Sunday, March 16, 2008

Stay Classy, Bob

I just finished reading two articles in today's New York Times, Public Infidelity, Private Debate and I Agree, Dear, It Was Awful (which for some reason is not online).

In PIPD, the reporter examines women looking at the Elliot Spitzer scandal, feeling pity for Silda Wall Spitzer, considering what they would do in her situation, but never really believing their husbands could cheat. In IADIWA, the reporter says that men, on the other hand, focused more on why Spitzer got caught.

Reading these two articles, one is left with the distinct impression that men cheat and then women decide whether or not to forgive them.

Even before I read these two articles I was thinking way, way back to 1997 and how I remember that just before the Lewinsky scandal broke, Newsweek did a cover story on the rising levels of adultery and our changing attitudes towards. I couldn't find that particular story, but I did find "Those Cheatin' Hearts" from the 1997 (and about 6 months before Newsweek first wrote about Lewinsky). The reporter writes:

Public attitudes toward adultery are predictably ambivalent. According to the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, 78.5 percent of adults polled last year said extramarital sex was "always wrong"-up 10 percent from 1976. But tolerance for adulterers themselves has risen. A 1996 NORC study found that 22 percent of men and 15 percent of women admitted being unfaithful to their spouses at least once. Opposing adultery in principle is not the same as "believing the adulterer is a monster who ought to wear a red letter on his breast," says New York University sociologist Todd Gitlin. [emphasis mine]

Got that? In 1996, there was only a 7% difference between men and women who admitted to committing adultery. We are both a bunch of cheaters.

The rest of the stuff in that paragraph is pretty interesting too. It seems that hypocritical attitudes regarding sexually activity are not the sole domain of politicians using the very acts they rail against for their political capital...(Though, to be clear, I am not arguing against bringing this hypocrisy to light. I'm just saying let's not get too far up on the horse, because it's a long way down.)

And then there's the overlooked victim in this situation (from IADIWA):

Bob Beleson, 58, an independent beverage marketer who lives in Manhattan, said that the discussions he had with several buddies condemned the governor not for his sin, but for his excess. "These guys that pay $4,300 for a hooker are the same guys who pay $9 for an espresso," he said. "They're ruining it for everyone else."

Now, Bob, I realize that being in the beverage business, espresso are probably part of your whole thing, but comparing a human being/sex with that human being to a hot coffee drink, isn't that a bit much? Also, really? Really?! You are really going to complain in a nationally read newspaper that the thing about this whole Spitzer-thing is that it's really causing some price gouging in sex industry? I'm sorry "hookers" have been "ruined" for you. You must be devastated.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Matter of Perspective

Today's New York Times includes an article titled, "Senate Committee Seeks Audit of How Iraq is Spending it's Soaring Oil Windfall." Senators Carl Levin and John W. Warner, from the Armed Services Committee, have written a letter asking for an accounting of how Iraq is spending its oil money to further the reconstruction in Iraq. Apparently, the Iraqi government isn't spending much of it and are instead relying on U.S. money for reconstruction.

As upsetting as that is, I was thrown for a loop when I got to the last two paragraphs of the article.

"Finally, Senators Levin and Warner ask the question looming over the entire rebuilding effort: 'Why has the Iraqi government not spent more of its oil revenue on reconstruction, economic development and providing essential services for the Iraqi people?'
Also on Friday, Iraqi security forces discovered a mass grave containing the remains of about 100 people in Diyala Province, said Maj. Winfiel Danielson, a spokesman for the Mutlinational Forces-Iraq."

Ok, hold the phone. 100 dead people? Mass grave? At the end of an article about oil money? I guess the connection is that both of these things happened in Iraq, but isn't this a little bit like the New York Times ending its "the price of grain is really rising" (also in today's paper) with something like this, "Oh yeah, btw, mass grave found in Northern Indiana." Doesn't a mass grave warrant it's own teeny little column?

So I went to Iraq Today to check it out, which led me to a BBC article and a Washington Post article about the mass grave. The BBC article explains that the bodies have probably been there since pre-invasion and the Washington Post article says that hundreds of mass graves have been found since the March 2003 invasion.

The thing is though, scrolling down through the info on Iraq Today (and reading that Washington Post article), I can kind of see why the mass grave part got buried in the NY Times article. Mass graves and incredible amounts of violence (please note that all those links are from this past week and I got them from Iraq Today) are the norm in Iraq. That's not what the scoop is anymore. I'm glad that Levin and Warner want to get to the bottom of where that oil money is going in Iraq. But I'm sad that instead of our politicians demanding answers being the almost un-reportable norm, we are expected to be so blaze about the discovery of 100 (more) people dead in Iraq.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Science! It means whatever you want it to!

As my friend Lauren put it, there are grocery lists that are written better than this piece in the Washington Post.

There is so much I could say about this article (and much of it has already been said). I'd like though, to address (the author) Charlotte Allen's point about women drivers.

Depressing as it is, several of the supposed misogynist myths about female inferiority have been proven true. Women really are worse drivers than men, for example. A study published in 1998 by the Johns Hopkins schools of medicine and public health revealed that women clocked 5.7 auto accidents per million miles driven, in contrast to men's 5.1, even though men drive about 74 percent more miles a year than women. The only good news was that women tended to take fewer driving risks than men, so their crashes were only a third as likely to be fatal. Those statistics were reinforced by a study released by the University of London in January showing that women and gay men perform more poorly than heterosexual men at tasks involving navigation and spatial awareness, both crucial to good driving.

Run for your lives! It's a woman driving!

Let's re-write this paragraph shall we:

"Depressing as it is, several of the supposed myths about male inferiority have been proven true. Men really are worse drivers than women, for example. A study published in 1998 by Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Public Health revealed that men were three times more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash as women. Although women get in slightly more accidents then men (5.7 women car accidents/million miles to 5.1 men car accidents/million miles), men take many more stupid risks. [I'll get to the whole spatial/navigation thing]"

I haven't read the study. However, I don't think either of the above paragraphs accurately represent the study, mainly because they take the findings (as I understand them--that men's car accidents are more fatal and women get in more car accidents) and draw the conclusion that one sex is a better driver than the other sex, a conclusion that I don't really think is supported by the findings. I mean, take a look at this abstract of a study from Spain, which says that Spanish men are more likely to be in a car crash than Spanish women. (BTW, this study was published in May 2001, in the American Journal of Epidemiology, which is the same journal [I think] that published the Johns Hopkins' study that Allen references.) What does that mean for Allen's little theory? Being Spanish effects a man's ability to perform task involving navigation and spatial awareness?

The thing is, even though I haven't read the study, I'm pretty damn certain Allen hasn't either. After all, she says that she has no use for math ["I am perfectly willing to admit that I myself am a classic case of female mental deficiencies. I can't add 2 and 2 (well, I can, but then what?)"], so I'm sure she can't really bother with a silly little thing like fact checking.

I don't know why men are involved in more fatal crashes than women and I don't know why (American?) women are in more car crashes than men. But neither does Allen. Maybe she was going for a whole meta-"this article is so illogical that it proves women are stupid because I am a stupid women" thing. Whatever it is, the Washington Post never should have published it.