Friday, August 24, 2018

Escape Reading. Terry Pratchett's Discworld.

I love re-reading Terry Pratchett as an escape from the Trump Reich and all the other problems of this world, but as this post from last year shows, some of those problems exist on Pratchett's Discworld, too.

This year I've been re-reading Pratchett's Tiffany Aching books.  They are meant for young adults, I think, but the Nac Mac Feegle (the wee free men) are funny enough at any age.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Gendered Coverage of American Politicians' Sins

I wrote about that in March, but the problems in coverage haven't since disappeared*.  It's always useful to make the thought experiment, when reading criticisms of some female politician, of asking if the criticisms would have been the same or of equal intensity had she been a male politician instead.

* Much of this is caused by the right-wing press, because there are many more Democratic female politicians than there are Republican ones, and the right-wing press attacks Democrats and not Republicans.  But even so, I sense a difference in the intensity when the target of attack is female.

As an aside, the small numbers of Republican women in the Congress is probably caused by the same reasons as the tilted right-wing coverage against Democratic women.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

On Combatting False Beliefs

"A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."

The bottom section (after the embedded comment) of this post gives one example of the kind of research that is needed to even begin interpreting various Alt Right arguments or those that come from the manosphere.  I'm linking to it not because I would somehow be proud of the minimal research I did there, but because it's often the case that to refute lies (such as the ones Our Dear Leader spews out) takes digging time, digging energy and digging skills, and even then not every consumer of political news is willing to read through long explanations.

In other words, truth must button every single one of those small buttons in its hobnailed boots before it can start running after the lie.

Another example of the kind of painstaking work that is required in taking apart fake news can be found in the Harvard study about the impact of the media in the 2016 presidential elections.  It includes a detailed case study covering the media's treatment of the Clinton Foundation (from page 104 onward).  If you read it you will learn how the Clinton Foundation scandal was baked out of nothing but some slightly stale air, but still satisfied the appetites of many on the right.  Interestingly enough, the scandals about the Trump Foundation never achieved similar prominence.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Do 20% of Men "Get" 80% Of All Heterosexual Sex?

That's the kind of belief incel online sites spread:

“OK, we’ve all seen the statistic that in a competitive dating environment 20% of the guys are having 80% of the sex,” reads one post on r/TheRedPill, which goes on to claim, (emphasis theirs):
For every ten girls who are getting laid this week, eight of them are fucking just two guys.
If you’re not one of those two guys, there’s a 75% chance that you’re not getting laid at all. Only 20% of men fall into the category of “not alpha but still getting some”.
The haves and have-nots live in two different worlds. This is not a sliding scale situation where incremental improvement yields incremental returns. You either have more pussy than you know what to do with or you’re incel. There’s very little middle ground.
That’s what the 80/20 rule means. You really, really want to be one of the 20%.

That whole quote is so weird*.  Why does the second principle of the incel sites seem to always be this spreading of doom and gloom "statistics" which prove that nothing can be done, that no woman will ever fuck them, whatever they do?

The first principle, of course, is that the state of involuntary celibacy (being a male incel**) is caused by the disgusting shallowness, lookism and general perfidy of the whole womankind, all billions of us.

And that is the truly dangerous principle, but the second one also produces a lot of grief and suffering among men who probably wouldn't have to be incels if they realized that pussies are attached to real human beings who like to be viewed as people before pussies.  Instead, they are told that Everything  Is Hopeless.

So where did that 80/20 rule come from?  The linked article suggests that it applies the Pareto principle to sex:

One of the most repeated ideas on incel forums is a particular interpretation of the Pareto principle, which theorizes that in many cases, 80 percent of effects come from 20 percent of the causes. In economics, it’s often used to predict power structures (e.g., the richest 20 percent control 80 percent of the income). Replace money with sex, and you’ve essentially got the incel rallying cry.
But I have found no evidence that the Pareto distribution would fit human heterosexual behavior of the kind incels fret about.

And existing evidence on sexual behavior suggests that the reality is much less cruel toward the imaginary 80% of "non-alpha" males in the sexual supermarkets the incels also imagine to exist:

As Rebecca Goldin, a professor of mathematics at George Mason University and the director of STATS, noted, there really isn’t all that much data about who’s having sex with whom and how often. But, she said, “There is some limited data that refutes the poster’s claims, depending on interpretation.”
First off, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 56 percent of women and 59 percent of men have had sex by the time they finish high school. And, as Goldin pointed out, “If the sexually active teen women were choosing a largely overlapping set of young men to have sex with (eight women going with two guys), one would expect many fewer guys to have had sex than women.”
And if roughly the same number of heterosexual women and men are sexually active and you apply the Pareto principle, it would work out to eight women having sex with two men, yet also two women having sex with the other eight men. If it were true that most women were choosing just a few partners, the remaining women would need to have many partners.
“In other words, the statement, ‘If you’re not one of those two guys, there’s a 75 percent chance that you’re not getting laid at all. Only 20 percent of men fall into the category of ‘not alpha but still getting some,’ is not correct,” she said.

Bolds are mine.

Goldin goes on to note that men and women in long-term relationships, such as marriage, might well have more sex (when counted as times per week, say) than those men and women who are not in long-term relationships, partly, because it's much easier to arrange.  But in the incel world sex is sold in some weird supermarkets, not enjoyed in loving relationships.

And that is very sad.  The incels don't need the online sites where they gather***.  They need some real therapy which would allow them to see women as human beings.

That would be the win-win outcome, because it would enable the incels to find loving partners and because it would reduce the amount of online misogyny.

* First is the question where that statistics comes from which the rest of this post addresses.

Second is the question of definitions:

 Two men (out of ten) are assumed to fuck eight women (out of ten) in one week, but the remaining two women are not assumed to fuck the remaining eight men in one week, but only one man each.  This is an asymmetry, probably because it's assumed that the 80/20 rule applies.  But it's unclear if sex is counted in numbers of partners or in numbers of intercourse (or whatever stands in its place)

Third, is the nutty idea that there are only two kinds of heterosexual men:  Those who have more pussy than you know what to do with (freeze and can, of course) and those who have zero pussy for the rest of their miserable lives.  This assumption clearly clashes with any kind of reality I have visited.

Fourth is the question what a "competitive" dating environment might be.  Some sort of a boxing ring? 

Fifth, and most importantly, the whole quote reeks of the view that women are not people but things, like slabs of beef, for sale in the dating supermarkets, and that those slabs of beef should be distributed more fairly among the consumers.

**  The online incels do not care about women, probably because they hate women, so they spend no time worrying about female incels.  As I have written before, women are probably much more likely to be involuntarily celibate than men, because women live longer and are more likely to outlive their partners.

***  As I have written before, the incel online sites resemble those anorexia sites where anorexics met to encourage each other not to eat.  In other words, visiting the incel sites will make the visitors more miserable and less mentally healthy.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Corporations As Luggage

This piece was written for a different purpose, but was never used.  So it wants to have its fifteen minutes of fame here:

Fans of Terry Pratchett's Discworld fantasies  know all about the magical suitcase with many small legs, the Luggage:
 It is a large chest made of sapient pearwood (a magical, intelligent plant which is nearly extinct, impervious to magic..). It can produce hundreds of little legs protruding from its underside and can move very fast if the need arises. It has been described as "half suitcase, half homicidal maniac" (Sourcery paperback p22).
The Luggage will follow its owner, even through brick walls.

This doesn't differ from today's large and mobile corporations.  The more legs governments have legally given them, the faster they can leave any given locality (town, city and even country) and the less they care about the mayhem caused.

Consider the death of a commercial light fixture plant in Sparta, Tennessee.  Esther Kaplan's prize-winning 2014 article  "Losing Sparta" tells us what happened when an old and  profitable plant, essential for the economic and cultural well-being of a small town, was taken over by Phillips, the multinational behemoth:
Then, one morning in November 2010, a Philips executive no one recognized drove up and walked into the plant, accompanied by a security guard wearing sunglasses and a sidearm. He summoned all the employees back to the shipping department and abruptly announced that the plant would be shut down. Though the workers didn’t know it at the time, most of their jobs would be offshored to Monterrey, Mexico. The two of them then walked out the door and drove off. “It was a shock, I’ll tell you,” Ricky Lack said more than two years later. Still brawny in his late fifties, he’d hired on at the plant in 1977, when he was nineteen years old. “My dad worked there,” he said. “Half the plant’s mom or dad or brother worked there. We still don’t know why they left.”
The consequences for Sparta were dire:  Older workers faced  long-term unemployed or part-time or minimum wage jobs.  Marriages failed, ill health increased, and the various levels of government earned less tax revenue and paid out more in unemployment benefits.  But none of this touched Phillips, the suitcase with many little legs. Off it went to Mexico.  Sparta could hardly follow.

In the past, corporations were more bound to a locality.  If they behaved badly, local reputations suffered. If they laid off too many workers, their local sales declined. If their management lived in nearby areas, the public services their families enjoyed would diminish.  If nothing else, the goodwill the firm possessed would diminish. 

Today, these ties are fraying, as we can see in Sparta, Tennessee. In international trade agreements multinational corporations now demand veto rights over the decisions of future national governments.

The  losses to others from what may be gains to multinational corporations don't affect only the workers when plants close or only the towns that join the American Rust Belt.

The 2007-2010 burst of the US housing bubble had many causes, among them the strengthened ability of firms to ignore local knowledge.  If a firm sold many mortgages, ground them up like sausage meat with the good and the bad risks  all mixed, and then sold the  new product in giant new sausage skins to far-distant places, who would ever be able to find the original culprits to the mortgage crisis?  They would not be the ones who ultimately bore the costs of granting too many bad mortgages. 

Compare that to past practices where the mortgage remained with the awarding institutions.  Still in the mid-199s mortgage negotiations with a bank resembled the Spanish inquisition in their thoroughness.  Yet soon after that date I heard of large mortgages given to people I knew couldn't pay them back.  The almost nonexistent regulation of financial markets, the general exuberance of investors, and many other factors played a role in creating the housing bubble,  but the firms' mobility mattered:
On Wall Street, where many of these loans were packaged into securities and sold to investors around the globe, a new term was coined: IBGYBG, “I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone.”
It referred to deals that brought in big fees up front while risking much
larger losses in the future. And, for a long time, IBGYBG worked at every level.
Terry Pratchett's half-homicidal "Luggage" with many little feet is fantasy, but the scope for corporations to leave a place in ruins while following their owners is not.

What next?  Legal personhood for corporations?  Hmm.