January 31, 2008
A few posts I've meant to link to for some time:
Kat is engaging in some local citizen journalism in Virginia.
Fbl interviews a Colonel.
Canadian border farmers say it's not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, animal-rights activists, and Unitarians crossing their fields at night. "I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood producer huddled in the barn," said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield, whose acreage borders North Dakota. "The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry. He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken. When I told him I didn't have any, he left. Didn't even get a chance to show him my screenplay, eh?"
I'll keep updating this but I'm going to be snowed under for a while. Please be patient.
Berkeley: Marines "Unwelcome, Uninvited Intruders"
The half vast editorial staff are delighted to announce that Day 2 of Berkeley, California's increasingly popular Swarming of the Moonbats (a fresh and funky local tourist attraction based on Pamplona, Spain's Running of the Bulls) is in full swing! Scores of brave moonbats are expected to hit the streets in noisy solidarity, determined to protect gullible American youth from the lying lies of The BusHitler and Dick Cheney's oil-grubbing capitalist cronies!
But more importantly, these courageous moonbats are doing the good citizens of Berkeley an important service by shielding them from the tiresome freedom of choice that comes with living in a pluralistic, democratic society! After all it can be so wearisome, having to read newspapers, listen to the alternatives, and evaluate the information provided before making a career choice. And what if one makes the wrong choice and decides to become a murdering traitor instead of a peace loving, responsible child of our Mother Gaia?
Nay, do not think of such an atrocity! It takes a village to raise a child.
Should the good people of Berkeley have to bear the oppressive weight of thinking for themselves! Not if the City Council has anything to say about it! Code Pink will relieve them of this odious burden. This is, after all, the true essence of "freedom" from fear:
Members of the Berkeley City Council showed their opposition to a Marine Corps recruiting office in Downtown Berkeley last night.
Council members supported the two resolutions-one supporting anti-war protests and the other criticizing military recruitment practices-citing opposition to the war in Iraq, deceptive recruitment practices and the right to protest.
"By taking a stand against recruitment we are protecting the health and safety of our youth," said PhoeBe sorgen, a member of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission. "I see the protest as taking a proud and courageous stand."
Code Pink, a national anti-war grassroots organization, will be granted a parking spot for their regular Wednesday afternoon protests and will not need to apply for a sound permit for the next six months, under one resolution.
The other resolution more directly criticizes the presence of the center in Berkeley. The city manager was directed to send a letter to the U.S. Marine Corps saying they are "uninvited and unwelcome intruders" in the city.
In addition, the city attorney has been directed to investigate whether the city's anti-discrimination laws can be enforced at the center, based on the military's consideration of sexual orientation in hiring.
A bold and courageous stand indeed. The City Council will bravely show their utter condemnation of discrimination... by openly singling out the Marine Corps for discrimination and allowing city-sanctioned harassment intended to drive them from property they have rented. Melanie Morgan of Move America Forward comments:
"This whole thing strikes me as discriminatory against poor, middle class, people of color, both black and brown, who come out of the military more prosperous than when they went in," said Melanie Morgan, the chairwoman of Move America Forward, a grass-roots, pro-troops organization with more than a million members nationwide. Morgan also has a conservative talk show on KSFO.
"They are making it more difficult for these young people to succeed in society by denying them easy access to the military recruitment procedure," she said.
Sgt. Rafael Peralta didn't have to become a United States Marine. And he didn't have to go to war. That's just the kind of man he was.
He joined the Marine Corps the day after he received his green card. On the walls of his bedroom, there were only three items: the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and his boot camp graduation certificate. You can see the mind of this hero in his letters he diligently wrote home to his younger brother and sister. Before he left America, he wrote his 14-year old brother Ricardo,
"be proud of me, bro...and be proud of being an American."
Ricardo and his sister would receive another letter from their brother:
"I was just doing my homework and there was a knock on the door," said Ricardo Peralta, 14. "The moment I saw them, I knew."
In his letter to Ricardo, Rafael said he was doing something he had always wanted to do. He asked Ricardo to be proud of him because the Marines were making history in Iraq.
Rafael had been killed during an assault on Fallujah.
His body took most of the blast. One Marine was seriously injured, but the rest sustained only minor shrapnel wounds. Cpl. Brannon Dyer told a reporter from the Army Times, "He saved half my fire team."
Most Americans have never heard of Rafael Peralta, and they never will.
In past wars, he would have been a hero. His name would have been a household word, his deeds an inspiration to small boys, their eyes growing wide with amazement at his sacrifice. The chests of old men would have puffed out in pride. Crusty veterans would have stood a bit taller, remembering their own service. Women would have grown misty-eyed, and young girls would have laid flowers on his grave, wiping away a tear as they dreamed of handsome heroes.
But they will never hear of him - his voice has been silenced. The mainstream media does not consider the sacrifices of men like Sgt. Rafael Peralta "newsworthy". The mainstream media do not seem interested in talking to Sgt. Peralta's family. Instead, we get to hear about Cindy Sheehan all day, every day.
The word "respect" figures prominently in the rhetoric of the city council. Council members would like the Marine Corps to "respect" their wishes, yet they show little respect for the intelligence of their own citizens or the young men and women of this nation:
Berkeley Councilmember Dona Spring said she supports the wording of the initiative, but said she would prefer the issue be passed by council so it can be enacted faster rather than waiting for the initiative to be placed on the ballot in November.
"I think we should just go ahead and pass it," she said. "We can't take everything to the voters."
But some proponents are hesitant to pass the ordinance through the council because they feel it might be watered down by other council members.
It is not respectful of voter intent to pass initiatives behind closed doors, and it is not respectful of the intelligence of young men and women to deny them the opportunity to make free choices. The Constitution guarantees groups like Code Pink the right of peaceful assembly and the right to distribute literature countering any information they believe may be "deceptive". Certainly our information age, not to mention the liberal atmosphere of Berkeley, offers plentiful opportunities to rebut the Marine Corps message without trying to silence it entirely. To do so is not just misguided; it is downright un-American. One can't help but wonder what other establishments Berkeley would allow to be so treated?
The city council, which is backed by the activist group Code Pink, hopes the bi-annual Swarming of the Moonbats will succeed in driving the Marine Corps out of Berkeley forever:
While the proposed initiative would not have a direct impact on the current military recruiting center, Zanne Joi, a CodePINK activist, said she hopes it would create enough political pressure to drive it out of Berkeley.
"There are many other convenient places for the Marines to be where they are wanted. We are asking the military to respect the people of Berkeley," she said.
But do the people of Berkeley respect the rights of their own citizens to make free choices? It would seem not, if their idea of peaceful protest is to grant unusual exemptions to activist groups who have illegally defaced public property in the past with the intent of driving a legally sanctioned activity out of town on a rail. Is this the much vaunted "tolerance" and respect for alternative lifestyles we hear so much about from the progressive crowd? Judging from the quote of one local business owner, it doesn't sound that way:
Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, who voted against both resolutions, said perpetuating the conflict in front of the center would harm nearby businesses.
Ziba Fanaian, manager of Z & S Beauty Studio, said the anti-war activists are disruptive when they create noise and block the sidewalk.
"Sometimes it is very crowded," she said. "It is not easy for us, for business."
But then, as another City Council member commented, apparently on the streets of Berkeley, not everyone has the right to equal access and equal protection of the law:
"The Marines ought to have better sense than to come here," Olds said.
In the city of Berkeley, apparently having the "correct" opinions matters a great deal. Otherwise, you get run out of town by
an unruly mob the City Council.
Update: I've always loved this picture. I had swiped it from Deb at Marine Corps Moms a long time ago, but I deleted too many posts from my archives and have no idea which post it was on.
If you've spent any time around Marines, there is just something about it that tugs at your heart.
I always feel a bit presumptuous about writing about these guys. I didn't know Sergeant Peralta. I don't want to politicize his death. Lord knows, I can't speak for him. No one, least of all me, has that right.
At the same time, I think it important that his heroism not be forgotten. As for what was in his heart, we have his own words:
"Tomorrow, at 19:00 hours (7 p.m.), we are going to declare war in the holy city of Fallujah," Peralta wrote to Ricardo, 14. "We are going to defeat the insurgents. Watch the news, it's going to be all over. Be proud of me, bro, I'm going to make history and do something that I always wanted to do."
This excerpt from a letter sent by Sgt. Rafael Peralta was received by his younger brother, Ricardo, one day after the Peralta family learned that their Marine was killed in action on November 16, 2004. It was his first and last letter to his brother and after he mailed it, Sgt. Peralta indeed made history as one more in a long line of Marine Corps heroes. His final act of bravery saved the lives of his brother Marines at the cost of his own. It will be retold by future generations of Devil Dogs who will privately wonder if they could ever measure up to this example of selfless service.
A news account sums up what happened next:
Peralta, 25, as platoon scout, wasn't even assigned to the assault team that entered the insurgent safe house in northern Fallujah, Marines said. Despite an assignment that would have allowed him to avoid such dangerous duty, he regularly asked squad leaders if he could join their assault teams, they said.
One of the first Marines to enter the house, Peralta was wounded in the face by rifle fire from a room near the entry door, said Lance Cpl. Adam Morrison, 20, of Tacoma, who was in the house when Peralta was first wounded.
Moments later, an insurgent rolled a fragmentation grenade into the area where a wounded Peralta and the other Marines were seeking cover.
As Morrison and another Marine scrambled to escape the blast, pounding against a locked door, Peralta grabbed the grenade and cradled it into his body, Morrison said. While one Marine was badly wounded by shrapnel from the blast, the Marines said they believe more lives would have been lost if not for Peralta's selfless act.
"He saved half my fire team," said Cpl. Brannon Dyer, 27, of Blairsville, Ga.
How can anyone not honor such a man?
Sgt. Peralta finished his letter to his younger brother:
"Just think about God and we will all be together again," he wrote. "If anything happens to me, just remember I lived my life to the fullest and I'm happy with what I lived."
I have nothing but contempt for the City Council of Berkeley.
January 30, 2008
FOOLS!!! VILE UNBELIEVERS!!!!!
I curse every last one of you with my powerful Mitt Romney mojo...
May your stomachs roast in Hell for all eternity!
John McCain is not within a Thousand Miles of the GOP Nomination! I tell you, his bowels will melt with fear when Governor Romney unveils his enormously potent economic stimulus package!
No, I am not scared, and neither should you be! Already the McCain campaign staff have begun to commit suicide by the thousands. Let the infidel press wallow in their transparent lies - when Governor Romney ascends to the Oval Office he will behead them all!
They are becoming hysterical. That is what happens when old chickens come home to roost.
Berkeley: Marine Recruiters = Porn
"In the same way that many communities limit the location of pornographic stores, that's the same way we feel about the military recruiting stations," said PhoeBe sorgen [sic], an initiative proponent and a member of the city's Peace and Justice Commission. "Teenagers that really want to find them will be able to seek them out and find them, but we don't want them in our face."
You may recall that Michelle Malkin covered the defacement of the Marine Corps recruiting station in Berkeley by Code Pink last October:
“If there are to be no wars, there can be no warriors,” said Dianne Budd, one of the organizers.
“We found out a few days ago and decided to make their lives miserable,” she said, pinning up “RECRUITERS LIE, CHILDREN DIE” posters on the office windows. “We want people to know that it’s here and we want to shut them down. If people had been in there we were ready to hand out information about GI rights. We just want to speak the truth.”
Apparently it wasn't enough for Code Pink to deface private property. Now, some activists are trying to rush the measure through before it can be placed before the voters in November, claiming they need to "protect" the city's youth. Just what they are protecting youth from is unclear... perhaps the evil influence of the voters of the city of Berkeley?
Or the meddling of the city council, who might be tempted to "water down" the measure if they are allowed the chance to interfere?
In response to a Marine Corps recruiting office established in Berkeley last year, local activists are trying to make it more difficult for future recruiting centers to open in the city.
If passed by a majority of Berkeley voters, a proposed initiative would require military recruiting offices and private military companies in Berkeley to first acquire a special use permit.
To obtain this permit, a business must hold public hearings and a public comment period.
If the initiative passes, recruitment offices could not be opened within 600 feet of residential districts, public parks, public health clinics, public libraries, schools or churches.
Currently, a recruiting office is held to the same standards as most other businesses, which do not require a public hearing or have limits on where offices can be established.
The primary purpose of the new zoning law would be to protect young people from undue influence from military recruiters, supporters say.
"We feel that as a community we need to protect the youth," Adams said. "We're trying to level the playing field."
Berkeley Councilmember Dona Spring said she supports the wording of the initiative, but said she would prefer the issue be passed by council so it can be enacted faster rather than waiting for the initiative to be placed on the ballot in November.
"I think we should just go ahead and pass it," she said. "We can't take everything to the voters."
But some proponents are hesitant to pass the ordinance through the council because they feel it might be watered down by other council members.
What these activists seem determined to do, is to "protect" the youth of Berkeley from the dangerous influence of democracy and freedom of speech.
Liberal fascists, indeed.
I'll say one thing about this man.
He uses his tongue purtier than a twenty-dollar whore, don't he?
January 29, 2008
Sometimes You're The Windshield...
Sometimes you're the Louisville Slugger
Sometimes you're the ball
Sometimes it all comes together
Sometimes you're gonna lose it all
You gotta know happy - you gotta know glad
Because you're gonna know lonely
And you're gonna know sad
When you're rippin' and you're ridin'
And you're coming on strong
You start slippin' and slidin'
And it all goes wrong because
Sometimes you're the windshield
Sometimes you're the bug
Sometimes it all comes together baby
Sometimes you're just a fool in love
A while back, SpouseBUZZ hosted a terrific series of discussions about the role of government in mitigating the stress of deployments on military families. In many ways, the discussion typified what I love most about the Internet: its amazing ability to connect like minded people. Over the past four years I've met so many fantastic and energetic people through blogging. They've enriched my life in ways to numerous to list here.
I was reminded of that discussion because this weekend, in many ways, turned out to be a microcosm of the challenges and emotions encountered by military families during a typical deployment. Within the space of a few short days, I found myself experiencing the satisfaction of taking on a challenge and overcoming it, pride, joy in giving back (if only in a small way) to my own community, the fun of meeting other military family members, a touch of sadness, a moment of despair and even self-pity, a stab of panic.
For a moment, I felt like I was completely alone and not even the dog loved me :p
I experienced total exhaustion. I got through the work day, and then I just broke down and cried like a baby. I don't do that very often. My dog woke up and came over to sit in my lap.
I took a bubble bath. Bubble baths and a conversation with a dear friend will fix anything.
It all started on Saturday morning with the blog princess deciding to play Mrs. Fixit:
While Hillary Clinton attempts to storm the Oval Office, some of her less renowned sisters are busy liberating one of the few other remaining male strongholds: the hardware store. Strange as it sounds in a country still steeped in Tim Allen reruns, gals are becoming fix-it guys. And at least in some places tools are replacing brass-studded leather totes as the newest female life-style accessory.
The home-improvement industry has always been a no-woman's land known for its drab aisles lined with nail bins and mysterious steel objects whose purpose was understood only by grunting guys in flannel shirts. Now it is going designer pink. Companies such as Tomboy Tools, Barbara K Enterprises and Girlgear Industries are offering the female do-it-yourselfer fabulous pink hammers and saws in stores and on the Web. These items usually fit snugly inside a smart satchel of the same hue, the tool box as it might be interpreted by Sarah Jessica Parker. Tomboy Trades, a Canadian concern, has also recently introduced adorable pink work boots; they also come in stylish, but less assertively girly, red, blue and green. Pink or blue, these boots are made for workin'.
There has been an explosion of womantargeted self-help books, videos, radio shows (including one called "A Repair to Remember"), TV spots and home-improvement Web sites. Some sites -- including bejane.com and toolgirl.com -- are specifically for women, while others offer female-friendly links and columns. Home Depot has introduced "Do It Herself" clinics for women interested in learning how to use a stud finder; the classes are evidently a success since, as NPR has reported, in some locales the store is becoming known as a hot singles spot. Even schoolgirls are joining the revolution. The Girl Scouts now offer a Ms. Fix-It badge for members eager to learn how to rewire a lamp or fix a leaky toilet, and an outfit called Vermont Work for Women has introduced a summer program called Rosie's (as in Rosie the Riveter) Girls promising "hands on instruction in the skilled trades."
The Princess differs in one important respect from this model: NO PINK TOOLS! She abhors pink. Craftsman tools only, please. But she has been diligently working on our basement all year. This is a task of Herculean proportions; something on the level of cleaning out the Augean stables. Over the years the Spousal Unit and I have somehow accumulated not only the fruits of our joint labors, but the cast offs of two sets of deceased grandparents, both sets of in-laws, and our supposedly grown progeny. Consequently, the floor of our entire unfinished basement, when the Unit left for Baghdad last winter, was completely covered with packed boxes we had no room for in our much-smaller house plus a great deal of furniture there's no room for upstairs. My mission: create some order out of this mess or get rid of it.
I set off for Costco and the hardware store in my trusty Mazda CX7, first scoring a sexy rolling tool chest for my husband on legs that I'd been eyeing for some time. Took some doing to wrestle it into the car. Nearly broke my back, but eventually I got that done. Off to Target to buy these Rubbermaid shelf/drawer/cabinet units I'd seen the last week, plus a golf bag rack and a laundry separator and some other Necessary Items. As the Princess left Target with boxes neatly stacked (she kids you not) nearly 9 feet high on top of her one cart, people turned to stare at her in the parking lot. But the boxes are heavy and what's more important, they're scientifically stacked. Also they are the same size so she's confident (!) they won't fall on her curly little head and squish her like a bug.
I get to my car without dying. This elderly black gentleman eyes me quizzically and offers to help me load my car, after watching me ungracefully wrestle the boxes off the cart. Reluctantly, after realizing I don't have the upper body strength to lever the heaviest box into the front seat diagonally by myself, I gratefully thank him.
It won't fit...by 1/2 inch. I realize I have to completely unpack the back and start over, so I grovel profusely, send him on his way with my thanks, and start over. 5 minutes later I'm on my way home. There is no oxygen in the car as every spare inch is taken up by boxes.
I get home, somehow manage to get everything but the tool cart into the house, and collapse. Put a movie in. Four hours and two movies later, my living room is a disaster but everything is assembled. I check my email and there's a message from my husband. I spend an hour on the phone with him and go to bed at about 1:30.
Sunday morning: I wake up feeling like someone has beaten me to death with a baseball bat. I have a few hours to make finger foods for the Marine Moms Bethesda luncheon at Bethesda Naval Hospital. I slam down a pile of pills and several cups of coffee and get to work, then run out the door and begin my usual driving-like-a-bat-out-of-Hell-down-270 routine.
The luncheon is wonderful. The Marine moms are like a well oiled machine - poetry in motion. The theme is football, and these ladies have every detail nailed down. They are making fruit smoothies for the vets and people are popping in (both the vets and the hospital staff) asking about them. Obviously the word has gotten out that the smoothies are the shnizzle.
The families are visibly touched that anyone cares enough to do this for them. I am humbled by the amount of love and care these ladies put into these luncheons. I don't have the pictures from this month's luncheon, but this will give you an idea of how professional they look. Every vet and family got a personalized gift bag and T-shirt. There were even some cosmetic goodies for the wives. One very young wife, whose husband couldn't walk down to get a plate, just kept saying "I can't believe you all are doing this - thanks".
I would have driven twice the distance, just for that. These ladies are absolutely awesome - definitely the high point of my weekend.
Got home. Worked some more on the basement. More assembling of things I bought on the way home.
Wrestled the cabinets, etc into the basement. Started loading things into them. 10 pm, walked into the far corner of the basement to get a screwdriver. There is an inch and a half of water on the floor back there. And in all three toolboxes I was planning on loading into the brand new toolcart I just assembled. The water has been there a while, I think. I never go back there because that entire part of the basement is filled with heavy, stacked boxes and furniture.
I get a plastic bin and put it under the pipe, then grab hold of the pipe directly above the stacked boxes to try and figure out where the leak is coming from and turn off the water. As soon as I try to turn the handle, water starts spraying out onto my face and clothes at about 3 times the rate it was before.
Wunderbar. This is the fear and loathing part of the weekend :p We'll just skip this part, and the toxic mold cleanup part.
The thing is, reading the conversation over at SpouseBUZZ, I do get aggravated. The water got turned off, the mess got cleaned up. Eventually I got into bed. I had a good cry the next night after the crisis was all over, and a bubble bath. Emailed my husband the next morning after I'd gotten ahold of a plumber and I had something good to tell him and we had a good laugh about it.
And to tell you the truth, there was a moment, about 2 am that morning when I had been hauling moldy wet boxes around a dark cold basement for several hours, when I felt a bit sorry for myself. But if you really want to put all of this into its proper context, I could have had a weekend like MaryAnn's. The thing is though, I didn't:
The Fisher House is dark and silent except for the ticking of the clock on the wall. She sits at the table with her coat on, and stares into nothingness.
It’s been several hours since we’ve met. Hours of small talk, of calls to home, and of sitting with her son. Hours of waiting, knowing each moment with him could be her last.
The papers have been signed, the registry’s been notified, the allocation process has begun.
It’s only a matter of time.
“He looks just like he’s sleeping”, she says. “Like he could open up his eyes any minute and say ‘Hey, Mom’”.
Elsewhere, surgeons are making evaluations, patients are being notified, families are making their way to other hospitals.
One family’s tragedy is the hope of others.
The first surgical team arrives.
As time for this family runs out, other families are being given more of it, this most precious gift.
She’s told she can send something into the OR with him. A personal item perhaps?
She looks at the rings on her hands and seems uncertain....
While I was feeling sorry for myself, a woman I've never met had the incredible grace to pause in the midst of numbing grief to give the most priceless gift of all.
The gift of life. And half a world away, in another time zone, I was given the priceless gift of perspective. So that unknown woman was doubly generous.
Somehow, I still don't think the answer is to have government get involved in our problems. I think the answer is not to let the everyday problems overwhelm us. Because the down moments of deployment: the occasional loneliness, the ache of separation, the fear of losing a loved one to death, or injury, or disfigurement, are all reminders of just how much we have to lose.
But viewed another way, we can't lose what we never had, can we? These feelings we bemoan are poignant reminders of how very much we have been given; of how very lucky we have been in life. Because it could have so easily been otherwise.
If only we could keep hold of that thought.
Men vs. Women, The Crib Sheet
FWIW, I heard this couple on the radio a while back expounding a similar theory and it was riveting (and hilarious). Their take on men and women explained a lot of things I've found frustrating when my husband and I get into those special "discussions" that make you want to gnaw your own leg off in frustration.
I did a lot of thinking after listening to the show. I thought back on a lot of things my husband had said to me in the past that I didn't really understand and suddenly they made a lot more sense to me - I was able to put them into context from his point of view; something I'd never quite been able to do before. Even the best relationships have sticking points: areas where despite your very best intentions, you simply can't understand why the other person acts the way they do.
Thanks to Sly for sending this. Outstanding.
January 27, 2008
Good News/Bad News
Bad news: the Blog Princess is now 3 for 3.
Because a one year unaccompanied tour without a flooded basement is ...
...oddly reminiscent of a one year unaccompanied tour without a flooded basement.
Good news: She still has the dehumidifier from the last time we went through this joyous ritual. And this time, the basement isn't carpeted.
If she finds any turmeric, you'll hear the screams. Trust her on that one.
Dahlia Lithwick/Emily Bazelon for Dummies
Well, that just about tears it. Where the heck is Clark Hoyt when we need him?
The half vast editorial staff have been taken to the woodshed for our bullying, intemperate attacks on Slate Online's fabulous female legal reporting duo. Naturally, Mr. Hoyt is nowhere to be seen. But isn't that just like a man?
Reader "MathMom" chides us with some asperity:
You are trying to silence Ms. Greenhouse by discouraging her from using toothpaste, which will hasten any potential tooth decay, and will cause her to spend excess hours in a dental chair, and correspondingly fewer hours opinionating. You are a tool of BusHitlerBurton.
The intrpd spd rdr (the big bully!) piles on:
Help me understand this. Linda Greenhouse writes about the Supreme Court for the New York Times. Her husband is an attorney (and an expert in military law!) who files amicus briefs in support of persons appealing the legality of certain actions taken by the Bush administration. Ms. Greenhouse reports about these very Supreme Court appeals in a manner that, in the opinion of some, is less than completely objective. ("Sweeping and categorical" are excessive terms generally reserved for, well, things sweeping and categorical, not 5-3 decisions where 4 of the majority join in a separate, partially concurring opinion.) Nevertheless, her work appears, not on the editorial page, but on the front page as "news."
This type of ignorant and uninformed legal commentary (meaning Bazelon/Lithwick disagree with it) - by a rdr who obviously knows nothing about the law - is tantamount to verbal battery. If this so-called "person" knew anything about disclosure rules or the lofty ethical standards employed by the New York Times, he'd know the Editors long ago weighed in on the Extreme Importance of avoiding even the appearance of impropriety... that is, if you're a conservative:
Why was Fidell’s involvement in the cases a “patent” conflict for his wife’s reporting on them? Well, if that’s not plain enough on its face, one could rely on the generally applicable legal standard, which counsels counsel to avoid “even the appearance of impropriety.” But why resort to such arid rules when we have the New York Times itself as our compass.
.... there was another Times fave, Justice Antonin Scalia, who outraged the editors because he would not recuse himself from a case in which the high court considered a Bush administration task force — after all, the Justice had gone duck-hunting with [shudder] Dick Cheney. “It is an elemental principle of law,” the Times railed “that judges must not have, or even appear to have, an interest in the cases before them.” Why, “[t]he public wants judges to avoid even the suggestion of bias[.]” ...when you get right down to it, “the biggest problem” with these sorts of conflicts, based on the intimate bonds society recognizes when a man and a man hunt ducks together, “is the lack of effective enforcement.”
What those big brutes over at NRO seem to miss is that the juicy intimacy of a duck blind is far more compromising than anything so mundane as a modern marriage (where, as we all know, nothing more cozy than a toothpaste tube or the odd of forkful of Pad Thai are ever exchanged between consenting adults). The very implication that the combination of a committed marital relationship and the voluntary choice to file a series of amicus briefs might give reasonable grounds for suspecting a conflict is preposterous. After all, it's not as though these two were
casual acquaintances same-sex vacationers who once shared a duck blind!
Plainly, Andy McCarthy must be added to the list of big bullies. We are confident however that these too, too apparent inconsistencies in the Times' disclosure policies will melt, Thaw, and resolve themselves into a dew when viewed through the transformative prism of our darling duo's dashing dialectic. Thus, in the interest of helping the readership understand the complexly nuanced legalistic stylings of Misses Bazelton and Lithwick, the Editorial Staff have undertaken to step through their highly technical arguments so you layfolk may better understand them.
1. It took some kind of amazing footwork for Clark Hoyt, the New York Times public editor, to pull off what's turning into an annual ritual: dragging the paper's multiple-award-winning Supreme Court correspondent out to the woodshed for appearing to have opinions in her private life or—even worse—sharing a toothpaste tube with those who do.
TRANSLATION FOR DUMMIES: This isn't about Whelan objecting to specific and repeated instances of bias in Greenhouse's news coverage. Nor is it about why the Times didn't think its readers had a right to know Greenhouse's husband had filed friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainees when she wrote about those very cases. Or even about the fact that Ms. Greenhouse's husband subsequently had his name stricken from at least one of these briefs, on account of the conflict of interest he felt it (apparently) presented.
No. It's about Linda's right to have her own opinions and to be married to a lawyer who doesn't like the Shrub. They'd have come right out and said so, but that would have sounded ridiculous.
Oh wait. They did.
2. ... Hoyt gives Whelan—and other bloggers inclined to trashing professional reputations—exactly what they want: He takes the bully seriously, by airing and evaluating Whelan's claim that the Times is guilty of bias because of Greenhouse's reporting on cases involving the Guantanamo detainees.
TRANSLATION FOR DUMMIES: A truly objective ombudsman, you see, only "airs and evaluates" claims Ms. Bazelton and Lithwick agree with. Baseless claims cannot be discredited by examining them and pointing out the errors in their reasoning. No. Only by flatly ignoring claims from one's opponents can one establish a reputation for integrity and objectivity. Duh.
3. Her sin? She is married to Eugene Fidell, a nationally recognized expert on military law who has filed friend-of-the-court briefs in earlier stages of these cases, and similar ones before the court. In Whelan's hands, this fact—which Greenhouse told her bureau chief—becomes the latest addition to a lengthy dossier about Greenhouse's unfitness to report Supreme Court news.
TRANSLATION FOR DUMMIES: Helloooo. Who are the good guys here? Transparency, accountability, disclosure, ethical standards? They're meant to restrain the 'bad guys'. Our side don't need to follow the rules because we can never, by definition, be corrupted. If you want proof that we can be trusted, just look at our opinions on Gitmo. Besides, c'mon! SHE TOLD HER BUREAU CHIEF! We decide what the
little people readers know, and when they should know it! Accountability is for weenies.
4. Whelan didn't point to any concrete problem with Greenhouse's handling of these cases....Unable to point to any actual bias...
TRANSLATION FOR DUMMIES: We don't agree with his substantive criticisms, therefore they do not exist. La la la la!!! We can't heeeear you, Ed!
5. This most-skewed-perception-of-bias-by-folks-in-tinfoil-hats standard is not the one that the Supreme Court has chosen to adopt for itself, by the way.Justice Antonin Scalia's son and Justice Clarence Thomas' wife each had professional interests in the outcome of Bush v. Gore. Those family connections didn't prompt any action on the part of the justices, or any sustained criticism. Indeed, Scalia, for whom Whelan clerked, mounted the most eloquent defense imaginable for palling around with Vice President Dick Cheney in the weeks before the high court heard a case involving Cheney's energy policy task force.
Scalia said there was no reasonable appearance of impropriety, and he wasn't going to bow to unreasonable suspicions—i.e., slippery innuendo—because to do so would lead to demands for judges to refrain from hearing cases "for other inappropriate (and increasingly silly) reasons." That was the end of the matter, because Supreme Court justices get to make these rules for themselves. Whatever the merits of the call Scalia made (we defended him)...
TRANSLATION FOR DUMMIES: Heh... When you say you defended someone, they rarely click through to read the entire article:
I believe Scalia properly recused himself from hearing the Pledge of Allegiance case pending this month and that he ought to think seriously about staying out of the Cheney appeal, based on his cavortings with the vice president.
Because again, consensual cavortings between two men who know each other only casually create much more of an "appearance of impropriety" than a lifelong sexual relationship between two married people. Must be the duck blind.
Or the gun.
6. There's a reason Greenhouse garners unwarranted attacks, and its not that she's more biased than the other Pulitzer Prize-winning writers gracing the pages of the Times. [Ed. note: Shooting ducks... barrel... nope. Not going there. Might create the appearance of impropriety.] It's that she's the voice on the court that matters most in the national press. She has herself to thank for that status—it's a measure of the quality of her reporting. But it also makes her a sought-after scratching post for right-wing kitty cats. When they have an excuse to catch her out, they do. And when they don't, they make one up. OK, so that's the price Greenhouse pays for being good. But why should she have to read sober explications of these made-up grievances in her own paper? The Times needs to quit fueling the Greenhouse gases that seem to burst into flame with more and more frequency. Lots of heat. No light.
HELPFUL TRANSLATION: Despite the admittedly confusing name "Times Ombudsman", Clark Hoyt has no actual duty to investigate allegations of impropriety, nor to respond to reader complaints.
His only real function is to protect professional journalists like Linda Greenhouse from seeing any
reader feedback criticism of their work which may upset them...
...in "their" paper. Because the Times is, you know, unbiased and professional journalists like Linda Greenhouse should not have to put up with that sort of nonsense.
We hope this helpful translation has cleared things up for you.
January 26, 2008
Those Big *Brutes*!!!!
... and this time, they're tag teaming each other. The Editorial Staff's fave Team Of Crack Young Legal Analysts, Emily ("Why *Shouldn't* Jose Padilla Turn Qualified Immunity On Its Head?") Bazelon and The Perpetually Entertaining Dahlia Lithwick have trained their rapier-like wits upon that big bully, Ed Whelan and his defenders:
It took some kind of amazing footwork for Clark Hoyt, the New York Times public editor, to pull off what's turning into an annual ritual: dragging the paper's multiple-award-winning Supreme Court correspondent out to the woodshed for appearing to have opinions in her private life or—even worse— sharing a toothpaste tube with those who do.
This weekend's iteration of Linda isn't THAT bad starts with Hoyt's concession that M. Edward Whelan III—whose online attacks on Greenhouse at National Review Online are tireless—is a bully who is prone to "increasingly intemperate and personal attacks on Greenhouse." But then Hoyt gives Whelan—and other bloggers inclined to trashing professional reputations—exactly what they want: He takes the bully seriously, by airing and evaluating Whelan's claim that the Times is guilty of bias because of Greenhouse's reporting on cases involving the Guantanamo detainees. Her sin? She is married to Eugene Fidell, a nationally recognized expert on military law who has filed friend-of-the-court briefs in earlier stages of these cases, and similar ones before the court. In Whelan's hands, this fact—which Greenhouse told her bureau chief—becomes the latest addition to a lengthy dossier about Greenhouse's unfitness to report Supreme Court news.
Whelan didn't point to any concrete problem with Greenhouse's handling of these cases. That should be easier to do than with almost any other reporter, given that Greenhouse relies primarily on court filings and oral arguments that are publicly available in their entirety, as Yale law professor Judith Resnik points out to us. Unable to point to any actual bias, Whelan resorts to the petulant claim that the effect of Fidell's involvement in the detainee cases "would be impossible to separate … from the broader political bias that pervades so much of Greenhouse's reporting." And so Hoyt rightly charges him with peddling "slippery innuendo."
First of all, Whelan's beef with Greenhouse isn't that she "dares to have opinions". This is, like so many of our darling duo's other complaints, frankly silly.
Greenhouse can have all the private opinions she wants. What Whelan has objected to is her propensity to inject her political beliefs into her coverage of Supreme Court news. As to the second (overwrought) charge, Greenhouse is not being "attacked" for sharing a toothpaste tube with her husband, but for failing to disclose the conflict to readers of the Times. Let's face it: if there is no conflict, why make a fuss about disclosing the fact that her husband is suing the government on behalf of Guantanamo detainees? Readers of the Times will (if this is truly not an issue) simply say to themselves, "Who cares?" and move on. Greenhouse has, in this case, done the right thing, honor has been served, and transparency has been preserved.
The fact is, however, that it does strain credulity more than just a tad to believe a reporter will report with complete objectivity on cases her husband is currently litigating. And when one finds that not only has Greenhouse reported on these cases without disclosing the connection, but she passionately uses non-neutral language in her reporting (and surprise! she just happens to take the very same position her husband is pleading in court! What are the chances?) our credulity is stretched to the breaking point.
And as for the question of innuendo, that is a charge more appropriately leveled at Ms. Bazleton and Lithwick than at Mr. Whelan, who was (at least) quite direct in his allegations:
Whelan's contained a straightforward accusation: that a pervasive bias marks Greenhouse's work. What's slippery about that? Bazelon and Lithwick say that Whelan has "slimed" them in the past. What they appear to mean is that he has criticized them, and pointed out their inaccuracies, when they went after, e.g., Samuel Alito. You could just as easily say that they "slimed" Alito. And since Whelan's criticism of them has gone unrefuted, their criticism of him meets the definition of "slippery innuendo" better than anything he has said.
One more thing. Why do Bazelon and Lithwick imagine that conservatives pick on Greenhouse? She is, on their telling, a terrific and unbiased reporter. (When she called Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices Scalia and Thomas "the Court's far right," for example, that was just straight news reporting.) Perhaps, in their view, that is what conservatives dislike about her: They want someone to slant the news their way. But if that were the case, wouldn't there be liberals who attacked her for not being left enough? Yet somehow that almost never happens: Liberals seem happy enough with her work. Is their theory that conservatives are just less fair-minded and more paranoid than liberals? That's quite a defense: We're not biased against you; you're just lunatics.
As to the question of bias in Ms. Greenhouse's coverage of SC news (not opinion journalism, mind you) the half vast editorial staff defers to Peter Berkowitz, a law professor and member of advisory board of the Ethics and Public Policy Center
In late June, Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times breathlessly reported on the front page, above the fold and under a big headline, that in the just-announced case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court "shredded each of the administration's arguments." The decision--which held that, as organized, the military tribunals the Bush administration had created to try unlawful combatants seized on the battlefield in Afghanistan, were contrary to federal law and a provision of the Geneva Conventions--was, Greenhouse gushed, "a sweeping and categorical defeat for the Bush administration."
Indeed, she proclaimed, the decision was a "historic event, a definitional moment in the ever-shifting balance of power among the branches of government that ranked with the court's order to President Nixon in 1974 to turn over the Watergate tapes or with the court's rejection of President Harry S. Truman's seizing [in 1952] of the nation's steel mills."
Wow. A "sweeping and categorical defeat". Let's take a look at the decision in detail to see what prompted that pronouncement:
Never mind that the Court had not questioned the government's right to detain Salim Ahmed Hamdan, allegedly Osama bin Laden's driver and bodyguard, without charge or trial, as an unlawful combatant, until such time as the conflict between the United States and al Qaeda comes to an end.
The sweeping and categorical nature of the Bush administration's humiliation is unquestionable. Just ask Ms. Greenhouse.
Never mind that, in a paragraph-long concurring opinion, Justice Breyer emphasized that much, if not all, of the military tribunal procedures designed by the Bush administration would pass legal muster if explicitly authorized by Congress.
That had to hurt.
Never mind that the Court's opinion commanded only a narrow five-justice majority.
As Ms. Greenhouse reminds us, this was unequivocably a unanimous judicial smackdown. Sweeping in its universal condemnation.
And never mind that Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito each authored powerful dissents that elaborated serious objections to which the majority's principal legal arguments are exposed. (Chief Justice Roberts did not participate in the case because, as judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals, he joined the opinion, which Hamdan reversed, upholding the administration's military tribunals.)
In other words, we may well infer that, had he not felt it necessary to recuse himself, we may have seen an outcome that was less than... dare we say it?
Of course Ms. Greenhouse didn't feel that any of this was information readers of the Times 'needed to know'. Must be one of those professional journalist thangs - we wouldn't understand, but we should trust in their judgment and not dare to question our betters.
Misses Bazelon and Lithwick evidently agree. They are, as Shakespeare's Henry V opined, the modern makers of manners. One imagines them looking raptly into the eyes of Ms. Greenhouse and sighing deeply:
O Linda, nice customs curtsy to great queens.
Dear Linda, we cannot be confined
Within the weak list of a country's fashion:
We are the makers of manners, Linda;
And the liberty that follows our places
Stops the mouth of all find-faults;
Nice work, if you can get it.
January 25, 2008
They Still Do
If you get golden libation to fall, join me here in the corner for a toast to MH. 24 yrs. ago today he earned the title United States Marine.
Semper Fi, my dear friend.
Both of you.
January 24, 2008
NYTimesWatch: We're Doomed!, The Game Edition
This is too rich not to mock within an inch of its miserable life:
Obviously, Sept. 11 and its aftermath have changed the country in countless and irretrievable ways. But even beyond the emergence of war and national security as pre-eminent concerns, there has been a profound reordering of domestic priorities, a darkening of the country’s mood and, in the eyes of many, a fraying of America’s very sense of itself.
While not universal, that tone pervaded dozens of interviews conducted over the last week with Americans of all political stripes in 8 of the 24 states that hold primaries or caucuses on Feb. 5, as well as with historians, elected officials, political strategists and poll takers. As the candidates fan out to New York and California and here to the heartland, they are confronting an electorate that is deeply unsettled about the United States’ place in the world and its ability to control its own destiny.
...As she considers this campaign, Susan C. Powell, a 47-year-old training consultant who lives in a Kansas City suburb, said that what she feels is not so much hopelessness as doom.
“I know plenty of people who are doing worse than they were,” Ms. Powell said, “and nobody’s helping them out. People’s incomes are not keeping pace with inflation. People can’t afford their homes. People in their 30s and 40s, middle-income, and they don’t have jobs they can count on or access to health care. How can we say that we’re the greatest country on earth and essentially have the walking wounded?”
Like many of those interviewed, Robert W. Jennings, a 45-year-old Kansas City landlord who considers himself politically independent, said he thought the stakes were higher than in 2000, when the country last chose new leadership after an eight-year incumbency...
“I used to be master of my universe,” he said from a bar stool at McCoy’s Public House. “Now I work for this soul-less corporation. I used to make the rules. Now I have to follow them.”
“Most of the times I go overseas I say I’m Canadian,” he said. “I just get a better response.”
How has the reckless, arrogant unilateralist Cowboy Bush stolen your cornflakes and wrecked all that remains of your miserable life? Add your own Tale of Woe in the comments section. The winner will receive a Stuffed Marmosett by parcel post.
CWCID: spd rdr
The End Is Near!
When the Editorial Staff finds itself in complete, unequivocal agreement with William Arkin, we think it may be time for us all to bend over and bid our collective tuckii a fond adieu.
January 23, 2008
I went home with Michael the night we met, and figuratively speaking, I didn't leave again for those 7 1⁄2 years. The breakup sucked, the more so because it was no one's fault. Our relationship had begun to suffer the inanition of many marriages at seven years. (The seven-year itch isn't a myth; the U.S. Census Bureau says the median duration of first marriages that end in divorce is 7.9 years.) Michael and I loved each other, but slowly--almost imperceptibly at first--we began to realize we were no longer in love. We were intimate but no longer passionate; we had cats but no kids.
Things drifted for a while. There was some icky couples counseling ("Try a blindfold") and therapeutic spending on vacations, clothes, furniture. We were lost. The night Michael wouldn't stay up to watch The Office finale with me, I knew I had to move out. Yes, he was tired, but if he couldn't give me the length of a sitcom--Jim and Pam are going to kiss!--then we were really done.
We'll say! Finito! Caput! Or as they say on reality TV, "Duh..."
Reading this, the Princess found herself biting her knuckle to hold in peals of laughter. The title of the article made it particularly delicious:
Is there some special Hell reserved for those who would fight to the death for the right to get, but not to stay married or should that prime parking spot in the Afterlife be held for Time magazine for publishing such self-pitying, self-absorbed, self-congratulatory drivel? Who do they think they are: Slate Online?
Several months ago, the Princess was asked for a few verses on the subject of love and marriage. The occasion was the upcoming wedding of one of her male progeny. Later that summer, it occurred to her while listening to the readings that hers had been rather strikingly different than the ones being read at the ceremony.
To longtime readers this may come as no surprise. Most have managed to suss out by now that the Blog Princess is a bit of an odd duck. But she couldn't help but notice most of the verses were all about togetherness and the joys of connubial bliss. Hers, on the otter heiny, were about the importance of recognizing that when we marry, we are not (in reality) Twin Souls Joined in One Body.
Oh, don't get her wrong - she can get as dewy eyed as the next female about love and marriage. She cries - reliably, like a baby - at chick flicks. But love is more than just a rapturous, transcendentally soul searing emotion that grabs us by the heartstrings (or the G-strings) and transports us in waves of ever-ascending ecstasy straight to the heavens where thunder rolls, lightning flashes and the very clouds roil about in a cataclysmic release of pent up energies as doves, butterflies and unicorns frolic in a joyous display of primeval vitality as old as Adam and Eve.
Especially when your Twinned Soul eyes you warily in the middle of
an argument an Extremely Important Discussion and utters the fateful words, "Ummm, are you finished yet? Because you know... the alarm goes off at 4."
Not for nothing is this man a Marine. Any man who can utter those words (well that may not have been *exactly* what he said, but then he's not here to defend himself, is he?) while staring down a diminutive banshee riding a wave of estrogen that would make a tsunami look eminently surfable would not only track Osama bin Laden to the gates of Hell, but laugh in Death's grinning face as he did it. No, her verses celebrated the virtue of separateness, of space within a loving marriage: of realizing there is no one person who can possibly fulfill your every need. Much less make you happy.
Happiness is a responsibility that cannot be delegated.
All of which leads the Princess to think that it matters little why we flirt or even why we love. The whys and wherefores aren't nearly so important as the simple fact of love. The inescapable truth is that love is, above all, an active verb and what we cannot mend in ourselves, in our partners, or in life, we may as well join hands and have a good chuckle at.
Or as spd rdr quipped in answer to that age old question, "Are gay relationships different":
Cruel sitcom kisses
Sofa pillow playmate cold
Maybe some new drapes?
An Interesting Dilemma
Do you not see how necessary a World of Pains and troubles is to school an Intelligence and make it a Soul?
- John Keats
We just discovered that one of my daughter’s “best” friends has been lying about her computer use to her parents. She tells them that she’s going to an approved kid website, such as Club Penguin, and then, when they’re not looking, goes surfing for sex sites. (Did I mention that she’s ten?) My daughter, bless her heart, told us what’s going on, because she was made very uncomfortable when shown a website with “naked people.”
...Here’s the issue: I think I should tell the girl’s parents. My daughter is, of course, worried that her friend will figure out that she is the source — even if the parents claim to have discovered the problem through browsing the computer’s history. I appreciate my daughter’s concern, and I certainly don’t want to turn her into a social pariah, but I still find unnerving the thought of a child, too clever by half, wandering around alone in the big, ugly world of the internet. Do you think I’m right to want to tell the parents? And if you do think I’m right, how would you broach the subject? Should I recommend to the parents a strategy (such as saying that they discovered the problem by checking the computer’s history), so that my daughter doesn’t get nailed as the stool pigeon? Or do I just reveal the problem and hope that the parents don’t disclose my daughter’s identity?
I found the post interesting for two reasons. The first was that, as this new father just realized to his dismay, it is almost impossible to protect children from pornography in today's culture. I've been told, often in my own comments section, "Oh, that's not a problem - we have filters on our computers and I monitor my children's activities." That is, not to put too fine a point on it, utter nonsense. As children grow older, they spend less and less time with their parents. Their circle of acquaintances grows wider and they are gradually allowed more freedom: the freedom to go to public libraries, the houses of new friends they meet at school, sleepovers - all places over which parents have no control. And the problem is not likely to get better. With the advent of smart phones, cable TV, cell phones, and iPods, porn (and unfortunately the seamy world of Internet predators) has become more accessible and more portable than ever. How many parents stop to think, when they provide their child with a cell phone, of the implications of some of those bells and whistles - cameras, internet access, and text messaging?
It's a new market for the adult video industry: surfing the web from cell phones. Experts predict sales for pornography will jump from a half-billion dollars in 2004 to $2.5 billion in 2009.
And many of the viewers are underage teens, often getting samples for free, or finding it marketed by porn stars on the website we so often hear about.
And kids aren't just watching pornography on their cell phones, they're using cell phones to make their own.
I know I wouldn't have when my boys were growing up. Such things weren't even on my radar screen. But any parent who hasn't been sleepwalking through their children's formative years quickly realizes that normal, healthy children are active and curious, and the trouble they can't get into hasn't been invented yet.
The problem with the Internet, cable and mobile communications is that they bring the outside world - with all its attendant dangers and temptations - right into our homes. They put it into your child's backpack. They make it impossible for you to exert any real parental control over what your child sees or hears, who your child talks to when you're not around; because it's no longer a case of just monitoring the devices your child owns.
It's a case of monitoring every PC, cell phone, cable channel, or iPod owned by every one of their friends. This is why arguing that it's up to parents to monitor their child's exposure to the objectionable material so they don't infringe on the freedom of consenting adults makes so little sense. That argument has been overcome by events: modern technology has rendered good faith efforts to mind our own business effectively impossible. Even if we want to look the other way, pop up ads, increasingly explicit advertising, and spam ensure that is no longer an option:
My point was more that the line between private and public is blurring more and more due to multimedia like the Internet. Things that were truly of a more limited effect are now more pervasive ... and so you are seeing people want to limit them whereas before maybe they wouldn't have cared, because it truly didn't touch them. It's the same phenomenon as what happens when areas get more crowded. No one cares when people live far apart. It's when your next door neighbor is blaring loud music and you can't escape it that it bothers you, not when he lives 2 miles away and you never hear it.
The question is, can you get away from what he is doing, or is he ramming it (so to speak) down your throat?
This is an interesting side effect of the demand for unbridled liberty. As adults have demanded more and more freedom to do, watch, and say what they please where and when they please, they have eroded the best argument for preserving that very freedom: that their behavior was essentially private and affected no one but themselves.
However gripping the whole porn aspect may be (or not :p), ironically that was not my main interest in Bookworm's post. The other question I found of interest was her entirely natural desire to shield the Little Bookworm from the unpleasant consequences of alerting the other girl's parents to her sex surfing ways.
I've often commented, though none of this is to be attributed to the Bookworm, whom I don't know well enough to begin to draw into this, on how differently modern parents seem to regard their duties with regard to preparing children to withstand the hard knocks of life. Increasingly, one sees in the media and coming from the lips of parents who seek to maximize pleasure and minimize discomfort in their own lives, a disturbing (to me at least) belief that it is good for children to make their lives as smooth and easy as possible; that pain, loneliness, and discomfort are to be avoided like the plague; that children are fragile flowers who will crumple up and expire if we don't grant them their every wish, clear away every obstacle in their path.
The folly of that approach is well refuted by this rather long essay in praise of melancholy. It often struck me, in raising two sons, that previous generations actively sought out challenges and ordeals for young men. Such trials, though often painful and dangerous, gave growing boys a chance to test themselves, to learn from adversity, to realize that suffering, fear, and hardship can be overmastered. They were a great 'test run' for that larger adventure called life, in which the way is decidedly un-smooth; they gave children the chance to develop inner resources against the slings and arrows fate would certainly toss their way later in life.
And all this was done while still under the protection of loving adults. But the lesson was clear; some dangers had to be faced head on and a child who was too weak to do so while still under the protection of his family was ill equipped to enter the often fractious world of adults alone and unprotected.
Today's world is less dangerous, at least on the outside, yet in an interconnected world, tests of character are perhaps more prevalent - and important - than they were for our forebears. And yet our current culture of squishy moral relativism, unthinking tolerance and PC squeamishness, and rampant multiculturalism make the adult who stands on principle more the exception than the rule: he is 'thrusting his beliefs onto others' rather than remaining true to his own conscience.
So, how to teach a child to know (and do) the right thing in an oft-confusing world?
January 22, 2008
Coffee Snorters: Crime And Punishment Edition
We must say that we find this extremely disturbing:
"My husband got a phone call and a real raspy voice over the phone said 'check your mailbox'."
In the mailbox was a ransom note.
"The note basically said they were holding Jesus for ransom."
...It has to be a young person because they put these lines around Jesus, no adult is going to waste their time doing that," says Mansel.
Our reaction precisely.
Our gosh. Meanwhile, in other news...
Obama's Magical Unity Tour
It occurred to the Editorial Staff whilst sipping our java this morning that it's been a while since we let loose with an awe-inspiring rant on the proclivity of our progressive brethren in Christ to reduce complex social and economic issues to trite bumper sticker slogans. How long has it been since The Strong Strength of Strongness rang out over the airwaves of this great nation, exhorting us to Let America Be America Again?
Poor John Kerry. The press-shy Junior Senator from Massachusetts who keeps his finger on the pulse of fresh-def urban culture would like nothing better than to forget the bitter partisan wounds of last year's election season. If only the media would quit dragging him into the limelight so he could quietly represent the needs of his Massachusetts constituents from the sidelines.
But if, in 2004, American voters were wrongly denied the blessings of Strong Strength (Alas! for a Kedwards Presidency: boldly standing up to murderous dictators -- but only with multilateral consensus and the prior approval of Germany and France!), in 2008 we can still strive for The Unifying Hope of Hopefulness via one Barack Obama:
Obama's whole campaign is based on some of the most noble and inspiring sentiments in political life: hope, togetherness, bipartisanship.
As he proclaimed last February at a Democratic National Committee meeting: "There are those who don't believe in talking about hope. They say, 'Well, we want specifics, we want details, and we want white papers, and we want plans.' We've had a lot of plans, Democrats. What we've had is a shortage of hope. And over the next year, over the next two years, that will be my call to you."
He's stayed true to that pledge. Not only does he talk about hope - a lot - he talks about the importance of talking about hope. He talks about how he hopes to talk more about talking about the importance of talking about hope. Hopefully.
He touts unity the same way. If we all buy into his "message of hope," he explains, then everybody - blacks and whites, men and women, Republicans and Democrats, lions and gnus, bears and park rangers, Superman and Lex Luthor - will be united!
But united toward what end, exactly? Or does it all boil down to being united about being hopeful and hopeful about being united?
Will we ever understand the full, rich, meaty complexity of Obama's hopeful message? We can always hope.
It has been said that faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen. Obama's faith-based message of hope and unity seems to depend for its "substance" on things hoped for; its power to convince on evidence of things unseen and for the most part, glossed over:
If more journalists understood religion, for instance, they would not be as quick to applaud Barack Obama for parading his own ignorance of Christian history as though it were a merit badge for deep thought.
When asked by a member of the editorial board of the Chicago Sun-Times whether he was an evangelical Christian, Obama said, in effect, "Yes and no. But that kind of nuance is a black thing you wouldn't understand." You can judge for yourself whether my paraphrase is fair: What Obama actually said was, "I came to Christianity through the black church tradition."
Did he mean the Christian tradition as mediated through black culture? Nobody in his audience thought to ask.
...The Pharisee in me can't help but think that what Obama has is not a "nuanced" Christian faith but an unexamined one. Identifying too closely with a "black church tradition" rather than the universality of the Christian message gives short shrift to that divine imperative known to Christian theologians as the "Great Commission."
It also encourages separatism and strife. Smooth as he is, even Obama can't preach harmony on one side of the church door after listening to racialist sermons on the other. We need more journalists with faith and spine enough to address concerns like these.
As Goldberg aptly points out, democracy is not about unthinking unity, but about open debate and compromise in an atmosphere of vibrant diversity. And diversity, whether it be diversity of skin color, religion, culture, or ideology, demands not only respectful and civil discourse but the ability to recognize differences and work to bridge them realistically. Ignoring them - or succumbing to divisive identity politics - won't make our very real policy differences go away:
Unity around an issue - war, health care, education - is a legitimate appeal. But you can't defend America with hope; you can't heal people with unity. Further, it is morally antithetical to democratic values to demand unity for unity's sake. And it is quite literally impossible to govern that way.
(The irony here is that liberals have been complaining for years that the GOP too often appeals to voters' patriotism, yet they don't object to Obama's appeal for unity. Idealistic unity for all Americans - isn't that just a no-frills version of patriotism?)
So far, not even all Democrats have embraced Obama's gassy rhetoric of hope and togetherness, so there's no reason to suspect that Republicans and independents will rally around those themes during an Obama presidency, at least not for long.
This is one area where I agree with New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. In his book "The Conscience of a Liberal," he argues that progressives have one distinct set of priorities and conservatives have a very different set, so both have to be partisan if they want to get their way. There's no reason people can't be well-mannered and open-minded in their disagreements, but the more important priority is that both sides should give their view the strongest argument they can and not give a fig about bipartisanship for its own sake.
Agreement on that point is all the unity we need.
Actually I disagree with Goldberg on that point. The unity we need is precisely that which is lacking in Obama's church - Trinity United: the commitment to America's welfare first, to the common betterment of the entire American community and not just one racial, religious, socio-economic, or gender group. Wanting the best for all Americans is (hopefully) something on which we can all agree. Sell me that vision, and we'll talk some politics. And maybe I'll even start feeling hopeful about the prospects for some real compromise on the issues on which we differ.
And They Say *Women* Are Irrational...
“It is like a funeral in here,” Ken Masuda, senior equities dealer at Shinko Securities in Tokyo, said. “No one knows what is going to happen tonight in New York. It is like we’ve gone blind, you don’t know what’s coming.
“Until we see New York, all we can do is sell.”
Looks like it's time to hide the chocolate and break out the Midol drip.
January 21, 2008
Top Ten "Mental Health Day" Excuses...
Luckily, many employers are beginning to understand that an employee doesn't have to be suffering from the flu to need a day off. Mental health days, which allow employees to stay home from work to escape the stress and chaos of the office, are gaining acceptance in the workplace. Sixty-nine percent of surveyed employers consider mental health days acceptable uses of sick leave.
1. At her sister's wedding, an employee chipped her tooth on a Mint Julep, bent over to spit it out, hit her head on a keg and was knocked unconscious.
2. While at a circus, a tiger urinated on the employee's ear, causing an ear infection.
3. An employee's dog wasn't feeling well, so the employee tasted the dog's food and then got sick.
4. "Someone put LSD in my salad."
5. An employee's roommate locked all his clothes in a shed for spite.
6. "Stuck on an island -- canoe floated away."
7. An employee was upset because his favorite American Idol contestant was voted off.
8. "I didn't think I had to come in if I had time in my vacation bank. I thought I could take it whenever I wanted."
9. An employee said he wasn't feeling well and wanted to rest up for the company's holiday party that night.
10. A groundhog bit the employee's car tire, causing it to go flat.
Iraq: The Never Ending Crisis Factory
When it comes to the war in Iraq, it seems to rain every day. For the mainstream media any happenstance related to the war is immediately seized upon as a harbinger of doom; a sign, portent, or ill omen. Take last week's splashy story in the New York Times. A bevy of reporters, laboring arduously in the field of preconceived notions, uncovered exactly what they expected to find.
Upon reading the article, experienced readers of the Times will no doubt uncover exactly what they expected to find, too. Unsurprisingly, if journalistic ethics don't prohibit one from counting DUIs, crimes that occurred before the allegedly precipitating combat stress, cases where the defendant acted in self defense, or an egregious case of drag racing, there's absolutely nothing to prevent an intrepid reporter from making statements like these:
Given that many veterans rebound successfully from their war experiences and some flourish as a result of them, veterans groups have long deplored the attention paid to the minority of soldiers who fail to readjust to civilian life.
...Clearly, committing homicide is an extreme manifestation of dysfunction for returning veterans, many of whom struggle in quieter ways, with crumbling marriages, mounting debt, deepening alcohol dependence or more-minor tangles with the law.
But these killings provide a kind of echo sounding for the profound depths to which some veterans have fallen, whether at the bottom of a downward spiral or in a sudden burst of violence.
Translation: no matter now normal they may seem on the surface, "those people" are all dysfunctional even if by some miracle they manage not to shoot up decent folk like yourself. The Times just thought you ought to know.
In case you live next door to one of them.
The Times story is blissfully free of anything so tiresome as context. Apparently readers have no need to know how many vets have served, the civilian murder rate for the same demographic, or how the Times' "discovery" compares to existing homicide data:
A very conservative estimate of how many different service members have passed through Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait since 2003 is 350,000 (and no, that's not double-counting those with repeated tours of duty).
Now consider the Justice Department's numbers for murders committed by all Americans aged 18 to 34 - the key group for our men and women in uniform. To match the homicide rate of their peers, our troops would've had to come home and commit about 150 murders a year, for a total of 700 to 750 murders between 2003 and the end of 2007.
Fact free accusations, you see, have the virtue of being difficult to pin down and even harder to refute. After all, a "90% increase" in military "homicides" as reported by the press must mean something? So instead of context, we get anecdotal statistics: a parade of stories meant to sock us in the gut and stop our brains from questioning the narrative.
Following hard on the Times' expose, Slate's Fred Kaplan serves up yet another manufactured media crisis. Blatantly ignoring Lt. Col. John Nagl's explanation for his decision to retire after 20 years in the Army, Kaplan sounds the alarm!
The early retirement of a lieutenant colonel ordinarily wouldn't merit the slightest mention. But today's news that Lt. Col. John Nagl is leaving the Army is a big deal.
So, why is something that "ordinarily wouldn't merit the slightest mention" suddenly such "a big deal", other than the obvious opportunity it provides to don sackcloth and ashes and pronounce the Army broken? After all as Kaplan just informed us, this sort of thing happens all the time. Go ahead, Fred - lay it on us:
It's another sign, more alarming than most, that the U.S. military is losing its allure for a growing number of its most creative young officers. More than that, it's a sign that one of the Army's most farsighted reforms—a program that some senior officials regard as essential—may be on the verge of getting whacked.
This is nothing short of ridiculous. In the first place, Nagl himself contradicts Kaplan, but only after Kaplan stuns us senseless with several paragraphs of loony conspiracy theories that he himself admits are completely unsupported by anything Nagl has to say:
Thomas Ricks, the Washington Post reporter who broke the story of Nagl's retirement, quotes Nagl as saying that he's leaving the Army because his family wants to settle down and because working at the Center for a New American Security will allow him to stay focused on the work that he loves. Nagl told me the same thing in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon and emphasized that, contrary to some rumors floating around, he is not leaving out of anger or disgruntlement.
Still, some officers who are sympathetic with Nagl's views say they find it discouraging that the Army can't find some way to hang on to a soldier of his caliber. For one reason or another, junior and midlevel officers—lieutenants, captains, and lieutenant colonels—are leaving the Army in droves.
This is the old "He may say that officially, but my [unnamed] inside sources know better" meme. Just trust him - he's Fred Kaplan and he hasn't got a dog in this fight. As for his sources, it may be discouraging when good people choose to retire at 20 years, but that happens everywhere. It's hardly a crisis. And besides, the meme that Nagl's departure is more evidence that junior officers are leaving "in droves" is well refuted in a thoughtful post by Lex:
This isn’t a case of junior officers voting with their feet: Nagl is retiring at 20 years. And while this may be a loss for the Army - whose appetite for senior officers to push PowerPoint briefs to place-conscious generals yields to no other service - he’s putting his powerful intellect to the service of his country in a different venue, with a potentially more immediate impact on the national debate.
So: Thanks for your service, colonel.
Exactly. But let's take another look at the dishonest brain drain meme. How many have noticed the sleight of hand practiced by the media on this subject over the past 6 -8 months?
Recent graduates of the US Military Academy at West Point are choosing to leave active duty at the highest rate in more than three decades, a sign to many military specialists that repeated tours in Iraq are prematurely driving out some of the Army's top young officers.
Let's take a look at the graphic the Boston Globe uses to illustrate this point. I took the liberty of annotating it slightly to make a few things more apparent. The first fact to fairly leap off the handy chart supplied by the Globe (though they barely mention it) is that for most of the time period covered by the chart, 30% or more of West Point grads have left at the 5 year mark.
Another interesting fact is that West Point grads make up only about 12-13% of Army officers each year and only 20% of General officers. An interesting survey taken of West Point students recently belies the media's assertion that West Pointers are predisposed to stay in the Army and are somehow being "turned off" by repeated deployments:
Recently, cadets were questioned as to why they chose to enter the Academy. Their answers reveal that the Academy had been recruiting some of the wrong people. One recruiting representative from the Academy's admissions office acknowledged during a briefing that only 19 to 38 percent of incoming cadets give "desire to be a career Army officer" as their main reason for attending the Academy. This means that somewhere between 81 and 62 percent are attending for some other reason.
And what explains that region of the Globe's chart - nearly one-third - in which MORE West Point grads were leaving than at the last point shown? There were no "repeated Iraq tours" then, no brutal ops tempo.
The interesting (and oddly unasked) question is this: just what would Fred Kaplan have the Army do to convince officers like John Nagl to stay? Should they do what any civilian employer would do - compete freely with large bonuses and competitive pay packages? As Kaplan freely admits, Nagl is hardly the "average" Army officer.
He is a top performer. Yet according to Kaplan, the system is "broken" because a top performer like Nagl, after serving honorably for 20 years, wants to try something different, because the Army with its noncompetitive pay and benefits can't compete with the vastly more attractive civilian sector. Does Fred Kaplan support giving the Army the ability to conduct flexible pay negotiations to attract and hold top performers like Nagl?
Of course he doesn't.
He expects Nagl to do what neither he, nor anyone he knows would do: work for less money than he knows his services will command in a free market. One strongly suspects the only concession Kaplan would like the Army to use as a bargaining chip would be to say, "We'll just stop acting so military. No more PCS moves, no more fighting, no more nasty, messy wars."
This doesn't even begin to address the media's pervasive substitution of West Point officer attrition for regular officer attrition:
Again, West Pointers make up 12-13% of the officer corps. But retention of junior officers overall is well below the historic 10 year average of 8.5%. Odd, isn't it, that this piece of information is never mentioned by the media? Perhaps it undercuts the narrative.
And then there is USA Today:
During the worst of Bravo Troop's 15-month tour in Iraq, when soldiers were dying in bunches, families here poured out their fear, frustrations and even hysteria onto one young woman: Bana Miller.
She's not Army. She's not trained. Her only qualification, then at age 24, was being an officer's wife who volunteered to run Bravo Troop's Family Readiness Group —a job of e-mailing and organizing potluck dinners in peacetime.
But when Bravo went to war, she became a social worker, grief counselor and a 24-hour hotline overnight. At various times, wives threatened to commit themselves to a mental institution or go to the media if Miller did not help bring their husbands home.
"I was in this alternative universe thinking: 'What has my life become?' " says Miller, who grew up in the Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia and married the boy she met in seventh grade.
As the Iraq war nears a sixth year, the Army has more than 3,000 volunteers such as Bana Miller, and many are buckling under the pressure of duties that they never expected would be so hard or last so long. The Army and Marine Corps lean on these family support volunteers to be the first stop for families struggling to deal with war, separation and loss.
Actually, the Marine Corps (at least) does not want wives acting as grief counselors, social workers, or 24-hour hotlines. I will be extremely surprised to find that the Army has asked anyone to undertake these duties.
The key word, for those who appear to be having trouble with their own language, is volunteer:
Volunteers are told by the Army and Marine Corps to be dispassionate — provide resource contacts to troubled families and send them on their way. But volunteers find this difficult, particularly when they all have spouses fighting side by side in Iraq or Afghanistan.
"They take it upon themselves to mother everyone," Meyers says.
"When somebody is in pain," Miller says, "my first reaction is to help alleviate that pain and to help them grieve in whatever way they grieve, just holding their hand while they're going through a funeral process, or fielding phone calls or whatever they needed me to do. … I was the person there to give them a hug.
"It's a difficult thing to try and turn off and say, 'You know, I need to go home and get some sleep.' "
I read Miller's story, and I cringed. Because like many, many Marine and Army, and Navy, and Air Force wives, I have felt those same feelings.
But the fact remains that the Army did not ask Ms. Miller to mother her husband's battalion, and it is not a "crisis" if unpaid volunteers who deliberately choose to ignore the terms of the programs for which they sign up are finding that (surprise!) they are getting burned out.
It was, in fact, utterly predictable. And yes, heartwrenching.
But let's interject a little cold sanity here.
During WWII, Korea, and Vietnam there were no cell phones, no email, no family support groups, no Key Volunteers. Entire generations of military families somehow made it through extended combat deployments without social workers to talk to their children about their feelings, without grief counselors, free babysitting, pre-deployment briefs, re-entry briefs, free counseling to help you readjust to life with your spouse, hazardous duty pay, or special benefits voted by Congress to compensate you for a job you always knew your husband or wife might someday have to do. when. you. signed. up.
My God, how did they do it? Why aren't The Greatest Generation roaming the streets like deranged psycho-killers on a hair trigger, primed for the slightest excuse to go on a killing spree? How did our parents stay off drugs, avoid the booze, stay married to each other? Why didn't they have the decency to be properly traumatized by their experiences?
Didn't they realize they were in CRISIS? And just where the hell was Congress in all of this? How could anyone be expected to solve their problems without federal intervention and a massive infusion of tax dollars? Didn't anyone listen to Walter Crank... err...Cronkite?
All this has made me thank God for the New York Times. Obviously we Americans lack the fundamental ability to detect sickness in our own culture. It takes great institutions like The Times to operate as the canary in the cultural mineshaft, to let us know how far we've drifted from what is sane and healthy.
Yes, I now see the error of my ways. I have adopted The Times as my cultural bellwether. Because if anyone can keep America honest, it's the New York Times.
January 20, 2008
Question Of The Day
The tiny city of Mount Rainier is considering whether to declare itself a sanctuary for illegal immigrants, entering a regional and national debate over enforcement of immigration law.
If the City Council approves the proposal, the eclectic city of 9,000 in Prince George's County will join nearby Takoma Park in prohibiting police officers and city workers from checking the immigration status of residents or reporting those who lack legal residency documents to federal immigration authorities. Takoma Park has been a "sanctuary" city since 1985.
Mount Rainier City Council member Pedro Briones, who proposed the measure, said his intent is not to protect criminals but to allow all immigrants access to community services "so long as they are contributing residents of Mount Rainier and follow our city rules and regulations."
Briones added: "Until we have more effective national immigration policies, there's no reason why hardworking immigrants who may be undocumented should live in fear that their local police, code enforcement officer or sanitation worker is going to turn them over for possible deportation."
Interesting take on the sanctity of law. So my question is, why don't I have the right to declare a "sanctuary" for my tax dollars? What if I don't want them going to support communities which have opted to openly flout the laws of the United States of America? Why should I have to support cities who are undermining the decisions of my own elected officials?
Victor M. Kenworthy, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 85, which represents the city's police officers, said national immigration policies and laws should be reviewed. But he said local law enforcement should not be prohibited from cooperating with federal authorities.
"That's a big sticking point for us," he said. "You have a local entity coming up with some type of legislation that says it doesn't recognize federal law. It's not a question of whether the law is right or wrong. We have to respect the law whether we like it or not."
In fact, city policy bars the police department from enforcing federal immigration laws and from inquiring about a person's citizenship status. The proposed legislation would extend that sanctuary policy to any agent, officer, employee, contractor or subcontractor of the city.
"There are great residents in our town from various Latin American countries," said council member Jimmy Tarlau, who supports the Briones proposal. "We want to reach out to them. We want to indicate that they are welcome and we don't really care about their status."
If the measure passes, Mount Rainier will join more than 30 other cities nationwide that have sanctuary laws in place, including Seattle, San Francisco, Albuquerque, Austin, Los Angeles and Madison, Wis.
The sanctuary movement took hold in the 1980s, inspired by churches that were helping Central Americans who fled civil war at home. Berkeley, Calif., and St. Paul, Minn., were the first two cities to adopt sanctuary laws in response. Takoma Park reaffirmed its status as a sanctuary city in October after its police chief asked for and was denied more leeway to execute immigration warrants.
Federal authorities, however, have pledged to uphold immigration laws, conducting raids on businesses and arresting and deporting illegal residents whether they live in a sanctuary city or not.
Seems to me this "opt out" business is a two way street.
If these communities want to opt out of being part of America, let them opt out all the way: give up all federal subsidies and services and they are free to go their own way and do as they please.
Seattle, San Francisco, Albuquerque, Austin, Los Angeles and Madison are some fairly large cities. Come April 15th, my share of all that extra money should come in right handy, don't you think?
January 18, 2008
Favorite Childhood Cartoons
Yesterday on the frog post the Princess posted a link to Froggy Evening. This was one of her all-time favorite cartoons when she was a chubby-cheeked urchin. It used to tickle her pink when the frog got up and strutted across the stage, singing "Hello my baby, hello my darling, hello my ragtime gal....". She couldn't wait for the moment when someone would finally show up to see him, and the frog would collapse into a limp pile of amphibian.
Bthun's comment on that post (and something else she is working on) got the Princess thinking about favorite childhood cartoons. Another of hers is The Rabbit of Seville. After all these years, it still makes her laugh hysterically.
I used to cut both my boys' hair when they were growing up, and (predictably) they squirmed quite a bit because I was very picky about how I did it, and it took a while. One of the things I used to do to distract them was hum the music and massage their scalps like Bugs does in the haircut scene from The Rabbit of Seville. Never failed to get a belly laugh out of them.
Little boys are so much fun - there is no better sound in life than hearing them laugh out loud. I liked Foghorn Leghorn and Daffy Duck, too. What were some of your favorite cartoons?
You are Tweety.
You are cute, and everyone loves you. You are a best friend that
no one takes the chance of losing. You never hurt feelings and
seldom have your own feelings hurt. Life is a breeze. You are
witty, and calm most of the time. Just keep clear of back stabbers,
and you are worry-free.
January 17, 2008
It Ain't Easy Bein' Green....
Is DoD Outsourcing National Security to The Enemy?
Consider this scenario:
The year is 1942. The place, the Pentagon. A Berlin-born aide to the U.S. deputy secretary of defense has learned that a military intelligence officer has not only read Hitler's Mein Kampf, but is lecturing senior officers about Hitler's heretofore unexamined goals of world domination.
This schweinhunt must go. At least, that's what the German-born staffer thinks. Did I mention he's fluent in German? That's partly why the Deputy SecDef relies so heavily on his aide's judgment on all things German, particularly when it comes to the War on Nazism's German outreach program. This program brings Nazi apologists into the inner sanctum of the American war machine...
Travel forward to 1973. The Deputy SecDef's Soviet-born, Russian-speaking aide is gunning for the one intelligence officer who has boned up on Marx, Engels and Soviet military doctrine. Why? Because the officer refuses to "soften" his brief on communist ideology, and is presenting it to the military leadership — now hearing it for the first time since the Cold War began. If communist plans for global domination become common knowledge, the aide realizes, gazing thoughtfully at a poster-size photo of Soviet mouthpiece Vladimir Posner on his office wall, the Pentagon will change strategy and halt the U.S.S.R. outreach program, which gives commie symps Pentagon access...
Totally outlandish, right?
Once upon a time, yes. But this month, this newspaper's Bill Gertz reported on a not entirely dissimilar real-life version of such fictions, the termination of Maj. Stephen Coughlin (USAR). Mr. Coughlin, a lawyer and reserve military intelligence officer, has been the Pentagon's sole specialist on Islamic law charged with lecturing senior officers on jihad doctrine — military leaders who have been fighting the so-called war on terror for years without an inkling of Islamic ideology. His contract with the Joint Staff will end in March, Mr. Gertz wrote, because Mr. Coughlin "had run afoul of a key aide" to the Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England.
That "key aide" is Cmdr. Hesham Islam (USN ret.), an Egyptian-born, Arabic-speaking Muslim whom Gordon England describes as "my interlocutor" and "personal, close confidante." According to Mr. Gertz, Mr. England's interlocutor and confidante confronted Stephen Coughlin seeking "to have Mr. Coughlin soften his views of Islamist extremism."
Various reasons are being given for the decision not to renew Coughlin's contract. Some say he is being terminated for speaking to the press without authorization, others that budget cuts are to blame for the move. His supporters dismiss these explanations, pointing to Cmdr. Islam's characterization of Coughlin as "a Christian zealot with a pen" as evidence of what they suspect is the real reason for his dismissal:
......critics, like Mr. Islam, want him sidelined because they oppose his hard-to-refute views on the relationship between Islamic law and Islamist jihad doctrine. Those views have triggered a harsh debate challenging the widespread and politically correct view of Islam as a religion of peace hijacked by extremists.
The troublesome part of Coughlin's 333 page thesis is here:
Coughlin, in a subsection entitled, "A Doctrinal Basis Exists for the Jihadi Threat," demonstrates how mainstream Islamic publications-an appendix to Interpretation of the Meanings of the Noble Qur'an in the English Language ("The Call to Jihad"), written by Saudi Arabia's Chief Justice, and a 2005-2006 12th grade Saudi school textbook, as well as a standard text of Islamic Law, the Al Azhar-sanctioned non-Saudi, non-"Wahhabi", Reliance of the Traveller-make clear the obligatory requirement, sanctioned by Islamic Law, to wage jihad when non-Muslim forces enter Muslim lands. He then asks, logically,
So how does one explain the prevailing assumption that Islam does not stand for such violence undertaken in its name with the fact that its laws and education materials validate the very acts undertaken by "extremists" in Iraq?
Moreover, Coughlin observes,
... the first "radicalizing" lesson that Saudi youth receive that motivates them to travel to Iraq and fight Coalition forces does not come from "extremists" groups like Al Qaeda, but rather is taught as part of Saudi Arabia's standard secondary school curriculum.
....Hence, groups like Al-Qaeda can reasonably claim that they are simply executing the same legal requirements that Muslim governments require their students be taught. An analysis that relied on Islamic law to assess bin Laden's claim that Islamic law supports his 1996 fatwa would most likely have generated different results than an analysis that ignored it.
Coughlin backs up his thesis with a chilling summary:
Because Islamic law matters to Muslims, in the WOT, it should also matter to us.
And there is evidence that Islamic law is extremely important to Muslims worldwide:
Most significantly, large majorities approve of many of al Qaeda’s principal goals. Large majorities in all countries (average 70 percent or higher) support such goals as: “stand up to Americans and affirm the dignity of the Islamic people,” “push the US to remove its bases and its military forces from all Islamic countries,” and “pressure the United States to not favor Israel.”
Equally large majorities agree with goals that involve expanding the role of Islam in their society. On average, about three out of four agree with seeking to “require Islamic countries to impose a strict application of sharia,” and to “keep Western values out of Islamic countries.” Two-thirds would even like to “unify all Islamic counties into a single Islamic state or caliphate.”
Until the matter has been investigated it is impossible to know why Coughlin's contract has not been renewed, but the facts (as presented) are troubling. It has been pointed out before in this space that there is a fine line between the optimal amount of transparency in government and that which results in paralysis. Some openness is needed to guard against corruption, yet too much subjects even the simplest decisions to endless second guessing by parties with no stake in the outcome. Too much 'sunlight' can lead to the politicization or criminalization of policy differences, as John Yoo recently found to his detriment. The author of this piece asks, "Why shouldn't Jose Padilla have the right to sue the government officials whose actions (taken within the course and scope of their employment) led to his imprisonment and alleged torture? After all, he is asking only $1 from defendants such as John Yoo. Don't we want them to be careful about the way they do their jobs?"
On the face of it, that sounds like a reasonable argument, but there are good reasons for the qualified immunity extended to governmental employees. One very good reason is that this immunity helps shield them from frivolous lawsuits used as a means of blackmail or political pressure. But John Yoo brings up an even more compelling reason: sometimes doing a job well requires taking risks, advocating (or simply raising) new and unpopular positions, challenging the conventional wisdom, ruffling feathers. In an open and litigious society, do we really want the Department of Defense to tailor national security policy to the whims of lobbyists and special interest groups?
Think about what it would mean if Padilla were to win. Government officials and military personnel have to devise better ways to protect the country from more deadly surprise attacks. Padilla and his lawyers want them, from the president down to lowest private, to worry about being sued when they make their decisions. Officials will worry about all of the attorneys' fees they will rack up to defend themselves from groundless lawsuits.
My situation is better than most, since I am a lawyer with many lawyer friends (that is not the oxymoron it seems). I can fend for myself; fine attorneys have volunteered to represent me, and the government may defend me. But what about the soldiers, agents and officers who have to respond to the next 9/11 or foreign threat? They will have to worry about personal liability, hiring lawyers.
Would we have wanted President Abraham Lincoln to worry about his personal liability for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves (done on his sole authority as commander-in-chief)?
If so, then we will have a government that will avoid any and all risks, shun making any move that is not an exact repetition of locked-in procedure of 20th-century vintage, and keep plodding along the same path regardless of contemporary circumstances. These are exactly the conditions that make a nation susceptible to a surprise attack, whether a Pearl Harbor or a 9/11.
It's a chilling thought, isn't it?
And the truly frightening things is that authors like Emily Bazelon don't appear to see anything wrong with the idea. After all, it's a free country.
Coughlin story via Candace de Russy
January 16, 2008
Facing Reality With Humor
I think I just fell in love with this man:
Just 18 months ago, I was your average bachelor dude, bumbling into my late thirties with a girlfriend stashed across the country. As such, I spent a lot of time strolling down less-than-wholesome cultural avenues. To be specific, I wasted approximately a week and a half (if you add up all the 20-minute segments) trolling the Internet for a free version of the Paris Hilton sex video. My friend Karl had told me it was hilarious, that she actually answers her cell phone in the midst of the action. Then there was the Britney saga. And the Lindsay saga. And whatever stray cleavage those might offer.
But in 2006, a number of things happened very quickly. I realized I was turning 40. My girlfriend announced that she would be staying across the country if I didn’t propose to her. I proposed to her. A week later, she called to say she was pregnant. In the space of six months, we eloped, bought a house, moved in together, and welcomed the arrival of Josephine.
What did this radical paradigm shift mean for me? It meant that I began visiting the mall. The mall is a terrifying place for a new dad, because it offers a concentrated dose of all the cultural messages aimed at your daughter. It was at the mall that I first encountered a pair of moppets playing with a Bratz doll. How cute, I thought. Until I saw the doll’s ensemble: a miniskirt and a tight T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase So Many Boys, So Little Time. Next, I passed by Club Libby Lu, where prepubescent clients get makeovers and learn a sexy dance while a soundtrack offers helpful tips such as “Wet your lips and smile to the camera.” Then the girls select miniature stuffed dogs to carry around in a faux-couture carrier, just like, well, you know who.
The adult stores were no better. Victoria’s Secret had a section for young women that featured bras and panties small enough to fit a sizable toddler. Yes, it’s Baby’s First Thong.
See, this is what happens when you have a daughter. You start looking at the world around her and you start realizing how much of that world seems determined to turn her into a world-famous media slut. Then you start looking at the world-famous media sluts themselves—at least I do—and for the first time in your life, it occurs to you: Hey, that’s someone’s daughter! I wonder how her dad feels about that picture in which her boobs are hanging out for the world to see? And I wonder if her dad’s behavior in some way contributed to this boob hanging?
Here’s where things become complicated. Because despite being a dad and having all these noble dad concerns about my daughter and all the daughters of the world, I still gaze at media sluts on occasion.
What I’ve come to realize is that there are really two people inside me: the Dude Self and the Dad Self. The Dude Self has an evolutionary mandate. Namely, to get his DNA into all available fertile females. This is how I explain the compulsion toward media sluts, who, after all, sow the fantasy that women exist only for the carnal pleasure of men.
But then there’s the Dad Self. The Dad Self has to worry about the survival of his wife and offspring. It might be said that his genetic material is heavily mortgaged. He regards women differently, especially if he has a daughter. Now he must think about the kind of world in which he’d like her to grow up, and especially how he’d like other males to treat her, which is to say not as a sexual chew toy, but with kindness and respect.
It’s here that my old Dude Self and my brand-new Dad Self come to blows. Because as much as I want to check out Paris and Lindsay, I know I’m harming my daughter by doing so. For one thing, I’m sending her a very clear message: Daddy loves sluts. Be a slut and Daddy will love you. And if you don’t believe that a 1-year-old picks up on messages, you’ve never seen my daughter in action. She is intensely focused on everything in her environment, especially whatever I happen to be looking at.
But even if I ogled Paris in private, I would still be contributing to the Culture of Paris, helping to shape a world in which young women win adulation for making porn videos and getting arrested, rather than for, say, curing cancer or brokering peace in the Middle East or being a mom. If we all stopped consuming celebrity scandals, they would cease to exist. If a media slut goes to jail and no one’s there to film the perp walk, does it really matter?
So this is what I’ve been working on: not pretending I’m deaf to all those salacious sirens, but curbing my own prurience on behalf of my daughter. As much as I can, I’m sending her the message that happiness comes from inside. Will this work? My Dad Self certainly hopes so. But he knows that we live in the age of the Dude Self. My trip to the mall wasn’t an anomaly. It’s good business to make little girls believe they can buy love in material form. If that means pushing sex on 6-year-olds, so be it.
We newbie dads would be fools not to worry about the way this is trending. What is the cultural landscape going to look like in a dozen years, when my little girl is heading into adolescence? Will there be packs of roving slut enforcers? Triple-X slumber parties? Can you see why a concerned father—even a socially liberal fellow like myself—might be tempted to declare martial law on his 1-year-old?
I want Josephine to grow up in a world where her ambitions will be about what she wants, not what the panting men of the world want from her. My daughter is not a commodity. Her heart can be broken. Her spirit can be wounded. And there is no accessory that can rescue her from these dangers.
Which brings me to rule number five, the only one I plan to enforce: Josephine can do anything she likes with her life, so long as she asks herself first: Is this behavior worthy of the love I deserve? If she flouts this rule, the failure will have been her parents’, not hers.
I'm not sure it's that simple. Steve's daughter, when she grows up, will be responsible for her own choices.
What I am certain of is that every time my determinedly rose-colored view of the universe starts looking dingy, something comes along to brighten it up again.
The world, as always, continues to amuse and delight.
I Love The Smell...
Michael Yon sends an e-mail out:
This is what I think of Dragon Skin. I don't want to see American soldiers wearing this body armor. It's inferior to and heavier than alternatives. I spent about $4,000 for mine and just put it on Ebay starting bid: $1. I'll be happy to get $2 back from it. When I go back to Iraq in a couple weeks, I will not be wearing Dragon Skin.
The controversy over body armor is largely manufactured and is impeding the fielding of better body armor.
This would be even more amusing if The Princess had not deleted 95% of her old posts. In other news, the Editorial staff have decided to dub this late breaking development the Lucas Effect.
Last night we felt a strange disturbance in the Farce. It was as though a million pundit's voices suddenly cried out in agony...
I'm not sure the Feiler-Skurnik Effect--in which uninformed procrastinating voters make their decisions based on what they see in the last 24 hours of a campaign--applies to Republicans. But if it does this incident will damage Romney in Michigan, no?
... and were suddenly stilled.
CNN: Exit polling: Democrats pick McCain over Romney — WASHINGTON (CNN) — Despite urging from some activists like Markos Moulitsas that Michigan Democrats vote for Mitt Romney over John McCain, CNN exit polling indicates the Arizona Republican won the liberal vote.
Sometimes the comedy just writes itself.
January 15, 2008
Earth to Huck.
If you want the press to stop asking you so many questions about religion, quit waving the Bible about like one of those giant foam fingers:
[Some of my opponents] do not want to change the Constitution, but I believe it's a lot easier to change the constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God, and that's what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards," Huckabee said, referring to the need for a constitutional human life amendment and an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Governor Huckabee continues to maintain that he's being asked too many questions about his religious beliefs, but how else are voters expected to find out what exactly he means by 'God's standards'? His old sermons might give some guidance, of course, but those remain off-limits, apparently. Odd that.
Come to think of it, Obama may have the same problem if he insists on giving stump speeches like this:
"My faith teaches me that I can sit in church and pray all I want, but I won't be fulfilling God's will unless I go out and do the Lord's work," he said, linking his support for expanded health care, social justice, immigration and the environment to the foundations of his Christian faith.
Doh! What were we thinking?
...for Obama, as for many of us, faith is complicated, messy, a work in progress.
And, if we're honest about it, the standard labels just don't fit.
Sometimes we forget.
You Go, Grrrllll!!!!
The Cotillion's own Em Zanotti graces the pages of The National Review:
Back in August at a Republican-party gathering on Mackinac Island, and again at the October debates, the campaigns were shining paragons of tidy and gracious order: Organizers with clipboards and walkie-talkies directed their legions of supporters in spiffy matching outfits — electric-blue polo shirts for Romney’s crew, gleaming white t-shirts for McCain’s brigade — to crowded hotel lobbies with groaning boards of free food and ranks of celebrity endorsers (which, alas, did not include Chuck Norris).
In their place now is a guy in a dolphin suit wearing a t-shirt that reads “Flip Romney”; a guy in a snowman suit protesting global warming; and two papier-mâché heads of President Bush. The dolphin (“Flipper”) acknowledges that this is his first job in four years: Back then, he was teasing John Kerry for being a flip-flopper, and every conservative wanted a picture with him. But today he’s keeping company with the anti-GOP protesters — their merry band has been traveling the primary circuit together.
Gone too is the charming camaraderie between the candidates, who just a few months ago were polished, eager, and friendly — like the sons in a Fifties sitcom. Their rump campaigns are now marked by skeletal staffs, one bus apiece (the Mitt Mobile and the one-car McCain Train), and a certain testiness in making sure that their last-ditch efforts achieve the maximum possible effect.
Go read the whole thing. Light, witty and informative - it's great writing and the Editorial Staff couldn't be prouder of her.
Faith-based Rhetoric and Obama: The Views The Media Keep To Themselves
Ed Driscoll coins a great phrase for a disturbing phenomenon: The Views They Kept To Themselves:
"Why is it", Burt Prelutsky wonders, "that nobody is asking Barack Obama about his religious convictions? From what I’ve gathered, they’re far more fascinating than Mitt Romney’s."
The answer of course, is for the same reason that virtually no one in the legacy media uttered the words "Winter Soldier" on camera to Senator Kerry in 2004.
Bingo. The media don't question their candidate because they're determined to influence the next election. But there may be a more disturbing reason for their uneven coverage of the candidates.
Prelutsky has a point: for all the media's endless paranoia about George Bush's mid-life conversion to born-again Christianity, Mitt Romney's Mormon faith and the winking lights in the background of Mike Huckabee's Christmas ad, there's been precious little media interest in Barack Obama's faith-based brand of politics. This is odd, because Obama has hardly been shy about injecting Almighty God into his political rhetoric:
"My faith teaches me that I can sit in church and pray all I want, but I won't be fulfilling God's will unless I go out and do the Lord's work," he said, linking his support for expanded health care, social justice, immigration and the environment to the foundations of his Christian faith.
That's exactly the kind of statement that (had it been uttered by a Republican) would have Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews frothing at the mouth and ushering in a thousand years of Jackbooted Theocracy. But somehow when Brother Obama testifies, the press rise up in their pews and shout, "Hosannah!"
A few weeks ago, during a visit to the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board, I had a chance to ask Obama that lingering question:
"Are you an evangelical?"
Surrounded by members of the editorial board, editors, our publisher, and a couple of his own aides, this was Obama's answer:
"Gosh, I'm not sure if labels are helpful here because the definition of an evangelical is so loose and subject to so many different interpretations. I came to Christianity through the black church tradition where the line between evangelical and non-evangelical is completely blurred. Nobody knows exactly what it means.
Well that settles it: no use questioning him now! He came to his religion by the "black church method", people! Wave off! Wave off! We have us a third rail here! (That's culture-speak for 'You people couldn't possibly understand', doncha know.')
"Does it mean that you feel you've got a personal relationship with Christ the savior? Then that's directly part of the black church experience. Does it mean you're born-again in a classic sense, with all the accoutrements that go along with that, as it's understood by some other tradition? I'm not sure."
He continued his answer: "My faith is complicated by the fact that I didn't grow up in a particular religious tradition. And so what that means is when you come at it as an adult, your brain mediates a lot, and you ask a lot of questions.
"There are aspects of Christian tradition that I'm comfortable with and aspects that I'm not. There are passages of the Bible that make perfect sense to me and others that I go, 'Ya know, I'm not sure about that,'" he said, shrugging and stammering slightly.
It would have been easier for the senator-cum-president to answer, simply, "Yes," to the evangelical question.
But for Obama, as for many of us, faith is complicated, messy, a work in progress.
And, if we're honest about it, the standard labels just don't fit.
Translation: move along. Nothing to see here.
But I was curious. Having read Prelutsky's article, I checked out the web site of Obama's church - Trinity United - for myself and found it disturbing. The first thing that loads is a graphic of Africa. This is the chosen house of worship of the future President of the United States of America.
Right off the main page, prominently displayed, the church's Black Value System, a paean to separatism and divisiveness, is explained. But how does Afro-centrism fit into today's multicultural society? While commitment to the community, a strong work ethic, education, leadership, and self discipline are all worthy goals, one can't help but wonder why these attributes are almost invariably preceded by the word "Black"? Are these qualities dispensable for members of other races? Reading through Trinity's Black Value System, one gets a sense of ancient grudges, festering resentment, bile and bitterness. This is the church the candidate who says he'll heal America's racial divisions and bring us change chooses to voluntarily associate himself with? A faith community whose home page loads a graphic of Africa first, before his native country: America? Something is not right here.
This is not the kind of rhetoric that moves America forward. This is the type of thinking that mires a people in envy and despair:
8. Disavowal of the Pursuit of “Middleclassness.” Classic methodology on control of captives teaches that captors must be able to identify the “talented tenth” of those subjugated, especially those who show promise of providing the kind of leadership that might threaten the captor’s control.
Those so identified are separated from the rest of the people by:
1. Killing them off directly, and/or fostering a social system that encourages them to kill off one another.
2. Placing them in concentration camps, and/or structuring an economic environment that induces captive youth to fill the jails and prisons.
3. Seducing them into a socioeconomic class system which, while training them to earn more dollars, hypnotizes them into believing they are better than others and teaches them to think in terms of “we” and “they” instead of “us.”
4. So, while it is permissible to chase “middleclassness” with all our might, we must avoid the third separation method – the psychological entrapment of Black “middleclassness.” If we avoid this snare, we will also diminish our “voluntary” contributions to methods A and B. And more importantly, Black people no longer will be deprived of their birthright: the leadership, resourcefulness and example of their own talented persons.
Something is not right in America when we become so squeamish about race that our media shrink from asking polite, but searching questions of a candidate for the most important job in this nation's future. It may well be that Mr. Obama has good answers to these questions. After all, not all churchgoers espouse every tenet of their faith. It is also true that churches, as man-made entities formed for the worship of God, are primarily political in nature. Mr. Obama is free to clarify whether or not he endorses the separatism and divisive rhetoric of Trinity United. It is certain that, if his skin were white or if he were a conservative candidate, these questions would have been asked of him long ago. It is equally certain that if a white candidate belonged to a church espousing a similar brand of white separatism, he would have long ago been drummed out of the race for the presidency. Therefore, the media's refusal to question him on this issue is troubling, especially as it conflicts with both their treatment of conservative candidates and with Mr. Obama's own campaign rhetoric, which by his own admission is grounded in his religious faith. If he chooses of his own free will a church whose founder openly preaches racial divisiveness and resentment while associating with notorious anti-Semites, Obama can hardly hope to escape the suspicion that he endorses (at least tacitly) these same views. Such suspicions may not be fair, but they differ not one whit from the treatment meted out to countless white candidates before him. In politics more often than not, one is judged by the company one keeps. This is particularly true when one chooses to associate with extremists.
If the matter of religion had not been raised with other candidates, the question would be moot. But the fact is that religion has been a major and ongoing issue in this campaign and Mr. Obama himself has brought the matter up. It seems odd that the press cover the candidates' religions so unevenly. While no one wishes to see Mr. Obama subjected to an auto da fe, such questions would constitute no different treatment than that to which other candidates have been expected to submit. Mr. Obama should be given the opportunity to answer reasonable questions in a respectful, polite, non-confrontational forum. To treat him differently than a white candidate is, in itself, discriminatory. It implies he cannot stand up to the same level of scrutiny as his white competitors; that he can win only by competing on an uneven playing field, and only if his credentials are not examined too closely; and that is demeaning.
A President must lead the entire country, not just the Black community. It requires some explanation when a candidate for the presidency belongs to a church that encourages racial separatism, resentment between the races, and divisiveness. It requires some explanation when a candidate belongs to a church that seems to openly teach young people that their first loyalty is to the Black race, to Africa, to the Black community rather than to America and to the whole community (regardless of color or creed). It requires some explanation when a candidate belongs to a church that seems to encourage Blacks not to try too hard to get ahead because they are being "exploited" if they reach the top ten percent. This nation cannot be so racist or so difficult a place in which to succeed if young people who cannot even speak our language fight to come here illegally and still manage to excel in our public schools. They have none of the advantages of young blacks born and raised here, yet many of them manage to excel.
The double standard here is difficult to explain. On the one side we have the media telling us religion should never be a part of politics, yet they persist in delving into certain candidates' personal and religious lives on a selective basis. So far, their rationale has been that the candidates themselves have brought this treatment upon themselves by mixing God and politics. If that is so, then Mr. Obama has certainly brought the same treatment upon himself.
And yet it appears no one is interested in looking too closely at his religious convictions, lest they find out something which may cause trouble. As I've stated before, I welcome the discussion of religion as just one among many sources of moral and ethical values. Let the voters sort it all out. The only way to demystify issues of race and religion is to get them out in the open and insist upon polite and civil debate. It is when the debate becomes artificially one-sided that the public is misled by shysters like Keith Olbermann, who openly admits he is doing what he knows to be wrong, but excuses himself by telling the public he is acting under "emergency rules"
[W]hat I've done on the air in the last 4 1/2 years, and particularly in the last year and a half since the special comments began, is really journalism. It's saying here's what you're being told. Here's the identifiable objective fact to the situation. This statement from the government may be a lie...
...[After being asked how he differentiates his ad hominem attacks from those on the other side] Well, they're better written.The first-- no, I hate to-- I-- it's the most vulnerable point because it bothers me, too. It do-- it's the one criticism that I think is absolutely fair. We're doing the same thing. It is-- it becomes a nation of screechers. It's never a good thing. But emergency rules do apply. ...
...it is emergency circumstances as Walter Cronkite saw it. I mean, here-- objective Uncle Walter, most trusted man in America. When I have an opinion on the most important political issue of the day, I'm gonna sink a president and maybe throw the election to the other guy right now.
Hint to the clueless: when you go into the anchor booth with the avowed intention of throwing the election to your man, it's not "journalism" and you're not impartial.
Park the condescension, present all the facts and let the voters make up their own minds. We're not as dumb as you think.
I'm So Tired...
Via McQ comes this timeless lament from authoress Erica Jong:
I am so tired of pink men telling women (of all colors) what to do with their wombs—which connect with their brains—in case you forgot. I am so tired of pink men telling us we should stay in Iraq for generations. I am so tired of pink men buying bombs and cheating schools. I am so tired of pink men having wives who stand behind them and nod sagely on television. I am so tired of pink men expecting that someone—a brown, black, yellow or white woman—will trail behind them changing light bulbs, taking out garbage, washing laundry, keeping food in the house, taking care of kids of all ages, of parents of all ages. I am so tired of pink men whose wives double or triple the family income thinking they can spend it without doing a damn thing at home. I am so tired of pink men spouting nonsense on TV. I am so tired of pink men arguing, blathering, bloviating, predicting the future—usually wrongly—and telling women to shut up. I am so sick of hearing that another pink man has dropped his children out a window, off a bridge or killed his pregnant wife or killed his unpregnant wife because he was infatuated with another pregnant woman. I am so sick of pink men making war and talking about peace. I am so sick of pink men appointing their mediocre cronies to judgeships, to political advisors, to cushy jobs, to columns in the paper, to multimillion-dollar posts as CEOS or actors (while the actresses make less) or producers or writers or newsreaders or talk show bloviators or supposedly sage counselors at law. I am so tired of pink men.
Right on, sistah-womyn. The Princess is exhausted too. But she doesn't want to get rid of the pink men.
She just wants them to do her laundry.
January 14, 2008
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How We Select Presidential Candidates
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The Times Supports Our Brave, Wacky, Murdering Troops!
Sacre Bleu! The good work of the windsurfing Junior Senator from Massachusetts - it never ends! Tireless in their efforts to support our childlike, murdering troops, the folks at the NY Times are doing their level best to thank the military by convincing us they are deranged, psychotic killers. In this, the Times follows the sterling example of one John Foregainst Kerry, who returned from serving fewer than 4 months of a one-year combat tour to testify before the United States Senate (of which he would later become a member) to having witnessed:
...war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command...
Nasty partisan hacks were later to point out that, had Lt. Kerry actually seen such war crimes being committed "on a day to day basis", it would have been his duty as a commanding officer to do something about them. Yet amazingly, of the hundreds of thousands of men who fought in VietNam, only one - John Kerry - had the amazing courage to commit these crimes and then - from the relative safety of the Senate floor - blacken the names of his comrades in arms ... wisely without ever incriminating himself.
Three decades down the road the Editorial Staff is pleased to learn via Glenn Reynolds the Times has taken up Mr. Kerry's lonely struggle to get our crazed vets
incarcerated the psychiatric help they so desperately need. And yet still there are unbelievers who dare to question the narrative!
The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment - along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems - appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction.
And we're presented with a litany of tragedy.
But as usual, I keep asking the simple question - well, what does it mean? How do these 121 murderers compare with the base rate of murderers in the population?
And the answer appears to be damn well.
The only reference I could find for the number of troops who have served in combat areas was at GlobalSecurity.com, citing a Salon article:
Three and a half years have passed since U.S. bombs started falling in Afghanistan, and ever since then, the U.S. military has been engaged in combat overseas. What most Americans are probably unaware of, however, is just how many American soldiers have been deployed. Well over 1 million U.S. troops have fought in the wars since Sept. 11, 2001, according to Pentagon data released to Salon. As of Jan. 31, 2005, the exact figure was 1,048,884, approximately one-third the number of troops ever stationed in or around Vietnam during 15 years of that conflict.
From the October 1, 2001 start of the Afghanistan war, that's about 26,000 troops/month. To date (Jan 2008) that would give about 1.99 million.
That means that the NY Times 121 murders represent about a 7.08/100,000 rate.
Now the numbers on deployed troops are probably high - fewer troops from 2001 - 2003; I'd love a better number if someone has it.
But for initial purposes, let's call the rate 10/100,000, about 40% higher than the calculated one.
Now, how does that compare with the population as a whole?
Turning to the DoJ statistics, we see that the US offender rate for homicide in the 18 - 24 yo range is 26.5/100,000.For 25 - 34, it's 13.5/100,000.
See the problem?
For those too
partisan stupid to understand the Times' brilliant anecdotal statistics, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Release two million (or even a part of a million) crazed combat vets into the American population and the murder rate goes right through the roof. The evidence is incontrovertible. The editorial staff made a little chart to help the folks at home visualize the dramatic effects of releasing these dangerous predators into the peaceful civilian populace. We added the last few years to an existing chart we found online, created to illustrate an entirely different point: the correlation between dollars spent on law enforcement and the murder rate. It was based on the same DoJ base data:
As you can see, the effect is unmistakable. Our brave, murdering troops are running amok in the streets and as a consequence the homicide rate has clearly ... stayed flat.
The point of all of this is crystal clear. We have got to lock these people up before the Times does itself an injury. We rest our case.
January 12, 2008
These Tears, I Can Live With
Bush emerged from a tour of the Yad Vashem memorial calling it a "sobering reminder" that evil must be resisted, and praising victims for not losing their faith.
Wearing a yarmulke, Bush placed a red-white-and-blue wreath on a stone slab that covers ashes of Holocaust victims taken from six extermination camps. He also lit a torch memorializing the victims.
Bush was visibly moved as he toured the site, said Yad Vashem's chairman, Avner Shalev.
"Twice, I saw tears well up in his eyes," Shalev said.
At one point, Bush viewed aerial photos of the Auschwitz camp taken during the war by U.S. forces and called Rice over to discuss why the American government had decided against bombing the site, Shalev said.
The Allies had detailed reports about Auschwitz during the war from Polish partisans and escaped prisoners. But they chose not to bomb the camp, the rail lines leading to it, or any of the other Nazi death camps, preferring instead to focus all resources on the broader military effort, a decision that became the subject of intense controversy years later.
Between 1.1 million and 1.5 million people were killed at the camp.
"We should have bombed it," Bush said, according to Shalev.
You can say what you want. I like this man.
Because I Can
Update: Yanno.... *friends* do not make fun of friends for wearing pink socks. Just sayin'.
Aaron Tippin Interview
Via K-Lo at The Corner comes this Bill Bennett interview with country music singer Aaron Tippen. This interested the Blog Princess because she recently received, via email, a photo of The Unit and one of his Marines standing with Aaron in Iraq with the amusing subject line, "Hey ...you ever heard of this guy???"
Normally, the spousal unit is not a huge devotee of country music - he's more into the Rat Pack/jazz/instrumentals. At any rate, the Princess got a huge kick out of the photo. It took her way back to her early twenties in Camp Lejeune, NC when the Unit was pretty much constantly deployed. There wasn't much to listen to in the way of rock down there, so she drifted into country music. It fit the lazy, soft Southern nights and the slower pace of life.
Her two favorite Aaron Tippen songs were this one and this one. The common theme is staying true to your principles, even when it's not easy. It was nice to find out after all these years that Tippen doesn't just sing about this stuff. He seems to act on his beliefs.
By the way, my husband said he seemed to be a genuinely nice guy, and he's a tough judge of character.
January 11, 2008
The "Better" Life
Over at Grim's Hall, Joseph asks a fascinating and disturbing question:
Our coevals are learning, rapidly, more and ever more about how our minds and bodies are put together - and the technology to improve them will come, if not in our lifetimes, perhaps not long after. We've been able to change the form and abilities of our domestic animals through breeding - something much faster, with greater potential, is on the way.
Nothing in the natural order demands that our descendants resemble us in any particular way. Very likely, they will not resemble us. We will almost certainly transform ourselves, likely beyond recognition, in the generations to come.
Will this be a good thing? The question presupposes that we have a viable alternative. But what is the alternative to our taking charge of our biological destiny? Might we be better off just leaving things to the wisdom of Nature? I once believed this. But we know that Nature has no concern for individuals or for species.
Exactly. Suppose that a team of genetic engineers funded and equipped by a large corporation proceeded to create 10,000 superhuman specimens, supremely intelligent, healthy, naturally hardworking and honest - what would be your response? I would be rejoicing at the thought of all these newcomers might create or discover. Some others, who believe in a Creator, might be troubled at the implications of improving upon His handiwork (though the date suggesting that religiosity itself is heritable should be likewise troubling - if we are judged, in the end, by our beliefs. But theology is flexible, the more thoughtful believers accept a God who can tolerate things they scarce imagined before). (A few small-minded creatures wouldn't get past the naked fear - "They'll outdo me - they'll take my job!") If there's no overarching Order to sustain us "World Without End," there's no overarching Rule to stop us building better lives, better kinds of lives, than have ever existed before.
I come from a civilization far better than my ancestors a few centuries back could imagine - and I think I will die happy, even without descendants, if I expect it will be in better hands, and more vastly improved a century hence than I can hope to imagine.
It's an interesting question: can the human race genetically engineer its way to a better, happier tomorrow? Is it, in fact, possible to breed our way to virtue?
...10,000 superhuman specimens, supremely intelligent, healthy, naturally hardworking and honest...
I, for one, find the prospect disturbing. My primary objection is that I can't imagine we would leap into such 'improvements' without first making mistakes. Science proceeds, not in one effortless leap, but by trial and error. But in this case the 'errors' would take the form of experimentation on future generations of unborn humans who cannot consent to the risks of having their genetic material altered. It is all very well for those now living to say they believe the future benefits of genetic engineering outweigh the risks, but their right to replace the known risks of a "less than optimal" genetic makeup with the unknown risks of a genetically enhanced genetic profile assumes that future generations share their values and their risk assessment. By what right do they make such judgments on the behalf of the unborn?
And what do we do with the almost inevitable "mistakes" that happen along the way? Chalk them up to experience?
In another thread, Don Brouhaha made what I thought was a very perceptive comment:
Last month, my wife's uncle passed away after a long, painful fight with cancer. This seemed so sad and tragic, in that he was such a kind and good-hearted man. Why did he have to suffer so much?
This was the topic of the Catholic priest's homily at the funeral.
How can a merciful and loving God exist, and permit so much suffering amongst his people, especially among his believers?
The priest's answer was standard Catholic theology, but he expressed it very eloquently, so I wanted to repeat it here, if I can recall it properly.
God made us in his image. Not all-powerful, or all-knowing, or even immortal in this world, but in one important way. We can feel and express love, like God can. This is a great gift, but it is also a painful burden.
In this, we are different from the other creatures of creation (although many will argue that their dogs love them!), in that we can feel and express love for each other.
When we see suffering, the 'better angels' of our natures' are moved to help and mitigate it. When we feel suffering ourselves, the pain of the suffering is meant to open our hearts to recognize the pain of others. The path of feeling pain and suffering doesn't always lead to love. It can be tortured and perverted. But in that we know suffering ourselves, love should move to fill the part of us that has been hurt.
When we lose someone we love, as Amy has lost Mike Gable, what has happened? How can God hurt Amy like that? I hope that Amy can somehow cope with this loss, but the empty space in her heart that is there because of Mike's death, was first created with her love for Mike, and now can be filled with love for others, and maybe in the larger sense, the rest of humanity.
Being alive means you will be hurt, but it is our choice to go forward either in misery, or in hope of redeeming the love that has been shown to us.
Mike and Nathan, and so many other men who have paid with their lives for us, did it probably more out of love for something tangible, like their families, or as Mike Gable, for Amy. Not that they expected to die or looked for death, but they decided it was worth wagering their lives in serving to preserve the life and freedom of the ones that they loved most.
It speaks well for us as a people, that some would step forward to demonstrate this. Some would mock the Army and Marines as heartless "kill-bots", thugs, morons, etc. There is no arguing with them. They obviously know no one personally in the military.
Perhaps the noblest thing that one man can say about another, is that "he died trying". To spend the most valuable thing you possess, your life, in an effort to achieve that which you value most highly. Mike Gabel, Jeffrey Smith, Jason Denham, Nick Washalanta, Nathan Krissoff, Rick Rescorla, and so many others; all different men. Some wiser, some older, some just too damn young, but dedicated to do what was right, and willing to risk their lives, and spend them if necessary, to achieve what was right and valuable to them.
They died trying.
The pain of these losses shouldn't deaden your insides; it should open your heart to the needs of others, to show them the love that is so lacking in the world. As those lost to us started, the rest of us must continue.
It's been over thirty years since my own father died, yet I don't think a day has passed in those years when I didn't think of him at least once or twice a day, sometimes more often. I still feel that pain. I have felt a little like the Matt Damon character at the end of "Saving Private Ryan", when he returned to Capt. Miller's grave, in that I try to tell him, I've tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope that's enough.
I think when Cassandra writes one of these pieces, I remember the Pinocchio philosophy of life; "Now I know I'm a real boy, because I can feel my heart breaking." The loss of these men, some very young men, is indeed heartbreaking.
The urge to eliminate human suffering, to perfect the human condition, is a fairly universal one. I'm not sure it is a wise one. What I thought was interesting about Don's comment was that, in many ways, we think of human suffering as a dark thing. But it also acts in some ways as a prism that both illuminates and stratifies everything it touches.
Watching my nephew suffer for over two years and finally lose his battle with leukemia, I often thought that no one in his right mind could wish this fate on another human being. There were times when I just did not know how I could stand another moment. Even now, when he has been gone almost two years, I cannot think about his illness or him without tearing up. It is hard for me to understand why such a fine young man was put through the torment he endured, especially since he had such a strong faith in God. It is hard for me to watch his mother, my sister in law whom I love dearly, struggle with the heartbreak of missing him.
And yet I can see that even his suffering and death changed people. To this day my sister in law has told me stories of people who knew Tommy who were inspired by his courage. It sounds incredibly trite to say something as simplistic as 'maybe that is why he was put on this earth'. I know there was more to his life than that. But I am a different person because of his illness and his death. A kinder person. A more thoughtful person than I was before.
The same is true of 9/11. I have often looked at all the tears I've cried since that day and thought how very much I have changed. But that day woke something in me that I'm not sure I would give back.
And so I wonder exactly what constitutes the 'better life'? Is it all about being smarter, faster, healthier, faster? Is it eliminating all stress, poverty, worry from our lives? Is this really what we as humans want for future generations? Or do we require, at some deeper level, some pain, something to strive against, a few flies in the ointment, pebbles in our shoes, obstacles to truly bring out the greatness that lies within the human spirit?
I invite your comments.
Obama Derangement Syndrome Takes Over
This is starting to get a bit scary. As Glenn Reynolds commented the other day, all is proceeding as Jonah Goldberg foresaw:
Imagine the Democrats do rally around Obama. Imagine the media invests as heavily in him as I think we all know they will if he's the nominee — and then imagine he loses. I seriously think certain segments of American political life will become completely unhinged.
All it took was one lousy loss in a primary, for Pete's sake, and herds of deranged, cannibalistic polar bears have begun roaming the Arctic Circle, the poor citizens of Baghdad are being terrorized by mysterious foreign objects falling from the sky, George Will is gushing like a schoolgirl, and Chris Matthews' has been abducted and impregnated by aliens (OK, so that's nothing new).
What is it about Obama that seems to get people's pantyhose all in a wad? NRO's MediaBlog points to a USA Today article that indicates there's good evidence that NH voters may have simply changed their minds:
Which leads us to the second category of explanations for the disconnect between the pre-election poll results on the Democratic side and the actual voting. New Hampshire Democratic voters may have confounded us pollsters by actually changing their minds in the days and hours leading up to their vote. This is unusual. In most pre-election environments, voter statements of their vote intentions in the days before an election are good indicators of how they actually vote. But last minute changes do occur, which is why Gallup usually interviews the final Monday night before the national presidential election (but not typically, or this year specifically, in New Hampshire).
There was a tremendous interest in this election among New Hampshire voters this year, as demonstrated by the record high turnout. This high level of interest suggests that voters may have been closely attuned to election events in the final days before the election, which in turn may them more likely to be affected by such events.
The most obvious such event on the Democratic side was the extraordinary and very frequently aired video of Hillary Clinton’s personal, emotional, “verge of tears” response to a female voter's question on Monday. At this juncture, it is impossible to determine the actual impact of this event on Democratic voting behavior, but it is not at all unreasonable to assume that it did cause some voters, including women voters, to change their minds about voting for Clinton. There was also the Saturday night Democratic debate, which allowed Democratic voters to contrast and compare Clinton and Obama side by side, and which may also have generated some changes of opinion among voters.
Ah, but it's so much more reasonable to allege racism and throw a hissy fit when events don't turn out like you anticipate:
The MoveOn-"don't taze me bro" crowd is still convinced the election was stolen from John Kerry. If Obama loses, people like Greenwald and Ezra Klein will hurl their Ikea throw-pillows with unbridled rage.
Come to think of it, there seems to be a lot of that sort of thing going around lately...
Watched the NH returns with some friends last night, and something quite unexpected happened when the AP called it for Clinton -- inexplicable ANGER. I was surrounded by people in their early 30's, registered Democrats, receptive to the Clintons in the 90's, and I swear I thought someone was going to throw their wine glass at the tube during her 'victory' speech.
What in the hell is wrong with these people? Don't they realize these are just primaries? I'm just waiting for Mike Huckabee to appear on national TV and drink the wine of God's fury...
I don't know about you people, but my fun meter is about pegged.
January 10, 2008
Voter ID: It's A No Brainer
A familiar maxim warns that a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on. The half vast editorial staff were left ruefully pondering the truth of that dictum early this morning when the perpetually entertaining Ms. Dahlia Lithwick of SlateMag managed to muck up both the facts and the law before we could grab a cup of coffee and clear the cobwebs from our pea-sized brain.
The golden thread that runs through all of Ms. Lithwick's essays on jurisprudence is the distressing propensity of the Evil, Partisan Roberts Court to brutally oppress hapless orroyo toads, fluffy Angora kittens, people of cholor, and transgendered wolves longing to pick out a china pattern and settle down in The Hamptons. But today she warns of a particularly heinous danger lurking in our midst. Shockingly, the Roberts Court is determined to steal something you may not even have known you possessed: your Constitutional Right to vote. Ms. Lithwick reserves this stunner for the last paragraph of her magnum opus:
I fear I am counting five justices who believe that a nonexistent problem can be constitutionally cured by burdening the fundamental right to vote.
There is just one problem with Ms. Lithwick's alarum. The justices are reviewing the constitutionality of an Indiana law, and contrary to her perfervid perorations, the right to vote is not among the rights explicitly guaranteed by the federal Constitution:
The Constitution contains many phrases, clauses, and amendments detailing ways people cannot be denied the right to vote. You cannot deny the right to vote because of race or gender. Citizens of Washington DC can vote for President; 18-year-olds can vote; you can vote even if you fail to pay a poll tax. The Constitution also requires that anyone who can vote for the "most numerous branch" of their state legislature can vote for House members and Senate members.
Note that in all of this, though, the Constitution never explicitly ensures the right to vote, as it does the right to speech, for example. It does require that Representatives be chosen and Senators be elected by "the People," and who comprises "the People" has been expanded by the aforementioned amendments several times. Aside from these requirements, though, the qualifications for voters are left to the states. And as long as the qualifications do not conflict with anything in the Constitution, that right can be withheld. For example, in Texas, persons declared mentally incompetent and felons currently in prison or on probation are denied the right to vote.
Indeed, Salon.com (that reich-wing rag!) managed to do its homework, huffily informing its readers in an article amusingly entitled You Have No Right To Vote that (for the most part) the exercise of the franchise is a matter left to the states:
Last week, a Missouri judge reminded the state Legislature that citizens of the state have a right to vote. And because it is a right, not a privilege granted by the powerful, Missourians can cast their ballots this November without having to meet identification requirements that seemed designed to make it harder for certain people -- the poor, the elderly, minorities and women -- to exercise that right.
That's the good news. The bad news is that this right comes from the Missouri state Constitution. The U.S. Constitution does not explicitly guarantee a right to vote, and our federal courts currently read the document not to include it.
But that's not the only thing Ms. Lithwick gets wrong. She, like most other commentators on the voter ID affair, makes a frankly silly circular argument about the possibility of voter fraud. You see, there is no such thing. And what's more, the mere suggestion is a transparent attempt to disenfranchise Democrats and throw elections to conservatives (in other words, to commit voter fraud). Oddly, the fact that there is even less evidence (by Ms. Lithwick's own admission) for the latter contention than she contends there is to support the former distresses her not one whit, logic being for The Little People:
When Indiana adopted its voter-ID law in 2005—requiring voters to present a government-issued photo ID before casting a ballot—the state purported to be beating back the malodorous tide of vote fraud that was ostensibly sweeping the nation. But as professor Richard Hasen has ably demonstrated here in Slate, this vote-fraud epidemic is largely fictional. The major bipartisan draft fraud report (PDF) on the subject concluded there's very little polling-place fraud in America. So, increasingly, the effort to stop fictional vote fraud looks like a partisan effort to suppress votes that tend to go to Democrats—and somehow, it's always indigent, elderly, and minority voters who are disproportionately affected.
But the "major bipartisan draft fraud report" Lithwick so triumphantly cites studied only voter fraud cases. Let's think about that for a moment, because there are several logical problems with using a study that cites only cases (and cases that got to appeals court, at that) to estimate the number of voter fraud incidents taking place in a general population.
When you drive to work every day, do you ever see people speeding? Of those speeders, how many get caught by the police and pulled over? Of speeders who are pulled over, how many actually received a citation? Of those cited, how many go to court and challenge the citation? Of those, how many cases are dismissed in court for various reasons?
How accurate would it be to use a "study" of cases that made it all the way through the court system to estimate the number people who actually drive too fast? Not very. It's the wrong metric. But there's a more compelling argument, and John Fund makes it:
Opponents of photo ID laws make a valid point that, while Indiana has a clear problem with absentee-ballot fraud (a mayoral election in East Chicago, Ind., was invalidated by the state's Supreme Court in 2003), there isn't a documented problem of voter impersonation. "The state has to demonstrate that this risk of fraud is more than fanciful. And it really isn't," says Ken Falk, legal director for the ACLU of Indiana.
But Indiana officials make the obvious point that, without a photo ID requirement, in-person fraud is "nearly impossible to detect or investigate." A grand jury report prepared by then-Brooklyn District Attorney Elizabeth Holtzman in the 1980s revealed how difficult it is to catch perpetrators. It detailed a massive, 14-year conspiracy in which crews of individuals were recruited to go to polling places and vote in the names of fraudulently registered voters, dead voters, and voters who had moved. "The ease and boldness with which these fraudulent schemes were carried out shows the vulnerability of our entire electoral process to unscrupulous and fraudulent misrepresentation," the report concluded. No indictments were issued thanks to the statute of limitations, and because of grants of immunity in return for testimony.
Even modest in-person voter fraud creates trouble in close races. In Washington state's disputed 2004 governor's race, which was won by 129 votes, the election superintendent in Seattle testified in state court that ineligible felons had voted and votes had been cast in the name of the dead. In Milwaukee, Wis., investigators found that, in the state's close 2004 presidential election, more than 200 felons voted illegally and more than 100 people voted twice. In Florida, where the entire 2000 presidential election was decided by 547 votes, almost 65,000 dead people are still listed on the voter rolls -- an engraved invitation to fraud. A New York Daily News investigation in 2006 found that between 400 and 1,000 voters registered in Florida and New York City had voted twice in at least one recent election.
Laws tightening up absentee-ballot fraud, which is a more serious problem than in-person voting, would be welcome. But, curiously, almost all of the groups opposing the photo ID law before the Supreme Court today either oppose specific efforts to combat absentee-ballot fraud or are silent on them.
No matter how much voter fraud is caused by voter impersonation, Stuart Taylor of the National Journal reports that "polls show voters increasingly distrust the integrity of the electoral process." He also notes that a 2006 NBC/Wall Street Journal nationwide poll found that, by a 80%-7% margin, those surveyed supported voters showing "a valid photo identification." The idea had overwhelming support among all races and income groups.
That sweeping support helps explain why, in 2005, 18 of 21 members of a bipartisan federal commission headed by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker came out in support of photo ID requirements more stringent than Indiana's. "Voters in nearly 100 democracies use a photo identification card without fear of infringement on their rights," the commission stated. Mr. Carter feels strongly about voter fraud. In his book, "Turning Point," he wrote of his race for Georgia State Senate in 1962, which involved a corrupt local sheriff who had cast votes for the dead. It took a recount and court intervention before Mr. Carter was declared the winner.
Right now, half the states have decided that some kind of ID should be required to vote. It makes sense for the Supreme Court to allow federalism to work its will state-by-state. In 2006, the court unanimously overturned a Ninth Circuit ruling that had blocked an Arizona voter ID law. In doing so, the court noted that anyone without an ID is by federal law always allowed to cast a provisional ballot that can be verified later. The court also noted that fraud "drives honest citizens out of the democratic process and breeds distrust of our government. Voters who fear their legitimate votes will be outweighed by fraudulent ones will feel disenfranchised."
If you think a lot of speeders get off scot-free now, imagine how that situation would be compounded if police were prohibited from using radar guns to identify cars that are exceeding the speed limit. Law enforcement is always short handed, and crimes which are difficult to detect will not be enforced. Police have neither the time nor the resources to go after criminals absent clear, convincing evidence that will stand up in court - they are simply wasting their time. To cite the end product - a lack of prosecuted voter fraud cases - in a situation where voting officials are not allowed to check IDs is circular reasoning. Of course the ratio of successfully prosecuted cases to allegations is low: election officials cannot check the only thing that would make successful prosecution possible: a photo ID.
The real damage from our current situation is the loss of public confidence in our electoral process. Just before the last election, Democrats like Nancy Pelosi were openly undermining public confidence in the integrity of the election process and engaging in fear mongering that, according to such right-wing outlets as the New York Times, was keeping blacks away from the polls. Of course when Democrats took the House, her concerns over the integrity of vote counts and the disenfranchisement of minority voters magically vanished overnight. But how many blacks didn't vote because of her outright race mongering? The fact is that in many precincts in 2000, the black vote handed the election to none other than George Bush.
It's time to move to a system that gets race out of the equation and prevents politicians on both sides from demagoguing the issue, undermining public confidence in our elections, and continually challenging election day results.
If you have an ID, you cannot be barred from the polls and if you want to exercise your franchise, it is not too much to ask as a responsible adult that you obtain a voter ID. As Fund pointed out, there are mechanisms in place to ensure those who don't have their IDs retain access to the franchise.
If third world democracies have figured out how to run peaceful elections where voters are only allowed to vote once and must identify themselves, surely the world's greatest superpower follow their example. Some things really are that simple.
Update: By the Beard of the Prophet we are not making this up to disenfranchise Dahlia Lithwick!
Your delicious irony of the day comes from Florida and Indiana. The litigant who is trying to kill off Indiana’s voter ID law ...appears to have broken the law by registering to vote in both Indiana and Florida, and by claiming homestead tax exemption in both states.At the Charlotte County, Fla. voter registration office, Sandy Wharton, vote qualifying office manager, said Ewing registered to vote in Charlotte County on Sept. 18, 2002, and signed an oath that she was a Florida resident and understood that falsifying the voter application was a third-degree felony punishable by prison and a fine up to $5,000. Wharton said her office checked Ewing’s Florida residency and qualified her on Oct. 2, 2002. On Oct. 4, 2002, they mailed her Florida voter card to her, to the West Lafayette, Ind. address that Ewing gave as a mailing address.
However, Ewing didn’t vote in Florida that year, nor has she ever voted in Charlotte County, Wharton said. But, just a month after receiving her Florida voter card, she did vote in the November 2002 elections in Tippecanoe County, Ind., according to Heather Maddox, co-director of elections and registration in Tippecanoe.
Ewing confirmed that she is registered in both states to vote, but at first said the Florida registration came automatically with her driver’s license. She repeatedly denied signing the oath on the Florida application. She also said Indiana mailed her an absentee ballot, but she didn’t use it or vote that year.
However, Heather Maddox, co-director of election registration in Tippecanoe County, said Ewing voted in Indiana in 2002, 2003 and 2004, before the Indiana ID law took effect in 2005.
When informed that the Florida voter office said she’d registered personally in 2002 for a Florida voter card, and that this newspaper had a copy of her application, Ewing said, “Well, why did I do that? I¹m confused. I can’t recall.” She reiterated that, even though she’s registered in two states, she only votes in Indiana, adding that she does have a car plated in Florida.
That doesn’t satisfy Florida officials.
“She can only be registered to vote in the place where she claims residency,² Wharton said. “You can’t be registered in two states. She has to claim one place or the other.”
Can you say "Unclear on the concept", boys and girls?
I knew that you could.
January 09, 2008
Shameful. Just Shameful.
HAIRLESS says Claudia Connell
When I saw the pictures of dancer Anton Du Beke on the beach in Barbados, my first thought was not how wonderful it would be to run my red painted fingernails through his thick, manly thatch - it was that I must get myself a new living room rug while the sales are still on.
He reminded me of that famous (faked) picture of the yeti - half man, half beast - walking in the wilderness with his head bowed and hairy arms swinging in the wind.
Despite it supposedly being a symbol of masculinity, I am afraid hairy men do nothing for me and never have.
HIRSUTE says Ursula Hirschkorn
Like fine wine, and expensive moisturisers, my taste for hairy men has developed with age.
When I was a callow teenager my crushes were all on smoothly sculpted boys, but as a woman I've realised that real men are at home with their hairyness.
I will admit that the sight of Duran Duran heart-throb John Taylor's silky smooth pecs rising from a frilly New Romantic shirt left the teenage me hot under the collar, while my bedroom was wallpapered in posters of Adam Ant's alabaster torso.
As a girl, the idea of running my hands through a man's hair anywhere other than on his head filled me with revulsion.
But then I also thought that peach schnapps with lemonade was the height of sophistication, and that foundation was meant to be applied with a trowel, so what did I know?
After 8 years of the worst administration since
Adolph Hitler Herbert Hoover, can America be healed? Discuss amongst yourselves.
Oops, We Did It Again!
Left with egg on their faces in the wake of Hillary Clinton's win in the NH primary, the press are struggling to explain how polling (always an inexact science at best) could have [gasp] yielded less than reliable results:
We're going to hear many analyses in the coming days. I'm already seeing lots of references to the Bradley Effect. Polipundit posited that a Reverse Bradley Effect might have been at work in Iowa because the Democrats had an open caucus and the use of secret ballots in New Hampshire brought back the old fashioned Bradley Effect. Mickey Kaus likes that theory and adds a few more, including what he calls the Lazio effect.
Lazio Effect. No ganging up on the girl! First, Edwards turns on her in the debate. Then Obama says she's merely "likeable enough." Then the press disparages her anger, mocks her campaign and gloats over its troubles. They made her cry! And then that mean macho John Edwards goes and says the crying makes her unfit to be president.
Bradley, Lazio, Reverse Bradley... (is that anything like reverse cowgirl?)... how about something as simple as the Fat Lady Effect (it ain't over until the fat lady sings?).
Or the Captain Obvious Effect: never bet on a close horse race.
We invite your contributions in the comments section.
January 08, 2008
No Greater Love
Why, for all of us, out of all we have heard, seen, felt, in a lifetime, do certain images recur, charged with emotion, rather than others? The song of one bird, the leap of one fish, at a particular place and time, the scent of one flower, an old woman on a German mountain path, six ruffians seen through an open window playing cards at night at a small French railway junction, where there was a water-mill: such memories may have symbolic value, but of what we cannot tell, for they come to represent the depths of feeling into which we cannot peer.
- T.S. Elliott
What they all said about him, after he was gone, was that he could have gone anywhere, accomplished any task, chosen to be anything he wanted to. What he chose to do was serve his country.
Nathan was no underprivileged drifter forced into the military for lack of better options. He was one of America's best and brightest. A child of privilege who, if one believes the Gospel according to our Congressional overlords, should have known better than to settle for life in the armed forces. But as it did for so many Americans, the world changed for Nathan Krissoff on a brilliant September morning in 2001:
"He would not and could not stand idly by," Marine Corps Capt. Michael Dubrule said Saturday during a memorial service for Krissoff in Reno.
On the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attack, Nate Krissoff left for Iraq.
"Lt. Krissoff was the type of man who made things seem easy," said 1st Lt. Daniel Ballard, an intelligence officer with the battalion who roomed with Krissoff. "He was an ideal Marine. I know I am a better person and a better Marine for having known him."
Ballard underscored Krissoff's affability and his curiosity, which both stemmed from an attentiveness to the needs of others that manifested itself in his daily interaction with his Marines.
"Nate taught me to treat everyone well because you never know who is going to be your buddy down the road," he said. He always asked questions, and "he was a gifted listener."
"Most of all, Nate was a friend. He was my roommate here at Camp Fallujah. We kept each other sane," Ballard continued. "We had many talks about God, the purpose of life, the world in general, and I know he's in a better place now."
At memorial services for the young lieutenant both at Camp Falloujah and back at his home in Reno, Nevada, it seemed everyone had memories to share:
Acting on intelligence not long before his death, Krissoff helped save the life of an older Iraqi man from insurgents, Gibbons said. Stories like this from Iraq "rarely" make it into the mainstream media, said Gibbons, a combat pilot in the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars.
Memories are powerful yet elusive things. Unruly and capricious, they resist our determined attempts to summon or lock them away. Dancing slyly at the borders between desire and imagination, they return unexpectedly to torment us when our defenses are down or, perversely, brush against us like purring kittens offering comfort and uncomplicated joy. They are preserved, reinforced and evoked by stories, rituals and traditions, symbols, as a scent carried on a breeze, a favorite song, the slant of light on someone's hair or a stolen glance across a crowded room.
We will never know what memories Bill Krissoff has of his son Nathan.
What we do know is what they have inspired him to do: at the age of 61, Bill Krissoff is closing his medical practice and following his son to Iraq.
Because 42 is the Navy's age cutoff for medical officer enlistees, Krissoff was initially told that joining would be a difficult and lengthy process. So he pressed the issue and asked for the needed waiver from the highest authority he could find - President Bush.
Krissoff met Bush in August at an American Legion convention in Reno. The doctor described the personal meeting he had with the president immediately following the convention as a solemn experience with a small group of families grappling with the loss of loved ones in war.
Krissoff says Bush asked each family what he could do for them.
Krissoff told the president he wanted to serve.
After a brief moment, Bush deferred to Krissoff's wife, Christine, who has consistently supported her husband's decision. Krissoff says he pressed Bush about the matter with humor.
"'Sir, I'd like to serve but they told me I'm too old, but I'm younger than you, sir,'" Krissoff says, telling the story with a rare grin.
Much has been written about Nathan Krissoff, and about his father Bill, and deservedly so. But I found myself thinking of the one person who was barely mentioned.
The person who stood by Bill Krissoff's side when he asked President Bush for that medical waiver to join his two sons in the war on terror. Christine Krissoff: the woman who raised Nathan and Austin Krissoff. I thought of her because of my friend, and (oddly enough) because of school buses:
16 years ago in the fall, I walked my little boy down to the bus stop for his first day of kindergarten.
He had his backpack filled with all the things the school said he should have. He had his lunch box packed with goodies (all nutritious). His double crown had been tamed, at least for the time being, his clothes were clean and tidy and his shoes were tied.
I will never forget the catch in my throat as he tried to get on the bus and he couldn't quite get his foot on that first step...
It has been written, "Greater love hath no man than this, than that he lay down his life for his friends." How much harder must it be to give life, to devote your every waking moment to protecting and nurturing a child as he grows stronger and more full of promise with each passing day; and then to stand aside with grace and dignity and accept a freely made decision that goes against your every protective instinct? What a journey from those long ago moments when a newborn takes his first butterfly-fragile breaths to the moment he strides out of your life, almost without a backward glance?
I have never had to send a son off to war. I have never had to square my shoulders against the silence.
But I find myself thinking, for some reason, of far distant Thermopylae and I suspect that much of the steel in the United States Marine Corps did not descend solely through the male line.
The battalion sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Pickering, barked the "Final Roll," but no reply was returned after he announced Krissoff's name three times.
A bugler eased into the somber melody of "Taps," and as the last note melded into silence, Marines in attendance filed out of the rows to pay their respects at the small memorial that had been erected in Krissoff's honor.
An inverted rifle with a helmet crowning the buttstock, identification tags dangling from the pistol grip, and boots resting on the floor at a 45-degree angle reminded the Marines why and for what he sacrificed his life.
"When we depart these lands, when we deploy home, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the long silence of our friends," Seely said. "Nathan, your love, your brotherhood, your memory, like the flash in the horizon at sunset and sunrise, will be endless. Your silence will be deafening."
January 07, 2008
Coffee Snorters: Young Love Edition
Hey what could make a boy behave this-a way, yeah?
And he learn(ed) all of the lines, now, and every time
He gonna s-stutter when he talks
And it's true! It's true!
He sure has acquired this kinda cool and inspired sorta jazz when he walk(s)
Where's his jacket and his old blue jeans,
If this ain't healthy it is some kinda clean
That means Chuck E's in love
I don't believe what you're saying to me
This is something I got to see...
Barack Obama, who might be mercifully closing the Clinton parenthesis in presidential history, is refreshingly cerebral amid this recrudescence of the paranoid style in American politics. He is the un-Edwards and un-Huckabee -- an adult aiming to reform the real world rather than an adolescent fantasizing mock-heroic "fights" against fictitious villains in a left-wing cartoon version of this country.
Well, whatever is that he's got up his sleeve
I hope it isn't contagious:
George Will is optimistic that Obama's success in Iowa will be a nail in the coffin of identity politics.His success splendidly refutes the Democratic Party's longstanding embrace of the theory of identity politics and its corollary, the theory of categorical representation. Those theories are that individuals are defined, politically, by their race, gender or ethnicity; hence people can be properly represented only by people from the same category. Those theories look even more preposterous and dated after Obama's success in a state with a negligible minority population. Among the losers in Iowa were Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and all the others who still subscribe to a racial narrative of strife and oppression that has remained remarkably unchanged through 50 years of stunning progress, of which Obama's candidacy is powerful evidence.
Yep. The boy's got it bad...
Debate Night: Pandering Against The Machine
Ye Gods. In a fit of
insane boredom madness, the Blog Princess finally succumbed to the temptation to watch the presidential debates. Since her head is still reeling, an Unkind Fate has decreed that you must suffer too.
Until now, she eschewed the unending parade of pre-inaugural utterance fests on the theory that they offer about the same entertainment/intellectual value as feeding American Gladiator, ElimaDate and How to Look Good Naked into an underpowered Cuisinart with no lid and hitting "Snooze". Modern science is actually quite compelling on this point. Rigorous longitudinal studies have irrefutably established that for each presidential primary We the People endure, another 50 points mysteriously disappear from the average SAT scores of the year's crop of graduating seniors:
In 1992 voters elected a 46-year-old Arkansas governor as president, and in the spring of that year, if the polls are to be believed, they were ready to elect a Texas billionaire whose governmental experience included serving as a junior naval officer and running a firm that provided computer services to local welfare departments. In 1976 voters elected a one-term former governor of Georgia who'd served as a state senator and a naval officer.
The metrically minded will see a common thread. Every 16 years--in 1976, 1992 and now in 2008--American voters have seemed less interested in experience and credentials and more interested in a new face unconnected to the current political establishment.
Looks as though we could be due for a big shakeup this election season, and those are never fun. So why, oh why can't we look the other way? It's like watching your kid brother squish a particularly loathesome bug. You know the outcome will be messy and pointless but some primeval instinct keeps you riveted instead of stomping it (or better yet, him) quickly and doing something useful with the rest of your day.
Scary stuff, this science: a candidate flaps his gums in Iowa and, in a breathtaking display of the coriolis effect the collective IQ of the entire nation begins its inexorable slide down the tubes. Mindful of this, The Princess (operating on a well founded suspicion that egregious dumbassery was well nigh inescapable) opted for a timely dose of anaesthesia in the form of a meticulously crafted Cabernet, charmingly enhanced with hints of lush blackberry and currant. Still, even the mellowing influence of Alexander Valley's finest could not erase the feeling that - if Iowa is any indication - we are once more about to get the government we so richly deserve.
Two days and several wasted hours later, I'd like to believe the dull throbbing in my head is due to the aftereffects of that judiciously-downed bottle, and not the horrifying spectacle of the nation's best and brightest looking like participants on a particularly regrettable reality TV show penciled in during the Hollywood writer's strike. But maybe that's exactly what is needed here. I can see the first episode already:
PimpMyCandidate: As the rest of the candidates decide who will be voted off the podium, watch host EZbits turn ole' sleepy Fred Tee into a dope-ass vote magnet. Our tricked out pimpologists really know how to help a brothah out!
Or perhaps this would be more appropriate?
Queer Eye for the Change Agent Guy: the Fab Five can't *wait* to get their hands on the current set of candidates, because it takes a real artiste to make these guys look as though they have a hope in hell of winning an election (much less getting any their domestic platform through Congress) in a nation that is largely politically moderate if they high-mindedly promise the "base" never to compromise their rock-hard conservative principles.
...because, as we all know, compromise and bipartisanship are sure signs a candidate can't be trusted with pragmatic, real-world affairs.
At any rate, to minimize the shock of transitioning from the surreality of the debates (where candidates earnest assure us they can handle even the most dire economic or national security crisis by boring it to death) to the gripping drama of weekly, twice-weekly, and even thrice weekly updates on who's likeliest to win an election still nearly a year away, the Blog Princess brings you her Predictions for the Presidential Primaries:
1. At least one candidate will lay bare a shocking secret from his past.
2. Approximately midway through the primaries, a virtual unknown by the name of None of the Above will surge into first place in the polls, eclipsing both Unnamed Candidate and T. Front Runner. If the first half of the primaries are any indication, his or her vagueness on the issues and complete lack of executive and foreign policy experience will not be an issue with the electorate.
McCain — the guy who was for amnesty before he was against it before acknowledging that it's the only solution and is not amnesty in the first place except it kinda, sorta is, except that he'd never be for amnesty — says Romney is the "candidate of change."
Change. You'd almost think of a resolutely, died-in-the-wool pro-lifer filing a brief in the Supreme Court to suppress the First Amendment rights of a pro-life group to help pro-abortion incumbents get elected ... not that Senator Straight Talk would ever do such a thing ...
4. In choosing the chief executive of the world's largest superpower, voters on both sides of the aisle will blithely overlook 200 years of history and resume requirements that would be considered mandatory for far less important positions.
5. Glenn Greenwald will cannily conserve the the time and energy it takes to write thoughtful, well researched posts by simply inventing things out of whole cloth whenever it suits him.
Inexplicably, the hapless victims of his paranoid delusions will Continue to Notice Him. But if his ravings produce ripostes like this, I think I we can all live with the pain:
...If Obama loses, people like Greenwald and Ezra Klein will hurl their Ikea throw-pillows with unbridled rage.
6. After several months, during which a waiting nation was deprived of the verbal stylings of one John Foregainst Kerry, John Edwards will finally bring an end to our national nonsequitur shortage:
Watching the New Hampshire Democratic debate. John Edwards, for the third time tonight, has launched into his denunciation of "corporate greed," complete with an impassioned rant that "corporations" have a "stranglehold" over "American families". Really? Does anybody believe that? And he says that for him "it is personal," again and again, because of the abuse his father allegedly took at the mill (which, apparently, we should all be delighted is closed because it was such a hellhole, but which we are not because the jobs went to China and now Chinese get to work in the hellhole)...
Update: Edwards strikes again! Mein Gott im Himmel, the man is everywhere at once!
Speaking of delusions, Edwards seems unaware that the world market sets the price of oil. He says a $100-a-barrel price is evidence of -- surging demand in India and China? unrest in Nigeria's oil fields? No, "corporate greed."
7. Ronald Wilson Reagan, who seemed eerily silent during the debates but maintained an 'unseen, almost ghostly' presence throughout will suddenly appear in a puff of smoke, body slam an astounded Rudy Guiliani, and claim a commanding lead. Tragically, this event will leave scores of stunned conservative pundits with nothing to complain about.
As for the Princess, she is laying in an extra supply of potent potables for that dark night of the soul known as Election Day. With literally months of the perfervid prognostication ahead, it's going to feel like Groundhog Day for the foreseeable future. In this case, forewarned is
forearmed comfortably numbed. But if you simply can't resist peeking at the polls, try looking at them over time. Hint: it's called a trend. No one seems to be talking about this, and it never ceases to amaze the Princess. Does anyone else see what I see?
Always an interesting way to calm those pre-election jitters.
January 06, 2008
Turn Up The Volume
January 04, 2008
Who can know what tales are told in the whispers of an angel,
Who can see what mighty deeds he does in the name of the Lord,
What eye can see or mind conceive of how he sees this world,
Dark and light is angel sight: the battle brave, and souls are saved.
Demons flee when we're set free, and angels there attend.**
Over at Marine Corps Moms this year, Operation Santa grew to include not just deployed Marines but wounded warriors at Balboa Naval Hospital, Brooke RAMC, Bethesda, and Walter Reed under the leadership of the lovely and talented Carrie Costantini and Marine Moms Bethesda. These ladies literally move mountains every Christmas to make sure our guys know they're remembered during the holiday season. Marine Moms even took care of Marine canine units this year, which is a great story if you recall Corporal Lee and Lex:
We're still immersed in making sure our troops are remembered this Christmas and last week, we received an additional 5,000 names of deployed Marines. Some of them are assigned to canine units. Canine Marines work side by side with their two-legged handlers, sniffing out explosives at vehicle checkpoints and buried ordnance. They save lives every single day - and here's your chance to reward them with their very own Christmas stocking filled with dog biscuits and perhaps a squeaky toy..
And over in Landstuhl, a different kind of angel is always watching over our wounded warriors. We spend a lot of time focusing on the people on the front lines, but it's a good thing these unbelievably caring and dedicated people are willing to give so much of themselves...
...because let me tell you, peoples: back in Iraq, the situation is going completely to the dogs...
“Every time we go on patrol, she is waiting at the front gate for us to come out.... [1st Lt. Fernando] Pelayo said.
Soldiers seem to like having a dog with them when they head into southern Baghdad’s battle-scarred Hadar neighborhood. Molly walks ahead, growling at the wild dogs that roam the rubbish-strewn streets, keeping them away from the soldiers.
“In this area there are so many dogs. When we go out dogs see and hear us from a good distance away, but Molly does a good job keeping them away and making them shut up and keeping them quiet so they don’t give away our position,” Pelayo added.
Thank God for the better angels of our nature. During the Christmas season, when so many of us were rushing around thinking of ourselves and what would be underneath our own Christmas trees, they were thinking of others.
Kind of humbling, isn't it?
**shamelessly swiped from an angel I know
January 03, 2008
We're From *Hollywood* and We're Here To Help You...
Well, you can just stop 2008 right here and now. Sometime while the Princess was napping the nation officially flat-lined, and surprisingly she's not talking about Iowa.
Oh, go ahead. Close your eyes, boys and girls, while she whisks you away to a far off time and place, courtesy of the Lifetime Channel...
His first guest is 32-year-old James Morris, who has spent most of his life dieting and feels he needs to lose 40 pounds to look good.
“He’s hated his body for two decades,” Kressley says. “But that’s where I come in. Because I’m here to teach him to unlearn his terrible self-image.”
In the age of “Dr. 90210” and “The Biggest Loser,” it is refreshing to see a show not focused on plastic surgery or dramatic weight loss. It’s even more invigorating to hear Kressley speak affirmatively about real bodies. When Morrel cries upon seeing himself in his brand new, flattering suit, Kressley says, “I think you are finally just seeing you. Let’s try to see ourselves more the real way.”
Kressley, who comes off as a less obnoxious but just as supportive Richard Simmons, offers the pitch-perfect amount of encouragement. The final triumphant moments come when the show's men agree to be photographed (tastefully) in the nude and Kressley has, as promised, turned body loathing into body loving.
...because Lord knows, the only
triumphant true path to lasting body acceptance is to be photographed (tastefully) in the altogether. Though if all you're after is to make a few new friends, a trip down to the local sporting goods store may be just what the doctor ordered, too:
There was a lovely young lady there as well, alongside of us. With a pert brown pony tail, Kevlar vest, fast draw holster and speed loading rig. The handcuff holder at her six o’clock assured me that she was a law enforcement agent. Or else the kinkiest woman I’d ever laid eyes on. Either one. Or both.
And at the end of the day, does it really matter?.
But I digress.
This sort of idiocy, in a nutshell, is why the blog princess refuses to watch television. At the first flickers of reality TV, the few grey cells in her pea-sized brain not already pickled in a vat of delightfully impertinent yet unassuming Petit Syrah begin arm wrestling each other for the remote control. But as God is my witness, for some insane reason after all these years, I still find myself fascinated by the seemingly endless differences between men and women.
Why is this?
Why can't I read about differentials, guns, or smashing things up? Why do women waste so much time wondering how the other half of humanity thinks? I couldn't resist the intro because it occurred to me, while reading Jules this morning, that quite possibly the only thing more completely cretinous than watching a bevy of bodacious lovelies reclaim their self respect by posing nude for some gay dude would be a show about a bunch of amply-girthed fellas who find the path to Ultimate Man-bliss by indulging Carson Kressley's taste for zaftig manflesh. In white underwear.
Yeah.... like *that's* gonna happen.
Ladies, pose nekkid on TV all you like. Maybe the appearance of your cellulite will even be "visibly improved". But
the voices in Frodo's head a wee, small voice tells me your knight in shining armor did not go through any such joyous voyage of self-discovery (especially with the Bra Whisperer) on the road to body image nirvana. It's just a hunch, but I'm feeling pretty good about it.
Of course I shouldn't beat up on women. We may be a bit dopey about things like the causal connection between taking our clothes off and a sense of self esteem, but one thing we women *are* is friendly and concerned. We don't, for instance, go about committing random acts of aggression against unicyclists:
This study observed the response to a sudden, unexpected exposure to a new phenomenon—unicycling. The response to this stimulus was surprisingly consistent but varied with age, sex, and stage of sexual development. Young children were curious, but as boys grew older their response became physically and verbally aggressive. As boys matured to men their response became more verbal and evolved into the concealed aggression of a humorous verbal put-down, which was lost with age. In contrast, the female response was praise and concern for safety.
The physical responses corresponded to the verbal ones, and added little to them. Most men clearly meant their responses to be funny and snide, and they were often given as a put-down. Women, however, usually responded with pleasure and admiration and were concerned about safety. The consistent content of the male "joke" and its triumphant delivery as if it was original and funny, even when it was neither, was remarkable, and it suggests a common underlying mechanism. The evolution of the response provides the clue to what this might be.
Children showed curiosity and interest, which changed in young boys. In older boys, curiosity was replaced by minor physical and verbal aggression—attempts to topple the unicycle coupled with first attempts at simple, mocking humour. In teenage boys, the physical aggression was replaced by verbally aggressive mockery, with elements of adult humour. This response "matured" to its adult male form as a mocking joke, which partly disguised its aggressive origins, an origin that was again revealed by the gross response of motorists, in whom aggressive behaviour is often exacerbated. This adult stage corresponded to the peak of virility and ameliorated in older men, who were more neutral and amicable, with few attempts at a jovial put-down.
The idea that unicycling is intrinsically funny cannot explain the findings—particularly their repetitiveness, evolution, and sex differences—and the notion that males are just expressing a greater sense of humour simply restates an observational fact....
Particularly interesting for the evolution of humour was the way the initial aggressive intent channelled the verbal response into a contrived but more subtle and sophisticated joke, in which aggression is concealed by wit. This shows how the aggression that leads to humour eventually becomes separated from it as wit, jokes, and other comic forms, which then take on an independent life of their own.
These observations lead to the conclusion that humour evolves from androgen primed aggression. But can that conclusion be generalised? Repartee and banter have many of the characteristics of controlled aggression—so often revealed when control is lost—and it may be no coincidence that quick wit is likened to a rapier. The findings may also be relevant to the great male-female divide in humour—women tell fewer jokes than men and most comedians are men, despite some notable exceptions. The findings also suggest that the difference is sexual rather than social. I will not generalise into the many writings on humour—too many of which take an armchair view of the bedroom—from Freud on male humour as an aggressive response to women to the priapic interpretations of Roman sculptures and the effect of salacious comic cartoons on subsequent aggressive behaviour. The range of theoretical options on offer is too great and unproved for interpreting or extending a simple experimental study such as the response to unicycling.
You can say that again.
So now even having a sense of humor is a male characteristic? Now that is an amusing thought. Certainly there are enough male bloggers who will fall right in line with it (she said, flouncing away). But for all that, it still strikes me that it just shouldn't be this hard for men and women - even with all our famous differences - to get along with each other.
The human race has had centuries to work it all out, and tired screeds about how all women are fickle and uppity or all men are dull, insensitive clods smack less of intelligent introspection and a genuine desire to meet the other side halfway than of defensiveness and heartbreak. The basic nature of male-female relationships, like human nature, hasn't changed. Now that divorce is so easy and women have more options, though, marriage may well be less forgiving of error.
It's something to think about.
It's something I don't often hear brought up, when these discussions come up: the possibility that it's not evil men or cold, calculating women, or even (perhaps) fiendish societal incentives that are queering the marital equation (so to speak). Maybe something has been very wrong all along and it is only now, that women truly do have a choice, that they are acting upon their dissatisfaction? It's a disturbing thought for many reasons, not the least of which is that I don't think much of divorce in general as a remedy for marital problems. But still, it is a possibility that bears thinking about. Maybe, along with all the other things we spend so much time getting better at, we need to spend time getting better at being married, now that marriages have so much competition.
Men and women can hurt each other, so easily.
But we don't have to. If something is important, you work at it.
I also can't help but wonder if we aren't simply letting all the easy distractions of modern life become more important than our human relationships? How does a modern marriage compete with your iPod, the TV, the computer, your career, the kids, your friends?
Turn off the Lifetime Channel, or ESPN, or the computer and pick up a book, or twelve if that's what it takes. After all, you're learning a foreign language. Learn how the other half of humanity sees life.
Or just turn out the lights a little early, tonight. Sometimes it's easier to see in the dark.