Saturday, June 28, 2008

Obama Nation (by Phila)

Like all good-hearted people, I was initially troubled by Barack Hussein Obama's status as a Metrosexual Muslim Marxist radical with no experience. But I soon found out that this was just the tip of the iceberg.

In addition to being too black and not black enough, and being unable to master the shifting demands of diner etiquette, and spurning all-American delicacies like cheese and salami because he'd rather sip arugula-infused martinis at elite country clubs while pouring his patrician scorn over honest sons of the soil like Karl Rove, he's also in utter thrall to a radical Christian preacher whose controversial views he prissily denounced (out of the basest opportunism and disloyalty, I hasten to add).

Not a very flattering portrait, you'll agree. But there's a worse revelation to come. Indeed, this may be the last straw:
Is Obama devotee of monkey-god idol?

A group of Hindus in India have presented Sen. Barack Obama's campaign with a two-foot Hindu monkey-god idol after hearing the candidate carries a smaller version of the Lord Hanuman good-luck charm with him as he vies for the presidency....

"Obama has deep faith in Lord Hanuman, and that is why we are presenting an idol of Hanuman to him," said Bhama.
Some might be inclined to give Obama the benefit of the doubt. But I say that if there's a one-percent chance that Obama's a secret Hindu (as well as a secret Muslim and an overly liberal radical Christian), we need to treat it as a certainty. Or to put it another way, z0mfg Obama totly worshipz teh monkey god!

If you want to vote for a one-man Muslim-Hindu-Christian Holy War, suit yourself. But speaking as a concerned lifelong Democrat, I'm casting my vote for Gene Amondsen.

At least you know where he stands.

The Latest Research (by Phila)

The Telegraph gives us a vibrant account of what it calls "the latest research":
According to the latest research women have negative feelings after a fling and remain unhappy with fleeting sexual encounters.

Researchers said the permissive society sparked during the Sixties was supposed to free women to enjoy casual sex just like men but it had failed.
That's what researchers say, and who are we to gainsay them? They have statistics on their side, for one thing. Eighty percent of men claimed to feel sexually satisfied after a one-night stand, compared to 54 percent of women. Men are more likely to boast to their friends about their "conquests," too.

Could this have anything to do with what has come to constitute "appropriate" behavior for men and women in this situation...exacerbated, perhaps, by certain small but important differences in physiology?

Fuck no. Women have simply failed to adapt to the world as it was, is, and shall ever be, despite the best efforts of "the permissive society":
The study concluded women "have not adapted" to meaningless sex because it did not suit them at this stage in evolution.
I submit that casual sexual encounters in which one's role is essentially to give a man something to ejaculate into, and something to brag about to his friends the next day, are not "meaningless" at all. And their meaning, I'd say, is probably what causes a good deal of the dissatisfaction and remorse these women are feeling, the eternal and all-compelling call of marriage and childbirth notwithstanding. "Permission" to engage in behavior that a pretty large portion of society still regards as "slutty" is not necessarily permission to enjoy sex as an equal partner. And the idea that as long as men are happy with a situation, a woman's dissatisfaction can only represent a failure to adapt is chilling even by the glacial standards of evolutionary psychology.

Obligatory notes on methodology:
A total of 1,743 men and women who had experienced a one-night stand were asked to rate both their positive and negative feelings the following morning, in an internet survey.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Starlets and groupies (by Suzie)

      I was reading a story about women dropping out of science careers on the ABC News site, when I saw a slide show titled "Jen: Starlet turned groupie?" and a photo of Jennifer Aniston. I clicked on it, and it had two different headlines for each photo and blurb: "Star by day, groupie by night" and "H'wood starlets, rock groupies." OMFG, this is ABC News. 
      The slide show includes Nicole Kidman, Drew Barrymore, Kate Hudson and Kirsten Dunst; other well-paid, well-known women; plus the required Paris Hilton mention. I guess "starlet" now applies to any female celebrity, even ones who make millions or win Academy Awards. "Groupie" used to mean female fans who had sex with musicians. ABC has now extended it to any famous woman who has a relationship, whether one date or marriage, with a musician. For example, singer Ashlee Simpson married rocker Pete Wentz. They're both in the music world, but she's tagged as the groupie. Apparently, men who have relationships with female musicians are not groupies, and there's no male equivalent of "starlet."

Should society pay for fertility treatment for poor women? (by Suzie)

       My short answer: No.
       If you're interested in the subject, I encourage you to read this column by Pamela Merritt, and the comments that were posted. There are some fascinating arguments.
       Merritt notes the high cost of infertility treatment, and the limits of insurance coverage. She asks who society deems worthy of motherhood. 
This election year, universal healthcare coverage is a key issue, but universal coverage for infertility treatments has not been part of the discussion even though infertility treatment remains economically out of reach for many who need it. As a reproductive justice issue, the right to choose is clearly being denied those seeking treatment for infertility. But the reproductive rights of low-income and poor people continue to be held hostage to the values of a society that associates money with a person's worthiness to receive medical treatment.
         I’d like to see our society get truly universal health care first. I’d like to make adoption easier and much more affordable. I’d also prefer society address the myriad difficulties for poor children before paying for infertility treatments for poor women.
          In my teen years, my family was poor. I have family members who are poor. If one said she wanted expensive infertility treatments, my reaction would be: What?!? 
          No one should force women to bear children, nor should women be prevented from having children they desire. But does society have an obligation to help women conceive and give birth? If so, is there any limit on how many kids we would pay for? In other words, could a woman keep getting infertility treatments as long as her health held out? Would there be an age cutoff, or could a 50-year-old ask for infertility treatments? If a woman with a fatal disease wanted infertility treatments, should society pay for them? If women have this right, should society also help men who are infertile?
          I've paired this post with the one below, in which I explain I never wanted children. Have my own desires clouded my thinking on this?

Have children now! (by Suzie)

       I had an arranged marriage. By 30, I had had a random sampling of the male population, and I was ready to settle on one. The man I was dating had a lot of good qualities for a husband, and so, I proceeded as if marriage could be arranged like a mortgage.
       We got a mortgage and lived together for a year before marriage. After the wedding, perhaps only a few minutes after the wedding, people began pressuring us to reproduce. I never wanted children, but everywhere I turned, I ran in to people wanting to know why, why, why!?
        My husband and I ended up divorcing, and in a sense, it may have been because we had not had children. It’s not that we disagreed on kids. If we had had kids, however, I think we would have stuck it out on their behalf. Would we have been better off? I don’t think so, but I have no way of predicting future outcomes by altering various past decisions.
         This topic has been on my mind since I got a news release promoting a parenting column by Alan Singer, a New Jersey family therapist. He tells parents to talk to their adult children, to URGE their children to marry instead of live together because that will increase their odds of staying together. Parents also should tell their children about all the physical risks of delaying conception and birth.
          In an earlier column, Singer acknowledges that “there is considerable research showing that marital satisfaction decreases with the arrival of each child,” but if couples know that, they can take steps to improve their marriage.
         Maybe it’s different in New Jersey. Where I’ve lived, however, there’s plenty of pressure to marry and reproduce. Nell also talked about this in recent comments.
         In lieu of Singer, I prefer what Amy Richards, author of “Opting In,” has to say. Laura Barcella notes that Richards addresses Sylvia Ann “Hewlett's controversial book 'Creating a Life,' and the backlash that surrounded her claims that 20- and 30-something women should ‘hurry up’ if they want to have kids.” Richards responds:
         Initially I misunderstood her to be saying that every [woman] should want to have babies, now. Then I reread it. What she was really saying was that if women want to have babies, they need to think about it sooner rather than later. I became more sympathetic [to Hewlett's message]. No one wants to use ART [Assisted Reproductive Technology] to have children; most want to have their own biological children. If that's what most women want, it's lying to tell them that it's safe to put it off until their late thirties/forties.
          … In their early thirties, women should be starting to ask themselves, "Do I want kids?" Know what your options are before you're in a vulnerable or desperate place.
ETA: See the comments for a response from Dr. Singer. 

Friday Critter Blogging

These pictures are from tispaquin The first one is a lovely spider on an equally lovely flower head:

And then some kitties, all litter-mates, looking through the window at the passing of the Republican era:

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Shallow Thought For The Day

I write too much. My brain-box sounds hollow when tapped today. Even my demons are asleep. This means that you, my sweet and erudite readers (as well as honored trolls) get mostly fluff today. Like the bumper sticker I saw recently:

I will hug your elephant if you will kiss my ass.

Funny, eh? It's relevant, because bipartisanship usually means the reverse: Doing things the wingnut way, and that's why we are seeing more and more demands for bipartisanship now that the Republicans are no longer in absolute power, which they used to seed the nonpolitical appointments in the Department of Justice with only conservatives, say. Now that was the kind of bipartisanship the Republicans like: Both parties working for their benefit, together, while singing Kumbaya.

Of course Reid sorta agrees with the wingnuts. And so does Hoyer. Only dirty fucking hippies disagree with that polite definition of bipartisanship.

Garden Blogging

Bleeding Hearts

The white form of dicentra spectabilis, the common bleeding heart, is a lesson in pure elegance. It grows happily in quite deep shade which it relieves with the fresh green of its filigreed leaves and the heart-shaped ivory pendants of its inflorescences. Combined with hostas and pulmonarias, it offers just the right touch of lightness, like the finely wrought lace on the otherwise stern dress of an Elizabethan gentleman.

Gardeners love the bleeding heart for its kind-natured temperament. It is easy to grow (although the white form somewhat less so than its pink sibling), starts flowering early enough to be used with tulips in the same colors for an unbeatable combination, yet continues, at least in northern gardens, for several more weeks after the tulips have packed it in. Its only character flaw is its penchant for early dormancy. In my garden it goes underground by the end of July, leaving its absence as notable as its presence was earlier.

This can be avoided by choosing some other form of dicentra, such as dicentra eximia. But the romantic in me prefers the common bleeding heart. The Finns call it the broken heart, and this is how I always think of the plant; a sufferer from unrequited love, true, but one which valiantly tries to go on, producing love offering after love offering in the shape of small hearts for all to admire. Yet each and every one of them emerges broken.

At last it simply can't tolerate this any longer. Like so many unhappy young lovers in books, plays and operas, it chooses an early death over a loveless existence.

So sad, don't you think? But also so right, somehow, if we wish our gardens to reflect all life, not just its happy hours.
You must also try this: Pick off one of the flowers, turn it upside down and pull on the two extreme petals. What you see then is a naked lady in a bathtub.

Distractions And Wolcott's Take on Cohen

I went to James Wolcott's blog at the Vanity Fair to read what he had to say about Richard Cohen's column discussing why the media loves John McCain and never ever says anything nasty about him. This is what Wolcott had to say:

Really, it's a shame we even bother fussing over the looming troubles confronting this country when we could just let "character" be the seeing-eye dog that guides us. McCain's positions on abortion, Supreme Court picks, military action against Iraq, Social Security privatization?--mere trifles. "A presidential race is only incidentally about issues," Cohen informs us, thus reaffirming Bob Somerby's in Daily Howler that Beltway pundits are engaged in an epic bout of metacriticism, reviewing the novel that they themselves are writing, a cartoon travesty starring fictionalized versions of Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, et al that double as voodoo dolls. There's no intellectual floor to their petty maraudings. It's novels all the way down.

Which really means that the media loves McCain and in any case it's all opera criticism.

I'm sure I had something deeper and more insightful to say about all this before I counted the number of plump breasts in the Vanity Fair ads on the right side of the blog. Two naked women and a couple of half-dressed ones, with urgings to watch a slide show of them. No naked men for me at all. Not even one stray chest hair!

Of course I'm a hardened blogger who doesn't let such ads affect her. But it's fascinating to note what the magazine thinks might sell.

P.S. You might not get the same ads but the plump breasts seem to stick.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Greetings From The Supreme Court

Today's decisions included that question about whether death punishment constitutes cruel and unusual punishment for the rape of a child, even if the child survives, and it is no wonder that the other decisions don't get as much coverage. But as Southern Beale points out, there was also a decision which favored Exxon-Mobil.

Some Very Odd Ads

I keep getting that woman who blows up and slims down and blows up and slims down until I think I will puke any minute. Then the text says that you can slim down and boost libido with just one simple pill! But would that pill ever stop from blowing my body up and shrinking it down? I still feel dizzy from having it blink on that site.

Other odd ads: An advertisement for car insurance which consists of a dancing skeleton! I'd like some of what the creators of that ad were imbibing.

And the recent hiring ad for a site which connects you with workers. The ad shows lots of people scurrying to and fro, as they would be seen from above, at a very high distance. Which means that I thought the picture was about bugs and moths crawling and creeping and skittering, and my first reaction was to squash them flat.

Of course I may not be in the target group for those ads. But still.

Back To The Future in Abortion

This story, arguing that a politician running on a pro-life agenda paid for his girlfriend's abortion and dropped her off at the clinic may or may not be true. But it reminded me of the many books and articles I have read about the world before Roe in the United States.

The rich could get safe abortions even then, though the safety wasn't always that much better than what a coat-hanger might provide. Still, if you had the money and the connections you could find a doctor who would perform the abortion either in the U.S. or abroad. It was the poor and the middle class women who had to resort to butchery either by themselves or by someone doing it on the kitchen tables.

What this means is that the illegality of abortion didn't mean that much for those in power, and the same would be true again in the world the pro-lifers plan. Even pro-life politicians could get their girlfriends or wives hush-hush abortions. It is the people without money and connections who would be forced to give birth. And that is already true, given the very unequal distribution of abortion resources within the country.


Maureen Dowd got lots of complaints for her use of gender stereotypes and the way she bashes all Democrats all the time. (This is a funny take on that.) So now her newest column actually attacks a Republican. Wonders never cease. Though she still isn't depicting Karl Rove as a Norwegian Viking princess with a horned hat, a Victoria's Secret bra and a false red clown nose.

We probably have to give her more time to get used to the revolutionary idea that Republicans, too, have gender which can be mocked.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Who Would Have Thought?

That the Justice Department used political criteria (a no-no) to hire nonpartisan career attorneys, in particular in the civil rights division? Oh my, what shall we tell the children?


Applications that contained what were seen as "leftist commentary" or "buzz words" like environmental and social justice were often grounds for rejecting applicants, according to e-mails reviewed by the inspector general's office. Membership in liberal organizations like the American Constitution Society, Greenpeace, or the Poverty and Race Research Action Council were also seen as negative marks.

Affiliation with the Federalist Society, a prominent conservative group, was viewed positively.

So nice to know that the hiring process was changed to insulate it from party-political considerations in 2007. Also nice to know that several additional reports on all this are in the pipeline.

Female Suicide Bombers

Time has an article about a woman who decided to become a suicide bomber in Iraq after her brother turned into a "failed martyr" by having his bomb belt explode prematurely, without any innocent victims:

No one remembers Hasna Maryi ever opening her family's Koran. She rarely attended her village mosque and told others she regarded the Imam there as a lech. So it was not religious extremism that made this villager from Anbar province blow herself up at an Iraqi police checkpoint last summer, killing three officers and injuring at least 10 civilians.

Religion may not have been her motive, but Hasna was an early, willing casualty of the latest jihadi trend: the use of women on the frontlines of the Holy War. Although fewer than 30 of the nearly 1,000 suicide bombings since the end of the war have been attributed to women, American and Iraqi officials say jihadi groups are deploying female bombers far more frequently to slip past the heavy security cordons that are the backbone of the U.S. military's surge strategy. On Sunday, a female bomber killed 16 people and wounded at least 35 in Baquba. Just a few days before, two men and four women detonated a car bomb in a densely packed marketplace in northwest Baghdad, killing 63 people.

In every instance, female bombers have been able to get to their intended target despite multiple layers of security. In a culture that forbids male policemen or checkpoint guards from frisking women — yet also frowns on women joining the security forces — many have easy passage to high-value targets like police stations and markets. They can go unchecked where no man would dream of passing.

Suicide bombers may end their lives in the same way, but it would be foolish to draw any conclusions about their motivations from a single story. Still, how Hasna came to blow herself up sheds some light on the cycle of hopelessness some Iraqi women find themselves in.

According to this story, Hasna became a killer because her brother was one and she wanted to both complete his martyrdom and to follow him to Paradise. I'd argue that all of that is religiously motivated, even if indirectly. But the conclusion of the story is that she did it not for her religion but for a man, her brother in this case, and the unstated assumption is that her motives are something that male suicide bombers do not have. But I have read about female suicide bombers who stated their motives to be fanatically religious and I have read about male suicide bombers who turned into killers because of a death of someone they loved in the family. Sometimes the search for simple and clear-cut explanations is not that enlightening.

The article about Hasna's killing expedition ends like this:

The other video, shot by one of the men who drove her to the checkpoint, shows Hasna looking impassively out of the window until they approach Kilometer 5. Then she pulls a veil over her face and adjusts the belt around her waist before stepping out. One of the men in the car whispers, "God is great!" She doesn't respond or look back. As the car drives away, the video, shot through the rear window, shows her approaching the checkpoint. She is quickly obscured from view by the dust trail behind the car. Nearly a minute later there's a flash, a muffled boom and a column of black smoke. "God is great!" says the cameraman. "The stupid woman did it."

"The stupid woman did it." Is this something the cameraman might have said about any suicide bomber, with a change of "stupid woman" to "stupid man"? Or is the statement just a general expression of contempt towards women?

It's hard to say. But I think the article tries to explain why women would be willing to kill themselves for a movement which doesn't value them or respect them as human beings.

This story is in some ways quite typical of stories about violent women, stories which are a little like that old saw about news being not when a dog bites a man but when a man bites a dog. We all expect dogs to sometimes bite people, but we don't expect people to bite dogs. So the latter is interesting and newsworthy.

In the same way, a woman suicide bomber is newsworthy, because we don't expect women to be the perpetrators of violence but its victims. That the number of female suicide bombers is very small doesn't make them any less interesting, rather the reverse. We are not that interested in the minds of male suicide bombers, because the very idea is more familiar.

The whole treatment of gender and violence in studies and the media has a similar paradoxical flavor. On the one hand, we are blinded to the very gendered nature of violence to such an extent that Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate, a book about popularized evolutionary psychology as an explanation of Everything didn't bother to even mention violence in the chapter about gender differences, and I didn't find a single published criticism of the book that mentioned that odd omission.

On the other hand, when women do commit violent acts the attention those get is enormous, and everybody wants to know what "made her do it." Sometimes the culture in which we live blinds us to the way gender is viewed: as something that only women have. That's why the gendered aspect of violence only becomes visible when women kill.

When Is A Compromise Not A Compromise?

I'm scratching my divine head over the great victory Steny Hoyer has achieved by forcing the Republicans to compromise on the changes to the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Security Act). Remember all the furor over the warrantless wiretapping of Americans, over massive data-mining operations and over the retroactive immunity promises to the telecoms who participated in that? It would seem logical to expect the compromises to be about those three topics, would it not?

Yet Glenn Greenwald quotes the right-wing organ, the Washington Times, as saying this about the Hoyer's compromise:

The most important benefit of the agreement is that it grants retroactive liability protection to telecommunications companies who responded to the federal government's request for emergency help after September 11. . . . The legislation, which would sunset in 2012, also ends the foolish practice of requiring judicial (or formal attorney-general) authorization to monitor communications between terrorists overseas if their calls are routed through a switch located in the United States.

So what was the compromise? Where is that great Hoyer victory?

The more I read about it, the more the great Hoyer victory seems to be over the Democrats. To quote the august Washington Times again:

If the House vote is any indication, political fallout from the legislation will unify Republicans and deeply divide the Democrats - not unlike the presidential primaries which just concluded. In the House, Republicans voted 188-1 in favor of the bill, while Democrats voted 128-105 against it. Left-wing blogs like Talking Points Memo and DailyKos are furious with members of the House Democratic leadership like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes and members of the Blue Dog Coalition for supporting the bill.

Ok. So the Democrats voted 128-105 against Hoyer's great compromise, but only one Republican didn't like the compromise? How extremely fascinating! Who is it that Hoyer was fighting here but his own party.

He managed to cave in to the Republican minority. Now, that's a great victory, indeed. Unless you like the Constitution and stuff.

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin can go to feminist hell (by Suzie)

for all I care. I know we're supposed to speak well of the dead. (Unless you're Bob Somerby talking about Tim Russert.) But the very fact that someone is down -- and DEAD -- makes it a lot easier to kick him. (I can't recall where I stole that joke; maybe it's from Carlin himself.) 
        Check out Carlin on the hilarity of rape jokes, including the idea that men commit rape because they're horny and can't get sex any other way. He also got laughs about “Eskimo rape,” before the recent publicity over the high rate of rape among indigenous women in Alaska.
       In his popular bit named "Feminist Blowjob," he say: "It doesn't take a lot of imagination to piss off feminists." He says we attack "fat-ass housewives." We attack men and yet act like men with our "pointless careerism." We are mostly white, middle-class women who "don't give a shit" about women of color. We blow stuff out of proportion, and we take ourselves too seriously. (Did I hear "Bingo"?)
        Like a lot of people, Carlin confused state censorship with individuals who prefer not to be maligned or misrepresented. He criticized feminists for wanting to control language and to tell people what to think. But he had strong opinions, and he used language in hopes of getting people to believe as he did. 

Republican Framing 101

Karl Rove is teaching us all how it is done:

ABC News' Christianne Klein reports that at a breakfast with Republican insiders at the Capitol Hill Club this morning, former White House senior aide Karl Rove referred to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, as "coolly arrogant."

"Even if you never met him, you know this guy," Rove said, per Christianne Klein. "He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by."

Rove's statement has nothing to do with the political skills of the candidates (Obama and McCain) and almost nothing to do with reality. McCain, for instance, is much, much wealthier than Obama. The "country club" reference is intended to evoke feelings of bitterness about the rich who go to such places, but of course African Americans have not traditionally been welcome in them at all. So Rove scores a double here in turning facts upside-down. It's McCain who would be a much better example of someone doing those things in a country club when he was younger: A military hero and all!

That whole statement is intended to provoke teenage feelings of resentment among those who hear or read it, to spread an odd veil of emotional envy towards Barack Obama, to poison the air with the ideas that it is he who is the elitist and not McCain even though McCain has considerably better qualifications for that role.

But of course all this is your typical Rove maneuvering: Take a fact and turn it completely back-to-front. Attack the strengths of the opposition and argue that they are the real weaknesses.

Because Obama's strength is partly that he is NOT in the ruling elite nor in the moneyed elite. If anything, he has the power of the outsider, and it is that power that Rove tries to destroy by his smears.

What Rove does is not that different from what Maureen Dowd does, every week in the New York Times: Encouraging people not to engage their thinking minds but instead decide on the world based on some very silly stereotypes and emotional grudges from past youth. This makes me very angry, because what is at stake is the real lives of people both in this country and elsewhere. Even their real deaths.

A Post On Subtitles.

A Post on Subtitles. Explaining in Great Detail Why Such Are the Pits and Should Be Banned by Law.

The best reason is that they irritate me, anger me and make me want to scratch my spinal cord. Why did we suddenly fall back into the Victorian custom of providing book summaries in the form of subtitles? Why? I demand an answer.

The title of a book should be short and redolent of the main message of the book and the emotions it provokes. It should stick in your memory and make it easy to talk about the book. Subtitles don't do any of that. They are crutches, added to keep the wobbly main title on its drunken feet, and I resent that very much.

Subtitles are not that common on the covers of most books, but they sure are proliferating on the covers of books about politics. It's as if readers of political books are expected just to read the subtitle before they go on some pundit show to discuss the book (which they mostly appear not to have read). Or as if readers of political books are viewed as so stupid that the political bias of the book must be condensed into a suitable subtitle. (If you have never heard of the author, you can look at the back cover and check who it is that has been made to recommend the book. If the three names there are all conservatives then you have a conservative book. If the three names are all liberals then you have a liberal book. Or you can check out the publisher's ideological bias.)

Now that was fun. I like selfish rants on my own blog, especially when they do have a point, though I still want to write The Memoirs of Echidne. My Life As An Old Man And How To Stuff A Mushroom If You Must.

Anyway, what this post really is about (after that very long subtitle) is this:

Shelby Steele, author of A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win (Free Press, December 2007), acknowledged that he thinks Sen. Barack Obama "can definitely win" the presidential election, despite the claim in the book's subtitle -- "Why He Can't Win" -- which he said was an "afterthought" that he "regret[ted]" and which he said did not represent the book's thesis.

This silliness is of course all about the real reason for subtitles in political books: They are there to market the book, in this case to those who rather want to see Obama fail and wish to read something that supports that view.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Liars Figure (by Phila)

An article in New Scientist presents a startling new scientific finding: Researchers whose definition of male success involves carefree sex with lots of women have discovered that men who have carefree sex with lots of women are successful:
Nice guys knew it, now two studies have confirmed it: bad boys get the most girls. The finding may help explain why a nasty suite of antisocial personality traits known as the "dark triad" persists in the human population, despite their potentially grave cultural costs.

The traits are the self-obsession of narcissism; the impulsive, thrill-seeking and callous behaviour of psychopaths; and the deceitful and exploitative nature of Machiavellianism. At their extreme, these traits would be highly detrimental for life in traditional human societies. People with these personalities risk being shunned by others and shut out of relationships, leaving them without a mate, hungry and vulnerable to predators.
The phrase "traditional human societies" begs a few pointed questions. But we'll put them aside for now. Bigger and better things are afoot.
[B]eing just slightly evil could have an upside: a prolific sex life, says Peter Jonason at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. "We have some evidence that the three traits are really the same thing and may represent a successful evolutionary strategy."
That these complex traits are "really the same thing" is a fairly bold claim, and I'm not entirely surprised that Peter Jonason tries to support it by describing the behavior of a fictional character:
James Bond epitomises this set of traits, Jonason says. "He's clearly disagreeable, very extroverted and likes trying new things - killing people, new women." Just as Bond seduces woman after woman, people with dark triad traits may be more successful with a quantity-style or shotgun approach to reproduction, even if they don't stick around for parenting. "The strategy seems to have worked. We still have these traits," Jonason says.
We still have monastic celibacy, too, last time I checked. I don't find it puzzling that this "extreme" behavior hasn't become common in the general population. So why should I find it puzzling that not all men are promiscuous sociopaths?
"They still have to explain why it hasn't spread to everyone," says Matthew Keller of the University of Colorado in Boulder. "There must be some cost of the traits."
It's very heartening to think of the earnest debates that are being held as to whether a trait that is explicitly defined as narcissistic, callous, and exploitative -- that is explicitly defined, in other words, as antisocial -- might have some sort of social cost.

I've saved the best part for last:
Jonason and his colleagues subjected 200 college students to personality tests designed to rank them for each of the dark triad traits. They also asked about their attitudes to sexual relationships and about their sex lives, including how many partners they'd had and whether they were seeking brief affairs.
In other words, they asked male college students who scored high on a test for narcissistic and deceitful personality traits to report on their own sexual conquests, and took their answers at face value.

I'm no expert, but that really doesn't seem like a very good way to proceed.