Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Treacherous Foundation (by Phila)

The Iowa Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage has upset Matthew J. Franck, because it shows that "feelings and desire" have replaced "moral the basis for judgment of lawful public morality."

What is this taut, elegant, alert "moral reasoning" that has purged itself of mere womanish sentiment? It's not entirely clear, but it seems to have something to do with gay people being a bunch of subhuman perverts who've forfeited any right to ordinary human consideration. Deny that bedrock empirical principle, and tyranny is practically a done deal, according to Franck:
[T]he court's weak argument for same-sex marriage...boils down to this: Because some persons are "sexually and romantically attracted to members of their own sex," and because some of those persons have entered into "committed and loving relationships" with each other, they are entitled to "the personal and public affirmation that accompanies marriage."

From this vantage point, the feelings individuals have for one another are the authoritative wellspring of moral principle. Emotion and desire are certainly important, but without more, they are a treacherous foundation for law and public policy.
I can think of worse ones. And as we'll soon see, Franck can too.
Marriage and family are a moral institution – the teacher of right conduct between the sexes, the school of morality for the young, the founding scene of our moral obligations, the refuge from a wider world where respect for those obligations is a much chancier proposition.
All of this is pietisic gibberish. And even if it weren't, we all know that heterosexual marriages often fail at most or all of these tasks. But that's OK, according to Franck; it's the thought that counts.
These may sound like lofty ideals often unrealized, but that is both the point and beside the point. Society has a profound interest in encouraging the successful formation of marriages and families that point by their nature toward the achievement of these ideals.
So even when heterosexual marriage is a disaster for all concerned, it's still "successful," in that it points towards the ideal of heterosexual marriage. Women may get beaten up or killed, children may be brutalized or neglected, and marriage vows may be broken right and left...but at least certain standards of decency were upheld, and society was spared the literally demoralizing spectacle of Adam and Steve pushing a stroller down the street.

Franck doesn't like civil unions, either, because they "amount to special provisions for a special class of people." For once, we agree: the idea that homosexuals constitute "a special class of people" under the law is absurd. Of course, the same can also be said of heterosexuals, which renders Franck's view of marriage problematic, to say the least.

Or it would, if Franck weren't well aware that The Man Upstairs has already done the hard work of reasoned judgment for us. This intellectual short circuit constitutes his idea of "moral reasoning," and that's exactly what the Iowa court has failed to uphold.
[T]he court is incapable of entertaining the most elementary distinction between matters of theology, faith, and worship, on the one hand, and matters of moral reasoning springing from religious conviction on the other.
After reading this sentence a couple dozen times, and trying to imagine what it could possibly mean, I can't say I blame them. But maybe this next bit will clarify things:
What the opinion calls "religious opposition to same-sex marriage" would more accurately be described as "moral opposition to same-sex marriage springing from religious sources."
A nice distinction. "Religious opposition" sounds downright bigoted. But moral opposition, springing from religious sources...well, that seems harmless enough, doesn't it? Surely there's no harm in denying our fellow citizens rights based on that?

The court, Franck complains, has treated religion as one sentiment among others; this means that "the justices wind up incoherently privileging one kind of feeling over another." And then look what happens:
Those who desire to marry win out over those who desire to "exclude" them from marrying, and that's that.
Well, yeah. That's because "one kind of feeling" is in harmony with the Constitution, and one isn't. Also, religion per se can't be the deciding factor here, because there are religions that take a neutral or affirmative stance on the question.

That said, I love the scare quotes around "exclude." Here we have someone who not only claims that there is a moral right to deny homosexuals rights, but also implies that there's no moral right not to deny them rights. And yet, he presents the logical legal implications of his own position as some ideological imposition forced on him by political correctness. He's not excluding them; they exclude themselves by being abnormal, just as blacks formerly "segregated" themselves by having the wrong skin color.

See, Franck doesn't come before us as a advocate of bigotry or religious persecution. He's simply taking a stand for reasoned judgment — the kind that comes to you as effortlessly as breathing, once you accept the correct political interpretation of the correct religious tradition:
Lost from view is the true ground of our common public morality: reasoned judgment about the natures of things and the good of human persons, families, and communities.
Or as Fred Phelps puts it, without any tedious pretense to intellectualism and rationality, God hates fags. Which apparently seemed to the Iowa court like a treacherous foundation for law and public policy.

"Vote" against "rape" (by Suzie)

         The Huffington Post has an informal (i.e., unscientific) poll going about the rape scene in Seth Rogen's new movie, "Observe and Report." I'm not sure how much good it will do, but why not go over there and vote against the movie. Right now, the winning option is: 
"It's a JOKE people. Get upset about more important things."
         Marcella Chester has a great smack down on this.
         The Huff Post puts date rape in quotation marks. The movie isn't a true story. So, the Post can't be afraid of libel if someone is found not guilty. I suspect the Post doesn't want to bias its readers as to whether the scene depicts rape or not. By using quotation marks, however, it signals its own bias: This isn't real rape.
         Its poll indicates how many people don't understand -- or don't want to understand -- that being raped by someone you know is just as much a crime as being raped by a stranger. In most states, it's rape if someone is too intoxicated to give informed consent.
         Too bad a public service announcement can't run at the beginning of the movie. 
         ETA: Also see Lindsay Beyerstein's take on the heinous review by Richard Corliss in TIME. 
         ETA2: April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, btw. Here's a link to The Nation, which discusses a boycott of the movie. One reader explains that the rapist in the movie is supposed to be seen as a bad guy. The problem is, film critics, Rogen and others in the movie are not naming this as rape. 

Unfortunately I Have to Believe In Button Pushers by Anthony McCarthy

An elderly aunt has gone into a sad decline. Part of it is the natural decay of aging, some of which you can’t help. Some of that is exacerbated by a decline in voluntary physical activity. A lot of that is due to depression. Our bodies decline, the cares of life bear down on us. But part of it might be preventable. This poor old soul spends many hours every day sitting in front of the TV watching those phony court shows, the ones that are about as unbiased as a pro-wrestling spectacle. From what I’ve seen, the subject of most of the “cases” are either people too foolish to manage their lives taken advantage of by con men or creeps of some sort or people too stupid to stay out of trouble. There’s almost always a good side and a bad side, and you’re supposed to take one of them. It’s never left to doubt which one.

Like most of entertainment TV, certainly including the cabloids, and talk radio, the entire purpose is to press peoples’ buttons. Deregulated from serving a higher goal, button pushing has become the bread and butter of TV and radio, entertainment, infotanement and “news”. It is an easy way to manipulate people, to attract a dependable audience and to get them to return to get those same buttons pushed, same time, same channel. The audience comes back because they get the simulation of action without having to exert any effort. The button gets pushed and elicits a dull sensation that is gratifying. The audience gets to feel the addictive emotions of contempt and hate, of feeling morally and intellectually superior to the hated bad guy. And they get to feel it every day.

Other time segments of TV and radio consist of variations on the pattern, pushing different buttons in a slightly different pattern to attract other parts of the potential audience. Cable “news” consists of almost nothing but button pushing, providing scant information in between the manipulation of the audiences’ sensations. Their intent is to sell eyes to advertisers so they can push other buttons and get them to open their pockets to them. Secondarily, the “news” networks intention is to manipulate the audience to vote in a way that is more favorable to the corporations’ financial well being, which accounts for the bits of “information” and how they’re chosen.

In his book I Don’t Believe in Atheists*, Chris Hedges talks about the infamous debate that he and Sam Harris engaged in last year. Reading the book and around the web, you can’t help noticing that Hedges has a chip on his shoulder. I don’t blame him. It’s rather stunning how many people breezily dismiss his many years covering the Middle-East, knowing Arabic, having an intimate knowledge of a large part of the Islamic world through hard won and dangerously procured experience. They dismiss his professional expertise in favor of Sam Harris’ drivel, based on such stuff as a misrepresentation of a Pew research poll and his scanty research. If you look for the evidence around the blogs that discussed the “debate” you could see that the Harrisite opinion on the subject might be the predominant view. Sam Harris’ relatively information free assertions are widely accepted and if Chris Hedges mentions that his credentials give his ideas credibility, he is dismissed as an egomaniacal blow hard. It must be particularly galling to someone in Hedges position that those deriding him consider themselves members of the intellectual class.

I think that this is a clear manifestation of how easy and instantaneous button pushing has come to replace rigorous collection of information and analysis for even the relatively sophisticated and educated parts of our culture. And considering what Harris is selling, the buttons he can push and successfully get the desired response among his audience, it is pretty stunning. Consider that Harris has advocated a nuclear first strike against an as yet unrealized ‘Islamic bomb’. A first strike about which he, himself says: “ Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime - as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day - but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe. ”

Out of the wisdom gleaned from a misreading of stuff like a Pew poll and the rest of his cobbled together factoids about “what Islamists believe”. Harris is calling for the possibility of committing an “unthinkable crime” which would kill more “innocent civilians” in a day than were killed in the Holocaust. It would be shocking if someone calling for that could get a dozen admirers and yet Harris has many, many more than that. Clearly Harris’ fans who dismiss what Hedges had to say aren’t interested in real information, they’re looking to have their predispositions confirmed and reinforced, their buttons pushed. If it’s that easy to get large numbers of alleged “humanists”** to entertain Harris as a serious thinker on these subjects, the “intellectuals” have no right to look down on the plebs who get led astray by Lou Dobbs and the liars at FOX. Many people have been relegated to permanent cultural oblivion for asserting things that fall infinitely short of mass killing of innocent people.

I think that the seduction of that kind of lazy, comfortable, simple, fiction-fueled, gratification is a real and serious danger. We all have the temptation to fall for it, we are all in danger of those who do. The mildly exciting stimulation afforded by the hatred of a remote other, of the chance to feel morally superior without any effort expended is too seductive to go unmentioned. I think it is the equivalent of Aldous Huxley’s imagined “feelies” in Brave New World. And you don’t have to turn on the TV or radio to get it. It’s all over the web and available “As seen on the NYT Bestsellers List”.

Note: I finally read Chris Hedges book, I Don’t Believe In Atheists last week. Eventually it should be published along with his book “American Fascists” about the real dangers of religious fundamentalism. I agree with his view that these two kinds of fundamentalism are flip sides of one thing, though I think religious fundamentalism poses the more direct political danger due to their greater proximity to power. Anti-religious fundamentalism carries its greatest danger in provoking a reaction against the left, if we get blamed for their excesses. As I’ve mentioned before. .

“I Don’t Believe in Atheists” book had been recommended to me by one of my sometimes antagonists from the blog atheist side of things, just after it was published. As ridiculous and embarrassing as it might seem, this person asserted that Hedges might have copied some of my ideas. It was mentioned that several of the things I’d posted before the book was published had identical points and ideas to some of what Hedges said. I don’t buy that for a second. A few of the posts I wrote before I’d read the book but after it was published have ideas and even themes in common with some of Hedges points. I’m not sure if the e-mail was trying to push my buttons or not. Perhaps they were. Maybe they wanted me to write an outraged post asserting theft, which would only make me seem silly. But the idea is so far fetched and the ideas in common so obvious that it didn’t surprise me that someone else had noticed.

One thing I thought was interesting, we both think that Aldous Huxley might have been on to a lot more than he’s generally credited with. I’m more impressed that he said a lot of these things decades ago.

** I’ve read more “humanists” online worried over Harris’ belief in “woo” than who are worried that he think’s it might be a good idea to kill tens of millions of people as an act of “preemption”.

I think that might also have something to do with why Aldous Huxley isn’t given the serious consideration his record of correct prediction calls for.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Neurodiversity and gender (by Suzie)


           In the neurodiversity movement, I appreciate the idea that people think and behave differently, and these differences can benefit the individual as well as society. (Of course, some ways of being don't suit either.)  
         An interesting article in New York magazine quotes Judy Singer, who coined the term “neurodiversity” for the movement that considers autism, Asperger’s and related conditions another way of existing in the world, as opposed to a defect or illness.
"I was interested in the liberatory, activist aspects of it—to do for neurologically different people what feminism and gay rights had done for their constituencies,” Singer said.
          Identity politics often rely on the binary of the privileged vs. the oppressed, and aspects of the oppressed group may be revalued. But it can be hard to value the differences of one group without criticizing, even inadvertently, the differences of another. This site values traits of people on the autism spectrum, including less interest in “small talk.” That phrase has a pejorative connotation. But "small talk" can be good; some people do it to bond, or to pave the way for deeper conversations.
          In the post below, which I hope you read first, I talk about definitions of “neurotypical” and “non-neurotypical.” Some people on the autism spectrum use humor to express frustration with NTs here and here. These put-downs seem to conflict with an essay on neurodiversity from Thomas Armstrong, who says that "what we call disabilities exist on a continuum with normal behavior." In other words, there is no clear demarcation between typical and non-typical.
        Some people link traits of autism and Asperger's to stereotypical male behavior, such as having less interest in the social and emotional needs of others. The most notorious example is Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge, who has written on the “extreme male brain.” Here’s an Echidne posts that critiques him
        Boys and men are much more likely to be diagnosed on the autism spectrum, although people have questioned whether girls may get misdiagnosed, perhaps because they behave differently. Some people have argued that women with autism and Asperger’s have it worse than men because the women don’t meet gender expectations. Not surprisingly, some men disagree.
      If we truly want to value other ways of being in the world, we need to be careful not to reinscribe stereotypes. To truly respect neurodiversity, we need to give more than a passing reference to women who are diagnosed with mental illnesses in which women predominate, such as depression and anxiety. 

Who is neurotypical? (by Suzie)

           After a recent and heated discussion on this blog, I sought more information on the term “neurotypical,” which began in the autism community for people perceived “as normal in their ability to process linguistic information and social cues.”
           In the previous discussion, some readers seemed to be using NT for anyone who hasn't been diagnosed with a mental disorder or illness. A couple of comments on this thread at Wrong Planet do the same.    
          When many people hear “mental illness,” they think of a debilitating disorder that lasts a long time, as opposed to being “physically ill,” which might last only a few hours. But certain mental illnesses can come and go and come again, or go away forever.
          When I was an undergraduate 30 years ago, I had agoraphobia. It got so bad that I felt sick stepping outside my apartment. My thinking was different from when I did public speaking in high school, and it is different now.
          I also suffer from anxiety and depression, which ebb and flow in my life. When I’m feeling generalized anxiety or a deep depression, my thinking is different. On the other hand, I may feel little anxiety or sadness in regard to something that would bother most people. For example, lots of people feel “scanziety” before scans to see if their cancer has returned. Imaging studies now feel routine to me. As a volunteer, I’ve come to know many people who have died. I appreciate having known them, and I usually don’t feel as sad about their death as many others do.
         Was I neurotypical before I had agoraphobia, non-neurotypical while experiencing it, and then neurotypical again after I recovered? Have I been non-neurotypical since the onset of anxiety and depression, or am I only non-neurotypical when I’m experiencing those moods? Can I still be called neurotypical when my feelings and thoughts differ from the norm?
            If we limit the definition of non-neurotypical to people with neurological disorders, such as autism, what about people who have other such disorders, such as cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis, who may think no differently from people without those disorders? My head hurts (and that can be a symptom of a neurological disorder).
            The most common usage of “neurotypical” confines it to people who aren’t on the autism spectrum. A friend suggests the definition might be limited to people believed to be wired differently from birth whose brain functioning can’t be changed by drugs. I would be OK with that definition if the word “neurotypical” didn’t imply that I’m typical in how my brain processes information. The label seems to deny that people like me do process cues differently at times. (Why did she say such-and-such? She must not like me! I’m so unlikable! No one will ever like me! My life is worthless!)
            This is a dilemma for me. I don’t feel like I’m neurotypical but I don’t consider myself non-neurotypical all of the time any more than I consider myself mentally ill all of the time. 

Friday flower blogging (by Suzie)

I asked Eileen Kahl, bromeliad curator at the University of South Florida Botanical Garden, what this was, and she talked about it like it was an old friend. It's Aechmea gamosepala. The pinkish thing is the inflorescence, and the tiny blue things are the flowers. It's cold tolerant down to about 26 degrees. It likes light to medium shade. And it multiplies like mad, that rascal.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

For Your Eyes And Ears

This audio by Richard Rodriguez about 'women on the move' is interesting. I'm not sure if his conclusions are correct (I think not) but you can decide for yourselves.

The goldfinch (?) above is by 1WattHermit. It took me the growing of cupflowers to realize how the yellow color of goldfinches works as protective camouflage. They are invisible while eating the seeds of the yellow cupflowers.

Today's Funny Video

Via CalculatedRisk.

A Break

A break in the regularly scheduled programming of this blog, that is. We shall return to the usual ranting and raving in a moment.

HiHo, To Work We Go. More Fun Research.

Why the dwarves got into that headline I don't know. Perhaps because I'm angry. Here's a new study popularization to influence your perceptions of chimpanzees (and humans!) forevermore:

Chimpanzees enter into "deals" whereby they exchange meat for sex, according to researchers.

Male chimps that are willing to share the proceeds of their hunting expeditions mate twice as often as their more selfish counterparts.

This is a long-term exchange, so males continue to share their catch with females when they are not fertile, copulating with them when they are.

The team describe their findings in the journal PLoS One.

Get that? It's prostitution they found! But note, very carefully, that we don't actually know what the chimps are thinking, what their intentions and plans are, when they share meat and when they have sex. We don't know if the meat-sharers are just really nice guys, friends even, and if that's the reason why they mate with a particular female more often. Note that what the researchers observed wasn't quite what they wanted to initially observe:

The "meat for sex hypothesis" had already been proposed to explain why male chimps might share with females.

But previous attempts to record the phenomenon failed, because researchers looked for direct exchanges, where a male shared meat with a fertile female and copulated with her right away.

Dr Gomes' team took a new approach. In a previous study, she had found that grooming exchange - where the animals take it in turns to groom each other - happens over long periods, she related. "So we thought, why not meat and sex?

"We looked at chimps when they were not in oestrus, this means they don't have sexual swellings and aren't copulating."

"The males still share with them - they might share meat with a female one day, and only copulate with her a day or two later."

Dr Gomes thinks that her findings could even provide clues about human evolution.

She suggests this study could lay the foundations for human studies exploring the link between "good hunting skills and reproductive success".

"This has got me really interested in humans," she said. "I'm thinking of moving on to working with hunter-gatherers."

Lucky hunter-gatherers. Soon we will learn that humans trade sex for meat, too.

Sometimes words matter a lot. Anyone describing what these chimpanzees do (long-term friendship, it sounds to me) as trading sex for meat should prove to us that this indeed is the case. For instance, there should be examples of a male chimpanzee stopping to donate meat when a female chimpanzee refuses sex or has sex with another male and so on. There should be analysis of all meat donations, even to other male chimpanzees, say, and there should be analysis of whatever else these chimpanzee pairs do together, preferably demonstrating that they don't do anything else together but these two exchanges before they are called such.

To call behavior like this something that humans regard a trade in the marketplace has connotations, and all of those are bad for women.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

These Shoes Are Made For Walking...

Samhita at posted this photo with just the title "Women As Closet Furniture." Which does apply rather nicely.

But there's much more to that picture. Take the contrast between the vulnerable naked softness of the woman and the hardness and shininess of all the objects piled up on her.

Or notice how the shoes are walking all over her, while she reclines in a position which is servile and at least looks painful.

Or notice the hand that helpfully stretches out to offer a case to the imaginary male owner of all this abundance.

Or notice how it's impossible for her to move and how she appears to have an orgasm and how there's a slight tinge of violence all over the picture.

None of this would matter in a world where all kinds of images of women (and men) were available. Of course pigs fly in that world, too.

Avian Child-Rearing: How Eagles Do It

This video is fascinating. It's a clip from a livecam of a pair of nesting eagles. Three eggs were laid and one has already hatched. The clip begins with the mummy eagle hatching in the nest. The daddy eagle then flies in, deposits another tree branch to build the nest. And then he takes over the hatching. So.
You can see the baby in this clip which also has an intruder.

Lizard Brain Politics

I have nothing against lizards, nothing, but humans are not supposed to do politics with nothing but their lizard brains, and I see far too much of this going on. International politics is not the World Championships In Dick Measurement. International politics concerns stuff where real people can die, and dicks are not relevant for the discussion.

Thus, it doesn't ultimately matter if George Bush held hands with a Saudi prince and if Obama bowed to one. Adults can do stuff like that without finding their loins endangered, though the acts themselves are always worth analyzing from a more adult angle.

Neither does it matter if Obama doesn't brag and boast enough on his foreign trip. If anything, bragging and boasting after eight years of the same from George Bush left nobody convinced about his penis-size. Rather, it left most foreigners (yes, I know they don't matter for conservatives) angry and wary of this country, and that certainly was part of the problem Bush created. So Obama has to pour oil on the waves. That what he says is regarded as important all over the world should be enough for those who somehow equate their own value with the supremacy of the United States.

But The Beer And The Meat Got Delivered?

A man has been accused of selling his fourteen-year old daughter into marriage for beer, meat and 16,000 dollars. When he didn't get the money (after two weeks), he went to the police to get his daughter back...

A story about the property value of women, sure, but a story about poverty and sadness, too. It's always good to remember that what he did would be perfectly acceptable in many cultures, not a crime at all, just the way daughters are apportioned out in life.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

You Know You're An Adult When

You can eat all the crust off the blueberry pie and none of the blueberries and nobody yells at you.

That is, in any case, the way I realized that there are advantages to adulthood.

Hemorrhoid With Eyes

What's with this wingnuts' fascination concerning bottoms? Rush Limbaugh recently said something about anal poisons and now Michael Savage calls Glenn Beck a hemorrhoid with eyes. And with ears, too. It's naturally very funny when the wingnuts fight each other.

But I'm not so sure if we should get all our entertainment from political commentaries, given that they are often about serious matters. This, for instance, is just a little bit frightening, once you get past the laughing stage:

There are many more frightening scenarios, of course (gun shows, say), but somehow the mixing of lies, ignorance, threats and urges to panic isn't ultimately very funny. I'm probably just a humorless feminazi here, sigh.

Who Am I Chatting WIth?

It's an odd medium, this blogging thing. Odder some days than others, sure, but it's always weird in the sense of being a mongrel born from chatting with people on one side and some form of solitary writing on the other side.

I throw out thoughts. And sometimes I get responses. But who is it who reads the thoughts? And when you write on someone else's blog, do you write for a totally different audience? I find myself stilted and blocked when visiting like that, because some part of me thinks of it as visiting another person's home and so the rules of being the guest apply. I can't spit on the carpet or swear. But then perhaps those are my strengths? See what I mean? Probably not, as these thoughts might not interest someone who isn't blogging.

Who is it that we are chatting with? Think of how we converse on this blog, sometimes quite heatedly, think of how we respond to a comment someone else has made, how we have what looks like a conversation between a small number of people. But all that remains in the archives and ten months later someone can come in and read the discussion and leave a comment, like a ghost. Only I most likely see it there. Was that ghost part of the conversation? Where do the dead blog posts go?

And of course most people don't respond to any one post. Do they read? Does not knowing this matter?

Most days I don't think of any of this. Most days I just have lots of fun. But blogging is ephemeral, something that's here and then is not here. What was it that took place and where did it go?

Good News Tuesday

Same-sex marriage is legal in Vermont. That's good news, because it increases fairness in this world.

The Taliban-style law for Shia women in Afghanistan has been dropped after public outcry from dirty-fucking-hippies in the West. That also increases fairness though perhaps not by very much given that most women who would have been affected by the law live the way it would have stipulated in any case. But it's like the first sand grain starting to move from a wall. Or so I hope.

And last but not least (well, least, really): Americans are more optimistic about the economy since the presidential inauguration. This matters, because much of the recession has to do with emotions and beliefs and worry. Worry makes it much, much worse.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Who You Gonna Believe? Nicolle Wallace Or Your Own Ears?

Now that's a difficult choice to make. I'm pretty sure I heard Barack Obama scolding Europeans about their reflexive anti-Americanism, but Nicolle Wallace didn't. All she heard was no bragging about Murka and her exceptionalism. In Nicolle's world one brags a lot about one's own house while visiting other people's houses. That's good manners.

Free Markets Of Ideas

Remember when we were told that the Internet would provide us the ultimate free market for ideas? A place where ideas would don their silver helmets, raise their magic swords and go at each other at the dawn of the New Era, all following the Marquess of Queenberry rules, naturally? A civilized but open struggle! Let the best idea win!

It doesn't look anything like that, does it? Except perhaps for that manly parable I painted, all stirred together from unarmed combat and noble dueling. What mostly seems to have happened is that the ideas cower each in their own corner of the boxing ring, surrounded by their acolytes. Thus, the conservatives stay on their blogs and the liberals stay on their blogs and any visiting consists of trolling raids.

I'm not sure what the impact of that will be on the mythical free market of ideas. Neither am I sure why it seems to be the case that an unmoderated large forum is always ultimately taken over by the extremists and/or the trolls. If the idea of a free market of ideas really worked then we'd have to conclude that it's the trolls and/or the extremists who had the best ideas.

The conclusion I draw from all this is that the cyberspace does not provide a free market for ideas. Of course I could have drawn the same conclusion much more quickly by just checking the list of requirements of a perfectly competitive market against the cyberspace reality, but that wouldn't have made a post.

Monday Morning Muddle Study

Just for the fun of it. Did you know that depressed women give their children unhealthier food? Or perhaps not! Perhaps depressed women force their children to eat well as a control issue? Or both! Yasss...

- We found that mothers who were emotionally unstable, anxious, angry, sad, had poor self-confidence or a negative view of the world were far more likely to give their child sweet and fatty foods. At the same time, there was no link between maternal personality and how healthy a diet the child got in the form of fruit and vegetables, explains psychologist Eivind Ystrøm at the NIPH.

These maternal personality traits fall under a collective name of high negative affectivity (negative emotions). These people often have a lower stress threshold, giving up quicker when faced with obstacles – e.g. in a disagreement – and often experience lack of control of the child.

- I think that mothers compensate for this either by trying to force healthy food into their child or hold the sweet-bag strings extra tightly. Paradoxically, they try to balance poor control by actually using more control. With force and restrictions they increase desire which quickly results in resistance in the form of tantrums which these mothers are also bad at resisting. Also, earlier studies have shown that controlling behaviour among parents is linked with a more sugar-rich diet among children.

And what would be the reason to study this? To give the mothers some help BECAUSE otherwise they feed their children bad foods? Why not give them some help because they themselves deserve it? It's odd how hard it is to justify something like that, isn't it?

But of course I'm being unfair here and the study is probably a whole lot more honest than most of those what's-wrong-with-women studies that I discuss, as it dares to point out some of the complications. Likewise, people in the academia must publish something, and so we get lots of studies. Lots.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

School Marm...

Now this is an interesting accusation I've seen used recently: to call someone a school marm as a Bad Thing.

Why is it a bad thing, exactly? Worth thinking about, eh?