James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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Archive for the ‘Women’ Category

Elizabeth Warren is running for president

Posted by James McPherson on April 23, 2014

elizabeth warrenThough I rarely produce journalistic scoops these days, here’s something that you can say that you read here first: Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts will run for president in 2016, despite what she told ABC just a couple of days ago. Even if Chris Cillizza states flatly, “Elizabeth Warren is almost certainly not running for president in 2016.”

Giving her the benefit of the doubt, perhaps even Warren herself doesn’t know that she’ll be a candidate in 2016. And though I’m often blown away by her intelligence and her grasp of economic issues — and so I shouldn’t suggest that I know something she doesn’t — here are six reasons that I know she’ll run:

First, she wrote a book. And not just any book, as Mother Jones’ Andy Kroll pointed out yesterday, but “a campaign book.” Not a major policy work, but an autobiography, “nothing explosive, but juicy enough to feed the Washington media machine.” A book that “can, at times, read like an extended stump speech.”

Years ago, in my book about the post-World War II rise of conservatism in the U.S. (and previously on this blog), I compared Barack Obama’s campaign to those of earlier candidates. I wrote that Obama “wrote a popular book that might be compared to conservative icon Barry Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative. Obama’s The Audacity of Hope offered an image for the nation’s political future, calling for in one reviewer’s words, ‘a mode of liberalism that sounds both highly pragmatic and deeply moral.’”

A second reason I believe Warren will run is that we’re seemingly seeing her everywhere. Some of the most effective Senators — such as Hillary Clinton, for example — become what are known as legislative “work horses,” keeping their heads down and doing the hard work of legislating. Others become “show horses,” speaking out not only in public hearings but whenever they can on television. Do a search on YouTube for “Elizabeth Warren.” The result? “About 221,000 results.”

Third, Warren not only seems to be everywhere, but she also has something to say. As I wrote about Obama, in my book: Both Obama and Ronald Reagan “found themselves in demand as speakers inside and outside their parties. Though Reagan had a sharper wit, a folksier manner, and a more practiced delivery, both he and Obama spoke on behalf of their values in direct, positive and personal ways that connected with listeners.” Warren may be smarter than either of those men, and manages to tell us horrible news about financial institutions  in a way that makes it seem as if there might be an answer.

Fourth, Warren herself is the answer for the problems she raises, problems that most Americans can identify with. Without her, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would not exist. She rightfully should have been that agency’s first director, but Obama chickened out from appointing her, convinced that opposition from banks and Republicans would be too strong for her to be confirmed.

Fifth, as just pointed out, banks and Republicans don’t like Warren. That makes her appealing to Democrats who don’t happen to be bankers, and helps her raise money. Even if she were wishy-washy about the idea of running, she’d be getting a lot of pressure to run.

And finally, a sixth reason we should expect Warren to be a candidate: Her timing will likely never be better. Many said that Obama was running “too soon,” that he should wait four or eight more years to run. I think that his presidency — and the nation — has suffered in some respects because of his lack of experience. But as I have noted, we actually seem to prefer inexperience in our presidential nominees. Someone such as John Kerry or John McCain or Hillary Clinton who has served for a long period of time in government has a record that can be used and distorted by opponents.

Besides, if not now, when? If a Democrat should happen to win the presidency in 2016, that person would probably seek re-election in 2020. The earliest that Warren could run in that case would be in 2024, after she had already served a dozen years in the Senate (assuming she won a second term; if she lost a Massachusetts Senate race she couldn’t be a credible Democratic candidate afterward).

So, there you have it. She’s running. And if I’m wrong, well, I’ll be just like every other political pundit, hoping no one remembers later.

 

 

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Women | Tagged: , , , , , | 23 Comments »

Riding, writing and resting

Posted by James McPherson on November 25, 2013

For the past six months, politics has been relatively low on my list of concerns. Call it burnout, or simple disgust with almost everyone in politics (including those in the media who cover it), but after my sabbatical began at the end of May I probably watched and read less about contemporary politics (especially from cable news) for the next several months than during any similar period in perhaps a decade. I have to admit that I didn’t miss it.

Nor have I missed most things about my “real job” as a professor. Someone asked me a while back the most important thing I’d learned during my sabbatical. My answer: “That I probably won’t have any trouble adjusting to retirement in 12 to 15 years.” I love being in the classroom and interacting with students, but certainly haven’t missed grading, course prep or meetings.

During my sabbatical I added a regular Wednesday “guys’ breakfast” and a regular Thursday golf game to my Tuesday and Friday morning basketball games. I’ve read more — and more for fun — than usual. I worked in the yard and garden. I spent time with parents, siblings, kids and a grandchild.

Most importantly, I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with my wife of almost 33 years, especially during a 25-day 5,700-mile drive that included visits to various family members and the cities of Boise, Tucson, Santa Fe, New Orleans and Natchez — the lovely Mississippi city (with the troubling history) in which my wife was born. The cities of Las Vegas, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and Salt Lake City we passed through quickly, but not too quickly to be reminded of the sprawling corporate sameness that scars the Great American Landscape (though perhaps not for much longer, if my brother and other “doomers” are correct about the fate of the world).

More directly related to my profession, while in New Orleans I attended the annual convention of the American Journalism Historians Association. The convention was held in the beautiful historic Hotel Monteleone, where, despite a steep discount, the nightly rate was more than I paid for my first car, and where it cost more to park my pickup each night than I’ve paid for a room in some motels.

Back home, I attended a breakfast at which I chatted with historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and then (at her request) sent her a copy a book I wrote. (Unlike a similar event with George Will a year earlier, I didn’t notice any errors worthy of correction here.) Later that month I helped out with a high school journalism workshop.

In terms of writing, I have revised a book chapter, chipped away at a novel, compiled notes and done research for a new academic book, and written more than 90 posts for an ongoing blog project. Today I even started our annual Christmas letter, having put up and decorated the tree a couple of days ago. And naturally I’ve been writing on the most pervasive medium in America today: Facebook.

Yes, I’ve devoted too much time to one form of anti-social media, though I’ve managed to forego Twitter, Instagram, Tumbler, Pinterest and Alltherest. I don’t tweet, or even text, and I definitely don’t twerk, Thanks to modern media, sometimes I twitch.

What I’ve written on Facebook  was typically far less important than what I “shared” from elsewhere (the same sorts of things that have no doubt prompted some “friends” to hide me from their feeds). And in retrospect, at least some of what I took the time to share via Facebook also seems worth sharing here. Some examples follow, though for space reasons I obviously can’t include oh-s0-witty-and/or-insightful comments I offered with each post.

The eclectic mix includes: an 1812 test for eighth-graders that few of us today could pass; a professional football coach (who knocked me out in practice when we were on the same college team);  the discovery of a new dinosaur; police brutality in New Mexico; empathetic high school football players; a revised “U.S. map” based on watersheds; Boeing’s anti-union efforts; Richard Cohen’s racism and sexism; how some of Apple’s overseas employees end up as virtual slaves; “15 Ways The United States Is The Best (At Being The Worst)”; the highest-paid employees in each state; a lesson on being quick to judge; some bragging about my workplace; and “the incredible story of Marion Stokes,” an obsessive librarian who taped — on VHS videocassettes — 35 years of television news.

Related to media, I posted items about the dangers of texting while driving and  sexist cyber-bullying by football fans. I explained why my local newspaper screwed up, placing a beautiful photo of a Native American mother and child next to an unrelated headline stating, “Child porn cases result in prison.” I pointed out that a widely quoted ESPN piece about NFL hazing used faulty math and therefore probably drew erroneous conclusions. I made fun of a local television station for misusing a word during a hostage crisis. And I shared a funny piece about a newspaper that retracted its criticism of the Gettysburg Address as “silly remarks” worthy of “a veil of oblivion.”

As a feminist who sometimes teaches a class on women and media (while serving on the board for a local nonprofit devoted to media literacy), I shared various items related to women’s issues: a story about “how we teach our kids that women are liars“;  a piece about sexist treatment of Janet Yellen; how women like working for women; and one about the Bechtel test for movies. I also addressed males, sharing “Five Things Every Self-Respecting Man Over 30 Needs.”

I shared some items about religion, including mega-churches and the fact that the region of the country most opposed to government health care is the Bible Belt. Naturally I couldn’t avoid mention of the Affordable Care Act. Posts compared: Al Jazeera America’s coverage of Typhoon Haiyan and Obamacare with the coverage by CNN, Fox News and MSNBC; how journalists were fact-checking other journalists; Sean Hannity’s lies;

I didn’t managed to ignore other politics entirely, either, discussing such issues as Barack Obama’s judicial nominations; Senate filibusters and the “nuclear option”; nutjobs who advocate killing Obama; National Security Agency wiretapping; Texas textbooks and evolution (a subject of this blog in 2009 and 2010); George W. Bush addressing the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute; some loony Sarah Palin fiscal hypocrisy; Chris Christie’s flip-flop on immigration; and Rand Paul’s plagiarism. What, you expected me to go six months without criticizing a few conservatives?

Most of those Facebook comments came during the past month and a half, suggesting that I’m being sucked back into caring more about politics than may be healthy. Too bad; I’ll have to keep working on that for the couple of months that remain on my sabbatical. Perhaps I’ll report back after that.

Posted in Education, History, Journalism, Legal issues, Media literacy, Personal, Politics, Religion, Women, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , | 14 Comments »

First Internet photo? Photoshopped women, of course

Posted by James McPherson on July 10, 2012

So the first-ever Internet photo hs been found, reports Mother Board. Not surprisingly, it was a photoshopped photo of women. Call Julia Bluhm.

Somewhat surprising, considering most of what seems to show up nowadays on the Web, all of the women are fully dressed. And none of them are holding the camera.

By the way, I hadn’t known before this article that the first email came way before the parents of some of my students were born. The first YouTube video came seven years ago, and is posted below. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it didn’t involve cats.

Posted in History, Media literacy, Video, Women, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Spitting on military service, especially by women

Posted by James McPherson on June 13, 2012

As is typical of election season, Mitt Romney’s military record (or, more accurately, his lack of one) became a news item for a few days. The issue may pop up again, though of course as a Republican Romney will never be punished for his record to the degree that actual servicemen John Kerry and Max Cleland were denigrated for their honorable service.

We pretend to honor those who serve in the military, but mostly we ignore them – or even go so far as punishing those with the guts to actually serve. The latest example comes with the news that Congressional Republicans will likely continue to prevent a female soldier who is raped by a serviceman from getting the same medical care that she would get if she were a secretary for one of those members of Congress. That inaction will come despite the fact that a woman is more likely to be raped by one of her countrymen while serving in the military than she is to be harmed in any way by an “enemy,” and more likely to be raped as a soldier than she would be if she didn’t serve.

Romney probably won’t be asked for his perspective on the issue, though he should have little credibility on anything related to the military, anyway. He is a chickenhawk, someone who supports war despite doing whatever is necessary to actually avoid service. So is Obama, the drone warrior – though he and his wife likely have done more for those who serve than Romney ever would, perhaps making the fact that military veterans tend to favor Romney a good example of how little attention people actually pay to issues (and military support for Republicans may be waning, anyway). Besides, don’t conservatives like unchecked presidential power when it comes to war?

Other notable chickenhawks include Roger Ailes, George Allen, Dick Armey, Michele Bachmann, Glenn Beck, William Bennett, Roy Blunt, John Boehner, John Bolton, Jeb Bush, Saxby Chambliss, Dick Cheney, Tom Coburn, Ann Coulter, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Sean Hannity, Denny Hastert, Laura Ingraham, Alan Keyes, Charles Koch, David Koch, Bill Kristol, Jon Kyl, Rush Limbaugh, Trent Lott, Mitch McConnell, Thaddeus McCotter, Grover Norquist, Ted Nugent, Sarah Palin, Michael Reagan, Karl Rove, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, Michael Savage, Ben Stein, Tom Tancredo, George Will, all five of Romney’s sons and, for that matter, most members of Congress. See the “Chickenhawk Hall of Fame” for others.

In fact, America is full of chickenhawks, as Rachel Maddow points out in her new book. Americans love to get behind a war, dispite the fact that few of us consider the long-term ramifications or actually choose to serve in the military. I’m one of those, by the way, who chose not to serve — and am one of a relatively small number of American men who has never actually registered for the draft. I have no idea how I’d have reacted had I been old enough to be drafted for the Vietnam War.

Unlike the chickenhawks named above, however, I’m opposed to most wars (and opposed the Iraq War from the beginning, wearing a black armband as a sign of protest and mourning from the day the war began through Memorial Day of that year). That’s why I can appreciate the sadly ironic story in the Onion today, headlined, “Few Years In Military Would Have Really Straightened Out Troubled Teen Killed On First Tour Of Afghanistan.”

June 21 follow-up: This post has been reprinted by a conservative blog (which unfortunately sometimes relies on Fox News-style sexism to draw readers, though this particular writer is a woman who regularly contributes to the sometimes-thoughtful interactions there), so if you want to read more discussion of the issue besides the comments below, you can go here. (Note: The previous sentence has been edited for clarification, because it apparently confused another regular at that site–thanks, Joe, for pointing out the poor wording.)

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments »

Cain for GOP? Nein, nein, nein

Posted by James McPherson on December 2, 2011

First, let me say that I don’t particularly care whether Herman Cain cheated on his wife. I might care, for her sake, but since she seems to be a “Cain en-able-er” (go ahead, say it out loud and groan), I’m certainly not going to lose sleep over what goes on in their 43-year marriage. Apparently something works.

The same generally goes for serial adulterers Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump. If they can govern, that’s mostly what I care about. Still, when Republicans keep preaching about family values, it seems a bit more hypocritical (and perhaps more politically relevant because of that hypocrisy) when the cheater is a Republican such as those three, Mark Foley, Arnold Schwarzenegger,  Larry Craig, Mark Sanford and John Ensign, rather than a Democrat such as Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Jim McGreevey, Anthony Wiener or Eliot Spitzer.

I grant you that all of the guys named above with the possible exception of Cain are sleazeballs that I don’t want to hang out with. But if I thought one of them could get the country on track, he’d get my vote. And the fact is, Cain would be a lousy president. Most conservatives would agree, if they actually know anything about him. Cain just happened to fill the “anybody but Mitt” slot that Gingrich now occupies, probably also temporarily because he’s also a loser, for the GOP faithful.

I would remind the Cain supporters not to be too hasty in their arguments that Cain is being maligned. Usually the women who make these kinds of claims are ridiculed and disbelieved at first–and usually they turn out to be telling the truth. But one of those Cain supporters made me laugh out loud today.

Floyd Brown, the creator of the infamous “Willie Horton” ad used against Michael Dukakis posted on his own blog a piece titled–and I promise, I’m not making this up–”Video: Herman Cain, Man of Character, Destroyed By An Evil Media.” In his post, Brown unbelievably writes the following: “I consider the attacks on Cain to be the most reprehensible series of unjustified media allegations I have seen in my 50 years of life.” Really, Floyd? Remember, you’re the guy who takes pride in introducing most of us to Willie Horton through the ad that–in case you need a reminder–you can find at the bottom of this post.

Brown also states that “the relentless assault planned by the Obama White House … is abhorrent.” Now that’s just goofy, and Brown–or any regular watcher of “The West Wing” or “The Good Wife”–should know it. If Democrats were behind this, don’t you think they’d wait to unleash it until after Cain had the nomination? If the supposed “attacks” are political in nature, my guess on who is behind it would be Gingrich–the guy who is supposedly staying above it all.

And while I thought Brown’s showing of support was funny, I found another to be simply sad. A new website, titled “Women for Herman Cain,” includes words of support from women around the country professing their belief in Cain. Most include photos of themselves, many of the self-shot variety that too many girls and young women commonly post on Facebook. But many of these women aren’t young, and shouldn’t be naive. And because I find them mostly pitiful, I won’t include their names below.

“Dear Mr. Cain, I am a 66 year old female architect in the State of Texas, and want to simply say… as a REAL woman I do not believe for one second any of these ‘women’ that have crawled out from under a rock somewhere to defame you and bring pain to you and your family. They are pitiful creatures at the very least, and evil at the most. Isn’t it convenient that they have suddenly become offended by supposed advances by you now after all these years, my goodness, poor babies, how have they been able to bare up under the pain for all these oh so many years… LIARS, LIARS, LIARS…”

Even as we wonder about the ironic misspelling of bear/bare, one wonders how this “real woman” knows that others are liars. Here’s another, with the original spelling and grammar intact:

” Hello, Herman Cain, you need to focus about this America” and don’t even listen to all this women ,that they don’t have nothing good to say about you… they they are money hungry… and women like this, Don’t care or don’t have no “SHAME to go on TV…to use lies, for money…somebody has been paying this women. They make me sick to my stomach…..they need to start digging a hole on the ground n till they rich china”

And another, from a woman who apparently missed the fact that Cain blames unemployment on the jobless: “”Mr. Cain, I support you very much. I am currently unemployed. I haven’t been able to find a full time job since I graduated college in 2009. … I do not believe a single one of the ‘women’ who have accused you.” What is it about Cain’s female followers and their use of quotation marks while disparaging possible “women” victims?

One writes to Cain’s wife, who is heading up the website: “Mrs. Cain, I’m so very sorry for the pain you’ve had to suffer at the hands of these seriously troubled women and those behind them. Such an elegant lady as you should never have to deal with such scum.”

I agree that Gloria Cain shouldn’t have to deal with scum. But apparently she chooses to do so. And I do wonder how often her husband checks out the photos on her new website, looking for new women to “help.” God knows that some there seem to need it.

Next-day follow-up: Cain admits that his campaign is toast, as he is “suspending” his campaign. He’s make an endorsement soon, as he continues his run for vice president–I’m betting it’s for Gingrich, since the two men obviously have much in common.

Posted in History, Journalism, Legal issues, Politics, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

More evidence that watching Fox News or NASCAR may make you dumber

Posted by James McPherson on November 22, 2011

When it comes to knowledge of world affairs, “no news is better than Fox News,” according to a study by researchers at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Sadly, that’s old news. Even sadder, as columnist Kathleen Parker (once considered a conservative, though now even Ronald Reagan wouldn’t qualify) has pointed out, the relative ignorance common to heavy watchers of Fox News is driving today’s Republican Party. Or, as Paul Begala has termed it, “the Stupid Party.”

I hesitate to paint with a brush so broad, though I have previously noted some activities by conservatives that seemed at least unenlightened. But presumably these are some of the same folks who actually booed the First Lady over the weekend at a NASCAR race (an action that the voice of the GOP, Rush Limbaugh, actually defended).

Think for a minute–as much as some people hated George W. Bush, can you imagine any of those folks openly and proudly insulting Laura Bush? In fact, to find such boorish behavior toward a First Lady you have to go all the way back to … Hillary Clinton. The worst example? Another Democratic First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson.

And when people are working as hard as the current crop of GOP candidates to look stupid, it’s difficult to conclude otherwise. Perhaps it’s simply a Wall Street plot to get Obama re-elected, despite all the reasons he shouldn’t be. See a couple of the more humorous recent examples–or at least they would be funny, if these weren’t people seeking to lead the free world–below.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Anchors away–not aweigh–at CBS

Posted by James McPherson on March 27, 2011

Katie Couric’s time looks to be about up at CBS, with Scott Pelley–a better journalist but less of a celebrity and much cheaper–being a possible frontrunner as her replacement.

Like it matters. Quick: Name the anchors of all three traditional nightly newscasts. Now name the three craziest people on cable “news.” Chances are you had a much easier time composing the second list, even though considerable more people actually watch network newscasts than cable news, at least for now.

That may not continue, if network news–which can’t match the train-wreck entertainment value of cable news and shouldn’t even try–doesn’t figure out the seemingly obvious, that cutting back on news content actually makes news programming less relevant. Al Jazeera has figured that out, and many of those who actually care about what’s going on in the world now rely more on Al Jazeera than on the networks.

David Letterman apparently will be sad to see Couric step down, though he revealed an old-fashioned rose-colored view of American television news when he stated:

Let me tell you something, once you take the anchor chair – that’s what you do. . . . It’s not like it’s a temp gig. Look at Walter Cronkite. Look at Tom Brokaw. Look at Brian Williams. Look at Peter Jennings. Look at all these people. They get in it, they saddle up and they ride into the sunset.

Notice the biggest name that is missing–the longtime anchor of the same network that now employs  both Couric and Letterman. Dan Rather now anchors a pretty good news show buried on a network that features such illuminating programming as Mixed Martial Arts, “Drinking Made Easy” and “Girls Gone Wild.”

Williams is probably the best anchor now working–despite his occasional (and admittedly funny) forays into the likes of “Saturday Night Live“–but having started as anchor in 1996 he’s also the only one of the three who can be considered an anchor “old timer.”

Others that Letterman–and pretty much everyone else–apparently have forgotten include the brief 2006 ABC co-anchor experiment with Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff, Charles Gibson’s three-plus years after that, and Diane Sawyer, who replaced Gibson just 15 months ago.

Bob Schieffer kept Rather’s old CBS seat warm until Couric left NBC’s blockbuster morning program, “The Today Show.” Considering that Couric apparently is now considering hosting a daytime show, perhaps she  should have kept her NBC gig. And drawing her away didn’t help CBS in the evening or hurt NBC in the morning.

The most noteworthy thing about Couric’s tenure with CBS–other than possibly the interview that best demonstrated how unqualified Sarah Palin was for national office–is that she was the first woman solo anchor for one of the “big three” nightly newscasts.

The fact that Couric broke that particular gender barrier a 22 years after Geraldine Ferraro became the first female U.S. vice presidential nominee for a major party is a shameful reflection on the news business. The fact that Couric, like Sarah Palin, was more noteworthy for her celebrity than her competence, reflects poorly on all of us.

And the fact that Couric, like Ferraro and Palin, was chosen as a desperate act  to try to reverse a losing campaign, is unfortunate. Women–and all of us–deserve better treatment.

Personal note: This is the 400th post on this blog. Thanks to all of you who have read any of it, and especially to those who have offered comments.

Posted in History, Journalism, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Women lose ground in Congress for 1st time since 1978

Posted by James McPherson on November 18, 2010

It’s official. Even if Ann Marie Buerkle holds on to her narrow lead in New York, and despite the stunning write-in victory of Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, with the concession of Melissa Bean in Illinois, Congress will see a net loss in the number of female members for the first time since Rosalynn Carter was first lady.

It will also be the first decrease since a year after Indiana became the 35th and last state to ratify the failed Equal Rights Amendment (though one of the fears used to kill the ERA has come to fruition, anyway–we now do have women soldiers being killed in battle).

The United States has a dismal record overall on the percentage of women in its national leadership, ranking about 70th among the world’s nations and trailing such countries as Cuba, Afghanistan and Rwanda. Thirty-one of the 192 U.N. member nations have women at the head of their governments: 10 presidents, 11 prime ministers and three queens.

Of course, the pitiful lack of women in U.S. political leadership merely reflects our record elsewhere in American society. Despite some high-profile gains, with gender–as with race–we obviously have some distance to go.

Posted in Politics, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Want smarter kids? Turn them over to lesbians

Posted by James McPherson on June 9, 2010

Heather has two mommies? No wonder she’s so well-adjusted.

That’s the conclusion of an article in New Science magazine–that “Compared with a group of control adolescents born to heterosexual parents with similar educational and financial backgrounds, the children of lesbian couples scored better on academic and social tests and lower on measures of rule-breaking and aggression.”

In other words, the children of lesbian parents were smarter and less obnoxious than most other kids.

Actually I’d never heard of New Science until Slate cited this study, and the research seems to have some flaws (maybe women just tend to be better parents than men, for example, making them superheroes in the traditional, often unappreciated,  sense). But the study does cast further doubt on the idea that gays shouldn’t be allowed to adopt. Homosexuals are legally prohibited from adopting in Florida, while joint adoption is illegal in several states.

Posted in Education, Legal issues, Politics, Science, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

The activist conservative Supreme Court and its contradictions

Posted by James McPherson on May 12, 2010

Remember when conservatives said they didn’t want activist judges, back in the days when they were still able to pretend (though the claim was pretty far-fetched during most our history) that activism somehow meant liberalism? We now have pretty good evidence that the current Supreme Court, in addition to being an activist court, is perhaps the most conservative in history.

Apparently four of the five most conservative judges who have served since 1937 are on the court today, with another current justice, Anthony Kennedy, ranked No. 10. Incidentally, Clarence Thomas–whom I had previously considered to be the equivalent of a ventriloquist’s dummy for Antonin Scalia (except that wooden dummies typically come across as smarter and more expressive than Thomas), is actually ranked as more conservative than Scalia. Or anyone else who has served since 1937.

And of course the most relatively liberal John Paul Stevens is the  justice who is leaving, with the largely unknowable Elena Kagan nominated by pseudo-liberal Barack Obama to take Stevens’ place on a court of contradictions. Assuming Kagan is seated, the court will have a record number of women on the court–and all of them from New York City. Her appointment means that four of the nine justices will have been appointed by Democrats, the “best” it has been for progressives for more than 40 years. Oh yeah, those damned liberal activist courts!

Except for his race, Thomas seems to be the justice who would feel most at home at a Tea Party gathering, but in fact most of today’s justices could hang out at such a gathering unnoticed (not least of which is because most tea partiers wouldn’t recognize a Supreme Court justice if they tripped over him). And the fact that the only black man on the court is its most conservative member–while the only other African American to serve, Thurgood Marshall is ranked as the least conservative since 1937–is only one current oddity of the court.

It appears that Protestants may want to start clamoring for more diversity on the court, considering that it is about to be made up of six Catholics and three Jews. NPR notes that half of the Roman Catholics who have ever served are on the court now. (The first Catholic also has the distinction of being perhaps the worst chief justice ever; Roger Taney wrote the Dred Scott decision, which some Arizonans are no doubt trying to figure out how to apply to Hispanics today).

I’ve complained in the past about how America’s leaders were more conservative than the people they pretend to serve. But as long as corporations have more political power and more interest in the process than people do, those in power will continue to benefit from an increasingly activist conservative court.

Posted in History, Legal issues, Politics, Women, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

 
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