Sunday, November 10, 2019

Short Posts 11/10/19. On Cancel Culture, Females As Vessels, And "A Warning" About Trump.




1.  The New York Times has published several pieces on the cancel culture. I don't have razor-sharp views* on the questions those pieces pose, but I do find it interesting how close it is to the age-old culture of shunning.  Even other animals do that, so that the Lone Wolf is most likely one which the pack kicked out.

In some cases the attempt to silence certain views by burying them is a bit like burying potatoes in the ground.  What one wants to silence might just grow sprouts in the darkness.  That's why I prefer open and respectful debates over this alternative, though an obvious lack of respect from the other side (Milo Yiannopoulos comes to mind here) does make me change my mind.

2.  An interview in the New Republic with Andrea Long Chu, about her new book Females made me realize that feminism is utterly pointless.

Well, not quite.  Or not quite yet.  But the interview, titled "We Are All Female Now" argues that
Femaleness is not an anatomical or genetic characteristic of an organism, but rather a universal existential condition.” For Chu, “femaleness” is the urge to be a vessel for another’s desire.  
This reminds me of such earlier tomes as Justine and  The Story of O which shared her view about femaleness as submission and masochism.  It also resembles various porn takes of women as passive receptacles, though for something more concrete than mere desire.  And it makes me want to go into the kitchen to throw plates against the wall.
 
3.  Yet another book tells us stuff about Trump any aware person knew before he was elected.  This one is called A Warning.  By anonymous.

I do enjoy the title here, given that such a warning is several years too late.  Or as Charlie Pierce writes

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Anonymous can bite me. I have no intention of shelling out a dime to read about how someone almost ran into the burning house to save the baby, or about how someone almost gave up their seat in the lifeboat when the great ship went down, or about how someone almost dove into a freezing river to save a busload of nuns, or, for that matter, about how someone almost decided not to be a part of the most monstrous executive administration since the (un)death of Vlad The Impaler. I am not interested in someone's heartfelt account of their near-collision with actual integrity. I decline to be fascinated by the tale of how someone nearly ran into courage on the street but had to catch a bus instead. Like I said, Anonymous can anonymously bite me.

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*  I have lots of views but they don't all necessarily lead to the same conclusions.










Friday, November 08, 2019

Women's Health News (2): The Invisible Females


There was a time when all-male samples were not infrequently used to study the efficacy of some drug of treatment which, if the results were promising, would then be administered to both male and female patients.  I thought that time was in the past, but I seem to be mistaken. 

In late September, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new drug, Descovy, for the prevention of infection with HIV.  It's only the second drug to have been approved in that category.  The first one was Truvada which is widely used.  But the FDA's approval of Descovy comes with strings attached:

The first, Truvada, has become a mainstay of government efforts to turn back the H.I.V. epidemic. But the F.D.A. approved Descovy for use only in men and transgender women, because its maker, Gilead Sciences, tested it only in those groups.
The approval explicitly excludes women, and does not outline a plan for making the drug available to them. Some activists and scientists said the approval sets a dangerous precedent by allowing companies to dodge the expensive trials needed to test medicines in women.
Such an exclusion of women “should be unacceptable in these days and times,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital.
It’s important to test the drug specifically in women, she added, because Descovy may work differently in the vagina than in rectal tissues.
The F.D.A., in fact, will require Gilead to study the Descovy in women, company officials said. Gilead is considering a trial in Africa.

The bolds are mine*.

It's ironic that the maker is called Gilead Sciences.  Never mind, the point here is that the manufacturer just decided to exclude biological females from the study, and the FDA had to require it to conduct a further study on women.
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* That bolded sentence suffers from the same linguistic illness I see all the time online:

It mixes together two different definitions of gender without seeming to notice that it does so.  Note that the inclusion of transgender women in that sentence suggests that gender identity is used as the basis for defining "women" and "men."  Because the gender identity theory decouples gender from biological sex, it should then follow that the category "men" used in that sentence might also include trans men who have biologically female bodies. 

But the whole quote strongly suggests that this is not the correct interpretation.  Rather, the writer took one definition of gender ("men") from the old based-on-biological-sex definition and the other ("transgender women") from the new gender identity definition.

The same confusion is present later in that article:

Descovy contains a newer version of tenofovir, the active ingredient in Truvada. Gilead tested Descovy in a multinational trial that included 5,313 men and 74 transgender women who have sex with men. There were no cisgender women, and 84 percent of the participants were white.
“They did a terrible job of inclusion for a company that dominates the market,” Mr. Johnson said.
The term "cisgender" is used in the gender identity approach to refer to people who don't  identify out of the gender basket associated with their registered biological sex at birth, and the term "transgender" to refer to people who do identify out of the gender basket associated with their registered biological sex at birth and then move into the gender basket associated with the opposite sex.  

The above quote uses that division for women, but not for men.  This is the common form of this error, actually.







Women's Health News (1): Who Gets The Kidneys?



A presentation* at the recent meeting of the American Society of Nephrology looks at live donor kidney (LDK) transplants in men and women and finds that women are considerably less likely to receive a kidney from a live donor than men:

Among 106,260 primary adult LDK transplants reported to the United Network for Organ Sharing/Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network from 1998 to 2018, the overall rate of LDK transplantation was 38.9% for women and 61.1% for men
The findings show all sorts of odd patterns.  For instance, women were less likely to receive a kidney from an unrelated donor than men, white women were less likely to receive a donated kidney than black women and other women of color, and women who were sensitized were actually more likely to receive a LDK than women who were not.  Sensitized patients are expected to have to wait longer for a transplant, in general.

The author of the presentation suggests that these results are more likely to be caused by varying practice patterns than by underlying sex differences in the disease etiology.

That presentation made me Google stuff about sex and gender differences (two different things here**) in kidney disease, and I found a recently published paper using European data  which shows clear sex differences in the likelihood that a kidney patient receives a transplant.  The relevant percentages are sixty for men and forty for women in that study. 

The difference could be explained by a combination of reasons.  Maybe the disease advances more slowly in women, maybe women are more likely to choose conservative treatments and men transplantation etc.  But we cannot rule out the possibility that access to donated kidneys might be different for men and women.

That some social forces do influence who donates live kidneys and who receives them is suggested by the authors of this study, too:

Perhaps more importantly, this finding also needs to be viewed in the context of women being more likely to donate a kidney to their spouse. This hypothesis is supported by a single center study from Canada, where more than a third of the wives who were acceptable donors went on to donate a kidney to their spouse, compared with 6.5% of husbands (36).
Other studies support the finding that women are more likely to donate kidneys than men and less likely to receive them. Why would that be the case? 

Outright or at least unconscious sexism in those who allocate, say, cadaver kidneys to their final recipients could explain some of the differences in who receives kidneys,but simple financial reasons might be more important:

Socioeconomic factors undoubtedly play a role in the inequality of transplantation between sexes, especially in low- and middle-income countries and regions.Generally, men provide the major income for their family, which may discourage them from donating kidneys. Different employment status and incomes between the sexes may contribute to sex differences in transplantation because employment and income status are usually associated with better health care insurance that cover the costs for transplantation.

Those reasons would have their roots in the traditional gendered division of labor which dictates the male breadwinner model and tends to result in lower average lifetime incomes for women.  But the way the health care system interacts with men and women may also play a role here:

Other reports describe disparities in age and sex in access to kidney transplantation, which originate at the time of pre-referral discussions about kidney transplantation; irrespective of age, women were more likely not to have had discussions with medical professionals.
 
Did you find this post boring?  I tried to figure out why I wanted to write it (other than the fact that Echidne sounds like "a kidney") without having reached that fairly advanced stage in research where things become simpler to explain, and I realized that was the reason!  Before one gets to that all-is-simple stage in studying something, the real fuzziness and complications are more evident.

This post, for instance, shows the way different explanations (biological, social, cultural) can all play a role in the final conclusions, but might wound together like a rope.  If we wish to find out how sexism and traditional gender roles affect the observed discrepancies, we need to fray that rope and look at only some of its strands while remembering that they are only some strands in the rope.


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*  I haven't read the presentation, only the linked summary.  Keep in mind that this is not a published peer-reviewed article, so some caution is advised.  I picked it for this post because that's where I first read about existing and large sex differences in the treatment of kidney disease.

** Sex differences in this context mean any differences between male and female patients in the etiology of the disease, the ease with which it is properly diagnosed and in any associated co-morbidities.

Gender differences would be about differences created by the socially constructed gender norms and roles which are regarded as appropriate for either men or women. 

Gender and sex differences are here assumed to apply (and probably do apply) to the same individuals, i.e. gender is assumed to be defined by one's apparent biological sex.






Monday, November 04, 2019

Revolutions Eat Their Daughters


You may remember this iconic picture of a young woman standing on the roof of a car during the revolution which ousted Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir after thirty years of dictatorial rule.

The woman in the picture is Alaa Salah.  Now that the revolutionary work is done, she and other women who participated in it are sidelined:

“Women led resistance committees and sit-ins, planned protest routes and disobeyed curfews, even in the midst of a declared state of emergency that left them vulnerable to security forces. Many were teargassed, threatened, assaulted and thrown in jail without any charge or due process,” Salah told a United Nations Security Council meeting on women, peace and security on Tuesday. “However, despite this visible role, despite their courage and their leadership, women have been side-lined in the formal political process in the months following the revolution.”
This is, of course, not the first time that women have been expected to step back once a revolution has been victorious.  Women were sidelined after the French Revolution, too, and all they ultimately got for their troubles was the Napoleonic Code which stripped them of further rights.  Women were also sidelined after the Arab Spring uprisings.

Let us hope that Salah speaking out about this injustice serves to change things.  I am not, alas, very hopeful.

It would be worthwhile to consider what causes this sidelining.  My off-the-cuff guess would be that it has to do with the way power vacuums are filled.   A vacuum is created when the old hierarchies tumble, and the time to fill that vacuum is a short one.

Power is most likely going to be grabbed by those who already possess the necessary resources (in people, funds and weapons) to wield political power, because they will act the fastest*.  Women have rarely or never been in that position all by themselves.  This means that the likelihood of women sharing in the fruits of the revolution is crucially dependent on their allies in the general population.

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*  In the case of Arab Spring in Egypt,  the conservative religious groups took power first because they had existing organizations and numerical support to do so.  They had very little interest in supporting women's rights.  If anything, the reverse was the case. 


Friday, November 01, 2019

Short Posts 11/1/19. The Strongest Twitter Voices in Politics, Amazon as a Firm-Market Hybrid, And News About Women



1.  A new study tells us something I have long suspected:

For years now, Twitter has been an important platform for disseminating news and sharing opinions about U.S. politics, and 22% of U.S. adults say they use the platform. But the Twitter conversation about national politics among U.S. adult users is driven by a small number of prolific political tweeters. These users make up just 6% of all U.S. adults with public accounts on the site, but they account for 73% of tweets from American adults that mention national politics.
Sites like Twitter can feel deceptively giant, as if by reading there one is communing with the universe, or at least a sizable chunk of it.  But that is not true.   Because following is based on choice, the opinions and news we get to read on Twitter are unlikely to be representative of everyone in the United States, let alone in the world.  They are not even representative of all people who share our political views, say (if that's how we picked whom to follow).

This is why I am always annoyed when I read "Twitter erupts,"  unless I am told how many million retweets some tweet got.

I have written about this before,  because I believe that not understanding the specific way in which Twitter is limited can be dangerous.  It could lead us to believe that relatively rare views are widespread ones and so on.

The above quote addresses a related issue, i.e., that a relatively small number of tweeters exerts lots of power on Twitter.  And not only are the most prolific political tweeters relatively few, they are also more likely to be found in the extreme tails of the distribution of political views:

These tweeters are more polarized in terms of their ideological self-identification than those who tweet about the topic less often. Some 55% of prolific political tweeters identify as very liberal or very conservative, based on an 11-point measure of ideology where scores of 0 (most conservative) to 2 are defined as very conservative, and scores on the other end of the scale (8-10) are defined as very liberal. Among nonpolitical tweeters, 28% choose these more polarized options.

There's nothing inherently wrong in any of this, as long as we remember that our Twitter sources might not give us the most common views on various issues, even if they are the most common ones in our feeds.

2.  Amazon's recent troubles with the poor quality of the products that some of its  third-party sellers provide made me think about the fascinating mutant* nature of such giants as Amazon, eBay, Airbnb, Uber and so on.  Are they markets or are they firms or are they both at the same time?

The answer matters for deciding what their legal status and general responsibilities should be. As examples, should Uber drivers be treated as employees or subcontractors of the Uber firm or as independent entrepreneurs operating in the Uber marketplace?  Much hinges on the answer to that question.  Likewise, the consumer complaints about the poor quality of some foodstuffs sent through Amazon raise questions about the proper assignment of responsibility:

CNBC scanned the site’s Grocery & Gourmet category, finding customer complaints about expired hot sauce, beef jerky, granola bars, baby formula and baby food, as well as six-month-old Goldfish crackers and a 360-pack of coffee creamer that arrived with a “rancid smell.” A data analytics firm that specializes in the Amazon Marketplace recently analyzed the site’s 100 best-selling food products for CNBC and found that at least 40% of sellers had more than five customer complaints about expired goods.
Closeout sales and liquidation warehouses can be a hotbed for expired food that ends up on Amazon. In 2017, when Starbucks announced it was shuttering its Teavana locations, many sellers purchased discounted tea-related merchandise from the stores and resold it on Amazon. Today, you can find Teavana products such as rock sugar and fruit teas listed on Amazon even though they were discontinued two years ago.
...
An Amazon seller, who has sold sugar, spices and other food products on the site for the past nine years, told CNBC that Amazon didn’t respond to numerous inquiries about the out-of-date Teavana products.
Representatives from Nestle, which owns the rights to sell Starbucks coffee and tea, including Teavana, declined to comment. An Amazon spokesperson told CNBC that products sold on the site, including those marked not for resale, must comply with laws and Amazon policies. Third-party sellers are required to provide Amazon with an expiration date if they’re selling an item meant for consumption and must guarantee the item has a remaining shelf life of 90 days.
Whether that Amazon policy is effective is a big question, says food-safety experts.
“There’s no indication of how well that policy is enforced,” said Thomas Gremillion, director of food policy at advocacy group Consumer Federation of America.

3.  Finally, some news about women:

- Two female astronauts conducted the first all-female space walk in October, though they were not the first women to walk in space.  Fifteen women and 213 men have walked in space.

- A new survey of surgical residents suggests that female physicians experience more sexual harassment, sex discrimination and verbal harassment than male physicians:

While mistreatment was a problem for both genders, with about half of respondents reporting some form of inappropriate behavior during their training, women reported far more of it. Among other findings, 65% of all female respondents reported gender discrimination, compared to 10% of all male respondents; 13% of women reported discrimination based on pregnancy or parental status, compared to 3% of men; and 20% of women reported sexual harassment, compared to 4% of men.
The authors of the report on the survey also suggest that these findings may account for the somewhat higher burnout rates female surgical residents report.

Added later:  Some British female politicians are also leaving because of harassment and threats they receive, largely via social media.  One example:

Liberal Democrat MP Heidi Allen also wrote in a letter on Tuesday that she would be standing down ahead of the election because she is "exhausted by the invasion into my privacy and the nastiness and intimidation that has become commonplace."
"Nobody in any job should have to put up with threats, aggressive emails, being shouted at in the street, sworn at on social media, or have to install panic alarms at home."
Women and/or minorities are the particular targets of threats:

Earlier this year, London Metropolitan Police chief Cressida Dick told a parliamentary committee that officers had seen a "very considerable rise" in the number of threats received by MPs and that statistics showed crimes had doubled from 151 in 2017 to 341 in 2018.
Those targeted disproportionately are women and BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) MPs -- across the political spectrum. Among those abused the most is Labour's Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, who was the UK's first female black lawmaker.

I so wanted such reports to be something from the distant past by now, sigh.  It feels as if they might be becoming more common.  It's particularly worrying if threats disproportionately aimed at women end up silencing women and stopping their participation in politics.  That is, after all, their goal.

- Salma Hayek, 53, shows off her curves in makeup-free bikini pic: 'You haven't aged a day'  I added this bit of news because Google News believes that I would be interested in such news items (grr).  I believe Hayek is an actor, right?  And she is presumably very beautiful and looks far younger than her age, and for some reason I'm supposed to want to learn what her fans think of her.

It's all harmless on one level, of course, and I don't really care except for the time I waste on it.  But it's not an article describing her acting technique, her most famous roles, her plans for future roles and so on.  In that sense it trivialises her work. 













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*  I tried to think of examples of these market-firm hybrids from the past.  The only one I came up with was those weekend flea-markets, often organized in empty warehouses or deserted race tracks by private individuals or their companies.  The organizers are creating a marketplace (a physical presence in this case), but that is also their business.

The birth of the Internet has made such hybrids much more common and infinitely more powerful.  I'm not at all sure that either economic theory or laws governing corporations have kept up with that development.












Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Men Are Waffles, Women Pancakes. From The Series: "Stories From The Essentialist World".


A recent HuffPost article discusses a 2018 workshop aiming at teaching executive women how to thrive in a corporate environment.  The story is hilarious and made me think that the 1950s want their workshop back.  But then in some ways we are not now terribly removed from the 1950s dogma on women' supposed essential nature as a definition of what a woman is.

Anyway, this bit, about the teachings of that workshop, is absolutely delicious:

When women speak, they shouldn’t be shrill. Clothing must flatter, but short skirts are a no-no. After all, “sexuality scrambles the mind.” Women should look healthy and fit, with a “good haircut” and “manicured nails.”
These were just a few pieces of advice that around 30 female executives at Ernst & Young received at a training held in the accounting giant’s gleaming new office in Hoboken, New Jersey, in June 2018.
“You have to offer your thoughts in a benign way,” Jane said, recalling the seminar. “You have to be the perfect Stepford wife.” It felt like they were being turned into someone who is “super-smiley, who never confronts anyone,” she said.
“You have to be the stereotype of what a woman is,” Jane said. Like the worksheet described it, she added.
Attendees were even told that women’s brains are 6% to 11% smaller than men’s, Jane said. She wasn’t sure why they were told this, nor is it clear from the presentation. Women’s brains absorb information like pancakes soak up syrup so it’s hard for them to focus, the attendees were told. Men’s brains are more like waffles. They’re better able to focus because the information collects in each little waffle square.

Bolds, they are mine.

Don't you just love that?  It made me think what my brain might be.  I think a French crepe.  Nothing soaks into it the way I make it, unless I want something to soak into it.  Amaretto, say. 

What's fascinating about that view of humans as various foodstuffs is that I can trace the long and drunken path it has taken from some initial extremely iffy research, over-interpreted in a biased manner, and then popularized with even more errors and leaps of imagination baked into it.  That final result, then, was poured, like maple syrup, into the skull-box of the presenter at that 2018 workshop*.

It's an odd workshop which begins by trying to make the participants lose all self-confidence and self-esteem, but that's the kind of workshop for working women you get if you believe in the most extreme form of essentialist gender norms.  Those cannot be influenced at all, of course, so the best the little lady sprats can do is to gently swim around the guy sharks,without making any waves while avoiding their direct routes and grabbing whatever crumbs might be left behind**.

To be fair, Ernst&Young, the company in which the workshop was held, has now distanced itself from its basic tenets and has canceled future similar workshops.  Better ideas about how corporate culture can be influenced to make women and men both thrive can be found in this Harvard Business Review article.

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* This phenomenon is not uncommon.  John Maynard Keynes:

“Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back” 
And this is the main reason why researchers should be held to high standards of objectivity and modesty about the reach of their results.

**  I adore mixing my metaphors (waffles and fishes), possibly because of that soggy brain.


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Is Elizabeth Warren electable? And Other Complications.



The NPR has a story today about What Democrats Do Wrong.  Now those what-is-the-matter-with-the-Democrats stories are extremely common in the US media.  In fact, they are an almost-obligatory response to everything in American political writing.  Even if the Democratic Party gains some major victory, it's really really bad for the Democrats in some oblique way, and that way must be spelled out.

It's weird.  The stories about What Republicans Do Wrong are loads less common. 

This asymmetry in the treatment of the two parties may be linked to that other asymmetry of treatment, the one where Democratic politicians are expected to be milquetoast and Republican politicians are expected to be fire-breathing dragons, and where the Democrats are punished for even the slightest raising of their voices while the Republicans are lauded for not actually biting anyone's head off in public.

But I digress.  I wanted to talk about the meat in that NPR article which is about how electable the various Democratic presidential contenders are.  Or to talk about one bit of gristle in that meat, the way the article covers Elizabeth Warren's odds of winning the presidency:

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is seen as too liberal by some, especially because of her support for Medicare for All as a replacement to private insurance. And there's the complication of no woman ever having been president of the United States.
My bolds.

Yeah, there's the complication of no woman ever having been president of the United States*...

I love the fuzziness of that sentence and the way it uses "complication."   You wouldn't be able to tell from it that women used to be legally barred from voting for a president, never mind running to become one, that part of the "complication" is very much rooted in sexist beliefs about women's inner inferiority when it comes to leadership roles, and that Hillary Clinton, a woman, actually won more votes in the 2016 presidential election than Donald Trump, though the latter had the very powerful Russian votes.

But the best way of reading that sentence is to note that the complication would have been removed if the US already had had a female president! 

Why?  Because then we would know that if one woman did well in that job then all women can do well in it?  Or that if one woman bombed in it, then all women would bomb in it?

That's utter rubbish, of course. 

So what the word "complication" really means here is that enough voters could be sexists** and refuse to vote for someone with a uterus because those might wander about and cause hysteria*** and we all know that male presidents never lose their calm when carrying out delicate foreign policy operations in wartime conditions and therefore all presidents must be male. just to avoid the risk of an irrational president...

It sounds a lot nastier, put that way, than when it's called "complication."



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*  When I saw that sentence, my Bayesian probability that the writer is a guy rose to somewhere around 0.97.  Then I checked and found that to be the case.

** Or believe that other voters are sexist in that way.  This causes the same final outcome. 

I have often come across the argument that Biden must be the Democratic candidate because he is male, white and old, just like Trump, and this would neutralize the sexist, ageist and racists beliefs of many or some voters. 

***  The wandering womb was once assumed to cause hysteria, which was not assumed to affect men at all, because of the absence of the uterus.

The wondering womb, of course, is the one the authorities really want to calm down and silence.




Meanwhile, in Syria, Russia And Turkey Mop Up And Divvy Up the Loot


This is the outcome of Trump's lunatic decision to withdraw US troops from northern Syria:

During a six-hour meeting at the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin effectively carved up northeastern Syria between themselves, after the abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops paved the way for a bloody Turkish incursion across the border. The United States was not present at the meeting.
What a birthday present Vlad The Impaler got from our supreme leader!  It was, after all, his birthday when Trump decided to abandon the Syrian Kurds (who had not abandoned the US troops).

And what is the present the Syrian Kurds in that area might be getting, other than oppression and violence and other such usual stocking stuffers?  This:

Analysts say the agreement is death knell for Kurdish autonomy in northeastern Syria. Buoyed by U.S. military backing, the Syrian Kurds had built a fragile democracy comprising self-governing subregions, called Rojava, which up until two weeks ago accounted for about a third of Syria.

Rojava ran on many egalitarian and democratic principles.  Those included equal rights for women.  But such things cannot stand when the heavyweight dictators are performing their power-dance.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Age Of Unreason. Or Life in The Trump Reich.



It is the fall of 2019.  The president of the United States, the most powerful country on this planet, has impetuously and with no real understanding of the consequences withdrawn US troops from Northern Syria.  This a direct invitation for Turkey to take over the vacuum thus created, and Turkey quickly follows the invitation.  The resulting uproar at home, even among some arch-conservatives, makes Trump pen a carefully worded and strong letter to the dictator of Turkey:



The vocabulary of that letter is on at least third grade level!  So things are going well.  And even though it doesn't use any complicated adjectives or verbs or demonstrate any real understanding of Erdogan's probable motivations, it's strongly worded!

Erdogan threw it in the trash bin, we are told.

That letter is real.  It's from Donald Trump, and he is very proud of it.  The letter, of course, made no real difference in Erdogan's plans.

A few days later Trump calls Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, a "third-rate politician" at a meeting about the Syria mess.  According to Pelosi, Trump had a meltdown at the meeting.  According to Trump, Pelosi had a meltdown:

There is no public transcript or recording of the gathering, but by most accounts, Trump admonished former Defense Secretary James Mattis for not being as “tough” as him, complained that he didn’t want to even have the briefing he was supposed to lead, suggested Democrats are vaguely sympathetic to ISIS because the terrorist network includes “communists,” and insulted Nancy Pelosi to her face, dismissing her as a “third-rate” politician.
Since the discussion obviously wasn’t going to be constructive, Democratic leaders saw no need to stick around.
The House Speaker described Trump’s bizarre behavior as a “very serious meltdown,” adding that Americans should “pray for his health.” Because the president routinely finds it necessary to respond to every slight in a I’m-rubber-you’re-glue sort of way, Trump published a tweet soon after accusing Pelosi of being mentally ill, adding, “Pray for her, she is a very sick person!” Since he heard the Speaker accuse him of a “meltdown,” Trump also accused Pelosi of having had a “meltdown.”

Actually, Trump's tweets were much more insulting than the above quote suggests:  "Nervous Nancy's unhinged meltdown."

In a calmer world I'd enjoy writing about the way Trump, his administration and Republicans in Congress in general so very often use psychological projection in their arguments.  But we do not live in a calmer world.

Rather, we live in a world where the president's outrageous acts pile up quicker than we can digest, let alone protest.  For instance, today we find that Trump is going to host the 2020 G7 summit at his own Florida resort, thus keeping the profits in the family, so to say.


The Nobel Economics Prize 2019: Esther Duflo And Women In The Economics Profession.


This year's economics Nobel went to (...opens the envelope very very slowly...)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology professors Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, and Harvard University professor Michael Kremer, “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.”
Esther Duflo is only the second woman to have won the Nobel in economics.  Elinor Ostrom, in 2009, was the first.  Duflo has had a brilliant career, winning all sorts of awards for her innovative work on the best ways to reduce poverty and income inequality. 

Duflo's meteoric career (she's the youngest recipient of the Nobel economics prize ever) should not distract us from the fact that the field of economics is not, in general, welcoming to women:

The field of economics has long been viewed as inhospitable to women. A professional climate survey conducted by the nonprofit, non-partisan American Economic Association, released last month, concluded that women in the field were far more likely to experience discrimination on the basis of sex. “But women are also substantially more likely to experience discrimination based on marital status/caregiving responsibilities, age, place of employment, and based on research topics,” the report said.
What’s more, it added, “female respondents are also much more likely to report having experienced discrimination or unfair treatment as students with regard to access to research assistantships, access to advisors, access to quality advising, and on the job market.”
Sighs.  So it goes, still.

What might account for the greater hostility women experience in economics (when compared to their experiences in other social sciences)?

I believe that economics attracts a larger than average share* of very conservative male students who enter the field already believing that women should be at home, not in the labor force, and that women, in any case, are incapable of doing the correct kinds of abstract analyses.

It's not the socially conservative nature of some schools of economic research which directly creates that attraction;  it's the positive correlation between regressive social beliefs and the belief in the great glory of the market system.

So conservative male students** might come for the latter and stay for the former.  The annals of economics have material supporting their views on women (though also severe criticisms of that material), and each new generation will then build on that foundation and create more theories, some based on unholy marriages between economic analysis of the simplest kind and the worst misogynistic speculations of the nutty kind of evolutionary psychology.

Those economics departments which are hospitable places for such views will not create hospitable places for female economists.

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* I don't mean that the majority of guys in economics departments would be like that, only that the numbers are greater than in, say, sociology departments.  And possibly even higher than in some STEM fields.

But even a fairly small number of people with those beliefs can affect the climate of the work place, and even more so when they are (as is often the case) older and in power.

** Female students with those social beliefs would not enter economics (or any graduate study, really) in the first place.