Saturday, October 02, 2010

Just Need To Hear A Good New Protest Song Tonight

Buffy Sainte-Marie

No No Keshagesh

And an older one

Jay Semko

Mouse In a Hole

Something Ain't Right

I happened to be listening to this when the news of the gunman at Texas University was going on. [Anthony McCarthy]

Guest Post: Women in Sports: Six Women Racers in the 2 October IndyCar race at Homestead-Miami (by W Rudolph)

Motor Racing is a rarity among major sports -- It is not gender-segregated.

The most famous motor race in the world is the Indianapolis 500 which started in 1911. Janet Guthrie first broke the gender barrier in the Indy 500 in 1977.

The open wheel cars that race in the Indy 500 are part of the IndyCar Racing League (IRL). Women are well represented in this Saturday's October 2 final IRL race at Homestead-Miami Speedway Florida.

There are two American women -- Danica Patrick (Roscoe Illinois, # 7), racer-owner Sarah Fisher (American, # 67), two Latin American women -- Milka Duno (Venezuela, # 18), Ana Beatriz (Brazil, # 24), and one European - Simona de Silvestro (Switzerland, # 78), out of 26 drivers in the race.

Combined, Patrick (6), de Silvestro (14), Beatriz(21), and Fisher (26) turned in a better average finish (16.75) than their male counterparts (17.03) in the 33 car 2010 Indianapolis 500.

When you're not glued to this blog, you might find it fun to watch the IRL on your computer this Saturday October 2 starting at 6pm Eastern Standard Time. The Indy Lights race is at 3:45pm.

Live race viewing is free by signing up with IndyCarNation.

You can watch the race like traditional TV coverage, or set your "camera" at one part of the course, or even better follow two driver's progress with their on-board cameras. There are usually five drivers on-board cameras so it's fairly certain, you can be in the driver's seat with at least one of the women drivers in the 300 mile race.

"Indy" cars race in the Indianapolis 500 and can go 215 miles per hour at Homestead. They run about 40 miles per hour faster than the heavier NASCAR machines on the same tracks.

Danica Patrick, so far the only woman to win an IRL race is the most famous.
She has stretched herself thin this year competing in two major racing leagues --the IRL and NASCAR so her results have not been up to her own high expectations. Still, she has finished the fourth most laps on the IndyCar circuit this year and finished 2nd at Texas and drove to a 6th place in the NASCAR K & N Pro Series at Dover.

Owner-driver Sarah Fisher, the youngest woman at the age of 19 to compete in the Indy 500, holds the record for the fastest qualifying lap in the Indy 500 (229 mph).

She has recently released her book -- "99 Things Women Wish They knew Before Getting Behind The Wheel of Their Dream Job".

Ana Beatrix (Brazil) will be driving the no. 24 Roll Coater car.

Milka Duno, a certified Naval Engineer holding four master's degrees, won the Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February of 2004 - the first woman to win a major international sportscar race in North America.

In strong contention for rookie of the year honors, Simona de Silvestro (Switzerland) survived an horrific crash at Texas in which the rescue delayed an excruciating length of time in putting out the fire of Silvestro's number 78 machine. The crash and rescue and Simona's amazingly calm, cool response are on Youtube.

Another European has qualified first for the Firestone Indy Lights series Saturday 2 October at 3:45 ET, (the Triple AAA equivalent of major IRL) Pippa Mann (England) holds the pole position.

Pippa will be trying to win her second straight race even though she is recovering from a broken hand in an earlier season crash.

The Road That Was Taken And The Less Traveled One [Anthony McCarthy]

I hope it's a good sign that Rick Sanchez was fired so quickly after he shot off some of the more typical anti-Semitic remarks about Jews in the media the other night. After all, look how many weeks, months and years CNN kept on Lou Dobbs as his show turned from allegedly discussing financial matters to an anti-Latino campaign. The Sanchez firing was like lightning. Dobbs, a years long campaign that has turned our politics sour, Sanchez, once, that I'm aware of. If you applied the new Sanchez standard evenly on the cabloids you could pretty much turn over at least half of its staff and probably about three-fourths of its frequent guests. Imagine if we could force them to apply the Sanchez standard to people who made veiled anti-Black comments. Beyond doubt, during the Obama admistration, if they applied it to staff and their quasi-employees, the professional pundit class, the marginal insider lobbyists, spokesmen, hacks and flacks in regard to women and a range of other frequent targets of bigotry, they might have time to report news.

But I'm lying, I'm not hoping its a good sign because that standard will not be applied across the media, covering the entire range of stereotype and bigotry because anti-Black, anti-woman, anti-Latino, anti-gay bias is a tool of the group that really controls the media, the oligarchs.

What we see in Rick Sanchez's complaints about the limits on Latino presence in the media, who he sort of held responsible, is the same thing we saw in the use of race to dupe low-income white people who got the shaft from the aristocrats. Early on in our history, black people and other racial and ethnic groups were used by the ruling class to shield them, the ones who were really oppressing and cheating poor white men, the group in most of the country who could have some chance of forcing that thing which the oppressive rich fear beyond anything, equality. Jewish people and the Irish were famously used that way in the 19th and into the last century for that purpose, as were all of the groups mentioned already. Due to subsequent history the vicious use made of those two aspects of identity became socially unacceptable, which only shows that progress in that area isn't uniform. Look how acceptable misogyny is after an enormous and long struggle to suppress it.

The identity of Rick Sanchez as a Latino will, I predict, mark him as the example of anti-Semitic bigotry costing someone their career in the media. Look how they still go back to Janet Cooke as the example to hold up as an example of journalists making up stuff and destroying their career*. And in that we see the real bias in the media. Sanchez's outburst was practically unnoticeable as compared to the fountain of anti-Jewish innuendo coming from Pat Buchanan for decades. I haven't noticed it keeping him off of the guest list over those decades. It never kept him off of the cabloids. Who says it is clearly an issue in the effect it has, as the myriad of white fabricators who worked in the media well after their lies and inventions were fully revealed. Many of them have shows and columns today. I doubt that ethnic identity is the determining factor in the promotion of media figures but it clearly has a role in the price you'll pay for your screw ups and inopportune revelations of bias.

The problem with the media is that it is the mouthpiece of the oligarchs, it is a machine for selling convenient lies and one of those convenient lies is bigotry. I know enough of Rick Sanchez past work to not have a high opinion of him as a journalist or as being all that bright, though he is certainly no worse than most of the people who have worked in cable or broadcast media. I'm not surprised if he had real limits put on him as a Latino working in the media, no more than I'd be surprised that a woman or an African-american would. I'm pretty confident that it's white skin that is the real component of racial advantage and having a y-chromosome is the real component of gender advantage in the class system of the United States. While those are real limiting factors in the media the two important ones are economic class and, most of all, the extent to which you are useful to those who own the media and those who they service. But I can assure you if Rick Sanchez was the kind of person who would have spouted off about economic oppression, he'd never have been on to begin with. I think the really sad thing about Sanchez, is that I believe he was almost getting to reporting the real reason he couldn't aspire to more in the media, he is still part of a group that is useful in the oligarchic hold on power. Latinos, especially after Lou Dobbs' promotion of bigotry against them on CNN, are useful to the real rulers in the same way that Jews used to be used by them. He almost got to a real critique of it in economic class terms but he heard where he was going, panicked and took what might have seemed the less risky road that so many have taken and focused on the less dangerous distraction of ethnic identity. That road doesn't lead to justice and equal opportunity.

* If you want to make a case study, look at the generally liberal Boston Globe and compare the firings of Patricia Smith, Mike Barnicle and the non-firing of Jeff Jacoby. The minor case of invention by Smith, a black woman who is, primarily a poet, as compared to the flagrant, continuing and racially saturated ones of Barnicle, which had to reach a huge mass before they fired him, and those of Jacoby which caused him to be placed on leave but which haven't ended his career as the papers offical right wing op-ed presence. Both Barnicle and Jacoby have made frequent use of veiled reference to race and other aspects of identity that aren't far removed from what Sanchez said. This says something about different levels of tolerance for screwing up in even the legitimate media. As I recall one of the great crimes Smith was accused of was writing about an Elton John concert she couldn't prove she'd attended. Last time I looked Barnicle hasn't disappeared from the media.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Who should Obama add to his iPod? or Who brought whom? (by Suzie)

Those are my questions for the weekend. Jann Wenner, an ardent supporter of the president and founder of Rolling Stone, has a Q&A with him in this month's issue. In addition to more serious questions, Wenner asks who Obama has in his iPod.

Like many men, Obama mentions music almost entirely by men. Nevertheless, he has been hailed for his varied tastes. He's so cool! He knows how to work an iPod!

Melissa Bell at the Washington Post suggests artists who could update Obama's repertoire. She replaces men with men, and one woman, Maria Callas, with another female opera singer, Nicole Cabell. I'd like him to listen to more women. Let me ask, as Bell did: Who would you put on Obama's iPod? I was looking for a woman with a relevant message, and all I came up with is Shania Twain singing "Dance with the One who Brought You." Suggest something better and I'll switch out the video.

The Urban Dictionary defines "dance with the one that brought you" as: "The principle that someone should pay proper fealty to those who have gone out of their way to look after them." Its example involves a woman who's eyeing a man other than her boyfriend. In the Free Dictionary, the first definition for "fealty" is " The fidelity owed by a vassal to his feudal lord."

When a man uses this phrase with a woman, he's establishing his ownership or quid pro quo, such as: "I invited you and drove you here. I bought you dinner. I expect you to pay attention to me, not anyone else." She has been brought and bought.

In the song "Save the Last Dance for Me," a man tells a woman to have as much fun as she wants, but remember that she'll be going home with him, a metaphor for his love, I guess. In the song sung by Twain, a woman puts up with a man having as much fun as he wants, even though he may leave her sitting by herself, because she thinks he loves her more than anyone else would. This made me think of my mother, who got tired of sitting by herself and stopped going to dances with my father.

In the spat with disgruntled leftists, Obama acts as if he brought them to the dance, saying his administration has "been the most successful administration in a generation in moving progressive agendas forward," and thus, progressives need to be loyal. He's implying his policies have been more progressive than Republicans', which would have been true for any of the Democrats who ran in 2008, and more progressive than Bill Clinton's. That's debatable. Both are moderates, and after eight years of W, I'd expect Obama to advance the agenda.

Molly Ivins wrote a book titled "You Got to Dance with Them What Brung You" about the Clinton administration and the special-interest money that controls politicians. When Obama lists who's on his iPod, he does not forget the important artists who supported him, such as Bob Dylan, who said in 2008: Obama is "changin" America and "redefining the nature of politics from the ground up." I assume Obama continues to listen to other influential supporters and fundraisers.

I realize Republicans want to make the midterms a referendum on Obama. Instead of playing their game, I'm focused on who's actually running. I'm most excited about electing Florida's first female governor, Alex Sink, who has so much going for her, not to mention her descent from one of the original "Siamese Twins." I also support a friend running for state representative in my district. Although I thank Gov. Charlie Crist for standing up to some of his former colleagues, I'll vote for Kendrick Meek for the Senate.

As November approach, I don't feel obliged to dance with anyone. But I have no intention of sitting the elections out.
ETA: PolitiFact looked at the Rolling Stone interview, and disagrees with Obama's claims of success.

And Your Daily Dose of Evolutionary Psychology Popularizations!

It's like vitamin pills, these doses I administer. Most of them will come out in the urine.

Today's study is about mating preferences, depending on whether the suggested relationship is a short-term or a long-term one:

Confer and her colleagues asked 192 men and 183 women, all heterosexual and in college, to consider entering into either a short- or long-term heterosexual relationship. The students were given a masked picture of a potential date, with boxes covering both the head and clothed body. They could choose to remove either the box covering the head or the box covering the body, but not both.

On the whole, 61 percent of men and 69 percent of women chose to see the individual's face. But among the men who were thinking short-term, the interest in viewing the woman's face decreased. Of the men considering short-term relationships, 52 percent chose to see the body. If men had been picking more or less randomly, with no particular rhyme or reason, statistics predict, 39.5 percent would have looked at the woman's body.

Similarly, if men had been choosing randomly, 55 percent of the men considering a long-term relationship were expected to look at the woman's face. In actuality, 68 did.

As for women, they preferred looking at the man's face regardless of relationship type, the researchers reported in the September issue of the journal Evolution and Human Behavior
I should probably tell you that I looked hard and long before finding the above quote. The alternative summaries of the study tend to accentuate the differences and to cover up the similarities between men and women in what they selected.

For example, Shakespeare's sister found this report on the study:

Ladies, hit the gym (and hold the makeup). Unless you're gunning for a long-term relationship, it's your hot bod — and not your winsome face — that guys are after.

New research from the University of Texas at Austin shows that men seeking a short-term lover are more interested in a woman's body than those desiring a long-term commitment, who zeroed in on a woman's face.


Only men, not women, showed a significant preference for body vs. face when seeking short- vs. long-term partners. Women were more interested in a man's face for both short- or long-term relationships.

That makes sense since men's fertility doesn't decline rapidly like women's. Assume, says Confer, that any man under the age of 80 can get a woman pregnant. If that's the case, there's no reason for a woman to be concerned with a man's fertility, and, hence, his body.

To reach their conclusions, the researchers showed 375 college students a representation of a person of the opposite sex, whose face and body were hidden. Half the participants were instructed to evaluate the images as a potential short-term mate; the rest were told to consider the image as a potential long-term mate by uncovering face or body — not both.

Just over half of the guys — 51% — who were told to pick the proverbial one-night stand chose to look at the woman's body. On the other hand, 75% of men who were directed to consider the woman as a long-term partner decided to check out her face.
Most of the other summaries I found resemble this latter one. They have erased the fact that the percentages of men and women choosing to look at the face were fairly similar overall, and they have also erased the fact that the percentage of men choosing to look at the face even in the short-term relationship is roughly one half of the total. They have also erased the fact that 31% of the female students chose to look at the body.


Isn't this fun? Let's move on a bit. That the study found a difference between men and women in terms of uncovering the head or the body of the potential partner doesn't actually prove the proposed evolutionary explanation, which is rather rudely stated here:

For instance, a woman's face can predict how many years of baby-making she has ahead of her. Is it wrinkled? Move on, fellas. Smooth and supple, of course, indicates youth. A 16-year-old girl, for example, is not at the peak of her fertility – that happens around age 24 — although she is at the peak of her reproductive potential. Seeking a long-term mate able to incubate lots of offspring? Choose her.

The female body, on the other hand, offers different fertility clues: Can she get pregnant right now? Is she pregnant already? And don't forget the waist-to-hip ratio, which research has suggested decreases at ovulation. Ergo, a curvy woman is highly desirable as a short-term mate since there's ample evidence she's a Fertile Myrtle in the making.

Men hone in on these fertile cues, which are more concentrated in a woman's body," says Confer. "We are talking about evolved psychological mechanisms to prioritize access to immediately fertile women. Men care more about can she get pregnant right now than her long-term reproductive potential."
There are other possible explanations, though only one of the popularizations I found even suggests them:

The study may provide new insight into people's romantic preferences today, but critics say the findings may tell us more about Western values than about human biology—which may often be the case with research that attempts to assign evolutionary motives to modern behavior. Indeed, the study looked only at 375 college students on one campus, the University of Texas at Austin. Massimo Pigliucci, an evolutionary biologist and philosopher at Lehman College of the City University of New York, says that further research across cultures and time would be needed to make a compelling case for evolution's role in the results. Moreover, Pigliucci suspects that some cultural forces are at work. "We live in a society where it's OK for a man to look at a body, but for a woman it's considered a little beneath her to be interested in physical appearance," he says. "I would be surprised if that were true in a culture where there are no TV ads and where people go around naked on a regular basis."
I'm getting increasingly fascinated by what the media chooses to grab for popularization purposes and how that popularization is treated. It's almost like a game of pin-a-tail-on-the-female-donkey.

Friday critter blogging (by Suzie)

This is Gizmo, a long-haired Chihuahua, courtesy of my friend Don's Facebook page, where the stealing of photos is easy.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Today's Science News For Women: Your Estrogen Sucks

A study about the effect of estrogen on the learning abilities of female rats has just come out:

Can't Focus? Could Be High Estrogen
High levels of estrogen in women may contribute to slower learning, according to a new study.
High estrogen levels in women while they are ovulating may be directly responsible for sluggishness or problems concentrating, a Canadian study released Friday has found.

Researchers at Concordia University's Center for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology in Montreal linked high estrogen levels in laboratory rats to an inability to pay attention and learn.

These high levels have also been shown to interfere with women's ability to pay attention, but the study, to be published in the journal Brain and Cognition, is the first to show "how this impediment can be due to a direct effect of the hormone on mature brain structures," said a statement.

Both humans and rodents have similar brain physiology.

"Although estrogen is known to play a significant role in learning and memory, there has been no clear consensus on its effect," said study lead author Wayne Brake.

"Our conclusively that high estrogen levels inhibit the cognitive ability in female rodents."
Yah, yah. But of course! Estrogen makes us girlz stupid. Though we can still notice how very viral this particular research seems to be on the net! It flies around blogs!

But what about the effects of estrogen on learning in general? Some studies suggest that it improves learning*, others suggest that it does not, and so on. I found this survey especially relevant in the current context:

The third point and the one that keeps me up at night is estrogen concentration. Of the many studies reported in the literature, I would guesstimate that more than 90% do not measure endogenous hormone levels, making it impossible to determine how much estrogen is being experienced by the female at the time of testing. Also, in many cases, estrogen concentrations would be and indeed are very high, not physiological, and thus irrelevant to female life. We recently tested whether
exogenous exposure to estrogen in ovariectimized females would enhance learning, in this case of a classically conditioned eyeblink response (Leuner et al. 2004b). We found no effect on performance at any dose that would be experienced by a female
under normal living conditions (Fig. 1C). However, we did find enhancing effects at very high doses, nearly 10 what a female rat in proestrus (when estrogen levels peak) would experience. What does that say about estrogen in living breathing
females? Not much. It probably does say something about learning in women treated with estrogen after menopause or hysterectomy, many of whom are prescribed supraphysiological doses of " therapy." But if we are to understand the effects of estrogen in the female as she lives, it must be done with physiological doses of estrogen, preferably with the cycle intact.
Were those rats in Wayne Brake's study on mega-doses of estrogen? And what were the comparison rats? Were they also female rats? Because the way I see these news spread is as evidence of women in general being sluggish and poor learners during ovulation. As opposed to men.

To say that women learn less well when ovulating than at other times is not the same thing at all, you know.

And to say that female rats with high estrogen levels (perhaps not natural levels) are more sluggish learners of the connection between two sounds than female rats with lower estrogen levels is not at all the same thing as

Can't Focus? Could Be High Estrogen
High levels of estrogen in women may contribute to slower learning, according to a new study
You know what pisses me off the most? It's only studies like this one that go viral. Studies which suggest that estrogen enhances learning do not. Which tells you all you want to know about the motivations of that rapid dissemination of information.
You might want to Google Dr. Brake, by the way. I get the feeling that he might not care for women much.
*A few other studies having to do with rodents.

The Big Mac Insurance Policy

The Wall Street Journal reports that McDonald's may stop offering health insurance to its workers

McDonald's Corp. has warned federal regulators that it could drop its health insurance plan for nearly 30,000 hourly restaurant workers unless regulators waive a new requirement of the U.S. health overhaul.

The move is one of the clearest indications that new rules may disrupt workers' health plans as the law ripples through the real world.

Trade groups representing restaurants and retailers say low-wage employers might halt their coverage if the government doesn't loosen a requirement for "mini-med" plans, which offer limited benefits to some 1.4 million Americans.

The requirement concerns the percentage of premiums that must be spent on benefits.


Last week, a senior McDonald's official informed the Department of Health and Human Services that the restaurant chain's insurer won't meet a 2011 requirement to spend at least 80% to 85% of its premium revenue on medical care.

McDonald's and trade groups say the percentage, called a medical loss ratio, is unrealistic for mini-med plans because of high administrative costs owing to frequent worker turnover, combined with relatively low spending on claims.
The medical loss ratio seems to mean that the McDonald's mini-med plan should pay out 85 cents as benefits from each dollar it collects from workers. Thus, the costs of the program and any profits should add up to at most 15 cents out of each dollar collected.

McDonald's argues that it can't do that because worker turnover means higher administrative costs? And because the total claims are so small?

The claims are probably so small because the average McDonald's worker is young and healthy. But the claims might also be small because the insurance doesn't cover much:

What happens to an insured worker who really gets sick? Who covers the claims that go well beyond 10,000 dollars per year?

McDonald's pays most of its workers less than eight dollars an hour. The most expensive of the three policies costs full-time workers more than ten percent of their salaries and it still doesn't cover anything truly serious and expensive.

If this is what being insured means the HCR can't start soon enough. On the other hand, McDonald's is considering stopping even this meager coverage unless it gets an exemption to the medical loss ratio. The workers can always go on Medicaid!

Women In Government. Some Good News.

It looks like Brazil will elect Dilma Roussef as president:

The world's most powerful woman will start coming into her own next weekend. Stocky and forceful at 63, this former leader of the resistance to a Western-backed military dictatorship (which tortured her) is preparing to take her place as President of Brazil.

As head of state, president Dilma Rousseff would outrank Angela Merkel, Germany's Chancellor, and Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State: her enormous country of 200 million people is revelling in its new oil wealth. Brazil's growth rate, rivalling China's, is one that Europe and Washington can only envy.

Her widely predicted victory in next Sunday's presidential poll will be greeted with delight by millions. It marks the final demolition of the "national security state", an arrangement that conservative governments in the US and Europe once regarded as their best artifice for limiting democracy and reform. It maintained a rotten status quo that kept a vast majority in poverty in Latin America while favouring their rich friends.
The same article gives a list of women's political representation in several countries which are moving toward gender parity:

Bolivia In the Bolivian cabinet, 10 men are now matched by 10 women. In 2009, women won 25 per cent of seats in the lower chamber, and 47 per cent in the upper chamber.

Costa Rica In 2010, women won 39 per cent of seats in the lower chamber.

Argentina In 2009, women won 39 per cent of seats in the lower chamber and 47 per cent in the upper chamber.

Cuba In 2009, women won 41 per cent of seats in the lower chamber.

Rwanda In 2009, women won 56 per cent of seats in the lower chamber and 35 per cent in the upper chamber.

Mozambique In 2009, women won 39 per cent of seats in the lower chamber.

Angola In 2009, women won 38 per cent of seats in the lower chamber.

Switzerland Has a female-dominated cabinet for the first time. In 2007, women won 29 per cent of seats in the lower chamber.

Germany In 2009, the cabinet had six women and 10 men. That year, women won 33 per cent of lower chamber seats.

Spain Nine women compared with eight men in cabinet. In 2008, women won 37 per cent of seats in the lower chamber.

Norway Equal numbers of men and women in the cabinet. Women won 40 per cent of seats in the lower chamber.

Denmark Nine women and 10 men in cabinet. In 2007, women won 23 per cent of seats in the lower chamber.

Netherlands Three women and nine men in cabinet. In 2010, women won 41 per cent of seats in the lower chamber.
Compared to those numbers, both the U.S. and the U.K. are doing pretty rotten. Note that these two countries rank fairly high in international comparisons of women's status overall. This suggests that it's something about the American and British systems which makes it harder for women to run for office successfully. I believe it's the few-parties system.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Woman Behind The Curtain

This Guardian article, published a few weeks ago, discusses the impact of clothing on how female musicians' performance is evaluated. But it also refers to those interesting earlier studies of orchestras:

In the world of music, assessment of performance goals can be restricted to make individuals broadly comparable, and so there's a reasonably long tradition of the field being used as a test tube for bigotry. In the 1970s and 1980s, in an attempt to overcome biases in hiring, most orchestras changed their audition policy, and began using screens to conceal the identity of the candidate.

Female musicians in the top five US symphony orchestras rose from 5% in the 1970s to around 25%. This could have been due to wider societal shifts, so Goldin and Rouse conducted a very elegant study, Orchestrating Impartality: they compared the number of women being hired at auditions with and without screens, and found women were several times more likely to be hired when nobody could see that they were a woman.

What's more, using data on the changing gender makeup of orchestras over time, they were able to estimate that from the 1970s to 2000 – the era which shifted from casual racism and sexism in popular culture, to more covert forms – the trend towards greater equality was driven simply by selectors being forced not to see who they were selecting.
I have always loved those blind audition studies! Imagine how the current anti-feminist commentators (I'm looking at you, Hoff Sommers ) would have "explained" the dearth of women in the early 1970s orchestras in the absence of those studies:

Perhaps women just don't want to hold jobs which require traveling! Women may not be as good musicians! Motherhood is incompatible with evening work! Orchestras require male clothing!

And it would have been tricky to prove that any gender discrimination exists without those screens and the impact their use had.

Note that when I use the term "gender discrimination" I don't mean that the people picking new players for the orchestra are necessarily misogynists or even opposed to women as such, although they may be. Rather, I mean that the gender of the musician exerts an independent effect on her/his chances of getting hired, and that effect works against female musicians.

But then the orchestras in some other countries seem to hire no women at all.
Link to the Goldin-Rouse study.

A Stunt, A Punk, A Prank, A Caper, A Joke

James O'Keefe, the conservative Giant-Who-Killed-Acorn had a brand new prank in mind, a caper of the most hilarious cleverness:

A conservative activist known for making undercover videos plotted to embarrass a CNN correspondent by recording a meeting on hidden cameras aboard a floating "palace of pleasure" and making sexually suggestive comments, e-mails and a planning document show.

James O'Keefe, best known for hitting the community organizing group ACORN with an undercover video sting, hoped to get CNN Investigative Correspondent Abbie Boudreau onto a boat filled with sexually explicit props and then record the session, those documents show.

"The plans appeared so outlandish and so juvenile in tone, I questioned whether it was part of a second attempted punk," Boudreau said.

But in a phone conversation, Santa confirmed the document was authentic. Listed under "equipment needed," is "hidden cams on the boat," and a "tripod and overt recorder near the bed, an obvious sex tape machine."

Among the props listed were a "condom jar, dildos, posters and paintings of naked women, fuzzy handcuffs" and a blindfold.

According to the document, O'Keefe was to record a video of the following script before Boudreau arrived: "My name is James. I work in video activism and journalism. I've been approached by CNN for an interview where I know what their angle is: they want to portray me and my friends as crazies, as non-journalists, as unprofessional and likely as homophobes, racists or bigots of some sort....

"Instead, I've decided to have a little fun. Instead of giving her a serious interview, I'm going to punk CNN. Abbie has been trying to seduce me to use me, in order to spin a lie about me. So, I'm going to seduce her, on camera, to use her for a video. This bubble-headed-bleach-blonde who comes on at five will get a taste of her own medicine, she'll get seduced on camera and you'll get to see the awkwardness and the aftermath.

"Please sit back and enjoy the show." Boudreau, who has won multiple awards for her investigative reporting, called the comments "ridiculous."
Read the whole thing, as they say. As Media Matters states:

Lying to a reporter in order to lure her onto a boat under false pretenses, then secretly recording her reaction to being confronted in an enclosed, unfamiliar environment by a strange man with handcuffs and sex toys, all while disparaging her as a "bubble-headed-bleach-blonde," is not a "stunt." It is the vicious, misogynist act of a twisted person whose 15 minutes should have expired long ago.
Last, but absolutely not least, here is the intended target of the stunt/punk/prank/caper/joke, Abbie Boudreau:

As a woman in the news industry you have to be tough. I have always had to work harder than my male counterparts to be taken seriously and to be treated with respect. As a woman in the news industry you have to ignore all of the silly talk from your managers about the clothes you should wear on-air or what color your hair should be. I have had my share of conversations like that, and to be honest, it stings. I'm left wondering, "When will my work stand on its own? Why does this always have to be part of the conversation?"

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Care And Feeding Of The Political Bases

Republicans do it by throwing chunks of meat (mostly consisting of rights over women's bodies) to their fundie base and by sending out frightening leaflets about how the Democrats want to ban their Bibles and force them to marry a turtle and so on.

Democrats have invented a brand new way of caring for the base: Acting like a Drill Sergeant.Here's the president himself:

Admonishing his own party, President Barack Obama says it would be "inexcusable" and "irresponsible" for unenthusiastic Democratic voters to sit out the midterm elections, warning that the consequences could be a squandered agenda for years.

"People need to shake off this lethargy. People need to buck up," Mr. Obama told Rolling Stone in an interview to be published Friday. The president told Democrats that making change happen is hard and "if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place."
And here's the Vice-President:

At a fundraiser in Manchester, NH, today, Vice President Biden urged Democrats to "remind our base constituency to stop whining and get out there and look at the alternatives. This President has done an incredible job. He's kept his promises."

The remarks, made to roughly 200 top Democratic activists and donors, recall comments President Obama made last week to "griping and groaning Democrats…Folks: wake up. This is not some academic exercise. As Joe Biden put it, Don't compare us to the Almighty, compare us to the alternative."
Now gimme twenty pushups! Go!

Sigh. Of course it's crucial for all Democrats and progressives and so on to go and vote, of course! The alternative is, after all, worse. A lot worse for women.

But I can't help noticing that the Republicans court their base (even as they laugh at them, too), whereas the Democrats tell their base to shape up. The base is told that they are the problem, not the administration. That's not the greatest of PR moves.

Today's Deep Insight

It's about that Mark Twain saying: "A lie can travel around the world
while the truth is just putting on its shoes."

Everyone gets what the saying means, right away. But in fact Twain doesn't tell us why Truth is so slow getting started. Does Lie run with bare feet? Do Truth's shoes have loads and loads of those little buttons you have to close with a button hook?

Or is it simply that Truth plays the defense here and will only react after Lie has carried out an attack? This might be what Twain meant: Truth is disorganized, not expecting the audacity of the Lie, and this is why putting shoes on takes so much time. Truth was probably snoring away in its bed just a second ago.

I prefer the buttoned boots alternative myself, and maybe that's what Twain meant, too. Truth, especially when chasing Lie, requires more explanation, more evidence and more time to explain the evidence, and all those are like the zillion little buttons in Victorian boots. Lie, on the other hand, can just make up soundbites.

That's one deep insight I offer today. It was motivated by me surfing blogs and realizing that many of the ones which looked most fun and interesting are largely based on simplifications and propaganda. The light feet of Lies?

The other insight I offer is this: If Truth is putting on high heels in that saying she can forget about ever catching up with Lie. Now meditate on that!*
*I think that requires a clarification: Any woman trying to tell the truth while obeying old-fashioned rules about how much aggression women can show is gonna lose. But then showing aggression makes you lose, too. ommm.

Pledge, Broccoli And The Responsibilities Of The Media

The new Republican Pledge to America promises to get rid of "Obamacare". Whether it also gets rid of dust, the way the traditional Pledge does, remains a mystery.

But most Americans don't want to get rid of "Obamacare" in the sense of returning to the wild west cowboy type markets which the wingnuts adore. Indeed, they would have liked something more than the wishy-washy compromise the Obama administration finally arrived at. That particular compromise gave away an additional fraction of women's reproductive rights, for example.

A recent AP poll found that:
about four in 10 adults think the new law did not go far enough to change the health care system, regardless of whether they support the law, oppose it or remain neutral. On the other side, about one in five say they oppose the law because they think the federal government should not be involved in health care at all.

The AP poll was conducted by Stanford University with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Overall, 30 percent favored the legislation, while 40 percent opposed it, and another 30 percent remained neutral.

Those numbers are no endorsement for Obama's plan, but the survey also found a deep-seated desire for change that could pose a problem for Republicans. Only 25 percent in the poll said minimal tinkering would suffice for the health care system.

Would this desire for change pose problems for the Republicans? I'm not sure. As an example, note the way this particular opinion is reported here:

Brian Braley, 49, a tech industry worker from Mesa, Ariz., wants Washington to keep its hands off. "I think it's a Trojan horse," Braley said of the health care law. "It's a communist, socialist scheme. All the other countries that have tried this, they're billions in debt, and they admit this doesn't work."

It may well satisfy people who share Braley's outlook if Republicans succeed in tearing out what they dismiss as "Obamacare" by the roots. But GOP leaders would still find themselves in a quandary.
Those "who share Braley's outlook?" No correction of Braley's lies about other countries? Those are allowed to stay as if they were facts. Or at least an "outlook".

And that is one big problem in how the media often reports on politics: The he-said-she-said "balance" with mostly no attempt to provide actual facts. "The earth is a sphere, some say, but others say it's a head of broccoli."

This links to a wider problem which is the failure of the media to provide people correct information. Focusing on the he-said-she-said pattern will do that, as my sphere-broccoli example shows, and so will the use of just one ideologically biased source of news (such as the Fox News). The consequences of the resulting lack of information can be seen, for example, in this study about how Americans really would prefer a more equal wealth distribution than they now have:

Recent analyses have shown that income inequality in the US has grown steadily for the past three decades and reached its highest level on record, exceeding even the large disparities seen in the 1920s, before the Great Depression. Norton and Ariely estimate that the one percent wealthiest Americans hold nearly 50 percent of the country's wealth, while the richest 20 percent hold 84 percent of the wealth.

But in their study, the authors found Americans generally underestimate the income disparity. When asked to estimate, respondents on average estimated that the top 20 percent have 59 percent of the wealth (as opposed to the real number, 84 percent). And when asked to choose how much the top 20 percent should have, on average respondents said 32 percent -- a number similar to the wealth distribution seen in Sweden.

"What is most striking" about the results, argue the authors, is that they show "more consensus than disagreement among ... different demographic groups. All groups – even the wealthiest respondents – desired a more equal distribution of wealth than what they estimated the current United States level to be, while all groups also desired some inequality – even the poorest respondents."

The authors suggest the reason that American voters have not made more of an issue of the growing income gap is that they may simply not be aware of it. "Second, just as people have erroneous beliefs about the actual level of wealth inequality, they may also hold overly optimistic beliefs about opportunities for social mobility in the United States, beliefs which in turn may drive support for unequal distributions of wealth," they write.
Setting aside the fact that income inequality is not the same as wealth inequality, the above quote suggests that Americans have not been given  information on the current levels of income or wealth inequalities.  It doesn't seem to be the job of the media, I guess.  But whose job is it, then?

If the job is left to politicians, say, then the he-said-she-said format makes all assertions look equally likely to be true or equally suspect.  This is a real dilemma, because an informed electorate is a precondition for democracy to work.
The pictures I chose for this post are intended to misinform you by adding noise, the way political debates and articles often do. (Sticks out tongue)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Taliban Dan Webster

This is the title of a campaign ad by Alan Grayson against his opponent, Dan Webster, down in Florida. Here is the ad itself:

Don't you just love it? The ad, I mean, not the idea that women should submit to the authority of one Dan Webster. But somehow the idea that a politician would ever have stated that submit-thingie in public doesn't sound likely to me.

Mmm. Here's the video from which those submit-to-me statements were taken from. Webster is speaking to a group of fundamentalist Christian men there, and that is important to remember.

You might want to listen to it a few times. Yes, Grayson took Webster's comments out of context and twisted what was actually said to sound as if Webster was demanding wives to submit to their husbands, even though he only said the Bible does that.

But what is that context? It's a speech to men who believe in the idea that wives should submit to their husbands:
Susannah Randolph, Grayson's campaign manager, defended the ad. She pointed to Webster's ties to the Institute in Basic Life Principles and its founder Bill Gothard, who has taught that women should be subservient to their husbands and not work outside the home. While in the state House in 1990, Webster spent $4,340 of taxpayer money to print and mail a district mailer urging constituents to attend one of the group's seminars.

"He is speaking at a group that teaches that women should be submissive to men," Randolph said. "He's always pushed an agenda that is anti-woman."

Religious conservatives are attacking the ad:

"Alan Grayson is an embarrassment to the citizens of Florida," said Gary Bauer, chairman of the Campaign for Working Families which has backed Webster. "While the voters of his district lose their jobs and their homes, he conducts a campaign of smears and hatred against anyone who challenges the tax raising, big-government policies that he has voted for. Nov. 2 can't come quickly enough."

"The Grayson ads are despicable and reach a new low which reflect the character of the man who approved them," said John Stemberger, president of Florida Family Action. "Christians everywhere ought to be outraged at Grayson and his bigoted claims."
What are the smears and the bigotry in the ad, from the point of view of religious wingnuts like Gary Bauer? This is where it all gets interesting, because someone like Bauer agrees with the idea that wives should submit to their husbands, so that unfortunate warping in the message shouldn't be a problem for them. Indeed, it would be more of a problem for them if Webster had argued that women don't have to submit to their husbands, right?

And as far as I can tell, the votes and policies the Taliban Dan ad assigns to Webster are correct. He is opposed to abortion even in the case of rape, for instance.

So what are the smears and the bigotry? It must be that link to the Taliban.

I once wrote a post which compared how women's rights and roles were viewed by the Taliban and by the extreme Christian right. The similarities were striking and so was the one difference. Even though the U.S. Christian right wants pretty much the same from women as the Taliban: obedience to male authority, practically no education and no visible public presence (in terms of, say, full-time work), the U.S. version is always kinder and gentler, with no stoning, for example.

Perhaps the ad should have stated that? Taliban-without-stoning? But then, of course, the Bible does mention the stoning of adulterous women...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mary Osborne

I Love Paris These Foolish Things

Mary Osborne was a very fine jazz guitarist who had a very active career, as this and other You Tubes shows, she played with many of the best players of the time. Until I saw them I was only ever aware of her time playing with Mary Lou Williams.

If you want to see her playing with some excellent musicians, there's also

Art Ford's Jazz Party

A number of these are posted at You Tube, they are all pretty great.

What I Did While Stacking Wood This Week [Anthony McCarthy]

A man booked a weeks vacation at a luxury resort. He checked in, being wowed by the decor and service and in the morning he went down to breakfast. He was surprised to see that the only item on the menu was oatmeal. He thought and decided the cook must be out so he ordered the oatmeal and ate it and went on with his morning.

At lunch time he went back to the dining room and was surprised to see that there was only oatmeal on the menu. He was puzzled but being very satisfied with everything else and not being the kind of person to make a fuss he had the oatmeal, now looking forward to supper.

At suppertime, you guessed, only oat meal on the menu.

This time he went to the front desk and told the clerk he would like to speak to the manager. The manager came out and said, Yes, Monsieur?

"I don't want to complain but.... this is a very expensive hotel and.... well, every time I go to the dining room the only thing that's being served is oatmeal. When I talked to you on the phone to make my reservation that's not what you told me.

Ah, but, Monsieur, I was very clear in what I said. I told you this 'otel serves only oat cuisine.
Mary Lou Williams' Girl Stars


Mary Lou Williams Piano
Bridget O'Flynn Vibes
Mary Osborne Guitar
Marjorie Hyam Drums
Bea Taylor Bass

Too bad about the title, but I'd guess it seemed progressive at the time. I wish I could post some of the other things this group did, including the quite wonderful Boogie Misterioso and Waltz Boogie, but they haven't been YouTubed.

We Won't Know The Truth, We Won't Be Free, And Neither Will Our Speech [Anthony McCarthy]

When there is a serious problem with a basic assumption in our politics and society which comes to pervade our thinking about many issues, then that basic assumption has to be taken out and looked at very hard. If that assumption is intrinsically flawed or if its application is, then it has to be changed or the problems generated by it flourish. I think there is no more obviously dangerous flaw in a basic assumption than the one that we went over here at length during the long series of discussions of pornography earlier this year. That problem will be all too obvious in the ads on TV and the radio before November, they will likely be seen in the result of the election and will spread with the incoming congress.

The conservatives on the Supreme Court are using the classical language of free speech absolutism in a bald attack on the foundations of self-government. It's an attack that became obvious in Buckley v Valeo, a decision that should be as infamous as Dred Scott or Plessey but which has gained less attention due to its use of the language of civil rights. The equally dangerous Citizens United ruling of this year does the same thing. It is an attack on the actual foundations of democracy, the right of The People to be accurately informed so that they can then elect a government which will serve their interests, and an attack made in the language of free speech. These are the same people who handed George W. Bush the presidency as a result of a clearly corrupted election in a state governed by his brother. And during this congress it was remarkable to see the far right of the Republican Party, the Bible Belt caucus of the party attacking Democrats in language that used to be the reserve of those championing Screw and Hustler magazine. That level of hypocrisy always masks some seriously bad intentions.

In discussing this on blogs of the left, repeatedly pointing out the dangers that the dogma that puts speech above other rights and clearly now over even the most basic political right we have, to have a government which is the product of an informed decision by voters, it's been clear that the slogans and lore of free speech are a big problem. Sometimes it feels like you must have suddenly lost your powers of articulation.

I don't know if somewhere in the bowels of the Federalist Society they figured it out, that the left having this issue so badly backwards was a golden opportunity for them to attack that democracy which is the enemy of plutocrats in all ages but they might as well have. Speech is the servant of The Peoples' right to have accurate information, it is only an important right in so far as it delivers the truth which our need to make decisions in our personal lives and to make choices in governing our communities and countries. The reason that slaves were barred from learning to read wasn't because their enslavers were afraid they were going to read smutty stories, it was to prevent them from being free. Substituting skillfully devised lies and distractions in order to sell lies to an electorally effective majority is just doing the same thing by different means.

The free speech absolutists almost always eventually get back to Jefferson, the slave holding patron saint of their dogma. Little remembered was the fact that, when he was in a position to do so, he banned David Hume's History of England from the University of Virginia because he saw, rightfully, I think, that it had a deep anti-republican bias. He was afraid that it would damage the quasi-republic that was developing in the United States and took the action he was able to suppress it. In letters to several people he railed against its pernicious potentials and promoted an alternative, partial cribbing, of Hume's history which promoted government by The People. Clearly he put that right above the rights that Hume's history held. In looking around, I've noticed that Hume's Hisotry seems to be popular with a certain segment of the neo-federalist” right here. I don't think its a manifestation of quaint anglophilia that leads them to it.

In so far as politics is concerned, free speech is a utility, it's there to make self-government possible. People who don't know the truth won't be free, That is as close to a law of nature as you can come in democratic politics. That is its most important public function. Other than that, the constitutional protection of speech is, undoubtedly, useful in preventing harassment by an oppressive government. But today free speech is being used as a means of attacking self-government and the only alternative to self-government is an oppressive government. And with that despotism will end free speech except that speech which serves those with the actual control of the government.

Self-government isn't something that you can sell like you can a movie or book or magazine article, the sellers of which are among those who automatically use the language of free speech without consideration of its place in the real guarantee of freedom, a public which makes decisions out of the truth instead of false propaganda. Since it's people in the business of getting paid for producing stuff in the form of speech, that's where almost all of its advocacy begins and stops. It's way, way past time that our scribbling classes got serious about free speech in light of how the far right has adopted it since the 1970s. If they can't come up with the language to protect its most important function then their decidedly less important use of it will be lost. And that protection won't come in the slogans of absolutism but in the far less gratifyingly simple and bracing reality of political life.