Saturday, May 31, 2008

Bright city

Wherein chuckling considers questions of misogyny, sexism and the wisdom of putting words in the mouth of a bitter cow

Following a link at Pandagon, I came across this piece at Shakesville. I wouldn't say that the writer argues that the words of Obama's evil preacher #2 (and counting) are misogynist. She makes no argument at all. She simply states it as fact:

This is just getting fucking ridiculous: Chicago Priest, Father Michael Pfleger, guest ministering at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, gives a sermon on white privilege and entitlement (cool) and uses the occasion to tear into Hillary Clinton with wanton misogyny...

This is what the crackpot said:
Transcript from 1:58: I don't really want to make this political, 'cause you know I'm very unpolitical [laughter], but when Hillary was crying, and people said that was put on, I really don't believe it was put on. I really believe that she just always thought: "This is mine." [applause] "I'm Bill's wife; I'm white; and this is mine! I just gotta get up and step into [sic] the plate." And then outta nowhere came: "Hey, I'm Barack Obama." And she said, "Aww, damn! Where did you come from?! I'm white! I'm entitled! There's a black man stealing my show!" [cheers and applause] Waaaaaaaah! [pretends to weep and cry; wipes face with hankie] Waaaaaaaah! She wasn't the only one crying; there was a whole lotta white people crying!"

Personally, I don't see how anything in that speech can be labeled misogynist. If you can explain it to me, please do so. I have an open mind.

I don't even think it's fair to label it as sexist either, though on that score I can see how one could argue otherwise.

Personally, I'd label it as satire. Not very good or effective satire, mind you, but satire nevertheless.

Just so we're clear, I'm using standard dictionary definitions. Misogyny is the hatred of women. Sexism is prejudice, discrimination and/or stereotyping of a person or group based on gender. Satire is a composition holding vice or folly up to ridicule.

I understand one could rationally argue that bringing up and grossly exaggerating Clinton's emotional hiccup in New Hampshire is sexist in that it plays to a stereotype. Or that the implication that she feels entitled based on the accomplishments of her husband may well be coming from a sexist world view. I don't see either of those arguments as definitive, but one could reasonably make them. That they show hatred of women for being women, no. I don't see that.

It seems that the Hillaryists are pretty much saying that any criticism whatsoever of the deserved one is misogynist per se.

As a Hillary supporter myself, I find this a bit disturbing. When crazy cultists regularly denounce all people who disagree with her about anything as misogynist monsters, there is bound to be an electoral backlash. And I so want her to get what she deserves (the presidency). But on the positive side, it is entertaining to watch the cultists cry their bitter tears and ridicule them for all their ridiclousness.

But be that as it may, this is not about them, it is about me. As regular readers know, chuckling is more than happy to revisit his arguments and examine any prejudices that may turn up.

Although I am clearly not a misogynist -- I do not hate women, I don't even hate Hillary -- I'm sure I must have a few unexamined stereotypes kicking around my psyche that could accurately be labeled sexist. I'm sure everyone does.

To find out more I took the Ambivalent Sexism Test at the Understanding Prejudice site and scored comfortably low. According to whatever questionable methods they use, my hostile sexism score is 0.45 out of 5. I don't know why I score at all, but so be it. My benevelent sexism score was somewhat higher, but still quite low, at 1.09. And it's true. I don't think chivalry is altogether a bad thing.

But hey, I really am open to criticism. If you can demonstrate that anything I've written or produced is misogynistic or sexist, please explain it to me. Convince me with a rational argument and I'll change my evil ways.

I'll even give you a pointer. When I do my own little self-criticisms I find the biggest thing I have to explain away is the talking cow. I admit that's a tough one, but I can tell you honestly that I did not mean to imply that Hillary supporters are bitter cows. I didn't even consider the possibility that it could be offensive in that way until I thought about using the term "bitter cow" in the headline for that article. You may say that it must be my subconscious speaking, and it may be that you are right, but I don't think so. I didn't go out looking for the cow. I came across it serendipitously.

But understand, poor chuckling is a satirist and satire is not safe, nor should it be. Sometimes ya takes yur chances.

Notes from another ground

First, let me emphasize that I am not a supporter of Barak Obama in the presidential campaign. I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican nor a Libertarian nor a Green. I am an independent. So please my fellow Hillaryists, I do not want to see my name in the papers as yet another Obama supporter who said bad things about our lady of the perpetually aggrieved. Like you, I pull my hair and weep real tears every time she is disrespected, which is every minute of every day -- every single minute -- by those horrible Obama people.

I have to admit that I was not always a big Hillary fan. Originally, I was for Rudolph Giuliani. After he dropped out, I stayed on the sideline. My reasons were simple. I prefer deeply flawed and outrageously ridiculous candidates and at that time Hillary seemed decent, boring and relatively sane. How times have changed, eh?

To earn my support, a politician must meet two very important criteria. First, he or she must be a really sick sociopath, a person who will say or do anything, not only to get elected but to stay elected.

Hillary has shown that she is as sick a sociopath as Giuliani or anyone in the Bush administration. But socio-pathology alone is not enough. To earn the coveted chuckling endorsement, a candidate must also be truly ridiculous. I can't exactly put my finger on when Hillary trampled that line -- was it the white power argument? The embrace of the right wing hate machine? The exploitation of Jeremiah Wright? Some small, mostly unnoticed thing? -- I don't know, but she has definitely become ridiculous. Outlandishly so.

But in what may serve as proof that there is a God (and that he is an idiot) we got an unsuspected bonus with Hillary. Not content to be ridiculously crazy by herself, she has developed a cult of personality and bamboozled a significant number of poor souls into worshipping her. These Hillary cultists are so ridiculous that they are almost beyond ridicule. Almost perhaps, but not quite.

John McCain, on the other hand, is nowhere near as interesting. He's more of a psychopath than a sociopath and although he is ridiculous, it is a pedestrian kind of ridiculousness common to all sleazebag politicians. And he doesn't even have any followers. He is an employee. He is owned by grey men in blue suits. Where's the fun in that?

Well, it pops up now and then, but with McCain and his employers it's more of an Orwellian form of ridiculousness and we've had eight long years of that. This article about his transparent corruption in today's Washington Post is precious in its antiquated way. Get this:

"Northrop Grumman fully agrees with the position taken by Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) that encourages members of Congress to protect the integrity of the defense system acquisition process," Belote said in a statement.

Yes, we must protect the integrity of the defense system acquisition process. When it comes to arms sales, nothing is more important than integrity. Although I trust McCain to protect it, I know Hillary will do so as well, probably better.

So since the integrity of the defense system acquisition process is safe no matter who becomes president, I vote based on the potential entertainment factor. My greatest hope is that my fellow Hillary cultists wear uniforms. Or maybe we should get teardrop tatoos to show our agony from the deep wounds inflicted by those horrible Obama people.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A short detour through the past

I don't know if I've ever mentioned it here at chuckling on-line magazine, but chuckling used to know quite a bit about NAFTA. I've toured some border towns and seen many things that are invisible to the untrained eye. The drinking water barrels that originally contained dangerous chemicals, the place where they dump mercury into the ground above a water well that serves thousands, the shit flowing directly into the river, the hospital where those who drink that water go to die. I've seen a lot.

I once wrote a story about an idyllic valley about 60k south into Sonora. I spent an afternoon on a farm speaking with one of those silver haired patrician types you see in the movies. He had inherited the family farm when he was a young man. After NAFTA, his farm was not able to compete with American imports and he ended up working a hot dog cart in the nearest city to make ends meet. Where he once spent his days working productively in an exquisitely beautiful valley, he now spent them slapping American-made hot dogs into buns made with American wheat. My time there may have been brief but it was not superficial. I got a very personal view of the tragedy that is NAFTA. And I know it is much, much worse in the south. Much more than a symbolic old man. Millions of people displaced. Millions of livelihoods destroyed.

So when I read about presidential candidates and cable tv blowhards railing against free trade, I have a different level of understanding. Although NAFTA no doubt harms working class Americans in some ways, it totally devastates the working class Mexicans, particularly the farmers. For the most part, the only people who benefit, particularly south of the border, are the wealthy. You know the types. The people who matter in our respective "democracies."

In other news, I did one of my periodic google searches for Charles Bowden, one of my favorite contemporary authors, and found that he has been writing for National Geographic.

This article brought back memories of the old border days:

The flow of illegal immigrants exploded after the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in the early 1990s, a pact that was supposed to end illegal immigration but wound up dislocating millions of Mexican peasant farmers and many small-industrial workers.

Exactly. Yet we never hear this point of view in the mainstream media. Not in the debates about immigration. Not in the debates about Free Trade. It is one of those things of which we simply cannot speak. Any just solution would reverse the current flow of money from the poor to the rich. That, as we know, is politically unthinkable on both sides of the border. Let them sell hot dogs. Or tacos. And/or drink poison water and die. Whatever.

On a not so completely different subject, Chuck's also got an article about the social collapse in North Dakota. Nice photos too.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The last person in the world refusing to admit it ended in a tie

You may recall that chuckling recently bought a picture book. It arrived in the mail today!

Just Another War is a book of photographs by Kenneth Jarecke, with text by Exene Cervanka and a forward by John Hockenberry.

The photo above is recognized as perhaps the most famous photograph of the first gulf war, whatever that was about. I'm not exactly sure what that buys you, having the most famous photograph of a forgotten war, but it's a great photograph in any context.

To tell you the truth, I was afraid to open the book. I had heard of Jarecke's work and expected to be brutalized with photo after photo of charred, crumbling Iraqi soldiers. But I was surprised to find that the vast majority of the pictures were classic black and whites that perfectly captured the play of light and shadow across the faces of soldiers, detritus of war and the vastness of desert space alike. It's some technically marvelous work and beautifully profound as well.

My major quibble, and it is major indeed, is that each photograph has been cropped into a square. A photograph has a ratio of 3 x 2, which closely approximates the divine proportion. Frankly, that sucks. I want to see the real photos, un-cropped, or at least cropped to the proper ratio. If they look that great with such horrible cropping, how great would they look in their natural ratio?

As for the text, I'm sorry, but I don't care about the text (though I should note that the title of this post came from Exene's work). This is a book of photos. And I recommend it. Expecially for $10 plus shipping. It's a steal. Jarecke, far and away the most, but also Exene, Hockenberry, Mortensen; they all have earned the recognition. Consider tossing ten bucks their way. It may be chump change, but still, it feels good to be paid.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial day parade

More images here.

Our lady of the perpetually aggrieved

In a shocking development, Paul Krugman has joined Hillary Clinton's cult of the perpetually aggrieved and begun to use his New York Times column to shed his bitter tears far and wide. All I can say is, welcome brother. We're glad to have you. What's your poison? Scary black cherry or scary blackberry? No rainbow punch for Our Lady's acolytes.

It's always been clear that Krugman favored Clinton, using a rational argument that on policy matters candidates generally do what they say they will and he thought Hillary's policies were better.

But the clock is running out. It is time to stop thinking and start taking dictation. Krugman typed the Clinton talking points about her being the better candidate in key states quite well, even finishing with the well-worn classic, "polls don't matter much five months before the election, but they do, they do, they really really do!!!!

And it is also time to fuck and chuck all that rationality and policy bullshit. We've got to rage to the four winds. Hillary has been wronged! By those horrible Obama people! The very least the monster can do is re-write the rules, give her $20 million, make her vice-president, then die. Hillary deserves to be president! Deserves it! She really deserves it (I break down in tears at this point). She really really really deeeeseeerrrrves it!

Fortunately, Krugman now gets that basic fact and offers some mild prescriptions:

One thing to do would be to make a gesture of respect for Democrats who voted in good faith by recognizing Florida’s primary votes...

The only reason I can see for Obama supporters to oppose seating Florida is that it might let Mrs. Clinton claim that she received a majority of the popular vote. But which is more important — denying Mrs. Clinton bragging rights, or possibly forfeiting the general election?

What about offering Mrs. Clinton the vice presidency? If I were Mr. Obama, I’d do it.

Yes, yes, my brother. Sing it from the pulpit! Get them to give an inch and we'll take the White House. And if those horrible Obama people don't come around, we'll destroy the Democratic party! Fucking ingrates. God damned apostates. We are the aggrieved and she is our lady!


It was a bright, very bright, sunshiny day

More here.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Wii not so fit

Shigeru Miyamoto, long-time Nintendo employee and creative force behind Mario, Donkey Kong, the Wii, and now Wii Fit is profiled in today's Times. In short, he is the man most responsible for the success of the company.

It is an interesting article in that it explores somewhat the nature of creativity, but I couldn't help but notice this nugget:

Nintendo has become one of the most valuable companies in Japan. With a net worth of around $8 billion, Nintendo’s former chairman, Hiroshi Yamauchi, is now the richest man in Japan, according to Forbes magazine. (Nintendo does not disclose Mr. Miyamoto’s compensation, but it appears that he has not joined the ranks of the superrich.)

I've been around a few CEO's and although they may very well be nice, extremely competent people, my experience suggests that a company's success is much more dependent on those who actually create the products the company sells than on any kind of management genius. Sure, bad management can wreck a company, but good management mostly listens to the best people and otherwise stays out of the way. Sounds like Mr. Miyamoto's erstwhile boss at Nintendo had that kind of sense.

Yet, these days, those who are most responsible for a company's success are lucky to get a 3 percent cost of living raise while the The chief executive and other top management are obscenely over-compensated.

The contradictions inherent in this system will eventually bring it down, but why wait for that? We need tax policies that encourage spreading the wealth much better among those who create the wealth rather than concentrating it in the brokerage accounts of those who have attained enough power to simply take it for themselves.

Nothing wrong with incentive, but the difference between being super-rich and being doubly or triply supper-rich is merely one of ego. Its pursuit is a pathology. The result is a sick society. The solution is to make it very, very difficult.

One last little edit

In today's NYT, Thomas Friedman bemoans the state of education for inner city children. He reports on a public school in Baltimore designed primarily for disadvantaged minority kids that will be run as an elite boarding school. To get into this school, children must participate in a lottery. Friedman argues that it's very sad that the fate of a child is decided by little more than chance.

All well and good. Chuckling is the first to agree that all schools should be good schools and that a child's fate should be something which he or she, or the parents, can reasonably influence. But in the final paragraph, Friedman actually up and pulls Iraq out of his ass. Get this:

There are so many good reasons to finish our nation-building in Iraq and resume our nation-building in America, but none more than this: There’s something wrong when so much of an American child’s future is riding on the bounce of a ping-pong ball.

That man is mentally ill. Were he sane, it would read more like this:

"There are so many good reasons not to finish our insane murder spree, umm nation-building, in Iraq and to begin nation-building here in America, but none more than this: There’s something wrong when so much of our fucking money is irresponsibly borrowed and spent to pay for a stupid war that does no good for anyone except a small circle of war profiteers who don't give a shit about you or me, much less some inner city kid who wants an education. Our political culture is totally fucked and fucktards like me, Thomas Friedman, bear a lot of the blame."