Tuesday, June 30, 2015

You Should Care About This Thing: Transitive Fandom In Women's Soccer

The Women's World Cup (er, sorry, Women's World Cup) is something Americans need to care about even more than the other, bepenised kind, according to Meredith Bennett-Smith in Quartz. She never quite gets around to why anyone should care particularly about this event, though the numbers of late, 5 million viewers, seem to provide plenty of room for optimism on that front.

And yet.
I am tired of having to explain that I’m wearing a women’s national team jersey because, news flash, the World Cup is upon us. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Yes, the women have one too. And by the way, that No. 20 number emblazoned across my back just happens to belong to the greatest goal-scorer in the history of women’s soccer.
This is how you promote your favorite sport and players, by belittling anyone inquiring about it? By shrieking you should already know who this is, you dolt at people who almost certainly don't know the players in what is a niche market of a niche sport? Memo to FIFA and constituent clubs: don't hire this person as a marketing consultant.
I am tired of watching World Cup games in sports bars where the TV screens are split between three other games and bartenders turn the sound off at halftime.
Have you ever tried to be a baseball fan in September? You know, when the postseason races are really heating up — and the tsunami of football drowns out everything else, so that unless it's the local team in hot pursuit, or the Yankees or Red Sox, bars already turn their attentions to the NFL? If it isn't football or basketball, sports bars devote screen space on an as-we-feel-like it basis. It's even worse for hockey. So... I feel your pain, but petulance isn't going to change anybody's mind, or the channel.
But most of all, I am tired of feeling like every four years the very legitimacy of women’s athletics goes on trial, again. With the exception of maybe tennis and a handful of Olympic events, we have not achieved gender parity in professional sports. Not by a long shot. So while Mia Hamm may have once been mentioned in the same breath as Michael Jordan, the US women are tasked with the burden of proving that they—and by extension women athletes in general—deserve to be recognized as second-tier professional athletes, by being the best in the world.

And if that’s not a perfect metaphor for modern-day sexism, I don’t know what is. America’s women and girls (and boys) deserve better. Really.
And this is where the entirety of her argument really runs off the rails. You hear that, sports fans? It's your responsibility to like this thing she likes, because she likes it, and you're sexist if you don't. It's hard to imagine anything more narcissistic. She has a hard road; male interest in team sports remains greater than that of women, despite longstanding efforts to reach parity in that area, and one suspects that translates to spectator sports, as well. The notion that men might find women's soccer interesting in part because of the shape of the participants is met with predictable Victorian horror (Dave Zirin called it "screeching sexism and subtle-as-a-blowtorch homophobia"). Bull Durham's Annie Savoy was so named for a reason, but apparently players-as-eye-candy is strictly verboten when men might be the target audience. If anything, Bennett-Smith makes the case for staying away from women's soccer, if only to steer clear of harangue.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Why I'm Not Celebrating Obergefell

My Facebook timeline is awash with people who have chosen to rainbow-ize their profile pictures in solidarity with yesterday's momentous Supreme Court decision, Obergefell v. Hodges. In truth, I'm very happy for my gay and lesbian friends, who may now enter into marriage in all fifty states. And yet, the truth also is, I don't feel much like celebrating with Andrew Sullivan, who posted his first entry after announcing his retirement from blogging back in February. For all that the profoundly conservative gay marriage movement has succeeded in extending acceptance to homosexuality, I find the manner with which it was accomplished to be deeply troubling, and for reasons that Sullivan orbits but never quite touches on:
I remember one of the first TV debates I had on the then-strange question of civil marriage for gay couples. It was Crossfire, as I recall, and Gary Bauer’s response to my rather earnest argument after my TNR cover-story on the matter was laughter. “This is the loopiest idea ever to come down the pike,” he joked. “Why are we even discussing it?”

Those were isolating  days. A young fellow named Evan Wolfson who had written a dissertation on the subject in 1983 got in touch, and the world immediately felt less lonely. Then a breakthrough in Hawaii, where the state supreme court ruled for marriage equality on gender equality grounds. No gay group had agreed to support the case, which was regarded at best as hopeless and at worst, a recipe for a massive backlash. A local straight attorney from the ACLU, Dan Foley, took it up instead, one of many straight men and women who helped make this happen. And when we won, and got our first fact on the ground, we indeed faced exactly that backlash and all the major gay rights groups refused to spend a dime on protecting the breakthrough … and we lost.

In fact, we lost and lost and lost again. Much of the gay left was deeply suspicious of this conservative-sounding reform; two thirds of the country were opposed; the religious right saw in the issue a unique opportunity for political leverage – and over time, they put state constitutional amendments against marriage equality on the ballot in countless states, and won every time. Our allies deserted us. The Clintons embraced the Defense of Marriage Act, and their Justice Department declared that DOMA was in no way unconstitutional the morning some of us were testifying against it on Capitol Hill. For his part, president George W. Bush subsequently went even further and embraced the Federal Marriage Amendment to permanently ensure second-class citizenship for gay people in America. Those were dark, dark days.

I recall all this now simply to rebut the entire line of being “on the right side of history.” History does not have such straight lines. Movements do not move relentlessly forward; progress comes and, just as swiftly, goes. For many years, it felt like one step forward, two steps back. History is a miasma of contingency, and courage, and conviction, and chance.
Which is to say, what it really took, frankly, was this:
Gay marriage is nearly as accepted as heterosexual marriage, and among millennials, the numbers are an avalanche, approaching 80%. It is popularly accepted as a right, and therefore acceptable to defend. Justice Anthony Kennedy's opinion for the majority cited four major reasons for accepting the plaintiff's case: individual autonomy, right to intimate association, safeguarding children and families, and marriage as a foundation of American social order. But ironically, it's Justice John Roberts who chooses deference to politically expressed preference in social order. "It can be tempting for judges to confuse our own preferences with the requirements of the law."
It is ... about whether, in our democratic republic, that decision should rest with the people acting through their elected representatives, or with five lawyers who happen to hold commissions authorizing them to resolve legal disputes according to law.
 Which is to say, we have a Supreme Court Chief Justice who believes that rights are subject to popular review. The same man who, in Obergefell, wrote "this Court is not a legislature" only the day before in King v. Burwell felt it meet to substitute policy aims over the literal text of the Affordable Care Act — i.e. to act exactly in the place of a legislature. And if Obamacare isn't exactly popular, it's apparently not unpopular enough for the Republicans to deliver a viable alternative — or for the Court to overturn it. In both cases, Roberts counsels deference, which is to say, he advocates for a kind of slow-motion, legalistic mob rule. For anyone familiar with the historical treatment of homosexuals, Jews, blacks, gypsies, and any other hated minority, that is a deeply terrifying prospect.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Defending Tim Hunt

Today: remarks from a female former scientist who worked for him:
I have seen discrimination and sexism in science and in wider society. I have seen female colleagues talked about in negative ways when they left the lab to have children. The issue is a genuine one that demands urgent attention. But it is grossly unfair that Tim should be considered, and treated, as an emblem of this sexism or gender discrimination.
Hunt's remarks, in context:
According to The Times, a report of the event by a European Commission official who was at the lunch was suppressed by the commission.

He wrote: 'This is the transcript of Sir Tim Hunt's speech, or rather a toast, as precise as I can recall it: 'It's strange that such a chauvinist monster like me has been asked to speak to women scientists. Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry. Perhaps we should make separate labs for boys and girls?'

According to the official, Sir Tim immediately said after: 'Now seriously, I'm impressed by the economic development of Korea. And women scientists played, without doubt an important role in it. Science needs women and you should do science despite all the obstacles, and despite monsters like me.'
Eight Nobelists decried the "lynch mob" chasing Hunt out of his posts, and complaints about University College London's lack of dedication to free speech. (It comes out rather the worse for wear than Hunt, says the Spectator.)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Dayna Evans' Poison Pen To Her Father

I was somewhat surprised to read the disgust that various parties took in Dayna Evans' "You Don't Have Daddy Issues But Your Piece Of Shit Father Might" at Jezebel (Cathy Young, for instance, or this, or this). Sure, attacking men is kind of a Thing over there; aside from bagging on imbecile advice in knuckle-dragging men's clickbait factories, Evans pauses briefly to show us where she is in her life with men. She enters onto a quest to Scotland to reconcile with her estranged father, which goes drunkenly sour.
I was 27 on this trip. This was a telling age: the age when a lot of female acquaintances of mine were warming up to men, forming long-term relationships, getting married, finding love and happiness in significant others. I, on the other hand, was not only not doing that, I was finding commitment difficult. I was not ready for long-term relationships. I could not find a boyfriend that I liked. I did not want to be with anyone for very long. I did not find men tolerable, interesting, or worthwhile. It took me a long time to trust any man, let alone imagine myself committing to them for a lifetime, and the thought of having a child (a CHILD!) with one of them felt scarier than jumping off a bridge. I had, some might say, the opposite of daddy issues. I thought that perhaps in seeking some closure or stability in my relationship with my dad, I’d be able to solve my problems in relationships. I believed I’d cure my daddy issues by making up with my daddy.
Which is to say, the author has an entirely different set of "daddy issues", nearly the polar opposite of the ones we typically associate with daughters of absent fathers, i.e. earlier menarche and greater sexual risk-taking, and more broadly, dropping out of school at a rate three times greater than the general population, and twice as likely to develop addiction problems. Instead, her absentee father made her recoil from men, and who can blame her?

She concludes that "Daddy issues [are] the issue of men finding it easy to throw away the responsibility of fatherhood, the issue of all of us excusing them." Is this not, more or less, one of the cornerstones of conservative social criticism, that of the absent father causing much strife in society? She clanks elsewhere when she describes herself as "actually quite together. I had a [sic] friendships, goals, a career. I had a full heart, I was eager to give, I was trusting." The "trusting" part is in direct opposition to her utter revulsion at the male sex, but I find it strange that anyone who believes in personal responsibility (and the catastrophe of its absence) could much complain about the wreckage of this woman's life.

Update 6/22/2015: Related, from The Art Of Manliness, a listicle on the virtues of fatherhood.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Mad Man, Mad Libs

Things we can safely predict the form of, but not the content, after a mass shooting tragedy.
  1. Someone will blame the killings on their favorite hobby horse.
  2. Someone from the NRA will say something stupid.
  3. Some politician will say something stupid
  4. People will try to parse the murderer's views so they can lay the murders at the feet of their political opponents.
  5. Gun control proponents will demand a "conversation" to seize the moment while public hysteria is still high ("never let a crisis go to waste") and propose "common sense" legislation that doesn't actively address the particulars of the recent shooting.
  6. Such bills will stall in the legislature, fought to ground by vociferous and real opposition.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Ellen Pao Must Pay $275,966 For Kleiner Perkins Legal Fees

Well, that was quick.

The Right's Insane Distortions About Trade Agreement Secrecy

I encountered this horrible piece at Cato on the subject of trade promotion authority (i.e. "fast track") with respect to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. First, it's important to notice that Cato here seems to have gone all-in with the Hollywood copyright maximalists, covering for both their secrecy and prior activity, declaring it a "myth" that "TPP is being negotiated via a dangerous and unprecedented level of secrecy".  As with net neutrality, people who normally would oppose corporatist shenanigans are lining up to misrepresent what's actually going on here. And again, it's Techdirt that provides coverage about the reality on the ground. Cato:
Myth 5: TPP is being negotiated via a dangerous and unprecedented level of secrecy! Totally false. Probably the most-repeated myth right now isn’t even related to TPA but instead to the TPP, which is still being negotiated. According to the anti-TPA script, the TPP is so secret that nobody knows what’s in it, and—much like Obamacare legislation—nobody, not even Congress, will know what’s in it until the agreement is passed into law. Once again, however, nothing could be further from the truth:
  • First, Obama’s USTR and Congress have been consulting on the TPP since December 14, 2009, when then-USTR Kirk notified Congress that President Obama intended to enter into TPP negotiations. USTR then held initial consultations with Congress in 2010 and, according to a January 2015 fact-sheet, has since held almost 1,700 congressional briefings on TPP alone. USTR also previewed various TPP proposals with key congressional committees before taking them to our trading partners. (Odd that the TPP talks have been going on for six years, but the vast majority of these “secrecy” complaints have only emerged in the last few months, huh?)
 Meanwhile, the reality is that the American public has no idea what's in the draft treaty, and that's largely because their elected representatives are being kept in the dark as well:
...[E]ven the fact that members of Congress can actually see the document is tremendously misleading. Yes, members of Congress are allowed to walk over to the USTR and see a copy of the latest text. But they're not allowed to take any notes, make any copies or bring any of their staff members. In other words, they can only read the document and keep what they remember in their heads. And they can't have their staff members -- the folks who often really understand the details -- there to explain what's really going on.
As the link in the text above explains, it's telling who can see the drafts — and who can't: "The MPAA, Comcast, PHRMA" and other trade groups all have free run, but a sitting US Senator and his staff cannot? Ron Wyden:
The majority of Congress is being kept in the dark as to the substance of the TPP negotiations, while representatives of U.S. corporations – like Halliburton, Chevron, PHRMA, Comcast, and the Motion Picture Association of America – are being consulted and made privy to details of the agreement.
Yup, that's what the man said. And in fact, drafts are classified, which means leaking the text could result in jail time for the leakers. (Somebody at Wikileaks is in trouble, and ditto the USTR, likely.) Cato disingenuously omits key and ominous details. So when Cato writes that the "USTR has provided “access to the full negotiating texts for any Member of Congress, including for Members to view at their convenience in the Capitol, accompanied by staff members with appropriate security clearance.”", they're being very coy about what "access" might mean, just as they are when they say the "USTR has engaged the public on the TPP via published reports and “stakeholder meetings” with groups like labor unions, consumer groups, and, of course, corporations and trade associations." These are dog and pony shows unless we know the contents of the treaty. And what we do know looks remarkably like a giveaway to large corporate interests.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Deconstructing The Latest 1-In-5-Are-Raped Poll

The Weekly Standard has a great takedown of a poll by the Washington Post purporting to resurrect the hoary and multiply-discredited 1-in-5 rape/sexual assault statistic for young women on campus; it's old wine in new bottles, leavened with dubious anecdotes even as the lead example:
But the end of the article lets slip that in fact this, the paper’s lead example of a campus sexual assault, seems instead to have been a regretful, but not atypical, drunken hookup that neither party remembers well. The scary bleeding was apparently self-inflicted when Sienkowski fell out of her loft bed onto the floor, while the male was asleep. The person she brought back to her room wasn’t a Michigan State student (and might not have been a college student at all). And, the Post disclosed in the last 120 words of a 2,870-word article, even Sienkowski conceded that “she doesn’t know for sure whether she had wanted sex in the moment.” She said this after seeing the police report, including photographs of the hickeys that the accused said her lips had branded on his neck as evidence that she “was very into everything that was happening.”
David French at the New Republic Online goes into more detail on the leading questions and assumptions in the poll:
First, the actual poll question was not limited to “sexual assault” (a far more explosive term) but instead specifically asked respondents about sexual assault or “unwanted sexual contact.” Unwanted sexual contact is not a synonym for sexual assault. In fact, the term is so broad that it can encompass behaviors that are not only not criminal, but may not — depending on the circumstances — even constitute unlawful sexual harassment (which the Supreme Court has said requires proof of conduct so “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively bars the victim’s access to an educational opportunity or benefit.”)
... These definitions don’t come close to matching the legal definition of the various sex crimes prohibited by state laws... no, one in five college women have not told surveyors that they were “sexually assaulted.” The negative experiences encompassed in the definitions include everything from entirely lawful behavior, to sexual harassment, to actual sex crimes. The numbers are troubling, to be sure, but even the surveyed students themselves don’t see sexual assault as a crisis — only 37 percent of them described it as a problem on campus. (A much greater number of them — 56 percent — were concerned with alcohol and drug use.) In fact, large majorities of students gave their schools an “A” or “B” for their handling of sexual assault complaints.
The point, of course, is to feed the panic machine that has been in operation since the 1980's (and suspiciously invariant since then) and the bureaucracy jobs program that even now develops its own tools. It has nothing to do with actual crime, and everything to do with seeking sinecures.

Bullety Stuff

  • She's Baaaack: Anita Sarkeesian, Jack Thompson, And The Censorious Urge: A couple today from Scott Shackford at Reason and Mytheos Holt at The Federalist about the latest Twitter kerfluffle from Anita Sarkeesian, who thinks Doom is too violent; both cite Popehat's zinger about disgraced video game critic Jack Thompson having lifted the password to her account. Hee:
    For Leftist ideologues like Sarkeesian and McIntosh, the game is a reminder that their ideology is forever cut off from human nature, and that their utopian vision of a world without urges toward violence will always ultimately be chainsawed by reality before being drowned in a storm of unapologetically humanistic gunfire.
  • The Hunting Ground Documentarian Stomps Feet, Runs Up To Room: Cathy Young pointed me at Amy Ziering's pointed refusal to address her critics in an interview at Forward. Excerpt:
    There have been articles written by Emily Yoffe and Cathy Young bringing another voice to the conversation of sexual assault on campus. Does that drive the conversation because it brings another view? Does it hurt?

    I think there’s always gonna be people who want to make something horrible go away. I just wish those articles and analyses were better informed. Do your homework.The real issue is these crimes are happening at epidemic rates and the false reporting of sexual assault is exactly the same as any other crime and we don’t read Emily and others writing about their suspicions about false burglary claims or carjacking claims or robberies or battery allegations. It’s not statistically anomalous. 92 to 98 percent of people who report rape are telling the truth. That’s where our outrage should be. Less than 2% of criminals who commit these crimes ever see any kind of punishment. Those are the alarming statistics. There’s no debate. There’s a truth, these crimes are happening and they’re not being properly investigated. That’s what we should be talking about and worrying about.
    Of course, she doesn't feel obliged to answer the particulars raised by those journalists and their stories, merely dismissing them as uninformed. Dogma. 
  • The Reductress. You're welcome.
  • Update: Good piece at Reason from last December that exposes Anita Sarkeesian's hypocrisy on the subject of prostitution;  male prostitutes are "sex workers" but women in that profession are "prostituted women".
    Author, media consultant, and former sex worker Maggie McNeil cited the Burchill quote when discussing why she mistrusts Sarkeesian and her criticism of games. McNeil says that to her, Sarkeesian's position is "summed up by the fact" that she does not refer to male sex workers as "prostituted" but does refer to female sex workers as prostituted women.

    "What this tells us is that she sees men as creatures able to make sexual choices," McNeil says, "but she sees women as creatures who can only have sex for traditional reasons—love, or romance or whatever. But if women are [having sex] for tactical reasons, then she sees this as somehow suspect—that a man must be doing that. Hence the [term] prostituted. Someone has done this to her."

Monday, June 15, 2015

Minimum Wage: Shot & Chaser Edition

Shot: Anybody remember this, back in February, 2014?
In a surprising move, Gap Inc. informed its employees on Wednesday that it would set $9 as the minimum hourly rate for its United States work force this year and then establish a minimum of $10 next year.

Gap said this move would ultimately raise pay for 65,000 of its 90,000 American employees, including those at Banana Republic, Old Navy and other stores.

Gap is making this move as many states consider raising their minimum wage, and as Republicans and Democrats debate a bill that includes a proposed increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2016.

President Obama has endorsed the increase, and has campaigned for it at stops around the country.

Apparel retailer Gap Inc (GPS.N) said it would close a quarter of Gap specialty stores in North America over the next few years, including 140 this year, potentially affecting thousands of jobs as the company struggles with a slump in sales at its namesake brand.

San Francisco-based Gap also said it would cut 250 jobs at its headquarters.

The company did not say how many employees would be laid off as a result of the store closures. As of Jan. 31, Gap had about 141,000 full- and part-time employees in about 3,700 company-owned and franchise stores worldwide.

UNC Wrestling Coach Fired Over Comments About Rape?

It's not clear if University of North Carolina wrestling coach C.D. Mock really was fired over his remarks about the treatment of young men accused of rape on campus, but it seems plausible; a June 10 blog post says "I can't imagine why any parent would consider sending their son to a College in the U.S. until this ridiculousness stops", which is a bad thing to say around twitchy administrators who live in constant fear of Title IX witch hunts.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Hunt-ed: How A Verbal Pratfall And Journalistic Sloth Sacked A Nobelist

Everyone's already heard about Nobel Laureate Tim Hunt's idiotic remarks delivered at a science journalism conference in Korea:
"Let me tell you about my trouble with girls.

"Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry.
This of course spawned a Twitter hashtag, #distractinglysexy, which became the spit upon which Hunt was roasted. Just so, and he probably deserved it; his remarks sound like something from the 1930's. But what I didn't particularly find fitting was to see him chased out of several posts since, including one at University College London with no appeal or even apparent procedure:
“I have been hung out to dry,” he told the Observer in an exclusive interview. “I have been stripped of all the things I was doing in science. I have no further influence.”
...[A]s a result of the furore, Hunt was told by UCL that he would have to resign his honorary post at the college. “At no point did they ask me for an explanation for what I said or to put it in context,” he told the Observer. “They just said I had to go. There has been an enormous rush to judgment in dealing with me.”
His wife, Professor Mary Collins, one of Britain’s most senior immunologists, is similarly indignant. She believes that University College London – where both scientists had posts – has acted in “an utterly unacceptable” way in pressuring both researchers and in failing to support their causes.
This has fertilized a crop of the sorts of pieces one expects from the press in this space of late, for instance, this Guardian article on the "unseen women scientists behind Tim Hunt's Nobel prize", the subtext being that, as with Watson and Crick's Rosalind Franklin, some woman or women lurk who have really done the heavy lifting but gone uncredited. (In fact, this commonly-believed story is fallacious, as both Watson and Crick specifically cited her work, in passing in their initial Nature paper, and as instrumental twenty five years later, in Watson's The Double Helix.)

But in fact this theory is actually highly questionable, as a new essay from Fiona Fox at the Science Media Center points out. For all the dudgeon expended getting Hunt expelled from his academic posts, the man's acts have received shockingly little interest:
The row over Tim Hunt feels similar. Of course what he said was ill-judged, not one bit funny and actually a bit bonkers. But within hours of the story breaking, people were queuing up to make Tim Hunt the poster boy for sexism in science. Within forty eight hours he was effectively sacked from an honorary position at UCL, the board of the European Research Council (ERC) and a Royal Society prize-giving committee.

The SMC issued comments from a long list of scientists condemning Hunt’s remarks, and set up back to back interviews with angry female scientists in despair at the crass and damaging comments. But I had questions, mainly revolving around whether or not Tim Hunt is a chauvinist. Does he actually discriminate against his female colleagues? Does he seriously propose segregated labs and has he ever tried to implement this? Does he refuse to employ young women in his lab because they might cry when he appraises their work? And critically, will removing Tim Hunt from his positions at UCL, the Royal Society and the ERC also remove a barrier to the progress of women in science and advance that cause. I asked around but none of those giving interviews or tweeting seemed be able to answer me. Worryingly for me, the question of whether this scientist deserved this global vilification seemed irrelevant.

I then called scientists who know him and something interesting happened. They said they had not witnessed any gender bias in him. Some specified the exact opposite. That Tim is a fantastic supporter of young scientists, including women. The organiser of a national competition for young scientists told me that he had never been anything but fantastic, especially with the young women, and is really dedicated and generous with his time. Another eminent woman wrote: “among scientists who know him, Tim Hunt is regarded as a good man and an excellent scientist. He is renowned for his willingness to engage, especially with students, and has done a great deal to promote the careers of young people, including women.
She goes on to make the highly salient point that "there is huge difference between slamming his comments as out of date, and calling for his head on a plate." But the larger question of whether Hunt is really a sexist based on even evidence provided by the women scientists working under and with him is one that has gone unexamined:
... I am finding it hard to see any actual journalism being done on this story at all. Many commentators made the point that if they were a female scientist trying to get a job in his lab or being judged for a prize or research grant, they would be concerned about their chances. But that is something that has not been investigated and verified; no-one seems to have asked those basic questions to women in Tim’s labs. Given that the ERC and Royal Society have now acceded to calls for his removal from scientific committees, might it be reasonable to investigate whether he did use his role on those committees to discriminate against women. Nobody has yet secured an interview with Tim’s highly regarded scientist wife, so we are none the wiser as to whether she wants to kill him or defend him.
 Hunt deserves censure and ridicule for his remarks. Firing is entirely too much.

Update: I forgot to link to Brendan O'Neill's terrific essay at Reason about how this response is not only illiberal, but pre-modern:
The irony is too much to handle: Hunt is railed against for expressing an old-fashioned view, yet the railers against him do something infinitely more old-fashioned: they expel from public life someone they judge to have committed heresy. Kick him out. Strip him of his titles. Mock his misfortune. "Savour the moment." How awfully ironic that the Royal Society, which played a key role in propelling Britain from medievalism to modernity, is now being asked to behave in a medieval fashion and send into the academic wilderness a heretic among its number.
It should come as no small irony that those who complain about tenure changes at the University of Wisconsin are also frequently the same sort who would chase Hunt out of his offices.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Repost: Obamacare's Token Attempt To Adjust Physician Levels

Originally posted to Facebook 2014-04-29, reposted here for the usual reasons.

Something that came out of a discussion elsewhere ... I have long said that Obamacare does nothing to actually reduce costs, because it does not attempt to increase the supply of providers, either through practice liberalization (as by allowing nurse practitioners to perform certain procedures now only permitted to physicians) or through licensing liberalization (increasing the number of physicians). Mary Cvetan sent me hither, a website (she, at least in part wrote) that makes mention of the following:
Training New Primary Care Providers: The Affordable Care Act invests in the training of new primary care providers, including providing nearly $230 million to increase the number of medical residents, as well as funding to increase the number of nurse practitioners and physician assistants trained in primary care.  With these investments, by 2015, more than 1,700 new primary care providers will have been trained and enter primary care practice. The Fiscal Year 2014 budget includes investments that will expand the capacity of institutions to train 2,800 additional primary care providers over five years.
Is this a significant number? Per the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, the US has 24.2 physicians per 10,000 population, which means, rounding down to 300,000,000 population, that the physician population is 720,000 or so, of which 1,700 would amount to less than one percent (actually 0.2%). It's entirely possible that this actually represents a figure below retirement replacement. If Obamacare wishes to lay claim to fixing the supply side of things, it must needs do better. This, however, runs square against the AMA's interests, and so I have my doubts.

Update 4/30/2014: In a surprisingly candid blog post on Mother Jones, Kevin Drum late last year pointed out that the reason US physicians are paid so much is because there are so few of them relative to other nations; the US is in the bottom third of physicians to population. To get to the OECD mean of 30.6, you would have to increase the US physician population by a quarter. And that's just to arrive at average.

Miss Piggy, Role Model

I have had friends point this out to me:
On Thursday Miss Piggy—yes, that Miss Piggy, the animated force of nature who’s charmed audiences for four decades—was presented with this year’s Sackler Center First Award by Elizabeth A. Sackler and Gloria Steinem. (Yes, that Gloria Steinem.) She joins the ranks of such luminaries as Connie Chung, Toni Morrison, and Julie Taymor, “women who have broken gender barriers and made remarkable contributions in their fields.” The event took place at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, and included a charming back-and-forth between Steinem and Miss Piggy’s date, Kermit the Frog (who is “very proud” of her, he said), a video retrospective of her career, and a brief onstage chat between Steinem and the honoree herself.

The highlight, however, was certainly Miss Piggy’s acceptance speech, in which she declared that while she once did not identify as such, “Starting today, moi IS a feminist!” She also addressed the criticism she’s received for being honored with the Sackler Center First Award, namely that she’s not a “real person”:

So, why Miss Piggy? I spoke with Sackler before the ceremony, and she explained:
“Miss Piggy embodies the human characteristics that we so look up to, and I think all of the earlier Sackler Center First Awardees … have within them the very qualities that we see straight out from Miss Piggy: Determination, grit, humor, tenacity, direction—a decision of what you want to do, and how you’re going to get there.”
Piggy certainly contains some character flaws common among self-described feminists these days, particularly narcissism and attention-whoring, but she is in one very particular way deeply opposed to their dogma. Specifically, she has learned (and apparently frequently uses) karate. Self-defense is not the gender feminist's method of choice to deal with threats to women's persons; instead we hear demands for utopias along the lines of "teach men not to rape". That this is delusional and unworkable apparently does not register. In this regard, Piggy has adapted herself to the world that is, not the one she wishes existed, which sets her apart and above her modern feminist sisters. The choice may seem like a joke, but feminists could actually stand to learn a great deal from watching her.

On Ending Statutory Tenure Protection At The University Of Wisconsin

I confess that after reading this New York Times story about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker working to eliminate statutory tenure protections for University of Wisconsin professors, I was less than impressed by the overall hullabaloo being presently raised, principally but not exclusively by those whom it directly affects. For instance, there seems to be a great deal of panic over possible attrition to other universities:
“It’ll be impossible for us to attract and retain people if we’re the only one that has such a weak protection of tenure,” said Donald Moynihan, a professor of public affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who has been at the institution for 10 years and was among hundreds of faculty members in recent days to sign a letter opposing the changes.
A committee of lawmakers last week approved along party lines a proposal that would remove the notion of tenure in the university system from state statute, leaving the sensitive matter to the state’s Board of Regents, which oversees the system’s 13 four-year universities and some 180,000 students.
“The reality is that we are not eliminating tenure,” said Senator Sheila Harsdorf, a Republican, adding that she believed the effort had been misunderstood as a broad condemnation of tenure.

Wisconsin is rare for including tenure provisions for professors in its statutes rather than in policies set by regents or similar boards. “We are directing the Board of Regents to develop a policy, just as there is in so many states,” Ms. Harsdorf said. “It’s just a matter of recognizing the ability for chancellors and campuses to administer and manage their operations.”
So the overall level of panic of mass exodus seems entirely baseless, given that the universities such professors would be headed to have exactly the same level of protection as what is being proposed. (More concerning is language about "shared governance", in which "faculty members would still advise leaders on academic and educational activities, and on personnel matters, but that advice would be 'subordinate' to the powers of the board, president and chancellors.") So it was interesting to hear another perspective from the conservative National Review, whose David French peers in:
As someone who’s litigated many, many academic freedom cases, I have profoundly mixed feelings about this move. First, I know and understand that tenure is designed to guarantee freedom, to prevent political pressures from impacting scholarship. It’s designed to preserve academic independence. In fact, tenure has protected a number of outspoken conservative professors (including some of my clients), men and women who would have been fired long ago without tenure protections.

At the same time, however, academic independence is a fiction. In the real world, leftist groupthink dominates academic departments, conservatives are easily weeded out before tenure – mostly through the hiring process itself – and even many (if not most) tenured dissenting professors live “in the closet” to avoid the social and professional consequences of public disagreement on key cultural or scientific issues. The result isn’t freedom but instead permanently entrenched ideological conformity.

Yet this same overwhelming conformity means that the immediate consequence of lifting tenure protections wouldn’t be greater diversity but even worse ideological persecution as the few conservative professors would face hostile departments stripped of the bulk of their legal protections. ...
 If stronger statutory protection actually yielded more ideological diversity, I would expect it would have manifested itself by now. I eagerly await evidence for or against this proposition.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Bullety Stuff

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

College Trade Group President Rejects Accountability To Students

There's no shortage of people who feel their work should not be graded; this is particularly true when the subject runs to large bureaucracies, which often serve to diffuse responsibility. A particularly fine example came to me today in Hunter Rawlings' article at the Washington Post in which he demands we stop treating college like a "commodity". What does he mean by this? He apparently is quite offended that people have started looking at the obscene tuitions charged by universities, and their ceaseless upward march, with some deciding that perhaps college isn't really worth it for everyone:
First, most everyone now evaluates college in purely economic terms, thus reducing it to a commodity like a car or a house. How much does the average English major at college X earn 18 months after graduation? What is the average debt of college Y’s alumni? How much does it cost to attend college Z, and is it worth it? How much more does the “average” college grad earn over a lifetime than someone with only a high school degree? (The current number appears to be about $1 million.)  There is now a cottage industry built around such data.
The rest of his essay is given to homilies about students getting out what effort they apply into it; he does make some valid points there, as in
If colleges are responsible for outcomes, then students can feel entitled to classes that do not push them too hard, to high grades and to material that does not challenge their assumptions or make them uncomfortable. Hence colleges too often cater to student demands for trigger warnings, “safe rooms,” and canceled commencement speakers. When rating colleges, as everyone from the president to weekly magazines insist on doing nowadays, people use performance measures such as graduation rates and time to degree as though those figures depended entirely upon the colleges and not at all upon the students.
The insane costs of college certainly would seem to push for a cosseted demographic; trigger warnings and all the other panic-stricken nonsense of modern academia are nothing if not an extreme example of demands the world bend to the individual rather than the individual develop resilience. Yet at the same time, he never really bothers trying to answer critics' charges head-on that the costs of college have become untethered from their economic benefits. It is simply a question we're not allowed to ask.  

Bankruptcy, The Key To Solving The Student Loan Debt Crisis

Yesterday's piece on Lee Siegel's narcissistic views about money was by no means unique, as Bre Payton at The Federalist rightly had similarly contemptuous things to say about Siegel's behavior. But I wanted to take a moment and address a remark I see frequently repeated: "popularizing student loan fraud certainly won’t bring about the change he says he’s hoping for", and a section header that reads, "Refusing to Pay Won't Improve Higher Education". I think this is wrong for some very basic reasons.

First, it is largely impossible to discharge student loan debt through normal bankruptcy. This has several unfortunate side effects:
  1. It makes such loans especially attractive to banks, who are all but guaranteed repayment.
  2. It means banks need to do far less due diligence on the loans than other forms of debt.
  3. It adds to the tsunami of money entering universities, providing no incentives to reduce actual costs.
 The straightforward way to deal with college costs is to restore student loans as ordinary debt for bankruptcy purposes. This will have three salutary effects:
  1. It will allow those under crippling levels of debt to escape through established legal means.
  2. It will force banks to perform due diligence on institutions, degree programs, and students prior to writing loans based on prior loss experience. Want to go into six figures of debt to get a degree in puppetry or gender studies? Maybe you need to ask your rich aunt about that.
  3. Finally, as banks turn off the money spigot holding up the college-industrial complex, universities will need to rationalize their degree programs and overhead to fit with the new market realities.
And the last point is the most important one. For all the money roaring into colleges these days, it's unclear what students receive in exchange for exponentially increasing tuition. But we have a pretty good idea about what universities are doing with it, and it's not adding new instructors: mostly, it appears they're engaged in bureaucratic empire building, with administrative staff positions growing more than twice as fast as student populations.
But critics say the unrelenting addition of administrators and professional staffs can’t help but to have driven this steep increase.

At the very least, they say, the continued hiring of nonacademic employees belies university presidents’ insistence that they are doing everything they can to improve efficiency and hold down costs.

“It’s a lie. It’s a lie. It’s a lie,” said Richard Vedder, an economist and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

“I wouldn’t buy a used car from a university president,” said Vedder. “They’ll say, ‘We’re making moves to cut costs,’ and mention something about energy-efficient lightbulbs, and ignore the new assistant to the assistant to the associate vice provost they just hired.”
This is exactly the sort of  thinking that drives never-ending tuition hikes: with no need to think about costs, colleges don't. Absent people walking away from their product (my second point above), there can be no rationalization; hitting them where it hurts, in their wallet, is the only way this will change.

Please note I am in no way advocating bankruptcy as a desirable end; the sanctity of contracted debt is important. Siegel, particularly, stands out as an entitled mooch. But many young people have amassed huge debts in service to universities that cavalierly ignore the burdens they inflict. For them, and for future generations, it's time to restore some sanity.

Update: Scott Alexander has a fun metaphor for the current situation, likening it to Dutch tulip mania with the added twist of subsidy. He also goes in to review what medical school looks like in Ireland vs. the US; in the US, you have to get through an undergraduate degree of some sort prior to going to medical school, but in Ireland it's treated as a sort of trade school, which anyone may enter upon graduation from high school. The US approach has some awful side effects:
Americans take eight years to become doctors. Irishmen can do it in four, and achieve the same result. Each year of higher education at a good school – let’s say an Ivy, doctors don’t study at Podunk Community College – costs about $50,000. So American medical students are paying an extra $200,000 for…what?

Remember, a modest amount of the current health care crisis is caused by doctors’ crippling level of debt. Socially responsible doctors often consider less lucrative careers helping the needy, right up until the bill comes due from their education and they realize they have to make a lot of money right now. We took one look at that problem and said “You know, let’s make doctors pay an extra $200,000 for no reason.”

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Narcissist Defaults: Sockpuppeteer Lee Siegel's Bankruptcy Melodrama

Lee Siegel, noted as a sockpuppeteer while participating in comment forums in his own articles on The New Republic, has an absurdly long essay at the New York Times on "Why I Defaulted On My Student Loans". My initial thoughts were that college debt is crushing young people, and amounts to yet another credit bubble, so we have that to look forward to; bankruptcy, while unpleasant and carrying real social stigmas and legal penalties, is a better option than carrying unsustainable debt indefinitely.

But then I read Scott Greenfield's response. "It may not be entirely clear from his rant that he’s no kid," he opens, "but the same age as me.  That being so, I call bullshit.  Siegel is full of crap and playing his audience for fools." Siegel starts his university career at "a small private college" but later is forced by circumstances to switch to a presumably less prestigious public university. The horror!
It’s not that there wasn’t a college for Siegel, but that Siegel was too special for a college he could afford. “Because I thought I deserved better.” Deserved, as in he was owed, he was entitled.  It was his right to have whatever he thought he deserved.
And, wait, if he's really that old, just how expensive could his stay through college have been?
 There was no “crippling debt,” as one sees today. College tuition at the University of Pennsylvania in 1975 was $3,430. Per year. In 2014 dollars, that comes out to $15,401.89.  Still want to cry Siegel a river?
Lee Siegel is a deadbeat.  It’s not because of any faux contention of moral reprehensibility, but a perverted self-delusion of narcissism and entitlement.  What he lacks is integrity, and no college, at any price, can teach him that.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Caitlyn Jenner, Uniter Of Gender Essentialists

Suffering as I do from histamine reactions to all things Kardashian, I have studiously avoided the Caitlyn Jenner coming out party. (Jenner's ex wife was Kris Kardashian before they married, and while I have no evidence of this, I have to believe had some behind the scenes hand in the ensuing avalanche of coverage.) It has certainly opened up some dialogues long sunken beneath the murky waters of identity politics, particularly on the nature-versus-nurture divide. Of course, one expects the religiously small-minded to heave brickbats at Jenner, as for instance this regrettable piece by Matt Walsh, someone whose output I have previously praised; he called the transformation "a monstrosity" and "profoundly disturbing", which, why?
A woman is a woman. She has earned that title. She pays for that title. She suffers with that title and gives life with that title and lives from conception until death and beyond with that title. She is that title. She should not be told that it’s such a flimsy thing that a man with enough money can buy his way into it. It’s demeaning and reductive, and as a father and a husband and a son and a brother, I take exception to it. I can only imagine how women might feel if they were only allowed to be open about it.
(Emboldening mine, as always.) This is a trivially silly argument; Jenner didn't have his dong cut off and hours of feminization plastic surgery done because of some momentary flight of fancy, but because of a self-reported life-long belief that he was born into the wrong body. It is not for me or anyone else, including Walsh, to second-guess such feelings. And yet, it isn't just the Abrahamic religions recoiling at Jenner, but apparently some faction of modern feminism as well, as witness this New York Times essay by Elinor Burkett. Burkett rejects, without evidence*, the idea that gender affiliation and behavior might be biologically determined in large measure (especially at the population level):
 I have fought for many of my 68 years against efforts to put women — our brains, our hearts, our bodies, even our moods — into tidy boxes, to reduce us to hoary stereotypes. Suddenly, I find that many of the people I think of as being on my side — people who proudly call themselves progressive and fervently support the human need for self-determination — are buying into the notion that minor differences in male and female brains lead to major forks in the road and that some sort of gendered destiny is encoded in us.
She objects to the very idea that some behaviors and modes of dress are inherently feminine:
People who haven’t lived their whole lives as women, whether Ms. Jenner or Mr. Summers, shouldn’t get to define us. That’s something men have been doing for much too long. And as much as I recognize and endorse the right of men to throw off the mantle of maleness, they cannot stake their claim to dignity as transgender people by trampling on mine as a woman.
She rejects any signs of traditional femininity that ultimately draw in M-to-F transsexuals:
For me and many women, feminist and otherwise, one of the difficult parts of witnessing and wanting to rally behind the movement for transgender rights is the language that a growing number of trans individuals insist on, the notions of femininity that they’re articulating, and their disregard for the fact that being a woman means having accrued certain experiences, endured certain indignities and relished certain courtesies in a culture that reacted to you as one.
In this view, only her experiences and definitions of femininity matter; others must be crushed lest hers somehow be diminished. But she saves her most strenuous vituperation for the reasons trans people offer for their conversions:
“I was born in the wrong body” rhetoric favored by other trans people doesn’t work any better and is just as offensive, reducing us to our collective breasts and vaginas. Imagine the reaction if a young white man suddenly declared that he was trapped in the wrong body and, after using chemicals to change his skin pigmentation and crocheting his hair into twists, expected to be embraced by the black community.
First of all, there's a wide range of behaviors, attributes, and attitudes that split along sex lines; men are incarcerated an order of magnitude more frequently than women, and are much bigger risk takers, having nine times the on-the-job death rate of women. But what really surprised me here is just how much Walsh and Burkett agree on this one point: you don't get to call yourself a woman without those two X chromosomes. And don't get her started on why transsexuals might want to actually change sex:
Many women I know, of all ages and races, speak privately about how insulting we find the language trans activists use to explain themselves. After Mr. Jenner talked about his brain, one friend called it an outrage and asked in exasperation, “Is he saying that he’s bad at math, weeps during bad movies and is hard-wired for empathy?” After the release of the Vanity Fair photos of Ms. Jenner, Susan Ager, a Michigan journalist, wrote on her Facebook page, “I fully support Caitlyn Jenner, but I wish she hadn’t chosen to come out as a sex babe.”
Aside from the fact that this comes off as intrasexual competitive sniping, i.e. professional jealousy, it is also deeply hypocritical: it's fine for Burkett and her allies to define what it means to be a woman. It's even fine for Burkett et al. to engage in straw man attacks (show me Jenner's remarks about algebra). But if, in Jenner's view, being a woman means a particular set of things, and Bruce Jenner felt a certain way about who he was, he is simply not allowed to express those feelings. Daniel Davis at The Federalist wrote an essay outlining how transsexuals and feminism are mutually incompatible in exactly this way:
If you truly celebrate Jenner’s transition, you have to do it by recognizing some cultural narrative about womanhood, thereby perpetuating gender “inequality.” But if you’re committed to the abolition of gender norms, there’s no way you can affirm Jenner’s femininity, except in the meaningless abstract. It’s a lose-lose.
I simply didn't believe it would be demonstrated so perfectly, and in such a short period of time. Burkett views Jenner as a heretic whose views on femininity must be suppressed for political reasons, while Walsh has religious motives. While I cannot speak to religion, the more I see of identity politics, the more I begin to see in it the famous Emo Philips gag about religion: there's always somebody to push over the bridge.

* I say "without evidence" largely because she cites neuroscientist Gina Rippon in a 2014 Telegraph article claiming
“You can’t pick up a brain and say ‘that’s a girl’s brain’ or ‘that’s a boy’s brain,’ ” Gina Rippon, a neuroscientist at Britain’s Aston University... The differences between male and female brains are caused by the “drip, drip, drip” of the gendered environment, she said.
Reading her online C.V. at Aston University, her research interests run predominantly to "application of brain imaging techniques", particularly as it relates to autism. For that reason alone, I find her glib dismissal of any differences between male and female brains unpersuasive, particularly because of a recent large-scale Irish study on autism that found genetic differences between males and females afflicted with that condition — which also explains the 7:1 ratio of males versus females. I'm sure she has a cultural reason for that, too.

Update 2015-06-10: I apparently missed the fact that Jenner retained his penis, per Jo Ann Skousen at Liberty. (Should we use "her"? Okay, whatever.)

Thanks, @Nero: A Review Of Emma Sulkowicz's Sex Tape

Twitter firebrand @Nero (aka Milo Yiannopoulos) does us all the favor of reviewing Emma Sulkowicz's strange porn video:
It’s telling, I think, that in Sulkowicz’s purported college dorm room there are no books. She has the same lack of interest in aesthetics as she does in intellectual enrichment: both in her choice of sexual partner (apparently satisfactory member notwithstanding) and the grim, bare walls with which she surrounds herself. Though I expect the austerity of her room reflects her barren emotional interior really rather well.

You can tell “dad bods” are in fashion because both of the people in this video have one. But you do at least have to give an actress credit for doing nude scenes with a man who has larger breasts than she does. Sulkowicz’s size queendom apparently extends to love handles and leave the viewer sympathetic to the travails of her infamous mattress.

It’s revealing of her vanity that she insists on being filmed from four angles. Every crevasse of her unappealing naked body must be considered. Her congressional interlocutor is a gruesome sight in three dimensions, chosen, probably, to make young Emma look thinner. Which doesn’t work, I’m sorry to say.

All in all, it’s a tawdry, miserable encounter that tells us nothing about sexual assault or sex itself but quite a bit about the quasi-demonic inner workings of one Emma Sulkowicz.
Ouch. Hilarious, but ouch.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Emma Sulkowicz' Sex Tape

Word came out yesterday that Emma Sulkowicz, in what can only be described as an insane monomanical disregard of Paul Nungesser's lawsuit against her (oops, see below), has issued a sex video in which she is raped, with this introductory text:
Trigger Warning: The following text contains allusions to rape. Everything that takes place in the following video is consensual but may resemble rape. It is not a reenactment but may seem like one. If at any point you are triggered or upset, please proceed with caution and/or exit this website. However, I do not mean to be prescriptive, for many people find pleasure in feeling upset.

Ceci N’est Pas Un Viol is not about one night in August, 2012. It’s about your decisions, starting now. It’s only a reenactment if you disregard my words. It’s about you, not him.

Do not watch this video if your motives would upset me, my desires are unclear to you, or my nuances are indecipherable.

You might be wondering why I’ve made myself this vulnerable. Look—I want to change the world, and that begins with you, seeing yourself. If you watch this video without my consent, then I hope you reflect on your reasons for objectifying me and participating in my rape, for, in that case, you were the one who couldn’t resist the urge to make Ceci N’est Pas Un Viol about what you wanted to make it about: rape.

Please, don’t participate in my rape. Watch kindly.

A special thank you to everyone who made Ceci N’est Pas Un Viol possible, especially my actor (*********), my director (Ted Lawson), and those I love who have guided and supported me.
Her repeated tapdancing around what she is or isn't saying would be despicable enough; perhaps she wishes to be named in Nungesser's lawsuit against Columbia (PDF). Robby Soave at Reason points us at Megan McArdle's depressing piece in Bloomberg View, wherein she writes that she doesn't find Nungesser's complaints against the university compelling:
Columbia didn't railroad him because he's a man; the university actually found him not guilty. Nor does Columbia have the power to force Sulkowicz to stop telling the world that he's a rapist. Perhaps the university shouldn't be giving her course credit for doing so, but this seems a pretty thin reed upon which to hang a lawsuit. The rest of the complaints are even thinner, for example, that President Bollinger issued some mealy-mouthed platitudes about how distressing this all is and that the university covered some of the cleanup costs for an anti-rape rally in which his case was prominently featured.

Nungesser is not the first man to sue his college over unequal treatment of men in the campus system of adjudicating sexual offenses. I've read some of the complaints, and they are wounded, outraged litanies of arbitrary treatment by a system that is opaque and far from accountable. But the cases I've looked at generally end up getting dismissed (including a recent one against Columbia), because even if all the facts were true as stated, they didn't add up to proof that these men were treated differently specifically because of their gender. Due process complaints like this one against Michigan are probably a more fruitful avenue, but that's not available against private schools.
Which is why I think his whole strategy is flawed to start with; the real meat here is the due-process-free Title IX procedure, not the relative treatment of men vs. women in its maw.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Slate's Emily Yoffe On The Hunting Ground

If you pull nothing else from Emily Yoffe's fine investigation on the facts behind The Hunting Ground, consider this:
Like most journalists and critics, I first wrote about The Hunting Ground on Feb. 27 of this year, the day the film made its theatrical debut, and did so unaware that, the same week, the unnamed man Willingham calls a rapist was standing trial in Middlesex County on the charges stemming from her criminal complaint. I learned of [Brandon] Winston’s trial when a juror contacted me after it concluded to express dismay that Winston had been forced to stand trial—and had faced potential jail time—for what she saw as a drunken hook-up. Winston declined to talk with me directly, but I spoke extensively with Norman Zalkind, the lawyer who represented him at trial.

The makers of The Hunting Ground say they gave the young men implicated in the film a chance to comment, and none responded. But it wasn’t until February, a month after the documentary made a celebrated debut at the Sundance Film Festival, that Winston says he was first contacted by a representative for the film. He referred this person to Zalkind, who says he never heard from anyone representing The Hunting Ground. I contacted Kirby Dick to talk to him about the Willingham case. He declined to speak with me, but asked for a list of written questions. I sent him my questions by email, and he replied, “After careful consideration I respectfully decline.” I also contacted CNN to discuss the case. A representative did not respond to a request for comment.
This behavior on the part of the filmmakers is simply inexcusable, and quite possibly damning — as is Yoffe's confession that she "learned of Winston’s trial when a juror contacted me after it concluded to express dismay that Winston had been forced to stand trial—and had faced potential jail time—for what she saw as a drunken hook-up." It's hard, looking at this, to avoid the thought that Kinsman is intent on shaking down a high-value NFL draftee, and using a prominent film as the vehicle in support of that aim.

Update: Robby Soave, formerly Jezebel's "idiot"  for questioning what later became an obvious rape hoax at the University of Virginia, points us at a Radley Balko article at the WaPo asking why so many high-profile rape stories end up fizzling. The article is worth reading in its entirety, but he offers four reasons why this is so:
  1. "One possibility is that the nascent anti-campus rape movement isn’t as seasoned as the activist groups to whom we’ve become accustomed. We’re used to groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (or if you’re familiar with it, the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm) who are incredibly meticulous about vetting their poster cases."
  2. "A second explanation could just be that the cases that fell apart are the ones we remember — or, we remember them because they fell apart. There may be some truth to this. Exoneration stories certainly capture the public’s attention."
  3.  "...[T]here’s a strong desire to find the “emblematic” case, one that checks off all the right boxes — a sympathetic victim, a privileged attacker, an indifferent administration, and so on. Real life doesn’t usually produce such clean-cut cases."
  4. "Another possibility merges these two points: The alleged victims most eager to generate publicity for their stories may be the those most likely to say what activists or journalists in search of a good story want to hear."
Zealots have their cosmology, and it rarely survives any sort of substantive examination. Rape culture activists are nothing if not religious in nature, and so here we are.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Ellen Pao To Appeal Kleiner Perkins Verdict

And she may have a bit of a case here, largely on the grounds that her suit was not "frivolous or malicious". (She is appealing to prevent Kleiner Perkins from recovering their considerable legal costs.) I will be interested to see Kleiner Perkins' response (and who knows what those terms of legal art might actually mean in practice).

The Campfire Of Hate: #GiveYourMoneyToWomen And Target Assessment

Every movement needs its enemies, and something as obviously lazy and venal as #GiveYourMoneyToWomen provides an easy target. (Liz Finnegan's introductory piece at Everyjoe is a pretty good primer.) But, my problems with it are that
  1. No traction from anyone of real name. (Who the hell is @ChiefElk?)
  2. Almost all the tweets with this hashtag are from conservatives decrying the state of modern feminism.
Which is to say, it's something of a manufactured controversy arising from one entitled princess's delusional fantasies.

Aside: I really liked David Frum's tweet on this:

Laura Kipnis' Torquemada, Joan Slavin

This is incredible.
... I must emphasize that Northwestern University will not tolerate any retaliation or aggression, macro- or micro-, against students who have made complaints against faculty or each other. Such retaliation is both unlawful under Title IX and against University policy. Professor Kipnis' latest article, like her previous one, represents a deeply problematical challenge to these community values.
Public Attacks On Victims: When a student accuses a faculty member or another student of sexual misconduct, the only University response consistent with Title IX is contrition, acceptance, and support.
Professor Kipnis forces me to clarify a point that ought already be plain in an environment like this one: "neutrality" is no shield for attacks on victim integrity. Professor Kipnes' columns suggest that it is appropriate in the course of discussing an accusation to report what the target says in response to it. Unless the response is a full acknowledgement of wrongdoing and apology, it is not appropriate.
Title IX Procedure: Professor Kipnis' latest article is a brutal and biased attack on the University's procedure for evaluating Title IX complaints. I must remind the faculty that discussions of procedure and "fairness" are not excuses to attack victims. Employees should avoid discussions that imply that any particular victim, or victims in general, may not be telling the truth, or may be seeking unwarranted remedies.
Curriculum: It is our collective responsibility to avoid unlawful retaliation not only directly, but implicitly. During this period of reassurance, and whenever Title IX investigations are pending, the College of Arts & Sciences faculty should avoid undue emphasis on problem authors whose texts undermine free reporting of sexual misconduct, such as Arthur Miller, Franz Kafka, or Harper Lee. 
Thus the value of a Harvard Law degree, the comforting warm knowledge that one can add two and two, get five, and still collect a paycheck.

Update: Unclear to me whether Ken's post was meant as satire or if it's really a leaked email. The line between fantasy and reality in bogus news contexts is getting harder and harder to parse.

Update 2: Laura Kipnis was cleared of any wrongdoing in a Title IX proceeding, which is kinda sad that any such thing even happened in the first place.  "Philosopher" Justin Weinberg wrote a really dumb piece at the blog Nous which is illustrative of the mindset at play here, a great deal of which falls into the "I'm in favor of free speech, but" variety.