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Archive for the ‘Idiots’ Category

Politifact reminds me of Michael Scott when he’s trying to roast; they are so eager to roast and find “lies” that they don’t do any deeper introspection on the substance of the statements they are evaluating.

Consider, for instance, their recent 4-Pinocchio rating for the old chestnut that “women make 77 cents for the same job as men.” Take this, exaggerating Obama:

The Obama campaign took a legitimate statistic and described it in a way that makes it sound much more dramatic than it actually is. The 77-cent figure is real, but it does not factor in occupations held, hours worked or length of tenure.

BOOM! ROASTED!

Well, except look at those caveats–(1) occupations held; (2) hours worked; or (3) length of tenure. If we look at BLS occupation figures, (warning: PDF!) we see that women are still pulling down less than men in a variety of categories, so how might those three factors play into this equation?

  • Occupations held: Well, this is a problem, except even in the most specific BLS figures the disparity exists. Female chief executives make 69% what male chief executives make. Unless there is some massive difference in the types of “first-line supervisors of retail sales workers,” women are still making 79% of what their male counterparts make. That’s a pretty specific job type, and yet, the disparity still exists. Now, there’s no way of knowing exactly which job they hold; (PDF) research suggests that within the same establishment, wage gaps are smaller, but the overall pattern still holds that women are paid less than men for similar occupations regardless of establishment. So is Politifact right that the 77-cent figure for “the same work” is false? I mean, maybe, but the real figure might be something like 80-cents. How much better is that?
  • Hours worked: Well, it’s hard to say for hours worked; those pesky women are always taking so much more time off! Or not. BLS figures show that there’s a small difference in aggregate hours worked, but the difference between 8.2 hours and 7.8 hours, even considering overtime, doesn’t make up for the 23-cent gap, and as part-time employees, women actually work more than men. Plus, in “white-collar” occupations where hourly wages don’t matter (managers, supervisors, chief executives, elementary school teachers, accountants, social workers), women still earn less than men. Maybe they’re also working fewer hours there, which is why their companies reward them less. Or maybe something else. But they definitely earn less for similar work, if not the same.
  • Length of tenure: This one pisses me off the most. Maybe those lower-paid women have not worked there as long. True! But is that “not the same job”? A seventh-year teacher and a third-year teacher/cashier/clerk/nurse are doing the “same work.” They do, however, have different levels of seniority. And it turns out that men get promoted at a much higher rate than women (10.6% of men get promoted, as opposed to 7.6% of women), even though their wage growth at each level of promotion is similar. Again, this could be because men are just much better, hard-working, committed, etc. to their jobs than women. Or, perhaps, it could be that there continue to be discriminatory hiring, firing, and promotion practices at these establishments.

The point of this whole exercise is to illustrate that Politifact’s urge to get Obama in a hits-generating BOOM! ROASTED! moment has actually obscured the truth behind the statement. Just because it is difficult to get an exact comparison of apples-to-apples, doesn’t mean that women aren’t working for less pay doing essentially the same job. The bottom line is: women are promoted less often than men, earn less money than men in similar occupations (or “the same work”), and are subject to discriminatory hiring, promotion, and pay. Even if the 77-cent figure did take into account those three missing factors, it would still hit pretty close to the mark.

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If you have been near a radio, in a store, or anywhere where one could hear Top 40 music, you have probably heard “Call Me Maybe,” the inexplicable Top 10 hit by Carly Rae Jepsen, a Canadian singer-songwriter whose other songs don’t really hint at the pop genius of this one.

At first glance, just another disposable pop song. But it’s worth gathering what that means these days. One glance at the top of the Billboard Charts suggests that after years of hearing Euro dance beats and the tyranny of LMFAO and Katy Perry, the Top 10 is getting weird. Gotye featuring Kimba? fun.? Goofy British boy bands? The other shocker here is the return of legitimate melody — songs with catchy tunes rather than catchy beats (contrast Kelly Clarkson with, say, Pitbull). Consider Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know,” a slow, undanceable song with a monster singable chorus:

OK, but back to Carly Rae. What’s so great about “Call Me Maybe”? Well, to sum it up in one word, it’s the “maybe.” Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Petula Clark, Blondie: they all asked us to call them in songs titled “Call Me,” but they either came from a place of desperation or solicitation. In Jepsen’s case, the solicitation, if it exists at all, is hesitant and non-committal:

Hey, I just met you
And this is crazy
But here’s my number
So call me, maybe
It’s hard to look right
At you baby
But here’s my number
So call me, maybe

It’s a song about the queasy feeling of making the first move, of making yourself vulnerable. The inarticulate lyrics are exactly the point — who has not become tongue-tied when confronted by the object of their desire? Not everyone can sound like Debbie Harry, blithely asking people to “roll [her] in designer sheets.” For the Facebook generation, increasingly mediated in its human contact, there’s no imagery or directness, just staring at our shoes and asking the other person to call us, maybe.

Musically, the song understands that chorus is the key. The verses are kept to a minimum (15 seconds) with almost no backing, save for a generic drum beat and those repeated pizzicato strings, before we get to the pre-chorus when the song truly opens up. “Call Me Maybe” understands the fascistic nature of the pop song; it demands our allegiance and we will sing along, whether we like it or not. In come the cheesy strings, in comes the dance beat, in comes the middling keyboard figure: along with the lyrics of the song, the instrumentation suggests a sort of stasis, unwilling to commit one way or another. The vocals in the verse hover around the same note, and the chorus does the same flailing — climbing ever higher like a cracking voice before zeroing in on the tiny downward steps of “call me, maybe.” Consider the structure of the song, which features so many repeated parts that it’s not much more than window-dressing for the chorus.

  • Intro (pizzicato strings) (4 sec)
  • Verse 1 (“I threw a wish in a well…”) (16 sec)
  • Pre-chorus (“Your stare was holding…”) (8 sec) (in comes hint at the bigger beat and slow crescendo)
  • Chorus (“Hey I just met you…”) (15 sec) (the beat, the strings all come in)
  • Chorus (again!) (another 15 sec + 5 sec outro) (add noodly guitar line)
  • Verse 2 (“You took your time with the call…”) (16 sec)
  • Pre-chorus (8 sec)
  • Chorus (15 sec)
  • Chorus (15 sec)
  • Bridge (kind of) (“‘Fore you came into my life…”) (15 sec)
  • Chorus reprise (5 sec intro + 7 sec)
  • Chorus (15 sec)
  • Bridge again (15 sec)

That is to say, in a full 3:20 pop song, only 30 seconds give or take are lines not repeated elsewhere in the song. Verses, who needs that? The song is essentially nothing but sing-along! Even the choruses themselves are half just “Here’s my number/so call me maybe.” Through sheer repetition and melodic dog whistles, “Call Me Maybe” worms its way effortlessly into your brain, with just enough generic dance beat to throw your hands up.

In the tradition of “A-B-C” and “MmmBop!”, Jepsen’s tune is a perfect pop song for its moment — disposable verses with a heavily-repeated middle section, capturing somehow the non-committal of modern relationships with the machinery of pop songs. It’s worth noting that the song’s popularity derived from a Youtube video shot by Justin Bieber and his friends in which they sing along to the tune while goofing around.

For its noncommittal and tentative attempts at initiating contact, “Call Me Maybe” outro seems oddly deflating: Rather than a fade-out, the song simply peters out, but this seems to encapsulate the moment perfectly. A queasiness, a tepid solicitation, then a fantasy of all that happens in a relationship in the space of a three-minute pop song, followed by ultimate deflation. The only way to bounce back from the deflation? Why, we must play the song again and relive the experience! And so we do.

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Well that was fast. A week ago, Romney appointed openly gay national security spokesman Rick Grenell who had all the right conservative bona fides. It “signal[ed] a new attitude” towards gays in the Republican party. At least until it didn’t:

I have decided to resign from the Romney campaign as the Foreign Policy and National Security Spokesman. While I welcomed the challenge to confront President Obama’s foreign policy failures and weak leadership on the world stage, my ability to speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from a presidential campaign.

As with other minorities, Republican outreach continues to be stifled by the bigotry that the party has stoked and exploited for years. A perfect attack dog, earnest in his hatred of Barack Obama’s foreign policy, Grenell should have been the right man for the job, but it was too much to ask for the Republican activist base.

Why can’t Marco Rubio get traction on his watered-down DREAM Act? Why did Colin Powell endorse Obama instead of his friend John McCain? Why do Latinos continue to leave the party in droves?

The Republican party has encouraged and condoned bigotry in order to create its current electoral coalition. Eventually, it will pay the price in human capital and long-term electoral success.

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Whenever the law school has an event explaining to us how to “get ahead” in the corporate or legal fields, the speaker always makes steam come out of my ears. For Asian-Americans, the problem at law firms is increasingly obvious, as Asian-American associates bill more hours and earn more money for the firm, only to be passed up when bonus and promotion time comes around. (For more see here.) To combat this, the speaker will often say that Asian-Americans need to develop their “people skills” or need to step away from cultural norms of deference to authority by speaking up more, etc. This strikes me as fundamentally wrong-headed and moronic; why should a disadvantaged group conform to views of privileged white leadership, instead of pointing out the dangers of implicit bias and fundamentally changing the way we view leadership?

The cult of “leadership” has largely grown up around features already viewed as “leaderly” in the dominant society — features that tend to be prevalent among patrician white men. Yet, when these features are exhibited by other groups, they are still perceived as un-leaderly. Consider the first identified “glass ceiling” group, women. When women exhibit stereotypically “female” characteristics and gender roles, they are viewed as unsuitable for leadership. Yet, when women exhibit stereotypically “male” leadership characteristics, they are rated poorly for their incongruity with the traditional gender role! (See Eagly and Karau for more: http://web.pdx.edu/~mev/pdf/PS471_Readings_2012/Eagley_Karau.pdf). Women are caught in a Catch-22: Behave in a “female gender role” and get passed over, or behave in a “male gender role” and get slammed for being a “bitch” or “difficult to work with.”

Perhaps we need to fundamentally reconsider what good leadership looks like. Stereotypically white male leadership skills often lead people astray; for example, leaders who merely talk first and talk often are more convincing, even when they have the wrong answer. Maybe we should stop listening to these guys, particularly if they’re incompetent! This is one of those problems with the Presidency — you only get to be President if you want to be President, and frankly, wanting to be President requires a lot of ego and dangerous amounts of self-confidence. Rather than getting competent leaders, we get persuasive ones, even if they persuade us to do things fundamentally against our self-interest.

Instead of conforming to the view of leadership as defined by a white male hierarchy, we should be moving people towards a different view of what a good leader entails. Good leaders can be focused on competency rather than politicking, listen to others’ ideas before speaking, build consensus, hear out minority opinions, and be willing to change their minds. A leadership cadre of blowhards, regardless of their race or gender, does not particularly appeal to me.

http://web.pdx.edu/~mev/pdf/PS471_Readings_2012/Eagley_Karau.pdf

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OK, it was a bad joke about how women should just keep their legs closed if they don’t want to get pregnant. And it’s easy for the Santorum campaign to shrug it off as a joke, just as it’s easy for us to laugh about it.

But the problem here is that it’s actually not a joke at all. Rick Santorum believes that birth control is a dangerous sin, and that abstinence is the only acceptable form of birth control.

That is to say, the joke about “squeezing an aspiring between your knees” as birth control is not “off-color” or “crossing the line”: It’s accurately depicting the Santorum campaign’s position on birth control and consensual male-female sex.

Santorum may say now that he thinks birth control should be available (one wonders why his argument doesn’t apply to abortion, but we’ll skip that), but his stance on birth control affordability/availability is clear: he believes birth control pills are bad, and that people should not use them and that abstinence is the only method.

“Aspirin between the knees” is the reality of the Santorum campaign, not just a one-off line by a surrogate.

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Carmelo Anthony says he still wants the last shot, but insists that he is not selfish:

“Of course I want to take the last shot, let’s be quite frank: I’ve been doing for nine years already, and I’ve made a ton of them,” he said.

OK, so let’s be clear. Carmelo Anthony does make last shots. In fact, he makes them quite well. A 48% clip on final shots is a big deal.

Except… it turns out there is more to a basketball game than the last 5 seconds. Games are often decided by more points, and those games are not quite as peachy for Anthony.

In the rest of the game, Anthony is, well, not that great.

He shoots at lower efficiency and rebounds at lower rates, despite his gaudy topline numbers, which mostly come from an ungodly number of shot attempts. The league average small forward takes 16.5 shots per 48 minutes; Anthony takes 26.3. For comparison, Lebron James averages 24.0, Kevin Durant takes 24.7, and Luol Deng takes 18.1. Anthony is not better at shooting than these players, nor are his teammates that much worse. Anthony loves isolation, though, and enjoys shooting the basketball, like many basketball players.

Unfortunately, it turns out that winning basketball is not dependent on the number of shots you take, but on the percentage of shots you make and the number of possessions your team has. And that makes Anthony much less valuable than many other small forwards in the league.

We have a problem in sports where we look at the magnificent last minute shot and the drama that it entails, and we believe that value in a player resides in that moment (see, Aaron Boone, “Big Shot” Billups, Adam Vinatieri, etc.). In fact, most games are decided by more than the last minute shot, and even in the NBA playoffs, wins by more than 4 points are more common than wins than 3 or fewer.

In short, by continuing to play basketball and jack up a huge number of shot attempts despite being inefficient at making them, Anthony is the definition of selfish, regardless of how many times the final shot makes it.

Baseball starts in, like, three days, so basketball will probably take a backseat, but it’s worth noting that the points in any game count the same, no matter what form they take.

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Amanda Marcotte has a thought-provoking post about anti-vaccination parents, but her formulation of the problem highlights a problem with “children’s rights” as we have constructed them in the contemporary sense:

Obviously, this is not about children’s rights. The children’s rights are being violated by their parents, who believe their right to use their children as symbols to prove their piety trumps their children’s right to health.

But to whom to these children’s rights inhere? That is to say, are children to be protected from their parents by the state? Or are they to be protected by their parents from the state?

Consider some of the core examples of what we consider children’s rights. Child labor, for instance, is not permissible, but we permit it in many family businesses. In some sense, the state wants to protect children from their parents (who would put them to work or accept exploitation by others). Yet, the state doesn’t want to impose unnecessary burdens on parenting (or on children themselves, who might want to help their family out in the business).

Or consider the famous case of Tinker v. Des Moines School District, where children were found to have free speech rights in school after coming to school wearing black armbands to protest the Vietnam War. The Tinker kids’ parents both supported their decision and were noted area peace activists. Would the children have been protesting at all had their parents not been part of the peace movement? Or, more importantly, would the children’s parents have brought suit for them (as next friends, as necessary in court for minors) if they disagreed with them?

If we envision children’s rights as the state protecting children from their parents (or other adults through increased penalties for crimes against children, for example), then Marcotte is correct and children need vaccinations to protect them from their moronic parents. (And they are morons, for the record.) But if we envision children’s rights as parents protecting their children from an encroaching state (like Tinker!), then the vaccine-fearing parents, wrong though they may be, are asserting a vision of children’s rights that is not altogether insane.

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