Thursday, 13 June 2013

Art Installment for the Day of the Midwife

Throughout time, trees have been symbols of strength, tradition, and sage wisdom.  This year, as part of the International Day of the Midwife celebrations happening at the Birth & Baby Fair, on May 5, 2012 in Mission Plaza, we are creating a participatory art installment to present to our midwives, and shed light on just how strong our local midwifery community really is!
We are creating a large tree, and each leaf on the tree is to represent a baby that has been born into the hands of a midwife.  To make it even more real, each leaf will have a baby's name written on it, along with the midwife who caught him/her. 

For the next month we will be collecting babies' names to include on the tree, and we need your help!  Please, if you would like your baby to be represented n our tree, submit your information in the comment section below.  Please include your names (parents), your baby's name (please include all of your children that have been born with midwives), and the name of the midwife that attended your birth. 

You can also come by the Midwifery Appreciation booth on the day of the fair, and fill out your own leaf/leaves in person and add it to the tree yourself. 

On the day of the fair, the completed tree will be presented to the midwives of our community.  After the fair it will go on display to serve as a powerful visual tool for depicting the strength and support of local midwifery.

Write Your Midwife A Thank You Note!

Who deserves more thanks than the woman that kept you safe and strong during your pregnancy and labor, and caught your baby?

Midwives continue to give even beyond our postpartum period.  We see them for our whole woman checks, and most of us know how willingly our midwives will answer our questions and concerns about our babier even months after they are born.  Even if you gave your midwife a thank you note after your baby was born, please take a moment to reiterate your appreciation for her care, love, and devotion to your and your family's health.
We would love it if you left a note of appreciation, written to your midwife, in the comment section below.  You can also come by the Midwife Appreciation booth and the Birth and Baby Fair in San Luis Obispo, CA on May 5, 2012, at Mission Plaza to fill out a thank you note to your midwife in person. 
All notes will be delivered to the midwives of our community after the Birth and Baby Fair!

Friday, 25 May 2012

The Liberal Cocoon

From Michael Barone on Real Clear Politics:
It’s comfortable living in a cocoon — associating only with those who share your views, reading journalism and watching news that only reinforces them, avoiding those on the other side of the cultural divide.

Liberals have been doing this for a long time. In 1972, the movie critic Pauline Kael said it was odd that Richard Nixon was winning the election, because everyone she knew was for George McGovern.

Kael wasn’t clueless about the rest of America. She was just observing that her own social circle was politically parochial.

The rest of us have increasingly sought out comfortable cocoons, too. Journalist Bill Bishop, who lives in an Austin, Texas, neighborhood whose politics resemble Kael’s, started looking at national data.

It inspired him to write his 2009 book “The Big Sort,” which describes how Americans since the 1970s have increasingly sorted themselves out, moving to places where almost everybody shares their cultural orientation and political preference — and the others keep quiet about theirs.

Thus professionals with a choice of where to make their livings head for the San Francisco Bay Area if they’re liberal and for the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex (they really do call it that) if they’re conservative. Over the years the Bay Area becomes more liberal and the Metroplex more conservative.

But cocooning has an asymmetrical effect on liberals and conservatives. Even in a cocoon, conservatives cannot avoid liberal mainstream media, liberal Hollywood entertainment and, these days, the liberal Obama administration.

They’re made uncomfortably aware of the arguments of those on the other side. Which gives them an advantage in fashioning their own responses.

Liberals can protect themselves better against assaults from outside their cocoon. They can stay out of megachurches and make sure their remote controls never click on Fox News. They can stay off the AM radio dial so they will never hear Rush Limbaugh.

The problem is that this leaves them unprepared to make the best case for their side in public debate. They are too often not aware of holes in arguments that sound plausible when bandied between confreres entirely disposed to agree.

We have seen how this works on some issues this year.

Take the arguments developed by professor Randy Barnett of Georgetown Law that Obamacare’s mandate to buy health insurance is unconstitutional. Some liberal scholars like Jack Balkin of Yale have addressed them with counterarguments of their own.

But liberal politicians and Eric Holder’s Justice Department remained clueless about them. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, asked whether Obamacare was unconstitutional, could only gasp: “Are you serious? Are you serious?”

In March, after the Supreme Court heard extended oral argument on the case, CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin was clearly flabbergasted that a majority of justices seemed to take the case against Obamacare’s constitutionality very seriously indeed.

Liberals better informed about the other side’s case might have drafted the legislation in a way to avoid this controversy. But nothing they heard in their cocoon alerted them to the danger.

Another case in point is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s law restricting the bargaining powers of public employee unions. The unions and the crowds in Madison, which is both the state capital and a university town and which with surrounding Dane County voted 73 to 26 percent for Barack Obama, egged each other on with cries that this would destroy the working class. No one they knew found this implausible.

The unions had an economic motive to oppose the laws and seek to recall first Republican legislators and then Walker himself. The law ended the automatic checkoff of union dues, which operated as an involuntary transfer of money from taxpayers to union leaders.

But voters declined to recall enough Republicans to give Democrats a majority in the Senate, and Walker currently leads Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in polls on the June 5 recall election.

The Madison mob seemed unaware that there were attractive arguments on Walker’s side.

Why should public employee union members pay less for health insurance and get fatter pensions than the taxpayers who pay their salaries? Why is it a bad thing for property taxes to be held down and for school districts to cut perks for union members enough to hire more teachers?

Beyond the Madison cocoon, in Wisconsin’s other 71 counties, which voted 55 to 44 percent for Walker in 2010, such arguments are evidently proving persuasive. Maybe liberals should listen to Rush every so often.
This kind of liberal cocooning explains how a bunch of Marquette professors can sign a letter attacking Paul Ryan’s budget. The problem with the letter is not that they disagree with Ryan. It’s that they simply can’t argue the case. Their letter entirely refuses to discuss specifics, and assumes that the concept of “solidarity” requires one to believe in ever increasing government spending, ever more generous welfare programs, and ever increasing dependency on government. Views at odds with this simply aren’t heard, and therefore are never contemplated.

We’ve run across this kind of insularity among our own political science colleagues — and political scientists are very far from being the biggest yahoos in academia. Compared to psychology, sociology and the humanities, the discipline is a refuge of sanity.

But during the 2008 election season, we had a colleague going on about how Sarah Palin had supposedly labeled the Iraq War a “mission from God.” This was, he believed, a terrible thing to say, although we wonder why Julia Ward Howe never is condemned for writing a song declaring that another war in American history was a mission from God. Anyway, our colleague did not seem to know who Julia Ward Howe was.

Having seen this debunked on Fox News, we corrected him and send a YouTube link putting the Palin remark in context. He relented on this issue, and we advised him that he needed to look at a broader range of media. He was offended, and demanded an apology. We, of course, will never apologize for giving somebody good advice, and didn’t in this case.

We likewise have a colleague who apologized to a class of students for showing them an interview that was broadcast on Fox News. It was an interview with an important policy maker, and it actually mattered little what outlet broadcast it. But he felt he needed to be apologetic for showing an interview on a channel that liberal academics consider to be outside the pale.

If this sort of thing happens in political science, imagine how bad things are in the humanities. But actually, we don’t have to imagine. We have blogged on multiple cases.

There Are Two Kinds of Countries in the World: ____ and _____

This is a cross-post from my solo blog, Dart-Throwing Chimp.

A few days ago, Sean Langberg blogged about a subject that's long been a pet peeve of mine: how we classify countries when we try to talk about the international system, and the labels we apply to the resulting groups. I thought I'd take the cue to air my grievances on the topic and make a couple of simple suggestions.

Taxonomies require organizing principles, and the kernel of the classification system Americans usually use in international politics comes from modernization theory. Modernization theory's core idea is the teleological one that economic growth, urbanization, industrialization, and political democracy are the natural, desirable, and mutually reinforcing ends of social change, or "development" for short. Viewed through this lens, some wealthy, democratic countries appear to have arrived already, while the rest are playing catch-up. In other words, the former have "developed," while the latter are still "developing."

This conventional approach is plainly displayed in the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) semi-annual World Economic Outlook reports, which sort countries into two bins: "advanced" and "emerging and developing." The former includes the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and a smattering of richer Asian countries, while the latter is, simply, everyone else. What, exactly, distinguishes these two groups is left unspecified--according to the April 2012 report, "This classification is not based on strict criteria, economic or otherwise, and it has evolved over time"--but the basic divide is the familiar one between the "West" and "the rest." The First World vs. Third World tags have largely faded from use since the Second World disappeared in the early 1990s, but the underlying concept is the same.

What's so distasteful about the conventional approach are its connotations of hierarchy and even moral superiority. A couple dozen countries, mostly "white" and European, are described as having reached the desired end state, while the rest of the world struggles and strains to catch up. The rich and powerful have matured; a few fortunate others are just now emerging from backwardness; and the rest remain retarded in their development.

There are other ways to do this. Back when Marxism was still alive and kicking, some social scientists used it to divide the world into a "center" and a "periphery" defined by the economic exploitation and political subjugation of the latter by the former. Dubbed dependency theory, this scheme died a bitter death for empirical, political, and sociological reasons. Empirically, dependency theory couldn't really explain how some once-peripheral countries eventually got much richer in spite of their supposed subjugation. Politically, the import-substitution policies dependency theorists prescribed were a bust. Sociologically, dependency theory got tagged (with justification) as part of a wider leftist political project, so it was further deflated by the ideological and practical collapse of Communism in the late 1980s. All of that said, dependency theory did present a reasoned alternative to the neoliberal scheme it opposed, and, in so doing, it spotlighted some important realities of the international system.

Some have tried to classify countries along religious or cultural lines, but I think these attempts have generally been less successful. The most prominent expression of this approach in the U.S. comes from Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilizations" writings, in which he argued that the fundamental sources of conflict between states in the post-Cold War world would be cultural rather than ideological or economic. This thesis seems to find some echoes in the Global War on Terror, but critics have rightfully taken Huntington to task for reducing the fantastic diversity and rapidly-evolving cultural constellations of so many countries to a single, simple identity defined primarily by their dominant religions.

More generally, I wonder if the distinction between sacred and secular generally means that states aren't the relevant units for global taxonomies based on religion. Perhaps clans, families, or souls would be more fitting. Ongoing attempts by some Muslims to establish a caliphate imply that it is at least theoretically possible to sort international political units into insider and outsider groups based on religious practice, but the fact that these groupings generally contain one or zero countries should tell us something about their disutility as global classification schemes.

For comparing countries, wealth seems like a perfectly good yardstick, in no small part because national wealth is so tightly linked to the forms of power that drive contemporary international relations. But then why not talk about money instead of this fuzzier idea of development? This is what the World Bank does nowadays, and its low-income, middle-income, and high-income designations--based strictly on gross national income (GNI) per capita--would seem to offer more analytical leverage than the IMF's "developed" vs. "emerging" distinction without all the ugly baggage. The Economist takes this approach, too, and seems no worse for it.

For people concerned about the broader package of liberal constructs--the values and institutional forms that most authors probably have in mind when they refer to the "West"--why not make those criteria explicit and be more transparent about how their measured? Observers who are primarily interested in domestic politics might consider the organization of a country's political economy to compare it with others. This could be done by considering procedures to select national leaders on the one hand and prevailing sources of wealth generation on the other. Meanwhile, people who are more interested in the organization of the international system could look explicitly at formal and informal entanglements among states to identify relevant communities in a way that escapes the tired and broken bifurcations of East vs. West and North vs. South.

Whatever your preferred solution, I beg you, please, stop, stop, STOP referring to countries as "developed" and "developing." And if you find that you must, at least put those awful labels in quotes.

Bark like a dog!

I'd write a lengthy comment on this, but with my new administrative responsibilities, I have a full day of meetings on liberal arts assessment and impact -- oh, and some kind of silly discussion on the instrumentalization of education and the vocational turn. Whatever. I'll just say that this should take care of my presentation at new faculty orientation next month.... From Department of Omnishambles: Karl Marx's end of year department assessment:

ht: Sherrill Stroschein