Apr 08 2014

How embarrassing

Republicans in Minnesota are endorsing Aaron Miller as a candidate to challenge Tim Walz, a Democrat in the first congressional district. What’s embarrassing about it is that Miller is a creationist kook.

Miller likes to repeat a story on the campaign trail about his daughter being driven to tears because her teacher taught evolution that day. According to the Mankato Free Press, Miller shared a story about his daughter telling the teacher she does not believe in evolution. The teacher replied that he or she didn’t believe it either, but was forced to teach it because of the government. “There’s a war on our values by the government,” Miller said. “We should decide what is taught in our schools, not Washington, D.C.”

These views have earned Miller an endorsement from former state Rep. Allen Quist (R). Mother Jones points out that Quist has argued that it is only reasonable that people and dinosaurs coexisted and that the Book of Job offers science lessons.

Yes, we have creationists here in the upper midwest, and the Republicans are their enablers.

Also on Miller’s agenda: repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with a vague something based on free market principles, more religion in the schools, and smaller government, as always. Walz is a popular four term congressman, so we’re all hoping the embarrassment disappears after the election.

Apr 08 2014

It’s Equal Pay Day

We had a troll pop by yesterday to whine that women don’t actually get paid less than men, they’re just worth less, which was a good reminder of the injustice; but I mainly take note because my wife is a member of AAUW so of course she took me by the ear and told me I had to remind everyone that women are getting ripped off everywhere, and also that it’s compounded by racial discrimination.

For African-American and Hispanic women, the wage gap is worse, which means it takes even longer for their salaries to "equal" the salaries of their white male counterparts. White men are used as a benchmark because they are the largest demographic group in the labor force. African-American and Hispanic women are paid less than their white and Asian-American peers, even when they have the same educational credentials. Asian-American women’s salaries show the smallest pay gap, at 87 percent of white men’s salaries. Hispanic women’s salaries show the largest gap, at 53 percent of white men’s salaries.

The Democrats have a petition. It wouldn’t hurt to sign, since the Republicans wobble between denying the problem exists and admitting there’s a pay gap, but having no clue about what to do about it.

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Apr 08 2014

It worked!

At last I’m home after a long day, but I have good news: my genetics students have been doing a three point mapping cross for the last month or so, which is always worrisome because if they screw it up, you don’t know the results until the very end of the experiment. But now the data is trickling in, and with a quarter of the numbers done, it’s looking really good.

It’s a big chunk of time and effort, and it feels awful if it flops at the last analysis.

Apr 08 2014

So that’s how biblical literalism works

Michael Peroutka gave a speech in which he revealed how Bible interpretation is done. He declares that evolution is anti-American, and to prove it, he says he is quoting from the Declaration [of Independence]…I’m paraphrasing. You will be surprised at what’s in that document.

There exists a creator God. He is the God of the Bible. He is not Allah, nor any of the Hindu deities, nor is he the God that is in the wind or in the trees or some other impersonal force. He created us. We did not evolve from apes or slimy, swampy things.

I looked real hard in the Declaration of Independence, and I saw a mention of “Nature’s God” and being “created equal”, but all the rest…well. I guess you have to read between the lines and use your imagination a little bit.

Apr 08 2014

Charles Murray speaks

Salon was supposed to have an interview with Charles Murray, notorious racist and conservative ass, but he backed down at the last minute, saying he didn’t think he’d get a fair shake from them. So Salon instead posted a series of quotes from Murray’s new book.

He really should have gone with the interview.

On Tattoos: “As for tattoos, it does no good to remind curmudgeons that tattoos have been around for millennia. Yes, we will agree, tattoos have been common – first among savage tribes and then, more recently, among the lowest classes of Western societies. In America, tattoos have until the last few decades been the unambiguous badge of the proletariat or worse – an association still acknowledged in the phrase tramp stamp.”

On Pronouns: “The feminist revolution has tied writers into knots when it comes to the third-person singular pronoun. Using the masculine pronoun as the default has been proscribed. Some male writers get around this problem by defaulting to the feminine singular pronoun, which I think is icky.” Instead, “Unless there is an obvious reason not to, use the gender of the author or, in a cowritten text, the gender of the principal author. It’s the perfect solution.”

On jobs: “Here’s the secret you should remember whenever you hear someone lamenting how tough it is to get ahead in the postindustrial global economy: Few people work nearly as hard as they could.”

On subordination: “But in all cases when you have problems in your interactions with your boss, there’s one more question you have to ask yourself: To what extent is your boss at fault, and to what extent are you a neophyte about supervisor-subordinate relationships? … What you see as arbitrary, insensitive, or hostile behavior on the part of your boss may be nothing more than the way in which supervisors have been treating subordinates from time immemorial.”

On “problematic”: “For example it is appropriate to say that a proposed voter ID bill is problematic because it risks disenfranchising more eligible voters than it prevents fraudulent votes, but not to say that it is problematic because it is racist and offensive. That may be your sincere opinion, but people on the other side can be just as sincerely convinced that it is not racist and offensive and neither side can prove the other wrong.”

On “flaccid nonjudgmental nonsense”: “If he says instead, ‘Marriage works for some people, not for others; it’s no big deal what people choose,’ then my point about artistic merit is unchanged, except more emphatic: You mustn’t indulge yourself in that kind of flaccid nonjudgemental nonsense … To say something like, ‘Marriage works for some people, not others; it’s no big deal what people choose,’ is as idiotic as saying that it’s a matter of opinion whether a Titian painting is superior to artistic dreck, except that in this instance there is a moral dimension to your obligation to think through your judgments that doesn’t burden your judgments about art.”

On marriage: “For ninety-five percent of the population, showing up for family means making oneself available for marriage.”

On manners: “The two who have embodied great manners for me have been William F. Buckley, Jr., the late conservative writer, and his brother James, a former senator and retired judge.”

Apr 07 2014

Mary’s Monday Metazoan: Sad pangolin


Say goodbye to another mammal being sacrificed on the altar of ‘traditional medicine’ — pangolin scales are consumed as medicine, their blood is used in tonics, their embryos are swallowed as aphrodisiacs, and they’re just generally eaten up. They’re also incredibly fragile, and cannot be farmed; they’re all caught in the wild and they usually die of shock.

I have no sympathy at all for traditional Asian medicines. It’s all bogus sympathetic magic that leads to the slaughter of animals worldwide for absurd reasons.

Apr 07 2014

Pink is a preference policed by experience

Cordelia Fine reviews the scientific literature, and discovers that the evidence that girls innately prefer pink toys just isn’t there.

Existing science simply doesn’t support the view that gender-neutral toys or books are, at best, a pointless railing against nature or, at worse, politically correct meddling with children’s "true" natures. Social experience isn’t something that interferes with the emergence of a child’s "real," underlying design. It is an integral part of the construction, step by step, of the developmental pathway—destination uncertain.

Moreover, developmental psychologists have found that children are very aware of the importance placed on the social category of gender and highly motivated to discover what is "for boys" and what is "for girls." Socialization isn’t just imposed by others; a child actively self-socializes. Once a child realizes (at about 2 to 3 years of age) on which side of the great gender divide he or she belongs, the well-known dynamics of norms, in-group preference, and out-group prejudice kick-in.

I don’t know why so many people discount the importance of socialization. It’s a very intense experience, and almost all of us went through it — most children will freak out if you try to get them to wear inappropriately gendered clothing choices. Put a 5 year old boy in a pink dress and send him off to school, and he might initially have no problem with it…until the other 5 year olds of both sexes in the Gender Police start mocking, teasing, and tormenting him. We learn fast what will help us fit into the group.

Try to figure out what is disturbing about this image. Do you think it’s because it violates genetic norms?

(Well, he might think so.)

Apr 07 2014

Today is the 10th Annual Paul Nelson Day!

I think the appropriate way to celebrate is to do nothing at all, but just to pretend to have a big party.

Paul Nelson Day commemorates the fabulous concept of Ontogenetic Depth, a metric that Paul Nelson invented and presented at the 2004 Society for Developmental Biology meetings — he claimed that it was a measure of the complexity of a developmental process, and that it was a serious problem for evolution. Look, he said, all of a sudden in the Cambrian these creatures appeared with high Ontogenetic Depth values! Only he couldn’t tell us what those values were, or how he measured them. But they sure were a big problem for evolution!

Well, at least he couldn’t tell me right then and there at the meetings how to calculate Ontogenetic Depth. But he’d get right back to me with the details. Tomorrow. Right away. Some day.

Despite having actually had the gall to present this stuff at a legitimate scientific meeting, those details have receded farther and farther away, to the point where he finally admitted in 2011 that ontogenetic depth is impossible to measure. But we can still keep on rubbing his nose in his phony pseudoscience.

As for me, I have a cadre of strippers and a marching band here in my office, have dismantled all of the local churches to get the raw materials for a gigantic bonfire in the parking lot outside, and plan to have a picnic on the moon this afternoon to celebrate. I promise. I’ll post pictures to prove it…tomorrow. Pinky swear!

Apr 07 2014

A good mission for MRAs

Have you heard of the Prison Rape Elimination Act? It was passed a long time ago.

The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was passed in 2003 with unanimous support from both parties in Congress. The purpose of the act was to “provide for the analysis of the incidence and effects of prison rape in Federal, State, and local institutions and to provide information, resources, recommendations and funding to protect individuals from prison rape.” (Prison Rape Elimination Act, 2003). In addition to creating a mandate for significant research from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and through the National Institute of Justice, funding through the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the National Institute of Corrections supported major efforts in many state correctional, juvenile detention, community corrections, and jail systems.

This law sounds like a good idea, and since the most common (but not the only!) victims of prison rape are men, you’d think this would be a major cause for men’s rights advocacy. I’m sure they’re poised to leap into action.

If you want an immediate focus for action, try this: Rick Perry, governor of Texas, has refused to comply, over a decade after the act was passed. His arguments aren’t very good: he claims that Texas standards have been sufficient, that it would cost too much to comply, and that they have far too many prisons and prisoners to be able to cover with the available auditing tools.

If Texas has adequate safeguards against prison rape, why is Texas one of the worst states in the country for sexual abuses in prison?

Years of government research, as well as thousands of letters to JDI from Texas inmates, show that rape is rampant in Texas prisons. In a 2013 report, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) singled out more detention facilities in Texas than in any other state for having high levels of inmate-on-inmate sexual abuse. That report, which was based on a nationwide survey of tens of thousands of inmates, was no aberration; two prior BJS inmate surveys, released in 2010 and 2007, also ranked Texas prisons as having some of the highest rates of sexual victimization in the country.

And maybe they could save some money and protect society humanely if they didn’t lock up so many men that they need hundreds of prisons. We have obscene incarceration rates, not just in Texas, but all across America.

It just seems to me that this prison problem ought to be a major focus of a men’s human rights movement, rather than abusing women and blaming them for all of their ills. Let me know when it happens.

Apr 07 2014

Deveny’s alphabet

The dog steals the show.

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