Ed Rendell: Democrat and Phillies Fan

Historiann commenter and special correspondent Indyanna filed this report late Wednesday night after attending both an Obama rally and watching the Phillies put the Rays to bed.  (It’s a shame about Rays!  Sorry–I couldn’t resist.  I’ve been waiting for the Phillies to win all week long so that I could roll out my bad joke!)  So, without further ado, I give you Indyanna:

I went to the Ed Rendell event tonight which ended just in time to catch the last two outs in the Phillies victory.  Turnout was modest, but it wasn’t really so much a general rally as a meet-up of the local Obama activists to fire everyone up for the final week. The gov. is touring the western end of the state to guard against any complacency and because this one apparently could be the deal-breaker if anything goes wrong.  It probably won’t, esp. as the Philadelphia area’s baseball euphoria should have positive political transfer effects, much the way the Mets victory in 1969 kept Mayor Lindsey in office in NYC.

The gov. poured rivers of scorn on the Republican campaign and called for them to be not just beaten but “punished,” as he says they’ve run a mean and unworthy campaign.  He dismantled the notion piece by piece that Obama would “raise your taxes” or that he is a “wealth spreader.”  In fact, he quoted both McCain and Palin as advocating various types of wealth transfer, and not just from the poor to the rich.  Then he dropped the mike and literally rushed up the aisle without waiting for questions, muttering that he had to catch the end of the Phillies game!  Ed. note:  like a true former Mayor of Philadelphia!

The big news is that Rep. Murtha is apparently in a tighter race than expected, given that the hunter and gatherer crowd hasn’t been wild about his leftish zigs and zags. But the money he’s showered on this district over the years is maybe the difference between actually HAVING to hunt and gather and just doing it as a cultural statement.

Another reason to back single-payer UHC: gender equality

Anglachel has a great post up called “Girls Have Cooties,” in which she slices and dices the recent New York Times cover story revealing that women pay much higher rates for private health insurance coverage, even including policies that don’t cover pregnancy and childbirth!  Yes, friends–apparently, if you’re a menstruating woman, you are defined merely as an empty vessel at risk of becoming pregnant, and that determines the price you pay no matter what your policy actually covers.  You are defined solely by what may or may not emerge from your uterus–no matter what your actual plans or reproductive possibilities are.  Says Anglachel:

So, women and men engage in sex, but women get pregnant and might have complications. That men, statistically more likely to have more partners, are at a higher level of risk for STDs and (since they are less likely to seek treatment) are more likely to suffer the long term effects of a disease like herpes and to spread that disease to other partners doesn’t come up. Can we also talk about the propensity for male “young adults” to engage in risky behavior and end up requiring extremely expensive treatment for injuries? A friend of mine is recently out of ICU because of bashing in his own skull in a fall while trying to skateboard while drunk, for example. Are these accidents being factored in to male insurance premiums? Is it really the case that a woman is 48% more expensive to insure, or is it that the insurers know that men don’t use medical services enough to make any money off them?

It’s striking to be faced once again with these deeply-rooted cultural stereotypes and primitive fears about the permeable, undisciplined female body:  leaky, smelly, requiring constant and vigilant maintenance, full of holes that might be used or misused, and who knows what (or who!) might eventually pop out or prolapse?  This is from the NYT article, by way of an explanation for why all women simply must pay higher rates than men:

“Bearing children increases other health risks later in life, such as urinary incontinence, which may require treatment with medication or surgery.”

Why do these bitchez think they can make these messes and expect health insurance to pay for them, just because they bought health insurance?  Stupid, stupid women–why didn’t they ask for the XY chromosome instead?  It’s all their own fault!  Aristotle’s Masterpiece (1755), a popular book on “family planning” in eighteenth-century Britain and colonial British America, offers a trenchant analysis of the cause of “monstrous births,” p. 90:

Monsters are sometimes produced by other means; to wit:  by the undue Coition of a Man and his Wife, when her monthly Flowings are upon her; which being a Thing against Nature, no Wonder that it should produce an unnatural Issue.  If therefore a Man’s Desire be never so great, for Coition (as sometimes it is after long Absence) yet if a Woman knows that the Custom of Woman is upon her, she ought not to admit of any Embraces, which at that Time are both unclean and unnatural.  The Issue of those unclean Embraces proving often monstrous, as a Just Punishment for such turpidinous Action.

These ideas long predate the eighteenth century, of course–this edition of Aristotle’s Masterpiece was the twenty-sixth printing, but some of the ideas it contains, like the theory above of one of the causes of birth defects, were centuries old already.  (The two lower images are illustrations of “monstrous births” from Aristotle’s Masterpiece, pages 95 and 92 respectively.)  Why do I get the feeling that private insurance companies are more about “Just Punishment” for having bodies, especially women’s bodies, and not about health care?  Single-payer universal health care would be a significant step toward gender equality.

Hanging on the telephone: a good convention interview substitute?

This song is 30 years old!

Do you still have your old 45 of this one?

A few weeks ago, I posted a question from Busted Barry in Bakersfield about whether to announce in his job application letter that he had no plans to go to the American Historical Association’s annual conference, which traditionally hosts screening interviews for faculty job aspirants.  A telephone interview would be the obvious substitute, so the question for today, dear readers, is:  are phone interviews an adequate substitute for in-person interviews at large conventions like the AHA or the Modern Language Association?

My sense is that telephone interviews are inferior to the real thing, because no department I’ve ever been a part of has brought someone who had a telephone interview to campus as a job finalist when we also conducted conference interviews.  That may be because the people at the conference were truly the best candidates, but I wonder if the disembodied voice over the speakerphone just doesn’t establish one’s energy or presence in the same way that in-person interviews can.  But, Commenter JJO disagreed (somewhat), offered some good advice, and raised an interesting point in his comment on the Busted Barry post given the price of jet fuel these days:

[M]any departments might be looking to save money by finding alternative interview arrangements this year.

I’ve had both good and bad experiences on the interviewee end of phone interviews (be very upfront if you can’t hear everyone or need something repeated or clarified — I know from experience that faking it doesn’t work well; the confusion comes through). But in my department we’ve had excellent luck bringing people in through phone interviews and videoconferencing (usually for postdoctoral positions; we still do AHA for tenure-track jobs, but the positive experiences we’ve had in these other formats might actually change that, particularly given the funding cuts that are already being implemented.)

I think JJO makes great points, but I’d suggest that parity is perhaps the key here:  if some people get in-person convention interviews, and other people get phone or videoconference interviews, then inequitable treatment may be the result.  But, if everyone gets a phone interview or a videoconference interview, that would seem to level the playing field, provided that you have no candidates with hearing loss or other disabilities that might make telecommunications difficult.

So, dear readers, what do you think?  Are phone interviews an acceptable substitute, or do they doom candidates?  Have you heard of any moves afoot in your college or university to go the telephone or videoconference route in these hard times?

A Mercy, the new novel by Toni Morrison


Everybody’s going old school these days–and by old school, I mean really, really old.  Toni Morrison’s new novel, A Mercy, is set in 1682 New York*, and is the story of a little enslaved girl, Florens, who is sold to a farmer and works alongside a Native American slave and white servants.  NPR featured an interview yesterday with Morrison, in which she speaks about her desire to “remove race from slavery.”  This makes for a fascinating and rich plot conceit, but she is too quick to suggest that African slavery was essentially the equivalent of European indentured servitude.

In the interview, and in other promotional blurbs for the book, she says:

“The suggestion has always been that they could work off their passage in seven years generally, and then they would be free,” says Morrison. “But in fact, you could be indentured for life and frequently were. The only difference between African slaves and European or British slaves was that the latter could run away and melt into the population. But if you were black, you were noticeable.”

I have never seen any evidence that European or Euro-American people in colonial America were “indentured for life.”  It’s true that indenture could effectively become a life sentence, especially in places like the early Chesapeake Bay colonies, where outliving one’s indenture was not a guarantee.  Morrison has a good point about African people standing out in the colonial North before the eighteenth century.  In the northern colonies in 1682, when her story begins, African and African American people were a small sliver of the population outside of Maryland, Virginia, and the Caribbean colonies, although in places like the Dutch-occupied Hudson River Valley where slaves were used more frequently, the African American population would eventually grow to 15% of the overall population.  Florens would have been more vulnerable to capture had she tried to run away, not just because of her race, but also because of her sex and her age.  Enslaved women and indentured servants in the colonial period ran away in much smaller numbers than their male peers, and I’ve never seen evidence of a small child running away on her own.  Women were much more vulnerable on the road, to predation as well as capture, and enslaved women were also frequently tied down by small children, whom they usually refused to abandon but who made fugitive travel so much more complicated and difficult.

Visibility as an ethnic minority is only a small part of the story, however, especially for little girls like Florens.  As a slave rather than a servant, Florens would never have been free to marry and have that marriage recognized by the state, unlike the white servants she worked with.  She never would have been able to take her master to court or serve as a witness in court, because as a slave, she was an un-person, whereas white servants could testify in court and could even bring criminal complaints and civil suits against their masters (however unlikely in actual practice.) 

Finally, the most important difference between enslaved people and indentured servants:  masters owned slaves’ bodies, whereas they owned only the time and labor of indentured servants.  This makes all of the difference in the world, because even as early as 1682, slavery was a condition passed to children by their mothers, whereas children of indentured servants weren’t consigned to servitude or slavery.  If an indentured servant bore a child while in service, she was usually punished by her term of service being lengthened by a year or two, to compensate her master for the work time lost during pregnancy and recovery from childbirth.  (This is a practice that seems to have been followed in most colonies in colonial British America.)  But, the child herself would not be consigned to slavery–the critical difference, as far as I’m concerned, between slaves like Florens and indentured servants like her co-workers.  Her co-workers could eventually outlive and outgrow their status, and become lawful wives and husbands, and parents of their own children.  Already in 1682, Florens’s fate was sealed absent the intervention of a generous master.  She was a slave, and her children would be enslaved after her, as would her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren.

I’m all for explorations of indentured servitude–indeed, there’s a long-abandoned study in Historiann’s past on this subject from her undergraduate days.  But, suggesting that temporary white servitude, however exploitative, was the same as racially-based, heritable slavery is just not historically accurate.  Furthermore, it can be used to push a Kum-Bye-Yah, all-of-our-ancestors-were-oppressed narrative that is extremely popular with white people in this country.  Check out this blurb, which praises the book for its “redemptive tone:”

[A] pristine landscape, a compassionate white Northern farmer, and a notable absence of racial animosity—felt even more keenly in an election year with a full deck of race cards. In A Mercy, Jacob Vaark’s collection of laborer-charges (a Native American, a black child, an orphan, and two indentured servants) are united by and against a spreading culture of servitude that has little to do with skin color.”

“Skin color” is of course too reductive, but suggesting that it was all just a random accident that only people of African descent were enslaved–well, call me when you get back from Disneyland.  I’m putting A Mercy on my Christmas list, and I’ll hope that Santa Claus a copy drops a copy in my stocking.  You can hear Morrison read excerpts from the book here–so far, it sounds fascinating.  Watch this space for a review this winter.

*I’m assuming that Florens is brought to New York (the English name for the conquered Dutch colony of New Netherland), because her owner Jacob Vaark purchases her in Maryland but brings her north, and his name is Dutch.  The promotional materials I’ve found on-line are frustratingly non-specific–I suppose that “the north” is as specific as most Americans think they need to be, to specify that Vaark keeps slaves but does not live in a slave society.

UPDATED:  Aaaaand, the NPR listening audience learns exactly the WRONG lesson.  (Click the link to hear the letters that people wrote to the program after hearing the Morrison interview.)

UPDATED, 10/29/08:  I asked my American women’s history (to 1800) students if they thought Morrison was right about the equivalence of indentured servitude and slavery, and about the notion that the categories of enslaved, bound, and free people weren’t yet clear in 1682.  Almost to a woman, they answered “no” to both questions.  We’ve just finished reading Jennifer Morgan’s Laboring Women:  Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), so they had plenty of information to work from in answering those questions.  Well done, class!

Monday morning doll blogging: Skipper and Judy Jetson!

Those broads over at Feminist Law Professors have done it again:  how’s about a little nostalgia for all of you 30- and 40-somethings out there to get you misty-eyed on a Monday morning.  (And not just because you don’t have time to watch the Superfriends any more before going to work because you still haven’t finished the book you assigned to your graduate seminar!)

First, Ann Bartow reminds us of one of the craziest dolls of the 1970s, “Growing Up Skipper,” who (those of you dames d’un certain age will remember) was the kid-sister of the Barbie family, and who grew breasts and got taller when you cranked around her left arm.  Pubertyriffic!

Next, Bridget Crawford reports on the so-called “Opt-Out Revolution” five years later, the topic of a speech by Lisa Belkin at a Pace Law School conference last Friday, “Women and the Law: How Far We’ve Come and Where We Need to Go.”  Go read Belkin if you must–E.J. Graff has shown that the “Opt-Out Myth” is something the New York Times discovers every decade or so–I was more taken with Crawford’s comments about how she thought we’d be past all of this feminism stuff because we’d get the ERA and equal pay and we could just sit back and enjoy the fruits of the labor of our foremothers in the feminist movement!  She writes:

It was not that long ago (um, ok, yes it was) when the older girls in my grade school were singing Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman.” I remember thinking women wouldn’t “need” that song in the future.  I remember thinking we wouldn’t need cars, either.  We’d all have George Jetson-like space vehicles that were powered by air (courtesy of my childhood imagination).  I assumed the 21st century would be so different from life as we knew it then.  But we’re here and it’s not.

Yeah, man:  where the hell is my flying car?

Eyewitness to History: ej on the ground at the Obama rally at Colorado State

This and all photos in this post are from the Fort Collins Coloradoan

Historiann.com commenter and special correspondent ej was at the Obama rally at Baa Ram U. this afternoon, and sent in this exclusive report:

I’ve been flattered by all the attention the presidential candidates were paying to Colorado, especially the Democrats, who haven’t had much cause to come here of late. The turnout at the rally for Joe Biden at Moo Moo U. in Potterville stunned me! But that was nothing compared to the events today. Early estimates had the Barack Obama crowd at Denver  hitting about 35,000. Actual tallies-over 100,000. I thought I would be safe showing up at the CSU rally close to 3-I wasn’t die hard enough to camp out, so a good seat wasn’t going to happen regardless. And after all, it was Fort Collins–how many people could there be? But when I finally got there, I was stunned by the turnout. Lines had started forming as early as 10 for a 3:30 speech, and they were forced to “close the gates” at 3. (I’m not really sure what that phrase means at an outdoor rally). So I stood along the train tracks facing the oval with hundreds of other folks who couldn’t get in. I was surprised by how fervent the crowd was-even those of us who didn’t have a seat.  Ed. note:  the Fort Collins Coloradoan reports that there were 50,000 people at the Oval this afternoon.

We couldn’t see much through the trees, but we could hear just fine. Obama actually started speaking before 3:30 (another surprise for me. I was sure he would be late and there would be several irritating introductions). The first few minutes were about early voting, along with some nice personal touches for the CSU crowd. About 10 minutes in, he segued to his stump speech. I have to say, as someone who has been obsessively watching CNN of late, I thought most of this would be familiar to me, but I realize now that they all play the same sound bites over and over, and they tend to be the policy ones. There were parts of his speech that I’m sure weren’t new to him, but I had never heard before, and I found them really effective. He talked about opportunity, but made it really personal, and really pitched to a crowd of first-time voters. Who here doesn’t have a parent or grandparent who didn’t go to college, but was determined that their child would? Who here doesn’t have a parent or grandparent who didn’t have the right to vote, but marched so that their children could? (Granted, that last one probably doesn’t hit home quite as well in Colorado as it does in more diverse states, but the crowd loved it).

Historiann already mentioned the “raise your hand if you make less than 250k line.  In person, it played much better. The crowd was silent because everyone was raising their hand! He really does have an uncanny ability to connect on a personal level with an enormous crowd.  Interestingly, the lines that got the crowd the most frenzied were those about “one America” and condemnations of divisive politics. I guess in light of that, its easy to see why the Republican campaign is floundering right now.

He spoke for 30 minutes. I left immediately. In part because there was no chance to see him up close, but more because I was illegally parked and worried that someone would tow my car. All in all, I was overwhelmed by how enthusiastic people were-even those of us peering across the oval from the train tracks. The cynical side of me has to ask where all of these folks have been. I’ve been in Colorado for 8 years now, and I never in my wildest dreams imagined there were so many Democrats living alongside of me. Perhaps they’ve only now been emboldened enough to come out publicly, or maybe they are recent converts. In any case, I wish they would have been this excited 4 years ago, but am nonetheless thankful for their votes now.

Barack Obama to speak at Colorado State University today


Dem hearts are aflutter in anticipation of Barack Obama’s visit to Baa Ram U. this afternoon.  (He’s also visiting Denver for a rally at Civic Center Park.)  He’ll be speaking at a very pretty part of campus known as “The Oval,” where most of the oldest buildings are located.  (It’s the part of our campus that screams “college campus!”)  I can’t be there myself, but I’ll try to post local news updates and video as they are available.  It’s a good day to be Obama in Colorado–the Rocky Mountain News announced yesterday that their polling has him with a comfy 12-point lead here.  (And yet, for some reason the national news stories I hear all identify Colorado as “close,” or a “toss-up.”  Close?  Stick a fork in us–we’re done, baby!)  Obama is not alone with his double-digit lead–actually, Mark Udall has an even more commanding 14-point lead over Bob Schaffer for our open U.S. Senate seat.  Even more exciting is the news that Betsy Markey may actually up-end Marilyn Musgrave, and install a Democrat in my congressional district for the first time since the early 1970s.

Colorado has been growing its own Democratic party–the state assembly and state senate flipped from Republican to Democratic control in 2004, and in 2006 we elected a Dem governor–but in presidential politics, an Obama win would still be remarkable.  (The last Dem presidential candidate to win this state was Bill Clinton in 1992.)  I sure wish things had turned around 4 years earlier–think of all of the trouble we could have saved the world if Colorado had gone for John Kerry! 

Many of us worked hard for that, but I think too many people were still living in that post-9/11/01 coma of fear, and wanted to believe that George W. Bush was in fact the “Commander in Chief” they hoped he was, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.  Half of the U.S., not to mention the rest of the world, was onto Bush by then, but Hurricaine Katrina was the event that finally changed people’s minds about him domestically.  The criminal ineptitude on display that last week of August 2005 was enraging and humiliating.  I remember a conversation with my Republican father, who was visiting that week, while we watched a news report on TV about New Orleans, and I commented, “I just can’t believe we’re stuck with Bush for another three and a half years.”  My father did a shocked double-take, and said, “we’ve got three and a half more years of this?,” appalled and disgusted by the thought of the continuing Bush regime.  To be sure, the Dem congress hasn’t done enough to help the people of New Orleans–my hope is that New Orleans won’t be forgotten amidst the long list of problems the next U.S. president will inherit.

Here are some links and spaces to watch to get news and video feeds of Obama’s visits to Colorado today:

The Denver Post

The Rocky Mountain News

The Fort Collins Coloradoan

Channel 7 News

UPDATE, 12:35 MDT:  He’s speaking now in Denver at Civic Center Park, and has been for about half an hour.  He sounds good–who wouldn’t, with the kind of lead he’s got?  Apparently, people started lining up at the park before dawn–and it was a very cold and windy morning here in Colorado.  Denver Police estimate that he drew a crowd of more than 100,000, which is mind-bogglingly huge.  Here’s a story from the Denver Post website, and here’s an excerpt from his prepared remarks.  I wonder what the crowd up in Fort Collins will be at 3:30 p.m.?

UPDATE, FORT COLLINS, 2:15 P.M. MDT:  The crowd is again huge, and was lined up since early this morning.  People have started moving through the security screening to get into the Oval.  I don’t know if the Denver Post and the other Denver media will also do a live stream of his appearance in Fort Collins, since they had their own visit earlier in the day, but the Fort Collins Coloradoan is featuring live updates.

UPDATE, 3:30 P.M. MDT:  Wow–he’s speaking even a little ahead of schedule.  You can find a link to the live video feed here.  Good populist rhetoric–the country needs to work “not just for the CEO, but the secretary, and the janitor.”

UPDATE, 3:45 P.M. MDT:  When he asked the crowd to raise their hands if they made less than $250K a year, the response was a little lackluster.  Is it a really rich crowd up in Fort Collins today?  The line about investing in renewables got a great response, and a good tie-in with Governor Ritter.  (Baa Ram U. is branding itself “The Green University,” after all.)

UPDATE, 3:52 P.M. MDT:  Here come his comments about expanding opportunities for college:  “If you are willing to commit yourself to service. . . . whatever way you decide to serve. . . . then we are going to make sure you have the money to go to college, no ifs, ands, or buts.” 

Obama has done a nice job of incorporating Hillary Clinton’s and Al Gore’s messages on universal health care and the environment into his spiel.  It’s going over very well this sunny but unexpectedly cool afternoon.

UPDATE, 3:59 P.M. MDT:  The no red America, no blue America routine–we all need to pull together for the good of the country.  “I ask of you what’s been asked of the American people throughout our history. . . believe in yourselves, believe in each other, believe in the future.”  Nice message of intergenerational dependence, and that young people today need to pass along their advantages to the generations that follow.

Nice speech–I think it was identical to the one he gave in Denver this afternoon, from what I saw of it, but that’s OK.  I think it was a version of his stump speech, although I’m not sure since I don’t have cable TV.