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  • (1)

    I've laid off this one for a few days now, but it persists in the headlines. Here's the logic:

    While researchers have long shown that tall people earn more than their shorter counterparts, it's not only social discrimination that accounts for this inequality -- tall people are just smarter than their height-challenged peers, a new study finds.

    "As early as age three -- before schooling has had a chance to play a role -- and throughout childhood, taller children perform significantly better on cognitive tests," wrote Anne Case and Christina Paxson of Princeton University in a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
    Here's what's missing: That taller children's confidence will enable them -- yes, empower them -- to take on more challenging tasks.

    Other studies have pointed to low self-esteem, better health that accompanies greater height, and social discrimination as culprits for lower pay for shorter people.

    But researchers Case and Paxson believe the height advantage in the job world is more than just a question of image.

    "As adults, taller individuals are more likely to select into higher paying occupations that require more advanced verbal and numerical skills and greater intelligence, for which they earn handsome returns," they wrote.
    It's not just image, but self-perception, which translates quite easily into self-confidence. The assumption that it must be biology or nutrition alone is simply specious. You cannot simply eliminate cultural influences simply because you see a strong correlation with physical attributes. After all, physical attributes affect cultural responses. Just ask any racial minority. Or obese person. Or woman.

    And how tall are the researchers?

    They are both about 5 feet 8 inches tall, well above the average height of 5 feet 4 inches for American women.Okay okay, full disclosure. I'm a half-inch taller than the researchers. I guess that makes me smarter, so consider that as you re-read this post.

    More: God is for Suckers and Culture Kitchen

  • (1)

    President Bush seems to have gotten a bit mixed up on his chickenhawk rhetoric:

    "If we leave Iraq before the job is done, it will create a terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East, a terrorist state much more dangerous than Afghanistan was before we removed the Taliban, a terrorist state with the capacity to fund its activities because of the oil reserves of Iraq," Bush said.
    And yet, despite five years since 9/11 and over four years since invading Afghanistan, that country is still a state that produces and harbors terrorists. And the Taliban is back on the rise there. Gee, maybe we should have taken Afghanistan more seriously, instead of running off to invade a country run by a dictator who pretty much hated Islamic terrorists.

    What goes better with fried chickenhawk than pie in the sky?

    Promising victory in Iraq, Bush said: "The stakes are high. it's very important for the American people to understand that the security of the United States of America, the capacity of our children to grow up in a peaceful world, in large part depends on our willingness to help this young Iraq democracy succeed. And we will succeed."
    We will win ... the Iraqi civil war? The obliteration of political moderates in the Middle East?

    Oh, yes: King George's own sense of self-importance.

    "They are not political speeches," Bush said earlier Wednesday outside a restaurant in Little Rock, Ark., where he made his first campaign stop of the day. "They're speeches about the future of this country and they're speeches to make it clear that if we retreat before the job is done, this nation will become even more in jeopardy.

    "These are important times, and I would seriously hope people wouldn't politicize these issues that I'm going to talk about."
    Oh, no. We wouldn't want to politicize Bush Administration neo-con militarist adventurism! Nooooo.....

  • (1)

    While our troops enjoy the support of the vast majoriy of Americans, whether for or against the fiasco that has US military mired in Iraq, it seems that our troops are supporting usury on the part of America's banks.

    Ezra Klein writes about this report in USA Today:

    These payday loan stores are increasingly becoming a problem near military bases, too, where soldiers seeking an advance on their (paltry) paychecks or a loan to fix their car are being charged exorbitant rates. The issue grew so acute that Congress commissioned a study on the rates. The researchers found that soldiers are being charged $15-$25 for a two week, $100 loan(!), and annual rates of up to — ready for this? — 780 percent(!!). The average borrower pays backs a total of $834 (!!!) on a $339 loan, and the debt problems can grow so urgent that they lose their security clearances (assumedly under the rationale that debt renders one susceptible to bribery).

    So we have two forces at play here: The first is that we pay our service members so little they’re forced to enter into debt if they want a chance at middle class lifestyles. The second is that we sequester them on remote bases, where the available financial options fleece them. This must be really demoralizing for our troops. Oh, and let's remember the Bankruptcy Only for the Wealthy bill passed by the Republican Congress last year. Long after our soldiers and Marines have served the country, they'll still be servicing their debt to the banks who are preying upon them. In other words, their Duty and Honor will be privatized and subject to collections.

  • (1)

    ...we share this recent classic.

    Note: I browsed through all the YouTube offerings of this clip, and the sound quality ranges from the marginal here to the downright awful on some others. Still, please, click on Play and watch. These are six minutes and 41 seconds you won't regret.

  • (1)

    It seems that radical hard-line fundamentalist Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants liberal and secular teachers kicked out of schools.

    "Today, students should shout at the president and ask why liberal and secular university lecturers are present in the universities."Hmm..... Sounds like he's a Republican.

  • (1)

    The Sunday before last, George Will on This Week made the oddball assertion that 25,000 people applying for 350 job openings at a new Wal-Mart is a good thing. (!)

    I think of Russell Crowe in Cinderella Man, pressing at the iron gates, trying to be noticed, trying not to offend the foreman, the master of all destinies who decides who shall have a job and who shall not. That's just a movie, but it's based on the reality of the 1930s fall-out from Republican free-market adventurism -- the Great Depression, the result of The Crash of '29.

    Apparently, those were the good ol' days. The Great Depression is George Will's example of a thriving economy at work.

    Now Will has worked the Wal-Mart story up into another Liberals-Are-The-Force-Of-Evil kind of essay.

    A large majority of the customers of the Wal-Mart that sits here, less than a block outside Chicago, are from the city, and more than 90 percent of the store's customers are African American.

    One of whom, a woman pushing a shopping cart with a stoical 3-year-old along for the ride, has a chip on her shoulder about the size of this 141,000-square-foot Wal-Mart. She applied for a job when the store opened in January and was turned down because, she said, the person doing the hiring "had an attitude."

    Message: Be meek and humble like Jim Braddock in Cinderella Man. If you don't get the 1-in-100 job, it's your fault. Uppity people should not apply. The poor should know their place, doncha know?

    So why is the woman shopping here anyway? She looks at the questioner as though he is dimwitted and directs his attention to the low prices of the DVDs on the rack next to her.

    Sensibly, she compartmentalizes her moods and her money.

    Message: Despite being poor, she is a sensible person. Surprise!

    It really is almost funny how George Will tries to explain the motivations and experiences of people from the opposite end of the economic spectrum. I wonder how many times Will has been forced to limit his grocery shopping options. I wonder if Will even does the grocery shopping. (Does he even cook? I have no idea.)

    Yet George Will puts himself up as some sort of Authority on American Life. This apparently is due to the wise insight gained from being a highly paid television personality for decades.

    Now, having dipped his toe into the working poor's perspective, though, he quickly trots across the deck to the stock-investor's jacuzzi:

    Wal-Mart, the most prodigious job-creator in the history of the private sector in this galaxy, has almost as many employees (1.3 million) as the U.S. military has uniformed personnel.

    These jobs are working poor jobs. You work full-time, and you're still below the poverty line. Think of how Braddock was working full-time -- every day -- working with a broken hand even, and still he could not pay to keep his family. This is the American Dream, George?

    How ironic that Will equates working for Wal-Mart and working for America's security. Fighting the threat of encroachment of the poor into middle-class life is right up there with going after al-Qaeda, it seems.

    A McKinsey company study concluded that Wal-Mart accounted for 13 percent of the nation's productivity gains in the second half of the 1990s, which probably made Wal-Mart about as important as the Federal Reserve in holding down inflation.

    Let's translate: Productivity goes up when you get more work for less money. In other words, by holding up productivity as an abstract measure to praise, without any human context, you are hailing the reduction of working wages as a measure of success.

    It sounds like Will is completely with the dock bosses and not the desperate workers on the other side of that iron fence.

    By lowering consumer prices, Wal-Mart costs about 50 retail jobs among competitors for every 100 jobs Wal-Mart creates.

    Do the math: 100 jobs = 50 jobs ==> hourly wages are half. Now, some might point to economies of scale and opportunities for better deals on the part of management, so maybe the wages aren't quite down to half. On the other hand, remember, productivity has gone up, so more product is going out per dollar. No matter where it falls, suffice to say those wages are pretty damned poor.

    Wal-Mart and its effects save shoppers more than $200 billion a year, dwarfing such government programs as food stamps ($28.6 billion) and the earned-income tax credit ($34.6 billion).

    Ah, but Will is leaving something out: Wal-Mart employees are on food stamps. It's documented:

    We estimate that Wal-Mart workers in California earn on average 31 percent less than workers employed in large retail as a whole, receiving an average wage of $9.70 per hour compared to the $14.01 average hourly earnings for employees in large retail (firms with 1,000 or more employees). In addition, 23 percent fewer Wal-Mart workers are covered by employer-sponsored health insurance than large retail workers as a whole. The differences are even greater when Wal-Mart workers are compared to unionized grocery workers. In the San Francisco Bay Area, non-managerial Wal-Mart employees earn on average $9.40 an hour, compared to $15.31 for unionized grocery workers—39 percent less—and are half as likely to have health benefits.

    At these low-wages, many Wal-Mart workers rely on public safety net programs— such as food stamps, Medicare, and subsidized housing—to make ends meet. [Emphasis added.]

    In fact, it's part of Wal-Mart's business plan:

    California Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, who represents the 22nd Assembly District and is a former mayor of Mountain View, was outraged when she learned about the sex discrimination charges in Dukes v. Wal-Mart, and she smelled blood when, tipped off by dissatisfied workers, her office discovered that Wal-Mart was encouraging its workers to apply for public assistance, "in the middle of the worst state budget crisis in history!" California had a $38 billion deficit at the time, and Lieber was enraged that taxpayers would be subsidizing Wal-Mart's low wages, bringing new meaning to the term "corporate welfare."

    Lieber was angry, too, that Wal-Mart's welfare dependence made it nearly impossible for responsible employers to compete with the retail giant. It was as if taxpayers were unknowingly funding a massive plunge to the bottom in wages and benefits - quite possibly their own. She held a press conference in July 2003, to expose Wal-Mart's welfare scam. The Wal-Mart documents - instructions explaining how to apply for food stamps, Medi-Cal (the state's healthcare assistance program) and other forms of welfare - were blown up on posterboard and displayed. The morning of the press conference, a Wal-Mart worker who wouldn't give her name for fear of being fired snuck into Lieber's office. "I just wanted to say, right on!" she told the assemblywoman.

    The Christian Science Monitor, on MSN Money, asks, "Is shopping at Wal-Mart immoral?"

    Some recent research suggests the low prices and job opportunities offered at a new Wal-Mart store don't alleviate a community's struggles with poverty over the long term. Wal-Mart workers in California, for example, annually seek $86 million worth of public assistance, according to a 2004 study by the Labor Center at the University of California at Berkeley. If other big retailers in the state follow suit, the study projected, California taxpayers would have to foot another $410 million in healthcare services, food stamps and other public costs.

    This "race to the bottom" in labor costs also seems to rub off on a surrounding area, according to research from economists Stephan Goetz and Hema Swaminathan at the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development at Penn State University. While the national poverty rate dropped 2.4% between 1990 and 2000, the rate fell by just 0.2% on average in counties that added a Wal-Mart. One theory: Although Wal-Mart creates jobs, the company also eliminates jobs by putting others out of business.

    The sad part about it is that Wal-Mart employees can't afford to shop there. (I'd like to see George Will make ends meet on $1000 a month.)

    Ah, but the good news is that Wal-Mart employees can use their food stamps when they shop at Wal-Mart -- or at least some Wal-Marts. (Not all Wal-Marts accept food stamps. Sorry. Now get back to work!)

    Will then reveals his truth:

    Liberals think their campaign against Wal-Mart is a way of introducing the subject of class into America's political argument, and they are more correct than they understand. Their campaign is liberalism as condescension. It is a philosophic repugnance toward markets, because consumer sovereignty results in the masses making messes. Liberals, aghast, see the choices Americans make with their dollars and their ballots and announce -- yes, announce -- that Americans are sorely in need of more supervision by . . . liberals.

    Will seems outraged that his religion -- his god, The Market -- might be questioned. He is so divorced from reality that economic abstractions mean more to him than the human condition.

    Economics is a well-developed means of trying to understand, evaluate and quantify in aggregate the diverse, individual choices each person makes.

    By holding up The Market as some sort of omniscient entity, some holy truth that shall not be questioned -- in other words, a god -- Will is making a religious argument.

    But economics is purportedly a science, not a religion. It's based on reason -- and, in most cases, assumes rational acts on the part of all parties -- and thus must stand up to reason. Economics is a tool. Economics is a means to understand the reality. Economic abstractions are not the reality.

    "The Market" is an ideal thing used in economics. The Market is merely an abstraction. It is not the holy truth, and measuring The Market does not measure people's lives.

    Will claims that liberals believe "Americans are sorely in need of more supervision by . . . liberals," but what he really fears is that The Market may be impacted by Keynesian economic policies that work to improve the lot of millions of poor. Why? Because such measures might affect investor portfolios -- and that's part of an economic reality George Will knows. He's just talking out his backside by arguing from the perspective of the poor, and defending his point of view by a religious argument deifying The Market.

    What is this focus of evil in the modern world?

    --Will asks. Apparently the answer is "liberals," for blaspheming his god. And maybe threatening his pocketbook portfolio.

  • (1)

    It all started, apparently, with this photo of several "a-list" liberal bloggers. It seems that conservative Ann Althouse took issue with Feministing Jessica Valenti's breasts ... and that nutter Reynolds and other buttheads and beavises got off on how Jessica gets off having breasts.

    Says Althouse from a very high horse:

    Making this colloquy into this new blog post, I actually click over to Jessica's blog, and what the hell? The banner displays silhouettes of women with big breasts (the kind that Thelma and Louise get pissed off at when they're seen on truck mudflaps). She's got an ad in the sidebar for one of her own products, which is a tank top with the same breasty silhouette, stretched over the breasts of a model. And one of the top posts is a big closeup on breasts.

    Lovely insight there, Ann. Did they ban the concept of irony from your university?

    Sooooo... apparently, Jessica writes one of those blogs that are all about using breasts for extra attention. Then, when she goes to meet Clinton, she wears a tight knit top that draws attention to her breasts and stands right in front of him and positions herself to make her breasts as obvious as possible?

    The sexual hang-ups apparent in right-wing Clinton obsession are well known by now, so this boob-phobic bombast should be expected, I suppose. Even the juvenile Beavis and Butthead-worthy sentiments in the comments threads trod the well-worn ground of little green-with-envy right-wing bloggers.

    But really, Ann, Glenn and you other dittoheads seemingly driven by nether puckering over other people's bodies and sexuality, this is 2006. It's been 23 years since Madonna danced around in lace singing "Lucky Star" on MTV. It should not be a big shocker to consider that women are entitled to their sexuality.

    But of course, that's the "problem," isn't it? Women claiming independence from patriarchal claims on their sexuality? That's why all this fuss over Plan B, sex education, the cervical cancer vaccine, reproductive rights and the ERA, right? Women (and our breasts) should know our place, right?

    Guys love breasts. I think Jessica knows that quite well. And I think for all her gasping outrage, she's thoroughly pleased to get this attention.

    And that somehow seems to be wrong, according to Althouse. Women must not be sexual. That is wrong. That is dangerous. That threatens the self-control of men. It threatens men's control of women.

    Women can only be free of they self-abnegate their sexuality, according to our good professor. The straw-feminist must be pilloried! Break out the burqas!

    Jessica responds:

    You know, I was psyched to be invited to this lunch and was feeling pretty honored. But then things like this remind me that no matter what I do or accomplish, because I'm a young woman all I'm good for is fodder for tacky intern jokes and comments that I don't "represent feminist values" because of the way I posed in a picture.

    What's worse is that this comes from other women, other progressives, and other supposed feminists. How are we supposed to move forward as a movement if we're busy bashing each other with this ridiculousness?

    For more on Althouse's boob obsession:

    Echidne:

    Anyway, about breasts. My feminist view on them is a very simple one: they are the property of the person who has them on her chest, having breasts does not preclude having brains and having breasts is perfectly acceptable in the public sphere. And women are not responsible for controlling the reactions of some men to the presence of breasts, women don't have to don burqas for the sake of these men or to bind their breasts, either....

    ...Sadly, the pragmatic approach often boils down to choosing the least unpleasant of the available options and the Democratic party is still the better choice for feminists, especially now that the Republicans have handed over all posts having to do with women's rights to their Taliban section.

    zuzu at Feministe:

    Althouse wasn’t the only one trying to put Jessica in her place; as I also mentioned, there were any number of commenters across the progressive blogosphere that made comments about Jessica’s fuckability. They didn’t know who she was, or why she was there, but they sure as hell felt free to speculate that it had something to do with sex.

    Even those defending Jessica have often focused on the appropriateness of her posture, her pose, her clothing and her smile, as if those were really the issues. They’re not. The issue is that Jessica was invited to that lunch because of her accomplishments and her intelligence, but people like the commenters discussing her fuckability and Althouse criticizing her for having breasts are reminding her that no matter how much she’s accomplished in her life, no matter how smart she is, she doesn’t really belong in that group.

    In other words, they smacked her down for being so uppity as to think that she had the right to be there.

    (She also calls out some pertinent questions about the (lack of) racial diversity at this lunch in Harlem. Liza Sabater wonders, too. So does Elayne Riggs. Pam Spaulding has a thoughtful post on the dynamics and demands of blogging politics, and how that can shake out in the A, "B, C, D lists of Blogistan.")

    Jill at Feministe:

    Ann then accuses Jessica of not being a “real” feminist (compared, apparently, to… Ann…), and tells her that she’s misappropriated the word feminism and has done nothing for the movement....

    I know [Jessica]'s inspired many more than just me. And talking about her breasts all the live-long day won’t change the fact that she is an amazing, brilliant, good human being who I’m sure will shape the world in more positive ways than Ann Althouse could ever aspire to.

    What Jessica did wrong was show up at a political event in a female body. End of story. Ann, you should be ashamed.

    Stone Court's Fred Vincy:

    Who Killed Feminism?
    Ann Althouse solves the mystery.

    Last week, it was Ann Bartow and Belle Lettre, for not joining in the hilarity of David Lat's "hottest ERISA lawyer contest" and pointing out that being featured against one's will on a prominent website as a "hottie" might not be the best thing for a lawyer's career or psyche. ("I wonder if Belle has considered whether this grim, censorious, humorless -- nay, humor-phobic -- attitude helps women. I know you want to be taken seriously, but being so intent on being taken seriously is one of the main things that make people want to mock you. And not just you, but feminism.")

    This week, it's Jessica Valenti for daring to stand up straight when she met with President Clinton.

    Althouse seems to think feminism would be thriving, if only we didn't have all those feminists....

    egalia at Tennessee Guerilla Women wonders:

    Would Althouse really be happy if Jessica were to bind her breasts, don a mumu, and cast her humbled gaze toward the floor?

    PS - Irony of ironies, Althouse is running a Blogads ad for a Barry Goldwater documentary. Considering the guy couldn't get nominated for dog catcher in today's fascist-phillic GOP, it's a wonder wingnuts still invoke his name. Amanda notes, John Dean wonders, too.

  • (1)
    The report was completed in April and represented a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government, according to an intelligence official. The official, confirming accounts first published in Sunday's New York Times and Washington Post, spoke on condition of anonymity on Sunday because the report is classified.

    "Unfortunately this report is just confirmation that the Bush administration's stay-the-course approach to the Iraq war has not just made the war more difficult and more deadly for our troops, but has also made the war on terror more dangerous for every American," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, head of the Democratic effort to take control of the House.

    "It's time for a new direction in this country," Emanuel, D-Ill., said in the statement.

    "Press reports say our nation's intelligence services have confirmed that
    President Bush's repeated missteps in Iraq and his stubborn refusal to change course have made America less safe," said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid. "No election-year White House PR campaign can hide this truth."

    Interesting how the AP report emphasizes that the Democrats are talking about the report, and does not emphasize the report itself.

    You'd think that national security would be a bigger story than what Congressional Democrats are saying about that report.

    You'd think. But the Beltway press can be a bit myopic on these things. They don't see truth, just politicians.

    No wonder we're in Iraq in the first place.

  • (1)

    This just happened a couple of hours ago.

    Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., resigned from Congress on Friday, effective immediately, in the wake of questions about e-mails he wrote a former male page.

    "I am deeply sorry and I apologize for letting down my family and the people of Florida I have had the privilege to represent," he said in a statement issued by his office.

    The two-sentence statement did not refer to the e-mails and gave no reason for Foley's decision to abruptly abandon a flourishing career in Congress.

    This comes on the heels of his staffers' efforts to blame Democrats for the story getting out, which doesn't really make Foley look that good, either.

    Foley's aides initially blamed Democratic rival Tim Mahoney and Democrats with attempting to smear the congressman before the election....

    ..."They've been shopping this around to reporters for weeks now. They want a headline and that's it. It's a political smear campaign of the worst kind," Kello said.

    Is the scandal about how the story got out, or what the story is?

    For the record, Democrat Tim Mahoney's campaign says that Foley should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

    The campaign for Mahoney, who trails Foley in the polls, said it didn't release the e-mails and wouldn't make them part of the campaign. In a statement released by Mahoney spokesman Jessica Santillo, the campaign referred to the boy as an "alleged victim."

    "The seriousness of these allegations goes far beyond the tit for tat of a political campaign," Santillo said. "This is a matter for the appropriate authorities to investigate. I believe Mr. Foley deserves the benefit of the doubt until these allegations are proven true or false."

    The sudden resignation surprised me, and it seems to indicate that maybe there's something to those allegations. The emails themselves do seem to be pretty creepy, and I can't say I'd want my son receiving such attention from any middle-aged man, let alone a powerful Republican politician in Washington.

  • (1)

    Some people have asked me why mediagirl.org has gone to black. It is in mourning and concern for our Constitution, which the President has railed against as an obstacle to his pursuit of power....

    ...because now the Republicans have done gone along with him:

    "In this new era of threats, where the stark and sober reality is that America must confront international terrorists committed to the destruction of our way of life, this bill is absolutely necessary," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.

    The overall bill would prohibit war crimes and define such atrocities as rape and torture but otherwise would allow the president to interpret the Geneva Conventions, the treaty that sets standards for the treatment of war prisoners.

    The bill on interrogations and trials also would eliminate some rights common in military and civilian courts.

    So President Bush gets to decide (a) who's a terrorist, (b) who therefore has no Constitutional rights, (c) what does or doesn't consititute torture of this alleged terrorist ... and if lines are crossed, nobody can be prosecuted.

    The bill strips habeus corpus for any suspect labeled by the executive branch as an "enemy combatant":

    The measure would broaden the definition of enemy combatants beyond the traditional definition used in wartime, to include noncitizens living legally in the United States as well as those in foreign countries and anyone determined to be an enemy combatant under criteria defined by the president or secretary of defense.

    It would strip at Guantánamo detainees of the habeas right to challenge their detention in court, relying instead on procedures known as combatant status review trials. Those trials have looser rules of evidence than the courts.

    Some Democrats cravenly voted in favor of giving the Executive Branch authoritarian police state powers, believing it would help them get re-elected:

    "It's time for terrorists such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who planned the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to face justice," Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, said, projecting a tough-on-terrorism position and sounding very much like Republicans who are gunning for his House seat Nov. 7.

    The Texan is among the Democrats in hard-fought races who sided with Bush and Republicans.

    AP reporter Liz Sidoti seems to want to help advance the Republican spin.

    "They are voting in line with what they perceive to be the views of a majority of their constituencies on this issue," said Alan Abramowitz, an Emory University political scientist.

    He suggested that these Democrats cast their votes not because of this election year but because of the next few, saying: "They're just trying to avoid trouble in the future."

    The several Senate Democrats considering running for president in 2008 may not be so lucky. All of them voted against the measure — and those votes could leave them vulnerable to Republican attacks beyond November.

    Of course, endorsing torture in deed, if not in name, may not be a wise political move, either. There are still some people in this country who believe in American values, and not American might-makes-right.