Saturday, February 10, 2007

Topical Poem of the Day

If This Isn’t The Dread Noro Virus
and there’s something worse
to look forward to,

just take me now, Lord.

Going to bed, see you tomorrow.


Posted by olvlzl.
Some ideas are so common that they are only mentioned in passing as an obvious truth or they go without saying altogether. One of these conventionalized truths is that someone who opposes the death penalty is disqualified from the discussion of it. "Of course x is opposed to the death penalty," is often treated as the last that needs to be heard of x on the subject. It often goes unsaid but its assumption has fundamentally distorted the discussion of the imposition of capital punishment.

I belive that this attitude was consciously adopted by politicians and prosecuting attorneys becuase it effectively eliminates oppontents of the death penalty from being heard. It is inconvenient for them to have this vehicle for career advancement alwys coming into quesion by people with a moral or eithical opposition to it. And, let's say it, in most places for politicians and prosecutors, an association with the death penalty is a career builder. Having opponents excluded from the discussion removes a potential factor that could lessen the value of their past work.

It is also adopted by the media for reasons of profit. Our media love the death penalty. It adds drama to their coverage of trials, it becomes a most easily reported story within itself. Even anticipation of the failure to impose it can provide an occasion for a show of dramtic outrage in the reliable clack of cable conservatives. And it is as much of a boon for the entertainment division of our media conglomerates as it is for their loss leader, the "news". I don't for a second believe that any of these people actually cares if someone is put to death or not. The issue is entirely one of utility for them. They hardly want to risk dissipating dramatic tension with rational discussion of the issue.

In the courts, themselves, the exclusion of death penatly opponents from juries is an obvious injustice. The population contains large numbers of people who oppose the death penalty. To exclude them from the jury pool on that basis is to stack the jury. It excludes a large segment of the population, perhaps even entire religons. The reason given, that death penalty opponents will not be impartial is exactly the reason used to exclude black people and others from juries. And in allowing the exclusion the allegedly impartial judicial system promotes the increased liklihood of a given outcome. It unquestionably guarantees a less than representative jury pool even in the guilt phase of the trial. A prosecutor doesn't have a right to a jury biased in favor of a given outcome.

Most death penalty opponents come to that position after careful consideration of it. To exclude opponents of the death penalty from juries could result inless careful, less thoughtful juries. There should have to be a compelling, overriding public interest stated with factual support to allow this kind of exclusion. But I don't believe that has ever been done. It is possible that the prosecution could benefit from more thoughtful juries as well as the defense.

Maybe it is that judges love the death penalty too. In the Rumpole stories it is said that judges used to order muffins in their club after imposing death. Who can doubt that some of our Supreme Court members would be quite capable of that. Scalia, apparently one of those who got the giggles in the discussion of whether condemned prisoners in Florida have equal rights to about-to-be-put-down pets, said that there is no right to a painless death at the hands of the state. Muffins at his club would be less depraved than that, certainly among the foulest things said by someone sitting on that bench in its history. I regret that no one could have asked him if that would include death by dismemberment. No doubt his answer would have allowed the hilarity to continue.

Variation 1.

Posted by olvlzl.
Woman With Girdle

Your midriff sags toward you knees;
your breasts lie down in air,
their nipples as uninvolved as warm starfish.
You stand in your elastic case,
still not giving up the new-born
and the old-born cycle.
Moving, you roll down the garment,
down that pink snapper and hoarder,
as your belly, soft as pudding,
slops into the empty space;
down, over the surgeon’s careful mark,
down over hips, those head cushions
and mouth cushions,
slow motion like a rolling pin,
over crisp hairs, that amazing field
that hides your genius from your patron;
over thighs, thick as young pigs,
over knees like saucers,
over calves, polished as leather,
down toward the feet.
You pause for a moment,
tying your ankles into knots.
Now you rise,
a city from the sea,
born long before Alexandria was,
straightway from God you have come
into your redeeming skin.

Anne Sexton: All My Pretty Ones

I don’t remember which feminist it was, probably in the late 1960s or early 1970s, who said that she dreamed of a day when girls and young women would never have the experience to know what it was like to wear a girdle. Given the power of backlash and marketing has that dream come true or is it unfulfilled?

I’m more secure in thinking it was Maggie Letvin, one of the few physiologically based exercise experts of the time, who said, in roughly the same period, that you could take a perfectly healthy woman, put her into a girdle and ruin her health. As a someone who has never had that experience, reading this poem was painful in more ways than one. Anne Sexton noticed things.

Well It’s Official, Shame Is Dead

Posted by olvlzl.
Checking the e-mail just now, this spam subject heading, “Remembering Anna Nichole Smith”. Since there was a .com on the address and the filter sent it to Junk, they weren’t remembering her tragically shallow story.

Hey Echidne, You Stole My Thunder

With your excellent post below on the MyDD article, what's left for me to add?

Well, doesn't "market" imply some kind of money changing hands? I haven't seen any. Why, just this week in the heat of battle on a thread at one of the big name blogs you mentioned, I said that if I was wrong on a major point that I'd give every cent I'd made blogging to the RNC. It was an offer much easier to make than the other side seemed to realize but they had no homepage listed.

I've always figured most blogging as volunteer work, either by choice or by default.

Why It’s Just Wrong When Pop Begets Pop Culture.

Posted by olvlzl.
In my recent squabbles over pop culture a lot of people couldn’t seem to understand why people, like me, in their late middle age wouldn’t be up to date. So you might understand this phenomenon, it all begins like this.

Fads and pop culture begin with older teenagers and very young adults. At least they did when those used to be home made. Sadly, it now seems that a lot of them are content to just adopt whatever stupid junk corporations tell them to. But assuming that it at least has to pass through this age cohort to be a fad, I’ll continue with this entirely unscientific line based on observation.

After the fad has been adopted by it’s “originators” it is then taken up by those insecure conformists, young teenager kulture vultures, and their even more uncertain and insecure fellow second-tier adopters the thirty somethings.

After them come tweens and pre- geezers. With the tweens and even younger people, parents might notice that something is happening. I’d say they notice that something new is happening but by this stage the fad is quickly passing from the ‘originator’ cohort. The spectacle of 40-year-olds...., it’s often not pretty. They didn’t learn about the fad from the originators because of the natural stealth of people that age.

It starts getting fuzzy from here but what is almost certain is that the last people to know about the dying fad are geezers, with males in their fifties and up being, almost certainly, the end of the line. This is roughly the same age group which has authority in important areas of life, having come up through the ranks or, having been pushed up, if you believe in some vaguely amusing theories of business hierarchies. This could explain why people with the authority to make decisions aren’t up on the latest fads. The theory is based on my seeing a man in his fifties with one of those stupid tiny braids down the back of his head well after even I knew it had ceased being a fad. He asked me if I was looking forward to The Stones tour. As they say, lightening struck.

I wish young people would start smashing corporate culture instead of adopting it. It’s geezers who decide what corporations are going to promote as cool. How do you expect these business types to come up with something new? This explains the blandness and stupidity of so much pop culture these days. That’s just wrong. Geezers trying to originate and follow pop culture robs young people of one of the greatest pleasures of youth, theirs by nature and by right, condescending to their elders in matters of coolness. Give it up, Dad.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Blog Market

MyDD recently had a good post on the way political blogs are changing as the market for their product matures. Forgive me for the econobabble. Sometimes it is needed, especially as it describes something which actually happens and which constrains the way bloggers operate.

That MyDD post noted that almost all the much-read or highly-ranked political blogs on the left are now team blogs, and that many of them offer other services in addition to blog posts. They are like little news offices, a one-click-service to all your daily needs on the net! The only exceptions to this are Atrios and Digby, and even these two divines have some extra help. In short, it's impossible to run a newsroom on the energy of one person writing all alone, and it's twice as impossible to run a newsroom on the energy of that one person which remains after a dayjob has been done.

This is just a fact of life. But where does it leave the kinds of blogs I have, the kinds which are mostly about one or two people writing down their thoughts? It leaves them in a different league.

That isn't necessarily bad. Just as many more people read the New York Times daily than read Shakespeare daily, a small blog can have interesting and important things to say and thus retain a niche in the market. What makes it all more difficult is that the monetary rewards from blogging are in the advertising income and that income, mostly, accrues to those with most readers. Not that blogging makes anybody rich, but having advertising income pays for broadband and subscriptions and perhaps a conference trip or two, and all that makes it easier to explain this blogging hobby to the Stern Internal Accountant in the blogger's head.

What am I trying to say here? That the future of political blogging seems to me to lie in the corporate form or at least in the form of team blogs. There might be exceptions to that rule, but it will become increasingly difficult for the Lone Blogger to break into the market. Not impossible, but increasingly difficult.

Of course most bloggers aren't interested in the idea of "market penetration". But what is the sound of one blogger typing if nobody reads? Now that's a koan for you.

On Blogrolls and Cinnamon Buns

I really, really want a cinnamon bun, right now. It's cold here and a bright sunny day and the one thing that keeps me from perfect bliss is the lack of a cinnamon bun. Blogrolls just won't work.

But blogrolls are the topic of the day because Marcos (the guy who is supposed to be our hivebrain in the anthill of the rabid lefty blogger lambs) has cleaned out his blogroll (thereby deleting memememesobme!). This diary has more on it. Do you know what? I don't mind me being deleted at all, because I don't blog on electoral politics and that is what Marcos is interested in. Though of course I agree with the diarist on my extreme excellence and such.

In any case, I'm much more a cinnamon-bun-kind-of-girl. Or goddess. I have a lot of trouble with the marketing aspect of blogging, mostly because I can't do it. And I'm lazy. And I'm a dying breed of the one-person-blog type (plus olvlzl on the weekends but then he is all alone, too). And so on.

It's all very boring for someone who is interested in the writing and thinking aspect of blogging, though naturally I want to dominate the whole world and make everything work perfectly. Naturally. But only if it somehow happens without me needing to send e-mails or buy ads. So it is not going to happen.

Life is like that. You have to decide between cinnamon buns and blogrolls. And you have to decide on what you want to write and that limits the number of people who want to read you, too. So.
Added later: Different bloggers have different rules on deciding what to blogroll. Mine is an attempt to offer a selection of blogs which cover politics from the lefty-liberal angle or which address feminism or which offer good writing and funny stuff or a combination of all of these. I also have some sites in the blogroll which are not blogs as such but action sites that might be of interest to my readers.

I don't read all the sites I link to daily, but I do read all of them once in a while. So this is not my personal reading list as much as a list to open up blogs for my readers in general. Other bloggers base their blogrolls on their own daily reads or something different from that or my rules. So be warned.

Dispatches from the Uterus Wars

This is from f-words on the new proposal in Idaho to make it a crime to coerce a woman into having an abortion:

Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, persuaded the committee to introduce his bill to outlaw the use of threats or physical force to dissuade a pregnant woman from giving birth. The measure also prohibits threatening to do "anything that the person does not have the legal right to do against the pregnant woman." That could include employers threatening to withhold a job or promotion or "a school counselor maybe describing to a young person that by having this baby you have no future, those kinds of acts," Nonini told the panel, Howell reported. Under the measure, it does not matter if the woman has the abortion.

As f-words points out, this is oddly one-sided as there are laws which make it quite legal for some people to coerce a woman or a girl into having either an abortion or a birth:

Thinking about it, I wonder how this kind of legislation would interact with parental consent laws - another issue on which Idaho politicians aren't concerned with abiding by the Constitution. If this bill were written with actual freedom of choice in mind - where it would be a crime to forcibly keep a woman from aborting a pregnancy as well as when forcing her to abort - I think it might work nicely in tandem with parental consent legislation.

But that's not what this is about. This is the same women-can't-make-decisions claptrap that the Feminists for Life keep trying to sell, which conveniently wastes the time of pregnant women interested in abortion - who are working to a deadline, after all.

Indeed. The proposal is not intended to benefit women, in any case.

Friday Cat Blogging

This is Barry's Magoo with a lobelia. Brings us two nice things in one picture.

Savage Defines Rights

This is quite hilariously funny:

From the February 7 edition of Talk Radio Network's The Savage Nation:

SAVAGE: How can a schoolmarm like Condoleezza Rice conceptually deal with the complex problems of this world? She was appointed to the chancellorship at Stanford because of affirmative action. She was chosen by George Bush as part of an affirmative action program in order to make his Cabinet look like America. I mean, do we have to mince words for the rest of our life? She's over her head. She's way over her head. Now, you could have picked an African-American person, if you want to call people of color that, but it wouldn't have been Condoleezza Rice. It should have been a man, it should have been a man who speaks Arabic, it should have been a man because he would have more respect in the Middle East than does a woman to begin with. It has nothing to do with race, it has to do with the fact that she is a schoolmarm who has been pushed up the ladder all of her life because of social engineering.

A wonderful concoction from Savage's fevered brain. First Rice is called a schoolmarm, the kind of epithet people use about women in power who don't like women in power. Then comes the whole affirmative action complaint. Social engineering, yanno. (No, you silly libural. Social engineering is NOT forcing people to be abstinent until they're thirty. That's just traditionalism.) And then, if that is not enough, Savage resorts to the D'Souza argument that we shouldn't let women be in power because our enemies don't let them be in power.

I love the paragraph, because it shows so neatly what we face when we try to talk about these things. On the Savage-side the argument doesn't have to be based on anything logical and the basis can change from general slurs to reverse discrimination to accepting the gender roles of radical Islamists as the correct ones. All in one paragraph.

The use of the affirmative action argument deserves extra scrutiny. Have you noticed how all the wingnuts assume that every single hire of women or minorities is an affirmative action hire, and that they also assume every single affirmative action hire means that someone less capable was hired. Less capable than who? A white Christian man, presumably. But if you think of this a little more what do you realize? That these people assume that all women and all minorities are less capable or that at least the percentage of capable women or minorities is much smaller than the percentage of capable white guy persons.

It's interesting.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Snow in the U.K.

The radio tells me that London has a lot of trouble with the few inches of snow they have right now. Understandable, given how rare snowstorms are there. But it reminds me of something that happened to me while I lived in England and was to give a seminar paper. I was very worried and uptight beforehand, and spent the previous day rehearsing in the privacy of my room, out of contact with the world in general.

When the time set for the seminar arrived, I went into the assigned classroom with all my handouts and papers, sat down and waited for the rest of the people to turn up. And waited and waited.

Finally I went to look for the cause of my solitude and found out that the university had been closed down due to snow. True, there was some behind one of the doors. About a pint or so.

Did you find that funny? I bet it depends on what kind of a weather you are used to. Perhaps you prefer to hear about my first summer in the U.S., a hot summer. I walked around in my black turtleneck sweaters and jeans for quite a while and spent some nights sleeping on the cool tiles of my bathroom (learned that from my puppy). Then I caught heatrash and finally learned how one handles hot weather.

Though I still prefer snow.
If you want to read something more political, how about this one?

John Edwards Writes

John Edwards has made a statement about Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan:

The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte's and Melissa McEwan's posts personally offended me. It's not how I talk to people, and it's not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it's intended as satire, humor, or anything else. But I also believe in giving everyone a fair shake. I've talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word. We're beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can't let it be hijacked. It will take discipline, focus, and courage to build the America we believe in.

Not too bad, on the whole, given that Edwards must speak politician. I'm glad that he didn't cave in to the wingnut campaign, because caving in just causes Swift-Boating and because those voters who care about the issues William Donohue and Michelle Malkin care about are going to vote for Edwards on the same day that skating rinks in hell open.

The President Went To War

And all I got was this crummy wad of bank notes. If you have followed the news about the mysterious billions that vanished in Iraq, mysterious billions paid by the U.S. taxpayers, you may have heard about this:

AN AUDIT of US reconstruction spending in Iraq has uncovered spectacular misuse of tens of millions of dollars in cash, including bundles of money stashed in filing cabinets, a US soldier who gambled away thousands and stacks of newly minted notes distributed without receipts.

The audit, released yesterday by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, describes a country in the months after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein awash with dollars, and a Wild West atmosphere where even multimillion-dollar contracts were paid for in cash.

The findings come after a report last year by the inspector general which stated that nearly $9 billion (£5 billion) of Iraq's oil revenue disbursed by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which governed Iraq until mid-2004, cannot be accounted for.

The huge sums in cash were paid out with little or no supervision, and often without any paperwork, yesterday's audit found. The report found problems with nearly 2,000 contracts worth $88.1 million.

And you may have heard about this:

As Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) gears up for the second day of his House Hearings on Waste, Fraud and Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars, the focus will shift to North Carolina-based Blackwater International.

The secretive security firm made headlines in Iraq when, in March 2004, four Blackwater employees were ambushed and gruesomely killed. Six more were killed in April 2005 when their Mi-8 helicopter was shot down.

Blackwater's ill-fated presence in Iraq has been especially curious because, for many of their missions, no one could find the U.S. contract that actually authorized them to working there.

Until now. Yesterday, the Army finally disclosed who had sub-contracted Blackwater's operations -- and it's none other than our good friends Halliburton (via AP):

After numerous denials, the Pentagon has confirmed that a North Carolina company provided armed security guards in Iraq under a subcontract that was buried so deeply the government could not find it.

The secretary of the Army on Tuesday wrote two Democratic lawmakers that the Blackwater USA contract was part of a huge military support operation by run by Halliburton subsidiary KBR.

Vice President Dick Cheney ran Halliburton before he became vice president.

Several times last year, Pentagon officials told inquiring lawmakers they could find no evidence of the Blackwater contract. Blackwater, of Moyock, North Carolina, did not respond to several requests for comment.

As the AP notes, the Halliburton/Blackwater episode not only exposes the (intentionally?) impenetrable maze of military contracting; it was also likely against the law:

And you surely must have read this:

Henry Waxman, the veteran Representative who now chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is following the money trail of $12 billion in shrink-wrapped $100 bills from the U.S. treasury that Bush's cronies shipped to the "Green Zone" in Baghdad between May 2003 and June 2004. The 363 tons of cash was stacked on wooden pallets, loaded onto C-130 transport planes, and shipped into the middle of a war zone.
The former viceroy of Iraq, Paul Bremer, testified yesterday that he turned over the cash to the Iraqi "Finance Ministry," but he admitted that he had disbanded the top tier of the bureaucracy, and there were an indeterminate number of "ghost employees" that received American tax dollars with no oversight of accounting.

It is more interesting to argue whether Nancy Pelosi should have a bigger airplane, though.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

New Blogger

This blog is now on the new blogger. I was sure that everything would be ruined with the move (all my lovely add-ons dropped out, my blogroll decimated) that I stuck fingers in my ears and went nananah-can't-hear-you whenever the Blogger gently suggested that I move. Then they started playing hardball and told me that I'd have only one more chance before they kicked me and my puny blog across the threshold by force. So last night it happened.

And to my great frustration I can't find anything that has gone wrong after the move. Which might mean that I could have done the move much earlier. Or perhaps that it was a good thing to wait until all the bugs I read about were fixed.

See how I can contort everything to my own liking? It's the snake genes.

On Naughty Words And Blogging

The filthy language of many bloggers causes tut-tutting all over the Beltway and leads into campaigns such as the one I discuss below (in that post where I blew my stack which a blogger is never allowed to do because now we know that bloggers blow their stacks!). I get very angry at this horror of the naughty words but not because I would like filthy language. I hardly ever use it in my private life and I use it in blogging only when no other word quite says what I want to say. The value of a naughty word in an unexpected place is that it can shock someone into reading or listening in a different way, and sometimes filthy words are all one can choose to describe something much filthier. The killing of civilians at war, for example.

So I get angry at those who find naughty words horrible but who don't mind death and violence, as long as we talk about it in euphemisms. It is the two-facedness of this which is filthy, much filthier than any word I can think of. And this is what so much of the discussion about the horrible bloggers amounts to: If you only talked about beheading and hanging people nicely, with flowery descriptions of the ruby-red blood and the quivering intestines, well, that would be acceptable. It's also fine to crow over the death and destruction of your enemies or people who look like your enemies. But if you describe these violent scenes and swear, then you are doomed to the outer peripheries of all civilized worlds. It is the feelings, feelings of outrage and sadness and anger, which are seen as uncivilized.

And not only uncivilized but illogical. Because bloggers often write with feeling they are assumed to be illogical, not thinking at all. This is odd. There is no law against thinking and feeling at the same time, rather the opposite. That's how human beings mostly live.

Then there is the whole question of the literary style of blogs. Blogging is not the same as writing a long article for publication. It is an almost-instant form of communication, intended to be less edited and less distanced, and the rules of this new genre are different. A naughty word doesn't have the same power to shock as it might have smack in the middle of the front page of a newspaper, because it doesn't carry the same connotations. Its power to shock is closer to the power it would have to shock someone around the corporate water-fountain or during a lunch with friends. Blogs are somewhere inbetween conversations like that and published articles, and blog critics should learn the rules of this new genre.

Falling Flat

Wanna read about flat taxes? I wrote a piece for the American Prospect here.

And not one naughty word in the whole piece!

The Fuckity-Fuck Post

That title is intended to make absolutely sure that I will never be hired to blog for Sam Brownback's presidential campaign. Sniff. The sacrifices a goddess must make. I'm pretty sure Sam was almost ready to ask me.

But he can't ask me if I say bad words like "fuck" or if I have ever criticized Christianist fundamentalists for anything. Also it's very bad form not to have advocated genocide of all nonbelievers or not to have told the gays and lesbians that they're going to hell. Good form would be to write like Michelle Malkin and to advocate putting people into concentration camps.

Now you know. I learned all this from the ongoing right-wing campaign (led by such luminaries as Michelle Malkin and Bill Donohue) to get Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, better known as the bloggers of Pandagon and Shakespeare's Sister, respectively, off the John Edwards campaign payroll. Now the very boil on the liberal butt, the New York Times, has joined in this witchhunt:

The efforts by 2008 presidential contenders to exploit the megaphone of the blogosphere has hit a bump, it seems, as former Senator John Edwards's hiring of two controversial bloggers gathers more attention than his health care plan or even his new McMansion spread in North Carolina.

We are catching up a bit on the controversy. We first saw a kernel of this mentioned on Instapundit last week, when one of the two new bloggers, Amanda Marcotte, was supposedly caught by some other bloggers "airbrushing" some of her cruder language out of a post at her site, Pandagon.

The campaign also hired Melissa McEwan of Shakespeare's Sister. [forgive our earlier typo making sisters plural by accident.]

But now, both are under the spotlight, or rather the glare, with at least one blogger (Dean Barnett over at taking up a pool as to when the two might be fired by Mr. Edwards. Some are counting the hours.

On top of the pair's vulgar language in some posts, Bill Donohue of the conservative Catholic League called on Tuesday for their ouster from the campaign's nascent Internet foray, complaining about their anti-Catholic rants. (We can't repeat here some of their writings; they are quite frequently profane. Michelle Malkin has catalogued some posts here.)

The Salon has published a rumor stating that Amanda and Melissa have already been fired, but the Edwards campaign denies the rumor. Fun and games for all, huh?

So Bill Donohue of the conservative Catholic League called Amanda and Melissa "anti-Catholic vulgar trash-talking bigots". And we should take his arguments seriously? Some other things Bill Donohue has said:

* "People don't trust the Muslims when it comes to liberty." [MSNBC's Scarborough Country, 2/9/06]

* "Name for me a book publishing company in this country, particularly in New York, which would allow you to publish a book which would tell the truth about the gay death style." [MSNBC's Scarborough Country, 2/27/04]

* "The gay community has yet to apologize to straight people for all the damage that they have done." [MSNBC's Scarborough Country, 4/11/05]

* Addressing former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) in a press release, Donohue said: "[W]hy didn't you just smack the clergyman in the face? After all, most 15-year-old teenage boys wouldn't allow themselves to be molested. So why did you?" [10/4/06]

* "I'm saying if a Catholic votes for Kerry because they support him on abortion rights, that is to cooperate in evil." [MSNBC's Hardball, 10/21/04]

* "We've already won. Who really cares what Hollywood thinks? All these hacks come out there. Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It's not a secret, OK? And I'm not afraid to say it. ... Hollywood likes anal sex. They like to see the public square without nativity scenes. I like families. I like children. They like abortions. I believe in traditional values and restraint. They believe in libertinism. We have nothing in common. But you know what? The culture war has been ongoing for a long time. Their side has lost." [MSNBC's Scarborough Country, 12/8/04]

* "Well, look, there are people in Hollywood, not all of them, but there are some people who are nothing more than harlots. They will do anything for the buck. They wouldn't care. If you asked them to sodomize their own mother in a movie, they would do so, and they would do it with a smile on their face." [MSNBC's Scarborough Country, 2/9/06]

This is not even the pot calling the kettle black, because neither Amanda nor Melissa has one speck of that general hatred-of-the-other in them. Neither Amanda nor Melissa have called for people to be put into concentration camps as a preventive measure. And I can't imagine neither Amanda nor Melissa doing something like this Malkin parody of Amanda as part of an attempt to bring Malkin down. Not that Malkin succeeds. All I could think of how good Amanda's prose sounded when spoken aloud, even by someone who tried to make it sound bad. But watch and decide (via Sadly, No):

Let's see if I get this right: Your career is destroyed if you ever used naughty words, but your career will soar if you advocate violence. And the only bloggers acceptable for political campaigns to hire are the non-controversial ones. But there is no such thing as a non-controversial blogger, not in the minds of the wingnuts and not if the person ever wrote more than a word or two, because ANYTHING can be made into a controversial issue.

I hope John Edwards understands this and that he also understands that any blogger he hires will be attacked by the wingnut phalanx. That's how they act.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Today's Action Alert

Never mind. The program is not about Plan B but about RU-486 which indeed does cause abortions. Sorry about the confusion. Though the website for the program does call RU-486 the "morning after pill". Which it is not.

Concerns the popular show Veronica Mars:

Tonight, the CW network will air an episode of Veronica Mars that is based on misleading right-wing claims about contraception. The show is about a young woman named Veronica Mars, who is both a college student and a part-time private investigator. This week, Veronica is hired by Bonnie, "a promiscuous classmate, to find out who secretly slipped her the morning after pill, causing her to have a miscarriage"


The morning-after pill — also known as Plan B — is not an abortion drug. It is a form of emergency contraception that when "taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, the two-pill series can lower the risk of pregnancy by up to 89 percent." It cannot cause a miscarriage. Plan B works only when taken before a woman becomes pregnant.

Go here to find out what to do.

The Two -Year- Long Presidential Campaign

This is where I fail miserably as a political blogger. I can't get excited about 2008 yet, just can't. Do we really have to talk about the candidates for the next two years while ignoring everything else that happens in the political arena? Can't someone make a law that the campaign period can't run for more than a few months?

My Final MRA Post

Are you sick of these? A couple of commenters in the earlier posts wanted to know why I'd go on the MRA sites and suspected that I just want to bathe in misogyny. Now, misogyny is of course one of my very favorite things in this world, but that is not the reason why I went there. This time I ended there quite accidentally, but then I remembered an earlier commenter accusing me of not looking at what the opposition is saying, and this seemed a good opportunity to do so. Also, if I go there you, my sweet readers, don't have to. Unless you want to check on my impressions.

My two earlier posts on this topic have discussed emotions and misconceptions, respectively. This one addresses the topics which I found contained at least a gist of truth in them, in the sense that what is being described can cause anger, pain and frustration in some men, and their roots are in the arrangements of patriarchy. But in some cases it is the intermediate stage in which we live, neither patriarchy nor something egalitarian, that causes the grief. Before I discuss the topics I picked for closer analysis, I want to dispense with one more topic which is very common in the MRA sites and which doesn't have anything to do with gender roles as such.

This is that individual people can be really horrible and that it is quite possible that a particular man's ex-wife or current wife or colleague is a pretty vile person. That this is true, of both women and men, does not tell us anything at all about women or men in general or about feminism. In a similar manner, the court system can fail and produce results which are unfair towards one of the people involved in it. This could happen in the most heavenly of societies, as long as information is partial and humans prone to error. In short, anecdotal evidence is anecdotal.

Now let's attack the meat of the story.

The first concern of some relevance on MRA sites has to do with male military conscription. In most countries where conscription is used it is only men who have to physically go to war and to risk death as a consequence. I think this is a legal unfairness to men.

But note that it is not feminists who had anything to do with this arrangement; it is pure patriarchy (in the sense of the old men in power sending the young men off to fight), and based on the past where most able-bodied women where too often pregnant or breast-feeding to be of much use on long war-campaigns and where fighting was based on physical body power much more than it is today. Also, the maternal mortality rates were very high in those days (and still are in Afghanistan, say), so that women usually died at earlier ages than men, even with all the warmaking.

The feminist writings on this topic I am familiar with apply to the United States. They tend to take one of two possible stances: either women and men should be treated the same and conscripted at the same terms or neither women nor men should be forced to wage wars at all. I don't know of any feminist writings that argue that men should be conscripted and women not, though such writings may well exist. But the usual argument is for equal treatment, though some feminists point out that war is a particularly male business and that perhaps women shouldn't be forced to fight in wars unless they have more of a say on when to start a war in the first place.

The military conscription argument is currently not terribly valid in the U.S., given the professional military forces and no draft, but the argument has validity in general, I think. What should be remembered here, too, is that it is the anti-feminists who fight against women in direct combat roles, not feminists.

I don't think I got the whole flavor of the MRA arguments about war here, because many on those sites also believe that women can't do war and so don't really want equality in this sphere but special rights to counteract the need for men to die in wars. An excuse for patriarchy, perhaps.

The second general MRA argument that has some validity has to do with men's reproductive rights. As I have mentioned in an earlier post, I'm not sure if anyone has the right to become a parent as such, but we usually argue that people should have the right not to become parents if they so wish. For both men and women contraception is what one uses in that case (or should use), but what happens if contraception fails?

It is then quite possible for a man to be in a situation where he can no longer refuse parenthood even though the woman still can, through abortion. If she decides not to abort the pregnancy, he is going to be a dad whether he wants it or not. And this means child maintenance payments for two decades, even if he decides not to have anything else to do with the child.

I think this is an unfairness, of a sort. Of a sort, because it is caused by avoiding an even greater unfairness: having someone outside the woman's body dictate its uses. The unfairness is created by the fact that pregnancy takes place inside a woman's body. If we had uterine replicators I could easily see the rules being different. But we don't have uterine replicators, and I can't see another solution to this unfairness that wouldn't bring in something even more horrible.

Many MRA sites argue that a man in this situation shouldn't have to pay child maintenance. He didn't want to be a parent in the first place. I actually have sympathy with this view. Where things get complicated is when the baby is born, because from that point onwards we have three people to consider in the equation, and the child maintenance is not because of some victory points for the woman but because the child needs food, clothing and so on. It is a mess, though.

The obvious lesson from all this to learn is that nobody should trust another person to take care of the contraception, and that it might be a good idea not to go to bed with people whose motivations you don't know. But I can see the MRA point in this case.

The third general complaint on the MRA sites has to do with divorce, the awarding of custody and the treatment of fathers in divorce courts. This is linked to the previous topic in that many of the comments argue that once a man is divorced he should no longer have to pay anything towards his children. This viewpoint is present as often as the viewpoint that men should have custody more often than they do. Other versions of the anger divorced fathers feel have to do with ex-wives stopping them from seeing their children often enough and with the question of how the child maintenance payments are used.

It's useful here to take a step back from these arguments and to look at what is going on in these cases from a more neutral seat. Note, first, that these cases are not just about a man and a woman getting divorced. There are children involved, too, and the courts usually consider the children first in deciding on custody and child maintenance. If one parent gets custody, that parent then becomes the custodial parent and has different rights and responsibilities than the non-custodial parent.

And this is the crux of the complaints which are all from non-custodial parents. It is not that these people are fathers that matters here: it is that they are non-custodial parents. A mother without custody rights to her children is in the very same position.

So what makes this a Men's Right topic? The fact that custody is usually awarded to the mother. In most cases this is done without any challenge from the father, but in the cases where the father challenges the mother for custody his odds of winning it are quite good. Still, most non-custodial parents are fathers, and what they are angry and hurt by are the opportunities that this system offers for exploiting the non-custodial parent. As I mentioned earlier, it is the custodial parent who decides how the child maintenance money is used. Assume a nasty divorce and a lot of grudges on both sides, and you can see how this can be an unpleasant situation for the non-custodial parent. Games could be played to turn the children against you and your hard-earned money might go towards buying fancy clothes for your ex. Or your ex might make it hard for you to see the children. And so on.

Of course very similar stories can be told by the custodial parent: child maintenance not being paid for years, the non-custodial parent badmouthing you when he or she meets the children, the children not being picked up when agreed, and even worse stuff, stuff about abuse and the custodial parent's inability to stop visitation rights by an abusive non-custodial parent. And so on.

How does this all relate to feminism? The usual argument is that feminism made divorce easier and that feminism gave women more rights in the case of a divorce. But note that the problems these men discuss are not related to their sex directly but to the patriarchy-based tradition that it is the women who have more to do with children and the court rule that custody is usually awarded to the parent who did more hands-on care of the children, to keep the children's lives as constant as possible. A stay-at-home father would get custody under these rules, and feminists have certainly advocated for a greater role for fathers in the day-to-day care of their children.

It is painful, divorce and losing daily contact with your children, or divorce and ending up a single parent. Painful and horribly hard in many cases. But the causes and remedies are not in some return to patriarchy where children are automatically the father's property. Imagine a very bad marriage that you can't escape at all and then imagine what that does to the children and to the fighting parents.

The final point on which I found the MRA arguments to have some merit has to do with the possibility that a man might meet a woman who is not a feminist or a woman who is a feminist, and that these two might have quite different ideas of the man's proper gender roles. How should he behave then? What if he thinks he married a feminist and ends up with a wife who expects him to work two jobs so that she can stay at home with the children? Or what if it is the reverse? Confusing. Of course, the very same confusion faces women meeting men who run the gamut of Rush Limbaugh types to radical feminists.

The point I'm making is that when societal norms are changing it can be hard to know what is expected of you, and I sympathize with the frustrations. Communication might help to make things clearer, too.

A related and perhaps more important point was made by one commenter who stated that the public sector is increasingly open for women but that the private sphere of the family and the children may not be equally open for men. Not only are traditional norms still pretty much focused on men as breadwinners but there are women who don't want to share direct parenting with their partners. And there are, I might point out, many men who want nothing to do with childcare or household chores.

This commenter has a point, I think. The feminist wave of the 1960s and 1970s addressed mostly the problem of how to let women access to the labor markets and societal decision-making positions in general. Many of the feminists also wanted to tackle the reverse problem of how to get men access to wider household roles in general, but the revolution slowed down before much progress there took place. This is the job for the next wave, a wave which must consist of both men and women.

Monday, February 05, 2007

More On the Anti-Feminist List of Complaints

Those of you who read my earlier post about Mired in MRA Land are probably eagerly awaiting the post in which I talk more about the substance of the anti-feminist complaints, expecting me to shed tears and to repent and to find a common ground to build a better society with those friendly folk. And you will not be disappointed! Just kidding... But you will get not just one post but two! This is the first one of the two.

What I want to do in this post is to look at some of the most common talking points on the MRA sites, points, which are presented as evidence that either patriarchy hurts men more than it hurts women (and that this makes patriarchy just fine) or that feminism hurts men so much that we must return to patriarchy or that being a man is a crappy thing to be and so women shouldn't aspire to have the same rights or that what women mistakenly see as extra rights for men are indeed just extra burdens or responsibilities. Often all these arguments are mixed together in one paragraph, and often essentialist arguments about women's inferiority dance polka with the argument that men are inherently more fragile.

It is a tangled weave I try to unravel here, so tangled that I found myself going around in circles, chasing my logic which ended up all dizzy and wanted to have a nap. But here are some of my semi-logical observations:

Some of the most common talking points on MRA sites are illogical or based on some odd view of how the world works. For example, it is very common on these sites to argue that feminism gave women choices, that women can choose to work or choose to stay at home, choose to divorce, choose to act like feminist women or choose to act like traditional (i.e. nonfeminist) women, whereas men have no choices at all.

Now why would this be the case? It doesn't make sense at all. I saw several people arguing that men have no choice but to work dangerous jobs (and possibly get killed young) because they have to support a woman who has chosen to stay at home. Yet if we use this "choice" framework, the decision to accept a dangerous job is every bit as much a choice as the decision to stay at home with children, say. Both have some negative and some positive consequences and neither is necessarily a "free" choice but constrained by money, other resources such as education, and the society's norms and expectations. And there are no laws which ban men from staying at home with their children, no laws which say that men can't initiate divorce or refuse to work dangerous jobs. What is it that looks to these men as lack of choice in their own lives? All I can think of is that perhaps the norms of patriarchy no longer work that well and that an unthinking acceptance of those norms might feel like not having any choice.

Another common fallacy on these sites is the argument that any attention or remedies intended to help women are by their very existence evidence of a bias against men. Thus, university Women's Studies Programs discriminate against men because there are no Men's Studies Programs and the Violence Against Women Act (WAVA) discriminates against men because it is about women. What is this based on?

I can think of two explanations. One is that these men really believe that there was no inequality between the sexes to begin with, no need to address any unfairness towards women, and that therefore all these extra programs are like giving more ice-cream to your siblings than to you. The other one is a zero-sum game view of life: If women get something it must be off the men's plates. Either way, some of these arguments look to me like someone demanding that healthy people should have the same hospital facilities as sick people do. Consider the case of the Women's Studies Programs. The traditional feminist answer to the question why there are no Men's Studies Programs at universities is that all the rest of the curriculum is one large Men's Study Program.

A third common mistake on the MRA agenda is to assume that various types of problems men might have are caused by feminism even when the evidence contradicts this or when there is no evidence on it at all. Examples are the problems boys have at school and the high U.S. divorce rate. Both of these are frequently attributed to feminism. This ignores a whole lot of evidence from countries which have hardly any feminism at all and still suffer from the very same problems. It is highly unlikely that all these other countries would just happen to have the same social trends but for totally different reasons. It is much more likely that the reasons are the same in all these countries, and if that is the case feminism can't play a large causative role.

Thank God

Do you think that God is interested in who wins the Super Bowl?* Do you think that God roots for one side and gives extra help for the players on that side? Do you think that God does the same for people who win other sports events?

Some athletes seem to think that God takes sides like this, given the myriad times I've heard them thank their coaches and their teams and then God for some victory. Logically this implies that the losers of the same match should shake their fists at God. It's an odd and interesting God these people believe in. A details guy who can be made to work for some people and against others, perhaps by suitable rituals and prayers. Like a personal coach in the clouds.
*I didn't watch the Super Bowl and have no idea if anyone thanked God this year. But it happens a lot.

The Momtini Wars

Mothers: Have you ever thought about what might happen to your children while you are asleep during the night? Or when you are in the bathroom (unless you bring the kids in with you, every time)? Perhaps you should not sleep. One of your children might have a heart attack or develop a sudden fever and succumb to it before you wake up.

Do you have a car? A driver's license? A home resuscitation team handy? If you don't, you are a very bad mother. What will happen if your child suddenly gets sick? What are you gonna do? Get a cab? Bad mother!

You may be thinking that I've gone crazy, but I'm just reporting on the momtini wars: the Today Show (in late January) which decided to do a story about stay-at-home mothers drinking during playdates. "Decided to do a story" is exactly how they went about it, and it was specifically "mothers" who were to be evaluated as to how good caretakers of their children they might be after a glass of wine:

Well, the Today Show wasn't kidding around when they put together this "trend" piece more or less alleging that mothers who have a glass of wine while their kids are playing nearby are bad caretakers. The story implies they don't just drink, they get drunk: "There are safety issues to consider. Who would drive to the hospital if a child were hurt?"

That there was a subtext to the program is supported by this statement from one of the mothers who were contacted by its producer:

In the beginning they wanted to come and film my playgroup for the piece. Since our kids are now all in school full time, we don't have a weekly playgroup anymore so this was problematic. I suggested a more 'happy hour' gathering where we'd meet after school and our husband's would swing by after work for our usual family pizza night. Alicia [the NBC producer] said the mixing of dads would 'taint' the story (Read: "Make the subject more palatable because men keep their women in line and they have an auxiliary liver in their penises.") So I told Alicia it just wasn't going to work out.

Sheesh. Another one of those fake trends. Fathers would "taint" the story, because either fathers are allowed to drink or fathers are assumed to keep the mothers' drinking under control or, most likely, fathers are not seen as responsible for the children 24/7 so it doesn't matter what they do.

But mothers are on duty 24/7, and everybody can have an opinion on how they should act. This opinion is almost always that mothers should be perfect. Nothing less falls short and can be criticized. A good mother should lie in bed at night worrying about the possibility that an airplane might crash on the nursery. A good mother should imagine every possible if ever-so-unlikely risk her children might have, and a good mother should sacrifice everything, including all personal life, to prevent such risks.

I find it ironic in a very unpleasant way that now it is the stay-at-home mothers who are being criticized by the mother-the-madonna-or-the-whore school. We already know that this school finds all employed mothers to be heartless egomaniacs who have abandoned their children somewhere along the road to careers and to a paycheck, but it used to work as a defensive shield to stay at home. This is no longer true. Now the binoculars of the critics are aimed straight into the living-rooms and bedrooms and nurseries of all mothers.

I will now take a deep breath and say all the expected and moderate things I'm expected to say. Of course getting drunk while taking care of children is bad. Of course alcoholism is a terrible thing and having alcoholic parents is not good for the children at all. And of course it is a good thing to talk about how drinking and driving or being in charge of small children doesn't mix. But to then imply that there is no safe limit to the number of drinks a woman at a playdate can have? And to say nothing about the drinking that both parents might do after the father gets back from work (who's going to drive to the hospital?)? Or the father's drinking when he is in charge of the children? Or those similar risks caused by sleeping I mentioned at the beginning of this post?

No, the story is not about alcoholism per se. It is about women without a male supervisor possibly drinking and having fun while the Puritan ethic says that they should be suffering or at least feeling like they are performing some boring duties. The story is about the Mommy Wars, and the only new twist it has added to these wars is that now there are hardly any good mothers left at all and that everybody and their uncle Bob can criticize mothers while doing none of the duties themselves.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

And how shall I deck my song for the large sweet soul that has gone?

Walt Whitman, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed
In all of the tributes to Molly Ivins, all of the notice of her humor, her brilliance, her integrity and her great writing, not enough has been said about what lay behind it all. Molly Ivins was an extraordinarily decent human being. She never lost sight that there were people, both as groups and as individuals, behind it all. She always took them into consideration, sometimes to the exasperation of those of us impatient to ignore individuals and to look at their crimes.

Decency, it would seem, is an embarrassing thing for some people. That’s understandable considering what conventional culture presents as decency. It’s cloying and often dishonest. Sometimes what’s pointed to as decency is only a facade over a pile of rotten garbage.

But I’d recommend it. I’d recommend it because in Molly Ivins we saw what decency stripped of convention really looks like. It’s funny and brilliant and sometimes rather raunchy and funny. It can also be fierce and exacting, a blade to cut right through the crap and to get to the bone of the matter. Decency is one of the strongest tools that we have, in the right hands it will get us a lot farther than craftiness. Cynicism, the opposite of decency, is a road to egomaniacal dishonesty. It’s cowardly and it will always turn on us. And cynicism is the best of a host of poses and attitudes that are a danger to the left. There are worse ones. I can’t prove it to you. I can’t know it objectively, it’s too complicated. I’ve only seen it from examples in people, in their lives. Decency, plain and undiluted with sentimentality, is a good plan.

I can’t get her off my mind and I hope I never do.


A Bowl of Meat

Posted by olvlzl.
It would be good if some of the ink and outrage spent last month over the rather odd looking deal between the Disney and Pop Warner corporations would be spent on what the playing itself does to the children who may have been shaken down by these big businesses.

The case or the retired football player, Ted Johnson*, is a disturbing story of the possible results of the cult of toughness and the callous indifference to athletes’ personal welfare that is known as “team work”. The story shouldn’t stop with him.

He dates the decisive incident of brain damage, they’re using the milder term, “concussion”, in 2002. He was an adult. If an adult was unable to resist the peer and corporate pressure that led him to go back to practice instead of retiring which would probably have saved him and his family a lot of confusion and pain, how can children be expected to? As has been mentioned here before, children who are encouraged to play football** and risk the only brain they are ever going to have are not adults. They don’t have the maturity or sufficiently developed personalities to resist the pressures to conform. They are at the beginning of the regime of conforming to the entirely artificial and unnecessary devotion to “the team”. They are at the age when it is instilled. They are at the beginning of the process that can end in catastrophic and permanent brain injury. Which is the more important thing that needs the protection of adults and the media, children’s brains or their money?

In one of the stories about Ted Johnson deciding to break the wall of silence on brain damage in football, one of his former team mates, who asked to remain anonymous, had this to say:

“I’m not saying what the team did was right. But if Ted thought his health was in danger, he never should have put on that blue jersey, You have to be your own advocate.”

His coach, Bill Belichick, said:

“If Ted felt so strongly that he didn’t feel he was ready to practice with us, he should have told me,”.

Let’s start with the fact that while he was supposed to be making these decisions he was, in fact, already suffering injuries that impeded his thinking. He was also being subjected to the direct peer pressure of his team mates, including in a massively ironic twist, one Tedy Bruschi, who very famously suffered a stroke. During the period when he was supposed to resist the pressure to put the team before his damaged brain he was also threatened with the suspension of his contract if he didn’t return. I’d say that his union did more than just let him down. So, a man schooled in the culture of football, suffering confusion and fuzzy thinking, perhaps expecting to end up entirely incapacitated and perhaps broke, was expected to “be his own advocate,” in face of what can only be called an onslaught of pressure to risk more damage. Be his own advocate. It’s always interesting to see the power of a cliche to entirely eclipse reality even for those living through it.

There seems to be some resentment of Ted Johnson for making this story public. The stories and reports about him keep mentioning how beloved Ted Johnson was with the fans and his team mates during his playing days. Where did the love go? And what does “love” mean in this context? Football players aren’t dead meat to be consumed by the football industry. They shouldn’t be pressured into treating themselves that way.

I hope that Ted Johnson makes a recovery. I wish other athletes would talk about what they’ve lost due to their participation in the sports industry. I wish more would show his courage and break through the wall of silence. I wonder what this tells about us as a country.

I’d planned on doing a humorous post about the homoerotic language of football but reading this story this week sort of put me out of the mood.

* I couldn’t get a link but this is based on the reporting in the Boston Globe beginning with the story “I don’t want anyone to end up like me” on Friday, February 2. Not being a sports fan I probably wouldn’t have read it if it wasn’t for the look of anxiety in his picture. Some of the comments are from TV and radio. Yes, in fulfillment of my duties here I went so far as to listen to sports reports.

** Brain injury is also a feature of other sports, soccer, hockey... As someone pointed out the last time I posted on this subject.

Do You Really Want To Live Beyond Freedom And Dignity?

Posted by olvlzl.
You’ll be glad to know I’m not going to go into detail today. If you’ve read enough of what I’ve posted you'll know I don’t buy large swaths of the social and behavioral sciences. Among other things that make me a heretic is that they come up with entirely new systems just slightly less often than Microsoft. And in between new systems, theirs don’t even work that well. Thus the title. They patch together a gamma version and try to sail it into a grand unified theory of the mind.

At the end of the first discussion thread begun last Saturday, a very reasonable skeptic of what I had said mentioned that Susan Blackmore, in her book about “the meme”, claimed that they potentially negated free will. I haven’t read the book myself but it doesn’t surprise me, having read Blackmore on other topics. Since the beginning social and behavioral scientists have tried to fix their sights on freedom of thought. They’ve gotten off some shots but they never even fixed a bead on it.

Since free will is free, if it exists, why would scientists of any kind expect to be able to pin it down for study and classification? To do that “free will” would have to be one stable thing like a species or the member of an element family. It would have to be or its presence within either an experiment or model could never be reliably known.* It would have to be bounded tightly enough for it to not be free.

It is possible for the large majority, or, concievably, every last person, to freely will the same thing and something like that might show up in some experiment or study. If that was the case then the free will nature of it might be entirely invisible. Sometimes free will could be expressed in the outlyers that get pitched. If it exists there is every reason to expect that it would entirely elude even the most exact and careful science. I am confident that free will, by definition, could not enter into scientific study. Being too arrogant to acknowledge this limit, these less than rigorous people just declare that it can’t exist.

I don’t know if free will exists but either way, there’s not much that can be done about it. I think that the assumption that it doesn’t exist carries the danger of the kind of tyranny that some have always seen as a glint in the eyes of some mad psychiatrists, social scientists, and psychoanalysts as well as despots of every flavor.

It’s not that I fear a dictatorship of social scientists. The picture that I have of most of them is more like John Water’s deprogrammer in Hair Spray than Brave New World. Outside of an insufficiently regulated state hospital, it’s a wonder that some of them can run even a lab.**

What I really fear is that the general public will buy their line and decide that freedom is a myth, just as too many have bought the one that we are all selfish swine. A public which doesn’t have any faith in freedom won’t exert themselves to keep it and will go spend their time on trivial pursuits. Looking at our over indoctrinated educated class, that could already be one of the real life influences of these so-called scientists. They’ve already given up dignity in too many cases. That’s why I really don’t like the present regime in the social and behavioral sciences. It’s not just because they claim to know as fact what they, in fact, only believe and want to believe.

* The reason that both the pro and con of those “prayer studies” were bogus.

**I’m told that students of biology are often disgusted with the way that psych departments take care of their lab animals. It’s students of biology who have told me this, though, just to keep this honest.

Coda: In Which olvlzl bows to a preponderance of the evidence.

I’ve been going back through various comment threads I’ve participated in, counting the times that someone has asked me, “Do you know how stupid you sound when you....”.

Just counting, clearly not.

Reification and conflation are the two original sins of the social sciences, they haven't yet had a savior who was able to expunge them of it. I think those sins, like the more traditional ones in real life, are based in personal ambition, pride and the kind of career building dishonesty that pervades our 'life of the mind'. And when it comes to areas like this, it's dangerous. Ask a woman who has to make a career in the real sciences if it isn't.