Wednesday, May 28, 2008

recent round-up

The closing of the Clinton campaign is approaching. I can't say that I love Clinton, but truthfully I don't really love Obama either. I know that all groovy people are supposed to love Obama, but as I've blogged previously, I just think that Edwards would have been a better president than either of the two current possibilities had not the media condemned him to invisibility (except when making him look stupid). Obama just still seems very vague to me. I don't care what color my president is, although I'll be happy if Obama wins that finally a person of color made it. And I also don't care if the president is a woman, although had it been Clinton, I would have been happy that a woman finally made it, although I think it was clear from the beginning that that could never have happened, because let's face it, sexism is still perfectly okay in our society. I'm not saying racism doesn't exist - far from it, but it's been forced underground. Now that may make it more clever, but at least its presence when undiluted is considered a sign of real stupidity and low-class-ness, even among those to whom the subterranean version is acceptable. This is not really true of sexism.

Marie Cocco of the Washington Post got it down right:

I will not miss seeing advertisements for T-shirts that bear the slogan "Bros before Hos." The shirts depict Barack Obama (the Bro) and Hillary Clinton (the Ho) and are widely sold on the Internet...

won't miss episodes like the one in which liberal radio personality Randi Rhodes called Clinton a "big [expletive] whore" and said the same about former vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro. Rhodes was appearing at an event sponsored by a San Francisco radio station, before an audience of appreciative Obama supporters -- one of whom had promoted the evening on the presumptive Democratic nominee's official campaign Web site.

I won't miss Citizens United Not Timid (no acronym, please), an anti-Clinton group founded by Republican guru Roger Stone.

Political discourse will at last be free of jokes like this one, told last week by magician Penn Jillette on MSNBC: "Obama did great in February, and that's because that was Black History Month. And now Hillary's doing much better 'cause it's White Bitch Month, right?" Co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski rebuked Jillette. ...

Most of all, I will not miss the silence.

I will not miss the deafening, depressing silence of Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean or other leading Democrats, who to my knowledge (with the exception of Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland) haven't publicly uttered a word of outrage at the unrelenting, sex-based hate that has been hurled at a former first lady and two-term senator from New York. Among those holding their tongues are hundreds of Democrats for whom Clinton has campaigned and raised millions of dollars. Don Imus endured more public ire from the political class when he insulted the Rutgers University women's basketball team.

Would the silence prevail if Obama's likeness were put on a tap-dancing doll that was sold at airports? Would the media figures who dole out precious face time to these politicians be such pals if they'd compared Obama with a character in a blaxploitation film? And how would crude references to Obama's sex organs play?

There are many reasons Clinton is losing the nomination contest, some having to do with her strategic mistakes, others with the groundswell for "change." But for all Clinton's political blemishes, the darker stain that has been exposed is the hatred of women that is accepted as a part of our culture.

And truthfully, she doesn't cover the half of it.
She couldn't of course, because Rebecca Traister of the Nation also points out how - like me- many young women aren't swayed by the "a woman in the white house at all costs" of the 2nd feminist wave, but we are nevertheless dismayed by those progressive male friends of ours whose discomfort with Clinton as a woman is hardly disguised, and can't see why it might be offensive to say that they're not voting for her because she's a bitch.
Let me just say, any woman who is progressive, after this election should stop fooling herself that feminism is finished. It's about as completed as a Jew for Jesus, which is to say, they can use the nonsensical language of calling themselves "completed Jews" all they like, but I'm still waiting on all the things that are supposed to happen when the messiah comes, because they surely haven't happened yet, and I don't see them approaching near.
Believe me, when the messiah comes, we'll know it, and it ain't here yet.

Now, on the side of good news, another interesting WaPo article on the economic recovery of Rwanda. It seems that because of the demographics of the tragedy of that country, women have been given an unusual amount of opportunity in the rebuilding of the country, and you know what? -it turns out to be an unbelievable success (Well, hell, it doesn't surprise me). Women, not traditionally part of the business, landowning and farming of the country, were therefore quicker to try new techniques. For example in the coffee farming village of Maraba, even though they number about half of all farmers in the coffee cooperative, they are producing 90 percent of its finest quality beans for export. Across the nation, officials say that women "invest profits in the family, renovate homes, improve nutrition, increase savings rates and spend on children's education," more than men.Moreover, although women make up the majority of borrowers, 4 of 5 defaulters on loans are men.

The evidence has been building for years. In 1990, a major study on poverty in Brazil published in the Journal of Human Resources showed that the effect of money managed by women in poor households was 20 times more likely to be spent on improving conditions in the home than money managed by men.

In Bangladesh, the Grameen Bank founded by 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus has focused its poverty-busting microloans on women, with success rates far higher for female than for male borrowers. Microloan programs in Africa, Asia and Latin America have shown similar results.

In India's great economic transformation of the past 15 years, states that have the highest percentage of women in the labor force have grown the fastest as well as had the largest reductions in poverty, according to the World Bank.

"We have overwhelming evidence from almost all the developing regions of the world that [investment in] women make better economics," said Winnie Byanyima, director of the United Nations Development Program's gender team.

In Rwanda, the genocide left the population heavily female (60/40) Together with those jailed for war crimes that meant that women had to take on tasks that they never had before.

women, at first by default, took on roles in business and politics. Although women had long enjoyed a relatively higher social status in Rwanda than in some other African nations, women here still had weak property rights, and female entrepreneurs were rare.

That would change rapidly -- particularly in agriculture, where many women were forced to take over farms. They found an ally in the barrage of foreign organizations that rushed into Rwanda following the genocide, with much of their focus aimed at training women.

As important was an acceptance at the highest levels of government that women would need new legal status to help rebuild the nation. By 1999, reforms were passed enabling women to inherit property -- something that would prove vitally important to female farmers. At the same time, woman began rising to higher ranks of political power. Today women hold about 48 percent of the seats in Rwanda's parliament, the highest percentage in the world. They also account for 36 percent of President Paul Kagame's cabinet, holding the top jobs in the ministries of commerce, agriculture, infrastructure, foreign affairs and information.

Success in economics mirrored the rise of women in politics. Today, 41 percent of Rwandan businesses are owned by women -- compared for instance with 18 percent in Congo. Rwanda has the second-highest ratio of female entrepreneurs in Africa, behind Ghana with 44 percent, according to the World Bank.

The article follows that with "At the same time, Rwanda has engineered a surprisingly fast economic recovery," which seems to note a parallel ut unrelated event. I think that's underestimating the women. It seems reasonable from the article to -if not conclude, at least to wonder if- the opportunities offered to people who have never had them to take before have opened up new ways of being that have enabled that recovery. I don't necessarily think that it's just because they are women, but I do think it's because women aren't any different than men in this respect, when you deprive smart and competent people of the ability to use their skills, you drag everyone down. and when you give those people an opportunity to jump in and try, you get a fresh vision, and success.

And they are using their success to change their lives:
Perhaps more important for Nyirabaganwa, a woman who was only educated through primary school, is that Donatelia Mukampe Ta, 18 and her oldest female charge, is set to graduate from high school this year. Nyirabaganwa has promised to pay for her higher education in the capital, Kigali, where Ta hopes to become an accountant.

By Western standards, women still have a long way to go in Rwanda. Many of the women in Maraba who have husbands are culturally expected to ask their permission before engaging in any form of business. But some of these women who have inherited land from genocide victims have been able to use income from farming or renting that land to gain a measure of financial independence.

When Gemina Mukashyaka, 30, who cleans the coffee-tasting laboratory in Maraba, insisted that she pay for the schooling of her younger sister after their parents were killed in the genocide, her husband balked. She ignored his protests, paying with money she gained from leasing the land she inherited from her parents.

"My husband is not happy about my paying for my sister, but it is my money," she said. "The law in Rwanda now says that woman have that right. I will not let him stop me."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Remarkably, still blogging the Omer

More than halfway through, and I'm still doing a daily blog (except Shabbat, of course, I double up afterwards) on the Omer count of the day. Over at Jewschool

Salon on "Faded Glory"

Andrew Leonard comments on Mallwart's line of jeans and shoes: "Faded Glory"

But changing circumstances have a way of twisting the irony knife. There's always been some bitterness to be mined in the marketing paradox that clothing designed to trade off of images of Americana is overwhelmingly manufactured in places like Bangladesh and China. But that's old-school irony. I don't know what the original brand name was supposed to signify -- perhaps that iconic era where faded jeans epitomized the hardworking cowboy, herding cattle from Texas to the Chicago stockyards. But in 2008, when America's global reputation is at possibly its lowest ebb ever, and large swaths of American citizens feel left behind by the global economy and their own elected representatives, Faded Glory clothes -- cheaply made, so shoddy as to be practicably disposable, and yet commodified into the very spirit of how Americans currently live -- well, who says there ain't no truth in advertising?

I think Mallwart is evil. They're not the most evil corporation around, but they certainly rank. Between their exploitation of workers, and their subversion of taxes to subsidize cheap, shoddily made goods; their sexism, their greed and their deliberate destruction of family enterprise... well, there's just nothing good to say about them. "faded Glory" let's hope it's a prescription for the company in general.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Blogging the Omer

For those who are interested (probably not many, since I haven't been regular to blog here in a while) I've been blogging the Omer over at Jewschool. I haven't missed any days so far (Shabbat gets blogged afterwards, of course), and I've been trying to blog on things that are at least somewhat related to the day's sfirotic theme.