Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sex = Sex For Men

I'm sure my alien visitor (the one I used in my feminism series as the eye of the beholder) would wonder about our almost universal confusing of "sex" with "sex for men."

This piece talking about the Hooters restaurant chain now invading China is a good example of it. Everything the story mentions is about sex-for-heterosexual-men, but none of it is labeled as such. The role of women in the story is as employees for sex, either in brothels or now, family-style (!!!), at Hooters restaurants.

The whole story is pretty interesting. Like the clash of two different systems of sexism. The Chinese system of women's oppression battling with the American system! Take out the popcorn.

And then there is this:

A sign hanging by the bathroom reads: "Caution. Blonds thinking."

I wonder what the Chinese customers think of that? After all, the predominant hair color in China is black and they might not associate "blonds" with only female people with fair hair but with --- err --- those Americans who introduced Hooters to China? It's too much to hope for, sadly.

The Republican Party Is Massively Armed And Dangerous And They Are Ready To Kill And We’d Better Face That [Anthony McCarthy]

Among the often unhelpful detritus of our educations, the impulse to create geometric depictions of abstractions can be among the most useless. From the instances in which lines and graphs and diagrams aid understanding we develop a habit of thought which becomes a block to viewing even parts of wider reality.

I remember the line that my dreadful, Bircher, World History teacher drew on the board with Marxism leading to socialism to liberalism, ever upwards (as, I always assumed, he would have it) to moderates to conservatives and on to fascists. And that is the most common graph of political positions which people carry around in their heads.

The present day Republican Party often seems to be rather confused about even that oversimplified convention and is quite willing to throw everything they figure will stick to Barack Obama, at times calling him names that even schematically, make no sense at all. You can chalk that up to the kind of ignorance that our education system, and even more so our mendacious media ensures in this age of insouciant liberty. The people want to be deceived, an ancient Roman said, which I used to take to be an aristocratic insult, and in his formulation it was. And it was exactly in rejection to that kind of aristocratic attitude that the public schools in the United States were instituted in the agricultural society of the 19th century. Among other things, the old public schools were meant as an incubator of democracy. But I’ll write more on the schools another time, our depleted and degraded schools aren’t a major player in this situation. Even the best schools can’t compete with the electronic mass media we have, they are the primary and secondary schools, they are the division of continuing education that have produced the American Public as it is today. It is the media which has given us the greatest danger to democracy since the 1950s.

Watching the tea party phenomenon, watching Sarah Palin and Scott Brown, Michele Bachman, etc, air headed liars of with nothing but plastic sex appeal and shamelessness to recommend them, as they and their less telegenic cohorts lie and lie and lie it’s become clear that more than just common ignorance is at play. They really mean it, what they say in the least coded of codes.

This conservatism isn’t merely a difference of opinions about the facts that liberals interpret differently. As I’ve been constantly shocked to discover, it’s not that these people believe things that are false, it’s that they don’t care if something isn’t true. No amount of proof is going to break through because they don’t care that their positions are lies. They aren’t interested in what’s real and what isn’t even if it’s forced on them. Like those folks living on various forms of government assistance who are a surprisingly obvious part of the loony Republican mainstream, their hate and resentment completely overcomes any connection to even their personal situation.

For us and the media to not recognize this is an entirely off chart development in our politics is dangerous, these people have to be exposed for the dangerous crack pots they are because, thanks to the Republican right of the Supreme Court and the gun lobby, they are very heavily armed and dangerous. This has nothing to do with moderate or liberal politics, this is entirely different, it is more like a hostile force intent on destroying democracy and every vestige of progress. Look at how the “moderate” Republicans in the Senate have acted during the past four years. They are the frontier of the conquered, they don’t dare take stands on principle or on evidence or reason that will stir up the FOX - Republican hate talk radio addled right because they know they will be deposed by them. They are worried about challenges from the base of their party, which is now comprised of the crazies. Their capitulation is the hard proof of how dangerous this is.

The old rules of liberal niceness or even the pretenses of moderate civility aren’t in effect anymore, no one is playing by them except those liberals who you will see on TV or on the radio. You can’t reason with these people. The media that pretends this is something to mildly discuss with the two conservabots from the media and guess pools and the obligatory Brookings quisling are engaged in an enablement operation for these people.

Newt Gingrich talked the other day about the 1850s. I’ll bet that not two percent of his cheering, addled fans understood the import of that and as they cheered they didn’t care. It was a declaration of intent to foment another civil war. The clear statements couched in veiled language for these crackpots who are already armed and dangerous to get ready is incitement to kill. This is very serious and we have to give up our self-deceiving reluctance to face that truth. This is sedition against democracy, it is pathological zealotry. It can’t be countered by ACLU rules, they don’t intend to be civil with the liberties they have been handed.

Those are real guns and bullets they're stockpiling, they are real explosive devices. They aren't just collectors.

Friday, April 09, 2010

A Tasmanian goes to Finland (by Suzie)

No, that's not the start of a joke. I was looking for a song on addiction to accompany my post below, and I started with Audrey Auld because I just heard her in concert. This silly song has nothing to do with what I wrote earlier, but I'm posting it anyway because of her experience in Finland.

Sex addiction (by Suzie)

“How much can a Swedish woman forgive?” asks the headline on an AP article datelined Stockholm. It says some women there wonder why Elin Nordegren hasn’t left Tiger Woods already. “She is, after all, from Sweden — a nation famous for its strong-willed and independent women.”

“Sweden is still a champion of women's rights,” the article continues, but has become more conservative about couples divorcing if they have children. It quotes relationship coach Asa Hellberg:
If you take care of your own problems and scrutinize your own codependency, and the partner seeks help for his sexual addiction, then you can stay in the relationship.
Wrongheaded Idea No. 1: When your partner cheats, you need to examine what you did wrong, too. If you don’t, plenty of people will do it for you, suggesting you were too independent or let yourself go or didn’t satisfy his sexual needs or didn’t treat him well in some other fashion.

Wrongheaded Idea No. 2: If you’re a feminist and/or a strong woman, you must leave a cheating man. Your feminist credentials shouldn’t get yanked if you stay, as some people tried to do with Hillary Clinton. Perhaps you accept that your partner isn't faithful, but you love and respect him for other qualities. Just be forewarned that others may accuse you of staying with him for all the wrong reasons, just as they may accuse you of not thinking about the children if you leave him.

Wrongheaded Idea No. 3: If someone has multiple affairs, he's a sex addict. An article by the Mercury News quotes mental-health professionals discussing whether the label is valid. One says it applies if someone remains preoccupied with sex "despite mounting negative consequences." For Woods, Jesse James, David Duchovny and others, they had multiple affairs before being busted.

One way that addiction to sex differs from addiction to substances and gambling is that the first can directly harm other people, while gambling and substance abuse often hurt people indirectly. A woman can gamble away the money needed for groceries for her kids or neglect them when she's drunk, for example. But the alcohol and money are objects. If a man obsessively pays for prostitutes, strippers or porn, or he becomes a voyeur -- all activities mentioned in the article -- he's treating women like objects and hurting at least some of them. Of course, he also may hurt other people if he runs out of money and can't pay child support, for example. The article mentions countless one-night stands, and it's possible he uses alcohol, drugs or deceit (insinuating that he can help their career or he wants to have a longer relationship, for example) to gain consent from at least a few of them. I hope therapy addresses why he thinks women are disposable objects.

Sex addiction can escalate into other criminal behavior, including rape, according to "However, it should be noted that sex addicts do not necessarily become sex offenders." That's reassuring.

ETA: Women are diagnosed much less often with sex addiction, and the activities tend to differ, according to a Suite 101 author. In general, they don't buy men.

Friday critter blogging (by Suzie)

Although it's hard to tell from the photo, Tommy is scratching himself. I sympathize because it's raining oak pollen here.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

And Even More Questions

From the post below on male studies:

Rocco Capraro, an associate dean and assistant professor of history at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, said that "men are both powerful and powerless." Though men and boys as a group may be powerful, "today's discourse on individual men is not a discourse of power -- men do not feel powerful in today's society."

Instead, they feel ashamed of their masculinity. While women may perceive pornography as degrading to their gender, men consider it to be a manifestation of "sexual scarcity, rejection and shame," he said. "Porn falls into a larger structure of masculinity as a shame-based existence."

This is such an odd statement. Who is it who FEELS powerful in today's society? Women? And does the statement about men's and women's supposed reactions to porn mean that we should regard them as equally valid or equally true?

What is it that Capraro would like to have done about porn? Should it be regarded as a great thing, something men are entitled to and deserve, with no problems about the woman-hating aspect of some porn? Or should women stop rationing sex so that all men can have porn in real life? Or what? I really don't understand this.

And I'd be willing to bet that femininity is also a shame-based existence, yes, my precious, it is.

Questions, Questions

Provoked by my post below on the new "Menz Rule" studies. What does this really mean?

I am concerned that it's widespread in the United States that masculinity is politically incorrect," said Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men.

What does she mean by masculinity? What does she mean by political incorrectness?

These are not trivial questions because the meaning of her statement crucially depends on the definitions of those terms. To give you an example, if masculinity is defined as "men wear the pants (Dockers ad)" in the sense of being the bosses of women, should we not criticize that aspect of masculinity? After all, that same statement means that women should subjugate themselves to men's leadership.

"Political correctness" is a term which is no longer much used, and the reason is that the politically incorrect (read: politically powerful) won that cultural battle. The term no longer elicits the intended emotional response: that something really IS correct but we pretend it is not, lest we insult some group we like to look down upon. Nobody has much fear of insulting feminists, for instance.

The Male Studies

Inside Higher Education tells us of the founding of a new academic field: male studies. The name is interesting, is it not? You can guess what the studies will cover:

Lionel Tiger, a professor of anthropology at Rutgers University, said the field takes its cues "from the notion that male and female organisms really are different" and the "enormous relation between ... a person's biology and their behavior" that's not being addressed in most contemporary scholarship on men and boys.

"I am concerned that it's widespread in the United States that masculinity is politically incorrect," said Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men.

The culprit, said Tiger, is feminism: "a well-meaning, highly successful, very colorful denigration of maleness as a force, as a phenomenon."

Paul Nathanson, a researcher in religious studies at McGill University and co-author of a series of books on misandry -- the hatred of men and boys -- conceded that "there is some critique of feminism that's going to be involved" in male studies. "There are some fundamental features of ideological feminism over the last 30 or 40 years that we need to question."

He also decried "the institutionalization of misandry" which, he said, is "being generated by feminists, [though] not all feminists."

The MRA wearing an academic cloak! This should be great fun. Do read the comments to see what proponents of this approach think. One example:

As LSBeene pointed out, you're using a Frontman fallacy in assuming that just because most police are men, then they must favor men. You know, the same old threadbare, paranoid "patriarchy" song and dance we've been hearing for decades. In fact, I believe the opposite is true, i.e., that male police are harder on men than women as part of the behavior socialized in men to protect women. And indeed this seems to be borne out by the observations of some police officers and court personnel that female police, prosecutors and judges tend to be harder on women than their male peers. Perhaps this is because women are more likely to see through female strategies to manipulate others, etc. Who knows?

However, what this comment thread clearly points out is that there are logical, valid male-friendly viewpoints that are outright taboo in contemporary academia because ideologically and politically strident feminists have monopolized the so-called "gender studies" endeavors. Therefore, this to me is irrefutable proof male studies is desperately needed. Now, do I believe that it will come to pass any time soon? No, and I think the blame lies squarely with the academic faculty and administration who share the vigorous resistance and outright hostility to male-friendly scholarship that is clearly demonstrated here by entrenched feminists.

Men are socialized to protect women and women are manipulative.

What I have sometimes wondered is this: How would the world look like if the MRA activists alone could determine it?

It would not be a world of equality, that's for sure, because many of those sites argue that men are inherently dominant and must be allowed to have that role. My reading suggests that rape charges would not be allowed because some charges are false accusations, child custody cases should not allow discussion of domestic abuse because women (but not men) lie about it and all types of domestic violence, from mean words or slaps to murders should count as equal.

I should probably note that different MRA sites do differ. Some are gathering places for truly nasty people, others are fairly polite sites, and I don't want to generalize to all of them.

But Lionel Tiger really is a male supremacist.

Wilma Mankiller, RIP

She died on Tuesday:

With a last name like hers, some say Wilma Mankiller was destined for the history books.

But many friends and admirers nationwide aren’t waiting for those historical tomes to be written. Thousands of newspaper articles, Internet messages, and other tributes and remembrances have already surfaced in honor of the first woman elected to lead the Cherokee Nation, who passed away at age 64 on April 6 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

The linked article tells about her life's work and its importance.

From her final message:

“I learned a long time ago that I can’t control the challenges the Creator sends my way, but I can control the way I think about them and deal with them,”

Thursday Fluffery: On Light Reading

My reward for writing this blog (sendmoneytoseeitstop) are the fluff posts where I go on and on about me and my problems and expect sympathy or advice or adulation.

This time the contents are not quite so heavy. Take fast food books: those you read because you truly need your fix right now (hands shaking!) and the hell with how important the topic of the book is and how few layers of meaning it has!

I have a long list of authors for that very specific need, though I must admit that my favorite short-order cooks writers are also mostly excellent writers and the books are not really fast food; only that I use them as such when my psychological hungers rise too high. For instance, I read Terry Pratchett's fantasy when I'm fed up with politics. He makes me laugh. I read Sheri Tepper when I need an anti-misogyny vaccination in a hurry, and I read Margery Allingham, Josephine Tey and Dorothy Sayers when I want to escape modern society altogether.

My fast food books are largely fantasy, science fiction and detective novels. What are yours?

I have recently read Kerry Greenwood's detective novels, set in the late 1920's Australia. They are not that good as detective stories but the heroine in the books is fascinating. She has a large sexual appetite and uses it in a way which we associate with characters such as James Bond. How credible she might be as a woman of her era doesn't matter to me. It's more fun to try to figure out if I could ever have acted like she does and what it means that a woman who goes to bed with any man she happens to fancy must be tremendously rich to get away with it. Not that she would really have gotten away with it because all she had was that diaphragm.

Laurie King is another recent favorite (recent only to me, of course). I love The Folly. It is a deeply psychological book about how to recover and explicitly feminist.

I'm currently reading her Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. The Monstrous Regiment of Women. The book takes its name from John Knox's 1558 misogynistic treatise, aimed against Mary Tudor (the word "regiment" means "regime") and King provides quotes from that treatise and other woman-hating sources (St. Augustine) as prefaces to the book chapters. To remind us all how ingrained the contempt towards women really is, I guess. An example:

For who can deny that it is repugnant to nature that the blind should be appointed to lead and conduct such as do see, that the weak, the sick and the impotent shall nourish and keep the whole and the strong, and, finally, that the foolish, mad and frenetic shall govern the discrete and give councel to such as be sober of mind?

And such be all women compared to man in bearing of authority.
John Knox

A fascinating coincidence is that after reading the book I put it on the shelf next to Terry Pratchett's The Monstrous Regiment! That one is also well worth reading when you get the shakes.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


It's coming back, we are told: The time when men were men and women shut up. Though it's really only coming back in advertising with the intention of telling men what to buy to be a real man: Don't smell like a girl! Don't get your hair cut by a sissy hairdresser, go to a barber! Wear the pants! (Remember that Dockers ad?)

I feel a little nauseous right now, because masculinity is still defined on the basis of What. Chicks. Are. Not. An example from an article on retrosexuality:

"For thousands of years, being a man meant being honorable, having courage, having competence," said Brett McKay, 27, a law school graduate turned blogger who writes "The Art of Manliness" from Tulsa, Okla. "Till the 1950s, manliness meant action and a force for good."

Then, feminism disturbed that order. "We created this new world where men and women were equal," McKay said. "A lot of men were confused. What was my role now?"

Take note: In the olden days women were NOT honorable. They were frightened of mice and everything! They were totally incompetent. They were passive and not a force for good. Then the horrible feminists came and now men are manxious!

That is the only logical way to interpret Brett McKay's statement. Or rather: If women can do it, it's not worth doing for real men. And how utterly revealing for our Brett to ask what his role might be now that he can't automatically be the boss of some woman.

Hence the search for some new ways of defining rugged masculinity. Sadly, it is still defined by What. Chicks. Are. Not:

Many are left asking, "What is a man, if the woman can do all the same things that a man can do?" said Justin Sitron, a clinical assistant professor of education and human sexuality at Widener University. "Masculinity has been in a period of exploration in the last 20 to 25 years."

How about exploring somewhere elsewhere than in the humanity of women? I'm really pissed off about all this because masculinity is defined by looking at women as the anti-mirror, and this means that any strides those manxious men make will hurt us women. Besides, it is much better for men if women are pushed back from areas traditionally regarded as masculine ones. Then the exploration is unnecessary!

Salon has a fairly good article about this all:

I have to wonder: Are we so ill-equipped for any competition that we have to point our fingers at those advancing and say they're the reason we fell behind? Is our only answer to lay blame at someone else's feet and try to turn back the clock? What, exactly, are we trying to recapture?

My guess would be that those people are trying to recapture patriarchy.

I have written about this topic many times, sadly, and the reason is always the same: We define masculinity as subtractive. It is what women do not do. The more one adds to the definition of masculinity (when it is defined as subtractive) the less space there will be for women to be anything at all that men can also be. And that is why I must write about this topic.

It looks like the proponents of the new retrosexual man are aware of this, because the examples they give of how men should behave look so very innocent. For example, men should be allowed to open doors for women and to pay for dates but they would still do the dishes at home. They'd spend a lot of time changing the oil in their cars and fiddling with guns but they'd let their wives have jobs! Certainly!

But what would be the point of those superficial changes (and the necessary brawny consumption patterns)? Would that truly satisfy a manxious man, one who probably wishes to have all the old privileges back? And even those trivial things would signal that women don't pay for dates, that women can't open doors for others, that women shouldn't be into guns or cars. The subtractive principle cannot help but work when we begin with it.

I don't get why masculinity isn't something you have because you are a man. Why is it so very fragile, so very much under attack? And why do we refuse to note that men and women share many characteristics which really should be called human?

The Mother Problem In Young Adult Lit

Julie Just has written a an enjoyable survey about the re-emergence of bad parents in fiction meant for young adults. Her piece, called "The Parent Problem in Young Adult Lit," is not really about bad parents but about bad mothers.

Just begins:

It took a surprisingly long time for bad parents to show up in children's books. Did you ever notice how few there are, compared with, say, the self-centered and murderous parents in Greek mythology or the Bible? In American literature, children's and adult books didn't sharply diverge as categories until the 20th century, so it's not clear whether we should even include that mean, kidnapping drunk, Pap Finn.

Maybe you can think of more recent examples than "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (1885) — the gallant, no-good father from "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" (1943)? — but in the classic stories, from "Cinderella" to "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," the hero's parents are more likely to be absent or dead than cruel or incompetent. In fact, it's the removal of the adult's protective presence that kick-starts the story, so the orphan can begin his "triumphant rise" (as Dave Eggers put it in his memoir, "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," after it actually happened to him). In the move to independence, the parent is all but forgotten, or occasionally pictured in a fond glow of love and regret.

It's not only the "triumphant rise" of the orphan which mattered in the old (and not-so-old, as in Harry Potter books) solution of dead parents. The trick of killing them off allowed the fairy-tale teller or author to depict evil adults having control over the children without angering the parents of the children who read the stories.

Or so I think. Hence the vast number of evil step-mothers (but where were the evil step-fathers?) in old tales and hence also the uncles having custody of their nephews in Walt Disney's world. Isn't it very odd that none of the Disney mice or ducks have parents?

Just believes that the bad parents have finally been allowed in through the front door in young adult fiction and that they may have become much more common than the actual number of bad parents. That wouldn't surprise me at all because children do have both negative and positive feelings about their parents and the former may feel like something one should not dwell on? Teenagers, in particular, often go through a stage of finding their parents impossibly controlling or inadequately cosseting and so on, even if there is no real basis for those feelings.

But is the open entry of the bad parents really about parents? I don't think so. Let's mine Just's piece for some examples:

On bad mothers:

In Natalie Standiford's "How to Say Goodbye in Robot," the mother — a haunting figure — has become strangely accident-prone, tripping over things, "catching her hair in the fan"; "We were used to Mom hurting herself," the narrator says.


In Laurie Halse Anderson's best-selling "Wintergirls," about a dangerously anorexic high school senior, the mom is a sought-after surgeon too pressed to notice that her malnourished daughter is a bit shorter than she was four years earlier.


In "Twilight," the only reason Bella meets the supernaturally good-looking Edward in the first place is that she has moved to her father's place in gloomy Forks, Wash.; that way, her mother can follow around after her new husband, a minor-league ballplayer. "I stared at her wild, childlike eyes. How could I leave my loving, erratic hare-brained mother to fend for herself?"


"It was like she was dead," Rusty-James says of his mother in "Rumble Fish." "I'd always thought of her as being dead." (In fact she's in California, about to move into a treehouse with her boyfriend, an artist.)


In Cynthia Voigt's superb Tillerman series (the second novel, "Dicey's Song," won the 1983 Newbery Medal), a "sad moon-faced" mother abandons her four children at a shopping center, and they walk the length of Connecticut looking for a relative to take them in. The most memorable "bad guy" had become, in many cases, the mother, matching in pathos what the wicked stepmother once conjured in malevolence.


One might vaguely remember real mothers like the beautifully observed Ma in "A Place Apart" (1980), by Paula Fox, seen through "a smoke screen," cigarette ashes patterning her sweater, or her neighbor, "a restless ghost" who takes special pills twice a day.

On bad fathers:

Maybe you can think of more recent examples than "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (1885) — the gallant, no-good father from "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" (1943)?


In a typical scene, from "Once Was Lost," by Sara Zarr, a dad whose wife is at a "recovery center" after a D.U.I. needs help shopping at a supermarket. He shouldn't be filling the cart with vegetables, his 15-year-old daughter says. "It's all . . . ingredients," she explains patiently. "Who's going to cook this stuff?" He stands by in confusion as she selects precooked chicken breasts.


The husband of the accident-prone mother is never home at night. It's not that he's with another woman; he's working late at the Johns Hopkins bio lab.

The father in "Once Was Lost" is referred to more than once in the article and a bad father is mentioned, together with a bad mother, here:

In Neil Gaiman's novel "Coraline," from 2002, the lonely title character wanders into danger in a creepy new house because the parents are busy and preoccupied. "Go away," the father says cheerfully the minute she appears. This theme was made more explicit in the 2009 movie version, in which both parents seem to be transfixed by their computers. "Hey Mom, where does this door go?" Coraline asks, and her mother replies without looking away from the monitor: "I'm really, really busy."

But mostly the article is about bad mothers in young adult fiction.

Does that reflect what can be found by reading the books themselves? I suspect so. Mothers are held to higher parenting standards than fathers and children spend more time with them, too.

The point of this post is not to criticize Ms. Just's review. As she points out, mothers are clearly the new villain. But the shifting focus from general bad parents to very specific examples of bad mothers and back again is confusing.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

On The Death Threats Against Senator Murray

It's all over the news today, the case of a man making death threats against Senator Murray because of her stance on the health care reform.

But the newspapers have sterilized the language to a point where some of the nastiness has also been steamed away. Here is an especially virulent excerpt from the recorded phone calls to Murray. (I have studded it with stars to try to get my blog off the pron list at some places of work.):

Senator...F**k you. You are fired. You are 86'ed. F**k you, you Pike Street f**king whore. You f**king slut. Come over to Yakima and list-- Come on down to Grandview and get some more spit d**k there, you old f**king c**t.

To me this is different from just stating that his threats were full of obscenities. Something is lost in the translation, and that something is the misogyny in the original language.

On Mining Disasters

The Sago mine disaster in 2006 made me study safety regulations in mines. If I remember correctly, George Bush The Younger had pretty much de-fanged the system of safety monitoring in the mines and the fines for the offenders were either too small to matter or not enforced. Then death came to collect the final fines though not from those who should have paid.

The most recent disaster in West Virginia smells similar to me:

And although the company says that its safety record is better than the industry average, Massey has frequently been cited for safety violations, including about 50 citations at the Upper Big Branch mine in March alone. Many of those 50 citations were for poor ventilation of dust and methane, failure to maintain proper escape ways, and the accumulation of combustible materials.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration cited the mine for 1,342 safety violations from 2005 through Monday for a total of $1.89 million in proposed fines, according to federal records. The company has contested 422 of those violations, totaling $742,830 in proposed penalties, according to federal officials.

From My Archives

I came across this post about how to write in the blogosphere (with the definite article missing from the title and the post too old now for me to edit it). It is still an interesting topic to me and of no interest to anyone else. That's why I re-post it now. Heh.
The new permalink for the earlier post that post refers to is this.

Today's Teh Funny

You may have seen this elsewhere by now but it is still very funny. Ladies and gentlemen, pick up your bingo cards! The evolutionary psychology bingo. Left-click on it to make it bigger:

Though sadly, this is mainstream social science for some these days.
P.S. I would add saying something about the "naturalistic fallacy" somewhere on the board: "Dear ladies, let us not confuse what is with what ought to be!" The former, of course, consists of the eternal "truths" on that board.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Today's Deep Thought

I am getting shrill.

The Nation Of Gods And Earths

I came across this religion/not-religion, depending on the take, when researching Erykah Badu (some sources suggest that she is or has been a member of the group). It is also called The Five Percenters because only five percent of humanity are argued to understand the truth.

It appears to be an offshoot from Islam in the U.S.:

The Nation of Gods and Earths was founded by Clarence 13X after he left the Nation of Islam's Temple Number Seven in Harlem, New York (the same temple where Malcolm X was a minister from 1960 to 1963). Multiple stories exist as to why Clarence and the NOI parted ways: some have him refusing to give up gambling; others have him questioning the unique divinity of Wallace Fard Muhammad, whom the NOI deified as the True and Living God in person; or questioning his position due to the fact that Fard was part-Caucasian. The story states that Clarence was then disciplined by the NOI and excommunicated in 1963, but another version of events says that he left on his own free will along with two others, Abu Shahid and Four Cipher Akbar (known in NGE circles as Justice),[1] who agreed with Clarence's questioning of Wallace Fard Muhammad.[2]

In December 1964, after leaving the NOI, Clarence was shot in a basement gambling den called the Hole. He survived the shooting, assumed the name Allah, and, according to some, boasted that he was immortal.[1] He then began to teach others his views based on his interpretation of NOI teachings. Clarence found success with the disenfranchised youth on the streets of Harlem, which, unlike the NOI, included whites and Latinos.[3][4][5][6][7][8]

Clarence taught the NOI lessons to his group of young followers (who came to refer to him as the Father), but instead of teaching them to be Muslims, he taught them that they were God the same way he was. The women who came into Clarence's growing nation to study along with the males were taught they were symbolic of the planet Earth, because it is the planet on which God produces life (hence the female practitioners using Earth as their title).

Representatives of the Nation of Gods and Earths view themselves (men of their Nation) as their own God (both individually and collectively as the Original Man).[4]
Gods and Earths sometimes refer to themselves as scientists, implying their search for knowledge and proof, and not beliefs in theories.[9]

Black men are gods. Black women are the soil into which black men sow their seed. That's my translation, of course, but the official website doesn't seem to contradict it:

What We Teach:

7. That the blackman is god and his proper name is ALLAH. Arm,
Leg, Leg, Arm, Head

I can appreciate the power of a religion like this for an oppressed group such as black men. But note that the women are not gods. Indeed, it appears that women, because of being women, cannot rise to the highest levels of knowledge in the religion. Those levels are numbered from one to seven, seven being the highest, and women can only reach level six:

According to Five Percent beliefs, only a man can achieve the level of perfection symbolized by a 7, whereas a woman can only reach a 6. Gods refer to Women members as Earths, or Queens.

Peace to all the Queens
Submitting to the sevens

-- Poor Righteous Teachers, "Can I Start This" (Holy Intellect).

Just as Earth revolves around the sun, woman is subordinate to man.19 A Queen or "Earth," must cover 3/4 of her body, just as 3/4 of the earth is covered by water, and so 5% women wear head coverings and long loose-fitting garments. A female Five Percenter is known as a "muslim," unlike the male God, because she witnesses to the fact that her man is Allah (Nuruddin 1994: 128). According to Sincere Allah Merciful God, "God is not a Muslim. God does not submit" ("Why We Are Not Muslims"). So although Five Percenters tend to treat women with respect, their orientation creates little space for female 5% rap performers or the articulation of women's issues.20

This is most likely a very small sect, the links I find don't look terribly reliable and the whole topic might not be worth writing about at all. Except for two reasons:

First, it's an example of the fact that one oppressed group doesn't necessarily want to end the oppression of other oppressed groups, just their own oppression. Human beings tend to be like that, wanting to climb the societal ladders onwards and upwards.

Second, it seems to be the case that The Five Percenters have quite a bit of say in rap and hip-hop. This means that their influence might be greater than the numbers indicate.

At first sight the idea of the men being gods appears to be a novel one. But the Mormons have been argued to believe something rather similar, at least in terms of what happens after mortal death. So in many ways the Nation Of Gods And Earth is just another very patriarchal religion, however recent.

Breast-Feeding And Death

A new study argues that:

The lives of nearly 900 babies would be saved each year, along with billions of dollars, if 90% of U.S. women breast-fed their babies for the first six months of life, a cost analysis says.

Ninety percent of U.S. women? Even the ones who don't have children? Sloppy writing. Or perhaps a Freudian slip, hmm? (Note also that less than 90% of U.S. women have children, so some women without children would have to breastfeed to get to that goal!)

But the writing becomes more than sloppy later on:

About 43% of U.S. mothers do at least some breast-feeding for six months, but only 12% follow government guidelines recommending that babies receive only breast milk for six months.

Dr. Larry Gray, a University of Chicago pediatrician, called the analysis compelling and said it's reasonable to strive for 90% compliance.

Bolding is mine. I know that "compliance" is a medical term but I have always hated it because it implies obedience to the dictates of an outsider; as if the patient is an unruly child refusing to clean her room or something similar. I really wish that the term was dropped. The minute it's used about me I start rebelling. Maybe it's the same with humans?

Now about the study itself. First, I was pretty stunned by the low figures about breastfeeding. The rates are much higher among my acquaintances.

Second, note that this study is a meta-study: It collects the mortality evidence from other studies, and those studies are not laboratory studies where women and children are kept for many years to make sure that nothing else differs between two randomized groups of mother-baby pairs except breastfeeding.

Why would it matter that the studies the meta-study used are based on data from observations rather than laboratory studies?

Because the rate of breastfeeding is very likely to be correlated with education, income, tough working schedules and so on, and those other variables may have some influence on the morbidity and mortality rates, too. Connecting all excess mortality and morbidity to breastfeeding may exaggerate its impact.

But it's the tone of that first sentence that really got me annoyed: "The lives of nearly 900 babies would be saved each year, along with billions of dollars, if 90% of U.S. women breast-fed their babies for the first six months of life, a cost analysis says."

Let's see if my annoyance is at all legitimate: Do we have studies where someone writes: "The lives of x people would be saved each year if drivers cut back on speeding by y%?" Or: "The lives of z Americans would be saved each year if gun ownership declined by q%? Or even: "The savings in medical costs and psychological suffering of U.S. women would be (add some humongous dollar amount) if 90% of sexual violence was eradicated?"

Perhaps we do, though I have not seen them. Perhaps a gigantic guilt-trip IS the way to get more mothers to breastfeed? But then why start the piece by doing just that and then end it with this?

But he also said mothers who don't breast-feed for six months shouldn't be blamed or made to feel guilty, because their jobs and other demands often make it impossible to do so.

"We'd all love as pediatricians to be able to carry this information into the boardrooms by saying we all gain by small changes at the workplace" that encourage breast-feeding, Gray said.

Bartick said there are some encouraging signs. The government's new health care overhaul requires large employers to provide private places for working mothers to pump breast milk. And under a provision enacted April 1 by the Joint Commission, a hospital accrediting agency, hospitals may be evaluated on their efforts to ensure that newborns are fed only breast milk before they're sent home.

The pediatrics academy says babies should be given a chance to start breast-feeding immediately after birth. Bartick said that often doesn't happen, and at many hospitals newborns are offered formula even when their mothers intend to breast-feed.

"Hospital practices need to change to be more in line with evidence-based care," Bartick said. "We really shouldn't be blaming mothers for this."

I may be overreacting. But if I don't overreact, who will? Because the guilt-trip aspect is very real even if the data is based on approximations and lots of "maybes".

Why not write this piece by turning it into a positive one? Why not start by telling about the miraculous powers of breast milk, about the ability of a mother to truly affect her baby's future health (if the data is strong enough for that)? Then show her how the society is going to help her do just that while letting her remain a person on her own right. One who is making good choices and practicing excellent parenting.
P.S. I have now started a file on articles having to do with mothers, health and the psychology of child-rearing. And the same for fathers, health and the psychology of child-rearing. It will be very interesting to see what that file gathers over time.

Benignly Neglected?

That's one theory about the dearth of women in various important places: It's not based on outright hatred of women or explicit attempts not to have those icky creatures round but simply the invisibility of women.

There's something to that, I believe. I've recently noticed that when the BBC, for example, interviews "people on the street" they are about nine times out of ten men, whatever the country and whatever the topic. Do the BBC journalists avoid women on purpose? Probably not. But having just male voices doesn't sound "off" the way having just female voices does. That's because men are seen as the default human beings.

This post was provoked by a quick study by the NPR ombudsman on the number of female experts and commentators in the NPR programs:

With the aid of NPR librarian Hannah Sommers, we compiled a list of regular commentators, who are not NPR employees but are paid to appear on air. There are 12 outside commentators who appeared at least 20 times in the last 15 months. The only woman is former NPR staffer, Cokie Roberts (51 times), who is on ME most Mondays talking politics.

Otherwise, males dominate, especially on subjects of sports, politics and the economy


We also looked at the number of people from outside NPR who were interviewed by NPR news shows, or whose voices appeared in reporters' stories. For this analysis, we examined 104 shows, using a 'constructed week'* sampling technique from April 13, 2009 to Jan. 9, 2010.

Those figures are equally discouraging.

NPR listeners heard 2,502 male sources and 877 female sources on the shows we sampled. In other words, only 26 percent of the 3,379 voices were female, while 74 percent were male. [See chart.]

To see that chart, read the whole story, including the counterarguments.

I'm sure that a study like that can be done with greater care. But remember that this is the NPR! If women are found in reasonable numbers ANYWHERE in the media, it's at the NPR. Hence the most likely reason for these omissions:

"I doubt there is a conscious, systemic aversion to selecting women as sources at NPR," said Jill Geisler of the Poynter Institute, a media think tank. "But benign neglect is still neglect and its impact just as harmful to society."

Is such a neglect benign if it harms the society?

Sunday, April 04, 2010


Picture by Ali. She is also the human of the very happy doggie, CB. Those who talk dog can see that she IS very happy, even though smiling doesn't quite mean that in dogs.

A Story From An Old Notebook [by Anthony McCarthy]

Note: I don’t believe in predestination but this is something in one of my old notebooks, remembered night when my nieces were talking about a movie they’ve been to see, recently. I’d write it much differently today but... maybe, given the theme, I shouldn’t. You’ll notice I hadn’t settled on a name for the character yet. I think I’d meant it as part of a novella or the such.


grey, smoggy morning wasn’t unusual in a small, one factory town when that factory was a tannery. Every once in a while the stack would emit an evil line of black soot and an invisible vapor of some deadly sweet smelling esters filled the air. “Banana oil” some of the villagers called it. X knew that it wasn’t anything so innocuous. He remembered it from his childhood. It was something he associated with his bus ride into town for school, especially the first year. On this morning the chilly air wasn’t moving much and the low sun hadn’t broken through yet so the poison air hung over the downtown. He grimly thought it was fitting for what he was going to do.

X had driven there early and parked the car in front of the A&P store. He hadn’t been there in more than fifty years, it looked exactly the same as it had. Well, it would. It was exactly the same. Exactly.

He walked down the sidewalk towards the building, where the sub primary class was held. It was never called the kindergarten in his town. That was a rare instance of honesty. This downtown was no garden. He’d grown up away from the village, way out. The difference between the old, abandoned New England farms grown up to woods and here seemed so much more now than when he’d been a boy. He knew that would change in the coming years. The sub primary in the top floor of the Odd Fellow’s building was a sign of that. It had outgrown the one room in the elementary school since the war. The town had grown, now there were double classes for every grade, morning and afternoon sessions for the sub primary class

X walked around the corner, to wait at the side door of the building. He knew the bus would come about seven thirty. He tried not to think about what he was going to do.

The once familiar buildings looked different. The ugly ornate masonry facade on the Thompson building. Smaller than the stodgy, block lettering of the Odd Fellows, the biggest building here. He’d never been sure what the Odd Fellows were. Odd Fellows. Well, there was no one in the world who was odder than he was, than he had ever been.

He’d heard there had been illegal gambling up there before his time, as there was rumored to have been a brothel somewhere near. Come to think of it, he wondered if the room was rented in some shady deal between the Selectmen and the Odd Fellows, bribes paid. It was likely some of the Selectmen belonged to the organization. He’d never considered that possibility before. His mind went to other places in the town that would have been more appropriate. The old town hall had a field that would have been a good playground.

A freight train came through while he waited. It didn’t stop for passengers here anymore, It would carry them to the next town over for a few more years. Then it would only be a freight train. He watched till the blue Boston and Maine caboose went by. The only thing about the train that had any charm about it. Like the downtown, here, it was maintained for nothing so spiritual as beauty.

Finally, there was the sound of the bus as it came down the street, lumbering and shaking like it was made of cardboard. It slowed along the last hundred yards or so and stopped comfortably, though not gracefully in front of the door. X tensed, his breathing became shallower and faster. He told himself, do it now or you’ll have lost your chance. X knew he sat in the next seat from the back of the bus, it was his regular seat. A crowd of other children got off the bus first. X watched, vaguely familiar faces, through the wind shield. And there he was.

His eye fixed on the boy as he got off the bus to the exclusion of all the rest. This was the boy he had come for, a small, skinny, nervous, five years old. A homely, unattractive boy, though not unhealthy. He looked and felt the gun in his pocket against his leg. It was going to be hard, though he’d reasoned out that this was the only way to stop it and he didn’t have much time to do it.

But the boy was smiling today, smiling broadly. He’d never have expected that. He didn’t remember smiling much on the way into school. He knew he hated school, most days, he didn’t have friends, didn’t mix in well. He never would, he was homely and for some reason, no matter how carefully he dressed it all came unraveled. He had expected the boy to look miserable and that he’d be off on his own like he almost always was, but the noisy, excited knot of children he was in the middle of went straight inside the building and the opportunity was lost. The bus doors closed and it went on.

He’d have to wait till he came out to get back on the bus, there was no outdoor recess in this sub primary. He’d get closer to the door so he couldn’t miss him. Then he would shoot himself again. The phrase, “double suicide” went through his mind. The boy was him when he was five.

Read the rest of it.

An Easter Post [by Anthony McCarthy]

I was going to do an Easter post today, had lots of ideas. First was a book report on Home by Marilynne Robinson, which is the most profoundly spiritual book I’ve read in, perhaps, my life. But that will have to wait. I’ve found, since reading one of her books, that when I read one for the first time I need to go back and re-read all of them, which I’m doing now.

Then I was going to rant about topics I’ve ranted about here before, but would rather get my onions in the garden today. NOT that I don’t have more to say on that subject. But I might do that in a different venue from now on.

But, then, I turned on the radio while I did some spring cleaning and came across this program, "Asteroids, Stars, and the Love of God.", from American Public Media. Krista Tippett interviewed the astronomers, Father George Coyne and Brother Guy Consolmagno.*

Here, from the transcript, is the part that most caught my attention.

Fr. Coyne: Tries to abstract in order to further understand the beauty. And I think I can't talk to Galileo now, but I think that was the idea that Galileo had when, you know, that famous phrase of mathematics is the language of the universe.

Ms. Tippett: Mm-hmm.

Br. Consolmagno: We have a mathematician on our staff among the dozen Jesuits, and he's pointed out this marvelous argument that mathematicians have: Is a mathematical truth discovered or invented? Was it there before a mathematician realized it, or is it something that is a product of the human mind?

Ms. Tippett: Don't most people think it's discovered?

Br. Consolmagno: There's an awful lot that's invented too.

Fr. Coyne: Depends on what you mean by post. It's a classical and still enduring debate as to whether mathematics is intrinsic to the universe or whether the human brain is such that it imposes ù it's too strong a word ù imposes mathematical structure on the universe.

Ms. Tippett: And so à

Br. Consolmagno: One of the issues à

Ms. Tippett: Yeah.

Br. Consolmagno: One of the issues we always have as scientists when we're trying to extract a generalization from the data is, is the generalization really there or is it just us finding faces in the clouds. And sometimes it turns out that we get fooled and we see generalizations that aren't there.

Ms. Tippett: I mean, did Einstein discover or invent the laws of physics? He discovered them, didn't he?

Fr. Coyne: Ohhh. You know, this is debatable, Krista.

Br. Consolmagno: Because of course his laws of physics aren't the final answer.

Ms. Tippett: Right.

This reminded me strongly of these two passages from Arthur Stanley Eddington’s essay, Science and the Unseen World given almost ninety years ago.

Penetrating as deeply as we can by the methods of physical investigation into the nature of a human being we reach only symbolic description. Far from attempting to dogmatise as to the nature of the reality thus symbolised. Physics most strongly insists that its methods do not penetrate behind the symbolism. Surely then that mental and spiritual nature of ourselves, known in our minds by an intimate contact transcending the methods of physics, supplies just that interpretation of the symbols which science is admittedly unable to give. It is just because we have a real and not merely a symbolic knowledge of our own nature that our nature seems so mysterious; we reject as inadequate that merely symbolic description which is good enough for dealing with chairs and tables and physical agencies that affect us only by remote communication


The study of the visible universe may be said to start with the determination to use our eyes. At the very beginning there is something which might be described as an act of faith a belief that what our eyes have to show us is significant. I think it can be maintained that it is by an analogous determination that the mystic recognises another faculty of consciousness, and accepts as significant the vista of a world outside space and time that it reveals. But if they start alike, the two outlets from consciousness are followed up by very different methods; and here we meet with a scientific criticism which seems to have considerable justification. It would be wrong to condemn alleged knowledge of the unseen world because it is unable to follow the lines of deduction laid down by science as appropriate to the seen world; but inevitably the two kinds of knowledge are compared, and I think the challenge to a comparison does not come wholly from the scientists. Reduced to precise terms, shorn of words that sound inspiring but mean nothing definite, is our scheme of knowledge of what lies in the unseen world, and of its mode of contact with us, at all to be compared with our knowledge (imperfect as it is) of the physical world and its interaction with us? Can we be surprised that the student of physical science ranks it rather with the vague unchecked conjectures in his own subject, on which he feels it his duty to frown? It may be that, in admitting that the comparison is unfavourable, I am doing an injustice to the progress made by systematic theologians and philosophers; but at any rate their defence had better be in other hands than mine.

Although I am rather in sympathy with this criticism of theology, I am not ready to press it to an extreme. In this lecture I have for the most part identified science with the physical science. This is not solely because it is the only side for which I can properly speak. But because it is generally agreed that physical science comes nearest to that complete system of exact knowledge which all sciences have before them as an ideal. Some fall far short of it. The physicist who inveighs against the lack of coherence and the indefiniteness of theological theories, will probably speak not much less harshly of the theories of biology and psychology. They also fail to come up to his standard of methodology. On the other side of him stands an even superior being - the pure mathematician - who has no high opinion of the methods of deduction used in physics, and does not hide his disapproval of the laxity of what is accepted as proof in physical science. And yet somehow knowledge grows in all of these branches. Wherever a way opens we are impelled to seek by the only methods that can be devised for that particular opening, not over-rating the security of our finding, but conscious that in this activity of mind we are obeying the light that is in our nature.

So, maybe this will stand for a long, perhaps unreadable, Easter essay. Or, if you want to save time you could read the “Twitter script” of the show, which isn’t all that bad, though I’d recommend at least reading the whole thing or, best of all, listening to it online.

* It’s one of the useless distractions from the crimes of the Vatican hierarchy that the issue is used by the most primitive of anti-Catholics to bring up all of the collected clap trap of inaccurate, often fabricated folk lore about “the church”. While telling the truth about anything is justification enough to do it, repeating what isn’t true can’t be helpful. As if there isn’t enough accurate information to form an indictment of Ratzinger and his Bishops. And the folklore seldom deals with the most important fact of that indictment, THE CHILDREN AND OTHER VICTIMS OF THE CRIMINALS. Using them for any other purpose is opportunism, it is using them.

It’s a crime that these two articulate, rational Catholics aren’t representative of those holding offices in the Vatican. But they do show that the worst of the politicians in those positions aren’t the whole of Catholicism. Not by a long shot. The rigid, Integralist, viewpoint isn’t dominant in the culture of Catholicism. When someone angrily wants to know why people don’t leave the church, this could provide an answer.