Saturday, May 23, 2009

"Testosterone is the 'hormone of vitality' " (by Suzie)

        That's the headline on a story in a feature section of my local paper, although, on the Web site, the story is under "entertainment." Looks like testosterone got itself a PR agent. The article quotes a doctor who recommends implantation of pellets under the skin to deliver testosterone to women to make them feel better in a variety of ways. Have at it.

Bigotry As A Controlling Disability by Anthony McCarthy

It’s often wondered at, how otherwise intelligent people can be just plain dense. I remember having a discussion about the Noble Prize stud farm, a sperm bank that in which the Noble Prize physicist William Shockley left a deposit in the late 1970s or early 80s. At the time it was reported that several great thinkers, so rewarded, were reported to have participated in this most risible of eugenics projects, though they chose anonymity. Anyone who thinks eugenics died with the Nazis should be chastened to find that any number of Nobels had that much faith in the pseudo-science that late in the game, encouraged by others with scientific and quasi-scientific credentials.*

During that, at times less than serious, discussion, the very serious fact that Schockley was infamous as a scientific racist was unavoidable. The man was a total nut case, believing that the inferiority of people with African ancestry was a fact of hard science. He was and is, hardly alone. I seem to remember hearing one of my science heroes on TV point out to his that Schockley and the rest of the geezers in the Nobel stable would likely produce inferior genetic material due to the accumulation of mutations at their advanced ages. Like the rest of his project, apparently that was a variable the Nobel Physicist and the other men of science neglected to consider.

The truth is, bigotry is not based in sound information or reason, it’s based in gossip, phony evidence promulgated for ulterior motives, in the heat of envy and resentment. When a person allows bigotry to take over a large part of their thinking, it makes the results just plain stupid. No matter what they might accomplish in their professional life where they are required by professional standards to delete their bigotry, when they take one step outside their narrow specialty, their intelligence and behavior, takes a dive to the bottom. I think that the thing to notice here, is that they are smarter when they are forced by professional standards to cut it than when they are free to vent it. .

So, I’m not impressed with the PhD’d bigots that abound these days. I don’t look at their degrees or what faculty they sit on or their publications. You have to look at what they say and what they use to back it up. When they spout dumb crap, that’s what they’re spouting. When their ignorant fans repeat it, the quality of it doesn’t improve. As with old line racism, it can have a damaging effect on the entire country and take an enormous amount of effort to overturn. Anyone who is a student of the literature of sexism and Jim Crow will know there were many degreed, highly positioned experts cited in the screeds that comprise it. Many texts supporting the subjugation of women and the oppression of minorities are authored by those with impeccable credentials and letters after their names. A lot of what I’m seeing even now, even with the entire, bloody history of the 19th and 20th centuries to have learned from, looks mighty like that crap.

* They never attracted the rarest of the lot, the doubly Nobeled Linus Pauling, who was quoted as having declined participating because he preferred doing it the “old fashioned way”. A graduate student in chemistry in the discussion said he’d heard that too.

UPDATE: “Don’t Just Sit There Takin’ Abuse, You Got to Put It To Use “ Carla Bley

The language police are on the case, here’s the rap sheet:

Offending words in bold

I. Bigotry As A Controlling Disability

Apparently pointing out that bigotry is an intellectual disability is forbidden. Or it would be if this wasn’t included in the standard definition of the word* . “2:b a nonlegal disqualification, restriction, or disadvantage. Clearly what was intended in its use. As in “ When arguing with Richard Lewontin about the Nobel Stud Farm, Shockley’s reasoning was disabled by his racism.”

II. It’s often wondered at, how otherwise intelligent people can be just plain dense.

2.a Marked by a stupid imperviousness to ideas or impressions: THICKHEADED. b. EXTREME < ~ ignorance >

I hope this is self explanatory, but that’s probably a faint hope. As in, "I hope you appreciate how hard it is for me to take this seriously."

III. When a person allows bigotry to take over a large part of their thinking, it makes the results just plain stupid.

Do I really need to go to the dictionary to defend my use of the word “stupid” here? Or is there anyone here who thinks that it’s too mean a word to use for the thinking that results from bigotry?

* Definitions from Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary: 8Th edition.

Vicarious Guilt vs. Voluntary Encouragement by Anthony McCarthy

Using the neglect of Daniel Hauser, the 13-year-old boy whose parents have kept him from receiving treatment for lymphoma, as an attack on the large majority of the population who are religious is a good example of the dishonesty and counter-productive thinking rampant in blog culture. It starts in assigning vicarious guilt to people who not only aren’t involved in the crime of the parents, but who completely disapprove of what they’re doing.

The fact is, the parents wouldn’t be breaking a law against this kind of child neglect if there wasn’t a law to break. Most people think it should be illegal or those laws wouldn’t have been adopted or maintained in the legal code. Most of the people who draft those laws and adopt them are religious believers elected into office by religious believers. Blaming them because someone broke the law they approve of is stupid. You might as well blame them for any other crime someone commits.

The fact is, very few religions teach that it is all right to refuse a child medical treatment. Those I’m familiar with would probably hold that what the parents are doing is sinful. They see it for the child neglect it is, the opposite of parental responsibilities and obligations.

How can people be responsible for acts that they disapprove of, have tried to prevent by making it a crime and who will largely be in favor of the prosecution of the parents? If you can make sense of the accusation of the majority of religious believers for the acts of two parents, it must be through something other than the application of reason.

I once asked another blogger promoting the same kind of vicarious guilt why they didn’t focus on the far larger number of people who are denied treatment because they either can’t pay or don’t have medical insurance. Call it systemic medical negligence. In the United States, I’d imagine such people, including children, outnumber the victims of faith-based child neglect by, at least, many hundreds to one. You could also work in the fact that some of those people can get free treatment from religious charities and institutions. You might wish that these religious charities and institutions could provide more free treatment than they are able to now. That is, you could if focusing on people being denied available medical treatment was the real purpose of their posts. That is a question I have asked a number of times to a response of stony silence.

Since it was Jerry Coyne who is the example linked to, I think I’m entirely within my rights to ask him why he is encouraging attacks on Moslems. If he or those who he chooses to associate with, can accuse people who have no association with Daniel Hauser’s parents of encouraging them, I can ask him to account for himself.

Just below that post is one in which he brags of his inclusion on the board of , uh, .... what is being dubbed, “The Reason Project”. In joining onto the board and encouraging people to join, he proudly associates himself with Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, he actively promotes them and, so, one would be entirely within their rights to assume, what they have said.

I’ve gone into Harris’ encouragement of a nuclear first strike against Moslems and his statement that it might be justifiable to kill people for their ideas in the absence of acts generally held to be necessary to justify killing someone. His hostility to Moslems, and other religious believers is his entire shtick. Chris Hitchens’ rabid, far from rational, promotion of the war in Iraq, his general hatred of Moslems and his enthusiasm for the killing potential of cluster bombs is also general knowledge.

So, Jerry Coyne, why are you promoting these things? You want to explain yourself the next time someone suspected of being a Moslem here is attacked or murdered on the basis of their religion? Unlike religious people who have no connection to the Hausers and who vigorously disapprove of what they’ve done, you’re proudly touting your choice to associate yourself with Harris and Hitchens.

I also don’t understand what Ayaan Hirsi Ali thinks she’s going to accomplish in joining up with Harris and Hitchens on this board. How is she going to change the minds of people Sam Harris wants to target for a nuclear first strike? I’d imagine even anti-Islamic people, even atheists who live in the cities to be incinerated in his proposed nuclear bombing, might not be enthusiastic about her after this. I had thought that she wanted to improve the lives of women who are the victims of Islamic fundamentalism. I don’t see how any reasoning person could think this is the way to do that.

Update: As to discerning Coyne’s intention of posting on the story you might want to consider this post:

Child doomed by religious faith

With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil - that takes religion.

-Steven Weinberg

No conflict between science and religion, you say? Have a look at this article from the Minneapolist StarTribune. Thirteen-year old Daniel Hauser,....

....This is a life-or-death conflict between science, which can save the child, and religion, which is killing him. No conflict here? What would Francis Collins say?

(Thanks to P. Z. Myers at Pharyngula for calling this to my attention. He has a post on this incident.)

Just why he wants to bring Francis Collins into this I haven’t been able to figure out.

If you want to see what he think of the practice of assigning vicarious guilt, and this doesn’t convince you, his blog archive isn’t very big and it’s easy to find.

“Body of Woman Found” by Anthony McCarthy

Echidne once said here that she wanted to be able to walk down any street without fear of being attacked because she is a woman. That is an entirely reasonable desire, to not have your life restricted because you have to take into account the reign of terror that is so prevalent. But year after year you live with it and you know it would be dangerous not to. It generally goes unmentioned or is taken as if it was some natural phenomenon, like the weather. Don't go there, is advice given as casually as a reminder to wear a raincoat. "Or you might get killed" is so well understood, it's not said.

Some of Suzie’s recent posts made me stop being distracted from the issue of the terror campaign against women. They have stuck in my mind and have been making me brood over an unpaid obligation.

In the aftermath of the murders of the Amish school girls, in October 2006, noticing how that horrible crime was covered by the press, the real nature of the murders of women due to their gender became obvious to me. Women are the target of a lynching campaign just as black Americans and others were in the 19th and 20th centuries. A woman is lynched somewhere in the United States almost every singe day, it’s been going on for decades.

The results are not only the deaths of a horrific number of women and girls just about every single day, it is in the terror women live under and the depressing, damaging effects of the intended demoralization. A boyfriend or husband who murders a woman doesn’t’ only target her, the clear message is that men have the right to use women as objects and to dispose of them if they want to. A man who murders a woman due to her gender believes he is within his rights to do so. The society we live in has instilled that belief through constant and pervasive, generally subtextual though sometimes explicit lessons. The movies and TV are full of them, there to be seen any time you watch.

Here are two pieces recovered from the blog I tried to start the week after the school girls were murdered, I will explain that doomed effort in a footnote.


Every day four women die in this country as a result of domestic violence, the euphemism for murders and assaults by husbands and boyfriends. That's approximately 1,400 women a year, according to the FBI. . The number of women who have been murdered by their intimate partners is greater than the number of soldiers killed in the Vietnam War.

Don't Say Tragedy, Call Selfish, Cowardly Hate Crimes What They Are

The news readers keep saying that the murders of Naomi Rose Eversole, Marian Fisher, Lina Miller, Mary Liz Miller, and Anna Mae Stoltzfus, and the attempted murder of other, still endangered girls is a tragedy. It isn't a tragedy. Tragedies are not planned in detail, they are not planned with everything including toilet paper for the comfort of the murderer taken into an Amish school from which adults and males are released before the murderer begins to carry out his plans. This was a hate crime planned and committed by a man who felt he was entitled to murder little girls he didn't know. He felt that his gender entitled him to terrorize, humiliate and murder them.

This wasn't a tragedy, this wasn't a story set into motion for the entertainment or revenge of the gods, this was one man who believed his being born with a penis gave him the power of life and death over these girls. Maybe over all girls. He could have chosen any girls to murder. This man choosing to murder girls from what he would certainly have known was a pacifist sect is everything anyone needs to know about his sense of entitlement and his cowardice. His name and identity are useless except as a study in that particular type of cowardly, selfish man. After what there is to know about him has been collected and studied he deserves to be erased from the collective memory of the world.

Lynchings are not tragedies, they are crimes, sordid murders by self-centered cowards who believe that their gender, race, religion, ethnicity or class entitles them to murder other people. Knowing the murderers for what they are is all anyone needs to know about them. Using that knowledge of their taste in entertainment, their hobbies, their upbringing and their other pathologies in order to avoid producing more of these defective human beings is all that they are good for. None of this should be anything but a scientific study in pathology.

Dwelling on the names and lives of these cowards risks turning them into something they aren't. While studying their psychological flaws the fact that they were selfish and cowardly should never be forgotten. People with mental illness can sometimes be selfish slime too. Normal people might see them memorialized on TV as examples of evil, potential killers will see them as heros to be emulated or topped. Ignoring that possibility even as the programs talk about the "copy-cat" nature of a lot of these crimes is a crime in itself. It is the same crime the neighbors of Kitty Genovese committed when they ignored her as she was being murdered. It is cynical indifference. It is time to put an end to sensation murder used as profit driven entertainment and entertainment posing as news. It is part of the problem in the age of TV and video.

Call these crimes what they are. Don't memorialize the criminals. Don't instruct their admirers and fellow degenerates.

* Note:

The blog died in the difficult and confusing change from the old blogger to the new one that happened just after I began it. My old blog started acting up at the same time and eventually died, largely due to my technical incompetence. I still have no idea why that happened.

I think it’s a good idea to put these lynchings in the face of society on a continual basis and to call the crimes what they are. I’m not so sure that one person trying to maintain a blog dedicated to that purpose will do the job. I think every blog should document the extent of the terror campaign through posts or in the comment threads. That is a task that everyone should be involved in. Just as in the piece about the suppression of sexism on the blogs, we’ve all got to do it.

To the person who asks why I’m bringing this up now? The headline in a newspaper wrapping something I ordered through the mail says that police suspect that a woman. was murdered by her husband. She isn’t named, it just says “ the body of a woman was found”.

Friday, May 22, 2009

What constitutes domestic work and exploitation (by Suzie)

          Recently, I was trying to explain to T and P, two Fulbright scholars from Asia, why white feminists have been excoriated for hiring women of color to do domestic work.
          T studies feminism and postcolonialism. I don’t know P as well but she seems to support feminist ideas. Neither is rich in her home country, but both hire people to do domestic chores, a common practice in many developing nations.
          In “Feminist Anthropology,” Ellen Lewin cites critics of middle-class American women who act like they’re being charitable when they hire someone to do domestic work and don't treat it like a regular job, with structured job descriptions and proper pay.
          But U.S. women didn't invent that approach; I have no idea how far back it goes. Both T and P consider hiring the less fortunate to do domestic work as a charitable act, in part. They say they treat employees as family members, to some extent, such as paying for the schooling of children.
          I can understand people who want domestic labor to be treated more professionally, but I don’t think people who treat it less formally are necessarily less feminist. I’ve got two white American friends who are doing cleaning to make ends meet, but they aren’t bonded or licensed, and they can make more money with more flexible hours than if they go to work for an agency. 
          The people whom T and P hire often face barriers to other employment, perhaps because of their gender, ethnicity or religion. They may be looked down upon as country people. They may lack formal schooling.
          T and P oppose oppression, but they benefit from the existence of people who will work hard for little money. To a much greater degree, this holds true in richer countries like the U.S.
          For another aspect, here's what Anna Carastathis wrote on the Canadian site Kick Action about the feminism of 1960s and '70s:
Privileged white feminists fought for increased access to professional jobs that were male dominated, ignoring the fact that women of colour, immigrant women, and working class white women were being overworked, often in places far away from their families, just to survive and support their children -- sometimes in white feminists’ homes, cleaning their floors and caring for their children.
For privileged white feminists, the problem became the “double shift”: working during the day in a professional job, and coming home in the evening only to work more, caring for their husbands and children.
To lessen this workload, instead of demanding that their husbands pull their weight, or that the state provide an adequate accessible childcare, domestic work became offloaded to women of colour.
          In the U.S., feminists of different races worked hard to try to make childcare available, and they have tried to get husbands to do more household duties. Many white feminists have been involved in antiracist work. And some women of color, immigrant women (like my aunts) and poor white women (like me) benefited from professions hiring more women. I’ve written at greater length on this before.
           Few of us are self-sufficient. Many depend on other people to grow, harvest, process, cook, package, transport, etc., at least some of our food. The same goes for clothing and household items. This work used to be done at home; it was once domestic work. Now many of us – including “women of colour, immigrant women, and working class white women” - “offload” this work on others who may have left their families behind to get jobs, and who make less money than we do under worse conditions – including in countries where T and P come from.
            The woman who buys a new top at Target without wondering about the people who grew the cotton, picked it, processed it, sewed it and shipped it … the woman who doesn’t wonder how these employees were treated by their supervisors or how much they got paid … is she worse than the woman who pays her nanny too little? 
            Elle, Ph.D., says white feminists have had a hard time accepting that they “have and do benefit from the relegation of women of color to low-wage, low-status ‘reproductive’ work.”
            I would expand that concept to many people, regardless of color. It's so easy to forget those who live far away and whose names we do not know.
           ETA: Just to be clear, I'm not trying to criticize T&P, who do much good work. I'm criticizing those who would criticize them. 

Friday flower blogging (by Suzie)

I needed something bright because, where I live, we may have to build an ark. 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Count Your Blessings!

One of them is surely that Rick Santorum is not in power right now:

From Think Progress:

Part of that "patrimony" that has "worked for 200 years" — besides limited franchise — is apparently the subjugation of women. Santorum has declared that birth control is "harmful to women" and "harmful to society." And in his book, "It Takes A Family," he railed against "radical feminists" who "succeeded in undermining the traditional family and convincing women that professional accomplishments are the key to happiness."


Dancing At The Edge Of The Abyss

That's how writing is at its best. What more could I ever ask, what other delight could ever compare to that incredible rush, that inner wind touching everything, blowing everywhere, demanding everything? There are no words to describe that high. The paradox of words needing words, of the silence that is full of words.

Then imagine trying to do that with a faulty vocabulary, in an alien tongue, like holding small sharp objects in numb paws. Then the anguish and the failing and the hunger, the inability to be the dance, the faltering steps. Then the abyss.

But the dance is worth it.
1Watt, Hermit took the picture of the Luna moth. The moth that dances the drunken dance of the night.

On Cheney

Remember him? The power behind the throne for the last eight years, the Darth Vader of American politics? The man many believe was behind all those policies which led to the current situation?

Yeah, that Dick Cheney. He has broken many patterns in his life: refusing to have anyone know what the Vice President's job might be, hiding out of sight for most of his time in that job, getting incredibly low approval percentages from the American people and so on. I always thought that he had a mental thing about Iraq, because even in the after-shock of 911 he refused to focus on anything but Iraq. IraqIraqIraq, get the bastards now! That's how I imagine his dreams went.

Anyway, he is breaking yet another pattern of Vice Presidents: He keeps on criticizing the new administration. Which of course means that he keeps on reminding us about the previous administration. This is not something the Republicans want to happen, of course, because the vast majority of Americans really hated the Bush administration by the end of those long eight years.

Cheney has given a tandem speech with Obama. By that I mean that he gave a speech on the same day as Obama, each directing at least some of the messages to the other speaker. But of course Obama is the president of the United States and Cheney is not. What he is I don't quite know, to be honest. Perhaps he really was the power behind the throne? Who knows.

In any case, now he is the PR officer of the Bush presidency (and of course his own vice-presidency):

In his speech, Cheney repeatedly invoked the horrors of Sept. 11 and made the case that "tough interrogations" and other policies of the Bush administration helped save American lives.

"They were legal, essential, justified, successful and the right thing to do," Cheney said of the interrogation techniques. "They prevented the violent death of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent people."

In an apparent reference to the Obama administration, Cheney also charged that "people who consistently distort the truth" about the interrogations "are in no position to lecture anyone about 'values.' "

He warned: "To completely rule out enhanced interrogation methods in the future is unwise in the extreme. It is recklessness cloaked in righteousness, and would make the American people less safe."

On the issue of bringing Guantanamo detainees to stand trial on U.S. soil, he said, "You don't want to call them enemy combatants? Fine. Call them what you want -- just don't bring them into the United States."

He asserted, "For all the partisan anger that still lingers, our administration will stand up well in history -- not despite our actions after 9/11, but because of them."

Because of them? I wish he had given some examples. How did they catch the anthrax poisoner(s)? How was Osama bin Laden finally caught? Why on earth did the administration decide to invade Iraq which had nothing to do with 911? Who was on duty when 911 happened? Was the torture really used to try to find an Iraq connection to Al Qaeida, to justify that hasty move from Afghanistan to Iraq?

Sigh. Then there were the costs of all that warfare, the blind eye of the FDA not focused on Chinese medications, pet food and food products, the jobs being globalized overseas, the increasing income inequality in this country, the total lack of bipartisanship, the fundamentalization of several departments of the government and the politicization of all of them. That's what Cheney proudly flaunts.

Welcome To Teh Silly

The Republican Party had this fantastic idea to rename the Democratic Party:

Republicans on Wednesday abandoned an effort to label their opponents the "Democrat Socialist Party," ending a fight within the GOP ranks that reflected the divide between those who want a more centrist message and those seeking a more aggressive, conservative voice.

Supporters of the resolution asking the Democratic Party to change its name instead agreed to accept language urging Democrats to "stop pushing our country towards socialism and government control."

It is the apex of silliness, of course, and was only pursued by the extreme edge of the wingnuttery. But did you notice something weird about how this has been discussed in the media? Let me help you by reminding you of the treatment of the rabid left and its inexplicable hatred a year ago or so. Even the New York Times did a piece or two of the deranged bloggers of the left.

And then this silliness! Treated with kid gloves and neutrality.

At least we are reminded about the power of naming and who appears to have the right to do that.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Yard Salad

That's what I had for dinner tonight: Young dandelion leaves and chives from my chive plant. Now if I only figured out how to grow cheese I'd be all set for the coming apocalypse (or one of the ones which are always coming).

I should add that I also had chocolate, though not in the salad.

Added later: This post is a good example why I don't tweet much. My life is full of fascinating adventures such as this one.

Separate But Equal?

Ann Friedman has written an interesting article about the new political/social/cultural websites intended largely for women: Jezebel, Double X, and so on. Here's a spoonful from Ann to get you salivating:

Earlier this week, Slate launched Double X, an online magazine "founded by women but not just for women," which bears an eerie resemblance to the women's pages of yore. It is the latest in a series of women-focused online magazines to split off from general-interest news and politics sites. Gawker Media has Jezebel -- a blog founded as an explicit rebuttal to glossy women's magazines that both counters and falls into many of the same traps. Yahoo's Shine and AOL's Lemondrop focus on the traditional women's mag topics of fashion, sex, and celebrities.

Double X began as The XX Factor, a blog written by Slate's female contributors. Several other news and politics sites have created separate blogs for women's issues -- such as Broadsheet at Salon and Woman Up at AOL's Politics Daily -- which have yet to be relaunched as separate sites. And I'm sure there are many more gendered niche sites in our future, as Internet advertisers and publishers alike seek to target specific groups of readers. (Slate publisher John Alderman told Advertising Age in January, "We are doing what hasn't been done, which is focusing on the top of the women's market.")

The proliferation of woman-centric sites raises the sorts of questions that keep a feminist editor up at night. If Slate saw a demand for more content about women, why didn't it start publishing more articles for and by women on its main site? The decision to devote micro-sites to groups that aren't white men -- The Root for black readers, Double X for women readers -- implies that Slate recognizes the need for more coverage that caters to women and people of color. But it doesn't want that coverage mucking up its main product.

The big question naturally is whether this development is good for women or not. The answer depends on what the alternative might be (women equally represented everywhere, no woman-focused news anywhere etc.), and what the ultimate objective of these sites might be (to give women a place for news only they are interested in? to make men read those same news? to give more power to women-focused news?)

The ultimate question is naturally why women can't be mainstreamed.

I feel funny even writing that last sentence, given that this is a feminist blog or a quasi-feminist blog or a feminazi blog or whatever, but never a general political blog, never! To write one of those I need to pretend that women don't matter except when it comes to abortion.

Let's calm down and stop clutching our pearls as the big boys say. Let's think about the academia and how it solved that pesky problem of the 'proper place' of women's studies. In most places they were ghettoized, for both good and bad reasons. Whether this slowed down the insertion of women into various mainstream courses is unclear to me, but I do think that it's much easier to get rid of Women's Studies departments than women in all the various curricula.

On the other hand, if we didn't have those separate departments perhaps we'd have no women in most of the curricula? Who knows. Perhaps this isn't even pertinent when thinking about the journalistic problems or benefits of 'separate but equal'.


Watch these videos of Glenn Beck on the View:

Courtesy of Media Matters via Atrios.

Note Whoopi's body language in the second video.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

More Good News

Senator Ted Kennedy's cancer is in remission and he will return to work full time. That's good news.

Also, Anna Chatten is believed to be the first woman to work in the pits for Indy 500 (link courtesy of jh). I love First Woman stories, but of course I love it even better when there's no longer a need for them. I'd also love First Man stories, though of course we get them in the sense of human=man. It's the other kinds I'd love to hear about.

Finally, here's a climbing cat. This cat is a good metaphor for the way some of those Firsts must climb up smooth walls. We should take more notice.

I added the cat for crowd appeal. mmm.

Teach Your Children Well

This odd bit of news links to something I've been discussing with a few people recently:

A man who tried to hire a prostitute to take his 14-year-old son's virginity as a present was spared jail by a court on Friday.

The Polish national took the boy out in his car and allowed him to pick out the prostitute, who was standing at the side of the road in the red-light district of Nottingham.

But the 42-year-old father was arrested because the teenager had chosen an undercover police officer, Nottingham Crown Court heard.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was handed a 10-month prison sentence, suspended for a year, after he admitted a charge of trying to solicit a woman to have sex with a child, the Press Association reported.

The court heard that the father, who came to Britain eight years ago, was arrested last July during an undercover operation by the city's vice squad.

Prosecutor Adrian Harris said the man and his son had approached the undercover officer whose code name was Sarah and beckoned her over .

He asked "Sarah" how much it would cost for her to have sex with his son and they agreed on a 20 pound fee. However, when the car pulled over, the man was arrested by plainclothes police officers.

"The boy said that they had driven past the girl and his dad pointed to her and said 'will she do?'" Harris said.

"He said 'yes' and they had turned round. He said his dad did this because he was still a virgin and he was taking care of that for him."

Judge Jonathan Teare said he would spare the father jail because of his excellent character and that he believed he did not mean any harm to his son.

There's so much in this short quote to chew on! The father is spared jail because he didn't mean any harm to his son. But the prostitute he picked for his son could have been a fourteen-year old girl, you know. Or a woman who was a victim of sexual trafficking.

Then consider the juxtaposition of this custom of teaching your young sons how to have sex (not completely rare, based on my reading) with the traditional insistence of virginity for teenage girls. There's an adding-up problem in that juxtaposition, and its solution is to introduce the market for paid sex. But then not all women can remain chaste and pure! Rats!

So we get this double standard of sexuality for women: Good girls don't do it, except with their husbands. Bad girls take care of the rest of the needs for sexual release. And the latter must be stigmatized, because otherwise the good girls might prefer to be bad girls themselves! Sexual control of women is more complicated than some simple form of mate-guarding, say.

All that is of course mostly in the past in this country, but those old ideas whisper through our culture and our pretenses, and they often nudge our understanding the way they nudged the judge's comments in the above quote.

Two Wrongs Make A Right? Or One Woman On The Bench.

The Supreme Court has a majority of conservatives and catholics on the bench. What does that mean for women's rights? Guess.

You don't even have to guess, because we are getting enough evidence to tell. The Ledbetter wage discrimination case was one of those and the current "old maternity leave discrimination justifies current pensions discrimination" is another one:

In 1978, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which required companies to offer pregnancy leave on equal terms with disability leave policies for men.

Prior to the new law, many employers forced women to take unpaid personal time off for pregnancy and birth. AT&T was among them.

Upon passage of the new law, AT&T changed its policy to provide paid-leave benefits to expectant employees.

At issue in AT&T v. Hulteen was whether the company could continue to rely on service records from the 1960s and 1970s that exclude credit for pregnancy time off to calculate pension benefits 30 or 40 years later as those female employees approach retirement.

Lawyers for the women argued that failing to credit the prior unpaid pregnancy leave in determining pension benefits would amount to a new and current form of gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

"Impermissible retroactive effect"

Three former employees, Noreen Hulteen, Eleanora Collet, Elizabeth Snyder, and a current worker at AT&T, Linda Porter, first filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The women's union, Communication Workers of America, also joined the suit.

The EEOC found reasonable cause to believe that AT&T engaged in gender discrimination against the four women and other similarly situated female employees by refusing to grant full-service credit for pregnancy leaves taken before the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The agency permitted the four women to file a federal lawsuit.

In the subsequent lawsuit, a federal judge ruled that the women were victims of gender discrimination. An appeals court panel reversed. That decision was reversed by the full Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals, which agreed with the trial judge that AT&T had engaged in a current violation of the antidiscrimination law.

In appealing to the US Supreme Court, AT&T said its policy denying paid leave for childbirth was not an illegal form of gender discrimination in the 1960s and 1970s. The company said it was entitled to calculate pension benefits without having to retroactively apply the provisions of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to what had been a legal policy followed in prior years.

In reversing the Ninth Circuit, the Supreme Court ruled that the appeals court had given impermissible retroactive effect to the PDA.

"Although adopting a service credit rule unfavorable to those out on pregnancy leave would violate Title VII today, a seniority system does not necessarily violate the statute when it gives current effect to such rules that operated before the PDA," Justice David Souter wrote in the majority opinion.

This is not a clear-cut case, but then few cases coming up for Supreme Court review could be called that. I can see the argument of the seven-member majority. But look at that last paragraph in the quote a little bit more carefully. What Souter is saying that it's OK to discriminate against women now if the current discrimination is based on something which took place before that particular discrimination was deemed against the law. A sort of grandfathering clause of discrimination!

In any case, what we have is a Republican Supreme Court, and it will be here for a generation or more. (Try the veal!) Roberts is a good example of what to expect:

In every major case since he became the nation's seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff. Even more than Scalia, who has embodied judicial conservatism during a generation of service on the Supreme Court, Roberts has served the interests, and reflected the values, of the contemporary Republican Party.


This case also highlights the problem with having eight guys lounge about on the bench. None of them took pregnancy leave in the 1960s or 1970s, you know.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Honey, Would You Kill That Crocodile For Me?

Remember the Promise Keepers? They are probably still around, teaching men how to be the high priests of their families (which includes subjugating the wife).

When I first read about their principles I came across a defense of the female subjugation they demand. It went like this: "Is it so much to ask women to subject themselves to men's leadership? Consider that these men are willing to give up their lives for their families if asked! Compared to that, what's a little oppression?"

That's a paraphrase, with some of me thrown in, but what was said is true. The spokesman for Promise Keepers argued that men as the high priests of their families WOULD give their lives in their defense IF it was ever asked, and that is every bit as much as women voluntarily enslaving themselves for the rest of their married lives.

It's very funny. I remember immediately thinking that the women should offer to die in their places if only the men would take over that slave part.

It's not very often people are asked to bravely die in the defense of their families. Indeed it's almost as rare as the opportunity life gives us to wrestle bears and crocodiles. Yet those skills are what makes a man! Pam at Pandagon links to the blurb of a new book on masculinity:

Dear Fellow Conservative:

Today's weak and pusillanimous Nanny State is anything but hospitable to true manhood.

And that's why we need real men more than ever.Ultimate Man's Survival Guide

But our society today offers no clear rite of passage for young men. Instead, every male must learn how to be a man as best he can—after all, such knowledge isn't written in our genetic codes.

That's why Frank Miniter's The Ultimate Man's Survival Guide is a Godsend! It gives young men what they need to become not effete "metrosexuals" skilled at the ins and outs of high fashion and cocktail chat, but well-rounded men who can fight off bears and alligators, create a tourniquet out of a t-shirt, set a dislocated joint, rescue a drowning person—and pick the perfect cigar and bottle of wine.

I'm eagerly awaiting the hordes of conservative men walking around Manhattan puffing on the perfect cigar and carrying a baseball bat in readiness for the alligators and bears. What fun!

But note that first sentence in the quote. You can't make misogynism much more obvious without saying it out loud, and that's why I still wonder about women who choose to spend time in the conservative political circles.

The Wall Street Journal had a related book review last weekend. It's all about the emasculation of fathers:

In the most affluent parts of the Western world, a historic transference of power has taken place that is greater than anything achieved by the trade-union movement, the women's movement or the civil-rights movement -- and it hasn't even been extended the courtesy of being called a movement. Fathers, who enjoyed absolute authority within the household for several millennia, now find themselves at the beck and call of their wives and children. Indeed, most of my male friends are not fathers in any traditional sense at all; they occupy roughly the same status in their households as the help. They don't guide their children through the moral quandaries of life -- they guide them to their extracurricular activities from behind the wheel of a Dodge minivan


"Home Game," Mr. Lewis's account of becoming a father to his three children, begins promisingly. "At some point in the last few decades, the American male sat down at the negotiating table with the American female and -- let us be frank -- got fleeced," he writes.

The poor sucker agreed to take on responsibility for all sorts of menial tasks -- tasks that his own father was barely aware of -- and received nothing in return. If he was hoping for some gratitude, he was mistaken. According to Mr. Lewis: "Women may smile at a man pushing a baby stroller, but it is with the gentle condescension of a high officer of an army toward a village that surrendered without a fight."

Mmm. They probably forgot those crocodile wrestling skills. Poor, poor fathers! To fall from such a height (high priest of the family) to nothing more than...the level of women! How sad! How frightening.

I have written about these topics seriously and sensitively and with compassion towards men in the past. But this time I won't, because neither of the linked pieces shows any courtesy to women at all.

Onward, Christian Soldiers!

Did you know that the President's daily intelligence briefings about the Iraq war had covers with Bible verses? The "President" here naturally refers to George Bush. You can view a slide show of the covers here.

It's all very medieval, sigh.

Good News Monday

In Kuwait four women were elected to the 50-member parliament. That's eight percent! Not bad for the very first parliament which will include women. They have their work cut out for them, given the economic troubles of Kuwait, not to mention the Islamic bloc which appears to largely promote bills to make women's lives more difficult. Though perhaps the U.S. Congress isn't that much more advanced. Women are a minority and some representatives also push for bills which make women's lives more difficult. -- Nevertheless, this is very good news for Kuwait. After all, women only won the vote there in 2005.

And Lithuania elected a woman for its president. She has a black belt in karate. Hiyah! (As an aside, I recommend martial arts for all women. They teach many useful things, including how to yell "hiyah" from the belly while chopping someone's neck off.)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

For The Person Who Wished For A Transcript by Anthony McCarthy

If you are tempted to suspect that I am privy to anyone’s inside knowledge, I had no idea Richard Lewontin would have a major essay-cum book-review in the upcoming New York Review of Books when I wrote that belated birthday piece about him last month. As with his lecture which was linked to in that post, that piece touches on many of the issues that have gotten me into trouble here. As some of you might know, though Lewontin is one of the least favorite materialist of many another materialists, he is one of the living scientists for whom I have the most respect and affection.

The essay-review is worth reading because of Lewontin’s observations of the social milieu in which Darwin and other figures in evolution developed and published their work, it’s a short course in refutation of the typical romantic view of Darwin that constitutes the total of what many of his most ardent admirers think they know about him. The number of those who respond with a blank stare when you mention other figures in evolution who preceded and whose discoveries rival Darwin’s in importance, is always surprising. .

This three item list of the major discoveries made by Charles Darwin, and Alfred R. Wallace is probably more useful than most of what gets printed about evolution this year.

Darwin-Wallace explanation of evolution, the theory of natural selection, is based on three principles:

1) Individuals in a population differ from each other in the form of particular characteristics (the principle of variation).

2) Offspring resemble their parents more than they resemble unrelated individuals (the principle of heritability).

3) The resources necessary for life and reproduction are limited. Individuals with different characteristics differ in their ability to acquire those resources and thus to survive and leave offspring in the next generations (the principle of natural selection).

Lewontin’s pointing out the fundamental difference between biological evolution by natural selection and the social Darwinism that is it’s more usual popular construction, often at the hands of some of the most fundamentalist of “Darwinians”, is another most salient point..

The parallel between the arguments for natural selection and nineteenth-century economic and social theory, however, misses an extremely important divergence between Darwin and political economy. The theory of competitive socioeconomic success is a theory about the rise of individuals and individual enterprises as a consequence of their superior fitness. But even though the Industrial Revolution resulted eventually, at least in some countries, in a general rise in material well-being, the number of immensely successful entrepreneurs is evidently limited precisely because their success depends on the existence of a large mass of less successful workers. No population can consist largely of people like Henry Clay Frick.

The theory of evolution by natural selection, in contrast, is meant to explain the adaptation and biological success of an entire species as a consequence of the disappearance of the less fit. Provided that a species does not become so numerous as to destroy the resources on which it depends, there is no structural reason why every individual of that species cannot be highly fit. If we seek a true originality in the understanding of Darwin and Wallace, it is to be found in their ability to adapt a theory meant to explain the success of a few to produce a theory of the success of the many, even though the many may be competing for resources in short supply. Whether they were conscious of this divergence of the theory of evolution by natural selection from the reigning economic and social theory is a question.

You could justifiably ask how many of the ultra-Darwinians who are ascendant now ARE conscious of this diversion, today, and to what extent Darwin himself was. Though I’ve already posted on that this year and am not in the mood for that eruption just now.

Lewontin asks another question which I think is important to the understanding of the Darwin brand name, which I think is more harmful than helpful for the real science of evolution today.

How are we to explain the extraordinary activity surrounding the 150th anniversary of the appearance of On the Origin of Species ? It seems unlikely that an enthusiasm of equal magnitude will greet the 150th anniversary, seven years from now, of Mendel's paper, if we can judge by the moderate celebrations of its one hundredth in 1966. Yet genetics in its present molecular stage pervades the public consciousness as more and more genes are discovered that may be relevant to health and longevity.

I think there are a number of reasons that Gregor Mendel, whose work, as is pointed out in the essay, saved the Darwin-Wallace model of evolution, won’t be celebrated on his anniversary with even a small fraction of the hoopla surrounding the Darwin bicentennial.

First is that he wasn’t the subject of a devoted and ideologically driven campaign of promotion in his day. Wallace wasn’t either which is why his name is far lesser known today. Some of that is the place that Darwin holds in British nationalism, he’s a national hero and not the persecuted figure of some popular PR. Which brings in the difference in social class to the mix. Read the quotation from Ricard Owen, a contemporary rival to see that there were those who noted his social position and the part it played to Darwin’s advantage. It’s impressive how much today’s over-the-top ultra-Darwinism is done by Brits and their admirers here.

Second, there is Mendel’s position as an Augustine monk. Unlike Occam whose life as a member of the strictest faction of Franciscans is almost entirely ignored by those who invoke his name, ceaselessly and with wildly variant accuracy - you can’t pretend that Mendel wasn’t a “faith head”. That would render him an embarrassment to many of today’s more ardent Darwinists.

Third, related to the last point, pea plants don’t have the ability to excite the invention and imagination of those “red in tooth and claw” competitive scenarios that seem to be, alas, totally replacing the observation of the real in the popular evolutionary mind. His life, his discoveries from the patient work of pea cultivation and measurement doesn’t have the same theatrical appeal as the Voyage of the Beagle.

Anyway, please read the entire review. It’s a great refresher in this important part of contemporary culture and, in refutation to one of my recent opponents has claimed, that Lewontin definitely and demonstrably hasn’t “lost it”.

Remember This When The Pundits Say The Country Can’t Afford The People by Anthony McCarthy

You can count on hearing it in some form every time you turn on the TV or radio, The People are just a frill whose welfare is an unfordable luxury in these hard times. Some things don’t seem to change, we’re too expensive in good and bad times and the times in between. Right now it’s health care, you turn on Washington Week in Review or any of the other insider blather sessions and that’s the almost universal conclusion. Not one they reach, the one they start out with.

Well, as anyone who has any capacity to think should be able to figure out, The People of the United States get very expensive health care, the most expensive in the world. It’s excellent, if you can afford it, if you can’t you don’t get it. A large percentage of that expense is because The People have been duped into letting a massive, expensive and corrupt insurance industry insert itself between them and the medical industry. That industry, like all others in this country, then uses its enormous financial resources to buy political influence to corrupt the congress, the administration and, one could strongly suspect, the judiciary, into allowing them to steal even more money from us. If you doubt they have the media in their pocket take note of who buys the time during just about any “news” show on TV. And as always with a corrupt elite, elegant insider DC media has never smelled a big heap of money they didn’t want to cosy up to and whisper nice things about.

Other countries with elected governments have cut out the insurance industry and the government, under much more direct control of The People there has filled that position in health care, in just about every case, it would be political suicide for politicians in most of those countries to come out and propose an American style medical industry. Those guys don’t seem to get to form governments. If you know of a case where that isn’t true, I’d be very surprised to hear it. Though some of them, no doubt would like to sell their People down the river, they can’t come out and say it.

Here it’s different, Ronald Reagan got his big start in politics by helping instill a paranoid fear of “socialized medicine”. Harry and Louise are just two of his bastard kids. You could point out that he was a paid pimp for the insurance-medical brothel, but you’re not supposed to tell the truth about St. Ronald. One thing that is often said is that he ruined the Soviet Union into collapse through an arms race, forcing the Soviet government to spend itself into destroying itself. That’s a line that is often heard, though there are some muted rebuttals to the official version. Interestingly, it appears to make sense to some of the opponents of the present Russian government who are worried that recent history is repeating itself. Russia’s Military Budget Sucks the Nation’s Lifeblood

The argument here isn’t in whether or not this piece of Ronald Reagan hagiography is accurate, it’s in what it shows us about the American establishment. The same media, especially the DC based talking shop you’ll hear all over TV this morning - between pharma commercials - accepts as revealed knowledge both that Reagan forced the Soviet Union into collapse through military spending and that it’s too expensive for The People of the United States to have access to universal health insurance. There just isn’t any money to pay for it. There’s a pretty big hole their story, the United States defense budget, the largest one in the world, by many times is never spoken of as driving us to collapse. Our military expenditures are never seriously consider as being too big, to expensive, unfordable. Apparently the United States military budget through some magic, doesn’t drag down the American economy, and considering how much of a cut the media gets from the military industry, you can see why they might not have noticed*.

Barney Frank, in a little noticed comment in The Nation made this unusually simple observation

When I am challenged by people--not all of them conservative--who tell me that they agree, for example, that we should enact comprehensive universal healthcare but wonder how to pay for it, my answer is that I do not know immediately where to get the funding but I know whom I should ask.

I was in Congress on September 10, 2001, and I know there was no money in the budget at that time for a war in Iraq.

So my answer is that I will go to the people who found the money for that war and ask them if they could find some for healthcare.

Notice the passage I've set off in larger type. Remember that when you hear the media recite from their lessons, "Where is the money for health care going to come from".

In the same piece he said:

The math is compelling: if we do not make reductions approximating 25 percent of the military budget starting fairly soon, it will be impossible to continue to fund an adequate level of domestic activity even with a repeal of Bush's tax cuts for the very wealthy.

In other words, American military spending is ruining us.

The congress found the money to pay kill people in Iraq, a war the corporate media helped to whip up. Many of the same people who you will hear on TV today, many of the same media organizations who were falling all over themselves to lie us into invading Iraq are the same ones who are saying that the country can’t afford for its People go see a doctor in time to avoid an even more expensive health emergency or in time to save their lives.

What the country can’t afford is a lying, privileged, elite media that dupes us into living like corporate serfs who they can be sold and disposed of when we’ve had everything stolen and can’t produce any more profit for them.

* When faced with this kind of argument the media will immediately shift from talking about dollars to talking about percentage of GDP. Changing the units of measure, depending on the propaganda point being promoted, is a practice I first noticed coming from conservative think tanks during the Reagan administration. It’s become pervasive through out the media.