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On Bitch Magazine, Female Bodyguards, and More Feminist Superheroes

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 7:17 PM EDT

Over the last few days, quite a few articles about women have been messing with my mind. In a good way. With all the gloom and doom out there, it's crucial to be reminded that we chicks are still in the trenches making art, fighting the power, and refusing to shut the 'f' up.

First, Bitch magazine. Sadly, and to my chagrin, this is a mag I've never read, though I keep reminding myself to. Running after two kids and living the vida loca freelance life, I pretty much only read print mags I'm comp'd for (meaning: They send it to me free either because I've written for them or because they hope I'll reference them in my own work). My beloved New Yorker is the only magazine I remember to pay for anymore. I actually sigh with pleasure when it arrives, carve out precious time to read it in peace, and feel sad when I get to the cartoon contest at the back. (More is another must read. I love it so much, I spoofed it. I've written for them, so when my comp runs out I'll move my keister to subscribe. There's also MoJo, of course, which goes without saying). Pre-munchkins, I subscribed to 12 mags, read books galore, and saw every indecipherable foreign movie, too. Damn, where'd my life go? I can't wait to get old and be a burden to those two life-drainers. Maybe I'll fake early onset...something.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Bitch magazine.

From womensenews:

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Bill O'Reilly v. the First Graders

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 7:01 PM EDT

On Friday my son took a field trip with his first grade class to throw flower petals at his teacher as she exited City Hall in San Francisco, a newlywed. The class took a city bus down, surprised her and her bride, then had pizza. My son described the adventure as mostly boring, waiting around on the steps of City Hall with handfuls of flower petals. But he was very happy for his teacher, who he has quickly grown to love. When asked about the event, he gave a six-year-old's answer about people loving and caring for each other. He then moved on to Legos and more important things.

What my son (and I) didn't understand is that what he took part in was, according to Bill O'Reilly, "A new outrage in San Francisco," and that "opponents of gay marriage are up in arms, but the school administrators say it's no big deal." Ah, a teaching moment. Yes, kids, monsters are real. You'll know them because they'll be the ones taking up "arms" against an elementary school.

A story on the event, which appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on Saturday, has attracted more than 1,400 comments, many of them censored by the Chron—I assume because they contain threats and curse words—as well as homophobic diatribes more suitable for publication, like O'Reilly's. I'd like to thank Mayor Newsom (who performed the wedding) for standing up for the issue of gay marriage, even as I beg his pardon for complicating matters by allowing my kid to play a small, meaningful part in a legal and beautiful celebration.

I also want to be clear to the monsters and bigots out there that you're not scary. Hateful, yes, but you don't scare us.

—Eddie Scher

The Termites That Sank New Orleans

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 6:37 PM EDT

399px-Coptotermes_formosanus_shiraki_USGov_k8204-7.jpg A new study in American Entomologist suggests termites damaged New Orleans dikes enough for Hurricane Katrina to knock them over. The researchers first noticed termite trouble five years before Katrina struck. They found Formosan subterranean termites in floodwall seams made of bagasse—the residue from processed sugarcane. Formosan termites love the stuff.

After the 2005 breaches, the researchers inspected 100 seams, including three areas with major breaks. Seventy percent of the seams in the London Avenue Canal had been attacked by insects, and two major dike breaks occurred there during Katrina. Twenty-seven percent of seams in the ravaged 17th Street Canal also showed termite damage.

The Formosan subterranean termite is an invasive species native to China, where it damages levees. Besides eating at bagasse seams, the termites may have contributed to the destruction of the levees of New Orleans by digging networks of tunnels that funneled water and undermined the levee system. Ooops. . . The authors suggest that New Orleans' 350 miles of levees and floodwalls be surveyed for termite damage.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

Madonna Says Her Anti-Palin Threats Are a "Metaphor"

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 6:25 PM EDT

50-year-old singer Madonna kicked off her latest tour last week in New Jersey, and made headlines for mentioning everybody's second-favorite Vice Presidential candidate. I mean Palin. Madonna apparently shouted to the crowd that the Alaska governor "can't come to my party! Sarah Palin can't come to my show!" Later, Madge even performed what appeared to be an impromptu, albeit non-rhyming, rap of some sort (see video above) in which she threatened to "kick [Palin's] ass." Perhaps more troublingly, during the song "Get Stupid," a video screen features a montage of bad guys like Hitler and Robert Mugabe, and Senator McCain pops up as well; Obama is included in the "good guys" section along with John Lennon and Gandhi. I'm not sure that's the equivalent of a consistent pattern of whipping up xenophobic, racist hatred at your political rallies until the assembled wingnuts demand the beheading of your opponent, but it has ruffled a few feathers, and the singer was asked about the comments at the premier of, uh, a movie she directed. Madonna directed a movie? Wow. Anyway, she said the "trash talk" was just "a metaphor," since Palin's "in the Republican Party, I'm in the Democratic Party." See a video of those comments (and more!) after the jump.

Report from Las Vegas: Obama Inching Ahead As a "Recession-Proof" Local Economy Falls Behind

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 5:46 PM EDT

These days, the city that lives off the fat of high-stakes risk is also suffering its consequences. Las Vegans can no longer deny the fact that their major industry is not, as so many once claimed, immune to financial downturns. Casino traffic and income in Nevada are declining. (According to one theory, while people still gamble when they're broke, they do it closer to home.) The foreclosure crisis has hit this state hard; you can now drive by subdivisions in which a majority of the houses look dark and uninhabited. New arrivals are finding that they can furnish their homes with what's been thrown away by departing residents.

The latest polls are showing Obama pulling ahead of McCain in Nevada. Sunday's Las Vegas Review-Journal/Mason Dixon poll of likely voters has 47 percent for Obama, 45 percent for McCain, and 6 percent undecided. According to Hugh Jackson, who runs an excellent local progressive blog, the Las Vegas Gleaner, these local polls are notoriously unreliable. And the narrow point spread may be statistically insignificant. Still Congressional Quarterly's election map just shifted Nevada from the "toss up" category to "leaning Obama." And there's certainly been a big change from the Review-Journal's poll two months ago, which had McCain leading Obama 46 percent to 39 percent, with 15 percent undecided.

The Revolution Lives

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 5:43 PM EDT

THE REVOLUTION LIVES....Conservatives have been mostly at sea over the banking crisis, and I figure one of the reasons is that even modern movement conservatives have been unable to argue with a straight face that the solution to a systemic global credit crisis is the right wing's usual economic cure-all: tax cuts. This isn't entirely true, of course, as we saw a couple of weeks ago when the wingnuts in the Republican Study Committee held up the bailout bill because they thought that eliminating the capital gains tax ought to be a part of the package. Still, that one desultory effort aside, there's just been no way to plausibly pretend that extending the tax cut revolution was a serious answer to preventing financial meltdown.

Until now! Check out my abridged version of John McCain's latest economic plan:

Lower Taxes On....Suspend Tax Rules That....Accelerate The Tax Write-Off For....Reduce Capital Gains Taxes For....Eliminate Taxes On....

There's nothing like that old time gospel, is there? You name a problem, and the answer is tax cuts for the well-off. For more detail and less snark, Robert Gordon and James Kvaal have you covered here.

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The ACORN Controversy: A Tough Nut to Crack

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 4:14 PM EDT

For years, conservatives have grumbled about voter registration efforts aimed at low-income citizens, particularly those mounted by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), claiming these campaigns are rampant with fraud and corruption that benefits Democrats. On Tuesday, this low-grade battle became a headline-making clash, as the McCain-Palin campaign blasted ACORN and the Obama-Biden campaign and ACORN responded in kind.

At a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, the McCain campaign put the chairmen of its "Honest and Open Election Committee," former Republican Senators John Danforth and Warren Rudman, front and center before the national media. The pair asserted that the election is in danger of being compromised, accusing ACORN of submitting thousands of phony voter registrations nationwide. They noted that they had sent a letter to the Obama campaign, Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean, and top state election officials proposing the creation of joint election observation teams. "Each campaign would list every precinct where either fears there is a potential for voter intimidation, fraud, or mistrust of the tabulation process on Election Day," the letter reads. "Each campaign would be responsible for recruiting a volunteer for each named precinct. The Republican and Democratic volunteers would work jointly as an observation team." (It is already routine for campaigns and parties to send election observers, often trained lawyers, to polling locations on Election Day. Representatives of local media outlets are commonly on hand as well.)

Danforth and Rudman's letter ends, "Let's talk." The Obama campaign isn't interested. It points out that the campaigns already dealt with this issue in an exchange of letters in September that generated little media attention. At that time, the McCain folks notified the Obama campaign of its joint observation teams idea and a week later the Obama campaign responded harshly: "This seems a starkly political maneuver to deflect attention from the reality of the suppression strategies pursued by national, state and Republican party committees." Nothing further occurred.

PBS's Frontline Special on Obama and "That One"

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 3:34 PM EDT

Even though yours truly ended up on the cutting room floor, I'm still plugging for y'all to watch tonight as PBS profiles the two presidential candidates. And gets folks who are apparently much smarter than me to opine on the choice. Ahem.

Watch a preview here.

The Recession Cometh

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 3:22 PM EDT

THE RECESSION COMETH....Atrios points us to the latest from Nouriel Roubini, the Cassandra of the banking crisis:

Nouriel Roubini, the professor who predicted the financial crisis in 2006, said the U.S. will suffer its worst recession in 40 years, causing the rally in the stock market to "sputter.''

"There are significant downside risks still to the market and the economy,'' Roubini, 50, a New York University professor of economics, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. "We're going to be surprised by the severity of the recession and the severity of the financial losses.''

The economist said the recession will last 18 to 24 months, driving unemployment to 9 percent, and already depressed home prices will fall another 15 percent. The U.S. government will need to double its purchase of bank stakes and force lenders to eliminate dividends to save them from bankruptcy, Roubini added.

This actually sounds about right to me. Another round of recapitalization strikes me as at least a 50-50 probability; forcing banks to suspend dividends sounds like a painful but necessary move; and there's really no question that we're headed into a fairly deep recession. In fact, what really surprises me is that it's only in the past week or so that newspapers have stopped running fatuous headlines along the lines of "Is U.S. Slipping Into Recession?" Of course the U.S. — and the rest of the world — are slipping into recession. Frankly, I think that's been obvious for months, but certainly nobody sentient could have doubted it anytime after mid-September.

And my arcane concerns about the current account deficit notwithstanding, massive stimulus is pretty obviously the right fiscal response to this now that monetary policy has been mostly played out. Along those lines, check out Steve Teles for some good ideas on what a stimulus package should look like. "Right now the Democrats are in danger of doing the obvious," he warns, "which will be bad economics, bad government, and bad politics. Someone needs to get them thinking bigger." Get to work, blogosphere!

Dueling Definitions of "Palinize"

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 3:13 PM EDT

Sarah Palin is quickly becoming a figure of speech as well as a figure of fun. Definitions of "Palin" words are still evolving, but here are two contenders from DailyKos and National Review:

1) Palinize, from DailyKos:

"Palinizing is above all the art of distraction, with the goal of diverting attention away from a fault (in Palin's case, ignorance) and towards the glittering veneer of hollow talking points which dazzle but do nothing in terms of answering the question presented."

and,

2) Palinize, from National Review:

"Palinize: to slander and caricature a working-class female public figure for the noble advancement of liberalism."

Could Palin, like Gerry (of "gerrymandering" fame), someday make it into dictionaries?
—Katie Flynn