Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Short Posts 9/28/16: The Shimmy Song, Fashion Magazines And What Online Writing Is

1.  This is the Hillary shimmy song.  

Mind you, that shimmying could always be an early sign of leprosy or hoof-and-mouth disease or some other menacing malady.  At least if we believe right-wing long-distance diagnosticians.

2.  An interesting video showing what's left when two women's magazines are denuded of their ad pages.  And of course fashion and beauty advice and even health advice is sold to women on the wider platform of You Are Not Good/Pretty/Healthy Enough, because that is the platform which works.  The industry needs to keep women insecure* but not so insecure that we just go "what-the-f**k, I'm not perfectible, so I'd rather go and enjoy life as I am."

I'm more curious about the poses the models must take in the ads, because those poses are oddly passive, oddly similar to a broken doll tossed across the floor by an enraged (but rich) child, while at the same time the eyes of the models are often half-shut, empty of life, and the lips of the models are slightly open, swollen, as if after some fairly strenuous sex.  Or the few cases where the model appears to be leaping or running or turning pirouettes; all that while walking on stilts.

What are the subtexts in all that?

3.  I have stumbled into some financial insecurity, so I have Googled various types of extra jobs, including online writing (which I'm doing here, essentially for nothing, because I'm a very stupid goddess).  The sites specializing in free lance writing jobs are wonderful places!

Minimum wages are an unheard concept, people should want to write a 6000-word article for the grand total of thirty dollars, and expect someone else's name to be attached to the piece once it is finished, after a month's work.  One job would have required ten blog posts a day, at five dollars per post, with pictures and all!**

Then there's the site where the home page, intended to lure both clients and writers to the site, has truly awful clunky and grammatically incorrect writing.

Now that is a truly bizarre labor market, though it's true that many, many people today write for nothing, and are glad to get into print.  So why would the clients pay for the milk when the cow itself jumps into the oven and turns it on?

That can make a goddess gloomy.  But then I cheered up immediately, because I Googled economic writing jobs, thinking that the extra expertise would up the pay a little.

And it does.  But, my friends, I found that the quickest way to make money in that sub-market is to solve college students' economics homework problems for them or to write their term papers.  Somewhat unethical, wouldn't you say?

Still.  I think I will become a ghost-writer, hovering ominously in the background of the articles while going "BOO!"


*  Insecurity is also used in marketing products for men, but the role of insecurity in the marketing for women is much more central.

**  The clients or customers appear to have absolutely no idea how long writing takes or how much research is required for it to be any good.  To rely on a market where many on the supply side are willing to work for zero pay doesn't correct this problem, because ultimately those who give it away for nothing will die of overwork and hunger.  And what you get when pay five dollars per post is a post worth less than five dollars.  That's just basic economics.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The First Bigly, Good and Beautiful Presidential Debate

I love Donald Trump's presidential language:

The United States is a mess, the Middle East is a mess, NATO is a mess, and the Americans lose on everything.

But Mr. Trump, he has the great temperament, the winning temperament, and the stamina to steer this country out of all those messes!  He can give us witness testimonials about what a wonderful guy he is, what beautiful businesses he has built (and bankrupted).  Indeed, he is just the greatest.

Now that was important to include in a presidential debate, in case someone in the audience hadn't already learned that Donald thinks he's the greatest thing since grated cheese.

Ms. Clinton, on the other hand, doesn't have the right temperament, doesn't have any business ability, doesn't have judgment.

And luring the wealthy corporations to bring back their money to the United States would be beautiful, beautiful.

Now parse all that for me.  Then ask yourselves if the media wouldn't have found such a language inappropriately fuzzy and inappropriately emotional had it come from the mouth of some other politician. Say, Hillary Clinton.

The whole debate was a hoot, a bit like the sound Hillary Clinton made when Donald Trump told us that she doesn't have the temperament, the judgment or the stamina to be the president of the United States.  Perhaps that attack was based on the Republican code-book of always attacking your opponents at what their strengths are?  Even if they are your own weaknesses?

So who won the debate?  The general agreement is that Hillary Clinton did.  I'm not quite sure what the basis of that judgment is, whether it is that she was better on facts* or future policies, or just the better debater, though I think that she won in all of those categories.

Two parts of the debate stuck to my mind:

First, Trump's insistence that Hillary Clinton, together with Barack Obama, created ISIS.  That, by the way, caused some coffee to be spewed on my screen.

George Walker Bush would be the name that comes to mind if a particular American would be accused of enabling ISIS**, not Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.   It was our Georgie Porgie who poked a sleeping beehive with a stick and then ran away when the bees woke up.  It was our Georgie Porgie  who sent young Tea Party personnel over to Iraq to create a free market, it was our Georgie Porgie who destroyed the Iraqi army, without apparently knowing anything about the Shia-Sunni quarrels,   and it was our Georgie Porgie who did all that without any understanding of what he got into.

To be quite honest, my research into ISIS, which I used for an earlier three-post series, taught me that the roots of ISIS are complicated, hard to eradicate and that it's quite possible that very few Western politicians really understand the size of the problem.  But surely Trump's utterance serves as the most idiotic one ever.

Second, Trump's inability to properly counter Clinton's references to the way he had treated Alicia Machado, the Miss Universe of 1996.  Trump loves judging women's bodies so much that he's been in the beauty pageant business for years.

The case of Ms. Machado was about her gaining weight during the year she was the ruling Miss Universe.  According to Hillary Clinton, Trump's concern with that weight gain made him call Ms. Machado names:

"And one of the worst things he said was about a woman in a beauty contest -- he loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them -- and he called this woman 'Miss Piggy,' then he called her 'Miss Housekeeping' because she was Latina," Clinton had said.
The point I want to make about all that is this:  Trump knows that Clinton is accusing him of sexism and misogyny (with good evidence, I might add).  So why didn't he prepare for something of this sort to come up in the debates?  Is it because he didn't prepare for the debates at all, what with already being the greatest?  Or is it because wimminfolk really do not matter in his mind?

To be completely fair, I should note that Trump did better in the first fifteen minutes or so, before his ramblings began.  He also brought up one important issue, and that is the way the costs and benefits of globalization fall differently:

The costs of globalization have hit the American working classes much more than they have hit the middle classes or, goddess bless, the very rich (who largely benefit from globalization).  Yet neither party has proposed anything that would truly work to compensate those workers who have lost their jobs in this country (especially in middle age, say), while others are enjoying cheaper foreign goods and services and firms increase their profits by locating abroad.

I credit Trump for stating the problem.  His solutions to it are, however, gobbledygook.  As are his solutions to most everything.

* Different sites check somewhat different assertions.  Here are a few more fact check sites for you to peruse:  CNN, USA TodayPolitifact.

** The Syrian civil war might have happened even in the absence of the Iraq invasion, and regional and religious politics also pay the role.  But it's also true that some within ISIS are fighting a grudge war against the West, with roots in the early crusades, and that those same theologians see both sides only in terms of religions.  This does not negate the crucial and harmful role Western imperialism and greed for oil have had in creating the current situation.  But no one person, not even Hillary Clinton!, can be seen as the architect of ISIS.

Monday, September 26, 2016

More on the False Equivalence in The 2016 Presidential Elections

Paul Krugman writes about the false equivalence phenomenon in how the media has handled the two presidential candidates:

If Donald Trump becomes president, the news media will bear a large share of the blame. I know some (many) journalists are busy denying responsibility, but this is absurd, and I think they know it. As Nick Kristof says, polls showing that the public considers Hillary Clinton, a minor fibber at most, less trustworthy than a pathological liar is prima facie evidence of massive media failure.

Or put it this way:  We have a spelling bee in the final round of questions. The winner will run the world.  One candidate is asked to spell "huge", the other candidate is asked to spell "prospicience."

Or put it this way:  One candidate's 'errors and flaws' are subjected to a microscope, the other candidate's 'errors and flaws' are viewed through the kind of veil that was used to film romantic moments and happy endings in old movies*.  At the same time, one candidate's expertise and experience are ignored, the other candidate's lack of expertise and lack of experience are also ignored.  That, my friends is not equivalent treatment.

Or put it this way:  One candidate is a racist, sexist turnip-head with no real qualifications for the job he wants, unless one believes that playing a bully in reality television is such a qualification**.

The other is a career politician.

Yet the false equivalency approach means that "Trump being Trump" is accepted as an excuse for the misogyny and the racism, whereas there is no such equivalence of "Hillary Clinton being Hillary Clinton" for anything she does or is accused of doing.

I see some change in the false equivalence approach, to give some in the media credit where credit is due.  But the damage is probably already done.

* These "errors and flaws" are not intended to be read as being of the same size and/or nature.

**  With apologies to upstanding turnips everywhere.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Glenn Reynolds. On The Self-Harm Caused by Tweeting

My apologies for the quiet on this here blog.  Life and its troubles intervened.

Glenn Reynolds, a law professor ( who therefore should know better) and a conservative pundit, was temporarily suspended from Twitter for this tweet:

Reynolds is not my favorite flavor of the month*.  It's also worth noting that another right-wing pundit has been permanently suspended from Twitter for tweets which cross the line from pretend-performance-art to inciting real hatred toward other people and groups**.

Still,  there's something wider I want to say about this case, something which might matter to others than weird propagandists on Twitter. 

Reynolds defends the above tweet by saying, among other things, that he has sent off over 580,000 tweets, and they can't all be perfect.

But here's the thing:  Every single of those 580,000+ tweets can be saved, every single of them equals etching its message on the tissues of the universe , and every single one will be interpreted by someone as if it resulted from careful, slow and rational thought.

Twitter is a game***, or several games in one box.  There's the sub-game of ganging up on people, threatening people, doxxing people and so on.  There's the sub-game of trying to get people banned when they don't deserve to be banned****, there's the sub-game of sending hordes, small or large, to attack specific individuals.

Now, all those are nasty sub-games.  But the ones we all must play are the games of seemingly chatting with a few individuals while the message goes to the universe, the games of having trouble with the small number of characters allowed for a tweet, and the resulting game of being misunderstood, with various consequences.  There's the game of mixing up opinion with facts, of presenting false evidence in a way which is tough to correct,  and there's the game of taking things out of context.

Or so I think, and that's why I can't understand why people don't plait their fingers or stuff them into mittens or, if all else fails, chew them off, when they get angry while tweeting.  Because nothing good follows from the instinctive reaction of slashing back at someone without even having taken one breath first.


*  A couple of examples of Reynolds' views on women and such can be found in this post and in this one.

** You can read more about the pundit described in that link here and here.

***  I'm not covering here the obviously useful and beneficial aspects of Twitter which are not really games.

***  This does not apply to Instapundit/Reynolds, but I have seen it done on Twitter.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Dish-Draining Cabinet

This year was the 120th anniversary of the birth of Maiju Gebhard.  I bet you don't know who she was. 

She was the Finnish inventor of a dish draining cabinet/cupboard (though similar inventions were earlier patented in the US by Louise R. Krause in 1932 and Angiolina Scheuermann in 1929).  Here's one picture of what a dish draining cabinet is:

By Jarno Elonen - photo taken by Jarno Elonen, Public Domain,

The doors close, and the cabinet is right above the sink area.  Note the plastic-covered metal grids which create the bottoms of the racks.  They allow someone washing the dishes by hand to just put them into the cabinet and then close the doors.  No drying is necessary, and, indeed, the everyday dishes can just live in the cabinet, to be taken out of it when needed.

The dish draining cabinet became common in Finnish households, though not elsewhere.  Its industrial production began in 1948 and the plastic-covered metal wire grids were introduced in 1954.  The sizes were standardized in the early 1980s.

The introduction of the dishwasher made the dish draining cabinet less useful, of course.

This story is an example of the era when some women began studying the ergonomics of housework and tried to rationalize and reduce the labor of housewives. 

But I also like it because the dish draining cabinet or cupboard probably didn't cost much more to build than the ordinary kind of cabinet, yet saved labor for years to come (by making drying by hand unnecessary and by saving steps because the cabinet was right above the sink).  It might have even been more hygienic than the practice of drying dishes by hand.

Besides, there's a "duh, that's obviously a good idea!" feeling about the whole thing.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The New Times-CBS Presidential Race Poll. How Are White Men And White Women Planning To Vote?

A new Times-CBS poll suggests that the presidential race is tightening, though it's worth remembering that the questions were asked when Hillary Clinton was receiving even more negative public attention than she usually does.  Here's the summary table from the poll:

Polls are not elections, of course, and direct comparisons with past elections are not without problems.  Still, I decided to look at two rows in that table in order to see how they compare to what happened in the 2012 presidential election and in the 2014 mid-term elections.

Those two rows are the percentages of likely voters who are white women and white men*.  In the above table white men go for Trump 57-33, while white women narrowly go for Clinton 46-45.

What happened in 2012?  Sixty-two percent of white men voted for Romney, 56% of white women did.  Those figures reflect the traditional party split among American whites.  The reasons for that split are many.  In the 2012 presidential election these reasons were suggested:**

Without much doubt, attitudes about race—and even outright racism—played a role, although one that is hard to quantify. But it’s far from the only thing. Income is important. On average, white men and women tend to be richer than non-whites, and voting Republican is strongly correlated with income. (In families that made less than a hundred thousand dollars a year, Obama won by eight points. In families that made more than a hundred thousand dollars a year, Romney won by ten points.) Age is another factor. Whites, on average, tend to be older than non-whites, and older people (male and female) tend to vote Republican in greater numbers. Religion is also part of the story. Most white women, like most white men, are churchgoing Christians, a group that is strongly Republican—especially evangelicals, who voted for Romney by almost four to one. Then there is ideology. Just as there are conservative men, there are conservative women.

The 2014 midterm voting patterns reinforce the above arguments:  Sixty-four percent of white men voted Republican in that election, and so did 56% of white women. 

Is there anything useful we might glean from those comparisons, given that the 2016 numbers come from a poll, that third-party candidates complicate analysis and so on?

I believe that a Trump-As-A-Misogynistic-Asshat*** effect is visible in those findings, especially when it comes to the possible voting patterns of white women this year.  The majority of white women have traditionally voted for Republicans, but that may not necessarily be the case this year.

And the difference is because the man who is running on the Republican ticket this time is a man who doesn't even bother to hide his sexism the way past Republican candidates have hidden it.

But is there an effect from the Trump-As-A-Know-Nothing candidate?  I'm not sure, because I don't have the time to do the kind of digging that would be required to guarantee that the numbers from various years are at least somewhat comparable.   But it looks like there might be one.


*  Because these are still the largest voter groups and because Trump's support is especially strong among white men.  It's not weak among white women, either, and both these numbers make me sad.  Trump is a racist and sexist egomaniac.  That so many people are fine with that makes me sad and cynical.

**  That paragraph is about the 2012 elections where racism had a more open role to play.  Sexism will take a comparable role in the 2016 elections.

Note, though, that the quoted explanation doesn't quite explain why in 2016 whites without college education might prefer Trump 58-32, whereas whites with college education prefer Clinton 51-40.  The latter group has the higher income.  But the case of one Donald Trump might be exceptional.

**  He is also a racist asshat, a person knowing very little about the job he is applying for, a person who seems unable to contain his own temper tantrums, and a person who just might decide to nuke some country because he had a bad-hair day.  Which is every day of the year.