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Saturday, July 02, 2005

Beautiful Bane

A self-proclaimed hairy-legged-man-hating-lesbian-feminist discusses how would-be liberation is oppression incognito:

"Shoes," Sheila Jeffreys says, "are almost becoming torture instruments. During a woman's daily make-up ritual, on average she will expose herself to more than 200 synthetic chemicals before she has morning coffee. Regular lipstick wearers will ingest up to four and a half kilos during their lifetime." We are talking about Jeffreys' latest book, Beauty And Misogyny: Harmful Cultural Practices In The West, and she is in full flow about the horrors of what she calls "the brutality of beauty".


Others oppose Jeffreys' position in a more general way. Natasha Walter, author of The New Feminism (1999), for example, argues that today's women do not want their behaviour "policed by feminism", but wish to enjoy sex with men, wear make-up, and dress in short skirts and high heels without feeling they are betraying feminism.

...After the US invasion of Afghanistan, for example, beauty clinics opened up all over the country, offering cosmetics as an antidote to the enforced wearing of the burka. "You'd have thought the women would have had other things to worry about," she sighs.

Now, I've disagreed with some Jeffreys' ideas in the past (for example, the idea that all feminists should be lesbians-- Sorry, I just don't dig les femmes.) Although her black-and-white arguments are extreme, I think she at least tries to address some of the problems of self-defeating behavior. Just how bad could it be? Can I interest anyone in some black market implants?

At pump parties, groups of patients typically receive silicone injections from an unlicensed, untrained person who is often using non-medical silicone. Costs tend to run between $200 and $1,000 per treatment, police said.

Industrial-grade silicone, floor products and sealers, and a host of contaminants including motor oil and paraffin have all turned up in post-party patients.

Friday, July 01, 2005

A Book Meme

Courtesy of Jill.

Number of Books That You Own:

I don't think our current number system goes that high...do text books count?

Last Book Bought:

Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate (Lakoff et al.)

Last Book I Read:

What's the matter with Kansas? (Frank)

Five Books that mean a lot to me:

1) V. (Pynchon)
2) The Pigman (Zindel)
3) The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
4) Behavioral Neurobiology of Birdsong (NAS 2005)
5) Sexual Selections: What We Can and Can't Learn about Sex from Animals (Zuk)

Tags: I wonder if these bloggers can count the number of books they own:

Cecil the Ninja

Is That a Bible in Your Pocket or Are You Just Happy About Jesus?

A sex shop turned Bible store struggles to keep it up:

"We'd go three or four days and maybe make $4 or $5. You can't keep a store open like that."

Until the property sells, Braithwaite said, he will be at the store only on Thursdays in case a customer shows up.

Some of the Christian community that had condemned Braithwaite's porn shop will not support his Bible store even after they've embraced him as one of their own through baptism. Forgive and forget?

Funny thing is, the porn shop was highly successful in a county that is 'rife with churches'. Perhaps the moral elite are no less deviant than the rest of us.

(cross-posted at The Liberal Avenger.)

World Summit on Evolution

The 'Woodstock of Evolution' shows that ID has failed to dissuade much of the Evolution community:

"Creationists and other outsiders contend that science is a cosy and insular club in which meetings are held to enforce agreement with the party line, to circle the wagons against any and all would-be challengers, and to achieve consensus on the most contentious issues.

"This conclusion is so wrong that it cannot have been made by anyone who has ever attended a scientific conference. The World Summit on Evolution, like most scientific conferences, revealed a science rich in history and tradition, data and theory, as well as controversy and debate. From this I conclude that the theory of evolution has never been stronger," writes Shermer.

I have never attended an Intelligent Design conference, but I would be surprised if they bicker, argue and debate the way scientists do. Yet, after all the controversy among those who study it, evolution is still widely accepted. Why? Because:

Knowledge not including what Darwin really said, and interpreted through the filters of ID and other pseudoscientists, is incomplete, superficial and vacuous.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Bird-Bombs Away!

Birds prefer to empty their loads on white cars:

They found there was 60 per cent more white cars among those that were hit the most often than would have been expected.

What I want to know is how disgruntled does someone have to be to initiate a study like this?

Imperfect Design

ID proponents claim that only a designer could have created such complex and perfect beings, but they fail to recognize an important loophole in their ideology: Humans are not perfect. Not even close. David P. Barash gives good analysis of our butchered body plan.

There's much more that the supposed designer botched: ill-constructed knee joints that wear out, a lower back that's prone to pain, an inverted exit of the optic nerve via the retina, resulting in a blind spot. And what about the theological implications? If God is the designer, and we are created in his image, does that mean he has back problems, too?

Humans aren't really meant to be bipedal. The transition to upright posture did not coincide with many necessary alterations in skeletal structure. Maybe that's why I am recovering from my second knee surgery and not yet old enough to escape the 'youth' car insurance rate...(due tomorrow...grrr).

The point is that these and other incongruities testify to the contingent, unplanned, entirely natural nature of natural selection. We are profoundly imperfect, cobbled together rather then designed. And in these imperfections reside some of the best arguments for our equally profound natural-ness.

Compassionate Eugenics

This has to be one of the worst interpretations of evolution that I've ever read. Anti-science pioneers, hang your heads in shame. I started cringing around the second sentence:

There are 6,450,000,000 of us humans on earth right now. There have been at least that many who have already come and gone. Maybe a lot more. We are supposedly the most advanced species. Under theories of evolution, we should be seeing various kinds of mutations that would result in better humans, who would generally take over for the lesser humans. Ultimately, there would be some new species, identifiable as such, that would be a super human, I suppose.

For one thing, I think the current informed view is that there are more people alive now than the total number of people who have ever died. Exponential growth curves are funny that way. Least importantly, I prefer the term 'successful' because 'advanced' might suggest some movement towards perfection. Most importantly, is there even a strong case that suggests humans are evolving? Just for the sake of argument:

...For instance, we don’t have any 100 m dash folks beating the record by a full second, or milers taking the best mile down by 20 seconds. The new bests are always only fractions of seconds better than the last...

How do faster humans gain a reproductive advantage? I thought we were talking about evolution here.

...but surely there can be no ethical reason why we don’t try to develop super brains or super athletes...

Whoa, slow down there, Hoss. Whatever happened to compassionate conservatism?

I'm back...finally

What'd I miss?

(It might take me a while to recover from 10 days of no internet. Talk about roughin' it.)

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Prostitution & Iraq

A couple days ago, Salon featured a story on the influx into Syria of young Iraqi women who must turn to prostition to support their families.

From "Unveiling Iraq's teenage prostitutes":

"It's a serious problem because there are young girls doing this -- 11, 12, 13 years old," says Abdelhamid El Ouali, the representative for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees who's based in Damascus. "It's amazing at first. But when you fight for your life, what are you going to do?"

The Syrian government and UNHCR put the number of Iraqi refugees in Syria at roughly 700,000. Syrian police either lack data or won't release any figures on prostitution, which isn't surprising considering the closed government. The U.S. State Department's 2005 "Trafficking in Persons Report" acknowledges the problem, but officials have no clear sense of its magnitude. According to the report, "There have been some reports that indicate Iraqi women may be subjected to sexual exploitation in prostitution in Syria at the hands of Iraqi criminal networks, but those reports have not been confirmed."

The dangers to Iraqi women are not localized among the refugees. With the rise in popularity of Shia political parties that are attempting to adopt the Iranian model of government, the female population is slowly being sidelined. As far as I know, the most vocal Iraqi feminist to reach our shores is the pseudonymous blogger Riverbend. Here is an excerpt of a very moving post from February:

Groceries and Election Results

I shook my head and sighed. “So do you still think the Americans want to turn Iraq into another America? You said last year that if we gave them a chance, Baghdad would look like New York.” I said in reference to a conversation we had last year. E. gave me a wary look and tried to draw my attention to some onions, “Oh hey- look at the onions- do we have onions?”

Abu Ammar shook his head and sighed, “Well if we’re New York or we’re Baghdad or we’re hell, it’s not going to make a difference to me. I’ll still sell my vegetables here.”

I nodded and handed over the bags to be weighed. “Well… they’re going to turn us into another Iran. You know list 169 means we might turn into Iran.” Abu Ammar pondered this a moment as he put the bags on the old brass scale and adjusted the weights.

“And is Iran so bad?” He finally asked. Well no, Abu Ammar, I wanted to answer, it’s not bad for *you* - you’re a man… if anything your right to several temporary marriages, a few permanent ones and the right to subdue females will increase. Why should it be so bad? Instead I was silent. It’s not a good thing to criticize Iran these days. I numbly reached for the bags he handed me, trying to rise out of that sinking feeling that overwhelmed me when the results were first made public.

I'll be posting portions of my email correspondence with Riverbend at The Liberal Avenger over the next few days. The most relavent topic to the post is the subject of muta'a, or pleasure marriages, which is simply a legal form of prostitution that is supported by some Shia clerics.