Sunday, May 20, 2018

Spurned Advances Provoked Texas School Shooting? My Take.




Spurned advances provoked Texas school shooting, victim's mother says

That's the recent Reuter's headline on the Santa Fe butchery.  The story itself has more:

Sadie Rodriguez, the mother of Shana Fisher, 16, told the newspaper that her daughter rejected four months of aggressive advances from accused shooter Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, at the Santa Fe high school.
Fisher finally stood up to him and embarrassed him in class, the newspaper quoted her mother as writing in a private message to the Times.

“A week later he opens fire on everyone he didn’t like,” she said. “Shana being the first one.”
Rodriguez could not independently be reached for comment.
If true, it would be the second school shooting in recent months driven by such rejection.
In March, a 17-year-old Maryland high school student used his father’s gun to shoot and kill a female student with whom he had been in a recently ended relationship.

The bolds are mine.  And so is the ice-cold rage such careless writing provokes in me.  In fact, it drives me into writing this response:


Friday, May 18, 2018

Last Day of My Fund-Raising Week. A Gratitude Post.


Cool slithery snake energy* to all who have donated already!   There's still time!

If I were good at the self-marketing business, I would paint myself as the last bulwark (like that word!) against the chaos of multiple Jordan Petersons, the last tiny sane voice online, the last person mutilating the English language on a daily basis, the last goddess still being worshiped.

But I am terrible at marketing.  So just give already.  Don't give if you have no money.  You can tell me how wonderful I am instead.

More seriously, my thanks to you all, both for reading, for thinking, for educating me, for arguing,  and for giving me chocolate money.

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* This can be used for health or for avoiding tricky situations or even for getting boring chores to go faster.

On Lobsters, Dragons And Witches. More Jordan Peterson!



This is a good article on Jordan Peterson and on  his slightly-inebriated-prophet style of speaking and thinking. 

Peterson is the adored father figure of zillions of young conservative (mostly white) men, because he tells them that patriarchal hierarchies are fair, based on competence and that women are biologically unsuited to climb them.

That removes half the competition.  Then all those men need to do is to clean their rooms, stand straight, and speak the truth.  That last bit seems to include telling women that they belong at home.

If you would like to learn more about Prophet Peterson, this is a good first post.  My three-part book review of his best-selling tome begins here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Day Six of My Fund-Raising Week: On Bolton's Smart Choices And Trump's Smart Utterances.


1.  The midterm elections are coming.  It's therefore logical that 

The White House eliminated the position of cybersecurity coordinator on the National Security Council on Tuesday, doing away with a post central to developing policy to defend against increasingly sophisticated digital attacks and the use of offensive cyber weapons.

A memorandum circulated by an aide to the new national security adviser, John R. Bolton, said the post was no longer considered necessary because lower-level officials had already made cybersecurity issues a “core function” of the president’s national security team.
Cybersecurity experts and members of Congress said they were mystified by the move, though some suggested Mr. Bolton did not want any competitive power centers emerging inside the national security apparatus.
The decision was criticized by Mark R. Warner, a senator from Virginia and the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I don’t see how getting rid of the top cyber official in the White House does anything to make our country safer from cyber threats,” he wrote on Twitter.

Bolton may, indeed, have higher priorities than the security of US elections (such as being the biggest fish in his pond), especially when the likely outsider influence would not hurt his party.   But yeah, he may also not be aware of the severity of cyber threats.

But whatever Bolton's rationalizations might be, this particular decision looks awful to those who prefer democracy to dictatorships or kleptocracies.

2.   And the president of the United States speaks.  If it's possible to return to a more adult and courteous political discourse one day, this era will provide rich mining for those who wish to do doctoral theses on the worst statements of American presidents.  That's the silver lining to the Trump cloud.

3.   A picture of my pear galette should go here, to make you more likely to give me your hard-earned moneys.  But alas, it has been eaten.

Instead, have a cat picture






Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Day Five of The Fund-Raising Week. What You Don't Know Can't Hurt You?



1.  Here's another of those hidden foundation cracks the Trump administration is causing by demolishing the government:

The Trump administration has killed NASA's Carbon Monitoring System, which was responsible for compiling data from separate satellite and aircraft measurements of CO2 and methane emission across the Earth.
This program allowed scientists to have a picture of the flow of carbon all over Earth.

...
This move will make it harder for nations to be able to verify that quotas are being met according to the promises in the Paris climate accords. Every nation on Earth, except the US, is part of the accord.
This is acting like a father/mother who does not wish to know about his/her child's high fever so destroys the thermometer.  Well, actually it's worse, because it is all about short-term profit at the expense of the future survival of human civilizations.


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Is Even One Mass Killing By Guns Proof That Gun Control Does Not Work? Day Two of Fund-Raising Week.


Why would the shooting deaths of seven people (six of them apparently killed by the seventh in what is so quaintly called domestic violence) in Australia (far away) end up on the pages of  the New York Times?  And why were those same deaths trending on Facebook in the US?

The answer, my friends, lies in Australian history about gun control and what that stricter gun control history could teach Americans:

The deaths represent the worst mass shooting in Australia since 1996, when a gunman killed 35 people in Port Arthur, Tasmania. That event was the catalyst for a significant strengthening of the country’s gun laws an ambitious gun buyback program.

American proponents of gun control, including former President Barack Obama, often point to Australia’s strict regulations and few mass shootings as a guide to limiting such events in the United States. But in the hours after the shooting in Osmington, those who oppose such strict regulations pointed to the tragedy as proof of gun control’s limits — prompting many Australians to argue against that conclusion.

It's not just the limits of gun control that was pointed out in various Facebook posts.  Rather, many used this awful killing in Australia as proof that gun control doesn't work at all.

I get that when people argue politics they often use dirty weapons and illogical tricks and do not care.  Finding even one mass killing as proof that gun control does not work would be such an illogical trick, because the correct comparison would be to juxtapose the Australian and US historical statistics about mass killings, the availability of guns and so on, and then use those properly controlled comparisons to see how many excess mass killings by guns the US might have because of its much laxer gun policies*.

But it's not at all uncommon to find people, in general,  using individual anecdotes to try to prove something about statistical averages.  All an individual anecdote can prove, if true, is that at least one such event happened.  It tells us nothing about average propensities. 

Similarly, many people simply assume that their circle of friends, acquaintances and relatives are representative of all Americans, and that this allows them to judge the validity of various statistical averages which pertain to the whole country.  But very few of us have a random sample from the whole country among our acquaintances.

Many also ignore the "all other things constant**" part of various comparisons in studies and in how to interpret various news items.   Here's one example of that (scroll down), but it also applies much more widely.

For instance, when progressives and liberals want to see if people from different demographic groups are treated equally fairly in, say, jobs, the people to be compared should be similar in other relevant ways except their demographic group memberships.  That could include education and work experience, as one example, unless unfair earlier treatment has caused those to differ between demographic groups.

And this post (go down to 4.) discusses a few other fairly common (but interesting) interpretation problems.

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*  Note the question I asked there.  If our question is about general gun deaths then the answer may be more complicated, because most gun deaths are not mass killings but individual murders or suicides.

** The ceteris paribus assumption of economics, say, where our goal is to get as close as possible to analyzing a question in such a way that the only variable allowed to differ is the one we wish to analyze.  We can literally hold other variables constant in laboratory studies and some audit studies, but in most observational studies the control is achieved (if only partially) through statistical methods of analysis. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Time To Pay The Piper


That would be me, the piper, and this is the beginning of my annual fund-raising week for this blog and its expenses.

You can donate via PayPal, as explained in the left column, or if you wish to use other means (such as would be needed in shipping a Maserati or the property rights to a solitary island with a lighthouse or emeralds), kindly send me an e-mail.

If you don't have money don't worry.  If you do have money, though, please consider contributing.  My blog has a unique voice, right? 

My warmest thanks to all my readers.  Here's a picture of one of my plantings which nature decided not to sabotage:




Thursday, May 10, 2018

Is Anger An Emotion in Politics? The Answer Is Gendered.



In late April I read that the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly had called women more emotional than men:

The report also includes accusations that Kelly made comments that belittled female staffers, saying women are more emotional than men and bristling in private about the accusations made against Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary who was forced out after his ex-wives accused him of domestic violence.

...

But the Trump administration isn’t exactly denying the accusations of sexism. The unnamed White House officials who pushed back on the report said Kelly is a “gentleman” who won’t let men curse when “a lady is present,” and one spokesperson broadly defended the idea that women are more emotional than men (without confirming that the chief of staff said it).
I have written about that old saw many times before*.  It has been one of the handiest little tools history has used to keep women in their place.

It's usually presented in a slightly different package which says that women are more emotional and men more rational.  In that version emotions and rationality are assumed to be mutually exclusive, and if women, indeed, are more emotional then women must be less rational and should not have any important decision-making positions.   

Such as being responsible for the care of infants and small children, I guess.

But I digress.  One reason why the particular belief will not die is that certain emotions are not seen as emotions.  Anger is one of them, but only if expressed by men**.  Thus, this example, from the US House, is not viewed as an example of irrational emotional outbursts:

Two lawmakers on Tuesday evening erupted into a shouting match on the House floor over Speaker Paul Ryan’s firing — and then reinstatement — of the House chaplain, reigniting a contentious religious fight the Wisconsin Republican hoped would fade.
No. 4 House Democrat Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), who is Catholic, and Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) got up in each other’s faces on the House floor and squabbled over the merits of a special investigation into the dismissal. The exchange was so heated that some lawmakers and aides watching worried they’d come to blows, though Crowley’s office said that was never going to happen.

I'm having fun with this post, because the current US president is obviously the most rational and least emotional of all presidents this country has had!  Just consider his decision to scrap the Iranian nuclear agreement.

Most people are not denying that Trump is both emotional and irrational; it's just that this has no effect on our general gendered beliefs about rationality and emotions.  The male examples of emotional behavior do not "stick" to create stereotype changes.

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This is a good recent Twitter thread on the topic.  The most salient point for me is that those emotions which are coded female are seen as a weakness while those emotions coded as male are seen as strength.  But this has zero to do with rationality, and being callous is not exactly a desirable characteristic in leaders.

** Anger in women is certainly regarded an emotion and frequently an irrational one.  Just think of the stereotype of "an angry black woman."






  


Why Wages Do Not Rise In Times of Labor Shortage. The Hairy Fruit Dilemma.







New Zealand is wringing its imaginary hands over the tough problem of how to get more people to work harvesting the national fruit, the kiwi:

Kiwi fruit work is physically demanding, commands minimum wage (NZ$16.50 an hour) and requires workers to relocate on a temporary basis, making it an unappealing employment option for many New Zealanders, including those living on welfare benefits.
...


Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated chief executive Nikki Johnson said the problem of filling seasonal vacancies forced growers to appeal for government assistance.
Demand for kiwi fruit has surged worldwide - particularly from China - with 19% more of the fruit produced this year and half still waiting to be picked on the vine.


There are 6,000 unemployed people in the Bay of Plenty region, and 1,200 workers needed on kiwi fruit orchards immediately.


Managing director of fruit company Apata, Stuart Weston, told Radio New Zealand raising payrates would not make a difference and the situation was “dire”.

The bolds are mine.