Monday, January 31, 2005


Recently, I've been having some discussion about personality type in fiction, particularly Myers-Brigg in Harry Potter.

I won't bore you with that discussion (though, I assure you, it is fascinating).

But, you (yes, I mean you!) should go take the test: http:// and come back and tell me what you came up with and whether you think it fits you or not.

I am an INTJ. Someone (with the nicest intentions, I'm sure) pointed out that one paragraph in particular was quite accurate:

Many INTJs believe that they are always right. In some INTJs, this belief is quite obvious, while in others it is more subtle. Some people may have a difficult time accepting what they see as a "superior attitude" or "snobbery". Not to imply that INTJs are snobbish, just that some people with strong Feeling preferences may perceive them that way. And some individuals simply have no interest in the theoretical pursuits which the INTJ enjoys.

Now, surely, my (hypothetical) readers, you disagree with this assessment of me?

However, by and large, I can see that the description fits. (

What about you?

Jennifer the AMAZING Procrastinator

This is the extent of my boredom.

Despite the fact that I have two books to read, a test to study for, and two essays to write.

*Is sad and pathetic*

Monday, January 24, 2005

Baby X

This is for all of you who I told I'd send you the Baby X story the other day. You should read it. It's short and interesting.

For those of you who don't know what it's about, it's the (fictional) story of X, a child who has no known gender. The child was raised to like dolls AND trucks, to excel at sports AND cooking.

Meanwhile, the Joneses were worrying about other problems. Toys, for instance. And clothes. On his first shopping trip, Mr. Jones told the store clerk, "I need some clothes and toys for my new baby." The clerk smiles and said, "Well, now, is it a boy or a girl?" "It's an X," Mr. Jones said, smiling back. But the clerk got all red in the face and said huffily, "In that case, I'm afraid I can't help you, sir."

So Mr. Jones wandered helplessly up and down the aisles trying to find what X needed. But everything in the store was piled up in sections marked "Boys" or "Girls." There were "Boys' Pajamas" and "Girls' Underwear" and "Boys' Fire Engines" and "Girls' Housekeeping Sets." Mr. Jones consulted page 2,326 of the Official Instruction Manual. "Buy plenty of everything!" it said firmly.

So they bought plenty of sturdy blue pajamas in the Boys' Department and cheerful flowered underwear in the Girls' Department. And they bought all kinds of toys. A boy doll that made pee-pee and cried, "Pa-Pa." And a girl doll that talked in three languages and said, "I am the Pres-I-dent of Gen-er-al Mo-tors." They also bought a storybook about a brave princess who rescued a handsome prince from his ivory tower, and another one about a sister and brother who grew up to be a baseball star and a ballet star, and you had to guess which was which.

The story shows just how much of our world is gendered, though we don't notice it. It illustrates the social construction of femininity and masculinity by showing the means through which they are created. Is it at all a shock that boys act a certain way and girls act another, that they like different toys and different clothes? No. Because we raise them to do just that!

Edit: here's the link! duh!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Media de-programming re:social security

We have a serious problem with social security. Is it that it is
running thin, going bankrupt, or dying? No. The problem is that the
media and politicians have convinced us that it is.

How have they done this, you may ask.

Most people simply assume that social security is bankrupt or will be
any day. The media reports it as if it is fact. Yet nothing could be
further from the truth.

Last year, Social Security paid out $383 billion in checks, and
received $436 billion in taxes and an additional $49 billion in
interest. Instead of red ink, Social Security made almost $102 billion
in profit, to add to the more than $652 billion it had in profits from
previous years.

The Trustees of the SS system use very conservative estimates in
discussing the future of the program. But even using their figures, it
is not until sometime after 2020 that the program will collect less in
taxes and interest than it pays in benefit checks, and even then, it
will have more than $1 trillion in the Social Security Trust Fund, left
from previous years. Their most recent estimate is that, for the next
34 years, the taxes that are collected, when added to interest and
money from the Trust Fund, will be sufficient to pay all the benefits
currently planned.

It is not until 2034 that the Trustees project that there will be no
money left in the Trust Fund, and not enough taxes to pay all the
benefits that are expected. But even when the Trust Fund is empty,
and for the foreseeable decades thereafter, the Trustees expect there will be enough taxes to pay 75% of the planned benefits.

Now, ok, let's pretend that social security were going to go bankrupt
tommorow (as conservatives and the media would have us believe).
Presumably we would still be paying out benefits to seniors. This
would cause us to create a defecit, no? We would be spending that
which we do not have.

So, here's a puzzle for those loveably misguided cons out there: why
is it horrible, unthinkable, untenable that the SSA run a defecit while
it's perfectly reasonable for the general budget not only to run on a
huge honking defecit but to multiply that defecit by cutting revenues
(ie tax cuts) that go to those at the top?? This makes very little
sense to me, this distinction.

So, now that we've "established" that SS is an agency in crisis, how
have we made the jump from the need for preservation to privatization?

The claim that so much money could be made through investment
conveniently ignores the massive costs of such a transition. Their
conclusions can only be drawn by pretending that all the money that is
now paid as SS taxes could instead by invested in stocks and bonds in
individuals' accounts. Since current payroll taxes are used to pay
benefits to beneficiaries, transferring money into individual accounts
means that less money will be available to pay promised benefits.

To avoid major benefit cuts, younger workers would have to pay twice: once to fund the new account and again to meet SS's current obligations.

But, to the real point. I do not deny a fiscal crisis in the US, but
the crisis is more with the general budget than any program in
particular. Certainly not Social Security.

As to privatization itself (ie investment):

The only possible way that stock returns can be high enough to make
privatization work is if the U.S. economy grows at three to four
percent a year for the next fifty years. But Social Security's own
trustees expect the economy's growth rate to slow to 1.8 percent. If
that happens -- if their own assumptions are correct -- then
privatization would be a disaster. And if that doesn't happen -- if the
economy continues to grow at a steady rate -- then the trust fund is
good for the rest of the century, and we don't need privatization.

I quote Eric Bates, summarizing economist Paul Krugman's findings:

The privateers are claiming that you can have something for nothing.
They're basically saying, "Let's assume that pigs can fly." And when
you say, "You know, it's not good to assume that pigs can fly," they
respond by saying, "What's wrong with you? Don't you understand the
enormous advantage of flying pigs?"

So, what is our real crisis?

The health care system. The private insurance system is slowly falling
apart, with rising costs due primarily to administrative costs, which
eat up many times more of the annual health care spending here than
they do in other industrialized countries. Health care is an arena
where privatization raises costs. It doesn't (for many reasons that I
can go into if you like) work like a perfect market economy.

So, if this all makes very little sense, if social security isn't
actually bankrupt (as is clearly the case) and if privatization is a
Bad Call (which is fairly evident), why are so many people pushing for

It, unfortunatley, all boils down to politics (as so many things do).
The people who want rid of this hate the idea of a social safety net,
of "their" tax dollars supporting someone else's retirement. These
people have never liked any of the New Deal legislation (which
ironically saved capitalism as we practice it) and have worked
ceaselessly to dismantle its programs.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Our Cultural Amnesia

Every once in a while I have a brilliant idea for a new post. And then I either forget or, upon reflection, decide that it's not that brilliant after all. However, one thing has consistently been bugging me--so much that I'm actually stepping out of my laziness to post about it. This thing is our collective forgetfulness, our ahistorical view of the world.

What do I mean? I am speaking of the current (and perpetual) fight by conservatives against "liberalism" that vague evil that stands as nothing but a straw man for them to use in arguments for legislating their own values and for deregulation. So, what is liberalism?

Perhaps, better than defining it in a succinct, dictionary-style sentance, it is best to look at its legacy.

If you work in a job where you don't risk being maimed or killed everyday, you've benefited from liberalism. If your children go to school rather than being sent off to work, liberalism gives you that ability. If you get paid overtime, based on a forty-hour week, and are paid a living wage, guess who worked tirelessly for that? If your water is drinkable, if your food doesn't kill you from disease, you should know that not only did liberals work for these safeguards, but conservatives actively opposed them. If members of your family are eligible for social security, medicare, unemployment, disability... they owe their livelihood to liberals. If your children go to school with children of different races (at least in theory) and people of all races share public facilities, you can thank liberals (and an "activist" Supreme Court) for that.

--safe, approved medicines
--safe, affordable public transportation
--FDIC, FSLIC and bank protection
--student loans and grants
--rural electrification

Have you benefited from any of these?

I promise you have.

Let us also define conservatives by their legacies. Their legacy is that they started off opposing every single one of these progressive ideas. Is it any wonder that they are now trying to dismantle social security? They never liked it.

What really irkes me, however, is how quick we are to forget these things. We (and by "we" I mean dominant culture) are quick to condemn liberals and liberal ideas. Even John Kerry and the 2004 Democratic candidates (some of whom could have been considered liberals) were quick to eschew the title. Liberals should proudly proclaim. "Yes. I am a liberal. I believe in the American liberal ideals that have made this country great! Public education, free speech, safe drinking water, and the 40-hour work week." Those are things that we can all agree are good. And they are things that would not be here without the work of liberals and would not be here if conservatives had had their way.

Now they're on board for most of these things (with the possible exception of Newt Gingrich).

But, in policy debates it is wise to remember the trajectory of history. I read a quote once, and I cannot remember who said it, but it was: "The heresy of today is the orthodoxy of tommorow." That gives me hope because I see it in the past. It was madness to think that the government could have a part in regulating the workplace. Now it's madness to think otherwise. We (even conservatives) believe that the government has a legitimate part in making sure workplaces are safe and that discrimination doesn't occur. (even if such safeguards are being slowly dismantled)

The things that progressives stand for now (heresy according to conservatives and the media) will be the orthodoxy of tommorow; 50 years from now we will think it crazy that at one point we denied health care coverage to people because they couldn't pay for it. Even conservatives will be on board, always one step behind. And people will forget how much they fought against it. That's the way it goes.

I have confidence in America. I just wish we had a better memory sometimes.