Creative Destruction

July 31, 2006

Conservatives Slander Feminists and Whitewash Harms To Iraqi Women

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Iraq — Ampersand @ 12:44 pm

Judith at Kesher Talk engages in a little feminist-bashing:

July 29, 2006

Then and Now

Filed under: Content-lite,Iraq — Daran @ 10:38 pm

…the Ministry of Plenty’s forecast had estimated the output of boots for the quarter at one-hundred-and-forty-five million pairs. The actual output was given as sixty-two millions. Winston, however, in rewriting the forecast, marked the figure down to fifty-seven millions, so as to allow for the usual claim that the quota had been overfulfilled. In any case, sixty-two millions was no nearer the truth than fifty-seven millions, or than one-hundred-and-forty-five millions. Very likely no boots had been produced at all. Likelier still, nobody knew how many had been produced, much less cared. All one knew was that every quarter astronomical numbers of boots were produced on paper, while perhaps half the population of Oceania went barefoot. And so it was with every class of recorded fact, great or small…

George Orwell in “Nineteen Eighty-four”

Now, nearly three years after this war, the buildings are still piles of debris. Electricity is terrible. Water is cut off for days at a time. Telephone lines come and go. Oil production isn’t even at pre-war levels… and Iraqis hear about the billions upon billions that come and go. A billion here for security… Five hundred million there for the infrastructure… Millions for voting… Iraq falling into deeper debt… Engineers without jobs simply because they are not a part of this political party or that religious group… And the country still in shambles.

River in “Bagdad Burning”, 18 January 2006

July 28, 2006

Court Strongly Rejects “Choice For Men” Civil Rights Lawsuit

Filed under: Current Events,Feminist Issues — Ampersand @ 8:55 am

Via Red State Feminist, a pdf file of the court’s ruling can be found here. The court ruled “that the plaintiff’s claim is frivolous, unreasonable, and without foundation.”

Here’s a bit of the ruling:

July 27, 2006

Link Farm & Open Thread #32

Filed under: Link Farms — Ampersand @ 2:08 am

By the way, I’m currently on vacation in Ithaca, New York. My computer access is limited, so blogging from me could be even more erratic than usual for the next week or two.

Now, on to the links…

July 26, 2006

The curious case of the Google in the night

Filed under: Uncategorized — Daran @ 1:06 am

In my recent post, I noted that when you perform a Google blog search repeatedly on the same string, the figure given for the number of “is occasionally anomolously different”. In fact, it was usually the first search that was apparently anomolously high.

I didn’t make a note of what that high value was then. However, I noted something curious when I repeated the experiment today using the same search strings. The number of results reported from three sucessive searches were:

  • ‘Iraq women rights’ – 65,382, 2,652, 2,827
  • ‘Iraq men rights’ – 48,813, 2,568, 2,730
  • ‘Iraq men killed’ – 73,664, 73,603, 73,549
  • ‘Iraq women killed’ – 69,964, 2,999, 3,188

Subsequent searches returned figures broadly in line with the second and third for each string. (The slight variations each time are explained by the fact that Google has multiple data centres which are not kept synchronised. Sucessive searches get dispatched to the various centres at random.)

What I can’t explain is the marked drop in the figure after the first search on three of these strings, nor can I explain why it is not happening with the ‘Iraq men killed’ search. It didtwo days ago.

The upshot of all this is that I no longer have confidence that the number of results reported is meaningful.

July 25, 2006

How Republicans Will Be Running in 2006

Filed under: Politics — Ampersand @ 5:57 pm

Well, one Republican, anyway. Yesterday, I received a fundraising letter from Senator Gordon Smith (republican). This short letter (22 paragraphs, many of them consisting of only one sentence) contains:

13 mentions of the word “tax” and variations (taxes, taxed, etc), three in a bold font. (The only other thing that gets a bold font is a request that I send Mr. Smith some money).

12 mentions of “border,” “immigrants,” or variations on those words.

1 mention of the word “terrorism” (in the context of immigration).

Zero mentions of the words “Iraq,” “Iran,” “Afghanistan,” “Middle East,” etc..

Zero mentions of the words “Bush” or “President.”

July 24, 2006

Innocence Is Drowned

Filed under: International Politics,War — Off Colfax @ 9:47 pm

Well, folks. Looks like it is going to happen.

As I said here, “in the realm of military action, there are few coincidences.” And there is absolutely zero room for coincidence in this report.

The bodies of Iranian Revolutionary Guard soldiers killed by the Israeli army in Lebanon have been transported to Syria and flown to Tehran, senior Lebanese political sources said.

Israeli and Egyptian security officials confirmed the news, which follows a report that first appeared in The New York Sun, that Iranian forces posted to southern Lebanon have been aiding Hezbollah terrorists in their attacks against Israel, including helping to fire rockets into Israeli population centers.

Got the important part of the lede? Here, let me point it out, just in case someone can’t see it from way up in the cheap seats.

The bodies of Iranian Revolutionary Guard soldiers killed by the Israeli army in Lebanon have been transported to Syria and flown to Tehran, senior Lebanese political sources said.

Now, you are probably wondering why Iranian units, nominally stationed in Syria, are taking up positions in southern Lebanon.

(Assuming you have read through this far. Which some of you probably won’t, because you worry more about the stagnant-yet-constantly-FUBAR’d situation in Iraq than a whole new crop of bloodshed in Israel. But that’s okay. I’ve got glazed meatloaf and garlic mashed potatoes: the ultimate comfort food.) (I did mention I knew how to cook, didn’t I?)

Unfortunately, the answer is simple. And not really what I suspected at first. I display some of my international relations geek-ery after the jump.


The hidden war on men in Iraq – part 3

Filed under: Blogosphere,Feminist Issues,Iraq — Daran @ 8:22 am

In his post about the Hidden war on women Barry complains

And the number of pro-war Americans who have written or blogged honestly about the catastrophic decline in women’s rights in Iraq can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Are they sociopaths? Are they so racist and misogynistic that they’re incapable of caring what happens to non-white women? Are they so loyal to Bush that they think that the harm of saying one critical word about Bush outweighs the harm Bush’s policies have done to countless Iraqi women? What’s wrong with them?

I wonder whether Barry would like to see mainstream feminists including himself held to the same standard. Can he identify more than a handful who have blogged honestly about the catastrophic gender-selective targeting of men for slaughter in Iraq and elsewhere? Can he identify any?

I’m not pro-war (or American, for that matter), so the above comment was obviously not directed at me. Nevertheless, I haven’t blogged about women’s rights in Iraq either. This isn’t because I don’t recognise that women’s rights have been eroded. Nor is it because I think this unimportant. I haven’t done so because I’m under the impression that its a subject which is already well-covered in the blogosphere, and there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said better. Men’s rights are a different matter.

Is this impression correct? A google blog search on the words ‘Iraq women rights‘ turns up about 2500-2600 hits. (For technical reasons, you need to repeat the search several times, the figure changes slightly each time and is occasionally anomolously different) Moreover, inspecting the first few pages of returns reveal that the majority are indeed talking about women’s rights in Iraq. The corresponding search on ‘Iraq men rights‘ turns up about the same number of hits – 2500-2600. But most of them are false positives – pages that happen to contain these words, but aren’t talking about men’s rights in Iraq.

Perhaps this is an unfair comparison. It’s possible that people are talking about the e killing of men, but not framing it as a rights issue. Searching on ‘Iraq men killed‘ yields 2900 results. Again, the majority appear to be false positives, though there are a few valid hits including, ahem, the the top return. The corresponding search on ‘Iraq women killed‘ yields about the same number – 2900 – almost none of them false positives.

The overwhelming majority of deaths in Iraq have been male, and almost certainly the majority of non-combatent deaths have been male. The coverage, in contrast has focussed upon the female deaths. In the field of victimology at least, Barry’s claim that “Men are Centered, women are Othered” is a 180 degree reversal of the truth.

July 23, 2006

The hidden war on men in Iraq – Part 2.

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Iraq,War — Daran @ 4:13 pm

Barry asks for evidence.

Daran, provide me with some evidence that non-combatant men have been killed more than non-combatant women.

(Edit: I respond to other points he makes in that post here.)

If the Lancet’s breakdown of civilian casualties is accurate, then that statement is true if 5 or fewer in 38 violent adult civilian male deaths (including those not caused directly by coalition forces) were of non-combatants. Lets put that another way, for this to be not true, about 7 in every 8 such casualties would have to be combatants. This assumes that none of the women killed were combatants. If any were, then the ratio would have to be even greater.

The (overwhelmingly male) victims documented here do not appear to be combatents.

Then there’s this report and this one describing gender-selective slaughters of men which do not appear to be combatant-selective.

(Update: Barry has since drawn my attention to this article which shows many innocent people – overwhelmingly male – engulfed by the Coalition’s dragnet search for insurgents.

And how about this: They pull up to houses in minivans and SUVs, armed with machineguns and sometimes grenades. They barge into the house and demand money and gold. If they don’t find enough, they abduct a child or female and ask for ransom. Sometimes the whole family is killed- sometimes only the male members of the family are killed..(My bold.)

In another comment Barry said:

But the assumption that all men are combatants, and all women and children are not, is unjustified.

I presume he wouldn’t disagree with this proposition with “most” substituted for the first “all”. I think the burden of proof now lies with him, if he wishes to assert that a sufficiently high proportion of the male deaths are combatents to falsify the proposition.

July 22, 2006

Link Farm and Open Thread #31

Filed under: Link Farms — Ampersand @ 11:15 pm

You folks know the drill… go ahead and use the comments to post whatever you want, including links to your own stuff that we should see. Meanwhile, here’s some of what I’ve been reading:

The Lancet study: My $0.02

Filed under: Statistical Method,War — bazzer @ 7:37 pm

Beset with personal and professional obligations of late, I’ve been shamefully absent from this blog for so long now that all of you have forgotten me altogether. The current debate about the famed Lancet article is a fascinating one, however, and it seems as good a time as any to dive back in.

Applying rigorous statistical methodology in the soft sciences is always fraught with challenge. That’s not to say that it can’t be done effectively (it can, and it should!) but it’s very much a different ballgame. My training was in the hard sciences, where the application of statistical analysis is fairly straightforward. When my wife, the social scientist of the household, asks for statistical help in her research, I always find it more daunting than quantifying (say) nuclear reaction rates.

This particular study has been a lightning rod for controversy since its publication, as partisans from both sides of the divide bring their own ideological biases into the debate, and the whole discussion devolves into a meta-argument that has more to do with the political axes the participants have to grind than with the article itself. We saw it clearly here on this blog, as intense passions were inflamed over an argument about statistics.

For my part, I found the Lancet paper itself largely unremarkable, in both its methodology and its conclusions. I think the researchers did a reasonable job considering the nature of their study. At the end of the day, they essentially said they had a 95% confidence level that the number of civilian deaths fell within the range of 8,000 to 198,000.

Granted, those are large error bars, but that often happens in scientific research. The real crime in the reporting of these findings came from ignoramuses who mindlessly took the unweighted mean of these two figures, which led to countless media headlines screaming “100,000 Iraqi Dead!” and provided the anti-war left with a convenient cudgel of a talking point, lent undue legitimacy by Lancet’s respected status within the world of medical journals.

I think that’s what really got Kaplan’s drawers in a knot, and understandably so. I do think many of Kaplan’s criticisms of the report’s methodologies missed their mark, but I also think Adam was too quick to apologize for linking it into this discussion. Scientists are a cantankerous lot, and as someone who has refereed scientific papers for peer-reviewed journals myself, I can assure you that arguments very similar to Kaplan’s were given full voice behind the editorial scenes before the final draft was published. They were an integral part of the discussion then, and there’s no reason they should not be part of the dialog here as well.

Identifying error

Filed under: Debate,Philosophy,Science — Adam Gurri @ 6:11 pm

Daran does an effective job demolishing the Slate response to the Lancet survey.  Then states:

But the true drawdropping irony in all of this is that Adam, apparently with a straight face, should cite this claptrap in a post exhorting the rest of us to higher standards of evidence!

I happen to believe that what occurred supports the arguments I made in that post.


A critique of the critique

Filed under: Debate,Iraq,War — Daran @ 5:45 pm

Adam recently cited this critique by Fred Kaplan of the Lancet’s survey of civilian casualties in Iraq. I will leave the defence of the survey to others. In this post, I focus on the critique.

The Lancet study, as Kaplan correctly observes, basically stands for the proposition that the number civilian causalties during the survey period is unlikely to be less than 8000, or more than 194,000. Kaplan characterises this finding as “meaningless”, which observation he bases purely on the width of the confidence interval.

He then goes on to refer to the Iraq Body Count, saying

The IBC estimates that between 14,181 and 16,312 Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the war—about half of them since the battlefield phase of the war ended last May. The group also notes that these figures are probably on the low side, since some deaths must have taken place outside the media’s purview.

The IBC’s finding then, is that the number of civilian casualties is unlikely to be less than 14,000 and quite probably much more. It gives no upper limit. Kaplan is full of praise for the IBC and considers its results to be a sound basis upon which to estimate the casualties. He suggests a figure in the range of 20,000 to 30,000.

I agree entirely with Kaplan’s fullsome praise of the IBC. I also agree that a lower bound of 8,000 is less informative than one of 14,000, but I fail to see why the range [14,000-infinity] should be any more or less “meaningful” than [8,000-194,000].

I also agree with him that the Lancet’s central figure of 98,000 should be taken with a pinch of salt, but it does at least have the virtue of being a statistical calculation. Kaplan would have us eschew this figure in favour of a range which has no basis that I can see other than that he personally find it plausible.

But the true drawdropping irony in all of this is that Adam, apparently with a straight face, should cite this claptrap in a post exhorting the rest of us to higher standards of evidence!

Beauty in the exchange

Filed under: Debate,Humor,Navel Gazing — Adam Gurri @ 5:18 pm

You know the worst thing about whining about the need for standards?

People hold you to it.

I haven’t had a debate this productive in a long time.  Nothing motivates me to learn like people easily pointing out when I’m out of my element.

I’ve been participating in a couple of discussion boards recently, and I find it striking how many points of view get represented there.  Sure, there are many that lean in particular ideological directions, but the really massive ones are truly free for alls in that respect.

If there’s one thing I consider myself an idealist about, it’s discussion.  I believe that the best debates are between people who disagree on just about everything.  It’s why I obsess about method–I think that setting a standard up front has something of the effect of setting the rules of exchange.  Sort of like they have rules about the kinds of bat you can use in professional baseball–they’re all trying to beat one another, but no one would be willing to play if there was one team that used aluminum bats while everyone else had to use wooden ones.

Ampersand and I have essentially been looking at the Lancet article from the perspective of statistical methodology, and I’ve been three steps short of him the entire way–but I’ve learned a great deal from trying to keep up.

Whether it’s this subject or any other, CD has gone a long way to renew my faith in discussion as a tool for learning.

The Lancet Article

Filed under: International Politics,Iraq,Statistical Method — Adam Gurri @ 1:44 pm

As I unintentionally walked into a debate on this issue, I thought I’d take the time to look at it by itself.


July 21, 2006

The Era of Passion

Filed under: Debate,Statistical Method — Adam Gurri @ 6:26 pm

This will be a continuation from my previous post.
Daran’s response in particular deserves to be looked at here. In it, he argued that I was simply setting the standards so high that no amount of information could realistically meet them; that what I was doing was tantamount to what tobacco companies have done every time they argue that there is no “real proof” that smoking increases the risk of cancer.

I obviously have not presented my argument very accessibly. I will attempt to remedy that immediately.


Who’s Really Minding the Geopolitical Store?

Filed under: Current Events,Philosophy,War — Brutus @ 12:41 pm

Over at Wash Park Prophet, Andrew Oh-Willeke has two very interesting posts about the military and methods in which modern wars have been waged (a first post, rather long, and a second, much shorter). Although geopolitics falls outside my usual focus and definitely outside my expertise, these posts raise some interesting points about how we live in the modern world.

It’s inevitable, perhaps, that we must accept that war is still very much a part of life at many locations around the globe, including North America, and that strategic defense needs must be monitored, recognized, and met. Of course, none of that is static, and technology in particular transforms the playing field continuously. That ongoing transformation is especially apparent after the end of the putative Cold War, with the U.S. surviving as the sole superpower and our enemies no longer, or at least not currently, being nation-states but loose networks of terrorists. (Never mind that the U.S. is “at war” with Afghanistan and Iraq. These aren’t wars in the traditional sense any more that the “war” on terrorism or the “wars” on poverty and drugs.) Terrorist targets typically aren’t militaries but have shifted to civilians and symbols of the governments and cultures those terrorists aim to antagonize.

So as history chugs along and technology, among other things, changes the rules of engagement, who’s minding the store to ensure that we adapt responsibly to current needs? That’s the question the Wash Park Prophet prompted upon my reading of his brief history of modern warfare (the first post) and the failure of the U.S. Navy in particular to recognize how vulnerable it has become (the second post). If some guy with a blog and some free time can assemble well-argued posts on the subject, I have to wonder who in government is paying attention to these issues and planning for the future? The Pentagon? Some government-sponsored think tank? No one? Waiting for an academic review, conducted from the perspective of hindsight, certainly can’t be the answer. That takes too long and, in the meantime, too many lives and opportunities are squandered.

It’s been argued for some time that traditional government, not unlike traditional warfare, no longer fulfills its mission, which itself is difficult to articulate. Significant evidence (omitted for brevity) of government failure, mismanagement, and corruption in the public sector is sometimes likened to market failure in the private sector. As with all mature systems, formalism sets in and renders long-established government bureaucracies incapable of responding to the changing face of both domestic and geopolitical issues. Considering that electoral politics dominates the political sphere (and the cult of personality, corrupt fundraising, and obvious profit taking that go with electoral politics), it’s a wonder that anything gets done at all. I don’t consider the mere shuffling of the deck that occurred when the Dept. of Homeland Security consolidated the work of several independently operated agencies an example of progress.

So as the public goes about living their lives — paying mortgages, raising children, writing the great American novel, and the like — we entrust and empower our government to develop a cohesive and comprehensive view of providing for the public welfare. On even the slightest review, however, what we actually have for government looks more like a headless beast, all bloated body and tentacles operating without coordination. We can mostly likely respond to new threats and cataclysms as they occur, but it would sure be nice to be able to anticipate them, which I fear we can’t when no one is truly minding the store.

July 20, 2006

On Hate Crime Statutes

Filed under: Free Speech,Politics — Ampersand @ 5:12 pm

On a post at “Alas,” Plunky writes in comments:

I ain’t a lawyer, but I don’t think we should have laws about hate crimes. It is the act of the crime that is reprehensible, not whether the crime occurred because of prejudice, stupidity, whatever. Judges and juries have been weighing the motives of criminals for a long time, and they should be able to keep doing it without legislation that makes some _thoughts_ more criminal than others.

Essentially, I think hate crime laws are a violation of the First Amendment. They take something that is not criminal: hating a certain minority/class/etc and then using that to compound criminal sentencing. It is not illegal to hate women. It is illegal to rape women. If a person is on trial for raping a woman, it should not matter that he hated all women. He should be punished for the one illegal act, not his legal thoughts.

I think Plunky’s analysis is mistaken, because it ignores that many “hate crimes” are crimes not just against an individual, but also against an entire community. If I build a small campfire and roast some hot dogs on Woody Allen’s lawn because I’m hungry, that should be recognized as a different crime from burning a cross on Woody’s lawn because I want to tell all the area Jews that they might be assaulted or killed if they don’t move out.

I agree with David at Orcinus:

Bias-crime laws no more create “thought crimes” than do any other laws consigning greater punishments for crimes committed under certain species of mens rea (or the mental state of the perpetrator), including anti-terrorism laws. Differences in intent and motive can make the difference between first-degree murder and manslaughter. Enhanced punishments are especially warranted when crimes are believed to cause greater harm — and hate crimes quantifiably do so. These are standard features of criminal law, and no more create “thought crimes” than do laws providing the death penalty for first-degree murder.

More to the point (and as I also argue at length in Death on the Fourth of July), hate-crimes laws are not about taking away anyone’s freedoms — rather, they are about ensuring freedoms for millions of Americans.

As I point out in the book, hate crimes have the fully intended effect of driving away and deterring the presence of any kind of hated minority — racial, religious, or sexual. They are essentially acts of terrorism directed at entire communities of people, and they are message crimes: “Keep out.”

Amanda once suggested that we should start using the term “domestic terrorism” rather than “hate crime,” because that better explains why it is that these crimes should be punishable. I think she’s right.

Opposing Equal Rights To Send A Message To The Middle East

Filed under: International Politics,LGBT Issues — Ampersand @ 3:18 pm

A new addition to the list of the stupidest arguments against marriage equality. From the New York Times article on the House of Reps debate over same-sex marriage:

Another Georgia Republican, Representative Phil Gingrey, said support for traditional marriage “is perhaps the best message we can give to the Middle East and all the trouble they’re having over there right now.”

I’m trying to imagine what would have to be going through someone’s mind to make “we should ban same-sex marriage to send a message to the Middle East” seem like an even remotely rational argument.

Was he thinking that if there’s anything wrong with the middle east, it’s that the culture there is too accommodating of homosexuals, and so we must set a good example by not accommodating our local queers? Was he thinking that the reason people kidnap Israeli soldiers is because lesbians and gays in Massachusetts are getting married, and so we should therefore attempt to placate them by assuring them we hate gays, too? Was he too high on crack to be thinking anything at all? It’s a mystery.

UPDATE: By the way, this is far from being the most repulsive, bigoted, anti-queer statement to come out of an elected Republican this week.

July 19, 2006

The hidden war on men in Iraq.

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Iraq,War — Daran @ 6:24 pm

In a recent comment Toy Soldier said:

…it is far more likely that men and boys have shouldered the brunt of the war [in Iraq]

He’s right of course. I was researching this with a view to blogging about it, and just about every source confirms that, bad though things are for women in Iraq, it is overwhelmingly men and boys who have suffered and are continuing to suffer violence in Iraq.

I did come across one piece of apparently contradictory information from the BBC’s website reporting on the Lancet’s 2004 study.

Violent deaths were mainly attributed to coalition forces – and most individuals reportedly killed were women and children.

The study (pdf) does indeed make this claim:

Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children.

Feminists would indeed have a point in their portrayal of women as the primary victims, at least with regard to coalition-caused deaths, if that were an accurate and fair categorisation of the study’s findings. But it is?

In fact the 61 recorded post-invasion deaths directly attributed to coalition forces breakdown as follows:

Men 15-65 years – 27 deaths
Boys under 15 years – 16 deaths
Total males – 43 deaths

Women 15-65 years – 4 deaths
Girls under 15 years – 10 deaths
Total females – 14 deaths

Adults (Sex not recorded) over 59 Years – 2 deaths
Children (Sex not recorded) under 15 years – 2 deaths

Total Children – 28 deaths
Total “woman and children” – 32 deaths

It is literally true that “women and children” are the majority of the victims. It is also grossly misleading. Of the four major demographic groups (excluding the elderly) women suffered the least. The plurality of the causalties were adult men. The next largest group was boys. There were more boys killed than female adults and children put together. Males accounted for nearly three quarters of the deaths.

But it’s worse than that. Excluded from these figures are twelve violent deaths (11 adult men, 1 adult woman) not directly attributed to the coalition, up from one prior to the invasion. It’s likely that the great majority of these deaths are a result of the breakdown in civil order caused by the invasion. If these deaths are factored in, then the male deaths increase to 38 – an absolute majority of the casualties.

That the authors of the report distorted their own findings and the medial latched onto it in this way, should come as no surprise to anyone. We live in a culture that puts a high value on female life, while regarding men as dispensable, disposable cannon-fodder, and no opportunity is missed to focus attention upon the more worthy victims. Male combattents, most of whom had little or no choice in the matter, are not even considered worthy of being counted.

How Girls Express Aggression and Online Fandom Dynamics

Filed under: Feminist Issues — Ampersand @ 1:03 am

Elkins discusses why online fights, especially within online fandom communities, can get so very nasty. She reflects on the paranoiac style of many online fandom disputes, and wonders if there’s a connection to how girls in our culture are taught to express aggression:

The other week, however, while I was at the beach, I read a book someone had recommended to me on the subject of girls’ particular modes of aggression–Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, by Rachel Simmons–and it was really shocking to me just how well many of the things that this book described were things that I strongly associate with online fandom dynamics. That in turn has made me wonder to what extent much of the “paranoiac” behavior that I’ve been seeing in on-line fandom might be an artifact not only of CMC, but also of the predominantly female demographics of the fandom circles in which I’ve travelled. […]

Because of this, and also because these modes of aggression are often so very subtle, their use actively encourages people to hyper-analyze their social environments, to try to “read things into” all of their social interactions. There’s not nearly as much room for misunderstanding in a fistfight as there is in a dirty look, or in the slight turning away of bodies when a girl who has been targeted for exclusion enters a room. These are shows of aggression which already need to be ‘translated’ in order to be properly understood; if you can’t perform this act of translation, then you will have no idea what is really going on. Girls learn to spend a lot of their time and mental energy trying to analyze and to second-guess the behavior of the people around them precisely because within their social milieus, this is often a relevant social skill.

The above quote only scratches the surface of the post, so I recommend that you head over there and read the whole thing.

There’s a great deal of interesting discussion in Elkin’s comments, as well. I liked this brief discussion of how society views male vs female aggression, for instance, and this comment on the overlap between girls’ friendships, fandom, and romance:

July 18, 2006

Quick Quote Of The Week

Filed under: Uncategorized — Off Colfax @ 4:29 pm

The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist.
—– Winston Churchill

[Turn signal: William Gibson] (Yes. That William Gibson.)

Planned Parenthood Labels Alito, Roberts, Others: “Terrorists”

Filed under: Feminist Issues — Robert @ 12:36 pm

The Planned Parenthood Federation has labeled organizations such as Focus on the Family and Concerned Women for America, and individuals including Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts as “terrorists” and “extremist organizations” on the organization’s official website. (Archived screenshots of the page can be found at Go Pundit, Go, which broke the story.)

The groups which are listed as “extremist organizations” include: American Life League (ALL), Americans United for Life (AUL), Christian Coalition, Concerned Women for America (CWA), Eagle Forum, Family Research Council (FRC), Feminists for Life of America (FFL), Focus on the Family, Human Life International (HLI), Life Dynamics Incorporated (LDI), Missionaries to the Preborn, National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), Operation Save America (formerly known as Operation Rescue), Pro-Life Action League (PLAL), and STOPP International aka STOPP Planned Parenthood.

The individuals who are listed as “terrorists” include: Samuel Alito, Flip Benham, John Bolton, Michael Bray, John Brockhoeft, Lester Crawford, James Dobson, Nathan Hecht, Karen Hughes, Phill Kline, Michael Leavitt, John H. Marburger, Harriet E. Miers, John G. Roberts, Ellen Sauerbrey, Randall Terry, Leslee Unruh, and Ann Veneman.

A call seeking comment from Planned Parenthood was not answered, and no return call was received by press time.

Update: A repeated call to the Planned Parenthood media office was not answered, and has not been returned, as of 1:26 PM MST.

July 16, 2006

Judging Iraq

Filed under: Debate,Statistical Method — Adam Gurri @ 4:05 pm

Howdy everyone!  Know I haven’t been the biggest voice around these parts for a while, but I figured I’d just dive in.


July 15, 2006

Women and Iraq

Filed under: Iraq,War — Robert @ 10:47 pm

Ampersand is convinced that Iraq represents a catastrophic screw-up, and he’s pissed off at pro-war bloggers like myself for not admitting it.

Aside from the discrimination in favor of women’s suffering (“World Ends; Women, Minorities Hardest Hit”) , which can be explained readily by the admirable Burkean parochialism that makes Amp a good guy, I’m a little baffled at Amp’s post. But his candor and anger are real, and so I want to address him honestly.

Amp, on the war: “if it was fought to free Iraqis, then the effort has been a dismal failure…”

This just seems so radically out of touch to me that I don’t know how to address it. Amp presents the (very real) decline in the safety and level of privilege enjoyed by Iraqi women under Saddam as being the entire picture of the “freeing” of the Iraqis. On the question of safety, I think that we must concede the Iraqi security situation is not very good. But it is not the worst place in the world, either, and it has real prospects to improve.

As for the privilege: under Amp’s own expressed view of society, privilege bestowed by unjust social orders is not an entitlement. The Iraqi women who had “freedom” and standing in Hussein’s Iraq were privileged by their relative positions in a fascist hierarchy. It was the wife of the Ba’ath Party district chairman who walked the street in safety; the 17-year old Marsh Arab girl lived a life of terror. It is a damn shame that the wife’s position has fallen. for now, below what it should be under any society – of that let’s have no doubt. But nor can we forget what a brutal and unjust society it is that has been given a thorough shaking out.

Leftists like Amp advocate a radical overhaul of our own society, on the grounds that it too is brutal and unjust. They (generally) want peaceful means – but it’s a radical shaking out that they would have. Yet when a society that was inarguably a lot rougher than ours gets knocked around some, it’s a Huge Moral Outrage. Why such defensiveness of the privilege of the elites, without any articulation of the oppression visited on the underclasses?

I guess that in my view, I put a lot more weight on potential than I do on position. I think it’s better to be a struggling free society – even if you’ve been knocked back to square two on the great game board – than a relatively privileged but stultifyingly authoritarian thugocracy. Going from safe streets under Saddam to mean streets under whoever-the-hell-is-elected seems like a step in the right direction to me. I recognize that I don’t have to bear the risks of that directly, but it’s the choice I would make for my own country if the need arose, for whatever that’s worth.

Ruth Rosen: The Hidden War On Women In Iraq

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Iraq,War — Ampersand @ 2:06 am

At TomDispatch, a horrifying but not surprising article by Ruth Rosen on women’s conditions in Iraq post-invasion.

There’s no way I can quote all the important parts of this article, but here’s a few samples:

July 14, 2006

Simplified Spelling

Filed under: Content-lite,Education,Popular Culture — Brutus @ 5:24 pm

If anyone has been paying attention to me at all, then I don’t even need to provide an opinion about this in the Boston Globe:

When “say,” “they” and “weigh” rhyme, but “bomb,” “comb” and “tomb” don’t, wuudn’t it maek mor sens to spel wurdz the wae thae sound?

Those in favor of simplified spelling say children would learn faster and illiteracy rates would drop. Opponents say a new system would make spelling even more confusing.

Eether wae, the consept has yet to capcher th publix imajinaeshun.

Must … keep … opinion … to … self … heroic … effort … involved.

Blood-Dimm’d Tide

Filed under: Current Events,International Politics,War — Off Colfax @ 12:33 am

I find myself with the poetry of William Butler Yeats running through my head again. After all, things have been almost to the boiling point for the last few days over on the Levant Coast, and today’s developments are certainly not going to ratchet down the tension.

“Dozens” of rocket attacks occur throughout northern Israel, believed to be hand-held Soviet-era Katyuskas, some of which land in the Israeli port city of Haifa.

Israel bombs the crap out of Hezbollah targets in Lebanon. And they were very specific in what they were going after, too. The Israeli military went so far as to drop “leaflets in the area warning residents to avoid areas where Hezbollah operates.” This sounds to me like all they wanted was to get the organization who has been abducting their soldiers, and not simply add a bunch of innocent civilians into the meat-grinder.

President Ahmadenijad of Iran warns Israel that if they commit “another stupid move and attack[ ] Syria, this will be considered like attacking the whole Islamic world” an hour or so after the bombing occurs. Which sounds to me like standard breast-beating and “Go Team!”-style cheerleading, much like we’ve been hearing from certain members of the American population.

And then, not hours afterward, a report from Fox News (As streamed on the blog Hot Air.) suggests that is was not a hand-held rocket that hit Haifa, which would be at the extreme range of a Katyusha unless fired from a coastal site. Instead, it was an Iranian-manufactured missile called an al-Fadja 7 (Note: Spelling may be incorrect. Name translated as “Dawn” according to FOX reporter.) and it was the Iranian Revolutionary Guard units in southern Syria that launched it. (Post from LGF says that CNN has run the story as well. Not yet on website.)

(Point of parlimentary inquery: Can one call shennanigans on an elected official outside of one’s own country?)

Riddle me this… Pre-planned escalation on Iran’s part? Target of opportunity? Or just odd coincidence?

My answer: in the realm of military action, there are few coincidences. And unless diplomacy steps up in a big way, we may finally be looking at the state of Israel declaring war upon some sorry bastage.

And may God have mercy on their souls.

July 13, 2006

American Soldiers Arrested For Rape/Execution Of 14-Year Old Girl And Her Family

Filed under: Current Events,Feminist Issues,Iraq — Ampersand @ 2:03 pm

From the New York Times:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 6 — The United States ambassador and the top American military commander here together issued an unusual apology on Thursday for the rape and murder of a young Iraqi woman and the killing of her family, saying that the crime, in which at least four soldiers are suspects, had injured the “Iraqi people as a whole.”

I’ve seen many U.S. media stories make the same mistake the Times makes here. In virtually any context other than a crime committed by US soldiers, a 14 year old girl who was raped and murdered would be called a girl, not a “woman.”

“We understand this is painful, confusing and disturbing, not only to the family who lost a loved one, but to the Iraqi people as a whole,” the two senior officials said in a written statement. “The loss of a family member can never be undone. The alleged events of that day are absolutely inexcusable and unacceptable behavior.”

The statement is all the more unusual because no soldiers have been convicted yet or even formally charged.

Steven Green, accused rapist and murderer, and a painfully ironic headlineWhat I find unusual about the statement, as quoted, is that whoever wrote the “apology” didn’t even read the news reports, or he’d know that four people – Abeer Qasim Hamza, who was raped before she was shot in the head; her parents Qasim Hamza Rasheed al-Janabi and Fakhriya Taha Muheisin al-Janabi, and her six-year-old sister Hadeel Qasim Hamza al-Janabi – had been murdered.

Not “a loved one.” Four loved ones. (Abeer’s two younger brothers were fortunately not home, which is presumably why they’re still alive.)

Does it need to be mentioned that all five soldiers arrested so far have been men?

Heart has been doing outstanding blogging about this appalling hate crime (here, here, here). In her first post about the rape/murders, she quotes the lyrics of a song written by an American soldier. A video that found its way on to the internet showed “The song… performed before thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq who could be heard wildly cheering and laughing in the background.” In the song, a seductive Iraqi woman tempts an American Marine into her home, where she and her insurgent family attempt to murder him.

They pulled out their AKs so I could see

And they said…
Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad
Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah

(with humorous emphasis:)
So I grabbed her little sister, and pulled her in front of me.

As the bullets began to fly
The blood sprayed from between her eyes
And then I laughed maniacally

Then I hid behind the TV
And I locked and loaded my M-16
And I blew those little f*ckers to eternity.

The soldier had been planning to release a recording of his song, but in light of recent events he’s put off (or perhaps been ordered to put off) those plans. Not canceled them, mind you. Put them off.

A couple of right-wing bloggers (here here and here) find it ridiculous that Heart sees a connection between an ever-so-funny song about shooting a sexy insurgent and her family to death, and the actual rape and murder that took place.

Seelhoff quotes the Hadji Girl song, and (with typical Feminist logic) segues from a discussion of a humorous skit of a Marine turning the tables on insurgents who attack him, to the case of several soldiers from the 101th Airborne Division of the US Army, not Marines, who have been accused by Iraqis of participating in an incident of rape and murder in the Iraqi city of Mahmoudiya.

(Note the author’s emphasis on the word “Iraqis” – the implication being that the story is not true. When this rape/murder was first reported in American media, the initial reaction of some in the rightosphere was to assume that it couldn’t possibly be true. See, for example, here and here: “…to take seriously the notion that FIVE soldiers gang-raped a girl, murdered her, burned her body, and then murdered her family to cover up the crime is simply beyond the pale. It would make a good movie script, but it’s just too far out there to even begin to take seriously.”)

I think Heart’s point is actually pretty simple: A culture in which a wacky novelty song about killing a seductive Iraqi insurgent and her family is popular and liked, is a culture that is encouraging misogyny and hate against women, and racist hate against all Iraqis. Did “Hadji Girl” cause these five soldiers to rape and murder? No, of course not. But the same cultural racism and misogyny that has (wrongly) convinced thousands of soldiers that “Hadji Girl” is acceptable as entertainment, also convinced these five (or possibly more than five?) men that it was acceptable to rape and murder an Iraqi family.

Oddly enough, right-wingers make this sort of connection all the time, when they (correctly) suggest that hateful anti-Israel propaganda stems is connected to murderous attacks on Israelis, even when there’s no evidence that any particular article was a direct cause of any particular attack. So why is the connection so hard to make when the hatred is directed at Iraqis and Iraqi women in particular?

I am in no way saying that this sort of thing is unique to Americans, or unique to soldiers. Gang-rape is always a weapon used against civilians — nearly always women and girls — in war, but it’s also used against civilians — nearly always women and girls — at home. Ms. Jared, in a comment left on Heart’s blog, linked to this recent story:

More arrests are likely in the rape of an 11-year-old girl by as many as 10 men, most of whom are football players at local community colleges, Fresno police said.

It’s not a coincidence that so many gang rapes are committed by young men in organizations – football, frat houses, the army, etc – which teach the young men that “being a man” is all-important. The sense of entitlement and manhood that convinced the young men in Fresno to rape is the same as the sense of entitlement and manhood that convinced the young men in Iraq to rape; the main difference, I would guess, is that the young men in Iraq had been subjected to a racist regime, devaluing Iraqi lives, which convinced them that it was all right to murder as well.

Please go read Heart’s posts. A lot of the info and links above came from Heart, and also from Feministing, Abyss2Hope, Feminist Law Profs, Footnotes From a Small Village, and Capitalism Bad Tree Pretty.

UPDATE: Ms. Jared, in comments, points me to this post from Riverbend, an Iraqi blogger:

Rape. The latest of American atrocities. Though it’s not really the latest- it’s just the one that’s being publicized the most. The poor girl Abeer was neither the first to be raped by American troops, nor will she be the last. The only reason this rape was brought to light and publicized is that her whole immediate family were killed along with her. Rape is a taboo subject in Iraq. Families don’t report rapes here, they avenge them. We’ve been hearing whisperings about rapes in American-controlled prisons and during sieges of towns like Haditha and Samarra for the last three years. The naiveté of Americans who can’t believe their ‘heroes’ are committing such atrocities is ridiculous. Who ever heard of an occupying army committing rape??? You raped the country, why not the people?

…Imagine your 14-year-old sister or your 14-year-old daughter. Imagine her being gang-raped by a group of psychopaths and then the girl was killed and her body burned to cover up the rape. Finally, her parents and her five-year-old sister were also killed. Hail the American heroes…

Read the whole thing.

July 12, 2006

Hey Blenderhead!

Filed under: Blogosphere — Off Colfax @ 8:05 pm

(Title taken from this song by Bad Religion.)

Atrios just linked to this post by Glenn Greenwald, and I find myself perturbed at the lack of comprehension involved. Here is the parenthetical comment that makes me wonder if Mr. Greenwald truly understands the concept he is ranting about.

(Incidentally, Instapundit, who claims with great self-satisfaction to be an adherent to the privacy-protecting “Online Integrity” concept, links to Riehl, who currently has posted on his blog satellite photographs of Punch Salzburger’s home along with his home address).

Now, please show me where in the Statement of Principles it says that signatories are to police the blogosphere for violations? (Short answer: It doesn’t. Compliance is voluntary.) Where does it say that the Statement applies to any blog writer, even those that do not sign on to the concept? (Another short answer: It doesn’t. “Adherence to this statement begins at the moment of endorsement[.]”)

Now, I was part of the first 24-hour rush to sign on to the Statement of Principles. I found this to be one of the best concepts I have run across. Why? Because I found it disturbing that folks would post the private information of people, simply because they vehemently disagree with them. (Atrios himself has done that many times over the years, as I recall. Yet for some reason, Google Blogsearch doesn’t have his site available to search through so I can bring up the specific examples. Odd, that.)

Now, on the off chance that Duncan Black would sully his pointer over a link to my site, he would probably point to this post of mine and proclaim my hypocracy on the issue. Why? Because I linked to the professional e-mail addresses of the FCC commissioners. Yet look again at the Statement of Principles. It only protects private information such as home addresses, personal email, telephone numbers, and the pseudonymous. A member of a governmental agency’s professional email would not be considered a violation, particularly seeing as how the right to petition the government for redress of grievances is enshrined in the same First Amendment as the right to freedom of the press that we bloggers use every single day.

So the Cliff Notes version of Online Integrity: Voluntary. Self-policing. Applies only to signatories.

Is that really so hard to understand? I don’t see why obviously intelligent, though misguided, people such as Duncan Black and Glenn Greenwald have difficulties understanding this.

(Crossposted from Left Off Colfax)

[UPDATE 12:01 MDT]

I can’t believe I’m actually writing this but…


Damn, but doesn’t that feel good.

Feel free to look around, folks. Beer’s in the fridge. The good brews are next to the stuffed carcass of Jeff Goldstein’s armadillo. (I keep meaning to bring the little fellow back to him, but for some reason, I can’t bring myself to give up an animal that can beat me in a belching contest.)

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