Creative Destruction

December 12, 2006

The Definition of Superhero

Filed under: Art,Content-lite,Popular Culture — Ampersand @ 12:58 pm

This post is a total geek-out; non-geeky readers will want to scroll on past this one. Later today, I’ll also post this week’s baby blogging (sorry for being late on it!).

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Are “Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them” shirts A-OK with NOW?

Filed under: Feminist Issues — Daran @ 4:16 am

This formerly open thread is now restricted to discussing this comment by Ebbtide from another thread:

“How is it that even though “the overwhelming majority of violence and exploitation is done to male characters.”, it doesn’t occur to people to ask whether or not this is consistently misandrist?”

Oh, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s for the same reason that “Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them” shirts are just A-OK with NOW…

Update (22 December): Marcella has posted a similar story over at Alas.

Rules for participants in the comments (including co-bloggers/moderators) of all of my threads.

  1. Keep it civil. Try to keep each other civil.
  2. Don’t raise new topics or issues not reasonably responsive to what has been said before in the thread.
  3. Topic drift is not discouraged so long as each comment is reasonably responsive to the comment to which it replies. However I reserve the right to divert a digression into another thread.
  4. Don’t make controvertial claims unless you are prepared to support them precisely as you made them with evidence.
  5. If you see that you have made a mistake, post a correction. If your error has caused offense, correct it and apologise.
  6. You may ask that a new thread be started on a topic of your choice. I do not promise to give you one.
  7. Discussion of my moderation of a thread is allowed in that thread.
  8. You may not discuss these rules. If you want to discuss these rules, ask for a thread to discuss them in.
  9. I may change the rules if I find them to be not conducive to intelligent, civil discussion.
  10. I will try to moderate with a kind word, failing that, with harsh words. Magic powers are a last resort.
  11. Moderators, please be proactive in moderating my threads according to these rules. That includes moderating me. I reserve the right to overrule you.

Edited to add the last two rules. Moderators may edit this post to endorse these rules if they want them to apply to their threads too.

DaRain Man

Filed under: Blogosphere — Daran @ 2:29 am

Lifts head above parapet, and looks wearily from side to side

Does anyone remember the film “Rain Man“, and how the titular character, a profoundly autistic “savant”, was enraptured by the Abbott and Costello Skit “Who’s on First?” To him it’s a puzzle. He tries to figure out what it means, but he can’t solve the problem, because there is no solution. It doesn’t mean anything. But Raymond can’t see this, so he keeps on trying to figure it out.

I am an Aspie. Asperger’s syndrome is a neurological condition classified as an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). How these conditions relate to each other, indeed whether there is a true difference between Asperger’s, “traditional” (Kammer’s) Autism, “Savantism”, and other ASDs and whether it should even be considered a “disorder” are highly contested issues. For me, it creates difficulties in interpetting some neurotypical (meaning non-ASD) utterances.

It was me who derailed the thread, in comment #4, and I’m very sorry for that. I didn’t realise that Q Grrl’s comment #3 wasn’t intended to be parsed for meaning. It wasn’t even grammatical. It was the textual equivalent of a scream. If Q Grrl wants to scream at antifeminists, who am I to say she can’t?

But I did try to parse if for meaning, and the meaning I got out of it was the proposition ‘Those who say “women lie about rape” should also say “men lie about rape”‘. Since I disagree that antifeminists should be required to say “men lie about rape” I proceeded to argue against that proposition. Everything that has happened in this thread since then (apart from a second derailment initiated by what I guess was another scream, this time by ms_xeno) has been a series of arguments, counter-arguments, and counter-counter-arguments between DaRain Man, and the rest of you, in support of our various position as to who exactly is on first. And we’re still arguing it.

It’s an interesting question, and if anyone else is interested, I suggest we continue the discussion here. But I think I should let the rest of you folk get back to discussing the real topic, which was Marcella’s original post.

You may now all commence (or resume) screaming at me.

Posted to Alas. Also crossposted to Creative Destruction and Daran’s Blog.

Edited to add: Thanks to curiousgyrl whose comments lead me to this insight.

December 11, 2006

Who’s on First?

Filed under: Feminist Issues — Daran @ 11:53 am

Post deleted by author because it was based on a misunderstanding, and it was being misunderstood by others. Easier to start anew than to try to clean up the mess. See this post for an explanation.

I apologise to CD posters and commenters for dragging you all into this mess.

Comments are still open.

Use Iraq in a Two-State Solution to the Palestinian Situation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Robert @ 3:22 am

Let’s kill two birds with one stone.

Let’s give the Palestinians a state in the middle of Iraq. Give it a nice big infusion of US dollars and US infrastructure, and then let it govern itself internally as an autonomous statelet akin to Lesotho under the old South African regime. Invite the other Arab nations to send material support to this new Palestine as it grows and prospers.

In the rest of Iraq, this provides a new source for desperately needed national unity: the new, hated Palestinian minority.  Since the Palestinians will mostly be hundreds of miles away, the dislike can be merely cordial and expressed in violent soccer games. Any Palestinians who are honestly anti-Semitic will be highly pleased at the relative absence of Jews.

The Iraqis will of course be very angry at us for doing this. This is actually good for us, because it might replace some of their anger at us for effectively trashing their country. On the other hand, if we pitch the deal right, they might end up not hating it so much. Surely we’d have to buy an awful lot of land from an awful lot of people – perhaps people who wouldn’t mind getting a good market price for land they currently don’t want to live on. That makes a little more room for the Palestinians, too, and means that they aren’t going to arrive to an empty desert. And I’m sure the government of Iraq could see the benefit of a bunch of US-built infrastructure in the middle of the country.

In Israel, the Israelis and whichever Palestinians decide to throw their lot in with the hated Jewish oppressor will be happy. Presumably enough Palestinians will stay for the sake of their jobs that the region won’t be thrown into economic chaos, but I imagine they will manage. Since I assume that any Palestinian who honestly hates the Jews will toddle off to the new homeland, hopefully terrorism and violence there will be greatly reduced.

Other than the cost to us, I can’t see a downside.

December 10, 2006

Malware Gangs using ‘KGB-tactics’ to Recruit Tech Grads

Filed under: Uncategorized — Daran @ 5:20 pm

Important if true:

Organised crime is “grooming” a new generation of would-be cybercriminals using tactics which echo those used by the KGB to recruit operatives at the height of the cold war, according to a new blockbuster study by net security firm McAfee.

McAfee’s second annual Virtual Criminology report sensationally claims that crime gangs are targeting academic high-fliers in much the way Soviet intelligence agencies recruited spies such as notorious traitor Kim Philby in the 1940s. The study, which we reckon might prove a plausible basis for the next Tom Clancy blockbuster, suggests that net savvy teens as young as 14 are being “attracted into cybercrime by the celebrity status of hi-tech criminals and the promise of making money without the risks associated with traditional crime”.

I could do with a laugh right now.

Filed under: Content-lite,Humor — Daran @ 5:09 pm

If anyone else is feeling the same way, then this is hilarious:

Panting in Anticipation.

Target Remains

Filed under: Election 2006 — Off Colfax @ 4:21 am

Tonight, I feel alot like the unnamed tank commander in Independence Day.

Here we have a man who had the political equivalent of a ten-megaton nuclear warhead launched at his head:

Bribery scandals which amounted to being a paid employee of a foreign government. Enough old-fashioned legwork-and-shoe-leather-style reporting from multiple news agencies that uncovered the actual proof required and showed it on national television. Then he essentially renegs on the verbal contract with his employers and runs out of town with a briefcase full of hundred-dollar bills. And finally, the damning evidence of the actual cold hard cash is found in the offending man’s freezer.

In a year like this, I thought it impossible that a corrupt politician would not fall along the electoral wayside. But I see the news reports out of New Orleans and can only repeat what the tank commander said:

Negative. Target remains.

Should this unethical crook be counted amongst the members in good standing when Congress reopens in January, and even attempt to get his old seat on the Committee on the Budget back, then Speaker-elect Pelosi will have handed the new Republican Minority its first moral victory of the 110th Congress: Democrats are just as corrupt as we are, but at least we have the fortitude to remove our corrupt officials from office.

In a year of great victories for the Democratic Party, it really is tough to go out on a down-note like this one. So it is up to the concerned citizens of America, namely those of us who live in districts represented by Democrats, to lobby our representatives to keep one William Jefferson as far from a position of power as possible, and then completely strip him of his office once the Department of Justice gets off its collective hands and brings an indictment down upon his head.

Anything less will only help bring a screeching halt to any ethical reform that the 110th Congress may accomplish.

December 9, 2006

Watch the hands, people

Filed under: Ethics,Race and Racism — Tuomas @ 10:30 pm

There has been lot of back and forth on affirmative action in this site. As an outside observer, I have noted something:

Affirmative action is supported from the premises of:

1) Whites (or white men) are historically privileged

2) Blacks are historically and currently oppressed [added the word currently as an edit]

3) In addition, other groups are sometimes supported with the point 1 while replacing “Black” with something else

4) Whites, and the government, are responsible for fixing points 1 and 2.

Okay. Let’s assume this is true (to some extent, I think it is). Now, the government, and thus whites via proxy are going to compensate this to Blacks.

This compensations is called “affirmative action”, or “positive discrimination”. It is argued that it doesn’t hurt Whites as a group. This is strictly speaking true, depending on how one defines group.

Let me demonstrate this with an example (names via this (pardon the male-centredness, for the sake of example).

Now that the audience is led to believe that whites and the government are going to give something to blacks to compensate for past and present injustices, and this is exactly what the audience thinks they are seeing. Watch the process:

***

Jake, Connor, Tanner, Wyatt and Cody decide that they feel bad for treating DeShawn like crap , and decide to compensate this to DeShawn.

As a result, Fred who was in the closest competition with DeShawn loses his place to DeShawn.

DeShawn is happy, Jake, Connor, Tanner, Wyatt and Cody are happy, having shown their generous nature to each other and DeShawn. Only Fred is not happy.

Even if Fred agrees that DeShawn should be helped, but wonders what exactly Jake, Connor, Tanner, Wyatt and Cody gave up, and why should he be the only one who suffers, they can answer:

“Sorry Fred, we already did our part. We decided that DeShawn should get your place. Now shut up and don’t be so darn entitled.”

***

The fact that neither the government, Jake, Connor, Tanner, Wyatt or Cody haven’t actually given anything of their own is obscured in this process. The collective moral responsiblity — that is established in premises 1 and 2 — is externalized to inviduals who are then scapegoated for the whole process should they dare to complain.

The system is perfect. Only a tiny minority of whites have to actually give up something, while the vast majority of whites get to feel moral about it. And they also get to feel morally superior to the tiny minority who actually have to do something if they are not being “team players” about it.

Or, in leftspeak:

Anti-affirmative action lawsuits are not put forward by whites who would have gotten in to a selective college if only affirmative action didn’t exist. They’re put forward by whites who have such a strong sense of entitlement that they can’t admit they failed to gain admission because, on the merits, they didn’t deserve admission.

Add to this the fact that the cost is also externalized to Asians.

Added: In the surface, Affirmative Action is is about giving “points”. This is a smokescreen, the points can be adjusted just as needed. They are the acraba dabra of a magician. The only thing that changes hands in the real world are the college admissions of Fred (or Ling) and DeShawn.

[edited to make the thing clearer and addendums]

[fixed the allegory]

December 8, 2006

The Quintessence of Victim-Blaming

Filed under: Blogosphere,Feminist Issues — Daran @ 6:02 pm

The comments thread of my previous post here on Creative Destruction has been completely derailed. I wanted to talk about Realpolitik in the Blogosphere (and why liberalism always loses), and for some reason, everyone’s talking about a flame war that CD wasn’t even involved in. I don’t mind of course. Quite the opposite: I’m really grateful for the opportunity to discuss this, and I’d rather it were on CD, where I have the greater audience.

But if it’s to be discussed here, I’d rather it happen in the comments, through the positive actions of the CD constituency, than foist in on them by way of posts. So I will continue only to raise issues arising which have wider significance, and leave the “sordid details” to the comments or on my own blog.

I maintain that I am completely innocent of culpability for what happened. Amp argues that I’m not. In particular he claims that two of my posts as they were written were inherently objectionable and also that they “galvanised” the attack against me.

I agree that the first post was rendered inherently objectionable by a typo, and I apologise to Q grrl and the other feminists for that. I disagree that the second post was, but whether it was or wasn’t is a “sordid detail” which I’ll take up with him in the comments. It’s this “galvanised” argument I want to focus on. This is not merely victim-blaming. It is the quintessence of victim-blaming. There are two forms of the argument – a forward, and a backward version.

Forward

The forward version takes the following form:

  1. The Victim(s) does X
  2. which galvanises
  3. the Attacker(s) to do Y,
  4. where Y is inherently offensive against the Victim,
  5. Y does not legitimately meet the Attacker’s needs resulting from X,
  6. and the Victim is blamed.

Counterexample: Suppose you were to physically attack me, and in the process of defending myself I hit you. It would not be victim-blaming to blame you for your own injury, because hitting you was a legitimate way for me to meet my need for self-defence arising from your attack.

If instead I beat you to a pulp, then the argument is victim-blaming. In particular it is an example of the “offensive victim” variant, which I’ll discuss below:


Offensive Victim

Example: “The Palestinians got what was coming them, firing rockets into Israel like that.”

In this variant of the argument, X is (or is characterised to be) an offensive act, while the disproportionate nature of the response is justified, downplayed, or ignored.


Stupid Victim

Example: “I heard that he hit her again. Can’t say I’m surprised, I knew he was bad news the moment I saw him”.


Unguarded Victim

Example: “Why doesn’t she just leave him?”

The victim is blamed for failing to protect himself. There is a considerable overlap with the Stupid Victim. The Unguarded Victim is often given “advice”. For example, on how not to get raped.

And vice versa. It is very difficult to offer genuine anti-rape self-help advice to women, particularly feminist women, precisely because it is perceived as victim-blaming. What distinguishes real advice from victim-blaming is that real advice recommends appropriate avoidance and response to likely danger scenarios, while victim-blaming “advice” tries to “prevent” the rape that just happened, and recommends stereotypical virtuous behaviour as a purported defence against stereotypical attacks.


Innocent Victim

Example: “She was asking for it, dressed like that”.

In this version the only objection to X is that it galvanised the attack. This is victim-blaming in its purest form.

Backward

The backward version of the argument takes the following form:

  1. The Attacker(s) does Y
  2. which galvanises
  3. the Victims(s) to do X
  4. where Y is inherently offensive against the Victim
  5. X is inherently offensive against the Attacker
  6. but X does legitimately meet the Victim’s needs resulting from Y,
  7. and the Victim is blamed.

In this version, the offensiveness of Y and/or the appropriateness of X are downplayed or ignored.


Equivalent Victim

Example: “I just caught the two of them fighting.”

Where the victim was merely defending themself.


Blamed Victim

Example: “Daran derailed the thread”.

This has a similar reversed dynamic, but instead of holding victim and attacker equivalent, the unprovoked attack is downplayed or ignored and the legitimate response is portrayed as the primary offence.


Little bit to Blame Victim

This variant exists in both backward and forward forms

Forward example: “Well, you must have don’t something to provoke him!”
Backward example: “I know he started it, but you were fighting too.”

In this variant, the blamer grudgingly admits that the greater part of the blame lies with the attacker, but still insists that the victim bear some of the blame. This is unfair to a wholly Innocent Victim because even a little bit to blame is closer to equivalence than to innocence.

Edited to typos, markup, and to clarify the backward scenario.
Edited to add internal links.
Edited (19 December) to further clarify the backward scenario, and to add the “little bit to blame” variant.

December 7, 2006

Realpolitik in the Blogosphere (and Why Liberalism Always Loses)

Filed under: Blogosphere,Feminist Issues,Free Speech — Daran @ 6:08 am

Continuing my practice of relegating to my own unread blog the sordid details of my recent flame war with some of the feminists on Alas, while bringing to a (slightly) greater readership any points which arise that have a wider relevance. In this case, a discussion which started with Tuomas (All quotes from the same thread):

One point here in Amp’s defense (I can’t believe I’m saying that…) is that [Alas] occupies a very precarious position in the blogosphere. Unambigiously feminist man who thinks radical feminism has a lot to offer who nevertheless seeks to incorporate even anti-feminists and right-wingers somewhat to the discussion.

It’s a bold experiment, but I think it is impossible due to the natural religious mentality of many feminists — he has to step in someones toes and can not be fair about it while maintaining “Alas” as he would like it to be.

I replied:

I don’t accept your defence, Tuomas. I don’t see anything in his definition of feminism that requires him to behave so as to be accepted by other feminists, or to let them piss all over him.

Tuomas:

You speak of consistency (and you are technically perfectly correct) I’m speaking of realpolitik in the blogosphere.

This is why liberalism always looses, at least in the short term1, and why feminism (which is in reality is illiberal) is currently winning. Liberalism rejects realpolitik in favour of genuinely retaining the moral high-ground and loses. Realpolitik falsely claims the high-ground, and wins.

Me:

And even if it did, that doesn’t absolve him from responsibility for allowing them to use his blog as a platform to piss on other people.

Tuomas:

Agreed, which is why I think it is doomed to failure.

It’s already failed2. Notice that my pingbacks got deleted, I don’t know whether this was Amp or Marcella, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s his blog, and his responsibility. And of course, it’s his right to do that on his own blog. Nobody questions that. But consider the implications of doing so:(Update) The thread was derailed by means of repeated personal attacks upon a dissenting voice, and to bring it back on track, the victim of the attacks AKA the dissenting voice AKA me, was silenced3:

Here then, is how to derail a thread on Alas, if you’re a feminist. Make a post abusing some present or past member. They don’t even have to be part of the thread. If they are, and you can goad them into responding, or if just one person makes just one post in their defense, then multiple feminists pile in, with off-topic post after off-topic post after off-topic post (seventeen so far6), attacking that person, and making generalised attacks on “men”, “antifeminists” and “MRAs”. And the victim gets the blame.

This is precisely the kind of “bullying” Amp said he doesn’t want on Alas.

And it works.

And it will always work. They will always be able to do this, at any time, to any dissenting voice, and the victim will always be blamed, always be silenced, because that’s the only way Amp can realpolitically end the derailment. After the dissenting voice has been silenced, the derailers stop.

1It’s questionable whether it wins in the long term. Certainly the liberal democracies (including the USA, still, just about) have thrived, but only by behaving illiberally toward the rest of the world.

2Richard, though, has unwittingly started a new experiment, which I will do my best to help him make suceed.

3Whoever it was, graciously left one pingback. Thanks for that, One trackback to my posts on my own blog appeared, but really, of the hundreds of people who will read that thread, how many are going to follow it? Next to none. The falsehoods about me remain in full view on a prestigious blog with a huge readership, and all I can do is squeak, squeak, in reply.

Edited to add: the comments, true and false, are also the “evidence” that prove my complete innocence. For this reason, I have asked that they not be deleted, for the time being.

December 6, 2006

Putting Obstacles in the Way of Male Survivors

Filed under: Feminist Issues — Daran @ 8:27 pm

I’m embroiled in a bit of an interblog flame war with some of the feminists over at Alas. I don’t want to involve CD or its readers in all that, but part of my latest post addresses some substantive issues, so I’ve decided to post an editted and expanded version here.

ms_xeno:

Check it out. Right next door, Daran is going on and on about “feminist apartheid” and how men simply must horn in on everything women do for women because “that’s where the money tends to end up.” Tends to. It just falls in our laps like free milk and cookies in fucking kindergarten. Truckloads of free milk and cookies, and how meeeeeeean of us not to give him any just because he holds out his hand. Sweet jeebus.

Let’s have a look at what I said right next door

What kind of space are you talking about? I don’t want a homeland for male survivors. I don’t want reserved seats at the back of the bus or separate but equal provision. I want inclusion.

And then

there are male-created survivor spaces. But it’s the female ones that get the lion’s share of the resources and recognition.

Many years ago, I was an administrative support worker of a group for both male and female survivors. We had a funding application rejected on the grounds that the funder was supporting the local Women’s Aid Centre, and therefore there was no need to support us. Set aside for a moment the fact that the services we offered to women were complimentary to and non-overlapping with those of the WAC; what this episode illustrates is the complete invisibility of male survivors, despite our efforts to centre them in our campaigning material.

I’m asking for access to public resources. I’ll take no lectures from Ms_xeno about the hand-to-mouth existence of many of these little groups. I was there. I was doing it. Fundraising was part of my job. And yes, I do feel that sexual abuse/domestic victims in my half of the population are entitled to be heard by public bodies, and to a share of the public resources intended for victims. But I wonder how it feels, as ms_xeno apparently does, for her half of the population to be entitled to all of it.

Unfortunately ms_xeno is not a lone voice. There are many within the survivor movment with similar views to hers, who actively seek to place obstacles in the way of those who try to access and develop resources for male survivors.

Let me give an example. The following account is not my experience. It was told to me by one of the two female founders of the survivor group I used to work for. She had no reason to lie and I’ve no doubt she was telling me the truth.

The two members, both women, went as delegates from the group to a conference for female survivors in the south of England. When they arrived, (having paid their fees in advance, and having incurred travel expenses from Scotland) they were told by the organisers there was a problem. Some of the other delegates were objecting to their presence. The group qualified to attend as a survivor group for women, (and of which women were the majority of members) but because it was a survivor group for men as well, this offended the sense of gender-purity of some of the other delegates. Eventually their objections were put to a vote, which was defeated, but there was a substantial minority who voted to exclude our delegates.

These are the attitudes that we’re up against. Whatever privileges might attach to maleness in other contexts, there are none in the context of abuse-survival. Rather “privilege” is a magic word used by ms_xeno and her ilk to justify her bigotry and prejudice.

Affirmative Action: How much does it cost whites?

Filed under: Race and Racism — Ampersand @ 8:20 am

[This post was originally written and posted in January of 2003, but it got dropped from the database in some blogmove or other, so I'm reposting it now.]

One of the benefits of affirmative action in college admissions, it seems to me, is that it offers a really substantial benefit to blacks at a tiny cost to whites. Not everyone agrees with my rosy view; Michael Lind, for example, once wrote that “in order to accommodate a few less-qualified black students, the University of Texas Law School, like other leading schools, must turn down hundreds or thousands of academically superior white students every year.”

So does the existence of affirmative action bring about a substantial harm to white students applying to selective colleges? Goodwin Liu, in the March 2002 issue of the Michigan Law Review, argues that the cost to whites is actually quite small; and the tiny number of whites who actually are rejected because of affirmative action policies are the least likely people to sue.

Liu calculated how much the odds of whites being admitted to five highly selective universities would change if affirmative action programs did not exist:

(more…)

December 5, 2006

Steyn’s Folly

Filed under: Personal Ramblings,Reproductive Rights,War — Tuomas @ 1:35 pm

Why is the pop-pundit Mark Steyn so popular, in addition to his above-average writing and use of often genuinely funny witticisms?

Why is he — of all people — accepted as something of an authority on the conflict between Islam and the West?

Why do American (neo)conservatives worship him so?

(more…)

The Democrats Taking Congress Might Save Tens Of Thousands Of Lives In The Third World

Filed under: International Politics — Ampersand @ 5:55 am

I’ve blogged a few times about the UNFPA — the UN Population Fund – over the years. To review: The UN Population fund doesn’t fund or provide abortions. But they do save thousands of women’s lives, and tens of thousands of newborn lives, each year by providing medical care for women in 140 of the world’s poorest countries. They’ve also been more effective at improving reproductive choice of all kinds for Chinese women, than any other western agency.

But they also provide birth control (which prevents thousands of abortions). In the eyes of the Population Research Institute (PRI), a radical “pro-life” anti-birth control group, this makes UNFPA evil. So the PRI falsely accused the UNFPA of supporting coercive abortions in China. No subsequent investigators — not even the one sent by the Bush administration’s state department, nor the one that was led by a pro-life British politician — found the PRI’s accusations credible. (More details about that in this post).

Nonetheless, based on the PRI’s false accusations, the Bush administration has withheld the US’s contribution to the UNFPA for the past five years — $34 million a year, about 13% of the UNFPA’s annual budget. The UNFPA estimates that “$34 million applied to family planning programmes could prevent some 800,000 abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths and 77,000 infant and child deaths annually worldwide.”

I’m posting about this now is to point out that there’s a chance that the UNFPA’s funding will be restored in 2007, thanks to the Democrats taking Congress.

In 2005, a bill sponsored by Congresswoman Carolyn Mahoney (D – NY) and others would have restored US funding to the UNFPA, but failed 233-192. (A similar measure passed the Senate). Looking though the list of “no” votes, I count 20 Republicans who lost their seats to Democrats in the November elections, and also three Democrats won open seats. In addition, six Republicans who voted in favor of UNFPA lost their seats to Democrats.

If all these new Democrats vote in favor of UNFPA in 2007, then funding for UNFPA should pass in 2007, by 225 to 203. That’s a big enough margin to survive even if there are a handful of anti-UNFPA voters among those new votes. ((In 2005, 95% of Democrats in the House voted in favor of restoring funding to UNFPA.))

Even if a funding restoration bill passes, Bush could veto — this is an issue that pro-life groups care a lot about. But there will also be pressures on Bush, and on the Republicans, to move away from the extremism that contributed to their loss in the 2006 elections. There is, at least, reason to hope UNFPA’s US funding will be restored next year.

You read more about the Republican ban on money to help poor women and infants by reading the “Alas” UNFPA posts archive; or by reading posts at Miss Pen Name, Republic of T, Population Matters, Peace, Love, Pancakes, and others; or by browsing through the documents and links about UNFPA on Congresswoman Mahoney’s website.

December 4, 2006

Jose Padilla Update

Filed under: Current Events,Ethics,Politics — Brutus @ 6:53 pm

I blogged before about Jose Padilla, who has been detained since 2002 as an “enemy combatant” until earlier this fall when he

was added as a defendant in a terrorism conspiracy case already under way in Miami. At the time, the Supreme Court was weighing whether to take up the legality of his military detention — and thus the issue of the president’s authority to seize an American citizen on American soil and hold him indefinitely without charges — when the Bush administration pre-empted its decision by filing criminal charges against Mr. Padilla.

The quote above is from a December 4 article in the New York Times.

My prior concern was with Padilla’s being held without charge and the court’s refusal to review this denial of civil rights. Padilla is a U.S. citizen. My new concern (considering the old one was obviated by both the court and the Bush Administration) is that during his detention, Padilla was held in isolation and deprived not only of society (other than his interrogators) but of sensory stimulation. According to the New York Times article,

his cell was electronically monitored and his meals were passed to him through a slot in the door … windows were blackened, and there was no clock or calendar; and … he slept on a steel platform after a foam mattress was taken from him, along with his copy of the Koran.

Further, when he was taken from his cell for dental care, he wore noise-blocking earphones, blacked-out goggles, and manacles at the ankles and wrists. Although military apologists insist that he was provided food, clothing, shelter, sleep, and medical care, thus treated humanely, that standard is such a low threshold that over the course of several years the logical result was realized: Padilla was rendered unfit to assist in his own defense and is unconvinced that his attorneys are actually on his side and not merely another interrogation technique. In short, his captivity was so torturous and inhumane that he is a ruined man.

I cannot fathom a compelling state interest in ruining people in this manner. Since Padilla’s ordeal began, we have revised our policies and laws to legalize (though not legitimize) torture and detention and in the process absolved Padilla’s captors of any liability for their actions. This is just one case; and as with Abu Ghraib, there is plenty of reason to believe that many, many other cases that haven’t drawn public scrutiny are occurring as well. And the response of the American people? Very little. In our failure to protest and agitate against such awfulness committed in our names, we give tacit consent. Indeed, many people believe that Padilla is merely an example of the collateral damage necessary to prosecute the war on terror and further believe that useful intelligence can be obtained with such tactics. I remain utterly unconvinced any good can come from torture. Our government’s abandonment of humane treatment of prisoners (among other things) speaks to the growing power of the police state already upon us.

Cross-posted at The Spiral Staircase.

Sexism Among Comic Book Geeks: “The Rape Pages Are In!”

Filed under: Feminist Issues — Ampersand @ 2:02 pm

Quoted from Occasional Superheroine, a blog written by a former DC comics editorial assistant, about the creative process behind the rape and murder of long-established supporting character Sue Dibny:

My theoretical comic company, which, for the theoretical purposes of my theoretical memoir, I’ll call Gilgongo! Comix, was tired of being “pushed around” in the sales wars and in the court of fanboy opinion (such as it was). So with all the red-nosed gumption and determination of Ralphie from “A Christmas Story” Gilgongo! Comix decided to go badass.

They needed a rape. Because there’s nothing quite so badass as rape, lets face it. And the victim couldn’t been from the usual suspects: “The Black Raven” (done that already plus ovaries ripped out), “Bondage Queen” (wasn’t she raped like every issue–at least mentally?), “Demon-Girl” (she was already paralyzed from the last pseudo-raping and that provided all sorts of logistical nightmares for the artist).

No, they had to find the most innocent, virginal, good-natured “nice” character they could find and ravage her not once but twice.

Theoretically, this character’s name was Vicki Victim.

A whole groundbreaking limited series would be built around Vicki Victim’s rape and murder. [...]

[This was] the crucial syzygy that began the chain of events that ended my career. That particular incident had to do with your dead friend and mine, Vicki Victim.

It started with my associate editor running gleefully into our boss’s office, several boards of art in his hand.

“The rape pages are in!”

The strategy worked, by the way. Sales went up.

The long quote above is from a series of twenty blog posts entitled “Goodbye To Comics,” which make it brutally clear that sexism at DC editorial wasn’t limited to how they decided to treat female characters. The entire series is worth reading in order – because she has a disturbing story to tell, and also because she’s an excellent writer with an appealingly dark sense of humor. You can either read the whole thing in the archives, starting with the bottom post and working your way up, or you can instead use the handy table-of-contents-style links Elayne has compiled. But be warned, a lot of it is pretty harrowing to read.

At Comics Worth Reading, Johanna — who also worked in the corporate comics industry — comments:

You put a bunch of immature men, many of whom were very sick as children or had absent fathers or both, ((I’m skeptical about Johanna’s “very sick as children or had absent fathers” observation. No doubt she’s right about the particular men she worked with. But is it a real pattern, or just a coincidence in the guys she ran into? For what it’s worth, I’ve also run into a lot of bitter misogynistic male fannish types over the years, and the ones I’ve known haven’t been unusually likely to have a background of sickness or absent fathers.)) and all of whom escaped into over-muscled power fantasies as a result, in charge of a publishing subgroup with no prestige and little money. Several of them have never worked anywhere else, or if they have, it was at one of the few similar companies in the same industry that behave the same way. They’re still geeks, mentally, with low self-esteem and no success with women, few of whom they actually know in person, but they’re power brokers within their little world, and there are thousands like them who desperately want to be them… and you wonder why it all ends up so twisted?

The blogger at Mountain of Judgment agrees with Johanna: “Like a terrarium, it’s a perfect closed system, with the men on either side of the equation–publishers and purchasers–reinforcing one another, bending the superhero comics sharply back toward their ancestors–not in the newspaper comics but in the violent, soft-porn dime novels.”

I haven’t been part of the corporate comics industry. But I’ve been a comics geek all my life, and I’ve run into my share of bitterly misogynistic geek guys over the years. It’s by no means a universal type, but it’s common enough to be a type. I can’t even count how often I’ve heard or read female comics fans describe walking into a comic book store only to be treated as The Woman Thing, subject to suspicious glares, leering, and maybe being hit on. (One friend of mine doesn’t read comics on the bus anymore, because it’s such a pain in the neck being hit on by male comics fans.) Valerie D’Orazio, the writer of “Goodbye To Comics,” worked in a comic book store when she was sixteen — until the much-older owner of the store made a pass at her. When she turned him down, he slimed her character among that entire group of comics fans, and most of them went along with it.

Superheroes are part of the problem. Not all superhero fans are misogynists (some of my favorite friends, including a few women, read superhero comics). But the genre attracts a lot of boys and men who are insecure about masculinity, and who need to read male-oriented power fantasies in which women are babes and men are human tanks. Some of those guys are fine; they grow up, they make female friends, they compartmentalize successfully. But some don’t. Too many comic book guys feel entitled to women’s emotions and women’s bodies, and feel bitter over what they see as an unfair denial of their due.

At the same time, I feel a little uneasy about posting this on “Creative Destruction,” where most of the readers aren’t comic book fans. I think a lot of non-fans have the impression that most male geeks are like the comic book guy on “The Simpsons.” And yeah, that type does exist (in both thin and fat varieties), and anyone who spends years in fan culture runs into some guys like that.

But let’s not forget, misogyny rooted in a frustrated sense of entitlement to women is not unique to geeks. You see it among men of all types (including some who get laid as much as anyone). But it’s easier for people to recognize misogyny in lonely male fans, for two reasons. First, because a disproportionate number of fans have poor social skills, and so aren’t good at hiding their misogyny. And second, because “lonely bitter misogynist fan” is a stereotype, so it’s what people are expecting to see.

More links: Blog@Newsarama has a post summarizing various reactions in the comics blogosphere to “Goodbye To Comics.” And When Fangirls Attack! has a list of links.

Finally, Heidi MacDonald at The Beat comments on this story obliquely and visually, by contrasting the way that DC actually depicts Wonder Woman with an really excellent-looking approach that DC rejected.

December 3, 2006

The Challenge of the Congo

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Personal Ramblings,War — Daran @ 11:04 pm

Tuomas’s recent post, or, more precisely, the news story to which he linked about the violent rapes of tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of women in the Congo has been personally challenging to me on a number of levels.
(more…)

Affirmative Action Once Again – Answering Amp

Filed under: Blogosphere,Debate,Education — Robert @ 5:25 am

For those of you with time horizons shorter than the leisurely weeks and months that we lofty Internet intellectuals think in terms of, in this post from last week Ampersand attempts to discredit the ratchet effect, a hypothesis about racially preferred students’ placement and performance in higher education. He is, of course, wrong and bad, although a decent enough fellow. I continue to believe that the ratchet effect is a valid interpretation of the data we have, and something which supports the idea of ending purely racial preferences in college admissions.

Because Amp has written a novel, and because I have no wish to reciprocate, I will basically ignore all of the opinions that Amp states and respond strictly to the facts.

Amp:

Empirical evidence shows that the mismatch hypothosis is fiction. The truth is, minority students in colleges that practice AA are more likely to graduate than minority students with identical academic “qualifications” (i.e., SAT scores, class rank, etc.) who attend less-highly-ranked colleges.

How can this be?…[long list of possible explanatory factors for the good performance of racially preferred students at elite institutions snipped, because agreed with]

There is no doubt whatsoever that going to a good school means going to a good school, Amp – which of course means higher performing people and higher performances turned in. That’s what elite means.

But most folks at college aren’t at Yale. They don’t have lavish endowment grants and peer groups made up of high-social capital individuals and the most brilliant TAs in the world. It would be nice if they did, but they don’t. The majority of the people who are affected by the ratchet effect – the VAST majority – attend community colleges and state schools, not the Ivy League.

I need you to clarify one point. The citations you have provided support the idea that at the high end of the spectrum, racially preferred students’ collective performance is higher than at lower levels, and I concede that point above. You have rhetorically, however, generalized this into a sentiment that a higher level automatically means a higher performance, across the entire curve. That does not appear supported in what you have presented, and so I ask you to clarify the strength of your claim, and to provide appropriate citations if it is in fact stronger than what I have yielded.

The quibbles about study design and methodology I lack competence to address, so I won’t. I will note, however, that the “zinger” paragraph you pulled from Light and Strayer doesn’t, in fact, support you in the argument we’re having. You write:

Light and Strayer conclude that the data is “consistent with the notion that racial preferences in college admissions boost minorities’ chances of attending college and that retention programs directed at minority students subsequently enhance their chances of earning a degree.”

I wouldn’t disagree with either of those points. I’m not a scholar of minority college attendance per se, but it would seem logical to assume that preferences would boost that statistic. And of course, retention programs directed at anyone, if competently run, will boost that group’s numbers – and good on ‘em. What do either of these propositions have to do with the ratchet effect? (Particularly the ex-post-facto retention effort point – do you believe that if I open an umbrella, that means the rain isn’t falling?)

The Alon/Tienda results you quote simply provide more evidence that higher-quality schools are better than lower-quality schools. Of course performance is better the higher you go up the ladder. The question isn’t “will Yale help Frank graduate” – of course it will. The question is whether Frank will do better if he goes to Yale, or if he goes to Cornell, and whether the currently existing Franks are making decisions that are suboptimal for their life outcomes.

Amp again:

The evidence is clear:There is no “mismatch” problem with affirmative action. Being able to attend better universities increases the odds that black and hispanic students will graduate. Right-wing proposals to eliminate affirmative action, far from helping hispanic and black students, would deprive some minority students of access to the best colleges while lowering their odds of graduating.

Well, the evidence may be clear somewhere, but that isn’t here. You’ve produced evidence that better schools are better places to go to school. This wasn’t a controversial point, and it doesn’t have any bearing on whether there is a mismatch between students and institutions.

I believe that your basic error here is conceptual, not philosophical. You see a result that says “the grazing is better on field A than on field B”. You see a report that says “the cows on field B are not as fat as the cows on field A”. And you reach the conclusion that “the more cows that graze on field A, the better off all cows will be!” Which will be true – for the first few cows to switch pasture. (What you ought to be asking is “how do we make field B more like field A”.)

Higher education isn’t a cow pasture. (Although the end product often bears a certain resemblance.) But you are thinking about it statistically, instead of individually – and it all happens individually. The statistics are just the mirror, they aren’t the view – and if you go by the mirror, you’ll get everything backwards.

December 2, 2006

Abortion is a Human Right – Choice for Men isn’t

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Human Rights,Reproductive Rights — Daran @ 5:30 pm

I’ve been a member of the UK branch of Amnesty International for a while. Although I have issues with its gynocentrism, I generally agree with its aims and methods. The latest edition of its magazine invites members “to take part in the consultation” on ““sexual and reproductive rights“. The motion carried at this year’s AGM (PDF link, see motion A3) made broad reference to reproductive rights for both men and women, including access to contraception. The consultation is narrower, focussing solely on the right of women to abortion. Neither discusses any proposed right which could fall under the rubric of “Choice for Men”. (Edit: It goes without saying that I answered all three of the consultation questions in the affirmative.)

Although I am a long term supporter of both abortion rights for women, and Choice for Men, I think Amnesty has called this one right. Access to birth control including abortion should be regarded as a universal human right. That the right to abortion is void for men does not implicate the right’s universality: every person who gets pregnant should have the right to abort.

In contrast, my position on Choice for Men is one of advocacy of a policy. I do not construe it as a human right. In particular, I have always argued that it should be contingent upon the practical availability of post-coital birth-control to women, including safe medical abortion. Where this is not available to women, both legally and practically, they should not be left holding the baby that they had no more practical choice to produce than did the man. This lack of universality to any purported C4M “right” forcloses its construction as such, and puts it beyond Amnesty’s remit.

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