December 31, 2009
Happy New Year
December 26, 2009
Merry Christmas from Afghanistan
I am a huge fan of the C-Square blog. I go there everyday. They follow the Marine LAV community and I love the pictures they find to put up.
They put this video up after I did my daily drive-by and even though it's a day late, it's worth watching.
December 24, 2009
Carnival of Christmas
The egg nog is made, we just roasted a few dozen oysters over an open fire and we're thinking of friends and loved ones.
Over at Kat's place. One stop shopping for all your Yuletide merriment needs.
Merry Christmas, peoples!
December 23, 2009
Where there is no vision, the people perish:
but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
- Proverbs 29:18
On the top shelf of the armoire in my home office lie six boxes neatly stacked in two orderly rows. They are an attractive, soothing shade of green. The sides that face forward have neat labels as yet unblemished by my hasty half printed, half cursive scrawl. They are waiting for a day when I have the time to neatly label them in cursive; to form graceful, elegant letters that please the eye and hint at a more thoughtful, deliberate life than the one I really live.
Inside the boxes are pictures; hundreds of family photographs formerly squirreled away in hiding places all over the house. They were stashed in half squished, disreputable looking shoe boxes with missing lids, hidden in drawers, tucked inside of letters (who writes letters anymore?) sent and received decades ago. I even found a cache buried deep in the recesses of my husband's uniform closet: pictures of our sons as small boys. Pictures of a doe eyed, suntanned, mostly barefoot young woman I barely recognize. "Brown as a berry", my Dad used to say when I was little. The memory, like so many memories, makes me smile. A few photos were nestled into piles of old military orders and receipts. One or two were casually tossed into a box containing ribbons, medals, and cold weather gear.
In the three months since my husband left for Afghanistan I've been retrieving pictures from all over the house, sorting them, and placing them in neat, green boxes on a shelf in my office. There were a few surprises.
For one thing, I don't recall my offspring ever looking that neat. I'm not a particularly tidy person. My memories of those years include a vague but constant worry that I wasn't quite keeping up appearances. I can't recall being particularly angst ridden about it, but the feeling was never shoved too far back in my consciousness either.
But clearly the boys did look neat and clean - at least some of the time. In nearly every photograph their hair is freshly cut and combed, with a neat part on the side. That's not too surprising; I cut their hair myself every two weeks. It was easier to remember how to even out a cowlick or coax each boy's locks into subservience to my maternal will if I didn't allow their hair to grow too long or too uneven. But it wasn't just the hair. In each photo their outfits are carefully coordinated. Quite a few photos show them in coat and tie, a snazzy set of suspenders or, (when they were very small) those old fashioned rompers and a pair of leather, hard soled English sandals.
That's when it hit me: it's not that I was particularly neat or my children particularly well groomed or dressed. You can see the same thing looking back at photos of the '50s and '60s in any public place. The men are dressed in suits, the women all wear stockings. Many have gloves and hats. Change happened gradually, but over the years it became harder and harder to find little boys' suits, leather shoes, the well tailored clothes we saved for months in order to buy and proudly sported at restaurants, airports, even baseball games. No one, nowadays, bronzes their baby's first set of Nike sneakers. They are nothing like the white leather baby shoes that required so much polishing to keep them free of the dreaded black smudges that earned disapproving looks from old ladies.
And few people comb their childrens' hair anymore. It's such a bother. Instead of crisp cottons that require ironing and special handling to look snappy we have easy care polyester blends; outfits that don't require a belt. Elastic waistbands. T-shirts instead of the collared polos and button down Oxford cloth shirts I tortured my boys with Monday-Friday for school. I can't remember the last time I saw a child in khakis and an Oxford cloth shirt. Clothes today never stand out; never look particularly good but then again they never manage to look completely dreadful either.
It's a wash and wear world we live in. Care free. Free of that sense of aspiring to something better; of striving to improve, outpace, to meet or exceed the expectations of our parents, peers, co-workers. Free of competition; free of the desire (much less the pressure) to excel. Mostly free too, of the gnawing fear of failure; the ever present sense that prosperity is not a guaranteed sinecure but a precarious tightrope between the shame of being destitute and dependent and the pride of achievement and affluence.
For there is no shame in being needy anymore. We have destigmatized failure. When we make poor choices it's never our fault. We were just unlucky. Prosperity is something we take for granted in a way our parents and grandparents, who came of age in a time before Social Security, 401Ks, Medicare/Medicaid and unemployment insurance were never able to. How dare the bank repossess "our" houses simply because we cannot afford to pay the mortgage note? Why isn't someone doing something to allow us to keep what's rightfully ours?
Uncertainty - the fear that our carefully constructed worlds could so easily collapse; that we were on the ascending path but could fall just as swiftly as we had risen; that in an instant everything we had might be swept away - is, I think, what lay behind what I saw in those old photos. To keep uncertainty at bay we dressed up, put our best feet forward, struggled to be better than our natures dictated. We did these things to assuage the knowledge that nothing in life is guaranteed: not health, not wealth, not happiness. Without a safety net, constant effort was required to keep the human race on the upward path from savagery and want to civilization and affluence and with every instinct in our being we continually reaffirmed and celebrated the importance of being successful. Because the opposite of success was failure, and failure was shameful. It could also be disastrous.
Prosperity and abundance were things we didn't take for granted the way we do now. It was all a question of expectations. We wanted wealth and security but didn't expect these things. After all, success in those days was still an aspiration. A hope, not a birthright.
I can't help wondering if the growing disconnect between decision and consequence; our bloated sense of entitlement and inflated expectation is not behind many of the things I've been reading lately: Gerard's sense of diminishment.
Their essays reminded me of something I read long ago. An essay written by a dear friend about the danger of misplaced expectations:
Life's disappointments are as varied as the landscape- the juvenile creek of “They promised it would snow last night!” winds through the vain woods of “the Smiths didn’t send us a Christmas card” to join the great river of broken hearts on its way to the sea of ... um... metaphors. Irrespective of its personal magnitude, however, every disappointment exposes two basic human flaws; the first being the reliance on our own expectations (“I screwed up, I trusted you”), and the second being the inability to correctly anticipate the expectations of others (“You screwed up, you trusted me”). Note that in both cases the blame cast is bi-directional. (The corollary to this is the equally human phenomena of being pleased. Both require the surprise that comes from misplaced expectations.)
Little by little as we've grown more prosperous, more secure, our expectations have grown until what once would have been a minor setback now looks like an unmitigated disaster. We can't help viewing experience through the lens of our expectations. Looking back through those photos I see a rather pretty young woman: myself at 20, at 30, even at 40. But that perception, too, is a function of expectation for I can't recall ever feeling pretty at the time. I didn't ever feel ugly either. It's just that I wanted to be so much more, and so that face in the mirror - the one that now seems pretty to me - always fell short somehow.
Now, at 50, I look back with the knowledge that I have taken those first few steps along the downward path. It seems funny to me now, all those years of wishing, hoping, struggling to reach some far off goal. To improve myself. During the election I listened to Barack and Michelle Obama and I realized that there is a vast gulf between what they believe - their expectations - and mine. I grew up in a different America: one in which failure was always a possibility but in which there was also the promise of abundance beyond my wildest dreams. In many ways that is the world we live in now. Our homes, cars, electronic devices are newer, faster, cheaper, and more fully functional than anything I dreamed of back then.
What disturbed me about their words was the realization that they viewed struggling and uncertainty as the Enemy. Whereas I viewed those things as the means to an end; goads that made me uncomfortable but also provided the impetus to propel me from my present state into a far better existence. They made me dissatisfied but also gave me hope that tomorrow would be better than today.
I think Instapunk touched on an interesting thought in his essay. The God I grew up with was a demanding God. We were taught that man is sinful by nature and that only by constant struggle can we hope to transcend our lower selves. That was the essence and the meaning of life: constant struggle to overcome; to improve; to adapt and conquer. And that struggle - the source of our present prosperity and security - is precisely what many of us seek to eliminate.
Their God is a non-judgmental, multicultural God. He sets forth no immutable laws, draws no bright lines between Good and Evil. And to a large extent even conservatives have bought into this seductive trap. We don't want to be judgmental of others. But more importantly we don't really want to find ourselves wanting. We have forgotten the purpose of discomfort, of shame, of having to deal with the disapprobation of others.
In the world I grew up in, no government agency forced me to shine my children's shoes or comb their hair before going to the grocery store. It was the expectations of others - of society - that I voluntarily acceded to. I went along with these demands even though I often chafed at them, for I recognized the purpose behind these expectations. I knew that the world I grew up in was constantly vigilant against signs of decay, of backsliding, of the carelessness that could bring disaster on entire families and dash to pieces decades of careful, patient progress. We were mindful of the small signs of impending disaster; of the causal connections between decisions and consequences.
For there was no safety net below that high wire we perched upon. On one side lay disaster and on the other, paradise.
Now, we have grown comfortable in the certainty that we cannot fall too far. Someone - government - will catch us. And so we are sloppy in small ways. In a world with few inescapable consequences, we bridle at the thousand tiny course corrections, the constant nudging that kept most of us on the straight and narrow path. We yawn at things that used to cause us a healthy sense of alarm. The God of today is a tolerant, undemanding, comfortable God who thinks we're all special just as we are. Appeals to our better natures are deemed too confining, moralistic, outdated. I hear conservatives talk this way every day.
But somewhere deep down, I think we know better. I think we sense that we are glossing over the faint whiff of moral rot; that we cloak moral relativism in self righteous declarations of an illusory freedom that never existed. Oh, we were free to defy the strictures of society; of state and local governments. And we were free to live with the consequences.
For there were consequences, and they made us profoundly uncomfortable. But that was a world that understood consequences and for the most part, dealt with them head on.
Looking back through the accumulated memories of over 30 years was a strange experience. I watched an old movie the other night with my son and daughter in law: Grand Canyon. It's a hard movie to watch because every scene is pervaded by a sense of uncertainty and pending disaster: reminders of how fragile life and happiness can be. But I love that movie because it is also pervaded by a sense of possibility. Better than anything else I've seen, it captures an ancient truth.
We get so mired in the present. Our vision narrows down to the here and now: some minor calamity that has befallen us. But we forget the unforeseen possibilities - the unexpected good that comes from sorrow; the strange alchemy by which misfortune and discomfort open new doors or propel us down roads not taken. We lose sight of the fact that often it is those very struggles and setbacks that lead us on to bigger and better things; that we need darkness and despair and even shame just as much as we need security, love, acceptance.
Or at least we need these things if we mean to continue improving our lot; mean to leave the world a better place than we found it; mean to put a hedge between prosperity and looming disaster. We need - desperately - to be unhappy and uncomfortable at times. To feel lonely or bored. To be dissatisfied and angry.
The question is, what will we do with these feelings? What if the malaise that seems to have taken hold of America is not the disease itself but the cure for what ails us?
We have been asleep too long: lulled into complacency by affluence and the absence of pain. And the more comfortable our daily lives become, the more wealth we amass, the more we fear losing it all; fear that we no longer have the determination to rebuild from the ashes.
There is a scene from that movie I mentioned earlier. Two men sit on a curb in L.A. commiserating on the decline of the world they knew. "How did we get here?", they ask. "It's not supposed to be this way."
But there are no guarantees and never have been. If we can just lift our eyes from our incessant navel gazing, we see a dizzying panorama of decision and consequence, of mistakes and course corrections, of disasters followed by periods of renaissance and rebirth. In the eyes of time, as one of the men finally remarks, we don't even amount to a millisecond:
You ever been to the Grand Canyon? Its pretty, but thats not the thing of it. You can sit on the edge of that big ol' thing and those rocks... the cliffs and rocks are so old... it took so long for that thing to get like that... and it ain't done either! It happens right there while your watching it. Its happening right now as we are sitting here in this ugly town.
When you sit on the edge of that thing, you realize what a joke we people really are... what big heads we have thinking that what we do is gonna matter all that much. Thinking that our time here means diddly to those rocks. Just a split second we have been here, the whole lot of us. That's a piece of time too small to even get a name. Those rocks are laughing at me right now, me and my worries.
Yeah, its real humorous, that Grand Canyon. It's laughing at me right now. You know what I felt like? I felt like a gnat that lands on the ass of a cow chewing his cud on the side of the road that you drive by, doing 70 mph.
Take heart. We mourn for what we fear is lost beyond recall, never realizing that it was we who built it in the first place. It is only that we have been living in a beautiful cocoon, largely insulated from worry, want, and pain. But Obama is wrong: struggle and aspiration are not the enemy we should fear. If we eliminate them, we eliminate the very things that created our present way of life; the galling prods that impelled us to do great things. In many ways we are victims of our own success. The real enemy is not failure, but the disconnected, trance like existence of a nation that views sadness and discomfort as diseases; tries to numb the pain and medicate away discomfort leaving us with a safe, but joyless world.
Ask not for whom the alarm clock is buzzing. It buzzes for each of us. The world is no better or worse a place than it has ever been and human nature is unchanged, and unchangeable. That is the great danger - and the great hope - of our lives.
From little acorns:
“I have done more to take on lobbyists than any other candidate in this race … I don’t take a dime of their money, and when I am president, they won’t find a job in my White House.”
- Barack Obama, November 2007
Main Street has had a tough year, losing jobs and seeing little evidence of the economic revival that experts say has already begun.
But K Street is raking it in.
Washington’s influence industry is on track to shatter last year’s record $3.3 billion spent to lobby Congress and the rest of the federal government — and that’s with a down economy and about 1,500 fewer registered lobbyists in town, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics.
.... “It is the most active time that I have ever seen in the advocacy business — from 1973 on,” Thurber added.
“We’ve never had as good a year,” said one lobbyist whose shop deals mostly with financial services and health care issues. “It’s been a tremendously busy year, and it’s going to keep getting that way,” the lobbyist said, noting that both health care and financial reform will remain active as congressional action moves from drafting legislation to implementation to the inevitable fixes.
...And the lobbying expenditure figures don’t include the heaps of cash interest groups are throwing at advertising, coalition-building, grass-roots and Astroturf outreach — all of which don’t get reported in the figures.
I remember listening to Obama go on and on about how his administration was going to change Washington. And I remember thinking to myself, "I don't think you have the first idea how our government really works, much less why it works that way." It's not surprising that Obama's much lauded "tough ethical standards" weren't too effective in reducing the influence of special interests on policy making. After all, even he found it impossible to get anything done without using lobbyists.
On the plus side, we now have evidence that all that federal spending is creating wealth. In the words of a great man, "I hope that you are satisfied."
December 22, 2009
If any of you want to talk me off the ledge, now would be a very good time.
It's Christmas, and I have no love for my fellow man.
December 21, 2009
God Help This Poor Man
... for he hath called our attention to That Which Must Never Be Uttered Aloud:
A US Army general in northern Iraq has defended his decision to add pregnancy to the list of reasons a soldier under his command could face court martial.
It is current army policy to send pregnant soldiers home, but Maj Gen Anthony Cucolo told the BBC he was losing people with critical skills.
That was why the added deterrent of a possible court martial was needed, he said.
The new policy applies both to female and male soldiers, even if married.
The male sexual partners of female soldiers who get pregnant would also "face the consequences", he said.
It is the first time the US Army has made pregnancy a punishable offence.
Cue the outraged shrieking about rights and privacy... as if male soldiers or Marines ever possessed the right to render themselves physically unfit for duty. While I heartily approve the even handed and equal application of military regulations, I believe Gen. Cucolo is tilting at windmills. He's dealing, after all, with a military leadership that considers active duty pregnancy so toxic a subject that it can only be dealt with by burying one's head firmly in the sand:
"We're definitely not tracking it," said a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which runs the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I've been attending operations briefings for two years, and I don't think I have heard once that pregnancy has come up."
Burying one's head in the sand seems to be a recurring condition whenever reality conflicts with the dictats of the more-than-equal rights crowd:
Dr. Sharfstein said that he would avoid an applicant 'like the plague' with this on his reputation.
The memo also mentions that Hasan blew off an important exam, was overheard proselytizing to his patients, only saw 30 patients in 38 weeks, when most see at least 10 times that much, and did not answer his phone when called for emergencies.
The memo reads that Hasan was
somebody who could potentially put patients in danger."
Dr. Sharfstein said that in all his time as a psychiatrist, he has only seen about six evaluations that were this bad, and he did refer to the memo as containing many warning signs.
DoD's refusal to study how pregnancies impact wartime readiness casts significant doubt on the assurances of those who advocate full female integration into the combat arms. They love to tell us that women's health issues (of which pregnancy has pride of place) have no effect (or only a negligible effect) on readiness:
In the past eight years, more than 2 million U.S. servicemen and servicewomen have served together in situations and for durations that have never existed in previous conflicts. Whatever issues remain to be resolved, the feared "disasters" did not materialize. There have been no epidemics of rape, no waves of "get me out of here" pregnancies, no orgies and no combat failures. In short, our men and women in uniform have behaved as military professionals.
Such blanket assurances beg an important question: if DoD isn't tracking deployment pregnancies, on what are these statements based? The facts we do have suggest the truth is otherwise. Interestingly, the Army has chosen to aggregate the statistics on female pregnancies in a way that ignores the effect on individual commands. Since women are not evenly distributed among military units, the result is profoundly misleading:
Women are an integral part of the Army today, comprising roughly 15% of the force and the impact pregnancy has on the unit’s readiness will depend upon how many females are assigned to that particular unit, and how many are pregnant and nondeployable at the same time. According to the Army, the numbers are predictable because the pregnancy rate at any one time averages 5-6% of assigned females, or less than 1% of the total force. Yet, as of 15 March 1998, 8% of females in FORSCOM were pregnant. The Army says the larger percentage is due to the higher number of entry-level female soldiers assigned to FORSCOM and its support units. For example, DISCOM units within FORSCOM typically have a larger proportion of females assigned than is representative of the Army due to the assignment policy restricting women from serving with units assigned a direct combat mission. The Army acknowledges the numbers will be greater at this level without acknowledging a corresponding impact to unit readiness.
Instead of trying to downplay the inconsistencies, the numbers should raise a red flag. A sampling of FORSCOM’s III Corps show an even greater percentage of pregnant and non-deployable females assigned.
Keep in mind a very important fact: at present women comprise only 15% of the total force, less than 1/3 of their numbers in the general population.
The goal of women's activists is to increase female participation and expand it from support roles to the combat arms - a goal they maintain will have no effect on military readiness. But a closer look at the statistics we do have puts the lie to that claim:
The problem becomes even more alarming when male and female rates of non-deployability are compared across the services:
If pregnancy were the only issue associated with fuller integration of women into the armed forces that would be one thing. But it is not. Rape and fraternization are other problems that dramatically increase when women are added to the mix. Advocates of greater female participation are enamored of anecdotal arguments, such as "I wouldn't do this, therefore it shouldn't be a problem" or "people who can't control their sexual urges can't be trusted with deadly weapons". As Lex's own anecdotal experience shows, however, women can and do behave in destructive and irresponsible ways that demonstrably impact unit readiness and morale.
Lex's experience aside, decisions about the use of women in the military should be driven by empirical data rather than competing and subjective narratives. His experience rings true, but there is a more objective (and harder to refute) case to be made here - one based on the aggregate behavior of men and women living in close quarters.
The problem, for women's advocates, is that the data don't add up in a way that supports their case for full integration of women into the armed forces:
Among the competing narratives put forward by the women in the military lobby, something does not quite ring true. The stories are diametrically opposed. If one is accurate it casts doubt upon the others and yet the proponents want us to accept them all at face value.
Either it is true that these women can defend themselves as well as men both verbally or physically (in which case they should be fully integrated into all branches of the military with no special accommodations) or they cannot even defend themselves against the depredations of some of their stronger male coworkers (in which case they require special protections if they are to be integrated, even in a limited way, into the armed forces).
Either it is true that men and women can bunk, shower, and defecate in close quarters without causing problems detrimental to the good order and discipline of the command, OR 4 in 10 women who live and work in close quarters with men are being raped and/or sexually harassed.
They can't both be true.
That is, unless Ms. Harmon doesn't consider rape detrimental to good order and discipline. She can't, unlike many feminists, have it both ways. She can't insist 40% of women are being raped and sexually harassed on the job, yet insist integrating women into the armed forces doesn't have a negative effect on command readiness. That just doesn't make sense.
She can't insist women are fully capable of defending themselves (much less taking the fight to the enemy), and then tell us they fragile flowers who require special protection from their own coworkers in order to be deployable. That just doesn't add up.
There is a basic truth here: laws that ignore human nature don't change human nature. Given that pregnancy is a preventable condition, there is no reason for female military personnel to become pregnant in theater. An aggravating factor is that most pregnancies that occur on a deployment are the result of fornication or adultery, two offenses already punishable under the UCMJ.
But this will not matter to those who demand equal rights without equal responsibility or accountability. They will continue to demand protected class status for women while illogically maintaining that women are interchangeable with male soldiers. If the data suggests - powerfully - that this is anything but the truth, the data will be disregarded or discredited.
Or in the case of female pregnancies it will simply not be counted, lest it reveal a truth we're not prepared to deal with.
December 19, 2009
Liveblogging the Snowstorm
5:15 a.m.: Coffee. Need coffee.
5:35 a.m.: Trusty snow shovels in hand, the Blog Princess heads outdoors to tackle the decks, stairs and driveway.
5:45 a.m.: I definitely to work out more.
6:18 a.m.: Side deck, front steps and outer third of driveway done. Heading inside to get more coffee.
6:23 a.m.: From the depths of the basement, an unearthly howl issues forth. Inexplicably, I find myself thinking of Walt Whitman:
I too am not a bit tamed—I too am untranslatable;
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
The last scud of day holds back for me;
It flings my likeness after the rest, and true as any, on the shadow’d wilds;
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.
I depart as air—I shake my white locks at the runaway sun;
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.
I bequeathe myself to the dirt, to grow from the grass I love;
If you want me again, look for me under your boot-soles.
You will hardly know who I am, or what I mean;
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.
What in the hell is a scud??? I have no idea what any of this means, but it is deeply disturbing.
6:27 a.m.: Put dog's sweater on. Someone is in for a very big surprise...
6:28 a.m.: Few things in life rival the pathos of a miniature Weiner dog, ass deep in snow. I can see what he is thinking. He is thinking, "If you think I'm going to poop out here, you are out of your freaking mind. Put me back inside so I can poop under your dining room table like a civilized canine."
6:35 a.m.: Deposit dog in front entryway, head back outside to finish shoveling the driveway.
6:38 a.m.: Piteous howls are emanating from somewhere inside the house. I trudge back inside to find the dog sitting in the hall. Invisible oooooooooooooooo's are floating out of his mouth like bubbles. Back outside to try the morning bathroom run again.
6:42 a.m.: After several minutes of me ignoring his furious barks, he gives in and accomplishes the mission.
7:15 a.m.: 7 inches of snow. I am thinking the 9 am facial across town is a no-go.
3:26 p.m. 3 shoveling sessions later, 15 inches of snow.
Oh look! Tim Kaine sent me a holiday greeting! And look who sent me my very own personalized Christmas card!
I feel special.
Ooh. Look at the "o" in my man Barack's signature. That's profound. Deep, even:
The “O” of Obama, bisected by the line of the “b”, has the look of the Ancient Greek letter Phi, which is also used as a symbol for the mathematical golden ratio – a crucial concept in art and architecture.
On the other hand, I may have been out in the snow too long.
9:26 p.m. Note to self: 3 1/2 heels are *not* traction-enhancing in 5 inches of snow.
The next time you feel the urge to re-enact your glory days stumbling home 4.5 sheets to the wind through massive snowdrifts, go for the mountain boots.
December 18, 2009
Sorry I've been so boring lately. Insanely busy.
While I'm wrapping presents go read Jules, who is much funnier than I am.
Great Moments in Journalism
COPENHAGEN — A visibly angry Barack Obama threw down the gauntlet at China and other developing nations Friday, declaring that the time has come "not to talk but to act"...
As one of my friends is wont to say, "B**ch, please."
December 17, 2009
I meant to link to this the other day, but my Inbox filled up so fast it got buried alive.
For any young lady growing up in the South, GWTW was required reading. Stacy does a wonderful job of summing up Rhett's appeal. I can't speak for anyone else, but to me Rhett combines a number of traits women look for in a man.
He's strong, charming, self assured. But underneath the sharp, devil may care exterior he's also got a warm and kind heart. He treats Melanie Wilkes with unfailing gentleness and courtesy.
Sure, Rhett's a bit of a scoundrel.
But it's the way he treats Scarlett (and later, their daughter Bonnie) that won my heart. Lurking underneath the cynical, wisecracking exterior beats a heart of gold. I think that's every woman's fantasy: to win the man no one else can win and bring out the best in him. We can't help hoping that beneath all that manly gruffness and swagger there's something true, honest, real.
For men are truly at their best when they are protecting those they love. Just as men wish for a woman who is demure and proper in public but will turn on the fireworks just for him, we ladies can't resist a guy who is strong and independent in public but reserves his tender side for the woman he loves.
Great movie. Great essay.
More Undue Influence
MikeD asked a good question on the CJ Grisham post. I thought it was a good question that merited its own post:
The part of CJ's situation that bothered me the most is when he started getting grief about what his WIFE posted when he turned the blog over to her. Now maybe in my mother's day, when an officer's wife was expected to be an extension of her husband (the whole white glove party nonsense), holding the officer accountable for his wife's actions might have been expected. But today? I could even see an EEO complaint being filed against the officer that dared call CJ to the carpet about what his wife was doing.
Mind you, I can understand if there was a security clearance involved, or if his wife was violating OPSEC (e.g. "My husband is in the town of Falafelville Iraq with the 999th Typewriter Battalion conducting door to door searches for White Out.") But that's not the case. The MOMENT his career was threatened because of something his WIFE posted, he should have filed a formal complaint up the chain of command.
I was mostly curious to see your thoughts on that matter Cass. If the Unit came home and said his rating officer didn't like something you posted, what would your/his response be?
First of all let's deal with Mike's last question:
If the Unit came home and said his rating officer didn't like something you posted, what would your/his response be?
That is extremely unlikely to happen since I don't blog under my own name. I use a pseudonym precisely because I don't want my husband associated with my opinions or behavior. I can't honestly say I've ever worried about retribution from his superiors. My decision not to write under my real name was prompted solely by natural caution and a strong belief that certain things (politics and military careers, for instance) require a strict wall of separation. Any idiot ought to understand that my opinions are just that: mine. I don't speak for my husband and I certainly don't speak for the Marine Corps as an institution. But in today's feverishly politicized atmosphere, the temptation to play gotcha is just too strong.
And there's another layer of insulation there: I don't tell my husband's professional associates that I write online. A goodly part of my own family don't know I have a blog. And I don't tell most of my friends, either. The only people who know my real name are ones I trust and met online, so there's little to no overlap between my online and real world social circles.
Interestingly enough, I did choose to tell my employer that I have a blog. I did this because I'm well aware that people have been fired for blogging. If my blogging was going to be a problem, I wanted that out in the open (had that been an issue, I would have left). That said, I don't write about the company I work for or the people I work with. To me that's an absolute no-no, so it's hardly surprising that I view work related blogging with great suspicion.
That said, my identity is not a secret. I've been threatened several times with "exposure" and my response was: go right ahead. That's not the way to hurt me: if that were to happen, I'd take VC down and no one would ever hear from me again. But exposure is not something I fear and it wouldn't traumatize me or ruin my life if it happened. It doesn't seem to smart to me to risk screwing up your real life just to blog. Because people can be hateful and vindictive online, the anonymity is there to provide a layer of protection and insulation for my family. But I believe that if you write as though your real name were being signed to every post, there's little to fear from exposure. And that is what I try to do.
Now let's examine the hypothetical: what would he/I do if my husband's command counseled him about something I wrote?
It's hard to imagine that happening. I don't write about anything related to the Marines that isn't in the public domain, so OPSEC isn't an issue for me. Most of my posts are opinion pieces and I can't imagine my spouse giving anyone anything but bloody short shrift if they tried to prevent me from exercising my First Amendment rights.
That said, there is always the matter of discretion. If my husband came to me and said, "I really don't think you should have said that", I would want to know his reasons. I take his judgments very seriously, and while I'm not sure his opinion with regard to how I ought to behave is dispositive in every instance, it nonetheless carries great weight with me. There would have to be an extremely good reason for me to intentionally cause him unease, embarrassment, or discomfort. Unintentionally is a different matter: as male/female sensibilities differ somewhat, it's natural for him to have his own opinions. I am very fortunate in that he doesn't try to control me. He rarely if ever reads VC.
Although I don't understand what ground the Army has for allegedly counseling C.J. for things written by his wife, I do actually understand why they're upset. If your command tells you to stop writing about something (rightly or wrongly) and your response is, "Fine. I'll keep my blog and have my wife write the things you won't allow me to", that is an act of defiance. I objected - strenuously - to the many Milbloggers who openly talked of setting up anonymous proxies so bloggers who had been told to stop blogging by their commands could flout DoD regs. I think that's wrong and worse, openly encourages military personnel to defy legitimate authority and circumvent regulations. I can't justify that kind of insubordination over the DoD regs as they are currently written. The right answer there is to resign or protest up the chain.
I don't think the Army has the right to tell C.J.'s wife what to do. They have exactly zero authority over her.
But at the same time let's use a different hypothetical. Microsoft has an employee who blogs about work. He is told that unless he ceases and desists, he will be fired because Microsoft thinks his posts put them in a bad light. He responds by turning the keys over to his wife, who writes the same type of thing that got him into trouble in the first place. Unquestionably, Microsoft has no business telling his wife what to do. However, I'm not sure under what bizarre theory Microsoft should be prevented from firing him. It's pretty clear what just happened, and it doesn't matter much who's doing the posting.
C.J.'s case is different, because the subject of these posts has not been primarily the Army, but his dispute with the school board. On the other hand, C.J. is not a Corporal. He's a senior Staff NCO, so he is held to a different standard. He is expected to be an example for the lower ranks: that's an integral part of his job.
I am not sure of the nature of the Army's problem with his behavior is, so it's hard for me to comment intelligently. On the face of it, the Army's conduct looks bad and that is why - very reluctantly - I decided to lend my qualified support. Something about this bothers me very much too - the assertion that the Army "owns" him 24/7: that there is no sphere of his life that is his own. So long as he breaks no laws, I think his business is his business.
The problem, though, is that we don't know everything here. We don't know (or at least I don't) the exact nature of the complaint against him. Trust me I mean no disrespect to C.J. or his wife, but in 30 years of military life I've learned there is ALWAYS more to any controversy. It sounds to me like overzealousness on the part of the Army, but then again I don't know the nature of the complaint against him and I don't know Army regs. It may well be that they had no choice but to investigate him, in which case all the folks who have been vilifying the Army are essentially blaming the command for doing their jobs. Not terribly impressive reasoning there, and certainly not a hill I'd want to die on.
I fully realize that it's extremely unpopular to step back and try to look at things dispassionately, but I try not to walk around in a perpetual state of outrage. Anger clouds judgment and destroys objectivity. If there's a case to be made here (and, knowing only what I know now I think there is) I believe the strongest case is going to be the objective one. If you've got even the skeptics on your side, that's pretty powerful evidence that you have a legitimate complaint.
December 16, 2009
Health Reform Whoppers
The White House Council of Economic Advisers just released a report arguing that the reforms before Congress would reduce the growth in health costs, cut the federal budget deficits and produce thousands of dollars in benefits for the average family. The problem is that just a few days earlier a report from the president's own chief health care actuary concluded that the bill the Senate is considering would actually increase U.S. health spending by $234 billion over the next 10 years and hurt seniors' access to care.
But then, reformers have generally had trouble telling fact from fiction.
Obama's continual repetitions of the "You Lie!" meme with regard to anyone who dares question him would seem to be motivated more by projection than a regard for the facts. But then our post-partisan, post-racial President seems to believe that going on the offensive while playing the victim is the best defense.
At some point, his tactics seem to depend upon the assumption that really brazen lies are less likely to be challenged. In a political atmosphere where simple disagreement is framed as an "attack", he may have a point.
On the other hand, when your own party begin to accuse you of telling "bald faced lies", you may have a credibility problem.
CJ Grisham and Undue Command Influence
Many Milblogs are going silent today in protest of the Army's dealings with Milblogger CJ Grisham.
I've been following C.J.'s story for some time and like many in the Milblogs community, find the Army's actions disturbing.
At the same time, I have to take issue with some things that are being said. Probably the single biggest reason I haven't written about this is my hesitation to undercut C.J.'s supporters in any way. Six years of witnessing flame wars and the toxic fallout that often accompanies online disputes has left me increasingly reluctant to wade in with all eight fingers (can't type with your thumbs!).
But on the other hand I think there are some important aspects of this story that I believe we ought to be discussing as a community:
... milblogs are facing an increasingly hostile environment from within the military. While senior leadership has embraced blogging and social media, many field grade officers and senior NCOs do not embrace the concept. From general apathy in not wanting to deal with the issue to outright hostility to it, many commands are not only failing to support such activities, but are aggressively acting against active duty milbloggers, milspouses, and others. The number of such incidents appears to be growing, with milbloggers receiving reprimands, verbal and written, not only for their activities but those of spouses and supporters.
The catalyst has been the treatment of milblogger C.J. Grisham of A Soldier's Perspective. C.J. has earned accolades and respect, from the White House on down for his honest, and sometimes blunt, discussion of issues -- particularly PTSD. In the last few months, C.J. has seen an issue with a local school taken to his command who failed to back him, and has even seen his effort to deal with PTSD, and lead his men in same by example, used against him as a part of this. Ultimately, C.J. has had to sell his blog to help raise funds for his defense in this matter.
I have a real problem with the bolded portion of David's excerpt. I greatly respect David and the other Milbloggers who have stepped forward to defend C.J. At the same time, I believe there is a critical difference between demanding your employer respect your right to engage in legal activities unrelated to your employment, conducted on your own time and accomplished using privately owned resources, and demanding that your employer support, endorse, or facilitate such activities. The first demand is justified as a defense of individual liberty. It asserts a negative right: the right to be left alone; to be allowed to conduct private activities free from the threat of heavy handed government meddling or retribution.
The second smacks of extortion. It asserts a positive right, saying in effect: it's not enough for the government to leave bloggers alone. An affirmative duty is imposed on the government to endorse and/or facilitate blogging. As a conservative, this is problematic for me. I have no quarrel with Milbloggers attempting to persuade the military that it's in their best interest to do encourage blogging. But I do have a problem with attempts to pressure the military to actively support or endorse blogging. (Note: I've been told my wording gave the impression I was attributing the 'you have to support my blogging' argument to C.J. That wasn't my intent. I did want to address the argument since it is one that has been made repeatedly and one I don't agree with.)
It is for this reason that I cannot join the "going silent" movement. While I believe military personnel have the same Constitutional right to free expression as their civilian counterparts, I can't in good conscience support a demand for greater freedom than is enjoyed by civilian employees.
I can't think of too many civilian employers (actually, I can't think of any) who, as a matter of policy not only support but endorse an employee's right to blog about work issues. In the civilian world employees are fired or reprimanded all the time for work-related blogging. And I can't think of a single civilian employer who not only supports and endorses bloggers who write about work issues, but accepts their "right" to blog during working hours with employer-owned computers or Internet access. There's a huge difference between saying, "I have the right to do as I please on my own time and so long as my actions affect only me", and saying "You have to make it easy for me to conduct non-work related activities during work hours even if those activities affect (or directly reflect upon) my employer. Furthermore, you have to subsidize my non-work related activity with assets you own."
It makes no sense to me to demand that DoD do anything more than agree not to interfere with the activities of military bloggers who blog on their own time, using their own computers, bandwidth, and Internet access, and who don't write about work. I fully understand the utility of having military bloggers blog about their jobs. I just don't agree that this is - or even should be - a "right".
That said, I find the Army's alleged behavior towards C.J. deeply disturbing. It's not necessary to endorse some nebulous "right to milblog" to conclude that there is something very rotten in the state of Denmark.
I don't believe the Army has any legitimate or defensible interest in preventing C.J. from blogging about his PTSD. The Army essentially "rents" C.J. during working hours, but they don't own his brain or his emotions. During the controversy over the Dover photography ban, I was deeply offended by the argument that the American public "owns" service men and women, or that taxpayers have the right to intrude upon private moments simply because a military paycheck is funded by taxpayer dollars. The military no more owns service members than Microsoft owns its employees. During working hours, employers assert limited rights over the actions of employees acting within the course and scope of the employment contract. But those rights terminate once the 5 o'clock whistle blows and we go home to interact with our friends, families, and peers.
The Army's treatment of C.J. represents an unwarranted extension of his employer's authority from reasonable supervision during working hours to intrusion on a private dispute between a parent and the public school system he subsidizes with his tax dollars. This private dispute is in no way related to C.J.'s official duties; thus it is of no concern to the Army. Just as none of us has the right to demand that our employers support non-work related activities, I don't think employers have any right to interfere with non work related activities.
There should be a clear line of demarcation between work and private life.
What the school board has essentially done here is pressure the federal government to punish an employee for activities that have no reasonable relationship to his job, and over which an employer should not be expected (much less allowed) to assert control. C.J. has committed no crime, has violated no laws.
If the facts are as C.J. and other bloggers present them (I say this because I've made no effort to find out the other side of the story), the Army's heavy handed interference in this matter is offensive and intolerable. Military folks voluntarily surrender many freedoms in return for the privilege of defending our way of life, but the right to a private life and private decisions unrelated to their military service is not - and should not - be one of them. I come down on this one the same way I did on the Dover controversy: their willing sacrifice is not a blank check and certainly the government should not be allowed to make demands that exceed the agreed upon terms of service.
In a way, when military men and women take that oath of enlistment or accept a commission, they place a finite amount of "money" in the government bank. By mutual agreement and in return for a paycheck, the military has a right to assert claims against what service members have willingly deposited.
They have no right to spend money that was never placed in the account. And they certainly have no right to spend "money" that belongs to C.J.'s wife. If you want to help C.J. defend himself, David has a link to his legal defense fund.
I just contributed. If you value the sacrifices military people make to guarantee our freedom every, you should, too.
Cassy Fiano makes an interesting point about the piece on humiliation I linked the other day:
Men will look at online images of a woman without stopping to consider for one moment the strong possibility that the woman wasn’t a willing participant. She is every bit as much a hostage to male indiscretion as the husband whose wife feels it necessary to write long, rambling puff pieces for the NY Times detailing her sexual boredom or the man who goes on and on in public about how hot other women are or how frigid his wife is (both pretty common occurrences in today’s world). For me at least, it’s hard to separate the women who blabs all from the man who tells everyone around him that his wife can’t satisfy his raging sex drive.
I respectfully have to disagree with Cassandra. It isn’t that sharing photos or videos isn’t as bad; it’s arguably worse. It’s that there’s usually a large difference between who has a tendency to do what. You usually see ex-boyfriends or casual hook-ups sharing videos of their ex-girlfriends or one-night-stands. I can’t think of many examples of men who are sharing naked pictures or sex tapes of their wives that they’ve been married to for years and years. Men are much less likely to humiliate their wife and partner in such a way, because today’s husbands simply have more dignity and class than today’s wives do. While it surely is humiliating and degrading to have naked pictures of a woman posted on the internet by her ex-boyfriend, isn’t it a much worse betrayal for a wife to humiliate her husband by ridiculing him before millions? It’s common knowledge to never let a man take risque photos or videos of you, especially a man you barely know. It’s just a common sense way of protecting yourself. However, there is no such protection a man can take to keep his wife from humiliating him in print. Which is really a worse betrayal?
I agree that, in general, the motivation for women who over share online may be different from that of men who post revealing footage of their partner. But I'm not sure it's as different as Cassy thinks it is. After all, there are entire web sites dedicated to voyeuristic exploitation of women who either didn't know they were being filmed or allowed such footage to be taken with the understanding that it would remain private. This isn't accidental - it's the entire purpose of such sites.
But there's another aspect here that is suggested by this part of Cassy's comment:
I can’t think of many examples of men who are sharing naked pictures or sex tapes of their wives that they’ve been married to for years and years. Men are much less likely to humiliate their wife and partner in such a way, because today’s husbands simply have more dignity and class than today’s wives do.
I think there may be something else at work. As has often been observed, men and women view life and relationships differently. Men, in general, are more competitive and status conscious than women. They are also more likely to view women as objects to be possessed. Just as the term "slut" is routinely applied to women who sleep around but not to men, so the term "trophy wife" has no masculine equivalent. Certainly not all men view their wives this way, but a significant number do. These men have more built-in incentive to guard their wives' reputations because they are, in essence, guarding their own possessions; protecting their own status and reputations.
As I said in the post the other day, I think there are a fair number of women who share intimate details of their relationships because they truly don't understand what a violation of trust such revelations are. After all, *they* don't mind sharing their innermost feelings and most private moments with millions of readers. If it doesn't bother them, why should their husbands object? In a sense, they're applying a particularly self absorbed and clueless version of the Golden Rule: treat others as you don't mind being treated.
In the same vein, though many men who share naked footage of their lovers do so for revenge after a breakup or as a form of bragging, there are also men who genuinely don't understand what's wrong with sharing nude photos of the woman they're with (even if she never consented). An example of this occurs right in Cassy's comment section:
...with regards to guys sharing pictures/videos/intimate details about their significant other…that is just deplorable and stupid as well. A good friend of mine started dating this girl a little over a year ago. About two weeks went by and I hadn’t met (or seen) her yet. I stopped by his house for a visit and we were talking about her and I asked what she looked like. He pulled out his cell-phone and I thought he was just going to show me a picture of her…instead it was a fully nude female body from the neck down. The first thing I thought was “What kind of whore are you dating that lets you take naked pictures of her after only a few dates?”. The second thing I thought was “What kind of guy are you to show these pictures to people?” Of course, they kept dating for a few months and she wound up pregnant. She moved in with him and they just had their baby last weekend and I assume they will get married soon. So is that what he wanted? To be able to say years from now “Hey, she’s my wife and the mother of my children…remember when I showed you that full-frontal picture of her? Nice, wasn’t it?” He’s still my friend but I lost respect for him (and her) after that.
Another case in point was the reaction of many men to the Erin Andrews peeping Tom controversy. I was stunned at how many guys, rather than admitting that what was done to Ms. Andrews was wrong, responded by saying, "Good! Hopefully now she'll just pose nude for Playboy." They were incapable of understanding that most women find having unauthorized nude photos splashed all over the Internet to be deeply offensive, humiliating, and painful. These men showed no recognition people have the right to erect boundaries - that they don't have to share something as private as nudity or sexual acts with millions of readers they don't even know.
I've read several posts by male bloggers who say they've been shown such photos by their friends while a relationship was still ongoing. I've never understood why anyone would remain friends with a person who acts this way, but at the point where it's happened more than once one has to suspect these guys don't really see anything wrong with it.
I do think the phenomena are different in nature but the root of the problem in both cases is a refusal to respect the other person's privacy/boundaries. When one stops to think about it, the Internet has blurred or even erased our respect for limits of any kind. There is so much oversharing online that it has changed our perception of what is normal. The Internet has eroded the distinction between public and private behavior.
On Twitter and Facebook, we routinely reveal all sorts of private information with our online "friends". Yet there is little or no recognition that this kind of online sharing isn't anything like trading confidences with a trusted friend in real life. Likewise, news sites like Fox News and ABC now prominently feature content men have always looked at ... in private. I never thought I'd see the day when respectable news sites contained daily links to barely dressed women and trashy stories about infidelity, promiscuous sex and other edgy fare. While I've never objected to others reading such fare, I do object to having it shoved in my face in a venue where it isn't appropriate. It seems as though our sensibilities and sense of propriety are being deliberately challenged: it's no longer a question of tolerating other people's choices so much as being asked to endorse them.
Finally, I've gotten the impression several times while reading this type of personal memoir that the writer was engaging in a bit of payback or one-upmanship. I think that is what has made me so uncomfortable with tell all essays - the sense that, at least in part, such seemingly casual revelations were motivated by something ugly; meant to even some invisible score: to punish, humiliate, or control.
I think Cassy and I are mostly in agreement that this sort of thing - no matter who does it and no matter how it is done - is a violation of trust. My intent was not so much to say, "Men are just as bad", as to take issue with the WSJ author's statement that "Men would never do such a thing."
They demonstrably do, albeit possibly for different reasons. At any rate, Cassy's thoughts are well worth reading. Go check out her post!
December 14, 2009
Blogs With A Penis...
Hopefully, this is not the end of the trail:
...there are many trails in this life. You must choose the trail of a true human being. Whether or not you run this trail with a penis is not important. Oppressive gender issues are only important to the white man.
Damn it, Pile. I miss you.
Quote of the Day
Sarah Palin’s “death panels” claim had far more credibility than Klein’s slander of Joe Lieberman, which, incidentally, also slanders anyone else who opposes the Senate bill. If there be justice in the world, that slander will backfire.
I don't know: as Lefty hyperbole goes, Klein's latest magnum opus seemed... disappointing. Though to his credit, snuffing out a few hundred thousand seniors just doesn't exert the same emotional pull as the demise of six or seven sexually confused Arctic wolves.
But all the same I was rather hoping someone would entertain me by accusing Palin of bagging undocumented aliens with a high powered rifle from her black helicopter while breastfeeding Trig for the cameras. If they could have worked in a few amniotic fluid conspiracy theories, the trifecta of idiocy would have been too delicious to contemplate.
Damn that Cato Institute!!!
After Work Foolishness
Sorry Grim. Didn't mean to mess you up:
My dog is being a complete fool tonight. Though I am severely tempted, I will not humiliate him by posting the sordid evidence of his shameless romps through the gift tissue. Here he is in younger and more ferocious days:
For Olga :)
Somewhere I have a photo of him at the same age, tearing across the carpet like a herd of buffalo - ears flying - with a big red ribbon in his mouth. That is the best one, but I can't recall where I put it.
Great Moments in Law Enforcement Reporting
Though one suspects that McGruff The Crime Dogwould not approve...
It all went down in Upper Moreland Township, PA, after cops say the Wienermobile was rollin' around town with a broken third tail light ... yes, Wienermobiles have three tail lights.
But the magical powers of the Wienermobile kicked in -- and cops decided to let the mouthwatering machine off with a warning.
TMZ spoke to law enforcement sources close to the situation who gave us the best quote ever, "It's un-American to ticket the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile."
You'd think cops would show a bit more relish for their official duties...
Obama Rejects "Failed History" of Past Two Centuries
David Broder (a columnist I usually find fairly balanced in his commentary) waxes rhapsodic about Obama's "history based" approach to speechifying:
One of the things that sets Barack Obama apart from most politicians is how much can be learned from listening to his speeches.
The president is sometimes criticized for the volume of his public appearances and, in truth, he is out there orating a lot.
But we learned in the course of his campaign -- reinforced in this first year of his term -- that it's a mistake to think of these talks as routine. They have no equal in providing insights into the way his mind works and the context that guides his decisions.
The striking thing is the consistency with which he places concrete actions into the broadest historical or philosophical setting, and how much he is influenced in his decision-making by the reach of his intellectual exercise.
All in all, I'd have to agree with Broder. The frequency with which Obama uses fake historical "context" to justify his current thinking is remarkable and does speak volumes about his decision making process. History makes a poor guideline when your understanding of what actually happened is demonstrably wrong:
The vote in the Senate on the authorization of military force to drive Iraq out of Kuwait, which took place on January 12, 1991, was 52-47. The Democrats controlled the Senate at the time; they voted 45-10 against the "consensus" on "the need to confront Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait." John Kerry, Joe Biden and 43 other Democrats voted to let Saddam Hussein keep Kuwait and expand his control over Middle Eastern oil from there, while continuing to develop nuclear weapons--which, we later learned, he would have had by 1992 or 1993, at the latest.
In the House, the story was similar. The vote was 250-183, with a large majority of Democrats voting with Saddam Hussein. Sure, it would be possible to be more pathetic on national security than the Democratic Party, but it wouldn't be easy. What is interesting about all of this is the Democrats' need to rewrite history. Can anyone doubt that if Barack Obama had been in the Senate in 1991, he would have joined 45 of his Democratic colleagues in voting for Saddam Hussein's control over the Middle East? Of course not. Yet today, Obama is forced to pretend that ousting Saddam was a "consensus" decision taken by "the world." Thus does truth force itself on even the most unwilling auditors.
I guess it depends on the meaning of "consensus". Is Obama just ignorant of American history? Or does he intentionally distort it to make it appear his policies worked for past presidents even when the historical record says no such thing?
Obama cited Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman as presidents who met with enemies. Does he know no history? Neither Roosevelt nor Truman ever met with any of the leaders of the Axis powers. ...During the subsequent Cold War, Truman never met with Stalin. Nor Mao. Nor Kim Il Sung. Truman was no fool.
Obama cites John Kennedy meeting Nikita Khrushchev as another example of what he wants to emulate. Really? That Vienna summit of a young, inexperienced, untested American president was disastrous, emboldening Khrushchev to push Kennedy on Berlin -- and then nearly fatally in Cuba, leading almost directly to the Cuban missile crisis. Is that the precedent Obama aspires to follow?
I guess the veracity of Obama's history depends on the meaning of "met". And then there's Iran:
Yes, the US instigated a coup against Iranian prime minister Mosaddeq but President Obama was wrong to assert that "the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government." Far from it, the US overthrew a wannabe dictator who came to power because his predecessor was assassinated by Islamists, yes Islamists and following an election he suspended for fear he would lose it. Does anyone in the administration have access to the Internet?
I guess it depends of the meaning of "democratically elected" and "overthrew". But there's always the Cold War:
There are two different versions of the story of the end of the Cold War: the Russian version, and the truth. President Barack Obama endorsed the Russian version in Moscow last week..
Speaking to a group of students, our president explained it this way: "The American and Soviet armies were still massed in Europe, trained and ready to fight. The ideological trenches of the last century were roughly in place. Competition in everything from astrophysics to athletics was treated as a zero-sum game. If one person won, then the other person had to lose. And then within a few short years, the world as it was ceased to be. Make no mistake: This change did not come from any one nation. The Cold War reached a conclusion because of the actions of many nations over many years, and because the people of Russia and Eastern Europe stood up and decided that its end would be peaceful."
The truth, of course, is that the Soviets ran a brutal, authoritarian regime. The KGB killed their opponents or dragged them off to the Gulag. There was no free press, no freedom of speech, no freedom of worship, no freedom of any kind. The basis of the Cold War was not "competition in astrophysics and athletics." It was a global battle between tyranny and freedom. The Soviet "sphere of influence" was delineated by walls and barbed wire and tanks and secret police to prevent people from escaping. America was an unmatched force for good in the world during the Cold War. The Soviets were not. The Cold War ended not because the Soviets decided it should but because they were no match for the forces of freedom and the commitment of free nations to defend liberty and defeat Communism.
It is irresponsible for an American president to go to Moscow and tell a room full of young Russians less than the truth about how the Cold War ended. One wonders whether this was just an attempt to push "reset" -- or maybe to curry favor. Perhaps, most concerning of all, Mr. Obama believes what he said
Well at least he's consistent! Consistently wrong, that is:
President Obama came to my city, Prague, in April this year. He praised the Czechs for throwing off Communism in 1989. Fair enough, but then he began making up history. Obama stated that the demonstrators compelled the totalitarian government to give up and implied that the moral force of the demonstrators forced the old line Commies to capitulate and leave town. I could not believe my ears. My Czech friends looked at me, bemused. They did not know that they were so heroic. And I was shocked that Obama had no one on staff to check his facts.
The truth was significantly different. The Czechs only began putting pressure on the regime to cede power a month after the Berlin Wall fell.Solidarity had already come into power in Warsaw, East Germans had been pouring out all summer through Hungary to Austria, and Czechoslovakia was the laggard (as usual) in pushing for an end to Communism. If anything, the revolution in Prague was an anti-climax in the fall of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe. But once again, Obama did not know this.
Hmmm... German history should be pretty safe:
“The Siegessäule in Berlin was moved to where it is now by Adolf Hitler. He saw it as a symbol of German superiority and of the victorious wars against Denmark, Austria and France,” the deputy leader of the Free Democrats, Rainer Brüderle, told Bild am Sonntag. He raised the question as to “whether Barack Obama was advised correctly in his choice of the Siegessäule as the site to hold a speech on his vision for a more cooperative world.”
Andreas Schockenhoff of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats said, “the Siegessäule in Berlin is dedicated to a victory over neighbors who are today our European friends and allies. It is a problematic symbol.”
D'oh! Of course, he could always just talk about himself. Hard to get that wrong.
Oh well - sooner or later he's bound to get one right.
Then again, maybe not.
This is probably a very big mistake, but I'm going to take one final whack at Patterico/Jeff G. thing.
Attila and I disagree about this whole thing, and yet we're still talking to each other. She thinks Jeff G. is mostly right and Patterico mostly wrong. I think Patterico is mostly right and Jeff G. is mostly wrong. I also agree with aspects of both their arguments.
I realize it's become highly unfashionable to disagree with another blogger without calling him an ignorant cretin or a mean spirited poopy head, but that's just too bad. I'm not willing to roast Jeff G. over a bed of hot coals simply because I think he's wrong. And though I believe very strongly that Attila is not just wrong, but really, really wrong about Patterico's motivation (which I believe she has no way of knowing), that's her opinion and she's entitled to it. Not worth ruining a perfectly good friendship over.
This is not all that complicated, really.
Jeff G. has said right in the comments section here at VC that it "doesn't make sense" to call a statement racist unless you also believe the speaker is/was racist. And if that's all he'd said, I wouldn't have bothered to take issue with his reasoning. I can see both sides on that one, though I don't agree. It is what he said next that really bothered me.
I don't have to rephrase or interpret what he said to make my point. I can refer to Jeff's exact words, from a comment on this post:
My point is that it makes no sense to call a statement racist that hasn't proceeded from racism. So if you call a statement racist, you are calling its utterer racist. If McCain, in the context he was making the argument you quote, had no racist intent, the statement can't be racist. Simple as that.
Posted by: Jeff G at December 11, 2009 10:22 PM
"If you call a statement racist, you are calling its utterer racist." Not a lot of wiggle room - actually, not any - is there? There are two problems with this statement. The first objection is supplied by Jeff himself:
The thing is, interpretation requires that you appeal to the intent of the speaker / writer. Otherwise, you'll be appealing to your own intent to signify. And if you do so -- in the process, creating your own new text -- and then ascribe that text of yours to the speaker, you have essentially condemned by attributing a message to him that you created.
What was Patterico's "text" here? Did he call RSM a racist? Did he say that only racists say racist things?
No. He said he doesn't accept the premise that a racist statement can only be uttered by a racist speaker. Now unless you're willing to come right out and call Patterico a liar, it seems to me that Patterico has told us how his comments should be interpreted.
But regardless of Jeff's position that interpretation requires us to look to the speaker's intent, we have been engaged in a multi-day, multi-post argument over just that - how to interpret Patterico's words.
So let's play along. Should we use Jeff's belief that a racist statement can only be uttered by a racist speaker to decipher Patterico's intent? Logically it seems we should not, because Patterico has already told us that he doesn't agree with this statement. Again, unless we're willing to do the "ballsy" thing and call Patterico a liar, what rational basis do we have for imputing to him reasoning he has explicitly rejected?
But there's another argument to be made here. Jeff himself argues that we should we should appeal to the intent of the speaker: Patterico. So by Jeff's argument, Jeff may not replace Patterico's reasoning with his own no matter how tempting this may seem or how badly he wants to win the argument.
Jeff can certainly argue that Patterico's statement doesn't make sense to him logically. He can say Patterico's use of the word "racist" is incorrect or that his statement was poorly worded (the "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means" tack)
He can argue that Patterico's words were likely to be misunderstood by reasonable hearers, though that sounds uncomfortably like Patterico's position (one, I might add, that Jeff has firmly rejected) :p
But Jeff is not allowed - by his own rules - to substitute his opinion of what Patterico intended for Patterico's real opinion (which we don't have to guess at because he's told us - repeatedly. Unless of course we want to call him a liar.). Yet both Jeff and many of his defenders have done exactly that - superimposed their interpretation over Patterico's argument. They "saw" an attack in Patterico's post and their position seems to be, "I don't care what you said. This is what I think you meant by that."
The irony here is palpable.
Jeff could simply have argued that Patterico's statements don't make sense to him. But he didn't do that. He came right out and said - repeatedly - that Patterico called Stacy a racist.
Except Patterico not only didn't say that, but said he doesn't think a single racist statement is sufficient grounds for an accusation of racism. Think about this for a moment: if Patterico HAD called Stacy a racist just on the basis of that one statement, he would have been contradicting himself by turning right around and saying, "One statement is insufficient evidence for calling someone a racist." Regardless of this obvious contradicition, Jeff and others proceeded to interpret Patterico's words to mean the opposite of what he said they meant.
Again, let's play along. What is the rational or evidentiary basis for such an interpretation? Certainly it's not Patterico's statement that you don't have to be a racist to utter a racist statement. Their suspicions aren't grounded in Patterico's words or even his arguments, but in their own feelings and reasoning about his words and his arguments. People do that all the time. But that's pretty ironic wen it's Jeff who argued the listener/reader's intent shouldn't be privileged over the speaker's intent. This begs the question: how can Jeff say he knows what Patterico really meant or said, especially when Jeff insists on his right to 'draw reasonable conclusions' and then use them to recharacterize what Patterico said:
Leaving aside the hamfisted and remarkably childish attempt to convict me by way of some ridiculous appeal to literalism, the fact of the matter is, during debates, your opponent will often draw what he feels to be quite reasonable conclusions from your positions, and then restate them in a way he finds useful and persuasive with respect to his own argument.
Interestingly, Joy has made exactly the same argument: in essence, "I see an attack", or "I can't point to anything specific, but it kinda sorta seems to me like a veiled attack. Therefore I am disregarding Patterico's explanation and going with my gut".
Why is Jeff G. allowed to restate his opponents' words "in a way he finds useful and persuasive with respect to his own argument", but when the Left or throwers of the race card claim the same privilege, he cries foul? Is this just another case of "It's right when I do it but wrong when they do it"? What bothers me so much here is that the very folks who claim to oppose expedient recharacterization are engaging in it themselves. But neither side should get to do that.
No one has the right to demand that his opponents accept his framing of their own words, especially when he openly admits he's doing it to "prove" a position they didn't agree with in the first place.
Jeff can argue that Patterico's position is logically inconsistent.
He can make the case that Patterico's statements were liable to be misunderstood.
He can argue that a reasonable person would see his discussion of RSM's quote as a veiled attack (Though the quote has been a topic of many posts for some time now. So it's hardly some deep dark secret, the revelation of which can be expected to act as a bombshell. Nonetheless, several righty bloggers have taken the position that any examination of the topic amounts to unacceptable straying from the conservative reservation).
What Jeff G. cannot argue without contradicting himself is that Patterico intended to accuse Stacy of racism despite his repeated and explicit statements to the contrary. This isn't my formulation. These are Jeff's rules of interpretation in his own words:
...interpretation requires that you appeal to the intent of the speaker / writer. Otherwise, you'll be appealing to your own intent to signify. And if you do so -- in the process, creating your own new text -- and then ascribe that text of yours to the speaker, you have essentially condemned by attributing a message to him that you created
But Jeff has not followed his own rules. He has created his own text and ascribed it to Patterico in order to accuse him of secretly saying something he has explicitly stated he does not believe.
Essentially, he and others have called Patterico a liar, citing their own feelings or opinions as pretext. They just haven't come out and said that openly.
Patterico isn't the only one who believes one can utter a racist or racially motivated statement without being a racist (or even a racist at the time). Beldar doesn't strike me as an irrational or unreasonable blogger, much less a liar. One can disagree with him on the merits, but his arguments are generally careful and well developed.
And I'm not an irrational or unreasonable blogger. Nor am I stupid. I have every right to disagree with Joy or Jeff G., and I don't accept that disagreement makes me a bad person.
Personally, I learn something every time I get into a discussion with someone I disagree with. It may only be that in defending my own position, I see aspects of the question I hadn't considered. Or it may be that there is some merit to my opponent's arguments, even if I ultimately I don't change my mind.
From what I can see, Patterico and Jeff agree on quite a bit.
But it seems to me that we are losing the ability to disagree without descending into personal attacks. And I think one ought to be very, very careful before calling another blogger a liar with respect to his own statements, especially when the supposed "proof" is a premise your opponent doesn't just disagree with but has explicitly rejected. We don't get to project our own beliefs onto our opponents.
Or at least there was a time when I thought this was the point of Jeff's argument. All of which reminds me of an old joke:
I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
December 12, 2009
Quotes of the Day
Peggy Noonan, on Obama:
If he's going to bow to something, it might as well be reality.
And in other news,
"You know what coffee means in Hollywood, right? . . . Don't screw this up."
... those claims about the living conditions in China are absolute nonsense. It's middle class grows, yes -- on the east coast, while the vast majority of China is one of the poorest countries on earth. "All its citizens" certainly do not have housing: I saw people living in utter rubble. "All its citizens" certainly do not get health care in any fashion we in the West would recognize as such. Food and education are available (today! Remember the Great Leap Forward and the Hundred Flowers Period, respectively), but education is strictly rationed by an examination system or connection to powerful families.
Furthermore, it's not really proper to describe Chinese nationals as "citizens." They are subjects, with very limited freedom of movement even within China, and the requirement to petition their government for lawful changes of address, let alone to visit other nations.
I'm beginning to think that actual knowledge of that elusive thing called "reality" is an absolute bar to becoming a member of the Reality Based Community.
If only the U.S. could be just like China.... without, actually, being anything like China.
Is Oversharing a Female Trait?
The WSJ has an excellent (and discomfiting) essay on oversharing:
Pity the man whose wife writes a memoir.
Consider Elizabeth Weil's husband, Dan. On Sunday, in the New York Times Magazine, Ms. Weil previewed a memoir she is writing about their effort to improve their marriage. She doesn't stint on the frisky bits—or rather, what she proclaims to be the insufficiently frisky bits. The conjugal part of their equation is apparently "not terribly inventive." Ms. Weil derides their "safe, narrow little bowling alley of a sex life" and tells us that she and her husband "hadn't been talking to each other while having sex. And not making eye contact either." One thing's for sure: If that hesitation to make eye contact suggested a certain reticence, Ms. Weil has overcome it.
Dan's wife is just one of the legion of women scribblers eager to divulge the intimate details of their marriages. The hot new genre is the tell-all of sexual disappointment written by women having their Peggy Lee moment: "Is That All There Is?" Male writers are well behind this curve, retaining some vestigial hesitation to expose their wives in print. This reflects a basic social norm: No husband I know speaks out of school about his wife. You wouldn't trust any man who did. Say what you will about the male half of the species—famous for its promiscuous and predatory proclivities—but they can be remarkably discreet about the intimate aspect of marriage. Whether this is stoicism or a residual chivalry, it is a core part of the male code. Consider Tiger Woods's alleged transgressions: Perhaps the most appalling of them is the report that he prattled on to one of his cookies about how she connected with him in a way his wife did not. As if cheating weren't bad form enough.
Women, by contrast, seem to be at somewhat greater liberty to share private matters. This can be reflected in trivial indiscretions. DoubleX, a blog on Slate, asked its contributors for their Christmas wish lists. First up was Rachael Larimore, who proclaimed "All I want for Christmas is for my hubby to get a vasectomy. And he is!" I'm sure that made his day. Still, that's nothing compared to what gets aired in coffee klatches, where, according to writers such as Sandra Tsing Loh, the ladies get together to talk about how their husbands haven't touched them in years.
Ms. Loh, who published a memoir about mommyhood last year, is one of those writers whose husbands you have to pity. In her 2008 book, "Mother on Fire: A True Motherf%#$@ Story About Parenting!," she laments that her "salt of the earth" spouse, Mike, is too even-keeled and practical to give her the steamy loving she craves. You can guess where that was heading. This summer Ms. Loh began chronicling her divorce in the pages of the Atlantic Monthly, sharing with all and sundry that, after the thrill of a hot and heavy extramarital affair, she decided not to go to all the trouble—the "arduous home- and self-improvement project"—of falling back in love with her boring old spouse. "I would not be able to replace the romantic memory of my fellow transgressor with the more suitable image of my husband," she wrote. Poor Mike. One would think that having a wife cat around would be enough of an assault on his manhood. But just to twist the blade she has to explain to anyone willing to pick up a magazine that his marriage failed because he couldn't cut it in the passion department.
A few thoughts. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that women share more - and more personal - details of their lives than men do. This phenomenon is not limited to print media. In every day life, women are more likely to discuss relationships with husbands, children, co-workers and friends. We do this for several reasons: this kind of sharing is part of the way women get to know each other and bond. And we do it in order to share knowledge and insights we can use to improve our lives. We do it because women draw the boundaries between public and private information differently than men do. Often we think, "If I wouldn't object to someone knowing this about me, it's not private." We do it, sometimes, because we can't talk to the men in our lives. The male tolerance for endlessly dissecting the nuts and bolts of personal relationships is, after all, a finite commodity with a very short shelf life. But female interest in these subjects - not to mention our need for talk and intimacy - doesn't go away simply because it isn't shared to the same degree by the men in our lives.
The problem, as the author notes, is that it's one thing to share your own feelings and thoughts and quite another to divulge private information about one's spouse. The betrayal is only compounded when, rather than sharing your bedroom issues with a close and trusted confidant, one chooses to share them with a half million faceless readers.
But is it only women who do this, or even primarily women? Is there a male equivalent of online oversharing? The author makes it sound as though men would never do something as inconsiderate and tawdry as humiliating a spouse through the revelation of matters best left private.
Obviously he hasn't stopped to consider the truly alarming number of boyfriends, ex husbands, ex lover, and even married men who freely distribute sex tapes or nude photos of their women. The idea that posting, emailing, or sharing visual images of a woman without her knowledge and consent isn't a betrayal and isn't oversharing is just stunning.
And it may be stunning, but it's also extremely common.
Men will look at online images of a woman without stopping to consider for one moment the strong possibility that the woman wasn't a willing participant. She is every bit as much a hostage to male indiscretion as the husband whose wife feels it necessary to write long, rambling puff pieces for the NY Times detailing her sexual boredom or the man who goes on and on in public about how hot other women are or how frigid his wife is (both pretty common occurrences in today's world). For me at least, it's hard to separate the women who blabs all from the man who tells everyone around him that his wife can't satisfy his raging sex drive.
Neither one, it seems, stopped to think about their partner's feelings. And that's a cringe-worthy thought for anyone who writes online: is that me? The answer, in all too many cases, appears to be "yes". And that's not a comforting thought, nor one likely to result in untroubled sleep.
"Smart Women" and Relationships
Tigerhawk has posted a tasty bit of sex-and-relationships fodder. As part of our never ending efforts to keep the Oink Cadre from getting mopey, we have decided to give in to BillT's incessant demands for more posts about feeeeeeeeelings.
Women. We give and we give and we give:
In my fairly limited experience, there is more than a little truth in this list of reasons why there seem to be a lot of very smart, single, and frustrated women floating around. Number 5 strikes me as especially true, but your results may vary.
First of all, let's define "smart women". The author of the linked post defines intelligence like this:
I confess: I love smart women. I love it when she can write a sonnet, use Euler's formula, code Perl, play a concerto, speak half a dozen languages, run a company, quote Chaucer, diagnose diabetes, compose a quartet and converse brilliantly. Especially in a big city like Los Angeles or New York, looks alone do not suffice. I need, nay, require the intellectual engagement, and legions of smart, educated men feel similarly.
One suspects Dr. Benzer of indulging in a bit of literary hyperbole. Still, if you accept his definition at face value, the distinguishing characteristic of this "smart woman" is not her intelligence, but her accomplishments. Intelligence is not always easy to measure. Two widely used yardsticks are IQ and SAT scores. So it made sense to me to measure myself against those benchmarks.
I've taken several IQ tests over the years and the results have been fairly close. Using the lowest score I received (I simply don't remember which tests I took), I looked up the percentile rank for that score to see where I fall.
I did the same thing with my SAT scores. The result for both measures put me at about the 99th percentile. So if one accepts that IQ or SAT scores are a reasonable proxy for intelligence, I should easily qualify as "smart". And yet I can't do half the things on the author's list. I can do many things, but I wouldn't exactly call myself a high achiever.
So if I'm so smart, why haven't I accomplished more? No one who knows me well would say that I'm lazy. The answer, perhaps, lies here:
Most people have about four or five strong talents out of the roughly two dozen independent aptitudes known to exist. Most jobs require about four or five. As many as 10% of the population has double that number of aptitudes--and that is a problem for them and their employers. The Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation, the oldest aptitude-testing organization in the country, has statistical evidence that people with too many aptitudes (TMAs) are less likely to obtain advanced education and/or succeed in a career than those with an average number of talents.
Perhaps part of the problem with high achieving women isn't one of intelligence but of focus? Strong ambition and high achievement in school or a career require intense effort that detracts from other areas in which women have traditionally excelled, such as interpersonal skills.
During my growing up years, boys were a top priority of mine in a way that school never was. School was easy. Boys, on the other hand, were challenging and fun so I spent a lot of time trying to understand them and working on my relationship skills. There is little doubt that my schoolwork suffered as a result.
Eventually I was admitted to an Ivy League school where I studied just enough to pull fairly mediocre grades and partied a lot. Many of my friends had to study 3 times as much as I did just to stay afloat, but being young and irresponsible, I studied only as much as I had to and only to the extent that a subject interested me. I left school for a lot of reasons. One is that I knew I wasn't serious about school yet and felt it would be unforgivable to continue wasting my parents' money.
But the other reason is important, too. As I looked around, I realized that my priorities were very different than those of most of my peers. This isn't a politically correct thing to say, but I knew - even at 18 - that I wanted to marry and have children. What's more, I wanted to raise my children myself. It made absolutely no sense to me to place a home and family last on my "to do" list when it was first or second on the list of things that were important to me. And it made no sense to me to spend years and years prepping myself for a high powered career I would have to give up almost as soon as I attained it.
As it turned out, I quit school, got married within a few years, raised my boys and then went back to school as an adult. In school, I was very much a high achiever because this time there was no conflict between my values and doing well. The effort made sense because it consorted well with what was important to me.
So I wonder if part of the problem with these smart (or perhaps just high achieving) women is that relationships aren't a priority for them and they haven't developed the right skill set to succeed in love?
But there's another side of the equation too - one the author hints at indirectly but doesn't address: the male side. Men have different goals and different wants when it comes to relationships. Intelligence is important to them, but not as important (generally) as good looks and a woman's ability to make them feel happy, wanted, and most of all needed. Given how persistently men pursue women, it came as a great surprise to me to realize just how hesitant a man can be in this area. A man can be very interested in a woman and yet decide not to get involved with her because he perceives her as "too much work". Men also are more likely to chat up a woman who appears to be receptive to their advances: while they enjoy a bit of a challenge, they don't like risking rejection.
And finally there's the timing factor. Women tend to want commitment far earlier in their lives (and far earlier in a relationship) than men do. Men, on the other hand, view commitment very seriously and often won't even entertain a commitment until all the right moving parts are in place: career, a feeling that they've experimented enough and are ready for something different, a desire to have children. One of the ironies of the sexual revolution is that while it made it easier for women to enter into uncommitted sexual relationships, it made it harder for them to attain what most of us really want: a committed, long term relationship.
In this area, women who have not made understanding and relating to men a priority may find themselves competing with younger women who are willing to give men everything they want without demanding anything in return. That competitive hurdle may be difficult to overcome. By the time her male peers are ready to settle down, they can still attract younger, more complaisant women while her perceived attractiveness has begun to wane. That's a hurdle I didn't have to face in my youth for a variety of reasons.
I thought it was a bit strange that the author only looked at one half of the relationship equation: the female half. Failing to consider what "smart women" have to offer potential male partner from the male point of view doesn't strike me as all that "smart". In most relationships, it isn't solely the man or solely the woman who determines whether that fleeting feeling we call love turns into something permanent. It's a joint effort.
Feel free to opine in the comments section, but please don't let Bill go on and on about his feelings :p It frightens the horses.
December 11, 2009
Governing is Hard, Part Deux
Don't you just hate it when Irony sneaks up behind you and bites you on the ass?
The smarter elements in Washington DC are starting to pick up on the fact that it’s not tactical errors on the part of the president that make it hard to get things done, it’s the fact that the country has become ungovernable.
And to think that these are the smart people. It's time for a trip back in the Wayback Machine... back to 2006 when that incompetent boob George W was... gasp! ... having trouble getting even routine legislation past the obstructionist minority party:
On the first anniversary of President Bush’s second inauguration — and the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Gipper’s first — I called the Democrats, “the Party of Obstruction, noting how the Democratic leadership of both the House and the Senate was eschewing constructive efforts to work with the Republican majority and uniting their caucuses to oppose the president’s initiatives. They weren’t interested in effecting any compromises with him, just blocking any proposal he put forward, merely because he had put it forward.
In a recent interview with 60 Minutes, potential Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi made clear that should her party win control of Congress next month, she will continue this practice of obstruction. Claiming that the election is about the President and Vice President, she would be satisfied to make “them lame ducks.”
So, although the President was elected to a four-year term — and given that Pelosi claims she has taken “off the table,” she believes a Democratic majority should render him ineffective. In other words, she remains more committed to preventing the nation’s Chief Executive from accomplishing anything than in working with him to promote the national interest. No wonder she threatens “to deny plum assignments to members who vote with the Republicans.“
Contrast this with House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the last Republican Speaker to serve under a Democratic President. In his two terms as Speaker (1995-99), while often at odds with Bill Clinton, that Democratic President, he and House Republicans worked with the Chief Executive to forge a consensus domestic policy, passing landmark welfare reform and balancing the federal budget.
A scant year later, Harry Reid was announcing to the world that the Surge was a failure and the Iraq war was lost. Looks like payback just made Matt her bitch. But then you know the old saying: what goes around, comes around.
Moral of the story: when the minority party has the temerity to oppose your attempts to circumvent the Constitution and foist unprecedented and very likely unconstitutional "change" on the American people, don't even consider the possibility that they just might have a point:
I wonder, is this issue going to get traction? Cato's Robert Levy and Michael Cannon argue that the health insurance mandate is unconstitutional. It does seem to cross a commerce-clause line: yet another line, in fact, since so many have been crossed already. The question is whether the government can force you to buy something you don't want. You have to buy car insurance, you say? Well, not really, since nobody forces you to buy a car (though try living in the US without one). The health insurance mandate forces you to buy a service, and all you have to do to fall under its power is exist.
No, it's far more comforting to suddenly realize that sometime during your guy's watch, the country suddenly became "ungovernable".
Ezra Klein Ensmartens Us All
This is why we need to let "science" drive public policy. Before the sheer awesomeness of quantitative methods, lesser mortals tremble:
In states with lower percentages of people that endorse spanking and washing kids' mouths out with soap, which is the case in New England and much of the Middle Atlantic, Obama did very well. In states with higher percentages, like Wyoming, Idaho, and Alabama, McCain won big. Even the states that fall somewhat far from the trend line are usually easy to explain. For example, Hawaii, Illinois, and Alaska are all favorite son or daughter states. Several states that are below the line, like Nevada, Indiana, and Ohio, are states that have usually voted Republican in the past.
More here.The most interesting part of the study is that this is apparently a new divide in American politics.
The implications of this seminal research are startling. Why just think! If we eliminate spanking, we could eliminate Republicans!
Moral of the story: don't be a Denier. Remember: if it can be charted, it's science! De numbahs, dey nevah lie:
The One That Got Away....
Inexplicably, this one escaped Sarah Palin's murderous helicopter rage:
He's probably gay, too.
Health Care Reform
Sausage (my dog) now has a pet portal where I can access his health care records online at my convenience.
Mommy, I'm scared.
December 10, 2009
Now that's some weiner vendor.
Oh For Pete's Sake
In my last post, I quoted an article and asked whether this is racism:
On the one hand, Ebonie Johnson Cooper doesn’t care that Tiger Woods’ wife and alleged mistresses are white because Woods is “quote-unquote not really black.”
“But at the same time we still see him as a black man with a white woman, and it makes a difference,” said Johnson Cooper, a 26-year-old African-American from New York City. “There’s just this preservation thing we have among one another. We like to see each other with each other.”
Most of you agreed that this was racist. Now, tell me whether you consider this to be an equally racist statement:
As Steffgen predicted, the media now force interracial images into the public mind and a number of perfectly rational people react to these images with an altogether natural revulsion. The white person who does not mind transacting business with a black bank clerk may yet be averse to accepting the clerk as his sisterinlaw, and THIS IS NOT RACISM, no matter what Madison Avenue, Hollywood and Washington tell us.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument* that a white person said this. Is it “racist”? Or “racialist”? Or something else?
Before we go on, let's take this step by step. A black woman says it's natural for blacks to want to preserve racial purity (and that is exactly what she's saying: that blacks don't like to see mixed race couples). In most people's minds, this begs a follow on question: If blacks have a natural discomfort with mixed race couples, is it equally natural for whites to feel the same discomfort?
Or is it racist simply to admit this discomfort exists in some people's minds (regardless of whether they're white or black)?
What makes us so uncomfortable about this statement? Is it that we don't believe people truly feel that way? I doubt that. Or is it that we know they do, but wish they didn't? Is it, perhaps, that in both cases the speaker failed to condemn the discomfort; even going so far as to imply that it's perfectly natural?
Finally, what's wrong with Patterico's question? Why is it off limits? I happen to think it's a good question; one worth discussing. But then I saw only a question, not an accusation or a personal attack:
Patrick tries to get the Charles Johnson-ish charges of racism against Robert Stacy McCain to stick, and fails.
For the record, I do not buy Pat’s argument that anyone who has hangups about interracial dating and marriage is racist. For one thing, if one is going to concede that, then one has to concede that there are a lot of black racists out there. A lot.
Why is the conclusion that black racism exists unacceptable?
It's funny. I took this to be precisely the point of Patterico's post: what difference does it make who says a thing? If you agree the statements say the same thing and you decide the first statement was racist, consistency demands that you call the second statement racist too. In other words, the same standard ought to be applied to both statements.
Regardless of the race of the speaker. And regardless of whether the second speaker is "one of us" (conservative, white) or "one of them" (liberal, black). Absent a convincing explanation of how those two statements differ semantically, if you refuse to apply the same standard then I can't help suspecting you of indulging in outcome-based moral reasoning.
Which doesn't strike me as intellectually honest. In fact, it strikes me as exactly the same kind of tribalism we conservatives love to point out on the Left: Ooooh! here's an unforgiving standard for people we don't agree with! And a different, far more lenient standard for those on "our side"! Would this post have aroused one tenth of the outrage it generated if the author of the second quote had been Michael Moore? I doubt it, because no one in his right mind defends Michael Moore.
Seriously, let's face it: in that case we'd all have reached a conclusion that confirmed what we already thought. That feeling of comfort must mean we're right (pun fully intended). Since we're on the subject, did Patterico actually call Stacy a racist? It's hard to make that case without superimposing your feelings onto Patrick's actual remarks:
That Quote Most of You Called “Racist” Was Written by Robert Stacy McCain
Whom I always liked, to be honest with you, as a funny and seemingly sensible guy. And I’m not saying that one racist/prejudiced quote brands you as a racist for all time. But at the same time, he wrote something that would make most of us cringe.
I invite you to tell me what is wrong/bad about that statement? Do any of you seriously buy the notion that one insufficiently race-neutral quote (according to some) makes one a racist? Man, oh man am I in trouble! Joy, though I don't think that's the point she intended to make, shows what's wrong with this reasoning:
For the record, I do not buy Pat’s argument that anyone who has hangups about interracial dating and marriage is racist. For one thing, if one is going to concede that, then one has to concede that there are a lot of black racists out there.
But why should "there are a lot of black racists out there" be an unacceptable conclusion? What makes it unacceptable? What race blind principle do we apply to arrive at that conclusion?
Was anyone outraged at the suggestion that Ms. Cooper's statement was racist? If so, I missed the flurry of posts defending her from this vile accusation. If the two statements express the same idea (that it's natural for black/white people to prefer same-race couples), what race blind principle do we apply to conclude that Ms. Cooper's statement was racist, but Stacy's isn't? Mind you, I don't concede that either statement is racist. Here's why. This, also.
It would seem that scoring points on the opposition (or preventing them from scoring points on you) has become more important than applying standards evenly. Which is really a shame when you think about it, because faithful adherence to our principles and applying standards fairly is supposed to be what conservatism is all about.
Except, of course, when our own standards suddenly seem - rightly or wrongly - inconvenient. Then, it becomes extremely important to superimpose what you think your opponent said on top of what he actually said so you can defeat your version of what you want him to have said:
... if you believe a statement, as a linguistic entity (which always presumes intent somewhere along the interpretive chain), is somehow, say, inadvertently racist — that is, if you don’t think RS McCain really meant it as a racist statement — then on what basis are you calling it a racist statement in the first place, especially if you admit to believing it was not intended as such? Alternately, if you believe the statement is racist, but that its utterer is not racist, where, precisely, does the “racism” come from in that particular formulation?
And the answer to that is that it comes from the person interpreting, the person or persons who, for whatever their reasons, decide that the statement is racist, but yet won’t to commit to the full-on charge of racism against the the statement’s utterer. It’s a cowardly argument; it hasn’t balls; it lacks confidence in its convictions.
And I’m sorry, but you can’t have it both ways. If you believe the statement is racist, you believe that it was uttered with racist intent. If you don’t believe it was uttered with racist intent, the statement is not racist, unless the intent to see racism comes from another source, in this case, from some agency who imbues the statement with a meaning that he doesn’t attribute to the original utterer.
This argument makes very little sense when you examine it closely. Let's go back to the part of Stacy's comment that seems to be bothering people:
"...the media now force interracial images into the public mind and a number of perfectly rational people react to these images with an altogether natural revulsion."
Did Stacy say that he is repulsed by mixed race couples? No. Did he say that there should be no mixed race couples? Again, no. So there is no racist intent and indeed Patterico didn't say there was. What Stacy appears to have said is that some people - people who are perfectly rational - feel revulsion when they see a mixed race couple. That's arguably a true statement which makes two points:
1. The revulsion is "natural" or instinctual, and
2. Merely feeling such a feeling does not, in and of itself, render these people irrational.
I don't think it's wildly unreasonable to conclude that this feeling of revulsion is racial, (or racist, or whatever term we want to use) in nature, though. That's not necessarily what I think, but I can easily see how a rational and reasonable person might disagree with me. According to the dictionary, a racist is a:
1 : person who believes race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race 2 : person who practices racial prejudice or discrimination.
Absent the skin color difference AND the feeling that skin color matters in some important way, there is no reason to feel revulsion. It's a totally race-based feeling, characterized by the idea that skin color makes some kind of difference. But does simply feeling that way (or simply admitting that "some people" feel that way and that this feeling - which is apparently shared by a fair number of blacks - is "natural") make one a racist?
I think that depends upon whether one buys into the notion of thought crime. Men look at porn all the time. The feeling they have when they look at it is entirely "natural" (I've heard it said that men are wired that way). Think about it: the entire reason for looking at naked women you are not married to is to satisfy the craving for sexual variety by indulging the fantasy that you are violating your marriage vows. So if a man regularly indulges his completely understandable, beautiful and natural urge to dream of drilling surgically enhanced 19 year olds he's not married to... and yet never actually has sex with someone else, does that make him an adulterer?
If a person has feelings that are racially motivated, and yet chooses not to act upon those feelings, is he a racist?
We all have feelings and they are "natural". Some of these feelings are laudable and some not so praiseworthy. Some we would feel perfectly comfortable acting upon in front of our grandmothers and some would make us ashamed, were we to act upon them.
It's quite possible to have feelings that conflict with your moral code. If you are scrupulous about obeying your moral code rather than giving into your immoral or amoral feelings, would it be fair to call you an immoral person? Your actions, after all, are moral. It is only your feelings that fail to live up to the same standard. Therefore it doesn't seem unreasonable to me to decide that one might have racist instincts, and yet not be a racist because those instincts are never acted upon.
Of course reasoning like that is really no fun because you run the risk of undermining your argument that your opponent is a dirty rotten scoundrel for not saying what you firmly believe he said and attacking his own side by pointedly and repeatedly saying he doesn't think Stacy is a racist. That friendly fire is always so devastating, isn't it? And then of course, you miss all the fun of defending someone who really doesn't need defending at all because it turns out he didn't do anything wrong.
The interesting thing here is that Stacy didn't even say HE has those feelings. He might, he might not. I don't really care because if we begin condemning people on the strength of feelings and instincts that are not representative of their moral code or their behavior, then every single one of us is a racist. And an adulterer. And a liar. And possibly even a murderer.
So I guess you'd have to put me firmly in the "calm the hell down" camp. I see zero evidence that Patrick called Stacy a racist. And I see zero need to defend Stacy against made up accusations even if he did say exactly what it's alleged he said. What Stacy said was true (many people don't like to see mixed race couples, though possibly not for the reasons one might think). And what Patrick said was true (Stacy's remark does make most of us uncomfortable).
That's because most of us don't want to be racists. Just as most of us don't approve of adultery. This is a good thing. It means our consciences work.
And it sure would be nice if everyone could go back to DEFCON 5 and try to look at this dispassionately. Perhaps this will help.
Then again, maybe y'all would rather be offended and outraged.
Update: What she said.
December 09, 2009
Crappy Blogging Alert
Anyone who has been kind enough to tolerate my writing for any length of time has probably noticed that I have a tendency to quit blogging in October.
I have no idea why I do that (or more accurately I do have some ideas but they're not really all that interesting). The point is, it is what it is.
This October was no exception, but I'd already promised to head up the Valour IT Marine team. I'm so glad I did that, because it was a great experience and I got to meet some amazing bloggers. But at the the end of the day the bills still come due.
I am trying to strike some kind of balance between blogging and real life so I don't have these big swings between being happy and full of enthusiasm and being tired and disgusted. I don't like writing when I'm disgusted. The world (and certainly the Internet) offers way too much anger and pessimism as it is without my adding to it.
I much prefer thinking of myself as an annoyingly chirpy voice of snarky naivete. That's a lot easier to do when you're not dealing with a massive sense of humor failure :p
I guess what I'm saying is that I need to get back in touch with my inner Pollyanna. I'm not quitting, but I am warning you that blogging is going to be light to non-existent for a little while. There are too many demands on my time and I need to do some mental housecleaning. In the meantime, I leave you with one of my all time favorite songs:
When paradise is no longer fit for you to live in
And your adolescent dreams are gone
Through the days you feel a little used up
And you don't know where your energy's gone wrong
It's just your soul feelin' a little downhearted
Sometimes life is too ridiculous to live
You count your friends all on one finger
I know it sounds crazy just the way that we live
Between a laugh and a tear
Smile in the mirror as you walk by
Between a laugh and a tear
And that's as good as it can get for us
And there ain't no reason to stop tryin'
When this cardboard town can no longer amuse you
You see through everything and nothin' seems worthwhile
And hypocrite used to be such a big word to you
Don't seem to mean anything to you now
Just try to live each and every precious moment
Don't be discouraged by the future forget the past
That's old advice but it'll be good to you
I know there's a balance
I see it when I swing past
Between a laugh and a tear
Smile in the mirror as you walk by
Between a laugh and a tear
And that's as good as it can get for us
And there ain't no reason to stop tryin'
I love that line: "Ain't no reason to stop trying". Give me a little time and I'll be back, more
irreverent irrelevant than ever and ready to skewer unnoticed mooses with offbeat and largely superfluous snark.
Update: one more for the road. Best Mellencamp song of all time.
December 08, 2009
For Margaret and Cynthia
Under the summer roses
When the flagrant crimson
Lurks in the dusk
Of the wild red leaves,
Love, with little hands,
Comes and touches you
With a thousand memories,
And asks you
Beautiful, unanswerable questions.
The furry-toed one will be proud to know there is now scientific proof of the existence of Hobbits.
December 07, 2009
OK, so the blog princess capitulated to the Forces of Evil and bought a pre-lit, fake Christmas tree over the weekend.
I must say that it looks very nice, though it was really a PITA to assemble. And I like the no-needles aspect very much.
But one of the things I look forward to every year is the smell of fresh greenery in the house. On the other hand, I had to concede that I'm not Womyn enough to want to drag a hand cart and a saw through a freezing muddy field and cut down my own this year.
Somehow, that sort of thing just isn't much fun as a solo exploit. Perhaps next year.
In other news, as I was festooning my fake tree with... Festivus festoonments, I pulled together my Christmas CDs and put them out where they will be played more often. I listened to two of my favorites - Amahl and the Night Visitors and the Benedictus from the Christmas Oratorio by Camille Saint Saens.
I can't tell you how much I look forward to hearing it, early Christmas morning. It's the most peaceful sound in the world. I love to sneak out before it's quite light yet, turn the Christmas tree lights on and sit in the gathering half-light with a glass of egg nog.
A little slice of heaven before the present ripping orgy begins.
What kind of Christmas music do you like? What are your favorite Christmas songs/CD's?
Did you know that the best selling record of all time is a Christmas song?
Executives at National Public Radio recently asked the network’s top political correspondent, Mara Liasson, to reconsider her regular appearances on Fox News because of what they perceived as the network’s political bias, two sources familiar with the effort said.
According to a source, Liasson was summoned in early October by NPR’s executive editor for news, Dick Meyer, and the network’s supervising senior Washington editor, Ron Elving. The NPR executives said they had concerns that Fox’s programming had grown more partisan, and they asked Liasson to spend 30 days watching the network.
Has NPR expressed similar concerns about Alison Stewart?
She has served as fill in host of NPR's Talk of the Nation and MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
Personally, I don't know what everyone is getting so worked up about. How can truly objective and non-partisan news outlets like NPR be expected to preserve their street cred if they allow their correspondents to be "used" to provide a fake sense that more than one point of view ought to be
“This has been a building thing. There has been a concern in the upper regions of NPR that Fox uses Mara and Juan as cover” to defuse arguments that the TV network is populated with right-wing voices, said the source, who asked not to be named.
One complaint from NPR executives is that this very perception that Liasson and Williams serve as ideological counterweights reinforces feelings among some members of the public that NPR tilts to the left. “NPR has its own issues in trying to convince people that, ‘Look, we’re down the middle,’” the source said. “This is a public and institutional problem that has nothing to do with Mara. Obviously, you can’t give Mara a hard time for what’s coming out of her mouth. ... She’s very careful. She isn’t trashing anybody.”
Yep. Nothing says "playing it down the middle" like pressuring your employees not to participate in the kind of inclusive debate that makes you look one-sided and partisan by comparison.
Leave NPR alone!!! They have a reputation to protect.
Unclear on the Concept
It's never a good sign when your considered opinion reads like an Onion skit:
... we could raise more than enough to balance government budgets by replacing our existing tax system with one that taxes activities that cause harm to others.
Why, oh why, do I expect "harm" to be very much a function of political philosophy? But wait! There's more!
Anti-tax zealots denounce all taxation as theft, as depriving citizens of their right to spend their hard-earned incomes as they see fit. Yet nowhere does the Constitution grant us the right not to be taxed. Nor does it grant us the right to harm others with impunity. No one is permitted to steal our cars or vandalize our homes. Why should opponents of taxation be allowed to harm us in less direct ways?
Someone needs to pull out their copy of the Constitution. When simply using public roadways paid for with your tax dollars is arbitrarily redefined as "harming others" (you know, like stealing a car or vandalizing someone's home), it's a fair bet things have jumped the shark.
The Constitution creates and spells out the structure of the federal government and grants it limited and (for the most part) enumerated powers. Limiting the power of the federal government was intended to protect citizens (and our state and local governments) from the federal government, not from each other.
The prospect of invoking the Constitution to prevent American citizens from indirectly harming each other ought to raise the hackles of liberals and conservatives alike - it's the legal equivalent of swatting at gnats with a sledgehammer. On the other hand since taxation is entirely voluntary, maybe there's nothing to worry about.
Perhaps it's time to revise that old Ronald Reagan quote: The new scariest words in the English language are: "We're the government and we're here to protect you."
More on Male/Female Domestic Violence
Attila has a very thoughtful post on the issue of defining and dealing with male vs. female domestic violence:
Turns Out Domestic Violence Is Fine.
As long as you confine it to the other person’s property. Because 1) no one is particularly attached to his or her property, and 2) destroying property never leads to any sort of assault on someone’s person.
So we’ve got all that squared away.
Just to be safe, though, if you’re going to try this? I’d recommend making sure that you are a female in a heterosexual relationship. Because men are never the victims in a domestic violence situation. Well: hardly ever.
In other words, no: as someone who, at the age of 15, watched her mother smash her [the mother's] boyfriend’s antiques, and burn his clothes in the backyard, and threaten his face and the windows of his VW bug with a hammer, I’m not impressed with the reasoning.
...Though on the surface I know it sounds like Cass and I disagree, I don’t really think we do so much: we’re both saying that there should be one standard of behavior within a marriage, for both men and women. And we’re both saying that people should control themselves and behave, as much as possible, like adults.
Despite my well known predilection for honor killings and delicious bouts of she-on-he, WWE style mayhem, I can't find too much to disagree with there. I know what I meant when I used the example of someone punching an inanimate object during a heated argument. What I envisioned was someone turning away from the other person and slamming a wall or flat surface, not someone pulling a Glenn Close.
Reading Joy's post, I am a little concerned that I inadvertently gave the impression that I think slapping each other in the face during arguments is hunky dory. I mentioned the archetypal 1940s style movie scene where the man and woman are about to kiss and in the mating tussle, one ups and slaps the other.
It's my recollection that such slaps were never all that forceful, nor were they intended to cause bodily harm. Obviously that isn't something I'd do (or want done to me). But Darleen made a great point in the comments section of Attila's post that did a far better job than I did of conveying what I was trying to get across with regard to both the property damage and slapping examples:
... on a societal level, incidental property damage (throwing a book, breaking a plate, slamming a door so hard it comes off the hinges) is not really DV if not directed at the other or done as part of a threat directed at the other (”this is what will happen to YOU if you dont …”)
The LAW on the other hand, varies from state to state and unfortunately sometimes cops are - pun here - handcuffed in their ability to decide to obey the spirit of the law rather than enforce the letter of the law.
Does it make any sense for cops to be instructed in a “zero tolerance” manner when it comes to DV that they will arrive on-scene and even with no physical evidence of assault, arrest both parties and take the minor kids to CPS?
There was enough reasonable doubt on the events of that night without Tiger or Elin willing to talk to the cops (their constitutional right) that there was no case.
Certainly, with no history, no injuries and no cooperation, no DDA would file on it either.
IF she had actually hit him and caused physical injury, all bets would be off and I’m sure the FL cops would have taken her in right there. FL DV law is pretty clear and Tiger’s not wanting to file charges would have had no effect. Similar to CA DV law.
This was exactly what I had in mind: that we don't want to adopt a zero tolerance policy towards reports of DV because when it comes to sex and relationships, things aren't always as clean cut or black and white (pun fully intended) as we might wish. Certain things clearly cross the line.
I've stood on too many doorsteps over the years because a female friend had been beaten up by her boyfriend or husband. Like Joy's husband, my personal experience with DV has been overwhelmingly of the male-on-female kind. But that doesn't mean women never batter the men in their lives.
It's hard to describe how helpless you feel when a friend is involved with someone violent. But the worst thing of all is the realization that you can't force someone else to get help. You can urge, cajole, nag, offer help. But in the end if they want to be safe, it often comes down to something extremely unpleasant: calling the police and filing charges. And deciding to walk out that door.
Even then, there are no guarantees. Restraining orders are nearly useless. I've had friends whose apartments were broken into and who were attacked with a restraining order in place.
Part of the reason I tend to bristle when the men's rights crowd start in on how feminism has ruined the world is that I remember what the world used to be like. I remember the years when a battered wife or girlfriend was something to which both the police and the courts often turned a blind eye. I think that has largely changed, and what's more I think that's a good thing.
And I think that men should enjoy the same protections by the legal system that women do. I don't believe in unequal justice. It's unfortunate, I think, that in some instances the law and societal mores have gone a bit too far towards protecting women, to the point where we're sometimes treated as not fully adult and therefore encouraged not to responsibility for our own decisions. The problem here is that the law can't - and shouldn't - attempt to solve all our problems or absolve us of adult responsibilities. I've complained many times about overzealous and intrusive campaigns that make it so easy to accuse a partner of domestic violence (and where the burden of proof is so low) that false reports become a convenient weapon when a relationship goes sour even when there's zero evidence of abuse.
I don't think laws can eradicate domestic violence. It requires a certain hubris to believe that if we just make the process accessible enough or the punishments for misbehavior steep enough, people will all behave reasonably. This kind of legal overreach tends to create perverse incentives. A more realistic goal is create conditions where real DV victims - male or female - are treated justly and with compassion when they do decide to seek help.
Nothing the law can do is ever going to render this kind of situation easy or cut and dried. I'm not sure we can ever - whether we're talking about a man or a woman - get around the fact that we all have to be willing to defend ourselves. What the law can do is to make getting help possible and strive to treat DV victims of both sexes equitably.
December 06, 2009
Watch Out Where the 'Piskies Go...
For some reason I found myself thinking of Betty Butterfield this morning:
December 05, 2009
Tiger Woods: Victim of the Matriarchy
OK, what am I missing here?
I don't really have a whole lot of interest in Tiger Woods' marital issues. What I do find just astounding is how emotionally invested so many conservatives seem to be in turning him into a victim.
Now I will be the first to admit I haven't followed all the ins and outs of the story. But then I have yet to see a single blogger or commenter out of the scores who have accused Elin Woods of bashing Tiger in the face with a golf club offer ONE SINGLE SHRED of evidence - not a link, not a quote, nothing - that she actually hit him.
Of course in the larger scheme of things, minor details like this are completely irrelevant.
It seems to me that when you're so wrapped up in perpetuating a narrative that you have to exaggerate wildly or make stuff up to maintain your sense of outrage, something is amiss. This is my understanding of what has come out. Feel free to correct me - with links:
In what moral universe - conservative or otherwise - is this acceptable behavior? Oh. I forgot. Tiger is an "alpha male" who is just doing what comes naturally. It's the way he's wired - you see, real mean have no brains and no morals. They literally can't control their body parts when an attractive woman walks by - their Johnsons have been known to levitate right out of their pants and penetrate female passersby at random! And the poor man is utterly helpless. He can neither prevent nor control the irresistible force of nature. And don't you dare suggest there might be something wrong violating your marriage vows! Don't you get it? Tiger is rich. Any man - married or otherwise - who doesn't cheat on his wife when the opportunity presents itself is just insane. And if you don't agree, you're a dirty, man hating feminist. If you're a guy and you have a problem with his behavior, you're either a self hating beta male or totally gay.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. Yeah. Sounds pretty stupid when you say it out loud, doesn't it?
The next door neighbors - the ones who called 911 - said he had "a cut lip" with hardly any blood. Again, I don't know what universe you all live in, but when someone gets whacked in the face with a nine iron by an angry assailant, there is more damage than a cut lip with no visible blood.
3. To call this "domestic violence" - absent one single shred of evidence that his wife hit him (or even evidence that he suffered injuries consistent with the alleged "domestic violence") is delusional behavior bordering on the Andrew Sullivan-esque. And to think we always thought only women acted that way.
I will freely stipulate that IF she had hit him with a golf club or anything else then yes, it would be domestic violence and yes, it would not only be wrong, but wrong/bad and evil and we should probably burn her at the stake like the evil witch we all know she is. But there's no evidence that this is what happened.
On the other hand, there's considerable evidence that Tiger Woods repeatedly cheated on his wife with not one but several women. There is no evidence that he did not wear a condom, but something in me says that a man who is reckless enough to cheat on his wife repeatedly and sext them from his own home isn't displaying what I'd call due diligence with regard to his sex life.
When a spouse cheats and doesn't take precautions, he or she essentially forces his or her partner to assume the risk of catching an STD or even AIDS. This is no trivial matter. It's one thing for Tiger Woods to take that risk.
It's entirely another for him to subject his wife to it without her knowledge or consent.
In many ways, the men's rights movement is sounding more and more like the feminists they constantly complain of -- whiny, shrill, and knee deep in the victim mentality. When conservatives co-sign this nonsense, it becomes just too weird for words. Here's a giant hint: there are actually men out there who have been battered. Why not find one of them, instead of making stuff up to fit your narrative?
You're rapidly losing any sympathy many of us have had for you. But then maybe that's a big part of the problem with these gender warriors - male or female. A thing is either wrong or right. It's not more wrong because you're male or female. Why not just plead your case on the merits instead of allowing your resentment of the opposite sex to force you into intellectually untenable (not to mention morally indefensible) positions?
Please keep these guys in your prayers.
Yeah, I know I'm partial to Marines. Get over it :)
And I'm not just saying that because I agree with him. I've been thinking a lot lately that a lot of folks on the right, regardless of where they stand on ideological and political compromise, are way too close to what's going on. We've lost our perspective. Ace's essay puts the whole RINO/extremism brouhaha back on solid ground and supports his points with common sense and calm, dispassionate insight.
Anyway, after reading it I've got nothin'. Via Attila.
December 04, 2009
As I Suspected
...cats are evil:
Help! Help! I'm Being Repressed!!!
What a traveshamockery.
You know, I don't think I've made a single decision in my entire life that was predicated on what was good for feminism.
What was best for my children? Certainly.
What was best for my marriage? Absolutely.
Though I suppose if feminism is the most important thing in your life, it all makes a twisted kind of sense. But that makes me wonder why a woman like that got married and had kids in the first place? Proving a point strikes me as extremely poor motivation for major life decisions that involve other people.
Especially those you love. Whatever happened to striving to be the best person you can be? I don't understand this whole "I'm OK, I'm OK" bit. Few of us are that wonderful in our natural, unadulterated state. Something I read the other day comes to mind:
... natural isn't necessarily good. Think about earthquakes, tsunamis, gangrene or pneumonia. Nor is unnatural bad, or beyond human potential. Consider writing a poem, learning a second language or mastering a musical instrument. Few people would argue that learning to play the violin is natural; after all, it takes years of dedication and hard work. A case can be made, in fact, that people are being maximally human when they do things that contradict their biology. "Doing what comes naturally" is easy. It's what nonhuman animals do. Perhaps only human beings can will themselves to do things that go against their "nature."
Thinking only of yourself is natural. It's being an adult that's hard.
Butter Crowds Out Guns
... Britain cannot opt out of the world.
If we cannot understand why the Russians are rapidly becoming the greatest naval and military power the world has ever seen - if we cannot draw the lesson of what they tried to do in Portugal and are now trying to do in Angola, then we are destined—in their words—to end up on ‘the scrap heap of history’.
We look to our alliances with America and NATO as the main guarantee of our own security and, in the world beyond Europe, the United States is still the prime champion of freedom.
But we are all aware of how the bitter experience of Vietnam has changed the public mood in America. We are also aware of the circumstances that inhibit action by an American president in an election year.
So it is more vital then ever that each and every one of us within NATO should contribute his proper share to the defence of freedom.
...This is not a moment when anyone with the interests of this country at heart should be talking about cutting our defences.
It is a time when we urgently need to strengthen our defences.
Of course this places a burden on us. But it is one that we must be willing to bear if we want our freedom to survive.
Throughout our history, we have carried the torch for freedom. Now, as I travel the world, I find people asking again and again, "What has happened to Britain?" They want to know why we are hiding our heads in the sand, why with all our experience, we are not giving a lead.
...The Socialists, in fact, seem to regard defence as almost infinitely cuttable. They are much more cautious when it comes to cutting other types of public expenditure.
They seem to think that we can afford to go deeper into debt so that the Government can prop up a loss-making company. And waste our money on the profligate extension of nationalisation and measures such as the Community Land Act.
Apparently, we can even afford to lend money to the Russians, at a lower rate of interest that we have to pay on our own borrowings.
But we cannot afford, in Labour's view, to maintain our defences at the necessary level...
I found it bizarre, the other night, listening to Obama complain about how NATO needs to contribute more and "do their part" while, out of the other side of his mouth, complaining that we can't afford all this horrid defense spending when what we really need is bloated entitlement programs.
I guess we can add the guns/butter decision to the long list of tradeoffs he's determined to ignore. Does this mean he thinks Europe is spending too much on entitlements - that they're not pulling their fair share of the weight? And if so, who does he expect to do the actual fighting when America becomes more like Germany and France?
Soldiers from Germany and France are well-trained, but they operate under a series of restrictions or "caveats" instituted by their parliaments. Some caveats limit the areas where troops can operate, permitting enemies to retreat to safety when engaged. The most controversial caveat is a prohibition on the offensive use of lethal force. (That is, they can defend themselves, but they can't attack.) Germany, which requires its soldiers to carry a card in their pockets explaining when they are permitted to fire, has received the most criticism on this particular rule. In 2008, German special forces had a Taliban commander in their sights. They weren't allowed to fire unless their detachment was under active attack by a Taliban force—so instead of killing the target they retreated meekly. (The German restrictions are loosening, but the piecemeal changes have led to confusion.) All in all, NATO countries have imposed nearly 80 caveats on their soldiers.
But it's not just the restrictions. Defense spending has a huge impact on combat readiness and efficiency:
Europe will add 5,000 soldiers to its contingent in Afghanistan, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced Wednesday. It's not yet clear, however, which European countries will send troops. Georgia, the former Soviet republic, may be the largest contributor. England, Poland, and Italy have also pledged support. Does it matter where troops come from? Are some nation's soldiers better than others?
Yes. Troops from Britain and Canada receive better training than many of their European counterparts. Smaller countries—or countries with smaller military budgets—often can't fund nearly as much target practice with live ammunition, and their war games are far less elaborate. British and Canadian equipment and tactics are also similar to ours, which makes it easier for them to integrate into a largely American-led operation.
Which leads me to ask, again: if America cuts defense spending even more, who will step into the breach we leave? Who is Obama depending upon?
The latest resurrection of man cleavage does raise a not-so insignificant issue: to wax or not? For a number of years, any male chest hair was considered a fashion don't, but very recently a thin thatch has become quite acceptable. The low-cut look "is better if you have a little chest hair," says Tyler Thoreson, a New York-based men's style consultant. "It's not about showing off chest hair, it's about it peeking out a little bit."
Robert Caponi, a 32-year-old musician in Greensboro, N.C., isn't taking any chances. In order to get the hair-to-skin ratio just right, he shaves his chest every two weeks or so -- a regimen that helps him to feel comfortable in one of the six deep V-neck shirts he owns. Not all styles fit the bill. After purchasing a wide scoop neck recently, he declared it simply too revealing. "I looked in the mirror and I was disgusted," he says.
Because I know the Oink Cadre are just tingly with anticipation, wond'ring what the blog princess thinks about this important sartorial issue, please - for the love of God - do not shave or wax your chest.
Also, subtlety. One of my fondest memories involves mad teen daydreams brought about by the occasional glimpse of my then boyfriend, now husband's eminently perusable torso through the open collar of his shirt. But please - have some dignity. And leave something to the imagination.
Anticipation - and a bit of mystery - just makes it that much better when we finally get to unbutton the rest of those buttons.
December 02, 2009
Obama, By the Numbers
Obama's revealing Afghanistan war speech: 4,582 words and not one of them was 'victory'
...One other interesting war speech stat: President Obama mentioned himself 44 times.
Meanwhile, lest we forget who's really fighting this war.
Some people at the RNC had the idea to make a list of ten Republican principles and you won’t receive RNC funding if you disagree with three or more of them. That sounds like a neat idea, and it’s not a litmus test, as you can pick any two you want to be a squish on.
What??? The thing is, it's *so* not a litmus test! Really. I swear to God, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. Fortunately, I don't have to.
I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect. I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family.
Poor guy. Understandable, though. I guess he was "tired of her sh**".
The Middle Game
Last night, a weary country nervously awaited the end to our long national nightmare. Our patience, we were told, would be rewarded by the release of a comprehensive, new strategy - the result of several months of careful policy review. That last night's speech marked the second "careful policy review" in under a year is an inconvenient fact many thought best de-emphasized. Our job was to be patient while wiser heads mulled over options we - despite this administration's frequent promises of unprecedented openness, inclusiveness, and transparency - never saw except in the form of carefully timed leaks. These options are, apparently, far too complicated for us to understand.
They have changed little in the past few years. The framing of these unseen options has been masterful. The number strategically leaked earlier this week is clearly the one we're intended to keep in mind: 35,000. Forget the 40000 requested by the ISAF Commander. And no one took seriously the only estimate which matches Obama's own characterization of the seriousness of this war: 80000.
That number - 80000 - comprises the best estimate of the number of troops required to ensure the success of a war our own Commander in Chief has repeatedly told us we can't afford to lose. A war he claims is "vital" to the security of not just America, but the entire world. And though no one wants to talk about where we would have come up with 80000 troops, nor contemplate what such a dramatic increase would cost in blood and treasure, therein lies the fundamental contradiction inherent in last night's speech. For if this war is - truly - one we cannot afford to lose, then the conclusion is inescapable. We need to win. Not withdraw, but win.
This is the glaring contradiction we are left with after nearly six months of careful policy review, during which the President has consistently said we can't afford to lose.
How does one reconcile the rhetoric of necessary wars and essential security interests with an application of resources insufficient to guarantee victory with reasonable confidence? More than anything else, last night's speech reminded me of the fundamental dishonesty of the President's promises on health care reform. I can't understand how anyone could expect the public to believe more care will be provided to more people at lower cost with no reduction in the quality or quantity of care for those who already have insurance. For the first time in history, we really can have it all - and at the same time! Milton Freidman was wrong: there is a such a thing as a free lunch. This president never saw a tradeoff he couldn't sweet talk out of existence. Yes, we can offer universal health care without increasing the deficit, causing critical shortages in the supply of health care providers, or increasing out of pocket costs for those who currently have insurance!
We can also, apparently, win a war we can't "afford" to lose - with far fewer resources and in a far shorter time frame than anyone would have guessed. The secret lies in a lawyerly definition of "success".
And that is precisely what we heard last night. We now know that our President will not tire. He will not falter and he will not fail in his firm resolve to begin withdrawing troops in 18 months. That's the end game. That's success.
I know what I hoped for, last night. I hoped that three months of careful deliberation and the second major war review conducted by this President had finally impressed upon him the gravity of our situation and the tremendous import of our actions.
I hoped for something Churchillian: a reminder that the sacrifices and decisions we make today will reverberate through the ages, affecting the lives and the security of future generations. I expected to hear our allies thanked, and their sacrifices acknowledged. I expected to hear that our children and grandchildren will inherit a safer world thanks to the careful stewardship of this generation. I expected a sober reflection on the heartbreaking losses endured by thousands of American and Coalition families who have had to endure that empty place at the holiday table.
Or even worse, now face a permanently empty place in the annual family photograph: a black hole with a seemingly endless appetite for the tears, aspirations, hopes, dreams, regrets, longing of loving parents, wives and husbands.
All swallowed up. Gone forever, in the time it takes two uniformed men to complete that fateful walk to the front door; to deliver news they dread giving nearly as much as the person on the other side of that door dreads hearing it. That is the true cost of this war. It is not measured solely in dollars and cents, but in the tears of American and Coalition families who sent their loved ones off to make the world a safer place for free people.
That is why I have supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan despite my severe misgivings about the cost. That is why I have put my own life on hold - repeatedly - for eight years now. And I expected my President to say that his resolve matches my own and that of countless other military families. I expected him to assure us that a cause important enough to sacrifice untold thousands of lives for is a cause that has the full, unequivocal backing of the men who sent them on that errand. That if my husband does not return (or, as has happened in so many cases, returns a changed man) that sacrifice will have meant something. I expected to hear a President who would lay everything on the line - as our men and women in uniform do every day - to assure victory.
I did not hear that last night. Instead, I heard a tacit admission that "victory" means withdrawal by a date certain. Yes, even that was hedged about with caveats but regardless of our actions that date will loom large over the next 18 months. I heard none of the promised benchmarks for success one might have expected after nearly six months of careful policy review. And I heard none of the resolve to win that I consider an essential condition of putting American and NATO troops in harm's way.
On Monday I was interviewed by a reporter - Ed Pilkington - from The Guardian. In the past I've had many requests for such interviews but have always refused them. Ed was vouched for by someone I trust, however.
We talked for a long time. Obviously he could not use everything I said, but he characterized the part of my comments he did use fairly. I was asked what I thought of the troop increase and the announcement of an exit strategy. I tried to make several points:
1. Generally, military families understand and accept the risks of defending this nation. We understand and support civilian leadership of the military. That is the way our country is supposed to work.
2. We understand that our loved ones may end up prosecuting foreign policy positions we don't personally support. But that's above our pay grade. I mentioned that it has been difficult for families who don't support the war on terror to support their loved ones. Most try, anyway.
3. The risk of a military career is a given. All I ask as a wife is that if my husband's life or the lives of other military personnel are to be placed on the table, it be for a reason deemed sufficiently important by my government. I can accept that my husband might die as a result of his decision to join the military. What I find very difficult to accept is the idea that he might die for the sake of appearances.
4. Our success in Afghanistan depends very much upon our ability to secure the cooperation of not only our allies but of the Afghan people. We are asking them to risk their lives to bring about an end we desire. Any Afghan who helps us risks retribution from a savage and unprincipled enemy. Who in their right mind helps an "ally" who can't protect them? Who has openly announced his intention to leave as soon as possible? Our fortunes in Iraq turned around when it became utterly apparent that we were willing to stay the course. We earned their commitment only when our own was guaranteed.
The great unanswered question here is: why should anyone support us if we are not committed to winning?
5. Do I support the addition of 30000 troops? Here, my reaction was eerily similar to Sarah's (she was also interviewed):
... my answer, which is not conducive to news articles, is that it depends.
What I answered was that it depends on what the 30,000 will be used for. Will they be sent to urban or rural areas? Will they be doing counter-insurgency or counter-terrorism? And as far as an exit goes, I said it depends on whether Pres Obama announces what the end game is. Will he state concrete goals? Will he announce a victory strategy? It makes no sense to denote an arbitrary end to a war based on running out the clock; what does victory look like to the Obama administration?
Ed asked me how I reconciled my desire to keep my husband safe with the escalation of the war in Afghanistan? And I replied that when we Surged in Iraq, casualties went down, not up. We had more people in theater and fewer deaths.
War is not a middle game, especially when we are fighting an enemy still very much operating under a 7th Century outlook on life. Over there, if you commit a crime you may be executed or have your hands cut off in a stadium. Americans, with their pampered and nuanced complacency, cannot even imagine that kind of draconian justice. War is conflict, and in a fight to the death whether you win or lose depends very much upon what you're willing to do.
The rational response to an open announcement that you "can't afford" to do whatever it takes to win a war you said we can't afford to lose is to conclude that you have no intention of winning. As Sarah says (and the same phrase jumped into my mind last night as I listened to the speech), you are simply running out the clock. Imagine yourself in the position of the Taleban or al Qaeda for a moment. These are people who are willing to strap bombs to retarded children and women; to kill noncombatant civilians; to sow terror and chaos in the service of their dark jihad. And yet our President will not even call them terrorists.
No, they are "extremists". Interestingly, that is the same word our President and his staff use to marginalize Republicans. Murdering civilians and peaceful political opposition, both described by the same word: an intentional (and deeply dishonest) blurring of the fundamental differences between America and Afghanistan.
We solve our differences with talk. They solve them by the ruthless application of remorseless violence.
On Monday, I told Ed Pilkington that although I oppose this President politically I wanted very badly to support his policy on Iraq and Afghanistan because, after all, I have skin in the game. I didn't hear the commitment I needed to hear last night. And I have no more confidence that our civilian leadership is willing to do what it takes to win this war.
I wasn't hard over on sending more troops to Afghanistan. A case could be made, though it would be a hard case to make convincingly, for immediate withdrawal. The real choice here was: do we pull out? Or do we, as Ulysses S. Grant once said, put our heads down and fight until we win?
Last night, I heard a refusal to recognize the real options - both equally unpalatable and both with costs we would find difficult to face (much less pay). But refusing to acknowledge costs doesn't make them go away. As much as I want to see this war end, I want it to end on our terms. Nothing else makes 8 long years of war "worth it".
Unlike Sarah, I didn't want details last night. I don't care about the tactics we use to win and I certainly don't want us to announce them publicly. What I wanted to hear was a concise justification - not of the decision to go to war, which is long over and no longer relevant - but for why we need to commit more troops to this war, in this country. I wanted to hear what we will gain in return for the the blood we have shed and will continue to shed if we stay.
Of all the reactions I read this morning, it was Jake Tapper who came closest to my own thoughts:
"It was, in many ways, a classic Obama speech: An attempt to forge consensus and find a middle ground where perhaps one doesn't exist."
In war, triangulation is rarely a successful strategy. There is no "Third Way", no middle ground when by your own admission, the enemy are murderous extremists willing to do whatever it takes to defeat you. And lastly, but most importantly, I am not sure that ensuring a viable exit strategy (as opposed to ensuring our security and that of future generations) constitutes sufficient justification for risking the lives of this nation's defenders.
December 01, 2009
My Plans for the Evening
I plan to drink every time he blames Teh Shrub or mentions the word "exit". Do you think there's any chance I'll be proven wrong?
God, I hope so. I've never wanted to be wrong so badly.
Update: OK, so I've heard the speech and my initial reaction is that his choice of words was lawyerly rather than statesmanlike. Most interesting line:
Let me be clear: there has never been an option before me that called for troop deployments before 2010, so there has been no delay or denial of resources necessary for the conduct of the war.
So far we've heard Obama compared to Lincoln, FDR, Reagan, Nixon, JFK.
That line, however, was downright Clintonian:
"It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is. If the—if he—if 'is' means is and never has been, that is not—that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement".
Meanwhile, somewhere in a parallel universe where the words "before me", "delay" and "necessary" are the subject of endless debate, Andrew Sullivan is having multiple orgasms. At least someone is
happy having sex tonight.
REAX from the ISAF Commander:
ISAF Commander's Statement Regarding U.S. President's Announcement
KABUL, Afghanistan (Dec. 2) - The statement of General Stanley
McChrystal, Commander NATO International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan regarding the address by The President of the United States:
"The Afghanistan-Pakistan review led by the President has provided me
with a clear military mission and the resources to accomplish our task. The clarity, commitment and resolve outlined in the President's address are critical steps toward bringing security to Afghanistan and eliminating terrorist safe havens that threaten regional and global security.
"The NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) objective is equally clear: We will work toward improved security for Afghanistan and the transfer of responsibility to Afghan security forces as rapidly as conditions allow. In the meantime, our Afghan partners need the support of Coalition forces while we grow and develop the capacity of the Afghan army and police. That will be the main focus of our campaign in the months ahead.
"The 42 other nations of the Coalition will benefit from a strengthened U.S. commitment, as success in Afghanistan must be an international, integrated civil-military effort - from our security and training capacity to the governance and economic development assistance that sustains long-term stability. The concerted commitment of the international community will prevail in bringing real change to Afghanistan -- a secure and stable environment that allows for effective governance, improved economic opportunity and the freedom of every Afghan to choose how they live.
"We face many challenges in Afghanistan, but our efforts are sustained by one unassailable reality: neither the Afghan people nor the international community want Afghanistan to remain a sanctuary for error and violence. The coalition is encouraged by President Obama's commitment and we remain resolute to empowering the Afghan people to reject the insurgency and build their own future."
I realize that I've been scarce lately, and I apologize for the lame blogging. I'll have more to say about all this in the morning. Lot going on right now.
I Firmly Believe
...that there is a special place in Hell reserved for whoever wrote the so-called "instructions" for the USPS "Shipping Assistant".