“Most jury trials are contests between the rich and poor.”

Sometimes a critical analysis is simply unveiled to one. The quote in the title  is from the New Yorker (restricted online viewing); the speaker is Clarence Darrow, a famed defence attorney of the late 19th and early 20th century. I read that about an hour after I encountered this:

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is pulling together a crack team of investigators, former spies and media advisers to fight back against charges he sexually assaulted a hotel chambermaid.

The former IMF chief’s advisers will have their work cut out for them, and they may have to use different approaches to handling his legal problems in the United States while trying to bolster his reputation in his native France and beyond.

This may be why the range of damage-control specialists being assembled is so diverse. People consulted or hired so far include ex-CIA spies, experienced New York criminal investigators and some of the best-connected public relations specialists in the French-speaking world.

Changes to UK pension scheme

Reader N writes:

USS proposes to move new entrants to the profession from a final salary scheme to a career average (CARE) scheme. Even the Unions says that CARE per se is not a problem. However, CARE is almost certain to disproportionately dis-benefit women employees.

Many women have children in their twenties and thirties, with associated periods of maternity leave, which slows their promotions and hence their salary increases. They might hope to catch up with their male counter-parts by the end of their career (optimistic, I grant, but nevertheless possible), but it is fairly certain that even a woman/ mother who catches up will have a lower career average salary than a man/ father. Hence the move to the CARE scheme is likely to disadvantage women compared to men.

This raises several questions: Has anyone modelled/ investigated/ quantified the differential effects of CARE on men and women? Why are female academics not more outraged about the move to CARE? And is it even legal for the employer to implement a scheme that will systematically disadvantage women compared to their male counterparts?

Seems like a damn good point.

UK Forced Childbearing advocates adopt US tactics


A sleepy sidestreet near the centre of Maidstone may seem an unlikely frontline in the conflict that has bubbled away, usually with relative calm, since Britain legalised abortion in 1967.

But on a recent weekday afternoon in Kent’s county town, a group of a dozen anti-abortion protesters, led by a veteran of the movement in the US, began their latest “prayer vigil” directly across the road from a Marie Stopes clinic.


But this is a much less fundamentalist country than the US, and abortion doesn’t have the same history.  Still, I was rather surprised*  by the next thing I read:


Over the course of two hours, members of the group intercepted young women approaching the clinic from either end of the street to hand them literature and engage in conversation, while the protesters themselves became the target of shouts of “disgusting” and “shame” from angry passersby.


Hopefully this is indicative of the reception this tactic will have here.
For more, go here.  Thanks, Mr Jender!


*Not surprised by the sentiment.  Surprised by the British people shouting it out on the street.

Overt and covert misogyny

Melissa McEwan has a really interesting article on derogatory speech, specifically on MSNBC.  She criticises the way that individual words are focussed on: roughly, you can get away with almost anything as long as you don’t make assertions containing certain forbidden terms.  I’m a bit torn on this myself, because it’s much tougher to formulate easy to follow rules without focussing on specific terms.  And I worry about the chilling effect of unclear rules.  (Recall that perfectly legitimate, non-sexist criticisms of Sarah Palin were called sexist by her campaign.)

50 out of 14000

That’s the number of black British [full] professors in the UK.  Only one UK university has more than two.  The numbers improve a little if one includes black [full] professors from outside the UK: it’s 75.  The population of England and Wales, in case you’re wondering, is 2.8% black.  (I’ve no idea why the article gives England and Wales stats for this bit rather than UK.)  And 1.2% of academics overall are black.


The full article is here.  It’s pretty good article, though I would have like to see more explicit discussion of the harmful effects in terms of stereotype threat and implicit bias.  There’s a bit on the need for role models here, but that’s not quite the same.  I think the discussion of causes would also have benefited from more discussion of the psychology.



is philosophy Ageist?

I think been thinking for a while about references to age in philosophy blogs and web documents, but this particular post is a reaction to a comment by maenad on this post.**  I think the comment is important and it can focus our attention on a possible trend that might be significant and unfortunate.

First, though, let’s note that with any of the “isms” that label as discriminatory acts or attitudes, there is often some controversy over how conscious and intentional the phenomena have to be to get the label.  However, if we are talking about practical outcomes, rather than assigning blame, we might try to put the issues surrounding awareness to one side.  So this post is not about conscious ageism.

Some time in the mid to late 80’s it seemed to me that the philosophy profession had started to recognize that women might be able to do philosophy.  Before that it could be close to impossible to get called on at a meeting or to find people willing to engage one in a discussion that did not simply end up with one being lectured.  Then rather suddenly one started to hear female voices in non-feminist meetings.

There was a rub about the change, though.  It seemed to be assumed that what was really going on was that women who started philosophy around then could be called on.  Not so for the old hands. 

In this context it is very noticeable that now that members of the profession seem able and prepared to do something about the very considerable lack of justice for women in our profession, there is some Significant focus on young mwomen.  This reference to age is often completely explicit, and can come from both men and women.  And there may well be some good reasons for it.  The young are our future, young people are struggling, etc.  At the same it, this view leaves us with a profession that continues very considerable inequities for many women.

It may leave untouched many of the problems younger women will encounter further down the road. If I remember correctly, the STEM figures suggest that there’s a continous loss both of women and of opportunities for women as they age.  

Interestingly, the NSF Advance program, which has been a big factor in improving the representationof women in STEM fields,  has highlighted recovering the talented women who have for one reason or another been sidelined in  scientific research.   I am not sure what the reason for this move was, but it makes sense for any profession that has been unfriendly to women for so long.

** do note that the reference to young members of the profession was in a report being discussed. It is also not referring specificaly to women.

CNN: “Why Palin may be ready to jump in”

All I can say is, “JUMP! PLEASE JUMP!”

Of course, we may have to endure many cringe-fill moments. And repetitions of the all too obvious criticisms of her. Indeed, our decision in January to go along with the idea of a Palin-free February probably relieved a number of people, and it certainly meant fewer teeth-nashings were reported. And I don’t think I really could sit through a debate between her and Obama. Still, convervative politicians will see vividly the ideas they have encouraged in the US and may actually learn they don’t have a mandate to remark the country in the Tea Party’s image.

More seriously, the Republicans seem to be figuring out that getting rid of entitlement programs is going to be a hard sell. With Palin as candidate they may see that the fracturing they are doing is leaving them with a smaller share.

And if she gets elected, there’s always Canada! :)