Saturday, September 30, 2006

Mark Twain's study

I went on a literary pilgrimage recently to Elmira New York to see the study in which Mark Twain wrote Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, among other works.

I videoed much of it, and I'll have that online hopefully soon. I have less blogging time since I started a full-time technical writing gig.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Strange Case of Edward Einhorn

My article about our recent federal court case is in the latest issue of The Dramatist, the magazine of the Dramatists Guild.

An online version, with hyperlink annotations of The Strange Case of Edward Einhorn v. Mergatroyd Productions is now available.

Also The Strange Case of Edward Einhorn v. Mergatroyd Productions

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Our government is evil

The Abuse Can Continue
Senators won't authorize torture, but they won't prevent it, either.

Maybe Hugo Chavez wasn't so over the top after all.

How much longer until people with a conscience and enough money are going to start moving to Canada or Europe for their own safety? Does anybody in the world NOT understand that if given half the chance, Bush and his cronies would jail and torture their political enemies? This is step one.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering

The report, by the National Academy of Sciences says:

1. Women have the ability and drive to succeed in science and engineering. Studies of brain structure and function, of hormonal modulation of performance, of human cognitive development, and of human evolution have not found any significant biological differences between men and women in performing science and mathematics that can account for the lower representation of women in academic faculty and scientific leadership positions in these fields. The drive and motivation of women scientists and engineers is demonstrated by those women who persist in academic careers despite barriers that disproportionately disadvantage them.

2. Women who are interested in science and engineering careers are lost at every educational transition. With each step up the academic ladder, from high school on through full professorships, the representation of women in science and engineering drops substantially. As they move from high school to college, more women than men who have expressed an interest in science or engineering decide to major in something else; in the transition to graduate school, more women than men with science and engineering degrees opt into other fields of study; from doctorate to first position, there are proportionately fewer women than men in the applicant pool for tenure-track positions; active recruiting can overcome this deficit.

3. The problem is not simply the pipeline. In several fields, the pipeline has reached gender parity. For over 30 years, women have made up over 30% of the doctorates in social sciences and behavioral sciences and over 20% in the life sciences. Yet, at the top research institutions, only 15.4% of the full professors in the social and behavioral sciences and 14.8% in the life sciences are women—and these are the only fields in science and engineering where the proportion of women reaches into the double digits. Women from minority racial and ethnic backgrounds are virtually absent from the nation’s leading science and engineering departments.

4. Women are very likely to face discrimination in every field of science and engineering. Considerable research has shown the barriers limiting the appointment, retention, and advancement of women faculty. Overall, scientists and engineers who are women or members of racial or ethnic minority groups have had to function in environments that favor— sometimes deliberately but often inadvertently—the men who have traditionally dominated science and engineering. Well-qualified and highly productive women scientists have also had to contend with continuing questioning of their own abilities in science and mathematics and their commitment to an academic career. Minority-group women are subject to dual discrimination and face even more barriers to success. As a result, throughout their careers, women have not received the opportunities and encouragement provided to men to develop their interests and abilities to the fullest; this accumulation of disadvantage becomes acute in more senior positions. These barriers have differential impact by field and by career stage. Some fields, such as physics and engineering, have a low proportion of women bachelor’s and doctorates, but hiring into faculty positions appears to match the available pool. In other fields, including chemistry and biological sciences, the proportion of women remains high through bachelor’s and doctorate degrees, but hiring into faculty positions is well below the available pool.

5. A substantial body of evidence establishes that most people—men and women— hold implicit biases. Decades of cognitive psychology research reveals that most of us carry prejudices of which we are unaware but that nonetheless play a large role in our evaluations of people and their work. An impressive body of controlled experimental studies and examination of decision-making processes in real life show that, on the average, people are less likely to hire a woman than a man with identical qualifications, are less likely to ascribe credit to a woman than to a man for identical accomplishments, and, when information is scarce, will far more often give the benefit of the doubt to a man than to a woman. Although most scientists and engineers believe that they are objective and intend to be fair, research shows that they are not exempt from those tendencies.

Read the entire executive summary of the report online here.

The 5th point is one that Elizabeth Spelke used to good effect in her epic battle with Steven Pinker, in which she smited evolutionary psychology Tales of Manly Superiority with the mighty Scimitar of Data.

I see the ever-awesome Ann Bartow, feminist law professor has also blogged about the report.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

I write letters

My friend Maxine Margolis, a professor of anthropology, suggested I respond to the latest column promoting evolutionary psychology from the NYTimes. This is one by David Brooks (known as "Bobo" in the left-wing blogosphere), and he and his right-wing twin John Tierney have each written several, and so-called liberal Maureen Dowd has written some.

To better understand my response, it helps to know that Brooks's column begins:
Over the past several weeks, I’ve found I can change the conversation at any social gathering by mentioning Louann Brizendine’s book, “The Female Brain.” Brizendine is a neuropsychiatrist and the founder of the Women’s and Teen Girls’ Mood and Hormone Clinic in San Francisco. She’s written a breezy — maybe too breezy — summary of hundreds of studies on the neurological differences between men and women.

My response:
Whenever anybody discovers even the slightest male-female difference it’s pounced on by the evolutionary psychology-minded as proof of genetic destiny, and then used by the Right to argue for female inferiority.

But it takes the finely-honed mind of a New York Times op-ed columnist like David Brooks to make the leap into a sentence such as this:

“Once radicals dreamed of new ways of living, but now happiness seems to consist of living in harmony with the patterns that nature and evolution laid down long, long ago.”

Of course nobody knows which radicals David Brooks is talking about, but all the radicals I’ve ever heard of were trying to change the societies they were living in. Societies that allowed slavery, or gave monarchs absolute power, or allowed parents to arrange marriages for political or economic gain. Last I heard, “patterns that nature and evolution laid down long ago” didn’t include those things.

Certainly you couldn’t expect Brooks’s social circle to have heard of Elizabeth Spelke, the Harvard psychologist who has made a career of studying the way that babies think, and who has found almost no gender differences. And the differences that have been found are no use in making a case for the superiority of a suburban 1950s American upper-middle-class lifestyle, which Brooks and so many promoters of evolutionary psychology mistake for “nature.”

No, give the David Brooks set breezy books aimed at the ever-lucrative Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus market, and designed to promote Louann Brizendine’s hormone and mood clinics. I’m sure those books make a nice conversational break from discussing the various Brooksian ways of living in harmony with nature, like killing the estate tax or invading Iraq.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

God Spoke

I've been a fan of Al Franken since "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot" so I was pretty familiar with lots of the stuff covered in the new movie "God Spoke", a documentary about Al Franken. But I enjoyed watching it all there up on the screen last night. I personally can't get enough of Franken baiting blotchy sexual-harrassment bully Bill O'Reilly.

The movie focused too much on the 2004 election though, and because of that it ends on a down note.

But I did learn one thing from this movie - Ann Coulter has grotesque legs. There was a scene showing her in her usual miniskirt, and as soon as they flashed a full-length view of her, my daughter and I both went "ew!"

I mean, fashion models are extremely thin too, but their legs somehow look almost normal. And Ann Coulter mostly looks normal in spite of her extremely low body fat. But she has the legs of a concentration camp victim - two skeletal sticks in high heels - I'm serious, just watch the movie and see for yourself. Fortunately the shot doesn't last long.

Another thing I cannot get enough of - Al Franken's impersonations of the late racist old coot Strom Thurmond - "the pecker knows no bigotrah!" Priceless.

And Franken himself showed up before the movie began. He was charming and he promoted Minnesota Congressional candidate Patty Wetterling.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Buffy Sing-along at IFC


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Bill Clinton's on a roll

Meeting with liberal bloggers including two on my blog roll - John from America blog and Duncan from Eschaton.

Plus a massive feature article in this week's New Yorker - but it's not online. However, you can read a discussion of the article online here.

The most memorable paragraph in the article might be this one:
Clinton left the White House angry, exhausted and broke. He also had to live with the fact that he had hurt Al Gore in the 2000 election, thereby jeopardizing his Presidential legacy - and, as it turned out, so much else. Not a few people made the calculation that if Monica Lewinsky hadn't been on pizza duty during the government shutdown of 1995 (and Clinton not so predisposed to share the snack) there might never have been a Bush Presidency at all, or a hyped case for war in Iraq, a botched occupation, a skyrocketing budget deficit, a morally and bureaucratically bungled reaction to Hurricane Katrina, and a loss of American prestige around the world. His kingdom for a slice!

UPDATE: the nice but unremarkable meeting between Clinton and liberal bloggers has caused a scandal in the right-wing blogosophere because a photo from the event shows A YOUNG WOMAN STANDING NEAR BILL CLINTON!

Both Amanda at Pandagon and Echidne blogged about it. Perp Ann Althouse is the Bizarro World's Feminist Law Professor Ann Bartow.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

View from the balcony

World Trade Center lights, AKA "Tribute in Light" plus fireworks from Hoboken.

See and hear a longer clip in Quicktime .mov format

The angle from my apartment is such that the two lights of the tribute, one for the north tower and one for the south, appear to be combined into one.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Sundry amusements

A great country song about God

Via The Reverend Bookburn.

More amusements at Falafelsex

Good news from the NYTimes

Cheney’s Power No Longer Goes Unquestioned
There is little question that Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney still share the goal of expanding the power of the presidency: legislation they have sent to Congress would, if passed unamended, essentially allow them to set the rules of evidence, define interrogation techniques and intercept domestic communications as they have for the past five years.

But they have been stymied in their effort to simply assert those powers and carry them out with minimal oversight, as part of Mr. Cheney’s declared goal to restore to the presidency an authority that he believed was dangerously eroded after Vietnam and Watergate.

Bill Clinton is righteously pissed

Over at TPM Cafe
In addition, ABC’s own counter-terrorism consultant, Richard Clarke, has said that contrary to the movie:

1) No US military or CIA personnel were on the ground in Afghanistan and saw bin Laden;

2) The head of the Northern Alliance, Masood, was nowhere near the alleged bin Laden camp and did not see bin Laden; and

3) CIA Director Tenet said that he could not recommend a strike on the camp because the information was single-sourced and there would be no way to know if bin Laden was in the target area by the time a cruise missile hit it.

As Clarke and others will corroborate, President Clinton did in fact approve of a standing plan to use Afghans who worked for the CIA to capture bin Laden. The CIA’s Afghan operatives were never able to carry out the operation and the CIA recommended against inserting Agency personnel to do it. The Department of Defense, when asked by President Clinton to examine the use of US troops to capture bin Laden, also recommended against that option.

John at Americablog is totally on this case

So is Media Matters for America

that crazy Dinesh D'Souza

Tom Tomorrow links to his own excellent cartoon from the early days of the war on terror. He anticipated Dinesh D'Souza's insanity by five years.

Berube has an interesting post about D'Souza from 2004 on his blog. Here he simply lists D'Souza's own comments, and then starts his discussion of D'Souza with a great first sentence of his own:

-- All right, now, does any of this matter 13 years (or 23 years) later? Not necessarily, save for the fact that D’Souza has never apologized for, or even acknowledged, his conduct in this affair. But for those of you who are more interested in the Mature D’Souza, here are some highlights from his magnum opus, the D’Souza Moby-Dick, more commonly known as The End of Racism:

-----> “[The Civil Rights Movement] sought to undermine white racism through a protest strategy that emphasized the recognition of basic rights for blacks, without considering that racism might be fortified if blacks were unable to exercise their rights effectively and responsibly.”

-----> “Most African American scholars simply refuse to acknowledge the pathology of violence in the black underclass, apparently convinced that black criminals as well as their targets are both victims: the real culprit is societal racism. Activists recommend federal jobs programs and recruitment into the private sector. Yet it seems unrealistic, bordering on the surreal, to imagine underclass blacks with their gold chains, limping walk, obscene language, and arsenal of weapons doing nine-to-five jobs at Procter and Gamble or the State Department.”

-----> “Increasingly it appears that it is liberal antiracism that is based on ignorance and fear: ignorance of the true nature of racism, and fear that the racist point of view better explains the world than its liberal counterpart.”

-----> “The American slave was treated like property, which is to say, pretty well.”

-----> “The popular conception seems to be that American slavery as an institution involved white slaveowners and black slaves. Consequently, it is easy to view slavery as a racist institution. But this image is complicated when we discover that most whites did not own slaves, even in the South; that not all blacks were slaves; that several thousand free blacks and American Indians owned black slaves. An examination of these frequently obscured aspects of American slavery calls into question the facile equation of racism and slavery.”

-----> “If America as a nation owes blacks as a group reparations for slavery, what do blacks as a group owe America for the abolition of slavery?”

-----> “How did [Martin Luther] King succeed, almost single-handedly, in winning support for his agenda? Why was his Southern opposition virtually silent in making counterarguments?”

Passages like these lead readers like me to believe that the easiest way to slander D’Souza is to quote him directly.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Like we didn't see this coming

As Wal-Mart Stores struggles to rebut criticism from unions and Democratic leaders, the company has discovered a reliable ally: prominent conservative research groups like the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Manhattan Institute.

Top policy analysts at these groups have written newspaper opinion pieces around the country supporting Wal-Mart, defended the company in interviews with reporters and testified on its behalf before government committees in Washington.

But the groups — and their employees — have consistently failed to disclose a tie to the giant discount retailer: financing from the Walton Family Foundation, which is run by the Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton’s three children, who have a controlling stake in the company.
More at the NYTimes

Remembrance of Things Past

A note exchanged during Pennsauken High School math class taught by a Mrs. Flowers some time in the late 1970s.

Hi Ar!

Who snagged you for cutting? Flowers? Are you going to be outside 7th? I am. Did you get fucked up New Years? How was Kate's party?




No, Adelman and Benen for Thurs but I wasn't here.

I'm going outside and so is Rita and if Gale isn't there we'll party.

Yes I got totaled on New Years. Kate's party was great, almost every five minutes somebody said "Let's go Party" I couldn't even walk, it's lucky my Mom & Dad weren't home because I would've been snagged.

This fucking lady is an old fucking Hag!! I stopped trying in this class because of her. I hate her so much you wouldn't believe!

Don't write back, I'll talk to you after.

The verb "to party" in this usage means "smoking marijuana." Usually you partied with other people, but it was possible to party by yourself. And as in the example above, you could go party when you were already at a party. This did not strike us as odd.

(Mr.) Gale ( AKA "The Whale" - he was pretty heavy) was the school narcotics officer - although not a member of the police force, as far as I was aware.

Last I heard, Kate is a working anthropologist and Rita is a freelance writer, married to a surgeon in Maryland. I have no idea what Ar(lene) is up to. I don't even remember her last name. Too much Partying I guess.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Monday, September 04, 2006

Adventures in Ethics and Science - new blogroll member

Adventures in Ethics and Science - this blog is not only very good in its own right, but blogmeister Janet said some nice things in reference to my comment at Pandagon back in July although I just found out about it today.

Sympathy for the devil

John Mills is the consummate liberal - he has sympathy for anybody in a tough situation, even carnivores and smokers. Here's his song about it:

Nonsmoking Vegetarian

If you should come to Ithaca and want to settle down
You'll find some friendly people in a lovely little town
No one will ever tell you how you ought to wear your hair
But one thing you will notice looking for houses to share

Nonsmoking vegetarian who's gay affirmative
Nonsmoking vegetarian with vegetarian cat
Nonsmoking vegetarian seeks nice cooperative
But where oh where are smoking carnivores supposed to live?

Now you can go to meetings four lane highways to prevent
Put money in Alternatives with local good intent
But if you still are smoking and you need to eat red meat
Don't ask me why you're here a year and still sleep on the street
You're not...

Nonsmoking vegetarian who's gay affirmative
Nonsmoking vegetarian with vegetarian cat
Nonsmoking vegetarian seeks nice cooperative
But where oh where are smoking carnivores supposed to live?

Homeless are the smokers and the eaters of red meat
They're lucky that we tolerate their presence on the street
Now should we build a home where smoky bloody people stay?
Or should we wash our hands and clothes and hope they go away

Nonsmoking vegetarian who's gay affirmative
Nonsmoking vegetarian with vegetarian cat
Nonsmoking vegetarian seeks nice cooperative
But where oh where are smoking carnivores supposed to live?

Now famous are the words to give me liberty or death
The man who said it didn't choke and said it in one breath
But liberty or death for smoking carnivores I fear
That they can have them both at once but they cannot live here

Nonsmoking vegetarian who's gay affirmative
Nonsmoking vegetarian with vegetarian cat
Nonsmoking vegetarian seeks nice cooperative
But where oh where are smoking carnivores supposed to live?

It's true all of the rooms to rent are for the NSVs
It doesn't matter how sincerely you might try to please
Though we live in a liberal town this strictly is obeyed
No rooms for smoking carnivores supporting contra aid

Nonsmoking vegetarian who's gay affirmative
Nonsmoking vegetarian with vegetarian cat
Nonsmoking vegetarian seeks nice cooperative
But where oh where are smoking carnivores supposed to live?

Yes where oh where are smoking carnivores supposed to live?

John Mills
copyright 1987
all rights reserved

If you wanna talk to John Mills directly -

Friday, September 01, 2006