October 31, 2009
Shine On...Shine On Harvest Moon...
Oh yeah. You know who you are :p
For Marines, Uncommon Valor Still a Common Virtue
Jules Crittenden offers an inspiring glimpse into a battle waged far from Afghanistan and Iraq:
What does it mean to be a Marine when you are one of the maimed at Walter Reed on Veterans Day?
“Everything,” Cpl. Peter Bagarella, 21, of Falmouth said simply.
Theirs is the story of service and sacrifice behind the statistics.
“This place is awesome. They gave me my eyes back,” said Bagarella. A remotely detonated bomb blinded him and vaporized his left leg in a palm grove in Haditha on Aug. 12. As the Iraqi ambushers opened up with machine guns and the Marines returned fire, Bagarella screamed, “Oh God! Oh God!” and used his thumbs to count his fingers. He asked the medics, “What’s gone? What’s gone on my body?”
Army PFC Paul Skarinka’s shattered left leg is caged in a cumbersome brace, with metal pins screwed through the flesh into his calf bone.
“I’m one of those people who likes to be in the middle of things,” said Skarinka, 24, of Whitman. “I knew I could end up being deployed. I had no problem with that.”
He has fond memories of Baghdad - visits with local elders, giving kids candy and being asked to stay for dinner at wedding parties.
Then in late August, they moved into Sadr City against rogue cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.
“After evening prayers is when they would come out,” Skarinka said. In the early morning hours of Sept. 13, the night’s business was mostly done when an RPG came screaming up the alley.
“It looked like an oversized bottle rocket flying at us,” he said. It hit as he dove for cover. “There was debris around me. My ears were ringing. I thought, `This is OK.’ It was kind of normal. It was when I tried to get up that I realized something was wrong.” He couldn’t move his left leg or arm. He felt the blood pouring out of his side.
“I was thinking, `I’ve got to get out of here. I’m still in the kill zone. I’m not dying in this crappy alley in Sadr City.”
There are many kinds of bravery.
We hear most about the bravery of battle, when the adrenaline is pumping and soldiers are fighting just to stay alive. We rarely thing about the incredible courage and strength needed to sit up for the first time despite searing pain, to stand, to take those few wobbly steps...
... or, against all odds, to run again:
Gene Roberts is a former Marine with a big heart – and an even bigger goal: to run more than 3,500 miles across the United States on prosthetic legs.
Roberts is a double amputee who served in the Vietnam War until he stepped on a land mine in Da Nang in 1966. He is in the process of running across America to inspire other war veterans and raise money for his favorite charities.
...When he was participating in wheel chair races, he participated in races in Indiana and Maryland. When he decided to swim, he trained at the Druid Hill Park Pool one year and in his back yard pool another. He attempted to swim the English Channel on three occasions and was defeated by cold water on one and the weather on the two other attempts. After the last swim, Gene decided to return to his first love, running. He trained hard and finally entered the Baltimore Marathon. Gene finished the marathon and said, “ It wasn’t pretty, but I finished.” The next year he entered the 5K portion of the Baltimore Marathon and was quite successful. Gene now runs in several 5K runs because he just loves to run. His goal now is to run across the United States to raise money for the poor and the needy and a couple of his other favorite charities.
Part of what Valour IT seeks to accomplish is the return of hope. These wounded vets don't need a handout, but seeing what they can accomplish with a small hand up is inspiring. Triple amputee and Valour IT laptop recipient Sgt. Bryan Anderson would be the first to agree that recovering vets are limited only by their will and imagination:
I've been wakeboarding, water-skiing, jet-skiing, tubing, rock climbing, snow skiing, playing catch with my brother. I try to do the same things. I'm not going to let it stop me. We did a 110-mile bike ride from Gettysburg to Washington, D. C. Sixty miles the first day, fifty miles the second day. Hand cycle, three wheels. I ended up ripping the glove, breaking the hand, breaking the whole socket. I might do it a little differently, but I'm still going to do it...
He knows who he is:
This doesn't define me. It may be how I look on the outside, but it's not who I am. I guess you could remember me easily as being a triple amputee, but it's not who I am, has nothing to do with who I am. I've always been the same person.
These guys aren't helpless victims. They're warriors. Survivors. And the first thing many of them do once they've escaped the halls of Walter Reed or Bethesda is to give something back.
During the past year, we as a nation have invested billions of dollars in sickly, failing companies with a never ending supply of excuses. It's hard to think of a better investment than the one you can make with your Valour IT donation.
100% of your donation will go towards helping wounded vets fight the longest of long wars. Selfless dedication, courage, commitment, grit. These are the qualities that define wounded vets. Won't you show them that America still honors men who accept no excuses?
If you find it's me you're missing,
if you're hoping I'll return.
To your thoughts I'll soon be list'ning,
and in the road I'll stop and turn.
Then the wind will set me racing
as my journey nears its end.
And the path I'll be retracing
when I'm homeward bound again.
Bind me not to the pasture,
chain me not to the plow.
Set me free to find my calling
and I'll return to you somehow.
October 30, 2009
Quote of the Day
I, for one, didn't join the legal academy to police other people's lifestyle choices. There are enough health and safety kill-joys in the world already.
I think I'll find a nice, sunny spot on campus and light up a cigar this afternoon.
That made my day. Perfect.
Marine Team Member Steps Up!
No Sheeples here has created a fantastic entry for the Valour IT video contest.
You people continue to astonish me. GO MARINE TEAM!!!
Reading, as they say, is fundamental:
It appears my post yesterday got the teabaggers all riled up.
Apparently, their position is that George W. Bush’s refusal to honor fallen Americans as they return to this country for the last time — something his predecessors all did — is proof that a) he loves the troops more than anyone else and; b) because Obama did so, he shamefully, cynically exploited our dead.
As much as I hate to have to interpret plain English for someone who apparently does not know how to read, there are times when such measures are necessary.
Nowhere in Confederate Yankee's, Donald Douglas' or Gateway Pundit's posts (the three Blue Texan linked to "support" his dishonest claim) do any of these bloggers claim that Bush loved the troops any more than any other President.
When the only way you can "win" an argument is to manufacture false claims and then "disprove" them, you're in trouble.
Furthermore, the Dover ban was not in effect when Reagan was President.
It was put in place by President Bush, Sr. in 1991 in response to CNN doing exactly what Firedoglake just did - politicizing the deaths of American soldiers. It's hardly surprising that those who wanted to lift the ban (and the protections it afforded military families) are the first to use these photos as weapons in their obscene partisan wars against a President who isn't even in office anymore.
And the claim wasn't that visiting Dover itself constitutes politicizing these mens' deaths. The point Blue Texan doesn't even try to refute - because he can't - is that it took Obama 8 months after the ban was lifted and 9 months after he took office to get around to honoring the troops. And unlike President Bush's many, many visits with the families of the fallen, Obama made damned sure he got a photo op out of it. Small wonder so many question the timing.
Stay classy, Firedoglake.
Today's Marine Team Challenge: Double your Gift
Wow. I am just astonished at the generosity of Marine team supporters.
We have another donation challenge: today's mystery challenger will match the first $500 in donations of any amount. Please email your sanitized receipt (I don't want to see your cc number or checking account #) to cassandra.vc at gmail dot com. The first $500 of donations sent to me will be matched by today's mystery donor.
It's time to rock and roll!
This. Means. War.
Why the noive of some people....
Taking Comfort in Ignorant Hatred
As the wife of a deployed career Marine and daughter of a career Naval Officer, I've never understood the ignorant malice of the antiwar Left.
I grew up during the Vietnam era. It was a troubled - and troubling - time. The nation was rocked by protests, riots, and civil unrest. All this was understandable, even to a small child of 6 or 7. Though my father and my friends' fathers were fighting a war many Americans opposed, I could understand the pain and the passion of those who wanted us out of Vietnam. Anyone who appreciates the terrible cost of war must understand those troubled by that cost.
What was never understandable to me was the vicious spite and hatred of those who lined up outside military bases screaming epithets like, "Baby killer" to men who had been drafted. You would think we might have learned something as a nation in the nearly four decades since we abandoned the South Vietnamese to the tender mercies of a Communist-led genocide. But sadly, hate is alive and well in modern America:
This is what a president does.
US President Barack Obama has paid his respects to 18 Americans killed in Afghanistan, the first time he has honoured the fallen in this way.
NPR notes that,
The dramatic image of a president on the tarmac was a portrait not witnessed in years.
His predecessor, George W Bush, visited the families of dead troops but never received the bodies at the base, in Dover, Delaware.
Mr Bush also did not go to military funerals, telling the military newspaper Stars and Stripes three years ago that he preferred to meet families privately.
Notice how no one at Firedoglake wonders what took President Obama so long? The ban, after all, was lifted in February. Obama could have visited Dover at any time during the past 8 months - 10, if you take into account the fact that there was no need to have the press document his visit for the TV cameras. But I don't think the facts matter to these people at all. Their hatred is so strong that it blinds them to anything but simmering anger and poisonous contempt. To them, fallen warriors are nothing more than cannon fodder, conscripted against their will - even in death - to fight an obscene war against a President who is no longer in office. Consumed by hatred, they just can't let it go.
What they cannot understand is that unlike Barack Obama, who makes sure the few sops he throws to the military are well documented by the press, George Bush understood our wish not to be used as photo ops. It ought to be simple to understand why George Bush was never photographed at Dover: under George Bush, the press were not allowed at Dover. So there would be no photograph. But more importantly, President Bush understood that the families of the fallen had given enough. The last thing grieving families want is to have a camera or a microphone shoved in their faces; to have legions of Secret Service, White House aides, and other support staff invade an exquisitely private moment that ought to be reserved for those who knew and loved the deceased. Our funerals are not public spectacles, but private observances of grief. Our last President, unlike the antiwar left, understood and respected that.
To gain an idea of just how military families view having the President turn the homecoming of their loved ones into a photo op, one need only look at what happened when the families whose loved ones came in on this flight reacted to the news of Obama's visit.
Of the 18 families involved, 17 declined to allow the media to photograph the return of their loved one. But more than that, 6 of the 18 (that's one third) were undecided until they learned Obama would be there. According to the article, nearly two thirds of Gold Star families have allowed the press to be present.
...11 of the 17 had already reached a decision against coverage before they were notified that Obama would be there, said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.
The knowledge that the President of the United States planned to attend seems to have reduced the number of families willing to allow press coverage from 67% to 5%. It's hard to think of a more damning indictment of the idea that the families of the fallen want to be used as political props.
What takes more courage? To stand on a deserted tarmac in the dead of night and salute for the cameras? Or to meet with the families of the fallen - even those who don't support the war?
If the reality based community weren't afraid to venture out of their bubble, they might try talking to Rachel Ascione about whether the President grieves for our fallen warriors, whether he just brushes their grief aside lightly:Ascione wasn't sure she could restrain herself with the president. She was feeling "raw." "I wanted him to look me in the eye and tell me why my brother was never coming back, and I wanted him to know it was his fault that my heart was broken," she recalls. The president was coming to Florida, a key swing state, in the middle of his re-election campaign. Ascione was worried that her family would be "exploited" by a "phony effort to make good with people in order to get votes."
Ascione and her family were gathered with 18 other families in a large room on the air base. The president entered with some Secret Service agents, a military entourage and a White House photographer. "I'm here for you, and I will take as much time as you need," Bush said. He began moving from family to family. Ascione watched as mothers confronted him: "How could you let this happen? Why is my son gone?" one asked. Ascione couldn't hear his answer, but soon "she began to sob, and he began crying, too. And then he just hugged her tight, and they cried together for what seemed like forever."
Ascione's family was one of the last Bush approached. Ascione still planned to confront him, but Bush disarmed her in an almost uncanny way. Ascione is just over five feet; her late brother was 6 feet 7. "My whole life, he used to put his hand on the top of my head and just hold it there, and it drove me crazy," she says. When Bush saw that she was crying, he leaned over and put his hand on the top of her head and drew her to him. "It was just like my brother used to do," she says, beginning to cry at the memory.
Before Bush left the meeting, he paused in the middle of the room and said to the families, "I will never feel the same level of pain and loss you do. I didn't lose anyone close to me, a member of my family or someone that I love. But I want you to know that I didn't go into this lightly. This was a decision that I struggle with every day."
As he spoke, Ascione could see the grief rising through the president's body. His shoulder slumped and his face turned ashen. He began to cry and his voice choked. He paused, tried to regain his composure and looked around the room. "I am sorry, I'm so sorry," he said.
But this is more 'reality' than the reality based community is ready for. It conflicts with how they wish to see the world - a stark, black and white version of The Truthiness in which it becomes more comforting to believe that our leaders are callous and cold (no matter how many military families say that's untrue), that they lie (no matter that the official record says otherwise), that they are using our military (no matter that our armed forces are all volunteer and that they keep volunteering).
When hatred is so strong that its adherents fear the truth, no factual rebuttal is likely to pierce the wall of lies that surrounds the willfully ignorant. But the truth remains, regardless of their stubborn refusal to admit it.
I was lucky enough to meet the President of the United States not once, but three times during my husband's last deployment to Iraq. The third time he was slightly late.
You see, he'd been talking with a Gold Star family in the Oval Office just moments before he met with us and appeared on national TV. And just as he did when he met with Rachel Ascione, he gave them all the time they needed.
No one who has ever seen the President in the company of our armed forces or their families could doubt the genuine love and respect he felt for us. And that feeling was mutual. It mattered. It gave me comfort during those long, dark months when my husband was on the other side of the world. And that's a comfort I no longer feel from a President whose idea of supporting the troops consists of turning their homecoming into a photo op.
Marines Through the Lens of History
I can never again see a United States Marine without experiencing a feeling of reverence. —MajGen Johnson Hagood, USA
“There were Northwesterners with straw-colored hair … and delicately spoken chaps with the stamp of the Eastern universities on them. There were large-boned fellows from Pacific-coast lumber camps, and tall, lean Southerners who swore amazingly in gentle, drawling voices. There were husky farmers from the corn-belt, and youngsters who had sprung, as it were, to arms from the necktie counter. And there were also a number of diverse people who ran curiously to type, with drilled shoulders and a bone-deep sunburn, and a tolerant scorn of nearly everything on earth. …
“They were the Leathernecks … the old breed of American regular, regarding the service as home and war as an occupation; and they transmitted their temper and character and view-point into the high-hearted volunteer mass which filled the ranks of the Marine Brigade.
“There is nothing particularly glorious about sweaty fellows, laden with killing tools, going along to fight. And yet—such a column represents a great deal more than 28,000 individuals mustered into a division. All that is behind those men is in that column, too: the old battles, long forgotten, that secured our nation … traditions of things endured and things accomplished, such as regiments hand down forever … and that abstract thing called patriotism, which I never heard combat soldiers mention—all this passes into the forward zone, to the point of contact, where war is girt with horrors. And common men endure these horrors and overcome them, along with the insistent yearnings of the belly and the reasonable promptings of fear; and in this, I think, is glory.”
—Capt John W. Thomason Jr.: “Fix Bayonets,” 1926, on Marines during WW I
The Marines have landed, and the situation is well in hand.
—Richard Harding Davis, war correspondent 1935 who reportedly wrote it after the 1935 landing in Panama
Goddamn it, you’ll never get a Purple Heart hiding in a foxhole! Follow me!
— Capt Henry P. “Jim” Crowe, Guadalcanal, 13 Jan. 1943.
The Second Marine Division took this island because its men were willing to die. They kept on coming in the face of heavy defense, and though they paid the stiffest price in human life per square yard that was ever paid in the history of the Marine Corps, they won this main base in the Gilbert Islands in 76 hours.
Out of two battalions – 2,000 to 3,000 men – thrown onto the beach in the first assault at 0830, only a few hundred men escaped death or injury. Officer casualties were heavy. And still the Marines kept coming. The leathernecks died with one thought – to get there.
—Sgt John Bushemi, “Yank” Staff Correspondent
They (women Marines) don’t have a nickname, and they don’t need one. They get their basic training in a Marine atmosphere, at a Marine post. They inherit the traditions of the Marines. They are Marines.
—Gen Thomas Holcomb, 17th CMC, (1936-1943)
I will be adding to this below the fold throughout the day. Feel free to add your own in the comments section!
The Marine Corps has been called by the New York Times the “elite” Corps of this country. I think it is the “elite” Corps of the world.
—Adm William F. Halsey, 4thMarDiv reunion, Washington, D.C., 11 June 1949
Panic sweeps my men when they are facing the American Marines.
—A captured North Korean major
We’ve been looking for the enemy for several days now. We’ve finally found them. We are surrounded. That simplifies the problem of getting to these people and killing them.”
—Col Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, Chosin Reservoir, Korea 1950
They say “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” In the Marine Corps, you can make that horse wish to hell he had.
—Sgt Fred Larson, drill instructor, Plt 343, San Diego, 1965
Lieutenant, if you go in there and watch those stag movies, I’ll write you mother and tell her.
—SgtMaj Charles Skinner, RVN, 1970, on standards of conduct
Update: This is a favorite:
They told (us) to open the embassy, or “we’ll blow you away.” And then they looked up and saw the Marines on the roof with these really big guns, and they said in Somali, “Igaralli ahow,” which means “Excuse me, I didn’t mean it, my mistake.”
—Karen Aquilar, is the U.S. Embassy, Mogadishu, Somalia, 1991
Pride, Love and Loss: The Making of a Marine Parent
Who best bear his mild yoke,
they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.
- John Milton
No one describes the mingled joy, pride, and terror of being a Marine parent better than Jarhead Dad. From the euphoria of a sun splashed parade deck at Parris Island to the aching loneliness of a long deployment, he captures the feelings of those who wait patiently for the return of a loved one from the field of battle:
I remember like it was yesterday when our young Marine came marching out on the parade deck of Parris Island sporting a brand new chevron proclaiming him a PFC in the United States Marine Corps! A merit stripe earned in the sand fleas and swamps of South Carolina. God how proud I was. I bet I stood a full two inches taller. His Mom squeezing my hand harder as his Training Battalion passed the stands. The tears of pride I enjoyed wiping from her cheeks. The virality, the strength, a man where a boy should stand. It was all there.
From that day forward our home became a staging area of sorts for the next four years and even now. Young Marines we met on that very same Parade Deck stopping in on their way one place or another knowing they would get a home cooked meal and lodging with others of their kind. After SOI they came in bunches, full of themselves, cocky, with the innate ability to use the F word as a noun, adjective, verb, adverb. All in the same sentence! Vulgar? Not for a minute. These are young men that enlisted in a time their country is at war, knowing full well what they were facing and where they were headed. They are young men "with the bark" on as the saying goes from my generation. Respectful to Mom and Sis to the max, loving them after minutes of meeting them. You could see the protection trait in them even then. The seriousness they held in their minds of what they were doing was embodied in their Moms and Sisters, Girlfriends and Fiancees, Wives and Daughters.
As the saying goes, read the whole thing.
Marine Team Daily Roundup
Miss Ladybug: Remembering and Supporting.
Stop the ACLU: Just in time for Halloween!!
Castra Praetoria is AWOL!!! Blue Hawaiians on us, Marine!
Lorie Byrd: Halloween Weekend. Love that military pumpkin!!
The Daley Gator marks a very important anniversary.
October 29, 2009
I Love the Marine Corps
I do love the Corps.
Mike Corrado wrote a song that touches my heart. No..it pulls at my heartstrings.
Marine Commercial: Blood Stripe
Marine Team Daily Roundup
MaryAnn at Soldiers' Angels Germany is a tireless supporter of our troops. She updates her blog everyday with spotlights on servicemembers, goings on at Landstuhl as well as downrange.
Miss Ladybug has video of the return of LCPL Brandon Lara and the respect the community showed in honor of his sacrifice. Kleenex required.
Flag Gazer has a great post up about the Baghdad Zoo.
Grim has a couple of entries in the Demotivator contest. I think they're rather good if I do say so myself.
Marine of the Day: Some Random Officer
In keeping with our practice of interspersing interviews of active duty Marines with inspirational stories, today's Marine of the Day is some random officer who generously agreed (much to my surprise) to be interviewed. We hope the combined format will provide a more rounded view of the Marine perspective:
1. What is your rank and MOS in the Marine Corps?
Colonel - 8041 (ground colonel), 0802 (field artillery officer), 8848 (Management, Data Systems Officer, not sure how this got in my record), 8840 (Manpower Management Officer - my Naval Postgraduate MOS), 9702 (joint specialty officer)
2. How long have you served?
I'm in my 29th year of service.
3. What made you join the military? And why the Marine Corps?
I wanted to serve my country, I needed a job to support my family, and I wanted to serve in the best Service in the military.
4. Have you ever been deployed?
Yes - to Japan twice on 1 year unaccompanied orders each time, to Iraq on a 1 year Individual Augment assignment, currently in Afghanistan. I have made shorter education and training deployments in CONUS as well.
5. What was the most rewarding thing you ever did as a Marine?
The most rewarding thing I did was serve in 3/11 as the FSC, OpsO, and XO (Fire Support Coordinator, Operations Officer, and Executive Officer). The next was serving as EA in PP&O (Plans, Policies & Operations).
6. If you could tell a young man or woman contemplating military service just one thing, what would that be?
It is a great profession that offers great opportunity with a dedicated group of like-minded individuals.
7. What does being a Marine mean to you?
It means being part of a organization rich in tradition, able to meet any challenge, that holds itself to a higher standard.
8. What are the best and worst things about your job?
The best things are having a stable, rewarding job that sends you around the world on different assignments. The worst things are time spent away from your family and not being able to put down roots.
9. Some people say wars never solve anything. What do you think?
I think the only thing worse than war is giving into the will of someone else. There are times when war is necessary and there needs to be an organization designed to fight that war filled with people dedicated to winning that war.
10. Do you think the Marine Corps made you a better person, or would you be the same no matter what career you chose?
It made me a better person just as my wife has made me a better person - both taught me that there is more to life than just yourself.
Marine Team Update
I hope the Snarkitudinous amongst you will note that I now have the *correct* camo pattern:
As of 9 am this morning we were leading the Army by about $1300 with 3 slots left on my Dad's $1000 challenge. Huge thanks to our 3 donors! This leaves us with 3 $100 matching donations left. We also got a very generous donation from a Marine team blogger but I'm not sure whether he wishes to remain anonymous.
The goals for today are to keep getting the word out and keep recruiting new team members. A few posts down there's a 10 Reasons to Join the Marine team post you can use to blog or even use in emails if you'd like to spread the word to friends and coworkers.
We have done amazing things, but we need to stay focused today. As the smallest service, we have to work harder than the competition just to hold onto our lead.
I can't thank everyone who has joined and contributed enough. Jules Crittenden wrote a wonderful Marine of the Day tribute yesterday and he's been incredibly helpful in recruiting and spreading the word. Cassy had a fantastic trivia post up yesterday that took a lot of the pressure off me.
Don't forget the Demotivator contest - we've had lots of great entries so far and can use more. Send them to cassandra.vc at gmail dot com and I'll get them up there, or send a link to your post if you have put them up at your site.
Greta has a video contest to check out and we still need people to help get the word out on Twitter and Facebook:
Twitter: @valourit or #valourit
Again, thanks so much for all your hard work. The Marine team rocks! If you recently joined, we'll be updating the blogroll, or you can download code for the Marine team blogroll (this one should be up to date now) here.
Defining Poverty Down, Again
Ever noticed that the more Americans have, the more we can't live without?
If you earn less than 150% of the gummint-defined poverty line, that means those of us who earn more than that are going to buy you a phone *and* pay for your phone use.
Soooooo, tell me, Congers, just *how* will this stimulate the economy? Exactly *what* benefit will this have -- aside from the obvious one of purchasing *you* a whole bunch of votes?
Notice the bolded part: it's no longer enough to be poor (as defined by the federal poverty line). You can make 50% over the cutoff income defined as "poor" and still rate a free cell phone.
This is precisely what's wrong with well intentioned programs like the so-called "War on Poverty" (well into its 4th decade with no exit plan in sight). They're inherently unwinnable because it's in the interest of politicians to arbitrarily redefine poverty upwards over time. It can never be eliminated because what was considered "poverty" yesterday is now "poverty plus".
Worst of all, since prolonged poverty has a lot to do with lifestyle choices, rewarding it means there is even less incentive to make the kinds of choices that result in prosperity.
On the other hand, creating a permanent underclass has proven extremely efficient at the ballot box. If you just look hard enough, you can always find a disadvantaged minority requiring urgent intervention from the federal government.
Feel Good Link of the Day
The Boys' Club
Every so often the question of gender parity in the blatherosphere pops up like a whack-a-mole. This time, somewhat unusually, the question was raised by a man:
If you spend any time looking at social media demographics, there’s one stat you see over and over: women dominate the space. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter — all are more popular with women than men.
So it was a bit jarring this week to see that 67% of bloggers are male, according to the newest installment of the Technorati State of the Blogosphere report.
... compared to the other mainstream social media activities, it seems bizarrely guy-heavy.
What’s the deal? Why is blogging a boys club at a time when women are such a powerful force in creating social media content
In contrast to the explanations doled by male bloggers in the past (women lack confidence/interest in politics, women aren't competitive/assertive), many female bloggers who responded this time emphasized safety:
The Internet still feels like the Wild West. There are some safe homesteads–social media, for example. Consider: On Facebook, a woman can decide who she wants to connect with and who she wants to keep out. On Twitter, a woman who feels wrongly attacked can block the attacker. (Meghan McCain, the mad blocker, comes to mind. She takes even mild criticism as a block-worthy offense.)
When it comes the arena of ideas, the women who blog are not typical women. Over and over, the women who blog are tougher. Like the shotgun wielding Western expansionists of yore, women bloggers take shots and can shoot back.
Women bloggers are often sexualized and insulted. One famous incident with Kathy Sierra involved photoshop and personal information. Kathy quit, something I urged her not to do. She is now, though, on Twitter and I believe she blogs anonymously to spare herself the insulting misery. Michelle Malkin, Amanda Carpenter, and just about every conservative woman blogger, including me, has endured horrible personal, violent and sexual insults–very often from “enlightened” male liberal commenters and bloggers.
Most women simply do not want to put up with this garbage. They feel threatened and they worry about their safety and the safety of their children. Michelle Malkin had to actually move after her personal information was plastered on the web. She is a mother. She has children. There are nutjobs out there and in this business, there is a very real risk to personal safety. It’s something guys just don’t have to deal with as much.
This concern was echoed by several successful women:
Women tend to start blogging and then realize that it is a tough, tough world out here. You say something someone doesn’t like, and they don’t dispute your point calmly and politely with rational, well thought-out replies. They attack you, personally. They call you fat, ugly, stupid. They’ll call you a whore or a bitch or a slut. And these are the mild insults. A lot of women have no clue what they’re getting into when they start blogging. And when they see how rough it is, they quickly get out, because to them it’s not worth it.
Every conservative female blogger I know gets this kind of abuse, and it’s often sexualized. We all get it. It’s a fact of life when it comes to blogging.
While I definitely see (and have experienced to a minor degree) this kind of verbal abuse, I'm not entirely sure simply being female explains it. As Cassy Fiano notes, there are definite advantages to being an attractive female on the web:
I don’t want there to be more female bloggers. I like the fact that I’m a minority in the blogosphere. It’s a huge selling point for me. I’m not afraid at all to say it. With so few women bloggers, it automatically makes me stand out, and that’s a good thing. Throw in the fact that I’m… ahem… well-endowed, shall we say?, and not bad-looking and it’s even more of a plus. Men don’t get those benefits. A great looking male blogger is not going to attract much traffic, because readership online is mostly male, at least when it comes to politics. A great looking woman, however, who can write well and is not afraid to take shots and shoot back is going to be very attractive to their male readers. It makes you stand out, and if the blogosphere suddenly becomes crowded with female bloggers, then I’ve just lost my edge.
This is an interesting point. Over the years I've noted several behavioral differences between male and female bloggers. Women are far more likely to display one or more pictures of themselves prominently. Cassy is, I think, more honest than most about why they do it: sexual attractiveness is a definite advantage in a visual medium dominated by men who like looking at pretty women, especially in a state of undress.
I've always been somewhat conflicted on the practice, myself. If, like Cassy, a woman can take the flack that comes with putting her personal appearance front and center, the move makes sense. On the other hand, just as voicing an opinion invites criticism of your arguments, putting yourself out there for people to look at tends to invite criticism of your looks. It has always struck me as problematic when women complain about sexually insulting commentary given the fact that so many of us openly advertise both our appearance and our sexual attractiveness.
In the hurly-burly, free for all atmosphere of the 'Net, critics and trolls throw out whatever will stick. These folks are fairly good at sussing out a blogger's Achilles heel. They attack to get a reaction, and here women often reinforce abusive behavior. "Don't feed the troll" has always been sound advice: if you let an attacker know he or she has found a soft spot, don't be surprised if they repeatedly aim for it.
I'm not sure what to make of the argument that women don't enjoy the intellectual back and forth. This is arguably what keeps me writing, despite the aggravations associated with running a blog. I do know it took years to build a proportionate level of female participation in my own comments section. Women do seem slightly more hesitant to wade into the conversational fray, whether we're talking blogging or simply asserting a strong opinion in the comments.
Part of this may be due to the different conversational styles of men and women. To us, men can seem needlessly curt, dismissive, or confrontational. Over the years I've occasionally been taken aback by comments from men I know and like and I've had to fight not to take something that wasn't meant personally to heart. Women often attribute male abruptness to sexism, but I think it's more likely just a reflection of the way men talk to each other.
In school, I was the only woman in a class largely composed of male Marines. There weren't too many shrinking violets in that group, and yet I easily held my own. I wasn't really aware of the differences in the social dynamic until I found myself in a class with another woman - an unusually sharp and self confident one. She cornered me after a few weeks and asked, "Doesn't it bother you, the way they just talk over women as though we weren't there?"
I thought about it, and replied, "I'm not sure being female has as much to do with that as being willing to back down. They talk over each other all the time". Men are at once more direct and less personal in their interactions with others. They don't tend to be as careful with, much less aware of, other people's feelings. That's probably an advantage if the world you live in centers around competition. The man who tiptoes through the minefield of subjective offense is likely to find himself left in the dust by less delicate souls.
I'm not sure how typical I am, because unlike most women I have zero interest in MySpace, Facebook, or Twitter. Social networking, to me, features all the downsides of blogging with none of the advantages. I'm not interested in keeping in touch with large numbers of people. I was on Facebook for a while, but found the whole "friends" thing exhausting and distracting.
Female bloggers, it seems to me, are sometimes victims of our own success. I've quit blogging at least three times now, but verbal abuse or dislike of the 'food fight atmosphere' had nothing to do with my decision. Looking back, the same conditions were present each time I walked away:
1. Daily visits over 2000. When VC begins to draw too much traffic, all the joy goes out of blogging. I begin to feel like the psychic vampires have been at me, though much of my discomfort is self imposed.
Here, again, I see differences in male and female behavior. Women tend to participate more in their comments sections. To me, this is part of the joy of blogging but it also takes its toll. I've never been able to stop seeing the person behind each moniker. This amuses and exasperates my husband. He says, "Why do you CARE about these people? You don't know them!"
2. Lack of balance. Attila echoes this concern:
Me? I dunno why I didn’t make it to Western CPAC: My excuses are what they are. For one thing, I’m working way more than full-time, and I’m trying to cut back on travel. I don’t go out of town more than every couple of months, and my petro-fieldtrips count, as I see it. Many of those take place in California, within driving distance, but a night away from home is a night away from home. It’s a necessary evil, but an evil.
So, no: I wasn’t at Western CPAC; I go to the real CPAC every year. If I have time, I’ll go to the YAF cconference this fall and see if I can get Stacy McCain to buy me that martini he still owes me.
Blogging is incredibly time consuming, and it has to compete with family time, work and other pursuits. Over the years I find myself less willing to expend the time needed to run VC the way I would like it to be run. I also find myself less willing to share my thoughts - to put my whole heart and soul into my writing.
That feeling is very much a response to the way I see women treated on the 'Net. Even though I have experienced little of the vicious invective and disrespectful treatment I see every day, as it has increased in volume and intensity I've sometimes been momentarily stunned into a sort of disgusted silence. Though anyone who knows me knows I'm far from being a prude, I find the overly sexualized, locker room atmosphere of the web to be a real turnoff. I've written about it a few times, mostly because I think it has a lot to do with the hesitancy women feel about participating in online conversations but also because I truly believe it degrades civility and encourages behavior few (if any) of us would countenance in real life. I don't want to know that some guy thinks some supermodel's rear end is just begging to be ramrodded, or how often he fantasizes about having sex with women he's not married to. I'm not stupid: I realize men have thoughts like that all the time. Hell, women have thoughts like that.
I just think sentiments like that are better left unvoiced in mixed company. Grim had a real point when he observed that people do and say things online that, in real life, would merit a punch in the mouth.
I can't recall - even once in the 6 years I've been writing online - feeling threatened, unsafe, or scared by anything I've experienced, read, or seen. By the same token, the climate online has definitely affected my enjoyment of blogging and made me question whether it is an endeavor that's worth time and energy it requires?
That's not a decision that is being forced on me. It's a decision every blogger - male or female - has to weigh for his or herself. I don't feel oppressed by the Patriarchy. But I do wonder - increasingly these days - whether this is the kind of blogosphere we want to inhabit? Do we want an online world where only the toughest, loudest, and most competitive voices are heard?
The Internet is a marketplace of not just ideas but entertainment, emotion and raw sensation. As such, it reflects our values. That is an uncomforting thought at times.
It should not be a politically incorrect one.
October 28, 2009
A few posts down I said that my Dad (a Navy man, no less, but then they are gallant souls) had pledged to match the first 10 donations of $100.
We are at 4 now. Many thanks to these generous supporters of Valour IT. Once the matching funds are in, you will netted us $800 - your $400 plus the matching funds.
There's still plenty of time to get your donations in. And many thanks to Old Soldier54, Leslie (no last name since I'm not sure she wants to be uniquely identified), John Tammi, and Phil (again, no last name since I don't have permission but I wanted to recognize him).
Thanks for stepping up to the plate, guys. By my count, there are 6 more opportunities out there. Don't let this one slip on by.
10 Reasons to Join the Marine Team
1. Marines have the best uniforms, hands down. And as everyone knows, chicks really dig a guy in uniform.
2. Marines know how to fight. That's why they're called America's 911 force:
In the true spirit of "jointness" I offer the following as "Everything you need to know about differences in service culture. All in good fun, of course.
US Marine Corps Rules for Gunfighting
1. Be courteous to everyone, friendly to no one.
2. Decide to be aggressive ENOUGH, quickly ENOUGH.
3. Have a plan.
4. Have a back-up plan, because the first one probably won't work.
5. Be polite. Be professional. But, have a plan to kill everyone you meet.
6. Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun whose caliber does not start with a "4."
7. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap. Life is expensive.
8. Move away from your attacker. Distance is your friend. (Lateral & diagonal preferred.)
9. Use cover or concealment as much as possible.
10. Flank your adversary when possible. Protect yours.
11. Always cheat; always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.
12. In ten years nobody will remember the details of caliber, stance, or tactics. They will only remember who lived.
13. If you are not shooting, you should be communicating your intention to shoot.
Navy SEAL Rules For Gunfighting
1. Look very cool in sunglasses.
2. Kill every living thing within view.
3. Return quickly to looking cool in latest beach wear.
4. Check hair in mirror.
US Army Ranger Rules For Gunfighting
1. Walk in 50 miles wearing 75 pound pack while starving.
2. Locate individuals requiring killing.
3. Request permission via radio from "Higher" to perform killing.
4. Curse bitterly when mission is aborted.
5. Walk out 50 miles wearing a 75 pound rucksack while starving.
Army Rules for Gunfighting
1. Select a new beret to wear.
2. Sew combat patch on right shoulder.
3. Change the color of beret you decide to wear.
US Air Force Rules For Gunfighting
1. Have a cocktail.
2. Adjust temperature on air-conditioner.
3. See what's on HBO.
4. Determine "what is a gunfight."
5. Request more funding from Congress with a "killer" PowerPoint presentation.
6. Wine & dine 'key' Congressmen, invite DOD & defense industry executives.
7. Receive funding, set up new command and assemble assets.
8. Declare the assets "strategic" and never deploy them operationally.
9. Tell the Navy to send the Marines.
US Navy Rules For Gunfighting
1. Go to Sea.
2. Drink Coffee.
3. Watch porn.
4. Send the Marines.
KEITH J. PAVLISCHEK
COLONEL, U.S. MARINES
3. Being the smallest of the services forces us to be creative. Marines fight smarter, not harder. Jim Mattis wasn't kidding when he said the Marine style is a blend of chivalry and ferocity: no better friend, no worse enemy.
4. The Marine Corps Silent Drill Team. Poetry in motion:
5. Tradition: we still celebrate ours. Mess nites, dinings in and out, St. Barbara's day and the Marine Corps Ball: no one celebrates their rich history with more flair and elan than the Marine Corps. We still dress for dinner, we still pull out cigars and the smoking lamp for the men (and sometimes the ladies!).
We still light candles in memory of fallen comrades and those who have been wounded in the service of this nation. We do not forget. If you've ever been invited to a Marine Ball, don't pass up the opportunity to attend. Those of us who have passed the quarter century mark may roll our eyes a bit, but we still go every year and still tear up when the same old passages are read. What began on November 10, 1775 in Tun Tavern is still remembered in giant ballrooms, decorated hangars, and dingy conference rooms all over this planet. Marines gather as one family to celebrate that which unites and binds us: a love of Corps, country, and above all, each other.
6. Esprit de corps: Which, as you should know, is no cheese-eating surrender monkey Phrench-sounding label, but something each Marine takes to heart on the day he or she finally earns the right to be called "Marine". Every Marine is a rifleman. To call the average Marine a soldier, troop, sailor, or airman to is risk a speedy and ungentle correction. There are only Marines, an appellation which (unlike soldiers, sailors, or airmen) is always capitalized. Now *that's* respect.)
7. Toughest mascot. Think about it:
Army: a mule
Air Force: a stinkin' bird?
Navy: ummm... a goat
Marines: a bulldog. Nuff said.
8. Marine PT. Did the HVES mention that we're just better-looking?
9. Marine wives. There is an old Spanish saying, "No hay rosas sin espinas." I think it fits Marine wives well: tough, but tender; beautiful but enduring. On the day my husband finally leaves the Corps, my most precious memories will be of the officer and enlisted wives I have been privileged to work with, laugh with, cry with, and share this wacky thrill ride that is military life.
10. The Navy-Marine Corps team: as much as we love to rib the Navy, we couldn't do our job without them. On any Marine base, along with green you'll see Navy khaki. Navy corpsmen go to battle with us and dress our wounds. They are at once healers, life savers, and soldiers as tough and brave as any Marine. Navy chaplains pray with us and bury our dead. They weep with us and help us to try and make sense of the incomprehensible.
And it is Navy ships which carry us to distant shores so we can do what we do best: respond as America's 9/11 force. They provide devastating firepower on target when we need it. We are proud to be a part of the sea service. But that said....until November 11th...
As the smallest service, what we need to do to win is spread the word far and wide. So please, email your favorite bloggers and ask them: "Why aren't you on the Marine team"?
We're still looking for a few good bloggers. It's a good cause.
One of Those Days that Just Changed My Life
I am so proud to be the Marine co-captain for the Valour IT fundraiser!! It's an honor and more importantly, it allows us to thank Soldiers' Angels for all of their support over the past couple of years. (More on that in another post)
I have been thinking about the past lately. A lot. The day I became a Marine wife is one. The day I became a mom is another. Yet another of those days that changed my life was the day my son became a Marine.
The following is a post at Marine Corps Moms from almost five years ago. Sadly, the site is no longer running. (I miss your blog, Deb!!)
Cassandra and I both share a passion for supporting these brave young men and women who VOLUNTEER to serve their country. It is especially noteworthy that these people volunteer to serve when our country is on a war footing. It seems the least we can do back here is support them while they are there, support them in any way possible should they get wounded and support them as they move on with their lives.
How can we not? Valour IT is a wonderful way to show our support for those who willingly go into harm's way for us.
Dig deep if you can, please? Valour IT is one of the BEST suppport programs for wounded/injured servicemembers. Bar.None.
January 30, 2005
On this particular January morning, I was thinking to myself that I had been a Marine wife for 19 years. 19 years of deployments, birthday balls, key volunteers...in other words..seen it, done it, bought the t-shirt.
Until that day.
The day my son became a Marine. I had butterflies in my stomach. I wondered what Zack would be like after his experiences at MCRD San Diego. Would he still be the same kid that we all called "King Kamehameha"?
We stood with all of the other anxious parents in front of the theater. A drill instructor with a microphone had a running patter of do's and don'ts. Frankly, that got on my nerves. It got on my husband's as well. As India company returned and formed up after their motivational run, we scanned the crowd of recruits looking for Zack. We moved to the other side of the theater and I found him. It seemed to take forever for his father to find that face but there it was. Three rows back and two men to the left, my son's face. At last!! A sighting.
We still couldn't talk to him. They all had to shower and form up for the presentation of the eagle, globe and anchor pins. After waiting almost 13 weeks to see him, the hour or so that we still had to wait seemed to drag on and on. Finally, they marched out and stood at attention. Well..sort of. Their eyes darted around, trying to find their families. Cameras clicked...parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers all yelling, "I see him!!"
As their drill instructors presented the e,g,and a pins, I was thankful for dark glasses and wished I had put kleenex in my purse before leaving the house that morning. The crusty Marine sitting next to me was not much better although he flatly denies it.
When their drill instructors finally released them, families surged out of the stands. We were in that crush too. Who cares if I'd been a Marine wife for 19 years???? I was going to hug that kid and nobody but nobody was getting in my way...not even him. He wasn't quite sure what to do when I grabbed him but he put up with it pretty well. I guess that was change number one.
The rest of Parents' day was spent trying to keep him fed (I can not believe how much this guy eats...it's almost superhuman) and catching him up with family and neighborhood news and hearing bootcamp stories. Change number two...our usually reticent son talked our ears off...between bites of food, of course. He called me "maam" about five times but then again, he also dropped the f bomb as many times. Changes three and four..and although both of those changes have disappeared, I have no doubt that his stint at SOI will bring them both out again. Oh well...
I am a Marine mom and I couldn't be prouder....
A Challenge, and an Offer!
My Dad has offered to match the first 10 $100 donations made to Project Valour IT. This means you can double your gift.
Also I'd like to put something else out there. If you'd like to make a gift in memory of a loved one, I will put their name on my sidebar and I'll keep it there after the competition ends. Donating to Valour IT is a great way to honor the memory of someone you love, and to ensure that others remember them too.
Email me (cassandra.vc at gmail dot com) your sanitized (I don't need to see your cc address, checking account number, or home address) electronic receipt from Soldier's Angels.
And don't forget to let me know if you'd like me to append your name and contribution amount to this post. I'll assume, unless directed otherwise, that you wish to remain anonymous.
C'mon, Marine team! Let's goose that thermometer!
Marine of the Day: Lance Corporal James Crosby
Once again, Jules Crittenden has our Marine of the Day:
"I met USMC Lance Cpl. James Crosby in June 2004. He was 19. He was a kid from a blue-collar background in Winthrop, Mass., and his body was a mess. But I could tell within minutes of meeting him that he was no ordinary kid, and I was pretty sure I’d hear his name again."
Go read about this amazing Marine. Urrahh!!!
Thank you, Jules!!!
Marine Team Daily Roundup
Wild Thing at Theodore's World has a very funny South Park story.
Very funny, indeed.
LindaSoG at Something and Half of Something tells us why she is supporting the Marine team in the Valour IT competition. Urrahh!!
Cassy Fiano has already told us why she's supporting the Marine team.
That's a mighty handsome reason too!! Today, she has some posters and a quiz for all of you who think you know Marine Corps history.
Little Miss Attila has some thoughts on women bloggers.
Dr. Melissa Clouthier's post got her thinking about that.
Sgt. Merlin German: Miracle Marine
"Sometimes I do think I can't do it. Then I think: Why not? I can do whatever I want."
- Sergeant Merlin German
There is a side of war many Americans regard with pride. We've all seen the iconic images. They create a lump in our throats and a curious stinging sensation behind our eyelids. A lone gunner stands silhouetted against a brilliant desert sunset. Families, their faces literally glowing with joy, embrace on a tarmac. A child watches a platoon of smartly dressed Marines pass by, awe and hero worship writ plainly on his tiny face. You can almost hear him thinking, "That's what I want to be when I grow up."
These images represent the good side of war. There is inspiration to be found in the resilience of the human spirit; in our ability to respond to fear and pain with kindness and courage. In a world where scenes of unspeakable cruelty and horror beckon from every newspaper headline, we take solace in the satisfaction of a weary warrior performing a dangerous job with skill and dedication. There is comfort, also, in the promise of joy after months of loneliness and hardship. Reunions are a visible reminder of the thousand precious moments we take for granted each day.
There is even a bittersweet glimmer of solace in the gathering of loved ones around a flag draped coffin and the crisp report of a 21 gun salute. This feeling is captured by a line penned before Christ was even born:
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country.
The visual juxtaposition of love and loss reminds just how fragile happiness can be. In an instant the predictable, orderly world we take for granted could so easily vanish, to be replaced by one in which nothing makes sense. Small wonder images like these evoke such strong emotions. Their silent reminders of fear, grief and loneliness are balanced by the knowledge of our good fortune. Our way of life is worth protecting, and though most of us drift off to sleep each night blissfully unaware of danger, we know that others watch over us.
And then there are the images we don't like so much. They frighten us; appeal to our deepest, darkest fears:
... I was watching television. A movie came on. It was a movie about the effects of war, specifically World War Two. The movie was The Best Years Of Our Lives. Perhaps you’ve seen it? It won many academy awards, and deservedly so. It was - and is - a tremendously moving portrait of three men returning to civilian life after having served in wartime.
One of the men - played by Harold Russell, who truly was a soldier afflicted as shown; no make-up needed - had returned home with hooks for his hands.
I sat in front of the TV and saw the same nightmare vision that had recently haunted me, but now come to life and moving. And it made me even further aware of the tragic possibilities. Not only was it possible to be BORN without important things, it was entirely possible to lose them, once born, through no fault of your own.
...Now, maybe I was somewhat sheltered to not know of these things before then, but that’s the way it was. I had successfully lived through six years of my life without knowing. Now that I knew, I was changed forever. Losing part of me - a limb or a hand or anything else - became my strongest fear. It still is. It is so strong a fear that I have trouble facing or meeting people who have had such misfortune befall them, whether via birth defect or accident. As I handle my fear of heights by avoiding bridges, I partially handle my fear of amputation by avoiding amputees. I don't run from the room screaming if someone is there who is less than the generally accepted notion of whole; I hope that I treat them in the same way I would anyone else. However, I'm afraid that my fear of finding myself in their situation may show through, and I would hate to have them see that. It would be so damned unfair. I also try to avoid photos, films, written accounts, and any other thing that will bring my fear to the forefront of my thoughts.
Stupid? Cowardly? Yes, pretty much. It’s what I do, though.
There is a moment every deployed military family faces.
It's a moment most of us dread. We joke about it, but that's only a way of keeping that sick feeling of fear at arm's length. Somehow, for me, it is easier to think of that flag draped coffin than to think of the alternative: that that long awaited homecoming will be more bittersweet than I can possibly imagine at this moment.
That my husband will come home, but not all in one piece. That I might not even know a man I've loved since I was 18 years old anymore. That this war, for us, will never really be over:
The young Marine came back from the war, with his toughest fight ahead of him.
Merlin German waged that battle in the quiet of a Texas hospital, far from the dusty road in Iraq where a bomb exploded, leaving him with burns over 97 percent of his body.
No one expected him to survive.
But for more than three years, he would not surrender. He endured more than 100 surgeries and procedures. He learned to live with pain, to stare at a stranger's face in the mirror. He learned to smile again, to joke, to make others laugh.
He became known as the "Miracle Man."
Most of us have heard of the Miracle Marine. But I wonder how many of us have stopped to think of what his life must have been like every day?
I cannot imagine the courage and strength required to get out of bed each morning knowing that just making it through the coming day would be a test of my will to survive? We hear of that surge of adrenaline that gets soldiers through a battle, but how does one summon up that strength when every day - every moment - is a battle?
The incredible thing is that through my association with projects like Operation Santa at the hospitals and Operation Fresh Air, I've seen countless recovering vets do exactly this. Amazingly, if you walk the grounds of Walter Reed AMC, you will see soldiers and Marines in wheelchairs but with smiles on their faces. There is little self pity on display, even in situations where most of us would have ample reason to feel sorry for ourselves. Most of the reason for that is that these young men and women are warriors. Faced with hardships that would daunt the bravest among us, they manage to rise above fear, above pain, above the temptation to give up.
And it's not just wounded vets who are affected by war - their families' lives are forever changed as well. Carren Ziegenfuss explains how something as simple as a voice activated laptop gave her some sense of normalcy again:
Not only was Chuck able to blog with his new laptop and voice-activated software, I was able to relax a little bit more. Instead of trying to figure how to get Chuck some sort of outlet, I knew he had one. Instead of going to the Mologne House every night, wondering how Chuck will manage throughout the night, I knew he had an outlet. Instead of feeling guilty as hell when I went somewhere without him (for ME time), I knew Chuck had his connection to the outside world.
The laptop and software were truly a gift that can not be put into words. Even after Chuck was initially discharged from Walter Reed, we returned MANY times for subsequent surgeries. His Valour-IT laptop and software were always there for him, especially when he couldn't type with his hand(s). I could go on all day about how amazing this program is...
This post is not a request for donations, although that would be wonderful. The intent of this post is to give you my perspective of how Valour-IT can be so healing to our wounded warriors and their families.
Watching a loved one struggle with pain or illness makes us wonder why bad things happen? I know I felt this way, watching my nephew's two year battle with leukemia. There were times when even I, watching him fight on from a comfortable remove, felt despair threaten to overwhelm me. It all seemed so unfair.
But good can come from misfortune. We may not have control over our circumstances, but we do control how we respond to misfortune. Chuck Ziegenfuss didn't marinate in self pity; instead he sought to help others. And Sergeant Merlin German, his body disfigured beyond belief and his days consumed by over 100 painful surgeries, still found the strength to reach out from his hospital bed and offer hope and encouragement to severely burned children.
These days we're bombarded with information and requests for help. It's easy to distance ourselves; to avert our eyes and go on with our lives when we're asked for help. But how often do we have the chance to literally change the course of someone else's life? How often do we have the chance to offer encouragement and hope to those who have placed their lives on the line for us?
Project Valour IT offers that kind of chance. The phrase "give 'til it hurts" is overused. It's too easy to ignore. But the truth of the matter is that few of us will ever experience one tenth of what wounded vets endure - and rise above - every single day.
Your donation is a tangible reminder of the enormous debt we owe these men and women fighting the longest of long wars. Giving them the tools to win that battle seems the least a grateful nation can do.
October 27, 2009
This. Will. Not. Stand.
Marines do *NOT* eat puppies!!!
OK, we will [relunctantly] admit that the Air Force rocks:
I think the Marine team needs to return fire. [looking around] Now where did I put that pacifier?
Tribute to the Armed Forces
Via new Marine team member Political inSecurity, this great tribute to all the services:
Give a big shout out to our great Valour IT team leaders:
We snark a lot, but it's an honor to serve with such smart and dedicated folks. And....
Marine Team Daily Roundup
Mike the Marine snuck this under the wire months ago but it's just so
All I have to say is...I loves me some Major Pain.
The C-Square. If you're interested in things Marine related and especially LAV related, these are your guys.
What can I say? I just love Marine Wife's style.
I know all the blogs I linked to today are Marine ones. It won't be the case everyday. They struck my fancy this morning and it IS all about me..:)
Marine of the Day - Captain Kyle VanDeGiesen
I'll add my 2 cents later below the fold.
Quotes of the Day
E: What's the commander in chief do?
A: Basically, he's in charge of how we fight the war.
E: Hmm. I think the marines should be the commander in chief.
A: [Laughing, of course] I bet the marines would like that.
E: I mean, if we didn’t have the marines, what could Obama do?
Out of the mouths of babes. GO MARINE TEAM!
Web Site of the Day...
...for today is Patterico's Pontifications.
A few words here: as the LA Times can ruefully attest, no one wields a clue bat as deftly as Patterico and his co-bloggers. One of my biggest frustrations in doing this has been that, due to the intentionally low profile we keep here at VC, I can't command the kind of traffic sites like Blackfive and Mudville have earned so deservedly. And I don't have connections with the heavy hitters in the blogosphere - my own fault - so I can easily understand why it's hard to penetrate their Inboxes with my grovelling requests for help: they don't know me. These guys are mega busy and get piles of email. Having them take time out of their day to respond to a 3rd or 4th tier blogger who can't throw them much traffic attests to their being stand up guys with big hearts.
I've been an admirer of Patrick's work for years. His site was amazing when it was just him posting and has only gotten better due to his great taste in co-bloggers.
If it's not on your daily reading list, it should be. Welcome to the MARINE TEAM, Patterico-ites!
The Marines Have Landed!
You cannot exaggerate about the Marines. They are convinced to the point of arrogance, that they are the most ferocious fighters on earth- and the amusing thing about it is that they are.
- Father Kevin Keaney, 1st Marine Division Chaplain
Status report below the fold.
Yesterday was a good day.
We took an early and commanding lead only to suffer a setback in the afternoon when Army got a huge donation that catapulted them into the lead. We counterattacked aggressively and by 8 pm held a very narrow lead over Army. Last last night the shock troops arrived in the form of a very generous donation for $1300 from a wonderful gentleman. As of 5 pm this morning here were the totals for each team:
Air Force $1955
We began the day with 36 blogs on the Marine team and gained 13 (!) during the day. That's huge - big thanks to everyone who joined and to existing Marine team members for helping to spread the word. Be sure to check these folks out in the blogroll in the sidebar:
J's Cafe Nette
New Business Hawk
D S H (dot) N E T
don't have one
People's Press Collective
Now for some well deserved thanks:
Our 4 generous donors (that I know of - I don't see the names or individual amounts unless the donor emails me) yesterday turned the tide for us. These four folks alone added $1900 to our team total and when you count in the matching donations from Retriever and myself, that total jumps to an astonishing $2650! Clearly, matching works. If you're planning to make a big donation at some point, consider offering to match reader donations: your money will work twice as hard for Valour IT.
Cassy Fiano has been amazing. From helping us recruit team members, to suggestions and providing trivia, to interviewing our Marine of the Day and cross posting Valour IT entries over at Stop the ACLU, she's been a leader every step of the way.
Retriever, another leader, put some skin in the game by offering to match donations up to $500! This is a GREAT incentive - we did it in 2006 and the results were amazing. Talk about a force multiplier!
The always amazing Hugh Hewitt was kind enough to give us a shout out yesterday. Unfortunately I'm not sure whether this happened on Twitter (the blog princess is one of the stubborn Luddites who refuses to Tweet) or on his radio show or what? Hugh has been a Marine team member every year and we can't say enough good things about him. Apparently he and David Frum got into it last night on his show - transcripts here and the backstory here.
Finally, the one sure thing about thanking people by name is that I will certainly, more due to advancing OldTimers, forget someone. Please, please, please don't be offended if you contributed something and I forgot to mention you. Between managing email traffic, monitoring our progress, updating the blogrolls and email list, answering questions and resolving problems my multitasking abilities are severely stretched. Be assured that if I did forget to mention your hard work I will wake up at 2 am in a cold sweat worrying about it. You may miss out on the public recognition but your assistance is invaluable and very much appreciated. Please attribute the omission to my imperfections as a manager and not to lack of appreciation.
So... our mission for today is to continue building a strong team (ask your friends! pester blog buddies!) and to keep those donations rolling in. Here are some suggestions:
1. If you have cross posting privileges, ask if you can cross post or - better yet - post a donation widget on other sites you belong to.
2. Reach out to churches, Scout troops, and other civic organizations. This is a great way to reconnect the civilian community with our armed forces.
3. If your corporation or employer matches donations, PLEASE ASK THEM TO MATCH FUNDS. Again, this is a HUGE multiplier for us. I asked my boss yesterday and I hate asking for anything.
4. Try low tech! If you don't have much money but still want to help, how about handing out or emailing flyers to your friends and neighbors? I'll have one online for you to use as a template later today.
5. If you have connections in the print media, TV or radio, ask them to cover Valour IT and especially the MARINE TEAM! The history of Valour IT makes a fantastic human interest story and the interservice rivalry aspect only makes it better.
6. I'd like to add another idea I had this morning: "In memory of" donations. If you want to make a donation - big or small - in memory of someone you've lost (or just someone you love - maybe a deployed service member or parent) I will post their name in my sidebar and also feature daily "In memory of" donations in a dedicated post. I will apply this retroactively since we've already had at least one very generous donation that I know of. Your donation can be anonymous or not - let me know your preference in this regard. I will assume you want to be anonymous unless you explicitly tell me otherwise.
7. Don't forget asking your readers to promote Valour IT (and the MARINE TEAM) on social networking venues like the Tweetosphere and FaceBook-o-sphere:
Our official Facebook Valour-IT event page is
The ONLY official Soldiers' Angels Facebook page
Twitter @valourIT with hashtag #valourit
After all, someone has to Tweet :p The VC Editorial Staff are just happy it is not us :p
Finally, THANK YOU for all you do. You are all amazing and I can't thank you enough.
October 26, 2009
Steel on Target!
Time: 8:01 pm
Marine team donations: $3750
Blessed are they who, in the name of charity and good will,
shepherd the Flighty Ones towards the finish line.
Efficient teamwork is a wondrous thing to behold. WAY TO GO MARINE TEAM!!!
I've made the second half of my $500 matching pledge. BIG thanks to TWO more donors: one for $100 and one for $250. Not sure if I have permission to reveal their secret squirrel identities but if it's OK let me know and I'll do so.
LET'S KEEP IT UP! The Army is full of fight and a wily and dangerous adversary :p
Double or Triple Your Donation: An Offer You Can't Refuse!
As you can see by the combined team widget, Army has gotten a really big donation.
For the rest of the day, I will match any donation of any amount up to a total of $500. That will give us another $1000 on top of donations from other blogs. Let's get that thermometer moving again, folks!
And if you work for a corporation, ask them to match your gift. I'll post total Marine team donations here as I receive word of them. If you donate and want me to match your gift, email me a sanitized (I don't want to see your credit card or checking account number) Soldiers Angels receipt at cassandra dot vc at gmail.com.
Let's retake that hill!
Update: I just matched a very generous donation of $250.00. Any takers for the rest?
We Have Learned Nothing From the Financial Crisis
"60 Minutes" did a fabulous exposé Sunday on Medicare fraud that should be required viewing for all people who support a government run healthcare program in this country.
The facts and figures presented by CBS's Steve Kroft were disturbing as were the details concerning how shysters bilk the system for an estimated $60 billion a year.
As Kroft warned viewers in the segment's teaser, "We caution you that this story may raise your blood pressure, along with some troubling questions about our government's ability to manage a medical bureaucracy"
Now let me get this straight. We just suffered a devastating financial crisis. Industry and government analysts saw it coming years ago, but were powerless to avert it.
Having had our fingers badly burned by a massive national flirtation with disaster, some might conclude that caution and fiscal restraint were the order of the day.
They would be wrong. Instead, we've decided to stop paying the mortgage, untether major expenses from the tiresome obligation of earning money with which to pay them, and peel out for Vegas (en route to which, we plan to blithely "spend our way out of the doldrums", assuming levels of debt never before attempted - either in real terms or as a percentage of GDP).
What could possibly go wrong?
Certainly nationalizing health care will only make an already incestuous industry even more tightly interconnected? And no one seriously argues that Medicare and Social Security aren't already in over their heads:
The 2009 Social Security and Medicare Trustees Reports show the combined unfunded liability of these two programs has reached nearly $107 trillion in today's dollars! That is about seven times the size of the U.S. economy and 10 times the size of the outstanding national debt.
The unfunded liability is the difference between the benefits that have been promised to current and future retirees and what will be collected in dedicated taxes and Medicare premiums. Last year alone, this debt rose by $5 trillion. If no other reform is enacted, this funding gap can only be closed in future years by substantial tax increases, large benefit cuts or both.
But why the long face? As long as we keep moving (continuing to expand government services and taking on even MORE debt we've no idea how to pay for) we ought to be able to keep our heads above water!
On average, every year since 1970, Medicare and Medicaid spending per beneficiary has grown 2.5 percentage points faster than per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In the future, Medicare spending may rise even faster than the Trustees estimate. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), if Medicare and Medicaid spending continues growing annually at 2.5 percentage points above GDP growth:
* By 2050, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (health care for the poor) will consume nearly the entire federal budget.
* By 2082, Medicare spending alone will consume nearly the entire federal budget.
You'd think that, having just watched the banking industry nearly melt down, we'd learn that people do a really poor job of managing enormous, complex systems.
I work in software. Ten years ago software systems were enormous and they were failing with great regularity. The industry responded by breaking things down - carving up unmanageable behemoths into smaller, less complex projects that were easier to manage and measure. Not only were these smaller projects less likely to get into trouble; if one part of a project got into trouble, it was far less likely to take the rest of the project down with it.
Sounds suspiciously like common sense, doesn't it? We never learn.
I Think We Need to Crank it UP!!!
I confess that I am feeling a little low today despite the excitement of Project Valour IT.
I put my son on a plane yesterday bound for California. In about a week's time, he'll be on his way to Afghanistan.
Such is the life of a Marine wife and mom.
What gets this girl's heart pumping and lifts her spirits?
Drop and Give Me 20!!!!!
Woo hoo! Let's make that thermometer move, peoples. It's time for a little motivation.
Retriever has made a very generous offer. Anyone want to match it?
Donate early. Donate often. A note to my generous and patriotic readers in particular: if you tell me how much you have sent (privately, you don't have to broadcast it to the wide world), I will match your donations up $25 per person until it uses up the extra amount I have set aside for this purpose (the family do have to be fed, after all).
That's the Marine spirit!
GO MARINE TEAM!!!!
Update: Big thanks to Glenn Reynolds! This is the second Instalaunch for Valour IT! Remember, even though we're competing, when Valour IT wins, everyone wins.
Your Daily 5: "Lore of the Corps"
How much do you know about the Marine Corps? How many of these questions can you answer? No Googling until you try to answer them first!
1. What is the shameful secret of the "Devil Dog"? (hint, look at the poster)
2. What is a "blood stripe"?
3. What is the oldest military insignia in continued use in the armed forces?
4. "Semper Fidelis" was not the first motto of the Marine Corps. Do you know what was?
5. What is the oldest public building in continuous use in Washington DC?
Answer below the fold.
The Commandant's House at the north end of the barracks was completed in 1806 and is the only original building still standing. It is the oldest public building in continuous use in the Nation's Capital.
Update: if Marine Corps trivia isn't your bag, here's a chance to recover your self respect:
|I received 71 credits on
The Sci Fi Sounds Quiz
How much of a Sci-Fi geek are you?
|Quiz by SheGoddess: lose weight|
Project Valour IT - Who, What, When, Where, Why (and How!)
Marines, lovers of Marines, and those who wish they could be Marines (IOW, the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard), listen up! It's time to do what the Marine Corps does best: shake, rattle, roll and make some noise:
From October 26th until November 11th we few - we happy few here at VC - will carry the battle colors for the Project Valour IT Marine Corps fund raising team (which the cool kids on the block realize is the ONLY team you want to be on). Do NOT be fooled by snake oil salesmen who seduce you with sleazy slogans like "An Army of Fun"... or "Sailor's Wife...it's the toughest job in the Navy", or "My friends used to wonder/Why I joined the Air Force..." :D
All you need to know about why you want to be on the Marine team is here: this is what America is fighting for. We're just better-looking, durnitall!
What is all the fuss about, you might ask? The purpose of this post is to give you all the information you need.
Project Valour IT is simply this: grateful Americans, providing voice-activated laptops and other helpful tech gear to severely wounded troops. As VC's resident Tech Wench, the blog princess cannot help but approve of such a noble endeavor. The story behind this project is a moving one:
Project Valour-IT began when Captain Charles "Chuck" Ziegenfuss was wounded by an IED while serving as commander of a tank company in Iraq in June 2005.
During his deployment he kept a blog. Captivating writing, insightful stories of his experiences, and his self-deprecating humor won him many loyal readers. After he was wounded, his wife continued his blog, keeping his readers informed of his condition.
As he began to recover, CPT Ziegenfuss wanted to return to writing his blog, but serious hand injuries hampered his typing. When a loyal and generous reader gave him a copy of the Dragon Naturally Speaking Preferred software, other readers began to realize how important such software could be to CPT Ziegenfuss' fellow wounded soldiers and started casting about for a way to get it to them.
A fellow blogger who writes under the pseudonym FbL contacted Captain Ziegenfuss and the two realized they shared a vision of creating libraries of laptops with voice-controlled software that could be brought to the bedsides of wounded soldiers whose injuries prevented them from operating a standard computer. FbL contacted Soldiers' Angels, who offered to help develop the project, and Project Valour-IT was born.
In sharing their thoughts, CPT Ziegenfuss and FbL found that memories of their respective fathers were a motivating factor in their work with the project. Both continue their association with this project in memory of the great men in their lives whose fine examples taught them lasting lessons of courage and generosity.
Fathers have a lasting impact on us. Mothers teach, nurture, and sustain us but fathers are our first bridge to the outside world. They are the ones who challenge us, who take the training wheels off and show us how fast we can go and what the rules of the road are. They don't let us rest on our laurels - they constantly prod us out of our comfort zone; inspiring us to reach deep down inside and find qualities we never knew we had. They teach us to compete with others instead of folding, to try just a bit harder, not to give up when the going gets tough. They encourage us when our confidence is flagging.
Like Chuck Ziegenfuss' father and Fbl's, my father and father in law served in Vietnam. Over the next ten or so days I'll be giving you lots of reasons to support the Marine team and more importantly, to support Project Valour IT. But my first two donations will be made in honor of my Dad and my husband's Dad.
If you're a blogger, you can join a team here. You will get button code so your readers can make donations (see below) that will be credited to your team.
There's a blogroll in my sidebar for Marine team members. I will send you the code upon request. Some folks have enough blogrolls on their sites. I don't want to burden folks who don't want it, but this is another way to raise your 'rank' in the ecosystem if you aspire to Flappy Mammary status or higher.
If you wish to donate, simply click on the "Marines" link below:
You can pay by credit card or electronic check. You can also mail a check (with MARINES in all caps on it!) to this address:
Soldiers Angels Project Valour-IT
MARINE CORPS TEAM
1792 E. Washington Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91104
If you're tight on money, try to give a small amount. It adds up! But challenge yourselves - maybe there's something you could give up for a week or two. Too often we let opportunities to help others slip on by, but these young men and women deserve better from us. There are other ways you can support Valour IT as well:
* Blog and email your friends about Valour-IT and the competition
* Tell your friends, family and neighbors about Valour-IT
* Challenge your co-workers or employer to match donations
* Consider involving clubs, churches, or charitable organizations you are involved with. Maybe your church would designate all or part of a Sunday collection. How about Scouts or your favorite civic organization?
* Post flyers around your neighborhood
* If you have any contacts in the media (local or national newspapers, radio, TV, PLEASE spread the word! Point them to the Project Valour IT site, not VC, though!
* No matter which way you decide to get involved, remind everyone to specify the MARINE TEAM!
And remember: in the next few weeks we'll be enjoying some good old fashioned inter service rivalry. But at the end of the day what really matters is not which team you support but that you find it in your hearts to support a worthwhile cause. Our wounded vets have given more in the service of our country than most of us will ever be able to repay. Parting with a few semolians is little enough, but it's a good start.
Project Valour IT offers a way for us to tell our armed forces we have not forgotten their sacrifices. Your contribution will help keep them connected to the world as they heal. It will remind them they are NOT alone - that they still have something to contribute, they are still a vital part of this nation, and even though they may have lost parts of themselves they can never recover, though they may temporarily be feeling hopeless, helpless, even alone, they aren't.
Someone remembers. Someone still cares and more importantly, respects and honors their service. Please dig deep. You cannot know the value of the comfort your support can bring to those who have already given so much on our behalf.
With love and gratitude,
Gentlemen (and Ladies) Start Your Engines!
To start the Valour IT fundraiser off with a bang, we're going to feature a Marine of the Day each day until the competition ends. The lovely and talented Cassy Fiano volunteered an interview with her boyfriend Matt to get things moving. Matt is a Marine Corporal who has completed several deployments. Read the interview to find out how he got to see Saddam Hussein!
Speaking of interviews, another Marine team member (and regular member of the assembled villainry here at VC) serves up a special perspective on why we're doing this from Chuck Ziegenfuss, the milblogger and combat vet who started it all. If you've never heard the story of how Valour IT got started, it's worth your time:
... one of the best days in my life was the few days after I'd died--twice--then came back and met the Angels, then saw my wife, and finally when I was given back the ability to use a computer--even though I couldn't [use] my hands.
Another in my list of "Best Days" is the day I got to give a kid--an 18 year old kid who'd lost his hands--a laptop that he could use with his voice. The look on his face was priceless when I gave him the laptop--like I was a special kind of stupid and he didn't have a pencil to stick in his teeth. Then I put the headset on him, and showed him how he could train the computer to use his voice to do EVERYTHING he used to do with a computer. Minutes later, he was reading his email, then chatting with his buddies back in Iraq. I left a soldiers angels coin with him, and my card, and quietly walked away. That day ranks with the Marriage and birth of my children as best days in life. It ranks as the best day I've ever had in 17 years of service. And I had that same experience three times that day.
Did you recognize anyone in that story? Since its inception, Valour IT has come a long way since that day. These folks have given away over 4100 voice activated laptops so far, and every cent they raise goes directly to the purchase and shipment of laptops and other technology for severely wounded service members. So you can donate with confidence that your money will be well spent.
Please open your hearts and your wallets. Dig deep. These are some extraordinary young men and women - they've given their all in service of this great nation and this is a great chance to show them that all the talk of supporting the troops isn't just lip service. Not everyone in America is at the Mall.
October 25, 2009
Insurance Companies: "If You Misrepresent our Profits We Will Call You Out!"
Some companies noted last week that Congress' plans to mandate that everyone buy health insurance include only weak penalties. The plans also make insurers take on customers who are already sick. If you're young and daring, you pay the low penalty and go insurance-free until your doctor says you've got cancer. You then apply and pay $800-a-month premiums for $10,000-a-month care. Sweet, until the industry inevitably collapses, say insurers.
Suppose they're right. Insofar as Assurant, one of the nation's bigger writers of individual policies, employs 1,900 in its Milwaukee hometown, that's a lot of Milwaukeeans out of a job. The company also leads in high-deductible plans of the kind Obamacare would ban. I know we're supposed to hate insurers, but must we also want their staff unemployed?
If we're toting up the cost of Obamacare, there's surely a ledger line for the demolition of an industry, even an unpopular one. Insurers' power will be transferred to federal agencies, their earnings to a public option, their workers to the dole. Ah, well: Villains defeated.
Obama's justification for not allowing insurers to set prices that reflect the cost of doing business has been that insurance companies are "greedy" and their profit margins "excessive":
Health insurance companies are "making record profits, right now."
Barack Obama, Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009.
And if the insurance industry tries to rebut his accusations with facts, they're accused of lying. So what happens to politicians who lie?
As I reported several months ago the industry "Health Care Plans" (includes Humana, Aetna, WellPoint, Magellan, etc.) ranks #86 by profit margin at only 3.3% (see table above, data here for the most recent quarter), not exactly strong evidence of "excessive profits" or monopoly power. Four health insurance companies (Molina, Health Net, Coventry, and Universal American) have profit margins below 1% for the most recent quarter, and another four (Humana, Magellan, WellCare and Centene) have profit margins between 1 and 2 percent (data here).
America's Health Insurance Plan, the industry's trade association, recently reported that annual health insurance premiums averaged $2,985 for individual coverage and $6,328 for family plans in 2009. Using the industry average profit margin of 3.3% means that insurance companies make less than $100 per policy in profits for individual coverage, and a little more than $200 in profits for each family policy. Doesn't seem too "excessive" or an indication of monopoly power, does it?
The Associated Press piles on:
In the health care debate, Democrats and their allies have gone after insurance companies as rapacious profiteers making "immoral" and "obscene" returns while "the bodies pile up."
...Profits barely exceeded 2 percent of revenues in the latest annual measure. This partly explains why the credit ratings of some of the largest insurers were downgraded to negative from stable heading into this year, as investors were warned of a stagnant if not shrinking market for private plans.
The AP points out that many other industries have profit margins far in excess of those earned by the health insurance agency. Are Obama and the Democrats going to demonize those industries too for their "obscene" and "immoral" profit margins?
Health insurers posted a 2.2 percent profit margin last year, placing them 35th on the Fortune 500 list of top industries. As is typical, other health sectors did much better - drugs and medical products and services were both in the top 10.
The railroads brought in a 12.6 percent profit margin. Leading the list: network and other communications equipment, at 20.4 percent.
HealthSpring, the best performer in the health insurance industry, posted 5.4 percent. That's a less profitable margin than was achieved by the makers of Tupperware, Clorox bleach and Molson and Coors beers.
Corporations that can't manage to turn a profit can't sell stock to raise operating funds and Americans who currently own stock in companies like this don't want to see their investments and retirement accounts go up in smoke. If this President is serious about creating a strong economy with low unemployment, perhaps he should stop trying to put American employers out of business.
First they came for the insurance industry. If I ran a corporation with over a 2% profit margin, I'd be pretty worried right now.
How Extremely Inconveeeeeeeeeeeenient...
Remember, this is the guy the Obama administration thinks is legitimate:
Afghanistan's opposition candidate backed Gen. Stanley McChrystal's recommendations for more troops Sunday, saying "the future of the country is at risk" without a "dramatic increase" in troop levels.
...In both of his Sunday appearances, Abdullah was clear on his opinion that more U.S.-led NATO forces are needed on the ground in his country.
"There is a need for more troops," Abdullah said when asked about President Barack Obama's policy review on Fox. "There is no doubt about it.
"At the same time, when is the best time? Even if the decision is made today it doesn't mean tomorrow we will have troops on the ground."
Jumpin' Joe ("Constitution? What Constitution?") Biden was unavailable for comment.
This is one area where Biden's ideas clearly violate the Iraqi constitution: any attempt on the part of the US to identify “major factions” would be a top–down, externally imposed solution on a matter in which the Iraqis themselves have already designed bottom–up mechanisms. Biden does not seem to appreciate the fact that federalist pioneers among the Iraqis have always warned against federalism based on ethnicities: in their opinion, federalism based on geographical, non-sectarian criteria could conceivably serve as national “glue”; conversely, and with the exception of the Kurds and the Shiite faction that happens to be closest to Iran, Iraqi supporters of federalism have always condemned ethno-sectarian variants of federalism as a giant leap towards partition. Biden should be challenged to spell out very explicitly the modalities by which he expects the constitutional right to form small-scale non-sectarian regions to simply disappear, and how he thinks the holy number “three” is to be arrived at.
So, having publicly undermined the existing government of Afghanistan, the Obama administration now finds itself in the position of having the guy it wants to work with publicly say he needs more troops.
Some days, it just doesn't pay to get out of bed in the morning.
October 24, 2009
Interactive graphic of troop numbers and concentration over time in Afghanistan.
Why Price Controls Create Shortages, II
Following up on an earlier post of mine that explained why price controls inevitably create shortages, Ed Morrissey deftly wields the clue bat to good effect:
Fixing prices does not lower costs. Let me repeat that: fixing prices does not lower costs. “Costs” are borne by providers, who get reimbursed by either consumers (in a rational market) or by third parties (American health care) for their goods and/or services. In a competitive market, providers have to set their prices at an attractive level in order to get business without missing out on profit opportunities, but their prices have to cover their costs — or they go out of business.
Not coincidentally, the latter is what happens when price-fixing is used. When government fixes the price of goods and services, it usually does so to mask costs, not reduce them. This is what Medicare has done for years, which is why doctors avoid Medicare patients now. When the fixed price becomes less than the actual cost to provide the service, the provider is forced out of business.
As I said the other day:
Prices operate as signals in a free marketplace, efficiently allocating goods to those who want them and are able to pay for them. Few Americans would accept the proposition that we don't need information to make intelligent decisions and yet too many Americans buy off on the notion that markets will operate efficiently if the federal government restricts the free flow of information between consumers and producers.
The idea that government bureaucrats have either the time or ability to set prices and respond to fluctuations in supply and demand for literally thousands of medical services is just plain laughable. What has Congress ever managed efficiently?
In a free market, this process happens automatically. There are no lengthy delays while Congressional committees study the issue to death.
Rationing, in some form or another, will always exist. In a free market rationing takes place when there are more potential buyers of a good or service than willing sellers. If there aren't enough sellers to satisfy demand, obviously not everyone who wants to buy will be able to.
But in a free market, these buyers are then able to perform an important set of calculations: just how badly do I want this good or service? How important is it, compared to other goods and services? What other, less important purchases might I forgo in order to get what I want? Do I need to work longer hours or change careers to afford the things I want? What's the most I'm willing to pay? In a free market producers, noticing that there are more buyers than sellers, are able to command a higher price and - by so doing - entice more producers to enter the market and remedy the shortage. Buyers and sellers participate in price setting and consequently prices reflect their priorities.
In a government run system with price controls, the price can never rise high enough to remedy shortages in supply. The inevitable result is a shortage of the good or service at that price. As we saw in my earlier post, the most efficient producers exit the market and gravitate to opportunities that offer a salary commensurate with their ability.
The result is a degradation in quality. Fewer providers and poorer quality: somehow, this doesn't sound like an improvement on the current health care situation.
But at least it will be fair.
Chicago Style Politics Backfires
"One thing I can tell you: They can go out and chase me and chase the Chamber and put stuff in the newspaper. It only . . . drives more and more support. . . . You think we are going to blink because a couple of people are out shooting at us? Tell 'em to put their damn helmets on."
Them's fighting words, all the more so when delivered in the feisty, New York accent of U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue. The 71-year-old was recruited 12 years ago in order to revitalize a drifting business lobby. And the gregarious chief hasn't disappointed: He's grown the Chamber's membership, tripled its budget, transformed its lobby shop, and increasingly thrust it into the political fray. Most recently he's ginned up opposition to union "card check," the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) plans to regulate carbon emissions, and parts of the proposed financial overhaul.
The Obama administration's response has been to treat the Chamber like it has Fox News Channel: with brass knuckles. It has launched a campaign to undermine the organization by making CEOs think twice about associating with it. President Obama has openly criticized the Chamber, while adviser Valerie Jarrett has dismissed it as "old school" and acknowledged that the White House is bypassing it to work individually with CEOs.
When several major companies—including Exelon, Apple and Nike—ostentatiously quit the Chamber several weeks ago, provoking a flurry of unflattering headlines, it seemed no coincidence. Mr. Obama's allies in the unions, the trial bar and green lobbies have targeted the Chamber, some of its members, and Mr. Donohue personally.
For a man who prides himself on working both sides of the aisle, the Chamber these days is not a fun place for Mr. Donohue. Then again, he has an Irish temper and doesn't shrink from a brawl. At least for now, he's showing no signs of muting the Chamber's message.
"I did an interview a couple of week ago, and somebody said, 'Well, the White House says that you've become Dr. No and you are going to lose your seat at the table.' And I said, 'The White House doesn't give out the seats at the table. The seats at the table go to the people who have a rational policy, who have strong people to advance that policy, that have a strong grass-roots system, that have the assets to support their program, and that are willing to play in the political process," Mr. Donohue remarks, sitting in his office, which looks across Lafayette Park to the White House.
"The bottom line is you can't do this job if you are squeaky about all that stuff. My job is to represent the American business community in an honorable way, to present their interests in a way that I really think is good for them and good for this country. And," he adds with a pointed look, "I plan to keep doing it."
The President, turning Teddy Roosevelt's famous adage on its head, likes to speak loudly and brandish a limp stick.
Something tells me he's about to be schooled on why the original maxim became famous by a man who got where he is by being a doer, not a talker.
Pass the popcorn, folks. This could be fun.
A Few Good Men
A Marine drill instructor describes how Marine training transformed a gangbanger/drug dealer with an attempted murder charge and multiple misdemeanors and felonies into a United States Marine:
So I got this nasty little turd who ended up in my platoon that was Slim Shady to the tenth power. I mean, he was sneaking into the duty hut when we were out at PT, using the Senior Drill Instructor’s cell phone, eat[ing] cookies and whatever we had in our ‘frigerator... And we’d catch him and we’d kill him and put him on trial training.
The kid ended up on trial training two times and we almost dropped him, like, five times. We were just going to get rid of him.
But finally he starts coming around to our way of thinking, so to speak. And he graduated Recruit Training. A year and half after he graduated Recruit Training, he became Marine of the Year for the Marine Corps.
I believe the main problem in life is that we give up on people too quick. And we as Marines, when we want to give up on somebody… we don’t. We have no choice but to move forward. Pick them up off the ground and go forward.
And that’s what the Marine Corps gave this young man.
Be sure to watch through the end of this video as life deals this young Marine a cruel blow:
We live in a culture that makes heroes out of victims; that inflates mere inconveniences into life destroying obstacles. Our own President constantly tells us we shouldn't have to face hardship or the consequences of our own poor decisions: it's "unfair". The problem with that particular philosophy is that it erodes our faith in the amazing power of the human spirit to overcome the reverses life deals out with such depressing frequency. It's a little like telling a drowning man to hope someone throws him a life preserver because he "shouldn't have to" swim.
Marine training, on the other hand, is a no excuses endeavor. Marine recruits are urged to keep trying long past the point where they feel they have anything left to give - past tears, past exhaustion, past pain and hunger and discouragement. The result, paradoxically, is pride. In Marine training, recruits discover strengths they never suspected they possessed.
But more than that, they learn the value of perseverance. They learn not to give up - ever.
It's not as though Marines are already better men and women when they line up on those yellow footprints. Some of them, like Chris Figueroa, are broken when they get off the bus at Parris Island or San Diego: petty criminals, losers, or simply lost souls. But then something strange happens: they become better men and women through facing down their fears and fighting on until they have conquered fear, pain, and exhaustion.
They do this, not because someone makes excuses for them or lifts every burden from their backs, but precisely because they are held accountable. They become a part of something larger than themselves and in the process, confidence in their own ability soars.
The Marine Corps is the only service that doesn't try to convince potential recruits of everything the Corps has to offer them. Instead, they ask a simple question: do you have what it takes to be a Marine?
There are two ways of responding to adversity: you can look around for a handout or look within yourself for the will to overcome. I know which course our President has been advocating for this country.
I'll leave it to you to decide which strategy offers the best chance of success?
Why I Gave Up Journalism to Join the Marines
In 2005 a young journalist wrote a moving essay for the Wall Street Journal:
It's a cliché that you appreciate your own country more when you live abroad, but it happens to be true.
...living in China ... shows you what a nondemocratic country can do to its citizens. I've seen protesters tackled and beaten by plainclothes police in Tiananmen Square, and I've been videotaped by government agents while I was talking to a source. I've been arrested and forced to flush my notes down a toilet to keep the police from getting them, and I've been punched in the face in a Beijing Starbucks by a government goon who was trying to keep me from investigating a Chinese company's sale of nuclear fuel to other countries.
When you live abroad long enough, you come to understand that governments that behave this way are not the exception, but the rule. They feel alien to us, but from the viewpoint of the world's population, we are the aliens, not them. That makes you think about protecting your country no matter who you are or what you're doing. What impresses you most, when you don't have them day to day, are the institutions that distinguish the U.S.: the separation of powers, a free press, the right to vote, and a culture that values civic duty and service, to name but a few.
I'm not an uncritical, rah-rah American. Living abroad has sharpened my view of what's wrong with my country, too. It's obvious that we need to reinvent ourselves in various ways, but we should also be allowed to do it from within, not according to someone else's dictates.
Joining the Marines wasn't easy for this young man. He was 31 years old and out of shape. But Matt had what it takes to be a Marine - the determination to transform his own life and the willpower not to take 'no' for an answer:
The officer-selection officer wasn't impressed with my age, my Chinese language abilities or the fact that I worked for one of the great newspapers of the world. His only question was, "How's your endurance?"
Well, I can sit at my desk for 12 hours straight. Fourteen if I have a bag of Reese's.
If you're wondering whether a 31 year old desk potato can hack the rigors of OCS and Marine Basic School, wonder no more. In April of this year, Lt. Matt Pottinger was photographed by ABC News in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
So many of us take our way of life and the freedom and security we enjoy for granted. We can do this because for over two hundred years men like Matt Pottinger understood that the rule of law cannot exist without the means and the will to enforce that law.
Lt. Matt Pottinger has transformed himself. Today he is working to transform Afghanistan. Somehow, I think he'll do just fine.
It's not often that a post moves me to tears. This time, they were happy ones.
October 23, 2009
Beirut Bombing Anniversary
On this day in 1983, the largest non-nuclear explosion on record killed 241 United States Marines in Beirut, Lebanon.
Talking Proud tells the story in words and pictures:
It is estimated that the force of the explosion was equal to more than 12,000 lbs. of TNT, bringing much of the building to the ground instantly. Colonel Geraghty said the device had 21,000 lbs. of explosives. SSgt Randy Gaddo has said the truck had 2,000 pounds of dynamite strapped around gas cylinders, which was the equivalent of 20,000 lbs of TNT. There was a fireball which ripped through the concrete. The FBI has said at the time that it was the largest non-nuclear bomb in history.
I have read that the BLT HQ slept 300 Marines. I don't know exactly how many were inside when the truck exploded, but suspect most of them given the number who died. I know the Navy sailors bunked there as well.
... Brigadier General James M. Lariviere, USMC, who served as a reconnaissance platoon commander in Beirut, has said that this was the beginning of America's war against Islamic terrorism.
Bob JordanRetired Marine Major Bob Jordan was there and agrees, adding a little zest to the general's observation:
"We were being tested, and we failed the test (angry that the Marines were told to withdraw and there was no retaliation after the attack against BLT 1-8). (This was) the first skirmish in ... the battle against terror ... We need to understand that these people believe in what they are doing ... We need to understand that they are willing to die for it and willing to kill us to achieve it."
I am sorry, but I have no words today. I feel like we're heading back down a long tunnel to somewhere none of us wants to be.
Anyway, please say a prayer for these men's souls tonight.
Join the A-Team... You Know You Want To!
Who does America call when something absolutely, positively must be destroyed overnight?
U.S. Marine Rat
That's right... America's 911 Force: the Few. The Loud. The Marine team!
We're still looking for a few good blogs to help us raise money for Project Valour IT. The competition starts Monday, October 26th and though the Marines are the smallest service, we're planning to chew through the competition. But to do that, we need your help.
Project Valour IT provides laptops with voice activated software to wounded soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen recovering at military medical centers all across America. Typically these young men and women spend up to two years healing and undergoing physical therapy. Their courage, determination, and unfailing esprit de corps are truly inspiring. Most of us, facing the loss of our eyesight, an arm or a leg and repeated surgeries would just crumble up into a ball. Not these guys. They're warriors:
He knows they're going to stare. They always stare.
As soon as Pat Murray steps in the elevator, they'll notice his prosthetic leg and maybe accurately surmise that, yes, he is an Iraq war veteran, and, yes, he got blown up. Then the sadness will sink in, the pity, and they'll give him that look, which he can sense even if he doesn't see, and it will be an uncomfortable few floors up.
So as Murray approaches the elevator and the woman thrusts her hand between the closing doors for him, he says, "Careful, you can lose a limb that way."
"Oooh," the woman says, noticing Murray's metal leg. She's obviously shocked, unsure of what to say or how to act. Murray flashes a smile, lets loose an "it's okay" chuckle, and suddenly the ride up isn't nearly so awkward after all.
It's that type of humor -- spontaneous (he once asked his doctor when his leg would grow back), cunning (he tells children who ask about his "robot" leg that he didn't eat his vegetables) and, at times, gruesome (there are stump jokes that can't be printed here) -- that helped him come to terms with the fact that his right leg is no more.
It was at Walter Reed Army Medical Center that Murray, who was a corporal in the Marine Corps, not only learned to walk again, but to laugh. Although doctors and therapists can patch up the physical wounds of war, it is often the humor -- soldier to soldier, Marine to Marine, patient to patient -- that in the space of a punch line can heal as well as the best medicine.
It's not unusual for these young men and women to take up bungee jumping, skydiving, or participate in marathons or other extreme sports even after losing a limb. But that long period where they're confined to their hospital beds can be the worst of all. Project Valour IT provides them with a way to escape the confines of their rooms and keep in touch with buddies, friends and family members. For many wounded vets, it's a tangible reminder that they're still part of the world outside Bethesda or Walter Reed: that there is life after being wounded.
Valour IT is one of my favorite military charities. I've supported it every year and led the Marine Team to raise over $51,000 in 2006. My co-captain Carrie and I are planning two weeks of fun, jokes, Marine history, culture, heroes and more. Carrie's son is headed over to Afghanistan and my husband is already over there, so we both have good reason to support the great work Valour IT is doing.
Valour IT is a cause you can support with confidence that your donation will be well spent. Every dollar raised goes directly to wounded vets at the following military medical centers as well as VA treatment centers nationwide:
* Balboa Naval Hospital
* Brooke Army Medical Center
* Madigan Regional Medical Center
* National Naval Medical Center (Bethesda Naval Hospital)
* Naval Hospital, Camp Pendleton
* Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital (29 Palms)
* Walter Reed Army Medical Center
So now you have the mission. What we need now is a strong team. Please sign up for the Marine team, and tell all your friends. You can join here and see the great blogs who've already proudly donned the title, "Marine team".
But most of all, remember -- we're planning to have fun. Because although they're all business, no one rocks the house like the United States Marine Corps:
ECON 101: Price Controls Create Shortages
"When Western countries in the past were as poor as Third World countries are today, these Western countries nevertheless had one big advantage: There was no large and influential class of the intelligentsia to impede their progress with unsubstantiated theories and counterproductive propaganda." -- Dr. Thomas Sowell
Nothing demonstrates the gap between abstract theories and practical consequences quite like an object lesson in cause and effect:
"There's no question people have left because of uncertainty of our ability to pay," said an executive at one of the affected firms. "It's a highly competitive market out there."
At Bank of America, for instance, only 14 of the 25 highly paid executives remained by the time Feinberg announced his decision. Under his plan, compensation for the most highly paid employees at the bank would be a maximum of $9.9 million. The bank had sought permission to pay as much as $21 million, according to Treasury Department documents.
At American International Group, only 13 people of the top 25 were still on hand for Feinberg's decision.
It is downright scary to think that this country is being run by supposedly educated people who insist on making policy that ignores the effect of incentives, supply and demand on human behavior. The idea that prices can be manipulated without affecting either supply or demand doesn't even make sense in theory. So why would any rational person expect it to work in the real world?
Whether government officials who have demonstrated a stunning ignorance of basic economic principles should be formulating economic policy is a question no one seems to be asking. But then again, understanding that prices, supply and demand are interrelated is so fundamental a concept that anyone with common sense ought to be able to grasp it:
When there is a "shortage" of a product, there is not necessarily any less of it, either absolutely or relative to the number of consumers. During and immediately after the Second World War, for example, there was a very serious housing shortage in the United States, even though the population and the housing supply had both increased about 10 percent from their prewar levels and there was no shortage when the war began.
In other words, even though the ratio between housing and people had not changed, nevertheless many Americans looking for an apartment during this period had to spend weeks or months in an often vain search for a place to live, or else resorted to bribes to get landlords to move them to the top of waiting lists. Meanwhile, they doubled up with relatives, slept in garages or used other makeshift living arrangements.
Although there was no less housing space per person than before, the shortage was very real at existing prices, which were kept artificially lower than they would have been because of rent control laws that had been passed during the war. At these artificially low prices, more people had a demand for more housing space than before rent control laws were enacted. This is a practical consequence of the simple economic principle already noted in Chapter 2 that the quantity demanded varies with how high or low the price is.
Some people who would normally not be renting their own apartments, such as young adults still living with their parents or some single or widowed elderly people living with relatives, were enabled by the artificially low prices created by rent control to move out and into their own apartments. These artificially low prices also caused others to seek larger apartments than they would ordinarily be living in. More tenants seeking both more apartments and larger apartments created a shortage, not any greater physical scarcity of housing relative to the population. When rent control laws expired or were repealed, the housing shortage likewise quickly disappeared.
As rents rose in a free market, some childless couples living in four-bedroom apartments decided that they could live in two-bedroom apartments. Some late teenagers decided that they could continue living with mom and dad a little longer, until their pay rose enough for them to afford their own apartments, now that apartments were no longer artificially cheap. The net result was that families looking for a place to stay found more places available, now that rent-control laws were no longer keeping such places occupied by people with less urgent requirements.
None of this was peculiar to the United States. The same economic principles can be seen in operation around the world and down through history.
How's that whole "offering more services to more people for less money" thing going again?
If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Price controls don't work in real estate and they don't work in medicine. In fact, I'd be shocked if anyone can show me a single instance where they didn't have disastrous consequences?
It's interesting, and of course to be expected, that Gralla frames the downside of this in terms of how it might hurt government coffers. The real bad part is the lack of freedom it gives to the building owners--and the lack of incentive to provide apartments for all future New Yorkers that will create widespread aggravation and shortages down the line.
Prices operate as signals in a free marketplace, efficiently allocating goods to those who want them and are able to pay for them. Few Americans would accept the proposition that we don't need information to make intelligent decisions and yet too many Americans buy off on the notion that markets will operate efficiently if the federal government restricts the free flow of information between consumers and producers.
It's almost as though we were living in an alternative universe where reality is kept strictly at arm's length.
Then again, maybe that's the problem.
"One of the most important reasons for studying history is that virtually every stupid idea that is in vogue today has been tried before and proved disastrous before, time and again." -- Dr. Thomas Sowell
Who's In Charge Here, Anyway?
I will never forget the day I changed my mind about the value of spanking.
As a young Marine wife and mother living in Navy housing in Meridian, Mississippi, my days were filled with baby showers, volunteer work, play groups, long walks and the seemingly never ending job of raising my two bairns: a 3 1/2 year old toddler and a 6 month old infant. It was a golden summer evening and the air was thick with the scent of honeysuckle. Our quiet street was lined with small children and parents.
This was a nightly ritual. Their work done for the day, mothers of young children, fathers just coming home from work and throngs of busy toddlers and small children would gather outside to enjoy the summer evening and each other's company. My oldest boy was contentedly riding his Big Wheel down the small hill just past our house. As I rocked the baby in my arms and chatted idly with other mothers, my small son repeatedly dragged the Big Wheel to the top of the tiny hill, climbed aboard, put his feet up in the air and launched himself down the hill. Only 3 years old and already the daredevil of the group, he delighted in seeing how fast he could go.
What happened next will always play back in my mind in slow motion.
A late model VW bug appeared at the bottom of our street. It was going the speed limit, which is remarkable since our neighborhood was a 15 mile an hour zone. As soon as I saw the car, my eyes swept the sidewalk in search of my oldest boy. He was barreling down the hill in the direction of the oncoming car. As he reached the bottom he ditched the Big Wheel, his attention obviously captured by some shiny object on the other side of the road.
My body began to move at glacial speed, bisecting the angle between the oncoming car and my small son. "STOP. STOP RIGHT NOOOOOOOOOOOW". The words tumbled from my lips, uttered in my best parade deck imperative voice.
I might as well have been talking to a speeding freight train with no brakes. My son began to run and I yelled again, nervously, alternating my gaze between my boy and the oncoming car. "STOP! There's a car coming!"
Nothing. Clearly he had heard me, because now he giggled as he ran. With a sick feeling, I realized that he thought this was a game: "Look! Mommy's chasing me!" I was running too now, my heart thumping in my chest like a jackhammer, the baby suddenly weighing me down like 20 pounds of lead. A dull roar filled my ears. My whole world collapsed to the rapidly diminishing arc between my son and the VW that, oblivious to the tiny boy in the street, proceeded on its merry way.
I realized there was no way I would reach him in time. The geometry was inexorable. And then a miracle happened. The car lurched to a stop less than 8 feet from my son. I'll spare you a recital of what happened next: the tears that swam behind my eyes, the cold sweat that suddenly chilled the balmy August air, my stammered thanks to the driver of that car.
As I scolded my small son for not listening to me, I did something I had never done before. I administered a sharp swat to his little bottom. His eyes widened in shock and his little mouth quivered a bit, but he didn't cry. I handed the baby to a neighbor and gathered him into my arms, whispering his name over and over again.
So close. Too close for comfort.
I realized two things that day. One of them I had already known. My oldest boy is very like his mother: strong willed, adventurous, afraid of nothing and no one. I called him my little monkey. From the time he was 6 months old he had climbed every vertical surface, pulled countless things over on himself, figured out how to open locked doors and clamber over any baby gate placed in his path to keep him safe.
And I realized something else: he didn't think he had to listen to me. And he had almost died as a result.
Sometimes it takes a good scare to bring reality into sharp focus.
I had never been a fan of spanking. My son was, despite his high spirits, extremely well behaved. I could take him to the Commissary, to a college graduation that was several hours long, to church all without tantrums, tears or disruptive behavior. But deep in his little heart, my son did not understand the importance of instant obedience to my commands.
And as the day's events showed beyond the shadow of a doubt, sometimes there is no time for lengthy explanations or a time out. Sometimes your child's life may literally depend on his willingness to submit to parental authority - immediately and without explanation.
There is something deeply, tragically wrong with a culture that can't understand this simple reality: children lack the experience or the maturity to be in charge of their own safety, let alone their own lives. And no matter how good a parent you are, there will be times when you become distracted for a split second and there will be no time to carefully employ gentle remonstrations or the latest psychobabble parenting trend. There is nothing wrong with teaching children their logical place in the pecking order: a toddler has no business believing he is - or should be - fully independent and in charge. We used to understand that, but sadly common sense has been replaced by guilt trips and juvenile hand wringing fit only for a world where nothing bad ever happens:
Conditional parenting isn’t limited to old-school authoritarians. Some people who wouldn’t dream of spanking choose instead to discipline their young children by forcibly isolating them, a tactic we prefer to call “time out.” Conversely, “positive reinforcement” teaches children that they are loved, and lovable, only when they do whatever we decide is a “good job.”
This raises the intriguing possibility that the problem with praise isn’t that it is done the wrong way — or handed out too easily, as social conservatives insist. Rather, it might be just another method of control, analogous to punishment. The primary message of all types of conditional parenting is that children must earn a parent’s love. A steady diet of that, Rogers warned, and children might eventually need a therapist to provide the unconditional acceptance they didn’t get when it counted.
But was Rogers right? Before we toss out mainstream discipline, it would be nice to have some evidence. And now we do.
In 2004, two Israeli researchers, Avi Assor and Guy Roth, joined Edward L. Deci, a leading American expert on the psychology of motivation, in asking more than 100 college students whether the love they had received from their parents had seemed to depend on whether they had succeeded in school, practiced hard for sports, been considerate toward others or suppressed emotions like anger and fear.
It turned out that children who received conditional approval were indeed somewhat more likely to act as the parent wanted. But compliance came at a steep price. First, these children tended to resent and dislike their parents. Second, they were apt to say that the way they acted was often due more to a “strong internal pressure” than to “a real sense of choice.” Moreover, their happiness after succeeding at something was usually short-lived, and they often felt guilty or ashamed.
This is, without doubt, the stupidest thing I have ever read.
Show me a teenager who doesn't resent and rebel against parental control and I'll show you a teen who isn't making the transition between a protected childhood and the responsibility and self-discipline needed to be a successful adult. The world isn't a kind place and complete strangers will neither love nor indulge your child the way you do at home. It is this world - a world organized around competition and "authoritarian" relationships between bosses and employees, teachers and students, law enforcement and citizens - that your child will live in. No employer is going to "reason" with your child or bribe him with rewards. If he refuses to perform the tasks for which he was hired, he will be out of a job.
When child regularly makes you lose your temper, that's a pretty good sign that his or her behavior is out of control and unacceptable. Parents begin by loving their children. The rest of the world, however, does not love them and if their behavior is making you dislike them you might stop to consider how the rest of the world will regard it - and your child? How loving is it to send a child out into the world believing that there is no legitimate authority other than their own will, or that they will never have to control their words or deeds?
As parents understand that it’s not socially acceptable to spank children, they are at a loss for what they can do. They resort to reminding, nagging, timeout, counting 1-2-3 and quickly realize that those strategies don’t work to change behavior. In the absence of tools that really work, they feel frustrated and angry and raise their voice. They feel guilty afterward, and the whole cycle begins again.”
While I don't think constant yelling is terribly effective, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a short, well controlled demonstration of parental outrage. Your child should learn that certain behaviors make people angry; that negative behavior will provoke negative reactions from other people - anger, outrage, dislike, even punishment. Who better to ease their transition from a sheltered home environment to a world full of uncaring strangers than a loving parent who provides both discipline and affection?
Boys, especially, respond well to short, sharp commands from parents. They don't need to be drowned in an avalanche of age-inappropriate, tortured explanations. If they're doing something dangerous or rude, an emphatic, "NO!" (or even a quick swat on the behind) often brings them up short. It gets their attention in a way words and time outs never will. There is no need to berate a child. After gaining his or her attention and securing compliance, you can explain the whys and wherefores later; preferably during a quiet moment when he is receptive and unemotional; when you can punctuate a loving lesson with a reminder that while we all misbehave from time to time, he can always count on your love. This puts things in the proper focus: first, stop biting your little brother and then I will explain why we don't bite people.
If your child is too emotionally fragile to withstand a little disapproval when his actions merit it, how will he ever live in a world where other people expect him to behave properly and live up to his responsibilities. Previous generations set obstacles in their children's paths to teach them endurance, perseverence, and self-discipline. We try to remove every obstacle from our children's paths. The result is a generation of hothouse flowers who can bloom only if supplied with a constant diet of unconditional love and approval. This is not a recipe for self confidence and self-reliance but a prescription for narcissism and dysfunction.
When modern parenting theories lead to angry, out of control children taught by angry, out of control parents, perhaps it's time to go back to the basics we learned from our parents and grandparents? Generations of Americans have been spanked and yelled at when the situation merited - all without producing hordes of psychotic, maladjusted adults. Perhaps instead of trying to reinvent the wheel we could learn a thing or two from our parents, grandparents and great grandparents. After all, they produced the world you children will have to live in.
Update: Donna B weighs in:
My father was definitely the strong type, but not silent. He was eloquent in describing my failings. He could describe fluently how I’d disappointed him and made my mother sad. He could do this for hours without actually repeating himself. It was a talent. After 30 – 45 minutes of this, I was sobbing and begging for a beating because that would be so much less painful.
October 22, 2009
The Descent of Obama
I do believe the bloom may be off the rose:
How do you know that the White House's anti-Fox News campaign has gone seriously wrong? When CNN, let alone Anderson Cooper, begins to compare the Obama and Nixon administrations (video embedded below the fold, h/t Mediaite's Colby Hall).
On last night's "360," Cooper stated that "this White House is starting to look like another White House and the comparison is not flattering." He showed a clip of Sen. Lamar Alexander, documented yesterday by NewsBuster Noel Sheppard, offering a "friendly suggestion" to President Obama.
I have an uneasy feeling only 10 months into the new administration that we're beginning to see the symptoms of this same kind of animus developing in the Obama administration. And as those of use who served in the Nixon administration know, that can get you in a lot of trouble... Don't create an enemies list.
First the comparisons were to The Great Emancipator and his team of rivals. Then it was The Great Communicator. I think JFK references were liberally sprinkled about for a short time, too.
But less than a year into his first term, Obama's become ... the Second Coming of Richard Millhouse Nixon??? Normally I'd say The Won had hit rock bottom. Could there possibly be anyone more heinous in the eyes of the media?
Obama's Chill Wind of Media Suppression
[In the Spring of 2003]... following Major League Baseball's opening week and the second week of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon were denied an appearance at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Robbins and Sarandon, amongst many others, were planning to attend the Hall's fifteenth anniversary celebration of the classic baseball film "Bull Durham," in which they both starred and at the filming of which the couple first met. But the celebration was canceled by the Baseball Hall of Fame President, Dale Petroskey, because Robbins and Sarandon used their social consciences and their sense of activism to question the reasons for our country going to war.
Petroskey, a former assistant press secretary to Ronald Reagan, wrote a public letter to Robbins announcing his decision to call off the event, explaining: "The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum - and many players and executives in Baseball's family - has honored the United States and those who defend our freedoms. ... We believe your very public criticism of President Bush at this important - and sensitive - time in our nation's history helps undermine the U.S. position, which ultimately could put our troops in even more danger. As an institution, we stand behind our President and our troops in this conflict."
Robbins wrote in his response to Petroskey's actions: "I had been unaware that baseball was a Republican sport. I was looking forward to a weekend away from politics and war to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of 'Bull Durham.' I am sorry that you have chosen to use baseball and your position at the Hall of Fame to make a political statement. ... As an American who believes that vigorous debate is necessary for the survival of a democracy, I reject your suggestion that one must be silent in a time of war."
In a moment of almost unanimous solidarity, baseball fans, sportswriters, political columnists and citizens from across the country, both for and against the war, expressed their anger with calls, letters, emails and columns of protest directed at the Baseball Hall of Fame president.
Of course, because there was no government censor, this wasn't anything close to government censorship:
Censorship is the suppression of speech or deletion of communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the government or media organizations as determined by a censor.
The Baseball Hall of Fame was a private organization composed of private citizens exercising their Constitutional right of free association. The Baseball Hall of Fame is not affiliated, run by, or owned by the federal government. There is no evidence whatsoever that the White House was involved, or even knew of Petrosky's decision. There was no legal or moral obligation for the Baseball Hall of Fame to provide a soapbox for Tim Robbins or for political statements they did not agree with.
That didn't prevent Hollywood, the press corps, and pundits from crying "Censorship!" A full year later the incident was still being relentlessly flogged as "evidence" that America was headed down the otter slide to a windowless cell at Gitmo where Timmy Robbins would feel the frilly panties of jackbooted oppression slowly being pulled over his screaming maw.
So where are all these brave truth to powerers, these ardent First Amendment activists now that the President of the United States has tried to ban an entire news network from covering an official press conference?
Decide for yourself what the most disgraceful aspect of this is. Was it the fact that Gibbs told Jake Tapper explicitly on Monday that the White House wouldn’t try to dictate to the press pool who should and shouldn’t be included — before doing precisely that? Was it Anita Dunn going out of her way to say she respects Major Garrett as a fair reporter — before the administration decided he didn’t deserve a crack here at Feinberg? Or was it the repeated insistence by Dunn and Axelrod that of course the administration will make its officials available to Fox — before pulling the plug today?
Nowhere to be found, that's where. Not one word. The President of the United States and his staff have openly tried to bully other networks into marginalizing (and thus silencing) criticism from Fox News.
Full marks to the other networks for standing up for what was right, and for forcing the President of the United States to behave like a grownup instead of a petulant, frightened child. Dan comments:
This weak administration is now certifiably insane. For the first time in my life I'm actually uncomfortable knowing that this guy has control of our military and Federal police forces. If he thinks he can simply shut down a member of the press on a whim, how long before he goes full Chavez?
Other media outlets rallied around Fox News so it didn't play. And I would certainly hope the editorial pages around the country mirror that sentiment this weekend, though I'm not sure we can even trust them. Still, no matter what, I can't see this playing with the American people at all. This guy's approval ratings are already terrible. Don't be surprised if they go down the tubes after this outrageous conduct.
They'd have to actually hear about it first. The press did the right thing ... behind closed doors. But as of the time of this posting I don't see ABC, MSNBC, or CNN have any plans to inform their readers of today's events.
If the White House tries to prevent an entire news network from reporting the news and no one hears about it, did it still happen?
Rock bands including Pearl Jam and REM have joined a coalition of musicians to support the US president's efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.
The National Campaign to Close Guantanamo, which also includes former military officers, launched on Tuesday.
Many of the artists who have signed up are angry that their music was used as an interrogation tool in the jail.
Amateurs... what do these people know of torture?
JACKIE KLEIN is a devoted mother of two little boys in the suburbs of Portland, Ore. She spends hours ferrying them to soccer and Cub Scouts. She reads child-development books. She can emulate one of those pitch-perfect calm maternal tones to warn, “You’re making bad choices” when, say, someone doesn’t want to brush his teeth.
LOWERING THE BOOM Some frustrated parents resort to yelling and screaming followed by feelings of guilt.
That is 90 percent of the time. Then there is the other 10 percent, when, she admits, “I have become totally frustrated and lost control of myself.”
It can happen during weeks and weeks and weeks of no camp in the summer, or at the end of a long day at home — just as adult peace is within her grasp — when the 7- or 9-year-old won’t go to sleep.
And then she yells.
“This is ridiculous! I’ve been doing things all day for you!”
Many in today’s pregnancy-flaunting, soccer-cheering, organic-snack-proffering generation of parents would never spank their children. We congratulate our toddlers for blowing their nose (“Good job!”), we friend our teenagers (literally and virtually), we spend hours teaching our elementary-school offspring how to understand their feelings. But, incongruously and with regularity, this is a generation that yells.
“I’ve worked with thousands of parents and I can tell you, without question, that screaming is the new spanking,” said Amy McCready, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, which teaches parenting skills in classes, individual coaching sessions and an online course. “This is so the issue right now. As parents understand that it’s not socially acceptable to spank children, they are at a loss for what they can do. They resort to reminding, nagging, timeout, counting 1-2-3 and quickly realize that those strategies don’t work to change behavior. In the absence of tools that really work, they feel frustrated and angry and raise their voice. They feel guilty afterward, and the whole cycle begins again.”
Why don't you just go ahead and spank your child, lady. Or better yet, have Michael Stipe spank him.
I have been thinking a lot about lying. It's surprising, how uncomfortable just thinking about lying makes me. Faced with the conventional wisdom that everyone tells lies, my instinctive reaction was to sputter to myself, "But... but... I'm an honest person - I don't lie!"
My second reaction was, "Liar, liar pants on fire!" That's the good thing about being able to laugh at yourself: one never lacks for comedic material. The source of this latest voyage into the unexplored depths of my belly button was an article in the Wall Street Journal:
... even in the best marriages and romantic relationships, we sometimes fail to tell the truth. After all, we have plenty of reasons not to.
We fib to avoid conflict. To gain approval. To save face. Or just to be kind. (Show me a man who tells his wife she looks fat, and I'll show you a man headed for a night on the couch.)
Speaking of men, they didn't exactly line up to be interviewed for this column. I asked hundreds of them about the little fibs they tell their wives or significant others. And here's what I got: radio silence.
The women I queried yammered on and on. They giggled as they told of lying to—or withholding the truth from—their partners about their dress sizes, the cost of their hair highlights, whether they got Botox injections or how much reality TV they watch.
... Many women I spoke with seemed almost proud of the cleverness of their shams. So why wouldn't any men cop to stretching the truth from time to time? Intrigued, I asked them.
The womens' reactions surprised me. After carefully thinking it over, I don't remember lying to my husband about having spent money or anything as silly as my weight or dress size. For one thing he likes to order pretty things for me to wear, so he has always known my sizes. But even during the stay at home Mom years when he was the sole breadwinner, I didn't feel the need to hide what I was spending. I may not have volunteered that information, but neither did I try to hide it. Misrepresenting how I spent money we both owned would have seemed too much like stealing.
But there's another reason I didn't feel the need to lie about money: I can't imagine my husband getting seriously angry with me about a purchase. Annoyed, perhaps, though frankly I can't remember a time when he got even that upset. I can't recall ever being angry with him for spending money either. That's just not a conflict area for us, so there's little reason to conceal the truth.
While thinking about what makes me more likely to lie (or situations where others have lied to me), I arrived at some conclusions that surprised me a bit.
Before this goes any further, let me emphasize that in most cases I believe it's better to tell the truth. For one thing, being honest is just easier. Each time we lie, we create a fiction that is likely to conflict with true statements we've made or with reality. Sustaining that fiction (and avoiding being caught out) then requires more lies.
But more importantly, lies erode the trust and goodwill between two people. If those two people happen to be married to each other, trust and goodwill become more important than ever. Few things would make me consider divorce, but repeated lying is at the top of the list. There are significant disadvantages associated with marriage, not the least of which are the constant effort required to maintain harmony and the curtailment of selfish - or merely self centered - endeavors. The greatest advantages (in my view) are enduring affection/respect and the priceless assurance of being known and accepted for who we really are, not the face we present to the outside world. We let down our guard with those we care for in so many ways. This is a bit paradoxical because the more we care, the more criticism, disapproval, or anger can hurt us. It's not hard to understand why the realization that a spouse doesn't trust you enough to let down their guard in return could easily make one feel vulnerable or betrayed. But it's also interesting to contemplate the idea that we sometimes lie precisely because we fear losing the affection or regard of those we love.
That seems an important point for two reasons. When I began to think about the common element behind most lies, it seemed to be the avoidance of some unpleasant outcome. That avoidance could be something as innocuous as sparing someone's feelings. People lie to avoid criticism or anger, to maintain boundaries or a sense of independence, to preserve self-respect or the regard of others. Sometimes they lie simply to get what they want. But if you remove the unpleasant outcome, you remove most of the incentives for lying.
The second reason is that in a healthy relationship, trust has an element of reciprocity associated with it. If we're granted trust, we are more likely to extend it in return. Most of us, if we're burned enough times, become acutely sensitive to the possibility of further damage (not to mention wary of the person who burned us). So it's not only our own behavior that creates or erodes trust but the expectations and reactions of others and the extent to which their reactions bother or inconvenience us.
The Japanese have an interesting view of the truth; two views, in fact. Ironically, a recent post about politics and the Nobel Prize reminded me of this:
Bush is unwilling to alter his political communication for different audiences. He is no good at Tatemae. Paying Clintonian lip service to Europe gives the impression of "listening" as all these Guardependent editorials...require. I'm willing to consider this may be a weakness.... It may take a better (and less sincere) communicator than Bush to be tough for the core audience yet make potential coalition partners feel sufficiently mollycoddled.
To those who trusted Bush, his refusal to equivocate was refreshing. To those who disliked and distrusted him though, his honesty seemed more like disregard for their feelings. The obverse could be said of Barack Obama: those inclined to trust him see his lip service as evidence that he is sensitive and caring; that he respects those who disagree with him. Those who don't trust him see the same rhetoric as an insincere attempt to gloss over or dismiss intrinsically adversarial interests.
Perception is inextricably bound up with trust. The Japanese understand the private vs. the public face. They have explicit words for each: Honne (one's inner or 'real' thoughts) and Tatamae, (a carefully constructed, artificial face presented to those we don't know well or don't trust). We tend to recoil at the thought that there might be any difference between the two but each time we censor ourselves: each time we decline to say what we really think or tone down our behavior to suit the context and company, we are employing Tatamae. We prefer to put a positive construction on this. We call it tact, situational awareness, or consideration.
But in the presence of trust, we can sometimes speak our minds freely even when what we have to say may not make for pleasant hearing:
Consider a bank employee from France, who works at a bank in Japan for 15 years. Every morning he is greeted by his Japanese co-workers with the same enthusiasm and warmth as he bestows on them. He grows to like this job very much, comforted by the belief that he is thought highly of by his fellows.
Yet, somewhere in his 13th year on the job, during a private moment with a co-worker, during a quasi-philosophical talk about heaven and how to get there, this Japanese colleague says: 'Well at least I don't think you will ever get to heaven. You don't seem to be a nice person at all.'
This undistorted display of how the co-worker really thinks about him arrives after 13 years of working closely together. For Japanese, this is not strange. The fact that honne is spoken out is a sign that one feels the other can be trusted with this personal truth. It may be the start of an entirely different mode of relating, but something the Japanese value enormously. Instead of being honored because he is finally entrusted with this personal reality though, the Frenchman is deeply offended. After all, he says, he has been lied to for so long!
What an enormous difference interpretation makes. And how often have men and women played out this same scenario? I think a large part of the problem lies in the erosion of trust so often occasioned by not understanding our intrinsic differences. Men, more used to dealing with an outside world where conflict and competition are assumed, can be reluctant to let down their guard or even, at times, evasive. Women, driven to seek intimacy and exquisitely attuned to anything that threatens it, can find this behavior so alarming that they overreact or fail to respect boundaries.
It interested me to realize that there is more than one possible construction that can attach to minor lies. The very act of avoiding disapproval or discord implies a desire for approval and harmony. I don't think lying is the best way to resolve our differences, but I understand why it occurs. Trust operates much like a set of rose colored glasses: it helps us extend the benefit of the doubt when understanding fails. But even in an atmosphere of trust, there are some things we may never feel comfortable sharing.
I've always loved Kahlil Gibran's portrayal of marriage:
... let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
...And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.
I can't honestly say I've never shaded the truth slightly, never avoided a sore subject, never put the best possible construction on an unpleasant circumstance. I'm sure I've probably lied a few times too, though oddly my conscience makes me shy away from facing up to that. But that says something too: that I find it difficult to reconcile lying with the person I want to be. And also that I don't ever want to lose the trust of those I love.
Perhaps some lies happen because we've internalized some things too well. I'd like to think that. I'd also like to believe that most of the time I prefer even unpleasant truths to comforting fiction. Even if that truth happens to be that the new dress I just bought really does make my butt look big.
Thanks to spd for the WSJ article, and for making me overthink yet another potentially inflammatory topic :p
October 21, 2009
The Nanny State Jumps the Shark
Eric Williamson faces an indecent exposure charge after a passerby saw him in the buff in his own home making coffee.
It happened at 5:30 a.m. Monday.
Channel 5 reports the woman and 7-year-old boy who saw him naked apparently had cut through Williamson's front yard from a nearby path.
Williamson, 29, says he didn't know anyone could see him.
"If I stood and seemed comfortable in my kitchen, it's natural. It's my kitchen," Williamson tells Channel 5.
Williamson says his roommates were not home when he came into the kitchen and made his coffee.
Do the words, "trespassing" and "assumption of the risk" have any meaning any more?
These folks had no right to be in Williamson's yard, but somehow I'm supposed to feel sorry for them for seeing something they wouldn't have seen if they'd obeyed the law? Give me a break.
In the spirit of solidarity with our nekkid, coffee loving friend in Virginia, one of the best things about having our grown children move out of our house was the glorious freedom to relax in our own home. If I want to lure the spousal unit away from the TV during halftime or he wants to entice me away from work after 5 pm with a better offer, I sure as hell don't want to have to worry that some moron who doesn't understand the concept of private property will be "offended".
Everyone's a victim these days.
Boundaries, people. If we're just willing to respect a few boundaries, it's a lot easier to get along.
Quote of the Day
The Obama Administration doesn't like Fox News' "We Report You Decide" ethic. The Obama Administration's communication ethic is "We Decide What You Report," and the Administration will attack any news outlet that doesn't submit to this ethic.
Via the comments section of an excellent and very funny post by Tom Maguire
Sports Wit and Wisdom
In my Inbox, via OBH:
1. Chicago Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson on being a role model: "I wan' all dem kids to do what I do, to look up to me. I wan' all the kids to copulate me."
2. New Orleans Saint RB George Rogers when asked about the upcoming season: I want to rush for 1,000 or 1,500 yards, whichever comes first."
3. And, upon hearing Joe Jacobi of the 'Skins say: "I'd run
over my own mother to win the Super Bowl," Matt Millen
of the Raiders said: "To win, I'd run over Joe's Mom, too."
4. Torrin Polk, University of Houston receiver, on his coach, John Jenkins: "He treats us like men. He lets us wear earrings."
5. Football commentator and former player Joe Theismann, 1996:
"Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius
is a guy like Norman Einstein."
6. Senior basketball player at the University of Pittsburgh :
"I'm going to graduate on time, no matter how long
7.Bill Peterson,a Florida State football coach: "You guys line up
alphabetically by height." And, "You guys pair up in groups of three, and then line up in a circle."
8. Boxing promoter Dan Duva on Mike Tyson going to prison: "Why
would anyone expect him to come out smarter? He went to
prison for three years, not Princeton ".
9. Stu Grimson, Chicago Blackhawks left wing, when asked why he keeps a color photo of himself above his locker: "That's so
when I forget how to spell my name, I can still find my clothes."
10. Lou Duva, veteran boxing trainer, on the Spartan regime
of heavyweight Andrew Golota: "He's a guy who gets up six o'clock in the morning, regardless of what time it is."
11. Chuck Nevitt , North Carolina State basketball player, explaining to Coach Jim Valvano why he appeared nervous at practice:
"My sister's expecting a baby, and I don't know if I'm going to be an uncle or an aunt."
12. Frank Layden , Utah Jazz president, on a former player: "I told him, 'Son, what is it with you? Is it ignorance or apathy?' He said, 'Coach, I don't know and I don't care."
13. Shelby Metcalf, basketball coach at Texas A&M, recounting what
he told a player who received four F's and one D: "Son, looks to me like you're spending too much time on one subject."
Anglicans Invited to Rejoin Catholic Church
Yesterday the Spousal Unit sent me this news:
IN WHAT an Australian bishop calls the most significant Anglican-Catholic development in nearly 500 years, the Pope has invited disenchanted Anglicans to return to Roman Catholicism - as Anglicans.
Hundreds of thousands of Anglicans worldwide, including hundreds of Australians, are expected to take up the offer to be reunited through a structure that makes them full Roman Catholics while allowing them to keep their spiritual and worship traditions. Anglo-Catholics, as Anglicans with a strong Catholic inclination are called, have been seeking unity more urgently, feeling disenfranchised over the ordination of women and homosexuals as priests, then bishops.
My family has a rather interesting relationship with the Catholic Church. I was raised an Episcopalian. My husband was raised a Methodist. Our two sons were confirmed in the Episcopal church but attended Catholic elementary schools. My husband's brother and his wife converted to Catholicism and are active churchgoers and his sister married a Catholic and their children have also been raised Catholics.
As Grim notes, 'Piskies are something of a dying breed in America:
The Episcopal Church is about 1/30th the size of the Catholic Church among Americans, for example; and that though the Church of England had a substantial advantage in early American culture. (Indeed, Catholics were outright banned from Georgia during the colonial period, along with slaves and lawyers.)
Our tiny mission parish in southern California was struggling, in part, because so many parishioners had slipped down the hill to St. Mary's (the local Catholic church). Part of this was dissatisfaction with the new liturgy, part was the desire to have a daily morning Mass.
Just in my little slice of the world, I've noticed that the Catholic church exerts a powerful pull on families who are hungering for structure and a sense of tradition. This is what I have always loved about the Anglican liturgy. I love the old words; in fact, I like Rite I far more than Rite II (which puts me firmly in the minority). I think that as the church has watered down the language of the liturgy, we've lost most of the nuance. There's something a bit unsettling about the newer prayers. In many ways they remind me of that old joke about saying grace: what should be an occasion for reflection and reverence becomes the ecumenical version of
Rub a dub
Thanks for the grub Yay, God!
As someone who appreciates the beauty and meaning of the Anglican liturgy, I can see some good coming from accepting Anglicans into the Catholic fold:
This is very big. If this reconnection is well-facilitated, we may see the entire African arm of the Church of England (which is currently its most vibrantly-growing branch) cross the Tiber, and that will be a very interesting development, especially as Catholics are exposed to the Anglican-use liturgy, which will remind many of everything they loved about the Latin mass, but in the glorious language of the Anglican liturgy. This may accelerate the already-growing movement within the Catholic church to correct some of the liturgical excesses and errors we’ve seen in the last 40 years.
But I could just as easily see things going the other way. The Catholic services I've attended recently have been 'popularized' almost into meaninglessness. We've already diluted our own liturgy several times. Who's to say that absorption into the Catholic church wouldn't accelerate this trend?
Despite the attractions of rejoining the Catholic church, I can't help wondering how well this will really work? There were good reasons - other than the satisfaction of Henry VIII's lust for Anne Boleyn - for the formation of the Anglican church. Sometimes I think we ignore history at our peril. When trying to explain the Anglican church to non-'Piskies, I usually resort to jokes:
"The Anglican church is sort of like Catholic Lite: All of the ritual, none of the guilt."
"An Episcopalian is just a Catholic with authority problems."
It's this last that leads me to doubt whether absorbing Anglicans into the Catholic communion will work? The heart and soul of the Episcopal church, to me, was always that we loved and understood the need for rules and structure and an attempt - however imperfect that might be - to live up to God's word. But we also appreciated how God's word can be corrupted by self-serving and fallible human beings. Therefore, we deeply distrusted the politics and power plays involved with church life. That healthy (in my view) skepticism resulted in a congregation and celebrants who tend to be tolerant of human foibles while we're aiming for a standard few if any of us will ever measure up to.
When my brother in law and his wife converted to Catholicism, he had to have a first marriage that had been over for years officially annulled. He and his current wife actually had to be remarried and his children re-baptised. Given the virtual sameness of the liturgies associated with all these rites, my husband and I (we were witnesses at all of these services) found this somewhat offensive. We were, in essence, being asked to witness and in a way, co-sign off on the notion that there wasn't any value in these rites unless they were blessed by the Catholic church.
Most of my friends are Catholic. I grew up attending their services and even, sometimes, going to CCD with them. And yet, though I'm a baptised and confirmed Episcopalian, when I attend Catholic services as an adult I'm not welcome at the communion rail.
I have to say that this has always bugged me. Their church, their rules. In my own church, all baptised Christians are welcome to take Communion. It rankles to be told that although our services are, if anything, far more faithful to traditional Catholic doctrine, I'm not welcome at Communion.
I have been as irritated and offended as everyone else at the frankly silly struggles of the Anglican church to deal with priests who seem to want to go their own way. This story seems to encapsulate the idiocy that currently afflicts the Anglican church:
Shortly after noon on Fridays, the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding ties on a black headscarf, preparing to pray with her Muslim group on First Hill.
On Sunday mornings, Redding puts on the white collar of an Episcopal priest.
She does both, she says, because she's Christian and Muslim.
Redding, who until recently was director of faith formation at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, has been a priest for more than 20 years. Now she's ready to tell people that, for the last 15 months, she's also been a Muslim — drawn to the faith after an introduction to Islamic prayers left her profoundly moved.
Her announcement has provoked surprise and bewilderment in many, raising an obvious question: How can someone be both a Christian and a Muslim?
My love for the Episcopal church is inextricably bound up with my church's willingness to deal with doubt and the ambiguities of faith explicitly. There is no, "because I say so", or "you must submit to the authority of an earthly officiant or be excommunicated". In many ways, that is the root of our current problems.
I believe humans need to submit to both divine and worldly authorities and I fully understand the folly of faux inclusiveness. My problem is that in the end, I suppose that I truly am a Catholic with authority problems. So long as people don't insist upon gratuitous eye pokes or try to force me to validate their choices, I am more comfortable with leaving certain matters to individual conscience.
I have no problem with the Africans for refusing to accept ordained priests who openly flout Anglican rules and doctrine. But at the same time I find many of the Catholic church's strictures difficult to accept. I suppose that more than anything else, I'm uncomfortable with the assertion of worldly, external authority over individual conscience. I understand why that happens but in a matter as exquisitely personal as faith, I can't help but wonder how many intermediaries are needed between each of us and God?
More and more I'm reminded of something my mother used to tell me when I got aggravated with the church. "Churches", she said, "are primarily political organizations organized for a religious purpose." We can't seem to get away from human nature, can we? We come to church with all our faults upon us.
I always thought that for all its shortcomings, the Episcopal church did just about as good a job of reconciling human shortcomings with the more rigorous demands of faith as could be imagined.
I can't help but grieve for something I love that is dying.
Busy This Morning.
My apologies. Go watch Jules break it down.
Best thing I've read this morning.
October 20, 2009
What Is It With the Slutty Halloween Costumes?
When I was just a rosy cheeked little Editorial Staff, I looked forward to Halloween with poorly concealed anticipation.
It wasn't the candy I loved. It was the chance to dress up; to pretend for one magical night that I was someone else. My brother and I never had store-bought costumes. We either made them ourselves (sometimes they were quite elaborate!) or my Mom made them for us.
One year he was a robot. His head and body were a large and small moving box spray painted silver, the arms and legs made from that telescoping dryer vent hosing painted silver to match. I think he had shoeboxes over his feet too. He even had a little door in the body to put candy in.
I was the Cat in the Hat, once. My Mom sewed my costume - it had an enormous red and white striped hat. I was also a giant grey mouse (reused costume from a ballet recital).
But most years I was a gypsy. I loved going through my Mom's closet looking for an exotic maxi skirt to wear. I loved putting on the dangly earrings, bracelet and necklace she kept in her jewelry box. They were made of smooth wood and clicked enticingly when I sashayed out in search of candy. I loved putting kohl around my eyes and drawing my curly hair back behind a rakish scarf. When I got older, I sometimes was a vampire. Not a gory, ugly vampire, but an alluring, ethereal neck nibbler a la Angelique in Dark Shadows. I was quite capable of spending hours trying to replicate her intricate hairstyles. One year, while working in the church thrift shop, I bought a seafoam green chiffon ball gown. The layered chiffon skirt floated on the night air in a ghostly manner. As I glided spookily down the sidewalk, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.
I don't think I ever dressed up as a bride or a princess. Part of the Halloween magic for me was walking on the wild side; pretending to be someone dark and mysterious.
The thing is, I understand the role of fantasy. Our dreams say a lot about things we're afraid of, things we're tempted by, the other side of us that we secretly long to surrender to. What I can't understand is how any parent would want his or her daughter fantasizing about something like this?
A reporter found a slew of slutty Hal loween costumes for kids at a Party City outlet on East Fourth Street, including:
* A Goldilocks get-up suitable for a Penthouse party: clingy gingham lace-up peasant dress with a white petticoat "that's all grown up, and you can have your porridge and more."
* A pirate costume dubbed the "High Seas Hottie" -- made in sizes to fit an 8-year-old.
* A women-in-chains fantasy costume called "Convict Cutie" that features a spandex dress and lace-up bodice.
* A "Devil Grrrl" costume for 10- to 14-year-olds that includes a flaming-red dress and tail, skanky fishnet hose and gloves and a tiny pitchfork. "This grrrl devil likes to get things heating up!" the packaging boasts.
Of course, it could always be worse.
Children have so little time in which to be innocent. I'll never forget the feeling of crisp autumn air on my face, the excitement of trying to guess which werewolf was my buddy Ralph or who was behind the pumpkin mask, the delicious eeriness of crunching leaves underfoot by the light of a full moon.
And I can't help but get the the feeling that my own generation - many of whom have never quite accepted their role as grownups - have changed Halloween irrevocably.
Damn, I'm Good
Tempted as we are here at VC to wallow in schadenfreude, it really doesn't sound like these folks have a case:
Deposed beauty queen Carrie Prejean still owes $5,200 for breast implants floated by pageant organizers in January, a new lawsuit claims.
Ex-Miss California Carrie Prejean stiffed pageant organizer K2 Productions even though she requested the surgery "to be more competitive" at the April 2009 Miss USA pageant and verbally agreed to repay the K2 loan, a complaint filed yesterday states.
Prejean was stripped of her crown June 10 for alleged contract violations.
If she really promised to repay this loan, she's morally obligated to keep her word.
Moral and legal obligations, however, are two separate matters. Only a fool** loans over $5000 on a verbal promise to repay. Given Ms. Prejean's track record with keeping her word thus far, I wouldn't be holding my breath if I were these folks.
Though maybe they can slap a lien on her breasts. Can breasts be repossessed?
** OK. Apparently I was indelicate in the way I phrased that. My opinion was based on the fact that the pageant is not a person who would normally be expected to have affection for Ms. Prejean, but a commercial enterprise. Sorry, but it still seems pretty foolish for a corporation or organization to loan money based on nothing more than a verbal promise.
Why Can't We Be More Like the Euroweenies?
Here in the U.S. of A. we are so backwards and provincial. The more enlightened sort of world citizen understands the value of securing fundamental rights:
The Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications has approved a law mandating that all citizens have access to high-speed Internet by next July. Under the legislation, telecommunications companies are now obliged to provide Finland's 5.3 million citizens with at least a 1 megabyte-per-second connection. Ninety-six percent of Finns already have Internet access...
Because nothing screams
human rights violation 'national emergency' like 4% of your citizens without high speed Internet access.
I want ...no.... need a lifetime subscription to Marie Claire.
Signs You're Settling Into "Deployment Mentality"
Standing in line at our local grocery emporium the other night, the Blog Princess suddenly found herself settling into The Groove: that Nirvana-like state inhabited by We Who Stand and Wait. There are signs - ominous signs and portents - which herald this enviable condition:
1. Though you detest TV and have no idea how to use any of the 5 remote controls in your living room, you find yourself turning on the television every evening after work.
Hey - it beats regaling the dog with the highlights of your work day.
2. You have seen both seasons of Deadwood 30,000 times. It just never (*%$ gets ^%$@-ing old....
3. The mysteries of the magazine rack begin to beckon. Exactly what did happen when Jennifer Anniston drunk dialed Brad and Angelina picked up the phone? Can you really lose 75 pounds in one week by adding this wonder food (see page 24) to your diet? Should you buy the latest issue of Marie Claire? You know, the one with "MUST READ - 'I was a sex slave - and escaped!!!" in big letters on the cover.
4. Your idea of a hot time between the sheets is settling in with a hot cup of green tea and the latest issue of Marie Claire.
5. You haven't slept more than 3 hours in a row in the last month.
6. Nothing gets your foolish heart racing quite like the politics section of the Washington Post.
The folks at the WaPo are feeling kind of tingly, too:
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that support for a government-run health-care plan to compete with private insurers has rebounded from its summertime lows and wins clear majority support from the public.
Americans remain sharply divided about the overall packages moving closer to votes in Congress and President Obama's leadership on the issue, reflecting the partisan battle that has raged for months over the administration's top legislative priority. But sizable majorities back two key and controversial provisions: both the so-called public option and a new mandate that would require all Americans to carry health insurance.
I will admit that (my passions being utterly spent by viewing the first season of Deadwood yet again) I was slightly more intrigued by the Post's euphoria than by the unexplored delights of the Anniston/Pitt/Jolie love triangle. Which so-called public option was the Post referring to? The naughty little impure version in the Senate? (perhaps an escaped sex slave in a past incarnation)
The "optional" House version? Just what is it that a "clear majority [of Americans] support"?
As it turns out, the option a "clear majority" support isn't before either the House or Senate right now. Let's call it the "hypothetical public option", because from what I can see when people were asked about what Congress is likely to vote on, more are still opposed than in favor:
Congress hasn't repealed the laws of mathematics, have they? Isn't 48 opposed still greater than 45 in favor? But then... doh! I forgot! A "clear majority" now favor "the public option"! Could this have anything to do with the fact that the words "public option" and "government run" never appear in the question. In fact, the question is cleverly phrased to make it seem as though it might be a market based solution such as a coop:
When we're not talking about some ambiguously phrased hypothetical plan:
68% of respondents thought it would increase the deficit
43% (a plurality) thought it would weaken Medicare
42% (plurality) thought it would result in too much government involvement in health care.
Those are not good numbers. Fortunately, the Democrats in Congress can rely on the President to get out in front of this issue:
As White House aides said President Obama will not demand a government-run option be part of his sweeping health care overhaul bill, top Democrats refused to back down from their steadfast support of the so-called "public option" on Sunday.
The war of words underscored the intraparty rift over the necessity of the plan in the final legislation.
In an interview Sunday with NBC's "Meet the Press," senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said Obama believes the public plan is still the "best possible choice," but she said he's not demanding it be included in the final legislation. The president's top adviser, David Axelrod, also downplayed the importance of a government-run insurance option, saying Senate opposition in both parties means "we have to work through these issues."
"The president has very consistently and clearly articulated his support for a public option,"
Well durnitall, if that doesn't settle the matter I don't know what does.
After all, this is a guy who just won a big fancy prize for consistently and clearly promising to do things he hasn't done. If he fights for the public option with the same commitment , decisiveness, and moral clarity he's displayed on Afghanistan, I'd say this is a slam dunk.
Update: When your fellow journalists notice that your bias is showing, perhaps you're not playing it down the middle:
A game-changer? Wow, did the Washington Post pump up a very minor uptick when it comes to the public option. Last month in the Post/ABC poll, 55% supported the idea (in the way they worded it); this month, that number is 57%. But today’s headline (“Public option gains support”) is all public option advocates will need. Will the poll be a turning point in the Senate/White House merger negotiations as they wrestle with whether to include some form of a public option in the bill that's offered on the floor? To be fair, this is the fourth time when majorities in the Post/ABC poll have favored the public option. Perhaps that is what the paper was trying to point out...
Or perhaps they're just clutching at straws.
October 19, 2009
Sorry guys. I've had a lot going on lately (unfortunately, none of it in my head). Head on over to David M's place - the joint's jumping.
October 18, 2009
Constitution? What Constitution?
At the New Orleans town hall, 29-year-old Gabriel Bordenave complained about the slow pace of the recovery. “I expected as much from the Bush administration,” he told Obama. “But why are we still being nickel-and-dimed?”
The president gave a technocrat’s answer about the “complications between the state, the city and the feds in making assessments of the damages.”
“Now, I wish I could just write a check,” he added. When an audience member yelled “Why not?” he dryly noted, “There’s this whole thing about the Constitution.”
The president should remember, though, that when you’re cooking up a more perfect Union, sometimes you’ve got to break some eggs.
Happily Ever After
It's nice to read something hopeful in the daily fishwrap for a change:
... he fell into "pure, unadulterated depression," recoiling from social settings, suffering guilt at the thought of leaving his troops in Iraq, wondering, "Am I ever going to be loved again? Am I ever going to date again?"
"I always grew up and felt like I'm this big bad tough guy and here I am rolling around in a wheelchair," says Butler, a University of Maryland graduate. "There's nothing tough about being in a wheelchair."
That summer his left foot became infected, forcing doctors to amputate so that Butler "basically had two heels left." Learning to walk that autumn was frustrating, awkward and acutely painful.
By the end of the year, after 52 surgeries to try to save his legs, Butler agreed with his doctors that the 53rd would remove his left leg below the knee. "I kind of became more comfortable with the thought of being an amputee and wearing a prosthetic."
In February, weeks after the amputation -- which Butler says "was just absolutely the best decision" -- Sauriol ran into him in the lobby of the outpatient hotel. As often happened when soldiers moved out of the main hospital, she'd lost track of Butler and suggested they catch up over breakfast at a nearby restaurant.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
My beloved spake, and said unto me,
Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of the singing of birds is come,
and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
The fig tree putteth forth her green figs,
and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
- The Song of Solomon
October 17, 2009
Chris Muir is a God
I love Day by Day. I rarely comment on it b/c it's in my sidebar and I figure you all have already seen it. But today's offering is just priceless. Spit-your-coffee-out funny.
The Freakin' Patriarchy and Their Jackbooted Jackboots of Oppression
Wow Dan! That would make you a conservative man who actually respects the opinions of women! To listen to the MSM none of you actually exist in the conservative party. You know, not like all those enlightened male liberals and femanistas who speak about women with respect but behind the scenes only use them for the political purposes they may serve.
I have to say that in 6 years of blogging, I've disagreed with scores of male bloggers and only extremely rarely had one be nasty or take offense. Given that guys get into flame wars all the time with each other (and they aren't particularly gentle in the way they disagree with each other, either!) I've never been quite sure how any reasonable person would get the idea that male conservative bloggers are sexist pigs.
Grim and I disagree a lot and I think our disagreements have make me a more thoughtful person. Dan's another blogger who has often shifted the way I think about an issue by bringing some aspect I hadn't thought of into the discussion.
Patrick O'Hannigan has an interesting essay up that discusses the case against blogging:
Stefan McDaniel has a heartfelt blog post at First Things arguing that blogs are not doing people who love language any favors. Riffing on what Neil Postman wrote two generations ago about television (the book was Amusing Ourselves to Death), McDaniel worries about what blogging has done to our attention spans. That literature is worth saving, he takes as a given, and good for him. Although he doesn't put it quite this way, his misgivings stem from the fact that literature is built for comfort, not for speed. His argument is that the proliferation of blogs now makes it more difficult for people to read or write a sustained argument (or any narrative, really) than it used to be.
I think there's a good deal of truth in this argument: because we react in the instant, blogging is in some ways inimical to the well considered argument. This is something I fight with constantly. My sense is that I just don't have time to think about about 90% of what I read and so I don't comment.
But looked at another way, blogging provides something that can't be derived from longer form writing in a one-way medium: it's a conversation about ideas and a chance to explore our differences.
I don't view convincing others as the point, although that's nice on the rare occasions it happens. The point of blogging, at least for me, is the back and forth; the chance to see how others reason and justify their positions.
Blogging shouldn't be a replacement for more substantive reading and to the extent that it displaces this kind of learning, that's unfortunate. But having another choice shouldn't be blamed for decisions we make freely. We are free to read deeply and thoughtfully.
If we choose not to, we were not compelled to that decision but rather (perhaps) seduced into it. But that's another discussion entirely.
October 16, 2009
Solidly In the Tank
I'm sure someone has made the connection between these two, but the media was fact checking the SNL Obama skit while preparing the stories on Rush. CNN is literally more interested in "disproving" satire about Obama than bothering to confirm bizarre and scandalous things said by Rush. I am literally amazed.
Friday Debate Question: Pepsi's Tasteless App
Dan Riehl thinks that only those "with no sense of humor and so much bottled up outrage just looking for something to come crashing down upon" find Pepsi's latest iPhone app offensive:
How the heck did the Sixties beget a culture with no sense of humor and so much bottled up outrage just looking for something to come crashing down upon? Talk about your unintended consequences. It's getting to be a crime to laugh at anything, though I suspect there wouldn't be an issue were the genders reversed here. Get over it, already. Geesh!
There are several things wrong with Dan's reasoning here. First of all, the stereotyping aspect of the app and the cheesy pickup lines don't bother me one whit. I agree that people are far too quick to take offense these days. People do fall into recognizable categories and there's nothing wrong with poking a little fun at our differences. Where I get off the bus is here:
The app then lets users add women - along with name, date of the conquest and comments - to the user's "brag list," which can be shared online on sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Conservatives have a really nasty habit of fulminating about the horrors of feminism while absolving men of the very same irresponsible and selfish behaviors they deplore in women. Heaven forbid that men recognize that they are contributing to declining public morality:
I rarely hear anyone acknowledge that a man who behaved the way many men behave today would have been shunned by society when I was growing up. Men, too, are demanding that behaviors society has never approved of be not just legitimized but mainstreamed and approved of.
I would not want to have to raise a daughter in today's climate.
In what world has it ever been acceptable for young men to try and "score" with as many women as possible and then publish their names, the date of the interlude and graphic details of their conquest? Young men are not exactly known for their scrupulous honesty in this regard. They brag of screwing women who wouldn't give them the time of day with no regard for the effect on the woman's reputation. In a world where prospective employers conduct online searches as a part of the hiring process, having one's name and alleged sexual exploits plastered all over the Internet could have life changing consequences.
But hey - it's all just a big joke. At least it's funny if it happens to someone else's daughter. The hilarity might seem a bit less apparent when it strikes closer to home.
Perhaps this makes me a humorless individual just looking for things to be outraged over, but I expect more from men. If either of my sons had behaved that way, he would have been on restriction for the rest of his natural life and furthermore I'd have considered myself a complete failure as a parent.
I fail to see the humor in viewing women as notches on your belt and bragging about 'bagging' them online. Lovely standard Pepsi is setting for our kids, but I think the bar could be set a bit higher.
I've known Dan for years and he's a great guy. I'd like to think that this was the kind of drive-by comment all bloggers make from time to time when they're in a hurry. Grim nailed what is really going on here:
The reason we've got this kind of behavior going on is that we've created a society in which the rude are completely protected from any sort of reprisal.
It's exactly like the way that virtual communication leads to flaming: because you have removed the physical elements of the communication, there's nothing except personal character to stop people from flaring up emotionally at each other. This is a well-known phenomenon among bloggers, though it predates blogs, and has been observed since the beginning of internet communication.
The removal of the duel -- and the practice of filing criminal charges for assault every time a jerk gets a punch in the face -- has performed a similar transformation on non-virtual society. Neither Chris Matthews nor Keith Olbermann is the sort who would dare to speak that way in the presence of a man like Zell Miller if he were permitted the duel he wanted, even though Zell is spotting them both about fifty years.
Instead, modern society has made the good men powerless to do anything about the bad ones. You can point out that they are mannerless, cowardly puppies; but the more they get called names, the more attention they get, and the more money they make. They are actually rewarded for their bad behavior. Of course you're seeing more bad behavior as a result, and of course their model is being emulated by young people who witness it and see it being rewarded.
Like the internet flamer, they find that all restraints on their worst impulses have been removed. There is nothing to stop them from being abusive except their personal character. If they have any, it is clearly overwhelmed by the actual monetary rewards paid to them for generating controversy.
I can't help but wonder why any adult would think it's OK to post the details of sexual encounters online and even more importantly, why a major corporation is trying to mainstream this kind of behavior or lessen the stigma attached to sexual irresponsibility by saying to its critics, "Get over it. It's no big deal". And contrary to what Dan seems to think, I'd be equally offended if young women were being encouraged to brag about "scoring" with young men online. Wrong is wrong.
Though I'm not sure how outraged I am about this (more like disgusted), feel free to tell me what a reactionary, joyless prude I am in the comments section :p
Money for Nothing
I remember an eminent professor’s telling me, with a barely concealed exultation, that he was making nearly $1,000 per day, week after week, merely by owning a very large house in a fashionable area: an amount that, needless to say, dwarfed any savings he might salt away from his salary. The government could not have been better pleased, for the majority of the population, who owned their own homes, felt prosperous as never before and attributed their affluence to the government’s wise economic guidance.
But asset inflation—ultimately, the debasement of the currency—as the principal source of wealth corrodes the character of people. It not only undermines the traditional bourgeois virtues but makes them ridiculous and even reverses them. Prudence becomes imprudence, thrift becomes improvidence, sobriety becomes mean-spiritedness, modesty becomes lack of ambition, self-control becomes betrayal of the inner self, patience becomes lack of foresight, steadiness becomes inflexibility: all that was wisdom becomes foolishness. And circumstances force almost everyone to join in the dance.
Except in one circumstance, that is: the possession of a salary and a pension that the government promises, implicitly or explicitly, to index against inflation. This is the situation of public-sector workers and is a pyramid scheme, too, perhaps the biggest of the lot, since events may require the government to renege on its obligations. But meantime, such employment will seem a safe haven, and the temptation will be for government to expand it, with the happy consequence—for itself—of increasing dependence. And dependence, too, undermines character.
October 15, 2009
Am I the only one reminded of junior high school?
It's said that greed pushes investors to buy stocks when they're overpriced, while fear drives sales when stocks are at or near a bottom.
With that in mind, Philips Electronics has teamed up with a prominent Dutch bank to develop a system of warning home traders when they're about to make a decision to buy or sell stocks while feeling overly emotional. It's called "The Rationalizer," and a test model is on display at an innovation summit in Brussels this week.
It consists of an "EmoBracelet" that looks like it might come out of a science fiction film, and a light-emitting "EmoBowl" that rests near a trader's computer. The bracelet supposedly feels emotional states and sends radio signals to the bowl. As the user's feelings intensify, the bowl glows yellow, orange and finally red.
This could be useful in so many ways unrelated to investing:
Yellow: "Mr. President! The peasants are revolting!"
Orange: Texas Hold 'Em? Or mortgage backed securities? What the heck - if I lose my shirt, Obama will bail me out.
Red: This may not be a good day to don that pushup bra and post your boobs on Twitter.
Oh For Pete's Sake...
"So I took a fun picture not thinking anything about what I was wearing but apparently anything other than a pantsuit I am a slut," she wrote, later adding "I can't even tell you how hurt I am."
Soon after, she considered closing her Twitter account altogether.
Let me go way out on a limb, here.
Pantsuit.... low cut shirt with your boobs pushed up so far they nearly touch your neck...
Hmmm. What could the difference possibly be?
Normally the VC Editorial Staff try to avoid criticizing Ms. McCain. There's no sport in it.
But in this case her behavior is so bizarre that she seems to be inviting a conservative intervention. This isn't complicated: if you don't want people to treat you like a pop tart, don't act like one. If you don't wish people to look at (or comment upon) your breasts, don't show them off to thousands of folks to whom you've yet to be formally introduced.
I can't stand when adults demand the "right" to act a certain way and then want to be shielded from the normal consequences of their actions. The term 'pearls before swine' comes to mind. Women are notorious for this, and it's silly behavior.
When Little Miss Overprivileged Victim started whining because of mean comments, throwing a Twitter fit and saying she was "getting the f**k off Twitter," I doubt she expected her own nasty f**king sh*t to come flying back in her face. But as they say down home, "Payback is a motherf**ker, b*tch."
People never cease to astonish me and Ms. McCain is no exception. For what it's worth, I don't think posting a picture of your boobs on Twitter makes you a slut. Not even sure who said that but it's hard for me to care, either.
I guess I'm just tired of people thumbing their noses at the rules and then citing those same rules as evidence they've been ill treated. Two wrongs don't make a right but it's generally unconvincing when you try to hold others to a standard you long since openly rejected.
Feel Your Boobies Week
The Blog Princess is fairly certain she has mentioned this before, but years ago during the BoobieThon fundraiser, she decided to do something she never does: give herself a self-exam.
It wasn't the best timing in the world. The Unit was in Fallujah and on a scale of things I do not recommend is finding a lump in your left breast when your spouse is on the other side of the world.
During the next few months I meekly submitted to multiple mammograms and consults, culminating in a visit to a local surgeon who told me that the lump was just a benign mass common to women. He aspirated it with a needle and that was that. Kind of an anticlimactic ending to several months where pretty much every doctor I'd seen was extremely concerned.
But my surgeon told me something else, and I think it's important. He said that mammograms, in general, don't catch many cancers. Women (or their partners) are more likely to discover something amiss.
I will never know what prompted me to examine myself that day. Probably it was reading the blogs of several women who were battling cancer. I was so moved by their words that I sent in my own photos to the BoobieThon fundraiser. It's fairly certain that this is not something I'd ever thought I would do.
Anyway, do your patriotic duty. If you're a woman, check yourself. It's easier in the bathtub or shower. If you're a guy, check the lady you love.
Take all the time you need, peoples.
What A Difference an Election Makes... in Press Coverage
Anyone want to take bets on how long it takes the White House to reverse this?
The U.S. military in eastern Afghanistan recently changed its media embed rules to ban pictures of troops killed in the war.
“Media will not be allowed to photograph or record video of U.S. personnel killed in action,” says a ground rules document issued Sept. 15 by Regional Command East at Bagram Air Field.
This language is new. A version of the same document dated July 23 says, “Media will not be prohibited from covering casualties” as long as a series of conditions are met.
Pictures of American military deaths are rare, but until now they have not been officially banned during either of the ongoing wars.
The new language was added in early September, according to a military spokesperson, Master Sgt. Tom Clementson of Regional Command East Public Affairs. Clementson described it as “a clarification rather than a new rule.”
“The clarification was added to ensure that service members’ privacy and propriety are maintained in situations where media have unique and intimate access as embedded reporters,” Clementson wrote by e-mail in response to questions. “While RC East does everything possible to accommodate an embedded reporters’ ability to cover the war in this region, there is also a command responsibility to account for the best interests of its service members.”
The change occurred after the wide distribution of a photograph of a dying U.S. Marine. On Sept. 4, the Associated Press released a photo of a mortally wounded Marine in Afghanistan.
This is, to be clear, the same White House that thinks an unfettered media is a good thing... so long as "freedom" is defined as the press being free to praise Obama:
First, the president and his aides go to war with Fox News because the network maintains a generally anti-Obama slant.
Then, an anonymous administration aide attacks bloggers for failing to maintain a sufficiently pro-Obama slant.
These are not disconnected developments.
An administration that won the White House with an almost always on-message campaign and generally friendly coverage from old and new media is now frustrated by its inability to control the debate and get the coverage it wants.
Remember when President Bush was criticized for carefully screening his appearances? Remember how this was touted as proof that he couldn't handle criticism? Yeah, neither do the media:
"You're always sensitive about having your San Francisco moment here," said former White House spinmeister Chris Lehane.
He still recalls a news conference he organized here in 2000 for then-presidential candidate Al Gore. It turned into a near-disaster when a "transvestite kept asking if he would support public funding for sex changes."
"No matter how you answered, you get in trouble," Lehane said.
As for Obama's visit, Code Pink co-founder and political rabble-rouser Medea Benjamin said the Pinks are still planning "something big and visual" at Union Square, across from the St. Francis fundraiser.
We're also told a Code Pinker has already bought a ticket to the Obama event and will try to hand the president a petition demanding a U.S. exit strategy from Afghanistan.
And - no doubt - the protester will be exiting just as quickly.
Note how when Obama avoids his critics we get sympathetic quotes from Democratic strategists eager to explain how smart it is for politicians to avoid embarrassing situations. When Bush avoided his critics, we got quotes from Democratic strategists telling us how Republicans are unwilling to listen to opposing viewpoints and hysterical accusations of jackbooted oppression.
Transparency and openness, it would seem, are not unalloyed goods (unless, of course, they support the narrative). Fortunately our President happens to be a big fan of talking to our enemies.
Unless, of course, they are domestic terrorists like Fox News.
What an Honest Politician Would Tell American About Health Care Reform
I'll actually give you a speech made up entirely, almost on the spur of the moment, of what a candidate for president would say if that candidate did not care about becoming president. In other words, this is what the truth is and a candidate will never say, but what a candidate should say if we were in the kind of democracy where citizens were honored in terms of their practice of citizenship and they were educated in terms of what the issues were and they could separate myth from reality in terms of what candidates would tell them:
"Thank you so much for coming this afternoon. I'm so glad to see you and I would like to be president. Let me tell you a few things on health care. Look, we have the only health care system in the world that is designed to avoid sick people. And that's true and what I'm going to do is that I am going try to reorganize it to be more amenable to treating sick people but that means you, particularly you young people, particularly you young healthy people...you're going to have to pay more.
"Thank you. And by the way, we're going to have to, if you're very old, we're not going to give you all that technology and all those drugs for the last couple of years of your life to keep you maybe going for another couple of months. It's too expensive...so we're going to let you die."
... "Also I'm going to use the bargaining leverage of the federal government in terms of Medicare, Medicaid---we already have a lot of bargaining leverage---to force drug companies and insurance companies and medical suppliers to reduce their costs. What that means, less innovation and that means less new products and less new drugs on the market which means you are probably not going to live much longer than your parents. Thank you."
Of course, Reich's succinctly honest summary of what he called "the truth about health care reform" was nowhere in evidence when he made this video in support of the public option:
I guess "the truth" is less important than warning Americans not to believe the "myths" you warned them about in 2007. And don't even get me started on the lies about Canadian health care:
A Little Thought Experiment
But what I thought was even more interesting was what you find if you compare what single men and single women search on:
It's tempting to see a bidirectional cause and effect thing going on here, but I'm not sure that's valid. Even more curious, however, is what happens when you change just one word ("is" to "does"). That focuses the question more on what men and women are actually doing as opposed to how their behavior is perceived by the opposite sex. I would think that would be slightly more accurate since it isn't passing through the filter of interpretation:
Finally, what are the differences between single and married behaviors by both sexes?
What is the takeaway here? Well, for one thing farting is a much bigger problem in male/female relationships than we ever suspected....
As a final experiment, I eliminated the behaviors that married men and married women BOTH objected to. What is left was thought provoking:
October 14, 2009
Must Read of the Day
Dexter Filkins has a must read article in the NY Times:
THE MARINES WERE walking along the sandy road when the Afghans lined up to watch the bomb.
The Marines, members of Echo Company of the Second Battalion, Eighth Marine Regiment, had plodded through a mile of sodden cornfields in the heat of Helmand Province and climbed a rock promontory to an observation post once manned by soldiers of the Soviet Union. They arrived in early July as part of the big push ordered by President Obama; General McChrystal had visited their command post in Garmsir, 12 miles up the road, three days before.
The Marines had been in plain view for more than two hours. And when they moved down from the old Soviet lookout and walked up the dirt path that runs alongside the hamlet of Mian Poshteh, the Afghans started to come out.
At first, a lone man walked along the edge of one of Mian Poshteh’s mud-brick houses. Then he stopped and turned and stood, watching. Then another man, this one in an irrigation ditch, stuck his head up over the ledge. A pair of children stopped playing. They turned to watch.
“Something’s going down,” Sgt. Jonathan Delgado said. He was 22 and from Kissimmee, Fla.
“Watch that guy,” said Lance Cpl. Joshua Vance, pointing. He was also 22, from Raleigh, N.C.
Two more Afghans arrived. They stopped and stood and looked at a spot just ahead of the Marines. A man on a motorcycle drove past, driving slowly, turning his head. Then the bomb went off. It had been buried in the path itself, a few feet under the sand, a few feet in front of the Marines.
The blast from the bomb was sharp and deep, and a dirty cloud shot up a hundred feet. Waves from the blast shot out, toward the village and toward us. Ten Marines at the front of the line disappeared.
“We’re hit! We’re hit!” Delgado shouted, and everyone ran to the front.
Marines began staggering out of the cloud. They were holding their ears and eyes.
“God, I’m still here,” Cpl. Matt Kaiser said, rubbing his ears. Kaiser had been at the front, sweeping the ground with a mine detector. He was from Oak Harbor, Ohio. “I’m still here.”
“No one’s hit,” Delgado said. “Jesus, no one’s hit.”
The rest of the young men staggered out of the cloud while the Marines trained their guns on Mian Poshteh.
The Afghans were gone.
“My bell’s rung pretty bad,” Kaiser said. He was shaking his head and glancing up and down and half laughing.
The bomber had missed. The weapon had been what the Marines refer to as “command-detonated,” which meant that someone, probably in Mian Poshteh, had punched a trigger — on a wire leading to the bomb — when the Marines came up the path. The triggerman needed to remember precisely where he had buried his bomb. Clearly, he had forgotten. If he had waited five more seconds, he would have killed several Marines.
Delgado, Kaiser and the others gathered themselves and walked toward Mian Poshteh. On their radio, the Marines could hear voices coming from inside the village.
“Is everything ready?” a voice said in Pashto.
“Everything is ready,” another voice said. “Let’s see what they do.”
The Marines stayed back. Earlier in the war, they would have gone into Mian Poshteh; they would have surrounded the village and kicked in doors until they found the bomber. Most likely they would have found him — and maybe along the way they would have killed some civilians and smashed up some homes. And made a lot of enemies. The Marines are a very different force now, with very different goals. They walked to within 50 feet of Mian Poshteh, and Lt. Patrick Bragan shouted: “Send us five men. Five men.”
Minutes passed, and five Afghans appeared. They were unarmed and ordinary looking.
“I have no idea who did that,” an old man named Fazul Mohammed said.
“Maybe they came at night,” a man named Assadullah said.
“I only heard the explosion,” a man named Syed Wali said.
The face of Lieutenant Bragan was pink from the heat and from pleading.
“All you have to do is tell us,” he said. “We’re here to help you.”
The Marines gave up. Near sunset, they started back the way they came, through the head-high corn. Delgado turned to one of his buddies, Cpl. John Shymanik, 22.
“They didn’t get us today,” Delgado said.
“They’re still trying, though,” Shymanik said.
If you're ever looking for a good read, I highly recommend Filkins' The Forever War. While I suspect that Mr. Filkins and I will never see eye to eye politically, he's a fantastic writer.
I bought the book for the spouse and, when it proved he didn't have time to read it after working 12 hours a day and commuting several more, bought the book on CD so he could listen to it in the car.
It was unforgettable. Arguably one of the best things I've read on the war on terror.
Mary Katherine Ham is Brilliant
I think I just died and went to heaven:
Michelle Malkin has now pushed a Cornell graduate with a soft voice to the point that he calls her a "mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick." Violent and sexist. That's why he's the Edward R. Murrow of our time.
I'd kill to have written this post. Read the whole thing, peoples.
Slate's Fred Kaplan Discovers "Least Bad Option" We're Already Adopting
During the 2004 election the Editorial Staff often lampooned the exploits of the Junior Senator from Massachusetts, whose stock response to just about any question was always, "I have a plan for that!"
On further examination, M. Kerry's "plan" more often than not proved to be exactly what George Bush had been proposing for months. Plus ca change, plus la meme chose:
An alternative approach, then, is to protect not all of Afghanistan but just a few of its largest cities—say, Kabul, Kandahar, and Ghazni—and to throw at them all the resources they can absorb: military, civilian, financial, the works.
The purpose of this would be twofold.
The first would be to prevent the Taliban from taking over the central government, which is the main reason for having Western troops there at all.
The second would be to create "demonstration zones" for the eyes of Afghans all over the country. If these zones really can be secured and supplied, if they are seen as enclaves of relative peace and prosperity, then Afghans everywhere will want the same thing and reject the Taliban (whose strength today stems less from their fundamentalist ideology than from their ability to provide order and services).
Meanwhile, under this alternative approach, U.S. and NATO forces would keep training Afghan soldiers and police, while special-ops troops and air power would continue to take out "high-value targets" such as top Taliban fighters (even pure counterinsurgency advocates don't think counterterrorist tactics should be cut off completely).
It's hard to say how many more U.S. troops would be needed for this alternative approach—but almost certainly far fewer than 40,000.
Now why can't our military learn to think outside the box like the smart, smart folks at SlateMag?
The U.S. military is starting to pull its troops from some of the more remote areas of Afghanistan. The decision is part of a counterinsurgency strategy by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top military commander in Afghanistan, but there are concerns that the Taliban could capitalize on the move.
The U.S. military prefers to call McChrystal's decision to move troops from some of the more remote parts of Afghanistan a "repositioning" of forces. Col. Wayne Shanks, a spokesman for coalition forces in Afghanistan, says McChrystal's strategy places a premium on protecting the population, especially in towns and cities where the Taliban has made inroads.
"Gen. McChrystal has been discussing with his commanders how better to protect the population, not just necessarily hold pieces of land," says Shanks. "We're more concerned with repositioning forces across the country in order to better isolate the insurgents from the population."
Of course, every plan has its downside:
...Nuristan has rarely been controlled by any Afghan government.
"It's a very, very rugged terrain. You have elevations above 10,000 feet. You have very sparsely populated remote valley regions," he says. "In some of those valleys, the inhabitants ... speak a separate language from the rest of their neighbors."
Fussell says there are no paved road networks in many parts of Nuristan. The U.S. military has built roads in some of the neighboring provinces, but faced resistance in Nuristan, where many communities want to remain isolated as part of a defense strategy: They don't want strangers coming into their area.
Foreign troops probably could have stayed out of the area altogether except that Nuristan shares a porous border with Pakistan — and there is a vast trail network heavily used by insurgents.
What Kaplan never bothers to explain is how withdrawing to the 3 cities and allowing the Taliban and insurgency free run of the rest of Afghanistan serves the President's stated objective of denying al Qaeda safe harbor in Afghanistan?
Hint: it doesn't. Last time I checked, Osama bin Laden didn't plan and execute the 9/11 attacks from Kabul, Kandahar, or Ghazni. But hey - if Osama's accommodating enough to plan and launch his next attack from an undisclosed location deep in the heart of ISAP HQ, we'll have him right where we want him.
October 13, 2009
We're Looking For a Few Good Blogs...
The Project Valour IT Marine team is gearing up for the Mother of all Battles and we're looking for a few good blogs to join us:
When: October 26th - November 11th (not sure of the end date yet)
Where: Be here, or be square
Why: To remind some very special young men and women that we haven't forgotten their sacrifices.
How: Leave a comment or email me at cassandra.vc at gmail dot com to join the Few, The Loud, The MARINES!
To the Navy, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard we have just one thing to say:
"PAIN IS JUST WEAKNESS, LEAVING THE BODY."
E.J. Dionne Explains Angry White Men to Blue America
Why is it that Obama supporters never want to defend his transparently vague brand of transformative change on the merits? Is it because - despite approximately 10,000 utterances of the phrase, "Let me be clear", progressives have yet to figure out what he intends to do and when he intends to do it?
Ah well, change isn't easy. Make no mistake about it.
Perhaps the only thing more diverting than E.J. Dionne attempting to explain how a typical white man thinks is watching E.J. Dionne try to explain conservatives. The result is a howler of a column, chock full of cringeworthy straw man caricatures of angry white men driven by rage and poorly concealed racial animus.
Dionne's language is a masterwerk of enlightened tolerance unt civility: "rage" appears four times in a one page column. Various forms of the word "anger"? Five times. "Hatred" appears twice, "anxiety" three times, "extremism" twice. References to racism? A whopping seven times. Intelligent (read progressive) readers will quickly twig to Dionne's subtle theme.
"Psssst: these "angry white men" can't really be taken seriously, can they? After all, they aren't rational."
Smart (read progressive) folk know that opposition to Obama's policies stems more from fear and insecurity than the dispassionately informed thought processes common to
downtrodden members of the proletariat non-angry non-white non-men:
...there is a second level of angry opposition to which Obama needs to pay more attention. It involves the genuine rage of those who felt displaced in our economy even before the great recession and who are now hurting even more.
These Americans are sometimes written off as "angry white men." In analyzing anti-Obama feeling, commentators have taken to rummaging around the work of historian Richard Hofstadter during the 1950s and '60s, focusing on his theory that "status anxiety" helps explain the rise of movements on the far right. The idea is that extremism takes hold in groups that feel their "status" is threatened by new groups on the rise in society.
The problem with status-anxiety theory is that it focuses on feelings and psychology, thus easily crossing into condescension. It implies that the victims of status anxiety should be doing a better job accepting their new situations and plays down the idea that they might have something real to be angry about.
In fact, many who now feel rage have legitimate reasons for it, even if neither Obama nor big government is the real culprit. September's unemployment numbers told the story in broad terms: Among men 20 and over, unemployment was 10.3 percent; among women, the rate was 7.8 percent.
But rage and status anxiety are only the tip of the iceberg. Simmering beneath all that rampant testosterone is a veritable volcano of ignorance:
Middle-income men, especially those who are not college graduates, have borne the brunt of economic change bred by globalization and technological transformation. Even before the recession, the decline in the number of well-paid jobs in manufacturing hit the incomes of this group of Americans hard. The trouble in the construction industry since the downturn began has compounded the problem.
But how accurate is E.J. Dionne's portrayal of angry white men? To find out, the Editorial Staff consulted a prominent racist angry white male Obama hating extremist.
OK, that last may have been overkill... We admit that at least two of those adjectives would seem to be redundant. Still, when we're right, we're right!
A substantial number of voters seemed to believe that Obama would bring to Washington a large supply of magic pixie dust, which he would sprinkle hither and yon to create Good Jobs, Peace, Prosperity and Social Justice.
Some nine months in, a lot of those people are baffled to discover that we have a pixie dust shortage. The "angry white males" of the Dionne headline are basically Republicans who didn't vote for Obama, and now they're saying, "Hey, you morons, we tried to tell you this guy was hosing you, but you wouldn't listen!"
How many people "hate" Obama? I don't know. Dionne talks about "too many racist signs at rallies and too many overtly racial pronouncements in the fever swamps of the right-wing media," but I spoke at two Tea Party rallies in Alabama -- of all places -- and don't recall any such signs. As for the "fever swamps," I suppose that Dionne means talk radio and Fox News, but cites no examples of the "overtly racial pronouncements" which alarm him.
Typical white guy. Angry. Hostile, even. Blind to his own racism and certainly too unhinged to acknowledge the searing emotional truthiness of Dionne's winning defense of Angry White Male Loserdom. Let's face it: these folks are desperate. On the ropes! Capable of anything! Of course, if we can just turn them into victims - establish a dialog with them - perhaps they'll go away. Maybe - if we pretend we're on their side - they won't blow us to Kingdom Come with their unregistered assault weapons when the military rise up and take control of the federal government.
The odd thing is that we know a lot of white males who oppose Obama's policies and not one of them - not one! - is unemployed. In fact, they're all financially secure. But hey - if the Age of Obama promises an end to the failed divisive rhetoric of the past 8 years, let it begin with E.J. It's time for the healing to begin.
Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.
Update: Dang. Why are white guys such haters?
As for the Obama administration, whether the grumbling is about Republicans on Fox or bloggers in pajamas, there's a word for what the president and his aides are doing. That word is "whining." And nothing -- no attack by Glenn Beck, no blogger busting about Guantanamo -- does more damage to Obama's credibility or authority than the sense that a popular president is becoming the whiner-in-chief.
While I can point to no real evidence of racial animus, there's no denying that racial bias is driving much of the criticism of this President. Not that I'm implying anything, mind you.
Rock On, You Mighty Pink Warriors!!!!!
Am I the only one to be slightly bemused by this?
Well It Took Long Enough....
You have no idea how many quizzes I bombed before I found one I wasn't ashamed to post:
Moral of the story - don't overthink. I would have gotten 100% if I had gone with all my first instincts.
October 12, 2009
OMG. This made me laugh out loud:
Via Grim, who has more.
I was just thinking the other day of another fave:
How's That Whole "Unifying America" Thing Working Out, Mr. President?
"Unity is the great need of the hour – the great need of this hour. Not because it sounds pleasant or because it makes us feel good, but because it’s the only way we can overcome the essential deficit that exists in this country.
"I’m not talking about a budget deficit. I’m not talking about a trade deficit. I’m not talking about a deficit of good ideas or new plans.
"I’m talking about a moral deficit. I’m talking about an empathy deficit. I’m taking about an inability to recognize ourselves in one another; to understand that we are our brother’s keeper; we are our sister’s keeper; that, in the words of Dr. King, we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny.
"We have an empathy deficit when we’re still sending our children down corridors of shame – schools in the forgotten corners of America where the color of your skin still affects the content of your education.
We have a deficit when CEOs are making more in ten minutes than some workers make in ten months; when families lose their homes so that lenders make a profit; when mothers can’t afford a doctor when their children get sick.
"We have a deficit in this country when there is Scooter Libby justice for some and Jena justice for others; when our children see nooses hanging from a schoolyard tree today, in the present, in the twenty-first century.
WHITE HOUSE: Gay rights marchers? Where? “He knows this march is happening, and he can’t even acknowledge it?” Hey, that’s the same way he treated the 9/12 Tea Party protesters . . . .
UPDATE: White House official calls gays part of “Internet left fringe.”
I'm not sure how much more transformative hope and change America can take:
Until today I thought that the obstacle to Obama’s delivering on his promises of equality for the lesbian and gay community was the strength of his allegiance to groups on the Left that hate gays: black preachers and their church members, illegal immigrants and Muslims.
Now I think that’s just a part of it. That’s because today I realized that the real reason Obama does not support any of the initiatives for homosexual equality must be that homosexual equality will not contribute to the destruction of the U.S. as a capitalist democratic republic. If it did, rest assured Obama would defy his gay-hating constituencies.
With so much healing rhetoric in the air, can another another Summer of Love be far behind?
Only 14% of African-Americans now feel society is fair and decent. That number has dropped 41 points from 55% a month after Obama took office. Sixty-six percent (66%) of black voters think society is unfair and discriminatory, up 26 points since early February.
The majority of white voters (65%) say society is fair and decent. Seventy-two percent (72%) of all other voters agree.
The more Obama talks about ending divisiveness and disunity, the more dissatisfied and angry people become. At some point the White House might want to consider the possibility that they're doing this whole 'change' thing wrong.
October 09, 2009
Help Obama Win the Heisman!
Genius. Sheer genius:
I just went to this link and, in the "Type your nominee here!" field, entered "Barack Obama." The winner of this Nissan-sponsored promotion will actually receive one official vote for the Heisman award as sort of the people's choice.
You can actually go back and vote once each day between now and the Heisman award in December.
Vote early. And vote often.
Other nominations welcome in the comments section.
As Obama was driving to pick up his Nobel Peace Prize, he accidentally won the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Foul Mouthed, Petulant Children
It's bad enough when the media abandon the pretense of professionalism. When the White House follows suit, you have to wonder if everyone in this country has taken leave of their senses?
What a morning at Morning Joe! First, a "senior White House official" sent an email calling Joe Scarborough an "a-----e" for mocking Pres. Obama's Nobel Peace Prize. A bit later, responding to Rush Limbaugh's depiction of Scarborough as a "neutered, chickified moderate," Scarborough repeatedly claimed that Pres. George W. Bush had Rush's "testicles in a blind trust."
...NBC's Savannah Guthrie, on the set, announced that she had received an email from "a senior White House official" telling Joe to "stop being an a------e" [spelled out in the original, according to Savannah]. Mika Brzezinski tried to soft-pedal the insult, claiming the White House was "joking." Real side-splitter! Is this the new standard of civility from Dems so offended by "you lie"?
No Peace Prize is likely to be awarded to Scarborough or Rush Limbaugh anytime soon. War has broken out between the two. Scarborough initiated hostilities by criticizing Rush for reveling in PBO's Olympic failure. Rush returned fire yesterday, calling Scarborough a "neutered, chickified moderate." This morning, Scarborough repeatedly claimed that W had Rush's "testicles in a blind trust" for eight years.
Unbelievable. Don't get me wrong - I've been known to utter the odd profanity or two in private but I don't do it in a work setting.
Adults ought to be able to express an idea without resorting to schoolyard taunts. It speaks volumes about the decline of even elementary self control that these so-called professionals can't seem to restrain their worst instincts in public.
Way to control the terms of the debate, folks. When political discourse becomes a race to see who can hit bottom first, perhaps it's time to ask whether the fleeting satisfaction of calling your opponent a mean spirited poopy head is worth the resulting decline in the national IQ?
Nobel Committee Gives Obama an "A" for Trying Really, Really Hard
I've heard of grading on a curve, but this is just surreal:
Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.
...For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman...
Too bad there isn't a Nobel Prize for unintentional irony. Have these folks stopped to contemplate what values and attitudes are shared by a majority of the world's population lately?
Hint to the clueless: the darker the country, the less free and democratic the government. Obama's actual achievements over the last year could aptly be summed up as a lot of lofty talk about visions followed by backing down on those visions and walking away with nothing.
I'm reminded of an old song:
Daddy didn't like trouble, but if it came along
Everyone that knew him knew which side that he'd be on
He never was a hero, or this county's shinin' light
But you could always find him standing up
For what he thought was right
He'd say you've got to stand for something
or you'll fall for anything
You've got to be your own man not a puppet on a string
Never compromise what's right and uphold your family name
You've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything
Obama's big on talking about what's right. It's the "standing up for it" part that seems to elude him. On the other hand if we're awarding prizes for not being George Bush, I guess Obama deserves a big A+.
Obama's muscular non-confrontationalism puts him right up there with the United Nations, who have raised non-binding consensus to an art form. They deserve each other.
October 08, 2009
Best Advice Ever
And from a man, no less!
The worst reason to move in with your main squeeze is to test out whether or not they are marriage material. There are no guarantees when it comes to that institution, no beta-test, no half-measures. I’ve actually said, “We’re going to see if we’re compatible!” What a superficial thing to say. If I love a woman and am compelled to give her access to my rotten DNA, compatibility is moot. I love her totally, and flaws are part of that equation.
Marriage is another word for “trust.” Maybe “trust, plus.” It is two people full of doubts, shortcomings, and love holding hands and jumping together. It’s a risk, fraught with the potential to fail, and that makes it beautiful. Three-legged races, where two people hop, stumble, get back up, and maybe hit a stride until they fall again. It’s funny, frustrating, and the wedding ring is a symbol for the rope tying two legs together. I’ve written a lot recently about my folks: They weren’t perfect. They fought, bickered, and had some tough years. But I admire their marriage and don’t really feel the need to top it. I should have known better than to have doomed two relationships to failure by writing a check my emotional maturity couldn’t cash.
Women want weddings too much, men not enough. Women embrace the intimacy; men fear the responsibility. Maybe if we switched those two, women would understand why men sometimes agree to moving in as a way to put off what they think is inevitable, and men would understand why a woman would settle for a major step closer to a cherished event in her life.
Men. When they're right, they're right.
October 07, 2009
Go Marine Team!
This is going to be a quickie because I've got to run.
Carrie and I are heading up the Marine Team for this year's Project Valour IT fundraiser and we're in the process of assembling the team.
If you're a blogger and would like to join the Marine team, please leave a comment or email me at cassandra.vc at gmail dot com and we'll add you to the blogroll and send you all the info you need!
We've got a good start on a really fun team - I'll be publishing the blogroll when I get back. Some of you may recall the 2006 fundraiser here at VC. We had a blast - lots of prime interservice snark was lobbed at the Army, Air Force and Navy. I have some great ideas for games and contests. We'll do our best to keep it light and fun but we need your help to make this a record breaking year for Valour IT.
So bring your wit, your energy, and above all the desire to say "thanks" and "America remembers" to a great group of young men and women who have been injured in the service of this great nation.
Let's make sure they know not all of America is at the Mall.
Update: Marine Team members so far:
If there are any mistakes or omissions, please let me know. It's probably my fault; I've been pretty overwhelmed lately.
Oh for Pete's Sake...
October 06, 2009
No wonder men breeze into work looking like freshly sprung daisies while women crawl in on their knees.
Oh Right... Like You've Never Done This....
The affidavit stated Purcell told police, “I started my husband's pants on fire” because she was mad.
She had apparently dumped his pants in a bathtub and set them on fire.
Police pressed her on why she set fire to the pants, and according to the affidavit, she replied, “He's always right, and I wanted him to be wrong this time.”
You should see the bruise on my instep! It's huge!
Who Really Benefits From Lying About McChrystal's Speech?
For the past few days, the media and the Left have been peddling a deeply divisive and dishonest account of Stanley McChrystal's speech and Q&A session at IIIS in the United Kingdom. The current meme du jour is that McChrystal has been "smacked down" by Robert Gates. If this is so (and I doubt it is) it would be exceedingly bizarre. For what was McChrystal supposedly rebuked - agreeing with Obama and Gates in every particular?
Let's compare what Gates just said with what McChrystal is reported to have said:
GATES: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates appeared to subtly rebuke America’s top commander in Afghanistan on Monday for publicly speaking out against calls for scaling back the war effort there.
So: did McChrystal "publicly speak out against scaling back the war effort?" Inconveniently for the Left's insubordination narrative, no:
MCCHRYSTAL: A reporter from the Guardian then asked point blank what McChrystal thought would be the consequences if his request for more troops were denied. Given that his report to the SecDef was common knowledge, it’s hard to imagine him dodging the question–that would have seemed highly disingenuous. Yet McChrystal starts off by saying that any decision would be based “not just on resources but also on what are our goals” and that the key was aligning the two — pretty unexceptionable. Then, without elaborating further, he turned to the next question.
Again, by indirectly quoting Gates, the media imply that McChrystal spoke out against Obama:
GATES: “I believe the decisions that the president will make for the next stage of the Afghanistan campaign will be among the most important of his presidency, so it is important that we take our time to do all we can to get this right,” Mr. Gates said at a gathering here.
So, did McChrystal say the debate was taking too long? Again, no:
MCCHRYSTAL: Two subsequent questions pressed him on the matter of time. McChrystal agreed that time was important and that other parties (to include the bad guys) were making decisions already. But he repeated that a thorough strategic policy review was also important, and well worth the time it was taking.
But didn't Gates say advice should be both candid and private? Yes, he did:
GATES: .... in this process,” Mr. Gates went on, “it is imperative that all of us taking part in these deliberations — civilians and military alike — provide our best advice to the president candidly but privately.”
Apparently McChrystal shares this view:
MCCHRYSTAL: In response to a FOX News question about what had been discussed in the previous day’s VTC conference [with the President], McChrystal naturally declined to say...
Sounds to me as though his advice to the President was given in private and that the confidentiality of their conference was protected by McChrystal. So where is all this candor coming from?
MCCHRYSTAL: In response to another question, McChrystal said that in no way had he been pressured not to offer an appraisal his superiors didn’t want to hear, and that not only had his superiors encouraged him to be as blunt as he could be, “they have demanded that.”
... To a particularly tendentious question that was in effect an invitation to criticize the Obama administration, McChrystal replied, “I won’t even touch that.”
But what about the swirling reports of insubordination? Here's Gates vs. McChrystal on the duty to execute whatever strategy is laid down by the President:
GATES: “And speaking for the Department of Defense,” Mr. Gates said, “once the commander in chief makes his decisions, we will salute and execute those decisions faithfully and to the best of our ability.”
MCCHRYSTAL: ...[he] did say that “the process of going through a very detailed policy-level debate is incredibly important and incredibly healthy,” that “the President led that [the meeting] very effectively,” and that would lead to “a clear decision so that we can move forward” and that “once he [the President] makes that decision in consultation with our allies then we will be in a much stronger position.”
In reply to a question that began as a criticism of McChrystal’s “political masters,” McChrystal replied, “I’m certainly not going to circumvent any political leadership . . . because at the end of the day they’re who I work for, and I’m proud to do that.” He then reiterated his belief that the healthier the strategic debate, the better the outcome would be, adding that whatever outcome comes out, “we’ll execute as best we can.”
Seems to me they just said the same thing. Does any of this sound even remotely like insubordination to you? Judge for yourself: you can watch the entire Q&A here. It's quite clear that several questioners are trying to get the General to criticize his civilian leadership.
And it's quite clear he not only repeatedly refused to do so, but repeatedly expressed confidence in, submission to, and satisfaction with the civilian chain of command.
As with the leak of McChrystal's report, observers would do well to exhibit a bit more skepticism and ask a few more questions, chief among them being "Who benefits from these leaks and ugly insinuations?" Clearly it's not McChrystal: the media are calling for his head on a platter. He's being treated every bit as badly as David Petraeus was during the Surge, but for the opposite reason: where Petraeus was called a coward and traitor for not speaking truthiness to the American people, McChrystal is being told he has no business speaking truth in public. The real irony here is that neither man did what he was accused of but the Left attacked these men anyway for failing to support their preferred narrative.
Any source who chooses to spread paranoid, unsubstantiated, third hand rumors about what McChrystal or Obama are rumored to have said when transcripts of the General's speech and Q&A session are easily available should be dismissed out of hand. As Bruce McQuain so ably points out, there is zero factual basis for their frankly overwrought accusations of insubordination:
Not once is Obama identified by name as being “furious” with McChrystal. As for the “insubordination” charge, I have no idea where they get the idea that dismissing a strategy as one he wouldn’t favor is insubordination. Especially since no one in his chain of command (no, the VP isn’t in the chain of command) has recommended it
...not one of these people seems to say anything that supports the headline or the contention in the sub-head. The Telegraph even goes to the extent of trying to make the 25 minute meeting with the president into something that was “awkward”, without anything to support that contention...
Anyone can cut and paste quotes bereft of context. I've provided links to the entire speech and the Q&A so you can judge for yourself. Unlike the Left, I don't expect you to believe me. I've provided the source material so you can read it and make up your own minds.
The facts are out there. So why aren't the antiwar Left and the media reporting what actually happened? There's a simple answer to that question: cui bono?
October 05, 2009
Must Read Post of the Day
I agree with every single word:
... it is remarkable when not simply current U.S. military leaders but former and allied commanders are all on the same page. This simply highlights the untenable spot which the president would find himself in should he reject the advice of the military experts he appointed and whose opinions are so widely shared. On Face the Nation, Rep. Ike Skelton, one of the few lawmakers who might properly be seen as a ”Scoop Jackson Democrat,” had this to say today:
The war really didn’t start until March of this year when the president came forth with a strategy and frankly an excellent strategy. He chose General McChrystal who is the best in the business for this type of conflict. He asked General McChrystal for an assessment. And he got that assessment. Of course that became known — it was public. And in essence, he’s going to be asking for additional resources. . . I sent a letter to the president a number of days ago spelling out in great detail some six pages of a letter, spelling out basically, give the general what he needs. You see you have to have security in Afghanistan. You have to have governance in Afghanistan. If you don’t have both of them, your whole strategy falls apart. [Emphasis mine.]
Skelton is right to point out that what is at stake here is Obama’s own strategy and commitment to prevailing (Obama prefers to shy away from “victory’) in Afghanistan. The president is searching, almost desperately it seems, for an alternative approach to the only one which military experts across the board say is needed. And should he reverse himself by concocting some patchwork counter-terrorism gambit that is a pale imitation of what we have already tried in both Afghanistan and Iraq, it will only been seen as a retreat, a capitulation to the Left of his own party.
Unfortunately, there are indications that this is exactly the course Obama has chosen:
According to sources close to the administration, Gen McChrystal shocked and angered presidential advisers with the bluntness of a speech given in London last week.
The next day he was summoned to an awkward 25-minute face-to-face meeting on board Air Force One on the tarmac in Copenhagen, where the president had arrived to tout Chicago's unsuccessful Olympic bid.
The LA Times, of course, can't wait to politicize the national security debate by... politicizing the national security debate:
It started in London last week, when Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who heads U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, told an audience at the Institute of International and Strategic Studies that he does not support a new military strategy being floated privately by Vice President Joe Biden.
The idea, under review at the White House, is to withdraw troops from Afghanistan towns and refocus them on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where Al Qaeda forces are headquartered. The alternative strategy also envisions using more drone missile strikes and special forces ops against the terrorist network.
During his remarks in London, McChrystal predicted that such a plan was "short-sighted," that it would produce "Chaos-istan" and that he would not support it.
...in a series of Sunday talk show appearances, Jones, a retired Marine general and former Allied commander in Europe, carried the administration's message that the military -- perhaps conditioned by the Bush administration to expect its opinions to reign -- had better respect civilian command.
"Ideally, it's better for military advice to come up through the chain of command," Jones told CNN. "I think that Gen. McChrystal and the others in the chain of command will present the president with not just one option, which does, in fact, tend to have a ... enforcing function, but a range of options that the president can consider."
I think in military lingo they call that a dressing down.
Ooooh... snap! What the LA Times didn't think the public had a right to know is what McChrystal actually said during the speech in question. Inexplicably, those who actually bothered to review McChrystal's remarks came away with quite a different impression of what he said:
The New York Times piece doesn’t do McChrystal’s performance justice. McChrystal reiterated his position that Afghan population security is necessary for a strategy to defeat al-Qaeda, but not at all in the thumbing-his-nose-at-Joe-Biden way that the Times portrays.
Instead, as I’ve been writing, McChrystal loudly and clearly defended Obama’s strategy review. Like a lot. When questioners asked if Obama needed to make a decision on Afghanistan strategy nownownow, McChrystal replied with statements like, “Sir, I don’t think we have the luxury of going so fast we make the wrong decision.” While the Times quoted McChrystal saying, about his resource request, “I think if you don’t align the goals and the resources, you will have a significant problem. If we don’t do that, we will,” it left off the preceding part of his answer:
I think any decision to go forward will not just be based on resources, it will be based on what are our goals. And I know people are re-looking what our goals and objectives are and redefining and clarifying those, and I think that’s helpful. Once they do that, I think the resources, of course, are linked to that, because obviously you have to have a ways and means match. So, I don’t think that if we align our goals and our resources, we will have a significant problem. Our problem would be as — if we didn’t.
Still not convinced? Want another quote? OK: “This is a necessary process we go through so we come to a clear decision, and then move forward, and I think once we make that decision — once he makes that decision, in concert with our international partners — then I think we’ll be in a much stronger position.”
Or how about this? When asked if he would “circumvent” some caveats placed by European parliaments on the use of their troops, he said, “I’m certainly not going to circumvent any political leadership, because at the end of the day, political leadership and the people are who I work for, and I’m proud to do that. I think the more deliberations we have, the more debate we have, the healthier this is gonna be. Because at the end of the day, we would be in much worse shape to have a decision made without that level of public debate.”
Guess that didn't fit the Left's "insubordination and military revolt" narrative. Oddly, the truth rarely does.
Full marks to those on the Left who are willing to look at a difficult issue honestly. Too bad that attitude is all too rare... but then if your prior opinions about the value of outspokenness from military commanders prove inconvenient, they can always be revised when your guy gets into office.
So much for lying, traitorous Generals and their "failed and discredited policies"! History can be inconvenient at times, no es verdad? In 2007 General Petraeus was accused by the Left of partisan hackery for supporting and executing the strategy set by civilian leadership when his duty was to speak out against it.
In 2009, General McChrystal is reprimanded by the same folks for supposedly speaking out against the strategy set by civilian leadership (even though the record clearly shows that's not what he did). Odd, how the duties of the military seem to shift depending upon who's in office. The only consistency seems to be the willingness of too many on the Left to criticize the military for not falling in with their political views.
Which begs the question: who's politicizing national security?
October 04, 2009
Quote of the Day
Via This Ain't Hell:
"We started in 2001 to try and reign in Fannie and Freddie. We spent four years doing it. We got a bill through the Senate Finance Committee on a party line vote to reign in Fannie and Freddie in 2005 and one of the first things Barack Obama did when he came in to the United States senate was, because he was the third largest recipient of Fannie and Freddie money he joined a filibuster of every democrat led by Senator Chris Dodd to block that measure from being brought to the floor of the United States Senate. Three years later in September 2008 President Obama, then candidate Obama, voted for the same bill he could have voted for three years ago after Fannie and Freddie collapsed. So don't tell me that we didn't try to do something during the Bush years to reign in the housing problem. We were the people who said let us subject Fannie and Freddie to the same kind of scrutiny that we subject banks, savings and loans and credit unions and it was candidate Obama who refused to join that effort, that would have kept this from being an accelerant to a worldwide financial crisis."
I want to begin by saying that I am glad to consider the legislation, but I do not think we are facing any kind of a crisis. That is, in my view, the two government sponsored enterprises we are talking about here, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are not in a crisis. We have recently had an accounting problem with Freddie Mac that has led to people being dismissed, as appears to be appropriate. I do not think at this point there is a problem with a threat to the Treasury.
I must say we have an interesting example of self-fulfilling prophecy. Some of the critics of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac say that the problem is that the Federal Government is obligated to bail out people who might lose money in connection with them. I do not believe that we have any such obligation. And as I said, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy by some people.
So let me make it clear, I am a strong supporter of the role that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac play in housing, but nobody who invests in them should come looking to me for a nickel--nor anybody else in the Federal Government. And if investors take some comfort and want to lend them a little money and less interest rates, because they like this set of affiliations, good, because housing will benefit. But there is no guarantee, there is no explicit guarantee, there is no implicit guarantee, there is no wink-and-nod guarantee. Invest, and you are on your own.
...The more people, in my judgment, exaggerate a threat of safety and soundness, the more people conjure up the possibility of serious financial losses to the Treasury, which I do not see. I think we see entities that are fundamentally sound financially and withstand some of the disastrous scenarios. And even if there were a problem, the Federal Government doesn't bail them out. But the more pressure there is there, then the less I think we see in terms of affordable housing.
Contrast this with what we heard from the Democrats in 2008 and 2009. Incroyable.
Bwa ha ha ha!!!!
I'd seen this before, but it's still funny. And true:
Should Women Withhold Sex?
Miss Attila thinks Stacy got a few things right and a few things wrong on the question of withholding sex to get a guy to commit. I think she's right. Though I realize Stacy is partly kidding here, this passage is a prime example of what I don't like about the way men view women:
...if it is a husband that a woman is seeking, rather than just another in an endless series of going-nowhere "relationships," her negotiating posture in the marriage market is greatly enhanced if she avoids giving up the nookie -- humping, screwing, fornicating, making the beast with two backs, call it what you will -- until she can entrap her prey and drag him to the altar.
... Making the decision to keep your britches on henceforth does not require you to make a moral judgment about your sexual past. Even if you spent your teenage years slutting around like Meghan McCain after four margaritas, this doesn't necessarily make you a bad person -- unless you start writing ill-informed RINO political commentary for Tina Brown's Daily Beast, in which case, you're a total whore with pustulent chancres.
If there's one thing that has continued to bother me over the years about our "Sex and Relationships" conversations, it is the depressingly cynical double standard so many men employ with regard to the women in their lives. It seems to go something like this:
Men are programmed by Mother Nature to sleep with any woman willing to spread her legs. Giving in to their instincts, however, does not make men total sluts or whores the way it would if we were discussing... oh gosh, I don't know: women who give in to their instincts.
On the contrary, promiscuous sex makes men studly and admirable. So much so, in fact, that men love to brag about their willingness to use and discard women. They flaunt their 'conquests' while reviling the women they are having sex with for being dumb enough to "give it up". Don't like it? Hey - get over it babe - men are "wired that way". And anyway, you asked for it. Don't expect so much from us and you won't be disappointed, dummy!
Without a doubt, Stacy has hit on a few great home truths here. But I also think he is - unsurprisingly perhaps, since he is a man - looking at things only from the male perspective. Since most heterosexual relationships involve both a man and a woman, he's missing about half of the picture.
Men prize sex - and sexual access to women - greatly. But sex has different consequences for men and women. One of the things few women understand is that - regardless of whether their behavior lives up to their ideals - most men take commitment VERY seriously. That's why so many men run from commitment; not because they don't understand it, but because they understand commitment and responsibility all too well. Before taking on a lifelong commitment, a man usually needs to be at a point in his life where this makes sense to him; where he is prepared to fulfill his responsibilities. Most men weigh marriage very carefully because when a man finally does settle down, he feels obligated. Many men will work themselves nearly to death to provide for their families. They take great pride in their role as providers and protectors. And precisely because most men DO recognize that they are morally on the hook to provide for their offspring (even if they fail to live up to this responsibility), men prize something else: exclusivity.
Men, simply put, want to be able to trust that a woman they have sex with has eyes only for him, even if he isn't willing to reciprocate by 'forsaking all others', as it were. He wants to know that she will grant her favors to him and him alone. Consequently if she is too quick to give in to his attempts to seduce her, he wonders whether she would give in just as easily to some other Lothario? Her value lessens in his eyes. Who wants to commit to a lifetime of supporting a woman who may be sleeping around behind your back - who may commit you to support children you didn't even have the pleasure of fathering?
I also think, and here I'm counting the seconds here until the Mother of All Oxymoronic Arguments rears its ugly head, that men get their feelings hurt just like women do. Not just their pride, but their feelings. I don't believe men who argue that men are wonderful and moral beings... and simultaneously cynical users only care about sex.
Men and women are very different. Women definitely go into relationship mode far earlier than men do. But sex makes both men and women emotionally vulnerable, albeit to different degrees. A man is never so malleable, loving or tender as he is in a good sexual relationship. I think this is part of where the ugly talk of sluts and whores comes from. I also think it's the reason for male complaints of manipulative female behavior: on some level, men recognize that sex has great power over them and some resent that. The fact is that for men, sex can create some pretty strong emotions. It can also engender a very primal (and not irrational) fear of betrayal.
I'm not going to get into a recitation of my premarital sexual history. That's really none of anyone's business. Anyone who has read VC for any time at all knows that I married young. But I also began dating very early, so even though I was taken off the market (so to speak) early, I had a good 6-7 years of dating experience under my belt before I walked down the aisle.
During my dating years I never "dated around". With the exception of half of 9th grade (what I used to laughingly call "the dry spell"), I was usually in a long standing committed relationship. Moreover, I never had any trouble "trapping" my boyfriends into a long term commitment. I didn't even try.
On the contrary: they were the ones doing the chasing, who literally insisted on the commitment.
I think there were several reasons my boyfriends were always willing to commit to me and it had nothing to do with using sex as a bargaining tool. Both through my own experience and through talking to endless female friends over the years, I've noticed a few patterns in women who are successful in getting what they want with men.
1. They are selective. If a woman is attracted by men who have no character, she is not going to end up in a good relationship. Physical attraction is important but a man's other qualities: the ability to delay immediate gratification, responsibility, integrity, intelligence, wit, and - surprise! - kindness and sensitivity are the mark of a good man.
I never trusted smooth talkers or men who flirted too much. A little flirting is all right, but if he comes on too strong his attraction to you is likely to be superficial.
2. They take things slowly, realizing that men and women have different relationship timetables. I think this is probably the biggest mistake women make with men.
There's a pattern that plays out in male-female relationships all the time. A guy notices a woman. He employs the full court press: frequent phone calls, flowers, romantic dates, anything to make himself stand out from the crowd. And the first few dates go well. She is comfortable with him. The relationship is easy and she's on cloud nine. He seems eager to see her again.
And it's here that women frequently screw up. She is thinking, "He's the one! It's love!"
And he's thinking, "Hey, this is kind of pleasant. I could see things continuing just like this..." Except they don't a lot of the time. As time goes on, two things happen:
1. Having won her acceptance, he stops trying quite so hard. The full court press becomes a half court press. He's still interested, but he's not standing on his head trying to win her anymore because he's no longer afraid of losing her.
2. Her behavior changes, too. In the back of her mind they're now in a relationship, and relationships come with expectations. For a woman, this happens far sooner than it does with a man. As I said earlier, I knew whether I was serious about a guy by the second date. Men, on the other hand, can take a whole year to get to the point where they begin to think of that little white picket fence.
BIG difference. I think that how the woman behaves at this point makes all the difference in the world in whether the man goes on to decide he wants a committed relationship. Because at this point, a lot of women go on to do something very dumb and it has nothing to do with sex.
Little by little, they begin to give up their independence. They stop going out with their girlfriends and start waiting by the phone for Mr. Right to call them. And if he doesn't call promptly, they resent having given up the usual fun activities they would have engaged in before he came along. They get irritated or emotional, and the weight of all that expectation and disappointment makes the guy feel trapped. Suddenly things aren't light and fun anymore. Instead of positive reinforcement, he encounters poorly hidden hurt and resentment. This is where I think Stacy got it right at the beginning of his post when he asked:
Question: Why do people treat you badly? Answer: Because you let them.
Bingo. When I was younger I used to say, "If you lie down and act like a doormat, don't be surprised if people wipe their feet all over you." And women do this all the time. We engage in placating behavior: "If I do X for him, he'll like me." This comes from a good place. We are hard wired by nature to care for small children; to be unselfish and giving and unguardedly affectionate. But the thing is, men aren't children.
The woman he was attracted to in the first place was fun and light hearted and above all, someone he couldn't take for granted. Here's another place where Stacy is partly right: if - this early in the relationship - you've already had sex with him, he will tend to take you for granted. Notice I said, "tend".
Women walk a very delicate tightrope here between being able to convince a man they will be true to him and being taken for granted. I don't think having sex with a guy will cause him to avoid commitments. I know far too many men who have married women they were already having sex with to believe that. Sex isn't the driver here - it's an important part of the package, but not the whole package.
I think what makes men willing to commit to a woman - regardless of whether they're having sex with her or not - is that they see her as someone who has her own interests and her own life and moreover, who will make his life better, more fun and more meaningful if he can convince her to commit to him. If she gives up her friends, her hobbies and outside interests and expects him to fulfill her every desire, he's going to see commitment as a prison rather than as something that will enrich his life. Sex complicates the equation because women bond earlier and being in a sexual relationship can cause women to cling too tightly or give in to a man's naturally dominating personality.
I think what most women don't realize is that while men need to be respected and admired, they don't really want you to give in to them totally. One thing we can never delegate in life is responsibility for our own happiness. Often, women in relationships do exactly this: everything starts to revolve around the man and that puts way too much pressure on a new relationship. Men don't react well to pressure and do many things themselves that aren't helpful.
But I reject the notion that women should use sex as a bargaining tool. What makes more sense to me is that neither men nor women should jump into sexual relationships unless they can handle the emotional fallout. If having sex with a man you care for causes you to lose control of your life or your emotions, you're treating sex too casually.
Discuss amongst yourselves.
UPDATE: Bride of Rove (OMG - love the name!) makes a great point here:
If you are a 31-yo woman recently dumped by a long time live in here’s some actual advice from a woman who has seen this many times. Don’t kill yourself look for that next guy. Take up water skiing or sky diving or archaeology or something – anything – you’ve been denying yourself because of that last asshole you were dating. If you are out doing things you love you will run into guys who love the things you are doing and if one happens to be ready for marriage? Well – there you are. It’s not you. Unless you are a skanky whiner bitch who is miserable for the sake of being miserable – it’s not you. It’s probably not even him. Move on. Let him go. Life is waiting for you – go live it.
I will never forget the first time the Spousal Unit and I had The Relationship Talk. We were only 18 and had been dating only a few months, but I think we both realized we had something both of us thought was special. The Talk took place on a lovely summer's day on the Golf Course at NOB, Norfolk. We sat under a tree and the soon to be love of my life stunned me senseless with the following:
"Yes, I feel the same way about you, but I have plans for the next 4 years. And after that I don't want to marry until my service commitment is over. So that will mean ... let's see... 4 more years. And I want to be able to give you a good home and medical insurance [Ed. note, I had asthma as a teen]. So... hmmm... 9 years."
I clearly recall being quite shocked that my undeniable physical and emotional charms were insufficient to blind my SO to mundane details like making sure we had enough to live on. I also clearly recall thinking, "Damn. I love this guy, but he's smoking crack if he thinks I'll wait 9 years until everything is 'just so'. That's nuts."
Inside, I was a whirl of emotions. I often find myself responding that way to him. What I said, was something like:
"Well, I understand your plans but I really can't see dating exclusively for 9 years without a clear commitment from you. Too much could happen in the mean time. I love you, but if that's the way you feel I am going to date other people. If it's meant to be, it will be but I'm not putting myself on the shelf for 9 years."
And I did. I went to school and dated other people. But I loved my future husband and never found anyone to rival him in my affections. This went on for another year and a half. I am often mystified by military wives who completely fall apart when their husbands deploy. It's not that I don't feel all the same feelings they do. I haven't slept well since my husband left and neither has he.
But we come into this life alone and we leave it alone. To me, a successful marriage is not so much a merging of two persons, but a partnership. As such, it requires two people who can be self sufficient. FWIW, we also discussed living together (it *was* the 70s folks). I never seriously considered that, though.
If I'd moved in with him, I would have expected a proposal and if he didn't propose, I would have resented that. Sometimes you need to know what you want from a relationship. If the other person isn't willing to give it to you, he's not right for you.
October 02, 2009
Do Me a Favor, People
If you are the parent of a Cub Scout, Brownie, Girl or Boy Scout, please do not send your clueless offspring to my door with his/her hair uncombed, shirt not tucked in... and to really fry the Blog Princess's Maternal Bacon, bereft of the slightest clue what the troop is selling, how much it costs, who to make the check out to, or when payment is due for the order.
The princess is arguably the easiest touch on the planet but even she gets her Hanes Silky UltraSheers in a wad when faced with a monosyllabic, zoned out urchin who appears to be blinking T O R T U R E with his or her eyelids as she struggles to read the tiny print on the (*&%$ order form on her way out the door to some place that urgently requires her presence.
She really wants to buy that oversized tub of cheese popcorn that will sit uneaten in her pantry along with the caramel corn she bought this time last year from some other speech impaired midget.
And if she has to walk up to the street and drag you out of your car so you can perform the parental functions so beloved by generations of Moms and Dads from time immemorial to get it through your thick head that this is all part of the Great Circle of Life, she will.
If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well. Do your job.
Consider this a teaching moment.
To the Left, Everything is Bush's Fault
No doubt the President was sincere, but it's been quite a while since America has been "at its best," thanks to the Bush Administration. Why would anyone believe that the United States will indeed "make sure that all visitors would feel welcome," given our track record over the past eight years with regard to burdens placed on anyone who seeks a visa, the possibility of inquisitions (and being turned back) even upon arrival, vulnerability to "terrorist lists" that have a proven degree of unreliability, etc.? This is really a stunning rebuke of the United States, given the willingness of both Obamas to put themselves on the line. He's going to have to generate far more "change everyone can believe in" before the US will be chosen as a venue for an event like the Olympics (and properly so). And how confident can we be that he will be willing to take on the Glenn Becks, Rush Limbaughs, and other Republican demagogues (many of them in the House and the Senate) to reduce the burdens placed on foreign visitors?
The notion that the international community will suddenly jettison their natural interests if we just sweet talk them enough is a profoundly silly one. The ugly truth Obama seems only now to be discovering is that a great many nations' interests conflict with ours. Moreover, despite his frankly ludicrous assertions that "we need not compromise between our security and our ideals", Obama is rapidly finding that the view from the driver's seat is very different than the one from the peanut gallery. Even for Obama, compromises between the perfect and the good cannot be avoided indefinitely:
George W. Bush did not brush aside international law as casually as his critics claimed, and President Barack Obama's approach is likely to be surprisingly similar. The United States -- under the leadership of both the Republican and Democratic parties -- has taken a fairly consistent approach to international law over the decades, one that involves building legal regimes that serve U.S. interests and tearing down those that do not.
The bill of particulars against Bush seems long. He withdrew the Unites States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty with Russia; "unsigned" the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court (ICC); invaded Iraq in violation of the U.N. Charter; authorized war-on-terror tactics in tension with human rights treaties and the Geneva Conventions; dragged his feet on a climate treaty; imposed a tariff on steel in violation of international trade law; stood by while a genocide took place in Sudan; and refused to sign a host of new and old treaties aimed at promoting human rights and limiting violence in war.
But there is less here than meets the eye. Bush acted within the law by withdrawing from the ABM treaty (which permitted withdrawal upon six months notice, a requirement he observed), and he had no obligation to maintain the U.S. signature on the Rome Statute (which lacked support from both political parties in the United States). Nonetheless, Bush provided valuable support to the ICC by agreeing to allow it to investigate crimes in Sudan. The invasion of Iraq did violate the U.N. Charter, but it also removed one of the world's worst international lawbreakers and vindicated the U.N. sanctions regime that Iraq had disregarded.
There was little political support for a climate treaty until the end of the Bush administration. When that support finally materialized, Bush signaled that he would go forward with such a treaty. In similar ways, Bush's war-on-terror tactics moderated over time, as the threat diminished. Bush had no obligation to intervene in Sudan -- indeed, an intervention without Security Council authorization, which would certainly have been blocked by China, would have been unlawful. Nor did he have an obligation to sign other human rights and law-of-war treaties that he disapproved of.
During his presidential campaign, Obama expressed support for the International Criminal Court and humanitarian intervention. In office, he has done nothing for the ICC and has stood by while the killing continues in Sudan. He has promised to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay; the problem, however, was not that the facility itself violated international law but that the detention methods practiced there (arguably) did so. These very same detention practices have continued in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Obama has sought to give immunity to Bush-era interrogators -- another possible violation of international law, and certainly in tension with it. Bush's unlawful tariffs on steel are matched by the "buy American" provision in the stimulus bill signed by Obama and the tariffs that he has slapped on Chinese tires. Obama has provided some symbolic support for international law in a few ways, but where it counts -- obtaining Senate ratification of the Law of the Sea treaty (which Bush also supported) and numerous international human rights treaties -- he has expended no political capital. Don't expect this to change.
Obama's ever-evolving individual consensus on a whole plethora of issues can't help but remind us of a particularly insightful remark made many moons ago by Nan Pelosi:
"There is no one Democratic voice . . . and there is no one Democratic position," Pelosi said in an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors.
You can get away with that nonsense when you're an ineffectual minority party but when you're in charge, people expect you to get out front and lead. Obama's problem is that he's only willing to take a stand on relatively trivial matters.
The vicissitudes of pragmatic, responsible leadership appear to have made Barack Obama reality's bitch. When it really counts, the Obama millions of Americans voted for is nowhere to be found.
Losing Confidence in Obama
Priceless. Just priceless:
Helen Thomas is 89 years old and requires some assistance to get to and from the daily White House briefing. Yet her backbone has proved stronger than that of the president she covers.
On Thursday afternoon, Thomas gave a clinic in fortitude to President Obama's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, during the briefing. "Has the president given up on the public option?" she inquired from her front-row-middle seat.
The press secretary laughed at this repetition of a common Thomas inquiry, but this questioner, who has covered every president since Kennedy, wasn't about to be silenced. "I ask it day after day because it has great meaning in this country, and you never answer it," she said.
"Well, I -- I -- I apparently don't answer it to your satisfaction," Gibbs stammered.
"That's right," Thomas snarled.
"I -- I'll -- I'll give you the same answer that I gave you unsatisfactorily for many of those other days," Gibbs offered. "It's what the president believes in --"
"Is he going to fight for it or not?" Thomas snapped.
"We're going to work to get choice and competition into health-care reform" was Gibbs's vague response.
Thomas took that as a no. "You're not going to get it," she advised.
"Then why do you keep asking me?" Gibbs inquired.
"Because I want your conscience to bother you,"
Jennifer Rubin comments:
The latest Fox News/Opinion Dymanic poll is chock-full of bad news for the president. But on foreign policy, the results are nothing short of stunning. On who they trust more to decide the next steps in Afghanistan. 66 percent say military commanders, while only 20 percent say the president. Even Democrats have more faith in the military commanders (by a 45 to 37 percent margin). On Iran, 69 percent say Obama has not been tough enough, including 55 percent of Democrats. Sixty-one percent favor a U.S. military action, if needed, to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Fifty-one percent think Obama apologizes for American too much.
Less than a year into his presidency, this is a remarkable and widespread loss of confidence in the president’s handling of national security. This should actually come as no surprise. Neither his rhetoric or his decision-making to date has projected strength. He spent months arguing that we should close Guantanamo and dump the terrorists into the U.S. or into other countries. The voters disagreed. He dithers on Afghanistan, and the voters no longer see him as the best person to set our course. He sends video valentines to the mullahs, delighting in the notion that we can talk them out of their nukes, and waits for Russia and China to climb onto the Obama bandwagon (or Israel to do the dirty work for us). And Americans overwhelmingly see his performance as weak.
In short, Obama has already achieved what it took Jimmy Carter an entire term to attain: the conviction of a large majority of the American people that he is not protecting our interests or performing adequately as commander in chief. He can either stiffen his resolve to confront America’s foes or continue his decline.
2nd link via Warren Bonesteel
October 01, 2009
Stay Classy, Hollywood...
Really. Don't evah change.
Obama's Lookin' Out for You!
Well no wonder Obama hasn't gotten around to formulating a strategy for the war in Afghanistan. Far more urgent matters require his attention these days...
ABC News has learned that President Obama signed an executive order last night banning federal employees from text-messaging while on government business, driving government vehicles or using government equipment. The executive order also directs executive departments and agencies to encourage contractors and contractor employees to adopt and enforce policies to ban texting while driving on official government business.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will announce the executive order in his closing remarks later today wrapping up the two-day Distracted Driving Summit. "This order sends a very clear signal to the American public that distracted driving is dangerous and unacceptable," LaHood will say.
LaHood will also outline some wider concrete actions to combat what he called the "epidemic of distracted driving."
"To put it plainly, distracted driving is a menace to society," LaHood said at the opening of the summit yesterday.
We'll say. A finely honed sense of priorities is, we firmly believe, essential to successful and safe operation of a motor vehicle... or a large industrial superpower. The White House also announced a slew of other Presidential directives drafted with your safety and well being at heart:
1. Noting that too many Americans these days are sporting excess avoir dupoir, the IRS will now be requiring taxpayers to declare their consumption of trans fats on a new section of Form 1040. Exceeding the recommended levels of these unhealthy fats will result in a hefty "share the health" surcharge added to the marginal tax rates in each income bracket.
Because eating healthy can be expensive this surcharge will be tied to income rather than strict consumption guidelines; thus allowing the less affluent to increase their consumption of healthy foods like certified organic Tuscan Kale and Asian pears.
2. The Department of Education is expected to announce a groundbreaking national comprehensive policy on bicycle riding. "A decision this important cannot be rushed" remarked the President, who has convened a blue ribbon panel of experts to study the issue in depth. Because traffic hazards vary with local conditions, the DOE is expected to mandate the wearing of federally approved safety gear for juvenile bike riders.
3. When was the last time you flossed your teeth? Gum disease expenditures in the United States have risen faster than inflation, threatening the nation's economic recovery. Fixing this tremendous problem will require the cooperation of every American. We cannot afford to indulge in Danish cookies and pork rinds, passing the cost along to our fellow Americans in the form of higher dental insurance bills. We must all do our part, because we are all in this together.
4. Beginning the first quarter of 2010, President Obama urges Americans to limit their experimentation to approved, low risk sexual positions (such as the popular "missionary" or "doggie style"). Non-approved positions such as this are highly discouraged.
5. Are you tired of paying annoying late fees on your credit card bills because you didn't bother to read the cardholder agreement? Well that's about to become a thing of the past. No American should have to abide by the terms of a contract he or she voluntarily entered into. The White House knows you're too busy to concern yourself with annoying details like making sure you understand the fee schedules of banks with whom you do business. Simply "disclosing" these terms to you in writing and asking you to certify that you have read and agree to these terms is tantamount to predatory lending. Happily, the federal government is happy to intervene on your behalf to protect you from agreements you haven't read even though you said you did.
Yes, yes we can be a safer, healthier, happier America. Just remember: there's a federal solution for just about everything these days.
Because somewhere, someone is about to do something really, really stupid. And your President is here to make sure that if you do, we all pay.
Update: If this were not really happening, the Editorial Staff would be forced to make it up:
Yesterday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood kicked off the Distracted Driving Summit. Secretary LaHood challenged over 250 safety experts, industry representatives, elected officials, members of the public, and even mommy bloggers to help put an end to distracted driving.
And to think I was being sarcastic earlier.
Somewhere, a sparrow has fallen. It comforts me no end to know that our federal government will be there to pick up the pieces.