Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Get with the times, United States Census!

Do you have 2010 Census fever? I know I do. But I question if the United States government has its equity sails at full mast.

The Wall Street Journal reports:
Question No. 1 is simple enough: name, which the Census Bureau will use if it needs to call for clarification about the other five questions. ... But question No. 2 -- "How is this person related" to the head of household -- gets quickly complicated.
My eyebrows raised when I read that the government still asks families to identify a single "head of household." It's antiquated and unrealistic to operate in a framework where each household has just one breadwinner/decision maker/whatever makes you a head of household. How often, in families led by heterosexual couples, are men chosen by default as the head of household? Undoubtedly simplifying this aspect of the survey makes statistical analyses less complicated, and the government isn't implicitly encouraging men--or women--to deem themselves Supreme Household Leader. But in a survey that exists for the sole purpose of accurately depicting how Americans live, how accurate is it to presume that each household has just one head?

But this seemingly narrow-minded (and patriarchal) approach to data collection didn't ruffle my feathers nearly as much as this did:
Who knew that asking people their age, gender and how they're related to the folks they live with could be so complicated? ...

Question No. 3 asks gender, with the admonition to "Mark ONE box" -- male or female. Whether the Census Bureau included that instruction or left it out in the 2005 field test, the results were the same. Either way, 0.05% of those asked -- that would mean 150,000 in a population of 300 million -- still checked both.
Um, you mean you can't comprehend that some Americans identify with neither the male nor the female sexes? Were you living in a cave in Antarctica when the word "transgender" was introduced to the English language? The confusion (and insulting, patronizing, how-stupid-are-if-you-don't-know-if-you're-a-boy-or-a-girl? tone) expressed by this Wall Street Journal author does not necessarily reflect similar ignorance of transgender issues on part of the Census Bureau. However, the absence of an "Other: _____" box for the sex identification question is indicative of the government's insensitivity to the reality that not everyone is male or female. Certainly this field would invite a lot of smart-ass answers, but if the Census is progressive enough to include an "Other: _____" box for race (which itself yields some out-there responses), they can make the effort to acknowledge that is sex is not a dichotomous variable.

Polling, Polling everywhere...

We had some questionable polls thrown around in the comments sections but I wanted to take this opportunity to show the results of a reputable poll run by Washington Post-ABC News:

Do you think (the United States should keep its military forces in Iraq until civil order is restored there, even if that means continued U.S. military casualties); OR, do you think (the United States should withdraw its military forces from Iraq in order to avoid further U.S. military casualties, even if that means civil order is not restored there)?

             Keep forces   Withdraw forces   No opinion
2/25/07 42 56 2
1/19/07 46 52 3
12/11/06 48 48 4

Polls of course are just measures of public opinion but it's personally nice for me to see that the average American holding what I view as the right position on the most important political issue of the day.

Friday, February 23, 2007


One of the less-pleasant things about Berkeley was the degree of Liberal Coccooning. That is to say, being a Liberal became such a tremendous part of your lifestyle and your everyday experiences that there was very little chance of ever encountering non-Liberals. You shopped at Berkeley Bowl, lived in a completely Liberal town, read liberal magazines, and hung out with Liberal friends.

But political movements do not thrive in coccoons. They die. The practitioners grow out of touch, insular, and intolerant of outside opinions. When's the last time Berkeley-style liberalism made a national impact? Late 80s? Winning in politics requires conversion and alliances, not just base-rousing. Witness the Democrats' base-oriented strategy in 2004, where even heraculean efforts by Berkeley-based outfits like Moveon had marginal success at best. And the failure of Michael Moore-style self-congratulatory media.

That's why Dean's version of a muscular, outreach-oriented Democratic party is such an improvement. And why even the hardliners at Kos are preaching engagement with the rest of the country. It doesn't even need to be engagement that gives up principles, but a level of cultural and civic outreach that gets outside of the Liberal comfort zone and into the rest of America.

And I'm so pleased to see that Republicans are going in the opposite direction. Just as Democrats are consciously working to re-engage the rest of the country, the Republicans are engaged in a tremendous effort of cocoon spinning. Fox News. Republican dating sites. Republican-only websites. Even a Republican version of Wikipedia. (!)

It must be so puzzling for Republicans. Even as they've created a mirror world of self-congratulations and personally-oriented media, they've dropped like very heavy stones in polls and approval ratings. And, stuck in an echo chamber, they can't seem to figure out what went wrong.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Lieberman's Switch?

Republicans' hearts are all aflutter at the "remote possibility" that Lieberman would switch parties. The factor that Lieberman has to be aware of, though, is that there are very good reasons to think that the Democrats are going to pick up Senatorial seats in 2008. At a minimum, of the 33 seats coming up for election, 21 are currently held by Republicans. Even if most of those seats are safe today - and I think they are - even a hawk like Lieberman must understand that if the war in Iraq is still going on in 2008, Republicans are going to be very unpopular indeed. And, of course, if Lieberman doesn't want the war to continue, there's not much reason for him to switch in the first place.

So it's not clear to me that it makes much political sense for Lieberman to actually make the jump. It's probably still helpful for him to make a fuss about the war and threaten to change parties, but it's got to be a bluff, right?

Update: Via Matthew Yglesias, apparently Lieberman becoming a Republican wouldn't change which party controls the Senate. If that's the case, then Lieberman's switching is all the more improbable.

I'm Still Gonna Buy Samoas

MeMe Roth and her crew at National Action Against Obesity think that we ought to be boycotting Girl Scout cookies because they're bad for us and they worry about "young females identifying themselves with baked goods".

I happen to like Girl Scout cookies, but that all makes a certain amount of sense to me. And the best counter-argument Katherine Mangu-Ward can come up with is that Girl Scout cookies aren't as bad as Al Qaeda or global warming, so Roth's probably on to something.

What I don't get is why libertarians - who are ostensibly opposed only to government intervention into peoples' lives - get so offended by this sort of mobilization by private citizens. It's almost like the anti-government rhetoric is all just a pretense or something.

P.S. - The NAOO's press release suggests that "Girl Scouts look to Boy Scouts as a model", but I think that's wrong as a general principle. I was a Boy Scout, and I appreciate that the BSA have done a good job of identifying themselves with community service rather than something like cooking. At the same time, the BSA is an essentially discriminatory organization, and there are many aspects of the group that the Girl Scouts would not be improved by emulating.

Update: Mangu-Ward goes full-length with her criticism. She actually offers an argument this time, including the cogent fact that Girl Scout cookies are really, really good, so you don't obviously make the world a better place by getting rid of them.

Fair enough. Like I titled the post, I'm still going to buy and eat Girl Scout cookies at every opportunity. (I had several Samoas this evening.) That kind of dodges the question about promoting obesity, but I appreciate the sentiment.

Completely unaddressed are the feminist concerns, which I think are at least as big a deal as the health issues.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Not Just Not Bad For You

Via Julian Sanchez, it looks like there's not actually much evidence that playing violent video games leads to violent behavior:
According to a new study by a researcher at Texas A&M International University, studies that see a connection between video games and violent behavior usually suffer from shoddy research techniques. Dr. Christopher Ferguson studied the results of a number of recent studies linking violent video games to aggressive behavior with an eye not just to individual results, but also to overall trends in the studies as a whole.

Wait, but I thought we knew that virtual violence made players nastier and more aggressive!
Ferguson found that the connection between violence and gaming had more to do with publication bias than it did with any actual correlation. In other words, journals were more likely to publish studies that supported the hypothesis that playing violent games made a subject more prone to violent behavior.
I, for one, am not surprised, but this did remind me of an article I read a few days ago about the benefits of playing video games:
Playing video games appears to help surgeons with skills that truly count: how well they operate using a precise technique, a study said Monday.

There was a strong correlation between video game skills and a surgeon's capabilities performing laparoscopic surgery in the study published in the February issue of Archives of Surgery.

It supports previous research that video games can improve "fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, visual attention, depth perception and computer competency," the study said.

The sample size involved was actually pretty small, but I've got first-hand experience using video games to help students with visual processing or sensory-motor skill disorders. It turns out that experts actually recommend video games for those purposes, and I see no obvious reason why similar sorts of benefits wouldn't be seen more generally.

What's more, one of my girlfriend's pet theories is that computer science offers a medium in which one can be a comfortable, confident learner because mistakes are neither embarrassing nor dangerous; you can always just start over if you screw up, and nobody has to be the wiser. Students are therefore more likely to take risks and push the limits of what they know. They can also look forward to immediate feedback, which is definitely gratifying. My girlfriend typically emphasizes those potential benefits of programming, but I see very similar phenomena with even the fairly primitive computer games I give my students to, say, study for geography quizzes.

None of which is to say that kids ought to be playing Grand Theft Auto at school, but I don't think it's much of a stretch to say that 1) it would be nice to see computers better integrated into the school day and 2) that kids deserve leisure time and there are certainly worse, less-productive ways to spend it than on video games. They could be blogging, for instance.

Lets Ride that Iraq Train!

In Law and Economics today I learned about the Drowning Man case. In this case, a man took a canoe into the middle of the lake. The canoe tipped over, and he could not swim. The Defendant saw him flailing in the water, calling for help... and did nothing. He just stood there for thirty minutes until the Plaintiff eventually drowned. The Plaintiff's estate sued... and lost!

That's right, as Americans, you are within your rights to stand by the side of a lake and watch a man drown, even if you have a jetpack and a rope in your possession. (So long as you didn't CAUSE him to be in that position).

One of the major reasons for this is that we don't want to incentivize others to do stupid things because they know they'll be saved. In other words, you have a duty to take care of your own safety. If you can't swim, don't go canoeing! The Park Service has seen the results of this, as lots of moron hikers have been heading into snowstorms because they know the Park Service will bail them out.

And yet, the Democrats responsibility to essentially Bail Out Iraq has become a stick to bludgeon them with. Democrats are supposed to "man up" to our mess in Iraq. We can't leave now, because the Republicans have created a situation where "early withdrawal would produce 'massive civilian casualties.'"

It's refreshing to play a make-believe game where, like a randomized war-strategy game, all the pieces were placed willy-nilly and the players have to do the best they can with the results. From this perspective, it seems bizaare to be in the middle of this Middle Eastern civil war. Who rolled those dice? Get out of there and pursue our actual financial and strategic interests.

But I guess Democrats need to take responsibility for the man in the lake. Because we have a duty to save them

John McCain: Panderer

John McCain must be a pretty sensitive guy. He can only be accused of being "too liberal" so many times before his feelings get hurt. Hence this:
Republican presidential candidate John McCain, looking to improve his standing with the party's conservative voters, said Sunday the court decision that legalized abortion should be overturned.

"I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned," the Arizona senator told about 800 people in South Carolina, one of the early voting states.

McCain also vowed that if elected, he would appoint judges who "strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States and do not legislate from the bench."

Sigh. He's also jumped on the Rumsfeld-was-bad bandwagon. I guess he thinks you really can please everyone.

In other news, McCain has unveiled a strong three-point platform declaring that puppies are adorable, pizza is delicious, and that NASCAR is "sweet." The man knows his audience.

(Thanks for the tip, Feministing.)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Facebook: Stupid for So Many Reasons

I'm uptight, possibly Nazi-like, about calling out subtle and culturally normative sexist attitudes or phrases that occur in everyday life. It's exhausting maintaining my level of vigilance, in fact. Do you realize how tiresome it is to correct everyone who refers to adult women as "girls"? My throat is nearly parched from jeering every television commercial that portrays only women doing housework. Can anyone else appreciate that I've perfected my "Excuse me? What did you just say?" face to employ when someone says "female doctor" or "male nurse"? Just the other night on Deal or No Deal, when a female contestant was explaining that she's a shopaholic because she buys whatever she wants, Howie retorted, "I think that just makes you a woman!" I literally booed the television, and not just because that's a horrible show and Howie Mandel is a pox on the small screen medium.

Anyhow, it didn't escape my notice that Facebook, which is aimed primarily at Internet-savvy high school and college students, is using "Mother's maiden name" as a login security prompt:

All of the other security questions are pretty innocuous (though you could argue "What is your favorite pizza topping?" discriminates against those with wheat allergies), but this default question is painfully behind the times. Yes, many mothers, even mothers of kids in the youthful 12-25 age group, took their husbands' last names when they got married, but how many of those moms have subsequently gotten divorced and reclaimed their birth names? How many of those moms didn't get married or didn't change their names to begin with?

More importantly, why is a seemingly hip outfit like Facebook perpetuating the normativity of patriarchal customs?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

This guy may have just converted me to Atheism

Via Pharyngula:

Via: VideoSift

Oh Canada!

Last night I purchased two tickets to Ottawa and back. I'm going to spend at least six of my seven nights in Canada in a cottage in the woods, but I'm working on convincing my boyfriend that we should spend the last night in our northern neighbor's capital city.

This will be my first venture into Canada, and it almost feels like I'm preparing to depart for a mythical utopia of social progressiveness, universal health care, and unusually friendly hockey fans. (If I don't spy Wayne Gretzky in a Royal Canadian Mounted Police uniform officiating a same-sex marriage while one of the grooms gets a state-funded appendectomy, I'll be very disappointed.)

Given that my expectations are, uh, unrealistic, and given that I'll only have about 24 to soak in Ottawa, what clues should I be looking for when I mentally tally my list of "Canadians sure are different from Americans!"-isms? How will the the constitutional monarchy manifest its progressive policies in its everyday attributes?

When I was in Munich, for example, it struck me how eco-friendly ideas influence the nuances of the local culture. There are designated parking spaces for fuel-efficient Smart Cars; the redemption value on beverage containers is over twenty cents; in fact, the whole country sanitizes and reuses glass beverage containers instead of using disposable (and difficult-to-recycle) plastic; even the escalators to the subway remain dormant until you step on a sensor that sets them off.

Will I find similar expressions of intelligent policy when I visit Canada? (Also, on a personal note, what should I do if I only have one day in Ottawa?!)

Monday, February 12, 2007

This isn't going to work like a bus boycott

Recently on Pandagon, Roxanne requested that her readers suggest fun, simple, affordable wedding reception ideas for her friend Lauren. Unsurprisingly, one commenter, Tara, got offended that Roxanne was inviting others to get excited about a heterosexual wedding when same-sex couples are not legally allowed to marry. Subsequent commenters struck her down with various arguments, though all were sympathetic to the reality that legal marriage is, in its current manifestation, unfairly unavailable only to same-sex couples. The comment that kicked it off:
... ‘Getting married’ is a political act. The institution, and its use to discriminate against sexual others ..., only exists because people — many of whom consider themselves tolerant, even ‘allies’ — still decide to get married and/or perpetuate their being accorded privileges (some physical, some symbolic), even when they know others aren’t being allowed this right. I hope I’m not seen as someone who’s raining on someone else’s parade, but it just seems presumptuous to parade around hetero-privilege. I get offended. [emphasis added]
This isn't a new conversation. But it illustrates that many people target marriage itself, not the people who dictate marriage laws, as the source of the disparity. This is an incredibly ineffective rhetorical approach to the problem of discriminatory laws. The whole point of supporting gay marriage is that we want everyone to be allowed to marry, not that we want fewer people to have access to an institution that grants rights. It's not the bus's fault that Rosa Parks had to sit at the back.

My stupid bus analogy is a good segue for the second component of that comment thread: heteros boycotting marriage is not the equivalent of the Birmingham bus boycotts, and straight couples poo-pooing matrimony are not progressing the gay marriage movement. Effective boycotts work in two ways: first, they deprive the discriminator of money; second, they create enough bad publicity to shame the discriminator into adopting new policies. When southerners boycotted public transportation in solidarity with Rosa Parks, the racist bus company owners actually stood to lose money and gain a lot of negative attention.

Who suffers when straight couples boycott marriage in solidarity with gay couples? Do you think these guys feel the hurt when progressive different-sex couples don't get married? Do these asshats stand to lose anything when straight yuppies stay home instead of tying the knot? Do you think George W. Bush (and every other politician who insists that marriage is "the union of a man and a woman") wakes up in a cold sweat because his straight marriage quota wasn't met that month? Though anti-gay marriage advocates claim that they care very deeply that everyone get married and have babies in a "traditional" family, they actually don't give two shits what a pair of straight liberal kids do with their personal lives. The only people losing out are wedding planners and hotel owners, and they don't carry a lot of political clout.

If boycotting marriage isn't going to spur change, what action can straight couples take if they want to get married and promote the gay marriage cause at the same time? Of course the usual political activities (voting, contacting legislators, blogging) are the best start. But if you insist on making the act of marriage an agent of change, maybe start by stripping your wedding ceremony of patriarchal and heterosexist symbolism. (Damned if I'm walking down any aisle to be "given away" by one man and "reclaimed" by another.) If you believe that marriage should only be a civic, rather than religious, process, maybe your ceremony can reflect this sentiment. Or preform the civic and the spiritual elements of your union separately. Promote marriage for what it should be--the legal joining of two people who love each other--rather than as a tool of discrimination and subjugation of women and homosexuals.

Wittiest quote of the day

From Crooked Timber:

For what it’s worth, I notice that C. Wright Mills endorses the idea. Very far-sighted of him, what with being dead for about 45 years now.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

I Don't Feel Like Listenin'

I can't figure out why the Scissor Sisters, who are wildly popular in the UK and all over Europe, have flopped so miserably in the United States. The New York natives are among the best-selling artists in the United Kingdom but haven't cracked the charts in their home country.

My best guess is that their beat-you-over-the-head-with-a-dildo homosexuality is simply too abrasive for American audience. For some reason Europeans have a higher tolerance for former gay bar strippers wearing nothing but overalls than Yankees do. Though not all members of the Scissor Sisters are gay, and though gay themes don't entirely dictate their lyrical and aesthetic content, the band is fairly, uh, flamboyant. I saw them at the Warfield during their break-out tour, and it appeared that a large proportion of their fan base (at least in San Francisco, which is hardly an average city) are cross-dressers, bears, or unafraid to hold hands with their same-sex partner in public. Incidentally, it was one of the best concerts I've ever attended. (That they can put on such a fun show, replete with multiple costume changes, yet still maintain such a high degree of musicianship in their live performances is amazing.)

But it's not like Americans haven't embraced gay groups before. Queen and Elton John never had trouble making it huge in the US. "Relax" made it to number 10 on the American charts. Wham! was a hit over here. Though, as my boyfriend pointed out, all of those groups developed an American fan base before they had come out as gay or they were big in the 1980s, when thinly-veiled homosexual aesthetics blended in quite nicely with the overall styles of the day. Have their been any majorly successful, openly gay artists in the US in the last decade and a half?

I'd suggest that the band's actual music is what's keeping them down in the states--they preform an uncategorizable fusion of disco, glam, and dance-friendly pop--but half the junk that tops the charts on this side of the pond is synth-infused disco crap. Gwen Stefani's two solo albums have thrived in America in spite of (or because of) her synth-pop sound. Justin Timberlake could turd in a paper bag and it'd immediately go platinum in the US, and everything he does sounds pretty disco.

So what gives? Are Americans actually put off by gay music? Or would any band that's so unconventional--gay or straight--flounder in the states? Or are we just allergic to music that's not easily categorized?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Where's Clarence Darrow When You Need Him?

This is an old news story, but it's starting to feel like an even older one. Last month, Frosty Hardison, a father of a high school student in a Seattle suburb, managed to get "An Inconvenient Truth" barred from his daughter's district by writing a letter accusing her teacher of telling just one side of the supposedly multi-sided issue of global warming.

As if to deliberately create an aesthetic, as well as rhetorical, parallel between the creationists and global warming deniers, chew on this tasty treat:
The 43-year-old computer consultant is an evangelical Christian who says he believes that a warming planet is "one of the signs" of Jesus Christ's imminent return for Judgment Day.


"Condoms don't belong in school, and neither does Al Gore. He's not a schoolteacher," said Frosty Hardison, a parent of seven who also said that he believes the Earth is 14,000 years old. "The information that's being presented is a very cockeyed view of what the truth is. ... The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn't in the DVD."
Uh. Uh huh. Hardison is also a patriot. Check it:
"No you will not teach or show that propagandist Al Gore video to my child, blaming our nation -- the greatest nation ever to exist on this planet -- for global warming," Hardison wrote in an e-mail to the Federal Way School Board.


"From what I've seen (of the movie) and what my husband has expressed to me, if (the movie) is going to take the approach of 'bad America, bad America,' I don't think it should be shown at all," [Frosty's wife] Gayle Hardison said. "If you're going to come in and just say America is creating the rotten ruin of the world, I don't think the video should be shown."

Scientists say that Americans, with about 5 percent of the world's population, emit about 25 percent of the globe-warming gases.
Clearly, Al Gore hates America. He's probably emboldening terrorists as we speak.

On a more substantive note, global warming deniers have taken a cue from creationists in insisting that a "balanced" presentation of a "controversial" issue be given to public school students. Why is anyone humoring these people? Why do nincompoops continue to buy into the idea that global warming, like evolution, is "just a theory"? Since when does championing diversity of opinion mean we have to let ignorance reign supreme? Why does superstition keep beating fact? Teaching global warming and evolution already is balanced; in fact, it's better than balanced: it's correct.

Subsequent to these two articles, the Federal Way school board has lifted the ban on the film. But I can't help myself in reprinting this nugget of comedy gold:
In the end, though, the board opted for an abundance of balance.

That means that "An Inconvenient Truth" may be shown only with the written permission of a principal -- and only when it is balanced by alternative views that are approved by both a principal and the superintendent of schools.

Hardison was pleased.

"I am happy they are giving the kids as much information as possible," he said.
His daughter's science teacher, meanwhile, said she is struggling to find authoritative articles to counter the information in the Gore documentary.

"The only thing I have found so far is an article in Newsweek called 'The Cooling World,' " Walls said.

It was written 32 years ago.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Lieberman is a bad senator

I’ve been going back and forth on this issue for quite a while and it seems that every time we make some progress we slide all the way back to square one. Here’s Aaron on the subject of Lamont’s primary opposition to Lieberman:

And my fear regarding Lieberman wasn't Connecticuters with pitchforks, it was the stupidity of pushing somebody out of the party for ideological differences on one (albeit important, but hardly all-encompassing) issue -- of purity utterly dominating diversity, in other words. That seemed (and still seems), well, illiberal.

This is a very strong argument. It's not just that it’s bad strategy for Lieberman’s constituents to vote him out of office because of the war - with the seniority and experience Lieberman has gained from many years in the senate it would be relatively straightforward to argue that he was worth keeping despite not representing Connecticut very well on some issues - according to this argument it’s illiberal.

If you accept that the primary process as a democratic expression of Connecticut voter’s interests it’s difficult to take this argument seriously. After all, the point of a primary is to figure out which candidate best represents the members of that party. Whether a candidate is voted out on one issue or many is immaterial. But that the point. If you accept this argument you probably don't think that Lieberman failure in the primary was the result of the democratic expression of voter discomfort with his policies. You probably think Lamont’s primary win was the result of illegitimate (though legal) swaying the electoral process.

The most obvious culprit for what could illegitimately sway the election is money. But Lieberman and Lamont both spent about the same amount (roughly $20,000,000). Lieberman got about 75% of his funding from out of state rich folk and PACs while Lamont took the John Edwards route of pouring his own cash into his senate campaign. Money just wasn’t decisive in the primary. Registered Democrats in Connecticut had equal opportunity to hear both Lieberman and Lamont and choose Lamont as the person who best represented their views.

Aaron had more to say on this but I'll stick to this for now. I want to make sure what I've gotten thus fair isn't wrong before proceeding.

Update: Reworded for clarity.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Sexual Politics of Gavin Newsom's Wiener

The local reaction to Gavin Newsom's affair has been overwhelmingly bleh. Bay Areans, seemingly, are unusually adept at distinguishing political decisions from personal choices, and, with a few exceptions, San Francisco voters will probably be ready to forgive and forget by the time Newsom runs for re-election in November. Come to think of it, the news is only four days old, and Gavin's not even appearing above the fold in the Chronicle.

Is this evidence of our metropolitan area's liberal attitude toward sex? Many of Newsom's defenders have repeated that, well, everyone needs sex, he was going through a divorce, and his partner was a consenting adult, so what's the big deal? I wonder, if the mayor of a small conservative city had admitted to having sex with a married woman, if his constituency be so lenient. And if Newsom had slept with his campaign manager's husband or boyfriend, would locals be less tolerant? Even more tolerant?

Or maybe Gavin's getting the wet noodle because he's so unforgivably hot. This sounds miserably shallow, but I'm guessing more than a few women and men responded to news of the affair with a blithe, "I wouldn't kick him out of bed."

What intrigues me most, though, is that almost all of those giving the mayor their invective are disapproving for the same reason: the woman he had sex with is married to his friend. Not cool!, declares a gaggle of furrowing voters, most of whom are men. The Chron has a telling column on this phenomenon, explaining that Newsom's critics have caught him in an inexcusable breach of "Man Code." In short, according to Man Code, cheating on your partner is pretty bad, but cheating with your friend's wife is totally off limits. (This sentiment is echoed in many of the comments of the "Two Cents" articles linked above.)

This discussion brings to light some inherently sexist facets of the sexual politics of cheating. The woman he had sex with (what's her name again?) hasn't been saddled with any of the responsibility in this situation, even among critics. Somehow this triangle has been reduced simply to two masculine points: Newsom and Alex Tourk are duking this out mano y mano while Ruby watches passively from the sidelines. This quote is especially revelatory:
Hello?" wrote Mike Mulholland, 43, who grew up in the Bay Area before moving to San Diego County. "Newsom slept with his friend's wife. What if he stole from a friend? Or tried to frame a friend? Would that also be nobody's business?"
Well-stated. Ruby Rippey-Tourk is her husband's property, and Newsom desicrated his buddy's property by sticking his penis in it. It's like he stole from his friend, or broke his lawn mower and didn't bother to fix it. Neither the "Man Code" article nor the "Two Cents" articles even mention Ruby's name. Women are treated as voiceless and faceless as men-folk butt heads in a decisive battle of Bros versus Hoes. Again, I wonder how this dynamic would play out if he had had sex with his male campaign manager's boyfriend.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Very Impressive!

And to think I tried to tell my parents all of that Sunday School was for nothing!

You know the Bible 79%!

Wow! You are truly a student of the Bible! Some of the questions were difficult, but they didn't slow you down! You know the books, the characters, the events . . . Very impressive!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

Via PZ Myers, who is 11% more Bible-savvy than me.

Fortunately, I can brush up on my Bible here. They do the Koran and Book of Mormon, too!

Friggin' Poor People

Shorter Education Wonk:
I can see the case for fining poor parents for missing parent-teacher conferences, but it's not clear to me why we should hold wealthy parents to the same standard.
No, seriously. That's the upshot of the post.

Back in December I suggested to a family member that the only group it is still OK to discriminate against is atheists. He replied that it was also widely acceptable to discriminate against the rich. I don't really buy that - though I understand where it's coming from - and if anything I think just the opposite is true. A lot of people just don't like the poor.

The consequences of not withdrawing

Though opponents of withdrawal like to mislead themselves and others by ascribing the consequences of a misguided war to the act of disengaging from that war it should be remembered that staying in Iraq has some real negative consequences over and above keeping our troops in harms way for no good reason. Via Kevin Drum some junior US officers say that the main mission of training the Iraqi Army is just choosing sides in a civil war:

"Half of them are JAM. They'll wave at us during the day and shoot at us during the night," said 1st Lt. Dan Quinn, a platoon leader in the Army's 1st Infantry Division, using the initials of the militia's Arabic name, Jaish al Mahdi. "People (in America) think it's bad, but that we control the city. That's not the way it is. They control it, and they let us drive around. It's hostile territory."

...."All the Shiites have to do is tell everyone to lay low, wait for the Americans to leave, then when they leave you have a target list and within a day they'll kill every Sunni leader in the country. It'll be called the 'Day of Death' or something like that," said 1st Lt. Alain Etienne, 34, of Brooklyn, N.Y. "They say, 'Wait, and we will be victorious.' That's what they preach. And it will be their victory."

.... After U.S. units pounded al-Sadr's men in August 2004, the cleric apparently decided that instead of facing American tanks, he'd use the Americans' plans to build Iraqi security forces to rebuild his own militia.

....His recruits began flooding into the Iraqi army and police, receiving training, uniforms and equipment either directly from the U.S. military or from the American-backed Iraqi Defense Ministry.