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Raya D. Sunshine, PhD.

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[09 Mar 2009|11:01pm]
What synecdochic said. Linking partly as statement of agreement, partly in case anyone missed it who'd like to read it, but mostly to have a link to a resource I expect to return to often.

ETA: And what rosefox said as well. Exactly that. Please know that when I say I am grateful for what you have taught me, I do not imagine that you express yourself for my benefit, and that when I say you are beautiful, I am not erasing or discounting the pain and scars you carry along with that beauty.

ETA2 Ahhh, and dolphin__girl has this brilliant post about why this has not been an "absolutely goddamn pointless discussion" as some would have it, but something else: Yelling Class. In which learning comes at a high price (disproportionately paid more by those who have already paid more than their share), but is nonetheless necessary.
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Okay.... [07 Mar 2009|04:37pm]
...RaceFail '09. I have been too embroiled in big, scary RL deadlines to follow it until the last few days, and I feel that it's rather superfluous and self-indulgent for me to comment on it since (a) I'm not much of a print SF reader, (b) I'm barely a "fan" of anything these days (though I still joyfully allow myself to be pimped into and subsequently become obsessed with various texts), (c) lots of smart, eloquent people have already said, in widely-read posts, things that express what I think much more articulately and insightfully than I could have done, and (d) I barely ever post here, most of my non-RL friends have probably defriended me at this point and definitely no one is waiting with bated breath for me to update my journal or offer my two cents on this not exactly under-discussed issue. Plus, I'm white and really, even if I had zillions of avid readers, who gives a shit what I think? I mean, even *I* don't care what I think about this issue -- I've been clicking through rydra_wong's links to see what OTHER people think, and to learn from them, and to be moved and amazed by some of the wonderful, insightful, generous things that people have written in an effort to share their perspectives, and to be disgusted and horrified by the behaviour of the people whom I will generalize as The Other Side.

In short, what linaerys said.

But I do want to go on the record as saying that -- while I don't personally know any of the people involved -- I deplore what was done to coffeeandink and those who leapt to her defense; that I was both deeply moved and brilliantly schooled by deepad's beautiful essay, I Didn't Dream of Dragons -- and all her other public posts on this topic; that I have learned a lot from reading the posts by coffeeandink, Seeking Avalon, bossymarmalade, and all the other intelligent, sensitive, thoughtful, and above all generous -- with their time, patience, and wisdom -- people that rydra_wong has linked to. I am deeply grateful to all those people for continuing to engage, to try, and to explain their experiences to others who have not shared them, even in the face of being treated shabbily by a dispiritingly numerous selection of assholes. I did not see any of those people demand cookies in exchange for working so hard to help white people understand what the world is like for them. I did see several white people demand cookies in exchange for kindly condescending to read these comments and pretend (temporarily, as it turned out) that they found them interesting or relevant. And I was very ashamed, on their behalf and on my own.

I do not understand people who would rather spend their energies defending the blamelessness of their privilege (or protesting against the very notion that they have any privilege) than accept an opportunity to learn how the privilege affects their view of the world and how the world might look through the eyes of someone without that privilege (or with different privileges). I do understand that privilege is often invisible to the possessor until it's pointed out and that learning of it can be shocking and destabilizing, but I do not understand preferring to share one's life with something invisible and unexamined (creepy!) rather than wanting to examine it carefully and try to take it apart.

Although most of the people who have persevered in writing thoughtfully about this topic will never read this post, I want to express here my gratitude to them for taking the time to educate me even though they were under no obligation to do so. That goes double for my RL friends -- who will read this, and who know who they are -- who have graciously taken the time to school me, to patiently dismantle my cluelessness and open my eyes to dimensions of reality that would otherwise have been invisible to me, and who have probably often done so while wincing that I needed it done at all. I love you and I appreciate, more than I can express, what you have done for me. AND (because this whole context is so fucked up, with all the colonizing and appropriating that's gone on) I do NOT mean that to sound like my affection is a special reward in return for services rendered!! I would love you even if you weren't so generous with your wisdom and patience, just because you are awesome.
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Wasafiri Announces New Writing Prize [25 Feb 2009|12:22pm]
No idea why I got this in my inbox but posting i9t anyway....mostly with rahael in mind, but I know there are a lot of writers on my flist....

Wasafiri Announces New Writing Prize in Celebration of its 25th Anniversary Year

'Wasafiri is ... vigorous, searching, stimulating.' (Jackie Kay)

Does this describe your writing? Can you meet the Wasafiri challenge?

Wasafiri will be 25 years old this year; what does '25' mean to you? Can you write a piece of fiction or life writing, or a poem on the theme of '25'? If so, Wasafiri is looking for writers to submit their creative pieces to our New Writing Prize.

A £300 prize will be awarded to the winner of each category, to be announced on 31st October 2009 at the South Bank in London.

The deadline for submissions is 30th June 2009.
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On slobbery [27 Nov 2008|06:02pm]
Can anyone give me one good reason why I shouldn't just wear the exact same clothes I wore yesterday (now that I've finally bothered to shower and dress after spending most of the day in my PJs)?

No, I didn't think so. That's what I'm doing, then.
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America finally overcomes electile dysfunction [05 Nov 2008|10:08am]
This is a very happy map.

Two things I especially liked in Obama's speech:

1. "This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change." Amen.


2. "To those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too." A stark contrast to Bush's words after his razor-thin (and contested) victory in 2004: "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it."

(Mind you, I have to hope that by "I will be your President too," he means "I will do my best to lead you to a less fearful and hateful view of the world" and not "I will totally pander to you on issues such as gay marriage and abortion.")

The Onion coverage is hilarious:

Black Man Given Nation's Worst Job

Nation Finally Shitty Enough To Make Social Progress

Bush: 'Can I Stop Being President Now?'

Saddest moment for McCain: his supporters BOOING Obama and Biden every time he mentioned them, even though (to his credit) he was trying to get them to join him in a gracious message of concession and congratulation. Yes, "my friend," you created this monster of hatred and bile and total disregard for all the norms of basic civility and respect. Don't you feel proud now? What an achievement. This is how you will be remembered: as the man whose supporters (self-identified "patriots") booed not only the 44th President of the United States, but the historic election of the first black man ever to become President of a majority white nation. They're so absorbed in their own pettiness they don't even realize how bad they are making you look.

I feel genuinely sorry for John McCain: not a nice man, or even an entirely sane man (it sometimes appears), but certainly a man who thought he meant well, and who has, I think, been truly surprised to learn just how much of a delusion that was. It would have been nice if he could have lost with a modicum of dignity, but his own campaign made that impossible.

That said, if this destroys the Republican Party for a generation, and/or forces them to become a different (less toxic) kind of party in order to survive? Net gain.
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Too many events! [03 Nov 2008|12:09pm]
The problem with working at a major research university is that there is just too much cool stuff going on at the same time. For example, on Wednesday night, there is an "election post-mortem" with Hendrik Hertzberg and Katha Pollitt -- two of my favourite periodical-housed political writers -- and,at exactly the same time, there is a concert of all Milton Babbitt's string quartets, being performed on the same evening for the first time ever. However, I can't go to either of these things because instead I have to be at a choir rehearsal. Gah!
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Follow-up to previous [16 Oct 2008|03:09pm]
I actually want to propose a course -- I was thinking a First-Year Seminar (and probably it would still be most appropriate there), but maybe I could get away with it as a Comp. Lit. course, meaning I could teach it as soon as next year -- on the themes I incoherently hashed out below, called something like "How Can We Possibly Understand Each Other?" (In practice, if a comp lit course, this would probably turn into something anodyne and meaningless like "Envisioning the Other" or "Engaging Otherness" or some similar shite....)


Homer, Odyssey
Chekhov, SS

Forster, A Passage to India
Merchant-Ivory, A Passage to India (film)
Aamir Khan, Lagaan (film)

Bill T. Jones, Fela! The Musical
Readings [there's a ton of scholarship looking at Fela Kuti's legacy from different angles]
Original footage and, of course, music

In the Heights (musical)
Junot Diaz, [texts]

Jhumpa Lahiri...? (Better choices? This would be a popular choice with my college though, since she is an alumna)
Chang Rae Lee, Native Speaker

Something addressing the complexities of the non-Russian nationalities of the Soviet Union, perhaps (Iskander? Aitmatov? various representations of the Crimean Tartars? etc.)

But what I really want to dig into is (a) the people who are AROUND US, but who come to us (in our ivory tower) instead of us going to them; and (b) the people who are divided from us by, literally, continental divides: so, of particular interest, Asia and Africa (South America perhaps less so as more familiar -- but I don't know).

Would love to include a "unit" on South Africa -- an extraordinary case study. But NOT the books of that awful man, J.M Coetzee -- I would be vomiting all semester. So what then? Maybe the REACTING game?


Suggestions of films, other performances/media, and literary or theoretical texts gratefully accepted in comments!
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Incoherent because I'm trying to articulate inchoate thoughts and have to leave for work, like, NOW [16 Oct 2008|07:02am]
I wish I had time to post here about the stuff that's really on my mind. It's too complicated, though, and I just don't have the time to set it all down. It has to do with trying to be human....trying to understand each other. I went to see In the Heights last night, which -- while not perfect, like sometimes it's not clear what the ensemble choreography is supposed to convey (although for the most part even THAT is brilliant and really captures the feeling of the constant foot traffic in the barrio) -- is an incredible show, an amazing tour de force by the guy who originated the idea, wrote the music and lyrics, and stars as the show's protagonist.

Anyway, I found it not only thought-provoking on many levels (no time to enumerate) but also deeply moving: it portrays a unique, instantly recognizable place, a neighbourhood defined by transition (parents all FROM somewhere else, kids all dreaming of moving TO somewhere else) yet possessed of a culture that is home to all of them, like Ithaka to Odysseus, despite all its imperfections. A neighbourhood where people don't notice whether they're speaking English or Spanish, and slide between the two several times in the course of a sentence; a neighbourhood where the streets are packed with people, festooned with trash, resounding constantly with bass-pumped merengue, bachata, and hip-hop (often all the same time, at extremely high volume, from cars parked on adjacent blocks). A neighbourhood that shaped (and shapes) the childhood of many, defines their identity in fundamental ways -- and which I (on a very small, personal scale, and despite myself) and the institution I work for (in much larger and more callous ways) are bent upon eradicating.

It hooks up with the many misgivings I've been having...Collapse )

Step one: cut a hole in the box.
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[15 Oct 2008|11:48am]
Let's say Obama actually wins this election by the landslide he is headed for right now (3 weeks is a long time in politics, so being "headed for" a landslide 3 weeks out doesn't by any means translate into actually getting one On The Day -- but let's just imagine he does).

It's tempting to imagine, especially if the landslide is due to the youth really turning out in unprecedented numbers thanks to Obama's youth-friendly, tech-savvy, and potentially paradigm-changing campaign, that this would translate into a complete paradigm shift for American politics: the breaking of the race barrier, the re-involvement/re-investment of a large youth demographic in politics after 30 years of apathy, and a massive shift to the left which would re-sanitize the word "liberal" and make it kosher, even "normal," to be liberal again.

Unfortunately, I doubt very much that this will happen, landslide or no landslide. First because Obama will be certain to disappoint -- not necessarily b/c he has promised more than he can deliver but because much, much more has been imputed to or projected into him than he can (or wants to) deliver. This will piss off the young voters who "thought he was different" and they will tune out again. Second because he really has no interest in moving the country to the left. He hasn't promised a restoration of civil liberties, a shoring up of the welfare state, an ethical reform of free trade, or a reining in of corporations (except insofar as he'd like them to, you know, obey EXISTING laws). He just wants the country to be run more competently (or hey, AT ALL competently), and by people of good will.

The left in general, and young people especially, are going to have to take very seriously the John Edwards mantra: "You can be disappointed, but you cannot walk away." We are going to have a lot, lot lot more work to do.
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[13 Oct 2008|02:58pm]
Oops, forgot to post here yesterday as promised. Anyway. Am currently hunting high and low for my copy of Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities (WTF where is it??) and mostly thinking about national anthems (for the paper I have to give in Ekaterinburg next week). But would like to offer some further thoughts relating to nationalism:

(1) As Anderson is not the first to point out, nations haven't been around for very long. Like, two and a half centuries, max. The notion of patria, "homeland" (lit.: fatherland) has been around much longer, of course, as has the accompanying idea of amor patriae, love of one's own country, or (in a purely sentimental sense) patriotism. "Patriotism" in this usage denotes love of one's birthplace, a sentimental attachment to it, even loyalty to it. It does not necessarily connote an irrational assertion that's one's homeplace is OBJECTIVELY better than any other place. Rather, the relationship with one's own country is like the relationship with one's own family: you cherish it because it's yours.

(2) As long as there has been "patriotism"/"love of one's own place," it has been used as a rallying cry in war.

(3) However, the attachment of "patriotism" to a nation-state on the modern scale is very new (as is the modern nation-state).

(4) This matters because of the way "patriotism," in the sense of "loyalty to nation," is used politically: rather than occurring naturally as a result of growing up somewhere, it is now an artificially generated sense of identification with an entire nation, which one may feel (or is supposed to feel) even about parts of the nation one has never seen, or has nothing in common with): thus, a native of New York City is supposed to identify closely with the Arizona desert, the Kansas prairie, and the Louisiana bayou despite never having been to, or even perhaps met anyone from, these places.

(5) Politically, this artificially generated sense of identification is used not only to recruit soldiers to the armed forces and to exclude foreigners, but also to prevent the underclasses from bonding with each other across national lines. Marx wrote, "Workers of the world, unite!" (with the clear implication that economic injustice can only be ended if its victims -- vastly more numerous than its perpetrators -- band together and press their numerical advantage). Wealthy elites responded to this call for internationalism with a call to nationalism ("patriotism") -- thereby sectioning the "workers of the world" off into little isolated groups (the "workers of nation X"). You are supposed to define your self-interest as being entirely contained within the borders of your own country -- better yet, define your own self-interest as synonymous with that of the people (usually rich white men) who hold power in your country. Do not, under any circumstances, imagine that you have any interests in common with the ordinary citizens of other countries.

(6) This, obviously, sucks.

(7) Think about this when McCain, Palin et al. go around the country frothing at the mouth about "patriotism." Especially when they accuse other people of "lacking patriostism." They are full of shit. (The Democrats too, of course, but they tend to do less of the accusing.)
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working working working [11 Oct 2008|04:16pm]
I'm leaving exactly one week from now to give a paper in Ekaterinburg, Russia, and I have to write it this weekend....argh!!
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Daily updates [10 Oct 2008|09:00am]
I've decided I want to try and post something here every day so that y'all remember who I am.

That said, that's about all I have to say at the moment.
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[07 Oct 2008|11:26pm]
What the fuck is up with John McCain? Why won't he shake Obama's hand? Is it some kind of weird occult thing like sleeping with Buffy only in reverse, where if he shakes Obama's hand his soul will come back and he'll have to live with the guilt for the bad things he's done?

The CNN guy was like "he clearly has some disdain for Senator Obama," but really, how much disdain do you have to have for someone to risk looking like that much of a dick right there on teevee in front of millions of people?

In other news, I have a special fondness for my favourite laundry guy. That is not a cryptic message. It is the literal truth!
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Yup. [13 Sep 2008|11:28pm]
Rebecca Traister at Salon:

It is infuriating that Clinton, her supporters and, yes, also those Obama supporters who voiced their displeasure at the sexist treatment Clinton sometimes received, and also female voters, and also females full stop, are being implicated in feminism's bastardization.

But if we inadvertently paved the way for this, then the Democratic Party mixed the concrete, painted lanes on the road, put up streetlights and called it an interstate. The role of the left in this travesty is almost too painful to contemplate just yet.

For while it may chafe to hear Rudy Giuliani and John McCain hold forth on the injustice of gender bias, what really burns is that we never heard a peep or squawk or gurgle of this nature from anyone in the Democratic Party during the entire 100 years Hillary Clinton was running for president, while she was being talked about as a pantsuited, wrinkly old crone and a harpy ex-wife and a sexless fat-thighed monster and an emasculating nag out for Tucker Carlson's balls. Only after she was good and gone did Howard Dean come out of his cave to squeak about the amount of sexist media bias Clinton faced. That may not be pretty to recall, especially in light of the Grand Old Party's Grand Old Celebration of Estrogen. But it's true. And it's also true that if there hadn't been so much stone-cold silence, so much shoulder-shrugging "What, me sexist?" inertia from the left, if there had been a little more respect (there was plenty of attention, of the derisive and annoyed sort) paid to the unsubtle clues being transmitted by 18 million voters that maybe they were interested in this whole woman-in-the-White-House thing, then the right would not have had the fuel to power this particular weapon.
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[10 Sep 2008|08:25am]
This is literally the dumbest thing I have ever heard.
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Keep Contraception Legal! [24 Aug 2008|02:19pm]
So, the much-blogged-about (but little-covered in the media, which has devoted all of its considerable resources to breathlessly awaiting the exciting choice of Joe Biden as Obama's running mate) new HHS rule allowing health care providers to refuse to provide any health care services they personally oppose (ranging from contraception to abortion to sterilization....basically, anything that might apply specifically to sexually active women) has been officially proposed. There is a 30-day period for public comments, after which the rule (or whatever version of it the agency decides to adopt after "reading" the comments) will simply become law.

Needless to say, the useless-effing-Democrats are overwhelmingly silent on this (with the praiseworthy exceptions of Sens. Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray), because, like, who cares about women when there's NASCAR dads out there who totally said they might come over and play in our treehouse?!

So it's up to us. The regulations.gov site, where you're supposed to leave your "public comment," is impossible to navigate, but Planned Parenthood has a tool for submitting your comment:

NARAL has a tool for writing to your Congressional reps:

For background, the Shakesville blog has done a good job of covering the issue:

and here's the text of the proposed new rule:

Feel free to ask Barack Obama where he is on this issue as well, because last I checked, his treehouse still had the sign outside it saying "No Girlz Alowd"...
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"Feminism," hijacked [10 Aug 2008|01:05pm]
If there's one thing about political sex scandals, or rather the absurd way political sex scandals are treated in this country, that particularly pisses me off, it's the ongoing claim by the likes of Maureen Dowd (who adopts the "feminist" label when it suits her and spends the rest of her time mocking feminists for being unsexy and uncool) that somehow "feminism" requires that I get bent out of shape by marital infidelity, or that I'm a bad feminist for not feeling that it's any of my business what goes on in other people's marriages.

Apparently feminists were supposed to get mad because Bill Clinton had consensual sex with the adult Monica Lewinsky, or because John Edwards did with the adult Rielle Hunter. We were supposed to get mad because Hillary represents all women, and Bill's infidelity to poor little victim Hillary represented his objectification and denigration of all women. (Rinse and repeat for John Edwards.)

The fact that both Clinton and Edwards chose to marry strong, intelligent, "intimidating" women who were arguably more impressive intellectually and professionally than their husbands; that both have remained married to these women despite very public fuck-ups by Bill and John and, without a doubt (because this is how marriage works) less public ones by Hillary and Elizabeth; that Bill Clinton forcefully and uncategorically supported women's rights throughout his Presidency (most notably by appointing women -- including the first openly queer female nominee -- to serve in his Cabinet and on the Supreme Court, and by implacably vetoing anti-choice legislation) and John Edwards has done the same throughout his career in public life; well, these are facts that as a "feminist" I'm supposed to ignore because when a man cheats on his wife, it means he hates women.

What does it mean when a woman cheats on her husband? When a gay man cheats on his partner, or a lesbian on hers? What if someone runs for office who isn't married at all? How will I tell whether they hate women or not? We'd better hope that only straight married men run for office, since there is no litmus test in place for testing the "feminism" of any other kind of candidate. (Thank God Hillary didn't get the nomination! That would have been so confusing!)

I guess, since none of our intrepid (read: prurient) press corps has managed to catch George Bush cheating on his wife, that he must be a true friend to women. Never mind that his Supreme Court ruled (at the Administration's explicit urging) to effectively legalize pay discrimination against women or that Bush himself signed into law the egregious Partial Birth Abortion Act that his goons on the Supreme Court subsequently upheld despite its brazen unconstitutionality. Never mind his embarrassingly sexist behaviour toward Angela Merkel.

Here's a clue for the faux-feminist concern-troll brigade: Feminism isn't about regulating people's private behaviour (i.e. sex lives) -- in fact quite the opposite. Feminism is about giving men and women equal opportunities to fuck up -- or not -- and about treating them equally when they do. That means not presuming to judge the details of other people's private relationships and how they choose to manage them. It means recognizing that men and women are sexual beings, and not applying separate standards to men and women when they engage in sexual behaviour (e.g. by assuming that men are the perpetrators of infidelity and women the victims, or by viewing sex as normal and necessary for men but sinful or unsavoury for women, or by insisting that women -- and only women -- "accept responsibility" for sex by bearing a child every time a contraceptive, or simple foresight, fails them). It means allowing both men and women to take full responsibility for their actions, be they worthy of praise or blame, and not casting women as vixens and/or victims of the all-powerful male libido. It means, especially, acknowledging that women, as well as men, are fully capable of making mature and rational decisions and deserve the autonomy and privacy to do so -- WITHOUT the paternalistic assistance of the courts (kindly offered by concern troll Justice Kennedy) or "her pastor" (as Barack Obama, no friend to women despite his apparent marital fidelity, insists).

In the political arena, feminism entails electing and supporting leaders who are outspoken and unequivocal in their support for women's equality, and who back up their words with meaningful action when the opportunity arises. If there is any sense in which the private life of a male politician can be used to diagnose his attitudes toward women's equality, it's not in the strength of his resistance to sexual temptation, but in the character of his chosen partner and the evidence -- if any -- that he respects her opinion and her intelligence, believes her capable of fighting her own battles, and values her for something beyond mere sexual gratification and childbearing. Both Clinton and Edwards pass those tests. Bush and Obama, not so much.*

As a feminist, I'd like the opportunity to vote for female candidates who were also strong advocates for the issues I care about. Since apparently they're still not letting the girls play in the really big leagues, I'll stick with the guys who seem most interested in changing the rules of the game, and if they have dirty laundry to wash, let them do it on their own time.

*Obligatory disclaimer: I am not equating Bush and Obama here, except in the narrow category of marital fidelity. Obama has, to be sure, shown little interest in advocating for women's rights or in avoiding misogynist rhetoric when he talks about them. But that's obviously a far cry from actively chipping away at women's rights as Bush has done, and -- equally obviously -- Michelle Obama kicks way more ass than Laura Bush.

In related news: Digby speak. You listen.
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WOW [04 Aug 2008|10:24am]
Holy crap -- Kevin Pietersen named English captain. THAT is something I did not expect to see. A ballsy move from the usually conservative selectors -- most un-English on every level really but I won't be surprised if it pays off bigtime for exactly that reason! (Much criticism has been levelled at Petersen's unsuitable "temperament" but if there is one thing that seems unlikely, it's that the responsibilities of captaincy will put much of a dent in his overweening self-confidence. Which is what seems to have done in the last 10 or so English captains...)

Could this be the start of a more "Australian" approach to cricket on the part of the England and Wales Cricket Board -- just in time for the Ashes?

LOL from the Guardian article:
"First of all, I'd like to say Michael Vaughan ... what a great man he was as a skipper," said Pietersen. "They are huge boots to fill and I'll try to give it the best possible go I can. He was a great leader, he brought me into the side...."
Even when he's trying to be magnanimous, the universe revolves around him!
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Ugh. [14 Jul 2008|01:07pm]
I haven't been posting here, partly because busy, and partly because in recent months most of what I'd be posting about is how much of a douchebag Barack Obama is, and it's both dispiriting and, at some point, tiresome, to have to post about that. Two things today though have roused me to the point where I actually commented on other people's blogs (a rare occurrence, for me), so I thought I might as well post those links, and my comments, here.

First up, Digby -- whose opinion, and trenchant writing style, I normally hold in the highest respect, but who I think is mistaken in this particular blog post -- writes:
[The future composition of the Supreme Court] is one reason why I'll vote for Obama enthusiastically. A President McCain will throw the wingnut zealots the most reactionary, federalist society hack he can find, like bloody bloody meat to a piranha tank. He doesn't care about anything but paying off his rich friends and making war. Whatever our problems might be with Obama we know that he won't do that.
Anyone who's been following Obama's statements about recent Court decisions and about abortion (one major issue on which the Court defines the law of the land), as well as his general philosophy about selecting judges, knows that this isn't as reassuring as Digby makes out; Obama, indeed, probably won't nominate conservative Christian judges to placate "the wingnut zealots," since they aren't his base, but he may very well nominate precisely such judges out of genuine conviction. As I commented on Digby's post:
I actually, and regretfully, think that Obama will indeed nominate judges of the Roberts stamp to the SCOTUS. I agree that McCain is worse than Obama on pretty much every other issue -- but I'm actually not so sure that he is worse than Obama on this one. I agree with those who say "we know nothing of the sort."

What DO we know? We know that McCain runs hard to the right in order to get elected, but that when he's not preoccupied with succeeding George Bush he actually is willing to consider some moderate positions. His alliance with the Christian right is a very very uncomfortable one, and I don't see him (unlike Bush) as someone who simply can't wait to get some more gun-toting right-wing Christian zealots onto the bench. Once safely elected, he might -- MIGHT -- actually nominate justices he thinks are qualified rather than ones who espouse a hard right ideology.

Obama, on the other hand, has shown that he'll tack left when expedient to get the Democratic nomination, but that his real inclinations are much further to the right. His completely gratuitous (and therefore, probably not purely "political") public statements agreeing with the Scalia-Thomas-Alito wing of the SCOTUS in the recent decisions on gun control (he thinks there should be less) and the death penalty (he thinks there should be more), together with his public statements that "in the 5% of cases when the law isn't clear," judges should be free to make ideological decisions, signal that he might well seek to appoint justices in the Scalia/Alito mold to the Court.

Especially troubling are his statements rejecting the mental health exception for late-term abortions. As Shakespeare's Sister points out, these remarks -- which he has repeatedly affirmed -- signal his CLEAR DISSENT from the law of the land as embodied in the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions (which have been enshrined in law now for 35 years). Assuming that he also follows through on his remarks about appointing judges who are not only qualified but who will interpret the law in a way that is consistent with his political positions, we are looking at a strong likelihood that he will appoint judges WHO ARE READY TO OVERTURN ROE V. WADE -- or at least the "mental health" provision of the law, which is the thin end of the wedge that anti-abortion groups have been fighting for decades to insert into the legal protections for abortion, and would be celebrated as a huge victory for the "pro-life" lobby.

In short, Obama has given a number of clear signals that can be interpreted as telling us that he will appoint justices to re-examine Roe, curtail the protections of the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 8th Amendments, and make "activist" rulings. McCain might do the same thing (or worse) -- but he also might not, especially since the issues on which the Court typically rules (or on which we fear its rulings) are actually not especially dear to McCain's heart. We just don't know, but either way, it's not looking good -- especially for women.

The second thing that made my blood pressure go up today is Hendrik Hertzberg's latest column in the New Yorker (and I say this with no little regret, because I used to have quite a thing for Hendrik Hertzberg back in the day). Hat tip to my friend Ben, who drew my attention to the column (though I would have read it eventually anyway, when the hard copy of the magazine arrives in my box). Hertzberg goes through the list of the "flip-flops" Obama has been (rightfully) accused of committing in recent weeks, and takes it upon himself to "score" which are "substantial," which "trivial," and which so negligible (from Hertzberg's point of view as a privileged white male member of the New York chatterazzi) as to be "nonexistent." Funny how different things look when you're actually a member of the group that stands to suffer as a result of these "nonexistent" shifts in position. (To be fair, what HH probably means is that the abortion "flip-flop" isn't really a flip-flop as it is consistent with Obama's long-held conservative views. BUT inasmuch as it is NOT consistent with the Democratic platform on abortion for the last 35 years, it is still reasonable to regard it as a "flip-flop." If Obama's position was at odds with the accepted doctrine of his own party, he had a moral responsibility to make that clear during the primary season, when he was asking for the right to represent the party in the general election.)

As I commented at Ben's blog,
Yeah, I have to say, reluctantly, that HH is not my boyfriend anymore. His high-water-mark was 2004, for me. He is ABSOLUTELY DEAD WRONG (and teeth-grindingly patronizing) when he says:

The same week, Obama said he didn’t think that “mental distress” alone was sufficient justification for a late-term abortion…..The leading reproductive-rights group, NARal Pro-Choice America, defended him, pointing out that his views are fully consistent with Roe v. Wade. Flip-flop category: nonexistent.

As ABC’s legal correspondent notes, Obama’s opposition to a mental health exception for late-term abortions is NOT “fully consistent with Roe v. Wade”:

In 1973, when the Court issued Roe and Doe — on the same day — it sided with the abortion rights groups and said states could not interfere with a doctor’s medical judgment on whether an abortion was necessary.

“[M]edical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors–physical, emotional , psychological, familial, and the woman’s age–relevant to the well- being of the patient,” said the Supreme Court in Doe, which was a companion case to Roe. “All these factors may relate to health . This allows the attending physician the room he needs to make his best medical judgment.”

Obama’s comments that he does not support mental health exceptions in so-called post-viability abortions (after 22 weeks) is squarely at odds with that holding, which remains the law of the land today.

(Via Shakespeare's Sister.)

Obama’s right-wing, patriarchal stance on abortion is not only SQUARELY AT ODDS with the law of the land as embodied in the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions (which have been enshrined in law now for 35 years); it’s also yet another slap in the face to women from a campaign that has repeatedly used or condoned misogynistic language (first against Hillary Clinton, and now as used by Bernie Mac); refused to acknowledge the existence or dignity of gay people; and employed patriarchal notions about “pastor and family” to diminish women’s moral autonomy and enforce outdated notions about marriage and the nuclear family. Obama is no friend to women, as he’s made all too clear.

The big problem with dismissing “mental distress” as a justification for abortion is, of course, that it is precisely the “mental and emotional health” exception that allows women to abort foetuses that, because of severe fetal abnormalities (e.g. no brain) cannot survive outside the womb. In many such cases, the continuation of the pregnancy poses no known physical threat to the mother; it can be a toss-up whether it would be physically safer for her to carry the child to term and deliver it naturally, or have the late-term abortion, which is a bit more surgically invasive than an early abortion. But forcing a woman to go on carrying — perhaps for four or five months — a child that will either be born dead or will die within minutes of birth is the height of cruelty. I mean, what kind of monster would make a woman go on gestating her dead child? Who would condemn a woman to four or five months of suspended grief, of waking up in the middle of the night and feeling the baby kick, only to remember that it is doomed and will never see the light of day or suckle at her breast? That she will go through who knows how many hours of labor only to lay the tiny body in its coffin?

THAT is why we have the mental health exception, and I’m sure it’s been explained to Barack Obama — which means that, in rejecting “mental distress” as a reason to end a pregnancy, he is choosing to be a monster.

And so is sexist douchebag Hendrik Hertzberg, for saying it’s no big deal.
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Follow-up to previous.... [12 Jul 2008|06:41pm]
The results of that "Most Important Public Intellectuals" poll. (No Stephen Fry, alas.)

At least, I think it's the same poll. Many of the same names, at least, and even if it's not the same one, it's similar enough that.....well, you get the idea.
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