

I know this may be outside the DLC/Bob Shrum playbook. But then again, it's time for a new team anyway.

Meds and Suicide

Over the past several years, there have been lots of stories, and some weak studies, claiming to show a link between anti-depressants and suicide. Specifically, the family of anti-depressants called "SSRI's" has been implicated in increasing suicides.

I've always thought these claims were nonsense. But the media, defense attorney's, and some patients have continued the drum beat. Now there's this study from Health Central:
SUNDAY, Jan. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Contrary to what has been feared, the antidepressants known as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are initially effective in as many as one-third of depressed patients and don't appear to increase the risk of suicide, two new studies claim.


The suicide findings seem to challenge a 2004 advisory by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that warned that suicidal behavior may increase after treatment with SSRIs. However, the study did find that suicide attempts were higher among teens than adults, a finding borne out by other research.


"This study, when it is all finally published, will give us a very good idea of how to treat treatment-resistant depression, and what the next step is after the SSRI fails," said Dr. David L. Dunner, director of the University of Washington's Center for Anxiety and Depression.

In the second study, researchers found the risk of suicide attempts and of successful suicides actually dropped in the weeks following the start of SSRI therapy.

"The risk of a serious suicide attempt in people who start taking antidepressant medication is, fortunately, quite low -- less than one in 1,000," said lead author Dr. Greg Simon, a researcher at the Group Health Cooperative, in Seattle. "The risk actually goes down after people start antidepressant medication."
Every ... single ... brand ... new ... therapist-in-training learns a very important lesson, right out of the chute. When a patient is severely depressed and suicidal, the most dangerous time for suicide is right when the individual begins to recover. The reason for this is quite simple. At the depths of a suicidal depression, individuals simply do not have the energy needed to carry out the suicide. However, once that individual's energy begins to improve (but not necessarily their mood), suicide then becomes a larger possibility. And a larger danger. Well guess what happens in the most initial phase of medication treatment?

I hope this puts some of the hysteria to bed. But somehow, I doubt it.

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