May 30, 2009
Staying on Message: Conservatives Should Play Offense, not Defense
Rhetoric is the art of ruling the minds of men.
Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical. If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not, stay where you are.
- Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Imagine, for a moment, a very different world from the one we live in today.
In this world the far Left continues to substitute insults for serious debate. They regularly accuse conservatives of hypocrisy, racism, homophobia, and indifference to the poor and unemployed. They ascribe selfish and venal motives to those who support limited government and maximized opportunity.
Sadly, even creating an alternative world from whole cloth can't change human nature. But imagine that in this other world, rather than taking insults seriously we refused to become rattled or distracted by such unserious tactics?
In our imaginary world, conservatives are secure in the knowledge that we aren't hypocritical, racist, homophobic, or mean spirited. We understand that simply saying a thing doesn't make it so. We know, with the unruffled assurance of unblemished conscience, that namecalling is the refuge of those who fear losing a debate on the merits. We recognize ad hominid attacks for exactly what they are: an attempt to hijack and control political debate. Feeding trolls gives them exactly what they want. Taking their insults seriously makes us look defensive and unsure of ourselves, giving far more weight to their accusations than they deserve.
Why do Lefties so often use insults instead of argument? Simple. It works:
1. Too often the attacked become angry, lose their tempers and retaliate in kind, neatly providing the Left with a juicy sound byte they can use to support their message: "Don't vote for Republicans. They're an unlikeable bunch of buffoons: spiteful, angry, bigoted, selfish, mean spirited people who don't care about your problems."
2. Insults allow the Left to control the terms of the debate. When voters turn on their TV sets or pick up a newspaper, the Left doesn't want voters to hear how conservative policies will make America a better place. And they certainly don't want voters to hear us explain why Obama's policies are so destructive and foolish. They want those messages to be crowded out by the spectacle of conservatives arguing about whether or not Rush Limbaugh is a big, fat weenie or trying to prove God didn't really tell Sarah Palin to slaughter transgendered Alaskan timber wolves with an illegal assault weapon from the safety of a taxpayer funded helicopter.
Now imagine the Republican Presidential candidate for 2012. As has happened in every presidential campaign since the birth of this nation, much mud is slung at him.
He is called racist for opposing institutionalized unfairness like affirmative action and racial preferences.
He is called a homophobe for expressing doubts about the wisdom of altering the definition of marriage as the fundamental building block upon which stable societies have rested for centuries.
Because he advocates competition and industry as the best foundations for success, he is accused of being indifferent to poverty and financial hardship.
Because not everyone who espouses conservative ideals practices them perfectly (we are, after all, only human), he is called a hypocrite.
But in our alternative universe the Republican candidate and his supporters react to these slurs quite differently than they do in our world. This is because, in marked opposition to today's world, conservatives simply refuse to take ad hominem arguments seriously.
When conservative spokesmen are called bigots, homophobes, or mean spirited capitalistic oppressors our response is always the same: we sideline the attacker by pointing out his insults are irrelevant and off topic. Calmly, we remind voters that namecalling is neither an argument nor a rebuttal of our ideas.
Let's face it - even if it were true that Rush Limbaugh were a big, fat hypocritical racist who hates women, blacks and poor folk, do Americans elect a President based on the personal qualities of talk show hosts?
Of course they don't.
Every minute spent rebutting ad hominem attacks is a minute the American people focus on our opponents' message instead of ours. And what we hear often stays with us. In our alternative world we realize the attention of the American voter is a limited resource. We understand that we have a clear choice.
We can accept the legitimacy of the politics of personal distraction.
We can expend precious time and effort playing defense, if we really believe Rush Limbaugh's or Ann Coulter's reputation is critical to the future of the GOP. Or we can refuse to allow the conversation to be derailed by silly insults and stay focused on our message. We can choose to play offense instead of defense.
Dan Riehl understands what I was trying to say the other day:
The Republicans have been on defense for so long on topics like this, I'm tired of hearing the defenses....
Not since Reagan have Republicans taken the time to effectively articulate that for which they supposedly stand. In this case, fairness for all through understanding and acceptance, not a government hand. Also, individual liberty, along with low taxes and small government are supposed to represent the Republican brand.
...it won't be until they regain some credibility as standing for those things that they can then get around to articulating them effectively in forceful, proactive arguments.
Right now the GOP is actively being portrayed as an irrelevant, ineffectual party that's out of ideas and spends its time engaging in nasty infighting. But what if we chose to counter that message by projecting the image of a serious party that welcomes debate and believes free and vigorous competition will help us select the best path for America's future?
What if, the next time the Left engaged in personal attacks, we calmly and confidently refused to rise to the bait?
Repeating a simple, clear, consistent message over and over again works. And that message should be that unlike the opposition, we are a serious party who don't have time for food fights. I think Donald gets this:
All Barack Obama had to do was tack with the wind of Bush fatigue and war weariness. In turn, McCain had little in his policy quiver to offer voters besides "fight with me." Well, when people weren't so worried about the fight overseas, when the guts were being sucked out of the American financial system, and when the housing debacle sucked everything under with it, McCain was left stumbling along the campaign trail like a dumb mule.
The funny thing is that conservative ideas are there. In education, in economic policy, in deregulation, in energy. The list goes on. The problem is that ideas such as reliance on personal initiative and self-reliance, on school choice, vouchers, and market competition in service delivery, on domestic energy exploration and production, on downsizing government, on compellence in international relations ... all of these ideas are reviled by progressives, unions, and the liberal media establishment. Conservatives have ideas. They haven't been tried. George Bush managed the war on terror. He fought for American national security in Iraq and the broader Middle East. The conflict was not a "disaster." But we've been told that so many times it's become the conventional wisdom. Young people's minds have been turned off to the realities of market choice at home and the deployment of power abroad. People have been led to believe that spending trillions of dollars, and preparing for Democratic budgets as far as the eye can see, won't cost them anything. The "rich" will pay for it! Let's raise taxes! Make them pay their fair share! And then as soon as hundreds of thousands of Americans take to the streets and the plazas to protest the loss of liberties on April 15th what happened? We were all attacked as ... wait for it ... tea-baggers and racists!
There's a lot of frustration and anger out there in Conservative Land. I feel it too. But we need to use that frustration and anger constructively. We can settle for the temporary satisfaction of winning small battles or we can focus on what's really important: convincing the American people that our policies will be better for them than progressive ideas with a disciplined, well crafted message repeated over and over again until they can't ignore it:
This picture should be on every news show, every talk show, day in and day out. It's devastating. Hammer away until your opponents can't take it any more, and ignore anything that distracts from the message you want voters to take home.
That's what Reagan did, and it works. There is nothing more devastating that making your opponent seem irrelevant. That's what the Democrats are doing to us today to great effect. The more we squabble and insult each other, the easier it becomes for them to sideline us in the eyes of the public.
What's needed here is not more anger and nastiness, but an impressive display of confidence, competence, and self-discipline that convinces the American people conservatives practice what they preach and are ready to govern again. We need Reagan's sunny, unruffled confidence and firm conviction. In our hearts, we know how to win. We've licked our wounds long enough.
Now let's get to work.
May 29, 2009
I am hungry...
Don't you love the smell of schadenfreude in the morning?
*"For all its talk of 'raising America's standing' in the world after the Bush years, the Obama administration is doing a spectacularly bad job of reaching out to its allies," [Gardiner] added. "Congratulations Gibbs -- you've just made an enemy out of the entire British media, quite an achievement for the man in charge of selling the president's message."*
Author James Delingpole wrote that Gibbs' attack reflected the Obama administration's treatment of Britian, which he says "smacks of a risible ineptitude."
*"First, you let President Obama send back the Winston Churchill bust. Then you insult our visiting prime minister with a dismally low-key reception ... and shoddy gifts (those DVDs)" he wrote.*
Delingpole warned that insulting the British press was a big mistake.
"So far, you've had a pretty easy ride," he wrote of Obama's treatment by the press. *"The Obama Kool Aid has proved almost as popular beverage in Britian as it is in the U.S. But just you wait till we start showing our teeth."*
John Hawkins polled righty bloggers. I didn't respond, but decided the questions were interesting enough to take on. Still haven't looked at the poll results. My answers below the fold:
1) Do you think the GOP will gain or lose seats in the House in 2010?
Gain, but only modestly.
2) Do you think the GOP will gain or lose seats in the Senate in 2010?
3) Colin Powell said the following, "Americans do want to pay taxes
for services. Americans are looking for more government in their life,
not less." Do you agree?
Agree with the first statement. Disagree with the second. We want something for nothing - more government services with less government regulation and lower taxes. Hence what just happened in California, which I think most conservative pundits have badly misgauged.
4) Whose views do you think are more representative of your personal
opinion: David Frum, Meghan McCain, John McCain, & Colin Powell or
Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Tom Coburn, & Newt Gingrich?
Sin duda, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Tom Coburn, & Newt Gingrich. Not even close. However, I think many of the folks I agree with (and many I disagree with) are needlessly snotty and divisive. They need to go to charm school. As the old saying about Southern women goes, "A lady can tell you to go to hell and make you enjoy the trip."
We need more of that.
5) Do you support the NRSC's decision to endorse Charlie Crist in
Florida's Republican primary?
No opinion. Haven't kept up with the story, so I lack the ability to offer an informed opinion.
6) Do you think Barack Obama was born in Hawaii or elsewhere?
Since his mother was an American citizen, why is this germane? I was born in the Philippines. To American parents. Guess I'll never be President.
7) Do you think that Sonia Sotomayor will be confirmed?
Probably, but the racism issue will damage her and has the potential to torpedo her candidacy... but only if we pass up the temptation to beclown ourselves and deprive the other side of the chance to turn her into a martyr.
Given our uninspiring track record to date, what are the odds of our handling this well?
Declaring a Truce on Cancer?
Wired.com: Where do we stand now in the war on cancer?
Robert Gatenby: We’ve learned enormous amounts about the disease, but it hasn’t translated into therapy. My proposal isn’t necessarily right, but it’s an alternative way of thinking.
We’re coming at cancer with a paradigm in the tradition of Paul Ehrlich and magic bullets, which was successful in treating bacterial infections in the mid-20th century. The conscious or unconscious analogy is that we’d like to find antibiotics in cancer. We’d like to find a cure.
Wired.com: Are the dynamics of fighting cancer so very different than fighting bacteria?
Gatenby: Bacterial cells are so fundamentally different than our normal mammalian cells. Finding something that works on bacteria, but not our own cells, is much easier than finding something that distinguishes between normal and non-normal cells.
Bacteria also tend to be exquisitely sensitive to antibiotics. They develop resistance, but that occurs over a long period of time. The sensitivity of tumor cells to therapy is nowhere near as great, and they’re much more heterogeneous. You have resistant phenotypes present before you even start treatment.
Wired.com: In your article, you say that drug-resistant cancer cells are actually less reproductively fit than non-resistant cells. Why doesn’t killing off the non-resistant cells leave behind a weaker population?
Gatenby: Being drug-resistant costs cells energy. Even when you’re not giving a drug, cells are still using energy to maintain their resistance mechanisms. So drug-resistant cells don’t have that energy available for proliferation. They’re not as fit as the drug-sensitive cells, and are only present in small numbers.
That balance completely changes when you give high-dose therapy. What you’ve done then is kill their drug-sensitive competitors, and left the field open to drug-resistant cells.
Wired.com: What’s the alternative?
Gatenby: How people treat invasive species can provide an analogy for thinking about cancer therapy. In treating a field for a pest, for example, you might treat three-quarters of it with a pesticide, and leave the other quarter untreated. Pesticide-sensitive pests remain there, and they spread out into the field after treatment, preventing pesticide resistance from becoming dominant.
Using pesticides on an entire field is like what we’re doing with cancer now. And we all agree that we’d rather get rid of the pests altogether, but if you can’t do it, if every time you have an infestation you treat it and get resistance, then you try a different strategy. The alternative is to try to reduce the pest population so that it doesn’t damage your crop, and accept the fact that they’re going to be there. That’s what I’m talking about with cancer.
Wired.com: What type of treatment would that involve?
Gatenby: Instead of fixing the dose of the drugs, you fix the size of the tumor. Your whole goal is to keep the tumor stable. You continuously alter the drug, the dose, the timing of the dose, with that goal in mind.
Wired.com: Outside of your mathematical models, is there evidence to suggest that this might work?
Gatenby: With a mouse ovarian cancer model, if you treat it with a very high dose, the tumor goes away. It looks like you’ve cured it. But a couple weeks later it comes back and starts killing animals. This is a standard outcome.
What we did is use smaller doses of drugs and applied them when necessary. We were able to keep tumors stable and mice alive indefinitely.
Wired.com: So we don’t need new drugs, just different ways of applying them?
Gatenby: Of course we need to keep looking for new drugs and more effective therapies. But the lesson we can learn is that the judicious use of drugs can be more effective than the intuitive approach of killing as much as you can.
The Most Important Factor In Individual Success
Nope. Not "social justice", nor erasing economic inequality.
Coffee Snorters: Whack a Mole Edition
In Praise of Mathematics
Your math courses are one long IQ test. We use math courses to figure out who is really smart.
Not sure whether I agree with this or not, but more on that later. Full disclosure here. My Dad majored in math at Dartmouth. My brother has a PhD in number theory which, although it has practical applications, is more what I think of as pure or theoretical mathematics than applied math. His eldest daughter did quite well in math in high school and is currently contemplating majoring in finance.
The blog princess, on the other hand, had little use for math in high school. But then she had little use for most subjects, the allure of boys and generalized mischief having exerted a greater pull upon her time and attention than academics of any kind. But if she could have been said to display aptitude for any one thing, that subject would have been language: English composition and grammar, foreign languages (she took 4 years of French, 2 of German, three of Spanish in high school and leapt into a mad infatuation with Russian during her brief flirtation with college).
I was ahead of my grade level in most language arts classes but behind my private school peers in mathematics. Somehow I managed to graduate without a single Calculus class, but did quite well on the SAT Math section despite consistently having taken the easiest math courses offered.
It wasn't until I returned to finish my undergraduate studies at the age of 30 that I discovered I rather enjoy math.
I spent a good 3 months before enrolling in my first classes working my way through a College Algebra refresher course at the dining room table. At first it was quite difficult. I'd been out of school for 12 years and had mostly coasted on my natural problem solving skills in high school. As a result, I had learned few of the formal rules that govern algebra. It was acutely painful to discipline my wayward brain to go painstakingly, step by step through problem after problem without indulging in intuitive leaps to the answer that breezily dispensed with the bothersome necessity of showing my work.
Consequently I was not only an intuitive, but a lazy thinker. Years of prodigious reading and a near perfect memory left me weak in formal reasoning skills. All too often, I "leapt into" the answer, only to find myself utterly unable to explain how I'd gotten there (much less why that particular answer was correct).
When I embarked on my adult studies, I planned to major in the liberal arts - my natural strength. But by the end of my first semester, I found myself drawn to more quantitative subjects. There were several reasons for this:
1. English and political science didn't challenge my mind the way math did. Both subjects played to my natural aptitudes, and so neither was a stretch.
2. In the humanities and social sciences, the answer never seemed to be the answer. Oddly enough for someone who normally values the open-ended over the concrete, I found this squishiness annoying.
3. A large part of the reason I returned to school lay in the idea of becoming a more well rounded thinker. I felt lopsided, and college would force me to take subjects I would never have bothered with on my own.
Interestingly enough, I ended up tutoring and leading supplemental courses in College Algebra, Elementary Probability and Stats, and Business Law. All three were interesting subjects that imposed a disciplined reasoning process over the analysis of information. One of my economics profs led a series of after class sessions that covered the same macro- and micro- theory, but from a math based rather than chart driven perspective (i.e., we examined the formulas behind the theories rather than taking the more traditional approach that illustrated economic concepts by way of graphs).
I was mildly shocked to find that I understood most theories better after having gotten into the math. Part of this may be because I am one of those morons who (like the blonde who puts WhiteOut on her computer screen) often had to place her fingers on the axes of a graph in order to grasp the relationships between two variables. I could "see" that relationship better when it was expressed via an equation than when it was depicted on a chart. Low structural visualization. So much for my nascent interest in engineering.
Anyway, interesting post. I think we concentrate far too little energy on good mathematics instruction because it's "hard" and in the warm/fuzzy politically correct atmosphere of academia, teachers are somehow supposed to perform the Vulcan Mind Meld on lazy students -- anything, rather than asking them to exert themselves to understand difficult subjects. Despite having some aptitude, math never came easily to me. Or perhaps I was just so good at language that math seemed comparatively difficult.
Either way, there is something to be said for struggling to understand and fully master a subject. I'll never forget my first Calc class. The prof was an egotistical ass, but he ended up making me so angry that I would have died before giving him the satisfaction of watching me fail (and that was his stated expectation - that most of us would fail the class).
I completed the class with a 96 average. Smart man. Not terribly likeable, but extremely shrewd :p He also turned out to be quite willing to help me when I got stuck on differentiation with respect to two variables. All I had to do was persist.
What a concept. At any rate Mankiw's observation on the correlation between math competence and IQ probably holds true on his level. But in lower level courses, I think success in math has more to do with the willingness to put in the time and effort needed to succeed. I tutored Algebra, Stats, Probability and Calc I and II in college. The people who succeeded were nearly always the ones who didn't give up. Even if it took them two tries to pass Calc. I also found that because math knowledge relies more upon the accumulation of learned theory/skills, it's damned hard to keep up unless you have the right foundation going in. Passing Calculus has far more to do with your basic Algebra skills than it does with being a huge, pulsing math brain and if your Algebra is weak, you'll have a tough time keeping up. For this reason, I often advised students who were failing to drop the class and sign up for a good, basic Algebra course (even if they'd already taken it) to refresh their basic skills.
Preparation and effort can trump natural ability, at least in lower level math. Most male students in my classes showed far more natural aptitude than I did. I nearly always outperformed them, but it was a matter of effort and not ability every time.
May 28, 2009
Finally a use of force our new Prez can get behind:
A Worthy Cause
Got an email you all might find interesting. Normally I ignore these things, but this is a cause near and dear to my heart:
On Monday Stephen Baldwin begins his quest to win the hottest show of the summer television season on NBC, "I'm a celebrity, get me outta here!" The celebrities involved are all playing for different charities, but we wanted you to know specifically what he hopes earn thousands of dollars for... the end to sex trafficking.
As you can see from the graphic above this condition is impacting the lives of millions of innocent boys and girls every single year.
Imagine the trauma that accompanies being a nine year old girl who is forced to begin performing vaginal and oral sex acts on strangers, while being cuffed to a bed railing. The pain, the horror, the absolute terror...
And these are the children that Love146 is setting free. They do this with a two-fold strategy, reaching children BEFORE they are taken by traffickers, and also rescuing them and offering them the AFTERCARE resources designed to help them emotionally, mentally, and with physical security.
Stephen will be doing all he can in the month of June to win Love146 as much money as he can. But as the news has spread about this, we are PLEASED to announce that we have engaged another unique opportunity for you to join us in setting these captive children free.
From now until the end of June (the conclusion of the NBC series "I'm a Celebrity Get Me Outta Here") some very special friends have made it possible for you to assist us, simply by sending a text message to "20222" and entering the word "Give" in the text's body you will make a $5 donation to Love146.
Love146 is a certified 501c3 and their 2008 Annual Report can be examined here.
Love146 is a passion for us at Xtreme Media and we are praying that many will take advantage of this unique opportunity, and merely a few seconds to help frightened children as they go to bed tonight having to do horrific things, to unkind people, in totally degrading ways.
Please stand with us as we stand with them. Text "20222" right now and begin helping these ones who need rescuing.
Now anyone who knows me in real life knows that the Blog Princess does not text. But in this case, I'm making an exception.
Go thou, and do likewise. You'll be glad you did.
Quote of the Day
Undue judicial deference creates large amounts of government discretion that in turn invites self-interested actors to game the system.
Empathy is a sword that cuts both ways:
Frank Ricci, the dyslexic fireman who spent his own money to pay someone to read the books he needed to prepare for the promotion exam and then didn't get the promotion because New Haven was worried that no blacks had passed the exam is an example of a plaintiff who didn't earn the empathy of Sotomayor and her fellow judges.
Alito vs. Sotomayor on Empathetic Justice
Glenn Greenwald misses a critical distinction while making a valid point of his own:
... consider this exchange that took place at the beginning of Alito's confirmation hearing (h/t sysprog):
U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Judge Samuel Alito's Nomination to the Supreme Court
U.S. SENATOR TOM COBURN (R-OK): Can you comment just about Sam Alito, and what he cares about, and let us see a little bit of your heart and what's important to you in life?
ALITO: Senator, I tried to in my opening statement, I tried to provide a little picture of who I am as a human being and how my background and my experiences have shaped me and brought me to this point.
ALITO: I don't come from an affluent background or a privileged background. My parents were both quite poor when they were growing up.
And I know about their experiences and I didn't experience those things. I don't take credit for anything that they did or anything that they overcame.
But I think that children learn a lot from their parents and they learn from what the parents say. But I think they learn a lot more from what the parents do and from what they take from the stories of their parents lives.
And that's why I went into that in my opening statement. Because when a case comes before me involving, let's say, someone who is an immigrant -- and we get an awful lot of immigration cases and naturalization cases -- I can't help but think of my own ancestors, because it wasn't that long ago when they were in that position.
And so it's my job to apply the law. It's not my job to change the law or to bend the law to achieve any result.
But when I look at those cases, I have to say to myself, and I do say to myself, "You know, this could be your grandfather, this could be your grandmother. They were not citizens at one time, and they were people who came to this country."
When I have cases involving children, I can't help but think of my own children and think about my children being treated in the way that children may be treated in the case that's before me.
And that goes down the line. When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account. When I have a case involving someone who's been subjected to discrimination because of disability, I have to think of people who I've known and admire very greatly who've had disabilities, and I've watched them struggle to overcome the barriers that society puts up often just because it doesn't think of what it's doing -- the barriers that it puts up to them.
So those are some of the experiences that have shaped me as a person.
Distinguish the bolded part of Alito's remark to this:
“While recognizing the potential effect of individual experiences on perception, Judge Cedarbaum nevertheless believes that judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices and aspire to achieve a greater degree of fairness and integrity based on the reason of law,” Sotomayor said.
“Although I agree with and attempt to work toward Judge Cedarbaum’s aspiration, I wonder whether achieving that goal is possible in all or even in most cases. And I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society.”
It's important to recognize that Sotomayor agrees (at least here) that impartiality is the goal judges should strive for. But it's also not unreasonable to ask whether McQ's observation isn't a valid one:
Although she claims to agree “judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices and aspire to achieve a greater degree of fairness and integrity based on the reason of law”, she then builds the case that a) such isn’t really possible, and b) in fact race and gender based experience is a positive that should be injected in such “reason of law”.
Her ruling in the case of the 18 white firefighters in New Haven CT seems to indicate she is indeed inclined to use race and gender bias in her decisions.
That's the difference between reasonable and principled opposition and reflexive accusations of racism.
Song for the Day
Judging Sotomayor: A Moment of Truth for Conservatives
Blogging is a strange and often exhiliarating experience. It can also be uniquely depressing at times. In the over five years since I wrote my first post over at I Love Jet Noise, I've seen the Republican party go from dominating all three branches of the federal government to sitting on the bench, desperately hoping for a chance - any chance - to get into the game.
Our response to this predictable reversal of fortune is illustrative, if hardly inspiring. The current meme du jour blames RINOs and moderates for our troubles. The fact that this approach raises emotional arguments over the empirical experience of the last half century bothers the finger pointing crowd not a whit.
For as long as I've voted Republican (over 30 years at last count), conservatives have prided themselves on reason and logic informed by an objective approach to the facts. It seems, therefore, not unreasonable to ask self appointed purgers of anyone-who-fails-to-demonstrate-sufficient-ideological-purity, "How do your arguments stack up against the historical record"?
If the blame for losing the last election rests with moderates, what explains the fact that George Bush (who "real conservatives" continually assure us is not a "real conservative") was elected exactly the same number of terms as Ronald Reagan? And how many times, since the law was changed to prohibit three term Presidencies, has either party retained control of the White House for more than two terms in a row? The facts speak for themselves.
In adopting 'change' as his mantra, Barack Obama adeptly seized both human nature and the national mood at flood tide. It should surprise no one that a nation which believes absolute power corrupts absolutely might be ready for change after eight years of Republican rule.
That we did as well as we did in the last election is an enduring testament to the power of conservative ideas. That we have allowed an utterly unremarkable transfer of power to render us as hysterical, desperate, and shrill as the Bush is Hitler crowd is a damned shame. Folks, it's time for a gut check. But more importantly it's time for Republicans to take a deep, cleansing breath and regain our sense of perspective.
Politics is the art of persuasion. The problem with conservative arguments is that although we're quite good at telling the public what's wrong with what we oppose, we are not so adept at articulating what it is we support. It's not enough to run down the competition. A good salesman highlights the positive attributes of his product as well as distinguishing it from the competition. For as long as I can remember our opponents have successfully (and all too often with our enthusiastic help) characterized conservatism as a negative political philosophy. We are painted as a party full of fearful and reflexively authoritarian killjoys, out to harsh the national mellow and steal everyone else's corn flakes. Unfortunately, our response to this inaccurate portrayal often does more to confirm than refute that flawed premise.
Responding with more negativity doesn't persuade anyone we're not negative. As often and as deeply as I have disagreed with Peggy Noonan, she manages to get some things right. There is much to be said for the appeal of the happy warrior:
A leader cannot seem ambivalent about crucial actions and decisions, and he can't seem so weighed down by the facts and implications of those decisions that people begin to wonder if he's lost his fight. There's a reason people like a happy warrior. A happy warrior tends to be a winning warrior.
This was the secret of Ronald Reagan's charisma, and of his success. He was so confident in his beliefs - so comfortable in his own skin - that he inspired confidence in others. His positive outlook was infectious; he consistently and enthusiastically articulated a positive vision of where he wanted to take America. Reagan envisioned a nation full of happy, hard working, independent citizens joyfully working to create a better life for themselves free from the hectoring interference of the nanny state. Though he rarely compromised his strong beliefs, he was unfailingly charitable and pleasant to his opponents. So much for the notion that the only way to win in politics is to kneecap the opposition or descend to their level. Confident leaders don't resort to such tactics. They are not threatened by spirited competition in the marketplace of ideas.
Nor are they threatened by dissent within their own ranks. As one of those chimeric moderate fiscal conservatives, I'm just as tired of listening to my own party talk about purging RINOs or setting up straw men like the idea that moderates want the RNC to unilaterally disarm itself (or that we shouldn't fight back against criticisms we disagree with). The debate, as I see it, isn't about goals or even about core beliefs. It's about tactics.
And more than anything else, it's about integrity: the integrity of our stated principles and ensuring that our own actions don't undercut or flatly contradict the message we're trying to sell. In this regard, the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor represents a golden opportunity for conservatives to market ourselves and our ideas to the voting public. The question is, what will we do with that opportunity?
In watching the debate over the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, I've found myself returning again and again to an ancient legal maxim: Venire contra factum proprium non valet. Loosely translated, it means "Arguments which contradict one's prior actions will fall on deaf ears." For as long as I can remember conservatives have decried the Borking of judicial nominees on ideological grounds. But more than this, we have vigorously defended the right of a sitting President to nominate jurists whose views are compatible with that of the party in power.
We have also vigorously objected to the cheap, reflexive application of labels like "racist" as ad hominem arguments which fail to counter our substantive objections to racial preferences or political correctness codes. This begs the question: given our past positions, how does it advance our cause to adopt tactics we've derided in the past? In this, I find myself in enthusiastic agreement with that notorious RINO and raging moderate, Charles Krauthammer:
There are principled arguments to be made here. Not against Barack Obama's absolute right to nominate a judge whose views he finds compatible with his own, but against the views themselves. That places the responsibility for appointing Constitutionally faithful judges back where it belongs - at the top. It also makes it a lot harder for our opponents to mischaracterize our arguments as mean spirited or bigoted. It's hard to see how employing the very tactics we've derided in our opponents does anything to strengthen the Republican brand (unless of course our message is "Do as we say - not as we do!").
It's not inappropriate to question Sotomayor's "wise Latina" remarks. Indeed, there are plenty of folks on both the left and the right who question her reasoning:
I think we can immediately dispense with the crazies who think this statement should disqualify Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. It's worth noting that William Rehnquist once endorsed segregation, and yet rose to be Chief Justice of the court.
That said, I think Sotomayor's statement is quite wrong. I understand the basis of it, laid out pretty well by Kerry Howley over at Hit & Run. The idea is that Latinos have a dual experience that whites don't have and that, all things being equal, they'll be able to pull from that experience and see things that whites don't. The problem with this reasoning is it implicitly accepts the logic (made for years by white racists) that there is something essential and unifying running through all white people, everywhere. But White--as we know it--is a word so big that, as a descriptor of experience, it almost doesn't exist.
Indeed, it's claims are preposterous. It seeks to lump the miner in Eastern Kentucky, the Upper West Side Jew, the yuppie in Seattle, the Irish Catholic in South Boston, the hipster in Brooklyn, the Cuban-American in Florida, or even the Mexican-American in California all together, and erase the richness of their experience, by marking the bag "White." This is a lie--and another example of how a frame invented (and for decades endorsed) by whites is, at the end of the day, bad for whites. White racism, in this country, was invented to erase the humanity and individuality of blacks. But for it to work it must, necessarily, erase the humanity of whites, too.
If people who disagree with conservatives on most issues can see the problems inherent in one size fits all racial stereotyping, surely we can make our case without resorting to over the top personal attacks. Name calling is the lazy man's approach to argumentation. It rarely convinces thoughtful or intelligent people, and those are precisely the ones we stand the greatest chance of convincing in 2010 and 2012.
But we don't stand a snowball's chance in hell of doing so if we can't make our case without beclowning ourselves or betraying our own core principles. We're being offered a priceless opportunity to discuss ideas that are vital to the future of the Republican party. We can do so in a way that enhances the party brand or we can expend our diminishing political capital fighting a battle we're unlikely to win.
The important issue here is not whether being a progressive automatically disqualifies one from serving on the Supreme Court. We didn't buy into the notion that being a conservative is an automatic disqualifier. So why should we employ such a flimsy argument against Sotomayor? Rhetorical shortcuts like this set a perilous precedent. The issue is not her political affiliation; after all it's hardly surprising that a progressive President would nominate a progressive jurist. We would nominate a conservative jurist if we controlled the White House.
What we should be questioning is, "What is the proper role of a Supreme Court judge? Should judges use their power to change the law? Or should they restrain themselves to interpreting existing laws in a manner that defers to our elected representatives and to the Constitution?"
One more question: "Isn't it a violation of the oath of office to dispense unequal justice to parties of different races?" One need look no farther than the oath Ms. Sotomayer will swear (assuming she's confirmed) to find solid ground upon which to question her judicial philosophy and - by extension - that of the President who nominated her:
According to Title 28, Chapter I, Part 453 of the United States Code, each Supreme Court Justice takes the following oath:
"I, [NAME], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as [TITLE] under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God."
Or we can resort to namecalling. I leave it to you to decide which is the more persuasive tactic.
Update: Fascinating. The Sotomayor nomination may not be a slam dunk after all.
Of course it's early days, yet. But still, all the more reason to avoid self-defecating acts of beclownment.
May 27, 2009
I tried to find this for Memorial Day.
Thanks to JHD for sending it.
Your result for The 5 Love Languages Test...You scored 11 Quality Time, 6 Words of Affirmation, 2 Receiving Gifts, 4 Acts of Service, and 7 Physical Touch!
Whichever category you scored the highest in is your primary love language. If there is a tie for the highest score (or very close to one), you are "bilingual" and have two primary love languages. This means that borth expressions of love are important to you. The highest score possible is 12 points in any category. Knowing your primary love language can help you communicate to others what you need from them in order to feel loved. Knowing others' primary love language will help you make sure the important people in your life know you love them in return.
THE QUICK AND DIRTY: You got the most points in:
Quality Time: You like one-on-one conversation and don't really care what you do as long you are enjoying the company of your friend/family/lover/coworker. This is when you feel the most affection from someone. Playing video games while talking to your girlfriend is not quality time.
Physical Touch: You feel loved or well-liked when people hug you or high-five you. You'd be considered a person that loves "touchy-feely" stuff-- but only good touch. Beware of bad touch.
THE MEANINGFUL EXPLANATIONS: If your Primary Love Language is:
Quality Time: You crave togetherness. Being in the same room is not "togetherness". You want a person's undivided attention-- a true connection with someone. Dialects of the language of Quality Time are Quality Conversation, Quality Listening, and Quality Activities. You can enjoy just one or multiple dialects.
- Quality Conversation consists of focusing on drawing the other person out, listening sympathetically to what they have to say, and asking questions with the genuine desire to understand their thoughts, feelings, and desires (not as a means to an end, like solving their problems). It also consists of you, yourself, verbalizing your thoughts, feelings, and desires.
- Quality Activities means you like to enjoy activites with people to spend time with those people. It's not the activity that's important but the quality time. Whether it's something new or something you love to do all the time, you'll always remember those times with the people that matter in your life.
To improve proficiency in Quality Conversation: Don't engage in other activities while you are listening to another person. This is about quality time. Listen for feelings and observe body language. Then confirm their feelings, e.g., "You must be really frustrated since..." It says you're listening and gives the person to clarify their feelings. Do not interrupt! Research has indicated that the average individual listens for only 17 sec before interrupting and interjecting their own ideas. Ask reflective questions (so there're no misunderstandings), express understanding (so they know they've been heard), and lastly, ask if there is anything you can do to be helpful.
Physical PhysicalTouch: To you, physical touch speaks louder than words: a hand on the shoulder during a talk, a pat on the back, a high-five as you pass by, or a back massage after a long day. Physical Touch can be appreciated by anyone, but to those fluent in the language of physial touch, it shouts. Withhold touch and you will isolate and rise doubts about your love. Of course, it's not just any physical touch that communicates love. There're appropiate/inappropiate and implicit(almost absent-minded, e.g., pat on the back)/explicit (commands your full attention, e.g., foot rub) PhysicalTouches.
To improve proficiency in Physical Touch: If you're not fluent in this language, it just takes learning one "word" at a time. Know someone whose primary language is Physical Touch? Try giving them a hug next time you see them. Hug your parents. When you're walking around with your significant other, grab their hand to hold. It may feel awkward to you at first, but you will be more comfortable the next time. In Gary Chapman's book, The Five Love Languages for Singles, he cites a situation where a woman named Marti was learning the language of Physical Touch. She said of hugging her mother, "The first time I hugged my mother, it was like hugging a pole. Now she is hugging me back."
Now remember, this test and the following expectations are from Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages for Singles. It's a fabulous, insightful, and very practical. I highly recommend it!
This is the first test I've ever made and I hope you enjoyed it! It took a lot of time and thoughtful downsizing of a 245pg book. I really do believe in Mr. Chapman's philosophy and advice. Feel free to email me any questions @ kimchikandy on OkCupid, and don't forget to rate this test!
A reader sent me a link to this book a long time ago after one of my epic Sex and Relationships posts.
Overall, I'd say my results were fairly accurate. In general, I prefer quality time spent together to quantity; I'd rather spend an hour or so engaged in an interesting conversation or some other activity that makes me feel connected to someone I care about than long periods of time where we just happen to be in the same room. Perhaps that's why military life suits me - I don't mind long separations so long as the moments when I'm with my husband are enjoyable and meaningful.
While I always enjoy gifts, they're not particularly important to me. I think men have a tendency to substitute gifts for time and attention, and to that extent I suppose I'd rather have an afternoon doing something mutually enjoyable than a diamond.
On the acts of service thing, this no doubt explains why I have never been a big fan of the 'honey do' list. I like when my husband helps out around the house, but my take has always been that we both live here but have different notions of what is important. If I want something done around the house or yard I tend to do it myself, since I'm the one who wants it done.
Not so crazy about "affirmation" (compliments and such). They make me uncomfortable. On the other hand it is tremendously important to me to feel that I'm understood. And like many women, I'm big on those three little words. To me, they're not so much a statement of present feeling as a declaration of ongoing intent: "I love you" to me isn't meaningful because I interpret it as the other person being in the throes of extreme passion or ecstasy. It's more of a "you're important to me, just as I'm important to you" kind of thing: a reminder that there's a bond of affection between two people. When you hit rough spots, the knowledge that you have a long history together can help you overlook temporary unpleasantness.
Finally, touch. That was my second highest category. I think there are times when words are overrated. You can say more with a quiet hug, a back rub, or by reaching for someone's hand than with the most eloquent apology or declaration of affection. Though the circle of people I want touching me is very small (never been big on the whole 'kiss-kiss' thing at cocktail parties), if I really care for someone then actions speak far louder than words.
Touch is also a tangible demonstration that someone is inside your intimate circle. In general, we don't touch strangers so often as we do lovers, family, or particularly close friends. Maybe this is why I enjoy making love - besides being mutually enjoyable for reasons I don't need to go into here, touch reinforces the connection between two people. Physical contact literally connects two people in a way words often fail to do.
Finally, I think the idea of love styles goes far in explaining why men and women often disconnect and frustrate each other unintentionally. We all have a tendency to demonstrate affection by doing things that are meaningful to us. What's neither easy nor immediately intuitive is the ability to divine how someone else wants to be loved.
Men often demonstrate love by performing what this author calls acts of service. Women often prefer verbal affirmations like the three little words. I've heard a lot of guys say, "But she knows I love her - I come home from work every day, don't I?" To him, he shows his love by working hard, bringing home the bacon, doing things around the yard, not running off with the secretary to Bimini. Women, on the other hand, often withhold touch when they feel angry or unappreciated. Because touch tends to be more important to guys than it often is to women, the tactic can carry far more sting than it's intended to - rather than being a transient reaction, the tactic can begin a needless cycle of misunderstanding, withdrawal, and retaliation.
I think it's important to be aware of how other people instinctively demonstrate affection for two reasons:
1. It can sometimes help you understand what's important or meaningful to them - in other words, how they'd like to be loved.
2. It helps you not to overlook or dismiss the many ways they may be trying to show they value the relationship, even if they may not be doing it in the way you want them to.
Anyway, interesting ideas.
May 26, 2009
Reality Based Haiku
Moved up b/c I started this post days ago but just got around to finishing it.
Sometimes, the comedy really does write itself:
The moderate wing of the Republican Party is distinguished by the fact that it does not exist, and yet it is still shrinking.
Wingnuts. There. Then... not.
Who defines 'reality'?
We want it both ways.
Bemoaning the loss
Of that which does not exist:
Have at it, peoples.
Important Gay Polar Bear Update
wasting time doing incredibly important things on the Intertubes this morning, the Editorial Staff noticed our Google ranking for "Gay Polar Bear" has dropped precipitously. For reasons best not explained in a public forum, the thought of taking up permanent residence beneath Gay Bears and Hairy Men is intolerable to us.
In times like these the words of that great American, George Herbert Walker Bush, seem eerily apt. "This. will. not. stand.":
The latest polar bear news from Germany concern a court battle over Knut which again serves to illustrate the financial worth of polar bear brands (and which also gives you an interesting insight into the German psyche). In the latest installment of the Knut saga Berlin zoo and Neumünster zoo tried to agree on the sale of the star polar bear from Neumünster zoo to Berlin zoo. The zoos disagreed over the price and took the whole matter to the Berlin Regional court. We have previously reported that Neumünster zoo had sued Berlin zoo for a share of the royalties earned through licensing the "Knut polar bear brand" (see Class 46 post here). Knut's father, polar bear Lars is owned by the Neumünster zoo and both zoos appear to have an agreement which grants Neumünster zoo a certain share of the Knut profits.
Poor Knut. Honestly, folks, the gay polar bear community are sick and tired of the constant jackbooted oppression by everyone from Wasilla Barbie to Hating Haters Who Hate and the Self-Loathing Self-Loathers Who Love to Hate They-Ownselves. Get a load of this frankly unhinged commentary:
I am a gay Republican. I am not "self-hating." I am not confused.
I am comfortable enough with my sexuality to think of myself in terms of traits other than simply my sexual orientation. I believe that my attraction to the same sex should have no bearing to my thoughts on tax policy, trade, foreign affairs or abortion. I believe that my sexuality is merely an incidental part of my life and should not be a major factor in my decision-making.
I am aware that there is a rich tradition of intellectualism, secularism and equality within the Republican Party outside of the Religious Right. I am aware that Hillary Clinton and Dick Cheney hold the same positions on gay rights. I am aware that Bill Clinton signed into law the last major anti-gay piece of legislation passed by Congress — the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. I am self-respecting enough to know that the words of the Democrats on gay rights are no substitute for their lack of action.
I believe that the virtues of classical liberalism — individualism, self-reliance and a rejection of cultural relativism — help gay men, just as they do all of mankind and are better exemplified by the Republican Party than by the Democratic Party. I am furthermore woefully confused by gay men's ambivalence toward radical Islam, which holds them in a particularly low esteem.
"I have been discriminated against more by Democrats than by Republicans. I have been shunned and mocked by Democrats, many of whom will not accept me as a gay man unless I fit into their neatly packaged view of what a gay man is ‘supposed’ to be."I believe that the gay subculture is destructive. I am not completely sure why a person should be "proud" of his sexuality, which is not an accomplishment. I am confused by the discord between a group of people who insist that they're just like everyone else on one hand and then on the other refuse to assimilate into mainstream society.
I am unable to relate to the faction of gay men who revolve their lives around their sexuality: their neighborhood is gay, their friends are gay, their music and movies are gay, their academic interests are gay, the stores that they frequent are gay — their lives are gay. I am not interested, though, in living my life as a gay man, but simply as a man. I envision a future in which a person's sexual orientation will be an afterthought. I do not in any way whatsoever see the Democratic Party furthering that.
I have been discriminated against more by Democrats than by Republicans. I have been shunned and mocked by Democrats, many of whom will not accept me as a gay man unless I fit into their neatly packaged view of what a gay man is "supposed" to be. I have yet to encounter, on the other hand, a Republican who has rejected my presence in the party, shunned me on a personal level or refused to engage me on the issues.
As we enjoy reminding the readership in our more tolerant moments, conservatism is a mental illness. This scientific fact is so selfevidently self evident that we needn't present a single shred of evidence to "prove" our case. It's enough to observe that everyone we agree with feels the reality based community is freedom-loving, tolerant and enlightened ...unlike certain other parties we could name. You know the type: always stereotyping The Other; taking refuge in simplistic characatures of anyone who dares to question their authority.
But not us. We voted for Barack Obama. And because he has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to lead this nation away from the failed policies of the last 8 years, we remain stubborly convinced (after he heals the planet, ushers in a new millennium of world peace, rolls back the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and makes revolving credit lines a right - not a privilege) ... that eventually old 'Bam will get around to ending the hateful hatefulness of mean spirited, hating haters who hate and make America a place where diversity is more than just a campaign slogan: all sizzle and no steak.
Coffee Snorters: Snidely Whiplash Edition
OK guys...if you start now, you'll be competitive in 2010.
Anyone seen BillT lately?
"They were dressed like nuns, carrying crosses, but wearing thongs under their skirts and showing people their bottoms and the rest," said a police official who declined to be named
First came Black Studies. Then Womyn's studies. Then LGBT studies. I suppose this isn't that much of a surprise.
Maryland, Land of Bedwetting Socialists, distinguishes itself yet again...
May 25, 2009
Go tell the Spartans, strangers passing by
That here obedient to their laws we lie.
For a long time, I've wanted to pull together the tributes to the fallen here at VC. Many of these were erased when I deleted the old site. There is no rhyme or reason to this list; for every story I've been privileged to tell, hundreds more passed without a formal remembrance.
Today it is fitting that we remember not only those whose stories we've stopped to remember over the years, but the many who served, fought, and died for us.
And we never knew their names. May light perpetual shine upon them, and may we never forget the tremendous debt we owe.
This list will be updated throughout the day.
• 1st Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom, 24, of Aiea, Hawaii.
• Sgt. Israel Garcia, 24, of Long Beach, California.
• Cpl. Jonathan R. Ayers, 24, of Snellville, Georgia.
• Cpl. Jason M. Bogar, 25, of Seattle, Washington.
• Cpl. Jason D. Hovater, 24, of Clinton, Tennessee.
• Cpl. Matthew B. Phillips, 27, of Jasper, Georgia.
• Cpl. Pruitt A. Rainey, 22, of Haw River, North Carolina.
• Cpl. Gunnar W. Zwilling, 20, of Florissant, Missouri.
• Pfc. Sergio S. Abad, 21, of Morganfield, Kentucky.
More on these men here.
1st Lt. Matthew C. Ferrara, 24, of Torrance, Calif.
Sgt. Jeffery S. Mersman, 23, of Parker, Kan
Spc. Sean K.A. Langevin, 23, of Walnut Creek, Calif.
Spc. Lester G. Roque, 23, of Torrance, Calif.
Pfc. Joseph M. Lancour, 21, of Swartz Creek, Mich.
Marine Sgt. Phillip A. Bocks, 28, of Troy, Mich.
Capt. Jeremy Fresques, 26, Florida
Maj. William Downs, 40, of Winchester, Va.
Capt. Derek Argel, 28, of Lompoc, Calif.
Staff Sgt. Casey Crate, 26, of Spanaway, Wash
Pfc. Eric Paul Woods, 26, Omaha, Nebraska
Staff Sergeant Rick Pummill, United States Marine Corps
Lance Cpl. Andrew David Russoli , United States Marine Corps
Lance Cpl. Steven W. Szwydek, United States Marine Corps
Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher W. Thompson, United States Navy
Lance Cpl. Kenneth J. Butler
Cpl. Seamus M. Davey, United States Marine Corps
Captain Brian Letendre on the meaning of Memorial Day. Brian was killed
Brian was killed in May of 2006 in Ramadi.
May 23, 2009
National Memorial Day Parade
For those of you in the DC area, there will be a National Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 25th at 2:00 p.m. From the web site:
For nearly 70 years, Washingon, DC—our nation’s capital and headquarters of our military—was without a parade on our Armed Services’ most sacred day. This despite the fact that parades on Memorial Day have been a tradition in towns across America for well over a century. Sadly, in recent years, many of these parades have been fading away, as the true meaning of Memorial Day is being increasingly forgotten.
In 2005, the American Veterans Center decided to bring this great tradition back to the nation’s capital by creating the National Memorial Day Parade. Not merely an event for Washington, the National Memorial Day Parade is an event for the entire country—a major parade which seeks to draw the attention of Americans to the real meaning for the holiday: honoring those who have served, and died, to preserve our liberties. The National Memorial Day Parade has quickly become a tradition in which Americans of all ages and generations can share. In only its second year, the parade drew over 250,000 spectators, a testament to the public’s desire to honor our heroes in uniform. The parade includes nearly 200 elements, including marching bands, active duty and retired military units, youth groups, and parade floats—as well as hundreds of veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
With the National Memorial Day Parade, the country once again has a tradition where all Americans can gather together to thank our greatest heroes, and remember those who have fallen.
I can't think of a better way to celebrate Memorial Day. If you're in the area, don't miss it! You'll be glad you made the effort. More information on who will be attending here.
May 21, 2009
Hey!!! No Loitering!
BOQ reminded us just now of a serious problem lurking in our midst: Bovine Indolence.
Everywhere we look this Spring there seem to be throngs of unregulated livestock lounging about in an obscene fashion: young bulls hitting on the heifers, distrurbing (and worse, disturbing!) displays of irrational, tail-waving exuberance amongst the barely legal set, shapely young cows thrusting their heads through the barbed wire fencing in hoydenish fashion to moo at passersby.
Kids these days. This unbridled licentiousness must stop.
HAVE THEY NO SHAME????
May 20, 2009
From My Cold, Dead Hands
You know, I have tried to be fair.
I have bent over backwards to give this administration a chance. But some things are just intolerable in a civilized society:
Joe Six-Pack may have to hand over nearly $2 more for a case of beer to help provide health insurance for all.
Details of the proposed beer tax are described in a Senate Finance Committee document distributed to lawmakers before a closed-door meeting Wednesday. Senators are focusing on how to pay for expanding health insurance for an estimated 50 million uninsured Americans, a cost that could range to some $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
And will someone please alert the irony police here?
The idea behind the proposed increases is to tax lifestyle choices that contribute to rising medical costs. Obesity puts people at risk for diabetes and heart problems. Alcohol abuse is a risk factor in several types of cancer, liver disease and psychological problems.
This country is going down the tubes. Read my lips: I'm not asking for national health coverage. I don't want it. So don't tax my "risky lifestyle choices" to pay for something that's going to break the federal piggy bank as a back door means of giving the Nanny State carte blanche to tell me how to run my life.
I stopped smoking when I was 14. Idiocy like this just makes me want to start up again.
I got them low down, no 'count circular referenceblues.
Carol sent this. I hadn't seen it, so hopefully some of you won't have yet:
Sugar coated, smooth tongued speeches
(I hope he practices what he preaches)
Who can take tomorrow
and spend it all today?
Who can take your income
and tax it all away?
Obama man can
Obama man can 'cause he
mixes it with hope
And makes the world feel good
Thanks to Carol for the laugh.
Update: Just say, "Non"!
May 19, 2009
Gregorio Manuel Chavez
A few years ago on the 5th anniversary of 9/11, Carrie wrote a lovely tribute to Gregorio Manuel Chavez, who died while working at Windows on the World in New York.
We didn't know much about Mr. Chavez at the time. Carrie tried to find as much information as she could. Last night I received a special email from someone who loved him. Because I've erased most of my old posts, it's not possible to leave a comment on that post anymore so I wanted to post it here.
He is remembered. And he was loved.
I don't know who you are and I don't know where you're from.. but I have to say thank you because I now know that it was not only my family who knew of the tragedy that happened to my uncle. Its been 7 and a half years since 9/11 and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of him.. since you don't know much about him I'll try to fill in missing pieces for you.
Gregorio Manuel Chavez born Dec. 25 1952 was a loving, hardworking family man. His wife and only son live in the Dominican Republic and he worked diligently to provide for them from a distant land. I remember him bringing my sisters and I candy each and every time he would visit us which was very often. At the time I was 10 years old and he was like my life-sized teddy bear. I remember the last time I saw him.. he spent the night at my house and slept in my living room, I woke up in the middle of the night just to see if he was there. I loved him more than words can express.. and finding your page that mentioned him actually brings comfort to know that not all of his memory was lost and that somewhere out there someone else knows of his story..
Please take a moment to say a prayer for his soul.
The Comfort Zone
I've got nothing to lose
Nothing to gain
It's like a one way ticket to cruisin' that passing lane
I can't complain
I was talkin' with my girlfriend
I told her I was stressed
I said I'm goin' off the deep end
She said "For God's sake, give it a rest"
We're all waitin' in the dugout
Wishin' we could pitch
How are you gonna throw a shutout
If all you do is bitch?
- Todd Snider
Three decades later I can still remember what it felt to have no money.
Mind you, I didn't feel particularly poor, though we were easily below the poverty level for a family of four. I knew we didn't have much cash to spare, nor any medical insurance. I knew that even a simple trip to the grocery store entailed hours of planning. First find the tattered envelopes full of coupons, each with their identifying label: food, cleaning supplies, HBA. I rarely bought cleaning supplies. There are few things that can't be cleaned with bleach, vinegar, dish washing soap or baking soda - all of which are far less expensive than pre-packaged cleaning supplies.
Drag out the sale circular for the local Bi-Lo and look for sale items for which I had a coupon. Make out the first draft of the shopping list. Write out a menu plan for the next week. One fryer is good for two or three meals: baked chicken the first night. Legs and thighs make a casserole with leftover rice. The carcass and scraps will make vegetable soup using a combination of more leftovers and fresh vegetables. Fill out the rest of the shopping list.
To this day I can never drive past a Bi-Lo without hearing myself, perched behind the wheel of our tiny rugless Toyota Tercel, moo-ing like a demented Holstein from Hell:
[wait for it]
[sound of delighted giggling from the two freckle faced cherubs in the back seat]
What can I say? We were an easily amused family. The eldest is Coupon Commando. It's a game: at four it is his job to hand me the right coupon as I place items in the cart. He can't read yet, but he's quite good at matching photos to various shopping list items. Shopping trips have been much more fun since he substituted helping Mom for random attempts to dive head-first out of the shopping cart for no apparent reason.
Add up the coupons. Go to the store, buy only items on the list, write a check for the amount saved in coupons plus 5 dollars. Give the kids a dime for the gumball machines. Return home. Place coupon money and the five bucks in the Maxwell House coffee can at the top of the hall closet.
If only I'd known that poverty is a life sentence without parole. Maybe I wouldn't have wasted all that effort crawling out of the slough of despond:
Poverty 101: We'll start with the basics.
Like food: You don't have a car to get to a supermarket, much less to Costco or Trader Joe's, where the middle class goes to save money. You don't have three hours to take the bus. So you buy groceries at the corner store, where a gallon of milk costs an extra dollar.
A loaf of bread there costs you $2.99 for white. For wheat, it's $3.79. The clerk behind the counter tells you the gallon of leaking milk in the bottom of the back cooler is $4.99. She holds up four fingers to clarify. The milk is beneath the shelf that holds beef bologna for $3.79. A pound of butter sells for $4.49. In the back of the store are fruits and vegetables. The green peppers are shriveled, the bananas are more brown than yellow, the oranges are picked over.
(At a Safeway on Bradley Boulevard in Bethesda, the wheat bread costs $1.19, and white bread is on sale for $1. A gallon of milk costs $3.49 -- $2.99 if you buy two gallons. A pound of butter is $2.49. Beef bologna is on sale, two packages for $5.)
Prices in urban corner stores are almost always higher, economists say. And sometimes, prices in supermarkets in poorer neighborhoods are higher. Many of these stores charge more because the cost of doing business in some neighborhoods is higher. "First, they are probably paying more on goods because they don't get the low wholesale price that bigger stores get," says Bradley R. Schiller, a professor emeritus at American University and the author of "The Economics of Poverty and Discrimination."
Funny. For the first ten years of our marriage, we had one car. That meant I often strapped the baby into the umbrella stroller and walked to the grocery store. I had a big backpack - a woven wood basket - that I strapped to my back to carry groceries home in. The backpack was great for walking to the laundromat, too. I could fit two small loads of laundry into it.
My son and his wife moved away from here a few years ago. They moved to Georgia.
They weren't poor, but since they wanted a baby and a house to keep him in (and since houses aren't affordable in this area) they must have been "working poor" despite their generous salaries. My son took a huge pay cut when they moved. His wife gave up her job teaching second grade. But the cost of living is so much lower in Georgia. Even on the lower salary, they were able to buy a brand new 3 bedroom house on a large lot in a much nicer neighborhood than where we started out.
They had to live apart for a year in order to save up for that house, just as my husband and I had to live apart for a year during his senior year in college. It made economic sense. We could have that marshmallow now, or be unhappy for a bit, but get two marshmallows later on.
We chose the two marshmallows.
Barack Obama has figured out why some Americans can't have everything they want. It's not their personal choices that cause income inequality, you know. The real problem is that the federal government "doesn't work". People need to be free of the troublesome relationship between their own decisions and the consequences that logically flow from them:
We hadn’t yet gone more than 30 days delinquent on the mortgage, thanks, in part, to $15,000 I had borrowed shamefacedly from my mother after Patty stopped working. But we were behind on everything else. Bill collectors were calling six days a week, starting promptly at 8 a.m. “Telemarketers,” I would mumble when my son Matthew asked why we got so many robocalls from 800 numbers. Our stately little house looked increasingly trashy: peeling paint and broken screens on the front windows, crumbling concrete on the front stoop, a lawn that was mostly crabgrass. The furniture that Patty salvaged from her first marriage was falling apart. The cotton slipcovers on the sofa and armchair were in shreds. The frosted-crystal shade on a beloved Italian floor lamp was cracked. The dog had gnawed the leg on her Biedermeier chair.
The panic attack hit me around 2 a.m. on Patty’s birthday. It was Oct. 17, 2007, and I was lying in bed obsessing over bills that couldn’t be postponed and the money we didn’t have to pay them. Like many of my predawn fear cascades, this one had its start with a specific unpaid bill: $240 in traffic tickets — $140 for speeding, $50 each for expired tags and inspection. The fines would double if we didn’t pay them in less than a week. The tickets had uncorked the bottle on all the other “must pays”: the $400 electric bill with the cutoff date printed in red; the $220 cable/telephone/Internet bill for the past two months; the MasterCard and American Express bills — at least one of which had to be brought current or I wouldn’t even be able to travel for work. And of course, there was the $3,271 mortgage payment.
My panic circuitry was in fine form, connecting small debts to big ones, short-term problems to the bottomless abyss, private calamity to public shame. Once Patty was asleep and I was alone in the dark, the bottled-up fear reached the surface. I tossed from side to side, trying to figure out at least a triage plan for our bills. I was too fidgety to lie still in bed, but I was in no mood to actually sit down with the bills themselves. I climbed out of bed for a moment, then jumped back in. I couldn’t decide if I would rather feel confined or all alone.
Patty woke up, irritated by all my movement and my occasional moans of despair. “What’s the matter?” she asked.
“I can’t sleep,” I answered. “I’m panicking about money, because I don’t know how we’re going to pay all the bills that need to be paid right now.” I wanted her to take me in her arms and reassure me that everything would be O.K. But that wasn’t happening.
“There’s nothing you can do about it right now,” she answered sleepily.
“If this keeps on, we’re going to lose the house,” I persisted, sounding less panicked than petulant. If Patty wouldn’t give me comfort, then I wanted her to suffer alongside me. “I don’t know how we’re going to make it. We can’t go on like this.”
Patty had begged me to grant her a birthday reprieve from my nagging and kvetching over money issues. What I saw as an uncontrollable moment of panic, she saw as another deliberate attempt to browbeat her.
“I can’t believe you are doing this to me on my birthday,” she hissed in fury. “All I asked for was one day of peace — one day when you weren’t beating me over the head. And here it is, not even daylight yet, and you’re waking me up to berate me about money.”
We all need to be accountable, but not if being accountable is in any way unpleasant. After all, people aren't suffering because they have failed to make smart decisions. They're failing because the system is broken.
The Piper doesn't have to be paid today or even tomorrow. We can fix the system to substitute the comforting illusion of accountability for the pain that often accompanies the real thing:
In light of the shifting baseline, it is impossible to hold the administration accountable for whether its policies are achieving their intended effects.
To be clear, this lack of accountability is not a feature on this specific administration but is, instead, a reflection of the inherent uncertainties associated with macroeconomics. The administration, however, has not been particularly forthright in admitting to this lack of accountability.
And so we continue to kick the can down the road. So long as present comfort is the yardstick by which we measure success, consequences can wait until tomorrow.
If only I'd known all of this thirty years ago. Think how much easier life would have been.
Thought for the Day
In Letter Six of the "Philosophical Letters," a famous passage occurs. Voltaire observes, "Go into the Exchange in London [the Stock Exchange], that place more venerable than many a court, and you will see representatives of all the nations assembled there for the profit of mankind. There the Jew, the Mahometan, and the Christian deal with one another as if they were of the same religion, and reserve the name of infidel for those who go bankrupt." After conducting business with each other, the Christian and the Jew went their separate ways. As Voltaire phrased it, "On leaving these peaceable and free assemblies, some go to the synagogue, others in search of a drink..." In the end, Voltaire declared that "all are satisfied."
Commerce, the free market, established an arena within which widely diverse people willingly dealt with each other solely for economic benefit. Then, they separated. They walked away from each other to pursue different interests and cultural values behind the closed doors of their own lives.
There are two parts to Voltaire's explanation of England's social harmony. First, the freedom of people to associate as legal equals. That is, the Christian and the Jew could trade with each other secure in the knowledge that their contracts would be legally binding despite their religious differences. Second, the freedom of people to walk away from each other and to not associate. That is, the freedom to peacefully and personally discriminate against anyone for any reason. The right to discriminate -- to close your front door behind you -- was a prerequisite of social harmony.
Let me be clear. I am not talking about embedding discrimination into the law. Quite the opposite. I am saying that the law must protect the person and property of all people equally. Passed this point, however, everyone has the right to refuse to associate with anyone else for any reason: religion, sex, the color of their skin, the music they hum.
The "Philosophical Letters" reversed a traditionally accepted argument in Voltaire's Europe on how to create a harmonious society. Traditionally, France had attempted to enforce a homogeneous system of values upon its people in the belief that common values were necessary to ensure peace and harmony. Common values were seen to be the social glue that held together the social fabric. Thus, those in authority needed to centrally plan and to rigorously enforce the values that should be practiced by the common people. After all, if people were allowed to choose and practice their own values, especially religious ones, then civil chaos and conflict would ensue.
Voltaire argued that the opposite was true. The imposition of homogeneous values -- the denial of the right to personally discriminate -- was what led to conflict and religious wars. Instead of common values and governmental control, it was diversity and personal freedom that created a thriving and peaceful society. Voltaire commented, "If there were only one religion in England, there would be danger of tyranny; if there were two, they would cut each other's throats; but there are thirty, and they live happily together in peace."
May 18, 2009
They Were My Brothers
I received an email today about a medically retired young Marine running a 100 mile marathon down in the Keys over the weekend.
He ran it for the Marines who won't ever run again.
He ran it for the special ops guys from all branches who won't either.
His youtube is found here.
By the way, he finished the marathon in 31 hours, 03 minutes and 21 seconds. 0321 is the MOS for Recon.
Urrahh to all of you!!!
Why I Love The Milblogs Community...
...we debate important questions like this.
My fave comment (the Princess will not reveal the author so as not to unduly excite the female readership):
"I could never go commando. It would present too large a target to the Enemy".
May 16, 2009
Thought for the Day
... it’s not enough just to teach kids mental tricks—the real challenge is turning those tricks into habits, and that requires years of diligent practice. “This is where your parents are important,” Mischel says. “Have they established rituals that force you to delay on a daily basis? Do they encourage you to wait? And do they make waiting worthwhile?” According to Mischel, even the most mundane routines of childhood—such as not snacking before dinner, or saving up your allowance, or holding out until Christmas morning—are really sly exercises in cognitive training: we’re teaching ourselves how to think so that we can outsmart our desires.
May 15, 2009
Hate is not a Family Value Caption Contest
It's Friday, and yes, I swiped this from V the K. Deal with it.
Why does this bother me on a number of levels?
Michelle Obama on Maxim’s 2009 Hot 100
... I’ll leave the discussion on the aesthetics to the guys, but considering that the names on the list that I can recognize are of entertainers, is this really the place for the First Lady?
Confession time: my instinctive reaction to this story was, "You have got to be kidding me". I happen to think Michelle Obama is an attractive woman. She is not classically beautiful, but as we've discussed here in the past, when she dresses in clothes that flatter her, she's quite lovely. And the question of her overall 'hotness' is hardly a slam dunk:
I've gotten a number of emails on this subject, and at least a few conservative bloggers regard the ranking as just another preposterous claim by an adoring media. Well, maybe so, but as somebody who finds women in their forties and fifties much more attractive now than I did, say, twenty years ago, I'll man up and say that I think that Michelle Obama is pretty darn hot. You can argue whether Michelle O. is #93 hot or all that power and media-manufactured glamor makes her more or less hot -- tastes vary on such things -- but from where I sit Maxim did not compromise its standards to include her on the list.
Once I got over my amusement at the validation of 40- and 50-somethings, I got to thinking: how do we define attractiveness, anyway? What is the feminine ideal? And is there not arguably a difference between what we consider beautiful and what we find sexually attractive?
... last year Professor Victor Johnstone, of the University of New Mexico, published results of a fascinating series of experiments that linked perceptions of beauty to the effects of oestrogen on the bodies of adolescent girls His results bore the idea of childish features being attractive, but the explanation he gives has turned the original theory on its head.
"We found that that there definitely was a type of adult female face that men found attractive and that it was different from the average face," says Johnston. "The two key measurements are the distance from the eyes to the chin, which is shorter - in fact it is the length normally found in a girl aged eleven and a half; and the size of the lips, which are fatter - the size normally found on a fourteen-year-old girl". The Kate Moss view seems to be confirmed, but where does that leave actress Sigourney Weaver as an example of an attractive mature face, for instance?
Johnstone came to these conclusions by running a computer program that tried to mimic the process of evolution. Faces randomly selected by the computer were rated according to attractiveness by volunteers, and the most attractive were combined to breed a second generation of faces, continuing the process on to third and fourth generation,and so on. Gradually a shorter,full - lipped face took over. But Johnstone doesn't believe that the reason for its success was that it triggered protective feelings. "Although the features are juvenile, the face wasn't seen as being babyish," he says. The ideal face turned out to be that of a woman of 24.8 years.
The proportions seem to point to fertility, specifically the effect of the hormone oestrogen on the female face. "Up until puberty the faces of boys and girls are similar," says Johnstone. "But then the rise in oestrogen in girls gives them fuller lips, while testosterone in boys gives them a fuller jaw . So what people are picking out as beauty is really a sign of fertility brought on by oestrogen. Interestingly, 24.8 years - the age when most women achieve ideal facial proportions, according to the study - is the time when oestrogen levels are highest and women are at their most fertile".
... The oestrogen-beauty-fertility connection rears its head again in studies where men decide if a woman's body is sexy or not. Dr Devendra Singh from the University of Texas, points out that while testosterone encourages weight to be put on around the stomach, oestrogen lays it down around the buttocks and thighs, so full buttocks and a narrow waist send out the same message as the ideal face: ''I'm full of oestrogen and fertile."
When Singh got male students to rate pictures of women according to whether they had an attractive figure, he found that the most popular proportions for the ratio of a woman's waist to her hips were between 0.67 and 0.8. Women with these ratios were also seen as being humorous, healthy and intelligent .Those women whose waists are thicker were viewed as being faithful and kind, while women who are too thin were seen as aggressive and ambitious.
When men adopt a more traditionally feminine role of being judged solely in terms of their looks, such as the Chippendales today , they begin to show such traditional feminine anxieties as being worried that people only want them for their bodies and not for who they "really are".
Ms. Obama's facial features don't conform to the feminine ideal of big eyes, short face, relatively small jawbone, and perfect symmetry. Her body certainly doesn't conform to the pornified popular ideal of stuffed to bursting, silicone Mr. Potato Head breasts arbitrarily plopped onto a hipless, childlike body. Then again, countless studies have indicated that in the real world at least, what men are most universally drawn to is not so much ginormous breasts as a fairly narrow range of waist/hip ratios.
Ms. Obama's physique tends towards the lithe and powerful, but her ample hips cannot be termed anything but womanly. But aesthetic questions aside, what bothered me about seeing Mrs. Obama on Maxim's hot 100 list was not the incongruity of a fairly average, if attractive, woman being included in a list of women who are all well above average in attractiveness.
It was the implied disrespect. Somehow it seems wrong to sexualize a woman who has done nothing to invite such treatment.
In a society where women's various body parts are frequently and enthusiastically rated on their ability to facilitate solo acts of sexual gratification - increasingly in public - the inclusion of the First Lady of the United States invites some rather disturbing commentary.
I'm not sure we need to go there. More importantly, I'm not sure we ought to go there.
May 14, 2009
More Grist for the Mill
“There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment about the nature of sin, for example,” said Oats.
“And what do they think? Against it, are they?” said Granny Weatherwax.
“It’s not as simple as that. It’s not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of gray.”
“There’s no grays, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.
“It’s a lot more complicated than that –”
“No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth.”
I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I'm getting older too
I'm getting older, too.
Quote of the Day
“The old woman said: “You’ve heard of animals chewing off a leg to escape a trap? There’s an animal kind of trick. A human would remain in the trap, endure the pain, feigning death that he might kill the trapper and remove a threat to his kind.”
The itch became the faintest burning. “Why are you doing this?” he demanded.
The Courage of Our Convictions
Social conservatism is a political or moral ideology that believes the government has a role in encouraging or enforcing traditional values or behaviors based on the belief that these are what keep people civilized and decent. A second meaning of the term social conservativism developed in the Nordic countries and continental Europe. Here it refers to liberal conservatives supporting modern European welfare states. Social conservatism is distinct from cultural conservatism which focuses on cultural aspects of the issues, such as protecting one's culture, although there are some overlaps.
The accepted meaning of traditional morality often differs from group to group within social conservatism. Thus, there are really no policies or positions that could be considered universal among social conservatives. There are, however, a number of principles to which at least a majority of social conservatives adhere. Social conservatives in many countries generally: favor the pro-life position in the abortion controversy and oppose embryonic stem cell research; support the death penalty, oppose same-sex marriage and other marriages social conservatives consider the establishment of to be contrary to traditional marriage, and the nuclear family model as society's foundational unit; oppose expansion of civil marriage and child adoption rights to couples in homosexual relationships; promote public morality and traditional family values; oppose secularism and privatization of religious belief; support the prohibition of drugs, prostitution and euthanasia; and support the censorship of pornography and what they consider to be obscenity or indecency.
Read that first sentence again, just for good measure:
Social conservatism is a political or moral ideology that believes the government has a role in encouraging or enforcing traditional values or behaviors based on the belief that these are what keep people civilized and decent.
Then read both paragraphs once more, slowly. Question for the day: how many self-professed social conservative bloggers advocate anything even close to this definition?
And if they don't, what has become of social conservatism? Does it mean anything anymore? As you may have guessed, this is leading up to something.
Several things, actually. Discuss amongst yourselves.
May 10, 2009
Happy Mother's Day
Happy Mother's day to all the Moms out there. Today, I have just one thought for you ... think of it as a single, perfect rose:
A man never looks more desireable than when he's on the other end of a vacuum cleaner.
I realize that I will pay for this dearly, but it's Mother's Day. Have a happy one!
May 09, 2009
There aren't words to describe this video found over at the Castle so just go watch it!!!
Serious hanky alert but well worth it.
May 08, 2009
Logical and Moral Consistency
I realize that it will only be a matter of time before Cassandra and her crew at Villainous Company will be clicking over here and sharing their approval or disapproval, and probing me with their eyes, but I can handle that -- I am making a stand for civil discourse, and I stand firm and tall! At least I have the good taste not to post the photo on the front page of this blog, but instead provide a link. If you think you might be offended, please don't click through.
As much as it pains me not to gratify the apparent desire to entrap the blog princess via the tempting display of unclothed man-flesh, I regret to report that I have not, and will not, click on the link provided.
This is not because I don't enjoy looking at the male body. I do. Quite a bit, in fact. I hope the foregoing comment was made in fun, but even if it was, it doesn't present a logically or morally consistent argument. I don't see what is shameful about a grown man voluntarily posting his own photo to support an argument. His argument fails because this situation is not at all analogous to what happened to Ms. Prejean.
What I took issue with the other day is simple. Regardless of your personal opinion of the photos released so far, the following inconvenient facts (which Escort elided right past) are not in dispute:
1. At some point in time, Miss Prejean allowed someone to take not one, but several photos of her in a state of partial undress.
2. She claims to have been underage at the time the photos were taken. Traditionally, adults in civil society have protected minors. We understand that they are not quite adults yet; they have not reached the age at which we hold them fully responsible for errors in judgment.
3. If all Ms. Prejean had been an adult (she claims she wasn't) and voluntarily chose to take some fairly risque lingerie shots, we would not be having this conversation. There is nothing wrong - per se - with lingerie shots. But like K-Lo, I don't believe it's a wise idea for minors or allow others to take revealing photos of them. If you find yourself leaping to attack this notion, stop and ask yourself whether you would like to see your 17 year old daughter in the same photo? Ask yourself whether you would want those photos up on the Internet? If you have no problem with this idea, I have no argument against you. If, on the other hand, you would be unhappy if this conversation were about your daughter, perhaps you should re-examine your position.
If adults choose to engage in nude or semi-nude photo shoots, we recognize that the price of adult freedom is the requirement to accept adult responsibilities. Consequently, we expect that before exercising their new-found freedoms, adults will assess the potential impact of their actions on their future employment prospects, personal relationships, and reputation. If an adult weighs these risks and decides they're acceptible, no more need be said.
But that's not what happened here. Ms. Prejean was not an adult when those photos were taken, and any parent knows it's a rare 17 year old who carefully thinks through the likely ramifications of his or her acts. Teenagers live in the here and now. Planning for the future doesn't loom large on the mental horizon of a minor. This is why both the law and the adult community protect and guide teens. We don't expect them to assume adult responsibilities before they fully appreciate how their actions may be used against them:
It doesn’t take a village to raise a child, but where are our protective instincts? ... One wonders where her adult supervision is. Twenty-one-year-olds will make mistakes, as will 17-year-olds. But that lingerie photo was especially unnecessary, inappropriate, and revealing in a much larger sense. Some adult should have helped her stand up to that job, as she clearly had the courage to stand up to Perez Hilton and the bullies who didn’t want her to speak her mind on marriage. No teenager should be appearing topless in lingerie ads.
I don't know what the law says in California, but there are laws in most jurisdictions about adults photographing minors in a state of deshabille. I happen to think many of these laws are poorly written and overbroad, but however poorly they may be written I approve their purpose. A civil society should protect minors from predatory adults, and Ms. Prejean's official statement takes the position that she was taken advantage of by just such adults. She has stated that she regrets allowing the photos. Actually, she stated that she regretted THE PHOTO, though it would seem there was more than one. I will return to this later, but when was the last time you heard of a lingerie photo shoot that yielded just one photo?
Moreover feels she was somehow misled into allowing the photo shoot. She was not an adult at the time those photos were taken. So I stand by my earlier point:
If you are defending her actions and think she's being unfairly treated, why are you emulating and encouraging her persecutors?
And even if you don't think the publication of these photos is "unfair", what are you doing linking to photos of a minor? If you have a daughter, you need to take a long, hard look in the mirror.
Scratch that. If you have either a son or a daughter, you need to take a look at what you are saying to your children.
3. Equating the intentional release of semi-nude photos by an adult well past the age of majority (and here I'm sorry to disappoint, but somehow I was able to restrain myself from feasting mine eyes upon the proferred display of manflesh) to the involuntary and unwanted release of semi-nude photos taken of a minor fails the common sense test. The key factors here are:
- was the release was intentional?
- had the subject of the photos reached the age of legal consent when the photos were taken?
- did the subject release his or her own photos to achieve some desired goal? Or were they released by a malicious third party to shame and injure the subject?
These two situations are not at all alike. They differ in every particular.
4. Though Ms. Prejean was underaged when the photos were taken, she was an adult when she entered into an employment contract under the false pretense that there were no nude or semi-nude - or even any sexually suggestive - photos of her in existence.
Let's break that down, because it's really quite simple. She lied.
Moreover, she didn't simply lie because she was embarrassed. She lied for pecuniary gain. And she lied not once, but several times. Nowhere in Escort's post does he acknowledge this.
She lied when she signed the contract.
She lied again when she stated there was only one photo out there. And she violated the terms of her contract again when she broke her written promise not to represent other organizations without prior approval from her employers.
5. I can understand why Ms. Prejean didn't want her employers to know about her past. What I don't understand is how conservatives can - with a straight face - elide right past conduct we all know is wrong? Are we now maintaining that it is acceptable to knowingly enter into a contract and accept compensation under false pretenses? If so, I don't want to hear another word from conservatives about the sanctity of contract, because your actions contradict your stated principles.
6. Nowhere have I approved of the shameful way Ms. Prejean has been treated by the media. Nowhere have I stated - much less implied - that the fact that she's in the public eye justifies delving into every juicy aspect of her past. I think the TMZ article linked by Escort is shameful.
That said, let's be honest here. Is Miss California the first pageant winner to have racy photos leaked to the media? Is it accurate, fair, or justified in any way to claim that the ONLY reason this has happened is because she spoke out against gay marriage? Vanessa Williams would be surprised to hear that. So would Katie Rees, who like Prejean was only 17 when the racy photos that cost her her title were taken. Rebekah Revels would, too. These are only three examples - the full list is much longer. Can all these women blame the Left, Perez Hilton and gay activists for their troubles?
Or was it their own conduct, made worse by the decision to accept employment under false pretenses, that made them easy targets? Conservatives who claim that this would not have happened but for Miss Prejean's principled stand on gay marriage are ignoring a long string of pageant winners who have been dethroned when similar (and in some cases, far tamer) photos came to light.
Why is it so advantageous to expose the youthful indiscretions of beauty pageant winners? That's easy:
1. These young women voluntarily sign a contract stating they have NEVER appeared nude, partially nude, or even in a sexually suggestive light. The meaning of this is not even slightly ambiguous. Pageant winners have lost their crowns over photos in which they were fully clothed.
So to make the argument that the undeniably partially nude and undeniably sexually suggestive photos in this case don't violate Ms. Prejean's conditions of employment is pretty ludicrous on its face.
2. There is a huge audience for such photos. In this case, among the most enthusiastic consumers of these "shameful, vicious attacks" would appear to be the very conservatives who are defending Miss Prejean.
If some folks have taken offense at having the irony of their conduct pointed out, that's unfortunate. But it's hard to overlook the conflict between,
"The Left is so mean! How dare they expose this young woman's past conduct!"
"Wow! Have you seen the evidence of the Left's shameful exposure of this young woman's past conduct? If not, let me show you. I sure hope there's more where this came from!"
There are two enormously inconvenient truths here. Firstly, it isn't those photos that make Miss Prejean vulnerable. As I observed, they are hardly pornographic (as hypocritical and nasty lefty bloggers have claimed). But they are undeniably semi-nude and sexually suggestive. She is vulnerable as a direct result of lying - not once, but twice - about having taken the photos. She is vulnerable as a direct result of her voluntary decision to accept a lucrative contract under false pretenses.
None of this is surprising. This is a story that has played out many times before, even without the distraction of gay marriage or Perez Hilton's shameless and vicious invective. No doubt the gay marriage aspect played a role in her downfall, but imagine the question had never been asked and she had won the pageant.
Can you honestly say the same incentives that led to the dethroning of other beauty queens with racy photos in their pasts wouldn't have played out just as they have done in the past?
Photos like that come out because people look. If you disapprove of the way she's being treated, don't gratify those who seek her downfall.
Don't look. Because if you do, you're part of the problem.
And don't make dishonest arguments that elide right past facts you find inconducive to your outrage fest. I understand why she lied. She's a young woman who found herself suddenly thrust into the spotlight. In a moment of weakness she made not one, but a long string of bad decisions: signing a contract under false pretenses, not rectifying the error by stepping down afterwards, voluntarily violating her contract by representing NOM. She was blinded by the sudden adoration of the crowd. We put her on a pedestal, and in so doing we made her a easy target for those who maintain there is no right and wrong and that anyone who defends their principles is motivated by hate or hypocrisy rather than idealism.
We do nothing to refute that notion when we willfully ignore intentional misrepresentation of a material fact. We do nothing to refute that notion when we excuse or ignor the deliberate refusal to honor the terms of a voluntarily signed employment contract simply because we like the cause. We don't uphold integrity when we deplore the sexualization of minors and then flock to view private photos of a minor that epitomize everything we claim to oppose. We don't uphold integrity when we establish one standard for men and another for women after deriding the feminist movement for doing just that. Like men, women should be held accountable for their decisions. The decisions to enter into an employment contract under false pretenses and then further violate it by engaging in political advocacy where not made when Ms. Prejean was only 17. With adult freedoms come adult responsibilities.
And worst of all, a sizeable number of conservative bloggers are cherry picking the facts. It's hard to see how our present credibility problems with the American public are helped when we selectively pick and choose facts. The fact is that Ms. Prejean's failure to live up to her values in every instance says nothing about the rightness of what she said on that stage. It's not material to the debate over gay marriage and we need not defend unrelated and undesireable conduct to uphold our position. Talk about buying into your opponents arguments and allowing them to control the terms of the debate. Both the photos and her conduct in relation to the pageant are a distraction. They say nothing about the validity of her opinion on gay marriage, and when we allow our opponents to force us into an intellectually and morally untenable position, we weaken both our own credibility and our arguments.
Why can't we ackowledge that Miss Prejean did right to refuse to back down before an inappropriate and intentionally politicized question? But she did wrong when she lied to her employers on multiple occasions and she did wrong when she chose to violate the terms of her contract by representing NOM. And these distractions have nothing to do with whether or not gay marriage is a good idea. When righty bloggers applaud her more admirable actions and ignore or excuse away the less admirable ones, it only makes us look hypocritical and biased.
When we deplore the Left's "victimization" of a 17 year old girl while enthusiastically hoping they'll provide us more of the same, we tell our children something profoundly depressing about our own sense of right and wrong - about our sense of decency.
Pardon me if I find this not only disappointing, but extremely ironic.
May 07, 2009
Cpl. Susy H. Aguilar, USMC:
“There was a time when we were out in what seemed like the middle of nowhere,” said Aguilar, recalling her first combat experience. “I was already scared as it was, and then we started to get mortared.”
“There was a little [Iraqi] boy who I had been interacting with,” she said. “He was really scared and wouldn’t leave my side. One of the grunts came back, gave me his flak jacket and told me to put it on the boy.
“He had no problem giving up his flak and risking his own safety. That is when I decided I wanted to do a more combat-related [job]. I wanted to be more like them.”
More Great Americans.
Also, photo of the day:
Thought for the Day
It takes God a long time to get us out of the way of thinking that unless everyone sees as we do, they must be wrong. That is never God’s view. There is only one liberty, the liberty of Jesus at work in our conscience enabling us to do what is right.
That seems about right to me.
Thursday Time Waster
Via Vinnie the K
Caption Contest Results
Whilst taking a brief respite from contemplating the immensely gratifying tally of "Carrie Prejean n*de t**s" referrals on our SiteMeter, the Editorial Staff hath deigned to render judgment upon the assembled knavery:
You'll be amazed at the growth you will see when my husband's stimulus package gets around to you.
"No, I never feel the need to apologize. What? Oh! You asked, 'Where's your sari?' My bad."Red
One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small...Yu-Ain Gonnano
My husband's new created White House Council on Women and Girls will work tirelessly to end this barbaric practice of cutting women off at the knees.
FIST BUMP OF DEATH Caption Contest
*gasp!* That Hello Kitty tattoo on the back of his hand -- DAD?!?
Oh great... Now he's gonna have to sneak off for a smoke and a shower...
"It's Palmolive. John Edwards swears by it."
In honor of the prodigious quantity of snark heretofore displayed, a $300 donation has been made to the DJ Emery Fund at Homes for Our Troops.
If the spirit moveth, go thou and do likewise.
May 06, 2009
A House for DJ Emery
For those of you who've been around the milblogosphere for some time, the name DJ Emery is a familiar one. He's someone we've worried about. He's someone we've prayed about. And when the occasion arose, we've celebrated his successes and joyous milestones.
Recovery from such horrific wounds is long and requires adaptation by the servicemember but also requires adaptation of his/her surroundings.
Homes for Our Troops wants to give DJ and Carlee just that: a home that fits DJ's physical needs.
In the early days of volunteering, everytime I went to Walter Reed or Bethesda to visit someone, I remember this strong desire to take them home, cook for them and generally just spoil them rotten. I couldn't. My house is not at all designed for wheelchairs. There are too many stairs, entranceways are too narrow and bathrooms are way too small here. It's not something I had ever really thought about before. I had never had to.
I can, however, imagine how bright DJ's world would be if he could live in a home that allowed him to move around more freely. I can imagine the independence this house would give him.
So, I'm not necessarily asking for financial donations although money is always needed for these troop support programs. I am suggesting that folks could forward DJ's page at Homes for Our Troops on to family and friends. Perhaps one of those people will live close enough to sweat a little for a guy who gave so very much to this country. Perhaps someone will know someone in the construction business willing to donate materials.
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps...You just never know.
Huge thank you's to that wonderful angel in Germany, MaryAnn, who has so diligently kept us updated on DJ's recovery process.
Fear and Loathing in DC
D.C. police responded to a report of a suspicious package this morning at 18th and I streets NW that turned out to be an empty can inside a newspaper box. The investigation created traffic jams through the morning rush, but everything is now all clear.
D.C. police and fire officials were called to the scene about 8 a.m. and closed nearby streets to set up their emergency response.
Alan Etter, a spokesman for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, said the agency sent a battalion chief and equipment to the area "in case it was something harmful."
The scene was cleared at 9:45 a.m., and all streets have been reopened.
An empty can. Inside a newspaper box. Just imagine if it had been something really scary, like a Starbucks cup under a park bench or a cigar box on a fire hydrant.
This happens time and time again. If it isn't a misdirected UPS shipment that has us quaking in our boots, it's the possibility that we might catch a relatively mild form of an illness that many of us already deal with every year. We close streets. We close schools. Why?
It's a jungle out there. Be careful, my friends.
As a Supreme Court justice once quipped, "I know it when I see it"
Carrie Prejean Hypocrisy Abounds
Normally I don't comment on tabloid style stories, but the blatantly irrational commentary on the Carrie Prejean scandal is grating on my last nerve. No wonder the Republican party has credibility problems. I've been straining to see an ounce of principle in the conservative reax to this non-story, but finding a needle in a haystack would be easier.
On a personal level, I sympathize with Ms. Prejean but I'm not quite ready to have her declared the patron saint of unpopular opinions. While I admire her refusal to genuflect at the altar of political correctness, when standing up to the likes of Perez Hilton becomes the stuff of dewy eyed heroine worship I begin to wonder whether we're not defining bravery down? Maggie Gallegher's statement typifies the cognitive dissonance:
On a personal note, as a former unwed mother, I want to say to Americans: you don’t have to be a perfect person to have the right to stand up for marriage.
This is undoubtedly true. As I noted a few days ago, the attacks on Ms. Prejean graphically illustrate the fundamental unseriousness of ad hominem, "tu quoque" arguments. While they may serve to cast doubt upon her character, (and frankly I'm not sure that case has been made convincingly) in the end the question of whether or not Ms. Prejean lives up to her professed standards says absolutely nothing about the objective value of such standards as moral guidelines. It doesn't take a genius to realize that fallible human beings are rarely able to execute their goals perfectly, but that doesn't mean we stop trying. But this, from Ms. Gallegher, is just plain dishonest:
Nothing gay marriage advocates can do can change the fact—we all saw it on national TV—that Carrie is a young woman who surrendered all the glitter Hollywood has to offer, because she would not become the kind of person afraid to say the truth.
The problem with Ms. Gallegher's statement is that judging from what we know right now, it's hard to deny that Carrie Prejean was very much afraid to speak the truth when it counted most. This isn't even a close question. To all appearances, she lied. So while I don't buy the 'tu quoque' line of supposed reasoning as a means of discrediting her opinions on gay marriage, it's hard to get around the fact that when she stood to gain by not telling the truth, she had no problem with dishonesty. The hypocrisy argument pales beside the evidence of her own actions:
U.S. anti-gay marriage spokesmodel and nearly-Miss USA pageant winner Carrie Prejean has found herself mired in yet another controversy after early career photos of her in various stages of undress were posted to the internet.
The images, which were reportedly taken when she was 17, have been used by a variety of websites to accuse the new National Organization for Marriage spokeswoman of hypocrisy, asking such questions as "What does Jesus think about pornography? and "Shouldn’t a girl who lives by the Bible shy away from topless pictures and breast implants?"
These arguments fail on a number of logical levels. First of all, the single photo released to date is hardly pornographic. One can see more of her physique in the string bikini she wore at the Miss U.S.A. pageant. There is an argument to be made that setting and context count. After all, the staging of a photograph can be used to convey different messages. A beautiful woman wearing a bikini in public, though it will undoubtably arouse sexual thoughts in most men with a pulse, is hardly overtly sexual. Bathing suits are beach attire. On most beaches in the U.S. it would be highly unusual to see anyone having sex in public.
The photo released yesterday, however, was taken in an entirely different context: in a private setting with Ms. Prejean coyly covering her breasts and gazing back over her shoulder at the camera. Women who take the time to put on underpants generally also wear a brassiere. So it's hardly a stretch to see the image as suggestive of an impending sexual encounter. But suggestive isn't the same as pornographic. Unless the unreleased images contain something far spicier, it's ridiculous to call the image anything other than sexually suggestive and risque. By that yardstick, the Victoria's Secret catalog should be in a brown wrapper and teenaged boys everywhere are being sexually abused by pornographic images of Czech supermodels. Oh! The humanity!
The problem with this image (and the outraged excuses conservatives are making for it) is not that the image is pornographic. It's that Ms. Prejean entered the Miss U.S.A. pageant under false pretenses:
... according to a clause in her Miss California USA contract - obtained by the news show - Prejean is barred from being "photographed in a state of partial or total nudity".
The contract, which Prejean signed, also states, "Appearing in public or permitting myself to be photographed in a state of partial or total nudity or in a lewd, compromising or sexually suggestive manner constitutes a violation of this provision (this includes photographs of images that may appear on any website...)."
So how do conservatives get by claiming that the revelation of incontrovertible evidence that Miss California not only lied to pageant officials, but did it in writing constitutes an unjustified and vicious personal attack? Aren't we the folks who always flog accountability, personal responsibility, and the sanctity of contract?
How are Ms. Prejean's actions defensible when these time honored conservative values are applied? Do we blithely jettison our principles because this time it happens to be a very attractive 21 year old conservative ox being gored? Apparently so.
But that isn't the only conservative principle being thrown to the winds. If Ms. Prejean's statement is to be trusted, these photos were taken when she was only 17. Does gleefully linking to semi-nude photos of a minor not register on anyone's moral compass?
Apparently not. When even TMZ has more integrity than righty bloggers, it might be time for a gut check. If you are defending her actions and think she's being unfairly treated, why are you emulating and encouraging her persecutors?
And even if you don't think the publication of these photos is "unfair", what are you doing linking to photos of a minor? If you have a daughter, you need to take a long, hard look in the mirror.
Scratch that. If you have either a son or a daughter, you need to take a look at what you are saying to your children. Either way, it's not good. Either honesty and integrity matter, or they don't. Either women need to stop playing the victim card and accept responsibility for their actions, or they don't. Either women and conservatives are held to the same ethical standards as men or progressives, or they aren't. Conservatives can't play it both ways and still claim a shred of integrity.
And either adults have no business looking at semi-nude photos of underaged girls, or they don't. I feel sorry for Ms. Prejean on a personal level. I hate to see any young person treated with such nastiness and distain for a lapse in judgment.
I hate even more seeing grown men simultaneously defending this young woman and winking and pointing at what she claims was a mistake made while she was still a minor:
We contacted Carrie's rep, who gave us this statement yesterday: "This was a photo that was taken several years ago, when Carrie first started modeling. In her naivete, an agent convinced her to pose for this photo to submit to a lingerie company, claiming they could make her the next Victoria's Secret model. She has since learned what a lie that was, and what a mistake it was to have the photo taken."
... we just got a handwritten statement from Carrie herself, and she's towing the line: "The photo in question was taken when I was a minor, several months before the 2005 pageant. The photo was not meant for disclosure to the general public."
And more than anything else, I hate to see conservatives championing behavior we would deplore if it had been committed by a progressive. We don't have to consign this young woman to the 6th circle of hell for her actions, but we ought to possess the intellectual honesty to admit she was wrong to lie to the pageant committee and even more wrong to accept plastic surgery under false pretenses, knowing full well that under pageant rules, she wasn't qualified to become a contestant.
Conservatives ought to have the decency not to link to a photo of a partially nude minor. Whatever one may think of her youthful indiscretions, her onstage honesty stands out precisely because she had so much to lose by telling the truth. What she has done before, or since, cannot change what happened on that stage and conservatives are right to applaud her willingness to stand up for what she believed then. And contrary to what many are saying, the revelation that she has been less candid in other areas doesn't detract from her willingness to stand up to the PC bullies who injected politics into a non-political beauty pageant. But most importantly, lying once doesn't invalidate every single thing a person will say for the rest of their lives. Perhaps that moment of honesty on stage sprang from the awareness that she had failed in another area. We will never know. Young people make mistakes because they're still learning.
But all of us ought be willing to learn from our mistakes. Human frailty is no reason to paper over the difference between right and wrong.
Adults are supposed to know this, and act accordingly.
May 05, 2009
Are We Not Men???
This is how freedom dies, my friends. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.
Team members didn't do themselves any favors by saying there was nothing wrong with playing without pants.
We're the Federal Government...And We're Here to Help
"In this state we have over 2300 felonies. Eleven of them involving oysters".
Well I don't know about you, sir, but I can imagine some pretty heinous crimes involving bivalves:
Alcee Hastings isn't a sex ed teacher, he's a U.S. congressman.
But earlier this week he taught his colleagues in the House -- and online viewers across the country -- a few new sex terms. Hastings, D-Miramar, was speaking in support of hate crimes legislation that would expand federal law to protect victims targeted because of gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.
Hastings was upset that someone tried to tack an amendment onto the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 that would exclude some folks.
But wait! There's live video!
Now there's a First Amendment case if ever we saw one. Because nothing says "protected speech" like a giant inflatable rat. Or toucherism (Whatever the helk that is, and please do not tell us. Sometimes, innocence truly is bliss.)
$1 Flights for Vets - Go Jet Blue!
Now *that's* supporting the troops!
JetBlue is tossing a sharp salute this month to the men and women of the U.S. armed forces.
Active-duty service members will be able to fly out of Richmond International Airport or Washington Dulles International Airport on JetBlue Airways for $1 this month.
Men and women serving in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force or Coast Guard can book the $1 fares on flights from the two Virginia airports for travel to any nonstop domestic destination.
According to JetBlue's Web site, reservations must be booked between today and Thursday, May 7 -- or while seats last -- for travel dates from May 8 through May 31.
Service members have to purchase the special-fare flights by tomorrow, the New York-based airline said.
Richmond International serves Fort Lee, which is home to about 7,900 active-duty Army soldiers.
Using 100-passenger Embraer jets, JetBlue provides three nonstop flights daily from Richmond to New York; one each to Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and two to Boston.
"This is a remarkable gesture by JetBlue," RIC spokesman Troy Bell said.
From Dulles, JetBlue flies nonstop to Long Beach and Oakland, Calif.; New York; Orlando; Fort Lauderdale; and Boston.
JetBlue is offering the $1 fare in honor of National Military Appreciation Month, the company said in a statement. The airline also has pledged a $15,000 donation to the nonprofit Wounded Warrior Project.
A Few Good Men
The congregation all stood up and sang
the saddest song that she ever heard
Then they handed her a folded up flag
And she held on to all she had left of him
Oh, and what could have been
And then the guns rang one last shot
And it felt like a bullet in her heart...
Dillinger said Wojciechowski was raised in a military household. His stepgrandfather served in the Marines and his mother served in the Army. Wojciechowski signed up for basic training the fall after he graduated. It was there that he really grew up, she said.
"It's one of those cases where he goes in a boy and comes out a man," Dillinger said. "After basic training, he aged emotionally 10 years. He was just a good man."
The Armorer comments:
They're always so stark, the notifications.The Department of Defense announced today the death of two Marines who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The following Marines died April 30 while supporting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq:
Sgt.. James R. McIlvaine, 26, of Olney, Md.
Staff Sgt. Mark A. Wojciechowski, 25, of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Sgt. McIlvaine was assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.
Staff Sgt. Wojciechowski was assigned to 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
What's missing is the context that goes with the names. The faces, the friends, the families. The dreams, the hopes, the fears. The fact that there's an empty seat at the table. Literally.
And it's someone you should know.You may not remember me...but I wrote an email a while back asking about a quote from thucylides about the scholar and the warrior. I asked this because I had 4 Marine EOD "bubbas" living across the street from me at the time and me being of the educated sect and they being of the warrior sect we had some great discussions. My father in law was Force Recon so I was given a "briefing" before taking his daughter's hand.
The reason I write this letter is that one of them went up to Fiddler's Green from Al-Anbar on Thursday. His name was SSgt Tony Wojciechowski, he was 25 and was from Cincinatti. This kid could light up a room with his smile and personality. My kids absolutely adored him."Tony Baloney!" they would scream when ever they saw him.
My wife and I are heartbroken that we won't get to see that All-American smile ever again and watch him fall in love from afar and raise his children. As I told my wife tonight I am crushed that I will never get to see that face and smile again. He was a good man. He was squared away.
They are all good men, and too soon taken from us. We never had time to know them.
But we can remember.
Update: I was incredibly remiss the other day in not catching this:
Tyler Trahan, a 22-year-old Navy petty officer 2d class, was with two Marines when the three of them were killed [last Thursday], according to the Navy. Military officials would not provide further details, only saying the three were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, but Trahan's family has said that a roadside bomb exploded. It was not clear whether the device detonated on its own or was activated.
Trahan was a member of the Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Twelve, based in Virginia, and was temporarily assigned to a Navy SEAL team in Iraq. He was deployed last month.
His family said yesterday that Trahan's goal when joining the Navy was to work in an elite ordnance disposal unit.
"It's something he always wanted to do and strongly believed in," his sister, Molly Trahan, said yesterday. He would always tell her, "Tough times don't last, but tough people do," she said.
Those are words to live by. Unsurprisingly:
Trahan comes from a family of servicemen. His father, Jean P., served in the Army during the Vietnam era. His grandfather, John J. O'Malley Jr., served in the Navy during World War II. And, his sister said last night he also admired a great-uncle, Colonel Donald Allain, who served in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars and was a veteran of the Battle of Okinawa in April 1945.
Sounds as though toughness runs in the family. I wish I had the right words to express my gratitude.
This made me smile.
This, not so much.
May 04, 2009
Aye yay yay. Apparently I've been in a "flame war" for several days and didn't realize it. And worst of all, I seem to have started it:
I do not think Cassandra means . . . what Stacy thinks Cassandra means. Not by a long shot. And if he think she’s a radical Feminist, or an embittered spinster . . . this could become very interesting, very quickly.
For the most part, Attila seems to understand what I was driving at the other day. I have thought a lot about this and I'm not going to feed the dragon. I am not interested in flaming anyone, nor in trading insults. If I was unclear in my phrasing the other day, it was because I was trying to make the point gently, without being needlessly confrontational or personally insulting. My assertion that Mr. McCain missed my point is demonstrably true (I leave you to read his posts on the subject). Observing that his responses failed to address my argument, or that it seemed he didn't understand what I was getting at, is not tantamount to calling him "stupid". Had I meant to call him "stupid", I would surely have done so.
There are many reasons one might mistake the point of a post. The most obvious is the author's failure to state her arguments clearly. Because I dislike confrontations and hate upsetting people even more, I tried to suggest the point obliquely rather than bludgeoning readers over the head with it. But this tactic carries with it the associated risk of misunderstanding. To the extent that I failed to enunciate my concerns clearly and caused unintended offense, I am at fault.
Let me reiterate my points as clearly and succintly as I can. As I am going to state my thoughts bluntly, perhaps my reasons for initially favoring the indirect approach will become more apparent.
1. I don't believe words like "slut" and "whore" are appropriate rebuttals to young women who neither advocate promiscuity nor sell sex. Moreover, they do precisely nothing to persuade young women to resist the advances of young men desirous of gaining intensive hands on experience with the mammary glands of as many girls as possible before they marry a pure and hitherto untouched maiden.
I wouldn't dream of calling women who do engage in frequent premarital sex, compensated or not, "sluts" or "whores". Certainly those epithets would be technically correct. But that's not the way I was raised and I thank God for the values my parents taught me every day. I also recognize that they are not shared by everyone.
2. I think it's quite possible to make a convincing public policy argument against same sex marriage without calling someone a "fag". I think it's quite possible to argue convincingly against race baiting civil rights activists without calling them "niggers". Therefore, it is hardly surprising that I find the use of the terms "slut" and "whore" unnecessary to formulating a convincing argument for promoting virginity or opposing abortion. Everyone understands these terms are meant to be offensive on a personal level.
This has nothing to do with political correctness. It has everything to do with common decency - a value conservatives used to defend but seem to have abandoned since Obama was elected.
I also think it's quite possible to make a coherent argument against conservative ideas without calling us insane, bigoted, sexually dysfunctional, or criminals. If we don't think public policy disagreement justifies gratuitous personal attacks, what possible justification can we claim for attacking our opponents in this manner? Hence the title of my original post (pun fully intended): tit for tat.
3. Conservatives have taken vigorous offense to perceived disrespectful commentary from Lefty pundits and bloggers directed at Ms. Prejean. Or more accurately, at her breasts.
The excerpt in my original post was selected to illustrate that many of us have not exactly been respectful in our comments regarding said body parts. Much outrage has been directed at a remark by one Gloria Feldt, of whom I had never heard before this incident.
As far as I can tell, what Ms. Feldt actually said seems far less offensive and disrespectful than much of the commentary on the right regarding Miss California's mammary glands.
If you believe gays have the right to marry, it is hardly surprising that you might find conservative deafness to their distress cold and uncaring. Furthermore, it's not exactly beyond the pale to suggest someone you disagree with vehemently should perhaps place more emphasis on empathy than personal appearance.
But because I also oppose gay marriage, I happen to know it's quite possible to be deeply sympathetic to gay couples who aren't allowed to marry, while still thinking gay marriage is a very bad idea for a whole host of reasons. The truth is, both conservatives and liberals make very little attempt to understand each other's positions and often prefer disparagement and ridicule to rational discussion. But disparagement and ridicule are not arguments.
And more importantly, it doesn't have to be this way.
While we have zero control over the actions of others, we have complete control over our own. Since many of my friends are liberals, I can testify that we've always been able to discuss even sensitive subjects without rancor or nastiness. These attempts have resulted in admissions - on both sides - that there are reasonable foundations for our respective positions.
Did either of us change our minds? Of course not. But we found far more common ground than we suspected.
There are days when I no longer recognize the world I live in. When it becomes unacceptable for conservatives - of all people - to uphold traditional standards of decency and civil discourse, we have really lost something precious.
May 03, 2009
Tugging On the Right Heartstrings
Over at Spousebuzz, AirForceWife expands on a sentiment I've heard over and over again from both military spouses and active duty personnel regarding the way the media portray us:
I can't imagine why there is so much focus on the struggle when it seems to me the focus should be on how incredible these military spouses truly are. Pity? I see them with awe. These are the people I look at when the going gets hard for me, and I think, "So and so went through far worse than I am going through right now and did not give up - so I have no right to do so myself."
Part of the problem, I think, is that there is a definite culture difference between the military and the non-military connected worlds in America. The drama so ever-present in American pop-culture with reality shows and Perez Hilton is more alien to our inner world, because when you are always facing the ultimate drama of those uniforms at your door, you aren't exactly looking for new ways to create upheaval. When we spouses identify a problem, we talk about the problem; but we also talk about what we need to fix it. And then we fix it.
One of the most annoying reactions civilians had to finding out my husband was in Iraq for a year was, "Oh my gosh! I'm so sorry." It made me grit my teeth every single time I heard it - in 12 months, I never did get used to it.
Sympathy, I could understand.
"Oh, you must miss him terribly", or "You must be looking forward to his return home", or even "Are you worried about his safety?": all completely understandable. But "I'm so sorry"?
Sorry for what? Sorry he is doing the job he has trained for all his life? Sorry he got a position he'd been asking for for three years? Sorry he is part of a mission I support? Invariably, I found myself thinking, "Don't presume to tell me how I should feel about this. Because you clearly have no idea."
The truth is that I have always felt incredibly lucky to be connected to the military community. I've always felt thankful for experiences that challenged me to become a better person; to reach out to others in my community, to try things I wouldn't necessarily think of trying on my own, to take responsibility for my own happiness instead of allowing my mood to be dictated by forces beyond my control.
If I had to choose one word to describe my experiences as a Marine wife, I think I'd choose the word, "uplifting":
This is from a speech that Secretary Gates delivered in October, in which he refers to that Navy SEAL, one of many wounded warrior that "lifted you up." That's a concept that is hard to accept for those who haven't actually visited Walter Reed or Bethesda Naval Hospital, but Gates is entirely right.To our wounded warriors: I have been amazed by your grit and resilience. To be honest, when I first learned that part of my duties as Secretary of Defense was to visit the wounded at Walter Reed and other hospitals, I wasn't sure I could handle it – or what I would say. Seeing firsthand the incredible sacrifice our men and women in uniform had made, I wasn't sure I could keep it together. But people kept telling me, "You don't understand, they'll lift you up."
And they did. And they do whenever I visit there and other facilities. Like the wounded officer Lt. Dan Moran at Brooke Army Burn Center who reminded me that I handed him his diploma at Texas A&M in August of 2002. He also told me he had the doctors play the "Aggie War Hymn" during his surgery. Former President Bush and I presented him with a medal for valor at half-time at a Texas A&M home football game in front of 85,000 wildly cheering admirers – the kind of public acclaim all our wounded warriors deserve.
Like AirForceWife, I found the challenges of military life inspiring rather than depressing and debilitating. Everywhere I looked, I saw women who dealt head on with their problems; who rose to every occasion and overcame every obstacle in their path.
It is this side of military life I wish the media would pay more attention to. So often, it is the difficulties we are dealt in life that make us stronger, more confident, and more resourceful. It is this perspective that is so often missing from the MSM's coverage of military stories.
At the Milblogs conference, the panel I enjoyed the most was panel #3 on Taking Care of our Military Veterans. There was an interesting question towards the end from a reporter. It was something to the effect of, "How do we cover issues like PTSD without patronizing service members or pandering to the stereotype of deranged, psychotic combat vets?"
I may not have paraphrased the question entirely accurately, but that's what I remember. I also remember thinking at the time, "Why not point out that we are surrounded by combat vets, many of whom are still dealing with the lingering effects of their combat experience?"
They're called Vietnam veterans, and they're our neighbors, our husbands, fathers, uncles and aunts, our fellow citizens. And as a group, they're no more likely to pick up an Uzi and shoot up the local post office than anyone else. Doesn't that speak volumes? Isn't it a testament to the strength and resilience of the human spirit?
I'm not minimizing combat stress, and I don't think the media should stop covering it. But for Pete's sake, it's not that hard to provide perspective. Just step outside your biases for a moment and talk to a broader spectrum of veterans and their families.
You might be surprised to find we're just like anyone else. We're human, with all the flaws and strengths that implies.
You'd like us. And more importantly, you might begin to understand us.
May 02, 2009
Important Breaking News....
More evidence that we're losing the culture war:
A Polish politician has criticised his local zoo for acquiring a "gay" elephant named Ninio who prefers male companions and will probably not procreate, local media reported.
"We didn't pay 37 million zlotys ($15 million) for the largest elephant house in Europe to have a gay elephant live there," Michal Grzes, a conservative councillor in the city of Poznan in western Poland, was quoted as saying.
The Editorial Staff completely understands Mr. Grzes' ire. Grrr... We just hate it when this kind of thing happens.
Now if it were us, we'd be asking for our zlotys back.
Oh well. Perhaps little Ninio's just been watching too much cable TV:
The head of the Poznan zoo said 10-year-old Ninio may be too young to decide whether he prefers males or females as elephants only reach sexual maturity at 14.
When we can't even depend upon our baby animals to procreate upon demand, one really has to wonder if our entire culture hasn't gone to the d...
We are not sure how we forgot about the salient example of panda p0rn. Mea culpa. Mea culpa maxima:
...keepers are relying on more than pornography and dangling apples to improve the sexual skills of the panda.
...Pandas with a bit more experience may also be called in to help their more innocent companions. One official said: “We arrange lovemaking between two excellent pandas in front of inexperienced pandas which have never had sex. It does work.
We swear to God we are not making this up.
Missing the Point
Of course you have to get the point before you can refute the argument.
Good God! I'm Rich!
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Tit for Tat?
It’s stuff like this that makes all the “have you no decency, sir?” stuff from the left hard to swallow.
Couldn't agree more. But then stuff like this makes all the "have you no decency?" stuff from the right hard to handle, too:
I am not going to name the distinguished conservative academic who e-mailed me a link to a site titled, "CARRIE PREJEAN NAKED." However, I do want to serve notice that anyone who thinks they can out-pander me has got another think coming. When it comes to random-Google keywords, nobody out-panders the Rule 5 King.
I'm No. 1 on "Carrie Prejean bikini," and if somebody's aced me out on "Carrie Prejean nude," or "Carrie Prejean naked," or "Carrie Prejean upskirt," I'm not going to give in without a fight.
BTW, the photo above is meant to illustrate my earlier argument (I'm currently the No. 4 Google return on "Carrie Prejean fake boobs") that Miss California USA is implant-enhanced. One of the commenters has referred to the clearly evident "refund gap" between Miss Prejean's suspiciously globular breasts.
Having done extensive hands-on field research from 1973-1988, I'm an authority on varieties of female pectoral configuration. Miss Prejean's chest is a phenomenon not found in nature. There is no purely biological possibility of a girl that skinny having breasts that large, perfectly spherical in shape, and separated by several inches of flat sternum. Trust an expert: Those boobs are as unnatural as "Adam and Steve."
Thank heavens we're so much better than they are. Unlike the Left, we uphold virtue by calling out the whores and sluts in our midst. To do anything else would be to allow the other side to control the terms of the debate - to surrender to political correctness.
And we can't have that, can we? After all, we know right from wrong.
Note to self: never put the word "tit" in a post title again.
If you read this, you may also want to read this update.
The Politics of Fear
“Never frighten a little man. He'll kill you.”
- Robert A. Heinlein
So it has come to this.
It took no more than the loss of an election for the Right to abandon any claim to being better than those we like to call Moonbats. A mere one hundred days out of power, and we are panicked; willing to do anything - no matter how wrong, no matter how detestable - to control the terms of the debate:
When I was in college, I studied Southern Long Fist Kung Fu for more than a year and my teacher told me something that I never forgot. He said that when you’re being attacked, the aggressor sets the rules and if you want to survive, you have to play by those rules. In other words, if your opponent is trying to cut your head off with a sword while you’re trying not to hurt him, chances are that you’re going to end up dead. This is a lesson that conservatives can and should apply to politics.
Too often today, liberals are using below-the-belt tactics against conservatives and paying no price whatsoever. Meanwhile, those on the right like to pat themselves on the back for being above it all. This is like a boxer priding himself on never taking off his gloves while his opponent nearly beats him to death with his bare firsts. But in the end, there’s not much to be said for lovable losers. Conservatives should realize that fair play isn’t going to pay any dividends.
... On college campuses, conservative speakers often need bodyguards to give a speech. Conservatives are shouted down and attacked — and nothing serious ever seems to happen to the fascists who engage in these thuggish tactics. So why shouldn’t conservative groups do the exact same thing to every liberal speaker who comes to the college? Go on stage, lock arms, and shout him down — then sue the university if they’re given so much as an hour’s detention more than the protesting liberal students.
Is this really what we believe? Has one defeat so frightened us that we've lost faith in our own ideals? How have we so forgotten ourselves?
There was once a party I wanted to belong to. I didn't agree with every plank of the party platform, but it was Ronald Reagan's big tent that attracted me to the party and the GOP's wise policy of uniting factions with disparate beliefs around a solid core of central tenets that kept me solidly voting Republican for 30 years.
That party is dying, eaten away from the inside by extremists who want to impose the kind of rigid ideological conformity and political litmus tests that would have been anathema to The Gipper (himself a former Democrat):
Somehow Republicans have lost common ground – Reagan invoked the Big Tent constantly as a way of collecting libertarian conservatives, national security conservatives, economic conservatives and social conservatives under one banner. But the spirit of outreach and inclusiveness has been drummed out of the GOP – disagreement is seen as disloyalty, and the search for heretics has become a hobby. Libertarians are losing any logical reason to affiliate with the GOP, while centrist Republicans are seen as suspect almost by definition. When Senators like Olympia Snowe or John McCain win re-election with over 70% of the vote, they are considered sell-outs rather than successes. I’ve debated conservatives on TV who were rooting for Norm Coleman to lose, because they considered him insufficiently conservative. This road leads not just to political disaster, but party suicide. Republicans who have won statewide in the Northeast tend to be centrist on social issues, especially on a woman’s right to chose and gay civil rights. Republicans must welcome social moderates into the big tent of the GOP, focus on finding common ground and not treat them as second class citizens. Remember: In a place where everyone thinks alike, nobody is thinking very much.
Instead of confidently standing tall, why are we are stooping to the lowest common denominator? Are we really so weak that we can't win unless we act like those we despise?
The party I joined in 1979 believed in vigorous competition and free speech. It conceived of America as a meritocracy where the rule of just and moral laws allowed superior ideas, products, and workers to rise to the top most of the time. Not all of the time, mind you. But most of the time. Conservatives understood something very important: even the fairest process cannot guarantee ideal outcomes.
But we believed that in an imperfect world, the surest path to success and prosperity was adherence to a fair set of laws that allows people to compete freely for what they want. The rules didn't guarantee we would win all of the time. They just provided a free marketplace in which we had a chance to sell our ideas, our products, and our labor.
So why, all of a sudden, have we lost faith in our ability to compete? Why are we so afraid of losing? Why, despite our previous opposition to anti-democratic proposals like the Fairness Doctrine, are we elevating a desired outcome over a just process? Is it really so calamitous to be forced to allow the other half of America a seat in the halls of power?
Our own history can provide valuable perspective on our present difficulties. Over the last half century or so, Republicans have controlled the White House by a 3-2 margin. But more importantly, over the last half century there has been only one case in which the same party held the White House three terms in a row. Why are conservatives feeding the frankly hysterical notion that a typical and not unexpected turnover of power justifies the abandonment of our principles?
If you want to know why we just lost, look no farther than those who think winning demands that we cheat on rules we have promoted for decades. We lost because a good number of Americans no longer trust us to uphold the principles we espouse: limited government, free enterprise, and fiscal conservatism. We have shown ourselves all too willing to promote expediency over principle and we have paid the price.
Look no farther than those who erupt in outrage when our opponents employ thuggish tactics and character assassination and then recommend we adopt methods we all know are wrong. When we have ground the principles of common decency to dust beneath our own feet, by what right will we complain when one of our own is attacked?
What, precisely, is the goal here?
Do we really want a one-party state where one half of the citizenry has no voice in their own government? How long can a government "of the People, by the People, and for the People" last when fully half of the governed are never again allowed access to Congress or the White House? Are a few weasel words and the loss of a single election sufficient justification for betraying every principle conservatives have held dear?
If so, this is no longer a party I can defend, for it has become morally and intellectually bankrupt. I'm sorry, but I am bigger than that. I have faith in the ideas that brought me into the conservative fold, and I don't need to cheat to defend them.
If the Republican party becomes a party of opportunists and moral relativists, then we will truly have lost our way. But worse, we will have betrayed everything that made us worth supporting. We don't need to fight dirty. We need to fight more competently.
And if we can't beat the likes of Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthew on our own terms, than perhaps we deserve to lose. Step up, conservatives, and stop allowing yourselves to be ruled by fear. Stop being the party of little men and become the party of great ideas once more.
We're supposed to be better than this.
May 01, 2009
This has always been one of my favorite songs:
The Mind Boggles...
Why do we suspect there is a version of these out there with "Fear the Turtle" emblazoned upon it?
Update: Tired of hounding clients about overdue bills? Get creative. Key graf:
He agreed to take off $200 every time he had sex with her and $400 when she arranged sex with another woman.
Update II: "Now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time!"
Sarah Palin was unavailable for comment. How conveeeeeeeeenient.
A Fool and His Money
I love Reader's Digest. As a kid, it was a fixture on the back of my parent's toilet right there beside the little wicker basket of pink, seashell-shaped soaps wrapped in cellophane (Which we were never allowed to use. Besides, there was always that bar of Lava soap that only got used once in a blue word.) and the large can of Lysol. (Father and two brothers. 'Nuff said.) One feature that I particularly loved were the little *filler* anecdotes where an article had fallen a little short of a full page but didn't leave enough space for an ad. These were almost always funny stories, quick one-liners or typos that had appeared in print in some small town paper and were generally guaranteed to elicit a giggle or three. One in particular stuck in my teenage mind like a Band-Aid on a Bologna sandwich:
"How did a fool and his money ever get together in the first place?"
Many have been the times since in which I've had cause to wonder that very same thing. Granted, in true 20/20 hindsight, plenty of those times involved me.... So it wasn't without a little curiosity, and a lot of rememberance of that quip, that I watched as people everywhere, caught up in the latest "This is what healthy (cool) people do" fad, began to pay extra for water. And as time passed by, I couldn't help but wonder if there wasn't a kernel of truth in the old joke that said the first bottled water company named their product "Evian" because they knew the American people (their major marketing demographic) would never *get* that their product's name was "Naive" spelled backwards.
Now we have Vitamin Water.
Yep. Water (distilled to remove any impurities like vitamins, minerals, fish poop, etc.) with vitamins and minerals put back in. Oh, and a little flavoring added in so it doesn't taste like water. I can see the brainstorming group now:
Great Leader: So, ok, now we have water...
Mr. I Say Mr. Potayto Not Potahto: With vitamins!
Ms. Fly In My Soup: But our test market group isn't buying into the idea because it tastes like water.
(Shirley, you jest!)
Captain Obvious: Anybody can buy water and take a vitamin pill.
Great Leader: We need to find the hook, people, so customers will buy it.
Boy Genius: Hey let's make it taste like something other than water!
Great Leader: Brilliant! How do we do that?
Boy Genius: Let's add Flavor.
Great Leader: Flaaavorrr....Hey, that just might work. That way it doesn't taste like water...
Mr. I Say Potayto Not Potahto: With vitamins!
Adding flavor is a simple process, however, there is one small set-back: a manufacturer's "flavoring", in and of it's chemical self, is bitter. So, in order to counter the bitter, a sweetener is added. (Yeahyeahyeah! That's the ticket! Now people will buy it.)
Soooo, why are we calling it water?
When I was a kid, flavored water was Kool-Aid. Then, sometime in the mid-70's, everything became fortified -- bread, milk, breakfast cereal (fortified Cap'N Crunch?!?).....Kool-Aid. Good job, guys. You've just reinvented fortified Kool-Aid. And now we have more brands of flavored water than toilet paper. (Honestly, how many brands of toilet paper do we need anyway?) Except this particular one has about as many calories as a regular can of soda. Umm, yeah,...that's gonna sit well on the hips of the calorie-counting cadre. What to do, what to do.....
(Shirley, there must be a visionary with a *Big Idea* that doesn't involve vanilla icing. 0>;~})
Viola! In the quest for more money, now we have Diet Vitamin Water! With only
10.....er, 25 calories!!
Think about those words for a minute.
Diet - in food product terms, it generally means an alternate version of a product containing fewer calories than the original.
Vitamin - any of various organic substances that are essential to nutrition, but do not provide energy or serve as building units. (IOW, no calories.)
Water - clear liquid comprised of oxidized hydrogen atoms that, when pure, is odorless and tasteless. (Nope, no calories here...move along.)
Ok, so water=0 calories + vitamins=0 calories. How can you make that any more *diet*? Because, if you have water....with vitamins! in a bottle, isn't that already the most *diet* you can get?
Unless, of course, you don't want it to taste like water.
Personally, I'll take beer over water. If I'm gonna drink calories, I want to enjoy it.
Besides, fish poop in water.