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Susan Faludi's "The Terror Dream: Myth and Misogyny in an Insecure America" is a brilliant book with an annoying flaw.

Faludi opens by noting that even as late as 2007 when she finished the book, "Virtually no film, television drama, play, or novel on 9/11 had begun to plumb what the trauma meant for our national psyche. Slavishly literal reenactments of the physical attack... or unrepresentative tales of triumphal rescue at ground zero seemed all the national imagination could handle." She talks a great deal about "we" in following pages of her preface: "Nothing like this had ever happened before, so we didn't know how to assimilate the experience. And yet, in the weeks and months to follow, we kept rummaging through the past to make sense of the disaster, as if the trauma of 9/11 had stirred some distant memory, reminded us of something disturbingly familiar." And further: "allusions to Pearl Harbour provided no traction, and we soon turned our attention to another chapter in U.S. history," the Cold War, where, in the fall of 2001, with pundits invoking John Wayne and TV airing re-runs of all of Wayne's western films, "we reacted to our trauma, in other words, not by interrogating it but by cocooning it in the celluloid chrysalis of the baby boom's childhood."

Obviously, of course, Faludi suffers from the typical American problem of forgetting that Americans are not the only "we" in the world. But that's not really the problem here. The problem, and the flaw, is that despite her preface, Faludi isn't really writing about "we Americans" but rather, and only, about "we journalists, pundits, politicians, and other members of the Establishment." Which is the typical, self-centred and arrogant stance of most journalists, of course, but is an astonishing lapse from a feminist left-wing writer who has shown in the past that she knows better (more about why I think Faludi falls into making this mistake later). The result is a fascinating and revealing book about the mythical fantasy that the U.S. media and the U.S. establishment tried to impose on the nation's social fabric in the aftermath of 9/11, but it isn't a book about what Americans thought of 9/11 or how they reacted to it. Nor, aside from a few early and brief mentions of statistics that refute the so-called trends being claimed by various journalists, is it even a book that tries to compare the establishment's response to the attacks to the responses of ordinary people.

Many's the time since September 2001 when I have read something in the news about the U.S. and said to [ profile] morgan_dhu, "they've all gone barking mad down there." And I know many of my e-friends in the U.S., and many of the U.S.-based bloggers that I read, were having very similar responses to the parade of craziness that the establishment media and political leaders were putting on. Faludi would have written a much better book, I think, if she had gone beyond the mainstream and establishment media and looked at opinion surveys, at left-wing blogs, at all the various non-establishment voices out there, and what they had to say about 9/11 and about the establishment's campaign of myth-making.

Despite this flaw, I still found the book utterly fascinating. It's a damn good book, if you accept the limits of what it tries to do. Read more... )
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[ profile] morgan_dhu's GP ordered some blood tests, so we had a visit from a phlebotomist this morning. As usual, the GP made a mistake and the test order did not include the cholesterol test we had asked for, nor did it include any fasting tests despite [ profile] morgan_dhu's being told to fast before the test. We are not happy with our GP, and this is just the latest in a series of reasons why we really wish we could find someone else... but there's a shortage of physicians in Toronto, and it's rare to find someone who is accepting new patients. And every election season, the provincial government includes promises in its platform to Do Something to increase the supply of physicians in the province, ditto the same promises at the federal level every time there's a federal election, but somehow despite all the promises, Something is not Being Done, because there are still never enough doctors to go around.

We were very impressed by the phlebotomist, (Annia) though, as she took the initiative, calling her boss, waiting on hold for five minutes, and then getting approval to put the missing tests back on the order form. [ profile] morgan_dhu also said that Annia was very good with her needle, as it didn't hurt nearly as much as it usually does.

Which turns out to be no mystery, as Annia was a GP for 15 years back in Cuba before coming here. Cuba, of course, has been exporting doctors around the world for decades, and Cuban doctors are among the top tier worldwide in terms of their training and education... but Annia cannot be a doctor here in Toronto, where there is a serious shortage of physicians, because the (white) medical establishment here seen to it that doctors trained in foreign countries are not allowed to transfer their credentials when they immigrate here.

Of course, there are exceptions for American and British and Western European trained doctors, who can get recertified in Canada without a great deal of trouble, but Annia is basically supporting herself with phlebotomy in order to go back to school to take courses in things she already knows so she can re-earn a professional certificate she already has, but this time without the taint of it being issued by a university in the third world.

Isn't racism wonderful?
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11 AM on election day in the US, and already the news is full of stories of people waiting in line for hours on end to vote. And various people from other countries, like "mirrormirror" from England (in the comments), confusedly asking Americans why it is that they have to wait in line so long, to which the Americans patiently explain that they have much longer ballots than do people in other countries, so it takes longer.

Much has been said about how Americans vote for everyone from President and representative to mayor and dog catcher, and how this creates baroque ballots that take a long time to count by hand, which in turn requires the use of complex and expensive voting machines created by companies owned by Republican supporters, that may or may not have "bugs" that cause them to preferentially lose votes for Democratic candidates.

Very, very few people are talking about the fact that Florida (to take one, possibly atypical example out of 50), with 18 million people, has 900 polling stations if I read this article correctly. Assuming 70% of the Florida populace are eligible to vote (probably higher considering the ratio of retirees to children there), that's still 14,000 voters per polling station, or, with 60% turnout (higher than in any of the last three or four elections in the US), 8,400 voters per precinct, minimum. If polls there are open for 12 hours on election day, that's 700 voters per hour.

In contrast, most Canadian provinces set the maximum number of eligible voters per polling station (table E1) to between 275 and 450. So in an entire day of voting, even with 100% turnout, a typical Canadian polling station would have to handle less than half the voters that a typical Florida polling station would have to handle in one hour with 60% turnout.

And this is the invisible elephant in the room whenever there is discussion of how to fix the broken US election system. I'm sure there are states which have adequate numbers of polling stations, but there are also many states which absolutely do not. And for those states, all this talk of how voting machines are vitally necessary, of how "chaos," long lines, polling stations running out of ballots and people getting discouraged and going home because they didn't want to wait 8 hours in line to vote is just normal, business as usual, nothing to see here, all that is just TOTAL BULLSHIT.

If Florida had 25,000 polling stations, then there wouldn't be any lineups, and there wouldn't be much of a need to spend money on expensive voting systems that don't work and aren't accurate or unbiased, because, with half a dozen poll workers (and a dozen party representatives to look over their shoulders) you could count each ballot by hand, even with votes for 30 different elected officials to count, and still get done in just a few hours.

Well, yes, 25,000 polling stations would cost a bit more than 900. But guess what? Democracy isn't free. And if you're trying to do democracy on the cheap, then you're doing it wrong.

[Edited to account for variability from state to state, and to refine estimate of eligible voters in Florida]

[eta:] Rhode Island, with a population of ~1 million (by the national average, that gives 700,000 voting age citizens) has 177 polling places this year, or 3,950 eligible voters per polling place.
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In Town of Castle Rock, Colorado vs Gonzales, the US supreme court ruled 7-2 today that local police are not constitutionally required to protect someone from a person they have a restraining order against.

From the summary of the opinion:

Respondent filed this suit under 42 U.S.C.§1983 alleging that petitioner violated the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause when its police officers, acting pursuant to official policy or custom, failed to respond to her repeated reports over several hours that her estranged husband had taken their three children in violation of her restraining order against him. Ultimately, the husband murdered the children. The District Court granted the town's motion to dismiss, but an en banc majority of the Tenth Circuit reversed, finding that respondent had alleged a cognizable procedural due process claim because a Colorado statute established the state legislature's clear intent to require police to enforce retraining orders, and thus its intent that the order's recipient have an entitlement to its enforcement. The court therefore ruled, among other things, that respondent had a protected property interest in the enforcement of her restraining order.

Held:Respondent did not, for Due Process Clause purposes, have a property interest in police enforcement of the restraining order against her husband.

This despite the fact that the language of Colorado's restraining order law clearly stated that police were required to enforce restraining orders.

In short: the US supreme court has told battered women that they don't have any recourse if their abusers persist in stalking, beating, or killing them and their children. The fact that this was a 7-2 opinion says many sad things about the state of the US legal system.


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