Saturday, May 02, 2015
He thinks the LGBT movement would be more understandable if there were more LGBT people. Like how did a small minority take over our politics? And no, he is not talking about the Koch brothers.
Hmm. Let's see if our Rush then thinks that women's rights are a more understandable movement. After all, around half of all humans are of the female persuasion.
Don't fall down the stairs. You can break your shoulder bone in the more sentient of your arms. It's not only somewhat painful, but also leaves you with the pecking/typing ability of five fingers which are sinister.
In other words, my posts will be short until I learn single-hand typing superpowers.
The silver lining in this cloud is a chance to do real research on health care costs. For example, the shoulder immobilizer the ER gave me will cost either me or the insurer between 63 and 110 dollars. Identical (or better) are for sale online for less than 30 dollars. This may reflect the markup pricing hospitals practice.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
I read this UK Daily Mail article with a very strong sense of déjà vu again. Didn't I fairly recently write about it? In last September, to be exact.
And indeed I did! Most, if not all, of the piece is recycled from an earlier piece.
Here's one of the glorious quotes from Dr. Mosley:
Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, an expert on the brain who I visited at Cambridge University, has done a lot of pioneering work on this. He believes, broadly, that people of whatever gender fall somewhere along a ‘systemiser’ to ‘empathiser’ spectrum.
Systemisters are people who enjoy breaking down and analysing systems. They are more likely to become train spotters or computer scientists.
They are what he has called ‘male brained’ — as these qualities occur most frequently, but far from exclusively, in men.
Empathisers, on the other hand, are more typically ‘female’ brained as they are more typically women.
Although there are exceptions, most men — when tested — come out as more ‘systemising’ than ‘empathising’, while for women it is the other way round.
And this is the picture we are given of systemisers!
I love it! Lovelovelove it! It's a beautiful example of biased thinking. Examples of systemizing behavior are all picked from stuff guys do more and that means systemizing is a male brain thing. But of course many traditionally female hobbies and chores also require good systemizing skills. If you omit all of those and put in a picture of train spotting guys, well, you have made your case.
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Short Posts, 4/28/2015: Fear of the Other Party, Why Reproductive Rights Might Be Losing, the Power of Koch Brothers And Older Actresses
1. This study on the fear of the other political party in the US sounds interesting. I have not read the study itself, so I can't say anything about its methods and such. But thinking about the "fear of the other" in the context of political parties could be fruitful.
2. Katha Pollitt writes about the reasons why same-sex marriage is winning and reproductive rights are losing in the US. I'm not sure if I agree with every one of her points but the list is another good starting place for thinking. In general, women's rights on the global level don't get the support they should because the change required is so large. After all, women are roughly half of all human beings. That's my positive interpretation of people having to be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern era. The sadder interpretations is, well, sad, and has to do with the question who controls this resource called "women."
3. Après moi, le déluge" Or Koch-backed think tank is sending scientists to the Vatican, to school the Pope:
“The Holy Father is being misled by ‘experts’ at the United Nations who have proven unworthy of his trust,” said Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute. “Humans are not causing a climate crisis on God’s Green Earth – in fact, they are fulfilling their Biblical duty to protect and use it for the benefit of humanity. Though Pope Francis’s heart is surely in the right place, he would do his flock and the world a disservice by putting his moral authority behind the United Nations’ unscientific agenda on the climate.”The French reference is to show you how erudite I am, even though Louis XV might never had said that as his last words. Also, I don't speak French.
He called on anyone with “open ears” to fulfill their moral duty to seek the truth on climate change – which 97 percent of scientists agree is likely the result of human activities.
“The science is not settled, and global warming is not a crisis,” Bast said. “The world’s poor will suffer horribly if reliable energy – the engine of prosperity and a better life – is made more expensive and less reliable by the decree of global planners.”
It's also because I smell that in the thinking of many Koch-type conservatives: Give us our profits and the heck with the future generations.
But it's also because the brothers Koch are wielding exorbitant power in American politics, much, much more than most voters. That power reminds me of the power of ancient French kings. And mostly the argument is that they can wield that power legally (funding political campaigns etc.) because of the freedom of expression. Something of the sort where each dollar note has the same right to express itself. That's bad news for any semblance of democracy.
4. This video is hilarious. It's about when older actresses are no longer f**kable. The language is not work-safe.
The city of Baltimore is recovering after demonstrations and rioting this weekend. The cause of them was the death of Freddie Gray:
Authorities can't say if there was a particularly good reason why police arrested Gray. According to the city, an officer made eye contact with Gray, and he took off running, so they pursued him. Though he'd had scrapes with the law before, there's no indication he was wanted at the time. And though he was found with a switchblade, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said, “We know that having a knife is not necessarily a crime.”
The police say Gray didn't resist arrest and that officers didn't use force, which seems to be mostly corroborated by video shot by bystanders. Gray seems to shout in pain, and his leg seems injured as officers drag him to a police van. (Someone off camera shouts, "His leg broke and y'all dragging him like that!") Gray also had asthma and requested his inhaler, but didn't get it. Yet it's not the leg or the asthma that killed him. Instead, it was a grave injury to his spinal cord. Gray's family said he was treated for three fractured vertebrae and a crushed voice box, the sorts of injuries that doctors say are usually caused by serious car accidents. The van made at least two stops before reaching the police station, but there's no footage to say what happened during the journey or at those stops.
It's a baffling conundrum. "None of the officers describe any use of force," Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said. "None of the officers describe using any force against Mr. Gray." And yet somehow Gray was fatally hurt while in police custody.
This case has similarities to other recent and not so recent cases, where an unarmed (or allegedly unarmed) person dies either when arrested or in police custody. The majority of these cases are about the deaths of black men and the usual way to package the issue is as one of police brutality and racism.
That may be convenient shorthand, as long as we remember that the racism might not necessarily be personal but institutional and that the brutality might be at least partly defined as the increasing militarization of the police (where the population to be policed then becomes the enemy).
Freddie Gray died. His funeral resulted in demonstrations which then resulted in riots. The Maryland National Guard was called in, a state of emergency was declared.
How to interpret all that?
That depends on the interpreter's perch. The conservative Rand Paul thinks the rioting is caused by lack of morals and fathers:*
As far as root causes, Paul listed some ideas of his own.
"There are so many things we can talk about," the senator said, "the breakdown of the family structure, the lack of fathers, the lack of a moral code in our society."
Ta-Nehisi Coates writes:
When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is "correct" or "wise," any more than a forest fire can be "correct" or "wise." Wisdom isn't the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community.
John Angelos, Chief Operating Officer of the Orioles, Baltimore’s major-league baseball franchise, notes the economic inequality and suffering:
That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage, and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle-class and working-class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the US to third-world dictatorships, like China and others; plunged tens of millions of good, hardworking Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil-rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.
Here's where the links to economic inequality and poverty matter. Consider the area of the city of Baltimore which Freddie Gray called home. These are the statistics applying to that area:
To understand why the demonstrations in Baltimore got out of hand we need to first understand what living in an area with those numbers means, what it does to you over time, and next relate all this to the history of the interactions between the Baltimore police and its black citizens.
None of that means that the riots would have been a "correct" response, as Coates observed in the above quote. They are a bad response, like shooting at your own leg because the real target is far too high to reach. But so were the riots after the Joe Paterno resignation at Penn State.
The difference is that many others don't now regard all Penn State students as possible rioters whereas they make just that generalization when it comes to certain residents of Baltimore.
*In this context Rand Paul's own parenting skills do matter.
Saturday, April 25, 2015
You can send funds. The New York Times gives a list of aid organizations.
I was told that the Lutheran World Federation of Churches is also a good organization to give to. They have a lot of experience in crisis management, they do not try to convert people to Lutheranism and they seem to work on issues of gender justice, too.
I cannot personally vouch for any of the above, but they are avenues to get your pennies to make a difference.
As an aside, I really want to find a way to give help to the Yazidis in Iraq. If you know of a way, leave it in the comments, with my thanks.
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
So I start this post with the title and have to Google "miscreant!" That's how directly my posts are channeled from that goddess of snakes who takes me over.
Just joking. But also linking to the religious arguments about us living in end times. The valiant butchers of IS (ISIS/ISIL) believe that we are living in end times, and so do many American religious conservatives. To give you a slightly humorous take, here's Michele Bachmann on that topic:
Former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) expressed a mixture of condemnation and appreciation toward President Barack Obama for, in her words, bringing the world to end times.What a relief! I can stop flossing!
“Barack Obama is intent, it is his number one goal, to ensure that Iran has a nuclear weapon," she said. "Why? Why would you put the nuclear weapon in the hands of madmen who are Islamic radicals?"
Bachmann, however, then seemed to approve of the President moving mankind into "the midnight hour."
"We get to be living in the most exciting time in history," she said, urging fellow Christians to "rejoice."
"Jesus Christ is coming back. We, in our lifetimes potentially, could see Jesus Christ returning to Earth, the Rapture of the Church."
The point of this post is that something like "end times" is not an exogenous variable from the point of view of politicians and those active in trying to make them come about. "End times" can be achieved. A nuclear war could do it nicely, but so could many other things, such as irreversible changes in the climate.
The reverse of that is that we can delay the "end times" by our behavior. Sadly, people with certain religious views don't have any incentive to do so, because they have packed their suitcases and have their travel tickets for paradise tightly in one hand while they use the guns with the other.
I haven't read enough on the history of apocalyptic thoughts, but my guess is that there have always been many people who believed that they themselves were living in the "end times." But I doubt they had quite the same power to push this planet closer to them than some people today have. While rejoicing over it.
The Economist has a long and pretty fact-filled article on the consequences of the missing girls in India and China (sex-selective abortions and female infanticide), combined with a few other marriage rules. Worth reading it. You can also then read the comments if you wish.
I did. And then I got a sore stomach, as usual. The reasons are subtle, a bit like a giant hippo only showing its nose above the surface of the river. Everyone else writes about the nose, whereas I see the rest of that hippo, the ignored part.
Note that the article very quickly hints at the reason for all this sex imbalance: It's "preference for sons." Then it skates off to study how all those abortions and infant killings will soon leave many young men eternal spinsters (why not call them that?) and how that is very bad for the society and men, with more crime and violence and the need for more prostitutes.
The solutions offered both in the article and in the comments are not about that "preference for sons." If we realize that the same thing could be called "a dislike of daughters" or something much stronger, given that some parents even resort to killing the infant daughter, the disconnect between the problem (women are not valued) and the solutions offered (somehow get more women from elsewhere, say) becomes as clear as a hippo rising from the river.
The article has other interesting stuff, such as women "marrying upwards" in those countries. That's the same as men marrying downwards. Terms matter, my friends. Because if men marry downwards, it's better that there aren't too many women on the top of the societal ladders. They will become "leftovers" as they are called in China.
Now, the eternal spinster guys are also given pejorative names, such as "bare branches." But isn't it fascinating how something which has its roots in the fact that women are not valued results in an article where part of the problem of too many men is that educated women cannot find husbands? When you would have thought that more women with education (and thus more opportunities to help their families financially) would have been one of the solutions which could raise the valuation of women in general?
I may be nitpicking. But I have written about this particular slant in the media takes about the missing girls for many, many years. The problem really boils down, in those articles, to the question of how we can now get those men wives.
That the real problem is in the underlying assumption that all women are good for is being the providers of sex and sons just sorta sleeps under the surface of the debating river.
And yes, as I have written before, there are reasons for the dislike of daughters. In a system without good pensions it is the sons who are supposed to take care of their parents, while daughters must be provided with dowries and then they work for a totally different family. And it is the sons who are seen as continuing the family genes, only the sons. But all this, based on patrilocal marriage customs, is ultimately and circularly based on women not valued as much.
Monday, April 20, 2015
The Ethics of Journalism 101: Is it OK for NYT and WaPo to use Pre-Publication Opposition Research on Hillary Clinton?
This is an interesting question, even if I write so myself. The case for your consideration:
The New York Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have made exclusive agreements with a conservative author for early access to his opposition research on Hillary Clinton, a move that has confounded members of the Clinton campaign and some reporters, the On Media blog has confirmed.
"Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich" will debut on May 5. But the Times, the Post and Fox have already made arrangements with author Peter Schweizer to pursue some of the material included in his book, which seeks to draw connections between Clinton Foundation donations and speaking fees and Hillary Clinton's actions as secretary of state. Schweizer is the president of the Government Accountability Institute, a conservative research group, and previously served as an adviser to Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
I see three potentially serious problems with these exclusive arrangements.
First, depending on what newspapers are supposed to have as their objective*, getting opposition research on only one candidate can bias the reporting in the papers. If conservative muckrakers are more diligent than liberal ones, the American people (how I love to be able to write that!) will be mislead, assuming that the Republican candidates might also have all sorts of skeletons in their mahogany cupboards.
Second, assuming that those at the newspapers know how to judge the research of Schweizer's book may be a form of hubris. Or at least we should not just be told that there will be experts looking at all the stuff.
Third, and this links to my second point, using a book BEFORE it is published means that the newspapers won't have access to the expert criticisms which follow the publication of a book. It's as if the book is allowed to hold the stage all alone, when the correct approach would be to wait to see what experts in the field might have to say about it.
*The naive me thinks that the newspapers should try to be objective, search for as much truth as people can agree on and provide voters with factual information that will help their votes. Psst, Maureen Dowd, writing about Hillary Clinton with all sorts of sexist terms isn't helpful for voters.
But other objectives are possible. For instance, to make the most money possible out of gullible readers.
Friday, April 17, 2015
Don't you just adore governor Brownback? He's such an extreme believer in his own little right-wing religious fundamentalist reality. Even though it's Christianist, it's not very charitable. Or rather, the charity goes to the haves and is removed from the have-nots. I wonder what Jesus would say about that, hmh?
A few years ago Brownback cut taxes in Kansas something fierce. Indeed, certain kinds of firms don't pay any tax on their profits! That's giving the owners of those firms government handouts, in my divine and correct opinion.
But other types of handouts Brownback doesn't like. His most recent move consists of making absolutely sure that welfare recipients don't spend that grudgingly-offered money on strippers or tattoos but on useful things such as baby diapers:
The measure bars spending relief funds on movies, at swimming pools, or on "cruise ships," as well as at any "jewelry store, tattoo parlor, massage parlor, body piercing parlor ... psychic or fortune telling business, bail bond company, video arcade ... or any retail establishment which provides adult-oriented entertainment in which performers disrobe or perform in an unclothed state."
It also places a $25 daily limit on ATM withdrawals using the debit cards issued to recipients under the state/federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, which is what's left of America's welfare program. That renders the cards useless for major spending, such as paying the rent, but it does mean that users will pile up ATM fees at $1 per withdrawal, plus bank fees.
Note that there is no evidence Kansas welfare recipients are desperately trying to use their welfare checks in the manner described here. I'd be pretty surprised if such misuse is at all common, given that most recipients are single mothers with young children.
The point of this bill, Brownback tells us, is to get people to go to work! I haven't checked if Kansas funds daycare for single mothers on welfare so that they can go to work in one of the minimum wage jobs many of them would end up with. But whatever. At least they can't get tattoos and massages while taking cruises.
Emily Badger in Washington Post writes about all this with great lucidity. She points out that the treatment of one group of handout recipients differs from the treatment of all other groups of handout recipients: They are held to higher moral and ethical standards:
The second issue with these laws is a moral one: We rarely make similar demands of other recipients of government aid. We don't drug-test farmers who receive agriculture subsidies (lest they think about plowing while high!). We don't require Pell Grant recipients to prove that they're pursuing a degree that will get them a real job one day (sorry, no poetry!). We don't require wealthy families who cash in on the home mortgage interest deduction to prove that they don't use their homes as brothels (because surely someone out there does this). The strings that we attach to government aid are attached uniquely for the poor.
And that is because we don't view other forms of government transfers as undeserved handouts.
It's not necessarily bad to limit what welfare payments can be used for. But when you combine this particular move with Brownback's earlier handouts to much wealthier groups of taxpayers you wonder what type of Jesus his reality has. If this man is supposedly following in his footsteps.