Friday, September 24, 2010

Donald Critchlow - Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman's Crusade

So, ok, Critchlow is an historian, and this is a scholarly historical work - as such, it might not appeal to the casual reader interested in the grassroots conservative movement or Mrs. Schlafly. You have been given fair warning.

That being said, this was a surprisingly interesting book on a subject that I know not very much about. One of the things I found interesting was that I found myself becoming sympathetic towards Schlafly. As is often the case, Schlafly's story is quite complicated - a staunch conservative, she contended that a woman's place was both in the home AND in politics - that women were and should be the moral arbiters in the US political arena. For most of her career (which isn't necessarily over yet), Schlafly was an advocate of conservative positions within the Republican party, and a strong supporter of a dominant nuclear policy, but not really a public figure. Her stance against the ERA in the 1970s put her on a much bigger public stage, but that stance was entirely consistent with her position about the role of women in society. She (and many others, women and men) felt that the ERA undermined the unique position of women within American society as arbiters of morality, and stripped women of numerous social and legal protections, especially the protection against being placed in combat, and protections against being placed in dangerous industrial jobs. (This position, incidentally, was shared by a number of women within the labor union movement - although they wanted to see the sort of protections which covered women extended to their male counterparts, and Schlafly doesn't seem to have had an opinion on that issue one way or the other.) Schlafly's opposition to the ERA is clearly marked by her privileged position as a middle to upper-class white woman - she will never have to choose between taking a lower paying (but safer) job, or fighting for a higher paying (but less safe) one - but the supporters of ERA were often equally privileged, fighting against systems which keep women out of professional work rather than the system which protects them from dangerous industrial labor.

The biggest revelation for me was the idea that, if Schlafly had won her election as president of the National Federation of Republican Women, the US would be a much better place. After the 1968 election, where Schlafly campaigned for Barry Goldwater (who lost), she was effectively drummed out of the NFRW by moderate members in leadership. Those moderates made heavy handed use of non-democratic methods to get Schlafly out - but if they had not done so, Schlafly would have had both a bully pulpit AND a responsibility which would have kept her busy. Plus, any situation which results in increased democracy can't be all bad, so any situation which reduces democracy must be at least partially bad.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

blog? I have a blog? What? (very late Monday library post for Sept. 20)

Beth Fertig - Why Can't U Teach Me 2 Read?

So, I'd seen this before, and pondered it - it's a story about a teacher teaching three kids with learning disabilities to read. They sued New York City to ensure that they were taught how to read. Apparently, it's about the problems with all of the possible ways of teaching students to read - what is the best way? Anyway, I rejected it the last time I saw it, but the topic of "the right way" to teach came up somewhere recently, so when I saw this again, I grabbed it.

I'm also waiting on a pair of other books, which will hopefully arrive before the end of the week. And I'm almost finished the Phyllis Schlafly book, which is more interesting than I expected. (and also useful re: dissertation.)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

All I intend to say about Elizabeth Moon re: Park 51

1) Her history, both in regards to immigration into the US and Islam in the US, is badly wrong. Her statements are based on wrong assumptions about the history of immigration and about the history of Islam in American. I can go into a little more detail if necessary, but really, if the underlying assumptions are wrong, then the statements are going to be wrong, and cannot get less wrong without revising the underlying assumptions. At this point, she seems unwilling to do such revision.

2) Moon is an author within a genre that prides itself on its inclusiveness (although spec fic has not always (indeed, often has not) lived up to its inclusive reputation). It is a genre/fandom which is filled with passionate people, and some of those passionate people are particularly passionate about the purported inclusiveness of their genre/fandom. Because Moon attacked that sense of inclusiveness, she got nuked for her statements. She deserved to get nuked. She was wrong, and she expressed little inclination to become less wrong.  She reacted in the way that one might expect under such circumstances, which is to say she retreated, pulled into her shell, and basically shut down. Now is the space in which Appeasers and Info/Logic Bombers can step in, and if the Nukers back off, the chances that Moon might recognize her errors increase. Note that I'm not saying the Nukers were wrong to nuke - they were entirely right to do so. I'm just saying that continued nuking at this juncture will almost certainly not have the desired effect (assuming the desired effect is to convince Mrs. Moon of the wrongness of her underlying assumptions. If the desire is to create another bitter writer who increasingly hates her fans and ultimately stops writing, continue the barrage.)

3) Until Moon includes a poorly written stand in for teh eeebul Moooslims in her next book, I will probably continue to read her work. As a general rule, I do not seek out the non-professional opinions of the authors I like, because, if they are truly professional authors, their non-professional opinions should not inform their professional writing. Were Moon writing a book about Islam in America (or about immigration in America), I would seriously question her qualifications to do so.

Friday (Sunday?) Review Post for 9/17/10

Two books this week.

S.J. Parris - Heresy

I really enjoyed this. A spy/mystery novel with Giordano Bruno as the protagonist, well written and (I assume) well researched. The deneument seemed to drag on a little, but that made sense given that the book was about Bruno and not really about the murders. The structure reminded me, a little, of Name of the Rose, but only a little. My favorite line (which I cannot now find in the book) was a statement by Bruno that in his theological view, at the end, even the devils would be pardoned by God. All that being said, I'm not sure what else to say about the book. It was entertaining, but I don't know that it was life changing.

James R. Benn - Rag and Bone

Another enjoyable detective novel,  this one set during World War Two. Billy Boyle is a beat cop from Boston, recently promoted to detective, and then drafted into the Army. To keep him safe, his Irish-American parents pull strings to get him placed on the staff of his distant uncle (by marriage) Eisenhower. Boyle ends up digging into the dirty little problems that Eisenhower needs fixed, but doesn't want brought to light. In this novel, he investigates the murder of a Soviet military atache in London. There is some considerable suspicion that the death of the atache is linked to reports about the Katyn Forest massacre which are just beginning to leak out into the press - the Nazis claim that the Poles killed in Katyn were executed by the Soviets, the Soviets claim that the Nazis did it. The Poles (and Boyle has a Polish friend, which complicates things) assert that the Nazis are correct in this particular moment (and the historical record, for the record, backs up the Nazis and the Poles on this), but the whole mess is dismissed in an effort to maintain Allied cohesion - the British and the Americans need the Soviets to keep killing Germans until the British and American armies are ready to land in France, and the Nazi revelation of the massacre, from the point of view of the military leadership, is a ploy to drive a wedge between the various Allied forces (also, probably, true.). In the end, the motives for the murder are far far more complicated. Benn handles the plot nicely, has well written characters who react in realistic ways, depicts Boyle's procedural techniques in a realistic way (Boyle plods through the clues, engaging in lots of footwork, making connections with people, and only through a wandering path comes to the right answer - but the answer which is both morally and factually right, which was nice), and includes a short historical note (which I appreciate in a work  based in history.) I've missed one of the books in this series, but it turns out not to matter all that much - if you've read the first one or two, you have a handle on who the characters are and can dip into the series where-ever. I expect the next book to coincide with Operation Overlord (Normandy invasion), and there will probably be one or possibly two more in connection with WWII, and possibly a Cold War extension. I'll pick them up when I see them, Benn is a good author and his characters are worth taking a look at.

Yesterday, I found myself at a library for a writing group, and picked up (without comment):
Larry Doyle - Go, Mutants
Donald Kingsbury - Psychohistorical Crisis

later, I was in a used book store and grabbed:
Charlie Stross - The Hidden Family
I will probably have to re-read the first book of this series (The Merchant Princes) before I can read this one.