Harvard Law Review Counsel Censors Footnote in Harvard Law Review Article on Censorship

In comments, Gin and Whiskey pointed out this gem from a Harvard Law Review article about censorship, “The Brave New World of Social Media Censorship.”

Note 8:
…see also Svetlana Mintcheva, post to Free Expression Network (Feb. 7, 2010) (in author’s files) (describing decision by domain Network Solutions to eject The File Room censorship archive because of a Nan Goldin photograph; the photograph in question shows two little girls playing; one is naked and her vulva can be seen. A link to the photograph on the File Room website has been deleted from this footnote, over the strenuous objection of the author, on the advice of counsel for the Harvard Law Review. Author’s note: that a link to an innocent photograph by one of the country’s major artists should be censored is evidence of both the danger and the absurdity of confusing images of children’s bodies with child pornography).

Posted in Free speech, censorship, copyright law, etc. | 4 Comments  

Geroge Will’s Preposterous Rape Math


One way unserious people tire you out is by taking 15 minutes to write something unserious. It takes you four hours to undo their ignorance.Ta-Nehisi Coates

In an amazingly bad column about campus rape, George Will discusses some statistics that the White House included in a recent report:1

The statistics are: One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college, and only 12 percent of assaults are reported. Simple arithmetic demonstrates that if the 12 percent reporting rate is correct, the 20 percent assault rate is preposterous. Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute notes, for example, that in the four years 2009 to 2012 there were 98 reported sexual assaults at Ohio State. That would be 12 percent of 817 total out of a female student population of approximately 28,000, for a sexual assault rate of approximately 2.9 percent — too high but nowhere near 20 percent.

In a later defense of his column, Will doubled down on Perry’s math:

I cited one of the calculations based on it that Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute has performed {link}. So, I think your complaint is with the conclusion that arithmetic dictates, based on the administration’s statistic. The inescapable conclusion is that another administration statistic that one in five women is sexually assaulted while in college is insupportable and might call for tempering your rhetoric about “the scourge of sexual assault.”

George Will defends his column based on the math. So it’s notable that Will’s math is wrong.

Will writes “One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college, and only 12 percent of assaults are reported.” Both statistics can be found on page 142 of the White House’s report on sexual assault on campus (pdf link), although they appear three paragraphs apart.

What Will neglects to tell his readers is that the “20%” and “12%” statistics come from different studies, and the two studies don’t define “sexual assault” the same way. The “20%” statistic,3 from a study published in the Journal of American College Health,4 includes both rape and sexual battery, and both attempted and completed assaults. In contrast, the “12%” statistic, from a study published by the National Crime Victim Research and Treatment Center,5 refers only to completed rapes.

That means the mathematical comparison Will makes is apples and oranges. The 20% statistic counts “A B C and D,” while the 12% statistic is looking only at “D.” What Will’s math does, when you boil it down, is point out that “A + B + C + D” is higher than “D,” and then claims that makes the statistics “preposterous.” Well, no, the statistics aren’t preposterous – George Will’s math is.

Furthermore, the “98 reported sexual assaults at Ohio State” figure Will uses as a basis of comparison (which comes from Mark Perry’s AIE blogpost) enormously undercounts sexual assaults reported by Ohio State students, because it only counts reported rapes that took place either on-campus or at a few select off-campus locations (such as an off-campus building run by the university or a recognized student organization). Notably, private residences are not included.6

But according to the Journal of American College Health study, 61-63% of sexual assaults took place off campus, most commonly in a private residence. Other studies have found similar numbers (for instance, this government study found that 66% of rapes of college women took place off campus). So it’s likely that most sexual assaults in the “20%” statistic wouldn’t be included in George Will’s “98 reported rapes” figure, even if they were reported to police.7

See also: Christie Wilcox at Discover Magazine makes some similar points, and tries to recreate George Will’s math using less dubious numbers.

P.S. I focus on the numbers in this post because I think this aspect has been undercovered. But there are many, many, many other blogs out there that have criticized Will’s awful column along other lines. To scratch the surface:

The conversation we need about our sexual culture – The Washington Post
George Will and Sexual Assault | Ordinary Times
Willful Offense | Ordinary Times
George Will defies description, and a holder of a “coveted status” responds
I was raped, and I stayed silent about my "coveted status."
A College Rape Survivor Responds To George Will’s "Coveted Status" Remarks | Blog | Media Matters for America
George Will’s distasteful conclusions about sexual assault – The Washington Post
George Will: Being a victim of sexual assault is a “coveted status that confers privileges” – Salon.com
ECHIDNE OF THE SNAKES: Being A Victim: A Coveted Status. Or So Writes George Will.
How Twitter voted #survivorprivilege off the island

And – to be fair – a good post by Conor Friedersdorf showing that many of the critiques of Will’s column have misread what Will was saying. But even read properly, Will’s column was pretty awful.

  1. The report was “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action.” []
  2. Or page 18, if you go by the pdf page numbers rather than the page numbers printed at the bottom. []
  3. It’s actually 19%, not 20%. []
  4. College Women’s Experiences with Physically Forced, Alcohol- or Other Drug-Enabled, and Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault Before and Since Entering College,” Journal of American College Health, Volume 57, Issue 6, May-June 2009. A detailed report from this study can be read here (pdf). []
  5. “Drug-facilitated, Incapacitated, and Forcible Rape: A National Study,” 2007. pdf link. []
  6. My source for this is a source Perry used: Ohio State University’s “2013 Annual Campus Security Report & Annual Fire Safety Report.” (Pdf link.) The relevant info is found on page 46 as the pdf program counts pages. []
  7. We also know from news reports that the Ohio campus cops sometimes declare reported rapes “unfounded.” I can’t tell if these “unfounded” reports are included in Will’s “98 reported rapes” number or not. []
Posted in Rape, intimate violence, & related issues | 11 Comments  

It’s Nice to Know Someone’s Doing Higher Education Right

Rebecca Schuman has a piece up on Slate, “Doing Higher Ed Right,” in which she writes about Iowa State University, which is “the only—only—institution of higher learning in the entire country to spend the last eight years hiring full-time faculty and shrinking its administration.” This is in contrast to, say, the University of Akron, which Schuman mentions in the same piece, which threatened “to shutter 55 degree programs—you know, frivolous ones, like elementary education” because of budget concerns and the vice provost of which, whose name is Rex Ramsier, suggested “that if his institution [had to stop] using underpaid adjunct labor, it would have to raise tuition 40 percent.”

It would be easy to go on and on about how college administrations have managed to increase tuition by an astonishing 1200% over the last thirty years, at least according to this piece in Salon, but, like Schuman, I think it’s important to focus on what Iowa State has done, and so I am simply going to quote a couple of paragraphs from her article:

ISU President Steven Leath explained to the Des Moines Register that ISU wanted to “run a very lean operation and put as much into direct support of students and faculty” as possible, boosting full-time faculty hiring by an astounding 41 percent. (No riot-inducing tuition hike yet, Rex Ramsier!)

Indeed, Iowa State is being lauded as one of the most efficiently run universities in the nation—and its student retention is up 3 percent since 2005. This might not be a spectacular number, but it’s a better increase than its rival, the University of Iowa, a prestigious flagship Research I institution (that, according to the Delta Costs Project, has added much fewer full-time faculty members and many more staff positions).

So yes, Virginia (and every other state), it is possible to put student learning and faculty quality first and for capitalism not to collapse upon itself. In fact, only question the ISU data inspires is: Why, exactly, isn’t every other university also doing this, when it is quite obviously not only possible, but makes for a better-run institution? Why indeed.


Posted in Education | 11 Comments  

Open Thread: Epistemology of Photocopiers Edition

  1. Hey, did anyone else watch season 4 of Game of Thrones? If so, what did you think? (Include spoiler warnings if necessary.)
  2. Jennifer Lawrence And The History Of Cool Girls. What Jennifer Lawrence and Clara Bow have in common. Long, but really interesting.
  3. Warren Farrell and other MRAs take note: A new study shows that conventionally good-looking women are attracted, not to big wallets, but to conventionally good-looking men. “…on average, high-status men do have better-looking wives, but this is because they themselves are considered better looking.” Although to be fair, the study’s subjects were only up to age 35, so wouldn’t include stereotypical “trophy wife” couples.
  4. Claire Hannum and Jesse Singal have good posts about sexism compromised previous “trophy wife” research, by in effect assuming that women didn’t have wealth and men didn’t have attractiveness.
  5. Anti-feminists claim that feminists want to receive rape threats.
  6. Border Patrol agents are mocking the child migrant crisis
  7. The sky remains in its non-falling state | The Incidental Economist In many ways, American kids are in great shape now.
  8. Nobody Expects The Genre Police! — Crooked Timber
  9. If the Las Vegas Killers Were Muslims, We’d Call Them Terrorists – Conor Friedersdorf – The Atlantic
  10. 8 conservatives who hated Obama for not releasing Bergdahl — and now hate Obama for freeing him
  11. Don’t Be a Sex-Positive Jerk | this ain’t livin’
  12. A bunch of those Tea Party groups the IRS examined, and then let off the hook, are obviously taking partisan positions and should be paying taxes.
  13. Ask An Elderly Black Woman As Depicted By A Sophomore Creative Writing Major | The Onion
  14. Chicago Cops Being Sued After Being Caught On Tape Physically And Verbally Abusing A Massage Parlor Employee | Techdirt
  15. The Scandal Of The GOP And Climate Change « The Dish
  16. There Is No Childhood Obesity Epidemic. So stop applauding Michelle Obama for reducing it!
  17. No, murder is not the No. 1 killer of pregnant women | PolitiFact Texas
  18. Catholicism’s Crimes Against Humanity
  19. Study links legislator support for voter ID laws and bias against Latino voters, as measured in their responses to constituent e-mails.
  20. 5 Exonerated in Central Park Jogger Case Agree to Settle Suit for $40 Million – NYTimes.com
  21. “I would rather be amongst city traffic and the noise of man, than amongst forest animals and the sounds of nature.”
  22. Korean toilet unclogger
  23. I Repeat, If We Tell You It’s A Slur Word, Don’t Use It | TransGriot
  24. Obesity research confirms long-term weight loss almost impossible – Health – CBC News
  25. Mitch McConnell: Repeal Obamacare, except maybe keep everything it does in Kentucky.
  26. Why License a Florist? – NYTimes.com “If both the left and right oppose more occupational regulation, why is it growing?”
  27. Speaking of occupational regulation and racism: Arkansas Hair Braiders File Civil Rights Lawsuit Against State | Braiding Freedom
  28. Building the ultimate Solar System part 5 | planetplanet
  29. You Say “Tomato” and I’ll Say “Sequester” A blogger disagrees with me, in a post that I agree with 80% of.
  30. Sometimes I just stare at Jaime Hernandez’s cartooning and drool with awe, part 1.
  31. Sometimes I just stare at Jaime Hernandez’s cartooning and drool with awe, part 2.
  32. Fannie’s Room: Obvious News: Female Construction Workers Harassed, MRAs Do Nothing
  33. These 3D models of life masks made of Lincoln are really, really cool. Also, as someone (Scalzi?) pointed out on Twitter, in the first mask, Lincoln looks amazingly like Patrick Stewart.
  34. 5 Romantic Comedies That Won’t Make You Feel Like A Bad Feminist | Thought Catalog
  35. We’re losing all our Strong Female Characters to Trinity Syndrome / The Dissolve
  36. Our politics is becoming, not just more divided than ever, but more hateful than ever.
  37. Sociological Images – A new study finds that users of classified ads discriminate against people perceived as black.
  38. Every culture looks for creative inspiration to other cultures, but is there a point when this is just outright theft? – Nabeelah Jaffer – Aeon
  39. Colleges Silence and Fire Faculty Who Speak Out About Rape.
  40. The only ‘privilege’ afforded to campus rape victims is actually surviving | Jessica Valenti
  41. Rethinking the Plight of Conservatives in Higher Education | AAUP A study by a Republican finds virtually no direct discrimination against conservatives in academia.
  42. The Root Bridges of Cherrapunji. Century-old bridges made up of still-living tree roots. So cool!


(Photocopier video via Feminist Critics.)

Posted in Link farms | 57 Comments  

Writing a Poem is a Confrontation with the Unknowable

It’s been a long time since I believed in a god like the biblical one I learned as a child that I was supposed to love and fear, respect and obey. I’ve written a little bit about why I stopped believing, and I’ve written out of, though I have not precisely named, my deep sense of irony at having become a translator of Sufi poetry, which concerns itself almost solely with how to reach that kind of god through love. I have not, however, written anything about the process of trying to make sing in English a poetry rooted in something that I do not feel—though I suppose the phrase “do not feel” is not entirely accurate.

When I was a young teenager, I knew I wanted to be a religious Jew, and I was pretty sure I wanted to be a rabbi. In pursuit of this ambition, I left public school after 7th grade and attended the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County (HANC), an orthodox Jewish day school that had a program for kids like me who came from non-religious homes. While my years at HANC eventually cured me of my religious yearnings—something I will write about another time—I do remember what it felt like to want to be religious, to be close to God (which I am capitalizing here because that is his name in English), and to live a life infused with the meaning of that closeness.

One of the lessons I learned at HANC that has remained with me all these years is the importance of performing religious obligations with kavana,with the appropriate intent. I don’t think of it in religious terms anymore, but it does matter to me as a poet, not because I think of poetry as my religion, but because, for me, writing a poem is a confrontation with the absolutely unknowable, with what it is impossible to express fully in language, in a way that feels analogous to what I imagined a confrontation with God would be like when I believed in him, and so perhaps it is also analogous to what that confrontation is for those who believe in him now. The nature of one’s intent in pursuing this confrontation matters, I think, because intent inevitably shapes content.

A Sufi might say that finding this analogy is a first step along the path—“path” being the metaphor the Sufis use for the process of achieving enlightenment—and I would probably answer that I do not consider myself a seeker in those terms. Nonetheless, it is this analogy that has allowed me to appreciate both the wisdom and the beauty in Sa’di’s overtly religious poetry and to find the words within myself to help those poems to sing in English. Here is the beginning of this week’s Sa’di Says, the passage illustrated in the picture above, which is from an Indian manuscript of Sa’di’s Golestan:

A man of God immersed himself in meditation. When he emerged from the vision that was granted him, a smiling companion welcomed him back, “What beautiful gift have you brought us from the garden in which you were walking?”

To read the rest, click here.


Posted in Religion, Writing | 1 Comment  

An apology for that time a left-winger somewhere on the internet was mean to you.


On another thread, “lseter” wrote:

What I find funny on certain websites is that they will go to great pains to outdo one another in showing their sensitivity. They provide detailed triggering warnings for any possible thing that anyone could be sensitive to, they only use politically correct words and they otherwise go overboard in showing they they are truly good, kind people.

Until someone says something that goes against their ideology. That person is then targeted with vile abuse and smears. Anything and everything they can try to do to hurt that person on-line.

I experienced that way back when the first news reports came out about the Duke “rape” case years ago. I didn’t go with the flow (and most rational people today agree that was correct), but I was clearly a rapist defending the right of entitled, privileged white boys to go around raping anyone they wanted. No holds barred as to the abuse.

I feel awful about your bad experience with left-wingers somewhere on the internet, both recently, and back in 2006 when the Duke false rape accusation was in the news and no one in the entire world other than you expressed any skepticism about the accusations. Thank you for taking your complaint to me here, on this blog, on a thread where your story of woe was entirely off-topic.

I have been honored to hear from many conservatives over the years about times they have been treated badly by liberals merely for asking sensible questions or bringing a bit of logic into the discussion. I tremble with shame to think that unnamed left-wingers on the internet have sometimes been rude while disagreeing about politics. If only everyone could be as kind, polite and considerate in disagreement as conservatives always are, without fail, no exceptions ever.

And now, I will start to make things right. Speaking for all left-wingers everywhere, I humbly apologize for your bad experience.

A few minutes ago, I tore holes in all my clothing to symbolize my abject regret for the rudeness you experienced. I then whipped myself bloody with a rolled-up copy of The National Review dipped in vinegar, before placing my laptop on the floor so I could crawl to it on my belly and type this post. I sincerely hope my rather over-the-top groveling has brought you enough satisfaction so that you can finally put being disagreed with in 2006 behind you, and will no longer feel the impulse to bring it up out of the blue on random liberal blogs.

If any left-winger somewhere on the internet is ever mean to you again, I hope you will once again bring a report of the incident to my blog, even if it is five or ten years from now. This is what I’m here for.

Posted in Whatever | 26 Comments  

Being Cautious of Men Versus Being Cautious of Blacks

Posted in Feminism, sexism, etc, Race, racism and related issues | 79 Comments  

Wow, Is This Cartoon From The Good Men Project Bad

(Quick note regarding the use of “fat” and “ugly” in this post: There’s nothing wrong with being “fat,” nor is being fat “ugly,” nor is there anything wrong with being “ugly,” for that matter.1 But within this cartoon, “fat” and “ugly” are clearly meant pejoratively, and that’s what I’m responding to.)


The above cartoon, by Justin Hubbell, comes from The Good Men Project.

My friend Ozy, discussing the “neckbeard” stereotype (which, appallingly, is frequently used by some online feminists) said:

Neckbeards are basically as misogynistic as anyone else; it is dangerous to pretend that high-status and popular and pretty people cannot be misogynists; yr ableism and fatphobia and lookism are showing.

This cartoon has the same flaw.

Plus, the gag is poorly thought out: the characters says a woman is a “fat ugly whore,” while in real life he himself is fat and ugly. Get it? Get it? He’s a hypocrite! Hoo hoo ha ha!

But wait: if hypocrisy is why it’s wrong to call woman “fat ugly whores,” that implies such misogynistic asshattery is acceptable when it comes from the thin and handsome. Although he probably intended to draw an anti-misogyny cartoon, Hubbell actually drew an anti-unattractive2 misogynists cartoon.

  1. And yes, I noticed and winced at the “last acceptable form of discrimination” subheadline at that link. Sigh. []
  2. For conventional ideas of what “attractive” means. []
Posted in Fat, fat and more fat | 22 Comments  

I Have a Tumblr…

saadi-for-presentationIt’s called Sa’di Says and I will posting to it excerpts from my translations of Sa’di, the 13th century Persian poet, which were originally published by Global Scholarly Publications in two separate volumes, Selections from Saadi’s Gulistan andSelections from Saadi’s BustanBoth books have been out of print for quite a few years now, and GSP has no plans to do a second printing of either, which I think is a shame. Sa’di’s work is not just beautiful in its own right; it also has a lot to say to us today. (One day I should write about my experience working with GSP; it is a cautionary tale worth telling.)

My books were published in 2004 and 2006 respectively, and I have learned a lot since then about the act of translation itself, the particular politics that attach to the translation of classical Iranian poetry (including the politics of choosing to call it Iranian versus Persian poetry, or vice versa), about classical Iranian literature in general, about the Sufi tradition within which Sa’di wrote, and about Sa’di himself. All of this has convinced me that it’s time to look at my translations again, with an eye towards publishing a “selected” volume, one that includes poems from bothBustan and Golestan—right there, in fact, in my use of Golestan instead ofGulistan, and in the way I have started spelling Sa’di’s name, is one of the things I have learned: don’t trust systems of transliteration that are more than 100 years old. That may seem like a minor point, but since questions of pronunciation inevitably become questions of history and politics—and, in the case of Iran, orientalism and imperialism—it is a point worth paying attention to.

I may decide to write more about such issues, but, for now, I just want to focus on sharing some of the translations themselves. Sa’di Says is here. I hope you will click on over to check it out, that you will follow me if you are on Tumblr, share the work you think is worth sharing, and let me know what you think as well. Here’s the first part of the most recent post, just to give you a taste:

A Wealthy Man Will Find it Hard to Die

I overheard a rich man’s son and a poor man’s son arguing as they stood near the grave of the wealthier boy’s father. “My father’s coffin,” the rich boy was saying, “is made of the finest stone and his epitaph has been carved in the most elegant script. He has a marble gravestone decorated with a mosaic of turquoise-like stones. Your father’s grave, on the other hand, is nothing more than two bricks pushed together with two handfuls of mud thrown over them.”

To read the rest, click here.

(It’s been a long time, I know, since I have posted anything here on Alas, either in blog posts or comments, but I am hoping that some changes I have made in my life, personally and professionally—I am no longer my union’s communications coordinator, for example—will give me more time to devote to my own writing, including blogging, which I have been missing a lot.)

Posted in Iran, Writing | Leave a comment  

Quote: Blackness’ first and most important task


Naval officer Theodore R. Johnson:

This is what it feels like to be black in America. It sounds like the symphony of locking car doors as I traipse through a grocery store parking lot, armed with kale chips and turkey bacon. It looks like smiling when I don’t feel like it. It’s the instinct to enunciate differently, to use acceptable methods of signaling that I am safe to engage, or at least to disregard. “We wear the mask that grins and lies,” wrote the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. I feel that mask covering my soul, never allowing me to just freely exist.

I could argue that any negative reaction to my skin is a problem for others to grapple with and of no concern to me. I’ve tried that approach before; one memorable attempt ended with me being pulled out of my car by two police officers and handcuffed for the felonious infractions of having a blown headlight and insufficient self-abasement. It is an unspoken rule that blackness’ first and most important task is to make everyone feel safe from it. We ignore this mandate at our own peril, realizing that a simple misunderstanding is a life or death proposition.

Jonathan Ferrell ran towards police seeking help after a car accident and was given a hail of bullets for his troubles. Renisha McBride went in search of a Good Samaritan after her accident and a shotgun blast answered her knock. Teenager Trayvon Martin walked home with candy and tea and was greeted by the nervous trigger finger wrapped in an adult’s gun. Jordan Davis sat in a car outside a convenience store listening to music and a man who objected to the volume cut his life short with the boom of a firearm. The principal crime all of them committed, like countless others over the centuries, was being black and not sufficiently prostrating themselves to ensure the comfort of others.

Posted in Race, racism and related issues | 32 Comments