Saturday, May 11, 2013
I could still use more money for the running of this blog. If you have not yet given and have extra coins, consider funding me. After all, where else can you get the whining and the gloominess and the sighing and the moaning, day after day? I keep you firmly planted to the ground.
On the ant-assassination: My defense is that it was involuntary antslaughter. I opened the refrigerator door, and there it was, in the rubber seal of one door that hits the carcass of the fridge when the door closes, to tightly grasp the corresponding rubber seal:
A squashed ant, looking like the corpse from one of those violent cartoons where a truck rolls over the duck, the duck is ironed into a flat shape, and then rises up from the dead and goes on quacking.
The poor ant will not rise from the dead*, and I felt bad because I must have murdered it. On the other hand, it was trying to get into the fridge which had no ant-food at all and which legally belongs to me and not the Ant Hill On the Premises. I think I plead self-defense or the defense of private property when I appear in front of the Ant Court.
*But perhaps it does? Or reincarnates? No way of telling.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Sounds like I'm going to write about boring crap, eh? But it's important boring crap.
First, this bit of news:
Managed-care companies in New York have come under fire for signing up vigorous older adults referred to them by social day care centers, customers whose health needs are relatively small.
But on Tuesday, legal advocates for the disabled told the state’s Medicaid director that the most seriously impaired people were getting the opposite treatment.The practice of picking the healthiest cases is called cream-skimming or cherry-picking. It makes sense for profit-based firms if the fee they get for each patient is roughly the same, because the healthiest people will have the lowest costs. Outcome: More profits.
Among the examples reported to the director, Jason A. Helgerson, in a meeting were cases in which the advocates said representatives of the managed-care plans deterred people who were bedbound or affected by dementia from enrolling in a plan, often by refusing to do an assessment at all, or by falsely saying that the plan’s budget or policies did not allow as much care as the person needed.
To avoid that, the fees must be set to reflect the costs of each case. That can be pretty tough to do. But suppose that it could be done. Then profit-based firms would have an incentive to exaggerate the difficulty of a particular case.
There's no simple way around this basic problem. It is caused by the fact that the characteristics of the patients affect the overall costs of care, but those characteristics are not easy for some third party observer to quickly and cheaply determine. That lack of information (and the one-sidedness of information) are what makes markets poorly functioning in much of health care.
Second, another example of the inherent problems in health care:
The data posted today on CMS’s website include information comparing the charges for services that may be provided during the 100 most common Medicare inpatient stays. Hospitals determine what they will charge for items and services provided to patients and these “charges” are the amount the hospital generally bills for an item or service.Prices do, indeed, vary widely. But knowing just that isn't going to help consumers much at all, not to mention the fact that those who are covered by Medicare might not care what the costs are.
"Transformation of the health care delivery system cannot occur without greater price transparency," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., RWJF president and CEO. "While more work lies ahead, the release of these hospital price data will allow us to shine a light on the often vast variations in hospital charges."
These amounts can vary widely. For example, average inpatient charges for services a hospital may provide in connection with a joint replacement range from a low of $5,300 at a hospital in Ada, Okla., to a high of $223,000 at a hospital in Monterey Park, Calif.
This is because price comparisons only help a little if consumers don't know the quality of care. Just like comparing the cheapest and most expensive cell phone isn't going to be enough to tell you which you should buy, knowing that one hospital in your area charges more than another hospital is somewhat meaningless unless you also get statistics of how well the treatments worked and how satisfied the consumers were.
In a wider sense, that prices can vary so much is an indication that the markets are not competing in price. And they won't do so unless pushed into that by the government. Even then the problem of unobservable possible quality differences remains.
There are many reasons why competition is unlikely to reduce health care costs. The one mentioned here: That the information on prices is both unavailable and meaningless on its own, is only one of those reasons. Others include the fact that even partially insured individuals will be less concerned about prices because someone else will chip in with the bills and the fact that the demand for much medical care is very price inelastic, meaning that individuals are willing to pay a lot for the treatment rather than do without.
The minor children of politicians are inappropriate targets in the political baseball games or political keyboard wars. Those children never opted to be in politics and they are children.
Adult journalists should grow up and act like adults.
First, men are terribly oppressed in the UK, too:
It is official: men are an oppressed minority these days. Despite an entire human history’s-worth of cultural dominance, in the few short generations since women got the vote, feminism has spoiled it for everyone, and women have full, unnatural dominance.
You don’t believe me? Consider this: who dies more often in wars, men or women? Which sex has the shorter life expectancy? Who has to make all the alimony payments? And who, most of all, has to leave a sinking cruise ship in last place? If you answered ‘men’ (poor, browbeaten men) to all of these, you’d be right, though these examples only scratch the surface of the systemic inequities men are forced to face each and every day.
The original patriarchy-based system does treat the men on the bottom rungs badly, of course, and the traditional gender-division in household chores and child-rearing has negative sides for men, too, sides which are revealed at divorce (and which feminists have tried to change!) But so many of the MRA sites simply slip-and-side into open misogyny that everything else they say falls by the wayside.
The idea that us feminazis are running the world is just so funny. Like yesterday I influenced the Benghazi hearings and meddled with the war in Syria and decided which movies Hollywood should make next. Then I went out and made all custody courts decide against fathers. To top off the day, I created beer ads which make men come across as permanently infantile teenagers.
And that Titanic reference is something the MRA sites always discuss: That men on the Titanic died in larger numbers than the women means that women should nowhere get equal rights. Of course the Titanic appears to have been an exception among shipwrecks.
It's all very interesting and very sad. Wouldn't it have been great if those MRAs had joined forces with feminists to get rid of the bits of the gendered system they so dislike?
Second, a company sells a female zombie which spews fake blood when shot. But they also sell male zombies which spew fake blood when shot. There's a much bigger problem with that company than the fact that one of the zombies is female.
I don't get people who like to pretend they are doing real killing that way. If there's anything sexist about that story it is the story linked to the mannequin to explain why she became a zombie and the fact that she is the sole female mannequin and thus, by definition, tends to stand for all women in that bizarre warped horror show. Not that I want the company to have more blood-spewing zombie mannequins, of course.
Third, to what extent is the whole Benghazi craze about trying to cut Hillary Clinton's wings so that she won't run for the presidency in 2016? Opinions differ on that, as they say. But:
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) argued Friday that the Hillary Clinton's failure to send extra security to the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya ahead of last September's attacks make her unsuited to hold higher office.
"The new evidence we have today — and that continues to mount — suggests that at the very least, Mrs. Clinton should never hold high office again," Paul wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Times.
Thursday, May 09, 2013
I love this cartoonist. I'm glad that she is recovering from her depression. While you are at her site, check out the story about dogs. Anyone who has lived with dogs finds much that is familiar in it.
What she writes about her anger waking up first, from that numb desert of depression, can also apply to social awareness. Those of us who have been asleep and then have to wake up (perhaps because something crashes into our lives like a meteorite) often do so extremely angry.
That is a passing stage, a painful stage and a stage which requires careful managing so that innocent people don't become the objects of that rage. But the rage itself can be a healthy sign and over time it settles into just one part of a useful purring engine, turning up only when it can be called righteous and even then somewhat sweetened by compassion and even logic. Well, mostly.
Instructions on how to hand over your precious coins are in the left column.
This Slate article about the well-paying right-out-of-college fields (which are engineering, engineering and engineering) uses the following graph:
It's not an illegal graph. But the numbers tell you one thing, your eyes a rather different thing. Note, for example, that the bar marked $84,182 looks at least four times higher than the bar marked $52,875. Yet the former sum is not even twice the latter sum.
The reason for the discrepancy is in the way the vertical axis has been cut. It begins at $45,000.
So what is the impression you are left with? Do you believe your eyes or the numbers?
Elsewhere, in the weird and wonderful field of higher education, a new article points out that going to college isn't necessarily the bees knees anymore.
Do read the original article. But keep in mind that in addition to the many different concerns the article mentions you might also consider the fact that the basic income available with a high school degree is not identical for men and women. It is quite a bit lower for women.
This turns out to make college a more attractive alternative for women both because what they can earn without college is less and also because the alternative or opportunity costs of going to college, in terms of wages lost while studying, are less for women, on average.
I'm not saying that those factors would change the recommendations. They might or they might not. But this particular study doesn't tell us about that.
A story about violence by women on the website of the Finnish state television company begins like this:
Vaikka naisten osuus nujakoinnista on kasvussa, valtaosa Suomessa tehdyistä väkivaltarikoksista on edelleenkin miesten tekemiä. Poliisin tietoon tuli vuonna 2012 kaikkiaan 29 000 miesten tekemää pahoinpitelyä. Samaan aikaan naisten tekemiä vastaavia rötöksiä kirjattiin runsaat 6000.
Miehet siis johtavat tilastoa, mutta kasvu on suurta nimen omaan naisten osalta. Nousua on jopa kolmannes vuoden 2005 tilastoihin nähden, analysoi apulaispoliisipäällikkö Erkki Kerola Keski-Pohjanmaan ja Pietarsaaren poliisilaitokselta.
- Naisten osalta nousu on kova. Miestenkin osalta lisäystä on, mutta ei ollenkaan niin rajua.
My translation (probably slightly off as I'm not sure about "nujakointi"):
Although women's share in assault and battery statistics is growing, the majority of Finnish violent crimes are still carried out by men. In 2012 the police was informed about a total of 29 000 cases of assault and battery by men. At the same time, equivalent crimes by women were recorded as somewhat over 6000.
Thus, men lead in the statistics, but growth has been especially large in the case of women. Compared to statistics from 2005, the latter growth equals one third, states deputy police chief Erkki Kerola of the police in Keski-Pohjanmaa and Pietarsaari.
- The rise among women has been steep. Men's statistics have increased, too, but nowhere near as rapidly.
Now for the actual statistics: In 2005, men carried out 25 500 cases of assault and battery, women 4009. In 2012, the comparable number for men was 29 000 and for women 6088.
Compare those statistics to the earlier translated text. What do you spot? The absolute increase in the numbers is actually larger for men than it is for women (an increase of 3500 and an increase of 2079). That the latter is a much larger percentage is because the base for the percentage calculations is so much smaller.
To see why this matters, note that if some particular group had had one case of assault and battery in 2005 and two cases in 2012, the increase would have been 100%.
The lesson? The base matters when calculating percentages, and sometimes comparing the percentages directly isn't terribly informative.
The other thing I find troublesome in these data are the rounded numbers for men. Now it could be the case that the total numbers of assault and battery by men just happened to be 25 500 and 29 000. But it's more likely that those figures were rounded off. Why was the same not done for women's numbers?
The title of this piece, by the way, translates to: "The Caring Myth Crumbles: Woman brawls and beats." And the end of the piece tells us (in my translation):
Cat fights between inebriated women growingHmm. I wouldn't call that article exactly neutral, and I doubt very much that a reversal article on this topic would ever be written. That's because men are the unmarked gender, so drunken men are individual drunks, whereas drunken women are a sign about all womankind turning more brutal and less caring.
A new phenomenon in recent years is also the brawling of young women in public spaces. Drunken arrests of women are increasing.
Police reports and leaflets describe these events: Women fought in a park. A drunken woman tore at another woman in front of a restaurant. The police arrested cat fight participants to sober up.
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
I wrote about it earlier.
Mother Jones has an article about why the Act doesn't help working families, and it mentions one aspect I failed to cover:
And if the company stiffs the worker on the overtime compensation, the bill prevents workers from complaining to the US Department of Labor, as they can now, and instead forces them to try to find a lawyer who will take up their cause to collect a few hundred dollars worth of back pay, a fairly toothless enforcement measure. The bill, supported by the US Chamber of Commerce, is a backdoor attempt to shield big companies like Wal-Mart from costly lawsuits they've seen stemming from their systematic refusal to pay low-wage workers the overtime to which they're legally entitled.
This is fascinating advice from Francis the pope to nuns:
In speaking to the sisters about chastity, he said, “Chastity for the Kingdom of Heaven shows how affection has its place in mature freedom and becomes a sign of the future world, to make God’s primacy shine forever. But, please, [make it] a ‘fertile’ chastity, which generates spiritual children in the Church.
The consecrated are mothers: they must be mothers and not ‘spinsters’!
Forgive me if I talk like this but this maternity of consecrated life, this fruitfulness is important! May this joy of spiritual fruitfulness animate your existence. Be mothers, like the images of the Mother Mary and the Mother Church. You cannot understand Mary without her motherhood; you cannot understand the Church without her motherhood, and you are icons of Mary and of the Church.”
Let's try to reverse that. What would Francis tell the priests of his church? Be fathers, not bachelors?
That's not symmetric, that reversal, and neither is the way fatherhood and motherhood are treated within the church. The church is completely masculine, except for the maternal role of women. Or that's how it reads to me. And women are reminded of that fact.
It's that time of the year, again. I need the coins you can dig up from under the sofa cushions! If you have no money, do not feel guilty. You can tell all your friends to support me, instead!
The begging will continue for a week. My apologies if that gets on your nerves. But I had oatmeal for lunch and anyone who requires a goddess to eat horse food is inhumane! It didn't even have chocolate in it.
Instructions on how I can bleed your money from you are in the left column. Thanks in advance.
The events in Worcester....
I watched an interview with the undertaker who accepted the dead body of the Boston bomber and now cannot find a cemetery that would accept it. I felt very sorry for him. He is just doing his job, and no religion that I'm familiar with would argue that the spirit of the person would remain in the corpse.
Civilized people intern the remains of even the worst criminals, you know.
In an odd way this ties with the desire to turn the release of the three women held prisoner for ten years into a balloons-and-welcome-home-party. What is odd about the way is that the two uses of mythology are almost reversed in the two cases.
The Tsarnaev case just requires burying the corpse. The case of Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus, and Amanda Berry requires unearthing the corpses of their long and horrible imprisonments. A proper analysis of everything. Yet the immediate reactions appear to be the other way round: People won't let the first corpse be buried and insist that the latter one already has been buried so that now it is time to rejoice?
I understand that there will be a proper investigation of what Ariel Castro did.*
But what I'm writing about here are the immediate emotional public reactions.
*This post has been edited later to remove the pictures of the three Castro brothers, because only Ariel Castro has been charged in the case.
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
Egypt is in trouble, because it has more population than it can support. The Muslim Brotherhood is not equipped to face the problem of population control or perhaps doesn't want to face it. Tourism is down, poverty is up.
The Egyptian problems are difficult, the solutions incompatible with rigid religious rules and the most obvious solutions (spend a lot of money on basic education, then on further education, to create alternatives to subsistence farming which is feasible in only a very small land area) politically impossible. I'm very sad for all Egyptians but especially Egyptian women and girls. Those who participated in the Arab Spring must feel quite deceived.
Yet another example of weird sourcing in the US media. This story tells us that a study has found sex and drinking make people happier than religion and children. But the source it provides is to an Indian lifestyle site. The reader must go there to find references to the study author. But was the study published in a peer-reviewed journal? I cannot find any mention of that, though it seems to be part of a University of Canterbury's showcase lecture series.
Does this matter? If it doesn't matter for hahaha-who-got-paid-for-finding-the-obvious, then how do we decide where to draw the line?
That was a message from the priggish Echidne.
Finally, this Ted Talk is worth watching. It is about the roles men can take to work to reduce domestic and intimate partner abuse. I especially liked the bit about how "gender" has come to mean "women's stuff", just as "race" has come to mean "black stuff." as if men didn't have a gender or whites didn't have a racial identity, too.
Those are the sorts of terms some use to denote older men and women (respectively) who have younger intimate partners, and those are the terms one popularization uses to discuss a study which is about couples where the partners have a large age difference.
Aren't all those slur-terms fascinating, by the way? The younger partners in such relationships are called gold-diggers (if women) and gigolos (if men). That those terms are so common might reflect the societal ambivalence attached to such pairings.
The study which is introduced to us via the terms of sugar daddies and cougars is about married partners:
Unfortunately for attractive young people looking for a wealthy, older romantic partner to take care of them, there are relatively few “cougars” and “sugar daddies” in real life, a new study from the University of Colorado Denver.
In fact, it seems that those married to significantly younger or older mates have on average lower earnings, lower cognitive abilities, are less educated and less attractive than couples of similar ages.
“Hugh Hefner is an outlier,” said Hani Mansour, Ph.D., an assistant professor of economics at CU Denver. “Our results call into question the conventional wisdom regarding differently-aged couples.”
The study, co-authored with Terra McKinnish, Ph.D., associate professor of economics at the University of Colorado Boulder, was published online last week in the Review of Economics and Statistics. It showed that those married to older or younger spouses scored negatively in key areas like education, occupational wages, appearance and cognitive skills.
The researchers did not give a range of how much older or younger a spouse had to be to see these effects. It simply found that the greater the age difference, the higher the negative indicators.
I haven't looked at the actual study. But if it is correctly done* the results are not good news for those evolutionary psychologists who argue that women have evolved to want to partner with older men because older men have more resources. That's the gold-digger hypothesis about human women, and you may have read about it as an explanation for why people like Rush Limbaugh can find younger wives.
In fact, most people have partners roughly their own age. That makes sense for many reasons, including the fact that it maximizes the potential length of the partnership**. This doesn't deny the possibility of love as the foundation for partnerships where the partners are very different in age or other demographic characteristics.
*The Review of Economics and Statistics is a fairly rigorous journal. I'm not too keen, however, on the pure market model of marriage which some parts of that popularization suggest the authors used.
**In the sense of the average for both partners.
From the Guardian:
In the terms the military uses for filling jobs, that is.
An officer who led the US air force's sexual assault prevention and response unit has been charged with groping a woman in a northern Virginia parking lot, authorities said on Monday.Makes one wonder how the job was advertised and how the applicants were screened...
Arlington county police said Lt Col Jeffrey Krusinski faces a misdemeanour charge of sexual battery following an alleged assault at about 12.30am on Sunday in the Crystal City area of the county.
A police report says the 41-year-old Krusinski was drunk and grabbed a woman's breast and buttocks. Police say the woman fought him off and called for help.
In the terms the military uses for filling jobs, that is.
Monday, May 06, 2013
I got a request to sign a new anti-gun-control petition for the US Congress and the US president. If I did that, I would be entered into a lottery in which the first prize is this gun:
It can be used as a grenade launcher, too! Comes in handy if I decide to go to a Spring Sale Event and need less competition.
That was a joke. Sadly, jokes are not suitable for this topic, because of these recent news. And this. And this.
Several blogs and websites report that an Iranian senior cleric has blamed women who wear revealing clothing and dress promiscuously for earthquakes. Because the quotes on those sites reminded me of a similar event in 2010, I started looking for a more reliable source.
That search made me go round in circles, but it looks like the initial sources are either a story on an Indian website or Tom Gross's Mideast Dispatch.
The story is reported by the Gateway Pundit, the Daily Beast and several other websites. Indeed, they keep proliferating as I write this.
And perhaps the same Iranian cleric has said exactly the same thing now and three years ago? That could be the case, of course. Because the stories are identical.
Here are two examples from 2010:
Iran is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries, and the cleric's unusual explanation for why the earth shakes follows a prediction by the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that a quake is certain to hit Tehran and that many of its 12 million inhabitants should relocate.
"Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes," Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Women in the Islamic Republic are required by law to cover from head to toe, but many, especially the young, ignore some of the more strict codes and wear tight coats and scarves pulled back that show much of the hair. "What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble?" Sedighi asked during a prayer sermon last week. "There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam's moral codes."
The Daily Mail:
Women who wear revealing clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes, a senior Iranian cleric has said.
Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi's comments follow a warning by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that a quake is certain to hit the capital Tehran and that many residents should relocate.
In a prayer sermon, the cleric said: 'Many women who do not dress modestly... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes.'
And here is what the OneIndia site says in 2013:
Tehran, May 4: Women who wear revealing clothing and behave immorally are responsible for earthquakes, this is what a senior Iranian cleric has to say.Tom Gross's Mideast Dispatchin 2013:
The cleric's unusual explanation for quakes follows the prediction made by the country's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that a quake is certain to rock Tehran and many of its 12 million inhabitants should relocate to save their lives.
Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi told the country's media that women who do not dress in dignified manner "lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society".
According to Sedighi, the only way to escape the disaster is to take refuge in religion and adapt to Islam's moral codes.
WOMEN TO BLAME FOR EARTHQUAKES, SAYS TOP IRANIAN CLERIC
A senior Iranian cleric says women who wear revealing clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes.
Iran is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries, and the cleric's unusual explanation for why the earth shakes follows a prediction by the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that a quake is certain to hit Tehran and that many of its 12 million inhabitants should relocate.
"Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes," Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi told Iranian media.
"What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble?" Sedighi asked during a prayer sermon last week. "There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam's moral codes."
All the bolds are mine, to demonstrate that the cleric said exactly the same thing. Either that, or the stories are re-heating a three-year old stew.
Sunday, May 05, 2013
This report (pdf) is a compilation of face-to-face surveys in 39 countries or territories in Africa, Asia and Europe. Most of the surveyed countries are predominantly Muslim but not all Muslim countries are included in the survey. Likewise, Muslims in India are not part of the survey.
The sample sizes in the study vary between a low of 551 individuals for Lebanon and a high of 1918 individuals for Bangladesh. All the participants for which the results are reported in this survey are Muslims, including those who live in countries such as Russia, where they are a minority.
If an overall conclusion appears from the report, it might be that the different areas are not identical with each other and that what seems to influence the findings is the actual history of a particular country: If that history is one of something fairly close to Islamic theocracy, then the results tend to be more conservative. On the other hand, if a particular country has had a more secular democracy or a period of non-Islamic laws, the results tend to be less conservative. Thus, the European countries included in the report largely come across as more progressive, whereas the least progressive countries include the Sub-Saharan countries in Africa and the Islamic Countries of the Middle East.
When I use the term "progressive" I apply it in the social sense and as an internal yardstick within this study. Many of the common values in this report would not be called progressive in the United States. For example, the percentages of the interviewed who believe that homosexuality is morally wrong vary from 79% in South Asia to 95% in Southeast Asia. Equally clear majorities regard prostitution, suicide, abortion, sex outside marriage, alcohol and euthanasia as morally wrong.
Given that background, the most dismaying of the findings: that overwhelming majorities in most of the countries completely or mostly agreed with the statement that a wife must always obey her husband becomes more understandable. In all the surveyed countries except Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania and Kosovo, more than 50% either mostly or completely agreed with the statement. The agreement percentage in Malaysia was 96%, in Afghanistan 94% and in Indonesia and Tunisia 93%, and above 70% in all countries except the three European countries mentioned above, Turkey and Kazakhstan.
That is not great news for anyone who believes in the inherent equality of human beings or in the equality of the sexes. If all married couples are expected to follow that power-ranking at home, it is extremely difficult to see how women and men could be equal in the rest of the society. Indeed, it is impossible.
A more rigorous analysis of those answers is made difficult by the lack of historical data: What were those percentages twenty years ago, for example? It would be interesting to learn whether these percentages were higher, lower or the same in the past.
Likewise, answers to that same question from Christians, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists and so on would be useful for such an analysis. Most American Christian fundamentalists probably would give us very similar looking answers to those described in the Pew Report. The problem in this particular case is that in only the three European Muslim countries are the majorities mostly or completely in disagreement with this statement. Thus the socially conservative views are not limited to conservative minorities in most of the surveyed countries. On the other hand, I will discuss certain survey criticisms later on.
After that question, it's almost bizarre that many of the same countries strongly supported the idea that women should be allowed to determine themselves whether they veil in public or not. Thus, 77% of the Malaysians agreed with that statement, despite leading the percentages agreeing on the importance of wifely obedience. Several of the Malaysian respondents must have answered BOTH that wives must obey their husbands AND that women can choose for themselves whether they will be veiled or not. But it's not possible, strictly speaking for both of these to be true at the same time.
What is going on here?* I'm not sure, but given that the vast majorities of the surveyed individuals might also regard the Koran as a literal truth, what may drive the differences in those results is that the Koran doesn't have an explicit statement about the need of women to veil. That is based on a hadith (a saying attributed to prophet Mohammed).
But the Koran is pretty explicit on the need for wifely obedience. So is the Old Testament, of course. The difference (and thus the reason for the very high agreement on the spousal obedience question in the report) may be in the fact that a literal reading of the Koran is a more common requirement than a literal reading of the Bible.
Alternatively, it could be the case that many muslims are aware of the salience of veiling as a problematic symbol in the West. That could affect the answers obtained in the survey.
On other questions having to do with gender, opinions vary more. For example, the question whether sons and daughters should inherit equally (the Koran states that the share of sons should be twice the share of daughters) was answered affirmatively by as many as 88% in Turkey and by as few as 15% in Morocco and Tunisia. The writers of the research report that both Morocco and Tunisia currently have laws which give sons a larger share of inheritance. Thus, the actual practices of a country probably affect the opinions in this survey.
Likewise, the question whether a wife should be able to divorce her husband (husbands can divorce their wives in Islam without a specific reason but wives usually have only limited rights to initiate divorce) was answered affirmatively by the vast majority in Tunisia (81%), most European countries and Russia (60-94%) and by the majority in most central Asian countries (except for Tajikistan), whereas the percentage agreeing with such equality fell to 14% in Iraq and 8% in Malaysia.
Answers to the question whether polygamy (one husband with more than one wife) is moral also vary, though the only region outside Sub-Saharan Africa where the majority regards it as morally acceptable are the five Muslim areas of Thailand.
The survey asks whether honor killings are ever permissible. The answers (p 89):
A few countries' answers show a gender difference in that the permissibility of honor killings varies by the gender of the accused person. In most cases the difference favors men who are accused, with Jordan showing the largest gap (81% consider honor killings never permissible for men, whereas 34% consider honor killings never permissible for women.) Uzbekistan is the only country with a large reverse "gender gap" (46% consider honor killings never permissible for men, 60% never permissible for women).The survey asked Muslims whether honor killings are ever justified as punishment for pre- or extra-marital sex.In 14 of the 23 countries where the question was asked, at least half say honor killings are never justified when a woman stands accused. Similarly, at least half in 15 of 23 countries say honor killings of accused men are never justified. In only two countries – Afghanistan (60%) and Iraq (60%) – do majorities say honor killings of women are often or sometimes justified, while only in Afghanistan does a majority (59%) say the same about executing men who have allegedly engaged in pre- or extra-marital sex.
The report notes that when there is a difference in the answers men and women gave in the survey, women tended to be more supportive of women's rights than men. But the few tables that are given separately for both sexes suggest to me that sometimes when there is no gender difference in the answers the overall percentages supporting women's rights can be quite high. For some countries, at least.
In other words, it is difficult to conclude much about the demonstrated differences in answers provided by men and women, and I couldn't find the wifely obedience question broken down by sex.
On the wider question of shariah law, which affects the legal rights of men and women differently, the survey found:
Support among Muslims for enshrining Sharia — a set of ethical principles that offer moral and legal guidance for nearly all aspects of life — as the law of the land varied widely around the world, according to the Pew study.A few of the surveyed countries (Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Jordan, Indonesia and Egypt) had at least half of the respondents support shariah law even for non-muslims within the same country. At the same time, the support for general religious freedom was extremely high among all respondents.
In countries where Muslims make up more than 90 percent of the population, support ranged from overwhelming, such as in Afghanistan (99 percent) and Iraq (91 percent), to weak, such as in Turkey (12 percent) and Azerbaijan (8 percent). Experts say the results undermine the idea that there is a monolithic code that constitutes Islamic law.
"That's why we see such huge variations of what constitutes Islamic law in Asia and in Russia versus the Middle East and North Africa," said Amaney Jamal, associate professor of politics at Princeton University. "Sharia has different meanings ... understandings based on the actual experience of countries with or without Islamic Sharia."
She said that because the survey took place after the beginning in late 2010 of the Arab Spring, in which uprisings in several Middle Eastern and African countries with high concentrations of Muslims overthrew existing regimes, the survey provides an honest view of opinions in some countries where Muslims feel more free to express themselves.
The idea of Sharia as a legal code strikes fear into many Westerners who hear about its severe penalties for crimes or apostasy. For example, Oklahoma lawmakers passed a bill in April that would prohibit Sharia or other foreign laws from being enforced in that state's courtrooms.
Senzai believes such actions can be attributed to concerted efforts since 9/11 to demonize Islam as antithetical to democracy. But, he said, survey results showing that Muslims' support for democracy (regional medians ranging from 72 percent to 45 percent) and religious freedom (medians ranging from 97 percent to 94 percent) indicate that Islamic law and Muslims themselves are more nuanced in their views of religious law in the public sphere than Westerners realize.
The Pew study found Muslims are most comfortable using Sharia to settle family or property disputes. In most countries surveyed, there was less support for severe punishments, such as cutting off the hands of thieves. In Pakistan, where 84 percent of Muslims support codifying Sharia, those same people say it should only apply to Muslims. That exclusiveness explains why 96 percent of Pakistani Muslims support religious freedom for others, yet 76 percent support executing apostates from Islam.
Senzai explained that Muslims desiring their religious beliefs to be incorporated into public law is no different from some Christians wanting their moral standards dealing with marriage incorporated into public law.
That is my short summary of the relevant findings. I refer those who are interested to the full report. It is long but fairly quick reading, though probably very difficult to digest and analyze.
Then to my concerns about the survey:
When I was reading it I wondered how the included questions were determined. Pretty much all of them are about concerns the "rest of the world" has about Islam, and most of them are "trigger" questions: the sorts of questions we in the West often read about in the context of Islam. But questions about, say, the education of girls or the chances of women to work outside the home or to serve as judges or to travel alone etc. were not included.
If the survey tried to clarify common doctrinal beliefs, why did it choose a certain set of beliefs for closer examination and not other equally interesting sets?
And perhaps I skimmed through the sections where the survey explains about the role of the Koran as the literal word of god in Islam. Alcohol, for example, is explicitly banned in it, and, as far as I understand this, the majority of believing Muslims are taught that they cannot give any other answer except that drinking alcohol is immoral, given that the Koran states so. To some extent individual respondents are not free, by definition, to give their own judgments about many of the doctrinal questions. That work remains to be done within Islam, though some of it already is being carried out.
I also had some concerns about the way the individual questions were phrased.
Let's take one example for closer scrutiny: The wifely obedience question. The exact phrasing of the question is
Please tell me if you completely agree, mostly agree, mostly disagree or completely disagree: A wife must always obey her husband.Think a little how a respondent would interpret the alternative "completely disagree" in this case. Does it mean that wives must always disobey their husbands? Or that husbands must always obey their wives? Or that decision-making should be a partnership with equal rights? Or what?
I'm not sure. It would have been fairly easy to make the question clearer by making the alternatives more like the ones in my tiny questions.
Such concerns might be subtle. But when cultural differences are added to the stew, longer explanations from at least a few respondents in each country could have clarified the issue.
During my blogging career (heh) I have found the Pew Research Reports on the whole fairly designed and executed. I have had difficulty with apparent bias in only one of the many reports from Pew I have covered. What this means is that (unless different information crops up) I regard the survey findings as probably reliable, with the reservations I stated above. On the other hand, the survey fails to cover several large countries with Muslim populations (India, China, Saudi Arabia and Iran). Those countries may or may not resemble the included countries in their views.
But religion is seldom the best-friend-forever of women.
The section on gender in the report begins on p 91.
*For a different explanation of this (as being aimed against governments who try to ban the veil) go here. That article also argues that the wife's obedience answers reflect general highly conservative views.