July 30, 2010
Fear the Marmoset
Well, I'm back. I plan to spend the next two days indulging a whopping case of post-beach house tristesse and drinking heavily.
Miss Ladybug sends a bit of Friday silliness to chase away the bittersweet anomie. Happy Friday, peoples.
Update: link fixed. Thanks for the heads up, MLB.
Two Links for your Friday Afternoon.
One link is pretty funny. Well, I think it's pretty funny and since the Blogprincess is still on vacation, I am putting it up. :)
The other is not funny. It is serious and sweet and sad but it is also a must read. God bless you and your family, sir.
(serious tissue alert)
July 23, 2010
Somewhere, The Sun Is Over The Yardarm
...and it's time to pop open an ice cold brewski:
You'd expect a lot from a bottle of beer costing $765. What you get is 55 percent alcohol — and served in a squirrel.
...The dead animals which were used to create the beers' unusual appearance were four squirrels, seven weasels and a hare. All were roadkill, James Watt, co-founder of BrewDog, told msnbc.com.
The name of the blond Belgian ale is taken from the title of a book by philosopher Francis Fukuyama, "The End of History and the Last Man" which the company said had been chosen to imply "this is to beer what democracy is to history."
Well alrighty, then. A still, small voice tells me they may be overthinking this one.
July 22, 2010
Good Reads, House Munching Edition
Well, the Blog Princess didn't make it online yesterday. Too much to do.
Right behind our beach house in the Billion Buck Acres residential section, someone has bought a lot with a house on it intending to build a new house. So yesterday, #1 Grandson and I took several trips back to watch an enormous backhoe take big bites out of the roof and push the walls in. Pretty amazing stuff (plus we spent a lot of time saying, "Whoa").
Retriever has a thought provoking post up about kids and entitlement:
I was not supportive when any of my own offspring made moves towards years off and reminded them that such junkets must be self supporting or come from their dwindling college funds, and that it will be the local community college when those dry up, so (as Jesus urged) consider the cost.
The post on years off focusses on American kids, but it's really a phenomenon of rich kids the world over. I respect my young British relatives' academic accomplishments, but they have vacationed in exotic spots 4 times a year their whole life, and still feel entitled (approaching 30) to do so. The appalling stress of work, don't you know...
I have mixed feelings about this one. I was 19 when I married and became a mother a few months after my 20th birthday. It was decades before we could afford to take vacations. When we finally did, it was bizarre seeing teenagers lounging around at expensive resorts sans parents. Must be nice :p
As a young girl I was always happiest when I was out exploring on foot or on my bicycle. I would have loved to travel and see the world but like Retriever, I think that if kids want to travel or take a year off they should pay for it themselves. To me, that's part of the adventure. People tend to appreciate things more when everything isn't handed to them on a silver platter.
In their early 20s, two of my cousins spent 5 years earning enough money to buy a big sailboat. They sailed all up and down the West Coast and down to Mexico. Can't recall offhand if they made it to Hawaii, but they have a lifetime worth of memories. I'm not sure the experience would have been as meaningful if their parents had simply handed them $50,000. What do you think?
You can't fix stupid, but you can subsidize it with other people's tax dollars.
Great Maryland earthquake of 2010:
The second continues the entitlement theme. Call me old fashioned but when you get paid to blog for someone else it's generally a good idea not to make your employer look bad. If that harshes your creative mellow, too bad.
Bush FoxNews never gets old:
The White House spokesman and the agriculture secretary weren't the only ones offering regrets Wednesday to the lower-level official abruptly fired over a videotape excerpt that turned out to be totally misleading. Bill O'Reilly apologized to Shirley Sherrod as well.
But for all the chatter -- some of it from Sherrod herself -- that she was done in by Fox News, the network didn't touch the story until her forced resignation was made public Monday evening, with the exception of brief comments by O'Reilly. After a news meeting Monday afternoon, an e-mail directive was sent to the news staff in which Fox Senior Vice President Michael Clemente said: "Let's take our time and get the facts straight on this story. Can we get confirmation and comments from Sherrod before going on-air. Let's make sure we do this right."
Sherrod may be the only official ever dismissed because of the fear that Fox host Glenn Beck might go after her. As Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack tried to pressure her into resigning, Sherrod says Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook called her Monday to say "do it, because you're going to be on 'Glenn Beck' tonight." And for all the focus on Fox, much of the mainstream media ran with a fragmentary story that painted an obscure 62-year-old Georgian as an unrepentant racist.
I think Rick Lowry got this one right:
Her saga over the last couple of days is a lesson in how the culture of offense often works in contemporary America -- chewing people up and spitting them out before they even have a chance to defend themselves."
Years ago the Spousal Unit got into it with a senior Naval officer who proceeded to complain to the Unit's boss. My husband was not only in the right but acted with integrity in a tough situation. I've never forgotten how his boss handled it - he informed the offended officer that his description didn't sound like my husband at all and before responding to the complaint he felt honor bound to hear my husband's side of the story.
That's not exactly rocket science but it's a shame how few bosses show that kind of loyalty and common sense to their subordinates. A little of that courage would have gone a long way here.
July 19, 2010
Light Posting Alert
Posting will be very light for the next few weeks. The Blog Princess is at the beach soaking up rays and getting her Grandma fix on :)
I'm not going to write while I'm on vacation but I'll try to post some good reads each day if I have time in between kissing those grandbabies of mine.
From JD, pickup lines from philosophers. There are some pretty good ones in the comments, too!
From htom, a man says goodbye to his dog. Beautifully written.
Via Mary Ripley, The Beautiful Man Project:
MISSION: During your time trapped among the rigid Hesco Barriers and flexible, yet sharp concertina wire, you too are to become rigid in muscular tone and develop a sharp, yet flexible mind in order to transform the literal and the figurative you into something better for the benefit of your health, society, and the chicks you find next to you on mornings after successful evenings on the town. A “suck less every day” philosophy provides a basic ethos. What can you do to improve physically, mentally, socially, artistically? How can you navigate the river into your own, personal heart of darkness and emerge a better man? What can you do to make your brother better? Within the confines of our close circle “I am my brother’s keeper” is a staple. When one falters, the others pick him up. When the collective begins to languish in mediocrity, the individual invigorates the group with novel concepts for self improvement.
Having been married for over 3 decades to a man who always comes home from deployments lean, mean, and ripped, I heartily approve. My only fear is that he'll decide I need a Beautiful Woman Project :p
What is the deal lately with the War on Air Conditioning?
For the first 3 or 4 years we were married The Unit and I couldn't afford to use our a/c (the heat was on 55 during the winter, too). I got very good at strategically opening and closing windows and blinds to take advantage of (or block out) the sun. I'm sure it's healthier not to use a/c but having brought up two babies without it, I'm surprised we avoided child abuse during the summers. I have a very long fuse, but when it's 80+ degrees inside the house and your toddler is pitching a fit, you'd do just about anything for some relief.
From No Sheeples Here, something inspirational.
July 16, 2010
That's something the Blog Princess never thought she'd see in the Land of Bedwetting Socialists:
A 3.6-magnitude earthquake struck near the Gaithersburg, Maryland, area just after 5 a.m. ET Friday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The center of the quake was about 20 miles northwest of Washington, the USGS said.
"It was really loud, like a plane flying really low. I had never felt anything like it," said Anne Ngunjiri, 30, of Gaithersburg. "I was jolted out of bed.
That's exactly what it felt like, too. I thought another big tree had fallen. Here's a bit of Maryland earthquake history to digest along with your morning coffee:
The earliest recorded earthquake in Maryland occurred in Annapolis, on April 24, 1758. The shock lasted 30 seconds and was preceded by subterranean noises. Additional felt reports were received from a few points in Pennsylvania.
The great earthquake series of 1811 -1812 centered near New Madrid, Missouri, affected an area of 2 million square miles, including Maryland. A moderate-sized earthquake on March 9, 1828, was felt over all of Virginia, West Virginia, and portions of neighboring states, including Maryland. The effects at Baltimore resulted in considerable shaking of doors and agitation of other objects. The center of this earthquake was not accurately fixed, but it was probably in southwest Virginia. Another shock centered in Virginia, on August 27, 1833, was felt noticeably in Baltimore. A similar pattern followed on April 29, 1852, from a moderate shock in southwestern Virginia. Considerable alarm was noted in Baltimore, while Annapolis was reported as merely feeling the tremor.
Harford County, Maryland, was shaken by two or three earthquakes the night of March 11 and the morning of March 12, 1883. The intensity was in the IV - V range, (clocks stopped at Fallston) with felt points also noted in Baltimore County.
Another moderate shock occurred less than two years later, on January 2, 1885, in an area near the Frederick County, Maryland - Ludon County, Virginia, border. Maximum intensity reached V, with the total felt area covering more than 3,500 square miles. Clarke, Fairfax, Fauquier, and Shenandoah Counties, Virginia, also reported this earthquake.
Since 1885, earth vibrations felt in Maryland have been associated with sources for adjacent states and points as far away as the St. Lawrence Valley and Timiskaming, Canada.
July 15, 2010
Narcissism and the Counterfeit Life
I don't think it will come as any surprise to you all that I've been feeling a bit discouraged lately.
I've been thinking a lot about the competing interests of individuals and society and I see a growing disconnect between the way I was raised and the direction society at large seems to be headed in. Perhaps the most alarming aspect of these rifts in the social fabric is the increasing frequency with which people of all ideological bents justify the abandonment of morality and standards on no more compelling basis than that of their unmet needs.
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say their unmet desires because these things are not in fact needs, but merely wants.
The proper relationship between individuals and society seems to be crumbling right before our eyes. Most adults of my age were raised to believe the world is populated by millions of equally important people, none of whom has any particular duty to love, like, or support us. To the extent that we produce something of value to others, we may trade what we have (and hopefully receive what we desire in return). This exchange of value occurs through negotiation and compromise. If you possess nothing I value, I have no duty to trade with you and vice versa.
This fundamental premise underlies every human interaction from friendship to commerce to marriage. In each case something of value is offered in the hope of exchanging it for something else of value. This system wouldn't work terribly well if we were all perfectly equal; if we all wanted the same things, or all possessed the same talents. It works precisely because we are NOT the same. Our usefulness to each other exists in direct proportion to the differences in our talents and desires and the relative scarcity of the things we can offer and wish to trade for.
There would be no reason for me to trade with someone who produced only what I can already produce for myself, nor would such a person need to trade with me. And since other people have no duty to like, love, or support me, there is no reason for them to part with what they have unless I have something they want.
In the world I was raised in, other people do not exist for my benefit, but for their own. They are not commodities to be used but thinking, feeling human beings whose wishes I must divine and take into account if I expect to interact with them to our mutual profit. My only "virtue" to them lies in my ability to produce what they value, not in my own desires or high opinion of myself. Such a mutually beneficial arrangement did not come about by chance, nor is it in our DNA. Rather, it is a fragile construct which rests on the presumption that, although what we want seems important to us, we are not the center of anyone else's universe:
The most crucial job for parents is to take an unformed little human baby, whose only experience of the world is to know himself as the center of the universe, and tame his instincts so that he can become a productive member of society. I focus primarily on the male because they tend to have more powerful drives or drive expressions, both libidinal and aggressive, and are more difficult to tame. Every infant demands instant gratification of all their needs. By adolescence, even the most intact families will often need help in controlling their teenager's burgeoning drives, and in order to make the transition into functioning adulthood, the young person will have needed to tame their drives, allow for and tolerate delayed gratification, and in the ideal case, to have sublimated their aggressive and sexual drives in the service of productive pursuits. Pathological narcissism interferes with the process of taming the instincts.
It is in this context that I address the PUA idiocy:
... the model is entirely wrong about what women want. What women look for in a man is respect.
I do not mean merely the obvious: that women want a man who respects them, or that they want a man who respects women. What is at least important is that they want a man who respects himself. They want a man who aspires to things, because he wouldn't respect himself if he didn't. They want a man who treats himself like a man of honor, which means that he behaves like a man of honor. That means he takes his word seriously, and does his duty. If he also treats women with honor and respect, he will not lack for love from women of worth.
That is simply said, but done with much labor. It is far harder than trying to fool them into thinking you might be worthwhile. Yet you can fool even a foolish person only for so long; the price of relying on that tactic is that you cast away the thing that really mattered, which was love.
Most of the defenses of these young men seem to center around how nothing is ever their fault. They didn't make the world: they're just responding to it and thus they cannot be expected to think about how their actions affect anyone else until that glorious day when the world becomes a perfectly fair place where life is easy, everyone is equally rewarded and no one is ever disappointed. I don't even know what to say to foolishness like this, except that it is foolishness of a degree that stuns me. Life is full of risk and that is the glory of living it. If we care, if we try, if we reach out beyond the bubble of ego and selfishness we risk exposure, humiliation, defeat. There are no guarantees and the truth is that there never were.
The very expectation that life is (or should be) "fair" is fraught with difficulty:
A focus on fairness points, interestingly, to a contradiction in free-market systems: On the one hand, it is only fair that people be given a chance to better themselves, and patently unfair if they are prevented from doing so. But on the other, given the inherent differences among individuals, as well as their socioeconomic discrepancies, the outcome of freedom is certain to be unequal, and thus unfair.
Let me repeat that: given the inherent differences among individuals... the outcome of freedom is certain to be unequal, and thus unfair.
This may be the single most important lesson I taught my small sons in over two decades of mothering. Life is not fair. I even had a pat phrase I hauled out when childish wails of "NO FAIR!" rose from the back seat of the car: "Life's not fair and I wasn't put on this earth to make it so."
You have no right to demand what others have just because you want it. And you have no guarantee to an equal share of life's pie. No matter where you go or who you meet, there will always be those who have more than you do and there will always be unfairness. And the hell of it is that our own petty unfairnesses tend to loom large in our eyes - so large, in fact, that we lose sight of the fact that to others life can seem just as unfair as it does to us. It's easy to nurse our own tiny grudges until they grow to gigantic proportions, distorting our sight and narrowing our vision until we see nothing and no one but ourselves, our own fears, our small discontents.
To self obsessed and perpetually aggrieved, other people - their hopes, fears, desires and needs - don't exist. There is only the Self and its selfish clamorings. There is no past, no future, but only now.
I may not know much but half a century of living has taught me one thing, even if I forget it far too often. There is great joy in making other people happy; in the give-and-take of voluntary partnerships and associations. There is pride when we're able to produce what others value and reciprocal joy when they counter our small proffers with hard won offerings of their own. There is not much joy in constant suspicion and one-upsmanship; in the never ending struggle not to be taken advantage of; in the absence of trust.
There is no joy in tricking and deceiving people we despise, nor in dominating the weak minded.
A while back on another thread an old friend asked me a question regarding a news item I'd posted. It was a study that claimed that stupid women are more likely to pursue rich men. He riposted, "Who's the stupid one?"
And I replied, "What woman wants a man who's more likely to cheat on her?"
Release your dream of marrying a man with money. Scientists say guys with smaller paychecks are emotionally available, faithful, and better in bed.
My friend responded, "Do women really perform that calculus?"
I can't answer for all women, but I know I did. It took me only a year or so of dating boys to distinguish true gold from base metal. I hate the terms alpha, beta, and omega male because all too often they're used to put the lipstick of false glamour on a pig made of base metal.
The sad thing is that I'm quite sure there are women who find buffoonery, braggadoccio, and posturing impressive - who can't tell the real thing from the cheap counterfeit. Who prefer the superficial and dishonest to the real and true. To them, and to the young men who think they've won a great prize when they manage to
fool impress them, I have only one thing to say:
Is this your concept of manliness? Of value? Will this be the next Greatest Generation?
Dear God, man. Think of the children.
Apparently, I Am Schizophrenic...
... or maybe I'm just "protean". I like the sound of that much better. It has a ring of infectiously pretentious inscrutability about it that's hard to resist. Via Retriever, I ran across alittle toy that purports to tell you which incredibly famous author your writing most resembles. I pasted in 8-10 different snippets from various posts and got a different result every time.
Ernest Hemingway (!)
Arthur C. Clarke
I forgot to write the others down but I'd never heard of them anyway.
Only got the same result once - a writer I'd never heard of, either:
Not sure what it means that I got so many different results, or that I supposedly write like a slew of male authors I haven't read much, and who don't write much like each other. Perhaps I'm secretly a man trapped in a woman's body (which is odd because I've always felt more like a woman trapped in a woman's body). Or perhaps I just have multiple personalities.
Hopefully it's just the algorithm. Anyway, enjoy. This, also. I'm pretty sure I've posted that one before, but it seemed to fit the general theme and I thought some of you might have fun with it.
July 14, 2010
Warrior Song - Marine Corps Version
A little something to keep your blood moving, courtesy of Matt.
My fave comment from DeltaBravo:
Dude at 5:17 needs a psych eval. Wait. He's a Marine. Nevermind.
At his brother's funeral nearly six years ago, Ricardo Peralta made him a promise: He would join the Marine Corps and carry on in his example.
On Friday, Peralta, now 19, fulfilled that promise as he graduated from the school of infantry.
He will now report to a battalion in Twentynine Palms, Calif., and, like his brother, probably deploy to a war zone as an infantry "grunt."
"I have big shoes to fill," Peralta, a Marine private first class, said quietly.
His brother, Sgt. Rafael Peralta, was killed at age 25 during the battle for Fallouja, Iraq, in November 2004. He is revered by the Marine Corps as one of the true heroes of the long battle in Iraq.
His story is told to every recruit at boot camp in San Diego — how he saved the lives of fellow Marines by smothering an enemy grenade with his body. Marine brass, famously stingy in recommending battle citations, nominated him for the Medal of Honor.
"I was just doing my homework and there was a knock on the door," said Ricardo Peralta, 14. "The moment I saw them, I knew."
In his letter to Ricardo, Rafael said he was doing something he had always wanted to do. He asked Ricardo to be proud of him because the Marines were making history in Iraq.
"(He was) a brave man, fighting for everyone's freedom and a loving brother; I'll never forget him, a hero," Ricardo Peralta said.
Know, all who see these lines,
that this man,
By his appetite for honor,
By his steadfastness,
By his love for his country,
By his courage,
Was one of the miracles of the god.
Must Read Essay
I'm not going to even attempt to excerpt it because it deserves to be read in its entirety and anything I might say would only detract from it.
A truly fine piece of writing, whether or not you agree with the premise. I do, unequivocally, but I would recommend it even if I did not agree with the writer.
July 13, 2010
Roissy vs. McArdle
I submit to you Roissy in DC in all of his majesty:
The cock has no interest in your feeble hate. It doesn’t believe in synthesis, or syllogism, or in any absolute. What does it believe in? Pussy. And whatever it takes to get it. It’s self-evident.
...in what warped fembot universe is successfully attracting women so that they have sex with you a sign of powerlessness? Is McArdle unaware of men’s ultimate goal? Hint: insert penis into vagina.
And here I have always respected men for their brains and self discipline. What a shame to learn I was wrong. I now consider myself to be "schooled" by someone who knows.
Abraham Lincoln's Advice for Obama
Via commenter Pond, the quote above (however apt) were not actually said by Lincoln.
Here are some that were:
On Inequality: That some achieve great success, is proof to all that others can achieve it as well.
On Wealth: That some should be rich, shows that others may become rich, and, hence, is just encouragement to industry and enterprise.
On Income Equality: I don't believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich; it would do more harm than good. So while we do not propose any war upon capital, we do wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else.
--March 6, 1860 Speech at New Haven, Connecticut
On Determination: “You can have anything you want - if you want it badly enough. You can be anything you want to be, do anything you set out to accomplish if you hold to that desire with singleness of purpose.”
On Experience: “What has once happened, will invariably happen again, when the same circumstances which combined to produce it, shall again combine in the same way”
On Success: “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.”
On Facing Reality: “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
On Hard Work: Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.
On Despotism: Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as a heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere. Destroy this spirit and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors.
On Democratic Governance: This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it.
On Insults: We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it.
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
July 12, 2010
Public Service Announcement...
The spousal unit is wishing I felt bad again.
Credit Score Inequality: The New Cruelty
Figures provided by FICO Inc. show that 25.5 percent of consumers — nearly 43.4 million people — now have a credit score of 599 or below, marking them as poor risks for lenders. It's unlikely they will be able to get credit cards, auto loans or mortgages under the tighter lending standards banks now use.
...On the positive side, the number of consumers who have a top score of 800 or above has increased in recent years. At least in part, this reflects that more individuals have cut spending and paid down debt in response to the recession. Their ranks now stand at 17.9 percent, which is notably above the historical average of 13 percent, though down from 18.7 percent in April 2008 before the market meltdown.
I think what's needed here is some kind of redistributive policy for credit scores. Maybe folks who have credit scores that "exceed their needs" could be forced to donate points from their credit scores to those who aren't lucky enough to have high scores of their own?
Discuss amongst yourownselves.
France Walks the Walk on Women's Rights
Immigration Minister Eric Besson said Wednesday the decision was rooted in French law, which permits authorities to reject applicants who fail to respect national values.Prime Minister Francois Fillon, who has the final say, has pledged to approve Besson's order.
Besson's office said the man's application was rejected because officials had determined that he had deprived his wife of the freedom to go about with her face uncovered.
"It was nearly a caricature because the person said: 'my wife will never be able to go out without the full veil; I don't believe in gender equality; women have inferior status; I will not respect the principles of the secular society,'" he told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.
Besson stressed that the decision does not mean the man will be deported, and he will be allowed to remain in France on his current long-term visa.
This case poses fascinating moral and public policy questions. First off, it's interesting that despite the claim that the man "forced" his wife to wear the veil, nowhere do we hear what his wife thinks.
It seems fairly innocuous to argue that women have the right to decide how they will clothe themselves, but if it turns out that she doesn't object, have her rights been violated?
Would you want to see this kind of law in the U.S.?
July 08, 2010
This Is Just Nuts
...squirrels don’t just bury an acorn and come back in winter. They bury the seed, dig it up shortly afterward, rebury it elsewhere, dig it up again. “We’ve seen seeds that were recached as many as five times,” said Dr. Steele. The squirrels recache to deter theft, lest another squirrel spied the burial the first X times. Reporting in the journal Animal Behaviour, the Steele team showed that when squirrels are certain that they are being watched, they will actively seek to deceive the would-be thieves. They’ll dig a hole, pretend to push an acorn in, and then cover it over, all the while keeping the prized seed hidden in their mouth. “Deceptive caching involves some pretty serious decision making,” Dr. Steele said. “It meets the criteria of tactical deception, which previously was thought to only occur in primates.”
That explains all the holes in my garden.
Navy: Men Have "Duty" To Protect Women From Themselves? Really?
This is so incandescently idiotic - on so many levels - that I don't even know what to say about it. Sometimes the stupid is just overpowering:
The U.S. Navy wants commanders to "feel very uncomfortable" about sexual assaults, happening at a rate of more than one a day, military officials said.
"My goal is to make every single commander that has a sexual assault occur at their command feel very uncomfortable and wonder, 'Why is this happening in my command?'" Vice Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert said in a speech in San Diego.
Gee, I don't know. Perhaps these things happen because the men and women in your command have what is euphemistically termed a "casual attitude towards sex"?
Most sexual abuse cases at the Naval Academy are not rapes, but personal encounters that have turned sour.
Generally, documents show that three factors play a role:Alcohol abuse.
In examining roughly 3,000 pages of documents obtained by The Capital under the Freedom of Information Act, it became clear that some midshipmen - male and female - can be careless about themselves, their careers and with each other. It also seems apparent that many of these young men and women - perhaps like their counterparts nationwide - have a casual attitude toward sex.
When it comes time to assign blame for misconduct, however, the male is nearly always the one that gets kicked out of the Naval Academy during the time frame examined, according to the documents.
Women cannot have it both ways here: either they are equally capable and intelligent (and therefore equally able to obey military regulations) or they are fragile combat flowers who must be followed around 24/7 by their employers on the off chance that they may voluntarily choose to render themselves helpless:
Assault victims are mostly women, ages 20 to 24, in the lowest four ranks of service, the Navy said. Attacks typically occur on weekends, with alcohol driving most of them.
"If you see a young lady from your ship, and she's at a bar doing Jell-O shooters, and you understand that it looks like her judgment is impaired, you have an obligation to her to step in and in a polite way and a nice way and a non-threatening way say, 'Hey, we've got early duty tomorrow,'" Jill Loftus, director of the Navy's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office, said at a Navy "bystander intervention" seminar in San Diego, a pilot program also done in Virginia and Hawaii.
"Not only are you protecting the sailor who might be a victim, you are also protecting someone who might be a perpetrator who's using bad judgment," The San Diego Union-Tribune quoted Loftus as saying.
This type of arrant nonsense is what happens when faux diversity and politically correct doublespeak supercede the mission. If real rape is going on, commanders should be more than just "uncomfortable". Real rape isn't "bad judgment" - it's a crime. But if, in addition to being held to a stricter standard of behavior, military men are now expected to protect off duty servicewomen from their own fecklessness and irresponsibility, shouldn't men be paid more than women of the same rank?
Equal pay for equal work, I always say. I can hear Jane Harmon's head exploding already.
July 07, 2010
NYT Searches for Clue, Can't Find One
After breakfast, his parents left for their jobs, and Scott Nicholson, alone in the house in this comfortable suburb west of Boston, went to his laptop in the living room. He had placed it on a small table that his mother had used for a vase of flowers until her unemployed son found himself reluctantly stuck at home. The daily routine seldom varied. Mr. Nicholson, 24, a graduate of Colgate University, winner of a dean’s award for academic excellence, spent his mornings searching corporate Web sites for suitable job openings. When he found one, he mailed off a résumé and cover letter — four or five a week, week after week.
I'll bet you know where this is going:
Over the last five months, only one job materialized. After several interviews, the Hanover Insurance Group in nearby Worcester offered to hire him as an associate claims adjuster, at $40,000 a year. But even before the formal offer, Mr. Nicholson had decided not to take the job.
Rather than waste early years in dead-end work, he reasoned, he would hold out for a corporate position that would draw on his college training and put him, as he sees it, on the bottom rungs of a career ladder.
Question: if your current job search strategy netted only one job offer in 5 months, do you think there's a chance you might decide to change things up a bit?
Bonus round: if you had been living with your parents for two years, don't you think perhaps ANY job would be better than continuing to mooch off Mommy and Daddy?
I can't even begin to grasp the bloated sense of entitlement it must take to maintain the bubble this kid is living in. It's great if your parents can afford to put you through college. My daughter in law's couldn't, so she worked all the way through high school and college and paid her own way. After graduating and moving to the East coast, the only job she could find quickly was working in a day care center.
She took it, and continued to save. On the weekends she watched other people's kids (yes, a no kidding college graduate babysat). The money was still green.
She proceeded to put herself through grad school and earned a teaching degree.
This "kid" has had everything handed to him on a silver platter so naturally, he considers a manufacturing job at his father's company to be a defeat? Hell, I wouldn't hire him either.
When was the American dream redefined to mean that America owes you the job of your dreams? To listen to our President, we shouldn't have to exert ourselves and we certainly don't have to pay our own way or move to where the work is. Instead, lucrative and prestigious jobs should magically drop into our laps like manna from heaven.
But don't think finding a job means the end of self pity. Somewhere, someone has more than you do and chances are you've got a raw deal compared to your parents.
Bear With Me, Folks
I'm working on a long essay.
The Pursuit of Happiness
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is strong and secure.
- Kahlil Gibran, On Children
Tony Woodlief is thinking about happiness:
Any parent will tell you children are difficult, and they wear you out, and they likely will just break your heart in the end. And who knows -- maybe when we believe we are feeling deep joy from parenthood (usually over a glass of wine, after all the little stinkers are finally in bed), we are simply sentimentalizing the whole ordeal to keep ourselves from rooting out our unused passports from the sock drawer and dashing off to Europe, never to be heard from again. Or perhaps we just feel too guilty to admit that, while we couldn't bear losing them now that we have them, we very well could have been delightfully satisfied had we never met them.
And here's where I wonder if we ought to re-examine our commitment to happiness. It seems to me that there's possibly some merit -- if we persevere and have the sense to learn from it -- in the other-orientation that is (good) parenting. It's fine to go through life happy, in other words, but I suspect we also want to go through life without becoming big fat self-absorbed jackasses. Children really help in that regard.
I am always a bit bemused by these kinds of discussions. Not so much because I disagree with Ms. McArdle in any meaningful way, but because her conclusions seem so right, so obvious that I'm surprised there is any debate at all over whether intelligent people "ought" to have children? Can't smart folks just rely on someone else to do the dirty work of perpetuating the species? Weighted against the joys of unlimited choice and mass consumerism how can the mess, inconvenience, and momentary chaos of parenting justify so trivial a goal as the survival of our present way of life?
Let the next generation take care of themselves. We've got ours.
However heartening I may find Ms. McArdle's good sense, discussions like this only strengthen my view that the evolving social compact - with the nearly universal affluence and security it makes possible despite our best efforts - may be the ultimate form of moral hazard. Our great grandparents wouldn't recognize today's world. It is, to a degree unprecedented in human history, nearly worry free (if by worry one means the fear of death, extreme poverty, starvation). Ours is a world in which technology, global commerce, and the rule of law have replaced natural scarcity with artificial abundance. Gone are the Great Famines that plagued mankind for centuries. Mass starvation has given way to the "food crisis". For competition and natural selection we have substituted mandated cooperation and the state sponsored safety net:
Through an array of birth-to-death social services that are either free of charge or subsidized according one's income, the state redistributes income widely. There is no reason for anyone in the Netherlands to be without a suitable home, to cut short his or her education anytime before senility or even to give any thought to feeding and clothing one's children. The Dutch have decided that a good society is a compassionate society, and so people should provide for one another's dignity and basic quality of life ... but only through the state. People needn't actually have anything to do with one another directly.
As we get better at insulating ourselves from the predictable results of our own freely made decisions, it is perhaps not surprising that even tragedy has been defined down to the level of an unfortunate lifestyle choice. For the vast majority of Americans the worst case is no longer starvation, disgrace and a lifetime of penury but the heartbreak of being asked to repay an adjustable rate mortgage on terms agreed to in advance. The paradoxical consequences of our national war on cause and effect are encapsulated in a nifty little theory called the Peltzman Effect:
It seems that the appearance of removing the risk, even if it’s only marginally safer makes people behave disproportionately to the added benefit of the safety net. The net effect seems to be that people feel even more detached from the consequences of their decisions. The safety nets, the ropes, and the ABS brakes may actually encourage more risk taking and be less safe.
As it turns out, human beings are a lot better at evaluating small risks than taking precautions against big ones. In blissful denial of this fact, our government appears to be engaged in the process of institutionalizing systemic risk.
There is something deeply wrong with a world in which academic theories have replaced accumulated experience to the extent that we seriously wonder whether we have any duty to future generations? The reality fairy seems to have gone missing, leaving us to debate eternal questions in a consequence free zone; a moral vacuum in which utility is defined as "what pleases me now". But what do I know? I lived my life exactly backwards so undoubtedly my priorities are all wrong.
It would be easy to see my attitude towards parenting as some sort of post hoc rationalization for having squandered every opportunity I was ever given. I was raised in an upper middle class household, graduated from an expensive and well regarded private school and gained admission to an Ivy League school I attended for less than a year before dropping out and eventually marrying the boy who invited me to my high school Senior Prom.
By 23 - an age at which most young women of my class were working at white collar jobs and dating handsome young men with "potential" - I had a high school education, two small boys, barely enough money to scrape along from paycheck to paycheck and a brand new mortgage at 13% interest. In theory at least, my life should have felt much like this:
There was a day a few weeks ago when I found my 2½-year-old son sitting on our building doorstep, waiting for me to come home. He spotted me as I was rounding the corner, and the scene that followed was one of inexpressible loveliness, right out of the movie I’d played to myself before actually having a child, with him popping out of his babysitter’s arms and barreling down the street to greet me. This happy moment, though, was about to be cut short, and in retrospect felt more like a tranquil lull in a slasher film. When I opened our apartment door, I discovered that my son had broken part of the wooden parking garage I’d spent about an hour assembling that morning. This wouldn’t have been a problem per se, except that as I attempted to fix it, he grew impatient and began throwing its various parts at the walls, with one plank very narrowly missing my eye. I recited the rules of the house (no throwing, no hitting). He picked up another large wooden plank. I ducked. He reached for the screwdriver. The scene ended with a time-out in his crib.
As I shuffled back to the living room, I thought of something a friend once said about the Children’s Museum of Manhattan—“a nice place, but what it really needs is a bar”—and rued how, at that moment, the same thing could be said of my apartment. Two hundred and 40 seconds earlier, I’d been in a state of pair-bonded bliss; now I was guided by nerves, trawling the cabinets for alcohol.
The difference between my experience and the author's is a simple one: I couldn't afford a babysitter. Ever. Grown up time was an act of will; a function of regular schedules and 6:30 bedtimes, a living room (complete with hand me down silk damask Chippendale sofa) that my boys were only allowed into on special occasions and a steely eyed determination to give my marriage top priority and relegate my small children to a loving second place in my life.
That's not to say that I didn't spend the lion's share of my time changing diapers, reading stories, finger painting and wiping little noses. Like every other stay at home mother I knew, my days were filled with escaped gerbils and other forms of barely controlled mayhem. Remembering my dating days, I sometimes longed to smell jasmine and honeysuckle instead of freshly cut grass and cherry Koolaid.
But although I sometimes felt restless and often felt exasperated and exhausted, I don't ever remember being unhappy. I also don't recall feeling as out of control as parents of small children seem today:
“I’m going to count to three.”
It’s a weekday evening, and the mother in this videotape, a trim brunette with her hair in a bun and glasses propped up on her head, has already worked a full day and made dinner. Now she is approaching her 8-year-old son, the oldest of two, who’s seated at the computer in the den, absorbed in a movie. At issue is his homework, which he still hasn’t done.
“One. Two …”
This clip is from a study conducted by UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families, which earned a front-page story in the Sunday Times this May and generated plenty of discussion among parents. In it, researchers collected 1,540 hours of footage of 32 middle-class, dual-earner families with at least two children, all of them going about their regular business in their Los Angeles homes. The intention of this study was in no way to make the case that parents were unhappy. But one of the postdoctoral fellows who worked on it, himself a father of two, nevertheless described the video data to the Times as “the very purest form of birth control ever devised. Ever.”
“I have to get it to the part and then pause it,” says the boy.
“No,” says his mother. “You do that after you do your homework.”
Tamar Kremer-Sadlik, the director of research in this study, has watched this scene many times. The reason she believes it’s so powerful is because it shows how painfully parents experience the pressure of making their children do their schoolwork. They seem to feel this pressure even more acutely than their children feel it themselves.
The boy starts to shout. “It’s not going to take that long!”
His mother stops the movie. “I’m telling you no,” she says. “You’re not hearing me. I will not let you watch this now.”
He starts up the movie again.
“No,” she repeats, her voice rising. She places her hand firmly under her son’s arm and starts to yank. “I will not have this— ”
I don't think I was three sentences into that vignette before I thought, "For Pete's sake, you're the parent. You're supposed to be in charge."
"Turn the *&^% computer off!".
For some reason I found myself thinking of a 20th century sociologist named Emile Durkheim. Durkheim's work focused on the relationships between individuals, culture and society: the thousand ties that bind us together and shape both our inner lives and our responses to external events. The modern world is preoccupied with individual happiness and identity. We're taught that the path to self fulfillment lies in avoiding the confining traps of other people's expectations, but Durkheim's genius was his ability to show how much our individual happiness depends on our connections to those around us. The very things we're told are antithetical to individual happiness - overcoming hardship, duty, responsibility, community, commitment, the confining presence of societal norms and expectations - turn out to be be the things we need to feel fully alive.
All these things - the things that matter - are why we have children. Children are both a repayment on the debt we owe our parents and an investment in the future. They bind and connect us to the past as they begin to shape a tomorrow none of us will live to see. Children are - quite simply - the infrastructure of civilization and no civilization of any worth can continue to exist if the current generation fails to build upon the contributions of their ancestors. Why would we ever expect otherwise?
The seductive lure of aggressive individualism ignores one of the most basic of human desires: the need to belong to something larger than ourselves. This is something religion used to provide but faith has been replaced by an oddly disconnected form of humanism that seems to place the seat of happiness firmly in the human belly button.
Over the past year I've been organizing and scanning old family photos. It began with our own collection - over 30 years and several generations. I've watched our children grow up, get married, have children of their own. My parents' and in laws' hair has slowly turned from sable to silver. Recently I began scanning boxes of slides from my parents' basement.
My childhood, and my brother's. Our wedding back in 1979. Ancient history.
And as the parade of faces has slowly passed in review I've been reminded of the thousand connections: memories, the ghost of my grandfather in the faces of my father, eldest son' and now grandson. The echoes of my mother in the way I brought up my own two boys.
My pesky little brother's elfin grin in my niece and nephew.
And then there's the photo I like best so far: a little girl practicing her mothering skills.
There are so many things that little girl could have been: a lawyer, a college professor, a cop, a doctor, a writer. Unlike generations of women before her, she had choices.
Many of them were sacrificed on the altar of marriage and motherhood. The feminism I grew up with would consider my life to have been wasted - a sad tale of unused potential and outdated, stifling gender roles. But when I look back on my life, any regrets I feel will be because I spent too little rather than too much time with the people I love most. They - and not the lofty prizes I was urged to strive for during my youth - have brought me the deepest contentment, the fullest sense of pride, the most lasting joy.
In a few weeks I'll be going to the beach. The house will be full of parents, grandparents, great grandparents, brothers and sisters in law, nieces, nephews, sons, daughters, wives, husbands, grandchildren and no doubt crying babies. I'm sure it will be too crowded and too noisy and not terribly relaxing. We'll probably get on each other's nerves a lot.
There in one little house will be my life and my life's work. My family.
I can't wait.
July 06, 2010
Keep Reachin' for the Stars, America
You're bound to hit... errr.... something:
When I became the NASA Administrator . . . [Obama] charged me with three things: One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, [second,] he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.
Apparently, what formerly took two single nations working independently now takes an entire village. Now that's change the world can believe in!
Later in the interview, Bolden discussed NASA’s goal of greater international cooperation in space exploration. He said the United States, more than 40 years after the first moon mission, cannot reach beyond earth’s orbit today without assistance from abroad:
In his message in Cairo, [Obama] talked about expanding our international outreach, expanding our international involvement. We’re not going to go anywhere beyond low earth orbit as a single entity. The United States can’t do it, China can’t do it — no single nation is going to go to a place like Mars alone.
On the bright side, with such inspiring example of the benefits of multinational consensus and cooperation, how can we go wrong?
There He Goes...
...showing off his weiner again:
Unintended Consequences 102
This seems unbearably sad:
Her daughter, Johanna, could easily help her with these tasks. In fact, Mrs. van Breda asked Johanna, who also cleans houses, if she would like to help in place of the state worker. It's better that the money benefit her family, after all. But Johanna said no: Why bother helping her mother when the government will do it?
When she developed arthritis, the state sent around someone to change the handles on all her doors and the taps on her faucets. In a less "compassionate" society, measured very narrowly by how much the government does, her sons-in-law or grandsons would swing by and take care of that sort of thing. But there is no need, and so they do not - and they would not.
Ironically, but perhaps not surprisingly, the Netherlands' "compassionate" social policy, with its preference for state provision, has made individual Dutch people less compassionate. A 2006 international study of charitable giving found that the supposedly less compassionate Americans individually gave 1.67 percent of the country's gross domestic product to charity. The Dutch gave just 0.45 percent, and the more moderate Canadians and British gave 0.72 percent and 0.73 percent respectively. Mrs. van Breda's expatriate son, Pieter, who lives in New York, notes that people have become personally unmindful of the needy as a result of these social-welfare policies. Personal relations are colder, he says, more businesslike, even within families.
The Dutch government serves Johanna's mother because it serves everyone, securing a minimal standard of living for all to enjoy. Through an array of birth-to-death social services that are either free of charge or subsidized according one's income, the state redistributes income widely. There is no reason for anyone in the Netherlands to be without a suitable home, to cut short his or her education anytime before senility or even to give any thought to feeding and clothing one's children. The Dutch have decided that a good society is a compassionate society, and so people should provide for one another's dignity and basic quality of life ... but only through the state. People needn't actually have anything to do with one another directly.
Most of us, when we count the things that truly make us happy, would rank personal connections - even with all the inconvenience and annoyance they sometimes entail - at the top of the list and possessions near the bottom. There are some things the State was never meant to do for us.
Caring for each other is one of those things.
Does Separate, But Equal Yield Better Academic Outcomes?
Perhaps when it comes to learning:
...suppose integration doesn't change the culture of underperformance? What if integration inadvertently created that culture in the first place? This is the startling hypothesis of Stuart Buck's Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation. Buck argues that the culture of academic underachievement among black students was unknown before the late 1960s. It was desegregation that destroyed thriving black schools where black faculty were role models and nurtured excellence among black students. In the most compelling chapter of Acting White, Buck describes that process and the anguished reactions of the black students, teachers, and communities that had come to depend on the rich educational and social resource in their midst.
Buck draws on empirical studies that suggest a correlation between integrated schools and social disapproval of academic success among black students. He also cites the history of desegregation's effect on black communities and interviews with black students to back up a largely compelling—and thoroughly disturbing—story. Desegregation introduced integrated schools where most of the teachers and administrators were white and where, because of generations of educational inequality, most of the best students were white. Black students bused into predominantly white schools faced hostility and contempt from white students. They encountered the soft prejudice of low expectations from racist teachers who assumed blacks weren't capable and from liberals who coddled them. Academic tracking shunted black students into dead-end remedial education. The effect was predictably, and deeply, insidious. The alienation typical of many young people of all races acquired a racial dimension for black students: Many in such schools began to associate education with unsympathetic whites, to reject their studies, and to ostracize academically successful black students for "acting white."
I find this idea fascinating. This may be one of those inconvenient times when reality is a lot messier than academic theories. Studies have cast doubt on the salutory effects of diversity:
"New evidence from the US suggests that in ethnically diverse neighborhoods residents of all races tend to 'hunker down.' Trust (even of one's own race) is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer...Inhabitants of diverse communities tend to withdraw from collective life, to distrust their neighbors, regardless of the color of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television. Note that this pattern encompasses attitudes and behavior, bridging and bonding social capital, public and private connections. Diversity, at least in the short run, seems to bring out the turtle in all of us."
And it's not just racial/ethnic diversity that may hinder academic achievement - both boys and girls seem to benefit from single sex education. The real tragedy is that even with the supposedly "leveling" effect of modern technology, at the end of the day we still bond mainly with people just like ourselves:
The diversity of core discussion networks has markedly declined; discussion networks are less likely to contain nonkin -- that is, people who are not relatives by blood or marriage; although the decline is not as steep as has been previously reported.
Wouldn't it be ironic if it turned out that all this forced inclusivity is pushing us in the wrong direction - making us a less tolerant and diverse society?
Unintended Consequences 101
A revolt among big donors on Wall Street is hurting fundraising for the Democrats' two congressional campaign committees, with contributions from the world's financial capital down 65 percent from two years ago.
The drop in support comes from many of the same bankers, hedge fund executives and financial services chief executives who are most upset about the financial regulatory reform bill that House Democrats passed last week with almost no Republican support. The Senate expects to take up the measure this month.
This fundraising free fall from the New York area has left Democrats with diminished resources to defend their House and Senate majorities in November's midterm elections. Although the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have seen just a 16 percent drop in overall donations compared with this stage of the 2008 campaign, party leaders are concerned about the loss of big-dollar donors. The two congressional committees have raised $49.5 million this election cycle from people giving $1,000 or more at a time, compared with $81.3 million at this point in the last election.
Almost half of that decline in large-dollar fundraising can be attributed to New York,
People can be so ungrateful. I wonder if bowing will help?
The British National Health Service continues to impress:
As public sector managers look to find ever more creative ways of saving money, they would do well to study the enterprising thinking of NHS Kensington & Chelsea.
During a House of Commons speech yesterday Conservative MP Penny Mordaunt let slip that, prior to 2002, a hospital ward in the borough was hired out for the filming of a "big budget" pornographic movie.
The title of the film has yet to emerge, but it took place in a closed yet "fully-equipped" ward. It is also unclear whether the hospital was aware of the genre of film, or if it provided any technical support.
Not. going. there.
July 05, 2010
The Declaration of Independence, Deconstructed
Who among us hasn't heard one or another on the Left say something like, "Well, this BP thing sure shows the case for Big Government, doesn't it?" The idea of Constitutionalism is ignored: that it is not a case of "big" versus "small" government, but of government restricted to its proper place and role. The seas have always been the Federal government's responsibility: they have the right to maintain a navy, and to set maritime rules, and rules governing letters of marque and reprisal, and so forth. It was clearly the Founder's intent that the deep waters should be a Federal concern.
The government has abandoned all traditional restraints and limits, and as a consequence it cannot, or will not, perform its actual duties.
The other day during a discussion about the proper functions of government, I argued precisely the same thing. I don't want the government to do things for me and my family that we are quite capable of doing for ourselves.
What I want government to do is provide things we - and no family - can do for ourselves: keep our borders secure, defend against attacks by other nations, coordinate (note the deliberate use of "coordinate" rather than "control") disaster relief efforts, provide the infrastructure that allows States to trade and citizens to travel freely. How did we get to the behemoth that is today's federal government from where we started in 1776?
Another interesting view of the Declaration is this "translation" into the vernacular:
WHEN things get so balled up that the people of a country got to cut loose from some other country, and go it on their own hook, without asking no permission from nobody, excepting maybe God Almighty, then they ought to let everybody know why they done it, so that everybody can see they are not trying to put nothing over on nobody.
All we got to say on this proposition is this: first, me and you is as good as anybody else, and maybe a damn sight better; second, nobody ain't got no right to take away none of our rights; third, every man has got a right to live, to come and go as he pleases, and to have a good time whichever way he likes, so long as he don't interfere with nobody else. That any government that don't give a man them rights ain't worth a damn; also, people ought to choose the kind of government they want themselves, and nobody else ought to have no say in the matter. That whenever any government don't do this, then the people have got a right to give it the bum's rush and put in one that will take care of their interests. Of course, that don't mean having a revolution every day like them South American yellowbellies, or every time some jobholder goes to work and does something he ain't got no business to do. It is better to stand a little graft, etc., than to have revolutions all the time, like them coons, and any man that wasn't a anarchist or one of them I.W.W.'s would say the same. But when things get so bad that a man ain't hardly got no rights at all no more, but you might almost call him a slave, then everybody ought to get together and throw the grafters out, and put in new ones who won't carry on so high and steal so much, and then watch them. This is the proposition the people of these Colonies is up against, and they have got tired of it, and won't stand it no more. The administration of the present King, George III, has been rotten from the start, and when anybody kicked about it he always tried to get away with it by strong-arm work.
Revolutionary words, indeed.
Update: if the Declaration were Tweeted.
July 04, 2010
Born on the Fourth of July
Story over at Big Peace.
More on the venture here.
The Fourth of July Essays
I'd like to thank David Foster for reminding me to take a look through the archives. These are essays I've written in previous years - some I'd completely forgotten!
I'll be writing a bit later but in the meantime, enjoy.
2007: Brave New World:
Those who "don't believe in war" might take a moment on July 4th to consider that it was war that made America possible. Without men willing to defend those hallowed sentiments in the Declaration of Independence, they would not be worth the paper they are written on. Our rights are not simply given to us - either by a loving God or a benevolent and all knowing government. They are created and defined each time we stand up for them.
Even at the risk of our lives.
The Fourth of July allows us to remember that words alone cannot make men free - they must be backed by the will to defend those freedoms. And it is a reminder of something else - that though all men may be created equal in the eyes of justice, all forms of government are most decidedly not equal when it comes to protecting individual liberty. Our task as Americans is to take those two ideas to heart.
2008: A Love Letter to America:
America is not a destination but a journey and in loving her, we must not become so firmly fixed upon the goal that we lose heart when we stumble a time or two upon the road. For stumble we will. After all, we are but human; all too imperfect clay with which to form the more perfect union our founding fathers envisioned.
I love this country because she was born in turmoil; baptized by fire and lighting; conceived from the highest aspirations of Enlightenment thinkers: from words that ring as true today as they did over two hundred years ago...
This essay, written back in 2005, is unquestionably my favorite. It was written during a very dark time in the war. We were losing a lot of good men and women and the notion that we might eventually prevail in Iraq seemed almost delusional. And yet we persevered.
We would like certainty. We would like painless progress. We would like closure. We will not get any of those things.
On July 4th we must ask ourselves, what do we believe? Our military - brand new immigrants who enlist before the ink is dry on their visas - believe in those words so strongly that they will lay down their lives to spread the fire of democracy. They also believe (as I do) that their purpose is to serve American foreign policy aims, no matter how abstract and long-term they may seem. No matter how difficult to explain to the American people. No matter how frustrating in the short term.
What kind of world will we bequeath to our grandchildren? It may be that long before we know. But our actions today will have an incalculable effect on that far-off tomorrow. And if our policy is not firmly grounded in the spread of those long-ago words:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights...
...then I wonder if we shall not be the first Americans who fail to pass the blessings of liberty on to the next generation?
July 03, 2010
Saying "Thank You" to Those Who Guarantee our Freedoms
Most of us will spend this Fourth of July weekend grilling, drinking beer and watching fireworks.
But how many of us will remember the men and women who make our freedoms possible? I'd like to ask each of you to consider doing two things this holiday weekend:
1. Say a prayer for the men and women of our armed forces and their families. After a long deployment, I am lucky to have my husband safely home but so many other families are not so fortunate.
2. Thank a milblogger. As I noted earlier in the week, many in the Milblogs community have paid a steep price for their service and yet they have responded not by feeling sorry for themselves but by reaching out to help others. I'm not even going to attempt a full listing, but here are a few to get you started:
Stop by and say, "thank you" in their comments sections. And feel free to add to the list here in the comments at VC.
3. Take a moment to remember the cost of liberty. I will be writing more about this tomorrow but in the meantime two young Marines are celebrating the blessings of liberty in a particularly fitting manner. As Greta explains, wounded soldiers and Marines are often medevac'd wearing only the clothes on their backs - often clothing that is torn, burn, and shredded (or even cut off to allow medical staff access to their wounds). There is no time to gather up their personal belongings. On arrival at Landstuhl, these wounded warriors are greeted by a caring staff of military professionals and civilian volunteers who ensure that they are taken care of:
Crucial to Soldiers’ Angels Germany mission, is keeping a storage room full of goods to distribute to those who are there in need of medical care. Often wounded heroes arrive at the hospital after being airlifted from the battlefield. MaryAnn said to me, “What a wonderful act of love it is, to hand a hero a backpack full of comfort items, clothing and blankets that were donated by Americans back home who truly care about them.” When items arrive in bulk: such as a box full of sweatpants, a box full of blankets or a box full of calling cards, it makes it much easier for the volunteers to sort and organize the items for distribution.
Mark has decided to undertake the task of a 24 hour collection over the 3rd and 4th of July by doing a midnight to midnight vigil. He will be in his Dress Blues, standing at the Position of Attention in between an American Flag and the Marine Corps colors waiting for people to come and donate at the corner of SR 26 and Creasy Lane, in Lafayette, Indiana. While the collection efforts will continue on into the future, this will be the last day he will be out in his uniform soliciting directly to the public for donations. He has referred to what he’s doing as “Standing for the Fallen.”
Since we can’t all be in Indiana, if you would like to make a donation of goods, you may contact markatjunepalms dot com (written this way to control spam). The Marine Corps league will also accept financial donations for this project, please contact Mark for additional information.
Some might think that Mark has already done enough to serve his country, yet he has chosen to stand for long hours in his dress blues in the summer sun. Anyone who has ever worn the uniform knows it is made of wool and (although it looks sharp) is anything but comfortable. Before you relax by the pool or on the patio with a cold beer, take a moment to match Mark's service with a small sacrifice of your own. You won't be sorry.
The second Marine is Corporal Todd Nicely. This week Todd returned home to his family and friends:
Todd's story is an inspiring one:
After regaining consciousness at Maryland's Bethesda Naval Medical Center, one of the first things Todd requested was a beer. The doctors allowed him a few sips.
Todd's swift progress is an amazing testimony to his strength, determination, and courage. He began using arm prosthetics mere weeks after the explosion that nearly took his life and just last week stood up on his "stubbies", the first step to full-length leg prosthetics. Most of Todd's time is spent as an outpatient. Recently, he flew to North Carolina to welcome the Marines from his unit back home.
Todd and his family are still at the very beginning of a long journey that will involve a year or more at Walter Reed Army Medical Center as he heals and learns to use his prosthetics. During this time he will draw on the strength of his loved ones. His wife, parents and siblings are committed to being there for him. His brother Ricky, who had planned to enlist in the Army, now plans to remain with Todd as long as needed.
Many young men, having lost so much, would give in to bitterness and despair. Instead, Todd has chosen to view the glass as half full - he has been given another chance at life and love. His young bride is a fitting match for his courage and resolve:
I know it's a lot to take in... at first your mind takes you to the worst place... but I can say that when I saw him for the first time all I saw was the man whom I fell in love with, my best friend, and the man I'm going to grow old with.
The Nicely's have the love of family and friends but Todd and his wife are facing a lengthy recovery period in which they will have face many challenges, not the least of which are ongoing medical and travel expenses. I can't think of any more fitting way to celebrate the 4th of July than by giving a little back to these fine young men who have given us so very much. Donation info at MaryAnn's, and many thanks to MaryAnn and Greta for all they do.
They won't thank me for saying so, but to me they are heroes too.
P.S. Please consider passing this information on. We often hear about the need to celebrate the true meaning of various holidays. Well, this is the true meaning of Independence Day - freedom entails continual sacrifice by men and women we will never know.
I hope it also earns our gratitude.
Protecting the Powerful and Ignoring the Afflicted
A damning indictment of our so-called free and independent media:
A whistleblower makes explosive allegations about the Department of Justice; his story is backed by at least two other witnesses; and the allegations involve the two hot-button issues of race and of blatant politicization of the justice system. A potential constitutional confrontation stemming from the scandal brews between the Justice Department and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. A congressman highly respected for thoughtfulness and bipartisanship has all but accused the department of serious impropriety. By every standard of objective journalism, this adds up to real news.
Or it would be real news if a Republican Justice Department stood accused. It would be real news if the liberal media weren't mostly in the tank for our celebrated but failing first black president.
It seems apt that it was a Chicago journalist - Finley Peter Dunne - who first coined the maxim later embraced by the media to describe their primary duty. His memorable phrase so impressed readers that it was repeated and reinvented by such diverse figures as Mother Jones, Claire Boothe Luce, and the Archibishop of Canterbury.
The version most of us would recognize instantly appeared in the movie Inherit the Wind:
"Mr. Brady, it is the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable".
But Dunne's original quote conveyed a far less noble picture of the press. The language has been modernized to make it more easily understandable but the original quote can be read here:
"The newspaper does everything for us. It runs the police force and the banks, commands the militia, controls the legislature, baptizes the young, marries the foolish, comforts the afflicted, afflicts the comfortable, buries the dead and roasts them afterward".
Under a Democratic president, the press have chosen to protect the powerful and ignore the afflicted. They wink at governmental corruption and abuse of power rather than exposing them.
Is it any surprise that the media have lost the trust of the public they claim to protect?
July 02, 2010
Sexism, Misogyny, Misandry? VC Asks, You Decide
I'm creating a new category - Sexism Watch - rather than continuing to put these items under Battle of the Sexes.
The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that both men and women have all kinds of attitudes towards the opposite sex that, whether or not they translate into actual sexism in practice, aren't terribly different.
I don't like the terms "misandry" and "misogyny". Over the years I've stayed away from using labels like misogyny because it seems odd to me (on the one hand) to insist that there are very real differences between men and women and on the other, to characterize any mention of these differences or the disparate public policy preferences that might flow from honest contemplation of these differences as as "misogyny".
Misogyny isn't discrimination or disparate treatment. It is - quite literally - contempt of or hatred for women. As a woman I neither hold women in contempt nor hate them and yet I favor some forms of legalized discrimination against women and oppose some forms of legalized preferences for my own sex. I do so, not from any dislike of women, but as a function of the costs and benefits such policies entail for society at large.
Lately I've noticed the term "misandry" being used indiscriminately to describe any language or policy that is perceived as being unfair to (or disparaging of) traditional masculinity or men. There's just one problem with that: that's not what misandry means. Misandry is hatred or contempt for men. Using hyperbolic and exaggerated language when it's not warranted has the effect of defining real hatred/contempt for men down. It's precisely the kind of "shaming language" feminists have used for decades to discourage debate and discredit opposing viewpoints without the tiresome necessity of actually having to demonstrate why they're wrong.
Such hyperbolic debate tactics are nothing more than thinly veiled ad hominems that seek to discredit an idea by impugning the motives of the speaker rather than discrediting the idea by demonstrating why it is wrong. The intended message is, "All those who believe X do so because they hate cute, fluffy yellow ducklings. Since it is irrational to hate cute, fluffy ducklings of any color, the ideas of duck hating haters can be dismissed without further examination".
It's what Thomas Sowell - in a phrase I just love - calls "arguments without arguments":
Sowell is perhaps more convincing when he identifies the demonization of opponents as the favorite rebuttal of the anointed. The refusal to accept the goodwill of one's opponents — as a starting point for honest debate — is an all too common device employed by the anointed, according to Sowell and this writer's personal experience. This often leads right away to personal attacks. From John Stuart Mills' admonition of Conservatives as the Party of Stupid to pacifist J.B. Priestley's assertion that the British public favored war only out of ennui and the desire for patriotic displays, Sowell portrays the ad hominem as a first line of attack.
Should insults fail, the assumption of the moral high ground is the second wave of attack: How can one defeat an opponent who presents him or herself as more compassionate toward fellow humans or presents themselves as more caring about the beauty of nature and the state of the environment? As Sowell aptly puts it:While the conflicts between the tragic vision and the vision of the anointed can lead to innumerable arguments on a wide range of issues, these can also lead to presentations of views that take the outward form of an argument without the inner substance of facts or analysis — in other words, arguments without arguments.
I've never seen any evidence that men are any more sexist than women. On the other hand, I've seen no evidence that they're any less sexist than women. Since it's Friday and this has been a really long week, today I'm just going to throw out some amusing items and let you all do with them what you will.
Men of VC, science comes to your rescue:
Guys who hate going to the store have the perfect excuse to stay home: Shopping could render them impotent. Some receipts harbor a gender-bending chemical that could suppress male hormones in the body, according to research reported in the Daily Mail.
The hazardous compound, known as Bisphenol A (BPA), can be ingested by shoppers when they handle their receipts and then handle food or touch their mouth, researchers found.
"A substance like that could shift the balance of the sex hormones in men towards estrogen," said Berlin-based urologist Frank Sommer, according to the Daily Mail. "In the long term, this leads to less sexual drive, encourages the belly instead of the muscles to grow and has a bad effect on erection and potency."
So the next time your SO tries to drag you to Bed, Bath and Bored Beyond Belief, you may thank the Editorial Staff for providing you with an ironclad excuse.
Golddiggers can't help it - they're wired that way:
Researchers say that women with low IQ's are much likelier to pursue rich men than females who have higher intellects.
The experts say the reason is not so much naked greed, rather an instinctive urge to guarantee a secure financial future for any potential children.
The study may throw a fresh perspective on the actions of the late Playboy model and school drop-out Anna Nicole Smith, who was dubbed a 'gold-digging blonde bimbo' after she married 89-year-old billionaire James Howard Marshall.
Moral of the story: if all the women you date seem to be unduly entranced with your wallet, perhaps your own selection criteria merit a second look?
Who can identify the problem with this virtuoso display of confirmation bias masquerading as "science"? (courtesy of Fuzzy)
… single moms tend to be more involved, set more rules, communicate better, and feel closer to their children than single dads. They have less difficulty monitoring their children’s whereabouts, friendships, and school progress. Their children do better on standardized tests and have higher grades, and teenagers of single moms are actually less likely to engage in delinquent behavior or substance abuse than those of single dads. Go, Murphy Brown.
The quality of parenting, Biblarz and Stacey say, is what really matters, not gender. But the real challenge to our notion of the “essential” father might well be the lesbian mom. On average, lesbian parents spend more time with their children than fathers do. They rate disputes with their children as less frequent than do hetero couples, and describe co-parenting more compatibly and with greater satisfaction. Their kids perceive their parents to be more available and dependable than do the children of heteros. They also discuss more emotional issues with their parents. They have fewer behavioral problems, and show more interest in and try harder at school.
I see several logical errors. And not just for the authors' position.
Children who converse with their father “most days” rated themselves 87 out of 100 on a happiness scale, while those who rarely talk to their dads scored a 79. The study results, released by the Children’s Society in Great Britain just in time for Father’s Day, called the findings “highly significant” because research has demonstrated that a person’s well-being later in life has a lot to do with their relationship with both parents during the teen years.
Of the 1,200 children in the study, who were 11 to 15, nearly 50% said they “hardly ever” talk to their dads about important subjects, as compared with just 28% who report rarely discussing important subjects with their moms.
Just plain good news (except for those Dads who don't believe they ought to have to support their own kids):
When Penn State sociologist and demographer Paul Amato researched changes in nonresident father-child contact over the past 30 years, he found substantial increases in the amount of contact. The percentage of fathers who reported no contact with their children went from 37% in 1976 to 29% in 2002.
Amato, whose work was published in the journal Demography, learned that nonresident dads’ involvement in their kids’ lives varied. Some 38% were highly involved, but 32% were rarely involved. The highly involved dads tended to have kids who were older at the time of the breakup. They were likely to have been married at one time and to have paid child support.
Yikes. A woman's work is never done.
Nearly ten per cent of women wear false or acrylic nails and nearly one in twenty wear extensions in their hair to make it more full and lustrous.
More than half of girls regularly get their hair highlighted or coloured and 19 per cent regularly resort to wearing fake tan to look more sun-kissed.
One in twenty secretly apply false eyelashes and nearly one in twenty have even tried coloured contact lenses and ultra expensive teeth veneers to appear more beautiful - and still kept quiet.
An honest 17 per cent said that people would be utterly shocked if they saw how they looked minus hair extensions, fake tan and perfectly waxed eyebrows.
WOMEN'S TOP BEAUTY CHEATS
1. Shave or wax legs
2. Plucking eyebrows
3. Applying make-up
4. Shave or wax underarms
5. Highlighting / colouring hair
7. Fake tan
8. False / acrylic nails
9. Wax or shave bikini line
10. Bleach facial hair
11. False eyelashes It'
12. Hair extensions
13. Waxing facial hair
14. Pluck nose hair
15. Regular facials
16. Wear coloured contact lenses
17. Teeth Veneers
18. Eyelash extensions
20. Permanent make-up
July 01, 2010
I blame feminism and an uncaring, gyno-normative societal construct.
Meretricious Legal Grandstanding Move of the Day
There's something amusing about watching shameless political grandstanding beget shameless legal grandstanding:
The gay soldiers arrested outside the White House protesting "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will annouce today that they're demanding that President Obama testify in their trial on minor civil disobedience charges.
Their novel argument: Obama himself called on gay rights advocates to pressure him, so they were just following orders.
Nice try, morons. Last time I checked, servicemen and women have no duty to obey an unlawful order.
A still, small voice tells me that repeatedly demonstrating that you think you're above the law does little to reassure those who doubt your willingness to place your country above your sense of self interest.
On the other hand, there is considerable entertainment value in watching our President being hoist by his own petard. Carry on.
...we are all about the giving:
If practice makes perfect, men should have the clear edge in beer tasting, since they account for 72.8% of the world's beer sales, according to market-research firm Datamonitor Group. But SABMiller, which makes Pilsner Urquell, Peroni and Grolsch in addition to Miller and Coors brands, says its empirical evidence shows that females are the superior sex when it comes to detecting such undesirable chemicals as 3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol, which makes beer "skunky."
Finding the very best tasters is crucial to the beer industry. Tasting panels ensure that the beer spilling out of the tanks each day conforms with the specific characteristics for each brand—such as the mild fruit flavor in Coors Light or the dry finish of Peroni. Tasters also help brewers decide how long their beers will stay fresh on store shelves, and what new products to introduce.
Today, 30% of SABMiller's 1,000 advanced-level tasters are female, Mr. Axcell says. The number of women tasters has roughly quadrupled in 10 years.
Admit it, gentlemen. You love us.
It's That Time Again....
That moment VC-ers wait for with trembling anticipation each year:
For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss--a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil.
Of course the subtle literary stylings of the Bulwer-Lytton Contest cannot be fully appreciated without taking a trip down memory lane to July of 2004:
It was a dark and stormy night, jet black as the plush leather seats of the Mazda RX8 that gripped Delilah's trembling thighs like an overzealous car salesman on a slow afternoon, the inky void relieved only by the eerily grinning face of the Bose radio dial... as her sandaled toe caressed the clutch gently to the floor and she experienced what she could only describe thereinafter as a low polar moment of yaw inertia, she was confidently aware that the pre-loaded multilink design in back would minimize any lag in rear suspension response as she headed into a steep curve and she suddenly knew she would never go back to Brett...it was over.
Hard to believe it's been 6 years, isn't it? It feels like just yesterday.