Creative Destruction

September 29, 2006

Beyond A Reasonable Doubt, The Rape/Consent Spectrum, And Restorative Justice

Filed under: Feminist Issues — Ampersand @ 9:52 am

In my previous post, I argued that feminist reforms to the text of rape laws won’t, by themselves, lead to large differences in how rape is treated by the justice system. This is because the people who make the justice system happen will resist changes they believe are wrong.

There’s another limitation of the criminal justice system for addressing rape: The law requires – and should require – an offender to be proved guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” before punishing him (or her) for any crime, including rape. This is not something I want to change.

However, a significant number of rapists are friends, boyfriends or spouses of their victims. These rapes often happen without any physical evidence to distinguish rape from consent, leaving the jury (or judge) with the task of deciding guilt or innocence based on the competing words of the accused and the complainant. If a rapist is a convincing liar, then even a very feminist jury may feel that he is not guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and so will not convict.

Also, although the law has to consider rape a bright line – either an act was legally rape, or it wasn’t – in real life rape is better described as a spectrum. Consider this post by Biting Beaver, in which she describes a fifteen year old girl out on a date:
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September 28, 2006

Rape Trials Are Gender Performances

Filed under: Feminist Issues — Ampersand @ 1:54 pm

One thing I’ve been meaning to post about for a while is why I think reforming rape and sexual assault laws, while worthwhile, is unlikely to cause an increase in rapists being convicted and imprisoned. I was reminded of this while I was reading a recent law journal article by Corey Rayburn entitled “To Catch A Sex Thief.” ((“To catch a sex thief: the burden of performance in rape and sexual assault trials,” by Corey Rayburn, Columbia Journal of Gender & Law, June 2006, Pg. 437 ,Vol. 15, No. 2.)) From the article’s introduction:

While every trial has elements of theater, rape and sexual assault cases are unique because they emphasize the gender performances of the accuser and the accused. Complainants who testify are not just recounting the events of the alleged rape. They are also defining the essential parts of their gender roles for the jury. Every statement, mannerism, action, and emotion of the accuser on the witness stand relays information about her gender to the jury. If the jurors deem a performance too emotional, they may assume the accuser is stereotypically hysterical and unreliable. If, however, she appears cold and calculating, the jury may believe she is a “gold-digger” using the criminal trial as a prequel to a lucrative civil suit. If she shows too much anger (as though it were possible for someone who has been raped to be “too angry”), the jury may see vengeance as her motive for “crying rape.” Which predefined gender roles the jury assigns the accuser and accused during the trial are important in determining whose story the jury will ultimately believe.

At its core, a criminal rape trial taps into the linguistically and culturally founded beliefs of the jury in order to reach a desired outcome. In most cases of “simple rape,” as Susan Estrich has labeled acquaintance rape, the defense attempts to access certain meta-narratives about sex and rape to convince the jury that the alleged rape event was really consensual sex. These rape myths and the rhetoric of rape and sex, not statutory rules and procedures, are the critical pivot points for shaping the jury’s decision. The trial itself is like a play where the actors and their agents fight to define the roles and script utilizing these meta-narratives. As Stephen Schulhofer has written, “[s]ocial attitudes are tenacious, and they can easily nullify the theories and doctrines found in the law books. The story of failed [rape law] reforms is in part a story about the overriding importance of culture, about the seeming irrelevance of law.”

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Banned Books Week

Filed under: Current Events,Free Speech — Brutus @ 1:32 pm

Although it’s almost over already, I thought I should point out that this week is Banned Books Week.

BBW

Things like this require our attention from time to time. Browsing the challenged books and authors lists, I was a bit surprised to find the Harry Potter books and J.K. Rowling listed. Some folks have too much time on their hands if they can’t find better targets (though I consider the entire notion of banning books or authors antithetical to a free society).

One of the questions I regularly field from my students is “Why do I need to know/study this?” It occurs to me that without a robust body of knowledge at one’s disposal, it becomes difficult to understand why fending off the recently House-approved bill to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects is such a necessary action. Sooner or later, though, leaders of our increasingly fascist government are going to realize that they no longer need to restrict our free speech by taking aim at provocative or noncanonical ideas. We’ve already decided we don’t care enough to pay attention to their trespasses on our rights, and in our ignorance, we mostly don’t have anything to say anyway.

Women and the Draft

Filed under: Debate,Feminist Issues,War — Daran @ 2:49 am

My promised followup to my previous post will have to wait. Here I respond further to Jeff, over at Feminist Allies

Jeff:

My point was that, if he’s really concerned about men getting shafted regarding the draft, part of what he could be doing is making sure that women have equal rights to work (in, say, the military)…the results of such efforts would be twofold: One, there would be less of a need for a draft, becasue women would be allowed to be in combat (officially, that is; they already are incombat in Iraq right now) and therefore allowed to do more jobs for the military,

The unstated assumption here is that the Selective Service exists to remedy a potential shortfall in the number of troops needed for America’s defence. I disagree. America’s technological millitary hegemony is so great that there is no forseeable threat that could not be met, many times over, from male volunteers alone. (I’m not saying that it should be so met, only that it could be.) The real purpose of draft registration is to remedy a potential shortfall in the number of troops needed for America’s imperialist millitaristic adventures. Giving women greater access to combat roles within the military will not sate your lunatic leadership’s appetite for war. It will merely give it a greater ability to wage it.

You do not oppose the draft by encouraging or supporting women in the millitary. You oppose the draft by opposing the draft.

and two, there would be a whole segment of the population (i.e. women) who would have a more direct interest in fighting the fight against the draft with Jim.

Now I’m confused. I understand the “right” in this context to refer to voluntary service. How will giving women more opportunity to serve voluntarily give them a more direct interest in fighting against the draft?

Unless you’re suggesting that we extend the draft to women in order to encourage them to oppose it…

I was trying to get Jim to see the connections between his right (in my opinion) to not get drafted and the rights of women to work where they’d like.

Why, in the name of the Goddess, do feminists – feminists of all people – advocate for the right of American women to get themselves killed oppressing third-world women in the service of Haliburton’s bank-balance?

Are you insane?

On the other hand, it’s unclear (to me) from Jim’s statments that he opposes the draft itself–sounds to me like he opposes it be for only men; if that’s the case, he ought to be ought there trying to get women more rights in the workplace, right?

It’s not even clear that he opposes a single-sex draft, only that he regards it as oppressive and unfair. (Some people argue that oppressive and unfair things are nevertheless necessary.) In the absence of any clue from Jim on about what he thinks on this subject, let’s stick to what you think, and what I think.

On your latter point, Advocating for women’s rights in the workplace generally is laudible for many reasons, but I don’t see the connection between those rights and the draft (and as explained above, I don’t accept your postulated connection between the draft and women’s opurtunity to serve in the millitary.)

Which brings me to:

Irrelevent. No woman wants to be forced to sign up to serve in the military, which is what we’re talking about with Selective Service.

Says you. There are two issues that you’re conflating here–whether the selective service is a moral wrong in and of itself, and whether the way the selective service is run now (i.e. only men have to register) is wrong. There may be many women who think that the selective service as it is run now is wrong, but who would think that mandatory service for all genders is a moral good.

No, you’re the one who has engaged in conflation – of women’s right to serve voluntarily with men’s right to be free from SS. Now, you’ve drawn a connection between the two, which I don’t accept, but which nevertheless is relevant to our current off-topic discussion. It was irrelevent to Jim’s original on-topic point which you misunderstood.

I’m aware that some women favour mandatory service (NOW, for example, see below). However arguing that all women should be forced to serve is not the same as wanting to be forced to serve. Either they’re personally willing to serve, in which case no force is necessary, or they’re not, in which case being forced is a price they’re willing to pay for that alleged moral good.

NOW’s position used to be (I don’t know if it still is) opposed to the draft, but if that was not possible, then NOW favoured a universal, rather than a men-only draft.

…NOW’s primary focus on this issue is on opposition to registration and draft. However, if we cannot stop the return to registration and draft, we … oppose any registration or draft that excludes women as an unconstitutional denial of rights to both young men and women.

Consider the implications of that. NOW’s official position was that not only should women have the right voluntarily to get themselves killed oppressing third-world women in the service of Haliburton’s bank-balance, but that, in preference to the current status quo, women should be forced to get themselves killed oppressing third-world women in the service of Haliburton’s bank-balance.

And they argued this in the name of women’s rights. It’s sheer barking-at-the-moon lunacy!

September 27, 2006

Selective Service – Privilege Part 4

Filed under: Blogosphere,Debate,Feminist Issues — Daran @ 3:01 pm

I have a confession to make. Until last night, I didn’t know what Selective Service was. I must have encountered the phrase before, but it must never have actually registered in my mind, nor, until now, was I motivated to find anything out about it.

My ignorance is perhaps an illustration of the effects of “American Privilege”. A search of my past and present cyber haunts turns up many references, some of which I must have seen, but in each case the writer just assumes that everyone in the world will be intimately familiar with the details of American life, so nobody bothered to explain it to this ignorant Brit. (Edit: nor will I explain here. Click here if you need more information.)

But that’s no excuse. I have a responsibility to be well-informed about the matters of which I speak, and in this instance – fine “Men’s Rights Activist” that I am – I failed.

This time it was raised in a Comment at Feminist Allies (H/T: Rachel), by Parson Jim:

I feel the same way about women, for example, when I’m forced to sign up for the Selective Service, and they aren’t. If I don’t I can’t drive legally, and I can’t attend or work for any institution that receives federal funds, including most colleges and universities.

[…]

So please, next time all of you women out there beat and moan about being “oppressed”, get a dose of reality.

As Rachel noted, Jim’s interjection was a topic hijack. It was also incoherent in context. The “way” women feel about men in that thread is fearful. I don’t think he meant that he feels fearful towards women because of these things, but that he feels resentful about the advantages in life that they enjoy.

Given that it was a hijack, the good netizens of Feminist Allies would have been perfectly justified in declining the gauntlet that Jim threw down. However, one of them, Jeff, picks it up

If you’re so concerned about women not having to be part of the draft, how come you aren’t out there with some feminists trying to get equal rights/pay/respect for women?

As an initial matter, does Jeff know Jim in real life? If not, has Jim talked about what he does or does not do “out there”? Because it looks like Jeff is assuming things about Jim that have no basis in what Jim has said. (I express similar views to Jim’s, hopefully more coherently, yet it would be a mistake to assume that I had been idle in the matters Jeff raises. In particular, I have devoted a considerable portion of my life to anti-rape advocacy, both on and offline, and yes, I have worked with feminists.)

But even if Jeff’s ad hom isn’t baseless, it’s still irrelevant. Jim’s activism (or lack thereof) in these fields has no bearing whatsoever on whether Selective Service is oppressive to men.

It’s also sexism. Jeff does not demand of women that they be “out there with some MRA’s” before women’s disadvantages be granted consideration.

Finally, given that feminists claim to oppose sexism, it’s hypocrisy for them to engage in it.

Lots of women would love to be more a part of our military.

Irrelevant: No women wants to be forced to serve in the military.

(I wonder how Jeff would react to a hearthrob popstar who tried to justify raping a woman by saying that lots of women would love to have sex with him.)

Instead you make half-assed accusations that are so old and tired that you’re sort of embarassing yourself here.

The age of Jim’s point has no bearing on its validity, and he has manifestly not accused anyone of anything, so this is a strawman. “Tired” and “half-assed”, to the extent that they are more than just content-free slurs, means that the point has been made repeatedly and incoherently, and refuted repeatedly, and so deserves no further expenditure of effort. Jim did express himself incoherently, but that does not undermine the fundamental strength of his argument which, as I will show in my next post, feminists have not refuted at all.

Edited for markup.

Update: Jeff has Replied to my comments in that thread, and I will respond to him there in due course.

Updated to add this list of links to the entire ‘Privilege’ series of posts, which I shall keep updated from now on:

“Privilege” and “Disadvantage” as sexist framing devices
Do white men really benefit from privilege?
More on Privilege
Selective Service – Privilege part 4

I Didn’t Hate Garden State

Filed under: Content-lite,Feminist Issues,Popular Culture — Ampersand @ 12:41 pm

I’m sorry, I didn’t hate Zack Braff’s movie Garden State. It was sweet and wistful and funny. Sure, it wasn’t The Greatest Movie Of All Time, but it certainly didn’t deserve a heaping double-scoop of contempt from Slate.

The Slate article has good laugh lines, but some of its criticisms are bewildering:
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Chavez Might Not Be Antisemitic, But He Embraces Woman-Hating Iran

Filed under: Feminist Issues,International Politics — Ampersand @ 11:02 am

In a previous post, I asked “Alas” readers about the translation controversy regarding Chavez and antisemitism. In the comments, Elana, who is a professional Spanish translator, said the real issue is “do references to ‘Christ killers’ and ‘gold and silver’ have the same connotations in their culture as they do in ours?”

Since then, I’ve come across an article which convincingly suggests that “Christ-killers” does not have the same antisemitic connotation in Venezuela. The article was originally printed in the Forward, an American Jewish magazine that I think is generally credible.

Here are the most relevant bits (emphasis added by me):
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September 26, 2006

More on Privilege

Filed under: Blogosphere,Debate,Feminist Issues — Daran @ 1:55 pm

Maia makes a sagacious point in a comment over on Alas.

I also really feel a need to distinguish between areas where you are actually privileged, and areas where other people’s rights are being trampled on. I would say not having to do your share of house work is a male privilege. But not having to be afraid of rape? I’m not comfortable seeing that as privilege – that’s a right.

Defenders of the notion of privilege argue that it is a relative concept.

If one person (or group) is “disprivileged” wrt another group then, by default, that other group is privileged wrt to the first person (or group).

This can be critiqued on several grounds. Firstly it obfuscates the important distinction between suffering an unfair disadvantage, and enjoying an unfair advantage. As Maia says, freedom from the fear of rape is a right. The problem is not that men generally enjoy this right; it’s that women very often do not.

Secondly, because many people understand “privilege” to mean an unfair advantage, as Maia does, the relative definition makes it harder to discuss these issues. It’s like trying to discuss “violence” with Objectivist Libertarians who define the term differently from everyone else

Thirdly, the “relative” definition is not an honest one. It’s sole purpose is to be trotted out in response to criticisms like mine and Maia’s. As soon as the debate moves on from what the word means, it changes back to “unfair advantage”, as evidenced by the “You don’t want to give up your privilege” trope, and the claim that men “benefit”, which only makes sense if privilege is understood so by the person making this comment. (Maia, being female, has the “privilege” of never having to face that one herself, at least with respect to gender.)

And it is that ad hom which exposes the real purpose behind the concept: It’s to frustrate debate, by silencing members of the allegedly privileged group.

Edited for minor wording, linkification, and markup.

Updated (27 September) to add this list of links to the entire ‘Privilege’ series of posts, which I shall keep updated from now on:

“Privilege” and “Disadvantage” as sexist framing devices
Do white men really benefit from privilege?
More on Privilege
Selective Service – Privilege part 4

It was a joke

Filed under: Current Events,Politics — Ampersand @ 9:46 am

It’s weird to find myself agreeing with right-wingers, but this:

“I certainly hope that Hillary is the candidate,” [Jerry] Falwell said, according to the recording. “She has $300 million so far. But I hope she’s the candidate. Because nothing will energize my [constituency] like Hillary Clinton.”

Cheers and laughter filled the room as Falwell continued: “If Lucifer ran, he wouldn’t.”

It’s a joke. I’ve made pretty much the same joke myself, frankly – and it’s more a slam on Falwell’s followers than on Hillary.

Oh, and as for Chavez – look, he clearly didn’t mean to say that Bush is literally the immortal avatar of evil, a fallen angel, etc. That would be insane. He just meant that he thinks Bush is incredibly evil. This is hardly an uncommon or shocking opinion nowadays.

I was going to close with a snarky comment about it making more sense to hate Chavez for his antisemitism, but then I ran across this blog, claiming that Chavez’s famous antisemitic statement was actually a case of malicious mistranslation. Any Spanish-reading readers who can clear up this question in comments, please do.

September 25, 2006

Has The US Invasion of Iraq Made Improvement Possible?

Filed under: Debate,Iraq — Ampersand @ 7:47 pm

Some of my previous post on Iraq was quoted from comments I wrote here at Creative Destruction. In that discussion, Bob Hayes suggested that I was failing to consider that the situation in Iraq could be worse:
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Making Things Worse In Iraq

Filed under: Iraq — Ampersand @ 7:26 pm

Tim at Balloon Juice quotes from news stories (one, two):

Torture in Iraq may be worse now than it was under Saddam Hussein, with militias, terrorist groups and government forces disregarding rules on the humane treatment of prisoners, the U.N. anti-torture chief said Thursday. […]

A report by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq’s Human Rights office cited worrying evidence of torture, unlawful detentions, growth of sectarian militias and death squads, and a rise in “honor killings” of women. […]

According to the U.N. report, the number of Iraqi civilians killed in July and August hit 6,599, a record-high that is far greater than initial estimates suggested, the U.N. report said Wednesday. […]

Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat […]

The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

An opening section of the report, “Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,” cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

The report “says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,” said one American intelligence official.

And from a report quoted on Liberty & Power:
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September 24, 2006

Clinton May Have Incriminated Self In Wallace Interview

Filed under: Current Events,Politics — Robert @ 9:15 pm

In a recent interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, former President William Jefferson Clinton may have implicated himself in a violation of the law. (Transcript; video.)

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan signed Executive Order 12333, limiting the government’s ability to order assassinations. It’s a long executive order; the most relevant clauses are 2.11 and 2.12:

2.11 Prohibition on Assassination. No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.

2.12 Indirect Participation. No agency of the Intelligence Community shall participate in or request any person to undertake activities forbidden by this Order.

Clinton, in his interview with Wallace, emphatically stated (regarding Osama bin Laden):

What did I do? I worked hard to try and kill him. I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since.

EO 12333 was subsequently modified and relaxed in 2001, by the Bush administration, following the events of September 11, 2001. However, during Clinton’s presidency, the original order was in effect. It appears reasonably clear that former President Clinton has admitted openly to violating an Executive Order still in force. (Although the theory has been advanced that he was actually lying for political effect.)

As of press time it is not clear what penalties, if any, are prescribed for violation of EO 12333.

(H/T: Protein Wisdom.)

Update: Glenn Reynolds (you know, that lawyer fellow) says “nyet” in a private e-mail, saying that there are no penalties, and that the original EO allows assassination if the President makes a finding, which was what Clinton was referring to.

I don’t see that last part in there; my understanding was that the findings-make-it-OK rule was one of the changes Bush made in 2001. But I could be mistaken.

Clinton Wrong: Wallace Asked Republicans About Pre-9/11 Terror Failures

Filed under: Current Events,Politics — Robert @ 8:46 pm

Patterico does the homework.

The Clintons are the gift that keeps on giving.

Of course, if this other story is right, then Clinton might have to be conservative bloggers’ perpetual motion machine from behind bars.

September 21, 2006

Goodbye

Filed under: Blogosphere,Blogroll,Free Speech,Political Correctness — Tuomas @ 3:42 pm

Ilkka at Sixteen Volts has apparently quitted blogging, and took down all his previous posts. There was a scandal/investigation about some of his postings and sexism in them. I hope this was his own genuine choice. I couldn’t find the article, it was linked in Sixteen Volts, which is now defunct [found via Steve Sailer -Tuomas]. He will focus on his teaching career, which hopefully won’t suffer from the fallout.

In the online world and the blogosphere, it is just too easy to forget the real world and the people in it, especially for an introvert such as me. The whole thing just seemed to gradually escalate until I got this sudden wakeup call. Even for the times when I was right and did present many good ideas and observations, what good did there ever come out of it? When I add everything up, my online writing really did not make the world a better place, as a whole.

[…]

I am deeply humiliated and ashamed by this experience, and at least I understand my place in the whole world much better. This will therefore be enough of the virtual world for me. I will now sign off permanently, thanking everybody for bearing with me, and once more apologizing for everyone who I have hurt or insulted in my thoughtlessness. When I go out next time, I will be looking at the whole world in a very different way.

He was sometimes an insightful blogger, a prolific linker, and a good writer. His flaw was an increasing nasty undercurrent and commitment to schadenfreude, which sometimes overshadowed the points he presented, and tended to cultivate comments that were far more genuinely sexist and nasty than his own provocative points.

Ilkka always seemed to me a generous, critical and intellectually honest person who perhaps got caught in little too many flaming arguments.

[update: Of course, it is entirely possible that this is just until things calm down. Hard to know]

[update 2: Considering the credible threat to Dr. Kokkarinen’s career and reputation, I am even more convinced that this is an apology under the barrel of a gun. It appears that Canada’s commitment to Free Speech has given away to political correctness, and I urge you to give him support, no matter what you may think of his opinions]

[Update 3 : Never mind update 2. Tough call.]

[Update 4 : I removed 16 Volts from the blogroll, as it is now basically a tombstone]

Happiness

Filed under: Philosophy — Robert @ 3:05 pm

Happiness is not an outcome. It is not a result. It is not something to work for. It is not something to be found.

Happiness is a decision.

September 19, 2006

Poor Methodology In Anti-Divorce Study

Filed under: Statistical Method — Ampersand @ 3:38 pm

Last year, on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” show ((“Anderson Cooper 360,” November 22 2005.)), Elizabeth Marquardt, author of Between Two Worlds – which is being re-released in a trade paperback edition this month – had this exchange with Cooper:
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September 18, 2006

Bill Clinton Lunches With Whites. Also, Firedoglake sucks.

Filed under: Race and Racism — Ampersand @ 1:25 pm

Bill Clinton poses with bloggers

I’ve been mostly offline for the last several days, so I’m late in commenting on Bill Clinton’s lunch with some lefty bloggers at his Harlem office. Notice something missing from this photo?
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September 17, 2006

Being Pro-Life

Filed under: Personal Ramblings,Reproductive Rights — Robert @ 8:54 pm

Dawn Eden posted a link to a good quote from an article in Christianity Today by Amy Laura Hall about how Christians need to start supporting mothers if we want to consider ourselves truly “pro-life” – all mothers, not just the ones who are coming into motherhood the way we would describe as optimal.

Dawn’s link got me thinking about an experience I had at the hospital about four years ago. My then-very pregnant wife and I were touring the birthing wing at Penrose-St. Francis Hospital, preparatory to the delivery of Stephanie. The nice young lady giving us the tour took us around to the various rooms, showing us the various waiting and delivery rooms, getting us familiar with the hospital procedure, and letting us see how well-equipped their acute care facilities were for babies and moms who had difficulties. It was all very reassuring.

We were in a tour group of sorts, composed of all the women who were expecting to give birth in the next couple of months, along with their husbands and/or boyfriends. Except for one young woman, perhaps eighteen, who was all alone. All. Alone.

She was wearing a t-shirt from some atrociously untalented local band or another. She had piercings in every visible portion of her anatomy. I don’t know if her regalia was specifically Goth, but close enough for middle class bourgeouisie. Her hair was…I don’t even remember what her hair was, but it was a mess, OK? She was every parent’s nightmare child, complete with the swelling belly and ringless finger that informed us all that Steve the Drummer or whichever genetic champion she had chosen as a mate was not in the picture.

As we went around the stations, husbands supporting wives up tricky inclines and boyfriends holding doors for the parade of pregnant women, this girl tagged along, alone. She was paying attention to the tour but I wasn’t – I was pretty much preoccupied with my own internal litany of judgment. Didn’t she know what happened after sex? Was she unaware of the unmarried American male’s sterling track record of supporting his children? Didn’t, for God’s sake, she have any sense? Compare and contrast – look at all these smart women, with the husbands they’ve found for themselves. Look at me, at the good choices I’ve made! Gentle reader, if smug self-righteousness were dollar bills, I would have been eating at a fancy restaurant that night.

We were almost done with the tour when it happened. I do believe in God and I do believe in miracles – ask me about the flying car one of these days – but I am not one of those Christians who pipes up with “and then Jesus told me to just march right over there with a casserole!” He tends to speak to me in the still quiet hours of the night, with feelings, not with words.

Not this time. This time it was like a voice in my head. Was it God? Was it my own guilty conscience? I don’t know. Call it the Voice, because that’s what it was – a Voice, capital V, in my head. And the Voice didn’t seem interested in the bad choices of the t-shirt piercing Goth girl. The Voice had questions for ME.

“Where is she?”

(Abruptly, just like that.)

WTF? What do you mean?

“WHERE is this girl? WHERE is she standing?”

Uh…the hospital. The maternity ward.

“And WHAT is she doing here?”

Taking the tour…so she can see where her baby will be born, I guess.

“Where her WHAT will do WHAT?”

Where she’s going to have her baby! Jeez, Voice.

“So this girl who obviously has NO support and NO help has made the CHOICE to keep her child – to bring it into this world alive, on her own. Is that easy for her?”

What? Oh, Christ, no. That’s got to be a miserably hard prospect. Lost educational opportunties, a guarantee of a low standard of living, years of being tied to a helpless child.

“Could you do it, if you were her?”

Uh…I like to think that I would. Of course, when I was eighteen…good Lord. No, probably I would have caved to whatever idiot plan my peers told me to do. Abortion, most likely.

“Then who are YOU to judge HER? You have both made the same correct choice. For you, there was no cost. For her, the cost is EVERYTHING. And you stand in JUDGMENT? Of her CLOTHES? Of her HAIR? Of her SENSE?”

The Voice didn’t say anything after that. It didn’t need to. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more thoroughly chastened. I cried a little bit, but nobody saw because I was trailing the group at this point while my wife peered at the incubators and the wee little bassinets. I trailed along, Asshole of the Year.

Whatever else that girl had done wrong, she had scored a 100 percent on the Big Exam. She was making the right choice, and doing so in the face of asshole judgments from assholes like me. As Christians, we have to recognize the kind of moral clarity that trumps sensibilities and preferences. As people who welcome life, we have to accept that it isn’t always going to come in prettily-wrapped packages with a wedding ring on the bow and a prepaid Harvard scholarship lining the box. Life is going to be messy and ugly, and babies are going to be conceived by people who ought not to have done it – but having done it, we cannot let our judgment and our righteousness stand in the way of doing the right things.

If you are also pro-life, I encourage you to find yourself in this story. Not only so I won’t feel like such a unique specimen of Jerkus Homosapiensis – so that we can all start putting aside the things that are not crucial and start living up to the promise implicit in our philosophy.

If we want to be pro-life, we have to mean it.

September 16, 2006

What the ICRC really tells us about War Casualties

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Statistical Method,War — Daran @ 8:43 pm

In recent posts, I’ve been debunking the myth – mistakenly attributed to the ICRC – that women and children are 80% of war casualties. Here I summarise and discuss the findings of four papers from the peer reviewed British Medical Journal, all of which which were based on patient data from Red Cross and Red Crescent Hospitals. (See also my Analaysis of the figures given in the Lancet study on the war in Iraq.)

Conclusion

The data are consistent with the hypotheses that upwards of 75% of war casualties are adult men, and that upwards of 90% of war casualties are male. See below for detailed findings and discussion.
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September 15, 2006

The liberals’ culture war

Filed under: Politics,Politics and Elections,Popular Culture — bazzer @ 6:54 pm

The woman who manned the register at the Blue Hill Food Co-op in Maine was a hugely pregnant hippie chick who did not shave under her arms. I knew this because she was wearing overalls… and nothing else. My wife, who is mildly allergic to bees, had just been stung, so we were asking her where we could find a nearby pharmacy.

She scowled for a moment, and then asked us (no kidding!) “Why do you need a pharmacy? You should just menstruate on a piece of tree bark, like I do.” Well okay, she didn’t really add that last sentence, but she might as well have. She mumbled some directions, we thanked her, and then drove for a few miles until we found a strip mall on the side of the highway, anchored by that pernicious blight of the suburban landscape — Wal-Mart.

First of all, let me say that I personally tend to avoid Wal-Mart as much as possible. I find shopping there to be a profoundly unpleasant experience (except for the ICEEs, which are getting harder and harder to find these days.) Still, I would never presume to judge those who do shop at Wal-Mart, as many liberals (including the Co-op girl) clearly do.

Secondly, there’s nothing wrong with the Food Co-op either. Sure, the staff and some of the clientele can be a bit nutty. It’s one of those places where you could probably expect a 10% discount if you say “STOP BUSH’S ILLEGAL WAR IN IRAQ!” at the checkout. But they have a wide variety of stuff you can’t find elsewhere. Much of it is good (fresh local produce, craft-brewed beer and exotic cheeses) and much of it awful (meatless meat, cage-free tofu and homeopathic snake oil) but all of the merchandise there has one thing in common — it was exorbitantly expensive.

See, the Co-op is committed to social justice, paying a “living wage” to its hippies, buying coffee only from the Zapatistas and other such b.s. Still, their curried chicken salad (real chicken — free range, of course) was quite good, and we shopped there often. With our New York salaries, we could afford to. Others, however, can’t.

The pregnant hippie chick and other liberals would, no doubt, prefer that everyone shop at the Co-op — or at the very least avoid shopping at Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, that’s simply not realistic, and the liberals’ animosity towards the nation’s largest retail chain is further evidence that the liberal movement in America has lost touch with working families. The GOP’s rise to power in America came about as the working class began to self-identify as Republicans. Liberals’ obsession with Wal-Mart won’t help them win the NASCAR set back, I’m afraid.

We’ve all heard the lefties’ anti-Wal-Mart shtick before. We also know that it seldom (if ever) stops at criticizing Wal-Mart’s labor practices. More often than not, it goes on to disparage the taste and class of Wal-Mart shoppers themselves. Remember the good old days, when Republicans were the party of the elite?

George Will has a great piece on the Democrats’ bizarre fixation on this American institution, and notes some very interesting facts.

The median household income of Wal-Mart shoppers is under $40,000. Wal-Mart, the most prodigious job-creator in the history of the private sector in this galaxy, has almost as many employees (1.3 million) as the U.S. military has uniformed personnel. A McKinsey company study concluded that Wal-Mart accounted for 13 percent of the nation’s productivity gains in the second half of the 1990s, which probably made Wal-Mart about as important as the Federal Reserve in holding down inflation.By lowering consumer prices, Wal-Mart costs about 50 retail jobs among competitors for every 100 jobs Wal-Mart creates . Wal-Mart and its effects save shoppers more than $200 billion a year, dwarfing such government programs as food stamps ($28.6 billion) and the earned-income tax credit ($34.6 billion).

People who buy their groceries from Wal-Mart — it has one-fifth of the nation’s grocery business — save at least 17 percent. But because unions are strong in many grocery stores trying to compete with Wal-Mart, unions are yanking on the Democratic Party’s leash, demanding laws to force Wal-Mart to pay wages and benefits higher than those that already are high enough to attract 77 times as many applicants than there were jobs at this store.

Whether you like Wal-Mart or not (and again, I don’t) it sure doesn’t sound like the unmitigated evil that John Kerry deemed it in 2004, when he called it “disgraceful” and symbolic of “what’s wrong with America.” So long, party of the working man. Hello, party of effete white liberals.You need look no further than this absurd war against Wal-Mart to understand why the Democrats have repeatedly failed to gain traction in heartland America. It’s another symptom of the same disease that Will summarizes brilliantly in the last paragraph of his column.

When liberals’ presidential nominees consistently fail to carry Kansas, liberals do not rush to read a book titled “What’s the Matter With Liberals’ Nominees?” No, the book they turned into a bestseller is titled “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” Notice a pattern here?

Yes. I do.

September 13, 2006

Great … Another Thing to Worry About

Filed under: Current Events,Personal Ramblings — Brutus @ 2:55 pm

As if we don’t have enough dangers lurking around every corner, from faulty drugs to emergent disease vectors to crime to environmental toxins to bits of falling buildings — oh, and let’s not forget terrorism — how lousy would be be to be struck down by stray voltage emanating from city infrastructure? The Chicago Reader reports on one fellow’s ordeal when he took his dog out for a walk and the dog stepped on a sidewalk with live current. The dog made a complete recovery, but other animals have been killed and some people hospitalized.

Similar reports come from Boston and New York, where at least one woman was killed when she stepped on an electrified metal plate near a bakery. Whereas those cities have responded with legistation mandating that utility companies conduct routine inspections to locate and fix instances of stray voltage, Chicago seems to have dragged its feet, waiting, perhaps, until something really ugly occurs.

There are lots of miserable ways to go, many of which are absolutely random and unable to be protected against unless you want to live as a hermit. Am I now going to ensure that all my shoes have soles of nonconductive material? The idea will definitely cross my mind with the next shoe purchase I make.

Evolution of a Myth: More on that 80% Figure

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Statistical Method,War — Daran @ 5:00 am

Unsatisfied with merely showing that the claim that “80% of war casualties are women and children” was misattributed to the ICRC. I decided to see if I could trace the statistic back to its origin. After all, the figure could still have a basis in well-founded research. After several hours of intensive Googling, I was able to trace it back to a claim in a 2002 edition of the Refugee magazine published by the UNHCR, which itself was derived, at least in part, from a UNICEF report published to 1996. The claim in the UNICEF report, however states only that women and children are 80% of displaced people. Finally I unearthed the real ICRC figure, which is that less than 26% of war casualties are women and children.

Below the fold, I describe my search in more detail
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The Grinning Face of Propaganda

Filed under: Current Events,Politics — Brutus @ 12:19 am

It surprises me a bit that of the various contributors to this blog, no one has yet posted anything about the 5-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks (because, ya know, judging from the activity of the mainstream media, the 5-year anniversary is so much more significant than the 4-year anniversary). I’ve seen a few blog entries that rehash the details, go on record against terrorism, or ask the “where were you?” question. That’s well-trodden ground, and frankly, no worthwhile result obtains (beyond the trite “never forget” idea — as if we could).

The one piece that makes a great deal of sense to me and has a worthwhile reminder of where we ought to be after five years is this one by Keith Olbermann. Among his insightful remarks is that now five years later, we still have a 16-acre hole in lower Manhattan. No memorial, no building project. So if we all came together in support of victims, civil servants, and Pres. Bush, well, we haven’t yet been able to similarly put aside our differences and get something done on the site of ground zero.

Olbermann also makes a rather spooky reference to a Twilight Zone episode where conquering aliens remark that once they set us against each other, the aliens themselves don’t really need to do much to wipe us out as our own paranoia and mob response are pretty potent weapons. Leading that charge, by Obermann’s assessment, is the Bush administration, for which he has nothing but contempt, apparently.

Probably the worst aspect Olbermann notes is that the 9/11 attacks have been used by political opportunists (again, the Bush administration figures strongly) in shameless propaganda campaigns to advance partisan agendas, notably, the war with Iraq and rolling back civil liberties. And it’s not over. ABC’s docudrama The Path to 9/11 has been roundly denounced as “[f]actually shaky, politically inflammatory and photographically a mess” by the Washington Post. I’m the wrong person to comment on this, as I didn’t watch any of the docudrama, nor did I watch either of the Hollywood movies treating the same subject. Like the JFK assassination, with so much disinformation, outright fiction, and conspiracy theory floating around, I rather doubt the truth behind either event is truly knowable with any confidence after they’ve been spun and massaged and coopted as party propaganda.

So no one asked, but I’ll offer a brief five-years-later assessment. It makes me infinitely sad that whatever lessons might have been learned in the aftermath of the attacks, including some serious self-assessment about the things we did to get us to the point of becoming a target, that opportunity has been mostly squandered in unthinking American jingoism and flailing retribution taken on the wrong parties.

September 12, 2006

Sixth Circuit Court Rules That Obesity Is Not Covered Under ADA

Filed under: Disability Issues,Fat and fat acceptance — Ampersand @ 11:19 pm

From the Disability Law Blog (thanks to Blue for emailing me the link!):
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Prison Sentencing Study: Whites, Women, Non-Poor, and U.S. Citizens Are Given Lighter Sentences

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Race and Racism — Ampersand @ 2:34 pm

I’ve just been reading a 2001 study by David Mustard, of the University of Georgia, called “Racial, Ethnic and Gender Disparities in Sentencing: Evidence from the US Federal Courts.” ((The Journal of Law and Economics, vol. 44, no. 1, pages 285-314. Pdf link.)) Mustard’s study appears better-designed than other sentencing studies I’ve read. His sample is large and comprehensive: he essentially includes every federal sentence handed down for three consecutive years (1991 through 1993) in his analysis. Rather than focusing only on sex or on race, he simultaneously controls for the effects of race, sex, U.S. citizenship, and class on federal sentencing. (Legally, none of those four factors are supposed to have an effect on what sentence a judge hands down.)

The results aren’t pretty. Especially for drug crimes and for bank robberies, being white is a big advantage if you’re being sentenced for a federal crime:
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September 11, 2006

On The Most Recent “Fat = Death” Study

Filed under: Fat and fat acceptance — Ampersand @ 5:25 pm

Late last month, a National Cancer Institute study published in the New England Journal of Medicine was given a lot of unskeptical press coverage.

This report, from the AP’s Alicia Chang, is typical in its gloom-and-doom prognosis:
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September 9, 2006

Are America’s Poor as Well Off as Sweden’s Poor?

Filed under: Economics,International Politics — Robert @ 1:33 pm

Interesting article at TCS about comparing Sweden to the United States (always a favorite pastime in our household, when we get bored of trying to guess how many yellowjackets the yellowjacket trap will kill today). Bottom line (but read the article): after transfer programs and such are taken into account, the poorest 10% of Americans earn about 39% of the US median income. The poorest 10% of Swedes earn about 38% of the US median income. In standard of living terms, anyway, it appears that poor Americans are infinitesimally better off than poor Swedes, despite all the transfer programs and such.

The exercise by the TCS author doesn’t, as far as I can tell, talk about the psychic benefits that the stability provided under the Swedish model provide. That is, I imagine (and it seems reasonable) that it’s mentally easier to be poor in Sweden than it is to be poor in the United States. I doubt that poor folk in Sweden worry overmuch that the state is going to fall in Republican hands and that things will get a little tougher in the free hospitals, whereas I know that poor people in the US do worry about that kind of thing. How much that’s worth in terms of “social justice” I don’t know.

September 8, 2006

Data not bad anymore, but misleading none the less

Filed under: Economics,Statistical Method — Adam Gurri @ 6:09 pm

Yes, I’m surprised I still exist, too.

Anyway, saw Ampersand’s correction, and had me a look at the Kevin Drum Analysis.

It’s misleading, and I will tell you why: look at the census data he’s drawing on.  We are not talking about the Median Income levels for all citizens of the United States.  We’re talking about Median Income…for each household.

I’m not splitting hairs.  There are a number of reasons why the average income for a household might decline that would in no way suggest a decline in the standard of living.  If the proportion of low-income people who are buying their own houses increases, then the average might decrease, but the people who already owned homes are not any worse off than they were before.

It could also be that more single people are buying their own homes.  If you have fewer income earners in each house, then naturally the average “per house” goes down, but comparing a house owned by a twenty-something single IT student with a house occupied by a family of five would be rather unproductive if you’re attempting to get a sense of general standard of living.

But enough talk.  Let’s look at some information.

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Median Income – Bad Data Alert

Filed under: Economics — Ampersand @ 2:54 pm

median_income_bad_data.png

Yesterday I posted the above map, and I see that many lefty bloggers have done the same. However, as Jane Galt points out, the data behind the map was put together very poorly, and the statistics given on the map have little validity. (Thanks to Nobody.Really, who pointed out Jane’s post in comments).

Kevin Drum has posted more accurate data; although it shows that median incomes have indeed dropped in most states since 1999, the situation is not as dire as the inaccurate map made it seem.

Are 80% of war victims women and children?

Filed under: Feminist Issues,War — Daran @ 10:31 am

Over at The Goddess, Morgaine and I have been having a discussion about war victims:

Morgaine:

80% of the casualties of war are women and children, who NEVER have the political power to prevent it.

Me:

That is simply false. The majority of victims in most wars are male. In Iraq, for example, adult men were the demographic group most likely to be victims. Adult women were the least. See my post here for details.

Morgaine:

You are patently wrong, Daran:

Yes I am. What I should have said was “The majority of casualties in most wars are male. In Iraq, for example, adult men were the demographic group most likely to be killed. Adult women were the least.”

It was not my intention to imply that only those killed should be regarded as victims, any more than it was to suggest that only Iraqis should be regarded as victims. The reference was intended to be an example – a single data point for illustrative purposes. I’m well aware of rape as a war crime, and I most certainly do consider those targetted for this kind of brutalisation, overwhelminly female, to be casualties of war. I’m sorry if the wording I used gave a different impression.

Via Japan Times On Line (Registration required — Daran)

“According to a report prepared by the International Committee of the Red Cross, titled ‘Women and War’ and based on two years of research from 1998 to 1999, approximately 80 percent of war victims are women and children. This is mainly because military conflicts now more commonly engulf towns and cities instead of only frontline areas.

A report that reached this conclusion using even halfway-decent methodology would certainly trump my single data point, that’s for sure, but does it?

The cited report can be found here. The executive summary of the study on which it was based can be found here (Both PDF). In neither document can I find any statistic or other statement that stands for the proposition that 80% (or any other percentage) of war victims are women and children. The figure given in the news report appears to be a journalistic invention.
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