Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Cat Blogging

It is very hot and hard to think of a proper post. I'm going to have another cool shower and try later. In the meantime, enjoy partial cat blogging:

Friday critter blogging (by Suzie)

I found an old hassock for a friend who broke her ankle, but then I went into the hospital and couldn't take it to her. In the meantime, my Chihuahua, Ginger, has turned it into the equivalent of a bean-bag chair.

In other Chihuahua news, here's the popular video of Paco, who looks a lot like Ginger, going after robbers.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Want Some Fried Snake? I Think I'm Done

So could you weather goddesses and gods just stop already? Yes, you are awesome and awe-inspiring, and yes, we are stupid idiots not to do anything practical about climate change, and yes, Mother Nature bats last and she hits only home-runs, and yes, summers are hot and humid, like a poorly heated sauna, in any case.

But my brain feels like a battered fish when it comes out of the deep-fryer.

On the Gang Of Six Proposal To Reduce Deficit by Cutting Taxes

The Gang of Six is the name of a bipartisan group of six Senators who have written a recommendation aimed at cutting all the fat (and the liver and the kidney and the brains) out of the federal budget to trim the deficit! This is done by sending the granny home from the nursing home and by stripping her from some of her Social Security Income when she gets too old.

But it's also done by something that sounds like an attempt to lower taxes:
But that obscures the fact that the Gang of Six tax plan doesn’t really pencil out. They have promised:
• Lower marginal tax rates so that they fall in 3 brackets: one at 8-12%, one at 14-22%, and one at 23-29%;
• The elimination of the alternative minimum tax, which would cost $1.7 trillion;
• Reform but not elimination of the really big tax expenditures, like charitable deductions, the employer health care deduction and the mortgage interest deduction;
• Revenue-neutral corporate income tax reform;
• And yet a grand total of $1 trillion in net revenues, on top of the $800 billion built in from the assumption of the end of the high-end Bush tax cuts.
How in the would do you lower rates, cancel the AMT, get nothing from the corporate side, promise not to nix the biggest tax expenditures, and raise at least $3.5 trillion? That’s the cost of the AMT, $1.7 trillion, plus the revenue raising targets, $1.8 trillion. I’m NOT EVEN COUNTING the money you would have to make up for lowering the individual rates. You’d have to tax Wall Street trades or add a carbon tax to get to that number.
Maybe there is some way to make sense out of these numbers? But what is the sense in lowering tax rates and keeping corporate total taxes constant when the president tells us that all Americans Must Sacrifice? What are the corporations sacrificing? And what are the very wealthy sacrificing? Even with fewer allowed deductions, super-high income earners would probably take home more money than currently is the case.

On the other hand, less wealthy individuals are certainly asked to sacrifice! The cuts in Medicaid and Medicare the proposal includes could have severe consequences, often on the most vulnerable among us, and it is extremely hard to see how the tax part of the proposal would cut the deficit without the middle classes paying more than they do now.

Apropos of something slightly different, the top marginal tax rates used to be much, much higher all through the so-called golden years of America's economic domination. Yet now a 35% top rate is regarded as unacceptably high. Fascinating.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Meawhile, in Uttar Pradesh. May Trigger.

Violent rapes and murders have become a cause for concern:
A spate of exceptionally brutal rapes in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh has shocked India. Many of the victims were young girls.


"With the help of his friends, he dragged me to a secluded area and began to assault me with knives and axes. I was conscious for some time, but once they cut me on my head and neck, I fainted. When I became conscious, I was in hospital."
Sarika shows me her injuries - a fist-size wound on her scalp, her jaw which has been sewn together, her right hand which had to be re-attached, her right earlobe from where big chunks are missing, and long scars on her arms.
Shivam has been arrested, but the others are still free. One told the BBC he had been wrongly accused.
A terrified Sarika and her family have abandoned their home and land in Fatehpur district's Udrauli village to stay with relatives in another village nearly 45km (30 miles) away.

The article goes on to describe aspects of the crimes which help the perpetrators: Many people are poor and have to go out to the fields because they have no toilets at home, the attacked are usually low-caste Dalit women (the earlier "untouchables"), and the attackers are likely to be men of power and influence.

But all this must have been true in the past, too. So what has changed to make the recent spate of rapes, mutilations and killings even more vicious? Or is it that people are now paying more attention, that victims (or their relatives) now get a hearing?

Good News On Preventive Health Care Services for Women

The news are these:
Virtually all health insurance plans could soon be required to offer female patients free coverage of prescription birth control, breast-pump rentals, counseling for domestic violence, and annual wellness exams and HIV tests as a result of recommendations released Tuesday by an independent advisory panel of health experts.


Women’s health advocates pronounced themselves delighted that the Institute of Medicine committee had chosen to recommend not only the widest possible range of contraceptive services but also an expansive spectrum of other preventive services.
These include screening for gestational diabetes in pregnant women; more sophisticated testing for a virus, known as HPV, that is associated with cervical cancer; annual counseling for sexually active women on sexually transmitted infections; and multiple visits to obtain preventive services if they cannot be provided in one annual exam.
The recommendations may not be adopted, true. Still, the emphasis on preventive services and the coverage of contraceptives is to be applauded. I hope they are also covered for men, naturally, especially after the male pill becomes available.

As one expert in the linked article notes, unplanned pregnancies are a huge problem in this country. They are also the pregnancies most likely to result in abortions.

This makes the resistance of the socially conservative Family Council illogical:
Jeanne Monahan, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the socially conservative Family Research Council, said that many Americans may object to birth control on religious grounds. “They should not be forced to have to pay into insurance plans that violate their consciences. Their conscience rights should be protected,” she said.
Well, perhaps not illogical if their final goal is to make sure that women have no rights to prevent births: No contraception, no abortion!

Such interesting consciences some people have.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Disgustingly Messy Kitchens Are Now The New Trend! Or Sex Is Passé!

How do I know that about kitchens? I have one, and right now I am writing about it. Presto, a new trend!

Pseudo-trends happen all the time. They are fads of a kind, provoked by some sort of boredom, the desire to discuss topics on which we all have opinions and anything which kicks the hind-brain into action.

Pseudo-trends are fun to remember afterwards. Do you recall how everybody was nesting after the 911 atrocities and how there would be a gigantic baby boom as a consequence? It didn't happen.

But pseudo-trends are a drag to follow when they actually happen. Take this, from Erica Jong, the author of Fear of Flying:
People always ask me what happened to sex since “Fear of Flying.” While editing an anthology of women’s sexual writing called “Sugar in My Bowl” last year, I was fascinated to see, among younger women, a nostalgia for ’50s-era attitudes toward sexuality. The older writers in my anthology are raunchier than the younger writers. The younger writers are obsessed with motherhood and monogamy.

It makes sense. Daughters always want to be different from their mothers. If their mothers discovered free sex, then they want to rediscover monogamy. My daughter, Molly Jong-Fast, who is in her mid-30s, wrote an essay called “They Had Sex So I Didn’t Have To.” Her friend Julie Klam wrote “Let’s Not Talk About Sex.” The novelist Elisa Albert said: “Sex is overexposed. It needs to take a vacation, turn off its phone, get off the grid.” Meg Wolitzer, author of “The Uncoupling,” a fictional retelling of “Lysistrata,” described “a kind of background chatter about women losing interest in sex.” Min Jin Lee, a contributor to the anthology, suggested that “for cosmopolitan singles, sex with intimacy appears to be neither the norm nor the objective.”

And what women think about instead of dildoes and such are...dirty kitchens! Or so I conclude in this post.

Katha Pollitt answers the question in the title of the linked article: Is Sex Passé? properly and exhaustively. I simply wish to add that what we see here is the construction of a pseudo-trend about women, something the New York Times excels in.

To be very fair, I should point out that perhaps the trend turns out a real one, though I doubt that very much. But if it does, it has probably much more to do with the way sex is nowadays defined than anything having to do with mother-daughter relationships or with the libidos of women.

A Clarification To The Post Below

I was wearing my medieval velvet beret with the tassel on the side while writing it, surrounded by them academic robes. I was not wearing my fighting helmet and double swords and throw-knives. Sometimes the former is necessary, sometimes the latter. And sometimes posting cute kittens is necessary.

At the same time, I feel wrong about writing the former type of post rather than the latter type of post on the topic of the very one-sided markets for paid sex (where women are the workers, men the customers, on the whole), a market which has traditionally and routinely criminalized and punished the sellers of sex, not the buyers, a market in which those sellers are left without much legal protection if they do get violently attacked, a market which indeed uses sexual trafficking and slavery (at least in part) to get those sellers which were then in the past criminalized and punished.

And all this in a society where being called a whore is an insult, but being called a john is nothing at all. Yet the market itself could not exist without the johns, would not exist without them.

Men Who Buy Sex

Now this is a piece which should provoke some discussion here:
A clinical psychologist, Farley studies prostitution, trafficking, and sexual violence, but even she wasn’t sure how representative her results were. “The question has always remained: are all our findings true of just sex buyers, or are they true of men in general?” she says.
In a new study released exclusively to NEWSWEEK, “Comparing Sex Buyers With Men Who Don’t Buy Sex,” Farley provides some startling answers. Although the two groups share many attitudes about women and sex, they differ in significant ways illustrated by two quotes that serve as the report’s subtitle.
One man in the study explained why he likes to buy prostitutes: “You can have a good time with the servitude,” he said. A contrasting view was expressed by another man as the reason he doesn’t buy sex: “You’re supporting a system of degradation,” he said.
And yet buying sex is so pervasive that Farley’s team had a shockingly difficult time locating men who really don’t do it. The use of pornography, phone sex, lap dances, and other services has become so widespread that the researchers were forced to loosen their definition in order to assemble a 100-person control group.


Overall, the attitudes and habits of sex buyers reveal them as men who dehumanize and commodify women, view them with anger and contempt, lack empathy for their suffering, and relish their own ability to inflict pain and degradation.
Farley found that sex buyers were more likely to view sex as divorced from personal relationships than nonbuyers, and they enjoyed the absence of emotional involvement with prostitutes, whom they saw as commodities. “Prostitution treats women as objects and not ... humans,” said one john interviewed for the study.
In their interviews, the sex buyers often voiced aggression toward women, and were nearly eight times as likely as nonbuyers to say they would rape a woman if they could get away with it. Asked why he bought sex, one man said he liked “to beat women up.” Sex buyers in the study committed more crimes of every kind than nonbuyers, and all the crimes associated with violence against women were committed by the johns.

Prostitution has always been risky for women; the average age of death is 34, and the American Journal of Epidemiology reported that prostitutes suffer a “workplace homicide rate” 51 times higher than that of the next most dangerous occupation, working in a liquor store.
Read the whole article. Then read the comments! You shall be enlightened... The study and the article appears to be the fault of goddesses like me: feminists.

(As a complete aside, I often wonder if I fly around in my dreams, oppressing all men into not being able to have sex with the best looking woman in the whole world and making sure that their bitches of ex-wives exploit them and walk away with their hard-earned money, just to begin on the next victim. Because all that and more appears to be my doing. Or the doing of other feminists.)

I have been unable to get hold of the study itself, probably because it is "exclusively" for Newsweek. But some things smell off to me.

For instance, the average age of death being 34 seems simply impossible. To get that low an average for the length of life in some population usually requires a very high infant mortality rate. But that is not relevant when we are looking at an occupational group. That leaves very few alternative ways of getting such a short life figure, and most of those are unlikely. It is, however, true that prostitution is an occupation with a very high violent death crime rate.

At the same time, getting good data on paid sex work or its customers is very difficult, especially when prostitution itself is regarded as a crime. Because I have been unable to get hold of the original study, I don't know where the data come from and have no way of judging them. Neither do I know how the questions were answered in general.

I also wanted to get more percentages and more numbers in general. As an example, what percentage of the users of prostitutes' services declared themselves as misogynists? How were the questions here phrased?

And how were the original samples found? This is very, very important, because the way the samples were created affects the likelihood that they are representative of all men.

While searching for this study, I found very little on the consumers of paid sex. Even the estimates of what percentage of men frequent prostitutes varied from 18% to 80%! The latter figure seems impossible, because if that use has any frequency we should find a humongously large number of women and gay men to be sex workers, much larger than any existing studies suggest.

All this means only that I take studies in this area with lots of reservations. That is not the same thing as agreeing or disagreeing with any particular study; it just means that I don't think the data we have is sufficiently reliable to draw firm conclusions which would generalize to all men, all sex workers or all human beings.

It's worth stressing that these reservations do NOT mean that no study on the topic is any good, that difficulties with studies would mean that we shouldn't study the field at all or that somehow the status quo is justified by being skeptical about the methodology of a particular study.

If you read the comments to the linked article you will find much anecdotal evidence, based on individuals' own life experiences (or at least what they say those are). Anecdotal evidence of this kind tells us nothing of how many people have the same experiences or different ones, and it can never substitute for a study which does tell us those numbers. How common something is does matter, after all.

It's also good to remember that comment threads are not a random sample of opinions. People with strong feelings comment more often, so threads are likely to cover extremes better than the muddy middle, say.

Likewise, an article deploring the misogyny clearly present in at least some use of prostitutes' services will get more than a proportionate share of comments which argue back or attack that view, sometimes paradoxically revealing misogyny in the way they do it.

Gosh. Well, you know what I mean. I'm talking about one particular study, not the wide topic under the study. A more subjective opinion: If true, this really frightens me:
Farley’s findings suggest that the use of prostitution and pornography may cause men to become more aggressive. Sex buyers in the study used significantly more pornography than nonbuyers, and three quarters of them said they received their sex education from pornography, compared with slightly more than half of the nonbuyers. “Over time, as a result of their prostitution and pornography use, sex buyers reported that their sexual preferences changed and they sought more sadomasochistic and anal sex,” the study reported.
The majority of the study participants got their sex education from porn??!!! That would be extremely worrisome, because the majority of porn is made for male audiences, is based on what pleases the male customer and certainly is not objective and neutral sex education.

Just imagine: This is what your future girlfriend will love you to do to her!
See also this post.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer's Adam

It does not exist, I'm sad to tell you. But Summer's Eve does exist. It is a special cleansing liquid for vaginas. So that they don't smell bad. I have not found a special cleansing liquid for penises so that they wouldn't smell bad, ever.

This Summer's Eve was shown as an ad with the new Harry Potter movie:

I guess it's funny. It also implies that vaginas are the secret power which makes the world go around, that women are fairly passive princesses and that men act, even die, for the desire to get access to pussy. And, naturally, that ordinary cleanliness is just not enough for something so desired and "powerful" as vaginas are.

On the other hand, what else could a company manufacturing a special cleansing liquid (which might not even be healthy to use) for the vaginas alone use in its ads? The need must be created for the product to be sold.

I'm eagerly awaiting the launching of Summer's Adam.

The Elizabeth Warren Case

So she did not get Obama's nomination to lead the agency she created, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, despite clearly wanting that nomination.

Try to twist your thinking brain around that! Someone is good enough to create the whole concept but not good enough to run the agency. What did she do wrong? Whom did she anger? Why did nobody have her back?

I want to stay on that emotional level at first, because what happened to Warren is humiliating and insulting. No other way to look at it. But what happened to her is also a good example of the way American politics now work:

Wall Street doesn't like her because she wants to defend the consumers against Wall Street. And the Republicans don't like her because she wants to defend the less wealthy against the wealthy. The president doesn't like her because she is the proverbial sacrifice on his altar of bipartisanship. (Women so very often have turned out to be that sacrifice, by the way, although I have no idea if Warren would have fared any better with the first name Ed.)

Now to the practical political analysis: Warren was not nominated because the Republicans (and other friends of banksters) wouldn't vote for her. Better to have a functioning agency than years of nomination fights, right? Except that Obama nominated someone with pretty much the same views, Richard Cordray, and if it is the views the Republicans don't like he won't have the votes, either. If, against this prediction, Cordray sails through the nomination process I would call Warren's treatment very clear sexism.

I'm not sure what to make of this pieces:
From the AFL-CIO to the Consumer Union, few liberal groups have expressed anything but the mildest of disappointment that their heroine did not get the job.
Warren herself, who very much wanted to head the agency she conceived and has been building, put out a statement on Sunday supporting Cordray. She followed it up on Monday with an article backing the decision on Huffington Post, a liberal outlet that had crusaded for her nomination.


“She is playing extremely well with others right now,” said one close observer of the process who declined to be identified by name because he continues to work with the administration and CFPB. The White House did not immediately response to a request for comment.
One school of thought holds that Warren’s warm support came in return for White House assurances of assistance in a possible campaign against Republican Scott Brown (R-Mass.) next year. Senior Democrats have indeed suggested that Warren could count on such support.
But it is not at all clear that such a campaign will ever materialize.
For one thing, it is not clear that Warren, now on leave from Harvard Law School to serve on the White House staff, is inclined to run. And while the financial industry is not happy with Brown for what they see as his failure to fight against new limits on debit card swipe fees, bankers would certainly prefer him to Warren, meaning he would raise massive amount of money off her candidacy.
“If [Warren] runs, Brown will be opening bank accounts in the Caymans to hold all the financial industry cash that will flow his way,” said one industry executive.
Said another: “Banks are furious at Brown over [debit card] interchange. But they would never support Warren.”

Well, I was just pretending not to know there. I did notice "the heroine" and the "now plays well with others" comments and put them in the box they belong to. I also noticed that Massachusetts elections are decided by what the banksters think and do. Indeed, elections under the current political financing system are often decided by what the people with money think and do. That's why it's not surprising that someone who created a consumer protection agency would not be allowed to run it, after all. The principle surely is to nominate the fox to guard the chicken coop, though that will take some time to arrange.

But it is still very insulting to Warren.