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Katha Pollitt takes on the LA Times' "Women Are Dumb" editorial

Dumb and Dumber: An Essay and Its Editors - washingtonpost.com

Oh, gag me with a spoon. Sure, girly culture can be silly -- but what does that prove? It's not as though men spend their evenings leafing through the plays of Moliere. Susie whips up doggy treats, Mike surfs porn sites; she curls up with the Friday Night Knitting Club, he watches football. Or maybe the two of them watch "Grey's Anatomy" together -- surprise, surprise, about half the show's audience is male. If you go by cultural preferences, actually, you could just as well claim that women are obviously smarter than men -- look around you at the museum, the theater, the opera house, the ballet, the concert hall. Women read more than men, too, especially fiction, which men tend to avoid. (A story about things that didn't happen? How does that work?) Women even read fiction by men and about men, further evidence of their imaginative powers -- while men, if they do pick up a novel, make sure it's estrogen-free. Who's really the dim bulb, the woman who doesn't see the beauty of "Grand Theft Auto," or the man who thinks Tom Clancy is a great writer?

For Allen, it's definitely the woman: her brain is just too puny. She cannot mentally rotate three-dimensional objects in space -- and that, as we all know, is the very definition of smarts. Funny how that definition keeps changing, as women conquer field after field that was supposed to be beyond them. In the 19th century, physicians insisted women couldn't cope with college: studying would send rushing to their brains the blood that was needed for the womb. Back then, nobody credited women with the superior verbal abilities and memories Allen says scientists now find women to possess.

True to form, she dismisses these as minor talents that only helped her "coast" through school and life. But back when the experts were explaining why women couldn't be lawyers or professors or poets (at least not very good poets), nobody said verbal skills and memory were trivial; they only became trivial when women were found to excel at them. Now the sexists diss women as inferior mental-object-rotators. I have no idea whether this is true, and whether if so it's unchangeable, but you have to admit this is a very narrow scrap of turf on which to plant the flag of manly superiority.

The writers of The Wire discuss the drug war

The Wire s War on the Drug War - TIME

The drug war has ravaged law enforcement too. In cities where police agencies commit the most resources to arresting their way out of their drug problems, the arrest rates for violent crime — murder, rape, aggravated assault — have declined. In Baltimore, where we set The Wire, drug arrests have skyrocketed over the past three decades, yet in that same span, arrest rates for murder have gone from 80% and 90% to half that. Lost in an unwinnable drug war, a new generation of law officers is no longer capable of investigating crime properly, having learned only to make court pay by grabbing cheap, meaningless drug arrests off the nearest corner.

What the drugs themselves have not destroyed, the warfare against them has. And what once began, perhaps, as a battle against dangerous substances long ago transformed itself into a venal war on our underclass. Since declaring war on drugs nearly 40 years ago, we've been demonizing our most desperate citizens, isolating and incarcerating them and otherwise denying them a role in the American collective. All to no purpose. The prison population doubles and doubles again; the drugs remain.

Our leaders? There aren't any politicians — Democrat or Republican — willing to speak truth on this. Instead, politicians compete to prove themselves more draconian than thou, to embrace America's most profound and enduring policy failure.

Here is their advice for what citizens can do to fight the drug war:

If asked to serve on a jury deliberating a violation of state or federal drug laws, we will vote to acquit, regardless of the evidence presented. Save for a prosecution in which acts of violence or intended violence are alleged, we will — to borrow Justice Harry Blackmun's manifesto against the death penalty — no longer tinker with the machinery of the drug war. No longer can we collaborate with a government that uses nonviolent drug offenses to fill prisons with its poorest, most damaged and most desperate citizens.

Jury nullification is American dissent, as old and as heralded as the 1735 trial of John Peter Zenger, who was acquitted of seditious libel against the royal governor of New York, and absent a government capable of repairing injustices, it is legitimate protest. If some few episodes of a television entertainment have caused others to reflect on the war zones we have created in our cities and the human beings stranded there, we ask that those people might also consider their conscience. And when the lawyers or the judge or your fellow jurors seek explanation, think for a moment on Bubbles or Bodie or Wallace. And remember that the lives being held in the balance aren't fictional.

(via Pandagon)

March 06, 2008

Ironywatch: Prejudice Blossoms Into Affirmative Action

Getting In: The New Yorker Malcolm Gladwell reveals that the...