Archive for November 14th, 2010
Just made this. Truly yummy perfection—and an extraordinarily easy recipe.
UPDATE: On a roll: since I had the baking sheet with walnut oil covering it, I took some cooked French green beans (the thin kind) and spread them out on the sheet, rolling them around and adding just a little more oil to be sure they’re thoroughly coated. Then I salted them with truffle salt, sprinkled on a little nanami togarashi, and will roast them at 425º F for around 10-12 minutes, or until they start to brown. Then those for dinner topped by a couple of eggs over easy.
This one takes the cake—it includes video at the link.
[These events took place roughly between 5:30 and 6:30 AM, November 13th in Terminal 2 of the San Diego International Airport. I'm writing this approximately 2 1/2 hours after the events transpired, and they are correct to the best of my recollection. I will admit to being particularly fuzzy on the exact order of events when dealing with the agents after getting my ticket refunded; however, all of the events described did occur.
I had my phone recording audio and video of much of these events. It can be viewed below.
Please spread this story as far and wide as possible. I will make no claims to copyright or otherwise.]
This morning, I tried to fly out of San Diego International Airport but was refused by the TSA. I had been somewhat prepared for this eventuality. I have been reading about the millimeter wave and backscatter x-ray machines and the possible harm to health as well as the vivid pictures they create of people’s naked bodies. Not wanting to go through them, I had done my research on the TSA’s website prior to traveling to see if SAN had them. From all indications, they did not. When I arrived at the security line, I found that the TSA’s website was out of date. SAN does in fact utilize backscatter x-ray machines.
I made my way through the line toward the first line of "defense": the TSA ID checker. This agent looked over my boarding pass, looked over my ID, looked at me and then back at my ID. After that, he waved me through. SAN is still operating metal detectors, so I walked over to one of the lines for them. After removing my shoes and making my way toward the metal detector, the person in front of me in line was pulled out to go through the backscatter machine. After asking what it was and being told, he opted out. This left the machine free, and before I could go through the metal detector, I was pulled out of line to go through the backscatter machine. When asked, I half-chuckled and said, "I don’t think so." At this point, I was informed that I would be subject to a pat down, and I waited for another agent.
A male agent (it was a female who had directed me to the backscatter machine in the first place), came and waited for me to get my bags and then directed me over to the far corner of the area for screening. After setting my things on a table, he turned to me and began to explain that he was going to do a "standard" pat down. (I thought to myself, "great, not one of those gropings like I’ve been reading about".) After he described, the pat down, I realized that he intended to touch my groin. After he finished his description but before he started the pat down, I looked him straight in the eye and said, "if you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested." He, a bit taken aback, informed me that he would have to involve his supervisor because of my comment.
We both stood there for no more than probably two minutes before a female TSA agent (apparently, the supervisor) arrived. She described to me that because I had opted out of the backscatter screening, I would now be patted down, and that involved running hands up the inside of my legs until they felt my groin. I stated that I would not allow myself to be subject to a molestation as a condition of getting on my flight. The supervisor informed me that it was a standard administrative security check and that they were authorized to do it. I repeated that I felt what they were doing was a sexual assault, and that if they were anyone but the government, the act would be illegal. I believe that I was then informed that if I did not submit to the inspection, I would not be getting on my flight. I again stated that I thought the search was illegal. I told her that I would be willing to submit to a walk through the metal detector as over 80% of the rest of the people were doing, but I would not be groped. The supervisor, then offered to go get her supervisor.
I took a seat in a tiny metal chair next to the table with my belongings and waited. While waiting, I asked the original agent (who was supposed to do the pat down) if he had many people opt out to which he replied, none (or almost none, I don’t remember exactly). He said that I gave up a lot of rights when I bought my ticket. I replied that the government took them away after September 11th. There was silence until the next supervisor arrived. A few minutes later, the female agent/supervisor arrived with a man in a suit (not a uniform). He gave me a business card identifying him as David Silva, Transportation Security Manager, San Diego International Airport. At this point, more TSA agents as well as what I assume was a local police officer arrived on the scene and surrounded the area where I was being detained. The female supervisor explained the situation to Mr. Silva. After some quick back and forth (that I didn’t understand/hear), I could overhear Mr. Silva say something to the effect of, "then escort him from the airport." I again offered to submit to the metal detector, and my father-in-law, who was near by also tried to plead for some reasonableness on the TSA’s part.
The female supervisor took my ID at this point and began taking some kind of report with which I cooperated. Once she had finished, I asked if I could put my shoes back on. I was allowed to put my shoes back on and gather my belongs. I asked, "are we done here" (it was clear at this point that I was going to be escorted out), and the local police officer said, "follow me". I followed him around the side of the screening area and back out to the ticketing area. I said apologized to him for the hassle, to which he replied that it was not a problem.
I made my way over to the American Airlines counter, explained the situation, and asked if my ticket could be refunded. The woman behind the counter furiously typed away for about 30 seconds before letting me know that she would need a supervisor. She went to the other end of the counter. When she returned, she informed me that the ticket was non-refundable, but that she was still trying to find a supervisor. After a few more minutes, she was able to refund my ticket. I told her that I had previously had a bad experience with American Airlines and had sworn never to fly with them again (I rationalized this trip since my father-in-law had paid for the ticket), but that after her helpfulness, I would once again be willing to use their carrier again.
At this point, I thought it was all over. I began to make my way to the stairs to exit the airport, when I was approached by another man in slacks and a sport coat. He was accompanied by the officer that had escorted me to the ticketing area and Mr. Silva. He informed me that I could not leave the airport. He said that once I start the screening in the secure area, I could not leave until it was completed. Having left the area, he stated, I would be subject to a civil suit and a $10,000 fine. I asked him if he was also going to fine the 6 TSA agents and the local police officer who escorted me from the secure area. After all, I did exactly what I was told. He said that they didn’t know the rules, and that he would deal with them later. They would not be subject to civil penalties. I then pointed to Mr. Silva and asked if he would be subject to any penalties. He is the agents’ supervisor, and he directed them to escort me out. The man informed me that Mr. Silva was new and he would not be subject to penalties, either. He again asserted the necessity that I return to the screening area. When I asked why, he explained that I may have an incendiary device and whether or not that was true needed to be determined. I told him that I would submit to a walk through the metal detector, but that was it; I would not be groped. He told me that their procedures are on their website, and therefore, I was fully informed before I entered the airport; I had implicitly agreed to whatever screening they deemed appropriate. I told him that San Diego was not listed on the TSA’s website as an airport using Advanced Imaging Technology, and I believed that I would only be subject to the metal detector. He replied that he was not a webmaster, and I asked then why he was referring me to the TSA’s website if he didn’t know anything about it. I again refused to re-enter the screening area.
The man asked me to stay put while he walked off to confer with the officer and Mr. Silva…
Continue reading. It gets worse. And he has more posts on the incident.
Yesterday was for some reason a very low-energy day for me. I couldn’t bring myself to do the Nordic Track, but thankfully the Pilates lesson was there and that cannot be skipped (without paying the fee anyway—and Jennifer was ready to go). Got through the Pilates without event, and today, after putting it off and putting it off, I got onto the Nordic Track, determined to do 30 minutes on its timer no matter how many stops I had to make. (The timer augments the time only when you are skiing.) I did the first minute okay and thought I would try for 3 minutes. When I got there, I thought I could do 5-minute intervals: 6 stops in all. But at 5 minutes, I realized I could make 6 minutes, which would reduce it to 5 stops.
By then I was moving along well—not at a high speed, but moving—and Robinson was just getting through the earthquake, so I decided to go for 10 minutes. Once there: 15 minutes. And once there, I thought I might as well go for the full 30 minutes.
So I kind of backed into it, but I did it, and I’m pleased. And I do seem to have more energy today.
Based on a recommendation from a commenter, I got a copy of Good Calories, Bad Calories, by Gary Taubes (also available on Amazon). It’s a fascinating book, and I highly recommend it. Here’s one passage, somewhat long, that gives you a sample of the book. This starts on page 34:
"A common feature of epidemiological data is that they are almost certain to be biased, of doubtful quality, or incomplete (and sometimes all three," explained the epidemiologist John Bailar in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1980. "problems do not disappear even if one has flawless data, since the statistical associations in almost any nontrivial set of observations are subject to many interpretations. This ambiguity exists because of the difficulty of sorting out causes, effects, concomitant variables, and random fluctuations when the causes are multiple or diffuse, the exposure levels low, irregular, or hard to measure, and the relevant biologic mechanisms poorly understood. Even when the data are generally accepted as accurate, there is much room for individual judgment, and the considered conclusions of the investigators on these matters determine what they will label ’cause’ . . ."
The only way to establish cause and effect with any reliability is to do "controlled" experiments, or controlled trials, as they’re called in medicine. Such trials attempt to avoid all the chaotic complexities of comparing populations, towns, and ethnic groups. Instead, they try to create two identical situations—two groups of subjects, in this case—and then change only one variable to see what happens. They "control" for all the other possible variables that might affect the outcome being studied. Ideally, such trials will randomly assign subjects into an experimental group, which receives the treatment being tested—a drug, for instanc4e, or a special diet—and a group, which receives a placebo or eats their usual meals or some standard fare.
Not even randomization, though, is sufficient to assure that the only meaningful difference between the experimental group and the control group is the treatment being studied. This is why, in drug trials, placebos are used, to avoid any distortion that might occur when comparing individuals who are taking a pill in the belief that their condition might improve with individuals who are not. Drug trials are also done double-blind, which means neither subjects nor physicians know which pills are placebos and which are not. Double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials are commonly referred to in medicine as the gold standard for research. It’s not that they are better than other methods of establishing truth, but that truth, in most instances, cannot be reliably established without them.
Diet trials are particularly troublesome, because it’s impossible to conduct them with placebos or a double-blind. Diets including copious meat, butter, and cream do not look or taste like diets without them. It is also impossible to make a single change in a diet. Saturated fats cannot be eliminated from the diet without decreasing calories as well. To ensure that calories remain constant, another food has to replace the saturated fats. Should polyunsaturated fats be added, or carbohydrates? A single carbohydrate or mixed carbohydrates? Green leafy vegetables or starches? Whatever the choice, the experimental diet is changed in at least two significant ways. If saturated-fat calories are reduced and carbohydrate calories are increased to compensate, the investigators have no way to know which of the two was responsible for any effect observed. (To state that "saturated fats raise cholesterol," as is the common usage, is meaningful only if we say that saturated fat raises cholesterol compared with the effect of some other nutrient in the diet—polyunsaturated fats, for instance.)
Nonetheless, dietary trials of diet and heart disease began appearing in the literature in the mid-1950s. Perhaps a dozen such trials appeared over the next twenty years. The methods used were often primitive. Many had no controls; many neglected to randomize subjects into experimental and control groups.
Only two of these trials actually studied the effect of a low-fat diet on heart-disease rates—not to be confused with a cholesterol-lowering diet, which replaces saturated with polyunsaturated fats and keeps the total fat content of the diet the same. Only these two trials ever tested the benefits and risks of the kind of low-fat diet that the American Heart Association has recommended we eat since 1961, and the USDA food pyramid recommends when it says to "use fats and oils sparingly." One, published in a Hungarian medical journal in 1963, concluded that cutting fat consumption to only 1.5 ounces a day reduced heart-disease rates. The other, a British study, concluded that it did not. In the British trial, the investigators also restricted daily fat consumption to 1.5 ounces, a third of the fat in the typical British diet. Each day, the men assigned to this experimental diet, all of whom had previously had heart attacks, could eat only half an ounce of butter, three ounces of meat, one egg, and two ounces of cottage cheese, and drink two ounces of skim milk. After three years, average cholesterol levels dropped from 260 to 235, but the recurrence of heart disease in the control and experimental groups was effectively identical. "A low-fat diet has no place in the treatment of myocardial infarction," the authors concluded in 1965 in The Lancet.
In all other trials, cholesterol levels were lowered by changing the fat content of the diet, rather than the total amount of fat consumed. Polyunsaturated fats replaced saturated fats, without altering the calorie content. These diet trials had a profound influence on how the diet/heart-disease controversy played out.
The first and most highly publicized was the Anti-Coronary Club Trial, launched in the late 1950s by New York City Health Department Director Norman Jolliffe. The eleven hundred middle-aged members of Jolliffe’s Anti-Coronary Club were prescribed what he called the "prudent diet," which included at least one ounce of polyunsaturated vegetable oil every day. The participants could eat poultry or fish anytime, but were limited to four meals a week containing beef, lamb, or pork. This made Jolliffe’s prudent diet a model for future health-conscious Americans. Corn-oil margarines, with a high ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fat, replaced butter and hydrogenated margarines, which were high in saturated fats. In total, the prudent diet was barely 30 percent fat calories, and the proportion of polyunsaturated to saturated fat was four times greater than that of typical American diets. Overweight Anti-Coronary Club members were prescribed a sixteen-hundred-calorie diet that consisted of less than 20 percent fat. Jolliffe then recruited a control group to use as a comparison.
Jolliffe died in 1961, before the results were in. His colleagues, led by George Christakis, began reporting interim results a year later. "Diet Linked to Cut in Heart Attacks," reported the New York Times in May 1962. "Special Diet Cuts Heart Cases Here," the Times reported two years later. Christakis was so confident of the prudent-diet benefits, reported Newsweek, that he "urged the government to heed the club results and launch an education and food-labeling campaign to change U.S. diet habits."
The actual data, however, were considerably less encouraging. Christakis and his colleagues reported in February 1966 that the diet protected against heart disease. Anti-Coronary Club members who remained on the prudent diet had only one-third the heart disease of the controls. The longer you stayed on the diet, the more you benefited, it was said. But in November 1966, just nine months later, the Anti-Coronary Club investigators published a second article, revealing that twenty-six members of the club had died during the trial, compared with only six of the men whose diet had not been prudent. Eight members of the club died from heart attacks, but none of the controls. This appeared "somewhat unusual," Christakis and his colleagues acknowledged. They discussed in the improvements in heart-disease risk factors (cholesterol, weight, and blood pressure decreased) and the significant reduction in debilitating illness "from new coronary heart disease," but omitted further discussion of mortality.
This mortality problem was the bane of Keys’s dietary-fat hypothesis, bedeviling every trial that tried to assess the effects of a low-fat diet on death as well as disease. In July 1969, Seymour Dayton, a professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, reported the results of the largest diet-heart trial to that date. Dayton gave half of nearly 850 veterans residing at a local Veterans Administration hospital a diet in which corn, soybean, safflower, and cottonseed oils replaced the saturated fats in butter, milk, ice cream, and cheeses. The other half, the controls, were served a placebo diet in which the fat quantity and type hadn’t been changed. The first group saw their cholesterol drop 13 percent lower than the controls; only sixty-six died from heart disease during the study, compared with ninety-six of the vets on the placebo diet.*
Thirty-one of the men eating Dayton’s experimental cholesterol-lowering diet, however, died of cancer, compared with only seventeen of the controls. The risk of death was effectively equal on the two diets. "Was it not possible," Dayton asked, "that a diet high in unsaturated fat . . . might have noxious effects when consumed over a period of many years? Such diets are, after all, rarities among the self-selected diets of human population groups." Because the cholesterol-lowering diet failed to increase longevity, he added, it could not provide a "final answer concerning dietary prevention of heart disease."
* When Dayton and his colleagues autopsied the men who died, they found no difference in the amount of atherosclerosis between those on the two diets.
He also has a fascinating report on the dubious origins of the Mediterranean diet:
Now the story changed: High cholesterol did not predict increased mortality, despite its association with a greater rate of heart disease. Saturated fat in the diet ceased to be a factor as well. The U.S. railroad workers, for instance, had a death rate from all causes lower—and so a life expectancy longer—than the Finns, the Italians, the Yugoslavs, the Dutch, and particularly the Japanese, who ate copious carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, and fish. Only the villagers of Crete and Corfu could still expect to live significantly longer than the U.S. railroad workers. Though this could be explained by other factors, it still implied that telling Americans to eat like the Japanese might not be the best advice. This was why Keys had begun advocating Mediterranean diets, though evidence that the Mediterranean diet was beneficial was derived only from the villagers of Crete and Corfu in Keys’s study, and not from those who lived on the Mediterranean coast of Yugoslavia or in the cities of Italy.
The CIA apparently has always been a problem. Eric Lichtblau reports in the NY Times:
A secret history of the United States government’s Nazi-hunting operation concludes that American intelligence officials created a “safe haven” in the United States for Nazis and their collaborators after World War II, and it details decades of clashes, often hidden, with other nations over war criminals here and abroad.
The 600-page report, which the Justice Department has tried to keep secret for four years, provides new evidence about more than two dozen of the most notorious Nazi cases of the last three decades.
It describes the government’s posthumous pursuit of Dr. Josef Mengele, the so-called Angel of Death at Auschwitz, part of whose scalp was kept in a Justice Department official’s drawer; the vigilante killing of a former Waffen SS soldier in New Jersey; and the government’s mistaken identification of the Treblinka concentration camp guard known as Ivan the Terrible.
The report catalogs both the successes and failures of the band of lawyers, historians and investigators at the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, which was created in 1979 to deport Nazis.
Perhaps the report’s most damning disclosures come in assessing the Central Intelligence Agency’s involvement with Nazi émigrés. Scholars and previous government reports had acknowledged the C.I.A.’s use of Nazis for postwar intelligence purposes. But this report goes further in documenting the level of American complicity and deception in such operations.
The Justice Department report, describing what it calls “the government’s collaboration with persecutors,” says that O.S.I investigators learned that some of the Nazis “were indeed knowingly granted entry” to the United States, even though government officials were aware of their pasts. “America, which prided itself on being a safe haven for the persecuted, became — in some small measure — a safe haven for persecutors as well,” it said.
The report also documents divisions within the government over the effort and the legal pitfalls in relying on testimony from Holocaust survivors that was decades old. The report also concluded that the number of Nazis who made it into the United States was almost certainly much smaller than 10,000, the figure widely cited by government officials.
The Justice Department has resisted making the report public since 2006. Under the threat of a lawsuit, it turned over a heavily redacted version last month to a private research group, the National Security Archive, but even then many of the most legally and diplomatically sensitive portions were omitted. A complete version was obtained by The New York Times.
The Justice Department said the report, the product of six years of work, was never formally completed and did not represent its official findings. It cited “numerous factual errors and omissions,” but declined to say what they were.
More than 300 Nazi persecutors have been deported, stripped of citizenship or blocked from entering the United States since the creation of the O.S.I., which was merged with another unit this year.
In chronicling the cases of Nazis who were aided by American intelligence officials, the report cites help that C.I.A. officials provided in 1954 to Otto Von Bolschwing, an associate of Adolph Eichmann who had helped develop the initial plans “to purge Germany of the Jews” and who later worked for the C.I.A. in the United States. In a chain of memos, C.I.A. officials debated what to do if Von Bolschwing were confronted about his past — whether to deny any Nazi affiliation or “explain it away on the basis of extenuating circumstances,” the report said…
We as a country pretty much match the spectacle of Nero, entertaining himself musically as Rome burned about him: we poke around, arguing this way and that, as the warming continues unabated. Justin Gillis reports in the NY Times:
With a tense pilot gripping the stick, the helicopter hovered above the water, a red speck of machinery lost in a wilderness of rock and ice.
To the right, a great fjord stretched toward the sea, choked with icebergs. To the left loomed one of the immense glaciers that bring ice from the top of the Greenland ice sheet and dump it into the ocean.
Hanging out the sides of the craft, two scientists sent a measuring device plunging into the water, between ice floes. Near the bottom, it reported a temperature of 40 degrees. It was the latest in a string of troubling measurements showing that the water was warm enough to melt glaciers rapidly from below.
“That’s the highest we’ve seen this far up the fjord,” said one of the scientists, Fiammetta Straneo.
The temperature reading was a new scrap of information in the effort to answer one of the most urgent — and most widely debated — questions facing humanity: How fast is the world’s ice going to melt?
Scientists long believed that the collapse of the gigantic ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica would take thousands of years, with sea level possibly rising as little as seven inches in this century, about the same amount as in the 20th century.
But researchers have recently been startled to see big changes unfold in both Greenland and Antarctica.
As a result of recent calculations that take the changes into account, many scientists now say that sea level is likely to rise perhaps three feet by 2100 — an increase that, should it come to pass, would pose a threat to coastal regions the world over.
And the calculations suggest that the rise could conceivably exceed six feet, which would put thousands of square miles of the American coastline under water and would probably displace tens of millions of people in Asia.
The scientists say that a rise of even three feet would inundate low-lying lands in many countries, rendering some areas uninhabitable. It would cause coastal flooding of the sort that now happens once or twice a century to occur every few years. It would cause much faster erosion of beaches, barrier islands and marshes. It would contaminate fresh water supplies with salt.
In the United States, parts of the East Coast and Gulf Coast would be hit hard. In New York, coastal flooding could become routine, with large parts of Queens and Brooklyn especially vulnerable. About 15 percent of the urbanized land in the Miami region could be inundated. The ocean could encroach more than a mile inland in parts of North Carolina.
Abroad, some of the world’s great cities — London, Cairo, Bangkok, Venice and Shanghai among them — would be critically endangered by a three-foot rise in the sea.
Climate scientists readily admit that the three-foot estimate could be wrong. Their understanding of the changes going on in the world’s land ice is still primitive. But, they say, it could just as easily be an underestimate as an overestimate. One of the deans of American coastal studies, Orrin H. Pilkey of Duke University, is advising coastal communities to plan for a rise of at least five feet by 2100.
“I think we need immediately to begin thinking about our coastal cities — how are we going to protect them?” said John A. Church, an Australian scientist who is a leading expert on sea level. “We can’t afford to protect everything. We will have to abandon some areas.” . . .
Continue reading. The article goes on to quote climate skeptics (people with no expertise whatsoever in the field) and to note that a "large majority" of climate scientists say that what is happening is due to anthrogenic global warming: that large majority is about 99.5% to 0.5%: so close to unanimous as makes no difference. And these are the people who actually study what is happening.
Such a stupid species deserves its destruction.
by Cordelia Fine
A review by Jenny McPhee
In 1972, when I was ten, my mother co-authored a study on sex-stereotyping in children’s readers entitled “Dick and Jane as Victims.” The study’s authors, who called themselves Women on Words and Images (WOWI), examined 134 elementary school readers from 14 different publishers all then in use in three suburban New Jersey public school systems, mine included. They found appalling ratios of male to female representation:
Boy-centered stories to girl-centered stories 5:2
Adult male main characters to adult female main characters 3:1
Male biographies to female biographies 6:1
Male animal stories to female animal stories 2:1
Male folk or fantasy stories to female folk or fantasy stories 4:1
“By the age of eight,” they wrote, “ninety-nine percent agreement is found among children of both sexes as to which sex does which job, what kind of person a girl or boy should be and what the role limitations and expectations are. School readers must assume their responsibility in directing the subliminal learning process toward more psychologically constructive ends.”
Thirty-eight years later, the situation hasn’t much improved. According to cognitive neuroscientist Cordelia Fine‘s explosive new book, Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference, gender bias has potentially worsened by going underground, becoming unconscious and unintended. Fine discusses myriad studies showing grave instances in schools and the workplace of unconscious gender bias. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study of eighth graders in 34 countries found that “the more strongly males are implicitly associated with science and females with liberal arts, the greater boys’ advantage in science and math in the eighth grade.”
In another study, before taking GRE-type exams one group was shown sexist commercials, another group neutral ads. “Men in both conditions,” Fine writes, “and women who had seen neutral ads, attempted more math problems than verbal ones. But women who had seen the sexist ads showed exactly the opposite pattern, avoiding the math questions.”
In countless studies, identical resumes with only a name change — say, George to Georgina — found potential employers significantly favoring the male. Furthermore, Fine cites research indicating that those who pride themselves on their lack of bias most persistently make unconscious stereotypical judgments. Fine concludes: “Indeed, subtle triggers for stereotype threat seem to be more harmful than blatant cues, which suggests the intriguing possibility that stereotype threat may be more of an issue for women now than it was decades ago, when people were more loose-lipped when it came to denigrating female ability.”
This insidious sexism — Fine has coined it “neurosexism” — hasn’t been helped by the scientific community. Some neuroscientists’ questionable findings have entered both popular culture and the classroom. Brain imaging technology (PET scans, fMRIs), has allowed a neuroscientific-based discourse to dress up age-old gender bias–women are more empathetic; men more competitive — as “hard-wired.” Fine’s analysis debunks the spurious science behind best-selling popular psychology books which locate gender-difference in brain biology—e.g., Why Gender Matters, What Could He Be Thinking, Leadership and the Sexes,The Essential Difference, The Sexual Paradox, Why Mars and Venus Collide, and The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine (the Phyllis Schlafly of neuroscience).
These books, Fine says, make claims approaching 19th century arguments. In 1873, Professor Edward Clarke, Harvard Medical School proposed that intellectual effort in girls and women sent energy rushing dangerously from ovaries to the brain, endangering fertility and causing other severe medical ailments. Nowadays, Brizendine suggests women are ruled by hormones; only after menopause can they be considered rational thinkers. Simon Baron-Cohen, a Cambridge professor of psychiatry, concludes female brains are better at empathizing, therefore: “People with the female brain make the most wonderful counselors, primary school teachers, nurses, carers, therapists, social workers, mediators, group facilitators or personnel staff.”
Fine describes contemporary studies of gender representation in children’s books, television and movies: among Caldecott Medal awardees and 155 bestselling children’s books the male to female ratio was 2:1. Of 19,664 children’s TV programs in 24 countries, 32 percent of main characters are female. In the 101 top-grossing G-rated movies from 1990-2005 less than a third of the speaking roles went to females.
How could things still be this bad? Fine notes that genetically males and females will always have much more in common than not. So why as a society are we so invested in stressing the differences between the sexes, prescribing gender stereotypes from gestation onward? How can we stop this scourge from further injuring our species? Recent discoveries about the brain highlight its plasticity, its ability to adapt, invent, respond to changing environments. Why not rid our brains of this outdated gender bias? Alas, Fine barely addresses this issue.
But Fine’s book goes far in confirming what the great feminist John Stuart Mill wrote in The Subjection of Women(1869):
I deny that any one knows or can know the nature of the two sexes, as long as they have only been seen in their present relation to one another. Until conditions of equality exist, no one can possibly assess the natural differences between women and men, distorted as they have been. What is natural to the two sexes can only be found out by allowing both to develop and use their faculties freely.
(Mill’s wife Harriet Taylor co-wrote much of his work; though he insisted she put her name on it, she more forcefully resisted author credit: gender bias cuts deeply into our own psyches.)
In Dick and Jane as Victims, my mother and her colleagues emphasized that both Jane and Dick are victims of sex-role socialization. She learns her sex is restricted to being sex-objects and martyrs, submissive and servile; he is submitted to a crippling pressure to compete, achieve, produce, to stifle emotion, sensitivity and gentleness. Today, a girl crosses the gender line — wears pants, plays baseball, likes science — with less fear of negative social repercussions, but a boy is still negatively scrutinized if he puts on a dress, plays with dolls, or takes ballet lessons.
“The practice of separating all people into two arbitrarily defined molds on the basis of sex alone,” WOWI concludes, “is the Procrustean bed of modern life. Those who do not fit are either stretched out or chopped up. We stretch our sons to fill the ideal dominant male role and fragment our daughters’ personalities to make them fit the servile female role. Both processes do violence to the individual. Each damaged person depletes the human resources of the whole society. How many damaged individuals can we afford?”
If only we’d all listen more keenly to the wisdom of our mothers.