Thursday, April 10, 2008

I Won't Vote for a Myth

While I've had mixed feelings about Obama, my feelings on Hillary are quite clear. Richard Nixon skillfully showed that lack of moral scruple is usually not a significant obstacle to political success. But when you combine Hillary's lack of scruple with her lack of any tangible accomplishment in her "35 years of service" you realize she is just a front for her husband's otherwise unconstitutional third term. She ran an incompetent campaign, clearly demonstrating that Hillary and Bill's political expertise has been vastly overrated. Her recent attempts at finding some purchase on Obama, like the suddenly discovered outrage over the near 50 year old suppression of Tibet, reminds me of a fish struggling in a net.

I initially considered voting for Obama because I found his anti-war stance attractive. As I wrote here, I think we need to withdraw completely from not just Iraq, but the entire Middle East. Obama is not radical enough, and he's not honest. He's committed to a "measured withdrawal" while I want a sudden one. He isn’t honest enough to admit the plain consequence of a withdrawal: a regional war. My view is that we'll eventually get this sort of chaos no matter what we do, because we've fought ourselves onto ground we can’t hold in the long run. I want to get out so that when there is chaos, we're not in the crossfire. Let the Chinese bleed to preserve "stability" in the Middle East.

But regardless, he lost my vote with his race speech. While I'm not convinced that Jeremiah Wright is a racist, his lies about America make it clear he is no patriot. I've watched his entire sermon leading up to his "God Damned America!" quote, and the longer context does nothing to mitigate the fact that he was exulting in 9/11. I actually subscribe to the analysis that says that that U.S. foreign policy contributed to the event, but that is far different from exulting in it as part of God's anger. Far different. So Wright is no patriot.

Neither is Obama. He's the sort of man that believes that simple love of country is too unsophisticated for his Harvard Law School sensibilities. But as the pictures and commentary on this post make clear, when lack of simple patriotism becomes a political liability - then the flags come out. He wasn't talking about race until his attitudes and associates get called into question. Then somehow it becomes something that requires a national dialogue.

To me it isn’t just the "controversial statements." Jeremiah Wright is a follower of James Cone's brand of Liberation Theology. As a Catholic, I find this deeply troubling. There is a reason that John Paul II publicly rebuked a Nicaraguan bishop on this matter. This is a theology that is rooted in Marxism, and it casts Christ as a political revolutionary for the oppressed, not a spiritual redeemer of all. So that is my problem with Obama - he is really a socialist at heart, and I can find nothing in any speech that disabuses me of that notion.

Geraldine Ferraro was right. Obama would not be where he is if he wasn't black. Obama has the Magical Negro schtick going. He's no more articulate than John Edwards, no more accomplished, no more committed to the Democratic Party's idea of "social justice." Obama is black, so for cultural reasons there are plenty of white people that credit him - based on words alone - with a certain wisdom and nobility because it fits into an Hollywood stereotype. Obama is all myth.

It's nice to know that as a white male I'm somehow a swing voter this year. But there is a reason the Democrats haven't won the white vote since 1964, and they probably won’t win it this year either. There is a certain limit to one's willingness to be the gravy train for someone else's idea of "justice."

So I won’t vote for Obama. Neither will I vote for John McCain. The last time I voted for a mainstream politician was my (proud) vote for Ronald Reagan. Until his like comes again, I'll continue to vote libertarian.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Challenge of Paraniod Outreach

I love reading nasty, contentious feminist threads and blog wars. This one is funny! It's by Black Amazon about her experiences at Woman and Media 2008. Since I read her blog a lot I wasn't at all surprised that her experience was one of being watched, silenced, and stared at. I'm sure she she brought the same open-minded, welcoming attitude to this event that she does to all her other experiences of martyrdom. She says "Fuck Seal Press." Apparently there is some vendetta there - one of the many that she clings like battle ribbons.

So someone from Seal Press posts a comment in response:
Seal Press here. We WANT more WOC. Not a whole lotta proposals come our way, interestingly. Seems to me it would be more effective to inform us about what you'd like to see rather than hating.
I guess she was reacting to "Fuck Seal Press" and I'm also guessing she was hoping for proposals from Women of Color. I'd be surprised if she wanted anything from BA herself, since the upper end of the BA market tops out at the 11 or so fanatical acolytes that find her disjointed rants about being silenced deeply gratifying. Publishers look at things like readability and spelling, and it would take a team of editors weeks to straighten out even a short BA piece. So I'm sure she wasn't fishing for submissions from BA

Seal Press was probably concerned because BA has some strange hold on feminists. They give her a deference that is astonishing among a group of people who consider themselves uncommonly wise about social nuances. More than one has felt themselves compelled to apologize because they didn't treat one of her silly rants like an encyclical. Feminists desperately crave approval from WOC because their relative lack of "privilege" mans they have near divine status within the moral pecking order of leftist analysis. Paranoia that would be easily spotted in other people is hidden because the targets of suspicion and hatred conform to the feminist world view.

The reaction to the entreaty is a typical example of feminist junior-high lunchroom table politics. "Misappropriating language" - i.e. "she's copying me!" Bear in mind that this person is approaching with an offer: send us something! BA and her praetorian guard rake through the offer to find a juicy, satisfying nugget of insult they can sink their teeth into. Finally the Seal Press person has had enough:

I appreciate the dialogue, ladies. First off, the blog feels very informal, and my language is in response to the language here:

1. You hate us.
2. We have nothing on WOC.

I get that you all engage best through negative discourse, but I find that too bad. It's not servitude when we pay our authors advances.

These people just came from a media networking conference! What a hoot!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

My Misogynist Cabal

There is a certain irony in Hugo Schwyzer attending Woman and Media 2008, a networking conference, writing about some discomfort he experienced as one of the few older male feminists, and at the same time writing a post about how hard it is for women to deal with men's social networks. In a post entitled: Refusing membership in the Boys’ Club: an answer to Derek about what feminist men can do, Hugo advises a young feminist men to refuse to join the "Old Boys Club" Like most leftists, Hugo believes that this will be a heroic, noble sacrifice, since success in business (unless it is success by women, gays or non-white men) is more about privilege than talent or hard work.
Particularly for young white men working for older white men, the pressure to join the the Network can be both immense and subtle.

Ahh the secret "Network" of Illuminati! Of course all male networking is akin to Politburo meetings where nation-states and country dachas are doled out. Any success you achieve is merely the result of a blessing by an "Old Boys Club" consisting of misogynistic, drink-swilling white guys:

Invitations to the Old Boys Club don’t come on monogrammed Crane’s stationery. They frequently come in the form of the casual, “Hey, we’re going out for drinks later”. Sometimes, the Club is obvious in its sexism, inviting “Derek” but not his fellow intern “Delilah”. More commonly, Derek and Delilah both get invited. Delilah, however, soon senses that the invitation to “hang with the guys” was made more out of obligation than desire. She may notice that some of the men seem uncomfortable with her, or that the conversation over drinks seems designed to exclude her. The older Boys in the office don’t have to take their junior colleagues to Hooters or a strip club to make the sexism obvious; indeed, that kind of crassness is becoming (one hears) somewhat rarer. But from what I hear even now, it’s still common for a young woman, out in social situations with male bosses and co-workers, to feel the tangible presence of a wall separating her from a group of men who might well wish that she would go home early, so the “free talk” (sexist and profane) can begin.

Sure - there is absolutely no way that men - especially white men - can engage in social activities without dissing women. So much so that they'd rather not have women with them at all, just so they can talk trash and head off to the strip club.

There really isn’t any point in arguing - as a Women Studies professor he's paid to promote stereotypes about men, and when you question stereotypes of male behavior on his blog you're treated like a stereotypical gun-toting male rights activist.

The comment thread on this piece is fascinating. Someone said that harassment laws had a chilling effect on male-female contact in the office and after work hours - that’s when I piped in and spoke of a policy I've always had one of "cool professionalism" in the office. I avoid any private contact with females, because of the small, but real chance of a false allegation. You can read the comments.

But then some twit shows up with this:

I don’t think false allegations are as massive a problem as some people claim. How can they be? As a man, you’ll no doubt ahve witnessed sexual harassment before (hopefully not perpetrating it), or at least inappropriate talk about women colleagues. This is very common, I’m sure you’ll agree.

No doubt? Her smug certainty gave me the impression that she was a Women Studies student.

I can’t say I agree, based on my experience. I’ve been a professional for more than two decades, and have never witnessed anything that I would consider an act of sexual harassment. Not one. Not even close. And when socializing with male coworkers I have never heard a female co-worker spoken of in sexual terms. Not even once.
Lots of women are biased against men, and particularly, as I wrote about here, men in groups. Some people just assume that any male bonding has - as its essential glue - misogyny.
I’m not denying that misogyny exists, or saying that women don’t face unfair obstacles in the workplace, and I’m certainly not asserting that sexual harassment is not a serious problem. I just get troubled when people assume that my male bonding necessarily is based on misogyny.
And she comes back with:

OK, maybe you haven’t seen any sexual harrassment. Maybe you have, and haven’t even recognised it. Maybe your experience isn’t representative of the rest of the world, or even your country. that doesn’t mean that there isn’t sexual harassment.

So men who don’t believe there is inequality by essence can’t not be misogynistic, because not being misogynistic requires the effort to realise that society is, and therefore you are, unless you try to change.

You can read the rest of her incoherent nonsense, but it was clear she felt I had to be lying, or so blinded by unrecognized misogyny that I was an ignorant participant in harassent. Since I was a man, it simply wasn't possible not to have initiated or participated in the harassment of women. She's (clumsily) adopted the feminist rhetorical techniques that I summarized in my response:

I started to write a point-by-point rebuttal, but I realize there is little point, because in your eyes I have no credibility, even when discussing myself and my experiences. It seems you are saying that I must hate women, because I claim not to, and that my failure to admit I saw, or participated in, harassment means that my unrecognized misogyny makes me clueless in such matters. I’m either lying about myself or my experiences or my experience must be so unusual that it proves some more general rule.

She came back with an equally incoherent response, but I've learned it is pointless to engage with people like this. I'd rather let the exchange stand as it is, and let reasonable people judge.

Any socializing I do with co-workers has been at lunch, in hotel bars and airport terminals - not Hooters and strip clubs. Hugo and his students would probably be astonished to learn that the conversation is most often not about sports or telling dirty jokes - it is about the one thing we all have in common: work. We talk mostly about projects we are working on, and the office politics around them. The most frequent subject of conversation that doesn’t involve work is our families. If we talk about women, it is usually about our wives and daughters. Female co-workers can, and do fit right in. It isn’t exclusionary in any sense I can detect.

But for some reason academic feminists want to imagine I'm part of some dark misogynist cabal. Ironically, I work in a largely male profession but there has been an explosion in our female labor force recently - overseas. Women over there don’t waste their time learning Women Studies - they are smart enough to know that an engineering degree gives them a better chance at work than learning how to deal with my misogyny. Odd notion that.

I know lots of Americans are concerned about high tech job losses to overseas competitors. The conventional thinking is that we have to become more productive, or create tax incentives to keep jobs here. I think the best thing we can do to level the playing field is to fund massive endowments for Women's Studies programs in Indian, Chinese and Eastern European engineering colleges.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

So How Does Housing Discrimination Law Work Exactly?

I'm not a lawyer, but I've always been curious how discrimination law works in practice. It seems discrimination is OK in some circumstances but not others. It seems to be OK to offer senior discounts, but not discounts to Finns. Apparently some organizations - like strip clubs, and Hooters - can refuse to hire unattractive people. But others - like Walmart - can't do this.

With housing, it seems fine to build private housing that is marketed to "seniors" but not private housing that is marketed to white people - that would be a red flag, and would certainly trigger lawsuits. So I was amused when I came across this post by A Typical Joe (a great blog where you can always find very thought-provoking material).

It turns out that there is a new, "gay-friendly" housing community in Arizona. The Out Properties Vision Statement starts with "Imagine a place where your neighbors are just like you." Hmmm - can I imagine a community of people just like me - straight white Christian people?

The statement gets a bit more inclusive than that. But not too inclusive. It continues:

It’s an active and vibrant community that invites gays and lesbians and their friends and family to live life to the fullest. We, at Out Properties, know that while activity is very important, home is the touchstone central to life. A real home represents the feeling of safety, acceptance and comfort. This feeling is especially cherished among gays and lesbians because we have worked so hard to earn it.

I'm wondering if there is some vetting process that happens with purchasers, and if it would survive a housing discrimination lawsuit. When you go there and express interest in a home - how do they know you are gay? Do they ask you questions, or do they just assume you are gay because you are interested in living there? And allowing for the "and their friends" part - how do they know you are a gay-friendly straight person?

The development FAQ says:
Who will be living at Marigold Creek?
Anyone who wants to live in an upscale, diverse community of gays, lesbians and their friends and family. Marigold Creek is a welcoming and "straight-friendly" community.
What would happen if a Muslim family, with the wife and daughters in Hajibs, wanted to look at some homes? How can some gay purchaser rest assured that some homophobic bigot doesn't buy the place next door a year after they move in? And if a bigot does move in next door - can you sue the developer for not meeting a promise made to you?

Presumably some of this assumes self-selection on the part of "friends." People generally don't pay cash money for a home to be among people they are prejudiced against. But I'd be surprised to find a similar retirement community for "white people and their friends." There are lots of very segregated communities in the US, but I know of none that are explicitly marketed and promoted as such, other than senior-targeted ones - and this one.

I don’t have any problem with this at all. I think it's great that people can choose to live where they want, and have the type of neighbors they want. I just don’t understand how this is legally possible given housing discrimination laws. Can any lawyer explain this to me?