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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Racism and Sports Broadcasting 

I am a big fan of XM Satellite Radio, because it carries every major league baseball game, plus a 24/7/365 baseball talk channel (yes, and Air America and the BBC).

I was surprised and disappointed recently when Orestes Destrade joined XM's "Baseball this Morning" and was quickly (and repeatedly) nicknamed "the Latino" by his co-hosts, Mark Patrick and Buck Martinez. Still, I thought, maybe there's some back-story here that I don't get that justifies referring to Destrade by his ethnicity.

But today, in the introductory segment, Destrade introduced himself with the apropos-of-nothing (and poorly pronounced) "shalom" and Patrick began with a reference to his "white trash" point of view.

What is going on with "Baseball this Morning"?

UPDATE: Elayne Riggs blogged yesterday about Keith Hernandez's sexist comments about a woman on the San Diego Padres' training staff. I don't have much to add, except to add that the comments were particularly disappointing coming from Hernandez, as Hernandez has always had a reputation as an unusually thoughtful and intelligent ballplayer (notwithstanding a well-publicized cocaine problem early in his career). Elayne also links to this recent "report card" on race and gender in Major League Baseball.

Related Post: Sexism and Sports Broadcasting

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Bush Talking Points Watch, Part IX 

Today:
President George W. Bush on Tuesday will direct the U.S. Energy Department to temporarily halt deliveries of oil to a strategic reserve in order to get more oil in the market and help reduce rising gasoline prices, a senior administration official said.
George Bush, September 29, 2000:*
Every barrel of strategic reserve we release today for political reasons is one less barrel we have for threats to our nation's security. The Strategic Reserve is meant for a foreign war or a major disruption in supply, not for national elections. It's a petroleum reserve, not a political reserve.
*This was part of Bush's standard speech and was repeated numerous times.

Related Posts: Bush Talking Points Watch, Part VIII; Bush Talking Points Watch, Part VII; Bush Talking Points Watch, Part VI; Bush Talking Points Watch, Part V; Bush Talking Points Watch, Part IV; Bush Talking Points Watch, Part III; Bush Talking Points Watch, Part II; Bush Talking Points Watch

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Nothing Like A Girl To Make A Boy Gay 

Amanda does an excellent job of deconstructing the Dobson-inspired anxieties of a Florida mother who fears her 7-year-old son may become gay because her husband is a good cook. This seemingly insane fear makes sense, Amanda explains, once one realizes that the only point of marriage is to satisfy particular practical needs:
Actually, my real inclination is that the logic behind wanting to forbid boys to even learn domestic arts to prevent them from growing into the dreaded Homosexual goes something like this: If boys grow up able to fend for themselves, then they won’t need a woman in domestic servitude to care for them, and then there’s no way to get them to marry and have children because without the promise of having your housework done for you, there’s no reason for a man to get married, due to the fact that he grew up in a conservative household where he was taught that women are debased and beneath him and therefore actually loving one is off the table....
Now, maybe Amanda can help me with this riddle. Last week, both of my sons, who are 12 and 9, told me that they had been criticized by other boys for being "gay" because they were hanging out with girls at school. Leaving aside how stupid it is for boys to be telling other boys that they shouldn't be friends with girls, isn't there something internally -- and obviously -- wrong about this accusation? Doesn't being "gay" imply less, rather than more, interest in members of the opposite sex? Are these boys really just accusing my sons of being "unmanly"? Or is there something else to it? Does it suggest that for some people heterosexuality can be more about a performance for members of one's own sex than about interest in the other sex? Or is it, like Amanda suggests above, evidence of a fear that heterosexuality is so fragile that it must be constantly reinforced (and thus that hanging out with girls will, paradoxically, not give you the peer reinforcement to be interested in girls)?

I'm really not sure what it is, but comments like this seem to reflect some real underlying anxiety.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Clues 

August Pollak accuses Kos of not having "a damn clue what political groups actually are" because Kos criticizes the Sierra Club for endorsing Lincoln Chaffee despite the fact that regaining a Democratic majority and control of the agenda is far more important for the environment than Chafee's occasional dissent from the bills the GOP leadership brings to the floor (which Chafee's opponents would doubtless oppose as well).

I'm afraid that it's Pollak who doesn't have a clue. Pollak argues that the Sierra Club endorsement makes sense because the Sierra Club's mission is the environment, not electing Democrats per se, and that Chafee's environmental voting record is pretty good. That's fair enough, to a point -- as I have argued before, sometimes liberal interest groups can reasonably support Republicans.

But Pollak is naive if he believes that in this race electing the Republican promises more "votes for environmental policy". (Even if Chafee's record is pretty good, I've seen no evidence that it's better than what could be expected from his Democratic opponent.) Rather, the Chafee endorsement is the product of two flawed political calculations, the first plain wrong, and the second cynical and wrong:

The first is that groups like the Sierra Club lean toward supporting incumbents. The reason is that incumbents generally win, so there's no reason to tick off an incumbent who's generally supportive of your position in favor of a somewhat better challenger who everyone knows will never win. The problem is that that reasoning doesn't work here, because Rhode Island is a deep blue state (in what is shaping up to be a deep blue year) and Chafee is a weak incumbent, meaning that this election is a toss up. Defaulting to the incumbent makes no sense on this one.

The second is that liberal groups like to support Republicans when they can, to prove their independence and lack of partisanship. The reasoning is cynical because it recognizes that sometimes the Sierra Club must endorse the candidate who is worse for the environment, in the interests of preserving the Sierra Club's image (and, presumably, ultimately helping the cause). That thinking may have made sense in the past, when there was divided government and moderate Republicans had a real voice, but it makes little sense now, when the government is dominated by a highly disciplined right-wing majority that gives no voice to folks like Chafee. In fact, the real problem is that there are almost no folks like Chafee -- the moderate Republican elephant is more endangered than the Asian elephant. And that, ultimately, is the unstated reason for this endorsement. The Sierra Club feels it needs to endorse moderate Republicans, and there are almost none to choose from. By completely marginalizing Chafee, the extreme, anti-environment Republican machine has paradoxically created the conditions where the Sierra Club feels it must endorse Chafee, and thus perpetuate the extreme, anti-environment Republican machine.

I could forgive the Sierra Club for cynical calculus in support of the environment.

I can't forgive it for cyncial and stupid calculus.

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Delusional ... 

... is the only word I can use for law prof. Mike Rappaport, who argues that "the Left's attack on the [Iraq] war ... certainly ha[s] made it much harder to go after Iran."

Let me see if I get this. Pointing out, along with pinkos like General Anthony Zinni, that the Iraq war has been, to put it mildly, less than a stunning success is the reason we can't credibly threaten Iran?

Rappaport doesn't think that the fact that a vast proportion of our military strength is bogged down in Iraq has anything to do with it? He doesn't think that the shattering of our post-Gulf War I/Afghanistan aura of invincibility brought about by the Iraq war has anything to do it?

That Bush's Iraq debacle is the reason we cannot credibly threaten Iran is undeniable. It was also foreseeable in 2003.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Tiger In Every Tank? 

Via Feministing, Princeton Pro-Life gives us the bourgeois version of the old what-if-Jesus-had-been-aborted?* argument:
"Class of 2010: 347 didn't make it," reads the sign accompanying the blue and pink flags. "We honor the memory and mourn the loss of those 347 innocents killed in the womb by abortion, who would have been part of Princeton's class of 2010."

Pro-Life president Tom Haine '08 said the 347 figure was calculated by considering that in 1988 — when most members of the Class of 2010 were born — there were 1.5 million abortions and four million births.
347 extra Princetonians? Really?

Who goes to Princeton? For the class of 2008, by increasing financial aid, Princeton increased the number of students "from low-income households (defined as below $49,900 a year)" to "an all-time high for Princeton of 161", or 13.7% of the class of 1,175.

Who has an abortion? According to this study, 57% of women having abortions had family incomes below 200% of the poverty line (a number still substantially below Princeton's generous definition of "low-income"). Doing some back of the envelope interpolations, it's safe to assume that at least two thirds of abortions are obtained by women with incomes below $49,900 and those children, even if they had had nothing else going against them, would have been competing for the same 13.7% of Princeton slots.

Even on the generous (and unwarranted) assumption that these theoretical children would have had all of the same advantages as same-income children who were wanted by their mothers, those 347 Princetonians starts to sound a lot more like 130 Princetonians.

But, of course, those theoretical children would have had many other disadvantages. Let's start with race. 52% of abortions are had by non-Hispanic black or Hispanic women. In contrast, around 10% of Princeton students are black and 7% are Latino.

But wait, there's more:
[T]he typical woman having an abortion is between the ages of 20 and 30, has never married, has had a previous birth, lives in a metropolitan area, and is economically disadvantaged and Christian.
I didn't go to Princeton, but I did go to Yale, and I can say that I have difficulty remembering a single classmate who was born into such circumstances. I think I remember one. And even in his case, I have no reason to believe that he was unwanted, a circumstance which, obviously, can affect one's childhood in numerous, dramatic ways. (Obviously, I didn't know everyone in my class, but virtually everyone I knew had parents who were either married or divorced.)

So, is it possible that, if abortion had been illegal, one, or even a few, of the 1.5 million fetuses aborted in 1986 would have ended up at Princeton? Yeah, that seems plausible -- though at a cost of 1.5 million women enduring an enormous unwanted burden. (It's equally plausible that none would have made it to Princeton.)

But 347? Sadly, no.

*Don't get me started.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

That was a good read... 

If you haven't yet, check out Joan Walsh's piece on the new Caitlin Flanagan book (and on Flanagan's hypocrisy more generally). It's very gratifying.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Cohabitation, Premarital Sex, and Divorce 

Amanda is understandably annoyed by this post by Brad Wilcox over at Family Scholars Blog on a couple of papers presented in the Determinants and Consequences of Union Stability session at the Population Association meetings last weekend.

In particular, she's annoyed by Brad's spin on the paper by Manning and Jones, Cohabitation and Marital Dissolution. I guess I just want to make sure that Manning and Jones don't get tarred along with Brad here. Although what's currently posted (the link just above) is an extended abstract and not a final paper, it's worth reading to see what they're actually saying (and they're not saying everyone should be abstinent until marriage).

The issue they're investigating is the well-established association between cohabitation and subsequent divorce--that is, that people who have cohabited prior to marriage have a higher likelihood of divorcing than those who marry without cohabiting first. As Brad correctly notes, many researchers have argued that this association is due to selection rather than causation--that is, the kind of people who are more likely to cohabit also happen to be the kind of people who are more likely to divorce (rather than the causal idea that something about the experience of cohabiting makes people more likely to divorce, which is the preferred view of conservatives).

So, we have this association, and we don't know (and it's hard to establish for certain) whether it's due to selection or causation or some combination of the two. One thing that researchers then do is throw in a bunch of other variables to see if any of them can statistically "explain" the association. In this case, that's what Manning and Jones have done, and they've found that the number of prior sexual partners can "explain away" the association between prior cohabitation and divorce.

Does this prove anything about whether selection or causation is at work here? NO. It may narrow down what it is that we should be looking at. But now, instead of saying that selection is operating at the level of "the kind of people who happen to be more likely to cohabit are also the kind of people who are more likely to divorce", we can say "the kind of people who happen to be more likely to have multiple prior sexual partners are also the kind of people who are more likely to divorce." This is again very different from the direction Brad wants to take it in, which is the causal direction of saying that having multiple sexual partners makes you more likely to divorce, and if you don't want to divorce, you shouldn't have any premarital sex.

Unlike the causation argument, the selection argument is not saying sex is bad. I think you can be friendly toward sex and still think it's not too surprising that people who are more open to the idea of having multiple sex partners--which itself suggests that they have also been open to the idea of breaking off multiple previous relationships--might also tend to be people who are open to the idea of ending a marriage that's not going well.

An interesting side point, made by Manning and Jones in the paper, and emphasized by Larry Bumpass in the PAA session itself, is this: since 1980, cohabitation has been increasing pretty steadily and spreading throughout the population (becoming less concentrated among those with lower education levels, etc.), but over the same period, divorce rates have first stabilized and then slightly decreased.* Hmmmm.


* You don't hear much about declining divorce rates from the conservatives, do you? It doesn't fit well with their sky-is-falling view of what's going on in U.S. families.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

High Profile Cases 

Two bloggers I respect, Amp and Jeralyn Merrit, take widely divergent views of the strength of the evidence supporting rape charges against members of the Duke lacrosse team.

For the moment, I am less interested in which of them is right than in why debates like this tend to be so passionate. High profile cases, especially ones involving sex and race, tend to stir considerable passion. This occurs in cases involving charges of rape, like the Kobe Bryant case, but also in other situations, like O.J. Simpson, Gavin Cato and Yankel Rosenbaum.

I have always been uncomfortable with the reactions to this kind of case. On the one hand, they may be useful in educating the public. After all, it's one thing to assert that acquaintance rape is a serious problem, but it is a great deal more vivid to point out that a charismatic, successful man with a "nice guy" reputation like Kobe Bryant may have committed it. On the other hand, though, these cases seem to take on more significance than they warrant. Rape is still a serious crime even if Kobe or the Duke lacrosse team are innocent -- and even if they are guilty, that hardly proves that other accuseds are also guilty.

The problem, as I see it, is that to become genuinely informed about the facts of a particular case is a difficult task when one is operating through media reports and has limited time to consider the evidence. (Remember, most Americans get their news from TV and don't debate evidence on blogs.) The result is that most people's views, which often become passionate rooting interests, seem to be more affected by group identity than by the merits of the case. Famously, contemporaneous opinion polls showed widely divergent views between blacks and whites as to O.J. Simpson's guilt. (These divergent views were enabled by the fact, as Vincent Bugliosi documents, that the media presented the case as a close call, when in fact the evidence of guilt (much of it not introduced by an incompetent prosecution) was overwhelming.)

At the same time, the reactions to these cases may teach us a great deal about group identities and about the prior concerns of various identifiable groups. The police who raped and tortured Abner Louima never yelled "It's Giuliani time!", as Louima had claimed, but Louima's lie seemed to resonate with many blacks' perception of police attitudes to the black community under Giuliani.

In other words, in most cases, for most people, the truth of what occurred is difficult to know and, in some sense, is besides the point. That is not entirely bad, if it allows people to articulate a larger "truth", e.g., that Giuliani's police department was insensitive to blacks or that "nice" college guys can be guilty of rape, but it seems to me a poor way to conduct public discourse.

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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Was It Just Me? Part II 

I liked Inside Man and all, but I couldn't help thinking that Denzel Washington might have been able to stop worrying about not be able to afford to get married on a police detective's salary if he hadn't bought so many $2,000 suits. (Related Post: Was It Just Me?)


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