January 29, 2010
Reason 1001 Not to Imitate Europe..
Arni Hole remembers the shock wave that went through Norway’s business community in 2002 when the country’s trade and industry minister, Ansgar Gabrielsen, proposed a law requiring that 40 percent of all company board members be women.
“There were, literally, screams,” said Ms. Hole, director general of the Equality Ministry. “It was a real shock treatment.”
Even in this staunchly egalitarian society — 80 percent of Norwegian women work outside the home, and half the current government’s ministers are female — the idea seemed radical, if not for its goal, then for the sheer magnitude of change it would require.
Back then, Norwegian women held less than 7 percent of private-sector board seats; just under 5 percent of chief executives were women. After months of heated debate, the measure was approved by a significant majority in Parliament, giving state-owned companies until 2006 to comply and publicly listed companies until 2008.
I think we all know where this is going. Like the storied Camelot of olde, 'tis a silly place:
Nearly eight years on, the share of female directors at the roughly 400 companies affected is above 40 percent, while women fill more than a quarter of the board seats at the 65 largest privately held companies. To many feminists, this is the boldest move anywhere to breach one of the most durable barriers to gender equality.
Indeed, the world has noticed: Spain and the Netherlands have passed similar laws, with a 2015 deadline for compliance. The French Senate will soon debate a bill phasing in a female quota by 2016, after the National Assembly approved the measure last week. Belgium, Britain, Germany and Sweden are considering legislation.
But as the dust has settled, researchers are grappling with some frustrating facts: Bringing large numbers of women into Norway’s boardrooms has done little — yet — to improve either the professional caliber of the boards or to enhance corporate performance. In fact, early evidence from a little-noticed study by the University of Michigan suggests that the immediate effect has been negative on both counts. And the sixfold increase in women as directors has not yet brought any real rise in the number of women as chief executives.
Well now there's a shocker for you. Who'd a thunk that massive, government sponsored social engineering projects would fail to benefit the intended beneficiaries?
Fortunately, having learned from past experience we'll never do anything that dumb again. And I am so going to Hell for snickering at that woman's last name.
How to Sandbag a Captive Audience, Presidential Edition
Randy Barnett points out just what was wrong with Obama's drive by criticism of SCOTUS:
In his State of the Union address, the president of the United States called out the Supreme Court by name for sharp condemnation and egged on his congressional supporters to jeer its recent decision:
"Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that's why I'm urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong."
Even before he finished, hundreds of Democratic senators, congressmen and cabinet officials surrounding the six seated justices stood, applauded and cheered.
Suppose for a moment that you were a justice seated there as the president of the United States singled you out for criticism and the room stood and cheered. Could they take it? Yes, of course. Should they have been put in this position? Absolutely not.
The opposition party gets to respond formally at the end of the speech, so a certain amount of political grandstanding towards them is fine. (Less fine: calling your opponents liars to their faces, then acting like you're the one who deserves an apology when they give you the lie right back.)
The Supreme Court has no such opportunity to speak directly to the People. They may not, by protocol, even applaud things they like from the President's speech, nor stand to applaud, nor cheer. They are supposed to be outside of politics, and they cannot answer the blow.
It does not help that the President's claim about just what they had done was a... well, it was 'not true.'
The Justices did not deserve to be treated in that way. It was an honorless insult, and a cowardly act.
Listening to the Prez the other night, I couldn't help noticing that Obama always follows the same M.O.: begin by whacking away at the opposition and then plaintively ask why both sides can't bury the hatchet?
It occurred to me then that getting along with the opposing party isn't all that much different than getting along with the opposite sex. In both cases you're dealing with two parties who don't think alike, don't have the same priorities, needs or goals, and frequently misunderstand each other. The idea that comity between the sexes or between the parties is going to magically occur without a concerted effort is pretty laughable.
If he really wants to gain the cooperation of Republicans, maybe Obama would profit from applying some of the same tactics used by happily married couples. Items 2, 4 and 5 seem particularly apt.
The rest, when I imagine 'Bam applying them to Congressional Rethugs, just make me laugh.
Whether it's a marriage or a professional relationship you're trying to save, two old bits of advice seem particularly apt:
1. If you want to get along with others, don't be a jerk.
2. The common element in all your failed relationships is you.
More along the same lines in the comments section of this Althouse post:
... Obama acted true to form. He took advantage of a forum in which he's apparently allowed to say whatever he wants, true or not, but if his opponents react or rebut in any way, they're somehow breaking protocol and should just shut up.
You know who Barack Obama is? He's the guy who will only hit you when someone else is holding your arms. And in his political career, there's always been someone to hold the arms of his opponent.
His political opponents have their divorce records released. Criticize Obama, and his sycophants try to drum you out of polite society with the racist charge. When he gets called a liar, his Democratic allies come up with a resolution condemning the man. And when a Supreme Court justice mildly disagrees with a crass, cheap, dishonest attack, Greenwald and his ilk slither out of the weeds to grab those arms.
Because of all that, Obama struts around thinking he's tough.
It's never his fault and he's always the victim... even when he picked the fight. Presidential, that.
Drive By Reax
I am *not* wearing socks!
January 28, 2010
Following the Sterling Lead of Media Matters, Andrew Sullivan Beclowns Himself
Andrew Sullivan, blogospheric genius, on the Joint Chief's supposed lack of neutrality during the SOTU address:
Bob Gates applauded the commitment to remove the gay ban in the military. The defense chiefs didn't and stayed in their seats. We're told that that's protocol: the military is not supposed to take sides in these policy debates. So why did they all stand up and applaud when Obama warned Iran of "growing consequences"?
Well Andrew, other than the fact that you're wrong about what the Joint Chiefs all stood up and applauded, you've got a real point there:
The relevant portion of the video begins 30 seconds in. What the Joint Chiefs applauded was this statement:
At April’s nuclear security summit, we will bring 44 nations together here in Washington, DC behind a clear goal: securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in 4 years so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists.
Is there a serious domestic policy debate regarding the desirability of allowing terrorists to get their hands on nuclear weapons?
Really? Ensmarten us, Andrew. Do tell, please. We're all positively tingly at the prospect of finding out which "side" in this country thinks allowing terrorists to gain access to nuclear weapons is a good idea?
I don't know about you, but I'm fairly certain I'd prefer the Joint Chiefs not be "neutral" on the inadvisability of handing weapons of mass destruction to foreign whack jobs who have vowed to kill us. As tempting as it must be to reach for that "GOTCHA!" moment if you can't do it without
beclowning yourself lying, you're probably doing it wrong.
Thoughts on Obama's First SOTU Address
Does it strike anyone else as amusing that the morning-after buzz about Barack Obama's first SOTU speech is more focused on the silent reactions of two audience members than on the President's supposedly masterful rhetoric?
Without saying a word, the listeners eclipsed the speaker. This, we are told, is shameful and reprehensible. The big bullies!
During the Bush administration, of course, the ability of ordinary folk to speak truthiness to power was all the rage. Tradition shattering outbursts of political Tourette's Syndrome were touted as refreshing honesty: shining examples of civic courage made flesh before our wondering eyes. Now, of course, the erstwhile Questioners of Authority long for the good old days when it was unheard of for mere peasants to notice that what their President has to say is quite literally not true.
Audacity, it would seem, is a virtue best practiced by those in authority, and authority is best not questioned by the likes of you and me. Translation: do not try this at home: you're not smart enough.
Likewise unacceptable to the former Speak Truth to Power crowd are sotto voce observations that the President - pre-SOTU spin notwithstanding - is once again blaming his predecessor. And did you notice the disrespectful disrespect of those who dissed the President by not reacting at all?
No wonder America is suffering from a trust deficit. Our President is in denial and there's a jarring disconnect between the problems we face and his proposed solutions:
There was no rendezvous with reality in the speech, no serious policy initiative or vision to restore private-sector growth. Maybe he imagines the economy will limp along and recover just enough by 2012 to give him a shot at that second term, provided he wants one. But that’s small consolation to Americans now and to his own party, which must run congressional, Senate, and state elections in a year in which the administration offers not a single serious measure commensurate with the nature of the economic problems we face. There is no one, apparently, in his administration with enough creativity and gumption to bring forth even the most obvious measures (a payroll tax cut, a corporate tax moratorium) that might induce businesses to relocate and hire here. And that “no one” includes the president, who seems to know even less about market economics than he does about the Supreme Court’s latest ruling.
It seems almost eerily prescient that most memorable lines of the evening were spoken not by the President of the United States, but by a lowly state governor:
It was Thomas Jefferson who called for "A wise and frugal Government which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry ....and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned..." He was right.
Today, the federal government is simply trying to do too much.
The President's message, in contrast, was quite simple: government needs to do more. The answer to rising deficits and ineffective government intervention is more deficit spending coupled with more of the policies that failed so spectacularly last year. There is a certain seductive symmetry to the President's prescription for what ails us:
President Barack Obama has embraced a contradiction. He wants both a freeze of a lot of discretionary spending and a new “jobs” bill — which is made up entirely of new discretionary spending.
Before the House of Representatives’ recess last year, it passed, by a narrow 217-212 vote, a $155 billion stimulus bill to fund more “shovel-ready” projects and jobs for state and local government bureaucracies. Its passage raised a serious question that still must be answered. The $700-plus billion stimulus package that was passed in February has proved a failure in just about every way a piece of legislation can fail. Why continue on with a second stimulus?
Why indeed? If you were as smart as Obama, you'd keep your impertinent questions to yourself.
January 27, 2010
Journalistic Logic for Dummies, ACORN Edition
When I first read a news story about this yesterday, it sounded to me like O’Keefe and company were being accused of an attempt to wiretap or bug Landrieu’s phones. Indeed, that’s the way I characterized the Government’s claim in my post based on a news story. But now I have had a chance to review the affidavit. And it doesn’t say that.
The link to the affidavit is here. I challenge you to find me the language that accuses O’Keefe et al. of a “plot to bug” Landrieu’s office, or an “alleged wiretap scheme.”
It isn’t there.
What you will see is an allegation that three of the four men entered the office pretending to be telephone company employees. O’Keefe was allegedly holding his cell phone as if to record the other two on video. You know, the kind of undercover recording thing that he does.
One witness allegedly saw one of the other two men “take the handset of the phone and manipulate it.” This is the main phone at the reception desk, presumably in full view of everyone. What does “manipulate” mean? I don’t know. Does it mean he simply picked the phone up? That would technically comport with one dictionary definition of “manipulate” — to “operate with . . . the hands.”
The language implies something more sinister, to be sure. Implies. If the man had tried to take the phone apart it would have been simple to say so.
Then the affidavit has them asking for access to the telephone closet to perform repair work. It does not say they went into the closet. Were they simply waiting for someone to ask: “What repair work? There’s nothing wrong with the phones!”? I don’t know.
I do know this: the affidavit does not say one word about any of them possessing any listening devices. Not one.
Isn't this just like a man?
Let me break it down so even an ignorant Rethug can understand:
1. If pretending to be a 'ho makes Hannah Giles a "would-be prostitute"...
2. Then it logically follows that pretending to be a telephone repairman makes James O'Keefe a "would be wiretapper".
You people just don't get it, do you? Why can't you just stop asking questions and allow the press to do your thinking for you?
We are all entitled to our own opinions, but only the lamestream media are entitled to their own facts.
Sarah Palin and RINO-ization by Association
More from the litmus test crowd.
Sorry guys, but I continue to find this line of "reasoning" problematic on a number of levels.
Word To Your Motha
This is making the rounds today, but I saw it first at Attila's place.
Update: Interesting point from Sean Hackbarth:
I did find a tidbit at the end of the video that got me curious as someone who has read a lot of Hayek. This quote is delivered:“The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”
It’s from Hayek’s The Fatal Conceit, his final book, published in 1988. That’s decades after the Keynes-Hayek debates. During those years Hayek moved away from technical economics to studying society generally, the philosophy of science, to even dipping into psychology. I wonder how much of the early Hayek devoted to studying prices and the capital structure would agree with that quote from his final book?
The Hayek quote touches on an idea Thomas Sowell explains particularly well: that liberals and academicians constantly overestimate both their ability to override human nature by means of abstruse and theoretical social programs, and also that the "smart crowd" are true believers in the idea that concentrating decision-making power in the hands of a few "smart" centralized planners is more efficient and results in better outcomes than allowing dumb/ignorant (because we don't agree with their value system) individuals to make "irrational" economic decisions based upon how much we value various alternatives.
This idea is flawed for two reasons:
1. Centralized planning attempts to force a uniform set of values upon what should be free men and women. Instead of my deciding what health care is worth to me and allocating my income accordingly, the government decides I "must" have it, and furthermore that regardless of the costs involved or my income, the price "must" be "affordable".
2. Given the literally millions of economic transactions that take place every day, it is nothing short of hubris to believe any centralized planner or plan can account for the myriad factors that influence prices and costs.
Individuals do this automatically by means of their individual value system. If a good becomes too expensive, some will divert funds from some other purchase to meet the increased price, some will look for substitutes (in the instance of health care, they might decide to exercise, diet or take supplements), and some will decide the good isn't that important to them relative to all the other goods/services out there. When all these individual value decisions are aggregated, we get upward or downward pressure on aggregate demand and - by extension - on prices as more or less is demanded of a particular good or service.
We're seeing a lot of this "I know what you need better than you do/I can do a better job of managing your money than you can." these days. But the problem is not that Obama has failed to explain his policies to America.
The problem is that American doesn't really believe Obama or his minions should be making these choices for us.
January 26, 2010
Media Matters Out-Beclown Selves
Usually the Editorial Staff decline to take notice of Media Matters, but this is just too delicious to pass up:
Today, the FBI arrested James O'Keefe, the conservative activist who posed as a pimp and filmed the undercover videos that led Congress to defund ACORN. O'Keefe is accused of participating in a conspiracy to wiretap the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)...
We'll be the first to admit that we haven't done much research on this story, but it doesn't look good. No matter how tempting it may be to expose corrupt public servants, if you get caught breaking the law odds are you're doing it wrong. But O'Keefe is the least of our worries right now.
For Lo! The intrepid souls at Media Matters have dug up a deed so heinous, so shocking, so ... foul that Mr. O'Keefe's misdeeds pale by comparison:
...As Dave Weigel notes, "O'Keefe had become a conservative media star since the ACORN sting." Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) even introduced a resolution praising O'Keefe and his partner, would-be prostitute Hannah Giles, for "their diligent investigative journalism." In a statement announcing the resolution, Olson said, "Hannah and James should be applauded for their efforts to root out corruption and abuse of federal tax dollars." He also claimed O'Keefe was "setting an example for concerned citizens across America."
Yessiree, there's no wriggling out of this one.
Back in October, nearly 4 months before James O'Keefe was caught allegedly conspiring to tap Mary Landrieu's phone, Republican Congresscritters failed to look into the future and censure James O'Keefe for an act he had not even committed yet!
Oh. And Hannah Giles dressed up like a prostitute. Which as we all know, is virtually the same as selling or paying for sex, except for the lack of sex. And the lack of money changing hands. And the fact that no crime was committed.
Still, aside from those three things, the costume thing is damning. Prostitutes wear kinky costumes sometimes, you know. And prostitution, as we all know, is against the law in this country. Unless, of course, you happen to be a Democrat serving in Congress (in which case it's
still a crime none of your business you narrow-minded bigot, you):
While the House could censure Frank or reprimand him, colleagues and constituents so far have been generally sympathetic. The scandal does not involve seducing a minor, as it does with Lukens, or adultery, since Frank is single. It is an incident from a past secret life that has come back to haunt a legislator who is widely respected. Frank can debate and speak extemporaneously better than almost anyone else in the House, and he tackles some of its more complex problems like immigration and housing. Back home, he makes sure constituents get help from 18 staffers who track down Social Security checks and Medicaid benefits. Though he freely disclosed in 1987 that he was a homosexual, his district, which encompasses the liberal campuses of Boston and nearby blue-collar mill towns, re-elected him overwhelmingly in 1988 with 70% of the vote.
I really don't see how the Republican Party can recover from this devastating lack of clairvoyance. I think we can all just forget about those ACORN videos now.
January 25, 2010
The Womanliness Project: Nature versus Virtue
(I wrote this after reading Cassandra’s original post in the series, The Womanliness Project. I’ve read only a handful of the comments to that post and none of the subsequent posts on the topic so if I repeat something already said, my apologies. This is such a slippery subject I figured I’d better get my thoughts down before I lost myself in the usual thicket.)
[The instructor] spouting Proverbs to an indifferent Fifth, quoted, "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies", whereupon Bickford raised his hand and asked, blandly, "Please, sir, what was Ruby's?"
From To Serve Them All My Days by R.F. Delderfield
If we could turn the clock back 50 or 60 years, the virtue landscape would look something like this:
A virtuous man is brave. He defends his family, stands up for what he believes in, and fights for his country.
A virtuous woman is brave. She sends her husband off to war without a tear and fights fearlessly for her children.
A virtuous man is strong. He supports his family, the economy, and the country.
A virtuous woman is strong. She has her husband’s back and holds her family together.
A virtuous man is responsible. He lives up to that responsibility to his family, his employer, is community, and his country.
A virtuous woman is responsible. She lives up to that responsibility to her husband and her family.
A virtuous man is loyal. He honors his commitments to his family, his employer, and his country.
A virtuous woman is loyal. She honors her commitment to her family.
A bit overstated, perhaps, but largely accurate. Fast forward to our day and women are going off to war themselves, supporting their families and their countries with their salaried work, assuming major responsibilities outside the home, and balancing their commitment to their families and their employers. We are mostly too fair-minded to call such women unvirtuous but we may well call them unwomanly.
Men are in a worse fix. A man whose only - or even heavily favored - commitment is to his family, who “neglects” his responsibilities to the whole of the world in his involvement with his wife and children is considered not merely unmanly but unvirtuous. For a man, virtue must be exercised in the full spectrum of life and in an appropriate balance else he is not virtuous.
I think some of this discrepancy has to do with what virtue is: a deliberate decision about character, a decision to act in a certain way with regard to the world. Men choose to be brave, responsible, loyal, and strong when it might well be easier not to be. They do this because they are striving to be nobler, to live up to an ideal, whether that ideal comes from philosophy or tradition or religion. Men become virtuous by deciding to live in ways that do not arise from - and often are opposed to - their natural state.
This is only half-true for women. A woman who is brave for her children, responsible to her children, loyal to her children, strong for her children is not considered to have made a soul-searching decision to be a better person; she is simply responding to genetic and hormonal programming. Thus a woman who is not seen as being sufficiently brave, responsible, loyal, and strong where her children are concerned is not unvirtuous: she is unnatural. Unwomanly.
And the half that is true virtue for women? That she is all those things with regard to her husband; that is considered virtuous because there a woman can decide. A man’s virtue encompasses his relationship with the world; a woman’s virtue encompasses only her relationship with her husband.
Furthermore, I think this same logic plays out when we consider most of what could be called virtues typical of women. Take tact, for example. I can make an argument that it is virtuous to be able to express yourself in a way that is kinder, more likely to lead to having a civil discussion than to having a rancorous exchange. In a man, we might call this virtue Prudence or Temperance or Courtesy. I can also make an argument that women are more likely to possess this virtue. But I suspect this is unlikely to be seen as a virtue for women, as a character decision they deliberately made. Rather it is likely to be viewed as a tactic women have adopted out of necessity: they’re not strong enough - physically or in terms of power or status - to speak their minds and let the chips fall where they may. We admire speaking softly but only if the person speaking carries a big stick. So to speak.
There is one glaring exception to all this, of course, one virtue that involves women making a specific decision about character: chastity and its handmaiden, modesty. Here we are reluctantly forced to give women credit for a truly voluntary virtue. Despite many attempts throughout the millennia, it has proven impossible to believe women are not interested in sex. Thus a woman who chooses not to indulge her sexual desires willy-nilly must be accorded the dignity of having her choice recognized. Chastity is a true and acknowledged virtue for women.
To Woman, lovely woman of the Southland, as pure and chaste as this sparkling water, as cold as this gleaming ice, we lift this cup, and we pledge our hearts and lives to the protection of her virtue and chastity.
A toast recorded by Carl Carmer in Stars Fell On Alabama, quoted in Florence King’s Southern Ladies and Gentlemen
Feminism was supposed to fix all of this, to give women access to all areas of life. Women, like men, would then presumably be actualizing their virtues across all possible activities. The first part pretty much worked: women now participate in almost all aspects of society. The second part, not so much: in some ways women never got on track with the whole virtue thing. Instead, large chunks of feminism made two mistakes. First, a very large chunk of feminism decided early on that women being liberated meant women acting like men. This was an understandable decision. Women wanted what men had - more options as well as more money - and the only model they had for how to get it was to act like men. It was also a perfectly workable approach for women like me: well-educated, enthusiastic about my work, neither had nor wanted children. It’s not clear that it was the best approach for women in other circumstances: women who were less well-educated, women who considered work a necessary evil rather than a source of pleasure, and - most importantly - women who had or wanted children. Deciding women should act like men short-circuited the process of discovering whether some women, given a full range of options, would choose to take a different path from that so well-trod by men - and whether a different path would succeed.
In the realm of virtue the decision that liberation meant women acting like men had an extremely unfortunate corollary: one chunk of feminism decided that chastity and modesty did not represent virtuous choices by women but rather represented women being forced into behavior that was not expected of men. There was, of course, some truth to this: chastity and modesty have always been considered less important for men than for women which led to such tiresome constructs as the Madonna and the whore, you sleep with the bad girl but marry the good girl, and other similar nonsense. But in deciding that anything - or preferably everything - goes in sex, that women should approach sex with the same casual attitude men did (or they thought men did), this group of feminists did women a disservice. Instead of saying that it was time to get rid of the double-standard but women should continue to make character decisions about how they approached sex, this group of feminists said that women should just act like men. In so doing, they obliterated the very idea of women making their own decisions about the one virtue we’d gotten credit for in the past. The one model women had for making character decisions disappeared.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not arguing that celibacy outside marriage is the only virtuous choice for a woman. I am arguing that the existence of sexting is pretty clear evidence women need to develop some definition of chaste and modest behavior - however minimal - and pass it along to their daughters. Acting like men has become acting for men and anyone who argues that constitutes liberation for women is nuts.
The second - and to me far more maddening - mistake made by a large chunk of feminists was to decide that women actually were in the grip of genetic and hormonal dictates and that this was a good thing. This is the Earth Mother, barefoot, in tune with Gaia strain of feminism. These feminists argued women are naturally more nurturing, naturally more caring, naturally more in touch with the beauty of nature. They are therefore naturally more inclined toward co-operation than conflict, more comfortable with flat rather than hierarchical organizations, more truly understanding of the desirability of peace, more considerate of others, and more attuned to the need to care for the poor, the sick, and the disadvantaged. Besides the fact that this whole line of argument makes me vaguely nauseous, it also leaves no room for women to be virtuous, to achieve a desirable characteristic by conscious decision and effort. In this view, women are no more virtuous than shrubs or dolphins or rivers. Women may be good in the same way olive trees are good but that is not the same as being virtuous. Virtue implies choice; creatures totally at one with nature are not choosing.
So. I think there should be “one standard that applies to both men and women (the ‘be a grownup’ school of thought)”. But women are in a strange fix. Despite the fact that we have been liberated for nigh onto 40 years now it’s kind of like we never got the instruction booklet. Men have traditionally been taught virtues and taught to apply those virtues to all their endeavors. Except for the virtue of chastity and its companion modesty, women have traditionally been taught virtues only in the context of their relationships with their husbands. If we value the same virtues in men and women we must teach women how to apply those virtues - to apply all virtues - to all their endeavors. It is not in women’s best interests to be cast adrift on a sea of infinite choice with no compass to help them make the choices that are best for them.
If I may use a somewhat over-simplified example. Forty years ago women looked around and saw that men in white collar jobs worked 60, 80, 120 hours to succeed. Women decided they needed to work those same hours to succeed. But no one explained to women that men worked those kinds of hours to fulfill what they saw as their primary responsibility to their families: providing for them materially as well as they possibly could. So women saw the action but didn’t truly understand the motivation - the virtue - underlying the action. Had women understood that working so many hours was actualizing a particular virtue then women could have decided for themselves how they wanted to actualize that virtue. Perhaps a woman with children would have decided she could better fulfill her responsibility to her family by working less, by providing for non-material needs to the best of her ability. Or perhaps - since a girl can dream - what feminism originally hoped for would actually happen: men and women would sit down together and decide what responsibilities they had to their families and how best to fulfill those responsibilities together, with no preconceived notions about who was best suited for which roles.
Can we encourage women to take a step back and do the thinking we should have done forty years ago, figure out for ourselves how we want to interact with the world, explore whether there is an alternate actualization of universal virtues that might work better for women? I don’t know. But it should be interesting to try.
Whether women are better than men I cannot say - but we're no worse. - Golda Meir
January 24, 2010
Something Puerile This Way Comes
Jeez, Greyhawk. Throw the man a bone. Can't you see that he tried really, really hard?
Somewhere there may exist a photo of the Obama rendering a proper salute. This ain't close. And that's a pretty lame start to a story that goes on to detail the many other things Obama has worked so very, very hard on to support the troops. Of course, if you're just trying to convince the 99% of the population who have no idea what a proper salute looks like that this is a "pretty good" example, then maybe it's the perfect start that tells us everything we need to know: the rest, assuredly - the part that actually matters - is just this good.
On the other hand, as far as ball-washing feature coverage of how the president salutes and what it means, the story is sure a hellalot better than this one from the New York Times in 2003:
A Senseless Salute
When given a salute by uniformed military personnel, Mr. Reagan would return it, shooting his right hand up to his bare head, his smile suggesting that this was something he liked to do. This unnecessary and unseemly habit was adopted by Mr. Reagan's successors, including Bill Clinton and especially George W. Bush, who steps off his plane and cocks a jaunty salute.
This gesture is of course quite wrong: such a salute has always required the wearing of a uniform. But there is more to this than a decline in military manners. There is something puerile in the Reagan (and now Bush) salute. It is the joyful gesture of someone who likes playing soldier. It also represents an exaggeration of the president's military role.
(Attention check: did you notice which name from paragraph one is missing from paragraph two?)
For the record, a salute is a mutual exchange - it's initiated by a junior and returned by the senior. (The higher ranking you are, the more salutes you will render.) However, salutes are not required to be rendered or returned when the senior or subordinate are in civilian clothes.
All I know is that he won my heart with the Chest Bump of Hope.
Even by the Times' stratospherically high standards, this is pure comedy gold. First off, you should know that the Democratic Party remains eternally vigilant against murderous extremists plotting to destroy our way of life:
“We are going to evaluate what we need to do to get timely intelligence and early warnings so we don’t face situations like we did in Massachusetts.”
If that's not enough to put a smile on your face, this will surely do the trick:
As Mr. Obama prepares to deliver his State of the Union address on Wednesday and lay out his initiatives for the second year of his presidency, his decision to take greater control of the party’s politics signals a new approach.
How many "new approaches" have we seen this year? I've lost count, but at least no one can say our man Barack is unwilling to change course. And it's comforting to know the President is planning to get personally involved... You know, take charge. Exercise the brilliance, charisma and political finesse that worked so well for him in Copenhagen ... twice.
Oh well, they can't take foreign policy away from him.
Yessir. I'm feeling better already.
Kinda gives "Obama Everywhere" a whole new meaning, doesn't it?
A woman has written the same letter defending Obama to dozens of publications across the country, getting them published in at least 42 newspapers in 18 states, as well as Politico.com, the Washington Times, and USA Today. And the woman, Ellie Light, has claimed residence in many of these states.
Think there might be some phony Astroturfing there?
You know, astroturfing is such an unpleasant term ... Let's call it beneficial cognitive diversity instead:
...we suggest a distinctive tactic for breaking up the hard core of extremists who supply conspiracy theories: cognitive infiltration of extremist groups, whereby government agents or their allies ... will undermine the crippled epistemology of those who subscribe to such theories. They do so by planting doubts about the theories and stylized facts that circulate within such groups, thereby introducing beneficial cognitive diversity.
Because if you use a lot of fancy terms like "cognitive infiltration" and "crippled epistemology", it's much easier to forget how much this smells like propaganda.
Remember this guy? For over half a century he's been an American icon. A hero. The personification of American values.
Now that the smart people are in charge, of course, we realize that he's the Enemy. Someone to be feared. To be ridiculed and silenced. To be infiltrated and subverted:
Welcome to the mob: an angry, wounded electorate, riled by recession, careening across the political spectrum, still craving change, nursing a bloodlust.
Are you paying attention? Freedom is dangerous. And it must be stopped before it threatens that wonderful sense of unity Obama wants to bring us.
Or worse yet, before it kills someone.
January 23, 2010
My definition of 'womanliness' is fairly broad
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
In the lesbian community we have the full spectrum of manifestation for Vagina-Americans, and you would think that I have done my duty by expanding the definition of womanliness to include everyone with a vagina.
Wrong! So wrong!
Pre- and post-op trannies going BOTH directions insist on inclusion, too.
Nevertheless, I cruelly, ruthlessly exclude them from the company of woman-only spaces. For real -- in the late 1980's, when I ran a group for feminine lesbians -- who are NOT the same as femmes! -- in Silver Spring, Maryland, which is a suburb of Washington, D.C., a pre-op male-to-female trannie attended one of my meetings and infuriated pretty much every woman there so much that I had to tell him/her not to come back or I would not have had a group. After that, I caught hell for stipulating that to be allowed to attend the meetings, you had to be born female as well as wear a skirt or dress (the latter requirement was the cheapest form of dyke repellent I could think of).
Weirdly, female-to-male trannies refuse to leave the lesbian community and force themselves into every lesbian woman-only space they can. They refuse to leave when asked nicely, and maintain it is an enormous injustice when they are subsequently ejected by force without much regard for their comfort, dignity or longevity. They don't have a problem about drawing strict boundaries for anyone else though. The Washington Blade published a column by a female-to-male trannie that my late life partner and I should be run out of the gay and lesbian community for our campaign to redeem the promises of diversity and inclusion through our six-year campaign to force a lesbian group called Passages to choose wheelchair-accessible spaces for their annual all-day conference. They were led by lesbians at the very top of the disability rights movement. I am not making this up.
So you can see this is a topic fraught with peril for me. I am wary of every effort to define "womanliness" because these definitions generally work for lesbians like a bed of Procrustes -- one way or another, we don't fit and something bad follows.
Plus, I just finished reading Gov. Sarah Palin's autobiography, Going Rogue. What kind of templates for womanliness and manliness comprehend Sarah and Todd Palin? She is utterly womanly and has every quality needed to be a successful president -- RIGHT NOW. He is utterly manly and nurtures his children with infinite tenderness and cheers on his wife as she is called ever-onward to greater and higher service.
I have a vagina, therefore I am womanly.
January 22, 2010
In Search of "The Good Woman"
The world in the past has been ruled by force, and man has dominated over women by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both of body and mind. But the balance is already shifting -- force is losing its weight and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy. Hence the new age will be an age, less masculine, and more permeated with the feminine ideals -- or, to speak more exactly, will be an age in which the masculine and feminine elements of civilization will be more evenly balanced.
- Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era
I begin with this quote because it made me think of the role of affluence/technology in changing gender roles. A good example of this is that traditionally men have been prized for their ability to fight and to protect women and children, but to a certain extent the rule of law and technology have decreased the number of times men must resort to force to protect those they love. This erroneously leads some people to say the manly role of guardian or protector is no longer needed. Conversely, advances in technology have made housework easier and less time consuming and this has made a woman's role nurturer/caretaker seem less important. Again, I question that assumption to some extent - I've never been able to understand how a vacuum cleaner can replace a mother and teacher. Either way, it's an interesting premise that offers a more comprehensive explanation for some of the changes we're dealing with.
As the first in a series of questions for The Womanliness Project, we're looking at the competing visions of femininity/womanliness. Rather than just begin listing my own set of qualities, I thought it might be interesting to survey writings from various sources and cultures to see what common elements exist. Here is a summary of what I found:
Here are the qualities that appeared in at least two sources:
There are some other common threads I saw repeatedly:
Men are active. Women are passive.
Men are hot. Women are cold.
(oddly, considering the previous entry) Men are rational. Women are emotional.
Men are aggressive. Women are gentle/loving.
Men are arrogant/egotistical. Women are humble/self-effacing.
Men's virtues are internal (character). Women's virtues are on the surface (looks).
Men lead. Women serve or follow.
Men are strong. Women are weak.
Men are just. Women are kind.
The idea that men are the standard and women are incomplete/inferior beings seems to be attributed to Aristotle. Plato, on the other hand, seems to have thought men and women equally capable of guardianship and believed they should receive the same education and training.
The two strongest components running through nearly every source I read were:
1. The expectation that a woman's role is to serve, to submit, to be docile and biddable.
2. The expectation that women uphold the moral and religious teachings of a society. I think this is an interesting contrast to much of what I read from modern men, in which any attempt to fulfill this role is viewed as being "controlling".
Call me old fashioned, but across cultures and time periods I saw something interesting: yes, women were expected to submit and serve men. But women were also expected to be the moral teachers, the upholders of faith and virtue. That role was valued, not denigrated. Women may not have had formal power in the sense of being able to force their will upon others, but their ability to influence others was greatly prized. That's a different kind of power. It is indirect, but it is power nonetheless.
How do we reconcile this with the views expressed by so many men today - that any attempt by a woman to appeal to virtue or uphold traditional morals is viewed as malign and undesireable?
Is it possible that men are more willing to submit to this kind of influence if woman submit to/obey them? Not an easy question, I realize, and one that will require us to be respectful and careful if we discuss it. One other thing I noticed is that the more modern sources seem to have muted the "obedience/submissiveness" aspect of the ideal woman. She is no longer docile and obedient, but calm, supportive, and loyal.
Since my husband is deployed and I have no one to talk with in the evenings or on weekends, I have been watching a lot of old movies this year. I can't help noticing that Hollywood's ideal women are pretty spunky and snarky. They definitely hold their own with men, but in a very feminine way. This made me think of a quote from the movie Dune:
That which submits, rules.
This is not to say that these women "rule" the men; only that they very often prevail by appearing to submit. In the far east one would call this allowing your opponent to save face. A related idea I've found interesting is found in Marine Corps culture. Marines are arguably the strictest of the services in requiring immediate submission to authority and near universal compliance with rules and regulations. One might think this would produce a crop of mindless yes-men and women, but that's exactly the opposite of what has happened.
I've noticed when my husband has served in joint billets that Marines of all ranks are characteristically more outspoken and more likely to question any proposal put forward by a senior. This causes the other services to view Marines as combative or even insubordinate at times, but this is a misunderstanding. I think Marines allow each other more latitude precisely because eventual obedience is taken for granted. In other words, a culture that seems outwardly repressive or authoritarian actually allows people more freedom to speak up. Disagreement is less of a threat because it is simply disagreement, not insubordination.
And I think that's a better system. Again, I wonder if - due to our differences - men aren't more willing to accept the influence of women who present a soft and yielding aspect? I have certainly found this to be true in my career. Often I've been brought into situations where the men were butting heads; where disagreement had morphed into something of a pissing contest. By being completely disinterested in "beating" anyone, I have been able to calm everyone down and get them to work together. I've found, also, that I seem to be able to say things that my male co-workers can't or won't (for instance, telling a client, "Why would we do that? It's not in our interest from a business standpoint." and the clients didn't take offense because they were able to understand that they'd do precisely the same in our place. My directness freed them up to talk about their own interests more directly and we were able to negotiate from there. But for some reason, my male co-workers wouldn't say no openly (and for what it's worth I trust their judgment - maybe that would be perceived as a challenge or seem combative coming from a man?).
At any rate, here is my list of virtues I think are more typically/traditionally feminine (though men certainly possess them also):
1. A strong concern for doing the right thing/playing by the rules/coloring within the lines. I think men are more likely to take risks, challenge the status quo, think outside the box. Women in general seem more likely to stop and read the directions first, to try to fit into whatever framework they find themselves in. They seem less likely to challenge authority figures, though I think we're actually more likely to voice concerns when we have them, possibly because we don't view the process as a challenge to authority.
2. Compassion/empathy. Being able to step outside your own position and see a situation from the other person's point of view.
4. Seeing the larger picture. Men are really good at classifying things and focusing. That's a huge strength when there's a need to prioritize or when immediate action is required. Women, on the other hand, seem to be able to see the connections between things; to realize how changes in one area affect other areas. This is valuable when looking at long term strategy or assessing the potential consequences of a course of action.
5. Understanding human nature. This is not the same as empathy because understanding human nature can sometimes make one less likely to indulge/tolerate certain behaviors. I think women pay more attention to relationships between people and devote more time to understanding how different people think. This is, like most traits, is both a strength and a weakness. If you worry too much about how people will react, you get lost in the weeds and become ineffective. But if you ignore other people's feelings, you may needlessly antagonize them or might not notice anything is wrong until it's too late to fix it.
Before everyone jumps all over me with anecdotal examples of women who are not like this, I'm not saying that these are qualities all women possess, but more that they are tendencies in women that we tend to think of as good/valuable/feminine. And again (because I can't think of a single time I've written anything positive about women when I haven't been deluged with "Why won't you admit that women act badly sometimes!!!"), we're not talking about the faults of women here, but only about female virtues.
The focus here is not to say that women are better than men. I don't believe that and no reasonable construction of anything I've written over the past 6 years supports such a conclusion. This is a NARROW discussion focused on identifying qualities we admire or value in women.
And with that... release the hounds (as a certain penis-having blogger is wont to say)!
Update: via Glenn Reynolds (that veritable feast of manliness) comes this fantastic essay on manliness. I realize we're talking about which qualities make a good woman here, but I'd like to highlight this part of the essay in which the author identifies manly virtues:
* Personal Responsibility
The Art of Manliness is exactly what I hope the Womanliness Project will become - an affirmation of the ethos of personal responsibility, virtue and maturity for women that recognizes the unique contributions both men and women make to society.
Must read essay with generous support for Attila's "be a grownup" approach.
The Womanliness Project
I realize I've been rather quiet of late. There are several reasons for that.
Once again I've been struggling with the perennial urge to walk away from blogging entirely. It's been two years since my last break. I love writing, but after a while I begin to feel the pull of other endeavors in meat space and I wonder whether the time and energy I spend online is well spent?
I've been thinking a great deal lately about the anger and confusion with which both men and women have reacted to declining morality and blurred gender roles. Over the years I've come to believe that conservatives - though we ought to be part of the solution - are actually a big part of the problem. That statement will no doubt annoy and anger some of you, especially as I'm just going to throw it out there without trying to explain why I believe this. Please be assured I will pick it up again later.
I've also been going over some old debates with Grim. Grim and I agree about a lot of things but there are also some pretty fundamental differences in the way we see life. To me, that's a feature, not a bug. I enjoy finding out how he sees things because this challenges my own ideas. It helps me see things I might otherwise miss and the inevitable back-and-forth encourages me not to settle for one-sided or simplistic answers to thorny questions. But there's another benefit to our discussions. Often the juxtaposition of my thoughts with his helps me to distill a confusing rush of seemingly unrelated observations into a concentrated and coherent framework. That's the value of talking with people who don't agree with you - if you can do it without things getting nasty, you can learn a lot from them.
I don't mind admitting that I'm growing discouraged with blogging. It's upsetting to me that I seem to view the world differently than most other folks I know.
To me, disagreement is not an inherently adversarial process. I want my ideas to be challenged. Yet (like everyone else I know on the planet) I don't relish being personally attacked for the crime of questioning someone's arguments or examining their premises or evidence more closely. Sadly, personal attacks seem to constitute the majority of what passes for discussion on the Internet. People get defensive when they're questioned, seeing questions as a threat rather than as an opportunity to strengthen and improve their arguments.
The thing is, I'm not ready to give up just yet. And so I offer a proposal I'm very excited about. It's called The Womanliness Project.
Simply put, The Womanliness Project is a practical attempt to apply Grim's notion that what's needed to heal what's wrong with our society is a "vision of beauty"; an aesthetic that appeals on several levels: moral, intellectual, spiritual. Art is good at eliciting this kind of response. What got me thinking about this was the troubles of a friend whose husband went off the deep end and totally wrecked their marriage and finances. It struck me at some point that part of the problem was that his admittedly deplorable behavior completely shattered her faith in him.
But I think they could have recovered even from that. The problem was that once that faith was gone, he seemed to give up on being a decent human being. He quite literally seems to have decided that if he couldn't have the respect of the woman he loved, he might as well become the kind of person no one looks up to.
I don't condone this, but in a way I understand it. It's a phenomenon I've noticed many times. I was joking earlier today with a penis-having individual. I made a wisecrack about his being wrong simply b/c he was a man. He shot back with, "So what you're telling me is that I now have *no* incentive to behave."
There's a profound truth there. Often, we live up or down to the way we think others see us. The corollary here is that if we give up on one half of the human race, we have just removed one of the most powerful incentives for them to behave morally and responsibly.
So... you ask. What is this Womanliness Project all about? Well, it's pretty simple. I've asked several female bloggers whose writing I enjoy to guest post here at VC from time to time. I'll be throwing out a variety of questions for discussion and debate. Now before I am accused of being a sexist piglette, I don't want to exclude male bloggers. If you want to participate, let me know. If not, that's fine too. And regardless of whether you're a male or female blogger and of whether I've asked you, feel free to put your two cents in. The more voices, the merrier!
The first question I'd like to throw out for debate relates back to this old post in which we discussed the question, "What is a Real Woman/Real Man"?
In that post I essentially rejected rigid definitions of masculinity or femininity. But that doesn't mean I don't think men and women don't have unique strengths and weaknesses. I offered a more forgiving standard that I'd like to expand upon:
A man is strong, but how he exercises that strength is a function of his unique personality. A woman's essence is more that she is gentle and loving, but again, she chooses the application. But also men and women, if they are wise, respect each other.
What I want to examine this week is well expressed by a long ago comment that has haunted me for some time:
"Which part do you want to work on?"
The part where masculine characteristics are automatically assumed to be the kind that the lucky, superior half of the human race has, and feminine characteristics are automatically assumed to be the kind that the ridiculous, second-rate half of the human race has. A silly assumption to attribute to lots of my fellow human beings? I'd say that a lot of jokes we think are funny couldn't possibly be funny if these assumptions weren't nearly universal, though a bit covert nowadays.
I'm generalizing here, but I don't think I'm off-base to observe that the typical male virtues are considered generally admirable in our society. A woman who aspires to them may be ridiculed for getting in over her head, but if she should happen to succeed, we think the traits reflect rather admirably on her than otherwise. But the best that women's typical traits are likely to get is lip-service: "That's OK for women, but we expect better from a REAL person." The man who displays these traits isn't just aiming higher than his station; he's often considered to be devaluing himself. His female partner may be breathing a small sigh of relief at a sign that he can break out of the masculine mold for a moment, but his friends probably are all laughing at him.
I'm just suggesting that all this could be explained at least two ways. One, the masculine traits really are the best, and women are moderately failed human beings, outside a few carefully circumscribed areas where their femininity is valued. Or two, we've all internalized a lot of unexamined and possibly unsustainable assumptions about how terrific all those masculine virtues are, and how faintly ridiculous all those feminine virtues are. In other words, men are regular people, and women are a special case.
My view of feminism is that it challenges us to think about these assumptions. That remains true for me even though a lot of foolish women have latched onto the concept in order to create a grievance-mongering racket that's just one more flavor of the kind of nonsense Skippy Gates represents. At least I don't make my living cadging grants out of people so I can spout this stuff!
Texan99 | 07.28.09 - 10:24 am | #
I may not be a feminist, but I want to challenge you all to think about these assumptions too. I hear the same feelings coming from men and women these days. Men feel that they are ridiculed and devalued in popular culture, and that's true.
But we women feel the same way. Just as men feel that women don't value them for the qualities they want to be respected for - that they value in themselves - so women believe our strengths are mocked and belittled and ignored in favor of things we think are unimportant and even at times destructive.
And they are.
So as a first step in this project I'd like to ask you all a few questions:
1. Are there such things as "womanly virtues"; qualities typical of most women, though they may be exhibited to a greater or lesser degree by different individuals? Or should there be one standard that applies to both men and women (the "be a grownup" school of thought).
2. If so, list these qualities and explain why you think they're valuable.
3. How do we channel those qualities in a positive way in a world without traditional gender roles? How do we encourage women to take pride in their femininity rather than suppressing it - to use their strengths rather than becoming "Men Lite"?
The usual conservative answer to gender issues is to blame feminism and hark back to the good old days when women's choices were strictly limited. That's an odd prescription for a party that claims to be about freedom.
I think the answer lies in balancing our newfound freedoms with an equal dose of responsibility. I think it lies in the realization that both masculine and feminine qualities have enormous destructive potential, but are also powerful forces for good.
We have all the right building blocks. They exist already in human nature. We just need to find the right tools and the right blueprint. This project is an attempt to create a working plan for moving forward without rancor and with respect for the differences as well as the similarities between men and women.
January 20, 2010
Dennis the Peasant Nails It
Frodo asked what we thought about Scott Brown's victory. I haven't written about his candidacy because frankly, although I very much wanted him to win, I was having trouble biting back the snark.
I think it's great that he did win and I think the folks who are saying this is no big deal or doesn't mean something are wrong. Dennis the Peasant summed it up very well:
There are a whole lot of Democrats - progressives and moderates alike - who have stifled serious misgivings about Obamacare for a very long time. They didn't like it, but they were willing to play the game for the sake of the party. Brown's victory ends the pretending. If the party cannot hold the bluest seat in the bluest state, then it's every pol for himself from this point on.
The same cannot be said with cap-and-trade: It's been stillborn since it left the House. Only Obama and a few senatorial loonies are still pushing that bit of dreck. Brown's victory simply removes any hopes Bambi's team had of getting most Democratic senators to swallow any part of it. The only question now is whether Obama is smart enough to quietly drop it and move on to more pressing matters (like the economy).
However, Matt misses the essential point: This isn't about supposedly lilly-livered senators like Evan Bayh, this is about bad legislation that voters do not want. The pros are coming to the conclusion that biting the bullet for the sake of Bambi's ego is simply no longer a viable alternative politically. The children (and that includes Matt) are going to have to deal with it.
So what was I biting my tongue about? It never ceases to amaze me that the very same folks who jumped on the Dede Scozzofava is a big fat RINO bandwagon have been going gaga over a candidate who is arguably even more liberal than Scozzofava
Brown’s score puts him at the 34th percentile of his party in Massachusetts over the 1995-2006 time period. In other words, two thirds of other Massachusetts Republican state legislators were more conservative than he was. This is evidence for my claim that he’s a liberal even in his own party. What’s remarkable about this is the fact that Massachusetts Republicans are the most, or nearly the most, liberal Republicans in the entire country!
Shor’s research shows us that even compared to Dede Scozzafava, Scott Brown is a very liberal Republican.
The point is that the "base's" support for Brown is a bit ironic in light of their continual excoriation of so-called RINOs. It's also a vindication for what many moderates (including yours truly) have been saying all along: rigid ideological litmus tests and a small tent approach are a sure fire prescription for staying out of power.
Now that we've won, I'll be happy to tell you what I think. Any party that thinks they can ignore what voters want (even if what voters want isn't entirely rational, which it often isn't) is doing politics wrong. The Dems were just handed a stinging reminder of the truth of that principle. But it applies to us as well.
The Republican Revolution began with us winning back 4 key seats. Three of the victors who returned us to power were liberal or moderate Republicans. In other words, what Ace said.
No one's going to like me for saying this, but so much for purity. I prefer being in a position to fight idiotic ideas like ObamaCare.
Now if Dennis would just publish that photo of him in a Speedo, my day would be complete.
Snarky Words of Wisdom...
...from Little Miss Attila:
... cooking can be a lot of fun if one simply throws out the recipes and stops obsessing about what ingredients one might have forgotten this time, and why it isn’t as good as it was last time—or what exactly made it better.
Experiences are much funner when one tries to step into the moment a bit, rather than having meta-experiences all over the place.
I shall write that down, and remember it for next time: Try to have real experiences, rather than meta-experiences.
In the kitchen, I'm a big improviser. Recipes are just starting points for experimentation - I can't think of the last time I followed a recipe exactly. But it's more common for me not to start with a recipe at all. Most of my 'signature dishes' are ones where the recipe is in my head.
I like lentils too, but I usually make lentil soup with a ham bone or ham hock, some cumin, finely diced onions and tomatoes, a hint - not too much! - of garlic, and a generous dash of cayenne pepper. It should have a slight bite but not be too spicy.
I remember when every good Southern grocery store had plenty of ham hocks. When we were first married and couldn't afford meat every day I used them to make split pea soup, lentil soup, potato and bean soups. I think I've even put them in collard greens or kale a time or two. Now they're a "gourmet" item (when I can find them) and nearly as expensive as real ham.
January 19, 2010
Flying While Male?
You know, I'm slow to scream "misandry" (or misogyny, for that matter) but this is just surreal:
This is British Airways' excuse for treating all men like convicted pedophiles:
What kind of parent allows a small child to fly alone on a 13 hour or overnight flight?
If the child is too young to speak with frankly about the right way to handle this kind of incident (much less to call for help if he or she is being bothered) then he or she is far too young to fly alone.
Parents need to take responsibility for their children's safety rather than putting small children into the care of total strangers. No one cares as much about your children as you do. When parental convenience begins to outweigh the rights of other paying passengers, there's something very very wrong.
The real irony here is that British Airways would probably have no qualms about seating a small child next to someone who fits the profile of a jihadist. Apparently the acceptability of being profiled - which is exactly what happened to this male passenger - rises in inverse proportion to the statistical likelihood that a particular passenger poses an actual threat.
Do *You* Have a Soul Portait???
Oh. Like you don't imagine yourself shimmying around in the altogether with a ginormous platter of candles balanced precariously on your head??? Whatever. On reflection, it is lacking one thing.
Loooooooooooooooooong day at work, people.
I, For One, Demand to be Called, "Sugar Mama"
So.... O majestic penis-having individuals.... what say you? Is this a good thing? Or a bad thing?
In 2007, the Pew report found, median household incomes of married men, married women and unmarried women were all about 60 percent higher than in 1970. But among unmarried men, median household income rose by only 16 percent. These days, men who marry typically gain another breadwinner.
In 1970, 28 percent of wives had husbands who were better educated, and 20 percent were married to men with less education. By 2007, the comparable figures were 19 percent and 28 percent. In 1970, 4 percent of husbands had wives who made more money; in 2007, 22 percent did.
College-educated wives are less likely to have a husband who is college-educated and in the highest income bracket than they were in 1970, and married women are less likely to have a husband who works.
“Among all married couples,” the report said, “wives contribute a growing share of the household income, and a rising share of those couples include a wife who earns more than her husband.”
The folks at NPR are positively tingly about the Pew report:
The joke used to be that some women went to college to get their M.R.S. — that is, a husband. In sheer economic terms, marriage was long the best way for a woman to get ahead. But a study by the Pew Research Center finds that there's been a role reversal when it comes to men, women and the economics of marriage.
The study compares marriages in 2007 with those in 1970, when few wives worked — and it's no wonder why. Until 1964, a woman could legally be fired when she got married. Even a woman with a college degree likely made less than a man with a high-school diploma.
"When you think about it from a guy's perspective, marriage wasn't such a great deal," says Richard Fry of the Pew Research Center. "It raised a household size, but it didn't bring in a lot more income."
Four decades later, it's men who are reaping rewards from a stroll down the aisle. Many more women are now working, and in a greater variety of jobs. Add to that the decline of gender discrimination, and women's median wages have risen sharply in recent decades even as men's have remained stagnant or fallen.
I found their giddy take amusing, but also interesting in light of this quote from the Playboy story the other day:
The early Playboy sought the eyes and minds of what Fraterrigo calls “the young, affluent, urban bachelor,” and the first issue was pitched by Hefner as “a little diversion from the anxieties of the Atomic Age.” These anxieties were not only about being barbequed by Soviet nukes; for the American male, they included having to marry the first woman you had sex with, living with your parents (thanks to a dire postwar housing shortage), and feeling emasculated by the new nature of American work, no longer artisanal or rugged or self-determining but managerial and inchoate and soul-stranglingly indoor. This was, in fact, the young Hefner’s life, and he loathed it.
So here's the debate question for today: Are we headed down the otter slide to Helk? Is this change "sustainable"? Is there an upside to this development for men (especially since, as we're so often told, men get the short end of the marriage stick these days)? Is it possible that some men and women are actually being freed up from gender roles that can't possibly suit every man or every woman equally well?
If you could turn the clock back to the 1950s, would you? Why or why not?
What say you?
Update: IS NOTHING SACRED???
Every so often, you would see [a stray dog] waiting on a metro platform. When the train pulled up, the dog would step in, scramble up to lie on a seat or sit on the floor if the carriage was crowded, and then exit a few stops later. There is even a website dedicated to the metro stray (www.metrodog.ru) on which passengers post photos and video clips taken with their mobile phones, documenting the savviest of the pack using the public transport system like any other Muscovite.
Update II: Via bthun...
The director of Rape Prevention Education has attacked a promotion offering rugby tickets to "cougars" or women aged 35 and over "looking for slabs of meat" as appalling and disgusting, and wants advertisement withdrawn.
But the competition's promoters say they have no plans to stop the advertising campaign, which it says is meant to be light-hearted.
Rape Prevention Education director Kim McGregor said the promotion on Air New Zealand's Grabaseat website offering tickets to next month's Wellington Sevens aimed at groups of women aged 35 and over known as cougars, was objectionable on several levels.
She said the online advertisement, which shows a mature woman or cougar "starving itself on sparse vegetation during the day then hunting large slabs of meat at night" by stalking a young man at a bar should be withdrawn immediately.
Despite the man's attempts to ward off the woman's advances, the cougar has "not tasted fresh meat for days" and drags her prey to an inner-city apartment.
Ms McGregor said the organisation had heard from Air New Zealand staff who were embarrassed and concerned by the promotion.
"They find it degrading and that it is encouraging potentially harmful behaviour, so my question is why is our national carrier promoting sexually predatory behaviour?"
Again, what say you? FWIW, I think the promotion is in poor taste. Not sure men are a special class who need to be protected from sleazy ad campaigns any more than women would be in their place. I'd be more sympathetic to the idea that this kind of nudge, nudge, wink, wink ad is more suited for Cosmo or a men's mag than for general consumption.
January 18, 2010
Your Daily Dose of Gender Bigotry and Man Hatred
Thought for the day, apropos of women single handedly ruining Western Civilization:
The early Playboy sought the eyes and minds of what Fraterrigo calls “the young, affluent, urban bachelor,” and the first issue was pitched by Hefner as “a little diversion from the anxieties of the Atomic Age.” These anxieties were not only about being barbequed by Soviet nukes; for the American male, they included having to marry the first woman you had sex with, living with your parents (thanks to a dire postwar housing shortage), and feeling emasculated by the new nature of American work, no longer artisanal or rugged or self-determining but managerial and inchoate and soul-stranglingly indoor. This was, in fact, the young Hefner’s life, and he loathed it. In 1953, he was a struggling cartoonist with a wife and child; the Chicago Daily News profiled him in a lifestyles piece as a model of suburban bonhomie. A year later, Playboy was launched. Soon enough Hefner was a millionaire bachelor with an estranged daughter, Christie. (They would not reconnect until after she graduated from college, and she would eventually run the Playboy empire.)
In terminating a certain kind of life for himself, Hefner also terminated it for a generation of American men--if not in fact then at least as the ideal. While his current existence--with its carousel of Viagra, twentysomething blonds, and fresh pajama bottoms--seems a rather nightmarish gauntlet for an eighty-year-old to run, Hefner has avoided the fate suffered by so many American public figures: he is utterly free of phoniness. Unfortunately, this has come at the cost of seeming utterly ridiculous, though he does not seem to mind.
More than anything else, Fraterrigo reminds us that those who grew up in a pre-Playboy world had a psychic Grand Canyon separating them from the dwellers of the post-Playboy landscape. In the pre-Playboy world, naked women were the purlieu of pale loners and rain coated perverts. Post-Playboy, naked women were merely adult entertainment, so calm down already. Pre-Playboy, a young woman who undressed for money before a camera was essentially infecting herself with social measles. Post-Playboy, that same young woman could be the embodiment of pillowy American goodness. (Today, of course, we would call it entrepreneurial nudity.)
Wow. What if history actually consisted of complex interactions between different groups with competing agendas rather than a simplistic narrative in which every bad thing was attributable to a single convenient villain? Of course the problem with not being a helpless victim is that you might discover you were part of the so-called "problem".
Disturbing thought, that.
My apologies for the lame blogging. I'm still on the road. Will be back Tuesday and will try to get something up then...
...if only to put a stop to the Fact Checking thread :p
January 14, 2010
CWCID: Tom and Mr. Bernard
Abuse Dress Up Your Pet Day
"Go to Hell. Go straight to Hell. Do not pass 'Go'..."
"'Sting like a bee', my ass...
"Of course you realize...
This means war."
"I am *so* peeing on your carpet tonight...."
Baaaa-rock. Get it?
Random Photo of the Day
January 13, 2010
Paging Nick Kristof!!!
If only America would follow the Enlightened example of Costa Rica and get rid of
those horrid baby killers our armed forces. Just think of how much happier we'd be:
“Catastrophic destruction,” she said when asked to describe the landscape.
Grim scenes didn't end there.
A helicopter sliced overhead. Inside the aircraft, critically injured personnel from the U.S. embassy were being rushed to Guantanamo for medical care, she told NBC News.
“It is hard to look out in this harbor and see a building that has not been affected,” she told The New York Times, “from the waterfront up the hills to the larger buildings.”
“Everybody in this city has been hit,” she added.
On land, survivors made their way through streets of rubble. The weary dug through ruins of what were once homes and schools trying desperately to find a loved one. Screams and wails pierced the air, the New York Times reported.
As the cutter crew listened to their Haitian counterparts, the difficulty of the mission became clearer. An estimated 2,000 survivors turned out for medical help at the Haitian Coast Guard facility.
Three more Coast Guard ships were on their way to the island, as well as other Defense Department vessels including the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, The New York Times reported.
Armada deployed to help
Officials said Navy ships, helicopters, transport planes and a 2,000-member Marine unit were either on the way to the impoverished nation or likely to begin moving soon.
Gen. Douglas Fraser, head of U.S. Southern Command, said that one of the U.S. Navy's large amphibious ships will likely head to Haiti with a Marine expeditionary unit aboard. Fraser said other U.S. military forces are on alert, including a brigade, which includes about 3,500 troops.
Fraser said during a news conference with other U.S. officials that the Pentagon is "seriously looking at" sending thousands of Marines to assist with disaster relief efforts and security in Haiti.
President Barack Obama pledged earlier Wednesday "a swift, coordinated and aggressive" effort to help the people of Haiti overcome a "cruel and incomprehensible" tragedy."
Yessir. The military is really a criminal waste of money that would be better spent on education.
The Chicago Way
Don't like embarrassing questions from the media? No worries! Just apply Chicago Rules:
I’m not certain attacking reporters who ask politicians challenging questions is the best qualification to provide an objective news voice to oppressed parts of the world. I would hope that our Broadcasting Board of Governors could at least agree that reporters should be free from political assaults.
Our Mr. Meehan has some explaining to do. His Senate confirmation hearing should be a hoot.
So much for the most ethical and transparent party, evah:
The Justice Department refused Tuesday to turn over most of the information and documents sought by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights explaining why a civil complaint was dismissed against members of the New Black Panther Party who disrupted a Philadelphia polling place in the November 2008 elections.
In a 38-page response, the department objected — except for a few court records, letters and procedural documents — to "each and every" question and document request submitted by the commission, saying the subpoenas violated existing executive orders, privacy and privilege concerns, and were burdensome, vague and ambiguous.
Moral of the story: don't ask too many nosy questions and we'll get along just fine.
What Love Is
This is a favorite post of mine, written two years ago over at Grim's place. I thought I'd bring it over here as an antidote to the disturbing view of women and relationships put forward by The Futurist and his sources. If you want to read the supporting articles, please visit Grim's place, which has the links.
I still recall the dress I wore to my first dance. It was black with wild roses – pink ones - on it. The empire waistline tied in the back with grosgrain ribbon and the deep, square neckline was trimmed with white lace. My date gave me the most beautiful corsage: pink sweetheart roses and baby’s breath.
I kept the ticket and the corsage for years on a bookshelf in my bedroom. I’m not sure why. Perhaps because it seemed the sort of thing that should be remembered. I don’t think I missed a dance in school and I kept each corsage I was given; even the ugly ones.
Not every boy who asked me out was as adept as that first young man at matching flowers to my outfit and personality. But that didn’t matter. To tell the truth I never really liked corsages, even in high school. They were awkward and clunky and the pins had a nasty way of poking you in the shoulder when you tried to dance or stood up on your tip-toes for that long anticipated good night kiss. But they were tangible reminders that a young man had taken pains to please me, just as I had gone to a great deal of trouble to look nice for him, to make his evening pleasant. Memorable.
And so I kept them, every one. All my yesterdays, pressed between the leaves of my mind like wildflowers from some long forgotten ramble down a country road on a summer’s day. As they slowly faded in their allotted spaces on my bookshelf, they somehow managed to retain traces of their former loveliness; giving off sweet memories of being courted, cherished, of feeling - for the space of few moonlit hours - like a princess in a fairy tale.
Thus it is with some sadness that I wonder: what on earth do today’s would be princesses have to look forward to?
Last month, a boy asked my 16-year-old daughter to his school's homecoming dance. She agreed to go, bought a new dress and made a hairdresser appointment.
The boy never bought tickets to the dance. Neither did his friends. They decided that attending homecoming wouldn't be cool, and instead planned to just dress up that night, go out for dinner and then hang out with their dates at someone's house.
My daughter was disappointed, as were her girlfriends. They would have loved to have been taken to the dance, to show off their dresses, to see and be seen.
At 6 p.m. on the night of the boycotted dance, about a dozen of these girls and their dates gathered in one boy's backyard so a mob of parents could photograph them. I found it dispiriting. My heart went out to those girls -- all dressed up with no place to go.
I live in suburban Detroit, but this phenomenon is playing out elsewhere in the country, too -- a telling example of the indifference with which young people today view dating, chivalry and romance.
Studies, of course, show more young people skipping romantic relationships in favor of "hooking up." As teens socialize in packs, forgo one-on-one dating and trade sex nonchalantly, it is no stretch to find that boys are asking girls to homecoming and not bothering to take them there.
When I was a young girl I recall hearing a song by Peggy Lee on my transistor radio.
“Back in the day”, as my boys are fond of saying with rolled eyes, you couldn’t just summon up a tune any time you felt like it. We didn’t have iPods, playlists, or personal CD players. When it came to that special song that made you dizzy with delight, you were at the mercy of the DJ down at the radio station. You had to wait, sometimes for what seemed like ages, for your favorite song to come onto the airwaves and thrill you to the very marrow of your bones. That’s what made it special: rarity, and the knowledge that you couldn’t hear it any time you wanted to. If you were really, really crazy about a song you might save up and buy the 45, or even the LP. But that took a while. And in the meantime there was the agony of suspense.
I wonder, sometimes, if that is what is missing from modern relationships: the ache of wanting; the knowledge that someone isn’t there just for the taking, the thrill of finally gaining your heart's desire after long uncertainty, a series of delays? Of knowing you might never have had them at all? What happens to our sense of wonder when we take everything for granted, when we are never deprived, when we never take pains?
When nothing is special anymore?
There is something to be said for anticipation. I carried my little transistor radio everywhere, glued to my shell-like ear. I must have known the words to a million songs by heart – I repeated them over and over in my head while waiting for the next time my favorite song would come over the airwaves. I still do. Who does that now? The song was called, “Is that all there is?”
I hated that song with a passion, even then. It asked that question - “Is that all there is?” - about love. It was too cynical and worldly wise for me then and it still is today, forty-odd years later, because no matter how long you walk this earth, you never stop discovering the unending wonder of loving other people, and you never quite do come to know all there is to know about life.
I know that in my bones. There are a million kinds of love, and to me the saddest thing on earth is the cynic who asks, “Is that all there is?” because she has never experienced the delight to be found in pleasing others; who says “Let’s not bother…” celebrating special occasions because he has never been denied anything (and so sees every new experience through a lens of dreary sameness), who doesn’t understand that hooking up or casual sex, though amusing, can never be anything but pale substitutes for what happens when two people really love each other, when making someone else’s heart race a mile a minute is just as satisfying as feeling the earth move yourself. And sometimes more.
I wonder if these children will recognize (or would they be bored by) the quiet, peaceful Sunday morning comfortableness that sneaks up on you when you’ve been together for half a lifetime? When you fit neatly together as though you had been made for each other? That doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years of living, and sometimes years of ups and downs that I sometimes wonder if they will have the patience to wait for?
Love takes many forms. Love is having the faith and the courage to let go when your children need to strike out on their own. Love means trusting in their judgment (and your own long stewardship); it means recognizing that they are no longer babies, but young adults. It means releasing them gently, lovingly, gracefully; though every fiber screams they aren’t ready yet – that they aren’t listening to you, that they will screw things up if you don’t keep a hand on the old tiller. It means not saying “I told you so”, when you did. Again. And again. It means biting your lip, and your tongue, a lot. It means giving them the space to grow, as you did once. Love means standing a bit apart when they come home, though you long to crowd them with questions as you did when they were small; waiting for them to come to you. Loving it when they finally do.
Even though it took years. Boys are a slow crop.
Love means taking pride in the achievements of your friends, sharing their every day triumphs and tribulations, both great and small. Taking satisfaction in their talent, not knowing whether to laugh or cry when one of them writes something so poignant it could have been plucked from the pages of your own life:
Right before Lancelot went on his latest trip, he reminded me that the Dark Prince was coming home on Friday. I must have had a blank look on my face because he then reminded me why: Dark Prince's pre-deployment brief the following day. A brief that I would have to attend with my son without my husband.
Looking back, I'm now of the opinion that my husband planned to be out of town so as to avoid the whole nightmare....
For starters, my son is not very skilled in the social graces. Some might even assume that he was raised by wolves. Arriving at the brief, it began.
"Mom, I have to go talk to someone."
Me: "Oh, okay, I'll be right here."
This, in case you didn't know, is his way of avoiding even the admittance that he has a mom (let alone introducing her).
Nope, not the Dark Prince, he was hatched from an egg.
Love means thanking God for them when they aggravate you, and when they make you laugh, when they lift you up. What would we do without friends? They make the sun come out when all the world seems grey and cloudy. They say things that make you cry. And laugh out loud. Sometimes in the same breath:
A house isn't a home until you can write "I love you" in the dust. I just ask that you don't date it.
I like that. But for a military wife home can never be a place, really, or a time. Times change, and even the people we meet are often far less constant than they appear to be. But somehow, friends are a gleaming thread running through the hopelessly tangled skein of our lives. Pull on it, and everything suddenly slips into place effortlessly; all the snarled knots come untied. They know, without our having to tell them, certain things about us. We share, not everything – because no two people share everything – but the important things. A friend will be there to celebrate quietly with you those moments that mean something to you. And that can make all the difference, for then you carry home inside of you wherever you may roam.
Because home, you see, is the people you care about. A home is love.
I am sitting here in Georgia with The Burrito in my lap. He is one week old. My son’s house is full of light, and warmth, and love. The Burrito is mostly full of milk. His eyes are very heavy and he is making comical faces as he falls asleep in my arms. Across the room, my son is talking quietly to his wife. I like watching him with her. He loves her very much. I am thinking of what I will write to my husband in the morning. The scene around me is proof that families do evolve – they have so much more than we did, starting out. But then they are a good ten years older than we were when we had our first child. I am also thinking of ten years ago, when I was convinced the young man across the room from me was a complete bonehead and wasn’t listening to a word his mother had to say.
He is a fine young man, a good father, and an even better husband. I am proud.
And The Burrito totally rules.
Update: I love this essay.
January 12, 2010
A Few Good Essays on Conservatism
I have been remiss about getting these links up, and I apologize. David Foster addresses the nature of conservative and liberal philosophy by analogy. I thought the second story conveyed a particularly apt view of human nature: we tend to underestimate the complexities that shaped tried-and-true, if imperfect, solutions and minimize or ignore the potential consequences of adopting new ones:
You have inherited a chemical plant which makes a valuable and vitally-needed product. It is a vast facility, covering many acres: kind of a spooky place, too, with steam jets and gas flares everywhere. The plant has grown up over time, and the piping and wiring diagrams, if they ever existed, have long since been lost.
The plant’s chemical process has been developed by trial-and-error, and is not well understood. It is controlled by hundreds of set-point knobs adjusting various temperatures, pressure, and rates of flow. The plant operators, most of them with years of experience, have been able to make some changes in the plant’s efficiency by making slight occasional adjustments to the set points. They do this very carefully: several times in the past, adjustments which proved to be unwise have resulted in explosions, destroying equipment, shutting down the plant, and even sometimes injuring and killing people. Some of these failed adjustments were based on mathematical process models which said that they should have worked out just fine.
Two of your executives come to see you with a proposal. One is a chemical engineer, the other an MBA. They have a new, very elaborate process model in which they have very high confidence, and a proposal for optimizing the plant based on this model. If you will just give approval for all the setpoints to be simultaneously reset to new values, then the plant will increase its production by 75%–as verified by the chemical engineer’s process model–and will make you lots and lots of money–as verified by the MBA’s spreadsheets.
This is how conservatives tend to think about liberals–implementing major social change based on untested theories and with no fallback when things don’t work out as planned.
I think this is what makes it so hard to sell "standing athwart of history, yelling "Stop!" - it's always easier to identify the negative aspects of a known solution than those of an untried solution. Plus, it's new and shiny!
Gregory frames his conservatism thusly:
The Christian framework, in my case, was arrived at through reason. Now, God chooses many ways to initially hit someone over the head with the truth - in my case, He used my thinking. In other instances, He uses dreams, visions, even implants convictions. It matters little - the end result is that eventually, we put our faith in Jesus. And we start using our heads, our hearts and our bodies to live for Him.
What are the implications? Why would conservatism work hand in hand with Christianity so nicely?
1. Mankind is innately sinful; hence, in a world that has abandoned Judeo-Christian values, it is best to appeal to enlightened self-interest. Hello, free markets!
2. God is a personal God, and He demands personal commitment from His children. Hence, no letting the 'government' handle charity - this is meant to be our work, done in private enterprise.
3. Jesus said to render Caesar's stuff to Caesar, and God's stuff to God - creating the very first separation of Church and State. This was true during Israelite times, too, after Saul became King. But it wasn't 'Church' then. :)
4. God created us in His image, hence human life is of great value because God values us. Therefore, death is a very serious issue, to be used as a form of punishment and deterrence only when absolutely necessary.
5. We march inexorably towards the end of history, but we do not know when that will be. Hence, we should continue to be watchful, alert and vigilant, ever-ready for whatever may come. This is a very short distance to having strong and well-trained, well-educated military, and disaster preparedness.
Lots of food for thought there. Finally, Gunny Pink writes eloquently about a conservatism founded in freedom, but tempered by personal responsibility:
... how do I understand conservatism?
I think it is about personal responsibility. I know that is a big umbrella to start out with, however, I must go back to the understanding that the God who created this world, universe, and all living creatures, thought it pertinent to bestow on us, human critters, free will. We have the ability to do what we want to, but we also have an "owner's manual" that tells us what happens when we choose to live a certain way.
The human heart cries out for freedom. All across the history of mankind, we find those in bondage, crying out to be free. And all across this history, we find those whose whole purpose in life appears to be enslaving others, and having power over them to refuse them any opportunity to exercise their free will.
Involved in my idea of being free, is the ability to earn and hold private property. I grew up in the forties and fifties. I well remember watching "Victory at Sea" at the local theater, and watching the news items that showed how people over in Europe lived. I read the Declaration of Independence, and learn that the people most instrumental in beginning this country, left Europe to get away from onerous taxation, and overbearing government. I grew up with the story of Robin Hood...not the Robbing Hood we have today, of the government taxing every aspect of our lives, but the Robin Hood, who battled the oppressive government of the day, to take back what rightfully belonged to the people.
If I missed your essay, please forgive me. I've been distracted lately. If you let me know, I'll correct the omission.
I'd like to thank everyone who participated in the discussion or wrote an essay. I've said it many times before, but I learn far more from you all than you ever get from my poor posts.
Always Leave 'Em Laughing...
... or something:
May God grant me the wisdom to be as loving, patient, and understanding as the person in this email.
When I was a kid, my mom liked to make breakfast food for dinner every now and then. And I remember one night in particular when she had made breakfast after a long, hard day at work. On that evening so long ago, my mom placed a plate of eggs, sausage and extremely burned biscuits in front of my dad. I remember waiting to see if anyone noticed! Yet all my dad did was reach for his biscuit, smile at my mom and ask me how my day was at school. I don't remember what I told him that night, but I do remember watching him smear butter and jelly on that biscuit and eat every bite!
When I got up from the table that evening, I remember hearing my mom apologize to my dad for burning the biscuits. And I'll never forget what he said: "Honey, I love burned biscuits."
Later that night, I went to kiss Daddy good night and I asked him if he really liked his biscuits burned. He wrapped me in his arms and said, "Your Momma put in a hard day at work today and she's real tired. And besides - a little burnt biscuit never hurt anyone!"
Life is full of imperfect things.....and imperfect people. I'm not the best at hardly anything, and I forget birthdays and anniversaries just like everyone else. But what I've learned over the years is that learning to accept each others faults - and choosing to celebrate each others differences - is one of the most important keys to creating a healthy, growing, and lasting relationship. We could extend this to any relationship. In fact, understanding is the base of any relationship, be it a husband-wife or parent-child or friendship!
"Don't put the key to your happiness in someone else's pocket - keep it in your own."
So, please pass me a biscuit, and yes, the burnt one will do just fine.
I used to be such a patient person. As I've gotten older, I find my patience sadly frayed around the edges. I need to try harder.
Thanks to DL Sly for sending this.
January 10, 2010
Fact Checking The Futurist
In a post I've been meaning to address, Grim (while expressing great admiration and respect for her) takes issue with several of Dr. Helen's recent posts:
I appreciate that the doctor wants to be on the side of men; but not, I hope, of men who don't merit it. Men who are themselves deeply angry at women ("fatpocalypse") are just as unlikely to produce an insightful methodology for achieving greater understanding between the sexes as the sort of radical feminist that got so much attention in the 1970s. I suppose chivalry seems "pig headed" to those males who view women as a class of self-absorbed parasites, just as it does to those women who view men as a class of hideous oppressors.
The term they sneer at -- "chivalry" -- is an ethic of willful service to one another. This is true in its relationship between men, whether they were equal fighting companions, or lord and vassal, each with clear and binding duties toward one another.
It is probably not an unfair statement to say that I disagree with Dr. Helen more often than Grim does. I don't read many blogs. I read her from time to time because she features topics that interest me and does so in an interesting way. I share her sympathy for men who are reeling from the tectonic changes in the way society deals with traditional gender roles. Where I tend to differ from her is in where I think the solution to these problems lies.
That said, I have trouble stomaching the vitriol that pervades her comments section and the pointless ad hominem attacks that so often substitute for rational discussion. Recently, Beth Donovan dared to suggest (in the comments to this post) that The Futurist's command of the facts might be less than impressive:
I started fact checking stats, and the first one I checked was off by 20 percentage points. I also looked at the links, and they just did not appear to me to be reliable references.
Nota bene: this is not Beth's entire comment, so you should read the comment thread to get the entire gist. If you do, you'll notice that not one commenter responded to (much less bothered to critically examine) Beth's assertion that The Futurist's numerous and sweeping claims are factually inaccurate. Nor did they make the slightest attempt to refute her assertion that the majority of his links are not to authoritative or credible sources.
Rather than accepting Beth's claims at face value, I decided to do a bit of fact checking. First, let's look at her claim that the majority of his links are not to authoritative/credible sources. I went though his post and looked at about 60 links (yes, you read correctly). The author insists his post cannot be understood in full without reading the supporting links. Since by my count there are over 60 of them, that's quite a homework assignment! I couldn't help but wonder whether anyone bothered to read even a tenth of them. Here is a breakout of his supporting links:
The first thing to note is that 63% of these links go to the same 4 sources: himself, Roissy (a pick up artist site), Spearhead (self described men's issues site that also posts about "Game" or PUA tactics), In Mala Fide (another "game" site). Nor were these the only links to PUA sites: when the rest of those links are added up, they amount to 70% of his sources. A stuffed marmoset by parcel post to the astute reader who can identify the common theme.
Here is where I have to stop for a moment and wonder whether Dr. Helen or any of the other female bloggers who linked approvingly to The Futurist bothered to read his supporting links? One of them, Roissy, writes about such lovely topics as "How to Nail a Virgin":
Zeets: No, I’m almost 100% positive she’s never had sex. First, she’s from [southeast European country]. She has that Old World culture still in her. And then there’s the way she reacts when I go to kiss her. She tenses up and kind of brushes my cheek with her retracted lips. She acts like a shy 14 year old who hasn’t been kissed!
...Roissy: imagine the feeling of accomplishment if you stick it out and succeed. There’s nothing quite like the look of shock on a virgin’s face when you first shove it in. Feliz Navidad!
Wow. Here we have two manly men discussing how one of them can take advantage of precisely the kind of woman they claim to respect: a virtuous woman with old fashioned values. But it gets better. Here's Roissy's wit and wisdom on the topic of saving faltering marriages. Note: the original post appears to have been deleted since I linked to it last week. Given that it was written back in October, that seems rather odd.
Here is my five point plan for saving faltering marriages:
1. Stop giving compliments, flattery, and gifts.
2. Come home from work late every night.
3. Buy yourself new, stylish clothes.
4. Cheat. If she asks, deny. No need to confess to the wife. She’ll be able to smell the competitor vaj juice on you.
5. After three months of executing the above four points, unexpectedly tell your wife her ass looks great.
I leave it to the reader to evaluate the objectivity and credibility of "sources" like this. Next, I turn to the examination of a sample of The Futurist's claims:
1. Why marriage used to work:
People married at the age of 20, and usually died by the age of 50. People were virgins at marriage, and women spent their 20s tending to 3 or more children. The wife retained her beauty 15 years into the marriage, and the lack of processed junk food kept her slim even after that. This is an entirely different psychological foundation than the present urban feminist norm of a woman marrying at the age of 34 after having had 10 or more prior sexual relationships, who then promptly emerges from her trim chrysalis in an event that can best be described as a fatocalypse.
Note the absence of supporting links. The first casualty of the collision with
reality actual data on marriages is the "marriage by 20" claim. As the following chart makes painfully clear, marriage by 20 has rarely been a common practice for either men or women in the U.S. In fact, the average age of first marriage in 1890 (back when radical feminists roamed the countryside in packs, all tingly over the prospect of oppressing weak, helpless men) was 22 for women and 26 for men.
Next up is the "death by 50" claim. As this chart makes clear, the average life expectancy of men who survive long enough to marry (even accepting The Futurist's erroneous marital age of 20) has never been that low at any time since 1845. I'm not even going to address his unsupported claims that women "kept their beauty/slender figures well past the first 15 years of marriage". There is absolutely no evidence provided. Apparently we're supposed to take his word for it.
2. Here's another whopper: "...why are 90% of divorces initiated by women (she files 70% of the time, and the other 20% of the time, she forces the man to file, due to abuse or adultery on the part of the woman)? "
First of all, let's stop and ponder the meaning of the word "initiated". It is not the same as "caused", even if one accepts The Futurist's preposterous and groundless claim. Here I really have to laugh: when the man files, the woman is guilty (again, no need for data - we are expected to accept his opinion) of "forcing" helpless men to file! Which begs the question... when the woman files, it is possible the man might have "forced" her to file for divorce? Even some of the time? Perish the thought!
Conveniently one way "logic" aside, let's look at some actual divorce data from a comprehensive study of 46,000 divorce cases. You may be surprised about the conclusion it draws on the question of why women file for divorce more often than men:
The solution to the mystery, the factor that determined most cases, turned out to be the question of child custody. Women are much more willing to split up because -- unlike men -- they typically do not fear losing custody of the children. Instead, a divorce often enables them to gain control over the children.
"The question of custody absolutely swamps all the other variables," Dr. Brinig said. "Children are the most important asset in a marriage, and the partner who expects to get sole custody is by far the most likely to file for divorce."
THE correlation with custody is so strong, Dr. Brinig said, that she has changed her view about the best way to preserve marriages and protect children. She previously advocated an end to quick no-fault divorces, but she now believes that the key is to rewrite custody laws.
That's right, it's not the expectation of financial gain - nor the ease of no fault - but custody. Moreover, preferential treatment of women in child custody cases is not a recent invention, nor is it tied to no fault. In fact, the rebuttable presumption that the mother is the best custodial parent has always been a strong component of divorce settlements in traditional fault ground states.
This conclusion (i.e., there's no real evidence that no fault divorce increased the divorce rate) has strong empirical support in actual divorce rate data over time. If no fault divorce laws incent more women to leave their marriages, shouldn't we see an increase in divorce rates following the advent of no fault? Unfortunately for The Futurist, that's not what happened. Watch what happens to the divorce rate as no fault divorce becomes more prevalent:
Note that before no fault, divorce rates were already rising rapidly. And note what happens to the divorce rate after no fault: it goes down, not up. How inconveeeeeenient.
Now let's look at divorce rates over a longer time period:
Again, note that the steepest rate of increase in divorces occurs during time periods before no fault existed. Beginning with the passage of no fault laws in ONE state - California - and continuing as no fault spreads to 9 states and then to 48 of the 50 states, the slope of the divorce rate curve decreases and then goes negative (i.e., the divorce rate declines).
Moreover, if we extrapolate the long term trend for divorce rates, we find that present rates of divorce are entirely consonant with what statisticians would have predicted long before feminism or no fault came along to harsh the collective mellows of so-called beta males. Not a good sign for The Futurist's argument.
I could fisk and fact check this guy all day, but if the facts contradict him on the things I've cited that ought to raise a big red flag. It ought to have raised a huge red flag that 70% of his "supporting sources" are pick up artist sites that, as Grim states, are not only actively hostile to women, but openly advocate behavior I can only characterize as adolescent, anti-social, and utterly inconsistent with traditional standards of manliness and masculine virtues.
I can't help but agree with Grim that these folks are nothing even approaching objective. They provide no credible underpinning for their arguments. And yet they are approvingly cited by female bloggers (Dr. Helen wasn't the only one).
I'm not arguing that divorce and child custody laws aren't unfair to men in some instances. In fact, I've made that precise argument myself many, many times. But I can't help applying the same logic I have always applied to feminists when they rail against the essential unfairness of living in a world dominated by primitive, heteronormative values: SO WHAT?
We live in a nation where lobbyists can and do influence legislation; where free citizens can and do organize and influence the law making process. Don't like the law? CHANGE IT.
Convince your fellow citizens of the merits of your case. But for God's sake, stop whining. I don't buy whining from feminists and I am no more willing to buy it from disgruntled men. If men are the smarter, stronger, and more virtuous sex (a claim I'm not quite ready to buy off on) they should have no trouble beating their intellectual inferiors. Saying "But I'm afraid to do the right thing - someone might make fun of me!!!!" is crap.
If the fight is important to you, step up to the plate. If you believe (as The Futurist clearly does) that women are destroying Western Civilization as we know it, there is no morally or intellectually defensible excuse for shirking this fight. If you decline to defend your values, they'll be superceded by those of folks who are willing to fight for what they believe in. Perhaps the funniest line in the Futurist's post (and there were many amusing, albeit unintentionally ironic, moments) was this little gem:
I am just an observer, and will not become an activist of any sort. As a Futurist, I have to predict things before they become obvious to everyone else. Regular readers know of my track records of predictions being accurate, and heed my words when I say that the further inflation and subsequent precipitous deflation of the misandry bubble will define the next American decade. So here, on the first day of the '201x' decade, I am unveiling the article that will spawn a thousand other articles.
Translation: the world is ending. But don't ask me to get involved - I'm just an observer.
In a sane world, the inclusion of clearly labeled links like "The Sixteen Commandments of Poon" might have sparked some badly needed critical inquiry. Sadly, I'm not sure we're living in a sane world any more. We're living in a world where men complain there are no virtuous, old fashioned women left and then when they encounter one, scheme and collude about how best to take advantage of her and turn her into the kind of women they claim is ruining everything.
And we link to them and say, "Wow. That's good stuff."
January 09, 2010
Glenn Reynolds nails NPR regarding their bogus 'How to Speak Tea Bag' vid:
...if NPR wants cartoons representing a diversity of views at its site — as they say they do — why not add Chris Muir to the mix? I’m sure he’d make ‘em a deal.
It's hard to think of anything that better illustrates the Grand Canyon-sized gap between what liberals say and what they actually do. I've always thought Chris Muir was one of the most talented cartoonists I've ever seen. I am stunned that he's not carried by every major paper in the country.
Certainly a news org that *claims* to want to present a diverse range of viewpoints could do no better than to include Muir's work. No question of tokens or lowered standards here. The man is just plain funny, and that holds no matter what company you put him in.
He can hang. Which rather makes me wonder if that's not exactly what outlets like NPR are afraid of?
January 08, 2010
Who Wears the Pants?
AF Wife sent me this a while back but I didn't have time to comment on it:
Real men are set to wear the pants again - at least if you believe the new Dockers ads for khakis. But some are seeing subtle sexist overtones in the costly new ad campaign.
One of the new ads says, "It's time to answer the call of manhood," and the company's Web site exhorts men to "wear the pants."
A "Man-ifesto" posted on Dockers.com begins, "Once upon a time, men wore the pants, and wore them well. Women rarely had to open doors ... Men took charge because that's what they did."
"Disco by disco, latte by foamy non-fat latte, men were stripped of their khakis and left stranded on the road between boyhood and androgyny," the ad continues.
While I have a hard time seeing the ad as sexist or homophobic, I will admit to being somewhat annoyed by it.
I think the problem is the term, "Wear the pants". I've been alive long enough to have heard the phrase used a million times as a put down, usually directed at men by other men as in: "Real men don't listen to their wives - and if you do take your wife's point of view into consideration, you're not wearing the pants in your household."
I can't see getting my Hanes UltraSheers all in a wad over what's clearly meant to be a tongue in cheek ad, but I'm surprised that the protests seem to be more over some implied putdown to women or gay men than to husbands who aren't "man enough" to show the little lady who's in charge. I can't imagine having a discussion with my husband over who wears the pants in our household.
He's not ashamed to ask me what I think when making major decisions and I do the same. We've always found it sensible for there to be areas where he is the decision maker and areas where I am. I think what disturbs me a bit is the suggestion that a real man is threatened by a woman who is strong or intelligent. I don't think that's true at all. In fact, I've found that most often strong, intelligent men tend to marry strong, intelligent women.
And then find a way to get along with them without unnecessary displays of chest beating. What do you think?
In an otherwise laudatory article about America, the author lapses into unintentional honesty:
Most of my American friends were depressed and gloomy about the Bush years. Several said that if Bush were re-elected in 2004, they would leave the country. He was and they didn’t. The bottom line is that given the choice, Americans love it rather than leave it. Day to day, American life remained as pleasant as could be expected, even in the midst of considerable economic hardship. There was even a bonding, anti-Bush feeling similar to the kind of consensual opposition that we experienced under Margaret Thatcher. A visiting American artist like Patti Smith found that while the usual torrent of name-dropping — Rimbaud, Mapplethorpe, Kerouac et al. — got a smattering of appreciative applause, a single gibe about Bush brought the house down.
At the same time, either sterling went up or the dollar went down (I don’t really understand this stuff), and as a consequence, Americans felt poor when they visited our rainy little island. So, for a brief period, we felt richer — planeloads of us went to Mannahatta and bought up everything in sight — and ideologically and ethically superior. Man, that felt good. We had a less blinkered attitude to Israel, didn’t drive big gas-guzzling S.U.V.’s, and if we were chilly of an evening we put on a sweater rather than turning up the heating (or, more accurately, turning off the A.C.). Sure, Blair went along with invading Iraq, but wasn’t that partly because he hoped to restrain the crusading fundamentalism of Bush? Now the dollar is back up — or down, or whichever it is — Europe is no longer expensive, and with the election of Barack Obama, the brief cushion of political superiority has been permanently deflated.
The Obama election was a real kick in the teeth, because although we Britons still seethe with class hatred, we pride ourselves on our highly evolved attitude to the question of race that has consistently undermined the American dream. The slight problem is that racial intermingling in Britain is most conspicuous in the ethnically diverse makeup of the groups of yobs — Asian, black and white — who exercise their antisocial behavioral skills without any kind of discrimination as to whom they happen to be terrorizing. In this regard, as in so many others, we seem to be leading from the bottom up.
Manischevitz. Too much more of this genial bonhomie and I'm going to start wondering whether diversity is an unalloyed good?
Fortunately, most of us know that idea is simply unthinkable.
Thanks to Kbob for the NYT piece.
If Only America Were More Like Costa Rica!!!
Sacre bleu! NY Times columnist Nick Kristof has discovered the secret to a happy and carefree life! Just discard everything you thought you knew (cum hoc ergo propter hoc my rosy pink tuckus) and move to Costa Rica!
Hmmm. You think it’s a coincidence? Costa Rica is one of the very few countries to have abolished its army, and it’s also arguably the happiest nation on earth.
There are several ways of measuring happiness in countries, all inexact, but this pearl of Central America does stunningly well by whatever system is used. For example, the World Database of Happiness, compiled by a Dutch sociologist on the basis of answers to surveys by Gallup and others, lists Costa Rica in the top spot out of 148 nations.
Well there you have it: those Costa Ricans are living proof that the root cause of poverty and income inequality is the tragic misallocation of tax dollars to national defense rather than education. I mean, who can argue with results like these?
% of population living on less than $2 a day:
Of course poverty levels like this in the United States would bring on an onslaught of uber-outragey NY
Times columns screeching about social injustice and the greedy rapacious ways of our capitalist overlords. But we're not talking about Americans, here... Costa Ricans are smart enough to know that it's not whether you have enough to eat that matters, but whether your neighbor has more than you do. The truly enlightened indigenous First Worlder doesn't mind being poor as long as income is fairly distributed.
Differences in national income equality around the world as measured by the national Gini coefficient. The Gini coefficient is a number between 0 and 1, where 0 corresponds with perfect equality (where everyone has the same income) and 1 corresponds with perfect inequality (where one person has all the income, and everyone else has zero income).
Costa Rica: 49.8
United States: 40.8
But despite Costa Rica's dismal poverty and income inequality rankings, there's a silver lining here.
Having wisely eschewed defense spending in favor of investments in education, Costa Ricans are now smart enough to siphon off $142 per capita in remittances mostly from
inferior nations that don't care about helping the poor countries that are rich enough to actually export income to poor developing countries.
It doesn't exactly hurt that greedy American corporations outsource American jobs to Costa Rica because
their sadistic CEOs rather enjoy oppressing the proletariat Costa Rican workers don't need the kind of employer-provided benefits pundits like Nick Kristol consider to be a basic human right... for Americans, that is:
The country has successfully attracted important investments by such companies as Intel Corporation, which employs nearly 3,500 people at its custom built $300 million microprocessor plant; Procter & Gamble, which is establishing its administrative center for the Western Hemisphere in Costa Rica; and Abbott Laboratories and Baxter Healthcare from the health care products industry likewise. Manufacturing and industry's contribution to GDP overtook agriculture over the course of the 1990s, led by foreign investment in Costa Rica's free trade zones. Well over half of that investment has come from the U.S. In 2006 Intel's microprocessor facility alone was responsible for 20% of Costa Rican exports and 4.9% of the country's GDP.
And it's comforting to know that, should Costa Ricans ever suffer a natural disaster, they can rely on the United States military to deliver humanitarian aid.
Yep. All in all I'd say Kristof's logic is darned near irrefutable:
... what does seem quite clear is that Costa Rica’s national decision to invest in education rather than arms has paid rich dividends.
Moral of the story: who needs a military when you can rely on America to provide jobs, ample foreign/humanitarian aid, and remittances to shore up an economy that - after all this help - still exhibits far greater poverty and income inequality than the U.S.? As Kristof points out, these people are clearly better at math than we are:
Maybe the lesson for the United States is that we should devote fewer resources to shoring up foreign armies and more to bolstering schools both at home and abroad.
Education. It's the answer to all the world's problems. Although one wonders: if the U.S. ever adopts the smart, happiness centric tactics of enlightened countries like Costa Rica, who's going to pay the bills?
January 07, 2010
Dept. of Unnoticed Mooses
Untutored Folk might be tempted to call this young lady a Moose. However, I happen to know that she is a Siberian Maral.
But then you knew that, didn't you?
Update: Oh, sure... fine. Upstage me with anteaters.
January 05, 2010
A while back I was asked by a very lovely and intelligent lady to write an essay on conservatism.
I did quite a bit of research and was rather surprised by what I learned. Yes, I do have an opinion on this subject. But I hear so many people say, "He/She isn't a conservative" that I can't quite resist throwing the question back at you all: "OK. Exactly what IS a conservative? Define it for me."
So that's my challenge to you, whether you are a blogger or a reader. Define conservatism for me. Better yet, do it for yourself.
Have at it in the comments section. And if you are a blogger and want to post your reply, let me know and I'll post a roundup of responses.
Should be an interesting discussion.
Quote of the Day
It's called "leading by example":
... Barack Obama is the biggest finger-pointer we have in politics. Almost every speech he gives includes a jab at the prior administration. He has set a pattern of blaming others for whatever is wrong as long as those others are Republicans. Even when he goes overseas he includes jabs at the Bush administration in his speeches; most previous presidents have shown more class when talking to foreign audiences, but not The One. And now he suddenly wants others to avoid pointing fingers at others. Perhaps he should model a different attitude himself.
Unfortunately, President Do_As_I_Say_Not_As_I_Do hasn't a clue how that whole leadership thing works.
Why Men Totally Rock
January 04, 2010
Your Tax Dollars at Work
Impressive, no es verdad?
CWCID the commenters at Tom Maguire's place. NPR's lame attempt to demonstrate the lowbrow, hyperpartisan nature of those who don't share their political opinions by out-lowbrowing the opposition reminded me of this:
Ezra makes it out that a moderate pace in passing laws and approving executive nominees to the bureaucracy and bench serves no substantive function. But the ability of a minority to affect the pace of a session forces the majority to focus on its priorities and keep contentious but not-so-important issues off the floor. This blocks any number number of “particular issues.”
Why would a senator stall the process? Because he or she wants something, of course. Most of the procedural convolutions in the Senate are pretty clearly logrolling and vote-trading opportunities. It is the sum of these exchanges, not mere head-counting, that ensure that the various interests represented by the legislators have been taken into account. And this rough balancing of conflicting interests and convictions, not mere head-counting, establishes whatever democratic legitimacy legislation might have.
There’s nothing superspecial about majoritarian voting rules. Counting heads and then skipping merrily and speedily along is an endearingly simple idea, but it’s not very useful. Head-counting can tell you how many voters prefer A to B, but it can’t tell you anything about the intensity of their preferences. If 51 percent mildly prefer A and 49 percent passionately prefer B, there is a pretty clear sense in which A is the “wrong” democratic choice, even though it is in a trivial sense more popular. Vote-trading, logrolling, etc. enable the overall process to balance interests and convictions over time in a way that takes into account the intensity of preferences.
...The more ideological you are, the less satisfactory this will seem. The ideologue insists that her intensely favored conception of justice demands or forbids certain policies no matter the complexion of public opinion or democratic procedural ideals. She insists that certain odious preferences and ridiculous beliefs must not to be taken into account at all, or only at a steep discount. Having no sincere interest in the deliberative and balancing aspects of democracy, then, the ideologue tends to confuse democracy with majoritarian head-counting.
Except, of course, when the Democrats were in the minority. As I recall, the meme du jour back then was that it's inherently unfair, unjust, and undemocratic to have one party calling the shots.
Thank Gaia, the Dems reminded us daily, that a determined and principled minority party was willing to apply the brakes to the reckless and out of control majority :p
Sometimes, the comedy just writes itself. I plan to spend the next 4 years drinking heavily and watching the parties trip over each other in their unseemly haste to reverse whatever the heck they were doing when the shoe was on the other foot. This transfer of power nonsense plays all Hell with fostering a properly gratifying sense of outrage.
Tom Maguire also has this.
Food for thought. Or at least it should be.
Very nearly all the violence that plagues, rather than protects, society is the work of young males between the ages of fourteen and thirty. A substantial amount of the violence that protects rather than plagues society is performed by other members of the same group. The reasons for this predisposition are generally rooted in biology, which is to say that they are not going anywhere, in spite of the current fashion that suggests doping half the young with Ritalin.
The question is how to move these young men from the first group (violent and predatory) into the second (violent, but protective).
Be honest now. Can you imagine the screeching that would occur if a woman (even a conservative women who likes men such as... oh, I dunno... moi) said that?
Our perceptions of things we read are very much influenced by our perceptions about the motivation or characteristics of the speaker. That's something we could all afford to keep in mind.
Just sayin'. On another note, that happens to be one of my favorite posts too.
Oh. Dear. God.
Would someone please stop me from listening to those nifty little chocolate liqueur bottles?
I bought too many for Christmas and now they have taken to roaming my house in packs, whispering to me with Charles Boyer's voice. Very disturbing.
January 03, 2010
The Blog Princess Ponders the Ineffable Wisdom of Dr. Joy Bliss, Individual Responsibility, Scope Creep, and the Venusian Arts
Stacy McCain has a tagline at the top of his site that has gnawed at the edges of my mind ever since the first time I saw it:
"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up."
— Arthur Koestler
I think it works for him. One of the many qualities people enjoy in Stacy's writing is his willingness to air his unvarnished opinions. In an era where too many people weigh each syllable for possible offense I see some value in this advice. I have been urged by friends - all men - to "write ruthlessly" too, though they did not use those precise words.
I looked up the word "ruthless" to see what it means, exactly. It means having no pity : merciless, cruel. I think you can see my problem here. I believe one of the great strengths of men is their ability to neatly sever compassion, empathy, fellow feeling from the decision making process. In certain circumstances that can be an extremely useful skill.
There's just one problem: I'm not a man and I have no desire to become one. Though my privately held opinions can be pretty merciless, I tend to keep them to myself. I'm far too aware of the barren, affectless nature of the written word. Without facial expressions, inflection and tone of voice, a lifted eyebrow or even a small, quickly stifled half smile, words can be as dry and brittle as unleavened bread. They can wound unintentionally; can darken a day as easily as they can brighten it.
And so I've been thinking a lot lately and not writing much.
I had a quiet New Year's Eve. Didn't feel like going out, didn't want to talk to anyone. Spent the evening in bed surrounded by fluffy pillows, a pot of green tea, a tube of ginger lemon crisps and a book of essays by Reinhold Niebuhr. Yes, my life is a never ending thrill ride. Of course when the movie comes out I'll be played by Angelina Jolie and there will be confusing sex toys and an impertinent cabana boy lurking under the duvet.
At any rate, the essay I was reading while chrysanthemums blossomed in the night sky over the lake was about how all religion is essentially an attempt to refute the inevitable sense of pessimism that overtakes us when we try to make sense out of the world. There's a joke in there somewhere, but I wasn't in any sort of mood for jokes that evening. I was alone in bed with my husband thousands of miles away in a different time zone and every cell in my body ached for him.
I don't think it would have been any better if I'd gone out. A few years back I had an odd experience. He was, of course, deployed and I was traveling a lot to keep myself busy. I was invited to another city by a work associate - someone I'd met at a conference. She had tickets to a fancy dress ball and I thought, "Why the Hell not?" So I drove up there for the weekend. Four hours through the mountains. It was a lot of fun - it felt like being back in college. I felt young again (she's about 10 years younger than I am, and single). We got all gussied up and danced and drank and parried the attentions of prowling guys. And I was having a ball right up until shortly after midnight when, for no reason I can name, I suddenly felt all the wind go out of my sails.
I didn't want strange men flattering me and chatting me up. I wanted my husband: the man I love. The father of my children. The guy who has known me since shortly before my 18th birthday. The one who knows everything about me, from what makes my knees weak to how to jolly me out of a bad mood to what I'm secretly afraid of. There was no reason for me to think of him at that moment - to want him. I was being flirted with and complimented and paid attention to in a way I hadn't been in years (at least by men I'm not married to), and I won't tell you I wasn't enjoying it, because I was. But it all seemed as worthless and false to me as a 3 dollar bill.
I'll bet you were wondering when I'd get to the Ineffable Wisdom of Dr. Joy Bliss, weren't you? Well, wonder no more:
While I am quite pleased and content with my own (first) marriage, when I talk with unhappy people, which I do all day, I am often reminded that the nuclear family is a very recent invention, that the notion of romantic love is also recent, that arranged marriages and marriages of convenience or necessity were the norms of the past, and that humans are not "naturally" monogamous - whatever I might mean by "naturally".
When you put the nuclear family together with dreams of enduring romantic love, it's a set-up for disappointment. The nuclear family, unlike the extended family (or the tribe), is isolating and does not provide a broad base of support in life. Intense romantic love, unlike plain old-fashioned strong attraction and desire, is a regressed state of mind - some shrinks half-jokingly call it a form of insanity. Not that it isn't great fun, but it gives way to reality in time, although the best marriages can rekindle the old feeling from time to time.
Naturally monogamous. I always cringe when I read those words. They annoy me. Of course we're not naturally monogamous. And though women don't seem to feel the need to remind men that we're not "naturally monogamous" 24/7 I can guaran-damn-tee you that women are no more immune to temptation than men are. Probably the single transcendent truth I've learned in 30 years of marriage is how very little it would take for me to cheat on the man I love. It's not a comforting thought, nor one conducive to inflated self esteem. But it's why the vows mean something. If remaining faithful were easy to do, the promise wouldn't really be worth much would it? People write their own vows a lot these days. I suppose I could have promised, as a symbol of my undying passion, not to stick my tongue in a light socket back in 1979. Then again, since we all know I'm not naturally inclined to French kiss strange electrical outlets, I doubt my sacrifice would have sent the spousal unit into rapturous ecstasy.
All snark aside though, I liked Dr. Bliss' essay. I liked it a lot. I think she hit on something very important - a theme I've seen circulating around a lot in varying forms, none of which seem quite right to me. It's as though we're slowly, painstakingly narrowing in on the truth. We do put way too much faith in marriage. But more generally, we put too much faith in institutions.
I think we do this because we get used to them, and because depending on someone or something else is much easier than holding ourselves accountable all the time. It's much easier than taking responsibility for our own happiness; than facing the strong likelihood that we're (as my friend spd so trenchantly put it once) responsible for at least half of every disappointment we encounter in life.
Yeah. Us. When things don't go as we expect, we never do want to admit that maybe we are part of the problem. Maybe what's "wrong" wasn't really all that much of a surprise after all. We knew it was coming - we just chose to ignore the fact that every choice has a price tag. We don't really care for the idea that life is an inherently risky business for which there is no surefire insurance program:
Many people seem to be in the middle of a religious crisis of faith. All the gods they believe in — technology, technocracy, centralized government control — have failed them in this instance.
In a mature nation, President Obama could go on TV and say, “Listen, we’re doing the best we can, but some terrorists are bound to get through.” But this is apparently a country that must be spoken to in childish ways. The original line out of the White House was that the system worked. Don’t worry, little Johnny.
When that didn’t work the official line went to the other extreme. “I consider that totally unacceptable,” Obama said. I’m really mad, Johnny. But don’t worry, I’ll make it all better.
It seems odd to me that people seem to seriously expect a 100% success rate in preventing terrorist acts. Is this reasonable? Has having police around ever resulted in a 100% prevention rate for murder, rape, theft? Of course not, because to guarantee such a success rate we'd have to allow the police to infiltrate and control every aspect of our lives and no sane society wants that.
What we want is guaranteed security without that nasty price tag. And we don't want to have to think about tradeoffs too much because it's hard.
Yes, Napolitano's "the system worked" was poorly worded. But it wasn't as bad as it's being made out to be. Mostly it was politically incorrect, which no doubt explains why so many Dems are screaming for her head on a bed of lettuce. She had the temerity to remind us of something we already know: 90% of the apparatus of law enforcement and national defense is designed to respond to attacks and crime, not prevent them. No government agency can keep us completely safe because even if we had a perfect system with perfect procedures and rules up the ying-yang, it would still be administered by flawed human beings who make mistakes. People like us. No "system" or agency can change this. It's not an excuse for breaking the rules, but it's a cold hard fact we need to face. My husband said it after 9/11. He was *in* anti-terrorism, and the first thing he said was, "We can never protect everyone from terrorists because terrorists don't attack buildings. They attack people, and people are everywhere."
He was right. There is a role for institutions: they can reduce, but not eliminate natural risk. And it's OK to try and hold them accountable for managing risk in a way that involves acceptable tradeoffs, whatever "acceptable" means this week.
But managing risk is not the same as eliminating it. At some point we need to grow up enough to face these tradeoffs honestly and more importantly, assume more responsibility for our own safety. Our own survival, like our own happiness, is a responsibility we can never delegate away entirely, though God knows we continue to try and to whine when the predictable occurs:
Maybe the most worrying trend the past 10 years can be found in this phrase: "They forgot the mission." So many great American institutions—institutions that every day help hold us together—acted as if they had forgotten their mission, forgotten what they were about, what their role and purpose was, what they existed to do. You, as you read, can probably think of an institution that has forgotten its reason for being. Maybe it's the one you're part of.
Noonan makes a lot of great points in her paean to (sort of) individual responsibility but she misses a big one: scope creep. Like so many of us - like partners who expect marriage to make them happy or fill all their needs or voters who want to know why George Bush didn't tell them to sell their AIG stock before it tanked - she misses what Brooks says so well:
... over the past 50 years we have concentrated authority in centralized agencies and reduced the role of decentralized citizen action. We’ve done this in many spheres of life. Maybe that’s wise, maybe it’s not. But we shouldn’t imagine that these centralized institutions are going to work perfectly or even well most of the time. It would be nice if we reacted to their inevitable failures not with rabid denunciation and cynicism, but with a little resiliency, an awareness that human systems fail and bad things will happen and we don’t have to lose our heads every time they do.
Creating a highly interconnected, highly interdependent society has made us all safer. It has made us more affluent and increased our leisure time to levels our parents and grandparents only dreamed of. But there's a down side too: as we delegate more and more of the tasks our parents and grandparents shouldered to institutions, we become more and more dependent upon them. It's not just that increased interdependence allows inevitable screw ups to affect us more than they used to. It's also a matter of there being more failures. We continue to offload tasks onto already overburdened institutions. We expect more than any institution composed of flawed human beings can possibly deliver.
And our reliance on institutions makes us less and less able to shift for ourselves. When things go wrong, the last place on earth we want to look is that bathroom mirror because the last thought we want to entertain is the idea that maybe - just maybe - we have delegated away responsibility for our own lives.
It's always easier to blame someone else. Which brings me to the "Venusian Arts". Every now and then I read something on the Internet that is so incandescently, luminously stupid that it temporarily stuns me into silence. Oh go ahead - Google it.
You know you want to.
I have been married for over 30 years. To a man. In fact, a United States Marine. I don't waste a lot of time trying to figure out whether I married an "alpha" or a "beta". He knows who he is and he likes the person he sees in the mirror. Works for me. Last time I checked, he doesn't spend his time apologizing to me for breathing or begging for sex. He doesn't have to.
He also does not have to trick me into acting the way he wants by withholding affection (controlling women withholding sex, anyone?) or being insulting, selfish, overbearing or rude. When he wants something he says so and stands his ground: calmly, with dignity and strength. And I meet him halfway. Not 2/3 of the way. Halfway. You see, it's in my interest to make sure that he is happy. It is in my interest to ensure that he looks forward to coming home from work at night, because when he does he treats me well and I get what I want, too.
I really have to wonder about people who are impressed with pickup sites. A lot of conservatives are. I don't get it. I think there are a lot of very insecure folks out there looking for a magic formula to fix the boo-boos in their lives. But after 30 years of marriage I can tell you: there's no formula. It's all trial and error. There's a reason that I thought of my husband after midnight at that party and it had nothing to do with him constantly reminding me that he can cheat on me anytime he feels like it. I already know that, you see. The thought occurs a few times over 30+ years. It works both ways.
I thought of him because in all the world, he is the one person I trust. Implicitly. I would trust him with my life and there's not another human being on this planet I can say that of.
He didn't have to trick me into trusting him; to play childish games to pad his fragile ego into thinking he can or should control what I think or how I feel. He didn't withhold love the way insecure, controlling women sometimes withhold sex, robbing themselves in the bargain. He won my trust by being exactly who and what he is. Sometimes I don't like who he is... temporarily. Sometimes he doesn't like who I am. Hell, sometimes I don't like who I am. But overall we're adults. We understand that any relationship worth having needs to be based on honesty. Not "I'm taking up residence in your belly button" honesty, but the kind of honesty that recognizes you were two separate people before you got married and will be two separate people on the day the first one of you dies.
Two separate people each with hopes, dreams, quirks, virtues, flaws. Two separate people who, if they have the courage to reach for something bigger than either one of them, just might hit the jackpot. Or... not. Either way, it all starts with having faith in yourself. Of everyone, Elise got what I tried to say last week: we are the world in small.
If we as a nation are able to regain our energy, our surefootedness, our faith in our ability - and our desire - to “continue improving our lot”, to “leave the world a better place than we found it” we will do so based not on what we do in the political realm but on what we do as individuals, how we each live our lives.
Us. We can't blame feminism, institutions, government agencies or even the state of Holy Matrimony for what ails us because the buck really stops with us. It's a lonely place, but a glorious one too.
Sunday Evening Tune
January 02, 2010
The Official 2010 Villainous Company Banned Bloggers List
Inspired by the same spirit that animates this old post, the Editorial Staff has decided it is high time we came out with an Official List of Banned Bloggers.
Banning seems to be all the rage in the Blatherosphere these days. And by our own calculation, we do not do nearly enough banning around this place. Nossir - not by a long shot. What is the use of
being a moralistic windbag having all this lovely "free speech" if we cannot harsh the collective mellows of our fellow bloggers – especially those who wield said freedoms with insufficient regard for the self evident self-evidentness of our "opinions" (hereinafter, "The Truth" or "The Facts"). I think we can all agree that while everyone is entitled to their own truth, some truths are way more shiny than others.
Fortunately for us, it is well established on both sides of the Blatherosphere that frankly silly or incandescently outrage-making opinions are highly useful. For instance, the Transitive Property of Internet Idiocy allows us to impute the utterances of one blogger to every other blogger of his acquaintance, to anyone who shares the same political persuasion or who dares to agree with him. This is entirely justified because, unlike Them, We are always fair and reasonable. Thinking people realize that "They" (yes, every durned one of them!) all think alike. "We" would never do anything like that, though. We think for Ourselves. You see, unlike some folks we could name (you know the type – smug, morally superior, blind to their own faults) we're just better than they are. We’re tolerant and open minded folk: above the sort of wildly exaggerated, broad brush generalizations They employ with profligate abandon in lieu of, oh, I don't know, logic, actual arguments, or other irrelevant/boring fare.
So, without further ado, the Official Villainous Company Banned Bloggers List for 2010:
1. Clifton B. Very handsome young man. Seems smart, too. Under ordinary circumstances we would be tempted to have an extremely favorable impression of him.
But FERCRYINOUTLOUDBUDDY! You speak as though one man's opinion were actually... you know, worth something in and of itself irrespective of the vastly more significant sociopolitical metacontext to be deconstructed from rehashing ancient grievances that occurred between people who are not us, mostly before we were out of diapers.
Young folks these days. They get the oddest notions into their heads.
It ought to be obvious to anyone with half a brain that that image is deeply racist. A few months ago, I hired a housecleaning company to do the heavy housework around Casa Cassandranita. A few times I have been tempted to feel "guilty" for purchasing services I don't have time to provide for myself with the money I earned doing the job that leaves me no time to keep my house as clean as I kept it when
I didn't have a paying job taking care of our home was my job.
Some people would be tempted to see a "win-win" situation here, but they would be deeply wrong (not to mention patronizing and racist). The problem is that the nice ladies who clean my house so ably and with such dispatch are Hispanic. You know… melanin-having folk. Which makes it demeaning when they clean my house for money (as opposed to when I cleaned my house so that my husband
would not pout and withhold his man favors would have sex with me four times a week).
This makes total sense when you stop and think about it.
Though obviously skin color makes absolutely no difference in any way that ought to be important to us as human beings, we're not really supposed to pretend it simply doesn't matter either (IYKWIM...AITYD). I can't help but sense that my unearned race and gender privileges have resulted in an unjust degree of income inequality that tragically prevents the cleaning ladies and I from having the honest, beautiful and mutually beneficial dialogue we would no doubt enjoy if we were still fighting over herds of Wild Chorizo on the Llano Estacado like civilized folk did in the olden days.
I just cannot figure out where the human race went wrong. In a truly just world, people who have more money than time would not be allowed to freely exchange their earnings for the services of people with more time than money. Even though that's exactly how I got myself and my children through college: by cleaning the houses, mowing the lawns, and watching the children of folks who had more money and less free time than I did. Come to think of it, they should never have been allowed to pay me for doing work I was happy to do. In retrospect, I feel exploited.
At any rate, the gentleman is banned until he learns to demonstrate a more convincing level of outrage. I certainly hope he has learned his lesson.
2. Patterico. We are not sure how he manages to maintain street cred as a Crypto Lefty Racist Accuser type whilst simultaneously sporting a righteous Crypto Reich Wingnut Racist Appeaser persona, but one thing is certain.
Any blogger who has been accused of so many mutually exclusive offenses by so many important bloggers is Not To Be Trusted.
Banned, sucka. And don't go bringing your tricksy ways around here neither. We see how you are. Oh yes, we see.
3. Tigerhawk. The man just drinks way too much coffee.
The body is a temple, dude. Seriously.
4. Michelle Malkin, excessive success. Disparities like this are inherently suspicious unless of course it's Barack Obama who is successful, in which case we can attribute the success to raging against the machine, hard work, and intelligence.
I was born in the Philippines. Why is she hogging all the pretty? I sense a lucrative government redistribution program lurking in the wings....
Also for being wenches. When the world finally ends in fire and ice, it will be revealed that women were to blame and poor, strong, smart helpless (though clearly morally and intellectually superior) menfolk were utterly powerless to avert the fall of mankind. The poor dears - one weeps just thinking about it. However, this is as close as the right gets to religious dogma these days and frankly we're scared not to go along. Banned, biyotches!
6. Glenn Reynolds, for being so mean to that nice Mr. Sullivan fellow. And also for being the Intellectual Godfather to the New American Torture Regime.
You know, there are times when I think Keith Olbermann might still be sane if Glenn hadn't had him carted off to an airless cell in Gitmo. Ever since the frilly panties of fascism were pulled over his shrieking head, old Keith just hasn't been the calm, even handed pundit we once knew and loved.
7. Dan Riehl, because laughing at "Snowbama" means that we are racist. Also, there is something deeply indecent about shaved ice.
8. Elise, for overthinking. Damnitall, woman.
Stop being so fair. It makes us suspect you of deep moral failings, not to mention insufficient outrage and conviction.
9. The Armorer and Jane Novak: Blogging Without an Ego.
You people disgust me :p
Several Cuss Words and a Smashed Index Finger Later...
...the Blog Princess makes an astonishing discovery:
Clogged drains are disgusting. There is only really one word that describes it.
Update: Clorine bleach does not dissolve clogs. But it makes a princess feel a lot better about what is lurking in the pipery.
Update II: Huh. How in the hell did *that* get in there?
January 01, 2010
Another beautiful theory shot down by ugly facts:
The Mayo Clinic, praised by President Barack Obama as a national model for efficient health care, will stop accepting Medicare patients as of tomorrow at one of its primary-care clinics in Arizona, saying the U.S. government pays too little.
More than 3,000 patients eligible for Medicare, the government’s largest health-insurance program, will be forced to pay cash if they want to continue seeing their doctors at a Mayo family clinic in Glendale, northwest of Phoenix, said Michael Yardley, a Mayo spokesman. The decision, which Yardley called a two-year pilot project, won’t affect other Mayo facilities in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota.
Obama in June cited the nonprofit Rochester, Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio for offering “the highest quality care at costs well below the national norm.” Mayo’s move to drop Medicare patients may be copied by family doctors, some of whom have stopped accepting new patients from the program, said Lori Heim, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, in a telephone interview yesterday.
“Many physicians have said, ‘I simply cannot afford to keep taking care of Medicare patients,’” said Heim, a family doctor who practices in Laurinburg, North Carolina. “If you truly know your business costs and you are losing money, it doesn’t make sense to do more of it.”
Well no kidding. Of course the Obama administration could have simply talked to any military family trying to find a civilian doctor or dentist taking TRICARE or Delta/United Concordia over the last decade or so. But then asking such a question implies that one is willing to pay attention to the answer:
Prices operate as signals in a free marketplace, efficiently allocating goods to those who want them and are able to pay for them. Few Americans would accept the proposition that we don't need information to make intelligent decisions and yet too many Americans buy off on the notion that markets will operate efficiently if the federal government restricts the free flow of information between consumers and producers.
It's almost as though we were living in an alternative universe where reality is kept strictly at arm's length.
Then again, maybe that's the problem.
Think high costs make it too hard to get a good or service? No problem! Just have the federal government change the price tag!
What could possibly go wrong?
Photograph of the Day
Found whilst Googling for the photographic answer to the query, "How can you tell they are fake?"
I can tell because real ones don't look anything like this: