Monday, October 22, 2018

True Or False? On Accusations of Sexual Violence in The Kavanaugh Era.

(This post is really the third in my series: On the Kavanaugh Nomination And Women's Reproductive Rights.  Or Back to the Basics. But that title is a little boring and uninformative by now.  The first two posts can be read here and here.)

1. Introduction

Our Dear Leader recently noted how scary this time in the US is for young men, because false allegations of sexual violence are so commonplace!  He, himself, has received a whole wheelbarrowful of them!

At about the same time, Bret Stephens, a right-wing columnist at the New York Times, had a few thoughts about such false allegations in the context of Brett Kavanaugh's alleged sexual misconduct:

A few moments have crystallized my view over the past few days.
The first moment was a remark by a friend. “I’d rather be accused of murder,” he said, “than of sexual assault.” I feel the same way. One can think of excuses for killing a man; none for assaulting a woman. But if that’s true, so is this: Falsely accusing a person of sexual assault is nearly as despicable as sexual assault itself. It inflicts psychic, familial, reputational and professional harms that can last a lifetime. This is nothing to sneer at.
The second moment, connected to the first: “Boo hoo hoo. Brett Kavanaugh is not a victim.” That’s the title of a column in the Los Angeles Times, which suggests that the possibility of Kavanaugh’s innocence is “infinitesimal.” Yet false allegations of rape, while relatively rare, are at least five times as common as false accusations of other types of crime, according to academic literature.

That "five times as common" argument means that about 5% of rape accusations were found to be false or baseless (1) in one study.  Other (properly done) studies have quoted figures ranging from 2% to 8%.

Let's set aside the question whether Brett Kavanaugh actually did what Christine Blasey Ford and others have accused him of.  Let's, instead, consider this heightened concern with possible false accusations which is very evident both in the context of the Kavanaugh hearings and in the changes Betsy deVos created when she scrapped the Obama-era guidelines on how colleges should handle sexual violence accusations.  The most crucial of these changes is this:

The most controversial portion of the Obama-era guidelines had demanded colleges use the lowest standard of proof, “preponderance of the evidence,” in deciding whether a student is responsible for sexual assault, a verdict that can lead to discipline and even expulsion. On Friday, the Education Department said colleges were free to abandon that standard and raise it to a higher standard known as “clear and convincing evidence.”
The higher bar for evidence means that fewer students accused of sexual assault will be found responsible.  It's less likely that someone falsely accused would be found responsible, but it's also more likely that someone guilty of sexual assault will be found not responsible.  The overall effect may be to cause fewer accusers to come forward (on the basis of why-bother).

So what is going on here?  Is this truly a scary time for young men, and if so, what times have not been scary for young women?  And what do Stephens and his friend in the above NYT quote mean when they say that they would rather be accused of murder than of sexual assault?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Happy Hour For Birds?

My neighbor has a tall cherry tree near the fence separating our lots.  I have never seen it bear berries before, but this fall the tall canopy of the tree has been full of giant red shiny globes, delicious even from a distance.  It still is fairly full of those berries, and thereby hangs a tale.

Very early one morning I woke up to a tremendous cacophony of sounds, birds speaking to each other in full voice in a hundred different languages, at different frequencies and levels of loudness.  Beautiful it was not, a nature's symphony it was not.

I looked out from a second floor window and saw birds everywhere.  About forty starlings pecking at the so-called driveway (which is not abnormal), three or four blue jays leaning weirdly on top of the roof, a couple of morning doves playing bomber planes at the ground and at each other, and ten or so robins lying in the grass.  And when I say "lying in the grass," I mean it.  When I made a fearsome noise, a couple of the robins managed to fly away, the others turned glazed eyes at me and that was it.

I opened the window and stuck my head out and got bombarded by a pair of small birds.  They flew so close to my face that I felt the air their wings moved in my hair.

All this was a little troubling.   Suddenly I heard a noise from another second floor window, one which has a narrow screen for ventilation at the bottom.  A blue jay was busily trying to tear that screen into small pieces.  As I approached the window, from inside the house, the jay looked at me, scornfully, and resumed its wrecking work.

After an hour or so the happy time was over and things returned to normal (well, normal for the Snakepit Inc.).  But the same show was repeated at slightly lower attendance rates for about a week.

What's going on here?  Are the berries in the cherry tree fermented, thus offering migrating (and non-migrating) birds a nice alcoholic bar?  A birds' happy hour?

I don't think any birds were harmed in making this spectacle. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Too Obvious, Too Weird, Too Republican

I know I'm preaching (in a sonorous voice) to the choir when I point out that we have that US budget deficit problem because Mitch McConnell and his boyz decided to give the rich a humongous tax cut.  And then, a few minutes after that:

This combination is naturally Republican politics as usual, because the goal is to drown the government in a bathtub (except for the military to protect the money of the rich and the legal system for the same protection).  But it's seldom happening so very quickly.  First Mitch tries to put all the dollars in the wallets of the billionaires, then he takes one breath and follows that with the worry that the budget won't balance so let's put the old and the poor on cat food diets.

All that is obvious.  But it's worth wondering what kind of a society Mitch&Friends want to build.  Somalia?  Something from ancient history?  There are some really good reasons for taxes*:  That's how we pay for a somewhat safer, fairer and more affluent society.


* In the sense that everyone should pay their fair taxes, to cover our common expenses.  This doesn't mean not keeping an eye on government spending and its efficiency.  But there's something a little bit wrong if Echidne pays more federal income tax than Jared Kushner.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Proud Boys' Founder, Gavin McInnes, Visits The Republican Club In New York City, And A Brawl Follows

It's all hilarious*.  If you don't know what the Proud Boys stand for, do read my earlier blog post and then this one and then this one**.  And then note that it was a former Proud Boy who planned the fatal white supremacist march in Charlottesville in 2017.

Proud Boys are into violence, Western nationalism,  and, most centrally, misogyny.  Last May Tucker Carlson posed with a few Proud Boys for a picture, though it's unclear if he knew what they stand for (which is a slightly dirtier version of what Tucker himself stands for).

It's unclear what the brawl was all about or who started it.  The New York Times chose to give the story one of those passive headlines (like a woman gets raped):

Fight Breaks Out Near Republican Club After Visit by Gavin McInnes, Police Say
The Daily Beast used a more active voice:

Far-Right 'Proud Boys' Kick, Punch People in New York Following Speech From Leader
To top all this, the Republican club was vandalized the night before Gavin McInnes' speech there, probably to protest the fact that New York City Republicans want to listen to a fascist-cum-racist-cum-misogynist***.  I thought those people were heard in the 1930s and responded to in the 1940s in a rather decisive manner.

But nope.  The Republican club advertised McInnes as follows:

Banned from Twitter - this Godfather of the Hipster Movement has taken on and exposed the Deep State Socialists and stood up for Western Values. Join us for an unforgettable evening with one of Liberty’s Loudest Voices!

One of "Liberty's Loudest Voices?"  If you read my earlier blog posts on McInnes and Proud Boys, you know that the last thing he is about is liberty for women and/or minorities.  And Twitter banned the Proud Boys for being a violent extremist group.

In any case, McInnes' misogynistic views would fit right into the rules of ISIS, so there's nothing Western about them.


*  It's not hilarious in the ordinary sense of the word, of course.  It's dismal and frightening and very wrong that fascism is once again rearing its ugly head.  But the whole mess has a moonless night bitter humor about it.  The Proud Boys preach violence and male-and-white superiority, and the opposition responds with violence.

**  Another juicy quote about feminism from one of Liberty's Loudest Voices:

“I think a lot of us sort of tried it, too. When we were in college we go, ‘Oh, ok— you take the reigns,’” he said, noting that he dabbled in actual feminism (he still insists that he’s a feminist). “And then realizing that not only is it not correct that men suck, but I don’t think that the people saying it really even believe it themselves. I think they want to be dominated. I think that’s why Game of Thrones is so popular, because deep down they love ‘Winter is Coming’ and men with giant swords.” (In 2013, McInnes wrote about his own sexual reeducation: “I learned they want to be downright abused. When I stopped playing nice and began totally defiling the women I slept with, the number of them willing to sleep with me went through the roof.”)
***  It's worth noting that Proud Boys accept — and have — men of color as members but they do not accept women.   I still think they are racists, too.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

How I Miss the Era of Hypocrisy!

I have come to miss the era when Western politicians gave lip service to  human rights concerns.  Trump believes that human rights apply to him alone, and the rest of the world is rapidly finding the same rising tide of all sorts of bigotries: nationalist, sexist, racist and religionist.

Democracy, my dears, is in deep peril*.  It never was that perfect, what with power and money being the most addicting (il)legal drugs of all,  but at least in some countries the use of that greedy power was disguised to appeal to certain fairly commonly accepted social norms.  This is less common today.

Thus, we see tweets like this one, about the murder of a Saudi journalist (who had permanent residency rights in the US) inside the Saudi embassy in Turkey:

It's as if Jeffrey Dahmer was appointed to the team investigating his horrible crimes!  But only wet-paperbag idealists see anything wrong with that.   And, as Trump has explicitly noted, the Saudis are too important trading partners for the US to punish in any way.

But then the Saudis are our Best Friends Forever**, despite the powerful Saudi clerics' views on women's rights (nonexistent, pretty much), and the way petro-dollars are disseminating those views in many other countries.


*  Both because in the US (and certainly also elsewhere) voting  is suppressed, certain groups are disenfranchised on purpose and the voting results are often impossible to properly verify, but also because far too many voters are uninformed and tend to "vote the bums out" or want change for the sake of change, even when the new rulers will be every bit as corrupt and greedy.

**  This is not about the Saudi people.  The ones I have met have all been wonderful warm people with good values.  It's about the Saudi state and the form of extreme religion they uphold.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Lock Her Up!

A chant frequently heard at Trump's never-ending campaign-cum-victory rallies.  Initially the "she" to be locked up was Hillary Clinton*.  Clinton is still a popular target for the chant, but recently it was also applied to Senator Dianne Feinstein and might have been applied to Christine Blasey Ford who accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.

So many crooked women who need locking up...

It has even spread to Canada, where the supporters of the right-wing populist, Doug Ford, for the premiership of Ontario, used "lock her up" about his female rival.

I Googled "lock him up," and found only the predicted response to the above chant against Hillary Clinton, where the resistance demands that Trump be locked up.  Thus, it doesn't seem to be the case that male politicians are routinely greeted with a chant of this type.

This makes me wonder if it's being an uppity female which needs stern punishment in the conservative minds.


* Note that she has not been charged for any crime. 

Monday, October 08, 2018

Too Extreme And Too Dangerous To Govern

 The blood in my veins ran ice-cold when I read about the campaign rally our sitting (yes, sitting!) president gave the other night.  He is always campaigning, sigh.

And that is NOT what presidents are supposed to do.  Still, he cannot survive without adulation or worshipers, and that's what those campaign rallies are.  Organized ass-licking in both senses of the word.

But they are also rallies in hate speech.  It's not too strong a term to use when the president of this country no longer even pretends to be the president of all Americans, but just a war-leader or cheerleader for the Republican Party and, in particular, its Alt Right segment.

David Neiwert makes the point which troubles me greatly.  I recommend his whole Twitter thread, but especially these two tweets:


It's not normal to have a president who is incompetent, ignorant, rude and outright sadistic.  It's not normal to have a president who spends a quarter of his time in office on golf courses and much of the rest of it either doing campaign rallies  (rah, rah!  Lock her up*!)  or scribbling vicious tweets to all and sundry, including to fairly ordinary and powerless people who happen to have angered him.  It's not normal to have a president who  takes advice from Fox News.  It's not normal to have a president who lies All.The.Time.

And it's not normal for the media to judge some Trump event a success if he didn't drop his pants to moon the audience.

I shouted the above two lines about what is not normal and what must not be normalized, because I am frustrated by our (and my own) inability not to start accepting the current state of affairs as the new-normal, where normal means that all conventions have been turned upside down, where normal means that a stubborn and selfish  (mental) child president just decides which rules and laws he will follow and which he will ignore,  and nobody can do anything about it, and where normal also means that behind the curtain the Republicans are rapidly dismantling the welfare state, democracy and most of the government (with the exception of the military). 

This should be particularly abnormal and acceptable, given that the current administration didn't win most of the votes, but acts as if it has complete justification to do what the fuck it wants.  And often it wants to stick it to the majority that didn't vote for Trump.  Indeed, the Trump acolytes love that sadism and appear to want to see Democrats suffer, even if they themselves end up suffering more.

That is not healthy for the country.  It's an illness which incubated in the right-wing political radio shows and then showed its first symptoms when Fox News was created.  It's now a raging fever made hotter and hotter by and other Alt Right organizations, and among its major symptoms is the belief that Democrats and the left are the true enemy of America, a far bigger and more dangerous enemy than any outside threat.  Note how this (and Trump's statement above) means that around half of the citizens of this country are not regarded as true Americans.

There is no cure in immediate sight.  If anything, the same illness, causing the objectification and hatred of "the other side" is showing symptoms on the left, too**.

But there are things we can do.  The most obvious one is to vote in November, and the next most obvious one is to be politically engaged in other useful ways. If you feel up to it, it might include trying to reach out to those conservatives who are not motivated by pure hatred and, perhaps, trying to find some common ground with them outside politics.***  


*  It's unclear if the acolytes still want to see Hillary Clinton (and probably all uppity women) in prison or if the latest round of yelling was about Christine Blasey Ford.

**  By saying that I am not engaging in some both-sides-do-it argument, common in the mainstream media.  No, the American right started the process, and when the nonstop conservative hate speech worked in both radio and television, the average Republicans' views began to creep rightward.  Indeed, the National Review, a very conservative political journal is now seen by many Republicans as not sufficiently conservative!

But after a few decades of the hateful propaganda, the responses from our side of the political aisle began taking similar shapes.  It's hard to see what other form those responses can now take, true, given that no compromises are acceptable to the kinds of Republicans the hate propaganda has created.

Still, the situation is truly lamentable, like an unhappily married couple kicking, punching, clawing, biting and hating each other while chained together somewhere where divorce does not exist.

As an aside, this is one of the reasons for the convention of comity in politics.  Yes, it can be idiotic pretense politeness, but its real intention was to force politicians to remember that when they interact with their political opponents they are dealing with human beings whom they disagree with and who might seem to them to be very flawed, but they are not dealing with vicious monsters from the deepest hell.

***  As one silly example, I noticed that several avid Trump acolytes on Facebook also spend time rescuing dogs and cats and so on.  So we might share some values.

And yes, I know that this suggestion will not get a lot of positive feedback.  I don't expect anyone to try to befriend the Stephen Millers of this world or the fascists, racists or sexists among the conservatives, just some more ordinary conservatives.

The alternatives to finding some common ground are not palatable in the longer run (secession?  political violence?).   But I admit that the chances of success in trying to find the humanity in each other across the aisle could be slim, and the thanks for that go to Alex Jones,, Rush Limbaugh and other insistent purveyors of objectifying hate speech.


Saturday, October 06, 2018

A Rant On Kavanaugh And Other Pertinent Issues

(This post is a rant.  If you come here for careful analysis (my usual metier), it can be safely skipped.)

Mr. Shouty McShoutyface (Brett Kavanaugh) is now going to be a (Republican accessory) Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States, helping to put the bitches back in the kitchen, the gays back in the closet,  and the money back into the pockets of capitalists.

Aren't you relieved that we narrowly avoided the horrible catastrophe of having that  Crooked Woman™ with her email scandals run this country?  With her paid speeches to Wall Street billionaires, too!  And she acted so entitled!  Not like our Brett at all.

Thank God for Donald Trump, the second coming of Christ (or so it seems, based on some things I have read on the Christianist sites).  He expressed the proper manly concern about how horribly Kavanaugh has been treated.

Is that clear to you now?  It's our Dear Leader speaking, and he, if anybody, knows all about sexual assault accusations.  All the ones against him are false (1), naturally, and fake news.  Because when you are a star they let you do anything to them, grab them by the pussy and more.

But yes, it is a scary time for all those young men who now have to worry about what might happen when they go out with a woman.  Does that sound eerily familiar to any of you, my smart and erudite readers?

And another interesting message from our Dear Leader:

Would it then follow, I wonder, that "a tremendous number of men in this country are extremely sad?  Because they are thinking of their daughters, they're thinking of their wives and their sisters, their aunts, and others?"

Nah.  He means that the sluts lied about Kavanaugh and cannot be trusted anyway.


The Republicans now control all the previously (2) separate three branches of the federal government (first spelled that coverment, as in "cover for getting all the money"), so they and Trump will get their way on everything, at least until the midterms.  

Speaking of Republicans, I adored the statement Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) made about the reasons for the dearth of Republican women in the Committee:

Chuckie is sooo smart!  Of course all us girls want to lie back on velvet cushions, eat bonbons all day and then go out to the mall with hubby's credit card.  Of course!

That's, by the way, one of the recurring themes on meninist sites: Either women are fat, lazy bitches staying at home while spending the hard-working man's money OR they are out there, in the labor force, even though they are incompetent, stealing the jobs rightfully belonging to the MRA guys.

But no, Grassley didn't mean that.  He's probably too old to spend time on those hate sites (3).  He just has never had to bother his pretty (?) head about the reasons why there are so few female Republican politicians in power.  So he blurted out the first excuse he could think of:  The little ladies don't want to get their hands dirty or their nail varnish chipped.

Then he walked it all back, of course, what with the need to have at least a few white women still voting for his party.  You gotta respect women, even if you don't think they are quite as good as men.


(1)  I am not making fun of those who have been falsely accused of some sexual crime.  That is a horrible and devastating event.  Probably almost as devastating as having been, say, raped, going to the police,  and then finding out that many people don't  believe the rape happened, and that some of those disbelievers will harass the victim, call her a slut or a whore, accuse her of ruining the life of some upstanding man, and try to chase her out of the town.

In other words, it's important to keep in mind that false accusations of rape, say, while quite devastating, are rare while sexual violence is not that rare.  Times have always been scary for those who are most likely to become its victims, but Trump is not concerned about that.

(2)  Because the judicial branch is now part of the legislative branch.  Activist judges are the new black, because they are now Republicans, and it's OKIYAR.

(3)  And not only the weird manosphere sites.  If you look up the definitions of feminism or feminist in Urban Dictionary, you will find that every single one of them has been written by a misogynist.  Here, for example, is the definition of a male feminists.  It comes directly from the meninist doctrine (do read the example conversation!):

Most often, the males who vociferously support feminism fall under the beta positive or beta negative category within the male social hierarchy. They usually patronize the feminist ideology simply to elevate their status in women's eyes, even though stridently feminist men are almost always found explicitly on the internet (similar to the "white knight"). Regardless of the numerous hypocrisies and double-standards endorsed by most sources of feminism, the male feminist will leap to his armchair, a dedicated keyboard warrior, to defend women against the horrible "profanations" and "vulgarities" people make towards the delicate and faint-hearted damsel in distress.
Person: "Women are clearly less intelligent than men."
Male feminist: "Bro, you're just a sexist douchebag. Lmao, like, go back to the 17th century."
Person: "But under today's equal opportunity, men still dominate every scientific and political field in the entire world."
Male Feminist: "HAHA wow - hey women, not all guys are like this. I'm a man, and I can assure you that not all men are sexist. P-please validate my pathetic existence.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Dig! But Not Where The Bodies Might Be Buried.

That's my interpretation of FBI's Kavanaugh review.  Trump asked the White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II to let the FBI investigate anything they want.  Not so fast, responded McGahn:

Mr. McGahn, according to people familiar with the conversation, told the president that even though the White House was facing a storm of condemnation for limiting the F.B.I. background check into sexual misconduct allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, a wide-ranging inquiry like some Democrats were demanding — and Mr. Trump was suggesting — would be potentially disastrous for Judge Kavanaugh’s chances of confirmation to the Supreme Court.
It would also go far beyond the F.B.I.’s usual “supplemental background investigation,” which is, by definition, narrow in scope.
This is all popcorn-worthy.  So is the interesting and novel question about the integrity of the current Supreme Court.  

I guess if being cut from a whole cloth is integrity, then we have it.   But on the whole  (heh) the judicial branch is today merging with the executive branch.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Three Further Echidne Thoughts on the Kavanaugh Debacle

1.  Mark Twain is supposed to have apologized for a long letter by saying that he didn't have the time to make it short.  That's something I can identify with.  My series about the Kavanaugh hearings, with a focus on getting back to basics, is growing longer and longer, because my thoughts about the basics are still unripe.

But the true message of the first two posts in that series might be this:

Republicans want women to have only procreative sex, while men should have access to any amount of recreational sex they may desire.
The planned restrictions on abortions and even contraception are intended to satisfy the theocratic fraction in the Republican base, and that fraction wants to make it very hard for women to have equal opportunity.  Not to be able to control one's fertility is a necessary for women's second class status.

But the side-effect of that goal is to make recreational heterosexual intercourse less available for men, too, because restrictions on abortions and contraception* will make intercourse much more expensive for women, and it takes two for that particular kind of tango.

None of this is visible in the current Kavanaugh debates, except indirectly, in the arguments that "boys will be boys" and so on.  It is, however, visible in the wider debate about abortion, extramarital sex and so on.

2.  Matt Lewis, a CNN commentator, made a statement which many others have made.  It's about the presumption of innocence and due process and so on.  Here's Lewis:

Brett Kavanaugh is being tried in the court of public opinion right now. His political future hangs in the balance, and I do think that we have these two competing values right now. Either you believe the women or you believe in the presumption of innocence. You really can't do both. I think it's mutually exclusive. And I do -- and by the way, I think that most of the time women are telling the truth. But not always. There are cases like the Duke lacrosse case, there‘s several examples where people do lie. I fear that we are headed in a direction where, if you've got a big TV show coming out next week, or a book's about to drop, or you're about to get elected to something --
LEWIS: -- anybody could lodge a charge against you. And if we just assume that you're guilty, that could torpedo your chances. I don't think we want to live in a country like that either.
First, the court of public opinions is not the kind of court in which the concepts of "due process" and the "presumption of innocence" are defined.  The court of public opinions crucified Hillary Clinton over a period of three decades, for instance.  It's not an objective court for anyone.

Second, Kavanaugh is applying for a job from which it's almost impossible for him to get fired, and in that job he has tremendous powers of affecting the lives of all Americans, including women.  It's relevant to examine his history, to find out what his biases might be.  Indeed, I would argue that we want the most ethical and unbiased people on the Supreme Court.

Third,  if we take Lewis seriously in his argument that you either believe "the women or you believe in the presumption of innocence," then someone will always be sentenced in that court of opinions.  Those who believe Blasey Ford and the other accusers think that Kavanaugh is guilty.  Those who believe that he is innocent think that Blasey Ford is making a false accusation.  So she is then found guilty in the court of public opinions.**

I have always interpreted the plea "to believe the survivors" as meaning that the statements of women who come forward must be listened to carefully and taken seriously.  Those whose job it is to hear them should not have prior biases against all women and should not behave disrespectfully or prejudge the cases. This has not always been the case among the police or the prosecutors, and that's what needs to change.

Fourth, it's awkward, for the purposes of this discussion, that people  judge Kavanaugh's guilt or innocence at least partly on the basis of party politics.  This means that it's the Republicans (who don't want women to have reproductive choice in the first place) who keep bringing up the concept of false rape accusations, the way Bret Stephens does in his New York Times column today:

A few moments have crystallized my view over the past few days.
The first moment was a remark by a friend. “I’d rather be accused of murder,” he said, “than of sexual assault.” I feel the same way. One can think of excuses for killing a man; none for assaulting a woman. But if that’s true, so is this: Falsely accusing a person of sexual assault is nearly as despicable as sexual assault itself. It inflicts psychic, familial, reputational and professional harms that can last a lifetime. This is nothing to sneer at.
The second moment, connected to the first: “Boo hoo hoo. Brett Kavanaugh is not a victim.” That’s the title of a column in the Los Angeles Times, which suggests that the possibility of Kavanaugh’s innocence is “infinitesimal.” Yet false allegations of rape, while relatively rare, are at least five times as common as false accusations of other types of crime, according to academic literature.

Since when did the possibility of innocence become, for today’s liberals, something to wave off with an archly unfeeling “boo hoo”?

So.  The study Stephens links to finds the prevalence of false rape accusations to be 5%, based on the assessments of police officers***.  That's pretty rare, and it's a statistical average from one study.

But in the Kavanaugh case more than one woman has come forward to accuse him of sexual violence or sexually improper behavior.  What is the probability that all those accusations are simultaneously false?

3.  That angry Kavanaugh face we saw in the Judiciary Committee hearings is the face of the next Supreme Court Justice.  Will Kavanaugh be unbiased on the bench or will he take his revenge out on all American women?  My impression is that Clarence Thomas did just that.

*  See my second post in the series for more evidence that an anti-contraception future might be in the offing for poor women dependent on Title X programs.

**  And this is a major reason why women who have been raped don't come forward.  In the worst cases coming forward amounts to yet another rape:  of one's reputation.

***  The study includes in the false allegations all cases where the accuser retracted her or his accusation.  But those may not always be actual cases of false allegations.  This is an example of a case in which a woman retracted a rape claim but when the (serial) rapist who raped her was finally caught after another rape, he was found to have a video of raping the woman whose claim was retracted.  In other words, claims may be retracted for reasons other than that they actually were false.


Wednesday, October 03, 2018

And What Else is The Trump Administration Up To? On the Environment, Immigration And Contraception

The focus on Brett Kavanaugh is understandable in current American politics, because he is a biased* political Republican activist and would use his position in the Supreme Court to serve only the purposes of the Republican Party.  All this is hilarious (or would be if we were watching it from some other planet where Trump&co don't matter, except as entertainment), because it's the Republicans who have always been preaching against "activist judges."  But now it's just such an activist judge they are trying to force-feed to the country.

Still, it's worth our while to learn what other damage the little busy termites in the Trump administration are achieving while we are all watching the Kavanaugh show:

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

On the Kavanaugh Nomination And Women's Reproductive Rights. Or Back to the Basics. Post Two.

(The first post in this series  can be found here.  This second post is about the reactions from right-wing religious leaders to the sexual violence or harassment allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, Trump's most recent nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States.)

What The Godly Men Say

What the godly leaders of right-wing Christianists say  about the allegations against Kavanaugh is fascinating when we remember that these statements come from men who view themselves as the leaders of godly people, of god's people.  They represent the people of light and goodness, while others are viewed as the people of darkness and evil.

Here's Franklin Graham, the son of the famous preacher Billy Graham, on why Kavanaugh is not guilty of anything "relevant:"

Well there wasn't a crime that was committed.  These are two teenagers and it's obvious that she said no and he respected it and walked away--if that's the case but he says he didn't do it.  He just flat out says that's just not true.  Regardless if it was true, these are two teenagers and she said no and he respected that so I don't know what the issue is. This is just an attempt to smear his name, that's all.
Notice something interesting about that quote?  Graham hadn't even properly read Blasey Ford's statement!  According to her she managed to escape from the room when Mark Judge, the other boy in the room, jumped on top of Kavanaugh (who was lying on top of Blasey Ford, holding her down), and the pile came apart.  Kavanaugh was never described as having asked for consent or as showing any signs of respect.

That Graham hadn't bothered to learn what Blasey Ford said had happened tells me so much!  What the wimminz say really does not matter to the Evangelical patriarchs.  In any case, it's much more important to get another forced-birth-and-no-gay-sex Justice on the bench. (1)

Another right-wing Christian leader argues that a rape is not a rape if the victim doesn't scream and shout for help:

Rape is having sex with a woman while she screams for help. No scream, no rape according to Deuteronomy 22:23-24. [Christine Blasey] Ford says Kavanaugh held his hand over her mouth so did she scream for help when his hand was elsewhere? After all, it was in a bedroom of a house; surely, one of the other 4 teens could have heard him scream when she bit his hand. Did she bite his hand? Poke him in the eye? Women know instinctively how to protect their honor: screaming, shouting, slapping, spitting, slugging, and stabbing with a finger, pencil, or hat pin. Since she did not cry out or stab him, I will not believe her without a film of the event.”
Bolds are mine.

The argument that a rape accusation cannot ever be verified if the victim didn't scream or fight back very hard is not an unusual one.  It used to be written into the laws of many countries, and still might be the law in some places.

That those who tried to scream and fight back might then have ended in murder statistics (most likely as victims) is not something the above writer worries about.  But then he thinks women have hat pins at the ready in case they need to poke rapists in the eye!

I love the idea that "women know instinctively" how to protect their honor, especially when most cultures discourage girls from learning how to physically fight, but also because this way of thinking comes quite close to "legitimate" rape (2) and the conservative view that only certain kinds of rapes are real:

The victim must be a young virgin, on her way to church, modestly dressed, and the attacker must not be known to her at all.  Even then she probably should have the hat pin ready for stabbing, and it helps if she lost a limb or two in the attack.

So.  Not all Evangelical leaders are quite this outspoken about the irrelevancy of the allegations against Kavanaugh.  Many argued, before last week's Judicial Committee hearings, that both sides must be heard.  But the majority of the right-wing Christianist leaders are willing to pay handball with the demons if that gets an anti-abortion and anti-gay majority on the bench.

The background for all this can be found in the general attitudes about sexuality and about women's rights in the right-wing religious sects (3):

Sandi Villarreal, a former rape crisis advocate while at a Southern Baptist university, told the Fix that some evangelical leaders reject stories such as Ford’s because they disrupt their entire worldview about gender.
“These men tend to brush off the youthful ‘indiscretions’ — of boys,” Villareal said, “Young women, on the other hand, are held responsible for causing boys to stumble or tempting them into sin by the way they dress, how and whether they flirt, really, by virtue of being a woman.”

And, in the context of the #MeToo movement among the Southern Baptists (4):

Within evangelical culture, as I’ve written previously, the idea that women are “supposed” to be the gatekeepers of male sexuality, that male sexual urges are inherently uncontrollable, and the idea that forgiveness is automatically “owed” to any alleged abuser, converge to create a climate in which allegations of sexual harassment and abuse tend to be seen as minor or, at least, forgivable.

Certainly, the evangelical community is already redeeming its own people accused of sexual misconduct during the #MeToo movement. Earlier this month, former Southern Baptist Convention president Paige Patterson — who left his position as president of the Southwestern Baptist Seminary in disgrace after accusations of sexism — returned to public ministry with a pair of sermons that denigrated the #MeToo movement and focused on the problem of false rape allegations.
Patterson chose as one of his first sermons on his return the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife, i.e., a story about a false rape allegation.  Given that false rape allegations are much, much rarer than those true rape allegations which never result in any kind of sentence to the perpetrator, Patterson's choice tells where his priorities lie. (5)

Forty-eight percent of white evangelical respondents in a recent poll would have Kavanaugh on the bench even if Blasey Ford's allegations were proven to be true.  That's not too surprising, given that the support of white evangelicals for Judge Roy Moore was not affected by the allegations that he, as a younger man, had stalked and groomed (vulnerable) young girls for sex.

None of this is to argue that many white evangelicals wouldn't fervently believe that abortion is murder and that stopping murder matters much more than stopping sexual violence or rape.  But if the Bible is supposed to be their guide in all this it's worth noting that abortion is not mentioned in that book while rape is (6).

Whatever the overall motivations of the above quoted leaders might be, I cannot help concluding that an important motive for them is the defense of the patriarchal power hierarchies among their communities.  Their fight against abortions and their acceptance of sexual harassment and violence neatly fit into the same scenario if that is what motivates them.


(1)   Just think of the fact that over eighty percent of white Evangelicals voted for a pussy-grabbing president over a (gasp!) woman.  They probably would vote for Devil himself if that would achieve the end of all reproductive choice for women.  (This is the women-as-vessels-and-subjugated-handmaids view in conservative Christianity).

(2)   Todd Akin, a Republican representative from Missouri then,  made that argument in 2012 when he was asked whether abortion should be allowed in the case of rape:
“It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.
And the woman instinctively knows how to fight off a rapist without herself getting killed or seriously hurt...

(3)  If you have read my earlier post in this series, you may have spotted that this is the religious version of the sexual ice-hockey game.  It's common not  only in right-wing Christianity but also in conservative Islam.  And probably in other patriarchal religions.

(4)  More can be found in part 5 of this post.

(5)  As an aside, a woman was recently sentenced to two years in prison for allegedly "spreading false news" in Egypt:

An Egyptian woman who made a video alleging sexual harassment has been given two years in prison and a fine on charges of “spreading false news”.
Amal Fathy, an actor and a former activist, uploaded a video to her Facebook account in May detailing how she was sexually harassed during a visit to her bank and criticising the government’s failure to protect women.
Two days after the post, Egyptian security forces entered her home in a pre-dawn raid and arrested her along with her husband and young son, both of whom were later released.
Fathy was subsequently put on trial accused of spreading false news with intent to harm the Egyptian state and possessing “indecent material”. She was sentenced to one year in prison for each charge, and given a fine of 10,000 Egyptian pounds (£430) for making “public insults”.
 In another case a Lebanese tourist visiting Egypt was also sentenced for a similar offense:

Mona el-Mazbouh, a Lebanese tourist who recorded a comparable video during her stay in Egypt, was arrested at Cairo airport and sentenced to eight years in prison in July, accused of “spreading false rumours that would harm society, attacking religion and public indecency”.
Her sentence was later reduced to one year and then suspended, before she was deported to Lebanon in September.

This is how accusations of sexual harassment might be treated in a deeply religious patriarchal society, and right-wing Christianists certainly have such societies as their goal.  The silence of victims is a central part of that plan.

(6) From the standpoint of men in a nomadic herding community a long time ago.  But at least it's mentioned as something deplorable.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

My Impressions on Kavanaugh's Answers In Today's Judiciary Committee Hearings

1.  Shouty McShoutyface. 

That was my first impression on Brett Kavanaugh's performance in today's Senate Judiciary Committee hearings:

Had Kavanaugh's first name been Brenda, say, that behavior would have been interpreted as evidence that women are too emotional* to serve on courts.  But it will serve Brett well among the Republican base.  Trump loved it, I hear, and probably so did all the Breitbart-readers.

I, on the other hand wonder if someone that angry could ever evaluate cases having to do with sexual violence, say, with the kind of neutrality and objectivity we ideally would wish to see in Supreme Court Justices. — How has Clarence Thomas decided on cases having to do with women's rights?

Or perhaps Kavanaugh is supposed to represent a particular political faction on the court?   Such as capitalists and fratboys and the fundie patriarchs?   He comes across as a very political operative.

2.  Why did the Republicans questioning Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh hire a female prosecutor as "an assistant?"  Or as an apron, but only for the first part of the cooking show. 

It's because eleven Republican men questioning, probing and doubting Blasey Ford's testimony would look a little bit weird, even perhaps to Republican women.  As if only their men are to decide which claims are credible.

But then if Kavanaugh gets the SCOTUS job, he will be the swing vote to decide on the proper use of women's wombs in a majority decision made out of all men.  Besides,  there are too few women among the powerful Republicans, what with the American Taliban values the party celebrates.

That none of this much matters is an interesting sign of these supposedly #MeToo times.

3.  Whose pain matters?   Kavanaugh expressed great anger at the way he and his family have been treated, suggesting that the questions about his past have destroyed his family.

And that is horrible.  But Blasey Ford's family hasn't exactly been paraded around on rose floats, either.  She has faced death threats and had to move, and I'm fairly certain that coming forward is not going to improve her life or her career.

My intention is not to belittle the pain Kavanaugh and his family have probably felt, but to point out that the families of people accused of all types of crimes feel similar pain, both when the accused persons are found guilty and when they are not, and that victims of sexual violence coming forward to tell their stories face largely negative consequences from doing so.

This has changed  a little because of the #MeToo era, but anyone accusing a famous person will face insinuations about the reports being false and will have her whole life turned over.  And for what?

Perhaps so that others can have justice?  Is this where these particular hearings are heading?  And who is it who is going to get justice?  Is Kavanaugh entitled to a seat on the SCOTUS bench, for example?

I have written very little* about the pain many survivors of sexual violence are experiencing while following the Kavanaugh debates.

Sexual violence can destroy the families of the victims.  It can destroy their dreams about future, their professional careers,  their mental health and their ability to create loving sexual relationships later in life.

But it is my impression that many still worry more about destroying the future lives of those falsely accused of sexual violence than about destroying the future lives of those sexual violence victims who get no justice and are not believed.

4.  The Renate Alumni.

This is a reference to Brett Kavanaugh's high school yearbook page.  He was listed as a "Renate Alumnius:"

The word “Renate” appears at least 14 times in Georgetown Preparatory School’s 1983 yearbook, on individuals’ pages and in a group photo of nine football players, including Judge Kavanaugh, who were described as the “Renate Alumni.” It is a reference to Renate Schroeder, then a student at a nearby Catholic girls’ school.
Two of Judge Kavanaugh’s classmates say the mentions of Renate were part of the football players’ unsubstantiated boasting about their conquests.

“They were very disrespectful, at least verbally, with Renate,” said Sean Hagan, a Georgetown Prep student at the time, referring to Judge Kavanaugh and his teammates. “I can’t express how disgusted I am with them, then and now.”
Any woman knows that the above is slut-shaming.  It doesn't matter for that purpose whether the girl mentioned even knew any of the boys who participated in it.

Slut-shaming is not just a sadistic thing that some immature minds find deliciously funny.  It's also a form of bonding** among the small group of boys who participated in it, and a way to destroy a young girl's reputation. 

It's also another sign of the conservative ideology about sex***: Men are supposed to be on the offense in this ice-hockey game, while women are supposed to be the goalies.

A goalkeeper who repeatedly fails has awarded a giant victory to the boys, and that victory is worth crowing about.  Which is what these boys did.

And at least as as young teenager, Kavanaugh bought into that traditional sexual ideology.  This does not bode well on how he might rule on topics which have to do with women's rights.

Well, that is my take on the Renate Alumni.  But Kavanaugh argued differently in the hearings today:

One thing in particular we’re sad about: one of our good — one of our good female friends who we would admire and went to dances with had her names used on the yearbook page with the term “alumnus.” That yearbook reference was clumsily intended to show affection, and that she was one of us. But in this circus, the media’s interpreted the term is related to sex. It was not related to sex. As the woman herself noted to the media on the record, she and I never had any six — sexual interaction of — at all. I’m so sorry to her for that yearbook reference. This may sound a bit trivial, given all that we are here for, but one thing I want to try to make sure — sure of in the future is my friendship with her. She was and is a great person.
On the other hand, the New York Times tells us something different:

Michael Walsh, another Georgetown Prep alumnus, also listed himself on his personal yearbook page as a “Renate Alumnus.” Alongside some song lyrics, he included a short poem: “You need a date / and it’s getting late / so don’t hesitate / to call Renate.”
So the yearbook reference was clumsily intended to show affection, that "she was one of us?"  I very much doubt that.  She was slut-shamed, and Kavanaugh is not telling the truth here.

And the woman in question seems to agree with me, as she withdrew her support for Kavanaugh's nomination after finding out about the yearbook.


*  The reason is twofold:  First, there are many, many people already doing the necessary writing.  Thus, and second, what I could offer in that area would just be replicating the efforts of others. My comparative advantage is in more analytical writings about the topic.  But yes, my jaw hurts from all the clinching I have practiced in the recent past and memories sometimes overtake me and bring pain back.

** That male bonding aspect is relevant in much of the bad sexual behavior of some young men (such as street harassment of a woman by a small group of men).  It may even be an aspect of gang rapes, where the role of the rape victim is not that different from the role of a spittoon, though she might be treated with less care.

*** Much more on that can be found in part 2 of my earlier post.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Meanwhile, in Alaska, A Travesty of Justice

The contents of this post include sexual violence.


This is what happened in Alaska in 2017: 

A woman was looking for a ride at a gas station.  A man offered her one, but did not drive her to her destination.  Instead, he told her that he needed to pick up something first, drove the car to a dead-end street in a residential area, and asked her step out of the car while he was loading something in the back.

He then pushed her to the ground, told her that he was going to kill her and then strangled her with both hands.  She lost consciousness.

When she regained consciousness, she found that he had ejaculated on her.  According to the detective in the case:

"The man told her that he wasn't really going to kill her, that he needed her to believe she was going to die so that he could be sexually fulfilled,"

This is what happened in Alaska in 2018:

The above case came to court:

Thursday, September 20, 2018

On the Kavanaugh Nomination And Women's Reproductive Rights. Or Back to the Basics. Post One.

Over the last week I have started several posts on the Kavanaugh hearings and the various political reactions to the allegations that he sexually assaulted a fifteen-year-old girl when he himself was seventeen and a student at an all-male private school.

I didn't manage to complete any of those posts in one day (because of my still-frail health), but by the next day(s) so much new shit (1) would hit the online fans around this topic that a new post seemed faster than attempting to patch and darn the changes into the earlier draft.  Rinse and repeat. 

For these reasons I am going to do two fundamentals-posts on this topic: This first post begins by taking a few steps back, so as to achieve a wider view on the meaning of Kavanaugh's appointment and the allegations against him.  The second post will zoom in on certain details about the treatment of Kavanaugh's accuser.

Let's begin*.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Why Does My Pesto No Longer Love me? A Culinary Call For Help.

This flu is unusually severe.  Get your vaccinations this year if you have not in the past.  Or get the flu and  feel like something that's drawn through the wood chipper, repeatedly.

I'm slowly creating an actual post in my head, in the few available tiny spaces between the giant snot deposits.  But in the meantime, I have a culinary question for you:

What makes pesto taste worse than Trump's ideas?

I have made pesto for years, from all kinds of nuts and all kinds of herbs.  Some combinations are tastier than others, but all of them have been acceptable.  Except recently.

Five times I have had to throw large amounts of pesto down the sewer because of an extremely strong metallic (or bitter) aftertaste it gives*.  Changing the olive oil has not helped, guaranteeing the freshness of the herbs and the nuts has not helped.

So I suspect the garlic.  I am bigoted toward recent garlic.  In the olden days it was easy to peel, but now it takes me hours to peel enough cloves.  And the cloves seem often to be miniature cloves inside something that initially looks like a normal-sized clove.

Is it the garlic?  Or something else?


*  I first tried doctoring it with more cheese or more herbs and so on.  Nothing made it edible.  And it's not the cheese that's at fault, because after the first mishap I tasted the mixture before cheese was added.

And the taste is there.  I don't quite know if it is bitter or metallic or salty.  It's a little of all those things, but whatever it is, the message to my taste buds is negative. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Trump Show. What's Happening Behind the Curtain?

I know that I'm back in Murka when this is how Our Dear Leader behaves en route to the Flight 93 September 11 Memorial Service in Shanksville, PA:

In a sinister way that is reassuring:  He hasn't developed any significant behavioral changes in the last few weeks.  He's still without any empathy or social intelligence...

And what are the wizards behind the curtain doing while we watch The Trump Show?

1.  Well, Betsy DeVos is fixing the problems in how colleges handle allegations of sexual misconduct:

Sunday, September 09, 2018

I Am Back, Partly

From my traditional summer trip.  It's not a vacation, but, nevertheless, a change, and it usually refills my writing reservoirs. 

This time, however, I had a long layover during which I was allowed the enervating experience of watching someone hack and hork their lungs out.  I sent a few quick messages to mount Olympus, asking the other deities to make sure that this particular passenger would be sent off in some other plane, to some other reality.

But Zeus, that goat-fucker, intercepted the message, and because he hates my guts (me belonging to the half-monster-type deities* with sharp, divided tongues), he seated that particular consumptive patient right behind me, in the same plane.

And so I'm only partly back, in a state of infirmity and fuzzy thinking.  That thinking suggests that I did, after all, have something to declare:  An infectious cough.

* And no, Zeus certainly is not a sexist!  Just like Kavanaugh, he was born out of a female creature and just like Kavanaugh, he has daughters.  And so on.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Snakes And Stuff

I found this old embroidery while looking for something else.  It's supposed to be a fallen angel and an experiment in different kinds of embroidery stitches.

Apologies for the poor quality of the photo.

And here's a snake applique.  I have made a lot of them, for some weird reason.


Like this one:

The above two are humongous in size, but I have several small ones, too.

This one I use as my gravatar in social media:

Monday, September 03, 2018

The Benefits of Gender Integration At Work

Last March I wrote about a study which demonstrates the benefits of gender integration at work:  It reduces sexist prejudices and increases equality between men and women.

If that is true, then the opposite might also be true:  Gender segregation allows those types of prejudices to thrive.  From that angle the sexism in the tech industry would not be exactly unexpected, because women are a small minority in the field.

Friday, August 31, 2018

A Finnish Poetry Hour. With Music

First this one.  It's a poem by Kaarlo Sarkia and particularly important for everyone who feels gloomy and hopeless.

Then this one.  It's a poem by Marja-Leena Mikkola, about a dancing bear, life, art and love. Especially about love.

Both are set to music and I provide rough translations for both poems.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Heart And Mind Of The Republican Party, Revisited.

Earlier I wrote a piece about how I see the Republican Party.  It's not based on research but on my own experiences and the opinions those inform.

I recently read that post again and still agree with most of it, except that the problems of the Trump base are putting several of the more traditional type free-market (free-money-for-some) Republican politicians in a real bind, and the same applies to the dilemma of how to accommodate (or not) the increasingly more explicit racism and sexism of the party's new base and of some inside the Trump administration.

Some Republican politicians appear to have made the Faustian bargain.  Paul Ryan might be one of those.*  What he and other free-market Republicans get from Trump is so good** that they are willing to wear blinders and ignore all the Trumpian outrages, Trump's penchant for dictatorship and his groveling adulation of one Vladimir Putin.

I cannot predict how the internal power struggles inside the Republican Party will develop.  But its extreme right wing fringe is currently dragging the party even further to the right, and the impact of such "thinkers" as Stephen Miller inside the Trump administration means that white supremacists/misogynists are emboldened in general.

* Though he is retiring, in order to spend more time with his teenage children.  Right.  He  is probably retiring because he calculates that Trump, like Humpty-Dumpty, is going to have a great fall, and all the Republican congresscritters cannot put him back together again.  This means that Ryan must wait out the coming catastrophe, after which he can return to Washington as the golden money-boy.

** Like much lower taxes for the super-rich, many fewer regulations to protect the workers or the environment.


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Statistics Can Be Sexy

As this post from 2014 demonstrates.  Well, perhaps not sexy, but very empowering.  If that post turns you on, I have a whole series about introductory statistics, mostly in the context of understanding opinion surveys.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Economics of Women And Work. Some Snippets.

1.  Can we prove that sex discrimination exists in the labor markets?  I got asked that question once and this post gives my answer*.  There have been further studies since, but the basic arguments have not changed, which means that reading that post will be good for your weapons arsenal.

2.  Christina Hoff Sommers has argued, most recently on Twitter, that if women really want to close the gender gap in earnings they should change their college major from feminist dance therapy (heh) to electrical engineering.  That it wouldn't work quite like that is something I describe in this post.  And while you are there, read the rest of that series.

3.  I still haven't been able to find a good regression analysis which would allow us to study the interaction effects of sex and race on earnings and so on.  I'm sure that such studies exist, and if you know of one, please leave the link in the comments.  The reason why we need such a study is to see what the relative percentage effects of being black and being female might be on black women's earnings etc (to quantify the effects of intersectionality, if you like).  One study, on the increasing racial inequality on earnings,  suggests that the effect of being female is greater than the effect of being black, though both serve to reduce the earnings of black women, but it doesn't quite do the kinds of analyses I'd like to see.

*  Similar proof exists for racial discrimination, as this meta-analysis of audit studies shows.  Some of its analyses control for gender and find it non-significant, but I'm not quite sure what that means in the context of comparing different studies, some of which had both male and female fictional applicants and some of which did not.  For a shorter summary, see here

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Role of the Media In The Trump Reich

Last September I wrote a post on the Harvard study which analyzed the role of online media in the 2016 presidential elections.  That study tells us what the role of the online media might have been in getting us so much closer to a dictatorship, and I still recommend reading my post for some background.

Whatever the sins, omissions and commissions of that media coverage might have been, currently the most serious problem the press faces is one Donald Trump and his views, expressed in several tweets, that the media is the enemy of the people.

This behavior is typical of dictators who close down any newspapers that criticize the government or even imprison journalists who are not sufficiently adulatory toward the dictator.  Our Dear Leader would love to join that elite group of autocrats!

And a plurality of Republicans seems to agree. A survey conducted by Ipsos and published in early August found that:

All told, 43 percent of self-identified Republicans said that they believed “the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.” Only 36 percent disagreed with that statement. When asked if Trump should close down specific outlets, including CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, nearly a quarter of Republicans (23 percent) agreed and 49 percent disagreed.

Republicans were far more likely to take a negative view of the media. Forty-eight percent of them said they believed “the news media is the enemy of the American people” (just 28 percent disagreed) while nearly four out of every five (79 percent) said that they believed “the mainstream media treats President Trump unfairly.”

I wonder what those percentages would have been had Hillary Clinton been the president that those poll statements referred to.  Knowing that would allow us to assess if this new desire for the end of democracy is just the average win-at-any-cost tribalism or if, indeed, a sizable percentage of Americans wants democracy to end.*

While most mainstream newspapers are on Trump's Enemies List, one part of the US media does, however, have a very specific role in the Trump Reich.  Last January Matthew Gertz argued in Politico that Trump uses the conservative media, and, in particular, Fox News, as a source of information for presidenting!

Here’s what’s also shocking: A man with unparalleled access to the world’s most powerful information-gathering machine, with an intelligence budget estimated at $73 billion last year, prefers to rely on conservative cable news hosts to understand current events. 
Alternatively, Fox News now has the role a state-run media organization might have in dictatorships.

So it goes.

Other answers in the survey give me hope that the latter is not the case:

And virtually everyone (85 percent of respondents) believed that “freedom of the press is essential for American democracy” (compared to 4 percent opposed to that statement).
Still, we are left with the dilemma that this belief contradicts the Republican plurality in the above post which would want Trump to have the authority to close down "badly behaving" news outlets.  Those would be the outlets which criticize him, after all, and the press cannot be free if it can be punished for criticizing the president.

And, of course, the continued survival of any kind of democracy also depends on safe election systems.  Right now the belief in their security is totally unwarranted.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Escape Reading. Terry Pratchett's Discworld.

I love re-reading Terry Pratchett as an escape from the Trump Reich and all the other problems of this world, but as this post from last year shows, some of those problems exist on Pratchett's Discworld, too.

This year I've been re-reading Pratchett's Tiffany Aching books.  They are meant for young adults, I think, but the Nac Mac Feegle (the wee free men) are funny enough at any age.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Gendered Coverage of American Politicians' Sins

I wrote about that in March, but the problems in coverage haven't since disappeared*.  It's always useful to make the thought experiment, when reading criticisms of some female politician, of asking if the criticisms would have been the same or of equal intensity had she been a male politician instead.

* Much of this is caused by the right-wing press, because there are many more Democratic female politicians than there are Republican ones, and the right-wing press attacks Democrats and not Republicans.  But even so, I sense a difference in the intensity when the target of attack is female.

As an aside, the small numbers of Republican women in the Congress is probably caused by the same reasons as the tilted right-wing coverage against Democratic women.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

On Combatting False Beliefs

"A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."

The bottom section (after the embedded comment) of this post gives one example of the kind of research that is needed to even begin interpreting various Alt Right arguments or those that come from the manosphere.  I'm linking to it not because I would somehow be proud of the minimal research I did there, but because it's often the case that to refute lies (such as the ones Our Dear Leader spews out) takes digging time, digging energy and digging skills, and even then not every consumer of political news is willing to read through long explanations.

In other words, truth must button every single one of those small buttons in its hobnailed boots before it can start running after the lie.

Another example of the kind of painstaking work that is required in taking apart fake news can be found in the Harvard study about the impact of the media in the 2016 presidential elections.  It includes a detailed case study covering the media's treatment of the Clinton Foundation (from page 104 onward).  If you read it you will learn how the Clinton Foundation scandal was baked out of nothing but some slightly stale air, but still satisfied the appetites of many on the right.  Interestingly enough, the scandals about the Trump Foundation never achieved similar prominence.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Do 20% of Men "Get" 80% Of All Heterosexual Sex?

That's the kind of belief incel online sites spread:

“OK, we’ve all seen the statistic that in a competitive dating environment 20% of the guys are having 80% of the sex,” reads one post on r/TheRedPill, which goes on to claim, (emphasis theirs):
For every ten girls who are getting laid this week, eight of them are fucking just two guys.
If you’re not one of those two guys, there’s a 75% chance that you’re not getting laid at all. Only 20% of men fall into the category of “not alpha but still getting some”.
The haves and have-nots live in two different worlds. This is not a sliding scale situation where incremental improvement yields incremental returns. You either have more pussy than you know what to do with or you’re incel. There’s very little middle ground.
That’s what the 80/20 rule means. You really, really want to be one of the 20%.

That whole quote is so weird*.  Why does the second principle of the incel sites seem to always be this spreading of doom and gloom "statistics" which prove that nothing can be done, that no woman will ever fuck them, whatever they do?

The first principle, of course, is that the state of involuntary celibacy (being a male incel**) is caused by the disgusting shallowness, lookism and general perfidy of the whole womankind, all billions of us.

And that is the truly dangerous principle, but the second one also produces a lot of grief and suffering among men who probably wouldn't have to be incels if they realized that pussies are attached to real human beings who like to be viewed as people before pussies.  Instead, they are told that Everything  Is Hopeless.

So where did that 80/20 rule come from?  The linked article suggests that it applies the Pareto principle to sex:

One of the most repeated ideas on incel forums is a particular interpretation of the Pareto principle, which theorizes that in many cases, 80 percent of effects come from 20 percent of the causes. In economics, it’s often used to predict power structures (e.g., the richest 20 percent control 80 percent of the income). Replace money with sex, and you’ve essentially got the incel rallying cry.
But I have found no evidence that the Pareto distribution would fit human heterosexual behavior of the kind incels fret about.

And existing evidence on sexual behavior suggests that the reality is much less cruel toward the imaginary 80% of "non-alpha" males in the sexual supermarkets the incels also imagine to exist:

As Rebecca Goldin, a professor of mathematics at George Mason University and the director of STATS, noted, there really isn’t all that much data about who’s having sex with whom and how often. But, she said, “There is some limited data that refutes the poster’s claims, depending on interpretation.”
First off, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 56 percent of women and 59 percent of men have had sex by the time they finish high school. And, as Goldin pointed out, “If the sexually active teen women were choosing a largely overlapping set of young men to have sex with (eight women going with two guys), one would expect many fewer guys to have had sex than women.”
And if roughly the same number of heterosexual women and men are sexually active and you apply the Pareto principle, it would work out to eight women having sex with two men, yet also two women having sex with the other eight men. If it were true that most women were choosing just a few partners, the remaining women would need to have many partners.
“In other words, the statement, ‘If you’re not one of those two guys, there’s a 75 percent chance that you’re not getting laid at all. Only 20 percent of men fall into the category of ‘not alpha but still getting some,’ is not correct,” she said.

Bolds are mine.

Goldin goes on to note that men and women in long-term relationships, such as marriage, might well have more sex (when counted as times per week, say) than those men and women who are not in long-term relationships, partly, because it's much easier to arrange.  But in the incel world sex is sold in some weird supermarkets, not enjoyed in loving relationships.

And that is very sad.  The incels don't need the online sites where they gather***.  They need some real therapy which would allow them to see women as human beings.

That would be the win-win outcome, because it would enable the incels to find loving partners and because it would reduce the amount of online misogyny.

* First is the question where that statistics comes from which the rest of this post addresses.

Second is the question of definitions:

 Two men (out of ten) are assumed to fuck eight women (out of ten) in one week, but the remaining two women are not assumed to fuck the remaining eight men in one week, but only one man each.  This is an asymmetry, probably because it's assumed that the 80/20 rule applies.  But it's unclear if sex is counted in numbers of partners or in numbers of intercourse (or whatever stands in its place)

Third, is the nutty idea that there are only two kinds of heterosexual men:  Those who have more pussy than you know what to do with (freeze and can, of course) and those who have zero pussy for the rest of their miserable lives.  This assumption clearly clashes with any kind of reality I have visited.

Fourth is the question what a "competitive" dating environment might be.  Some sort of a boxing ring? 

Fifth, and most importantly, the whole quote reeks of the view that women are not people but things, like slabs of beef, for sale in the dating supermarkets, and that those slabs of beef should be distributed more fairly among the consumers.

**  The online incels do not care about women, probably because they hate women, so they spend no time worrying about female incels.  As I have written before, women are probably much more likely to be involuntarily celibate than men, because women live longer and are more likely to outlive their partners.

***  As I have written before, the incel online sites resemble those anorexia sites where anorexics met to encourage each other not to eat.  In other words, visiting the incel sites will make the visitors more miserable and less mentally healthy.