Friday, October 31, 2008

Should we drop out of Electoral College? (second part of a three-part series)

So. In the United States, we have this goofy, complicated way of electing the president. In every state, voters go to the polls and vote for a list of people who promise to vote for a particular candidate when the real vote comes up in the Electoral College. (For details, see Part I of this series.)

Is this a good idea or not?

Although the United States was a very different country in 1789 when the Constitution was ratified, some folks argue that the method of electing a president that was adopted then still works well. William Kimberling--in an essay written in 1992, but widely circulated on the Web today--takes this position.

According to Kimberling, if presidents were elected by majority vote of the entire population, "presidents would be selected either through the domination of one populous region over the others or through the domination of large metropolitan areas over the rural ones." By contrast, the Electoral College system requires candidates to gain support from many regions of the country.

Kimberling also argues that "the votes of even small minorities in a State may make the difference between winning all of that State's electoral votes or none of that State's electoral votes." He says this gives "ethnic minority groups and other special interests" more power than they would have otherwise.

Kimberling seems to contradict himself with his next argument, that the Electoral College protects the political stability of the nation by strongly encouraging a two-party system For one thing, "it would be extremely difficult for a new or minor party to win enough popular votes in enough States to have a chance of winning the presidency."
In addition to protecting the presidency from impassioned but transitory third party movements, the practical effect of the Electoral College (along with the single-member district system of representation in the Congress) is to virtually force third party movements into one of the two major political parties. Conversely, the major parties have every incentive to absorb minor party movements in their continual attempt to win popular majorities in the States. In this process of assimilation, third party movements are obliged to compromise their more radical views if they hope to attain any of their more generally acceptable objectives. Thus we end up with two large, pragmatic political parties which tend to the center of public opinion rather than dozens of smaller political parties catering to divergent and sometimes extremist views. In other words, such a system forces political coalitions to occur within the political parties rather than within the government.

Stability and moderation sound like good things. But couldn't you also say that this system allows powerful elites to limit the influence of new movements and new ideas and keep their grip on power? Maybe this why there often seems to be very little substantive difference between the two major parties?

Whoops. Looks like my radical bias is slipping in here.

But you don't have to be a radical in order to advocate doing away with the Electoral College. A New York Times editorial from 2004 argues persuasively for just that course of action. (A more recent commentary in the Houston Chronicle makes similar points.)

The Times points out that the presidential candidates focus their campaigns only in those states where the vote is likely to be close. Surefire :"blue" (Democratic) or "red" (Republican) states are ignored by the presidential candidates. Voters in those states are likely to be discouraged from going to the polls, because whether in the majority or the minority, they have good reason to believe that their votes don't matter. (Oklahoma, though not mentioned specifically by the Times, is one of those states.)

The Times argues that Presidential candidates focus on issues important in a small number of swing states, and ignore issues that are of importance elsewhere. As an example, the interests of Cuban Americans get a lot of attention from the candidates--because most Cuban Americans live in the swing state of Florida. Because most people from Puerto Rico live in heavily Democratic states, their concerns are mostly ignored

The arcane rules governing the Electoral College have the potential to create havoc if things go wrong. Electors are not required to vote for the candidates they are pledged to, and if the vote is close in the Electoral College, a losing candidate might well be able to persuade a small number of electors to switch sides. Because there are an even number of electors -- one for every senator and House member of the states, and three for the District of Columbia -- the Electoral College vote can end in a tie...In the case of a tie, the election goes to the House of Representatives, where each state delegation gets one vote -- one for Wyoming's 500,000 residents and one for California's 35.5 million.
The Times concludes that "The small states are already significantly overrepresented in the Senate, which more than looks out for their interests. And there is no interest higher than making every vote count."

Personally, before I started this set of blog posts about the Electoral College, I was neutral about whether it was best to keep it or best to get rid of it. It's true that if we had gone by the popular vote, Al Gore would have been elected president in 2000. But it's also true that even under the Electoral College system, if not for some very questionable practices in Florida, Gore would have won that state, and also the presidency.

But once I started learning more about the history of the Electoral College, I found myself becoming convinced that we really need to get rid of it. For more information about this history, see the final part of this series.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

John McCain on Women's "Health"

A friend sent this Daily Show clip to me, and it made me laugh out loud:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Supporting Obama, Voting McKinney

Feminist Peace Network has this thoughtful commentary from Aimee Chew. I found it very convincing.

As I've said before, with Oklahoma solidly in the Republican column, I would vote for Cynthia McKinney if she were on the ballot here.

Predatory Scapegoating

A friend sent me a link to this eye-opening commentary by Patricia J. Williams over at
Some three weeks before New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was forced to resign his office in disgrace (sex! scandal! floozies!), he published an op-ed in the Washington Post. Titled "Predatory Lenders' Partner in Crime: How the Bush Administration Stopped the States From Stepping In to Help Consumers," the piece expressed Spitzer's concern that for several years there had been a marked increase in predatory lending practices, including distortion of terms, surprise balloon payments, hidden fees and deceptive "teaser" rates. These practices, he wrote, were having a "devastating effect on home buyers." In addition, the sheer number of such transactions, "if left unchecked, threaten...our financial markets." To those in the know (OK, those few egghead "elites" not enthralled by the birth of the Brangelina twins), the situation loomed so egregious that the attorneys general of all fifty states, both Democrats and Republicans, lodged suits against the worst predatory subprime lenders. A number of states, including New York, passed laws to rein in such practices.

What happened next was rather astonishing, even by current Republican standards.

Williams writes that "the Bush administration employed a little-used 1863 law to annul all state antipredatory-lending laws and, if that wasn't enough, to block states from enforcing their own consumer protection laws in suits against national banks."

Ironically, Republican operatives and right-wing radio hosts are now scapegoating black homeowners and "Franklin Raines, former head of Fannie Mae, the single black head of any organization implicated in this mess."

For details, read the whole article.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Josephine the Plumber answers Florida anchor

This video started out as a discussion at the recent Herland Fall Retreat. We had fun with it:

Here's the news report we used as our hook.

For a more serious and detailed discussion of McCain and Obama's tax policies, you can check out this post on the TaxProf Blog. Also worth reading is Mitchell Rofsky's commentary over on Common Dreams.

Background on Josephine the Plumber

In the final presidential candidate debate, John McCain accused Barack Obama of wanting to raise taxes on struggling small business owners. As an example, McCain spoke about Joe Wurzelbacher from Toledo, Ohio, a plumber who planned to buy his own plumbing business, and feared that he might suffer under Barack Obama's plan to raise taxes on people who earn more than $250,000 a year. McCain and Obama apparently spent much of the rest of the debate arguing about how their policies would affect people like Joe the Plumber.

But of course, anyone with feminist sensibilities might wonder, what about Josephine the Plumber?

For instance, Teresa C. Younger points out that the candidates failed to focus on female small-business owners. And Judi Jennings uses the idea of Josephine the Plumber to call for what she describes as a "moral economy." Meanwhile, Revolution 21's Blog for the People remembers the original Josephine the Plumber who sold Comet cleanser on t.v.--and also points out that Josephine "is fine with Barack Obama's tax plan. She makes only 67 percent of what Joe the Plumber does and won't get above the Democrat's $250,000 soak 'em threshold."

Monday, October 27, 2008

No "good war" in Afghanistan

Over at truthout, Camillo "Mac" Bica makes The Case Against Escalation of the War in Afghanistan.

"Gay Marriage and Subversion of the Republic"

Gay marriage has never been my issue, but over on Truthdig, Scott Tucker has a thoughtful analysis of California's Proposition 8. Tucker points out that

There is a much larger and starker problem with the Democratic Party. If Proposition 8 wins, the political illusions of many gay people must be part of the public accounting. Likewise, elected Democrats gone AWOL will deserve consequences at the polls. Career Democrats with extraordinary wealth have made some donations to groups opposing Proposition 8, but they have been stingy in spending real political capital for this cause.

Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden rarely mention gay people except when speaking directly to small audiences of gay and gay-friendly donors. The issue of gay marriage is one they prefer to avoid. All the more reason we might expect the top elected Democrats of California to take up this fight in earnest. But in fact, the career Democrats, with the important exception of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, have dealt with Proposition 8 only in smaller and safer side conversations, and not in strong public messages. This is true both in California and in Congress.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Capitalism may be safe for now...

Well, it was a valiant effort, as Barbara Ehrenreich reveals in this Report From the Socialist International Conspiracy. Ehrenreich's entire post is well worth reading for its detailed and serious analysis of our economic and political situation, but here's a snippet to get you started:
First, we selected a cadre of crusty punks from the streets of Seattle, stripped off their Che T-shirts, suited them up in Armanis and wingtips and introduced them to the concepts of derivatives and dental floss. Then we shipped them to Wall Street with firm instructions: Make as much money as you can, as fast as you can, and as soon as the money starts rolling in, send it out to make more money by whatever dodgy means you can find--subprime loans, credit default swaps, pyramid schemes--anything goes. And oh yes: Spend your own earnings in the most flamboyantly gross ways you can think of--$10,000 martinis, fountains of champagne--so as to fan the flames of class resentment.

These brave comrades did far better than we could have imagined, quickly adapting to lives of excess and greed punctuated only by squash games at the Century Club. But we could not have inflicted such massive damage to capitalism if we hadn't also planted skilled agents in high places within the government and various quasi-governmental agencies. When all this is over, Phil Gramm, for example--the former senator and McCain economics advisor--will be getting a Hero of Socialism award for his courageous battle against financial regulation. That's the only name I can name at this moment, but I will tell you this: If you happened to have been in a playground in the suburbs of DC any time in the last few years, and noticed an impeccably dressed elderly man poking around under rocks, that was a certain Federal Reserve Chairman, looking for his weekly orders from the central committee.

Ehrenreich goes on to explain how a counter-coup by Goldman Sachs capitalists has put the entire plan at jeopardy. But there is still one presidential candidate who could help the socialist conspiracy succeed, as she reveals at the end of her report.

Unfortunately, if this analysis is accurate, the capitalists are out of danger.

As for myself, I am off to the Herland Fall Retreat.

As for you, if you get a weekend, I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Eight Against Eight

Thanks to Angry Black Bitch for this report about an effort to defeat California's anti-gay Proposition 8:
On October 20, 2008, eight influential lesbian bloggers launched 8 Against 8, an eight-day collaborative online fundraising drive to defeat Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that seeks to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in the State of California.

The bloggers’ 8 Against 8 campaign donation page is located at

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Erraticness to come

November is getting closer and closer. That means it's almost time for National Novel Writing Month once again. Thirty days. Fifty thousand words. Nothing to it. Well, maybe there's a little bit of something to it, because if I'm planning to crank out 50,000 words of fiction in November, I might not be writing very many blog posts. Just so you know.

Before then, I'm hoping to finish a multi-part series on the Electoral College. But there is also the Herland Fall Retreat coming up this weekend. So, if posting gets a bit erratic around here in the near future, don't worry. It will probably pick up again in December.

I do think I've got at least one excellent guest blogger who will be posting some material next month. And if you think you might like to be a guest blogger at Talking to Myself, you could email me. Unless, of course, you're going to be writing your own novel. Which you might like to consider, considering how much fun it is. Of course there is a sort of metaphor problem having a blog called Talking to Myself that has guest bloggers, but why should blogging be less contradictory than life itself?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Women Could Reach 'Critical Mass' in Congress

Women's eNews reports that women could increase our representation in the US Congress from 16 percent to 19 percent come Election Day.

Presently, the US ranks "69th in the world for female representation in government."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Feminist Activists Condemn The Government of Nicaragua

Well, this is disappointing. I'm sorry to say I haven't been followed the situation in Nicaragua in years. But I remember, 20 years ago or so, when many lesbian feminists supported Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas for the work they were doing to bring economic and political justice to Nicaragua after years of misrule by the dictatorial Somoza family.

While the Sandinistas were not specifically feminist, the active involvement of women in the Nicaraguan revolution seemed to create the conditions for the growth of feminism in that country. Many lesbian feminists opposed the Reagan Administration's illegal efforts to overthrow the Sandinistas. Many of us mourned the 1990 election that saw a right-wing candidate (a woman, ironically) defeat Ortega.

According to Wikipedia,

In 1998, Daniel Ortega's stepdaughter Zoilamérica Narváez released a 48-page report describing her allegations that Ortega had systematically sexually abused her for 9 years beginning when she was 11.[13] The case could not proceed in Nicaraguan courts because Ortega had immunity from prosecution as a member of parliament, and the five-year statute of limitations for sexual abuse and rape charges was judged to have been exceeded. Narváez's complaint was heard by the Inter American Human Rights Commission on 4 March 2002.[14]

In 2006, Hillel Neuer, the executive director of UN Watch, expressed concern that election of Ortega, described as having "highly substantiated" charges of sexual abuse raised against him, to the Presidency of Nicaragua, could undermine worldwide NGO efforts against child abuse and sexual violence.[1

Also, after his 2006 return to the presidency, Ortega apparently became much more conservative. Part of this move to the right involved embracing socially conservative policies endorsed by the Catholic church, including a ban on all abortions.

Now, Feminist Peace Network is carrying a statement issued by feminists at the Social Forum of the Americas in Guatemala, condemning Ortega and the Sandinista government for its persecution of feminist activists. The statement condemns
• Physical violence and political persecution of feminists and their organizations
• Destruction and removal of files and information from the offices of the Research Center for Communication (CINCO) and from the Autonomous Women’s Movement (MAM) of Nicaragua
• A call to the people of Nicaragua to mobilize and take mob-style actions against feminists
• The order of search and seizure against a women’s group in Matagalpa called Grupo Venancia

These acts are part of an orchestrated campaign to criminalize feminists for their work to re-instate the right to therapeutic abortion (in cases where the mother’s life is at stake) and as reprisal for the denouncements of the sexual abuse of Zoila America by Daniel Ortega generated by many women’s organizations.

Apparently Ortega still has it in him to denounce capitalism and the abuses committed by the US government. The extreme misogyny of his government is certainly a disservice to socialism.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thailand still in crisis

JOTMAN seems to be a liberal guy who has an interesting blog that focuses mostly on international politics, though he has also been posting a lot about the US presidential race.

Back in September, I was trying to sort out the political crisis in Thailand. I summarized what mainstream sources of information had to say about the situation. But something seemed to be missing from the reports that I was reading. JOTMAN had a post that had a little bit of analysis and a lot of on-the-scene videos and commentaries.

Once Prime Minister Samek Sundaravej was forced to resign, I thought the crisis had settled down. But apparently, opponents and supporters of the ruling party are still clashing.

In this post, JOTMAN argues that the Thai people need to learn to work within their democratic institutions, rather than hoping for intervention from the king, as supported by The Economist. In another post, he analyzes the recent border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia.

Friday, October 17, 2008

More on pay equity

In a recent post, I noted that equal pay for women has been one of the neglected issues of this election.

Not everyone is neglecting the issue. AlterNet has this post from RH Reality Check, comparing the positions of Barack Obama and John McCain on pay equity issues.

And while this information isn't targeted to the election, the Institute for Women's Policy Research has an interesting and useful report on the economic status of women of color in the United States.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nomi Prins on Paulson's Plan B

When the $750 billion plan to buy toxic securities failed to perk up Wall Street, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson switched course to buy stock in banks as a way to unfreeze the credit market.

Writing for The Nation, Nomi Prins thinks that Paulson's Plan B still won't work. Former Wall Streeter Prins was once a managing director for Goldman Sachs.

Prins is calling for reregulating the financial markets. The whole article is short, lively, and worth reading.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Stephen Harper's Conservatives win a muscular minority mandate in Canadian elections

Here's a report from the LA Daily News on the results of yesterday's Canadian elections.

Minneota student to plead innocent to terrorism charges

Thanks to CommonDreams for posting this Minnesota Daily article about non-violent community activists charged with terrorism under the Minnesota Patriot Act in connection with demonstrations at the Republican National Convention.
The RNC Welcoming Committee wasn't planning any illegal actions, Specktor said; instead they set up housing, meals and legal support for other protesters, some of whom might engage in civil disobedience.

"Basically, we provided the infrastructure for people to survive in the city while they're protesting," he said.

But authorities pointed to the group's website, which urged a strategy called "swarm, seize, and stay" that used civil disobedience to try to shut down the convention.

Civil disobedience, while illegal, can be traced back to the foundation of the United States and is very different from terrorism, Specktor said.

"[Civil disobedience is] consciously making a decision to disobey for a higher purpose," he said. "It's a time-honored tradition that we celebrate in our history books, the people in the civil rights era who sat in at the lunch counters and wouldn't get out of their seats."

The group had been infiltrated by paid police informants for up to a year before the convention.

Pretty unnerving stuff.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Women still under-represented in local government in Senegal

Despite passage of a 1996 Decentralisation Law, women are still under-represented in local politics in Senegal, according to Inter Press Service.
"The law should have helped women reach more positions of authority, especially in local governance," says Penda Mbow, a history professor at Dakar's Cheikh Anta Diop University. According to Mbow, women have the political will but face social and cultural hurdles at many levels.

"There are still men who won't take orders from a women. Senegal is one of the many countries where women are relegated to secondary roles in public administration, major institutions and political power," she explained to IPS.
Women is Senegal reportedly make up 70 percent of rural workers, 70 percent of the informal labor market, 15 percent of workers in public administration, and 4 percent of workers in the formal private sector labor force.
There are promising signs surrounding women's participation in Senegalese politics, but there's still a long way to go. In the 2008 UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Report on Women's Progress it will take developing nations two generations -- up til 2045 -- to reach the point where no gender holds more than 60 percent of parliamentary seats.
I wonder how long it will take us to reach that point in the US.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Two economic updates from Inter Press Service

First, U.S. Bows to Pressure, Will Buy Banks:
BOSTON, Oct 11 (IPS) - The George W. Bush administration announced Friday evening it would buy shares in troubled U.S. banks, a move that upstages its own rigid, free-market ideology, and answers calls for the action by European leaders.
Second, Calls for Change Mount as IMF, World Bank Meet
WASHINGTON, Oct 11 (IPS) - Gone are the mobs in the street. Faced with a global recession, those demanding change from the rulers of the global economy appear to be on the inside as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank hold annual talks.
Both articles are worth reading.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Equal Pay for Equal Work

The Campaign for America's Future points out an important issue that has been largely ignored by candidates this election year: Equal Pay for Equal Work.
Women earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by men. Over the course of her career, the typical working woman loses almost a quarter of a million dollars in wages, simply for being female. [Institute for Women’s Policy Research] Losses for women with advanced degrees or careers in high-paying fields can total as much as $2 million over their working lives. Across the nation, the gender pay gap costs families $200 billion every year. [AFL-CIO]

Roubini Global Economics

On Friday night I was tooling down Classen Blvd. in my automobile, wasting precious natural resources and listening to the public radio program Left, Right and Center. One of the commentators--I think it was Matt Miller--mentioned the web site RGE Monitor as a good source of news about the current economic crisis. Some parts of this website are only available to subscribers, but it looks as if there is also plenty of information available without a subscription.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Oklahoma Ultrasound Law Challenged

Late Thursday, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a legal challenge against an Oklahoma law that requires any woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound examination and listen to a doctor describe in detail what the image shows. The Oklahoma legislature passed the law in April, overriding Governor Brad Henry's veto.

The lawsuit, Nova Health Systems v. Brad Henry, was filed in Oklahoma County District Court on behalf of a Tulsa clinic. According to the Center, if the law is enforced, this clinic "will be forced to close down. The clinic provides more than 200 women abortion services a month. If it shuts down, that means more than 2000 women a year throughout Oklahoma and surrounding states will have no access to abortion. "

The Center describes the Oklahoma law as the most extreme abortion ultrasound law in the nation. It says that the law "prevents a woman from suing her doctor if he or she intentionally withholds other information about the fetus, such as a severe developmental defect. The statute also requires doctors to use a specific regimen for administering the medical abortion pill, despite that regimen being less effective and more costly than the one strongly recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)."

In challenging the law, the Center argues that it endangers the patient's health and invades her privacy. The Center also argues that the law interferes with a doctor's professional medical judgment in deciding what treatment is best for a patient.

"Nationally, this case has implications because the law at issue is among the first signs that anti-choice legislatures are beginning to take cues from last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the `Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.' Should this law be upheld, it could encourage copycat legislation around the country."

Thanks to t r u t h o u t for publishing the Associated Press article that led me to this story.

Just in time for National Coming Out Day

Let's just say that gay marriage isn't my issue. Coming out of a radical feminist background, I tend to understand marriage as an obnoxious patriarchal institution. I have a difficult time understanding why lesbians want to take part in it. Nevertheless, I think it is important to note that the Connecticut Supreme Court has overturned a state law that outlawed gay marriage.

National Coming Out Day is something else I've been kind of skeptical about. The argument goes that if all of the queers came out of the closet, discrimination against us would vanish because heterosexuals would realize how many of us there are and that they actually know some of us.

I beg to differ. Visible minorities suffer at least as much discrimination as invisible minorities do.

Nevertheless, in case any of y'all are still wondering, I think it's time that I let you know...I'm a lesbian.

Friday, October 10, 2008

"I Don't Have to Vote for Palin to Respect Her"

Women's eNews offers this thought-provoking commentary by Jane Marcellus about news media coverage of Sarah Palin.
I call this process "symbolic echo" because it's happened before, and it's happening again. If the image of a woman willing to be an "office wife" (a term for secretaries that originated in the 1920s) replaces the image of one like Hillary, maybe those ceiling cracks can be repaired, because we all become not Hillarys, but Sarahs. And if she is the object of ridicule, then all women, by extension, are ridiculed. As most women in the workplace know, nothing is as insidious and disempowering as ridicule.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Abortion rights and the November election

Katha Pollit asks some follow-up questions about abortion rights that she would have liked to pose to Sarah Palin during the vice presidential debate. It's a short article and well worth reading. And it reminds me of the importance of abortion rights in the November 2008 elections in general. Here are some links to information on this subject.

RH Reality Check has a 2008 Election and Reproductive Health page with lots of info and links about Senate Races, House races, and ballot initiatives.

Some of the ballot measures are quite alarming. According to NARAL,
In Colorado, a constitutional amendment on the November ballot would define "person" to include "any human being from the moment of fertilization" for those provisions in Colorado's constitution dealing with inalienable rights, due process, and equality of Justice. The true goal of Amendment 48 is to make all abortions illegal. It could also lead to bans on birth control, stem cell research, and in-vitro fertilization. This would eliminate a woman's rights to make personal, private decisions about her own body, free from governmental interference.

A ballot measure that seeks to outlaw abortion is up for a vote in South Dakota, despite that state's defeat of a similar initiative two years ago.

In California, a measure is on the ballot that seeks to impose a 48-hour waiting period for abortions, as well as requiring minors to notify their parents. California, of course, is also facing a ballot measure to outlaw gay marriage.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Markets keep falling, Fed cuts key rate, could crisis spur fundamental change?

Following more dramatic stock market declines worldwide, the Federal Reserve ordered an emergency cut in a key interest rate this morning.

Jesse Jackson explains that "We are witnessing the collapse of a failed ideology -- what the famed investor George Soros calls `market fundamentalism,' the belief that markets are always perfect and government should deregulate, cut taxes and get out of the way." The $700 billion bailout, Jackson argues, does nothing to address the real problems facing real people in the real economy. I would add that even financial markets have some inkling of this reality--and that is why they are continuing to fall.

Meanwhile, economists attending the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona say that the worldwide economic crisis may offer the chance to rethink neoliberal economics and create a sustainable economy.

Let's hope they're right.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Can we have our $700 billion back?

Looks like the stock market had another dramatic drop Monday. Given that it was almost my bedtime, I didn't have time to plow through all of the news. But Feminist Peace Network and Echidne of the Snakes have some useful and interesting observations.

Oklahoma voter registration deadline Friday!!!

Okay, Okies, have you registered to vote yet? If you haven't registered, YOU NEED TO GET IT DONE BY FRIDAY. That's right. The deadline for the state election board to have your registration is this Friday, October 10.

For more details, see this previous post, or contact:

Room B-6, State Capitol Building
PO Box 53156
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73152

Telephone 405-521-2391
Fax 405-521-6457

Or follow this link to find out how to contact your county election board.

The time to stop procrastinating is NOW.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sometimes satire is preferable to reality...

I was out blogging at Sauced on Sunday night, and saw that this video had been posted by lots of the contributors to feminist blogs. So I watched it. I laughed. I thought that passing it on here would be less work than finishing that long-delayed post about the Electoral College. I suppose most of y'all have teevee sets and have already seen it...but anyway, here it is.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Don't mourn, organize

Well, they passed the darned thing on Friday, and President Bush signed it. By a vote of 263-171, the House approved the Senate version of a megabillion Wall Street bailout.

As this thing was coming down, I personally did a lot of thinking, reading, and flip-flopping. Was this package a necessary evil that ought to be modified with stricter regulation for Wall Street and more help for homeowners stuck with predatory mortgages? Or was it just a bad idea?

At this point, I think it was just a bad idea. Economist Dean Baker and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich agree with me. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson thinks it's evil, but necessary. Either way, it's now the law of the land.

The $700 billion package (which, if you add the $150 worth of tax breaks the Senate added to it, may now cost at least $850 billion) is the most expensive government intervention in history. The war in Iraq, by comparison, has cost $600 billion so far.

So now what? How do we go forward from here? I'm seeing a number of interesting proposals out on the Net.

The Institute for Policy Studies calls for action to implement an unfinished agenda to deal with the Wall Street collapse and the bursting of the real estate bubble.
This bill doesn't do five fundamental things that the American public desperately needs, and we commit to pursuing this unfinished business in the months ahead (see IPS' Sensible Plan for details):
a. Create a stimulus for Main Street that addresses the recession in the real economy.
b. Establish a plan to ensure that the Wall Street speculators pay for the bailout.
c. Enact government regulation to shut down the casino — and rein in the unregulated financial sector of hedge funds, derivatives and other complex financial instruments.
d. Establish effective limits on all CEO pay (not just severance pay) and prohibitions on profiteering from the bailout.
e. Address the needs of poor homeowners who have lost or are facing the likely loss of their homes.

There are also several good articles posted on The Nation's web site. William Greider calls for "Born-Again Democracy," for popular action to force the federal government to re-regulate Wall Street, restructure the banking industry, and provide meaningful economic stimulus to combat the recession. Nicholas von Hoffman offers tax and fee proposals for "How to Break the Money Monopoly." Economist Joseph Stiglitz proposes "A Better Bailout."

Walden Bello's Wall Street Meltdown Primer is still timely.

I'm cautiously optimistic that this economic crisis can inspire a popular movement to change the economy of the United States in a way that restrains unbridled capitalism and helps ordinary people.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

I couldn't bear to watch...

I steadfastly ignored the vice presidential debate the other evening, but AngryBlackBitch has a thoughtful and interesting commentary.

Linda Hirschman notes that Sarah Palin's performance turned off undecided women voters. (Thanks to AlterNet for the link.)

Friday, October 3, 2008

This may be scarier than the Wall Street mess

On Wednesday evening the US Senate may done something worse than pass the $800 billion Wall Street bailout plan.

Inter Press Service offers this report on an agreement ratified by the Senate that allows US companies to sell nuclear technology to India. This despite the fact that India refuses to join the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
With passage of the legislation, Washington will officially end a nuclear embargo on India that it first imposed in retaliation for Delhi's explosion of a nuclear device in 1974.

After the test, Washington helped organise the international "Nuclear Suppliers Group" (NSG) that strictly regulated what nuclear technology its members could provide to "non-nuclear states" that refused to join the NPT and submitted to certain International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. India refused to do so and in 1998 conducted yet another test.

In order for the deal concluded between the U.S. and India last year to be ratified by Congress, the 45-member NSG had to agree to largely exempt India from those terms, essentially lifting the ban on civilian nuclear trade. After a strong lobbying campaign by Washington, the NSG agreed to do so in early September.
India has agreed to open 14 of its civilian reactors to international inspectors. But the deal with the US specifically excludes India's 8 military reactors from the inspection agreement.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Come celebrate as Herland turns 25!

Oklahoma City's own Herland Sister Resources is celebrating her 25th anniversary this coming Saturday from 4:30 to 7:00.

The party will take place at Herland, located at 2312 NW 39th. You're encouraged to send photos or stories for the scrapbook to or to bring them along to the celebration.

You can read more about Herland's history here.

In the interest of full disclosure, I suppose I ought to say that the editor of the Herland Voice was gracious enough to select this blog as their "Website of the Month" for October. But honestly, I'd want to brag on Herland, anyway. I never expected to find anything this wonderful in Oklahoma City.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Senate passes Wall Street bailout bill

A little while ago, I heard the news on NPR: Senate OKs Bailout Package, House to Vote Friday.

According to NPR:
The Senate approved a $700 billion rescue package for the financial industry Wednesday night, giving new life to the bailout by loading it with tax breaks and other provisions tailored to help ease its passage in the House, where an earlier version fell a dozen votes short Monday.
It's interesting how this thing keeps getting wordier and wordier as it goes along. Treasury Secretary Paulson's original proposal was about 3 pages long. The proposal rejected by the House on Monday was 110 pages long. The bill passed by the Senate just now runs to 451 pages. (Thanks to Marketplace for the link to the Senate bill.)

I'm still not entirely sure what I think about all this. But it seems that spending all this money on buying "toxic securities" from reckless investment firms might limit the amount of resources available to deal with other causes of the recession we're in.

As Dean Baker points out, the main problem is not insolvent banks, it's the loss of ability by consumers to spend because of the collapse of an $8 trillion housing bubble. This bubble was allowed to grow unchecked because "the folks currently in charge were out to lunch." Baker describes "predatory mortgages" foisted on "moderate income families, many of whom were black or Hispanic." This happened while "Henry Paulson, Ben Bernanke, and Alan Greenspan repeatedly insisted that there was no housing bubble as house prices got ever further out of line with fundamentals."

Baker continues:
The main cause of the economy's weakness is not insolvent banks and lack of credit; it's the loss of $4 trillion to $5 trillion in housing equity as a result of the bubble's partial deflation. Families used their equity to support their consumption in the years from 2002 to 2007, as the savings rate fell to almost zero.

With much of this equity now eliminated by the collapse of the bubble, many families can no longer sustain their levels of consumption. The main reason that banks won't lend to these families is that they no longer have home equity to serve as collateral. It wouldn't matter how much money the banks had, they are not going to make mortgage loans to people who have no equity.
Baker says that in order for the economy to improve, we have to find other ways to boost demand.

Which brings me to this post from Women's eNews about an economic stimulus packages that failed last week:
Almost forgotten Monday amid the wreckage of the $700 billion legislation to bail out Wall Street was the failure days earlier of a relatively small $61 billion bill that would have helped low-income people weather the stormy economy.

The "economic recovery" bill favored by Democrats quietly slipped into political oblivion on Friday. It would have pumped billions into infrastructure projects, extend unemployment insurance and beefed up subsidies for health care, food, housing and other programs. Nearly $600 million was envisioned for food subsidies to help offset steep price jumps at the supermarket.

As the majority of the nation's poor, women would have been the main beneficiaries of more government spending on many of the targeted federal programs, said Joan Entmacher, a budget analyst at the National Women's Law Center, a legal advocacy group in Washington, D.C. "It is very disappointing," she said.

(I think this is the same bill I mentioned in an earlier post.)

Baker calls for "directly injecting capital into the banks. The taxpayers give them the money and then we own some, or all, of the bank." One group of populist Democrats proposes a "no bailouts bill." Jonathan Tasini over on Working Life has a more comprehensive and radical proposal.

I wish I had a brilliant concluding sentence, but it past my bedtime.

Midwives Fight AMA to Provide Black Maternal Care

Women's eNews reports that Midwives Fight AMA to Provide Black Maternal Care.

NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)--Shafia Monroe's sixth annual International Black Midwives and Healers Conference, taking place in New York's Harlem neighborhood Oct. 10-12, comes in the middle of a showdown between home-birth midwives and the American Medical Association.

In June the Chicago-based physicians' group, the country's largest, promised to back state legislation that restricts licensing to nurse midwives, those who have additional nursing training and certification required to work in hospitals.

The group wants to bar licensing to certified professional midwives. These midwives assist home births and specialize in the intimate, emotional and family-focused care of mothers. They often promote vaginal births over Caesarean sections, which precede the majority of maternal deaths in the United States.