April 30, 2010
ShrinkWrapped has some interesting observations on the current state of "Art-with-a-capital-A":
The "artist" used her mother's body for her own purposes, to help herself feel better. In our idiotically therapeutic age, such an excuse allows anything, no matter how foolish or misguided. This is the use of a body as a commodity.
In a purely material sense, there can be nothing so immanent as a soul, so there is minimal distinction between the animate and inanimate body. (Note that the painting gave her "something to do ... and a reason to be with her.") The "artist's" denial only breaks down when the decomposition advances far enough to be "uncomfortable."
Art has long since become decadent. We celebrate those artists who shock and "transgress." The aim of art is no longer to bring beauty or illuminate the presence of the divine but has become purely hedonic and visceral.
This is what bothered me so deeply about the Dover debate (not to mention the serial brouhahas over photojournalists "capturing" a dying soldier's or Marine's final moments on film). Those who saw nothing wrong with this often voiced what to me is an incredibly disturbing idea: "The military gets paid with our tax dollars, so we have a 'right' to watch them die."
Excuse me, but no you do not. You don't have a 'right' to see them shower or defecate when they're on duty either. There are some things that ought to be private.
None of us exists for the benefit of others. That's an important point.
One of the most disturbing aspects of having your husband leave for a long deployment is The Talk. Most of us have had it more than once. The Talk is when you sit your spouse down and say, "Damnitall, I know you don't want to talk about this and frankly neither do I. But I need to know what your wishes are in the case of death/dismemberment/coma/brain damage." I need to know what to do if all that is left of you is a hollow shell - if what makes you, "you" goes away?
Yes, I realize that if any of these things happen, you won't be conscious enough - or even aware of anything at all - to care what I decide. And it would be so easy just do what I want: keep you alive and bedridden for years. Make myself feel better at your expense.
But the thing is, it isn't about me. I made a promise and I will abide by it no matter what. But I need to know what you want. What your wishes are.
I wonder what this woman's mother would have said if she'd known her daughter was going to turn her death into an art project? It's hard to believe that that is how she would wish to be remembered by the world: as a discarded wrapper. But who knows? Maybe she would have been OK with it. But if there's any doubt - any doubt at all - shouldn't we err on the side of caution?
Years ago I sat in a silent room once and watched someone die.
I heard his last breath. It was a very long time before the images stopped haunting me. I always felt that perhaps I should not have witnessed that. It seemed such a trespass against his dignity - an offense against the man I had known. I felt as though I had invaded his privacy when he was helpless.
I can't imagine painting a picture of his body as it slowly began to decay. There aren't many things that shock me anymore. This does.
Well Now *There's* a Shocker For You....
Touch causes our bodies to produce a hormone called oxytocin. Not only does touch stimulate production of oxytocin, but oxytocin promotes a desire to touch and be touched: it's a feedback loop that can have wonderful results. Oxytocin makes us feel good about the person who causes the oxytocin to be released, and it causes a bonding between the two persons. Nursing a baby produces oxytocin in both mother and child, and this is a major part of what initially bonds the mother and her baby. Even thinking of someone we love can stimulate this hormone; when women in good marriages were asked to think about their husbands, the level of oxytocin in their blood rose quickly.
There's more. Oxytocin plays a significant role in our sexuality too. Higher levels of oxytocin result in greater sexual receptivity, and because oxytocin increases testosterone production (which is responsible for sex drive in both men and women) sex drive can also increase. Moreover, this hormone does not just create a sexual desire in women, coupled with estrogen it creates a desire to be penetrated (that is, it makes her want intercourse). .. And while oxytocin can move us towards sex, sex increases production of oxytocin... [you can read the less fam-friendly parts yourself]
....The fact that sex increases oxytocin levels can be helpful for women who complain they "never feel like sex." Having sex, even when you don't have a drive to do so, will actually affect you in ways that will result in a greater sex drive. This also explains, at least in part, why many women find that the more sex they have, the more they want, and the less sex they have, the less they want.
The best thing is that it works both ways. A man is never so loving as he is when he's happy in bed. Use it or lose it, folks (said the deployment widow :p).
Supper with a Hero
As an Army wife, you quickly learn that living in on post military housing is always an opportunity to learn. My 8 year old neighbor and military child Katherine Birdsong was at our house admiring our Christmas Tree with our son John Jr. I was busy in the kitchen preparing supper when I heard her say, “and tonight we will be eating supper with a hero.” I smiled as I thought about her Dad, LTC Birdsong with Task Force Lightening, returning today along with the rest of his unit. Then I realized that due to a delay the soldiers would not be home til after midnight. What hero I thought to myself? I hadn’t heard on the news or paper about any hero’s coming to our post.
So I popped my head in the living room and asked her, “so I hear your eating with a hero tonight. Who is it?”
Katherine stood up with the twinkling of Christmas Tree lights behind her, clasped her hands together and then asked “Ms Murray do you know SPC Harris?”
Before I could answer she looked down and said in a solemn voice, “he was a soldier with my Dad. But he won’t be coming home tonight. He died in Afghanistan.” Silence filled the air. Katherine said, “tonight after midnight my Dad comes home and all the other soldiers come home but SPC Harris isn’t.” I could feel the tears began to fill my eyes and the large lump in my throat.
Yeah. Me too.
Distributor Cap Statements
Wonderful post from DTP. I'm not going to even try to excerpt it because it needs to be read in its entirety.
With the spousal unit's return imminent, I've begun to allow myself to think about what it will be like to have him here all the time.
Part of me is scared witless. I've been through enough reintegrations to know - or suspect - that this won't be easy. Some of the worst times in our marriage have occurred after we've been apart for a long time. During a long separation, all the thousand small accommodations one makes to ward off unpredictable outbursts of axe murder slowly come unraveled. Because you've both changed, things that used to be settled all have to be re-negotiated.
It takes real effort to get back to that place where things just hum along; where you're able to understand your spouse's quirks (and where, more importantly, you learn not to be annoying yourself). Living alone, there's no one to annoy and the way you do things seems eminently reasonable. Superior, even.
Add several months of leave during which he'll be home every single day, a retirement, the search for a new career, the strong possibility that we'll be putting our home up for sale and moving I-have-no-idea-where, and you have a veritable stress cocktail.
But if this deployment has taught me anything (and oddly enough, each one does have something to offer in this regard), it has taught me how lucky I have been all these years. I've always been an independent sort. Perhaps too independent.
I need a fair amount of space. And living for 3 decades with someone who ups and leaves for 12 months at a time, you acquire a certain self sufficiency. It's hard to give up the illusion of being in control; to move back into the passenger seat and let someone else drive for a while.
At the same time, I give Dennis enormous credit for being wise enough to see into his bride's heart. We ladies really don't expect you guys to have all the answers.
Sometimes it's just comforting to know that you're there and that whatever the problem du jour is, you'll help us figure it out.
April 29, 2010
CWCID: Meryl Yourish
"I Think You've Made Enough Money"
I have a feeling this is going to be the "Read My Lips" of Barack Obama's Presidency:
We’re not, we’re not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that’s fairly earned. I mean, I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money. But, you know, part of the American way is, you know, you can just keep on making it if you’re providing a good product or providing good service.
But in a way I almost have more of a problem with this:
We don’t want people to stop, ah, fulfilling the core responsibilities of the financial system to help grow our economy.
When did it become the "core responsibility" of ANY business to "help grow our economy"?
In the America I grew up in, the economy grows when individual businesses - who are in business to make a profit for themselves and their shareholders, not to "grow the economy" - grow and prosper. Businesses have no duty to "help grow the economy". They don't work for the President of the United States, nor for their fellow citizens.
They work to provide for themselves and their families.
This president displays a stunning cluelessness regarding the incentives that motivate ordinary people. Explains a lot about health care reform, doesn't it?
The Death of Everyman
I don't want to hear another word about the Democrats not standing up violent extremism!
Does anyone remember this guy? Once upon a time, he was our hero:
... Rockwell focuses attention on the standing speaker whose age, worn and stained jacket, rough hands with dirty fingernails, and plaid shirt set him apart from the neat coats, ties and white shirts of the older men in the audience. Although he is a working man, this figure, his face reminiscent of Lincoln's, is unafraid to voice his opinion—which we suspect is contrary to that of the others in the room. Standing tall, his mouth open, his shining eyes transfixed, he speaks his mind, untrammeled and unafraid. In Rockwell's vision he has become not only an active public participant in democracy, but a defender of it. He is the very embodiment of free speech, a living manifestation of that abstract right—an image that transforms principle, paint and, yes, creed, into an indelible image and a brilliant and beloved American icon still capable of inspiring millions world-wide.
In George Bush's America the press idolized this man. His exercise of the patriotic right of dissent was held to be the highest expression of American values; his skepticism of those in power the lifeblood of a free and vigorous society. He was Everyman.
What a difference an election makes.
In Barack Obama's America, the man in Rockwell's iconic painting is someone we have come to fear and despise. He is ridiculous; a constantly morphing parade of negative stereotypes: bitter gun clinging bigot; angry and dispossessed white male; hysterical and shrill female; ignorant redneck; wealthy and over privileged WASP.
The press may not be able to decide just who and what Everyman is, but they do agree on one thing: his white skin hides a deadly volcano of repressed racial resentment that could erupt at the slightest provocation. Don't be fooled by his peaceful demeanor, nor the absence of actual violence when he congregates with others of "his kind". Those hand lettered signs present a clear and present danger to our security. At any moment the gradual erosion of over two centuries of unearned race and gender privilege could push him over the edge. What's that bulge in his pocket? Could it be a loaded gun?
In Barack Obama's America Everyman is no longer a hero, someone we look up to. Instead, he and everything he stands for have become a threat to our way of life. Free speech has become treasonous sedition. Peaceful assemblies evoke brutal acts of violence perpetrated by bullies and genocidal tyrants:
Of all the asinine sentences in Frank Rich's latest people-who-disagree-with-me-are-neo-Klansmen column, this one jumped out:
How curious that a mob fond of likening President Obama to Hitler knows so little about history that it doesn't recognize its own small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht.
Kristallnacht, you will recall, was a spasm of anti-Jewish-property violence suggested, orchestrated, and largely perpetrated by the leaders and organs of a sitting federal government, run by a guy named Hitler, who had been systematically trampling on Germany's Jewish minority for years. Two hundred synagogues and more than 7,000 other Jewish properties were destroyed, and 91 Jews lost their lives. Tea Party protesters, meanwhile...
We have met the enemy and he lives right next door.
His skin color is cited as evidence of racism. His association with non-whites is cited as evidence of racism. Even being seen with other whites is cited as evidence of racism. Everything he says or does is cited as evidence of racism as a media who once considered guilt by association beneath their contempt now grasp the tactic with eager hands. Why engage ideas when you can disparage and discredit the speaker?
On Thursday, I came here outside Dallas for a Tea Party rally.
At first I thought, “Wow! This is much more diverse than the rallies I’ve seen on television.”
Then I realized that I was looking at stadium workers. I should have figured as much when I approached the gate. The greeter had asked, “Are you working tonight?”
.... The juxtaposition was striking: an abundance of diversity on the stage and a dearth of it in the crowd, with the exception of a few minorities like the young black man who carried a sign that read “Quit calling me a racist.”
A press who once condemned fear mongering and divisiveness now ladle them out with both hands. Those who once urged us to question authority now view dissent as dangerous and un-American. Once it was inexcusable to refer to an avowed terrorist as such.
IF WINTER in America is cold, then spring seems full of angst, a brewing portentousness, like an impregnated sky ahead of a thunderstorm. The needle on the nation's psychic barometer has swung to threatening, attuned to intensifying signs of unrest in a political climate that is drawing gun-toting protesters on to the streets, has sent regard for government to new lows and prompted a dire warning from a former president that someone could get hurt - possibly even the present White House incumbent.
...the coalescing of a wide range of issues - not least economic torpor and its inherent social upheaval - is playing into the hands of extremists, whose anti-government rhetoric is beginning to echo that which pervaded the country in the lead-up to the bombing of the federal government offices in Oklahoma City in 1995.
Once, Everyman represented everything Americans hold dear. Now, he's a threat to American ideals and his biggest accuser is an institution that prides itself on "afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted".
Everywhere I turn these days I see suspicion, fear, anger, paranoia. Where can it all be coming from?
... it is the president's intimidation that is most troubling. Mr. Obama has the disturbing tendency to question the motives of those who disagree with him, often making them the objects of ad hominem attacks. His motives, on the other hand, are pure.
Mr. Obama often makes it seem illegitimate to challenge his views, and he isn't content to argue issues on the merits. Instead, he wants to make opponents into pariahs. And it's not just business executives who are on the receiving end. We've also seen this pattern with the administration's attacks on the tea party movement and those who attended town-hall meetings last summer on health care.
This is a bad habit—and a dangerous one. The presidency is a very powerful office, and presidents need to be careful not to use it to silence dissenting voices.
In an odd way, it's almost comforting to see this administration do something competently. Keep it up, Barack. You've done a heckuva job of uniting us.
... the implicit assumptions behind leftists’ rhetoric foster suspicion, paranoia and outright hatred between Americans. Every time they open their mouths or touch a keyboard, leftists sow discord and hostility in American society and divide neighbor from neighbor.
Leftists induce everyone to see themselves as personally continually under threat from their fellow citizens. They induce everyone to believe that everyone else in society will cheat them or otherwise treat them unfairly. They induce everyone to think of themselves as individuals and groups constantly under siege and attack by virtually everyone else in America.
For an example of this one need look no further than the President’s own rhetoric. Every time he speaks about almost any issue, he pushes the implicit view that one group of Americans is cheating or attacking another group and that only people like himself can save them.
He also relentlessly pushes the vision of capitalism as a zero sum game in which one player can only profit by stealing from the others. He seems to forget that the entrepreneur who risks his own money to start a successful company creates jobs that pay wages to other Americans and taxes to support state and federal government. His profits also find their way into the pockets of other Americans in the form of stock dividends and pension funds.
I have to question Presidential rhetoric that continually demonizes the very qualities that have made America successful and prosperous. The more I see of Barack Obama, the more I'm convinced he's everything George Bush was unjustly accused of being.
Rush Hour Traffic?
I'm glad I work at home.
April 28, 2010
I'm So Going to Pay for This....
A third of pet-owning married women said their pets are better listeners than their husbands, according to an Associated Press-Petside.com poll released Wednesday. Eighteen percent of pet-owning married men said their pets are better listeners than their wives.
Christina Holmdahl, 40, talks all the time to her cat, two dogs or three horses—about her husband, naturally.
"Whoever happens to be with me when I'm rambling," said Holmdahl, who's stationed with her husband at Fort Stewart in Georgia. "A lot of times, I'm just venting about work or complaining about the husband."
She thinks everyone should have a pet to talk to like her horse, Whistle, who's been with her since she was 19.
"We all say things we don't mean when we are upset about stuff," she said. "When we have time to talk it out and rationalize it, we can think about it better and we can calm down and see both sides better."
Of course you knew there were worse things than coming in second to a horse, didn't you?
It would be a toss-up whether Bill Rothschild would take a problem to his wife of 19 years or the animal he considers a pet—a palm-sized crayfish named Cray Aiken. His daughter brought it home four years ago at the end of a second grade science project.
Rothschild, 44, of Granite Springs, N.Y., considers Cray a better listener than his wife, "absolutely. She doesn't listen worth anything." He doesn't get much feedback from the crustacean, but it's been a different story over the years with family dogs and cats.
"You definitely feel much more comfortable sharing your problems with them," he said. "A little lick from a big dog can go a long way."
Put the keyboard down, Cass, and back away slooooooooooooowly.
Why Can't America Be More Like Mexico?
Funny how no one - least of all enraged hispanic groups - ever asks that question:
“Having traveled into Mexico last year to various cities on the Baja Peninsula, a distance of more than 1,000 miles round-trip, we were stopped more than 20 times at various checkpoints. At most of those stops, we were told to exit the vehicle and we were subjected to rigorous inspections. Where does Mexican President Felipe Calderón get off with his hypocritical outrage at our Senate Bill 1070?”
Maybe we should outsource our Border Patrol operations to Mexico:
– The Mexican government will bar foreigners if they upset “the equilibrium of the national demographics.” How’s that for racial and ethnic profiling?
– If outsiders do not enhance the country’s “economic or national interests” or are “not found to be physically or mentally healthy,” they are not welcome. Neither are those who show “contempt against national sovereignty or security.” They must not be economic burdens on society and must have clean criminal histories. Those seeking to obtain Mexican citizenship must show a birth certificate, provide a bank statement proving economic independence, pass an exam and prove they can provide their own health care.
– Illegal entry into the country is equivalent to a felony punishable by two years’ imprisonment. Document fraud is subject to fine and imprisonment; so is alien marriage fraud. Evading deportation is a serious crime; illegal re-entry after deportation is punishable by ten years’ imprisonment. Foreigners may be kicked out of the country without due process and the endless bites at the litigation apple that illegal aliens are afforded in our country (see, for example, President Obama’s illegal alien aunt — a fugitive from deportation for eight years who is awaiting a second decision on her previously rejected asylum claim).
– Law enforcement officials at all levels — by national mandate — must cooperate to enforce immigration laws, including illegal alien arrests and deportations. The Mexican military is also required to assist in immigration enforcement operations. Native-born Mexicans are empowered to make citizens’ arrests of illegal aliens and turn them in to authorities.
– Ready to show your papers? Mexico’s National Catalog of Foreigners tracks all outside tourists and foreign nationals. A National Population Registry tracks and verifies the identity of every member of the population, who must carry a citizens’ identity card. Visitors who do not possess proper documents and identification are subject to arrest as illegal aliens.
Their government appears willing and able to do the jobs our own government won't do. Oh, the humanity!
Update: Dear Lord, give me strength....
Standing near potted trees and bushes for sale at a Home Depot in east Phoenix, Diaz, 35, says he may follow three families in his neighborhood who moved to New Mexico because of the law. He says a friend is finding plenty of work in Dallas.
Diaz says he has too much to lose by staying - he's supporting a wife and infant son back home in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, across the border from El Paso, Texas.
"They depend on me to survive," he says. "I'm not going to wait for police to come and arrest me."
Well. That'll certainly show 'em.
April 27, 2010
Congress and White House "Premature and Irresponsible"?
Within days after President Obama signed the law on March 23, companies filed reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission, saying the tax change would have a material adverse effect on their earnings.
The White House suggested that companies were exaggerating the effects of the tax change. The commerce secretary, Gary F. Locke, said the companies were being “premature and irresponsible” in taking such write-downs.
Representative Henry A. Waxman of California and Bart Stupak of Michigan, both Democrats, opened an investigation and demanded that four companies — AT&T, Caterpillar, Deere and Verizon — supply documents analyzing the “impact of health care reform,” together with an explanation of their accounting methods.
The documents — hundreds of pages of e-mail messages and financial worksheets — include large amounts of data that substantiate the companies’ concerns. They have reignited a battle over the law in Congress.
Representative Joe L. Barton of Texas, the senior Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said, “From a financial standpoint, from a purely economic standpoint, many companies would be better off discontinuing health care as a fringe benefit, paying the penalty and pocketing the savings.”
In a memorandum summarizing its investigation, the Democratic staff of the committee said, “The companies acted properly and in accordance with accounting standards in submitting filings to the S.E.C. in March and April.”
Moreover, it said, “these one-time charges were required by applicable accounting rules.” The committee staff said this view was confirmed by independent experts at the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the American Academy of Actuaries.
Why Women Wear Makeup
Of course men should love women for who they are, au naturel. But there’s a reason why ancient tallow and kohl residues pop up on archaeological digs — makeup draws the attention of men. This is something of a given, but French psychologist Nicolas Gueguen (who also researched men’s unconscious behavior after thinking about love) has found empirical evidence that men — at least on an unconscious level — are more attracted to painted ladies.
Gueguen recruited two women in their early twenties to go to bars for sixty sessions on twenty nights, and sit at a free table near where they were highly visible. The women either wore makeup or not — and when they did, they applied to it to their eyes, cheeks, and lips. Observing the women were members of Gueguen’s research team, who counted the number of men that approached the girls and the minutes lapsed before and between approaches.
The results? Although men approached the women in every session, the come-ons were more frequent when women wore makeup. It took less time for men to make a pass at the women (an average of 17 min vs. 23 min), and more men approached the women per hour (a mean of 2.0 vs 1.5).
Male claims to the contrary, most women who wear makeup some of the time know this: when they wear makeup, they get more lingering looks from more men. And that's what men do when they see something they like - there's a certain look a man gets when he's looking at a pretty woman and it's unmistakable.
I found this interesting, too:
While it is often said that love is blind, "physical attractiveness seems to be one of the most prominent factors, if not the most significant one, in human mate selection," said behavioral biologist Bernhard Fink of the University of Gottingen in Germany. And cosmetics enhance attractiveness in a quantifiable and real-world relevant way, Fink told LiveScience.
Cosmetics have also been shown to boost earning potential and perhaps even make a promotion more likely, according to a study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology in 2006.
Literature examining the role of cosmetics on social perception, has found that, overall, make-up is associated with positive evaluation of a woman. Graham and Jouhar (1981) reported positive effects of cosmetics on judgment. Male and female participants rated color photographs of four female targets of average physical attractiveness on several traits related to appearance and personality. With facial makeup, the targets were rated as being cleaner, more tidy, more feminine, more physically attractive, as well as being more secure, sociable, interesting, poised, confident, organized and popular. Cox and Glick (1986) examined how average-looking women were perceived after a professional make-over versus cosmetics-free and found that cosmetics were positively associated with femininity and sexiness. Workman and Johnson (1991) instructed female participants to view one of three colored photographs of a professional model wearing either heavy, moderate, or no cosmetics.
They found that cosmetics significantly enhanced the impression of attractiveness and femininity. Cash, Dawson, Davis, Bowen and Galumbeck (1989) conducted an experiment in which American college students were photographed while wearing their typical facial cosmetics and again following the removal of their makeup. Participants rated the physical attractiveness of the women. It was found that males' judgments were more favorable when the women were photographed with cosmetics than when they were cosmetics free, whereas females' judgments were not affected by the presence or absence of makeup.
In a recent study, Nash, Fieldman, Hussey, Leveque and Pincau (2006) presented four women's facial photographs either with or without cosmetics. It was found that women with cosmetics were perceived as healthier and more confident. Participants also perceived women wearing makeup as having a greater earning potential and more prestigious jobs than the same women without cosmetics. However, wearing make-up is not always associated with positive evaluation. McKeachie (1952) found that young male students evaluated young women with make-up as more frivolous and more interested in the opposite sex.
It seems that different levels of cosmetics use are associated with different perceptions. Mulhern, Fieldman, Hussey, Leveque and Pineau (2003) asked male and female participants to view a set of five photographs of women volunteers and to rank each set from most to least attractive. Volunteers were made up by a beautician under five cosmetics conditions: no makeup, foundation only, eyes makeup only, lips makeup only and full facial makeup (foundation, eyes and lips). It was found that faces with full makeup were judged more attractive than the same faces that were makeup free. They also found that eye makeup alone yielded higher levels of mean attractiveness ratings than foundation makeup only, and the latter yielded higher levels of mean attractiveness ratings
than lip makeup only.
Taken together, these studies seem to show that cosmetics enhance
the perception of physical attractiveness and some other feminine traits of women. The intent of the present study was to explore the effect of makeup on the courtship behavior of men toward women in a real context, as contrasted with previous research where impression formation of facial attractiveness was evaluated in a laboratory with the help of photographs.
The study which showed women's perceptions being less influenced by makeup were interesting. I don't think men are all that good at figuring out whether a woman wears makeup or not unless she overapplies it. I also think that when men say they don't like makeup, what they really mean is that they don't like women who wear too much makeup or apply it badly.
I also think you all don't like all that waiting:
You look so ready that I get ready and I get up and stand by the door, and I stand there for 15 minutes until I realize you aren't ready. So, I sit back down.
Then, I think you're ready again.
But then I realize you just gave off an illusion of being ready that I interpreted as not being an illusion.
I'll be in the car.
April 26, 2010
Coffee Snorters, Kissing Cousins Edition
We realized this morning that it hath been many moons since the Editorial Staff regaled the assembled villainry with the daring exploits of the Gay Quadruped Community. So if you've been wondering what Knut the Adorably Psychotic Teen Bear is up to these days, wonder no more.
You can file this dispatch under: "They're Always After Me Lucky Charms....":
PETA is now demanding that Berlin zookeepers castrate Knut, as things have started to get fairly serious between the Vanity Fair cover bear and his girlfriend Giovanna. Giovanna hails from Munich, but has been temporarily crashing with Knut while her place there was getting fixed up. Of course things were a little tense at first—she hit his face; he gradually grew out of his boyish good looks—but over time they just got used to living together and eventually they fell in love. The twist is that Giovanna and Knut actually share a grandfather. It’s always something, isn’t it?“Knut fans should be aware that only Knut’s castration would allow a long-term cohabitation of Giovanna and Knut. All other hopes and desires would bring the polar bear population in captivity to its pre-programmed demise even more rapidly,” said a PETA spokesman, as reported in Der Spiegel.
On the bright side, the International Association for the Inexplicable Anthropomorphization of Unwitting Bears now has a new catchphrase: incest depression.
Any offspring would threaten the genetic diversity of the polar bear population in Germany and risk susceptibility to a condition known as "incest depression", he said.
What I want to know is: does this mean PETA has succumbed to epistemic closure on the important topic of gay polar bear sexuality? Meanwhile, in other gay mammal news, go here for an enlightening discussion of canine homosexuality.
The Internet is a deeply weird place.
Daft Pseudo-Intellectual Quote of the Day
I've never quite understood why some bloggers revel in pretentious terms like "epistemic closure":
At least insofar as the conservative movement has a larger and more powerful media ecosystem dedicated to advancing a vision of the world that's aligned with the movement's priorities, it would seem that the conditions for epistemic closure are more prevalent in the conservative movement than in the liberal movement. I think that the counterargument some conservatives might offer would be that the New York Times and CBS News are liberal, but anyone arguing that those outlets are partisan or politicized in the way that Limbaugh is partisan and politicized is, well, sort of a walking example of epistemic closure.
I used to think it was because using fancy phraseology makes both the blogger and his readers feel reeeeeeeealy smart.
Lately, though, I'm leaning towards the notion that they operate as a semantic form of sleight of hand wherein readers spend so much time performing the mental translation between toffee nosed abstractions like "epistemic closure" and the more intuitive "echo chamber" that they overlook glaring logical errors like equating opinion based media (talk radio) with purportedly fact based journalism (news reporting). I have to question the notion that it's somehow alarming when purveyors of opinion "advance a vision of the world that's aligned with the(ir) movement's priorities". Isn't persuasion sort of the point when it comes to opinion writing?
On the other hand, conflating punditry and opinion mongering with news reporting may be understandable. After all, the Times confuses the two pretty much every day.
Still, there is something profoundly depressing about watching a political party that professes to be all about tolerance and diversity spend the lion's share of its time not so subtly demonizing the intellectual Other:
Sanchez admirably dismisses "the cheap partisan explanation that conservatism intrinsically appeals to the stupid or closed minded." That's certainly an explanation we should treat with caution. But should it be dismissed out of hand? Open-mindedness to rational inquiry is a political style historically linked with liberalism, and it's usually (though not always) found more often in liberal parties than in conservative or Marxist ones. Certainly, when we consider other countries, we frequently assume that one party is more nationalistic, populist, reactionary, racialist, fronting for powerful economic interests, and so on, and often we associate those parties with simplistic or closed-minded approaches to politics.
Statements like the bolded one above possess a circularity that makes them awfully hard to refute:
We are great. We are free. We are wonderful. We are the most wonderful people in all the jungle! We all say so, and so it must be true.
Let's face it - if one accepts the premise that all smart and informed people share certain beliefs, questioning those beliefs places dissenters squarely outside the community of wise and benevolent human beings. This is the great, gaping hole in the liberal world view:
imagine society as a social contract invented for our mutual benefit. All individuals are equal, and all should be left as free as possible to move, develop talents, and form relationships as they please. The patron saint of a contractual society is John Stuart Mill, who wrote (in On Liberty) that "the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others." Mill's vision appeals to many liberals and libertarians; a Millian society at its best would be a peaceful, open, and creative place where diverse individuals respect each other's rights and band together voluntarily (as in Obama's calls for "unity") to help those in need or to change the laws for the common good.
Psychologists have done extensive research on the moral mechanisms that are presupposed in a Millian society, and there are two that appear to be partly innate. First, people in all cultures are emotionally responsive to suffering and harm, particularly violent harm, and so nearly all cultures have norms or laws to protect individuals and to encourage care for the most vulnerable. Second, people in all cultures are emotionally responsive to issues of fairness and reciprocity, which often expand into notions of rights and justice. Philosophical efforts to justify liberal democracies and egalitarian social contracts invariably rely heavily on intuitions about fairness and reciprocity.
But now imagine society not as an agreement among individuals but as something that emerged organically over time as people found ways of living together, binding themselves to each other, suppressing each other's selfishness, and punishing the deviants and free-riders who eternally threaten to undermine cooperative groups. The basic social unit is not the individual, it is the hierarchically structured family, which serves as a model for other institutions. Individuals in such societies are born into strong and constraining relationships that profoundly limit their autonomy. The patron saint of this more binding moral system is the sociologist Emile Durkheim, who warned of the dangers of anomie (normlessness), and wrote, in 1897, that "Man cannot become attached to higher aims and submit to a rule if he sees nothing above him to which he belongs. To free himself from all social pressure is to abandon himself and demoralize him." A Durkheimian society at its best would be a stable network composed of many nested and overlapping groups that socialize, reshape, and care for individuals who, if left to their own devices, would pursue shallow, carnal, and selfish pleasures. A Durkheimian society would value self-control over self-expression, duty over rights, and loyalty to one's groups over concerns for outgroups.
A Durkheimian ethos can't be supported by the two moral foundations that hold up a Millian society (harm/care and fairness/reciprocity). My recent research shows that social conservatives do indeed rely upon those two foundations, but they also value virtues related to three additional psychological systems: ingroup/loyalty (involving mechanisms that evolved during the long human history of tribalism), authority/respect (involving ancient primate mechanisms for managing social rank, tempered by the obligation of superiors to protect and provide for subordinates), and purity/sanctity (a relatively new part of the moral mind, related to the evolution of disgust, that makes us see carnality as degrading and renunciation as noble). These three systems support moralities that bind people into intensely interdependent groups that work together to reach common goals. Such moralities make it easier for individuals to forget themselves and coalesce temporarily into hives, a process that is thrilling, as anyone who has ever "lost" him or herself in a choir, protest march, or religious ritual can attest.
In several large internet surveys, my collaborators Jesse Graham, Brian Nosek and I have found that people who call themselves strongly liberal endorse statements related to the harm/care and fairness/reciprocity foundations, and they largely reject statements related to ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. People who call themselves strongly conservative, in contrast, endorse statements related to all five foundations more or less equally. (You can test yourself at www.YourMorals.org.) We think of the moral mind as being like an audio equalizer, with five slider switches for different parts of the moral spectrum. Democrats generally use a much smaller part of the spectrum than do Republicans. The resulting music may sound beautiful to other Democrats, but it sounds thin and incomplete to many of the swing voters that left the party in the 1980s, and whom the Democrats must recapture if they want to produce a lasting political realignment.
Think about this for a moment.
A recurring theme in my writing over the years has been that it is quite possible for intelligent and rational people to disagree, and furthermore that such disagreements often result not from having completely different value systems, but from applying different weights to values liberals and conservatives both share.
I see this all the time when discussing politics with my more liberal friends. they can't understand why I won't give 100% of the weight to two elements of the moral spectrum: harm and fairness, and zero to ones they don't share. I fully recognize the value of the elements they find persuasive. I just don't agree that they are the only considerations that matter. The irony here is that their supposedly broad and inclusive (it is, because liberals all say it is) viewpoint is either blind to - or utterly refuses to acknowledge - the other three elements of Haidt's moral universe. The result is cognitive dissonance: the self professed party of tolerance and diversity finds itself defending a narrow and deeply intolerant, Euro-centric world view in which anyone who disagrees is deemed ignorant, stupid, and intolerant.
How's that again? I see the moral world in five dimensions, they see only two and this somehow proves I'm closed minded and live in an echo chamber?
There are none so blind.
April 24, 2010
Sorry for the lack of posts. Am traveling in the Land of AFE. Didn't bring my laptop, so posting will be light.
April 22, 2010
Michael Yon and the Benefit of the Doubt
Last night I linked to a song parody that indirectly satirizes what Jules Crittenden called the Yon Flap:
Lacking more information, I’m inclined to give Yon the benefit of a doubt. And might be inclined to give him the benefit of a doubt even if he turns out to be completely wrong and out of line on all of this. I hope it doesn’t result in the unraveling or sidelining of what has been to date a great freelance war correspondence. Also, I really hate blogosphere feuds, but obviously they are an inevitable part of the territory. What makes this different is that it is not just another dumb blogosphere flap, but apparently involves some serious issues potentially compromising a vital asset for anyone trying to understand these wars of ours.
I've been watching this one for more than a week now - well before Instapundit and NRO chose to link what I can only describe as grave (and to date totally unfounded) accusations of criminal malfeasance against the senior commander in Afghanistan.
Before the blog princess goes into orbit around Planet Earth, a few important disclaimers are required. Anyone who has read VC for any time at all will know of the deep respect and personal affection I have for Jules, both as a writer and as a man. His support during the last Valour IT fundraiser was an indispensable part of our success but our association goes back much farther than that. He and I talked back when he was only thinking of launching what has become one of the best run and most professional blogs out there. In a way if it weren't for Jules, VC wouldn't exist at all. So nothing I am about to say should be taken as an attempt to criticize him or single him out. We have a simple disagreement, that's all - one that our respective experiences make almost inevitable.
Over the years, I've disagreed with most of my friends at one time or another and I've never hesitated to say so. Most of us are still friends because we're talking about folks who are generous enough and confident enough not to confuse disagreement with disloyalty. They understand that blogging is a conversation, and that conversations conducted in an echo chamber are neither interesting nor enlightening. If I were asked why I blog, I'd have to cite my strong belief that we need the clash of opposing viewpoints to better understand current events. To paraphrase Socrates, the unexamined news is not worth blogging about.
I'd like to get away from personalities because there are some very important principles at stake here. Most of you know that over the years I've written for several widely read and well respected milblogs. Greyhawk, the Donovan, Matty O'Blackfive, Grim and yes, Jules have all been kind enough to allow me to stun their readers senseless with my random musings and I remain very grateful for the chance to give my ideas a wider exposure than they would get here at VC. But that very exposure is a big part of why I haven't taken greater advantage of their generosity.
Most of you also know that the spousal unit is a fairly senior Marine officer. At times this has made it difficult for me to comment on the top stories of the day. When in doubt I have erred on the side of over caution when writing about anything that touches his work even tangentially. But there is another way in which his rank has made blogging about the war difficult, and it touches directly on what Jules so aptly called "the Yon flap".
A big part of the milblogging mystique is the idea that milbloggers deliver the real, gritty, unvarnished truth from the folks on the front lines. As the wife of a senior officer who would no sooner blog than he would rob a bank, I have mixed feelings about this notion. For nearly 30 years I have watched the man I love rise through the ranks. I've watched him and his fellow officers (a significant number of whom were prior enlisted) grapple with the complex challenges of leading an increasingly diverse all volunteer force: a force that draws from a society that celebrates aggressive individualism and is, if anything, actively hostile to authority and rules.
The Internet has exacerbated the American tendency to reflexively suspect authority to a degree I consider unwise and unhealthy. In many ways, the Internet is an ideal vector for moral hazard: it makes activities that once required personal investment, courage, and careful thought a bit too easy. Online whistleblowing is a great example of this problem. Certainly we don't want to discourage the disclosure of criminal or unethical conduct. But when whistleblowing becomes too easy, malicious or self interested actors begin to game the system and a vital safeguard against the abuse of authority becomes a vehicle for anonymous partisan harassment of public servants who have done nothing wrong.
There's a painful paradox here because despite being an evil officer, my husband joined the Marine Corps because he's an ardent and passionate defender of liberty. He loves freedom, but at the same time he understands that without the tempering influences of responsibility and accountability, freedom morphs into license. I think we're in real danger of losing that last idea. You know, the responsibility and accountability part. We love the freedom. The accountability for our own actions, not so much.
As I've watched my husband rise through the ranks, I've watched his freedom of action and speech diminish in direct proportion to each increase in responsibility and authority. This is something I don't believe most people understand. They think a leader can do whatever he or she wants to. I suppose a bad leader will always find ways to abuse authority and power. But a good leader - and my husband is a good leader - inevitably finds that as his responsibilities grow, they begin to overwhelm his personal freedom of speech and action. In many ways this makes sense, because as he is given more responsibility his actions and words carry far more weight than they used to. A careless word can be devastating for his command and (as he increases in rank) possibly for his entire service.
This is why you don't often see senior officers blogging. People will try to tell you that senior officers don't blog because they have stars in their eyes. In some cases that may even be part of the truth, though statements like that presume a lack of integrity which ought to trouble us a bit. But the rest of the truth is that in many ways, blogging is inimical to what senior officers do. It is inimical to the very qualities that good leaders must cultivate: discretion, self restraint, self discipline, the ability to hold yourself to a higher and far more limiting standard than is demanded of those you lead. It's important to be careful here. I'm not saying that milbloggers lack these qualities. If I thought that, I would not consider myself a part of the milblogging family. What I'm trying to say is that senior leaders don't have the same freedoms as the rest of us. Not even close.
Understanding this is critical to understanding the so-called Yon flap. It is critical because a large part of Michael Yon's appeal is the notion that he delivers the "real", unvarnished truth from the front lines. And his work may well convey part of that truth.
But it's not the whole truth, and it's vitally important that we as consumers of milblogging and the work of embedded reporters understand this. It is vitally important that we understand the structural reasons why senior leaders can't just wade right into the good, milbloggy fun; why they are, in a sense, muzzled.
If you don't understand that, you are in danger of mistaking part of the truth for the whole truth.
About a month ago I had an interesting conversation with an old friend.
I had invited her and her husband over for dinner. My friend and her husband are what I'd consider moderate Democrats. During the conversation the subject of the role of women (and gays) in the military came up. This is something of a hot button topic for me, and I carefully attempted to provide some practical perspective on how diversity initiatives - whatever you think of their ultimate worth - can and do make it extremely difficult to make the trains run on time. After I finished, she fell silent for a moment and then said, "You know, I never thought of all those things and I've never read about them in the media. It really is complicated, isn't it?"
If you only have part of the truth, the truth often seems that way. It seems simple when in fact, it is not simple at all.
I doubt I changed my friend's mind, but I do believe that as a result of our conversation she gained a fuller understanding and appreciation of the very real challenges the military faces in trying to implement what amounts to a social experiment. As we saw with the folks who recently chained themselves to the White House fence, identity politics and diversity drives create perverse incentives that directly undermine the military ethos of service over self. Military training attempts to strip new recruits of their individual identity; to teach them to accept authority and follow rules: to be selfless rather than self interested. Without such training, the esprit de corps and heroism that define America's armed forces would not be possible. One Medal of Honor recipient says it better than I can:
"I truly believe that you'll never truly lead anybody, until you learn to serve. And you'll never truly serve anybody, until you learn there's something more important than yourself."
- Medal of Honor recipient Gary Beikirch, US Army, Vietnam.
This is why I have such a problem with Jules' willingness to give Michael the benefit of the doubt even if it turns out that he is out of line and even if his accusations turn out to be factually wrong.
I think the truth ought to matter to us. Milbloggers and embeds love to flatter themselves that they and only they can convey the "real, unvarnished truth" about this war. But the real truth is that they have access to only part of this truth because senior leaders cannot speak with the same candor as the the PFC in the chow line or the much touted Strategic Corporal.
It isn't that these folks don't provide valuable perspective on how the war is going. It's that their limited perspective speaks to only a part of what goes on on the front lines. I don't think it's reasonable to assume a Lance Corporal or a Sergeant or even a Lieutenant or Captain has the same experience and knowledge as a commanding General or battalion CO. I don't think it's reasonable to assume that the view from the foxhole is the same as the view from the top; that it's more honest, more valid, or more "true". There's an important difference between the two viewpoints: one of which is on offer and the other of which is by necessity seldom seen. That battalion CO or commanding General has often done the job of a Lance Corporal, Sergeant, or Lieutenant. That's how he got to where he is today. My oldest friend in the Corps is married to a guy who came in as a PFC and retired a full Colonel. He gave this nation 35 years of heartfelt and principled service and because of him we have a better nation and a better Corps. His son is a career staff NCO who has risen through the enlisted ranks. Carrie is married to a senior Marine. Her son is enlisted. I have sat at a hail and fairwell where senior officers spoke with passion and anguish about the challenges faced by new PFCs and Corporals and Sergeants. Their love, admiration, and concern for the men they command is real and compelling.
So while the notion that senior officers are out of touch, incompetent, uncaring tyrants who make arbitrary rules simply because they can holds great emotional appeal for too many in the Milblog family, it's a cheap shot. Moreover, it's a cheap shot that responsible leaders - by definition - don't even try to refute. The whole truth is that all too often, the folks with the most knowledge about rules that are difficult to understand can't speak freely.
Journalists like Yon have an important role to play in telling the story of the war on terror. But that word "journalist", like the word "officer", implies responsibility. I have a real problem with the idea of giving the benefit of the doubt to a professional journalist even if it turns out that what he is reporting isn't the truth at all. Even if he is out of line. Even if he repeatedly makes grave, unsupported accusations about anyone who stands in his way. I have a problem with accusations like this:
... I do not trust McChrystal anymore than some people trust the New York Times, Obama or Bush. If McChrystal could be trusted, I would go back to my better life. McChrystal is a great killer but this war is above his head. He must be watched.
...McChrystal cannot be trusted to tell the truth about this war.
The disembed from McChrytal’s top staff (meaning from McChrystal himself) is a very bad sign. Sends chills that McChrystal himself thinks we are losing the war. McChrystal has a history of covering up. This causes concern that McChrystal might be misleading SecDef and President. Are they getting the facts?
How's that again? Michael Yon is fired from his FOURTH embed and the only possible explanation is that the senior commander in Afghanistan is an incompetent liar who is deceiving the President of the United States and the SecDef?
Wow [swatting at the black helicopters]. That's a pretty serious allegation. Michael Yon is purportedly a professional journalist. As such, shouldn't he be held to some elementary standards of professionalism? But more importantly, how much sense does it make to extend the benefit of the doubt to Mr. Yon for what amounts to unsourced and unsupported allegations of criminal misconduct against a career soldier?
Is this where the bar should be set for professional journalists? Do they have no responsibility to back up such a serious charge with evidence?
It is not (as some have alleged) that General McChrystal cannot be challenged or criticized. It's that it's profoundly irresponsible for someone of Yon's stature to casually toss out accusations like that with no proof. As the accuser, he bears the burden of proof. And he has provided none.
Oddly, those who believe Yon should be given the benefit of the doubt appear strangely reluctant to extend that same courtesy to career soldiers doing a difficult and yes, dangerous job that for most of them has meant years of separation from their families and extraordinary personal sacrifices. Absent some concrete evidence of wrongdoing, don't they deserve the benefit of the doubt too?
My guess is that this happens because it's way too easy to snipe from the cheap seats. That's a harsh criticism, I know but there's a large element of truth there as well. For too long there has been no real cost associated with taking uninformed potshots at senior military leaders:
"Task Force Kandahar, responsible for security of the bridge that was blown up on Monday, happens to be under Canadian command," Mr. Yon wrote.
CanadianForces Lt.-Col. Danny Fortin said Mr. Yon's description was inaccurate. The bridge, which lies on Highway 4 a short distance from Kandahar Airfield, "does not fall within Canada's area of responsibility for security," he said.
While confirming that the general watched the hockey game with some Canadian and American troops, the game "was over hours before the incident at the bridge," Mr. Fortin said.
Ah. So except for the fact that the Canadians weren't responsible for the security of that bridge (and even if they had been, the hockey game was over several hours before the attack) Mr. Yon did an admirable job of getting out the real, unvarnished truthiness from the front lines.
The Commanding General of RC-South will move 5/2 SBCT HQ from Kandahar to another location, dangerously inhibiting Stryker combat and intelligence operations for several months. (About 50% of remaining tour.) This is like watching the Dallas Cowboys in the Super Bowl, only to see the coaches snatched from the game to re-arrange the locker room. HQ will be in disarray.
Since we're all about extending the benefit of the doubt even to people who might be completely wrong and out of line, why would anyone assume an embed has anything like the knowledge or experience required to intelligently second guess the area commander? Why does he get a pass on disclosing troop movements (on Facebook of all places!) that even the family members of men in that command aren't privy to? Why has he been given a pass on disclosing information about KIA before their families had been notified?
When the blogger left Iraq for a break and then tried to return in September, the Army said no. Lt. Col. Steven Boylan wrote to Yon, telling him he had violated his embed agreement, which requires withholding photos of dead and injured soldiers until their family members had been notified.
If your answer to that question is, "Because he's Michael Yon", I have to question both your logic and your priorities. Would we extend this kind of uncritical and unthinking pass to a journalist for the NY Times who did these things?
I think not. And that's the real point here. There is no question that Mr. Yon has done admirable and important work. But his reputation - no matter how well deserved - is not more important than the truth. He's important, but I would argue that Stan McChrystal has some small role to play in the war effort, too. It's not that leaders like BG Menard and Gen. McChrystal can't be questioned. But I think that the standard for a professional journalist ought to be responsible criticism. And I question the assumption that an embedded reporter who isn't privy to all of the intel and military briefings and has never had to make life and death decisions in a complex, multinational command environment in a war zone should be given the benefit of the doubt when he repeatedly sources accusations of incompetence and criminal neglect or misconduct in nothing more compelling than his personal opinion.
I'm not asking that Michael Yon be run out of town on a rail. I think we'd all lose valuable insight into this war if that were to happen.
What I am asking is for people to understand that while Mr. Yon and milbloggers have given us unprecedented access and insight into what goes on on the front lines, they don't - and can't - have all the facts. The picture we get is by necessity an incomplete and even distorted one. It's a picture of the elephant's trunk or hind leg - not the entire elephant.
It is part of the truth, but it is nowhere near the whole truth.
But most importantly, I'd like to suggest that standards matter. The truth matters. It's always tempting to exempt the home team from the standards we expect of the other side but that's a serious mistake because to a large extent, it is precisely the military's willingness to follow rules and submit to discipline that has earned the respect of the American people.
Accountability is part and parcel of what separates the military from pretty much everyone else these days. And if the milblog community abandons responsibility and accountability, we abandon everything we claim to stand for.
Update: Privately, Mrs G. objected to this statement in my post:
Milbloggers and embeds love to flatter themselves that they and only they can convey the "real, unvarnished truth" about this war.
She believes I unjustly lumped all milblogs together and (more importantly) attributed the acts of a few to the entire community. I think that's a fair statement, and it's not what I intended to say.
Ever since I began blogging, I have worried a lot about the instant nature of the medium. My time has grown increasingly limited, and as a result I am rarely able to devote the time I should devote to my writing. If I have offended anyone, please accept my apology. I knew what I meant, but I failed to explain it in adequately. Which in a way just underscores my point that nothing we say should be exempt from honest scrutiny.
April 21, 2010
You're so vain
You probably think this war is about you
You're so vain
I'll bet you think this war is about you
Don't you? Don't you?
Sometimes, satire is the best way to get your point across.
April 20, 2010
I Don't Care Who You Are...
Police chased reporters away from the White House and closed Lafayette Park today in response to a gay rights protest in which several service members in full uniform handcuffed themselves to the White House gate to protest "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
People who have covered the White House for years tell me that's an extremely unusual thing to do in an area that regularly features protests.
I live in the DC area. During the last administration I was lucky enough to be invited to the White House 4 times - not because I am someone important, but because my husband was deployed.
Every single time, the area outside the gates was crawling with whack jobs: singing, crying, gallivanting around in oversized masks, dressed like the Grim Reaper. It was a veritable smorgasboord of idiocy.
Unless they did something particularly moronic, the police left most of these cretins alone. Mostly they were exercising their God-given right to make jackasses of themselves in public. The thing is, the press were around to photograph Mother Sheehan when she was arrested.
I'm guessing our Flickr-friendly Prez didn't want any nasty photos of the police doing what they do to morons who chain themselves to public property. But more specifically, he didn't want any photos of United States service men and women being arrested.
Especially if they happen to be gay.
Every day I sit back and watch this administration actually does things the Bush administration was only accused of. And for the most part, our self appointed task force on "afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted" just roll over and beg for belly rubs.
OK, You Asked For It, Mike...
All you young whippersnappers, I see your "GenX/Millenial" angst and raise you an Age of Aquarius and a Summer of Love!!!!!
OK, I admit that I threw that last one in for the cringe factor :p
This quote, from a college girl who decided that hooking up was eroding her self respect, caught my eye:
Vanderbilt student Boyle says her decision she made at the end of her freshman year to quit hooking up came with criticism. She is still surrounded by friends and peers who do it.
She's already lost some guy friends who couldn't understand her decision. But Boyle counters, "They probably weren't my friends anyway."
Wow. What was your first clue?
He Felt So *Violated*
Years ago when the blog princess was in school, one of her law profs used to begin every semester with a throwaway line about the inalienable right to make an ass of yourself:
“I just don’t know how you tell what is reasonable,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said. “I suspect it might change with how old people are and how comfortable they are with the technology.”
The Supreme Court has said the Fourth Amendment, which forbids unreasonable government searches, figures in the analysis when public employers search their employees’ offices and files.
The chief justice appeared sympathetic to the police officer in the case, Sgt. Jeff Quon of the Ontario Police Department’s SWAT team, who had received mixed guidance from his superiors about the status of messages sent on his pager. The messages included communications to and from his wife and his mistress.
The blog princess is reminded of a somewhat similar case involving her next door neighbor. This happened many moons ago.
The neighbor in question was married and had a child. For reasons that remain unclear, the gentleman decided it would be a good idea to have an affair with another married officer. Moreover, he decided it would be a good idea to have naughty conversations with said officer during working hours using his personal cell phone.
What he apparently failed to consider is that cell phone transmissions can be intercepted. A local ham radio operator picked up these conversations, figured out that two fairly senior officers were engaged in an adulterous relationship, and turned his sorry tuckus in.
Now I suppose this gentleman and his married lady friend may well have considered that their privacy rights had been well and truly trampled upon. On the other hand, no one has a greater interest in protecting your privacy than you do. If you have something to hide, then it stands to reason that you should do everything in your power to keep it hidden.
Having been married for many moons, I have been known to send mildly racy messages to my spouse during working hours. I do not, however, send anything to his work address that I would not wish 3rd parties to read. And I do not use my work email to send such messages.
All of which leads me to think that texting your mistress during working hours on your employer's cell phone is probably not a stellar idea. But that's just me.
April 19, 2010
Guys, I am really sorry for the lack of posts lately.
I've been pretty upset lately and don't like to write when I feel like that. I just need some time to sort things out.
Thanks for your patience, your good humor, and above all your comments.
April 17, 2010
Must See of the Day
Remember all those fantastic videos No Sheeples Here created for the Valour IT fundraiser?
Well, she's done it again. Go. Now.
April 15, 2010
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, nor self-seeking, nor easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
But where there are prophecies, they will cease;
where there are tongues, they will be stilled;
where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
Thanks to C. McH
Avoiding the Arrogance of Excellence is the Beginning of Wisdom
...and other Zen lessons from our intellectual and spiritual betters:
The Obama administration’s top science and technology official, who has argued for the economic de-development of America, warned science students last Friday that the United States cannot expect to be “number one” forever.
“We can’t expect to be number one in everything indefinitely,” Dr. John P. Holdren said at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
Certainly, being number one is not a status any nation is entitled to.
But I can't help wondering how one achieves excellence without first daring to believe one can achieve it? As the little green guy once said,
Luke: I don't... I don't believe it.
Yoda: That is why you fail.
Or more pithily:
Do, or do not:
There is no "try".
Somehow I find it hard to believe that the world would be a better place if only America were more modest in her aspirations. Nature abhors a vacuum.
April 14, 2010
Men of VC, Take Note: Part Deux
Great Moments in Deployment History
says, "Dude, you are *so* not getting laid when you get home" assures a happy homecoming quite as effectively as a warm and fuzzy letter from MARCENT:
Subj: NOTIFICATION OF YOUR SPOUSE'S DEATH GRATUITY BENEFICARY [sic] DESIGNATION
Dear Mrs. Spousal Unit:
This letter is notification that your spouse has recently updated their Record of Emergency Data.... Due to elections your spouse has made, you are not listed as the sole primary beneficiary for all of the benefits that you
are no longermay be entitled to under Death Gratuity.
Please address any questions or concerns with your spouse.
Like these guys don't have enough to worry about without receiving panicked emails from the dependent spouse. They could at least warn a brother.
As you were.
Major Schadenfreude Alert
Patterico makes an interesting point with regard to the Affordable Health Care
For Thee, But Not For Me! Act:
The New York Times reports that Congress may have “unintentionally” voted for its own health coverage to change when it voted for ObamaCare:
The confusion raises the inevitable question: If they did not know exactly what they were doing to themselves, did lawmakers who wrote and passed the bill fully grasp the details of how it would influence the lives of other Americans?
I think it raises a different and more important question: when a bunch of yahoos vote to ratify a law they haven’t even read, how is that law to be interpreted?
I recently published a post titled Why “Intentionalism” Is Not Always Compatible with the Rule of Law. In it, I asked:
If a legislature passes a law that says one thing, but the legislature really meant something else, how should the law be interpreted? According to the plain language of the law? Or according to the intent of the legislature, even if it contradicts the statute’s plain language?
It turns out that my question was not idle or abstract. With ObamaCare, we may be faced with a concrete example. What if ObamaCare says that members of Congress lose their current coverage — even if, as the article suggests, they did not “intend” this?
Do we interpret the law by looking to the clear text, the way those out-of-touch, formalistic lawyers uniformly insist that we do when the text is unambiguous?
Or do we to look to the unexpressed intent of the ratifiers of the law, the way the “intentionalists” would insist we do?
This is an interesting point. While I fully realize that ambiguous legislation is not a contract, I couldn't help but be reminded of a common sense principle I learned about lo! these many years ago.
It's known as contra proferentem for short (or if you're feeling particularly pretentious, Verba Fortius Accipiuntur Contra Proferentem). Try saying *that* five times backwards!
Contra proferentem is a rule governing the interpretation of ambiguous terms in a contract. It states that unclear contractual provisions will be strictly interpreted against the interests of the party who wrote the contract, on the theory that he who writes the contract is in the best position to protect his own interests.
Admittedly this rule is normally applied only to contractual provisions inserted by one party, in cases where the other party had no real chance to negotiate a more equitable outcome. Sound familiar? The intent of the rule is to force whoever wrote the contract (law?) to exercise care and diligence in the drafting of
"historic" legislation they never bothered to read the agreement, but it also serves as a check against situations where one party enjoys a superior bargaining position ... such as, say, an arrogant Congress that prescribes health care "reform" for an unwilling public while oh so conveniently exempting itself from the marvelous and many splendored benefits thereunto appertaining.
Yeah, I know contract law has nothing to do with legislation, really.
Still, the logic behind this rule is hard to refute. What a shame we can't hold our Congressional Overlords to the lofty standard demanded of plain old John and Jane Q. Public.
Men of VC: Take Note!
While you are hoovering the carpet, the little lady is covertly assessing your mad bedroom skills:
If someone wants to know how some other person performs between the sheets, he/she should look how they clean the home, says Donna Dawson, a psychologist who specializes in personality.
She said: "An activity where you choose to do something in a particular way can provide an insight into your, or your partner's personality - and this is definitely true of vacuuming."
Dawson's study, for the Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner company, found there are five personality types.
"The "Dasher" likes to speed around with the vacuum cleaner, usually missing bits. This person is impatient, ambitious and fast-talking - not the type to take their time in bed.
"In contrast the "Methodical" always vacuums the same way, and would never dream of shortening the time it normally takes. In life, they tend to be reliable and cautious and prefer to take things slowly between the sheets.
"The "Grafter" looks forward to vacuuming as a physical release from stress. They tend to be hard-working and tenacious - and are happy to please their partner.
"The "Drifter" doesn't notice whether they are picking up the dirt. This type tends to be dreamy and self-absorbed, and in bed can seem distant or detached.
"The "Protester" uses vacuuming to display displeasure. They crash around, bumping into pieces of furniture - and when it comes to sex they are sometimes selfish and prefer their partner to do most of the work," reports The Daily Express. (ANI)
Of course if you never touch a vacuum cleaner....
Obama's Glasnost Not Living Up to the Hype?
I do not know about you people, but I am shocked.... shocked, I tell you:
Even the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, was more talkative with the press than Obama. Michelle Jamrisko, with Japan's Kyodo News, noted in her pool report that Hu, at his session with Obama, spoke to the Chinese media in Chinese, while Obama limited himself mostly to "say hello to the cameras" and "thank you everybody."
Obama's official schedule for Tuesday would have pleased China's Central Committee. Excerpts: "The President will attend the Heads of Delegation working lunch. This lunch is closed press. . . . The President will meet with Prime Minster Erdogan of Turkey. This meeting is closed press. . . . The President will attend Plenary Session II of the Nuclear Security Summit. This session is closed press."
Reporters, even those on the White House beat for two decades, said these were the most restricted such meetings they had ever seen. They complained to both the administration and White House Correspondents' Association, which will discuss the matter Thursday with White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.
The restrictions have become a common practice for the Obama White House. When Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu came to the White House a couple of weeks ago, reporters were kept away. Soon after that, Obama signed an executive order on abortion, again without any coverage.
I await, with poorly concealed anticipation, the flood of articles about The Most Secretive White House Evah: about a President who surrounds himself with sycophants and can't tolerate dissenting voices; about the pressing need of a free society for a free and unfettered press corps who will afflict the powerful and comfort the afflicted.
Oh, wait. They did get to ask questions:
Finally, away from other leaders, Obama took reporters' questions for 20 minutes. They were tough and skeptical questions that punctured the banal readouts: pointing out that the nonproliferation agreements weren't binding, noting China's equivocation on sanctions against Iran, and pressing Obama on the failure to curb North Korea's weapons. The Post's Scott Wilson asked Obama if he would call on Israel, which skipped the summit, to declare its nuclear weapons.
"I'm not going to comment on their program," Obama said.
Not surprising. But it's still important that the questions are asked.
It's comforting to know that our intrepid press corps aren't taking this lying down.
April 13, 2010
A Moment of Silence
Well That's a Relief...
I was beginning to think there was no justice in the world.
April 10, 2010
No more rescuing those little buggers when they attempt to fry themselves on my walk:
Earthworms form herds and make "group decisions", scientists have discovered.
The earthworms use touch to communicate and influence each other's behaviour, according to research published in the journal Ethology.
By doing so the worms collectively decide to travel in the same direction as part of a single herd.
The striking behaviour, found in the earthworm Eisenia fetida, is the first time that any type of worm, or annelid, has been shown to form active herds.
"Our results modify the current view that earthworms are animals lacking in social behaviour," says Ms Lara Zirbes, a PhD student at the University of Liege in Gembloux in Belgium.
"We can consider the earthworm behaviour as equivalent the of a herd or swarm."
If they start tweeting, I'm out of here.
Mystery of the Ages
Most popular notions about the male brain are based on studies of men ages 18 to 22 - undergrads subjecting themselves to experiments for beer money or course credit. But a man's brain varies tremendously over his life span, quickly contradicting the image of the single-minded sex addict that circulates in mainstream consciousness.
In all fairness, the biggest proponents of the "that's all we ever think about and we can't control ourselves" meme tend to be ... men. Why do guys talk about themselves that way?
April 09, 2010
On the prior post, Cousin Dave left a few interesting comments I'd like to highlight:
The biggest thing that sticks out for me is that since 1964, absolutely nothing has succeeded in stopping the growth of entitlements. If the entitlement spending were to be graphed by itself, with no year marks, you would have difficulty telling which party controlled the Presidency or the Congress during any period. The only place that might not look like a steady slope would be the late '90s, where welfare reform (Democrat President / Republican Congress) looks like it managed to check the growth for a while. But ultimately, all that succeeded in doing was pushing back the day of reckoning a few more years.
As the caption says, the chart demonstrates vividly that entitlement programs run on autopilot. Which was likely the intent all along.
This is an important point, and the reason I keep harping on the proportion of mandatory (entitlements) to discretionary (defense and national security) spending in the federal budget. In the classic guns vs. butter debate, it's quite clear that our government considers guns to be optional and butter to be a necessity. And yet which of us, alone, is capable of defending the entire country?
We are all capable of earning a living, saving for the future, and building up a nest egg for our old age. We may have to sacrifice present gratification to ensure future security, but nothing prevents us from making this choice. Private individuals cannot, however, keep the nation secure on their own. This is a legitimate - and deeply necessary - function of government.
As to Dave's "this was likely the intent all along", I commend to you the words of FDR on Social Security:
"We put those payroll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program."
There's just one problem with FDR's grand design: payroll taxes alone don't cover the program's obligations. The second part of Dave's comment is interesting too:
What I'd be interested in seeing is a graph, over that same time period, of what percentage of the U.S. population is receiving government benefits. I recall a stat that said that at some point early in the history of Social Security (might have been around 1950), there were 42 people paying in for every person who was collecting. Now the ratio is approaching 2 to 1. I've long said that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. I'd now like to amend that statement: every government welfare program is a Ponzi scheme.
First, the number of Americans receiving government welfare funds has doubled over time:
20 percent of Americans are dependent upon government for all or part of their income. And yet the percentage of all American households who will pay no tax this year is estimated to be 47%:
I can't show that on the preceding chart because the axis maxes out at 40%.
Dave's right - our current entitlements programs are Ponzi schemes. The number of Americans receiving benefits has never been higher (over 20%). It is exceeded only by the number of Americans who aren't paying into the "system" (47%).
Even I can do that math.
A Taste of Things to Come
It's all about human psychology. Eighty years ago, people were allowed to buy stocks with 10% margin and this resulted in the stock market crash. Just a few years ago, and even today, people were allowed to buy houses with 0% margin and we had a housing bubble and crash. Why is this so hard to understand?
It's the same hairless ape in both circumstances. In 60 to 80 years, there will be another crash in something else.
Albert Einstein once defined insanity as "...doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Applying Einstein's maxim to the Obama administration's recent legislative "victory" leads to some uncomfortable and long overdue conclusions:
The nation’s fiscal path is “unsustainable,” and the problem “cannot be solved through minor tinkering,” the head of the Congressional Budget Office said Thursday morning.
Doug Elmendorf, best known for arbitrating the costs of various health care proposals, added his voice to a growing chorus of economic experts who predict dire consequences if political leaders don’t scale back spending, increase taxes or both — and soon.
Elmendorf noted a recent CBO report that pegged an increase in the public debt from $7.5 trillion at the end of 2009 to $20.3 trillion at the end of 2020 if President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget were to be implemented as written. As a percentage of gross domestic product, the debt would rise from 53 percent to 90 percent, CBO forecasted. The last time the percentage was that high was right after World War II.
That last observation is critical because not all debt is created equal, nor are all debt levels equally sustainable. Unlike our present deficit, America's post WWII debt resulted from temporary discretionary spending. Because there was no requirement to maintain artificially high wartime spending, it posed far less of a threat to the stability of the economy. By comparison, our current debt consists primarily of mandatory, permanent spending on entitlement programs. This isn't like a family temporarily going into debt to finance a one time, non-recurring purchase. It's more like a family buying a house they can't afford with a balloon mortgage:
When you strip such decisions of political doublespeak and technical jargon, it's easy to see the root of the problem: the human tendency to want something for nothing. People want to buy things they can't afford. They have a right to health insurance policies but don't want the tiresome necessity of earning the money to pay for them.
They want to know why, oh why! politicians continue to promise (and try to deliver) exactly what voters have demanded of them? How could government "let" housing prices fall? It's always someone else's fault, and never our own.
During the recent health care debate, the one thing that united people on both sides of the debate was the "need" to prevent greedy insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. Thanks to the state of Massachusetts, we now have yet another object lesson in the folly of expecting something for nothing:
Thousands of consumers are gaming Massachusetts’ 2006 health insurance law by buying insurance when they need to cover pricey medical care, such as fertility treatments and knee surgery, and then swiftly dropping coverage, a practice that insurance executives say is driving up costs for other people and small businesses.
In 2009 alone, 936 people signed up for coverage with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts for three months or less and ran up claims of more than $1,000 per month while in the plan. Their medical spending while insured was more than four times the average for consumers who buy coverage on their own and retain it in a normal fashion,...
The typical monthly premium for these short-term members was $400, but their average claims exceeded $2,200 per month. The previous year, the company’s data show it had even more high-spending, short-term members. Over those two years, the figures suggest the price tag ran into the millions.
How is government control of private industry affecting Massachusetts insurers? Here again, reality provides a stark contrast to the "Yes, we can!" school of something for nothing political rhetoric:
This week it became impossible in Massachusetts for small businesses and individuals to buy health-care coverage after Governor Deval Patrick imposed price controls on premiums. Read on, because under ObamaCare this kind of political showdown will soon be coming to an insurance market near you.
The Massachusetts small-group market that serves about 800,000 residents shut down after Mr. Patrick kicked off his re-election campaign by presumptively rejecting about 90% of the premium increases the state's insurers had asked regulators to approve. Health costs have run off the rails since former GOP Governor Mitt Romney and Beacon Hill passed universal coverage in 2006, and Mr. Patrick now claims price controls are the sensible response to this ostensibly industry greed.
Yet all of the major Massachusetts insurers are nonprofits. Three of largest four—Blue Cross Blue Shield, Tufts Health Plan and Fallon Community Health—posted operating losses in 2009. In an emergency suit heard in Boston superior court yesterday, they argued that the arbitrary rate cap will result in another $100 million in collective losses this year and make it impossible to pay the anticipated cost of claims. It may even threaten the near-term solvency of some companies. So until the matter is resolved, the insurers have simply stopped selling new policies.
Why does it surprise us when a government that has no idea how to pay its own bills prescribes financially disastrous policies for the private sector? But more importantly, why do so many Americans accept statements from politicians that fly in the face of common sense?
The inconvenient truth is that a significant portion of the voting public wants to believe they can have something for nothing. That belief is so powerful that even repeated encounters with the clue bat of history have not been able to dislodge it.
It is notable that both parties in American politics today champion what they like to call "freedom". But without individual responsibility and accountability, there is no real freedom. When government attempts to shield individuals from the consequences of their freely made decisions, it can do so only by shifting the risk of bad choices from the actor to his fellow citizens.
The purpose of the social contract is to protect individuals from their fellow citizens. When government actively encourages citizens to prey upon one another, it has lost not only its original mandate, but any pretense to decency or justice.
April 08, 2010
Duke University Needs Your Help
I apologize for the sparse posting this week. The Princess has been incredibly busy, but also she has been under the weather most of the week so just getting through the day has been a challenge.
At any rate the smart, socially enlightened folks at Duke University need your help to capitalize on an exciting new discovery they've made with regard to sexual dynamics:
Duke University has instituted a new "sexual misconduct" policy that can render a student guilty of non-consensual sex simply because he or she is considered "powerful" on campus.
...Duke's vastly overbroad definition of non-consensual sex puts nearly every student at risk of being found guilty of sexual misconduct. Students are said to be able to unintentionally coerce others into sexual activity through "perceived power differentials," which could include otherwise unremarkable and consensual liaisons between a varsity athlete and an average student, a senior and a freshman, or a student government member and a non-member.
Further, students are said to be unable to consent to sexual behavior when "intoxicated," regardless of their level of intoxication. Duke has turned mutually consensual sexual conduct, which might merely be poorly considered, into a punishable act. Adding to the confusion, if both parties are intoxicated at all, both are guilty of sexual misconduct, since neither can officially give consent. North Carolina law does not support this definition of consent.
Duke's ill considered and poorly written policy is being touted as anti-male, but certain provisions could actually work to level the playing field for young men on campus:
1. If inebriated students are judged unable to consent regardless of their level of intoxication and regardless of sex, a young man who has consumed even a single beer is just as incapable of consent as a young woman who is legally drunk.
2. If a "perceived power differential" between any two students is evidence of coercion, then isn't Mindy the popular cheerleader "coercing" young men into unwanted sex every time she wears a short skirt or revealing clothing?
3. This is great news for anyone who hated the cool kids in high school. Don't like the captain of the football team or the head cheerleader? If you can prove they had consensual sex with anyone of a lower social status, you can have them brought up on rape charges! Even if the "victim" says it was consensual!
Of course, leveling the playing field was probably the farthest thing from the minds of University officials. Reactions from The Women's Center at Duke indicate that the school may have achieved precisely the opposite of what they intended:
Women's Center Director Ada Gregory was quoted in Duke's student newspaper The Chronicle justifying the new policy, saying, "The higher [the] IQ, the more manipulative they are, the more cunning they are ... imagine the sex offenders we have here at Duke—cream of the crop." (In a follow-up letter to The Chronicle, Gregory claimed that the quote was inaccurate and did not reflect her views, but stood by her analysis that campuses like Duke are likely to harbor smarter sex offenders who are better able to outwit investigators.
What I'm wondering is, how can Duke take advantage of this bold foray into sexual equality? I'm thinking a bumper sticker:
Feel free to supply your own advertising slogan in the comments section.
Update: Something MikeD. said reminded me of one of my all time favorite BlameBush posts:
Andrea preferred to travel by foot, for buses were built by men, maintained by men, and driven by men. Mass transportation was nothing more than another means for men to assert their dominance over womyn. Sometimes, when she was feeling especially frisky, she enjoyed stepping onto a bus, then stepping off again, then getting back on and off repeatedly until the driver complained. "HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE PENETRATED?" she'd scream at him. "HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE THE RAPED INSTEAD OF THE RAPIST?"
The bus would quietly roll away and Andrea would walk on, satisfied.
Somewhere along the way, she'd start walking backwards, simply because males expected her to always walk forwards. It was the man's way to keep a womyn docile and under control, facing the opposite direction while he whispered his insidious rapist plots behind her back. So she'd plod along backwards for a couple of blocks, knocking over pedestrians, garbage cans, and produce stands full of phallic shaped fruits and vegetables. Then she'd stop, light up a cigarette, and survey the chaos she had wrought. This is how men must feel when they rape the world, she'd think. Then once again, she'd turn around and start walking forward - not because she was expected to, but because she had empowered herself to do so.
As she approached the drug store, she'd pause to glare at the homeless man sitting on the sidewalk - the same vile animal who had brutally raped her in BROAD DAYLIGHT only two weeks earlier by holding open the door and saying "Good Morning, Ma'am". Hundreds of passers-by witnessed the violent act, heard her screams of "RAPE! RAPE! RAPE!", yet not a single one tried to stop him....
The comedic genius of Liberal Larry never gets old.
April 07, 2010
Debate Question of the Day
Is this post serious, or tongue in cheek?
April 05, 2010
"We're All Ignorant Extremists Now...."
On major issues, 48% of voters say that the average Tea Party member is closer to their views than President Barack Obama. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 44% hold the opposite view and believe the president’s views are closer to their own.
Not surprisingly, Republicans overwhelmingly feel closer to the Tea Party and most Democrats say that their views are more like Obama’s. Among voters not affiliated with either major political party, 50% say they’re closer to the Tea Party while 38% side with the President.
The partisan divide is similar to that found in the President’s Job Approval Ratings and on the Generic Congressional Ballot.
“Unaffiliated voters are continuing the pattern they established in 2006 and 2008 of opposing the party in power,” notes Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports. In his new book, Scott makes the case that “the American people don’t want to be governed from the left, the right, or the center. They want to govern themselves.”
If things keep going this way, the President is going to find himself badmouthing a majority of the country. Not good tactics for such a "smart guy".
Question of the day: how do you marginalize a majority?
Breathe Easy, America
The wrenching doubt that consumed us for so long has been swept away:
He may be the world's foremost mixed-race leader, but when it came to the official government head count, President Barack Obama gave only one answer to the question about his ethnic background: African-American.
The White House confirmed Friday that Obama did not check multiple boxes on his U.S. Census form, or choose the option that allows him to elaborate on his racial heritage. He ticked the box that says "Black, African Am., or Negro."
April 03, 2010
Selective Outrage and the Catholic Church
Elizabeth Scalia has a poignant essay up at NPR:
The question has come my way several times in the past week: "How do you maintain your faith in light of news stories that bring light to the dark places that exist within your church?"
When have darkness and light been anything but co-existent? How do we recognize either without the other?
I remain within, and love, the Catholic Church because it is a church that has lived and wrestled within the mystery of the shadow lands ever since an innocent man was arrested, sentenced and crucified, while the keeper of "the keys" denied him, and his first priests ran away. Through 2,000 imperfect — sometimes glorious, sometimes heinous — years, the church has contemplated and manifested the truth that dark and light, innocence and guilt, justice and injustice all share a kinship, one that waves back and forth like wind-stirred wheat in a field, churning toward something — as yet — unknowable.
The darkness within my church is real, and it has too often gone unaddressed. The light within my church is also real, and has too often gone unappreciated. A small minority has sinned, gravely, against too many. Another minority has assisted or saved the lives of millions.
But it is here that Elizabeth's strength and compassion shine most clearly:
My family was known for its neighborliness and its work ethic; its patriarch was a serial child molester.
The child molester was also a brilliant, generous, talented man — the only person who ever read me a bedtime story. I will love him forever, for that, even when I wake up gasping and afraid.
... Have I been much sinned against? Yes. So have you. Have I sinned against others? Oh, yes. So have you.
Like a pebble cast into a pond, our every action ripples out toward the edges, reaching farther than we intended, touching what we do not even know, for good and for ill. It all either means nothing, or it means everything.
As a Catholic, I believe it means everything.
While I cannot excuse the actions of those who abused innocent children or who failed to intervene, I utterly reject the self righteous fury of those who would condemn an entire church for the actions of a few. As a young girl I recall having a conversation with my mother about my own love/hate relationship with the Episcopal church. As I railed on and on about the imperfections and contradictions in church doctrine and organizational practice, she gently reminded me that churches are fundamentally human institutions run by weak and imperfect beings, none of whom is immune to the temptations and foibles that afflict religious and non-religious people to an equal degree.
Faith does not end the temptation to sin, nor does it offer an iron clad guarantee of superhuman perfection. We come to God as we are with all our faults upon us, hoping for a redemption that very much depends upon our own willingness to suppress our selfish desires and submit to an authority greater than our own. Is it, then, so surprising that an organization composed of flawed beings inevitably reflects our own failure to do what is right?
Yes, the response of some church officials to the abuse of innocent children represents a betrayal of everything the Church stands for. And that is the point: unlike, say, NAMBLA the abuse of children has no place in Catholic doctrine or teachings. Priests are neither taught nor encouraged to abuse children at seminary.
The temptation to look for scapegoats is a human failing, too. Those who hate the military gleefully seize on every crime committed by a soldier, sailor or Marine as evidence that war causes crime, as though it were unheard of for civilians to rape, murder or steal. Those who hate religion seize on crimes committed by the faithful as evidence that religion causes pedophilia, as though child abuse were the exclusive province of the Catholic church.
Never mind that civilians and atheists commit crimes too.
Never mind that some of the most unlikely people - people we trust with the safety and care of our children - commit crimes against our children every single day and these crimes are often covered up by enabling coworkers and even senior staff.
These crimes - which span all fields of endeavor and a thousand gradations of faith, agnosticism and outright atheism - are not caused by joining organizations that roundly condemn such acts, nor by the attempt to obey a higher law. They are caused by the simple fact that we humans have a long history of failing to live up to the standards we set for ourselves. We have a long history of victimizing the weak, abusing power, and covering our tracks when the prospect of discovery threatens to destroy the illusions we strive so hard to maintain.
When human beings do what human beings have done for centuries, who should we blame? The answer to that question often has far more to do with our own bigotry and bias than the real culprit: human nature.
So far, that remains a condition for which there is no cure. Still, some would rather blame those who try to make the world a better place than look at the dark places within their own hearts.
And we all have those places. All of us.
CWCID for the WND link: One of Althouse's commenters
April 02, 2010
A Call for Spiritual Warfare
David Bellavia has the most wonderful post calling for spiritual warfare on behalf of a very seriously wounded Marine named Todd Nicely.
Please go and read it. If you are on Facebook, there is a group organized on his behalf as well.
Most of all, please send your positive thoughts and prayers to Todd and his family. They are needed and we know from past experiences that they work. They really do.
April 01, 2010
Brilliant. Just Brilliant.
I have only one criticism: weren't those unicorns supposed to fart gold dust?