Creative Destruction

May 31, 2006

Brother Gore’s traveling salvation show

Filed under: Current Events,Politics,Science — bazzer @ 10:20 am

A friend of mine recently invited me to go see An Inconvenient Truth. I politely explained that sitting in a dark room and being lectured by Al Gore for two hours is not my idea of entertainment.

It's nothing personal, but global warming is a religion to Mr. Gore. I don't mean that as an insult, necessarily. He's clearly very passionate on the topic. But just as I don't want to hear a televangelist preach to me about how I should live my life, I don't want Gore doing it either. "Don't have an abortion" or "Don't be gay" would be replaced with "Don't drive an SUV," but at the end of the day, Al Gore is just another bible-thumper, complete with apocalyptic rhetoric about "the end of civilization."

And if there's anything that bugs me more than religious proselytizers, it's religious proselytizing masquerading as science. Science says average global temperatures currently seem to be in a warming trend. Fine. But once you've gone on to attribute Hurricane Katrina or Indonesian tsunamis to global warming, you are now squarely in the domain of religion, plain and simple.

Global warming is a serious issue, but also a political hot button. Too many people from both sides carry their ideological baggage to the debate, which is a shame. There is precious little in the way of sober, dispassionate scientific examination of the data. We need more of that, not less. We certainly won't be getting it from Al Gore, however.

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May 30, 2006

Predictive power

Filed under: Economics,Science,Statistical Method — Adam Gurri @ 4:52 pm

I've started to look over the Prediction Markets.

What a fascinating phenomenon!  These buggers are apparently quite accurate, and Google has had their own internal one to help keep ahead of the game.  By all accounts, the larger the quantity of people involved, the more accurate they become.

The intelligence community has had already had one failed courtship with this new approach to aggregating information.

As they have been consistently behind the curve for as long as I can remember, it's somewhat tragic but nonetheless unsurprising that they would be unwilling to even try a new idea.

At any rate, I've been captivated by my obsession of the moment.

Men Are Much Less Likely To Be Victims of Rape

Filed under: Feminist Issues — Ampersand @ 3:37 pm

On the Male Privilege Checklist (henceforth “the list,”) I wrote:

7. If I’m a teen or adult, and if I can stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are so low as to be negligible.

Karmaq, writing in The Unseen Kid’s comments, responded:

I question some of the stats… For example, the myth that rape only happens to men in prison (or gay men), when the FBI stats (if you want to believe the FBI) are that it happens way more often than we think. No one wants to talk about and even if they do, no one wants to hear about it. But I’ve met enough men (straight, never been in jail) who have talked to me about it (cause people tend to tell me stuff they don’t normally share) that I tend to suspect the FBI’s “1 in 7 men; 1 in 3or4 women” had some validity.

My response to Karmaq:
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May 29, 2006

I Am A Big Doofus

Filed under: Debate — Robert @ 7:22 pm

In the course of a discusion in the comments to this post, I made wild and sweeping generalizations about car safety seats and how stupid it is to have rear-facing baby seats and how I would never put my baby in a seat where we couldn't observe her and so on. 

Ordinarily when I make wild and sweeping generalizations, it is the duty of the universe to conform itself to my words. However, in this case, I was wr. I was w. I was wr, wr, wr. I was not completely and entirely correct.

My wife informs me that

a) We had a rear-facing car seat. ("Remember? It fit into the stroller too?")

b) We put in a mirror that would let us see her face.

c) We supplemented this by asking the older children to monitor her and report on what she was doing. ("Remember? Andrew would peer into the seat and say 'she's sleeping' or 'she's drinking her juice' ?")

And, with her having said all this, I now quite clearly remember that she is right – that's how it was. 

So in retrospect:

Aliens apparently used some form of advanced technology to implant false memories regarding the time of my daughter's infancy.
Those stinking Grey bastards!

Or to put it another way:

Never mind.

In Defense Of Generalizations and “Petty” Complaints

Filed under: Debate,Feminist Issues — Ampersand @ 7:09 am

There’s a new round of discussion of the “Male Privilege Checklist” going on, mostly on Livejournals. Usually I don’t respond to these criticisms, because usually the folks who write them are too far on the insulting and smug side.

But this time, for some reason, I found myself responding. Naturally a couple of my responses were rejected by Livejournal for being too long, and I thought “might as well make this stuff a blog post.”
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May 27, 2006

D&D Meets Physics

Filed under: Science — Robert @ 12:32 am

Coming soon: invisibility. Oddly, the article doesn't mention that the technology stops working after you attack someone.

May 26, 2006

Going Over to the Dark Side

Filed under: Blogroll,Statistical Method — Brutus @ 3:58 pm

I posted in the past on the fallibility of using numbers to win support for one's arguments. So it's a little ironic, I suppose, that I've found a third blog based on statistical methods to add to our blogroll to fill my quota: Freakonomics. The idea behind the book of the same title and the blog is that by crunching enough numbers and controlling for enough factors, the truth behind seemingly obvious cause-effect relationships can be revealed. From the blog:

[E]conomics is, at root, the study of incentives — how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing. In Freakonomics, they set out to explore the hidden side of — well, everything … Freakonomics establishes this unconventional premise: if morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work.

Happily, the authors appear to limit their inquiries to economics, as opposed to just any sort of numerical evidence. For instance, I have a real problem with polling in particular. I've been called upon to participate in quite a few phone polls over the past few months, and I really object to the way certain questions are posed and the way the answers require a virtual shoehorn to fit within. Just one example: in preparation for a speech I recently gave, I found a poll conducted by CBS News/New York Times earlier this year that had two interesting (if problematical) questions:

In general, how much trust and confidence do you have in the news media — such as newspapers, TV, and radio — when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately, and fairly: a great deal, a fair amount, not very much, or none at all?

and

In general, how much of the time do you think the news media tells the truth: all of the time, most of the time, only some of the time, or hardly ever?

Numbers reported in response to the questions were somewhat divergent, but I can't say that the nature of the questions themselves are so different. Mere syntax was enough to produce divergent results. Those results were also broken down by political affiliation (Rep., Dem., and Independent), which I find questionable, since even though one can register with only one party, one may not adhere strictly to only that party's positions.

At any rate, the Freakonomics blog will make a good addition to our blogroll for its clear-eyed, apolitical approach to examining evidence and busting myths through unflinching statistical methodology.

Damn Those Rigid Goalposts

Filed under: Politics — Tuomas @ 3:47 pm

It was not too long ago that the lefty blogosphere mocked the conservatives and everyone else who suggested that the fact that many mexican immigrants lack the opportunity or inclination to learn English when they come to America, and that this is a bad thing for the US.
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A Lesson In Unintended Ignorance

Filed under: Debate,Race and Racism — Off Colfax @ 3:41 am

Of all the bloggers on the left-hand-side of the political road, I have to place Armando (Yes, that Armando. As in, formerly of the blog known as DailyKos and currently teaming up with Josh Trevino [of former Tacticus fame] over at Swords Crossed.Yes, the same Armando that I really can't stand.) fairly within the 90th percentile.

So when I find him using this sort of argument, I blink in shock. How could he actually say this and think he's actually proving a point? From Swords Crossed:
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May 25, 2006

Link Farm & Open Thread #26

Filed under: Link Farms,Uncategorized — Ampersand @ 11:52 pm

Seems like it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these….
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May 24, 2006

Superman is a Dick.

Filed under: Humor — Daran @ 4:44 pm

This is one of the funniest sites I’ve seen.

No doubt the feminists will find plenty to complain about.

Got Bling?

Filed under: Content-lite,Popular Culture — Brutus @ 1:26 pm

Though not nearly so awful as the LimoJet, these exhaust tip spinners make the same negative impression on me.

flare turbine

I guess if you've got more money than you know what to do with, and no sense of either taste or value, then these are just the thing to pimp your ride.

The whole idea of bling is pretty distasteful to me, but I can't deny that it gets attention. And for those who have adopted that approach to self-promotion, it may very well turn them into attention whores (assuming they're not that already). While bling may be relatively harmless on cursory inspection, I suspect there is a lot more going on at the Gestalt level. Put another way, it's the Zeitgeist of our time (love them German psych terms) that livin' large, baby, is no longer something to be embarassed about; rather, it's become a categorical imperative.

It's true of most of us that at some point we've uttered the equivalent of "sure, I can tap dance." The implication is that you then go out and learn to tap dance. If you eventually show up and still can't dance, they you deserve what you get, which will likely be the boot. With bling, it's not about earning attention, it's about buying attention. Oddly, the payment isn't even made to those whose attention is desired but to a third party. "Watch me buy stuff" has replaced "sure, I can tap dance."

Much the same thing is going on in the media, which must above all be visually tantalizing even if other types of content are mostly banal, saccharine, or insipid (or combinations of the same). It's tease, tease, tease, but rarely deliver. And we're lapping it up like the dogs we are.

Sand Art

Filed under: Art,Uncategorized — Robert @ 12:28 pm

This is frickin' amazing. Via the Corner.

The Stuff of Nightmares

Filed under: Science — Robert @ 10:22 am

Don’t click this if creepy bloodsuckers shambling along the ground creep you out.

Via Althouse, who is creeped out.

May 23, 2006

Some Reasons for Optimism Regarding Same Sex Marriage

Filed under: Current Events,LGBT Issues — Ampersand @ 7:38 am

Rhode Island May Be Next
Percent of likely Rhode Island voters who oppose same-sex marriage: 39%
Percent of likely Rhode Island voters who favor same-sex marriage: 45%
(Source).

Changing Demographics Are On The Side Of Equality

Even two years ago, 15- to 25-year-olds favored gay marriage by 56 percent to 39 percent, according to a national survey by the University of Maryland’s youth think tank, the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE at civicyouth.org). […]

Within perhaps 10 years, gay marriage will enjoy majority support nationwide because younger, more accepting voters will have replaced many of today’s 65-plus voters. Notable findings include:

# Eighteen- to 29-year-olds are the first age group of voters to prefer gay marriage over other options for gay couples, 2004 election exit polls show. Asked their preference, 41 percent chose marriage for gay couples, 28 percent favored civil unions and only 30 percent said no recognition.

# Age breakdowns provided to me by the Pew Research Center of its March poll show the 18-to-29 group favoring gay marriage, 52-42 percent. That contrasts with the 65-plus crowd — opposed by 69-20 percent. (When all ages are combined, a bare majority — 51 percent — opposes gay marriage. Go to: people-press.org.)

Poll Shows Most Americans Oppose Federal Amendment Banning Same-Sex Marriage

The polling, conducted in April among 802 registered voters nationwide, showed that 49 percent of those questioned believe gay marriage should be a state issue. Only 33 percent of those questioned believed the issue should be decided by amending the U.S. Constitution. Another 18 percent were not sure how to handle the issue.

Why is the leadership of the anti-equality movement so desparate to get marriage banned in the Constitution? Because they know that if they don’t win soon, and in a way that will be incredibly hard to undo, they won’t win at all.

(For more stats – with graphs! – see Pam’s House Blend.)

Equal Protection Clause

Filed under: Politics — Daran @ 4:33 am

From Dan’l’s Multiapostrophic LiveJournal (Hat tip)

I propose (modulo better phrasing) the following Amendment to the United States Constitution, which I call “Equal Protection II.” The first clause may have some bearing on the current immigration unpleasantness, but, as you’ll see, the overal intent is far more general.

1. Neither Congress nor any State shall shall make any law creating new criminal penalties, or increasing existing liability, for any activity which is already illegal, unless it can be shown that existing laws are being generally enforced.

2. When any citizen of the United States is charged with any crime under either Federal or State law, a reasonable showing either that the law under which he or she is charged is not being generally enforced by the Federal or State government, or that it is being enforced by the Federal or State goverment in a selective manner, shall be grounds for immediate dismissal of charges, with the State or Federal government bearing all court costs.

3. No officer of the government of the United States, nor of any of the various States, shall be held immune from any generally applicable law. Any law written so as to be generally applicable except to select officers of the Federal or State governments shall be null and void.

The wording leaves something to be desired, but I’m interested in people’s views on the intent.

May 22, 2006

Regarding the US’s High Infant Mortality Rate

Shortly before Mother’s Day, Save the Children released its annual report on the state of motherhood and infant mortality worldwide. As usual, the US does worse than almost every other industrialized nation when it comes to infant mortality (pdf file – see page 38).

The philosopher John Rawls suggested, as a thought experiment, imagining a “veil of ignorance.” The idea is, we sit around planning how to organize society from behind the veil; and none of us planners know what position in society we will hold, what race, what gender, how wealthy our parents will be, etc.. If the people planning society knew they might be born any race, any class, what society would they plan?

I don’t think they’d plan one in which infant mortality by race looked like this (source – pdf file):

US Infant Mortality, among whites, blacks, Asians, Latinos, and American Indians

As you can see, if you’re a newborn American infant, it kinda sucks to be an American Indian, Hawaiian, Puerto Rican, and the suckitude is simply enormous if you’re Black.

* * *

Unfortunately, the racial aspect of infant mortality in the US is usually ignored in the mainstream media. Instead, the focus is on how bad the US does, compared to other countries. The QuandO blog, like many right-wingers, responds that it’s not that the US does any worse at caring for newborns. Instead, it’s that other countries give up on low-weight and otherwise unhealthy newborns more easily, counting them as “stillborns.” In contrast, doctors in the US work hard to save those infants – but since not all of them live, the result of the superior care here in the US is that our infant mortality rate appears higher.

In an op-ed piece, critics of the Save The Children statistics suggest that we should forestall trying to correct the US’s poor results:

If we want to lower our infant mortality rate so it compares better with that of other countries, maybe we should align our rules with theirs to better determine the actual extent of the alleged “problem.”

(Does calling the problem “alleged” and putting the word “problem” in scare quotes create a sort of double negative problem?)

My first question is, how does this critique account for the enormous racial gap in infant mortality within the USA? (It seems unlikely that in the US, doctors try harder to save babies of color while categorizing similar white babies as stillborn.)

My second question is, how much truth is there to QuandO’s critique? Some truth, but not enough to justify calling the US’s infant mortality rate, compared to other wealthy countries, an “alleged problem.” The OECD Factbook explains:

Some of the international variation in infant and neonatal mortality rates may be due to variations among countries in registering practices of premature infants (whether they are reported as live births or fetal deaths). In several countries, such as in the United States, Canada and the Nordic countries, very premature babies with relatively low odds of survival are registered as live births, which increases mortality rates compared with other countries that do not register them as live births.

Yet Canada and the Nordic countries all have better infant mortality rates than the US. So the difference in reporting practices doesn’t account for all of the US’s dismal performance in this area.

If it’s true that the U.S. does just about as well as other wealthy countries in infant mortality, and we only do worse because other countries move count as stillborn cases that we count as an infant death, then that should show up in higher stillbirth rates for those countries than for the U.S.. This is something we can check; a World Health Organization report issued earlier this year (pdf link) gathered statistics for stillbirths. So lets look at the WHO stillbirth numbers next to the infant and newborn mortality statistics from the Save The Children report:

Infant mortality, newborn mortality, and stillbirth rate per 1,000 live births in seven wealthy countries

The graph includes the five countries Save The Children credited with the lowest newborn mortality rates, plus Canada and the USA. Including stillbirths does make the US look better, and is consistent with the claim that other countries may be count some infant deaths (by US standards) as stillbirths.

However, most of these countries are doing as well or better than the US in all categories, including stillbirths. That’s incompatible with the claim that the US’s infant mortality problem is a statistical illusion caused by different standards for categorizing stillbirths.

To make this clearer, look at a graph combining infant mortality and stillbirth rates. (Newborn mortality is not included because the newborn and infant mortality categories overlap).

Combined Infant Mortality & Stillborn Rates Per 1,000 Live Births In Seven Wealthy Countries

Even when stillbirth deaths are included, the US is still doing significantly worse than countries credited with low infant morality rates. It is therefore impossible that the US’s poor standing is caused entirely by the exclusion of stillborn children from infant mortality statistics (although this exclusion may be a contributing factor). The US’s terrible track record, compared to other wealthy countries, is not an “alleged problem”; it is an atrocity, and one that shouldn’t be swept under the rug rather than addressed.

May 21, 2006

The Ugly American

Filed under: Navel Gazing,Popular Culture — Brutus @ 11:19 am

The Sydney Morning Herald has a brief on-line article about a new guide being prepared by the State Dept. in cooperation with U.S. industry (whatever that means) to try to improve the image of Americans abroad. It seems we’re not much liked (duh!) when we find ourselves within foreign cultures and act the same abrasive ways we act among ourselves in the U.S. The syndrome has been called The Ugly American for years already, although it was apparent intended more charitably in the novel of the same name.

I find it ironic that people need to be told things, by the government no less, that should be common sense on just about any grade school playground. Yet in my travels, I’ve witnessed many of the things addressed by the admonitions the Herald lists. Here are a few with my comments.

Think as big as you like but talk and act smaller.

I’ve always thought it best to keep a small footprint and go relatively unnoticed when outside of my comfort zones. My alertness level also goes up.

Listen at least as much as you talk.

I’m probably as vain and love the sound of my own voice as the next person. But I learned in college that listening was a much more powerful behavior than talking, and not just because I learned more. People respond better if given room in conversation to express themselves.

Save the lectures for your kids.

Way too often I’ve overheard Americans begin a conversation with “The problem with your country is ….” The implication is that we Americans got it right and everyone else should be like us. How insulting.

Think a little locally.

What’s the point of travelling if you don’t experience any local culture? I’ve known Americans who go abroad and eat exclusively at American fast food franchises (generally not hard to find) and speak only in English within their own group or family. How boring.

Speak lower and slower.

This is probably the hallmark of the American traveller (other than garb). We’re loud sons of bitches, especially the Texas variety. In our dominant culture we’re exhorted to live large. Many others find that sort of behavior excessively rude.

If you talk politics, talk — don’t argue.

Conversational styles differ among people, to be sure. Although we don’t normally think of it this way, generosity ought to be the underlying sentiment. Argument works in some context, but even there, it’s worthwhile to yield ground generously.

May 19, 2006

Uh… what?

Filed under: Popular Culture — bazzer @ 9:36 am

Who says Hollywood doesn't have any original ideas? Check out the storyline of the latest big screen mega-hit starring Jack Black and Kirsten Dunst:

The story…follows a junkyard worker (Jack Black) who attempts to sabotage a power plant that he believes is melting his brain. But his plan goes awry and the magnetic field he creates erases all of the videotapes in the local video store where his best friend works. Fearing that the mishap will cost his friend his job, the two team to keep the store's only loyal customer — a little old lady with a tenuous grasp on reality — from realizing what has happened by re-creating and refilming every movie that she decides to rent.

Seriously, wouldn't you love to have been in the boardroom when this idea was first pitched? Something tells me it'd look a lot like those smoke-hazed scenes in Eric Foreman's basement where the camera goes around in a circle.(Hat tip: Jackie Danicki)

“Bad moms” and child safety

Filed under: Popular Culture — bazzer @ 9:14 am

Look, I understand that Britney Spears is an idiot, and I'm perfectly prepared to believe that she's not a model parent, but the media feeding frenzy over her parenting skills has just gotten plain silly. It reached a climax of ridiculousness on Tuesday, when the New York Post ran this story on its front page.Britney's offense? She was driving a convertible with her baby in the back seat, strapped into a car seat, in the exact same fashion that all conscientious parents strapped in their kids… until recently. Now, of course, you have to strap the poor tike in backwards, or you're an evil mom and you want your kid to die.

You have to keep them in the back seat, facing backwards so they'll get motion sickness, and you can't see their face, and you have no clue as to whether they're sick, or choking, or uncomfortable. Oh, and car seats aren't just for infants anymore. Now you have to remain in them until you start shaving.

Sorry, but the "child safety" mania has gone too far. No activity is ever going to be 100% safe, so we have to strike a meaningful balance between acceptable risks and reasonable precautions. That sense of balance is lost today, and soon kids won't be allowed outside of the house without being encases in bubble-wrap with a GPS locator attached to them.

I don't normally post this type of thing here, but I received one of those e-mail thingies recently that's relevant here. Read it, if you haven't already. It'll remind you that there was once a simpler time, and a time that many of us here lived through and remember.

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes.Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking.

As infants & children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, booster seats, seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank Kool-Aid made with sugar, but we weren't overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING !

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day.

And we were O.K.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD's, no surround-sound or CD's, no cell phones, no personal computer! s, no Internet or chat rooms……. WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays,

We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them!

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever! The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!

If YOU are one of them . . . CONGRATULATIONS!

You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated so much of our lives for our own good.

Amen.

May 18, 2006

Yay!

Filed under: Navel Gazing,Popular Culture — Tuomas @ 5:22 pm

Ha! A good reason to watch the Eurovision finals. One sure sign of apocalypse would be Finland actually winning the contest. Lordi's music video here. For one, it stands out from the usual Europop fare.

Update: Meaning that Finland got in to finals.

Update 2: Hard Rock Hallelujah! It has been said that hell freezes over before Finland wins the Eurovision song contest. So, Satan… Do you need some warm blankets down there? Bwahahaha! First place, 292 points… crushing victory!

Thanks to all the good people in Europe (all grudges forgotten) who knew good music when they heard it, and voted (I couldn't, you can't vote your own). Truly this is a historical moment!

Let’s Not Discuss Dick Cheney’s Weight

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ampersand @ 10:41 am

Although I’m a big fan of Shakespeare’s Sister, I didn’t like her choice to include, in a post about that “I Am Man” Burger King commercial, a quote from Vanity Fair about Dick Cheney’s weight. Here’s the quote:

The extent of his atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries, which, if it extends beyond the heart to the brain, can cause hard-to-recognize changes in cognition) is unknown. Bypass surgery itself has long been associated with subtle changes in neurological function. At age 65, Cheney is easily 30 or more pounds overweight, seems to have slacked off on what was once a more rigorous diet, and appears to suffer from recurrent bouts of gout. At a roundtable lunch with reporters a couple of years ago, two who were present say, he cut his buffalo steak in bite-size pieces the moment it arrived, then proceeded to salt each side of each piece.

Uh-huh.

1) Why is this even here? SS’s take on the Burger King Ad, is that it says being a man requires eating unhealthy food. She then makes the leap from unhealthy to fat, because – why? No healthy people are fat? All thin people are healthy? All people who eat Whoppers are fat? All fat, unhealthy people got that way eating whoppers? She then jumps to Dick Cheney’s eating, because Cheney is “one of the manliest men of them all,” and he’s fat and unhealthy.

2) I really, really hate the way people feel entitled to monitor what fat celebrities eat. (And do I need to point out the obvious problems of observer bias and reporting bias?)

3) On average, folks who are 30 pounds “overweight” live as long (or slightly longer) than folks at the “ideal” weight; and there’s no evidence that losing 30 pounds would make Dick Cheney live longer.

4) Cheney’s fatness was dragged into the post because Cheney is a disliked political figure (just as Bill Clinton’s alleged chubbiness and overeating was, as I recall, brought up by conservatives back in the 90s). It is only in a climate of widely accepted prejudice against fat people that Cheney’s fatness can be used in this political fashion.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m still a fan of Shakespeare’s Sister. I don’t accuse her of bad motives or anything like that.

But it’s off-putting to follow a link to an ally’s site, going “oh goody, SS on the stupid Burger King commercial, this will be fun!,” only to have a metaphorical door slammed in my fat face.

Warning! Spit-Takes Ahead!

Filed under: Blogosphere,Uncategorized — Off Colfax @ 1:20 am

Proceed with caution.

I may have been bad at math tests, but never that bad.
[Turn signal: Zach Wendling of In The Agora]

May 17, 2006

Sauce for the Handicapped, Sauce for the Unborn?

Filed under: Disability Issues,Feminist Issues,Reproductive Rights — Robert @ 7:52 pm

Piny of Feministe has a post up concerning the brutal murder of a New Zealand man. Keith McCormick, a disabled athlete, was relaxing at home when his able-bodied roommate Eric Smail came home drunk and apparently decided to murder him. Smail stabbed McCormick six times and then slit his throat, ending his life. The judge in the case showed Smail leniency, sentencing him to just seven to twelve years, basically because (broadly paraphrasing the logic of the decision) disabled people's lives are worth less, and caring for them is stressful.

The case itself is interesting and awful, but that's not what I'm posting about.

Here's Piny:

Because I–and Eric Neal Smail–can walk, our lives are by definition full and worthwhile. Because Keith McCormick used a wheelchair, his life was…less so. While the judge did not go so far as to say that his life was worthless, or make it out to be a contradiction in terms, he did argue that Keith McCormick had less to take away. That prejudice extended, I believe, even to Smail’s sentencing: those years spent in prison would be years taken off of a full life, and it’s unfair to expect Smail to trade them for years taken off of an inferior life.

and

This decision poses an enormous threat to people who need caregivers. It defines reliance on caregivers as an imposition on those who provide care–so much so that disabled people may expect violent reprisal for all that “stress.” All of that is invisible, because lives in which caregivers are mundane are invisible.

Doesn't this seem to resonate with the question of abortion? Fetuses are lives – they just aren't as important as other (adult) lives. Pro-choicers such as Ampersand will say that adult humans have cerebral cortexes, and can think – and that thus, our lives are full and worthwhile, while fetuses' aren't. Pro-choice feminists will say that fetuses require care temporarily – are parasitic on women's bodies – and this care is an imposition on their caregivers. It all seems very familiar.

The logic that the judge used in ameliorating the consequences of Smail's killing is orthogonal to the logic used by pro-choice advocates. The jump from "it's OK to kill a fetus" to "it's OK to kill a cripple" does not appear to be overwhelmingly large in magnitude. It seems like a fairly tricky endeavour to try to justify one as being obviously acceptable while the other remains a monstrous crime – particularly if you choose to defend abortion but condemn the killing of the disabled. After all, Keith McCormick was never going to get better – was never going to become a full human being in the Singerian ethical sense. But a fetus fairly quickly becomes an independent being with a full life ahead of him or her.

(BTW, Adam – we need an Abortion category, and probabily a Disability Issues category too.)

Link Farm & Open Thread #25

Filed under: Link Farms — Ampersand @ 3:13 pm

Here we go again! You know the drill – feel free to post whatever you’d like, including links to your own stuff, in the comments.
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May 16, 2006

Book Review: Self-Made Man, by Norah Vincent

Filed under: Feminist Issues — Ampersand @ 10:15 pm

I recently read Self-Made Man, Norah Vincent’s non-fiction book about passing as a man for a year. It was… okay. Lots of stuff about how men’s lives often suck, men are cut off from their emotional selves, how the pressure to be a man can be crushing, expecting to initiate dating rituals bites, etc.. I agree with that, to a great extent. Patriarchy has always hurt the large majority of men.

I was a bit disturbed by the New York Times review, which said:

But “Self-Made Man” turns out not to be what it threatens to be, a men-are-scum diatribe destined for best-seller status in the more militant alternative bookstores of Berkeley and Ann Arbor. Rather, it’s a thoughtful, diligent, entertaining piece of first-person investigative journalism.

Let’s ignore all the anti-feminist stereotypes in that paragraph. (Remember how “liberal” the Times is supposed to be?) What I can’t figure out is, why would anyone expect Norah Vincent – who is, on most matters, a conservative – to write a “men-are-scum diatribe”? Vincent’s stuff written before this book can hardly be described as anti-masculine (apart from Islamic masculinity, of course).

Some people have questioned the honesty of Vincent’s narrative (in order to protect her subjects’ privacy, Vincent changes names and identifiable details). I don’t think she’s lying about having dressed as a man, or having joined a bowling league, a monastery, a men’s retreat, and so on. But she gives the reader the impression that living as a man caused her to endorse and admire conventional gender roles for men. In reality, her views pre-drag seem pretty much the same as her views post-drag, although you wouldn’t know that from reading Self Made Man.

Plus, Vincent seems to believe that the men she reports on represent all of masculinity. But virtually all the men she describes are White, and all of them are straight. All of them are working-class (except perhaps the monks) and macho. Many of them – the monks, and the men in the men’s retreat – have committed to environments that make sex segregation (and the ideologies that justify sex segregation) a big deal. But nothing in Vincent’s narrative indicates that she has much awareness that this is a book about some men, rather than a book about Men.
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G’head, Blame the Victim (some)

Filed under: Political Correctness,Popular Culture — Brutus @ 6:17 pm

Comments on another post have attempted to separate the behaviors of the victim from those of the victimizer as though they aren't or at least shouldn't be related. The frequently repeated trope is "don't blame the victim." I thought the discussion should have its own post, so here are my thoughts.

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Two Predictions

Filed under: Uncategorized — Off Colfax @ 4:53 pm

One: Monday's speech will keep President Bush from sinking into the sub-25% polling bracket. Indeed, it may give a temporary boost to the numbers, but nothing over 4 points.
Two: The average price of gasoline in America will reach $3.50 per gallon before the 4th of July.

(For you folks on the more civilised side of the pond, that would be .72 euro per liter. You may now commence the traditional "Hah! You think what YOU pay for petrol is bad!" uphill-both-ways-in-snow speech.)

Technology to the Rescue!

Filed under: Humor,Navel Gazing — Brutus @ 12:11 am

With the sort of breathless excitement one would expect if a cure for cancer had been discovered, U.TV reports that we now have a solution for — um — plumber’s butt, or as it’s known in the U.K., builder’s bum.

It seems that Jockey has developed trademarked 3D-Innovations underwear that keeps one’s crack problem safely under control. The underwear stays contoured to his body as he bends and moves. Of course, the pic below doesn’t exactly present a high-tension test subject. I suggest an actual plumber might be a truer, real-world test.

Jockey

So for those of you living in quaking fear of the unsightly glimpse of the so-called coin slot, technology rescues us again. (Any comments to this post are encouraged to throw in other suitable euphemisms for this scourge.)

May 15, 2006

Bush Immigration Speech

Filed under: International Politics — Robert @ 9:01 pm

No fence. No deportations. No realistic plan to get and keep control of our southern border.

For this conservative, no sale.

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