Saturday, April 25, 2015

To Help Nepal

You can send funds.  The New York Times gives a list of aid organizations.

I was told that the Lutheran World Federation of Churches is also a good organization to give to.  They have a lot of experience in crisis management, they do not try to convert people to Lutheranism and they seem to work on issues of gender justice, too.

I cannot personally vouch for any of the above, but they are avenues to get your pennies to make a difference.

As an aside, I really want to find a way to give help to the Yazidis in Iraq.  If you know of a way, leave it in the comments, with my thanks.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Apocalypse And Its Miscreants

So I start this post with the title and have to Google "miscreant!"  That's how directly my posts are channeled from that goddess of snakes who takes me over.

Just joking.  But also linking to the religious arguments about us living in end times.  The valiant butchers of IS (ISIS/ISIL) believe that we are living in end times, and so do many American religious conservatives.  To give you a slightly humorous take, here's Michele Bachmann on that topic:

Former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) expressed a mixture of condemnation and appreciation toward President Barack Obama for, in her words, bringing the world to end times.
“Barack Obama is intent, it is his number one goal, to ensure that Iran has a nuclear weapon," she said. "Why? Why would you put the nuclear weapon in the hands of madmen who are Islamic radicals?"
Bachmann, however, then seemed to approve of the President moving mankind into "the midnight hour."
"We get to be living in the most exciting time in history," she said, urging fellow Christians to "rejoice."
"Jesus Christ is coming back. We, in our lifetimes potentially, could see Jesus Christ returning to Earth, the Rapture of the Church."
What a relief!  I can stop flossing!

The point of this post is that something like "end times" is not an exogenous variable from the point of view of politicians and those active in trying to make them come about.  "End times" can be achieved.  A nuclear war could do it nicely, but so could many other things, such as irreversible changes in the climate.

The reverse of that is that we can delay the "end times" by our behavior.  Sadly, people with certain religious views don't have any incentive to do so, because they have packed their suitcases and have their travel tickets for paradise tightly in one hand while they use the guns with the other.

I haven't read enough on the history of apocalyptic thoughts, but my guess is that there have always been many people who believed that they themselves were living in the "end times."  But I doubt they had quite the same power to push this planet closer to them than some people today have.  While rejoicing over it.

The Preference For Sons in India And China. Look What We got For it!

The Economist has a long and pretty fact-filled article on the consequences of the missing girls in India and China (sex-selective abortions and female infanticide), combined with a few other marriage rules.  Worth reading it.  You can also then read the comments if you wish.

I did.  And then I got a sore stomach, as usual.  The reasons are subtle, a bit like a giant hippo only showing its nose above the surface of the river.  Everyone else writes about the nose, whereas I see the rest of that hippo, the ignored part.

Note that the article very quickly hints at the reason for all this sex imbalance:  It's "preference for sons."  Then it skates off to study how all those abortions and infant killings will soon leave many young men eternal spinsters (why not call them that?) and how that is very bad for the society and men, with more crime and violence and the need for more prostitutes.

The solutions offered both in the article and in the comments are not about that "preference for sons."  If we realize that the same thing could be called "a dislike of daughters" or something much stronger, given that some parents even resort to killing the infant daughter, the disconnect between the problem (women are not valued) and the solutions offered (somehow get more women from elsewhere, say)  becomes as clear as a hippo rising from the river.

The article has other interesting stuff, such as women "marrying upwards" in those countries.  That's the same as men marrying downwards.  Terms matter, my friends.  Because if men marry downwards, it's better that there aren't too many women on the top of the societal ladders.  They will become "leftovers" as they are called in China.

Now, the eternal spinster guys are also given pejorative names, such as "bare branches."  But isn't it fascinating how something which has its roots in the fact that women are not valued results in an article where part of the problem of too many men is that educated women cannot find husbands?  When you would have thought that more women with education (and thus more opportunities to help their families financially) would have been one of the solutions which could raise the valuation of women in general?

I may be nitpicking.  But I have written about this particular slant in the media takes about the missing girls for many, many years.  The problem really boils down, in those articles, to the question of how we can now get those men wives.

That the real problem is in the underlying assumption that all women are good for is being the providers of sex and sons just sorta sleeps under the surface of the debating river.

And  yes, as I have written before, there are reasons for the dislike of daughters.  In a system without good pensions it is the sons who are supposed to take care of their parents, while daughters must be provided with dowries and then they work for a totally different family.  And it is the sons who are seen as continuing the family genes, only the sons.  But all this, based on patrilocal marriage customs, is ultimately and circularly based on women not valued as much.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Ethics of Journalism 101: Is it OK for NYT and WaPo to use Pre-Publication Opposition Research on Hillary Clinton?

This is an interesting question, even if I write so myself.  The case for your consideration:

The New York Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have made exclusive agreements with a conservative author for early access to his opposition research on Hillary Clinton, a move that has confounded members of the Clinton campaign and some reporters, the On Media blog has confirmed.
"Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich" will debut on May 5. But the Times, the Post and Fox have already made arrangements with author Peter Schweizer to pursue some of the material included in his book, which seeks to draw connections between Clinton Foundation donations and speaking fees and Hillary Clinton's actions as secretary of state. Schweizer is the president of the Government Accountability Institute, a conservative research group, and previously served as an adviser to Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

 I see three potentially serious problems with these exclusive arrangements.

First, depending on what newspapers are supposed to have as their objective*, getting opposition research on only one candidate can bias the reporting in the papers.  If conservative muckrakers are more diligent than liberal ones, the American people (how I love to be able to write that!) will be mislead, assuming that the Republican candidates might also have all sorts of skeletons in their mahogany cupboards.

Second, assuming that those at the newspapers know how to judge the research of Schweizer's book may be a form of hubris.  Or at least we should not just be told that there will be experts looking at all the stuff.

Third, and this links to my second point, using a book BEFORE it is published means that the newspapers won't have access to the expert criticisms which follow the publication of a book.  It's as if the book is allowed to hold the stage all alone, when the correct approach would be to wait to see what experts in the field might have to say about it.

*The naive me thinks that the newspapers should try to be objective, search for as much truth as people can agree on and provide voters with factual information that will help their votes.  Psst, Maureen Dowd, writing about Hillary Clinton with all sorts of sexist terms isn't helpful for voters.

But other objectives are possible.  For instance, to make the most money possible out of gullible readers.