Saturday, November 05, 2011

More from Nakke, The Finnish-Speaking Parrot

Here he sits on his roost in the kitchen at night.

Rough translation:
He says "Give me a kiss" and makes smooch sounds. This is repeated several times in the video. He then says "who is it there", imitates coughing and laughter, calls the woman his beloved or love (though slightly wrong).

He then asks "who is it?" again, and starts saying "cuckoo". He laughs, and then appears to poop. After that he says "So." Then "papa will clean," to which the woman responds by saying "not now".

Nakke then says "what are you doing, UGH!" "UGH!" The next bit I can't quite get but he appears to say "who says poop?" "Why do you say it?"

The "cuckoo" game is repeated several times, he says "silly!" and then something I don't get.

At the end of the video he says "give me a kiss" again, then "give me your paw" He ends by saying "Oh dear" or "Oh bother" or "Damn" and flies away. (These choices are because none of them quite corresponds to "voi, voi sentaan.")

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Nazgûl Rule in Wisconsin

It's a most fascinating place, these days, full of what conservatives call social engineering when they are not doing it. But Wisconsin is run by wingnuts now, and it's instructive to learn what sorts of things they find Very Important to change.

There's the right to take a gun to the state Capitol, for instance, and the general right to carry concealed guns. How that will work out in road rage cases is something we will all learn about in the near future.

So having weapons available all over the place is crucial for the Nazgûls. What else?

Well, this:
Ever since Republicans captured the majority in a number of state legislatures last November, they have systematically attempted to make it more difficult to vote: by onerous voter ID requirements (in Wisconsin, Republicans have legislated photo IDs while simultaneously shutting Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices in Democratic constituencies while at the same time lengthening the hours of operation of DMV offices in GOP constituencies)

And then this:
Schools that teach sexual education would have to promote marriage and tell students abstinence is the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy, under a bill the Senate passed Wednesday.
The Republican-backed measure passed on a party-line 17-15 vote and now goes to the Republican-run Assembly. It would allow schools to teach abstinence-only courses, which has been banned in Wisconsin since last year under a law Democrats passed when they controlled state government.


The courses also would have to discuss parental responsibility and the socioeconomic benefits of marriage and explain pregnancy, prenatal development and childbirth.
Beyond that, Lazich's bill would recommend - but not mandate - other topics to be covered. Current law requires sex education courses to cover a range of subjects, such as anatomy, puberty, parenting, body image, the benefits of abstinence, marriage and family responsibility, the use of contraceptives and how drugs and alcohol affect decision-making.
And I'm not even going to write about what has been done to the unions and to the teachers there.

Sauron is smiling, you know.

Spare The Rod And Spoil The Child?

You probably have heard of the child discipline techniques of a Texas family court judge William Adams (who sits on child abuse cases), because his daughter put up a seven-year old video of both her parent beating her. Mostly her father, who is clearly out of control in the video:
"I really don't want to get into this right now because as you can see my life's been made very difficult over this child," Adams told the station.
When asked if he felt he was going to face any suspension or discipline from the state over the video, Adams responded, "In my mind I have not done anything wrong other than discipline my child when she was caught stealing. I did lose my temper, I've apologized."
Aransas County Sheriff Bill Mills said Wednesday that Adams has disconnected his phone because of threatening calls and faxes after the video went viral. Mills said Adams told him he did not plan to go to his office at the courthouse Wednesday.

The beating appears to take place in a bedroom and the man is apparently unaware that he's being filmed.

"Go get the belt. The big one. I'm going to spank her now," the man says in the clip's opening seconds.

A few minutes into the video, a woman appears and barks at the girl to "turn over like a 16-year-old and take it! Like a grown woman!" The ordeal then appears to be over for about a minute when both adults leave the room and shut the door, but then the man returns and the beating resumes.

Toward the end of the video, the man shouts that he plans to beat the girl "into submission." The girl does not appear to be seriously injured, and at the end of the video the adult woman tells her to leave the room and sleep on a sofa.

I'm not linking to the video directly. But I watched it and found it far more upsetting than the videos of police brutality in the Wall Street protests. That's because the teenage girl in the video had no way out, because she was alone and attacked by the two people who were supposed to be her guardians and because especially the father was clearly out of control, not carrying out some weird parental task but simply attacking his daughter. That she was not left in physical pain is immaterial.

Neither do I really care about what she had done. Not even the police would have punished her in that exact manner, replicating the experience of being attacked in the street or perhaps in a war zone.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

This Ring A Bell?

I was reading something I saved earlier for possible blogging, about the scarcity of women at the top of corporate echelons, and came across this:
She describes a corporate environment that offers much more latitude to men and where the bar is much higher for women. In her view, men tend to be promoted based on their promise, whereas women need to prove themselves multiple times.

I doubt there's any research on this question, but what she describes there might fit some cases I know about. That would explain why promotions come more slowly to women than to men. The "promising young man" vs. "the woman who has earned her spurs."

As I mentioned, this is pure speculation on my part. What's interesting about the idea is that if it turns out to be true it probably wouldn't be based on overt discrimination or anything of the sort but on something more vague.

The Men Behind The War On Women

That is the provocative title of a Huffington Post piece on the great influence of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops when it comes to women's reproductive lives:
A group of men with no real background in law or medicine, but blessed with a strong personal interest in women’s bodies, have quietly influenced all of the major anti-abortion legislation over the past several years. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops may be one of the quietest, yet most powerful lobbies on Capitol Hill, with political allies that have enabled them to roll back decades of law and precedent.
Over the past two years the GOP-controlled House of Representatives has launched one of the most extreme assaults on women's choice the U.S. has seen in decades. Republicans voted twice to slash federal family planning funds for low-income women, moved to prevent women from using their own money to buy insurance plans that cover abortion, introduced legislation that would force women to have ultrasounds before receiving an abortion and, most recently, passed a bill that will allow hospitals to refuse to perform emergency abortions for women with life-threatening pregnancy complications.
But the erosion of women's rights didn't begin with the GOP takeover. President Barack Obama's health care reform law contained some of the most restrictive abortion language seen in decades.
Lift the curtain, and behind the assault was the conference of bishops.
"It is a very effective lobby, unfortunately, and now they have an ally in the Republican majority because both groups find this a means by which to fight women's health issues in general," said Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), a member of the House Pro-Choice Caucus. "The bishops carry a lot of clout."
"We consider the two biggest opponents on the other side the Catholic bishops and National Right to Life," said Donna Crane, policy director of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "They are extremely heavy-handed on this issue."
While the bishops have always been vocal on the issue of choice, they have emerged since the 2009 health care reform debate as one of the most powerful anti-abortion advocates on Capitol Hill.
Now, they are stepping up their attack on women's choice with a new, high-intensity campaign aimed at the latest front in the national anti-abortion battle: birth control. And the opposition is worried that they might have just enough sway over lawmakers to succeed.

Let me see. Here's this big Guy Religion which does not allow women to become priests and has not allowed women to interpret the doctrine of the church. That doctrine is interpreted by celibate men who then use their interpretations to influence politics in countries world over. And the activity qualifies for a tax-exempt status:
The Conference of Catholic Bishops is not technically a lobbying organization -- churches are tax-exempt, and they don't have to disclose publicly how much money they put toward lobbying. According to the IRS, a 501(c)(3) organization like the Conference can speak out on moral issues as much as it wants, but "may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities."

The Catholic clergy's secret weapon is a man named Richard Doerflinger, who dropped out of a doctoral program in theology 31 years ago to work on abortion policy for the USCCB as Deputy Director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. As the point person on pro-life issues for the bishops, Doerflinger says he has been helping lawmakers write anti-abortion bills behind the scenes for decades, including the Stupak Amendment. In 2008 he was recognized by the Gerald Health Foundation as one of the "greatest heroes of the pro-life movement."

How It Is Done: Right-Wing Defences of Herman Cain

There's always a deep lesson in these kinds of news. This time it's the sexual harassment accusations against Herman Cain. Because of the lack of detailed information (so far), people commenting on the case can say whatever they wish.

And what the conservatives tend to say are things like this:
National Review: "Is There Anyone Who Thinks Sexual Harassment Is A Real Thing?" From a November 2 post by John Derbyshire on National Review Online:

Is there anyone who thinks sexual harassment is a real thing? Is there anyone who doesn't know it's all a lawyers' ramp, like "racial discrimination"? You pay a girl a compliment nowadays, she runs off and gets lawyered up. Is this any way to live? [National Review, 11/2/11] 

That's how it is done. Note how Derbyshire implies that sexual harassment is nothing but giving "a girl" a compliment!

Like "nice rack?" A used condom in her lunch sandwich?

Derbyshire also redefines sexual harassment suits as something which makes his life a pure hell. They are unnecessary, baseless and invented to stop him from living his life to the fullest.

It's an interesting interpretation of who the real victims are.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Class Warfare in Chicago

Someone at the Chicago Board of Trade issued another message to the Occupy Chicago protesters by blanketing them with these McDonald's job applications. The protesters are understandably offended by both the message and by the hundreds of pieces of new litter around them.
This is especially interesting given this piece of news from last April:
After sifting through about one million applications, McDonald’s hired more than 60,000 workers nationwide, and over 1,000 in Chicagoland, in conjunction with its National Hiring Day earlier this month.
Bolds are mine, asshattery by someone else.

Trust And The Financial Markets As Gambling Casinos

The role of trust in the success of financial markets has not been highlighted the way it should have been. One exception is an in interview of a former financial regulator, William Black.

Consumer trust is crucial in the day-to-day operations of any bank or investment firm. That's why banks used to have marble columns and rotundas; to show that the depositor's money would be safe.

Somehow we have forgotten almost all that. The debate now is about how uncertainty affects firms, and even there the uncertainty is defined to mean only what the governments might do. What we should talk about instead is the severe loss of trust and what can be done to bring trust back.

This links to my frequent reminders that we need proper regulations of the financial markets and proper incentives for those who gamble in them. If failing the consumers and others who rely on the markets gives you no other punishment but a golden umbrella when you leave, who cares about customer trust?

Still more on the Mississippi Single-Cell-Americans Initiative

The proponents of the Egg Americans (coming to a womb near you!) initiative in Mississippi are finally admitting that the fetal personhood amendment would have some serious consequences for the aquariums intended for the use of fetal persons:
From NPR’s Diane Rehm Show:
Hoye: Any birth control that ends the life of a human being will be impacted by this measure.
Rehm: So that would then include the IUD [intra-uterine device]. What about the birth control pill?
Hoye: If that falls into the same category, yes.
Rehm: So you’re saying that the birth control pill could be considered as taking the life of a human being?
Hoye: I’m saying that once the egg and the oocyte come together and you have that single-celled embryo, at that point you have human life, you’ve got a human being and we’re taking the life of a human being with some forms of birth control and if birth control falls into that category, yes I am.
Hoye, who is the president of the Issues4Life Foundation (a group that has erected anti-abortion billboards aimed specifically at African-Americans) also told Rehm that in vitro fertilization would not be affected by the passage of the bill, despite objections to the contrary.

Rubbish. In vitro fertilization would certainly be banned by the bill if the definition of a fertilized egg as a full human being is taken seriously. How to treat ectopic pregnancies would become a dilemma, too, and I still think it is not an accident that the fetal personhood initiatives always seem to ban the contraception methods that women can use in an invisible way.

On the other hand, the opinions in that quote made me think that perhaps a Single-Cell American is a better term for these new persons than Egg American.
This post on one of the local proponents of the initiative is also pretty scary.

Today's Fun Survey: Women And Ambition At Work.

It's about how women no longer have the desire for those top jobs:
Tiffany Willis of Dallas has spent years climbing the corporate career ladder, working up to 70-hour weeks and pulling in about $60,000 as a middle manager.
She describes herself "as that mom sitting at the top of the bleachers at my kid's Saturday-morning football game on my cellphone for a conference call with my laptop."
But no more.
She walked away from the pressures, paycheck and prestige of jobs she called "meaningful and important" earlier this year and refuses to return, no matter how many offers come her way.
"I will never go back to the corporate world," she says. "I want to own my life."
A new nationwide survey shows that Willis, 44, may not be alone. A women and workplace survey from More magazine shows that 43% of the women surveyed say they are less ambitious now than they were a decade ago. And only a quarter of the 500 women ages 35 to 60 say they're working toward their next promotion.
And forget about the corner office: 3 out of 4 women in the survey — 73% — say they would not apply for their boss' job. Almost 2 of 5 — 38% — report they don't want to put up with the stress, office politics and responsibility that often go hand in hand with such positions.

And what are the conclusions we are to draw from all this? That women don't want that brass ring? That women with children should not work? That men earn more because 100% of men out there are working towards their next promotion?

Got you there, I hope. The survey does not ask men about anything. The lack of that comparison basis makes any interpretation of the evidence as something singular to women wrong. We simply don't know, assuming that these changes in ambition are real, whether they are only taking place among women or also taking place among men. Especially given the crummy economic situation and the way many firms try to get two people's job from one person on one paycheck.

But I was also rather struck with the assumption that $60,000 a year for a 70-hour workweek was somehow being up there in the stratosphere. It sounds pretty exploitative to me.

Then have a look at the way the results are reported. For instance, the quote above on wanting the boss's job states that "Almost 2 of 5 — 38% — report they don't want to put up with the stress, office politics and responsibility that often go hand in hand with such positions."

Does that means that more than three out of five ARE prepared to put up with those negative side-effects? I couldn't get hold of the study to check and it's always possible that some respondents said they don't know or didn't answer the question.

Now this would be a fun assignment. Pick the data above and write a post about how many women really are very ambitious at work! One in four of all women are hovering around, ready to grab the job of their bosses! One in four are avidly working towards their next promotion! And so on.

Most men are not working towards their next promotion. I'm willing to bet on that. But because we didn't study that at all, everything about the interpretations is pure speculation.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

More on the Egg-Americans Initiative in Mississippi

From Feministing.

On Stoves/Cookers

Melissa's post made me so glad that my stove is a 1950s pink-and-chrome one. It came with the house, and no, you can't have it.

It looks a bit like this one except better:

When it needs repairs, I take out the pipe cleaners and scrub the pipes. That's it, pretty much. When the day of its demise arrives I will sell it for much money. That's the plan.

MF Global: Here We Go Again

MF Global, the eighth-largest US futures broker, has declared bankruptcy:
MF Global Holdings Ltd failed to protect customer accounts by keeping them separate from its own funds, said a top U.S. exchange regulator, another shock for commodity markets scrambling to contain fallout from the brokerage's bankruptcy.
The revelation on Tuesday by CME Group Inc, MF Global's immediate regulator, suggests MF Global violated a central tenet of futures brokerage. It could put client money at risk and erode confidence in a market that for decades has enjoyed a sterling reputation for safety.
The Associated Press, citing a U.S. official, reported that MF Global has admitted to using client money as its financial troubles mounted. A company executive made the admission to federal regulators in a phone call early Monday, the AP reported.
The fall of the brokerage led by ex-Goldman Sachs boss and former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine sent shockwaves through commodity markets as futures traders feared the damage could spread or that similar problems could hit other brokers.

And what are the possible consequences of all this? Not much, perhaps:
Government rules require securities firms to keep clients' money and company money in separate accounts. Violating them could result in civil penalties.
Government regulation of the financial markets has been a mangy toothless lion for a couple of decades now. Nothing the young lions of Wall Street would have to fear. And even though some dentures have been recently provided for the regulatory lion, they are kept in glasses of water on the bedside tables of the banksters who are still really in power. Regulation is only allowed if the industry agrees with it, and the industry is not at all interested.

Worth Reading Today

This article offers a lot of food for thought on how to create coalitions in political movements by examining the intersections between race, gender and class.

Chiseling Through The Writer's Block: On Mini-Skirts in Finland

Some time ago I read a Finnish web newspaper post on Slutwalks in Finland. The title of the piece was about a mini-skirt not meaning yes, and the piece itself was a good summary of the initial goals of the Slutwalk-movement.

I read through the comments because the site actually has moderated comments and I thought I might get away with not having to use steel wool and bleach in the shower afterwards. To scrub off all that misogyny.

And indeed, someone had most likely removed the references to female genital organs and the utter stupidity of women in general. The general conclusion of the overwhelmingly male commentariat was that of course nobody should be raped just because of wearing a mini-skirt, of course. But at the same time, women should understand that wearing a mini-skirt will raise the risk of being raped.

Here's where things got interesting, for me. Another opinion piece posted roughly at the same time in the same newspaper urged all Finnish women to look more feminine. The young man who wrote it argued that women should wear high-heeled shoes and mini-skirts, jewelry and make-up. Women should enjoy their femininity and refuse to become androgynous just because of feminist propaganda! Their sisters in St. Petersburgh and Vienna look so much more delectable!

Because of the timing of the two pieces, I expected the second one to have comments about the risks of walking around in a mini-skirt, given the Slutwalks piece. But astonishingly enough, only one female commenter made that reference.

Others argued that Finnish women are too fat to ever look good, that feminism had created ugly and fat women and so on. One man gave his long and considered opinion on how much better-looking and slimmer women are elsewhere. And so on.

Now, I understand that the two posts were not linked in any other sense except by timing. But they also shared something else, a certain kind of male gaze when it comes to women, and I found that fact fascinating.

To see what I mean, consider the Finnish fatty women argument of the second post. Very little work Googling told me that Finnish women have the fifth highest BMI of all European women. BUT Finnish men have the second highest BMI among European men. Only the Greek score higher.

Ignoring the greater fatness indicators of Finnish men while criticizing Finnish women would seem odd to my friendly alien from outer space, unless he/she/it/they realized that the men who made those comments feel entitled to criticizing the looks of women, whatever their own looks might be.

Going back from that piece to the Slutwalk piece made me see the women-are-fat argument linked to the mini-skirts-raise-your-risk argument. They both have the flavor of someone in the audience criticizing the play performed on some stage.

I wasn't going to write about these random observations here, because the two posts are not by the same person or intended as a duet, and because I'm pretty sure that the post on how women should look sexier was not very widely read. But the web newspaper refuses to let me become a commenter there and this particular topic is in my brain pipes, clogging up everything.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Come for the Lady Gaga, Stay For Feminism

Finally, a piece about feminism in the mainstream media which is not about how much its corpse stinks. This one looks at the phenomenon of feminist blogs and the rise of Internet feminist discussions.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Misogyny For Halloween. Or Charlotte Allen's Trick Or Treat.

Charlotte Allen is the female woman-hater extraordinaire who a few years ago wrote a long rant about how dumb women are. All women. And Washington Post published it.

Her new misogynistic screed is published by the Los Angeles Times. It begins as it plans to go on:
A faux-ho dressed (or mostly undressed) for Halloween might want to be careful where she turns tricks or treats.

What do "SlutWalks," the anti-rape demonstrations that have been held in nearly every major city, and Halloween parties have in common? A lot. Both feature phalanxes of females flaunting scanty clothing that typically involves lingerie.
Mmm. Read the rest of the piece. Note the totalizing language. There is hardly a woman out there wearing something not faux-ho. Note, also, how Charlotte knows why women participate in Slutwalks: They want to flash tits and ass to admiring men:
As illustrated by Valenti's remark, the SlutWalk feminists are in denial of a reality that is perfectly obvious to both the women who favor "sexy" for Halloween parties and (although perhaps not consciously) the SlutWalkers themselves. The reality is that men's sexual responses are highly susceptible to visual stimuli, and women, who are also sexual beings, like to generate those stimuli by displaying as much of their attractive selves as social mores or their own personal moral codes permit. In Victorian times that meant flashing an ankle every now and then. Now, it means … whatever. It's no wonder that SlutWalks have quickly outstripped (as it were) Take Back the Night as anti-rape protest. Women get another chance besides Halloween to dress up like prostitutes!
Did I already mention the totalizing language? "Women" get another chance to dress up like prostitutes.

The rest of the piece is mostly word salad. First, we are told that men are highly susceptible to visual stimuli, that faux-hos should be careful where they turn their tricks and so on. But next we are told that of course men don't rape women just because the women show a lot of leg! Even though rape IS sex, whatever boring feminists argue, and men are highly susceptible to visual stimuli. But no, men don't rape women who go out in lingerie. Still, women better be careful about what they wear when they go out. So they don't get raped.

Of course Charlotte doesn't cite any studies on whether the way a woman is dressed exerts an independent effect on the probability that a man will rape her.

Despite the wealth of interesting bits and pieces in that word salad, I want to focus on her mini-rant about the link between rape and sexual desire:
The other reality that feminists tend to deny is that rape and sexual desire are linked. Rape, in that view, is a purely political act of male dominance. This ignores the fact that the vast majority of rape victims are under age 30 — that is, when women are at their peak of desirability.
That first sentence in the quote is so revealing of Charlotte's inner landscape (which ain't pretty). Read it again if you didn't notice anything odd about it.

The term "sexual desire" is not qualified. The way it reads, she might be talking about women's sexual desire! But what she really means is that rapists get a hard-on and decide to rape someone to get rid of that. Instead of masturbating, say.

Likewise, "women at their peak of desirability" leaves "desirability" oddly undefined. What she means is "women at their peak of desirability for men."

All that might sound like nit-picking but I don't think so. It tells us how Charlotte's mind works, which people count in her world and which people do not.

And what about the argument that rape is based on rapists' sexual desire because most rape victims are under thirty, the age group where women are "at their peak of desirability?" Who knows. But before we can study that we should also note younger women are more likely to go out at night, less likely to own a car or afford cabs and also more likely to date. All this puts them at a higher risk for rape. Or put another way, a rapist must go to much more trouble to rape an older woman, on average. Still, women (and men) of all ages, from childhood to old age, have been raped.

I don't know. Charlotte's way of talking about the relationship between sexual desire and rape makes me think of excusing cannibals by saying that they were hungry.