Thursday, April 07, 2016

Today's Cartoon

This is so very very true:

I could give you an example for each of my ten fingers in ten minutes, all from recent political events.  Even the New York Times can succumb to this!  Many things have multiple explanations, all true (perhaps in varying degrees of influence), and there is no real point in deciding that only one explanation is the correct one.

Indeed, simple and correct answers are very rare.  What we believe is the truth can also be provisional:  true today but perhaps not in light of future evidence.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

More on Sexism in the Presidential Primaries: Trump, Cruz And A Few Voices From The Sludge

There's something deeply wrong inside Donald Trump.  In an 1994 interview Trump was asked about his daughter, Tiffany, who was just a baby then:

"Donald, what does Tiffany have of yours and what does she have of Marla's?" the show's host, Robin Leach, asked, referring to Trump's second wife Marla Maples.
Trump's answer to the "innocent question" left Noah speechless.
"I think she's got a lot of Marla, she's a beautiful baby. She's got beautiful legs. We don't know if she's got this part yet," Trump said, as he cupped his hands under his chest to signify breasts, "But time will tell."
He sexualizes everything female, including his own baby daughter, and then either approves of her tits or tells her that she is ugly.  That, my friends, is sick.

I don't want a man (for lack of a more appropriate term; worm? dandruff?) like that to possibly become the president of the United States.  He would never represent more than half of the citizens of this country, because he sees them as tit-stands or something akin to toilet paper:  Useful but disposable after use (heh). 

On the other hand, Ted Cruz smells like Torquemada, so I don't want him, either. While Trump would run this country as his very own pleasure palace and then run it down to ground, Cruz would run it as a torture chamber of infidels.  He has a lot in common with the radical mullahs, though of course who gets the infidel label stitched to their jackets would differ.

Neither is anything but bad news for women.  Cruz is even for the rapists' fatherhood rights.

I came to write this post after reading a Buzzfeed piece about Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.  The piece is pro-Clinton, the comments mostly are not.  The most recently posted ones at the time of my reading were these:

These are quite gentlemanly comments when it comes to subtle sexism, actually.  They would be funnier if they were:

Go to jail, female dog


More of the sound a hen makes after laying an egg than a laugh.

That hen-thing is one actual definition of "cackle," though what people disliking Hillary Clinton mean by it is something different:  Perhaps that she is an old witch who cackles or that women are supposed to laugh in a ladylike manner and not have cankles (fat ankles), either.  Can men cackle?  

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Why The Gross Gender Gap in Earnings Is Mostly A Useless Figure

Or today's statistical raised eyebrow from yours truly (why yours truly?).

I came across an article on about the gender wage gap between white men on the one hand and women in various ethnic and racial categories on the other*.  Now those are very important things to study, as are the gender wage gaps within each racial and ethnic group.  Or the racial or ethnic gaps within a gender category. Or doing the same analysis for women in all those categories vis-a-vis, say, Asian-American or African-American men's earnings.

But the gross wage gap doesn't really tell us anything but one thing:  The total difference in the amounts workers from two different categories earn over their working lives, and even this only if the total is properly calculated (which isn't as easy as it might look).  And it really cannot be interpreted the way a net gender gap in wages can be:  As possible evidence of labor market discrimination against one or more groups.  I feel that the article is slipping and sliding in that direction.

Are you still reading?  Probably not, if the weather is as nice there as here (white snow!).  Now how to make this more exciting?  Let's do awful pedagogy.

Suppose Mary has spent 20 dollars on apples, Anthony 50 dollars and Evelyn 40 dollars.  Who has purchased the most apples?

You can't get the answer because you don't know how much each of them paid per apple.  They might even all have paid different prices if they didn't shop in the same store.

The gross gender gap is like that example.  The net gender gap would be an example where you are told the price of apples for Mary, Anthony and Evelyn.  That example would let you conclude which of the three has the most apples or the least apples etc.

Or using econo-babble, what we ideally wish to compare are the lifetime earnings of two imaginary (average) individuals who differ in nothing but the characteristics we deem relevant.  In the article those characteristics would be gender, race and ethnicity and any significant interaction terms between them**.  Everything else should be exactly the same: age, length of working life, average working hours per week,  education levels, experience, local labor market conditions,  the industry where the individuals work and so on, possibly also the number of minor children the employees have and so on.

But the study the article describes doesn't standardize for those other things, or at least that is my reading.  Consider age. The average age of white men in the labor force is higher than the average age of Latinas.  The linked study computes lifetime earnings by assuming that the length of one's working life is 40 years and then multiplies the current median earnings of Latinas and white men by forty.  Thus, some part of the calculated lifetime earnings difference is because Latinas, on average, are relatively young workers in the US labor markets and young workers earn less than older workers.

There are also educational differences between the groups the study compares, though not between men and women overall, and those differences should also be controlled for.  The same goes for all the so-called non-discriminatory variables which affect earnings if we wish to compare the remaining wage gaps from the is-this-discrimination-? angle.***

All this is about The Proper Way of addressing the gender gap in earnings.  I cannot tell what the correctly calculated monetary lifetime differences between white men and the studied racial and ethnic groups of women might be, though I believe that the direction of the difference and the overall ranking of the sizes of the lifetime differences would not be affected.****

So why am I boring you with this?  I don't want to feed the rabid anti-feminists and other eager critics who insist on telling  me that there is no gender gap in wages, silly women, and if there is, then it is because those brave men work 24 hours per day fighting dangerous crocodiles, work that women just don't want (being most eager to be cleaning ladies, of course).  And focusing on just the gross gaps in earnings does leave the door open for that.


*  In theory,  the gap between white men and white women could be calculated from the data, too, but I don't have the labor market percentages of the various female groups listed and am too tired to look them up. 

**  Economists have been doing intersectionality of a sort for ever!  The interaction terms allow for the possibility that race or ethnicity might affect the earnings of women and men differently or that gender might affect ethnic and racial differences.

***  Note that many of these corrections would reduce the calculated lifetime earnings differences, but not all of them.  The assumption that all workers can spend forty years in the labor force is less likely to be true for women than for men (those damn kids) and may differ between women of different ethnicity, and it's always possible that controlling for a specific non-discriminatory variable could increase the net differences over the working years.

To make things even more twisted together, some variables which I list here as non-discriminatory may themselves be a consequence of discrimination of a different sort.  This may apply to education if the school system funding and teaching quality is discriminatory on the basis of race/ethnicity/gender.  The industry in which someone works might not be a wholly free choice if young women are steered into traditionally female but poorly paid industries by cultural norms or their parents.   This steering could differ by race and/or ethnicity if cultural norms differ between those demographic groups.

****  With one possible exception:  The lifetime net earnings difference between white men and Asian-American women could be smaller than the life time net earnings difference between white men and white women.  See the last graph in this article which gets further into the interesting stuff but still not far enough.  Then read this.

This Is Just Too Funny

Donald Trump as a desperate student trying to make something up for an exam question he blanked out on:

Now I desperately want to know if he could place Syria on a world map.  Like pin the tail on the donkey game.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Just The Woman, Her Doctor And Some Catholic Bishops

Those are the people who are supposed to be involved in pregnant women's medical treatment in Catholic hospitals in the US. 

About one out of six hospital stays in the US takes place in a Catholic hospital, and those hospitals tend to follow the US Catholic Bishops' Ethical and Religious Directives.

What's fun about those directives, created by a bunch of presumably celibate guys, is their disproportionate impact on pregnant women.*  Now muse on that for a moment!

Anyway, those directives tell us this:

Abortion (that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus) is never permitted. Every procedure whose sole immediate effect is the termination of pregnancy before viability is an abortion, which, in its moral context, includes the interval between
conception and implantation of the embryo.


In case of extrauterine pregnancy, no intervention is morally licit which constitutes a direct abortion.

Can you wrap your head around that latter case?  Ectopic pregnancies,  which in other places are called medical emergencies require a different approach in the minds of those kind and gentle Catholic bishops.  These types of pregnancies can never result in a living child but may very well result in a dead woman.  Yet there are specific ethical (!) rules not to intervene by anything that could be viewed as an abortion.

This does not mean that Catholic hospitals wouldn't try to save the life of a woman with an ectopic pregnancy, just that the directives are so harebrained** and wild and fanatic that they stipulate extra suffering, uncertainty and possibly medically inferior treatments for the woman, simply because, in theory, the embryo is still alive even though it will never ever be born.

The first quote above is of equal concern, because it rules out abortion even in the case of an ongoing miscarriage unless the woman's life is at risk.  Thus, something similar to this case could happen in one of those American Catholic hospitals, too:

The report found that the application of the ERDs by Mercy Health Partners, a Catholic hospital in Muskegon, subjected five pregnant women to prolonged miscarriages that could have been life-threatening, Becker's Hospital Review reports. The incidents occurred between August 2009 and December 2010.
The five women each experienced a pregnancy complication involving the premature rupture of membranes surrounding the fetus, a condition that can cause miscarriage when it occurs prior to fetal viability. All of the women were less than 20 weeks pregnant at the time they presented symptoms at the hospital (Becker's Hospital Review, 2/19).
The report stated that all five women presented with symptoms indicating immediate delivery would be the safest option (The Guardian, 2/18). Specifically, the report found that all of the women presented with symptoms of infection, including elevated temperature or heart rate. Guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) state that in such cases, most physicians would induce labor (Becker's Hospital Review, 2/19).
According to the report, the hospital did not tell the women that they could opt for immediate delivery rather than wait for a natural miscarriage, nor did it tell them that immediate delivery was the most appropriate medical care in instances of infection. One of the women included in the report said she asked the hospital for immediate delivery, but they denied her request.

An internal audit by a Mercy Health physician argued that only one of the women showed signs of infection, but even she wasn't moved to another facility where an immediate abortion would have been available.

Similar cases have cropped up in the past.

What I find utterly cruel are these cases where miscarriage is unavoidable, but where the women are not helped or treated because the fetus still has a heartbeat.

This is another case of fanatic and uncaring religious dogma***:  the privileging of a few days of life by a fetus which cannot live over the suffering of the pregnant woman and her partner and the willing acceptance of the risk that such waiting just might kill her, too.  And all this in the name of a divine power, as interpreted by the Catholic Bishops.

Catholic hospitals have increased their market share over the last decades, often by merging with secular hospitals.  That the hospital system created by that merger is quite likely to follow those (hilariously named) Ethical and Religious Directives is not something all people may know. And if the only hospital you can quickly reach while miscarrying is a Catholic hospital, well, be aware that the a Catholic bishop will stand behind your doctor's shoulder and determine what kind of care you should get.**** 


* The directives also affect all patients, because Catholic hospitals may overrule end-of-life directives and because they will not carry out vasectomies or tubal ligation.  But the so-called "beginning of life" rules deserve special attention as they can endanger the health of a pregnant woman and require her to have additional pointless suffering.

**  With due apologies to all hares who would never invent anything  contrived to hurt hare-women while calling it ethical.

***  So very often about women, have you noticed?  The rules of the Catholic church, the Islamic sharia law and other similar structures hurt women much more than they hurt men.

****  The issues I have discussed here are not solely Catholic issues.  Any life-begins-at-birth group may create similar medical dangers for pregnant women.  See this recent case from Texas as an example.