Monday, October 12, 2015

Today's Hilarious Political Utterances: Charles Koch, Ben Carson and Timothy Egan

A little bit of laughter, however sarcastic, keeps a goddess in top form.  And I'm sure it works for you, too.

1.  Let's begin with Charles Koch.  The defining characteristic of Mr. Koch is that he is Very Rich.  The other defining characteristic of Mr. Koch is that he uses his enormous wealth to influence the US politics, naturally in the direction which works best for Mr. Koch.

So what did Mr. Koch say in a recent interview?  This:

Mason asked, "Do you think it's good for the political system that so much what's called 'dark money' is flowing into the process now?"
"First of all, what I give isn't dark," said Koch. "What I give politically, that's all reported. It's either to PACs or to candidates. And what I give to my foundations is all public information. But a lot of our donors don't want to take the kind of abuse that I do. They don't want these attacks. They don't want the death threats. So they aren't going to participate if they have to have their names associated with it."
"But do you think it's healthy for the system that so much money is coming out of a relatively small group of people?"
"Listen, if I didn't think it was healthy or fair, I wouldn't do it. Because what we're after, is to fight against special interests."

"Some people would look at you and say you're a special interest."
"Yeah, but my interest is, just as it's been in business, is what will help people improve their lives, and to get rid of these special interests. That's the whole thing that drives me."
"There are people out there who think what you're trying to do is essentially buy power."
"But what I want is a system where there isn't as much centralized power, where it's dispersed to the people. And everything I advocate points in that direction."

Now unscrew your eyes, rinse them, and put them back in the normal way.  Then remember that Mr. Koch, together with his brother, has spent a lot of money opposing efforts to combat global climate change and efforts to get Americans health insurance.  Because people who will die when the earth finally boils over are special interest people!  Well, at least they won't get health care during that final struggle if our Charles has his way.

Friday, October 09, 2015

The Beta Boys

The Background:  

The USAToday quoted the term, "the beta boys," when writing about the grudge letter the Umpqua Community College (UCC) mass murderer (who killed nine people) left behind to "justify" his butcherings:

The rambling document left behind, and believed to be written by the gunman, lamented an isolated life with little promise, the official said.
The contents and tone of the document, the official said, tracked the often desperate and depressed writings from members of a loosely affiliated group known as the "beta boys." The official said members associated with the group share profound disappointment with their lots in life and the lack of meaningful relationships.

Emphasis is mine.

It is possible, though not likely (1), that the UCC killer posted about the massacre a day before it happened on an anonymous 4Chan thread, to some considerable support, applause, admiration and jokes (2).

Then last Friday an anonymous 4Chan poster threatened further college massacres for the following Monday in the Philadelphia region, calling them a "Beta rebellion:"

“I plead to thee, brothers! We only have but one chance, one spark, for our revolution. The United States will soon condemn us to the status quo forever, and soon after, the United Nations. Don’t let our one chance at writing history slip away. Martyr yourself for the cause or support those who have the courage to do so. We have the chance to make the world a better place for betas everywhere.”

That threat didn't materialize.  But the FBI is investigating the messages at that 4Chan site.  It is important to note that these Internet support groups for the "betas" may not be directly connected to the mass killings.  At the same time, the concept of "beta boys" deserves closer scrutiny, and so do all the sites which serve up this concept as an ideology and an excuse.

What are "the beta boys?"

To answer that question we need to put our wading boots on and enter the intellectual sludge in some of the shallower ponds of the Guy Lands on the net:  the homes of some extreme Men's Rights Activists and Pickup Artists.

We have to learn their "alphas and betas" theories:  That human men can be divided into alphas, successful, powerful and handsome men, who get all the women, every single one of them, and betas, the ordinary guys or the losers, who get no sex at all.  This idea is taken from wolf packs, except that the leaders of wolf packs are not the kind of alpha males the manosphere believes in, but the parents or grandparents of the pack, both the alpha female and the alpha male.

But never mind that.  This Manosphere theory now exists as its own justification.  It drives the instructions Pickup Artists give to their followers (act like an alpha and you get lots and lots of pussy, however unwilling that pussy really is), and it also drives the despair of many troubled young men, who have been taught that the blame for their social isolation, lack of a sexual partner and pretty much everything else is caused by Others, especially by women who are all going after the few alpha males, and by those (mostly imaginary) alpha males.

Why are "women" (some detested pile of all womanhood, but really meaning only sexually appealing young women) rejecting as much as eighty percent of all men (based on some of the sites I visit, numbers of that size, however impossible they actually are,  are routinely flouted)?  Because of hypergamy, the tendency for women to marry socially upwards, of course!

So the completed theory is stitched together from some flawed early research about wolf packs, a lot of rage and an iffy concept from evolutionary psychology. (3)

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

As American As Motherhood And Apple Pie?

How about criminal charges for pregnant women or for women who after delivery test positive for some banned substance?  Indeed, take the idea of fetal endangerment a step further, and tests for nicotine, alcohol and so on might also become a routine part of delivery, with all sorts of ominous consequences for the women with positive traces of those substances. And if we could devise a test which could tell if the fetus had had proper access to classical music and Einstein's relativity theorem, one day pregnant women could be tested for possibly endangering a fetus by starving its intellectual environment!

That's argumentum ad absurdum, sure, but before you judge me too harshly, read this story about the state of Alabama possibly secretly testing women in maternity wards for illegal drugs.  Then read this story about Amanda Kimbrough's actual prison sentence, caused by what seems to have been a stillbirth.

Friday, October 02, 2015

The Victims in the Umpqua Community College Shootings

The names which matter in this latest of so very many massacres, all enabled by the easy access to guns, are these:

Lucero Alcaraz, 19, of Roseburg, whose sister posted on Facebook that she won scholarships to cover her college costs
Quinn Glen Cooper, 18, of Roseburg, whose family said he loved dancing and voice acting
Kim Saltmarsh Dietz, 59, an outdoors lover who was taking classes at the same time as her daughter
Lucas Eibel, 18, of Roseburg, who was studying chemistry and loved volunteering with animals
Jason Johnson, 33, whose mother told NBC News that he successfuloly battled drug abuse and was in his first week of college
Lawrence Levine, 67, of Glide, an assistant professor of English at the college
Sarena Dawn Moore, 44, of Myrtle Creek
Treven Taylor Anspach, 20, of Sutherlin
Rebecka Ann Carnes, 18, of Myrtle Creek

It is these names which should become famous, it is these names which should be remembered when someone mentions this latest of frequent mass killings in the US.
This also matters:

Authorities confiscated 13 weapons associated with the shooter, six at the sight of the killings and seven at his apartment, Celinez Nunez, assistant agent in charge at Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told reporters Friday. Nunez said all the weapons had been purchased legally by the shooter or members of is family.
And it matters that other countries, despite having their fair shares of angry, disturbed individuals, don't have the same massacre statistics by private individuals as the US. 

The difference comes from much easier access to guns here, from much greater support for the right to bear arms, from a far greater willingness to pay the price for that "liberty."*  When even the deaths of small children in Newtown, Ct., didn't look too high a price for that "freedom," more deaths of  adults will make nothing change.  This is reflected in the frustrated comments of the president.
*I can't help thinking, after reading many of the comments threads attached to articles about the UCC massacre, that far too many Americans think this carnage is the watering of the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants and patriots which Thomas Jefferson mentioned.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Carly Fiorina And The Planned Parenthood Videos

Carly Fiorina and the Planned Parenthood (PP) videos.  The harvesting of baby parts.  The humongous profits PP makes from harvesting baby parts!  The need to close down all PP clinics because all they do is lure women in so that they can harvest baby parts to make money!  And watch the videos to find how horrible abortions really are!

That's one take on the Planned Parenthood videos.  It's also not the truth, but never mind that part, because none of this has anything to do with truth, not even truthiness, as the most recent round of debate shows you.

I haven't written about this topic.  The main reason is that truth in this context is utterly, entirely and wholly irrelevant.  The point of the videos, much doctored and edited, is to shut down all PP clinics, and the Republicans are doing pretty well pretending that they are going to get there.

Of course they might not quite want to get there, because the existence of PP is an important part of their vote-getting campaigns:  If they succeed in gutting almost all access to abortions, those forced-birthers might go on a political diet and no longer turn out at the election booths!  The bloody meat women's issues offer them needs to be kept available.

But in any case, pointing out all the errors in Fiorina's statements about the videos doesn't matter.  When something is not about the truth in the first place, truthiness works just fine.  It has the advantage of keeping the opposition busy trying to get those boots on.*

Have I ever mentioned that PP shouldn't fall for every trap the forced-birthers weave?  It's not required in any law I'm aware of, and it gets awfully awfully boring.
*From here.

Monday, September 28, 2015

What To Read on Women, Monday, 9/28/15

1.  This long piece on what happened to someone who didn't want to report a rape to the police but was encouraged to do so anyway.

2.  This NYT health article on cancer during pregnancy, because of its last

It remains to be seen if doctors will be swayed by the study’s findings. Dr. Cardonick, who maintains a registry of cases of cancer in pregnancy, has heard of a couple of “sad cases” where “a patient was denied cancer treatment during pregnancy, and died soon after the baby was born, because there was no confidence that cancer treatment during pregnancy would be tolerated by the fetus.”
Bolds are mine.

If those sad cases are true, someone else denied a pregnant woman potentially life-saving treatment.  Because she was pregnant.

The rest of the article provides useful information, however.

3.   On the European refugee/migrant crisis and average gender role expectations among the refugees vs. the receiving population and how those different expectations might clash, given that most of the recent refugees/migrants come from countries with much more traditional gender roles  than those prevailing in their new host countries in Western Europe*:

Actually, I found nothing written about this by anyone who isn't a rabid right-winger.  Maybe I just didn't search hard enough?

*  The largest source countries for asylum-seekers in Finland, for example, are Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Given that the refugees are fleeing war, not mistreatment because of their gender equality views, it's likely that their views match the average in their countries of origin (adjusted for social class, religion, rural vs. urban origin etc.).  To assume that all refugees are already fully aware of the average norms prevailing in their new host country seems unwarranted to me, even arrogant and Euro-centric.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Saudi Arabia to Head a UN Human Rights Council Panel

Remember my friendly alien from outer space?  The one who tries to make sense of earth-people values and norms and customs?

Suppose I told this alien (possibly of no biological sex or of what's called race in loose human parlance) that human rights are supposed to be something earth's countries, or at least some of them, really care about.  How, then, would I explain this piece of news?

Last week’s announcement that Saudi Arabia — easily one of the world’s most brutally repressive regimes — was chosen to head a U.N. Human Rights Council panel provoked indignation around the world. That reaction was triggered for obvious reasons. Not only has Saudi Arabia executed more than 100 people already this year, mostly by beheading (a rate of 1 execution every two days), and not only is it serially flogging dissidents, but it is reaching new levels of tyrannical depravity as it is about to behead and then crucify the 21-year-old son of a prominent regime critic, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was convicted at the age of 17 of engaging in demonstrations against the government.
Then there's of course the obvious problem of women's rights, or rather, lack of such rights in Saudi Arabia.  Greenwald doesn't mention that part.  Maybe because it's too obvious. 

Greenwald's piece continues by linking to an interview with a US State Department spokesperson, Mark Toner.  You should read the interview.  I bet you don't know whether to cry or to laugh.  That is, if you actually care about human rights.

If you only care about oil, well, then the interview is pretty understandable.  You have to say something to defend this bizarre choice, to hide the fact that the powerful defend those who have something material they want.

I feel sorry for the job Mr. Toner had there.  But this particular farce puts into rather clear light the question how much human rights, including women's rights, actually matter in the top games those powerful boys (and a few gals) play with our lives.