Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Mad Or Sad?

A recent study by Victoria Brescoll suggests that women in management might do better if they don't show anger. This is what she did in the study:

She conducted three tests in which men and women recruited randomly watched videos of a job interview and were asked to rate the applicant's status and assign them a salary.

The people in the job interview were either male or female but followed the same script. Each of them expressed either anger or sadness over losing an account due to a colleague being late for a meeting.

According to Brescoll, anger gave the men higher status and higher salary estimates. The reverse was true for women. It seems that it's better to be a sad CEO than a mad CEO if you are of the girly persuasion.

The usual popularized take on this study seems to be that anger helps men get ahead but keeps women back. Strictly speaking, this is not quite what the study found, as the study compared anger not to, say, general pleasantness, but to sadness as a possible reaction to one particular type of event (the loss of an account).

I couldn't get hold of the actual study which limits my ability to judge how reliable the findings are. As an example of the kind of data I'd love to see is the number of subjects who were asked to rate the videos. But supposing, for the time being, that there are no hidden bugs in the study, what do the results mean?

Brescoll herself says that angry women are seen as "out of control". This is fascinating, because the proper antonym for that in this context might not be "in control" but "under control". If anger is viewed as a legitimate reaction by someone who is entitled to dominate others (as the article from which I quote suggests), then those who are not seen as entitled to dominate others would indeed be "out of control" when expressing anger. This doesn't apply only to women who have traditionally not been allowed to show much anger, but to almost anyone in a subordinate position.

That sadness works better for women than anger fits into that framework pretty well. Besides, sadness is not directed to anyone outside the person. It is non-threatening. On the other hand, women are not supposed to be sad in public if they have power, because crying is seen as a sign of weakness. A Catch-22 indeed.

I was astonished by the salaries men and women were assigned in this study. Men were awarded much higher salaries than women (remember, the applicants were objectively identical), and the resulting differences are much larger than the actual average differences in full-time pay by gender. Both male and female reviewers assigned women lower earnings, and I have seen similar results from other studies.

One interpretation would be that the study subjects are trying to guess what a person with particular characteristics would earn in the real world, and assign sums accordingly, thus taking into account their knowledge that women, on average, earn less. Another one is that people in general are a lot more sexist than we perhaps have thought and rate and rank women lower than men on that basis.

On the Utah Mining Accident

May the six trapped miners be found soon and healthy or at least alive.

An earlier post I wrote after the Sago accident touches on some of the safety concerns which have cropped up in this case, too. Mining safety is too crucial to be left to the vagaries of the marketplace.

Blogging Advice

Jane Hamsher includes some in a recent post:

...you have to post regularly about the topics that news junkies are interested in and you have to find a way to write your issues into those. It is difficult to get people to care about pro-choice, my personal signature issue. I found a way to write it into the Alito story, the Joe Lieberman story, the NARAL story, in a way that the blogosphere got interested in because I took the time to figure out how things worked and how you could catch the wave. I also took a lot of time building relationships with other bloggers, reading what they had to say, linking back to them, going out of my way to meet them in person when I could (no matter how big or little the blog) and being in conversation with other bloggers rather than sitting there carping about how they never linked to me.

I thought about this a lot last night while brushing my fangs the required five minutes. Then I thought about it some more. The advice she gives is quite good, but I have not taken it. So I went through all those rounds in the spiral of thinking, from feeling annoyed at myself for not doing all those things that well, to feeling annoyed that such marketing acts (as I see them) are required to sell certain topics (often feminist ones) to a wider audience (consisting of what type of people?), then veering back into asking what all this means for the definition of blogging as an enterprise (a commercial one?) as compared to simple acts of writing or communication, and finally deciding that I will never arrive at some ice-clear conclusion on any of this. Better just write it all down.

So I did.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Liberal Washington Post

Has hired Ramesh Ponnuru:

In 2006, National Review columnist Ramesh Ponnuru appeared on Fox News and claimed that the "journalistic elite was a functional ally of the party of death."

This week, Ponnuru officially joins the "party of death" himself, signing on with the "journalistic elites" at the Washington Post.

At the Post, he will lead a new Discussion Group on "the future of conservatism" entitled Right Matters. One of the issues Ponnuru will focus on is "the state's role in enforcing morality."

Where's my Discussion Group, by the way?

Doesn't that reference to "the state's role in enforcing morality" remind you of something? Like those Taliban police officers who checked that women's shoes didn't make a noise. Brothers under the skin and all that.

Where the White Boys Are

That's pretty much the summary of this Washington Post article by Jose Antonio Vargas, about the lack of diversity at the Yearly Kos conference which has just ended in Chicago. I wasn't able to make the conference this year, but the absence of one snake goddess is not what Vargas bemoans:

It's Sunday, day 4 of Yearly Kos, the major conference for progressive bloggers, and Gina Cooper, the confab's organizer-in-chief, surveys the ballroom of the massive McCormick Place Convention Center. A few hundred remaining conventioneers are having brunch, dining on eggs, bagels and sausage.

Seven of the eight Democratic presidential candidates have paid their respects this weekend, and some 200 members of the credentialed press have filed their stories. A mere curiosity just two years ago, the progressive blogosphere has gone mainstream. But Cooper sees a problem.
"It's mostly white. More male than female," says the former high school math and science teacher turned activist. "It's not very diverse."

There goes the open secret of the netroots, or those who make up the community of the Internet grass-roots movement.

For all the talk about the increasing influence of this growing group -- "We are a community . . . a movement . . . an institution," Cooper said in a speech Saturday night -- what gets scant attention is its demography. While the Huffington Post and Fire Dog Lake, both founded by women, are two of the most widely read blogs, the rock stars are mostly men, and many women bloggers complain of sexism and harassment in the blogosphere.

Walking around McCormick Place during the weekend, it became clear that only a handful of the 1,500 conventioneers -- bloggers, policy experts, party activists -- are African American, Latino or Asian. Of about 100 scheduled panels and workshops, less than a half-dozen dealt directly with women or minority issues.

Sigh. Diversity. You know, I have never really liked that term. It was snuck in at some time in the eighties or nineties to make fairness more palatable to those who don't think there is anything unfair in the good-ole-boy networks. "Diversity" sounds like face paint to me, even though I know that it's not intended that way. And somehow it's a lot easier to ignore demands for diversity than it is to point out that white guys don't always bring up exactly the same issues as black guys or brown guys or gals of all colors or that a grass-root movement of nothing but white guys isn't exactly grass-root. That would be green guys, I guess.

That's not the only reason I'm sighing here. Some of you may have read me long enough to know that the "where are the women?" topic crops up all the time in the blogosphere and I'm tired of writing the same observations each time.

So instead of doing that, let me just summarize: Those who see no problems argue that nobody on the Internet knows if you are a dog (just don't call yourself Spotty), that the system is gender-blind and color-blind and the result therefore either optimal or at least not amenable to any easy change. Those who see problems argue that "birds of a feather fly together", that guy bloggers link to guy bloggers, that certain topics are viewed as important and others as "identity politics" and divisive, and that institutional support is most likely to accrue to those whose views are seen as not being all about "identity politics." Yet for most practical purposes the lives of women and minorities might evolve around the very topics which are labeled as divisive.

Sigh, one more time. What is the solution, then, for increasing diversity at conferences such as the Yearly Kos? Note that the diversity of bloggers themselves is much greater, it seems to me, and even if it is not a real rainbow of views and individuals it is slowly turning towards that direction. The real question the article poses for me is how to get the money and support for all the different types of bloggers to attend these conferences and how to get them on the panels, too. Once there, the bloggers can speak for themselves. This problem seems quite amenable to a financial solution and some logical outreach efforts, don't you think?

Today's Deep Thought

From a piece by Robert Dallek in the Washington Post:

Polls showing President Bush's approval ratings in the 20s and 30s and a New York Times survey last month reporting that people across the country are eager for an end to the current administration suggest that this nation has a problem it's going to have to live with for the next 17 months -- a failed presidency that won't reestablish its credibility with a national majority.

The political argument against Bush's continuing tenure is not frivolous. There are good reasons to see him as a failed president whose remaining time in office will be unproductive at best and destructive to the country's well-being at worst. But given the constitutional rules by which the presidency operates, there is no serious prospect of removing him from office.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Some Suggested Voices To Use When Reading Harry Potter Aloud.

Posted by olvlzl

Well, it’s done. I’ve read the entire series to by nieces, some of the books more than twice. If you should ever be in a position to have to read them aloud, and are living in North America without the right accents, here are a few ideas for voices that I’ve used.

Draco Malfoy: Byron York
Lucius Malfoy: Wm. F.Buckley
Snape: the late Jeanne Kirkpatrick
Prof. Lockheart: Steven Pinker
Hagrid: Onslow, you know, Hyacinth’s brother in law.
Prof. Umbridge: James Sensenbrenner
Uncle Vernon: who else, Rush Limbaugh. Though Tim Russert might do.
Petunia: Phyllis Schalfly
Dudley: Chris Matthews
Belatrix: Ann Coulter
Voldermort: George Gilder through a helium balloon.

What voices do you hear when you read them?

Diversity As A Disaster? This is something we need to start working on now.

Posted by olvlzl

In the Boston Globe’s Idea section today is an article about some seemingly disturbing and discouraging findings from extensive studies of cities with diverse and less diverse populations. The upshot is that the study done by Robert Putnam (author of “Bowling Alone”) shows that cities with greater diversity have less community involvement by individuals, more suspicion of their neighbors and even lower voting rates.

You just know that this study, done by a pretty solid liberal, is sweet to the ears of conservatives, from the near right to David Duke. Duke is already featuring the study on his website, to Putnam's distress. Before long it will be making its way into the writings of pop-social science writers and from there the call for , in effect, segregation will become mainstream in what passes as the liberal media from the NYT to The News Hour.

Some conservatives are snorting and huffing because Putnam thinks this is something that we should be looking at in terms of cause and remedy

"You're just supposed to tell your peers what you found," says John Leo, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. "I don't expect academics to fret about these matters."

Conservatives apparently value civic well-being less than they do having the political issue of ethnic resentment and division. Are they are looking at how to use this study to promote the closed boarder policy that seems their great white hope in the coming election? I suspect that so. This is the "Southern strategy" with kid gloves.

Since we are a diverse country and every indication seems to show that we are going to become more so, a reputable study showing that:

"People living in ethnically diverse settings appear to 'hunker down' -- that is, to pull in like a turtle," (Putnam)

... is pretty alarming. Anyone interested in having a civil civic life should be looking for ways to promote social and community life across ethnic barriers.

Odd, in the article, that the role of TV as a possible factor in this situation isn’t mentioned. Considering Putnam’s most famous work to date, that seems doubly odd. The role of TV in setting the national attitudes about ethnicity, risk from diversity, the climate of danger and similar vectors that would certainly impinge on the habit of fearful cocooning is, I believe, more pervasive than education or personal experience. The image of non-whites on TV has certainly been studied and been found to promote negative stereotypes. The amount of time Americans watch and absorb the messages of TV has to make it one of the most influential teaching methods today. To ignore the role played by it, and, perhaps, to some extent, radio, in an article like this is a fatal flaw to understanding the full range of explanations.

TV is mentioned once but as the end of the problem, not a source of it:

"distrust their neighbors, regardless of the color of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television."

People more interested in livable cities than promoting racial strife for political gain had better take the role of the mass media into account.

Perhaps it would be good to have some replication of Putnam’s study, though in a sample of the size he took it’s likely to be a long time coming. Until it is, possibly, discounted I’m afraid that the “disaster of diversity” is likely to be the predominant line in any discussion. The conservative-Republican bias of the media almost assures us it will remain in currency for many years to come. But anyone who is more interested in civic peace than in radio-talk show division will have to take seriously the need to pressure the electronic media to stop promoting racism through fear.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Irresponsible Corporate Media Makes Responsible Government Impossible

Posted by olvlzl

Note: I was going to write a followup to this piece in light of this weeks bridge disaster and the soon to be laid aside interest in bridge inspection and repair. However, that wasn't possible. The reason the matter, clearly a matter of saving lives this week, will be laid aside is due to the collusion of conservative politicians and the media which supports them. It is the "tax and spend" chanters who have brought us to this. While it is profitable for their campaign supporters to build an enormous and complex infrastructure, it costs money to do do it right in the first place and to maintain and eventually replace a superannuated structure. That's when the howls of the right wing begin and responsible voices are silenced.

The Boston Globe had a column by David Luberoff last year which clearly explains the origins of the emerging Big Dig disaster. He points out that the project, originally funded through the federal highway system, lost a lot of its federal support half-way through. Instead of facing that reality, the politicians in Massachusetts didn't make up the difference with state and local taxes and tolls. One of the truest things in life is that while you often don't get what you pay for, you never get what you don't pay for. You know that's true when you are dealing with a large corporation like Bechtel with armies of bean counters making sure that they get maximum profits from their projects.

What went wrong in the face of warnings by people who knew what they were talking about - Massachusetts has probably the highest percentage of those on the continent- is just beginning to be studied. While they are looking at that I hope someone will look into the more general political atmosphere that led to the bad decisions. I don't only mean the steady stream of Republican governors during most of the Big Dig.

Given their refusal to monitor themselves for accuracy and responsibility, we won't get the media's role in promoting gross irresponsibility in politicians. At least not from them. But it really does largely fall on the media. Through call-in shows, wise-guy on-air personalities, connected owners and those who have created today's media sewer, anyone who steps up and tells the truth, "You want this done, you are going to have to pay for it," gets their head handed to them. They make lying and dereliction of duty requirements for retaining a political office or civil service job. Reporting with enough time or column space to really explain an issue costs more while the truths uncovered are insufficiently entertaining to maximize profits. And some of those truths might be most unwelcome at the club.

The Republican Party, who used to pride themselves on responsibility, now specialize in this kind of winning through lying. With the media fully in support they tell lies designed to win elections. Most people have a weakness for believing what they want to hear. The busy public, without the technical knowledge or time to look at the details buys the lies until reality strikes and they can't ignore it any longer. How else do you think Bush I lost to Bill Clinton despite the insane press adulation following Bush War I and the war they waged against Clinton as soon as it was clear he had a chance to win?

But if you want good government, safe and effective civil engineering projects, the rest of the benefits that only government can deliver, then we can't wait for the disaster to deliver the real news. The cost in lives, time and remedial action are multiplied many times by the lies and propaganda spread by the media.

The often repeated line, "Good, fast or cheap. Pick two." sums up the current political climate that this irresponsibility has produced. But as the Big Dig is beginning to prove, good is the only way to get faster and cheaper. Maybe the same applies to news media getting it right. But getting it right isn't what today's profit-driven and cynically self-interested media is all about.

The Globe had an article in which Michael Dukakis defends his administration's role in the Big Dig. Having read about the project from its beginning, he makes a good case. But Dukakis is just a boring detail guy the press rejected two decades ago.

Friday, August 03, 2007

On the Duggars

I happened to come across a piece which celebrates the birth of the seventeenth child into the Duggars family. Now, the number of children this family wants to have may be their own business (though that could be debated from an environmental angle, say, and also if they cannot afford to feed all of those children), but the announcement made me think how differently the choice to have lots of children is viewed from the choice to have a few children and work outside the home.

The latter choice is viewed as wrong by a sizeable number of Americans, though naturally only in the case of mothers who are employed. Fathers are quite free to be employed, never mind how many children they have. But mothers who have jobs outside the home are suspected of child neglect or even worse. Yet having seventeen children is not treated in a similar manner. But think about it: How could Michelle Duggars possibly spend the amount of attention on each and every one of them that many of those motherhood experts specify? (Jim Bob, the father is obviously not expected to spend time with the children.)

My guess is that it is the older siblings who pretty much bring up the younger ones. This may not be bad, but surely it would be regarded as horrible if it was a consequence of the mother having a job and therefore delegating child-minding to someone else.

Or think about how this case is viewed in comparison, say, to all those stories about welfare queens who have more children supposedly only because it gives them more money. The Duggars are not criticized for having more children than they can afford to support properly.

What is the difference in these kinds of comparisons? The Duggars tell a story which both shocks us (seventeen children!) and also supports very old patriarchal norms about what a good mother is. She stays at home and has lots of children, basically. That this might not be good for the children is ignored, because the other myth is more powerful.

Friday Cat Blogging

This is fourlegs' Maddie. Fourlegs takes great kitten pictures.

What is the point of sudden photographs of animals on political blogs? I think they are an important change of pace and a reminder to be in touch with all things which fundamentally matter: the trees, the animals the rocks, the rain, the sun. We are animals ourselves, whatever the wingnuts wish for, and we need to stay grounded. Besides, the pictures are calming and cheering and often funny. And a way to signal that the weekend is coming.

Speaking about the weekend, this weekend I'm going to post a couple of things sent in by some of you lovely and talented readers. If there is interest in doing more of these kinds of posts we may continue doing it during the times when I need to participate in such divine acts as sleep.

The Yearly Kos

I'm not in attendance at that conference, myself, and if you are not there, either, you can follow several of the events electronically (though right now they are off the air). I've heard that there are even events in the Second Life game. Or you can read what bloggers such as Atrios or the people at TAPPED say about the conference speeches and events. Or of course go to the Daily Kos and follow links from there.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

On Minimum Wage and Kama Sutra Chocolates

I have written a longer piece on how the recent federal raise was passed. I meant to write a piece on the theories behind the minimum wage but my dog got sick and making economic theory into luscious tidbits of sheer funniness took more than I had to give.

If you are not too keen on that topic, how about chocolates shaped like acts of love? Trish Wilson shows you a picture of one. I think these could turn out to be very popular.

Preventing Disasters

The Minnesota bridge collapse may have absolutely nothing to do with the topic of this post but it made me think again about the particular problems the political system creates in attempts to prevent similar disasters. For example, consider an elected politician who notices that the area's infrastructure is in poor shape and who works to repair it. These repairs require higher taxes, let's say. Suppose that the roads and bridges are then all fixed and new elections come around.

What do you think this politician's competition will run on? Probably on how the government has been spending too much and taxing too high, and how it is time for a lean-and-mean new government (which, of course, doesn't need to fix the infrastructure now, either). And these arguments might very well win the day.

Now suppose the initial politician in my story had instead neglected the infrastructure problems until some major accident occurred in which people died. Suppose that only then would this person rise up and start fixing bridges and roads everywhere, while also turning up at every patriotic rally. All this patching up could cost more than a thorough maintenance program might have cost. But the politician is now a hero, and in a much better position to get re-elected.

When is a leader a good leader? The first type appears preferable on logical grounds, but the second one is more likely to be viewed as a good leader. Yet people had to die for change to come about. Well, in my story at least.
Cross-posted on TAPPED.

Off Tune

President Bush was not the great communicator today when addressing the Minnesota bridge collapse:

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I just finished a Cabinet meeting. One of the things we discussed was the terrible situation there in Minneapolis. We talked about the fact that the bridge collapsed, and that we in the federal government must respond and respond robustly to help the people there not only recover, but to make sure that lifeline of activity, that bridge, gets rebuilt as quickly as possible.

To that end, Secretary Peters is in Minneapolis, as well as Federal Highway Administrator Capka. I spoke to Governor Pawlenty and Mayor Rybak this morning. I told them that the Secretary would be there. I told them we would help with rescue efforts, but I also told them how much we are in prayer for those who suffered. And I thank my fellow citizens for holding up those who are suffering right now in prayer.

We also talked about -- in the Cabinet meeting talked about the status of important pieces of legislation before the Congress. We spent a fair amount of time talking about the fact that how disappointed we are that Congress hasn't sent any spending bills to my desk. By the end of this week, members are going to be leaving for their month-long August recess. And by the time they will return, there will be less than a month before the end of the fiscal year on September the 30th, and yet they haven't passed one of the 12 spending bills that they're required to pass. If Congress doesn't pass the spending bills by the end of the fiscal year, Cabinet Secretaries report that their departments may be unable to move forward with urgent priorities for our country.

This doesn't have to be this way. The Democrats won last year's election fair and square, and now they control the calendar for bringing up bills in Congress. They need to pass each of these spending bills individually, on time, and in a fiscally responsible way.

The first two paragraphs were tagged on and the transition is very bumpy.
Via Best of Both Worlds.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Just Say No

President Bush is planning to do lots of vetoing in the near future. He has threatened to veto the long-awaited legislation to shore up hurricane protection along the Gulf coast. And he has threatened to veto the Lilly Ledbetter legislation which would extend the time frame for employees to sue a firm on the basis of wage discrimination. And he has also threatened to veto legislation to broaden the State Children's Health Insurance Program so that it would cover the health insurance needs of more children. So it goes.

Cross-posted on Eschaton

Some YouTube Fun

It's not really the Republican presidential candidates talking about their stance on abortion but it could be.

Meanwhile, in Ohio

The patriarchs of the far right have proposed a bill which would make it compulsory for the "father of the fetus" (should be embryo) to give permission for a woman's abortion. If he doesn't give permission she can't have an abortion. The only cases where a woman is left in complete authority over her own body are when the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest, as documented by the police (or by DNA test in the case of incest) and when the woman's health or life is at risk.

What is the point of this proposed bill? It is obviously an anti-abortion bill and perhaps a fathers' right bill, too. But it doesn't work for many fathers' rights people who actually would like to see the reverse put into a bill, i.e., a requirement that a woman can't give birth without the prospective father's approval. That has to do with child maintenance payments.

I got the link through feministing.com and the discussion there has veered to a debate over the rights of men not to become fathers. This bill is all about the right of men to become fathers even if it means that the woman is forced into motherhood. A different thing altogether. I have written about this dilemma earlier, and in general I think neither men nor women have the "right" to become parents (because such a "right" would ultimately imply forcing someone else to be the other parent), but that both women and men should have the right not to become parents.

What complicates that argument in a way which makes full equality tricky is that pregnancy takes place in the woman's body. If we had fetal incubators I'd be happy to argue that both the woman who gave her egg and the man who gave his sperm should have equal rights to decide on the pregnancy. But as long as the pregnancy takes place in the woman's body it is she who should have the final say on whether to continue it or not. This does mean that a man doesn't have the same rights to decide on the termination or the continuance of a pregnancy as a woman does. Until those fetal incubators step out of the science-fiction novels we need better contraceptives for men and better education for boys so that they understand the inherent risks in every act of intercourse. Girls are taught that fairly well in many families, though not all.