Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Fundraising, The Final Day!


You can still give to this blog to cover the costs and the chocolate which fuels my engines.  Thanks to all who have contributed, mwah.  And yes, the final day really should have been Friday but I charge nothing for late payments.

In other news, my humerus bone break is growing callus, the precursor to bone (though it looks like mold in the x-ray pics)*.  It also hurts less, and physical therapy should begin this week.  I'm recording all the monetary information for a participatory study in health care economics! 

Knitting needles are excellent for scratching an itching-and-healing arm in an  immobilizer, but hot weather doesn't help.  Still, recovery is good, and I'm probably going to remain more ambidextrous.

That's my news.  What are yours?

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*Looking at those x-rays made me laugh at the idea that humans are the crown of creation.  Start with a poorly designed rickety framework and then cover it with meat?  Worms are a better initial idea but they need hands and wheels.  Birds are an even better idea, though once again they need hands.

Speed-Posting, 5/26/15: Tanith Lee, Women in Palmyra and Bruce Bartlett on Fox News



1.  RIP Tanith Lee, the master of dark fantasy.  She is one of the writers whose books people recommended to me and whom I read, to the extent the local library would allow, but no more.  Now I regret the fuzzy idea I had of reading more of her some time later.

2.  The Islamic State has taken over the cities of Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria.  Among all the horrors that are taking place it's worth noting that it took only about a day after the invasion of Palmyra for IS to start preaching in the mosques that all women must cover their faces or be flogged.

It's not that the orders are to be compared with the beheadings and kidnappings and the general butchering IS is so fond of, but note the central role the control of women has in their ideology.  The orders of proper dress for women couldn't wait until the first round of killings were finished.

Needless to say, there's nothing about the covering of the face in the Koran; only about the covering of the bosom.  But conservative extremist religion always centers on the control of women.   And strict sex-segregation means that women cannot now get adequate health care inside the "caliphate" because male doctors can't treat women and there are too few female doctors and nurses.

3.  Bruce Bartlett has written an article about the self-induced brain-washing (lefty view) or brain-cleansing (righty view) watching Fox News can cause.  You can download the article here.

I read it.  Bartlett gives statistics about the ignorance effect:  In several categories Fox News watchers know less about political events than those who don't watch any news.  But his piece is not original research, and I was left asking why there's a whole television channel for one party but not for the other party.  Also what planet Fox's female commentators come from and whether looking like a Barbie doll is the first requirement.  But obviousle men don't have to look like the boyfriend called Ken, or have tiger-eye makeup.

Watching Fox (which I did a few weeks ago) is initially hilarious.  Then you start feeling you can't breathe, so you start analyzing what is removing the oxygen from the room.  Is it the constant repetitions of the same news, most about the perfidy of Obama or complete fluff?  Or is it the utter absence of news you see covered everywhere else?   Or all the messages crawling across the screen?  If you follow those you wouldn't be surprised to read that Democrats cause cancer.

On the other hand, Bartlett notes that Fox News  may not ultimately help Republicans in elections, because it flames the anger of conservatives and moves them even further rightwards.  Then those same conservatives vote for very extremist candidates in the primaries, and you get the tea-partiers.

It could be the case that we all live in similar ideological bubbles, could be.  But I try to follow news from various outlets and from several countries, and the Fox world stands out as belonging to a different galaxy.

 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day 2015


You might like the links in my post for Memorial Day 2013.

This year I'm blocked.  To write about this day in depth requires grave-digging, deep explorations into the reasons for wars, the evaluation of the need for any particular one of them, the meaning of sacrifice, voluntary or possibly not, the concept of "supporting" troops if you are not willing to extend that past bumper stickers, and even deeper dives into the human psyche and the exchanges between groups of humans.

It's easier to pat the soil on those graves and to plant some violets on them.  Or at least to remember.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

On The Duggar Ideology: Multiply At Any Cost.


Many have written about the recently revealed child molestation accusations against Josh Duggar, the oldest son of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, the Quiverfull parents of nineteen children whose lives are depicted in a now (temporarily?) withdrawn reality show 19 Kids and Counting.

The basic ideology of the Quiverfull movement is well summarized by the description of Kathryn Joyce's book* about the Christian patriarchy cult:

Kathryn Joyce's fascinating introduction to the world of the patriarchy movement and Quiverfull families examines the twenty-first-century women and men who proclaim self-sacrifice and submission as model virtues of womanhood—and as modes of warfare on behalf of Christ. Here, women live within stringently enforced doctrines of wifely submission and male headship, and live by the Quiverfull philosophy of letting God give them as many children as possible so as to win the religion and culture wars through demographic means.
Hence the attempt to maximize family size, even if that might lead to the impossibility of adequately feeding, caring for, or supervising all those children.  They are arrows in the war against the infidels, and the manufacture of the maximum number of such arrows requires the women's submission and compliance.

This is the proper background for interpreting what happened after Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar found that their fourteen-year-old son had fondled the breasts and genitals of minor girls, many of them apparently his own sisters, while they were supposedly asleep.  The son was sent to therapy or perhaps just away for a while, a police officer (later sentenced for child pornography) gave him a stern speech and the girls who were fondled presumably forgave him.

The Duggars apologized for those events:
Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives. When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before. Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible, each one of our family members drew closer to God.   We pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family. We have challenges and struggles everyday. It is one of the reasons we treasure our faith so much because God’s kindness and goodness and forgiveness are extended to us — even though we are so undeserving. We hope somehow the story of our journey — the good times and the difficult times — cause you to see the kindness of God and learn that He can bring you through anything.

Let me see what's included there:  God's forgiveness?  Check.  What the family gained from the events?  Check.  Josh's "bad mistakes?  Sort of check.

What the daughters went through?

Crickets...

And that's the fundamental problem with the Quiverfull ideology and those right-wing Christian beliefs which suggest that victims of abuse should bear responsibility for it happening, that God may have allowed it because of something the victim did or failed to do.

I stress this ideology, because it is what all the choices** of Duggars are based on and it is ultimately what their reality show is disseminating as a good conservative way of life.
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*I strongly recommend that book, by the way.  Kathryn's work is always painstaking and objective.
**Read that.  It's funny.  Then send me money.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Lock Up Your Women. Advice from Chechnya.


Or from its president, to men in his country and probably everywhere.  It's always educational to realize how very rare gender equality is in this world, of course, though I hate being reminded of that.  But in a slightly different sense this whole story really is about a place where powerful men don't even have to pretend to view women as co-citizens.

Here's what happened:

 Ramzan A. Kadyrov, the pugnacious president of the southern Republic of Chechnya and a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin, finally had enough Wednesday of social media users’ mocking him relentlessly for seeming to push polygamy.

His solution? Keep women locked up at home and off social media.
“Lock them in, do not let them go out, and they will not post anything,” Mr. Kadyrov said in a video to a sheepish group of men and women who kept their arms folded across their chests and their eyes firmly on the ground during the harangue.


The scene, filmed at what appears to be his government palace and broadcast on local television, was prompted by what Mr. Kadyrov, who has long shown a flair for hyperbole, described as “The Wedding of the Millennium.”


The social media explosion was set off last weekend in Grozny, the Chechen capital, when a 17-year-old bride was married off to a pal of Mr. Kadyrov’s, a district police chief pushing 50 and reportedly already married.




The first report of the betrothal had emerged in late April in the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, which reported that the police chief, Nazhud Guchigov, had ordered the young woman’s parents to hand her over by May 2 or he would take her by force.

After the article was published, Mr. Kadyrov jumped into the action, saying he had investigated the marriage proposal and found both the young bride, Kheda Goylabiyeva, and her family agreeable.

Poor, poor bride.  She looks scared and miserable in her wedding dress, while the thirty years older groom looks, well, determined and expectant.

But wait!  There's more:

Pavel Astakhov, the Kremlin official who is supposed to protect children’s rights in Russia, defended the practice of older men taking young brides. During a radio interview, he suggested that was especially the case in places like Chechnya where women were “shriveled” by the age of 27, looking at that age like most Russian women do at 50.
His remarks prompted another wave of outrage, with hundreds of Russian women in their 20s posting pictures with the hashtag #wrinkledwomen. Mr. Astakhov apologized, saying that women of all ages were “wonderful and delightful.”
Astakhov is the officer who is supposed to protect children's rights in Russia!  I wonder how he was chosen for the job.

Astakhov's apology is worth quoting in full, because it so clearly reflects traditional gender roles and because it shows he doesn't get it at all:

 "Women of any age are splendid and adorable," he writes. "God created Woman so that we could love her, defend her, take care of her, glorify her. A clumsy comparison, a rash word taken out of the context of discourse cannot change my attitude to the Fair Sex. I've loved, love and shall love and respect [them]! I apologize for the mistake I've made!"

Mmm.  Tastes like 1950s America to me.

There are two points to this post:  

First, most of this globe is terrible on gender equity, some places being pure hell (Islamic State) and many others showing the types of values this story demonstrates, or "traditional" values which almost always define women as second-class citizens whose concerns can be fairly safely ignored in most politics.

Second, things are changing, albeit slowly.  Russian women protested the forced marriage of a young girl to a district police chief and the fact that this police officer (!) was breaking the law by already having at least one wife, and they also ridiculed the inanities which leaked out of Astakhov's mouth.  That horse cannot be returned to its patriarchal stable.

Still, isn't the statement "lock up your women"  just utterly delicious?  It's the perfect summary of assumed male supremacy:  The women are yours and you have the right to lock them up.*

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*This doesn't mean that Russian or Chechen men would necessarily think like that. But president Kadyrov clearly does.





Thursday, May 21, 2015

Fundraising Day Four. On Fox News As The Alternative To Me.


You got yesterday off from my whining!  And tomorrow is the last day.  Thanks for your contributions to this blog.  Not only the financial ones!

My arm is still broken, but it doesn't hurt much.  I will find out tomorrow what happens next.

Staccato writing...  That and conciseness are my trademarks, together with a measly vocabulary.

I was going to write about The Endangered White Guys Television which is Fox News.  Even their woman-dominated program is called Outnumbered!  But instead of a long rumination on that topic, let me just quote from Media Matters for America:

Fox's Tantaros: "The Last Acceptable Form Of Discrimination In This Country Is Against White Men"

Fox Host To Actresses Suffering Pay Discrimination: "Be Grateful" You Get To Star Alongside Famous Men

Andrea Tantaros: "I Do Think There's Different Wiring Between Men And Women, Where Women May Want To Go Have Kids And Stay At Home"

Fox Business' Gasparino: "Overt Feminization Of Our Culture" Has Created A Situation Where "Men Are Becoming Women"

And that's just in the last ten days or so!  I could go on for a long time about the illogicality of being "wired" to stay at home (what happened to those nomadic hunter-gatherers who evolutionary psychologists believe were the group for all that wiring?  or are we back in the 1970s cave-wife cartoons?) and the awkward juxtapositioning of "natural" sex roles with the idea that men are now becoming women (heh).

See what you get if you don't support this blog?

#SayHerName


Is trending on Twitter.  It's about the Black Lives Matter movement, only this time about Black Women's and Girls' Lives mattering.  The overall context is complex, having to do with the lost childhoods of black girls, racist versions of sexism and sexist versions of racism, income inequality, wings cut short before the time to fly and much more.

But it is also about the way the police treats black women and about the way that treatment doesn't quite produce the same protests as similar outrages experienced by black men.

I don't have statistical data on the gender distribution of those who are killed by the police, or the underlying data on contacts with the police by men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, but even if men die more frequently in the hands of the police, it still looks like their individual cases get more coverage and more protests.  For example:

It is clear that #BlackLivesMatter struggles to generate as much concern for the safety and welfare of black women as it does for black men. The death of Natasha McKenna in the Fairfax County jail is a case in point.

McKenna, who suffered from mental illness, was shocked four times with a Taser stun gun by a sheriff’s deputy. She was in coma for several days before she died. A “Students March for Natasha McKenna” was supposed to have been held earlier in May to protest her death, which was ruled accidental. But the march has been postponed because of a lack of participation.
A meeting to discuss ways to drum up more interest in the march was scheduled for Tuesday in Fairfax City. More than 300 were invited on Facebook. Only 35 have confirmed, with 26 saying maybe.

We must do better.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Today's Research Popularization Fail


Several summaries of a study about online dating attracted my beady eyes recently.  The study, supposedly telling us that more groomed dating photographs  affect heterosexual men and women differently, looked useful grist for my mill.  For instance:

Researchers at the University of Connecticut conducted an experiment to determine how people judged each other based on their online dating profile photos. They presented 671 volunteers with a single photo that was either casual or enhanced and of a man or a woman. Researchers reported that men were less likely to trust women who posted an "enhanced" photo with good angles, good lighting and make-up.
But that didn't stop the men wanting to date those women anyway, said lead study author Rory McGloin, a communications professor at UConn.
"They thought she was more attractive, they wanted to go on a date with her ... but they didn't trust her," McGloin said.

On the flip side, women found men with enhanced photos to be more trustworthy, according to their findings, which is set to be presented at the International Communication Association annual conference later this month.
Bolds are mine, and they are very important bolds.

Suppose that I tell you my research shows that hats created from aluminum foil really do keep Fox News from corrupting your brain.  Suppose that I tell you I tested this with hundreds of individuals.  But nope, you CANNOT see the research paper, even though all you have is my word about the results!  After all, I'm going to read it aloud to some colleagues in a few weeks!

I'm not accusing the researchers of making anything up.  But to popularize a paper which nobody can get hold of is extremely bad manners.  Even unethical, because of this:

Let's say that some paper popularized this way turns out to be utter rubbish (such as my tinfoil study).  When the criticisms come in, the popularizers are no longer at all interested in correcting their earlier messages, so readers are left believing in lies.  Here's one example of a retracted study which was widely popularized, but its retraction got no publicity.  More examples here.

For the sake of completeness I should mention that I asked Mr. McGloin for the paper by e-mail.  That was ten days ago, but if I get his answer I will write more about online dating and mating.



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Fundraising Day Two. Flat Heels, Ties Or Codpieces?


I bet you wonder if this begging thing ends soon...  I'm using the donations to partially gauge readership etc., to learn if I should go on or not.  That's today's knot to unravel.

The instructions for giving are in the left column.

The rest of the title has to do with this story:

The Cannes Film Festival is reportedly not allowing women into screenings if they’re wearing flat shoes. I’m not sure I could’ve come up with a better metaphor for sexism in the film industry if I was really, really trying. If you wrote this into a novel about sexism in the film industry, it would seem heavy-handed. “Too much,” your editor would say. “Tone it down.”
Flatgate erupted on Twitter this week after several women were apparently turned away from a red carpet screening of Cate Blanchett’s new movie Carol because they were in the demon flats.

So I lean back and ask if this is any different from men having to wear ties (does the Cannes Film Festival require that?) or visible codpieces, perhaps with tassels (that could be fun)?

The main difference is that high heels have possibly serious health consequences for their wearers (you could even fall and break your humerus!  though I fell barefooted), and unless ties are so tight as to strangle the wearer, my other examples do not.  And the rule, if real, discriminates against women who already have health problems which make heels impossible to wear.
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Added later:  Three guys plan to wear high heels in solidarity.



The Regrets Of History. By David Brooks.


Brooks' newest column is on the inexplicable and illogical Bush decision to invade Iraq, because of bin Laden who was known not to be there and because of oil, naturally.  If we believe Brooks, history is HARD to learn:

Which brings us to Iraq. From the current vantage point, the decision to go to war was a clear misjudgment, made by President George W. Bush and supported by 72 percent of the American public who were polled at the time. I supported it, too.
What can be learned?

...

The Iraq war error reminds us of the need for epistemological modesty. We don’t know much about the world, and much of our information is wrong. A successful president has to make decisions while radiating hesitancy, staying open-minded in the face of new evidence, not falling into the traps that afflict those who possess excessive self-confidence.

Time to tear out whatever hair we might have left.  The whole fiasco was a fiasco, decisions made by politicians who acted like they had never read about the history of Iraq, the arbitrary nature of the country, the Sunnis and the Shias and the Kurds.  For goddess' sake, Bush sent out freshly-hatched AynRandians to build Free Markets there!

As I said (repeatedly), it was a fiasco, and nothing Brooks wrote makes it any less so.  It's NOT the case that those in power can just make up policy as they go (well, it worked in Russia..).  That's a high school student essay level work.  And no, it doesn't make any difference if the majority of Americans supported the invasion, because they were not the experts who needed to be heard.

Then Brooks, the eternal optimistic preacher, tells us that the farce, the fiasco, was at least a partial success.  Ask what people fleeing Ramadi think of that!  Sadly, you can't ask the opinions of all those who died because of the invasion.

ISIS would probably exist even in the absence of the Bush invasion, because its real breeding grounds were in Syria. But surely the American invasion and the removal of Sunnis from power prepared the fields in Iraq for its seeds of religious fanaticism, cruelty, slavery and extreme Saudi-type patriarchy, the harvest to be watered with blood.