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February 12th, 2003:

Good news and bad news

The good news is that famed Texas populist Jim Hightower has a blog.

The bad news is that the design sucks, the layout is ugly (and when an “aesthetic retard”, as Tiffany lovingly calls me, says something is ugly, you can bet your butt it’s U-G-L-Y), he’s got no blogroll, and it all appears to be links to news articles with no original content. Oh, and everything is excerpted, with the More link bringing up a new window whether you wanted one or not. But other than that…

Via Ginger, who thinks (and I agree) that all authors should have weblogs.

State budget update

Governor Goodhair has finally gotten around to admitting that the only way to eradicate the $9.9 billion budget deficit without raising taxes is to cut funding for education and health care, two things he never actually mentioned while on the campaign trail.

The governor’s new spending reductions, designed to help bridge a $9.9 billion revenue shortfall, would average 9 percent for most state agencies — and would be even more for state universities — during the next two-year budget period beginning Sept. 1.

Perry and legislative leaders already have demanded 7 percent cuts from agencies to enable state government to end this fiscal year in the black.

“Texas families don’t want, don’t need and don’t deserve new taxes,” Perry said in his State of the State Address, receiving much applause from the Republican-dominated Legislature.

But the governor reiterated his support for a proposal to let university governing boards raise tuition, an item that could add thousands of dollars to college costs.


In all, Perry — who last month was criticized for submitting a budgetary proposal that contained zeros rather than specific spending amounts — outlined $9.1 billion in cuts, money transfers, tightened tax loopholes and other spending reductions on Tuesday. He also sought $390 million in new spending for his economic development fund.

The Legislature, subject to the governor’s veto powers, will make the final decision on any spending plan.

The Legislature’s budget-drafting arm has told state agencies to draft a starting-point budget that cuts 12.5 percent from state spending. That would cut public education funding by $2.7 billion, health and human services by $1.4 billion and the state criminal justice system by $607 million.

Well, at least there’s no more smoke and mirrors to hide behind. It’s out in the open, and people can have their say about it. The Chron was typically wishy washy. The Dallas Morning News gave him a mixed review (registration required). I didn’t find any other editorials about his State of the State speech in a quick tour of the big city newspapers. Maybe they’re waiting for a bigger issue to come along.

Those troublesome women

Via DC Thornton, I see that Right Wing News recently hosted a Warblogger Awards competition. I find one thing moderately curious about this, which is that there are separate awards for Best Female Blogger and Best Overall Blog. I don’t quite understand the distinction here. All of the other categories are about blog characteristics – funniest, original content, most bloodthirsty, best group blog, etc – but this one is the only subcategory that’s defined by who the blogger is rather than what’s in the blog.

(OK, that’s not totally true, since there’s also a Best Non-American Blog category. However, I’d argue that non-American blogs are mostly about non-American content and are thus in a genuinely different class, much as non-American films are in a different class than American films. I admit the distinction is a bit hard to pin down, but that’s how I see it.)

There is, of course, a Best Overall Blog, which has male and female entries. It seems to me that if you’re going to give a separate award for women, you ought to be consistent by eliminating the Best Overall award and simply honor Best Female Blogger and Best Male Blogger. To do it this way feels patronizing to me, as if it’s an admission that a woman won’t be in contention for Best Overall.

Putting it another way, it’s wholly appropriate that the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honors the Best Male Actor and Best Female Actor in a given year. It would be wholly inappropriate if they honored Best Overall Actor and Best Female Actor instead.

Like it or not, having a Best Female competition in conjunction with a Best Overall competition eventually degrades and devalues the Best Female competition. This is because everyone knows that being Best Female doesn’t mean as much, since after all the field of competition is artificially limited.

An example of this is in the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL). At its national tournaments, there are Open events and Women’s events. In every possible metric – coverage, number of participants, buzz – the Open events have tons more prestige. Someone once told me that the only real reason for the Women’s events these days is to provide employment opportunities for female professional players (since their clients tend to be women). Even that is changing, since some high-profile female clients have started hiring male pros and winning Open events. I don’t expect the Women’s events to ever go away, since they also serve as qualifiers for the international Women’s championships, but it really doesn’t matter since no one pays much attention to them anyway.

(Ironically, it was a lawsuit in the 1980s by a woman named Jillian Blanchard that led to the elimination of Men’s events. Of course, those Men’s events, in particular the national Men’s Pairs championship, were still considered more prestigious. Blanchard and others like her just wanted the chance to test themselves against all competition.)

I’m probably making a needlessly big deal about something that was intended to be lighthearted amusement, and if so I apologize. Lighthearted or not, though, I got a message from that particular choice, and I’m sure it’s not what the author intended.

UPDATE: To quote Eric McErlain, who was a judge:

Best Female Blogger: No Vote — why? Because every female blogger can stand on their own in this competition, they don’t need to be “ghettoized.”