Saturday, July 17, 2004

Morgan Stanley and Women

Morgan Stanley, a well-known Wall Street firm, has just settled a sex discrimination lawsuit out of court. Morgan Stanley will pay 54 million dollars to 340 women that are or have been employed by the firm, and it has also promised to start diversity training and to scrutinize the promotion rates of female brokers.

Settling out of court was a good idea from Morgan Stanley's point of view. After all, fewer people will then hear about stuff like:

The federal agency also was set to present evidence about visits to strip clubs and how female employees and clients were excluded from golf outings such as the one at the Doral Golf resort until 1999. Trial attorneys from the federal agency were also prepared to show other ways in which the atmosphere at the company was biased against women.

For instance, the federal agency contended in pre-trial papers that written guidelines for promotions and compensation decisions were absent or inadequate and Morgan Stanley's process for investigating claims of sex discrimination or harassment was inconsistent and poorly documented.

Even worse, the federal agency stated in court documents, women at Morgan Stanley were subjected to "offensive comments, banter, jokes" and frequent use of derogatory terms such as "bitch." Male employees also questioned the presence or commitment of pregnant women or mothers to their jobs.

Indeed, the federal agency alleged that Morgan Stanley engaged in a "pattern or practice of discrimination" against women in its institutional equities unit in regard to pay, promotion and other opportunities.

I have heard similar stories from women who work in the securities industry, especially frequent references to 'bitches' and equally frequent denouncements of working mothers. So Morgan Stanley is probably not alone in creating a hostile environment for women brokers. Maybe this is partly why the percentage of women in the security industry's workforce has dropped from 43% to 37% since 2001?

There are other reasons why women might leave the industry, too. In fact, reasons good enough for any sane person to do so. Like the assumption that you are working too little if you happened to go home so early one day that your child was still awake. Of course, what the securities industry would like is a world where working robots come in to work for twenty hours per day, while homemaking robots keep everything else smoothly running in the working robot's life. Too bad that they still have to use human beings.

With Jesus I Will Not Go Down

I received this letter today.  It looks like one of those hoaxes that have to do with money in Nigeria or somewhere, but it also looks different.  I find it quite touching:
My Lordship,
Calvary greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I am former Mrs x,now Mrs Sarah y a widow to late x,I am 72years old, I am now a new Christian convert,suffering from long time cancer of the breast.From_all indications, my condition is really eteriorating and is quite obvious that I may not live more than six months, because the cancer stage has gotten to a very severe stage.My late husband was killed during the Gulf war, and during the period of our marriage we had a son who was also killed in a cold blood during the Gulf war.My late husband was very wealthy and after his death,I inheritedall his business and wealth.My personal physician told me that I may not live for more than six months and I am so scared about this.So, I now decided to divide part of this wealth, by contributing to the development of evangelism in Africa, America, Europe and Asian Countries.This mission which will no doubt be tasking had made me to recenlty relocated to israel,where I live presently.I selected your you after visiting the website for this purpose and prayed over it, I am willing to donate the sum of $10.000,000.00Million US Dollars to your Church/Ministry for the development of evangelism and also as aids for the less privileged around,you and for the help of AIDS people.

I like the idea of being a Lordship, and the idea that this donor likes this blog so much that she wants me to spread the evangelism of Skin Shedders all over the world...  It would be interesting to contact her lawyer, as instructed, to learn where the hook is.


Friday, July 16, 2004

Something for Friday

This is a fragment I found in my files.  It isn't going anywhere except towards many adjectives, but I thought it would be nice to have in July.  Hope you enjoy it as a break from politics and all the mean things that sometimes make us forget the important things in life.
  Gardens of the Soul
These gardens have no limits. Anything and everything is possible. You can walk down a busy street, turn, and suddenly find yourself facing a secret garden behind a vine-covered crumbling stone wall, a garden no-one has entered for centuries, where nature has joined the long-dead gardener in creating a masterpiece of solitude, mystery and peace.   You can push open the enormous creaking gates, just enough to slip through, and walk into green shadows where statues of mermaids spray silver wands of water into the still air, where climbing roses with trunks like oak trees hang drunkenly over moss-covered garden benches, where grassed-over brick paths turn and twist, and a new wonder awaits you behind every bend.
Or you can enter a garden of night, with darkness enveloping you on all sides like wall hangings of black velvet, embroidered with the fluttering lights of live candles, the fligth paths of moths and the luminescent faces of white lilies and roses. You can let the scents of night permeate your soul or the sounds of night permeate your dreams. Does the darkness teem with playing children, children playing hide-and-seek, whispering to each other, tiptoeing past each other, their distant laughter like little tinkling bells or croaks of tiny frogs?
Or visit the garden of wind, sand and stone where silence is a sound, the sky is wiped clean again and again, where the stones speak to the sand and the sand answers, and where you become sand, stone and wind, swept clean, ever moving yet still and whole.

Teaching Assistants are Not Workers

Graduate students working in private universities as teaching assistants can't unionize.  So says the labor board.  Such students are to be regarded as students first: 

Graduate teaching assistants at private universities can't form unions because they are students, not employees, a Republican-controlled federal labor board ruled, reversing a Clinton-era decision.
The National Labor Relations Board, led by three Republicans appointed by President Bush, ruled that about 450 graduate teaching and research assistants at Brown University in Providence, R.I., could not be represented by the United Auto Workers.
The two Democrats on the five-member panel opposed the decision, which does not affect public universities and colleges. The ruling, overturning a 2000 decision, was made public Thursday.
UAW said Friday the ruling will hurt union organizing campaigns under way at other schools, including Columbia, Tufts, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania.
"The right to join together to bargain for a better standard of living is a basic human right," said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger. "The labor board should be protecting and expanding the rights of workers, not restricting them."
Brown's provost, Robert Zimmer, said the new ruling "correctly recognizes that a graduate student's experience is a mentoring relationship between faculty and students, and that it's not appropriate for collective bargaining."
Graduate teaching assistants criticized the decision.

What do you think about this decision?  Other than its obvious adherence to a party policy which does not allow unions as the counterveiling power to large corporations?  The right always likes to argue that workers should just civilly and politely negotiate what they want with their employers, you know, whether you can take sick leave or parental leave and so on.  This ignores the reality that a worker at MacDonald's doesn't have the power that the firm has.  Civil and polite negotiations require some similarities in the levels of bargaining power.


Blogger has 'improved' again.  All new symbols and stuff, and I have an angry feeling in my stomach.  What is it with computer nerds that they can never leave anything alone for even one week?  They completely ignore the costs for users who have to keep on learning these 'improvements' while other work piles on.


Thursday, July 15, 2004

A Procrastination Post

Who is going to be remembered eternally, the sculptor who creates the idea for a statue or the stonecutter who actually cuts it out? We remember the famour writers but not those poor sods who washed their underwear and served them breakfast. Sure, there is general, vague and insincere praise for all the masses who do the maintenance and support tasks that allow a few happy people to do their own stuff, but they are not remembered or truly thought of as Important People. I always think of this when I read diatribes against Tolstoy's wife who finally rebelled against her role. Supposedly if you're married to a saint-like writer anything he inflicts on you should be suffered in silence.

The reason for these thoughts is that the Snakepit Inc. desperately needs vacuuming, and I don't want to do it, as I am a goddess and an important blogger, too. But the appeals to fairness and democracy drown my voice out, so it's my turn to vacuum. The dogs did it last week and the snakes swept the floors. Vacuuming is one of those truly thankless tasks; nobody ever notices that you have just vacuumed, they only notice if you have not, and the minute you finish vacuuming the accumulation of dust and scales and doghair continues as if nothing happened. Really, it would make a lot more sense not to vacuum.

Instead, we could build a new floor over the old one every ten years or so. If the rooms were built tall to begin with one could still live in the same house for quite a long time without needing to crawl.
Why has nobody invented a house that doesn't need vacuum cleaning? I suspect that the answer is in what I said above: someone else does the inventors' vacuuming and that's why they don't know how to invent anything really useful for us masses.

This is one of those posts that shouldn't have been written. I was going to do something heart-breaking and important on international politics and warfare, but there are plenty of other bloggers doing that work. They probably have someone else doing the vacuuming. Or that's my excuse, anyway.

Worry Beads

The Washington Post recently had an article about a new contraceptive tool: CycleBeads. It's really just a way of counting fertile days, and in that way not truly new. The rhythm method has been with us a long time, beginning with the assumption that the least likely time for conception would be in the middle of a woman's menstrual cycle (you can imagine how successful that was in contraception) and later using the assumption that ovulation is most likely roughly seven to fourteen days after the start of the cycle. What's new about the CycleBeads is that this method is based on actual average ovulation rates and takes an extra safe position: it marks twelve days as high-risk for conceiving:

It looks like an uncommonly ugly necklace, made up of 32 oblong plastic beads. Slightly more than half are a translucent amber brown, a dozen are white, like piƱa colada jelly beans. One bead in the center is throat-lozenge red, and next to it is a small black plastic cylinder, which bears the necklace's brand name: CycleBeads.
CycleBeads are not jewelry, exactly. They're integral to a new pregnancy-prevention method called the Standard Days Method, developed at the Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) at Georgetown University.
The necklace is a tool that helps a woman track her menstrual cycle: Slide the little black gasket onto the fat part of the red bead on the first day of a period. Then advance that gasket across the brown beads, at the rate of one a day. When the gasket reaches the 12 white beads, pregnancy is likely if a woman has unprotected sex. (This danger zone is easy to confirm in the darkness of the bedroom, since the white beads glow in the dark.) After the gasket slides past the white beads, it resumes its march across brown beads, and pregnancy is unlikely once more.
According to two studies in the peer-reviewed journal Contraception -- one published this year and one two years earlier -- the method, used correctly, is more effective than a diaphragm and nearly as effective as a condom. This summer, the Standard Days Method and CycleBeads will be inducted into the bible of contraception, "Contraceptive Technology." Being included in the latest update of this family planning reference book used by health care professionals could feed demand for CycleBeads, which retail for $12.95, and never require a refill. In the 13 months since they became available, 30,000 women have started to use this method, according to the IRH. CycleTechnologies, the New York-based company that's manufacturing CycleBeads, projects that figure will double by the end of 2005.

CycleBeads are fine for women who practise contraception but for whom a pregnancy would not be a disaster. For others certain warnings should be added, and the article mentions quite a few of them: there is a 2% risk of ovulation outside the white-bead days even for those with very regular cycles, women who have irregular cycles should not use this method alone, and remembering to move a bead each day is absolutely required.

Some other warnings should be added. For example, the article notes that only 15% of the couples in the study totally abstained from sex during the risky days. This suggests to me that abstinence may not work really well in this method, either, and that any user should do some soul-searching about how likely abstinence will be when the heart beats faster and the loved one looks especially delectable. Maybe adding a barrier method is needed, too?

Another warning I'd like to add concerns the way the study calculated the efficacy rates of contraception for this method:

Among women with regular cycles of 26 to 32 days, efficacy tests published in the journal Contraception show that over the course of a year, 12 percent will become pregnant with typical use -- a rate comparable to that for diaphragms and male condoms.

Given that this method does require some abstaining from sex, and even those who don't completely abstain might have less sex during the white-bead days than if they were using barrier methods of contraception like the condom or the diaphragm, these efficacy rates are not calculated on the same basis. The number of intercourses in the CycleBead method is likely to be smaller, and this means that the pregnancy rate per intercourse is actually likely to be higher than in the barrier methods. Just something to keep in mind.

If you like this method, buy your own nice beads and make a pretty bracelet or necklace. The white beads don't have to shine in the dark. If you're too shy to turn the light on to check them, choose white beads that feel different in the dark. Bulkier, for example.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004


Hubris: it should be the name of all that green slime that contains tadpoles and in the spring covers ponds and ditches. Instead, hubris means overbearing pride or presumption; arrogance. The Greeks saw hubris in deeds where humans pitted themselves against gods and goddesses, and the term does contain the secondary message that the possessors of hubris are going to have their comeuppance soon after. A good example of this is the tale of Arachne. She started her life as a young woman excellent in weaving, but ended her life as a spider because her skills were held in higher esteem than those of the goddess of weaving.

Hubris is also the name of the goddess of insolence, lack of restraint and instinct. Not the person you like to share the occasional cup of nectar with. As might be expected, she spends most of her time with humans, so I have not made her acquaintance. But I think that the neocons have, and so has our president and his administration.

At least an anonymous CIA official, the author of the new book entitled Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, seems to think so. He is anonymous because of CIA rules, and his real name is widely publicized, but I'm going to adhere to the pretense that we don't know who he is. And who knows, maybe his anonymity will keep him from the sin of hubris.

"Anonymous" argues that the Bush administration has made a mess of the war on terrorism, but this should not make liberals especially pleased as he also believes in a 'military campaign that includes "killing in large numbers" and "a Sherman-like razing of infrastructure" as part of "relentless, brutal and blood-soaked defensive military action until we have annihilated the Islamists that threaten us".' His grudge with the administration is therefore not in their reluctance to spill blood but in the way they have interpreted the intelligence CIA and other organizations have gathered:

Indeed,["Anonymous"] blasts most elite experts whatever their political or philosophical persuasion, for "a process of interpreting the world so it makes sense to us, a process yielding a world in which few events seem alien because we Americanize their components." Ultimately, "ignorance of their own and world history, failure to appreciate the power of faith, and disdain for the views and analyses of idiosyncratic Americans and non-Westerners" begets a particularly perilous imperialism.

This is then the hubris that gives the book its name: the American tradition of not paying attention to the rest of the world, and, as is the customary thing with hubris, the current American administation is now going to get its comeuppance for acting like gods and goddesses, though this time the revenge will not come directly from the hands of Zeus or Artemis or even me. No, the revenge is largely self-created here, and it is still possible to avoid it, but only if one also gives up on the hubris that caused the crisis in the first place. To get rid of the hubris, we need to get rid of the current administration, I think. There have been many occasions for repentance and truth-telling and even for some old-fashioned humility, and none of the members of this administration have taken the bait. Their hubris is too strong, too much an essential part of their basic dogma.

Thus, I agree with "Anonymous" in his accusation of excessive American hubris, but I don't agree with his recommendations directing us to even more blood-spilling. Not at least yet. There is still time for diplomacy and cunning negotiations, and John Kerry might still be able to achieve a more peaceful outcome. Might. But time is running out very quickly, and Nemesis, the goddess of revenge is hovering at the edges of our horizon, waiting for the signal to swoop and do the bidding of Hubris.

Wouldn't it be lovely if we lived in a world where 'hubris' really refers to tadpole slime?


I'm suffering from blogging exhaustion. Is this common, pray, tell me all you wiser and more experienced bloggers? Would you like to read my shopping list? That's about all I've written today, and it contained strawberries and dog food, among other important items.

Also toothpicks. I love toothpicks, and every house should have lots of them. They might even work against terrorism. The only thing I don't use toothpicks for is the picking of the teeth. But they're excellent for fixing door hinges: you stuff the screwholes with toothpicks and when you reattach the hinges, voila!, they're no longer loose and the door closes and opens sedately.

Toothpicks are also the second most important tool (after your nails) in house-cleaning. I love to clean the metal plate with my stove's name on it with toothpicks, never mind the dried sauce rivulets in the front, and I also love to clean the crevices in baseboards with them.

But there are also really bad uses for toothpicks. Some restaurants stick them into sandwiches, and if you're not aware of this you can have a toothpick stuck vertically between your tongue and your palate. This is very unpleasant, and then you need to insert your thumb and forefinger in your mouth in public to snap it into two (the toothpick, that is). And people will stare at you, wondering if you're performing emergency tonsilectomy on yourself.

Hank has the same problem with tree branches. (Hank is a dog who frequently contributes to this blog). She snaps at them ferociously, and then the middle bit is lodged horizontally in the back of her mouth. The first three times the veterinarian didn't charge us anything for removing the branch, but then he started charging. I bought a tool from a mechanic for removing these branches myself, fifty bucks it cost, and then Hank stopped doing it, the devil that she is.

Mae West is famous for saying witty things about real women as opposed to toothpicks, but I really like toothpicks, as long as nobody tries to get them into my mouth.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The Truth about John Edwards?

This is fun. I visited a Republican anti-Edwards website and learned the following facts about John:

Edwards Claims "Natural Connection" With Rural People, But Flunked Funk's Rural Q&A. (Matt Bai, "Nascar-Lovin," The New York Times, 9/15/02; Tim Funk, "Q&A With John Edwards," The Charlotte Observer, 5/26/03)
- Edwards Has "Never Done Any Serious Farming."
- Edwards Doesn't Follow Weekly NASCAR Races, Adds He "Doesn't Follow Anything Except Politicking."
- Edwards Hasn't Hunted Or Fished "In Years."
- Edwards Has "In The Past Been A Country Music Fan." (Tim Funk, "Q&A With John Edwards," The Charlotte Observer, 5/26/03)
Edwards Can't Even Remember Make Or Model Of His Own Truck. "In the New Hampshire interview, Edwards talked in detail on every policy question raised - but came up nearly blank when the questions turned to such everyday subjects as the people who had influenced him along the way, books he was currently reading, and even the make of his family's vehicles. … And the family fleet? A Buick 'with lots of miles on it' (Edwards said he couldn't remember the make; an aide said Park Avenue). 'A bigger car, more like this' (An SUV, an aide suggested, 'probably' a Ford Explorer or Expedition). A truck. Probably a Ford or a Chevrolet, Edwards says. 'It's white, and it's sitting in front of my house.'" (Jon Sawyer, "Sen. Edwards Pitches 'Real Solutions' In His Populist Message," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8/10/03)

That's terrible, don't you think so? I, for one, insist on a vice-president who hunts and fishes every morning and spends the rest of the day following NASCAR races. Scraping the bottom of the nasty-rumors-barrel here, aren't we?

Monday, July 12, 2004

Hoo, Hoo, Hooters!

That's supposed to be owl sounds. I have never yet visited the Hooters restaurants, as I'm not that interested in standardized food and human female mammary glands, but I have heard that many people are.
So many, that the female waitstaff at Hooters has to wear uniforms which emphasize their chests and stuff.

But one shouldn't take this idea to its logical conclusion, of course. It's all supposed to be about just pretending to ogle at breasts or women who are scantily dressed. You are not supposed to really ogle. Well, one Hooter's manager didn't get this subtle distinction. He went a step further and videotaped applicants for the Hooter-role while they were changing from their usual clothes to the required uniform:

A former Hooters restaurant manager accused of secretly videotaping female applicants as they changed into waitress uniforms pleaded no contest Monday to felony charges.
Juan Martin Aponte, 32, has been held on $500,000 bail since his arrest in May.
He pleaded no contest to five felony counts, including two counts of using a minor for a sex act and three counts of eavesdropping, and will be sentenced to five years in state prison, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said. A sentencing hearing was set for Aug. 24.
The taping allegedly occurred between November and February in a trailer outside a restaurant being renovated as a new Hooters - a chain best known for its scantily clad waitresses.

They found about 180 digital recordings of such clothes changes in Aponte's possession...

Of course the women didn't give their consent to this videotaping, while I assume that by accepting the job at Hooters you give your consent to public ogling? So that's what makes the restaurant's use of the women's bodies acceptable and Aponte's use of the same or similar bodies a felony.

The Hooters probably pay more than other restaurants, given that you both serve food and also work as eyecandy, I would think, or do they? And then there's the fact that these videotapings provided no extra revenues for the restaurant chain itself. So there are differences between the two cases, that of Hooters and that of Aponte, but there are also similarities. Both, for example, are interested in the generic female body, not the body of some specific individual or her skills with it. What seems to make the Hooters case perfectly legal and fine is that specific individuals are giving their permission for the display of the generic female body...

The Trees Don't Like This

The Bush administration is passing the control of Federal forests to state governors! The specific case has to do with whether roads should be built to remote forest areas to help with logging them:

Under the proposal, governors would have to petition the federal government to block road-building in remote areas of national forests. Allowing roads to be built would open the areas to logging.
The rule replaces one adopted by the Clinton administration and still under challenge in federal court. It covers about 58 million of the 191 million acres of national forest nationwide.
The Bush administration heralded the plan as an end to the legal uncertainty overshadowing tens of millions of acres of America's backcountry.
"Our actions today advance the Bush administration's commitment to cooperatively conserving roadless areas," Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said in announcing the plan in the Idaho Capitol Rotunda.

'Cooperative conserving roadless areas'? I asked a friendly pine tree what she or he (I could never figure the right pronoun for trees) thought about this new adventure into environmentalism, and all I got as an answer was a silent scream so blood-chilling that I couldn't move for several minutes. So the trees and I are opposed to this proposal, and so should you.

Why? This is why:

Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, called the administration proposal the biggest giveaway to the timber industry in history, arguing that many western states would likely press for development to help struggling rural economies.
"The idea that many governors would want to jump head first into the political snake pit of managing the national forests in their states is laughable," he said. "Besides, the timber industry has invested heavily for years in the campaigns of governors with the largest national and state forests, giving almost equally to Republicans and Democrats."

Look, either we want to have some undisturbed nature left or we don't. It's that simple. If we decide we don't want any, then we better work quickly to find another planet that we can go and savage next as this one will not endure us very much longer, and when earth has had enough of our incessant desire to turn perfectly good trees into umbrella stands, guess what will happen? It has something in common with what happens when you put a plastic bag over your head.
And no, I'm not a treehugger, whatever that particular sexual act might involve. I just like to breathe and to have shade in the heat of summer.

Hi! It's Me! I'm Bubbly and Cute!

This quote from the Chicago Tribune via ms. musings serves as the fodder for a not-so-deep thought for the day:

"What is the most talked-about aspect of Jessica Simpson's show? How stupid she is," said Jennifer Pozner, director of the New York-based non-profit organization Women in Media & News.
The message, in Pozner's mind, is clear: "They're telling girls that being pretty, being bubbly, being, a la Jessica Simpson, a really polished airhead is the ideal. That's what you should aspire to be. These images are a real useful mechanism to reinforce some retrograde, Stepford-ized ideas about women and what they should aspire to."

Time for a makeover, don't you think? Being a really polished airhead isn't that difficult. You need to widen your eyes in admiration whenever you look at someone. Think of Nancy Reagan's tactics, and you'll get this one. And then you need to purse your lips into a pretty little O, or you could stick your tongue out just a little bit, at one corner of the mouth. You could also screw your eyes when doing this. That's the cute bit.

The bubbly bit means laughing a lot at wrong places and trying to stand on one foot, plus not knowing anything about cars or football or how to kill someone in 27 different ways, but being very admiring of all of this. I know, I've done this act myself; a shameful confession if there ever was one. It's good for fishing, but what you get in your net is all throw-backs and the endeavor is ultimately pointless.

It's also really cruel if you think about it in more detail, and I suspect that it's sexist, too, because it's based on assumptions about men that give them a very low intelligence. And it's not at all entertaining unless you really happen to be a polished airhead. Besides, polished airheadedness is not a good earnings strategy, and if it's used for husband-hunting it needs to be kept up 24/7 and I have yet met anyone who could do this without becoming a withered balloon on a stick.

That's the reason why I do a lot better with the goddess act.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Bush Tales

The Bush family has been busy doing many things, and some of them are more interesting than others. In Florida, Jeb Bush has had a fascinating week. First, he failed a math question asked by an eighteen year old Florida school student at an occasion where Bush was speaking about the importance of passing the Florida FCAT test that is required there for high school graduation. Here's Jeb's excuse for failing:

"If the point is I haven't been in school for the last 30 years, that's true. But if I'm going to be graduating from high school and I can't pass a 10th-grade aptitude test, then I'm fooling myself," Bush said. "The fact that a 51-year-old man can't answer a question is really not relevant. You're still going to have to take the FCAT, and you're still going to have to pass it in order to get a high-school degree."

Hmm. I wouldn't be convinced by this if I was a student in Florida.

Though Jeb's administration does seem to suffer from some type of math angst. Consider the fact that it recently released a list of Florida felons, barred from voting, and this list missed most Hispanic felons, supposedly due to data handling problems:

The decision to scrap the list was made after it was reported that the list contained few people identified as Hispanic; of the nearly 48,000 people on the list created by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, only 61 were classified as Hispanics.
That was because when voters register in Florida, they can identify themselves as Hispanic. But the potential felons database has no Hispanic category, which excludes many people from the list if they put that as their race.

Hmm. What language is the name "Florida"? Never mind. I have been told by several data handlers that the omission of the Hispanic names can't have been due to computer problems, unless the Florida state workers are unusually incompetent. So perhaps this is another example of Jeb's math anxiety? Or something.

Meanwhile, Jeb's big brother has been busy sulking in public and sticking his tongue out at the NAACP. He refused an invitation to speak at the annual meeting of the NAACP, and when asked to reconsider this is what Bush answered:

Bush, campaigning in Pennsylvania on Friday, said he would not attend this year's NAACP event. He said his relationship with its leadership was "basically nonexistent" and he referred to being called "names" by organization members.

Hmm. Interesting behavior. Reminds me of spats between little children. Its use by the president of the United States is novel, though. There are more than twelve million registered black voters in the country, but most of them vote for Democrats. Maybe the president isn't for every American anymore, just for those who vote Republican?

Some More on Self-Defense

I'm a firm believer in learning the basics of unarmed self-defense. I'm also a pacifist in that I'd never launch an attack on anybody. But my pacifism is combined with the idea that sometimes the way to hold the peace is to kindly (in a relative sense) but firmly restrain the person who tries to attack you. That way nobody gets badly hurt.

Still, the most important aspect of self-defense is what one does before a risky situation develops, and the most important skills to learn are the skills to stay out of trouble, to learn to anticipate it and to learn to diffuse it. Having said that, I also believe that it gives us more freedom and confidence if we know what to do in the undesirable event that fighting is necessary. These skills should be acquired with a good teacher of self-defense, and they need to be practised to really learn them.

So now you can understand why I blow my stack every time I see women practising 'self-defense' in traditional Hollywood movies. Imagine the scene: some nasty rogue has just picked up the heroine and holds her tightly against his chest, her legs flailing in the air. She arches her back and hammers his chest with her fists. Of course all this is totally useless, and seems to demonstrate to us, the viewers, that no woman can ever defend herself.

The only thing she's doing that would make any sense in a real-world situation is the leg flailing, but only if she was held with her back against his front. Then flailing the legs (or bicycling in the air, if you like) is a good idea: it moves the balance of her weight forwards and makes it very hard for him to hold her in the air. This is something small children do instinctively when they don't want to be held. Everything else she does is counterproductive.

The chest is one of the best defended portions of the human body. The ribcage serves as an internal armor, and it's really pretty pointless to attack the chest in any unarmed fight. It's especially pointless to attack the chest with fists, as the fists are wider than the spaces between the ribs. And arching the back serves no useful purpose here at all.

Thus, what Hollywood has been teaching women for decades is a way of fighting that wouldn't work even if the 'she' in the scene was twice as heavy and bulky as the 'he'. I can't help feeling that this is purposeful, though it probably isn't. But is sure is stupid.

In reality, you don't want to be picked up as the ground is where you get your power from. But if you indeed are picked up by an assailant, then hammering on his chest is the last thing you want to. The basic principle in fighting someone mean, nasty and most likely stronger than you is to go for the most vulnerable targets using the dirtiest tricks imaginable. Any good self-defense teacher can show how this is done. Don't trust the Hollywood movies on this one.
Please read the Consumer Warning to the next post, too.