Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Global Gender Gap Report, 2018

The World Economic Forum has published an annual global gender gap report since 2006*.  Four sub-indexes are aggregated to get an overall measure about average differences between men and women in four areas:  economic participation and opportunity, health and survival, educational attainment and political participation.

The index has its problems.  For example, the health sub-index does not measure reproductive choice**.  But it also has certain advantages.  It compares countries with others of roughly the same income level, and because it has been published for over a decade, it lets us analyze progress (or lack of progress) over time.

The 2018 results are out.  Progress has not completely stalled, but it's very very slow.  At this rate the global pay gap between women and men, for example,  would take 202 years to close.  The largest gaps are found in political participation and economic participation and opportunity.  The remaining gaps in health and educational attainment are relatively small.

The ten most gender-equal countries, based on the aggregate index, are largely the ones you would guess to be found there, the Nordic countries.  Iceland leads the pack, followed by Norway, Sweden and Finland.  Nicaragua comes in fifth, Rwanda sixth, then New Zealand, Philippines, Ireland and Namibia.

The ten least gender-equal countries, based on the aggregate index are, starting from the tenth from the bottom and ending with the worst: Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen.***

United States comes fifty-first in the overall rankings.  This is a slight drop from the previous year, partly due to the Trump effect!

The United States (51) moves down two spots compared to last year. It records some modest improvements on the Economic Opportunity and Participation subindex—particularly with regard to wage equality for similar work—but a directional reversal in education and virtually no change on the Political Empowerment subindex, which stands at its lowest level since 2007, due, in particular, to a significant decrease in gender parity in ministerial level positions.

Bolds are mine.

*  For a few posts of mine about the earlier reports, check this for 2009,  this for 2015, this for 2016 and this for a link to the 2017 report.  I have written more posts on the reports but Blogger will not allow me to search very far back in my archives.

** The Philippines, for instance, would probably drop from the top ten if reproductive health care services were included in the health sub-index.

*** There is an urgent need for much stronger feminist activism inside Muslim countries.  They tend to be the majority among the ten least gender-equal countries in this index, and this year is no exception.

As an aside, I checked if Yemen's position was caused by the horrible war raging there.  That does not seem to be the case as Yemen was also in the last position in the rankings of 2009, 2015 and 2016. 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Season's Echidne Greetings

I have an iatrogenic illness.  Caught a bad head cold from my physician during a routine well-goddess-check visit.  Later I coughed so hard that I put my lower back out.  Now I slowly crawl and slither around the Snakepit Inc. hissing and swearing and planning a major malpractice suit.

The silver lining  to this depressing cloud* (other than the money I'm going to win in court for pain and suffering and for looking utterly ridiculous) is that I cannot vacuum even one single room. Or cook.  Or clean.**

I shouldn't whine and moan.  Other people have it so much worse.  They are not me, for one thing.

Anyways.  I wish you all wonderful end-of-year holidays in loving and peaceful company with a temporary amnesia concerning the fact that we are all tied to the seats in a bus careening toward the chasm while its driver yells gleefully "Look, Ivanka!  No hands!"



*  Because of the mortar-like substance in my sinuses, coffee tastes like burned straw and chocolate — my beloved chocolate — tastes GRAY.

**  All that traditionally female party-work which doesn't count as real work but which often means that one feels like after a marathon when the festivities are supposed to begin.

Friday, December 21, 2018

A Trump Lament

This late fall and early winter have been difficult for me, and it shows in the paucity of my literary output here.  We are now almost two years into the Trump Era, and each day Trump acts more deranged.  To document all his daily atrocities would sound like constant repetition, so I have not done so.  Besides, I knew all this would happen on that election day in 2016.  And so did you, because if you read here you are clever.

The true pain I feel is not about Trump, but about the acts of millions of Americans who voted* for a man with no brains and no relevant training, no understanding of how the government works, no values except  a huge need for self-gratification, and  no experience except in shady business deals.  Enough Americans preferred a completely untrained carnival barker with a giant but fragile ego to the other candidate: the Crooked Woman.

My pain is of two sorts: First, I have lost my virginal trust in democracy, and desperately struggle to regain it.  Second, I have concluded that almost any woman who might run for the presidency of the United States will be treated to the distorting mirrors -treatment that Hillary Clinton received from the right-wing over decades and will become a Crooked Woman, Cruella de Ville, by the time she might be in a position to run.  And we will, once again, hear people say "but of course we would vote for a woman, not just that woman!" 

Anyway.  Trump is currently throwing several simultaneous temper tantrums** and those have consequences.  Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has resigned over Trump's sudden decision to withdraw American troops from Syria, and possibly also over Trump's impulse decision to withdraw around 7000 US troops from Afghanistan where the Taliban (with medieval values about women's rights and about gays and Lesbians)  is currently gaining ground.

I use the words "sudden" and "impulse" in the above paragraph, because withdrawing troops without letting your allies prepare for such a withdrawal is very stupid and thoughtless, and because withdrawing troops without carefully thinking about what all the negative consequences might be is criminal.***


*  Though James Comey certainly had an impact on the election results and though the Russians may have influenced them, too, it's still the case that all those Trump-voters bear the real responsibility for the Trump Reich.

**  This is familiar to anyone who has dealt with a two-year old, though most two-year olds don't hold the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in their tiny hands.  

***  I am all for peace.  But it's incredibly naive to assume that the kinds of sudden troop withdrawals Trump has decided upon would result in more peace.  The vacuum that leaves behind will be filled with something, possibly a revival of ISIS in Syria. 

Depending on how the local geopolitics in the area work the outcome could be more bloodshed, more war and more suffering.  Then there's the interesting question of possible influence from Turkey or our pal Vlad on Trump's decisions.  He is incapable of understanding the local political games in that area.

Or put in another way: Suppose that a pillar is propped up by a complicated framework of supports.  If you wish to remove one of those supports, you should first figure out what its removal will do.  Will the other supports be strong enough to keep the pillar upright?  Or will the pillar fall?  And if someone else recommended that you withdraw that support, what would they like to see happen?  Do they want the pillar to stand or to fall?  Which outcome is in your interest?

Friday, December 14, 2018

What All New Right-Wing Authoritarian Movements Share: The Wish To Cancel Feminist Gains.

Peter Beinart has written a piece for the Atlantic Monthly on what ties together the various forms of right-wing authoritarianism we see rearing its ugly heads (it has many) all over the world.  He begins by noting the usual explanations for the rise of Trumpism, and argues that they fail to explain why similar authoritarian movements are cropping up in several countries:

The problem with both American-born story lines is that authoritarian nationalism is rising in a diverse set of countries. Some are mired in recession; others are booming. Some are consumed by fears of immigration; others are not. But besides their hostility to liberal democracy, the right-wing autocrats taking power across the world share one big thing, which often goes unrecognized in the U.S.: They all want to subordinate women.

Bolds are mine.

Beinart fails to include movements such as ISIS (a religious form of right-wing authoritarianism) which share in exactly the same goals, once we understand the resistance to feminist gains to be something that is judged from different starting points.

The ISIS jihadists want women put back to the least possible level of personal power, and that level is lower than what, say, the prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, can currently achieve (by stopping the funding of gender studies in universities and by encouraging Hungarian women to have lots of children* ) or what is happening in Brazil or in Russia or in Poland or in the Philippines or now, it seems, even in Italy.  But all these movements share the attempt to shrink the sphere within which women are allowed to move, act and live.

And of course I agree with Beinart on what all the right-wing dictatorships share:  The urgency of women's re-subjugation.  After all, I have written the very same arguments on this blog more times than I can remember.  I even agree with one possible remedy to all this:  A fairer division of chores and power at home.  Beinart writes:

Over the long term, defeating the new authoritarians requires more than empowering women politically. It requires normalizing their empowerment so autocrats can’t turn women leaders and protesters into symbols of political perversity. And that requires confronting the underlying reason many men—and some women—view women’s political power as unnatural: because it subverts the hierarchy they see in the home.
Women can't fully participate in the public sphere if they are to bear the whole burden of childcare, cleaning, laundry, household management and the kind of emotional management of relationships and party-organizing work women have traditionally done with respect to the wider kin of both partners.  We need more equal sharing of those chores if we wish to see more equal sharing of work outside the home.

It might also be the case that seeing women in powerful public roles might work to dismantle the traditional hierarchies at home.

And Beinart is correct in the need to normalize the presence of women not only in the labor force in general, but also in positions of economic, social and political power.  That normalization may happen when the percentage of women in a field reaches some critical number, say, thirty**.  Below that, new female entrants (employees, graduate students, freshman politicians) are first viewed as women, and only after that as individuals with their own qualities.  Above that the sex of the person is no longer the first thing others notice.

Where I might disagree with him is in this:

I don't think the central role of women's re-subjugation is just an almost accidental consequence of women being fairly rare in public life and especially in positions of power or of the recent histories in various countries. 

The authoritarians don't want women in the public life, because women are viewed as a fertility resource in the authoritarians' plan for world conquest or similar slightly more modest plans, not as full human beings,  and because the authoritarians wish to keep women doing all the unpaid*** work women have traditionally done so that the society doesn't have to share in it or really pay for it.


* The juxtaposition of these two is not an accident.  Women are to be steered back into the family and away from any uppity ideas feminism might awaken in them.

**  This estimate is based on an early book by Virginia Valian (Why So Slow).  More recent estimates may be different.

*** Depending on the country, women may also be expected to do low-paid work in  the labor market.

Work done at home is not, of course, truly unpaid because those who do it get at least bed and board, but there is no explicit contract about how care work at home should be remunerated.

Thus, the outcome depends not only on the kindness and fairness of the partners, but also on their relative power balance.  That, in turn, can be turned to the disadvantage of women by laws which fail to punish intimate partner violence or which make divorce difficult or which allow the noncustodial parent not to pay child support.  This is especially the case if work in the labor market is made harder for women to do, which leaves them vulnerable in bad marriages or other long-term relationships.

These are the kinds of changes right-wing authoritarians tend to support.  Note what happened to domestic violence laws in Putin's Russia, for one example.  Beinart's article gives more examples from several countries.

As a total aside, it's fascinating how decades of socialism or communism didn't do much for women's liberation.  This is pretty clear when one studies the "post-liberation" changes in Russia, Poland, Hungary and so on. 

My take on that is this:  Communism never really tried to change men's roles.  This gave the women in the system two very long work-days and never really challenged traditional gender norms at home or social sexism or misogyny,  partly, because the assumption was that women were already completely equal outside the home.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

And Disappearing People, Though Only Statistically Speaking

(The title is a pun based on my previous post about how feminists are disappearing men).

When I first came to the US I found the reporting of election results fascinating.  A presidential candidate who got sixty percent of the vote, say, had totally pwned the opposition, had rolled over it!  The country was unanimous!  And from that point onward, the other forty percent was ignored until the next election campaigns began.

I always assumed that this way of looking at large groups of people and their behavior was because of the two-party system and the winner-takes-all principle, and it makes some sense from that angle.  After all, the winner now has the power to speak for all.

Still, the people who voted for the losing candidate persisted in existing, probably persisted in disagreeing with the winner, but they no longer quite counted.  For instance, should the new president make some international move that was almost everywhere viewed as bad, all American voters would be blamed for that move.  Not just those voters who supported him.

There must be a name for this odd disappearance of people, right?  It's common enough and not only in politics. Here's one recent political example I spotted on Twitter*:

I can speculate on the possible reasons for these types of disappearances, or false generalizations, if you wish.  For writers they simplify arguments and make them stronger.  No need to add all those weasel words: some, the majority, a few!  The style of writing benefits from that strength.

Activists can use the generalizations to increase tribal feelings among their own supporters, both by arguing that all the insiders feel the same (right) way and by arguing that all the outsiders consist of a coherent group bent on destroying the insiders**.

But this phenomenon seems to be deeper in our psyches than that.  I see it working in both racism and sexism, in the fear of immigrants and even in the loathing of Republicans by Democrats and vice versa.

I can speculate on the reasons for the ease with which we slip this generalization jacket on, and so can you.  The more interesting question is why it almost always goes unchallenged.


*  I didn't pick that tweet because it would be wrong in some fundamental way (I fully agree with the gist of its meaning), but mostly, because it is otherwise a neutral example.  Had I used gender, race, religion or ethnicity in my example I would have woken up emotions I don't want to come and participate in this discussion. 

In any case, I have committed the very same types of generalizations I discuss in this post.  It seems to be the way our minds tend to go if not forced to go in another direction.  It's quick, it makes a more cumbersome point (that the majority of Nebraskans voted for Trump and may have shot their own foot) in a clear and easy-to-absorb manner.   And what may be more important, it feels right even though it is not.

** (Added later)
This may not be a pure benefit to activists, because that usage can also increase the tribal feelings of those the activists attack, and in particular the tribal feelings of the percentage (whether large or small) which does not agree with whatever the whole group is accused of.  Ironically, using the false generalizations might even make them less false, if people feel their opinions are simply ignored and other opinions stamped on their foreheads.  They might then just go with that.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Disappearing Men

Tucker Carlson, one of the right-wing pundits slowly slipping and sliding from mere misogyny and general bigotry to white nationalism and worse, had a guest on who was very concerned about feminists trying to disappear men:

HEATHER MAC DONALD: Feminism has ambitions to take over civilization and when that happens you can say goodbye to civilization. They’re trying to disappear males.

I really must check what's in the basement freezer.

Just kidding. 

I don't have a freezer in the basement.

Mac Donald seems to be just another right-wing hit-woman shooting, off the hip at the very idea of women's rights.  Here's what she wrote in November about the accusations against Brett Kavanaugh:

It is feminist narcissism to put flimsy accusations of teenage impropriety ahead of a lifetime of achievement in the law. The priorities look like a revenge attack on a civilization deemed too male.

Now link her more recent statement (further above) that we can all say goodbye to civilization if people like Echidne "take over" (boo!) and that November statement that civilization is deemed too male.  If I dared to guess, I would say that our Heather thinks civilization is what men have created, all on their own.

Except that this contradicts with her take on the allegations that Kavanaugh had sexually attacked a teenage girl while he himself was also a teenager.  Mac Donald blames the current permissive sexual mores for what might have happened:
The results were not pretty: the male libido, free to act as boorishly as it wanted; females getting drunk to reduce their innate sexual inhibitions, unprotected by any default assumptions against casual premarital sex. Whether a 17-year-old Brett Kavanaugh took advantage of this putative sexual liberation, many other teenagers have, and in so doing, merely followed the new script for sexual relations.

So let me get my head straight: 

Civilization is important, civilization is probably created by men and feminists try to tear it apart.  But the male libido is a rude bastard,  intent on being boorish and in need of constraints, while the female libido is a fainting Victorian maiden whose corseted body is built out of innate sexual inhibitions.

It's so weird it's almost fun.


Saturday, December 08, 2018

The Hillarization Of Female Politicians: Fun For The Whole Pundit Family

"Yell loud enough at a female leader and eventually she’ll go away. Convince her that her disappearance is necessary for the party, and soon everyone will get to return to the avuncular comfort of a dude like Joe Biden."  Monica Hesse wrote that in a late November Washington Post article about the attempts to oust Nancy Pelosi as the incoming House Majority Leader.

It's not the amount of yelling that the powerful female politicians get that is the problem, in my opinion; it's the type of yelling they tend to receive.  Anything is grist for the attack mills, and not just the policies that the politician favors or has accomplished or has failed to accomplish.

It's everything else, too, from what type of a person the woman's husband might be via how her voice sounds to others to how she dresses, and even how frequently she gets told that she should exit politics or not run* for the sake of the common good. 

The tilt in political coverage I address here is more quantitative than qualitative (though it's the latter, too):  Some male politicians may also get criticized for, say, their clothes, but not as often and not for the same reasons.  The men are criticized for the political tactics they used and how those backfired, as well as for the policies they pursued.**

On top of that criticism female politicians also elicit a different type of scrutiny, one which tries to find the hidden worm in the superficially perfect-looking apple, which tries to find something that is very very wrong in her basic values or her basic competence.

The worm MUST be there, for why otherwise would we find her so unauthentic, her voice so grating, her ambition so calculating?

And once the worm has been found, it is turned into a boa constrictor and then that boa constrictor is turned against the politician herself.

Add to that my impression that for female politicians the rules about making mistakes, in general, are different.  One strike and you are out.  There are no excuses for, say, youthful failings, no real recovery from one error of judgement or one misstep.

I call all this by the awkward term "Hillarization," for fairly obvious reasons (the decades-long campaign against Hillary Clinton).  The US right is particularly good at committing Hillarization on female Democrats it dislikes, but the phenomenon is not completely tied to one party.

*   That Boston Globe article is not the only negative Warren piece that has been published in the last few days.  All the others are about Warren's DNA debacle.

Unless something is going on behind the curtains of power that I am unaware of,
so many different journalists choosing to write about Warren almost simultaneously is odd, given that the DNA test stuff happened well over a month ago and was thoroughly discussed then.

There's also something odd about the argument that because of the DNA debacle, Warren should now utterly forget about running for the presidency in 2020.  She had her one chance and spoiled it!

Compare this to, say, Ted Kennedy's career after the Chappaquiddick incident which cost Mary Jo Kopechne her life.

I am not defending what Warren did, and neither am I demanding that nobody criticize her.   But I strongly suspect that her ethical and moral failings and/or her lack of judgement would be covered less fiercely and less frequently if her name was not Elizabeth but, say,  Elliot.

**  And, of course, for actual crimes and such, though the 2016 presidential campaign taught all of us that "journalistic balance" can mean redefining crimes differently for male and female politicians.  It didn't really matter what scandals were revealed from Donald Trump's past; certain august newspapers would publish them and then publish yet another rehash of Hillary Clinton's emails.  Just to show that they are measured, objective and balanced.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Short Posts 6/12/18. Ice Swimming, The Kindness Of Women, And Online Warfare

1.  It's the Finnish Independence Day today.  Wave a little Finnish flag for me.

Here's a nice winter pastime popular among some really weird Finns (coughmybrotherandsistercough).

2.  All cultures (pretty much) expect women to be kinder, more empathetic and more inclusive than men.  It's codified in our subconscious gender norms*.  And all cultures (pretty much) criticize and even punish women who deviate from those norms more harshly than they would criticize or punish men acting in an identical manner.

I was thinking about that yesterday when a few right-wing newspapers asked if Hillary Clinton snubbed Donald Trump at George H.W. Bush's funeral.  Even those newspapers concluded that she had not done so, and that the occasion required a dignified and aloof demeanor from everyone.  But they did ask the question about a female politician who was repeatedly called a "nasty woman" and a "crooked woman" by Donald Trump and who is still the target of "lock her up" shouts at Trump rallies.

In any realistic scenario Donald Trump should have been snubbed by most reasonable people.

The online harassment of women who give their opinions publicly might be a partial reflection of those same gender norms (though some of it may be based on a different ancient gender norm:  that women should be silent in the public sphere). 

When Jill makes a controversial comment it looks more controversial than had Jack made it, because of how we interpret the two names.  She both says something that upsets others and violates gender norms while he only does the former.

I spot this subconscious gender norm working away quietly in all sorts of online conversations, even among feminists.  Women are supposed to be kind.**

3.  Speaking of online communications, this article argues that we are now engaged in not hot war or cold war but in warm information war.  Whatever you might think about the geopolitical arguments in the article, it's certainly true that nuanced conversation is close to impossible on Twitter, and that its algorithms rewards wrath speech and quick, nasty comebacks.  It's also pretty cheap and easy to introduce a lot of chaos in social media.  This makes establishing facts harder work than it has to be.

The following pyramid is a good reminder of the higher levels online debates could take:

4.  This is a hilarious take on diversity in tech.

*  Whether these are partly innate temperament differences or not is not probably something that can be studied with the tools we have right now. But I'm completely sure that they are strengthened and magnified by the way we are brought up, and in particular by the kinds of behavior which are given positive or negative feedback by parents, peer groups and other authorities, and how that approval and disapproval varies by the sex of the child.

** I am not arguing for random unkindness, of course.  Neither am I arguing for some kind of a permission to just rant and rave without any consequences.  My point is that the rules differ between men and women, and that makes criticism a riskier field for the latter.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Making Murka Great Again. The Fate Of The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

This is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau now, under the leadership of Trump appointee Mick Mulvaney:

One year after Mulvaney’s arrival, he and his political aides have constrained the agency from within, achieving what conservatives on Capitol Hill had been unable to do for years, according to agency data and interviews with career officials.
Publicly announced enforcement actions by the bureau have dropped by about 75 percent from average in recent years, while consumer complaints have risen to new highs, according to a Washington Post analysis of bureau data. 
Over the past year, the agency’s workforce has dropped by at least 129 employees amid the largest exodus since its creation in 2010, agency data shows.
Created by Congress to protect Americans from financial abuses, the bureau under Mulvaney has adopted the role of promoting “free markets” and guarding the rights of banks and financial firms as well as those of consumers, according to statements by Mulvaney and bureau documents.

Bolds are mine.

Mulvaney has also stated this:

“We don’t just work for the government, we work for the people,” he wrote in an “All Hands” email later that month. “And that means everyone: those who use credit cards, and those who provide those cards; those who take loans, and those who make them.”

It's as if there was a government organization called The Sheep's Protection Agency, and suddenly it was run by someone who wanted it to work to promote the interests of not only the sheep but also the wolves and coyotes which eat them.

Short Posts, 12/4/18. Dante's Inferno Misread, Hate Crimes, Another Measure of Gender Gap in Earnings And Mueller Dancing

1. This is beautiful

In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself astray in a dark wood
where the straight road had been lost sight of.
How hard it is to say what it was like
in the thick of thickets, in a wood so dense
and gnarled
the very thought of it renews my panic.
It is bitter almost as death itself is bitter.

Dante's Inferno Canto I, translated by Seamus Heaney 

I first misread the top two lines in that translated bit of Dante's Inferno as:

In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself in an ash tray in a dark wood.

So it goes.  That reading is more appropriate for me, and not only because of my warped sense of humor.

Monday, December 03, 2018

The Demographic Representativeness of the 116th Congress

This table* about the demographics of the 116th Congress is fun to analyze:


To see what it tells us about how representative the new Congress is, let's compare it to the population proportions of various demographic groups in it.  The last column gives the overall totals, and the third and fifth give the totals by the two parties.

Starting from the total percentages column, it's clear that among the larger groups women are quite seriously underrepresented, that blacks are represented in proportion to their population percentage (though these data don't let us see if this is true separately for black women and black men), and that Hispanics, as a group,  are also quite seriously underrepresented**.

The more fascinating columns to study are of course the party percentage columns.  Those reveal that the Republican Party really is the party of white men. Only seven percent of Republican Congress critters are women,  non-Hispanic whites are ninety-five percent of the total,  and the figures for all racial or ethnic minorities are as tiny as fly specks.  That the black representation matches the black population percentages overall is because the Republican under-representation is compensated for by relative numerical over-representation in the Democratic Party.

May I use this opportunity to, once again, complain about the diversity concept.  If you look at the rows in that table they show diversity, right?  There are wimminz there and all sorts of other demographic groups are represented.  So all is good.

But many of the table percentages are not the same as the population percentages of various groups***.   The system is clearly not representative of the country.  The diversity concept does not reflect that. 

In a sense "diversity" is not about fairness in the same manner as fair representation is.  Why it's so popular might be because it can be used by both sides for their own purposes.  Those who don't really want to see fair representation can add a couple of tokens to various committees, and, presto, diversity is achieved and complaining voices are silenced.  Those who fight for the rights of a numerically very small marginalized group may be able to get it over-represented by using the diversity argument.


*  My apologies for not crediting the creator of the table.  I copied it in this form from somewhere online.  If you know the name of the creator(s) please let me know and I will add the acknowledgement.

**  Once again, this table doesn't show Latinos and Latinas separately.

Note, also, that the Hispanic category is the one where the comparison of Congress percentages to population percentages are less useful.  This is because roughly one third of all individuals in this category were first generation immigrants in 2013. 

It takes time to become integrated into a culture, including seeking a political career.  A better comparison for the overall statistical representativeness of this group might consist of the population percentage of Hispanics who are at least in the second generation in the US (though that would be a very rough guide, too).

*** Depending on the context in which we examine diversity, the correct comparison might not be to population percentages but to, say, the percentages of people in various demographic groups who have been trained for certain jobs and so on.  Still, in all those cases the goal is to see if the system works fairly.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Natalie Wynn Responds to Jordan Peterson

Heim Yankel in the comments directed me to a Lawyers, Gun and Money post which, in turn, directed me to the following YouTube response to Jordan Peterson, the new right-wing professor/prophet.

The response is by Natalie Wynn.  She nicely interrogates the chaotic enemy that Jordan Peterson has decided to battle with.

If you would like to learn more about Peterson's views about women and feminism, I recommend (because I show what's wrong with his arguments) my earlier post about the Channel 4 interview which began Peterson's meteoric rise in our collective consciousness.  I still also recommend my book review of his self-help book from that womanly angle.  Read at least the third and final part.

As an aside, Wynn calls certain young men "neckbeards."  Here's one of my ancestors with an actual neckbeard:

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Short Posts 11/24/18: Bad News on Black Friday, Political Exhaustion, Home Economics And Poetry

1.  It has long been a custom for newspapers to publish those articles they have to publish but which go against that particular newspaper's ideology on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, because that's the day the smallest number of people will read anything.  Or watch anything.

What you don't know can't hurt you, right?  In any case, the climate change report came out yesterday and it is not good.

2.  About a week ago a piece in the New York Times talked about people who are not into politics in the fierce there-will-be-blood way the online political participants are.  It suggests that as many as two thirds of all Americans are exhausted by the political fighting and don't want much to do with it.

The reactions to the piece among those in the my-fangs-are-around-your-ankles crowd are mostly about the danger of not caring about politics when Donald Trump is steering, carelessly, the body politics.  But it's also true that most people, everywhere and at all times, are not really following politics, for many different reasons.

I spent sixteen hours last weekend in a workshop with people whom I didn't know at all at first.  They were male and female,  all ages, races, ethnic groups and so on, and they were all wonderfully sweet and kind and we had such a good time.  I never asked if any of them had voted for Trump or if they followed politics or not.  By the end of the time spent together we were all pretty comfortable with each other and I made some new friends.

The point is that the world I spend so much of my time in (political activism, in-fighting and writing) is not a world which reflects reality in all its aspects.

The online debates have a tendency to go aggressive, a tendency to forget that it's people on the other side of that screen, not some abstract monsters, and the tendency to forget that we are talking to individuals, not some weird representatives of "all women," "all white people," "all black people,"  "all men" and so on.

So if the uninterested should pay more attention to politics, perhaps the politically obsessed should pay more attention to humanity.

3.  A Guardian opinion piece suggests that a return of home economics, taught to both boys and girls might be a way to talk to young people not only about how to change a light bulb and boil an egg (do not confuse those tasks with each other), but about how to divide labor at home when there is children in a marriage or a partnership, and other similar questions.

It had this bit in it which is not quite on the topic but echoed in me because I have seen a similar thing happen:

In the 1980s, after conducting a study on working mothers, the time-use expert John Robinson proclaimed that they were spending far less time with their children than previous generations of mothers had. The media exploded with headlines reinforcing the long-held belief that mothers in the workplace would result in the total destruction of the American family.

Far less reported was the correction Robinson made shortly after publishing his findings. He had miscalculated. In fact, working mothers were spending as much or more time with their kids.
But the damage was done, and the expectation that working mothers will spend ever more time with their children – usually at the expense of sleep, exercise and personal hygiene – has never stopped rising.
Bolds are mine.  Compare the above to what happened a piece which reported that women orgasm more often when they have sex with men who are rich than when they have sex with men who are not rich.  And what happened when the study was found to have an error in it and the correct calculations showed that there was no difference in women's orgasmic frequency by the partner's wealth or income levels.

4.  For something completely different, this was my favorite poem when I was an itty bitty goddess, though I read it in Swedish:

I saw a tree…
I saw a tree that was greater than all others
and hung full of cones out of reach;
I saw a tall church with open door
and all who came out were pale and strong
and ready to die;
I saw a woman who smiling and rouged
threw dice for her luck
and saw she had lost.
A circle was drawn around these things
that no one crosses over.
The day cools

I still like it.  You can read more about Edith Södergran here.

 Or if you don't care for poetry, how about a Finnish folk song, named the saddest song in the whole world (well, by me, anyway)?  It's about yearning for one's home, even if that home is nothing to write home about (err).

My rough translation of the words:

So vast is the emptiness of your shores,
yet I long for it.
How the lament of the wild mallard
echoes in the reeds at night.

Someone lonely, someone lost
someone crying of the cold,
who has circled the reeds
but cannot find its mother.

I have seen your grey waves
through tears in my eyes. 
On your shores my youth
wept its first sorrows.

Deep is your image etched in me
and I long for it.
 I have heard the wild mallard
there many a night. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Very Very Short Posts, Monday, 11/19/2018

1.  I eagerly look forward to all the stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post about people who voted for the Democrats in the midterms as a protest against Trump.  You know, the sort of stories we have been fed for the last two years about Trump voters: what makes them tick and what they like to cook for dinner.  Now I'd like the same for the other side.  Or better still, perhaps the right-wing press should cover a few lefties with empathy and understanding?

2.  Dear Concerned (from my mailbag):  No, I don't really believe that I am a Greek goddess of snakes.  My blog handle has to do with the story about Eve and the snake (which has been used to justify women's subjugation), the ancient belief that snakes were the messengers of the divines, the slipperiness of snakes (good for getting rid of problems by slithering away),  and their fangs.  They have nice fangs.

I'm still going to hell, most likely, as you warned. 

3.  The Finnish social media is now full of funny stories about Finns raking the forests, clipping evergreens with nail scissors and so on (my favorite is the woman who is out there vacuuming the forest floor)*.

This is a response to Our Dear Leader's theories about how one might care for forests so that they don't burn down. Raking is an important part of his theory. 

Beside being hilarious to contemplate, Trump's comments reveal that he has never held a rake in his hand.  But should he wish to try it, he should know that the wide end goes downward.

And no, being a rake is not the same thing.

4.  The New York Times has a story about an African-American female composer, Florence Price, whose work is now being re-discovered.  She wrote in 1943:

“Unfortunately the work of a woman composer is preconceived by many to be light, froth, lacking in depth, logic and virility,” she wrote. “Add to that the incident of race — I have Colored blood in my veins — and you will understand some of the difficulties that confront one in such a position.”

She was intersectional and disliked gender stereotypes.  I look forward to hearing her music.


Here is one example which uses an old Finnish painting to show Trump among raking Finns in the woods.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Short Posts for Friday, 11/16/2018: Thongs in Ireland, On Opposition To Nancy Pelosi and Gathering Spruce Cones

1.  In Ireland the defense in rape cases can still use various forms of "what was she wearing" to defend the accused.  Here is one example*:

The accused maintained that the sexual contact between him and the girl, which took place in a laneway in Cork, had been consensual.
Details of the closing argument presented by his senior counsel Elizabeth O'Connell, however, attracted widespread attention and prompted a series of online protest movements.
"Does the evidence out-rule the possibility that she was attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone?" she asked, according to the Examiner's report.
"You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front."
So now you know.  Better wear really old and gray and torn underwear when you go out.  Otherwise someone might think that you are open to "meeting someone and being with someone."  — This rule is the reverse of the old rule that you must always wear clean underwear in case you get hit by a car and decapitated, because strangers will then see your underwear.

This whole thing is stupid, even within the backward Irish system.  The girl in this case was seventeen.  Seventeen-year old girls choose their clothing on the basis of peer pressure and the female idols of their social sub-group.  I used to wear orange eye-shadow at that age and it was not an attempt to attract male honey bees or anything of that sort.

2.  When Alexandra Petri is funny she is very very funny.  Her latest column is about the opposition to Nancy Pelosi becoming the majority leader in the House.  The arguments against her vary, but I have seen these used:  She is too old, she is too centrist, she is too bipartisan, and she has not mentored younger people so that they can now be ready to strip the tiara off her head.

And all those argument may or may not be correct, depending on the context.  The proper context, if we wish to analyze the possibility of sexism here, is to ask if a man with the same flaws and the same skills (she does get the Democrats working together) would be criticized in exactly the same way.  I am especially interested in knowing how good older male politicians have been at mentoring younger politicians, and if we even know, for certain, that Pelosi hasn't done that.

3.  One of my neighbors has a giant spruce tree on his lot.  It's a handsome tree and I love it, but it drops an enormous amount of those long spruce cones everywhere.

The other day my neighbor was lovingly gathering them one by one and gently placing them in a basket.  Up to the point when he accidentally picked up a dog turd.

I laughed.  I am now going to hell.


*  The accused won the case, and it's not clear from the stories I have read if he would have won even if the thong had not been waved in the court.  But that's not the point of the story.  Rather, it's the fact that in Ireland the "what was she wearing" trick is still legal to use.

Monday, November 12, 2018

On the Tallahassee Killings

The murders of two women, Nancy van Vessem and Maura Binkley,  and the wounding of five other individuals at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida, was hardly a blip in the news cycle, buried in the larger numbers of hate crimes during the week preceding the midterm elections.

But this hate crime also deserves closer scrutiny.  The killer chose a yoga studio, because yoga practitioners are more likely to be female than male, and he was looking for women to kill.  The police is still searching for some other connection between the butcher and that yoga studio, but I doubt such a connection exists.  The place was picked because it offered accessible prey for a misogynistic hunter.

And a misogynist the killer was.  He had posted YouTube videos about his grudge against women in general and against certain women in particular:

Beierle’s YouTube and SoundCloud history is rife with violent sexism. In one video, he says of a woman who canceled dates with him, “I could have ripped her head off,” according to BuzzFeed. In a song called “Locked in My Basement,” he describes holding a woman prisoner and raping her.

He mentions Rodger in a video called “Plight of the Adolescent Male,” saying, “I’d like to send a message now to the adolescent males ... that are in the position, the situation, the disposition of Elliot Rodger, of not getting any, no love, no nothing. This endless wasteland that breeds this longing and this frustration. That was me, certainly, as an adolescent.”

Beierle had also been arrested in 2012 and 2016 for grabbing women’s buttocks without their consent, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
The Vox article which gave me that quote asks us to take online hate seriously.

Thinking about that made me search for any evidence that the Tallahassee butcher might have frequented manosphere sites such as the incel sites, where the hatred of women, as a class,  is validated and strengthened (1), but if the police have any evidence against or for that possibility they have not yet shared it.

Thinking about those hatred-of-women-is-the-correct-response sites, in turn,  made me think of something else, and that else is the way the misogynistic sites create an alternative world theory (2) for some men in great pain:

That "theory" explains that women, indeed, are all callow, shallow gold-diggers and lookists who will voluntarily only fuck a small number of rich and handsome alpha males on top of social hierarchies and who won't even consider any other man until Father Time gives the women themselves wrinkles and layers of belly fat.

Then those poor beta men will be accepted, but only as hard-working slaves to be exploited while the perfidious women scheme and plot to take their devout beta husbands to the cleaners in some future divorce.  Should any richer and more handsome man come along, that is.

If that (slightly exaggerated) summary sounds familiar to you, well, it might be because you have read my criticisms of some of the wackier evolutionary psychology musings, the kinds which initially argued that women mate for money and power, men for youth and beauty, and all that is hardwired in human beings.

That, my friends, is where the pseudo-scientific underpinnings of the incel Theory Of The World can be found: in the cocktail-party type musings about genetic determinism.

And that, my friends, is, perhaps,  the real reason why I have written so many criticisms of those weird evo-psycho musings. (3)  Just look at the kinds of places where essentialist theories about men and women and about sex are eagerly adopted and adapted, and you see the damage they cause.

Once I focused on that particular connection, I began seeing it in many anti-woman places.  Jordan Peterson, for one example,  mines evolutionary psychology for his arguments that it's natural for mostly men to be found on top of social hierarchies and so on.

Whether the Tallahassee killer visited misogyny sites or not, he certainly thought that his anger deserved a public hearing on YouTube, and  at least some on one incel site regarded his "solution" to his dilemma as not an invalid one: 

One commentator on a new incel site argues that

" you will NEVER EVER stop sexually frustrated men from seeing blackpill content online, learning the truth about human sexuality and life, and, finally (for some of them) getting pushed over the edge and going ER." (4)

Note that this commentator (why not commenter?) believes he knows the truth about human sexuality and life, on the basis of reading online and, in particular, on the incel sites.  This "truth" is what I mean by the world theory incel sites offer their readers.  And that theory is a toxic one.


(1)  As I have written before, those sites remind me of the anorexia sites I once visited where the anorexics support and congratulate each other for not eating.  They are not sites which make the visitors well.

(2) This is in a manner similar to the theory anti-Semitists have about Jews as running the whole world and also similar to the way the nutty race science is used to support racism.  People visiting the misogyny sites are given a seemingly science-smelling explanation for why women are awful:  They are "hard-wired" that way by evolution, and cannot change themselves.

That "explanation" is derived from the earliest and crudest versions of the worst kinds of speculations in evolutionary psychology, and the specific form of it varies between, say, pickup artist and incel sites.  But once it's accepted as a worldview, any real-world solutions to, say,  the problems of loneliness and the desire to find a female mate on the incel sites are excluded by the warped essentialist logic.

(3)  There are even articles which propose that increasing the odds of getting raped might be an evolutionary adaptation in women who are not deemed sufficiently attractive otherwise.  After all, they can get progeny by having someone rape them, so the adaptation is to act in ways which would increase the probability of rape.  Just imagine what some of the incel sites could make out of that!

(4) The black pill refers to the argument that hopelessness is the correct emotion to feel if you are a man who cannot have the heterosexual sex he wants, because the fault lies in his genes and women's hardwired shallowness.  Going ER means mass murdering people along the lines of Elliot Rodger


Friday, November 09, 2018

Trump's Presser, Translated

I watched Trump's recent press conference in its entirety, because I was bored and felt a little masochistic.  Then I took notes, to filter everything out of what Our Dear Leader said, except the emotional contents.  And this is what remained:


Trump reads from prepared notes. 
Reads more, haltingly, sounding bored. 
Gives a few ex tempore quips and explains them to six-year olds.  Mumblemumblemumble.

Trump praises Pelosi but warns the Democrats not to investigate him because he will investigate back and he is better at that game.

Trump reads that "now is the time to set partisanship aside (!)" and continue working for the great economy and how all the visiting foreign dignitaries compliment him on his economy and look how well steel industry is doing, how well the military is doing, how well law enforcement and how well mining is doing.*

After the monologue, Trump asks for questions from the journalists (roughly 37 or so get to talk).  The fifth questioner (Jim Acosta of CNN) causes him to erupt:

Acosta's first question is about the migrant caravan and the way Trump called it an invasion.  Trump answers that fairly calmly, but then there's chatter and then he says, angrily, "That is enough" several times.

Acosta's second question is about the Russian investigation, and Trump explodes:  CNN should be ashamed to employ you, he says to Acosta, you are a rude, terrible person**, the way you treat Sarah Huckabee is horrible.  And so on.

We all know the consequences of that little spat. Acosta lost his White House access.***

And Trump did not regain his calm for a while.  Around the seventh questioner he tells one journalist "sit down I didn't call you" and says that the CNN polls are voter suppression and calls the media hostile, so sad,  and tells one woman that she rudely interrupted some other journalist.

Later he was asked what lessons he learned from the midterm election results. His lessons were that people like him and the job he has done, and those he campaigned for won but those he didn't campaign for didn't win.  Lots more about how wonderful he is and how Bill Nelson lost because Trump campaigned for his opponent even though celebrities campaigned for Nelson in Florida.

When asked about forced-birth policies he is pursuing he says that he has a secret solution to the division in the country around that, a solution nobody else has.

He calls this White House the hot White House and says that everyone wants to work there.

On North Korea he says that he has made more progress in five months than his predecessors managed to make in seventy years.  And nobody could have done what he has done.

When he is asked about the increase in antisemitism and other type of hate movements he turns the answer to Israel and says that no prior president has done as much for Israel as he has done.  He moved the US embassy to Jerusalem and built it with very little money.  Nobody has done more for Israel than Donald Trump.

When again asked about the divide in this country he goes on about China, saying that China has come down tremendously and would have superseded the US in two years (if Obama's policies had continued) but now they are not even close.

Trump says he is a great moral leader and loves this country.

A question about working together with Democrats even if they investigate him   causes another eruption:

He says he comes here (to the press conference) a nice person wanting to answer questions and look at journalists jumping out of their seats with not nice questions.

A question about Trump's nationalism and if that means white nationalism caused him to call the question a racist one, several times.   When another journalist continued on the topic of Trump's alleged racist statements, he stated that it's people like that  (journalist) who create division in this country.

In later questions he tells us that he has lowered the price of oil in the last three months because he doesn't like OPEC.

Finally, when asked about the flight of suburban women from Trump, he responds by telling that he was very well received by this country, that the US military will now be the strongest ever, that the vets are doing great now, and that people are very happy with the job he has done.  People want security at home and at the border and women of this country (great people!) want physical security and financial security and ICE is wonderful, because it has taken out thousands of criminal gang members.****

He believes peace and unity must start with the media. It isn't good what the media is doing and he has the right to fight back and he is not doing it for himself but for the American people.


 That was ninety minutes I will never get back.  Still, it's clear that we have a narcissist steering the country and that he is very thin-skinned.  He kept mentioning Obama's administration and its policies whenever he wanted to promote his own policies.  This even included asserting that Obama allowed the Ukraine to be taken by Putin, and when the journalist asking the question noted that it was Putin who invaded, Trump stated that it happened during Obama's watch, nothing to do with himself.

Clearly, Obama is the festering splinter in his finger.

*  All overwhelmingly male-dominated industries.  This was common in Trump's pre-election rallies, too, and probably is equally common in his post-election rallies.  It's a way of signaling which groups he aims to help first.

**  Hilarious, coming from a very rude person.  For example, he told several journalists to shut up.  A polite person would have said something like "please, wait for your turn."

*** This article argues that the video of the events was altered to exaggerate Acosta's reactions, so that his suspension would seem fairer.

**** Who, presumably, would have preyed on suburban women?
Note how he cannot even quite figure out what women might want, so he talks about the military instead. 

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Fourteen Years. Or the Blog Anniversary.

You write fourteen years
and what do you get?
A whole lot older
and deeper in debt.
St. Peter don't you call me
coz I can't go
I owe my soul
to the online show.

With apologies to the original.

In other words, this blog is fourteen years old.  It has teenage hormones and acne and weird, wild dreams.  Or would, if it were human.  In reality it's very very tired and wonders about the meaning of life, eternity and the number 42.

Thank you all.  Have some chocolate orgasm cake to celebrate.  The nice thing about cyber-cake is that it has no calories.  Sadly, much of the online writing is the same.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

All I Wanted For Christmas Was The House. My Election Reactions.

All I wanted for Christmas was the House.  That's all.  And I believe that parcel is under the tree.

I didn't write about the elections much because a) I have been very depressed and b) because of the "surprise, surprise!" element in 2016 (imagine a monster with bleeding eyeballs popping out of the gift box) which left me with PTSD,  but the overall results today are quite good.  Had the Republicans maintained control on both the House and the Senate the extra damage they would have caused might not have been repairable until three or four generations down the line.

Women ran in record numbers this year and women also did quite well:

Female candidates performed particularly well in an election cycle that had been billed as the Year of the Woman.
Two 29-year-old Democrats, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Abby Finkenauer - are due to be the youngest women ever to win House seats.
Ilhan OImar and Rashida Tlaib are the first Muslim women and Sharice Davids and Debra Haaland the first Native American women to be elected to Congress. All are Democrats.
The total number of women in the House will increase, but it will not be anywhere near the half it should be on the basis of demography.

All in all, the results are satisfactory, though to achieve those results required enormous amounts of labor.  Thanks to all who worked to get people to vote.

Also keep in mind that most of the open Senate seats were in very Republican areas, that a good economy (inherited from Obama, though) usually makes the voters stick with the incumbents and that Republican gerrymandering has made many districts almost unwinnable for Democrats.  Because of all this, I am happy with the outcome.

And so is Our Dear Leader, who manages to turn it into praise for Himself:

Now that will learn you my friends.  But first let's roll on the floor laughing our heads off.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Recent News About Women's Issues. Or From Google Via Nobels To Ethiopia And Back

1.  Thousands of Google employees walked out on Thursday, to protest sexual harassment which the protesters said the leadership has not taken seriously.

The impetus for the protests was this:

Protestors were galvanized by a recent New York Times report that chronicled three top company executives who have received massive payouts over the past decade despite being credibly accused of sexual misconduct.

Google denies the claim that one of those executives received $90 million as an exit package.

The protesters' demands include an end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination.  Microsoft ended forced arbitration in 2017, but most tech firms use it.  Why is it bad? Because of this:

Arbitration is a private, quasi-legal procedure originally designed to expedite disputes between corporations. But over time, it has evolved into a system where individuals are compelled for a variety of reasons to agree to arbitration decisions versus seeking a court decision. The net result is that disputes that normally would have been adjudicated via the public court process are often processed via private arbitration, which generally favors corporations over individuals.
Worse still, in the world of arbitration, there is no possibility of class-action claims. Arbitration proceedings are additionally often shrouded from public view, meaning it is traditionally difficult to find out about sexual harassment or misconduct claims at corporations.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Republican Political Tricks 101. Hind-Brain Politics.

The midterms are coming and the Democrats, despite their wishy-washiness and milquetoast demeanor might actually gain a few seats in the House.  So what's a Republican cunning strategist to do  to fix that problem?

The great tax cuts for the super-rich didn't go down quite as well as the Republicans hoped, perhaps because the goodies went to a small already goodies-loaded minority.

But fret not!  There's always those hind-brain emotions: fear and anger.  Angry and frightened people are easy to lead by the nose to the voting booths.  And angry and frightened people find logical counterarguments impossible to absorb.

So what could the cunning strategist do to cause panic and anger among the potential Republican voters so that they would claw their way to the voting booths to save their lives and destinies?

I know!  Pretend that this country of 326 million citizens, boasting the largest military force on this planet,  is going to be invaded by a massive military force consisting of a few thousand unarmed Central American migrants!  

Pretend that those few thousands hide among them frightening criminals (more frightening than homegrown American criminals) and deadly Middle Eastern terrorists.

Pretend that those few thousand harbor horrible diseases which they are going to spread all over this glorious country in the first few hours of their arrival at the border.  Leprosy, for example*.  Or the plague, perhaps.  Or foot-and-mouth disease (not to be confused with the Republican foot-in-the-mouth disease).  Or rabies.  Or any of the many diseases which already exist in the United States.

Clearly, this invading giant civilian ragtag force is nothing but a walking talking bomb, ready to explode and destroy this great and powerful country.

The above plans take care of the fear.  Fox News and other similar sites will forecast these messages over and over, because repetition is the mother of all learning and because brainwashing requires repetition, too.

If a few of the more rational conservatives are still not convinced that there is any real threat, have Our Supreme Leader send military troops to the southern border.  This demonstrates to even the most skeptical conservatives that the threat is "real" and that the time now is to panic.

When  all that fear is nicely simmering inside the ideological pot, add a few shakes of anger:

Hint that it's the Democrats who have organized this giant invading force.

Don't dwell into their supposed reasons, but simply say that the caravan is going to occupy this great country with its powerful military, because the Democrats want this country to be taken over by a few thousand South American migrants.  And real Murkans must stop them before it's too late!  Vote Republican or die of leprosy, rabies and demonic possession.

Now isn't that a clever package of voting incentives?

Of course it's very sad, our Republican strategist might admit,  that fanning the flames of baseless fear and anger and pointing accusing fingers at the other party and at specific individuals (such as George Soros) can cause some collateral damage.   But to the Republicans domestic politics is nothing but civil war by other means.


*  Armadillos are a more likely source of infection than people for this, though the overall risk is minimal.  Besides, the disease has a very long incubation period and is treatable.

I added the foot-and-mouth disease, thinking it was funny because I thought it's a cattle disease only.  But humans seem to get a mild version of it or of some viral infection with the same name.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

This Dismal Week in American Politics. Or Turning and Turning in the Widening Gyre.

William Butler Yeats:

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.

On Wednesday this past week,  two people were butchered at a Kroger supermarket in Jeffersontown, Kentucky:

A gunman who killed two people at a Kroger supermarket in Jeffersontown, Ky., on Wednesday tried to enter a predominantly black church minutes before the attack, the police said on Thursday.
The man, Gregory Bush, 51, of Louisville, was arraigned Thursday on two counts of murder and 10 counts of wanton endangerment. He was ordered held with bail set at $5 million. The victims, Vickie Lee Jones, 67, and Maurice E. Stallard, 69, were both black, while Mr. Bush is white.


The police said there was no indication that Mr. Bush knew either of the victims, nor did he have any known connection to the grocery store. Mr. Bush has a history of mental illness, Chief Sam Rogers of the Jeffersontown Police Department said at a news conference on Thursday. Court records show that he also had a long history of domestic violence charges, and had previously been barred from possessing a firearm.
The attack is investigated as a possible hate crime.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

All through the past week most of the leadership of the Democratic Party, the CNN, and several other individuals who might to him look like they had disrespected Donald Trump, Our Savior received pipe bombs in the mail:

Targets have included Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, former CIA director John Brennan, former attorney general Eric Holder, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Robert De Niro and billionaire donor George Soros.

The suspect, a registered Republican man from Florida,  has a lengthy criminal record, including 

in 2002, a “threat to throw, place, project or discharge any destructive device.”

These acts of political domestic terrorism aimed at many of the leaders of one of the two major parties met with an oddly non-serious response.  Some on the right openly speculated that the bombs were a false flag operation.

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

On Saturday, to cap this week,  an anti-Semitist man opened fire at a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing at least eleven people in a clear hate crime.

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

At least the last two killers appear to have been radicalized by watching right-wing news in the United States.

The biggest recent news item there has been the extremely frightening caravan of a few thousand Central American migrants approaching the southern border of this wealthy country with its several hundred million inhabitants, some presumably cowering under their beds. 

But in the right-wing news this, my friends, is an invasion, something to be very scared of, something, which requires the military at the border, and something which might, just might be a way for a few Middle Eastern terrorists to get into the US. 

An earlier president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, told worried Americans in a different context that "the only thing we have to fear itself,"  but our current president loves to fan the flames of fear.  Here is Trump on the migrant caravan:


Trump later admitted that he has no proof of his assertion that the caravan contained Middle Easterners.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.


This is the story of the last week.  It's not a story of incivility from both sides of the political aisle, and it's not a story of the horrible violence of the Antifa movement.  Both sides can be and have been violent, but attempts at some sort of false equality are truly misplaced here.

We are not turning and turning in a widening gyre because we have all somehow forgotten how to treat others with respect, but first and foremost because of decades of right-wing talk radio, Fox News, and many online hate sites which declare the hatred of women, minorities and Democrats to be justified and patriotic.*

Still, Donald Trump has repeatedly "jokingly" signaled that he is comfortable with political violence and that he admires a good brawler.  He also explicitly refuses to bear any responsibility for the influence his own statements may have, and he is simply incapable of acting presidentially in any context for more than thirty seconds or so.

Then his inner demons take over and he starts preaching hatred to his red hat acolytes.  This is what he tweeted shortly after CNN received a pipe bomb:

But we all knew this on that fateful election day in 2016.  Here are two of my posts written around that time.  They are still worth reading, if only as a reminder that a sufficient minority of American voters preferred this man to that crooked woman, and quite possibly to any woman.

The falcon (the forces Trump has loosed) cannot hear the falconer (Trump in his role as the inciter of hate) if the falconer suddenly tells the falcon not to tear and rend the flesh of the prey.  And this is what we now see at Trump's never-ending victory rallies where his bottomless need of assurance is momentarily sated by the adulation of his followers.

But the crowds are restless, now.  They don't want to hear a more presidential Trump.  They have tasted blood and they need more.  Lock Her Up (any her will do)!

The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity...**


*  In other words, the right began this trend and magnified it over the last few decades. Donald Trump is simply the natural outgrowth from all the propaganda conservatives have swallowed every day for years.  This does not absolve those on the left who have joined the same trend.  But the fault is not in our stars. 

**  At this point in my writing I found out that Charlie Pierce had used parts of the same poem on the same topic.  Great minds and all that.

I could have added stuff about the centre not holding, except there isn't a political center anymore, what with the conservatives having slipped to the right of Attila the Hun. 


Monday, October 22, 2018

True Or False? On Accusations of Sexual Violence in The Kavanaugh Era.

(This post is really the third in my series: On the Kavanaugh Nomination And Women's Reproductive Rights.  Or Back to the Basics. But that title is a little boring and uninformative by now.  The first two posts can be read here and here.)

1. Introduction

Our Dear Leader recently noted how scary this time in the US is for young men, because false allegations of sexual violence are so commonplace!  He, himself, has received a whole wheelbarrowful of them!

At about the same time, Bret Stephens, a right-wing columnist at the New York Times, had a few thoughts about such false allegations in the context of Brett Kavanaugh's alleged sexual misconduct:

A few moments have crystallized my view over the past few days.
The first moment was a remark by a friend. “I’d rather be accused of murder,” he said, “than of sexual assault.” I feel the same way. One can think of excuses for killing a man; none for assaulting a woman. But if that’s true, so is this: Falsely accusing a person of sexual assault is nearly as despicable as sexual assault itself. It inflicts psychic, familial, reputational and professional harms that can last a lifetime. This is nothing to sneer at.
The second moment, connected to the first: “Boo hoo hoo. Brett Kavanaugh is not a victim.” That’s the title of a column in the Los Angeles Times, which suggests that the possibility of Kavanaugh’s innocence is “infinitesimal.” Yet false allegations of rape, while relatively rare, are at least five times as common as false accusations of other types of crime, according to academic literature.

That "five times as common" argument means that about 5% of rape accusations were found to be false or baseless (1) in one study.  Other (properly done) studies have quoted figures ranging from 2% to 8%.

Let's set aside the question whether Brett Kavanaugh actually did what Christine Blasey Ford and others have accused him of.  Let's, instead, consider this heightened concern with possible false accusations which is very evident both in the context of the Kavanaugh hearings and in the changes Betsy deVos created when she scrapped the Obama-era guidelines on how colleges should handle sexual violence accusations.  The most crucial of these changes is this:

The most controversial portion of the Obama-era guidelines had demanded colleges use the lowest standard of proof, “preponderance of the evidence,” in deciding whether a student is responsible for sexual assault, a verdict that can lead to discipline and even expulsion. On Friday, the Education Department said colleges were free to abandon that standard and raise it to a higher standard known as “clear and convincing evidence.”
The higher bar for evidence means that fewer students accused of sexual assault will be found responsible.  It's less likely that someone falsely accused would be found responsible, but it's also more likely that someone guilty of sexual assault will be found not responsible.  The overall effect may be to cause fewer accusers to come forward (on the basis of why-bother).

So what is going on here?  Is this truly a scary time for young men, and if so, what times have not been scary for young women?  And what do Stephens and his friend in the above NYT quote mean when they say that they would rather be accused of murder than of sexual assault?