Saturday, April 24, 2010

Carla Bley A Very Very Short Introduction To One of the Most Significant Living Composers [Anthony McCarthy]

She is one of the most important living composers, a jazz composer, performer, arranger, distributor, etc. Carla Bley has been working many of the finest musicians and singers of the past fifty years and is one of the all round good musical citizens of the world.

There are so many ways into her music, the Very Big Band, smaller big bands, various smaller groups, her mind-blowing opera, Escalator Over The Hill, other land marks in recent music such as Genuine Tong Funeral. And then there are the duets, especially those which she has been playing with her long-term companion, the bass player Steve Swallow. They are some of the most moving and intimate pieces imaginable. That’s where I’ll start

Houses and People


Reactionary Tango

Ups and Downs, with Andy Sheppard on Saxophone

A Very Very Simple Melody

Carla Bley has produced some of the funniest songs and pieces in recent times as well as pieces that are profoundly absorbing, passionate and deep. She has also written some of the best work in what would usually be considered the avant garde, about which I’ll post later.

I am also deeply grateful to her and her associates for The New Music Distribution Service, the source for much ear extending, mind altering music.

You might want to check out her Watt World Headquarters, a fun website, with many features including a goldmine of lead sheets of many of her pieces.


Meanwhile, in Oklahoma

The "meanwhile" series is something I do when I read really horrible things concerning women. May that stand as a general warning.

Here's the Oklahoma news. They are not ultimately horrible because the governor vetoed the bill (for the time being). But check out what was proposed:

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry vetoed two abortion bills that he said are an unconstitutional attempt by the Legislature to insert government into the private lives and decisions of citizens.

One measure would have required women to undergo an intrusive ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before getting abortions. Henry said Friday that legislation is flawed because it does not allow rape and incest victims to be exempted.

Lawmakers who supported the vetoed measures promised an override vote in the House and Senate as early as next week. A national abortion rights group has said the ultrasound bill would have been among the strictest anti-abortion measures in the United States if it had been signed into law.

Henry said "it would be unconscionable to subject rape and incest victims to such treatment" because it would victimize a victim a second time.

"State policymakers should never mandate that a citizen be forced to undergo any medical procedure against his or her will, especially when such a procedure could cause physical or mental trauma. To do so amounts to an unconstitutional invasion of privacy," he said.

Under the ultrasound legislation, doctors would have been required to use a vaginal probe in cases where it would provide a clearer picture of the fetus than a regular ultrasound. Doctors have said this is usually the case early in pregnancies, when most abortions are done.

Let's recap: First, a rapist rapes you and impregnates you. Then you cannot have an abortion without a vaginal probe being inserted to take ultrasound pictures which you then must look at. Yeah, it does sound like a second rape, because you couldn't have opted out of the procedure.

And what does the head of the forced-birth people in Oklahoma say?

Tony Lauinger, state chairman of the anti-abortion group Oklahomans for Life and vice president of the National Right to Life Committee, said each of the measures are designed to protect the unborn as well as pregnant women.

"It is just as important for a woman who is pregnant as a result of rape or incest as it is for any other woman to have the benefit of full and complete information prior to taking the irrevocable step of having her baby [sic] aborted," Lauinger said.

Note that the proposed law didn't just offer a rape victim this option. It required her to be subjected to it. Lauinger is an evil asshole.

Crush Porn Has More Rights Than Mere Humans [Anthony McCarthy]

The 8-1 decision in the Supreme Court this week, striking down the prohibition against selling videos that show illegal dog fights and women in high heels crushing small rodents - one suspects both for the sexual gratification of an audience comprised of degenerate men - was a useful illustration of the irrationality of free speech absolutism.

The judges on the Court, and a “justice” is, least anyone forget, actually a judge, seem to have a pathological fear of doing their job in this area. Which is to JUDGE. Throw in the words “speech” and “expression” and these folks who have no problem with judging cases ranging from petty theft up to capital murder, hold themselves and their colleagues as not to be trusted to JUDGE. The same folks who have no problem with throwing out the votes of tens of thousands of voters on a flimsy technicality, the ones who have held that it is legal for a local government to take property and hand it to developers, who have declared not only that innocence isn’t enough to override filing deadlines in the matter of merely executing someone, can’t be trusted with distinguishing speech important to our freedom from an industry that painfully kills hamsters with high heals so some pathetic losers can masturbate to climax.

Someone who objected to one of my recent posts on the out of wack status of “speech” displayed the same refusal to think. They held that if someone recognizes the difference between advocating a living wage and the Phelps abuse of the survivors of service members in their sickest of publicity stunts, they are some mixture of a Nazi and Stalinist.

Of course, this is absurd. We make judgments every single day about speech, judges do it continually and often on behalf of the exact same people who promote the speech libertarian wackiness that we live under. Judges enforce copyright laws, often having to decide if the one being accused of copying is a copycat or not. They enforce libel and slander laws, deciding if the words used fulfilled the legal definitions included in those laws. Since the 1970s the Supreme Court put judges and juries in the mind reading business, determining if the “intent” of the accused defamer was “malicious”. All of these and other laws that are adjudicated in the courts every week constitute a restriction by the laws enacted by congress and state legislatures regulating speech.

I'll bet you that most of even the most ardent of "free speech champions" would see it differently if someone was freely copying their speech for profit, and without citation.

The absurdity, no, insanity, that a large majority of the Supreme Court refuses to acknowledge that dog-fight and crush porn are “expression” which could be banned with absolutely no harm to The Peoples’ ability to govern ourselves and to enjoy the benefits of liberty, is a symptom of how insulated that least democratic branch of our government is from reality*. The Court’s complete willingness to steal elections for the candidates of their choice, their willingness to allow corporations to deceive The People for the purpose of destroying our ability to have an informed vote** and a myriad of other actions that end up in elections being stolen and people being killed, makes their scrupulous refusal to judge words and images grants corporations, words and videos more rights than mere humans. And among mere humans, it grants those with more money more power and more rights than those of us who don’t want to lord it over our fellow human beings and helpless, tiny, animals.

In the process, elevating that one right over all others endangers all other rights. The legal fad of free speech absolutism, pretending that judges aren’t in the business of judging, that any discretion in this matter given to juries and judges will result in totalitarian suppression of speech is completely absurd and disproved by our history before smut and most classes of media lies were given a free hand.

The far right, has obviously decided to de-emphasize the restriction of the very lucrative pornography industry, perhaps, at least in part, as a favor to their most powerful patron, the emperor of soft-porn, Rupert Murdoch. But it could be for it’s more obvious use to the far right. In giving up that traditional stand for sexual propriety, they have bought themselves a tool with which they can free the rest of the corporate elite to lie themselves into absolute control, as the line of decisions from Buckley v. Veleo to the recent “Citizens” decision show beyond a reasonable doubt. It is merely self-government which they are in the process of destroying with the slogan of “free speech”, with the acquiescence of the moderate right, what is called the “liberal” wing of the court.

Liberals who choose to ignore all of this are fools. It’s been going on long enough right before our eyes so the intention of the right on the Court is as clear as could be. It turns out, you can have free speech absolutism or you can have self-government, you can’t have both That is what we face. A people who don’t know the truth can’t govern themselves. Judges who give up their chosen responsibility to exercise judgement in a rote and automatic response are leading the way, in association with other judges who have a clear malicious intent to institute one-corporate-party government under the slogan of “free speech”. It’s the results of a principle that govern its validity, despotism will be the result of free speech absolutism.

* Rachel Maddow’s finger puppet demonstration of Supreme Court hearings is one of the most brilliant uses of free speech and free expression I’ve seen in a long time. The one I heard the other night about texting and e-mail ranks with George Bush I marveling over a supermarket scanner as revelations of our detached elites.

** If there is a clear cut of a “public interest” it is that for which the system of government set up in the Constitution to be possible. Self-government is the right that is most endangered by the recent string of “free speech” rulings. Without that right, all of the others are weakened, endangered and, when desired by the actual rulers, destroyed.

I will have more to say about the guarantee of a right to a fair trial and how it is undermined by the media in the future.

Watching Sinead With My Catholic Mother [Anthony McCarthy]

It was quite uncomfortable to be sitting up with my mother while she watched Rachel Maddow last night. Since her operation last December we’ve been taking turns staying with her until she goes to bed at 10:00. She can’t wait until it’s warm enough to not have a fire at night and she can “have some solitude again”.

Anyway, when Rachel said that her interview was going to be with Sinead O’Connor and they were going to talk about the sex abuse scandal I thought, “Oh, oh. She’s not going to like this.” As it turned out my mother knew who Sinead O’Connor was, she remembered the famous incident where she ripped up the picture of JPII, for which Sinead was, if not black listed, somewhat disappeared from American media. Subsequent events vindicate what Sinead said then, you don't generally expect popular singers on SNL as voices of prophesy.

I kept looking at my mother as she watched the interview, as the now all too familiar crimes and sins of Catholic priests, bishops, cardinals and, now, popes were listed. She’d heard all of those already and certainly wasn’t happy about them, but she wasn’t in denial that they’d happened*.

As it went on and O’Connor said that the problem wasn’t Catholics, it was the clique that had stolen The Church from them. Her declaration that she was a Catholic “in love with the Holy Spirit” and that she thought it was high time that Catholics took ownership of their church was nothing my mother hadn’t said in some form, though less passionately. O’Connor’s recognition of the many women and men who used their religion to serve humanity was totally in accord with my mother’s view of religion.

After the segment was over, I asked her if it had upset her too much. My mother looked at me with surprise and said, “I agree with her.”

I don’t think it’s just because Sinead is Irish.

* My mother was a bit annoyed by the “Infallible” subtitle. Being an Irish Catholic my mother can’t abide the common misunderstanding of that doctrine, which she has little enthusiasm for. It’s a bit odd but it’s really not that incomprehensible, in theory. Most of what the Pope says isn’t held to be “infallible”. I believe it has been invoked twice in the relatively short time it’s been official teaching.

Though it certainly has more than a bit of historical proof of its falsity, which even an Irish Catholic, if they are liberal enough, will acknowledge. As James Carroll, one of my mother’s favorite Catholic columnists (Richard McBrien is another) recently noted the doctrine is the illogical result of Cardinals giving it to Pius IX as a consolation prize when the former Papal States were removed from him. To have “infallibility” dependent on a vote by the First Vatican Council is quite a logical disconnect. I believe the sometimes mentioned quote by John XXIII, that he knew he wasn’t infallible, is authentic. I hope it is. If it is, that would present a bit of a problem to the biggest fans of that most famous of recent innovations, flying in the face of many centuries of tradition.

Friday, April 23, 2010

'Little Sadie'/'Cocaine Blues'/'Bad Lee Brown' (by Suzie)

The post below has a video of Adrienne Young, when she sang with the Big White Undies. Above is her bluegrass "Sadie's Song," sung from the perspective of the murdered woman in ballad "Little Sadie." Many men have sung this song, changing lyrics here and there. Johnny Cash sang of "Cocaine Blues," with the killer ending up in Folsom Prison. Woody Guthrie called it "Bad Lee Brown," and tacked on a traditional ending: "I'll be here fer the rest of my life,/ All I done was kill my wife." Some think it inspired Jimi Hendrix's "Hey, Joe," in which he shoots "his woman" down for being unfaithful, and the listener is sympathetic.

Music critic Lyle Lofgren recognizes the "outlaw as folk hero," but says "Little Sadie" depicts a psychopath, not someone whom listeners would like. But a lot of listeners like outlaws and gangsters who have no redeemable qualities. Perhaps it ties into masculinity: I'm a bad man -- don't mess with me.

Some men may identify with a man who gets so angry that he shoots his wife or girlfriend. I enjoy songs in which women strike back at violent men. I shouldn't have to point this out, but the difference is that men around the world are much more likely to kill women than vice versa. In the songs about a man killing a woman, the woman usually has cheated on the man, or has rejected or dishonored him in some way. I can't think of any song in which a man kills a woman because she has abused him physically.

I'm ending with another singer who brings the victim into focus, this time using the song's exact words. The video for Tori Amos' cover of an Eminem song shows a woman full of fear and worry, before the killer comes through the door.

My freak flag (by Suzie)

Mama's got a brand-new bag.

As a new ostomate, I have learned ways to protect and hide my urostomy bag, or pee pouch, as one friend dubbed it. It can feel like a little hot-water bottle, warming my crotch. At first, however, it felt more like male genitalia, flopping against my body when I walked, and when I sat, the tap might pop up like a little penis. Fascinated, I kept touching it.

“Welcome to our world!” said male friends.

When I release the urine, even if I squeeze out the last drops, there often are some more last drops. Why don’t men use toilet paper when they pee?

“Appliance” is the technical term for the plastic disk and bag glued to the abdomen. My nurse suggested sticking Press’n Seal over it if I worried about getting it wet in the shower. My skin didn’t react well, and so, the plastic wrap moved to a kitchen drawer, next to the Saran Wrap, which I had also bought for a non-food use.

My nurse suggested tying a terry-cloth baby bib under it to absorb the sweat from skin next to plastic. She showed me a calico bag that I could sew to slip over the plastic bag, like a slipcover for my appliance, or a toaster cover. Female ostomates also can buy silky pouch covers for “times of intimacy.”

A veteran ostomate told me to get big white undies and pull them up over the appliance to keep it from swinging like a big … bag. The underwear also makes the bag less noticeable under clothing. Even better, for people who can afford them, are underwear from Ostomysecrets, which have a marsupial-like pouch sewn into big undies.

This is all well and good, but I’m hardly keeping my urostomy a secret. I whip out the bag if anyone shows the least bit of curiosity. I want clothes redesigned to let the pouch hang on the outside. Gorgeous fabrics could cover it, like yet another accessory. Fashionistas would say, "OMG, did you see her Gucci bag?!" Knockoffs would be sold on street corners next to large hospitals.

Let my freak flag fly!
Notes on the linked music: The first line links to Joss Stone's update of "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" by James Brown. The last links to Laura Love’s “Freak Flag,” which I love. I'm pointing this out in case you had passed up my linky goodness.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Back To The Kitchen

An apparent newsletter of the Republican Party in Ohio tells this to its readers:

" Let's take Betty Sutton out of the House and put her back in the kitchen."

You can contribute to Sutton's candidacy here.

No Breast Cancer Coverage

You may have seen this already:

One after another, shortly after a diagnosis of breast cancer, each of the women learned that her health insurance had been canceled. First there was Yenny Hsu, who lived and worked in Los Angeles. Later, Robin Beaton, a registered nurse from Texas. And then, most recently, there was Patricia Relling, a successful art gallery owner and interior designer from Louisville, Kentucky.

None of the women knew about the others. But besides their similar narratives, they had something else in common: Their health insurance carriers were subsidiaries of WellPoint, which has 33.7 million policyholders -- more than any other health insurance company in the United States.

The women all paid their premiums on time. Before they fell ill, none had any problems with their insurance. Initially, they believed their policies had been canceled by mistake.

They had no idea that WellPoint was using a computer algorithm that automatically targeted them and every other policyholder recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The software triggered an immediate fraud investigation, as the company searched for some pretext to drop their policies, according to government regulators and investigators.

Once the women were singled out, they say, the insurer then canceled their policies based on either erroneous or flimsy information. WellPoint declined to comment on the women's specific cases without a signed waiver from them, citing privacy laws.

The whole article is worth reading. It also discusses whether this practice can be ended in the health care reform bill. But the gist of the piece is in the above quote. Note, in particular, the bit I have bolded.

This computer algorithm was used only to weed expensive customers out. It was NOT used to detect fraud in the application forms of those who were not claiming much. Indeed, low claimers could be as fraudulent as they wished because they were bringing money in! That is a biased practice. The company should screen for fraud among all its customers if it wishes to screen for fraud.

Once people learn of practices like this one they may choose not to be covered by this insurer. After all, you may not be covered when you really need to be! As one of the women discussed in the article points out:

Relling adds: "I laud people who give money to charity -- but not at the expense of cancer patients and people who have paid health insurance premiums for 20 years and never missed a payment -- and then get canceled when they most need their coverage. What about the thousands of people who have their policies canceled by their company for no good reason? When are they going to make that right?"

Thanks to res ipsa for the link.

Thursday Fluff Post

Picture of cat trying to get comfortable by hmj.

As is the custom, this post is all about me.

I'm growing the finger nail on my right pinkie, to see how long I can get it. Right now it's about 0.8cm (measured from behind the nail where the finger tip ends), and beginning to curve!

In other news, I sometimes feel a bit like a participant in a three-front war. On one side are the misogynists, on the other side are the Real Feminists, and people like me are in the middle, getting shot at by both sides. There should be a proper arena for these kinds of battles.* A better solution would be to wave a white flag and leave.

You could also read my post on sex and older people if you didn't catch it earlier. Or the one about single mothers and unemployment.

Or think about "hand some leg ends."
*This topic would require a proper post but I don't feel up to it right now. Too much anger.

The Sex Partners of Our Ancestors!

An interesting speculation about our roots:

Human evolution is looking more tangled than ever. A new genetic study of nearly two thousand people from around the world suggests that some of our ancestors bred with other species of humans, such as Neanderthals, at least twice.

"The researchers suggest the interbreeding happened about 60,000 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean and, more recently, about 45,000 years ago in eastern Asia," Nature News reports from the annual meeting of the American Society of Physical Anthropologists in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

That conclusion is based on a study of over 600 genetic markers, called microsatellites, sequenced in nearly 100 different populations.

This is the bit I found very funny, though:

True, Neanderthals are the likeliest contenders for our ancestors' sexual partners, but they aren't the only ones.

What do you usually call the sexual partner of your grandmother? Your grandfather, right? Sure, she could have had other sexual partners, but the article talks about the ones which left genetic markers.

That means our ancestors, too, you know, not just the sexual partners of our ancestors.

The reason for the funny framing there is that the Neanderthals have had very bad press and nobody really wants to have them among the ancestors. Though I quite like the idea.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

News From The Other Dimension

The birther one:

The so-called "birther bill" won initial approval from the House of Representatives on Monday, advancing legislation that would require presidential candidates to produce a birth certificate before they can make the ballot in Arizona.

The legislation originated from a fringe group that believes President Barack Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the United States and therefore ineligible to be president.

Rep. Judy Burges amended Senate Bill 1024 to include a requirement that Arizona's Secretary of State inspect a presidential candidate's birth certificate before that candidate could qualify for the ballot.

Similar laws have been proposed in Oklahoma, Florida and Missouri. None have been signed into law.

It's an interesting place, that Other Dimension. Could be even fun to watch if one was safely on another planet. With popcorn and beer (Well, not if you are a hypothetical grandmother. Celery sticks for you.)

I have gotten on a mailing list from that fringe dimension. An example:

With President Obama and leaders in Washington pushing the country toward socialism, experts on the April 25 Coral Ridge Hour television broadcast discuss the roots of the ideology and the destructive and deadly path it has cut through history. For listings and to preview, visit


“The collapse of the Berlin Wall should have been the end of socialism,” says Dr. Jerry Newcombe, host and senior producer of The Coral Ridge Hour. “But unbelievably, liberals in our own government, however well intentioned they may be, have enacted a federal takeover of health care and have big plans for an all-controlling, all-consuming federal government. This deadly course can and must be reversed.

It sounds like Terry Pratchett's Discworld.


President Obama when asked about the replacement for Justice Stevens:

THE PRESIDENT: You know, I am somebody who believes that women should have the ability to make often very difficult decisions about their own bodies and issues of reproduction. Obviously this has been a hugely contentious issue in our country for a very long time. I will say the same thing that every President has said since this issue came up, which is I don't have litmus tests around any of these issues.

But I will say that I want somebody who is going to be interpreting our Constitution in a way that takes into account individual rights, and that includes women's rights. And that's going to be something that's very important to me, because I think part of what our core Constitution -- constitutional values promote is the notion that individuals are protected in their privacy and their bodily integrity, and women are not exempt from that.

I also think we could do with a third woman justice. It would still leave the boyz the majority and all.

Meanwhile, in Mexico. Trigger Warning!

A ten-year old rape victim will have to give birth:

A pregnant 10-year-old, allegedly raped by her stepfather, has become the latest lightning rod in the country's heated abortion debate.

The girl's stepfather has been arrested. But advocates on both sides of the issue say their battle is just beginning.

"This girl is much more than an isolated case," said Adriana Ortiz-Ortega, a researcher at Mexico's National Autonomous University who has written two books on abortion in Mexico, "and there is much more influence now from conservative groups that are trying to prevent the legalization of abortion."

Abortion is legal in Mexico's capital city, but prohibited or significantly restricted in most of the country's states. The girl's home state of Quintana Roo, on the Yucatan peninsula, allows abortion in cases of rape during the first 90 days of the pregnancy. But the 10-year-old girl is at 17½ weeks, nearly a month past that limit.

Advocacy groups are calling for federal officials and the United Nations to investigate Quintana Roo's handling of the matter, claiming officials did not inform her of her abortion rights.

The Catholic church is a vocal opponent of abortion in Mexico...
Via Shakesville.

You Are To Blame For Your Grandkids' Cancer!

Don't believe me? Check out this headline:

Grandmother's diet influences grandchildren's breast cancer risk

I read the title and knew right away it couldn't be based on humans. We don't have food surveys for what our grandmothers ate when pregnant.

And indeed, the study was about rats. But that didn't cause any hesitation for this popularization to conclude:

Researchers say they're not sure why the increased risk is based on at least two generations but they know how to prevent it. Eat good fats and fresh, whole foods while pregnant.

I hope all rats listen to that good advice.

More seriously, not all rodent studies carry over to humans. Many do not. We are able to cure all sorts of stuff in mice that we still cannot cure in humans. But if we are interested in the well-being of rats, how about also studying grandfather rats? Give them lots of fat before they get grandmother rats pregnant and follow up.
Who knows, maybe the grand-rats get even more cancers then?

Addendum: I clicked on the link this popularization gave for the study. It didn't take me to the study but to something called Medical News Today.

The site smells off to me. Too many stories about 100% cure rates and clearly non-neutral treatments of topics such as abortion and breast cancer. The summary of this study has impossible-to-believe numbers:

The researchers also found that the risk appears to not only extend from mother to daughter and granddaughter, but also from mother to son to granddaughter. For example, the daughters of male and female rats born from mother rats that ate a lot of fat had an 80 percent chance of developing breast cancer, but the risk was about 69 percent if the granddaughter's mother or father was born from a rat that ate normally and the other parent came from a high-fat-consuming parent. By contrast, granddaughters of grandmother rats who ate a normal chow had a 50 percent chance of developing breast cancer.

Half of all female rats develop breast cancer? Without even having that evil fat-gorging granny? I don't think that can be true.

In any case, wasn't the risk supposed to be an 80% increase? For instance, if the initial rate of breast cancer in female rats was, say, 10%, and if the fat-gorging-granny effect was an 80% increase, then the granddaughters of those evil creatures would have a rate of 18%.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

To Date Or To Hook Up?

You may have seen references to a new study about which heterosexual college students prefer and how gender enters into that. The conclusions of the study include:

Even though men initiated significantly more first dates than women, there was no gender difference in the number of first dates or number of hook-ups. For both men and women, the number of hook ups was nearly double the number of first dates.

Overall, both genders showed a preference for traditional dating over hooking up. However, of those students who strongly preferred traditional dating, there were significantly more women than men (41 percent versus 20 percent). Of those who showed a strong preference for hooking up, there were far fewer women than men (2 percent versus 17 percent). However, context mattered: when considering the possibility of a long-term relationship, both women and men preferred dating over hooking up; however, when the possibility of a relationship was not mentioned, men preferred hooking up and women preferred dating.

On the whole, men and women agreed on the benefits and risks of dating and hooking up.

However, there were some notable differences:

* Women more than men seem to want a relationship. They fear, both in dating and hooking up, that they will become emotionally attached to a partner who is not interested in them.
* Men more than women seem to value independence. They fear that even in hooking up relationships, which are supposed to be free of commitments, a woman might seek to establish a relationship.

That's not a bad summary of the findings, actually. Yup. I went and read the study! Before you run with its results, have a look at the following list of problems:

1. The study is based on a convenience sample. Convenience samples are just that: convenient. But they are not based on random sampling.

Why would this matter? Because:

Convenience sampling (sometimes known as grab or opportunity sampling) is a type of nonprobability sampling which involves the sample being drawn from that part of the population which is close to hand. That is, a sample population selected because it is readily available and convenient. The researcher using such a sample cannot scientifically make generalizations about the total population from this sample because it would not be representative enough.

It's unclear how the sample was selected, except that it consists of students who got course credit for their participation from the psychology department. This is probably also the reason why the study has twice as many female as male participants (women take more psychology courses). If you keep in mind that men and women of the chosen age group are roughly the same in numbers in the general population the unequal sample sizes come across as odd.

2. The sample consists of mostly first-year undergraduate students. The average age of the study subjects was 18.72 years. We are talking about very young men and women here. Teenagers, in fact. Teenagers may not have the same dating or hooking-up patterns as older college students.

3. The study defines dating as a traditional male-initiated process: The man invites the woman, he picks her up, he treats her, he takes her back home. He can ask for sex and she can refuse it. Hooking-up, on the other hand, is defined as a fairly egalitarian process about necking or kissing or intercourse or whatever. Either party can initiate it.

Note that there is no third alternative, such as some kind of egalitarian dating with going Dutch. It's important to keep that in mind in evaluating the study findings. We have no idea how the study participants would have ranked egalitarian dating.

4. The checklists of items the study used (for the subjects to agree or disagree about) were not identical for men and women. An example about the possible benefits of traditional dating:

For the benefits of traditional dating, we listed 36 possible benefits for men and 34 possible benefits for women. Twenty-seven of these benefits were identical for both genders (e.g., "Traditional dating is romantic"), with the remaining possible benefits gender specific (e.g., for men, "You can ask anyone you are interested in on a date"; for women, "You have the power to reject a date").

Similar gender differences were applied to the checklist covering the possible risks of traditional dating. The checklists for the benefits of hooking-up were identical for both sexes but the checklists for the risks of hooking-up were not:

Two items were gender specific. ("Risk getting pregnant" vs. "Risk of getting partner pregnant" and "Can get a bad reputation for being 'easy' or a whore" vs. "Can get a bad reputation of using women").

Why would such differences matter if they are not about the questions discussed in the above summary? Because the overall experience might affect the answers one gives. For instance, men get reminded about their responsibility in the concept of traditional dating this study used, and that reminder is different from the reminders women get.

That's why my point about the two choices is an important one. The study did not ask how students would have felt about egalitarian dating.

Title IX

The Obama administration is cleaning some brush left by the Bush administration. As you may remember, Bush The Son really launched a wholesale attack against Title IX, the law which bans gender discrimination in education. This is what Title IX sounds like:

"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance..."

That it became something only about college sports in the American collective mind is frightening and instructive.

Anyway, Vice-President Biden is going to make an announcement about how colleges can prove that they are in compliance with Title IX when it comes to college sports. The option Bush added to the older ways of proving compliance will be adjusted:

In 2005, the administration of former President George W. Bush changed the third requirement, allowing the university to prove it was meeting the athletic interests of women by carrying out surveys of students' interest in sports. The NCAA and women's sports advocates said a low response to such surveys could be interpreted as indicating a lack of interest in sports when actually it could indicate a lack of availability of sports activities.

Under the new policy, universities will no longer be able to claim that a low response to surveys means a low interest in sports, the official said. The new rules still will allow the use of surveys, but universities will have to go further to prove they are complying.

A book could be written (even by me) on the reasons why Title IX became all about sports, but a very tight summary of that book would state that the reasons would include a) the belief that men and women are inherently different and that men need sports, women not and b) the belief that men are discriminated against when male sports are cut to benefit women (who don't even want sports).

Of course nobody asks why something that is supposed to be only for men is offered by coed colleges and paid for by the tuition of everyone. Neither does anyone ask what women are offered if men get sports as an extra, or why offering men more athletic scholarships wouldn't discriminate against women in colleges.

I'm still much more concerned about Title IX in general, not its athletic applications. I always feared that the Bush administration would start something which could be used to deny girls places in shop or boys places in home economics.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Problem With Global Markets

From the U.K. Daily Mail:

This photo and others like it were smuggled out of the KYE Systems factory at Dongguan, China, as part of a three-year investigation by the National Labour Committee, a human rights organisation which campaigns for workers across the globe.

The mostly female workers, aged 18 to 25, work from 7.45am to 10.55pm, sometimes with 1,000 workers crammed into one 105ft by 105ft room.

They are not allowed to talk or listen to music, are forced to eat substandard meals from the factory cafeterias, have no bathroom breaks during their shifts and must clean the toilets as discipline, according to the NLC.

The workers also sleep on site, in factory dormitories, with 14 workers to a room. They must buy their own mattresses and bedding, or else sleep on 28in-wide plywood boards. They 'shower' with a sponge and a bucket.

And many of the workers, because they are young women, are regularly sexually harassed, the NLC claimed.

The organisation said that one worker was even fined for losing his finger while operating a hole punch press.

And what is it that they are so busily manufacturing? Goods outsourced by Microsoft and other global companies.

We Need More Right-Wing Television

If you believe that you will be glad to hear that more will soon be in the offing. Something called RightNetwork. It sounds like Tea Party Central. What other American group amounting to at most 18% gets as much attention from the media? I cannot think of any at all.

This casts serious doubt on the idea, the old-and-smudged-and-ripped idea that the media is left-wing. Actually, Americans wouldn't recognize a left wing if it flapped right in their faces, given all the comments about Obama being a socialist and such.

A real left wing is something quite different from pointing out that perhaps we should have universal health coverage such as is available in many other capitalist countries. Even that remark is cause enough to suggest that your collar looks Maoist and that you probably pray to the Devil at night. You commie goddess!

What frightens me about yet another wingnut television option is this: How are we going to discuss shared matters in this country if people choose to hear only their own interpretations of events? If people even decide on their own sets of facts? Aren't we going to drift further and further apart until staying one nation becomes impossible?

Comcast is a partner in this new endeavor. I'm quite certain that Comcast will soon launch a left-wing television choice, too! Any day now! After all, Comcast is a business, not a political operation? Or is it?

So Much Stuff, So Little Time

Some weeks are like that. I have to cram lots of material into one post to cover it. Luckily, the topic for this one is religion so there's an underlying framework. Of sorts.

First, The National Prayer Day:

A federal judge in Wisconsin ruled Thursday that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional.

National Day of Prayer "goes beyond mere 'acknowledgment' of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context," U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb wrote. "In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience. . . .

And the floodgates open: You are leaving out God! Obama has canceled the National Prayer Day!

Nobody minds if goddesses are left out. Or atheists.

Second, the Catholic church is telling nuns who supported the health care reform bill that rebellion will be punished, at least in Greensburg:

Bishop Lawrence Brandt of the Catholic Diocese of Greensburg has declared that religious sisters from communities whose leaders endorsed the final version of the national health care reform bill can no longer promote their recruitment events in his parishes or in the diocesan newspaper.

"He has the right to disapprove a request from a religious community that wants to host a recruitment event when that community has taken a public stance in opposition to the Church's teaching on human life," said diocesan spokesman Jerry Zufelt.


The sisters are welcome to continue working in the diocese, and the bishop is in dialogue with them about resolving the recruitment problem, Mr. Zufelt said.

I like that very much, because it tells us how the church deals with the difficult Woman Question: They cannot recruit but they can still do the chores!

Third, there's the question of the head scarf:

College sophomore Hani Khan had worked for three months as a stockroom clerk at a Hollister Co. clothing store in San Francisco when she was told the head scarf she wears in observance of Islam violated the company's "look policy."

The policy instructs employees on clothing, hairstyles, makeup and accessories they may wear to work. When supervisors told Khan she had to remove the scarf, known as a hijab, to work at the store, she refused on religious grounds. A week later, she says, she was fired.

This is an example of religious discrimination. Sikh men face similar problems with the turbans their religion requires them to wear. The feminist questions go to a deeper levels and ask why religions assign women and men different rights and responsibilities:

Khan says there is a lot of misunderstanding about the hijab. She and others say they wear it for modesty.

A Short Post On Health Information

I have noticed recently how very many headlines about health studies are on women's health: Teenage girls shouldn't drink because of later benign breast disease risk, women should walk more, drinking wine might keep women slimmer in later life and so on.

All this could be a sign of the medical industry trying to be fairer. After all, it has a rather dubious past of ignoring women in large trials (aspirin and heart health, for example) altogether or of seeing women as only a walking uterus when it comes to health. That may be a good thing, that recalibration.

On the other hand, I suspect that those topics are picked because women are the major consumers of health news. If that's the case, we are short-changing men. After all, I'm pretty sure that drinking heavily while your body is developing cannot be good for boys, either, and it would be important to know what the dire consequences might be. Likewise, perhaps wine keeps men slim, too, and perhaps walking is great for them, too?

Why can't these types of studies look at both men and women?

Har De Har! Let's Repeal the 19th Amendment!

I have always wanted to name a blog post "har de har", because I think it would sound like someone throwing up a load of phlegm in a smoky saloon and it sounds like a very masculine thing to do. Thomas Mitchell probably laughs like that because he's a guy editor. Girl editors can only faintly guess on the awesomeness of har-de-har.

No, I haven't gone any crazier than usual. I'm writing about Thomas Mitchell's very funny blog post in which he advocates removing women's write to vote in elections on the grounds that gals simply are not unbiased and rational enough to vote:

Bias is not a good thing. Right? We all agree on that, don't we?

People and candidates for public office should be judged on the basis of their ideas, stance on the issues, character, experience and integrity, not on the basis of age, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion or disability.

Therefore, we must repeal the 19th Amendment. Yes, the one granting suffrage to women. Because? Well, women are biased.

Just look at the poll results in today's newspaper.

Men favored the attractive former beauty queen Sue Lowden over the graying Harry Reid by 22 points, while women shunned their gender mate, choosing Reid by a 2-point margin. Which proves women favor Democrats.

It's satire, see! Like Jonathan Swift's Modest Proposal that the Irish eat their own children, and anyone who can't get that is biased, fickle and irrational. It's har-de-har satire!

Lots of people seem to be biased, fickle and irrational (I suspect women!), and so poor Mr. Mitchell had to write a follow-up post to explain how he gotcha! and how horrible people (I suspect women!) were to him:

Just as I had anticipated, and in fact spelled out in a veiled reference in the second paragraph, my posting was judged by almost every commenter and e-mailer, not on any merits or demerits of facts in evidence or syllogism used, but on the basis of my age, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, disability, weight, sartorial choices, facial hair, writing ability, mental capacity, sobriety, sanity, political leanings and perversity — the very appellations the politically correct find so jaw-droppingly offensive.


Without once addressing the fundamental postulate that men and women are delightfully different, I was called an idiot, an (expletive deleted) moron, an ignorant redneck male chauvinist, a racist, a sexist, a narrow minded and crude douchebag, unsophisticated, ignorant, a flat earther, a fool, a Neanderthal and a misogynist.

But maybe those were just satire, all those "redneck male chauvinist" thingies?

I have bolded the relevant words above, to point out that "delightfully different" doesn't sound exactly the same as

Men are consistent. Women are fickle and biased.

Har de har indeed.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Moms, politics and the NYT (by Suzie)

Click on the NYT today, and what you may notice first is the photo of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman. Author Liesl Schillinger starts by making fun of what they were wearing in a joint appearance. Even if you dislike them, remember that focusing on their appearance hurts other women, too.

Schillinger notes that they have something in common with Nancy Pelosi: All have given birth to five children.
What does it say about this country at this moment that, of the small handful of women who have achieved highly visible political roles, three are matriarchs of such very large families? Could it be that the skills of managing sprawling households translate well into holding office? Or that such a remarkable glut of mom cred makes a woman’s bid for external power more palatable to voters? Or are they just related to more voters, which translates into a mysterious edge at the polls?

Whatever forces may be at play, taking a look at present dynamics, any American woman with long-range political ambitions might do well to also look to her nursery.
At what income do people have "nurseries"? By saying that no men need apply to this "clique," Schillinger equates giving birth to raising children. She doesn't ask if male politicians benefit from having a lot of kids. She doesn't look at the norm for female politicians, or question whether attitudes about moms-in-office have changed. She assumes that Palin, Bachmann and Pelosi ran their own households, without asking how much their husbands and other family members helped, or whether they had paid help.

Some of you may say: Lighten up! This is just a fun story. And I would say: Yeah, I figured that out when I saw that it ran in the print edition's Fashion & Style, the section where women make light of issues affecting other women.
Flora Purim

Posted by Anthony McCarthy