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August 31, 2010

"Confidence and Commitment"?

"...this milestone should serve as a reminder to all Americans that the future is ours to shape if we move forward with confidence and commitment.

- Barack Obama, August 31, 2010

Does this sound like "confidence and commitment" to you? Because it sure doesn't to this Marine wife:

“I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.”

- Senator Barack Obama responds to the State of the Union Address, January 10, 2007

"So I am going to actively oppose the president's proposal. … I think he is wrong, and I think the American people believe he's wrong"
January, 2007 again: "We cannot impose a military solution on what has effectively become a civil war," ...until we acknowledge that reality, we can send 15,000 more troops, 20,000 more troops, 30,000 more troops. I don't know any expert on the region or any military officer that I've spoken to privately that believe that that is going to make a substantial difference on the situation on the ground."
July, 2007: "Here's what we know: the surge has not worked."
January, 2008: I had no doubt -- and I said at the time, when I opposed the surge, that given how wonderfully our troops perform, if we place 30,000 more troops in there, then we would see an improvement in the security situation and we would see a reduction in the violence."
July 15, 2008: Barack Obama's aides have removed criticism of President Bush's increase of troops to Iraq from the campaign Web site, part of an effort to update the Democrat's written war plan to reflect changing conditions.

I'll say one thing for Robert Gibbs - the man earns his salary:

"Confidence and commitment": if Obama's speech writers wanted to invite a comparison between the current and former occupants of the Oval Office, they could hardly have placed their boss in a worse light. The phrase only serves to remind us of qualities George Bush possessed in abundance - and Obama does not.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:44 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

A Man in Full

Via pond, this story in the Washington Post:

I met Roy in early 2007. I was the leader of a reconnaissance platoon of scouts and snipers in Iraq and was just back from a two-week leave in the United States. Roy was our new interpreter.

That night, my platoon was sent out on a raid. Our target was an al-Qaeda suicide-attack coordinator. Scanning the intelligence report, I learned that previous attempts to capture him had ended with his bodyguards detonating suicide vests and killing 16 Iraqi police officers. An image of my lead scout team entering a house in southern Baghdad and vanishing in a ball of fire flashed through my mind.

I gave my platoon a 30-second rundown of the situation and the mission, and we scattered to our vehicles. As I pulled on my night-vision goggles and the pitch blackness turned a glowing green, it hit me that less than 24 hours before, I was eating lunch at a Panera in Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport. Life is full of surprises.

But that night, at least, the surprises went our way. We raided the target's home without incident, capturing him while he slept in his bed. Later, as I watched two of my snipers lead the shuffling insurgent toward a U.S. prison in Baghdad, I saw what looked like a little kid in camouflage get out of the armored vehicle two down from mine.

I glanced at one of my scout team leaders. "Who let the 12-year-old out with us?"

"That's Roy, the new terp, sir."

"Does his mom know it's past his bedtime?"

I don't think there's a day that goes by that I don't feel guilty about not writing about the war. For years and years Iraq and Afghanistan were the topics I wrote about most - often 2 or 3 times a day.

The thing is, I've gotten to the point where I can't write about it without spending the entire day in tears. I hate myself for being such a wuss when there are people fighting and dying half a world away.

On the other hand, I get paid to be on the phone with clients all day and I can't cry on the phone. By the time I got halfway through the WaPo piece I had tears running down my face. Of course, the phone rang just then.

It was one of my oldest clients - a wonderful man I've worked with since 1999 (hard to believe). I know that he would have understood, but I couldn't ask him to call back without breaking down completely. Still, I want to thank pond for reminding me of what is important in life.

Men like Mohammed are important (and yes, I realize he was just a boy but his actions were those of a man). And we ought not to be ashamed to shed a few tears for them, and for their families. May God bring his mother comfort.

Update: also worth reading.

Although a majority of Americans had long since turned against the war by 2007, they understood that how we left Iraq, and the Iraq we left behind, mattered greatly. Those of us who had lived through Vietnam—a withdrawal under fire, a broken military, a national crisis of confidence—did not want to go there again. Albeit reluctantly, the American people gave the new strategy, and our men and women in uniform, the time they needed to succeed.

To his credit, President Obama has built on this success. As promised, he is continuing to bring our troops home but without jeopardizing what has been achieved. His next task is to realize a long-term diplomatic, economic and security partnership between Iraq and the United States. As he does so, it will help Iraqis achieve a brighter future and make the U.S. effort in Iraq a hard-won success for all Americans.

Pray for Iraq, for the men and women who served there, and the ones still serving there.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:56 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

BlogWorld Expo

I've been remiss about mentioning this, but Cassy Fiano was kind enough to ask me to participate in BlogWorld Expo this October. Take it away, Cassy!

The annual Blog World and New Media Expo is gearing up to take place this October in Las Vegas, and if you aren’t planning on coming, you should. This year, a free pass to the military track is being offered to all active duty military and veterans. Not a member of the military? Well, you should still consider coming, because it is going to be a great time. The amazing Greyhawk from the Mudville Gazette is the host/MC for this year’s military track.

And, OK, the entire military track doesn’t feature me. But I am going to be moderator for one of the panels. Here’s a little sneak peek of what we have planned for you:

Panel 1: Surprise for now
Panel 2: Social Media: Force Multiplier for Spouses?
Panel 3: Media and the Military: Myth versus Reality
Panel 4: Ideal versus Field: Social and New Media In Less Than The Best Circumstances

I'll be on Panel 2 - I won't be hard to recognize - I'll be the "seasoned" brunette sandwiched in between two smart and talented ConservaBabes: Cassy and Melissa Clouthier. Here's a preview of what's in store:

Social Media: Force Multiplier for Spouses? New and Social media have changed how spouses communicate with each other and share information within their companies and with other groups. It also is changing how spouses cope with the stresses of being separated and with having their other halves in harm’s way. Join spouse blogger and journalist Cassy Fiano, journalist and commentator Melissa Clouthier, and spouse blogger Cassandra of Villanous Company as they explore how changes in media and technology are changing the world of spouse blogging.

I'm looking forward to a spirited discussion, not to mention the chance to highlight some of the truly inspiring ways military families have turned the Internet into a do-it-yourself virtual family readiness network.

During the coming weeks I'll be writing more about this, but I wanted to get something up in time for those of you who might want to attend to make reservations and travel plans. Hope to see you there!

Posted by Cassandra at 11:14 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Coffee Snorter

The funny thing about this is that that's exactly how DI's sound when they lose their voices.

Via Matty O'Blackfive

Posted by Cassandra at 09:54 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Misandry Alert

Proof that women are naturally evil:

Sperm plays a more complicated role in the mating game than first thought, researchers at Australia's University of Adelaide said Wednesday.

Professor Sarah Robertson, from the University's Robinson Institute, said sperm "communicates" with the female reproductive tract and helps prepare the female body for nurturing a fetus. If the female system does not approve of the sperm's message, it could attack them.

"We have discovered that sperm doesn't just fertilize an egg," Robertson said. "It actually contains signaling molecules that are responsible for activating immune changes in women so they can accept a foreign substance in the body — in this case, sperm — leading to conception and a healthy pregnancy."

Researchers found that, similar to humans, not all male sperm is good at communicating and some female bodies have very high standards.

"The male provides the information that increases the chance of conception and progression to pregnancy, but the female body has a quality-control system which needs convincing that his sperm is compatible and also judges whether the conditions are right for reproducing," Robertson said.

I'm sure I'll go straight to Hell for finding this amusing, but I can't help it. I'm just wired that way.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:42 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Major Schadenfreude Alert

Another excuse bites the dust:


...and the hits just keep on comin':

"Relative to the size of the economy, this year's deficit is expected to be the second largest shortfall in the past 65 years; 9.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), exceeded only by last year's deficit of 9.9 percent of GDP," CBO wrote.

...According to an analysis by the American Thinker's Randall Hoven, the cost of the Iraq war from 2003-2008 -- when Bush was in office -- was $20 billion less than the cost of education spending and less than a quarter of the cost of Medicare spending during that same period.

... and comin':

"It's frustrating to see both the president and vice president jumping up and down saying, 'Look what we did, look what we did,' when if we actually followed the policies they were calling for ... we would have left early and we would have left in shame," Mr. Hegseth said, noting their opposition to the surge of forces in Iraq.

...and comin':

"He has been slow to realize he is the president, and what that means for handling the military," Ricks said.

Referring to Obama's surprise when a roomful of generals stood when he walked into the room for the first time as president, he said, "I don't think he realized that they were standing for the system, not for him personally."

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you "smart power". It is impressive, no es verdad?

IMPORTANT UPDATE: The dissing continues!

... recently released polling data from Gallup indicates that the Iraqi people approved of the job performance of the American leadership more under President George W. Bush, who invaded their country and overthrew the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein, than they do under Obama, who opposed the invasion of Iraq and has repeatedly vowed to have all U.S. troop out of that country by the end of 2011.

So much for restoring our legitimacy in the eyes of the Arab world. Dang... this leadership thing is turning out to be harder than it looked from the campaign trail.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:11 AM | Comments (44) | TrackBack

What Women Really Want

Don't have a lot of time to write today but this list of relationship hints for guys struck me (with one or two very minor exceptions) as dead on accurate. That surprised me a bit, as I usually find these lists vapid and whiny. If you don't read anything else, the last one is worth its price in gold:

When it comes to what women want from men, the little things really do matter. The items on this list aren’t particularly difficult or time-consuming, but they are, unfortunately, very often overlooked by men. This often leads a woman to feel neglected, which in turn leads to nagging and other problems. Make her feel special, and she’ll go to the ends of the earth for you; try one of these suggestions, and she’ll feel like you've already gone there and back for her.

The bolded part goes for the male of the species, too.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:04 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 29, 2010


Here are a few photos from the trip. We spent Friday walking around Seattle.


Under one of the many bridges in the Fremont art district lurks the Fremont Troll.


Hey! What is Retriever doing here?


The waterfront is lined with houseboats.

On Saturday we drove to Tacoma to see the Museum of Glass. I think this was my favorite out of all the places we saw.


I loved the stairs leading up to the Chihuly Glass Bridge:


The next few photos are all of the bridge.


The giant blue sculptures are made of a polyurethane compound. They reminded me of rock candy sticks.


With the sunlight shining through them, they just glowed.


The ceiling at Sea Pavilion (far end of the bridge) is filled with brightly colored sculptures of jellyfish, kelp, and other sea creatures.


It feels like you're underwater.


This photo is for Carrie, who has survived being in the Death Seat while the blog princess is driving.

For Cricket. We took pictures of the market (including the flying fish) but the video is more fun!

Posted by Cassandra at 03:45 PM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

Greetings From 37000 Feet

Hi guys!

I'm posting this from somewhere above Montana - there are blue skies as far as the eye can see, dotted here and there with patches of clouds.

I hope I never become immune to the wonder of flying. Will catch up with email, comments and the like momentarily.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:59 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

August 27, 2010

The Case Against Limiting the Franchise

Elise did a bit more research on that John Derbyshire video I linked the other day. In the interview preceding the NRO video, Derbyshire takes a very different tack with regard to female suffrage:

DERBYSHIRE: Among the hopes that I do not realistically nurse is the hope that female suffrage will be repealed. But I’ll say this – if it were to be, I wouldn’t lose a minute’s sleep.

Elise comments:

The rest of it - that we’d probably be a better country if women didn’t vote because women “lean hard to the left” - can be explained away (not adequately to my mind but your mileage may vary) as Derbyshire merely pointing out - as he says in the NRO video - the “downside” to women voting. But the statement that he “wouldn’t lose a minute’s sleep” if female suffrage were repealed is plainly and simply a statement that the “equity” he is careful to laud in that video is simply damage control. Or perhaps a statement that he is utterly unruffled by equity being thrown under the bus of pragmatism.

A later exchange is equally enlightening:

COLMES: What’s next? You want to bring back slavery?

DERBYSHIRE: No, no. I’m in favor of freedom personally.

COLMES: Okay, but women shouldn’t have the freedom to vote.

DERBYSHIRE: Well, they didn’t [for 130 years] and we got along ok.

I've seen the suggestion that certain demographics shouldn't be "allowed" to vote from both the left and the right. I have to say that the more I think about it, the more the suggestion appalls me. For two excellent discussions on this topic, see Elise's second post. She links to a writer I'd never had the pleasure of reading before. Both her posts and Elise's are must reads.

Over the past few days there has been quite a bit of discussion here about limiting the franchise (or perhaps requiring voters to earn the right to vote through military or other service). On the surface a behavior- or service-based criterion seems less troubling than a biological or identity based one.

Heinlein's utopian vision has been kicking about for years. The idea has great emotional appeal, but like all utopian schemes it rests on the premise that social ills spring from flaws in the system rather than flaws in human nature. If we could just find the perfect voting scheme, somehow people would stop acting like people! They would become virtuous, responsible, and wise.

History has a way of dispelling such notions. It reminds us that although times and laws change, human nature remains depressingly constant. In the Federalist #10, James Madison examines the problem of faction:

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.

There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.

It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

The second expedient is as impracticable as the first would be unwise. As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves. The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties.

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.

The wisdom and foresight of the Founders never ceases to amaze me. They were, many of them, ordinary men but theirs was an age when men still looked to previous generations and sought to learn from the mistakes of their fathers and grandfathers.

I've been reading Sowell's Intellectuals and Society with great enjoyment. My problem with utopian schemes is that I've never met a person who was wise or disinterested enough to decide who "deserves" the vote. The notion that any commonly shared experience so ennobles fallible human beings that it would ensure a wise and disinterested electorate strikes me as naive at best. Such arguments, like Derbyshire's fond wish for a purer, more masculine, more rational (but I repeat myself) electorate that would never allow the other party to set foot in the White House substitute pragmatism (or perhaps it's just arrogance) for principle. They amount to a prettied up version of "the end justifies the means".

But on a more basic level, they're just plain unreliable. How would the last 38 years of presidential elections have turned out if only men had been allowed to vote? As it turns out, virtually the same as they did with more women voting than men. An all male electorate would have changed the results of only ONE election in the past 4 decades:


There seem to be a lot of folks who would be willing to disenfranchise entire classes of their fellow Americans if doing so would result in their party winning. Losing is always hard and when we lose we tend to look around for someone to blame.

The one constant seems to be that that someone is never us.

CWCID for the graphic: Elise and her link to the NY Times. Their graphic was edited (by me) to remove women and highlight the winning party in each election.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:23 AM | Comments (31) | TrackBack

August 25, 2010

Exercising the Character

That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.

- Friedrich Nietzsche

In the middle of David Brooks' latest column lies an unsettling story. A female novelist undergoes a grueling mastectomy without benefit of anesthesia. Most of us would want to forget such an agonizing experience; to put it behind us. This woman chose to write about it:

It took her three months to put down a few thousand words. She suffered headaches as she picked up her pen and began remembering. “I dare not revise, nor read, the recollection is still so painful,” she confessed. But she did complete it. She seems to have regarded the exercise as a sort of mental boot camp — an arduous but necessary ordeal if she hoped to be a person of character and courage.

Burney’s struggle reminds one that character is not only moral, it is also mental. Heroism exists not only on the battlefield or in public but also inside the head, in the ability to face unpleasant thoughts.

She lived at a time when people were more conscious of the fallen nature of men and women. People were held to be inherently sinful, and to be a decent person one had to struggle against one’s weakness.

In the mental sphere, this meant conquering mental laziness with arduous and sometimes numbingly boring lessons. It meant conquering frivolity by sitting through earnest sermons and speeches. It meant conquering self- approval by staring straight at what was painful.

This emphasis on mental character lasted for a time, but it has abated. There’s less talk of sin and frailty these days. Capitalism has also undermined this ethos. In the media competition for eyeballs, everyone is rewarded for producing enjoyable and affirming content. Output is measured by ratings and page views, so much of the media, and even the academy, is more geared toward pleasuring consumers, not putting them on some arduous character-building regime.

My childhood was filled with tales like this. As a girl I devoured books whole. I almost inhaled them, so greedy was I to learn how the world works, how different people think, how they respond to - and rise above - adversity. Who and why they love. How ordinary folks triumph over grief, disease, disability, poverty, despair. So the tale Brooks told resonated with me, strange as it seems to modern eyes.

Character was a common theme in my childhood reading. Tale after tale spoke of self denial, fear, temptation, pain, courage, perseverance and eventual victory. One doesn't hear much talk of character these days. It has gone out of fashion, but I don't believe capitalism is to blame.

For well over 200 years capitalism has been the signature feature of American life and yet this erosion of character appears nowhere in the books I read during my growing up years. They were (almost without exception) written long before I was born. The erosion is a recent phenomenon that has occurred within my lifetime.

Children - even ones who moves every year - live in a carefully circumscribed universe bounded by rules, family, school, playgrounds and neighborhood friends. For a young boy or girl, reading offers a chance to escape parental warnings and "wait until you're olders". Opening a new book shatters the bonds of time, space, and being. One can see the world through the eyes of an Indian boy or a young girl growing up in the Depression; an elderly Chinese slave or Alexander of Macedonia. The reader can travel backward or forward in time at will, savoring the accumulated wisdom of other ages, other cultures, other lives.

But a traveler touring the classics can't help but notice the common elements that unite characters of every description. There were lessons to be learned: men were sinful by nature and became virtuous only through hard work and determination. The world was a dangerous place; fortunes could be made and lost in an instant. Luck turned sour when one least expected it, but the reverse was true as well.

Without the tempering influences of duty, morality, and character men were weak and easily controlled. People could be divided into ants and grasshoppers. Civilization was a fragile construct threatened on all sides by disease, famine, war, and simple human folly. Security and comfort could be created (however briefly) by industrious ants who worked hard; built strong, secure nests for their families; and saved their food and money against the inevitable prospect of hard times. And then there were the grasshoppers: living in the moment, dependent upon the hard work and foresight of others, never thinking to provide for their own future.

By the age of 8 or 9 I branched out from the relatively structured world of classic literature and began devouring modern books, magazines and newspaper articles - anything and everything I could get my hands on. But this new, undiscovered country offered very different lessons than the piles of books in my parents' house. In the enlightened 60s, social problems were not caused by man's sinful nature or deficiencies of character. No, the system - that fragile and artificial semblance of order so carefully constructed by those officious and moralizing worker ants - was to blame for disrupting the natural order of things. Men were not sinful after all. We were born with an innate sense of goodness that must be allowed free reign. Social ills were the result of oppression, not being understood or allowed to follow one's bliss wherever it led.

Self denial and self restraint were no longer respectable hallmarks of the civilized man. The enlightened person recoiled at such pathological indices of unnatural and unhealthy repression.

Character (with its buzz killing overtones of morality and judgment) was officially "out". "If it feels good" was in. In this new world nothing was off limits, and those who warned that habitual license saps the will and weakens the social fabric were dismissed as joyless scolds out to frighten the weak minded with exaggerated and largely imaginary fears.

In this enlightened universe we were encouraged to indulge every momentary whim. If some negative consequence followed, it was dismissed as an capricious and unfair accident. We were not to blame - "bad luck" was impossible to predict but thankfully, utterly unconnected to our behavior.

This idiocy continued well into the Seventies. We were urged to vent our anger and hostility. After all, they were natural reactions, weren't they? What was profoundly unnatural and unhealthy was keeping them in check. We were encouraged to let it all hang out - the good and the bad alike. We went to primal scream therapy and vented every resentment and grievance, secure in the knowledge that we would feel better afterwards (even if those around us felt much worse).

I often wonder if future generations would recognize the world that beckoned from my childhood bookshelf? Few kids these days have the patience to wade through Victorian-era prose. Even fewer exhibit any curiosity as to how the safe, comfortable world we take for granted came into being. They lack the patience to read even modern books and magazines, much less classic novels like Great Expectations or The Brothers Karamazov. This is the era of the graphic novel. Readers cannot be expected to tackle difficult subjects. Instead we bribe them with dumbed down, accessible fare that meets them where they are rather than challenging them to grow.

Nearly everyone these days recognizes the need for exercise. Muscles atrophy when they're not used. But how many understand that the same is true of willpower, integrity, and the capacity for critical thought? Technology makes tasks that formerly required concentration and diligence easy and painless. But when everything becomes easy, how do we acquire patience and self discipline?

Modern technology, which is essentially infinite button-pushing, also fills one's days with tiny errors surfing the Web, texting or punching TV controllers. It is a trail of constant error. One gets desensitized to errors because, like mice in a maze, another "out" from one's misstep is just another click away.

That we make these unending miscues with the small stuff may not matter, but rewiring the brain to accommodate relentless error may soften us up to making slovenly mistakes with things that do matter. The habits beneath due diligence fall away as we play in the Web's surf.

A generation of ants are in real danger of producing a generation of grasshoppers. Insulated from the harsh realities our parents and grandparents never forget, we are growing soft:

When I was my son's age, I was eager to make money. But, then again, there's a huge difference between my life at 13 and his life now.

I was raised by lower-middle-class grandparents on a fixed income. Even though my grandmother did a great job spoiling me, I knew in my early teens that if I wanted to buy, say, a metal detector (which I wanted one summer), then I'd have to earn the $60 on my own.

Amy grew up much the same way: If she needed something that wasn't essential, she had to pay for it. End of story.

Our son and 7-year-old daughter don't face those same economic pressures. Of course, we don't give our kids everything they want. But we've no doubt gone overboard in buying them things that were beyond our economic reach as kids.

We get a lot of satisfaction in doing that. But it comes with a pretty big downside—one we're only now beginning to grasp. Because of it, our son, who understands money far better than his young sister at this point, doesn't understand what it means to pay his own freight. He has learned to count on Mom and Dad.

It's not as though this generation lacks a framework for understanding human nature. We know all about moral hazard. On some intuitive level we understand that people respond to well intentioned attempts to insulate them from risk and the consequences of their own irresponsibility by taking more risks and acting even more irresponsibly. And yet we continue making the same mistakes:

Most people have learned enough not to post damaging information about themselves online, but there are the occasional few who like to post pictures of themselves overdrinking or who like to ramble on incoherently. Maybe they complained about their boss or bragged about stealing from their employer. Now the German government is passing a law to protect those people from their own idiocy.

A new law in Germany will stop bosses from checking out potential hires on social networking sites. They will, however, still be allowed to google applicants.

Lying about qualifications. Alcohol and drug use. Racist comments. These are just some of the reasons why potential bosses reject job applicants after looking at their Facebook profiles.

According to a 2009 survey commissioned by the website CareerBuilder, some 45 percent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates. And some 35 percent of those employers had rejected candidates based on what they found there, such as inappropriate photos, insulting comments about previous employers or boasts about their drug use.

Classical thinkers like Plato were very much concerned with encouraging responsibility and public virtue because they - like our Founding Fathers - considered these qualities essential to the survival of a free society. I hear a lot of talk about freedom these days but precious little about accountability. Freedom cannot long exist where men seek to be excused from the consequences of their freely made decisions. Such men can neither control nor support themselves.

We have become a society that will accept no limits on individual freedom - not even those imposed by nature and consequence. But the real world lurks outside our carefully constructed playgrounds. Once we have used up our inheritance, will we possess the discipline and fortitude to wrest security and comfort from the wreckage we are creating?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:54 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

August 24, 2010

Inflammatory Debate Topic of the Day

So.... is this "sexist"?

One of the United Kingdom's biggest and best-known corporate law firms has little difficulty retaining talented women lawyers as partners, reports the Daily Mail.

Allen & Overy's secret to success? Offering 82 holidays a year, in exchange for reduced pay. Men can also opt for a reduced schedule for up to eight years, although the program was put in place for the purpose of retaining women struggling to balance their work with motherhood, the newspaper explains.

"If we don't succeed in attracting more women through to partner, we will be choosing from an ever-decreasing pool of talent," says partner Geoff Fuller.

So long as they're willing to accept less pay (and perhaps a poorer position on the promotion track) I'm not seeing where this is necessarily a bad thing. I've long maintained that many women are willing to trade salary for autonomy/time with family. This arrangement makes the tradeoff explicit.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:50 PM | Comments (50) | TrackBack

More Random Thoughts

After last week's random-but-completely-understandable rant (and the subsequent "tribute" to women's suffrage) the weekend found the Blog Princess firmly resolved never to bring the subject up again. Unfortunately, my fellow bloggers rudely insist on penning interesting responses:

...this is an opportune moment to address Elise's argument that men who joke about depriving women of the vote are necessarily unprincipled. (Cassandra also took umbrage at the post at National Review.)

I once wrote a piece on a similar topic. It happens to touch on the very point that they raise, which is that "women" couldn't be replaced by "Jews" or "African Americans." That was the argument raised then, too, except that time it was men who were the butt of the joke:

Lucas says that you couldn't replace "men" in the insults with any other group of people without raising an uproar. That's not quite true, though: there is one other group that could fit in the space, which is women. I can't count the number of bumperstickers I've seen for sale that said something to the effect of: "I miss my ex-wife; but my aim is getting better," or "My wife said to give up fishing or she'd leave; I sure will miss her." (There was a successful country music song about the last one.)

Could you raise a joke about the importance to the country of disenfranchising men without raising an uproar? I think so; in fact, jokes about the relative stupidity of men are so common in sitcoms, etc., that the only bar against anyone making such a joke is that it is probably too obvious to be funny.

The earlier movements accomplished this: they moved the culture from a place where the idea of "women's suffrage" was a joke, to a place where the idea of "ending women's suffrage" is the joke. That is a remarkable thing; and if it takes the telling of the joke to make that clear, so be it!

It's hard to argue that being able to joke around isn't a good thing but unlike Grim, neither Elise nor I saw the post as a joke. Nevertheless, an interesting conversation about context ensued. Elise (who I'm delighted to see is blogging again) and I were pretty much on the same page with regard to the Williamson post - we both thought it was odd to juxtapose a common prank (getting ignorant people to sign petitions against self interest) with the anniversary of women's suffrage unless the writer meant to connect the two in the reader's mind. Over at her place Elise made a few good points:

The argument that women shouldn’t have the vote is literally un-principled. The only justification for it is that if women couldn’t vote then conservatives would always win elections. That’s not a principle; that’s a corruption.

It's always a bit of a gamble for a female conservative to question anything that smacks - no matter how faintly - of sexism. The standard rejoinders are entirely predictable: generally some variation of "YOU HATE MEN!!!" or "YOU'RE A FEMINIST!" (neither of which constitutes any kind of refutation on the merits). I found Elise's observation interesting in light of a fact I've only seen discussed once or twice: for the first 60 or so years after we got the vote, the majority of women voted for conservatives. This point was made somewhat ironically by John Derbyshire while discussing what he calls The Case Against Women's suffrage.

The case, according to Derbyshire, is exactly what Elise critiqued in her post: that female suffrage is bad for conservatism because women can't be relied upon to vote for conservatives. Of course, implicit in his case is the tacit admission that for the first 60 or years, female suffrage was good for conservatism. He also stipulates that he isn't advocating the end of women's voting rights. Equity, he says, trumps pragmatism.

I can't argue with anything Derbyshire has to say in the linked video, but it does make me wonder why a party that advocates both freedom of expression and unfettered markets hasn't bothered to ask itself how it came to lose womens' votes? It has become axiomatic on the right to blame feminism for everything from the heartbreak of psoriasis to the bedbug infestation in NY city, but if conservatism isn't selling well in the marketplace of ideas then perhaps conservatives need to take a long, hard look in the mirror rather than blaming the customer for not buying their product.

It's easy (though more than a bit reminiscent of lefty condescension) to opine loftily that women who vote progressive are voting against self interest. Such tactics relieve the arguer of the tiresome necessity of convincing women why this might be so, the self evidently self evident truth of the conservative Weltanschauung being downright impossible to refudiate.

On the other hand, making clear, principled, cohesive arguments that convince women that conservatism better represents their interests (not to mention those of society at large) sounds suspiciously like hard work. If feminism is such intellectual weak tea, one can't help wondering why we're having so much trouble demonstrating its flaws? Which brings me to Elise's second point:

The fact that some on the Right can entertain the notion of depriving women of the vote - even as a provocation, even only half-seriously - tells me that they don’t understand democracy any better than those on the Left. It’s also a small part of the reason why a Republican sweep in November won’t really mean much. Americans don’t hate the Left and love the Right any more than they hated the Right and loved the Left when they elected Barack Obama. We hate whichever side is in power, not because we’re all anarchists - or even Libertarians - but because it’s the side in power whose lack of principle is most obvious. Those out of power can proclaim their principles and promise to act on them; those in power can be clearly seen to act on no principles at all.

... Neither party - neither side, Right or Left - is particularly interested in addressing what the voters want addressed and that becomes painfully obvious with regard to a party in power. Thus we are probably looking at a series of elections in which the only consistent result is to vote out whoever is in. This will go on until either power is so evenly split that government is deadlocked or a third party arises that is truly interested in addressing the problems the voters want addressed.

Since anyone who agrees with what I already think is obviously brilliant, allow me to say that I think this is one of the smartest statements I've read in a long time. Shortly after the last presidential election, I tried to make a related point:

Prior to 1950, extended one-party rule was more the norm than the exception.

Since 1950, extended one-party rule has been the exception rather than the norm. In fact, it has happened only once.

The notion that we lost in November of 2008 because we didn't fight dirty enough is perverse at best. History offers precious little support for the shimmering vision of uninterrupted, one party dominance in Washington. And it's worth asking: is this something the Founders would have approved of, even if it were possible? What happens when the out of power party has no serious expectation of being in power (even for one term)?

One of the most vital safeguards in our system of checks and balances is the fact that the people can and do "vote the bastards out" with reassuring regularity. The suggestion that conservatives can or should try to circumvent this process by adopting "the ends justify the means" as our organizing principle strikes me as one of the most profoundly anti-conservative notions I've ever heard.

I've been thinking quite a bit about the corrupting power of confirmation bias lately and I'm reminded of another brilliant post I read last week:

Different societies are arranged in different ways. In a tribal society, there is very low trust between members of competing tribes. Such societies tend to be dominated by the Honor-Shame ethic where members are protected from the consequences of their transgressions as long as they do not bring shame upon the community. Exceptions occur but in general there is no expectation that members of a competing tribe will behave honorably with each other.

In America, we tend to have a Guilt based culture, a gift bequeathed to us from our Judeo-Christian ancestors. We assume a higher level of honesty and trust, until proven otherwise. We believe in an admittedly idealized fantasy of equal treatment under the law, even as we recognize that there exist significant disparities. In America, even the lowliest person has the right to legal representation and a trial under the rubric of blind justice. The erosion of the ideal of impartial justice is a serious threat to social comity.

Don Quixote, guest blogging for Bookworm, is concerned about how much stress our system can take when the common assumption of trust erodes:

Truth in the courtroom and elsewhere

I cannot count for you the number of clients and other witnesses I’ve had ask me “What should I say?” Not as in “What should I say to present my true story in the best light possible?” but as in “What should I say, true or not, that increases the likelihood that I (or the person I’m testifying for) will win at trial?” It is distressing to see the disappointment on their faces when I suggest that they might consider telling the truth.

So I suppose I’m asking just how important the Bookwormroom readers think the truth is these days. Does anyone tell the truth any more? Does it even matter, if everyone assumes everyone else is lying anyway? How can our society, much less our courtrooms, function if people will say anything to get what they want?

The thing is, I'm not sure public trust can long survive in a sprawling, multicultural environment where we're constantly being told there are no differences (or no differences that ought to concern us) between cultures or interest groups? Some studies suggest that increasing diversity erodes civic trust:

... the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings. The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings.

"The extent of the effect is shocking," says Scott Page, a University of Michigan political scientist.

The study comes at a time when the future of the American melting pot is the focus of intense political debate, from immigration to race-based admissions to schools, and it poses challenges to advocates on all sides of the issues. The study is already being cited by some conservatives as proof of the harm large-scale immigration causes to the nation's social fabric. But with demographic trends already pushing the nation inexorably toward greater diversity, the real question may yet lie ahead: how to handle the unsettling social changes that Putnam's research predicts.

Can trust and civic engagement survive the migration from small, fairly homogeneous groups of citizens-first with similar interests and backgrounds to a diverse, highly mobile set of individuals-first (none of whom has ever met a principle or authority figure or rule they're willing to submit to)? There's a reason tribalism leads to moral relativism and situational ethics: morality is the first casualty of any struggle for survival.

The rest is just post hoc justification:

"We have to do this to win."
"They did it first."
"When the stakes are this high, we can't afford the luxury of principles."

But the normal ebb and flow of power in politics is not a lifeboat situation where morals can be safely jettisoned (so much easier to reclaim them after we've eaten our fellow passengers!). A lifetime of reading history has convinced me that standing athwart history and yelling "stop" is something of a fool's errand. We can try to persuade others, but in the end nothing speaks with quite so much persuasive authority as a set of burned fingers or the solid whack of a 2 x 4 upside the head.

Times change, circumstances change, but human nature is an enduring - and reassuring - constant. Sadly, most of us learn best by experience. Viewed in that light, is it not possible that the Obama administration is the best thing to happen to conservatism in the last century: an object lesson that illustrates, far better than the most persuasive argument, the flaws of progressive dogma?

A final thought from the last linked post:

Cheating has always gone on yet it seems that there has been a concerted effort in the last several years to mainstream cheating of all sorts. Those of us who play by the rules are increasingly made to feel like chumps. This is not a healthy development for our society's future.

I'm often struck by the degree to which living in an information age makes us vulnerable to tunnel vision. Despite the tendency to equate more with better information, being surrounded by so much input can feel a lot like drowning - we expend so much energy just trying to stay afloat that we lose sight of the larger picture. Like most of you, I'm horrified and dismayed by the inexorable creep of government expansion. It's always a bit of the shock to read about other times in our history when it must have seemed that the country was in the grip of forces beyond comprehension or control.

But if history has one lesson for us it's that most problems are self-correcting and that somehow, we always manage to survive the process. Have faith, and hold fast to your principles.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:17 AM | Comments (76) | TrackBack

August 23, 2010

Alinsky's Fourth Rule

Reader Eric Hines was kind enough to send this guest post, which I am delighted to publish.

A few days ago, Grim and I had a brief discussion on these pages about mixing genders in a military headquarters (specifically, although the subject has broader implications). I suggested that obligations, and the like, need not change simply because women were now present, and that equal enforcement of regulations should remain the norm. Grim demurred somewhat, responding with Saul Alinsky's fourth rule and pointing out the dangers of dogma. If I've oversimplified Grim's position, or otherwise mischaracterized it, he is, of course, free to correct me. I'd like to expand that discussion somewhat, focusing here on Alinsky's fourth rule (make the enemy live up to his/her own book of rules) and on equal enforcement (regardless of milieu).

Alinsky's fourth rule is one of thirteen described in his book Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, and this rule contains two traps. I say here, "Bring it on. Let's do this." The first trap is that we would, necessarily, defend our book of rules as though it were sacrosanct and immutable. Of course it will be imperfect, being a book of Man, and so Alinsky's radicals will succeed in exposing our hypocrisy and defeating us. But not if we don't accept that trap. I say "bring it on" because here is an outstanding opportunity to give our book an operational, acid test, knowing it to be flawed. What better way to expose our rule book's weaknesses and errors, and so to strengthen the one and correct the other, than through the open challenge and discussion with those who disagree with us? And so it's "Thank you, Mr Radical, for helping us to make our rule book even better." And herein lies the second trap. It is important to not allow Alinsky's radical to control the definition of our rule book. It's our rule book; the definition of it must be ours. "No, Mr Radical, you've misinterpreted what this particular rule means, and you've misunderstood how this particular rule fits into our overall environment. Here are the correct meaning and fitting."

In the end, I suggest one of two things will occur. Most likely, we'll win over the radical because he'll lose the argument — on our terms — or he will be exposed for the distortionist troublemaker that he is through his continued, insistent, and repeatedly exposed, distortion of our precepts and so lose credibility in society at large. There is the possibility that our idea is a bad one; in that case, indeed it should be tossed and replaced with a better one.

The other point concerns equal enforcement. When a police officer writes a ticket for one motorist and gives another a warning for substantially the same speeding, is he enforcing the law equally? Yes, no, maybe. If the officer is basing the distinction solely on gender, or skin color, or some other irrelevant discriminant, the enforcement is, indeed, uneven. If the officer is evaluating the totality of the situation and deciding that one motorist needs the lesson of a ticket but the other needs only the reminder of the warning, I suggest this is equal enforcement. We pay officers to make this judgment all the time.

Some would say, "No, you have to treat everyone exactly the same. No exceptions." See Alinsky's fourth rule above. Some would be misinterpreting our definition of our rule and misunderstanding our application of our rule. People are not cookie cutter copies. We're individuals, every one of us unique and, in that sense, a separate entity from all others. We expect, and are expected, to be treated, even today, as individuals — we each get our separate juries and distinct court cases, for instance. And, indeed, all of us are capable of making such valuations and arriving at appropriate, differing responses to apparently identical situations. For in the end, what is enforcement? It is not the act of enforcing, but rather the outcome of that enforcement. The ticket is needed to compel obedience to the traffic law in the one case, and a warning achieves adherence to the traffic law in the other. In both cases, the traffic law becomes equally followed by both motorists. For awhile. And then the cycle is repeated, perhaps with modifications.

This takes work. The Left would like to stop the work and just have us all be carbon copies (obedient ones, at that). It's harder to treat people as individuals than as groups. It's harder to be results oriented than to be procedure oriented. Conservatives and libertarians and Tea Partiers and freedom lovers generally recognize that freedom takes constant effort, constant vigilance. Because those freedoms are well worth the cost.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:46 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

The Presidential Leadership Vacuum

judgment.jpg Last week the Editorial Staff couldn't help but notice a developing theme in the media. Newspapers on both sides of the county are noticing: the Oval Office lights may be on, but no one is home.

First the LA Times deftly questioned the President's priorities, dubbing him The Fundraiser in Chief. The WaPo asked why General Petraeus seems to be the only one making the case for the war in Afghanistan? Last week saw a long awaited and historic milestone in the war on terror: the withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq. And yet our Commander in Chief had little to say.

The NY Times offers an amusing explanation for Obama's low profile: he can't figure out how to take credit for the withdrawal while avoiding the inference that our military mission (at least) has finally been accomplished:

The official end of America’s combat mission in Iraq next week will fulfill the campaign promise that helped vault President Obama to the White House, but it also presents profound risks as he seeks to claim credit without issuing a premature declaration of victory.

It's a thorny problem for a man who repeatedly argued that the Surge was a failed strategy; who claimed Iraq needed a surge of diplomacy rather than an increase in military force. With the withdrawal of the last combat forces from Baghdad, we're about to see whether diplomacy can win the day in Iraq. And that's precisely the problem: the withdrawal of combat forces means the world will be looking to - and judging - Obama's vision and leadership. There will be no more convenient scapegoats - no combat forces who can be blamed for creating more terrorists or inflaming the Arab street. Suddenly, everyone is wondering who (or what) will step into the breach left by withdrawing U.S. forces? With attention and accountability shifting to Washington, even Obama's supporters have noticed that there's a vacuum in the Oval Office:


A leadership vacuum

There's a new argument emerging among supporters of the Ground Zero mosque. Distressed by President Obama's waffling on the issue, they're calling on former President George W. Bush to announce his support for the project, because in this case Bush understands better than Obama the connection between the war on terror and the larger question of America's relationship with Islam. It's an extraordinary change of position for commentators who long argued that Bush had done grievous harm to America's image in the Muslim world and that Obama represented a fresh start for the United States. Nevertheless, they are now seeing a different side of the former president.

Can anyone imagine George Bush remaining largely silent about what our military has accomplished out of fear he might be criticized? Say what you like about Bush - no matter how difficult the issue, the world never wondered where he stood:

One of my husband’s friends–hated Bush, loved Obama and defended him vociferously for the first year, less passionately the second–told him over lunch this week that he’s done with Obama and “I never thought I’d say this but I miss Bush. We knew that he said what he meant, even if we didn’t want to hear it. We knew who he was, even if we didn’t like him. And we never had to wonder whether he liked us. He always did.”

And that is it, in a nutshell. Bush is missable, because we miss having a president whose affection for his country and its people–even the ones who hated him–was never in doubt.

We miss Bush because he never lectured us or harangued us, and when people disagreed with him, they were not immediately called names in an attempt to simply shut up debate.

The Anchoress is right, but that's not the only reason so many of us miss George Bush. We miss Bush because we could depend upon him to be decisive; to act upon his convictions; to do what was needed in times of crisis. We could depend on him to take responsibility and lead by example rather than saying the expedient thing and then waffling at the first sign of criticism. No one could accuse Bush of taking a safe position or deflecting the blame:

Bush was a Decider - faced with a problem he weighed his options, made his choices and stood by them. Obama, by contrast, has chosen to be a Derider and Divider who consistently ducks hard decisions and, when challenged, blames everyone but himself. With Obama we never know where the buck will stop, but there's one thing we can be certain of: it won't be the Oval Office.

Obama's refusal to step up to the plate reminds me of a scene from one of my favorite movies, Gettysburg. General Longstreet is asked to remain safely in the rear during an upcoming battle. His response is short, but to the point: "You can't lead from behind".

That's a lesson Obama has yet to learn. And his supporters are beginning to notice.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:12 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

August 20, 2010

Ground Zero Mosque

The Wall Street Journal serves up the definitive analysis of the Ground Zero Mosque brouhaha:

As supporters held signs extolling religious freedom at the site of the proposed Islamic center Wednesday, a stripper who gave her name as Cassandra was working the afternoon shift at New York Dolls on Murray Street — just around the corner. She worried that calls to prayer from the mosque at Park51 might wake up neighbors. But when she was told that the organizers aren’t planning loudspeakers, she said she didn’t have a problem with the project.

“I don’t know what the big deal is,” Cassandra said. “It’s freedom of religion, you know?”

Well there you have it - when the Journal brings that kind of fresh, incisive Constitutional analysis to one of the great sociopolitical debates of our time, what can we blog rabble do but humbly beg to be excused from the conversation and slink away in shame to our digital cubbyholes?

Of course we could always go read this:

Kathleen Parker has a muddled column up at the Washington Post arguing that the Cordoba House complex should get built precisely because many people don't want it built. She's a prizewinning columnist and a sometime teacher of writing, which is why I found the following juxtaposition in her essay so startling:
"The idea that one should never have one's feelings hurt -- and the violent means to which some will resort in the protection of their own self-regard -- has done harm rivaling evil. It isn't a stretch to say that the greatest threat to free speech is, in fact, "sensitivity."

This is why plans for the mosque near Ground Zero should be allowed to proceed, if that's what these Muslims want. We teach tolerance by being tolerant."

I agree with most everything Patrick has to say but can't help piling on a bit.

It's downright bizarre for Parker to equate what she clearly deems "oversensitivity" on the part of New Yorkers (who, by the way, haven't attacked anyone and haven't demanded anything but the right - guaranteed to them by the First Amendment - to express their wish that these would be mosque builders would choose a less distressing site) with the violent responses of Muslims worldwide to having their own sensitivities mocked and ignored.

I have read more frankly idiotic arguments on this subject than I can shake a stick at (and some good ones). But nowhere, yet, have I seen this point made: we do not teach tolerance by stifling debate.

The only thing that teaches is that we fear words just as much as they do. Trying to stifle or shame those who hold the wrong opinions teaches the opposite of tolerance. It teaches the Muslim world that our talk of openness and freedom is nothing but a sham. The debate over the mosque - passionate and even furious as it has been at times - is a shining example of everything that is best about Western civilization. What we have to offer the world is the example of how a civilized nation handles potentially inflammatory debates.

Not by demonizing those whose viewpoints we neither share nor understand as so many have done on both sides, and certainly don't teach tolerance by attempting to shut down debate. We teach tolerance by demonstrating that even when we're very angry, even when we're outraged, even when our deepest and most sacred sentiments are ridiculed and mocked, even when we forget ourselves and call each other names like "terrorist" or "bigot", in the end we will obey the law and there will be no widespread, violent demonstrations - no death threats - no angry mobs.

It may not always be pretty. But it will be peaceful. In the end, no matter how angry we may feel in the mean time, we will express ourselves with words rather than pitchforks or suicide bombs. We are a big enough nation to do that. Tolerance is not achieved by demonizing those we disagree with. That's a lesson some of the tolerance police should take to heart.

Sticks and stones may break my bones
But words will never hurt me

We teach that to our children here in the West. Would that a few more of us remembered the very real difference between mere speech - even speech we dislike - and lawlessness and violence. This may well be the defining difference between the largely secular West and most of the Muslim world.

If we can't even understand that, how on earth can we teach it to others?

Posted by Cassandra at 03:09 PM | Comments (39) | TrackBack

Oh Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!

Disturbing news for lovers of swiss cheese:

Posted by Cassandra at 02:01 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Friday Earworm Thread

But soft! What fresh Hell
Outside my office window breaks?

[peering outside cautiously].

Ah! 'Tis a member (we use the word advisedly) of the paint crew, singing 'My Sharona'. Sadly the Editorial Staff cannot say that the air guitar, though enthusiastically rendered, adds anything to the performance. Feel free to add your list of Top Ten Songs You'd Least Like To Hear Some 20 Year Old Dude With A Ripped Off T-Shirt Belting Out From Beneath Your Office Window in the comments.

This should get you into the proper frame of mind:

1. Baby's Got Back (I Like Big Butts)

2. Yummy, Yummy, Yummy (I got love in my tummy)

3. Loving You (Is Easy Cuz You're Beautiful)

4. Don't Stop (Make it Pop)

URGENT CORRECTION! We are reliably informed by Grim (whose word we accept without question on All Matters Gaga) that we previously displayed the wrong pop tart for "Don't Stop (Make it Pop)". From henceforth, we propose to trust Grim's cultural expertise over that of the heathens at YouTube:

Wea culpa. Wea culpa maxima....

5. Dancing Queen (Abba)

6. Barbie Girl

7. Sugar, Honey Honey
8. Party in the USA
9. I Believe in Miracles (You Sexy Thing)
10. Achy Breaky Heart
11. Afternoon Delight
12. Bette Davis Eyes
13. Don't You Want Me, Baby?


Oh. My. God. I did not know a man's voice could go that high.

Posted by Cassandra at 11:58 AM | Comments (70) | TrackBack

Why Johnny Can't Lead

This week it seems like everyone's making excuses for Obama. Today's unintentionally funny quote is obligingly served up by Ezra Klein:

Over the past two years, Barack Obama has done X. Now, his poll numbers have slipped to 44 percent. His party is slated to lose a lot of seats in the 2010 midterms. Obama's decision to do X is to blame.

"X" can be a lot of things. Maybe it's the decision to attempt health-care reform. Or his socialist tendencies. Or his cool, professorial demeanor.

Or maybe it's just that Obama overpromised and underdelivered. Undeterred by anything so pedestrian as starting with the obvious, Klein intrepidly presses on:

Sadly, we can't hit rewind on the cosmic VCR and persuade Obama to do the other thing in the name of science. But we have had a number of presidents who did very different things, and that gives us some basis on which to make judgments. Let's start with approval ratings. Gallup's system will let me compare only four presidents at once, so I chose the last three presidents who entered office amid a recession and didn't have a country-unifying terrorist attack in their first year.

Reading the bolded part of the last sentence set off my spidey sense. Here's the graph Klein created:


To be fair, I understand why Klein wanted to eliminate both Bush I and II from the comparison. Back in 2007 identified two basic patterns in presidential approval ratings: the two term peacetime pattern and the wartime onset pattern. As you can see from the following graph, going to war usually results in a brief period of soaring approval ratings followed by a precipitous decline:

As I observed then:

Comparing time series data on presidential approval ratings, a few interesting observations pop out.

First of all, a prolonged, fairly steady decline in approval ratings is more the rule than the exception. Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Bush I, and Bush II all had longer periods of declining than increasing popular approval.

Second, there appear to be two striking patterns or models of presidential approval: the two-term expanding peacetime model (Reagan/Clinton in rectangles) and the wartime onset model (Truman, Bush I, Bush II). The first, and Ford and Eisenhower may arguably fall into this category, is characterized by roughly equal or greater than equal increasing over declining approval ratings.

The wartime onset model (and I leave Johnson out because he inherited a war, and thus never experienced that giddy 'surge' in popularity experienced by Presidents who arrogantly rush the nation to war without the prior approval of France and Germany) is characterized by a wild upswing in approval at the onset of military operations, followed by a sharp and unrelenting decline in popular approval.

The third interesting observation is that the tenures of the wartime presidents (Truman, Johnson, Bush I, Bush II) were all characterized by "extremes" of opinion: they swung from highs unattained by peacetime presidents (over the high 70s) to lows never experienced by those who never led the nation during time of war.** It would be interesting to see what Kennedy's track record would have looked like, had he not been assassinated.

So I understand Klein's point - he doesn't want you to be distracted by the wild upswing in popularity we typically see when the nation goes to war. He's very careful to make this point, but oddly he doesn't notice (or simply doesn't mention) another interesting thing about the comparison he chose: in the last half century, only two presidents have begun their first term with approval ratings higher than the average first term rating of 65.9.

Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama. As you can see, the patterns are very similar:


But in noodling about with this tool I discovered something else that amused me. Here's Obama against the overall average ratings (black), average ratings for Democrat presidents (blue) and average ratings for Republican presidents (red):


A few observations jump out at me:

1. Approval for Democrat presidents starts off about 3 points below the overall average. Republicans start off about 1 point above the combined average.

2. For the first 600 or so days in office there is not much difference between the overall, Republican, and Democrat averages.

3. After the first 600 days, the Republican average jumps above the overall trend. The Democrat average dips below the overall trend. And the distance between the two continues to grow.

4. Despite a significant head start (Obama, atypically for a Democrat, began with approval ratings greater than either the Republican or Democrat averages) his ratings so far position well below all three trends: the Republican, overall, and Democrat averages.

Klein's explanation for Obama's declining (and below average) ratings?

There are enormously powerful structural forces in American politics that seem to drag down first-term presidents.

I suppose if you're willing to cherry pick your Presidents and ignore the fact that Obama began with the highest initial approval rating since Lyndon Johnson (do you think the assassination of JFK may have had anything to do with that?), that may seem like a compelling argument.

Overpromising, inexperience, underdelivering and unwillingness to lead seem like better bets, though.

Update: Michael Gerson sums it up perfectly:

Few presidencies have been built so consciously or completely on an idealistic brand, with its own distinctive language and icons. But this "new kind of politics" has proved conventional in its conduct, predictable in its content and exceptional only for the depth of division it has inspired. The Obama administration is presented not just with the prospect of electoral repudiation but also with a question: How will it adjust to the death of the belief that gave it birth?

For some, this is merely a confirmation of their preexisting view of politics -- that idealism is a fraud, that rhetorical inspiration is a con. It is true that many politicians do not improve upon closer acquaintance -- that no man is a hero to his valet. But a nation of valets would lose its capacity for great purposes. So it should be a source of sadness that Obama, for many, has become a source of cynicism.

All politicians fall -- but not from such a height.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:52 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

"The Fundraiser in Chief?"

Meeeee-ouch, girlfriend! Obama's been having a tough time of it in the press this week. Here's the LA Times on Wednesday:

One of Obama's several fundraiser speeches for embattled Golden State Sen. Barbara Boxer last spring (full text in Related Items below) was about bragging rights, providing supporters with a long laundry list of things accomplished by the Democratic administration since Jan. 20, 2009 (not including closing Guantanamo or ending "don't ask, don't tell").

This week's fundraising speeches across the nation have a shorter brag list and a more stridently partisan tone, aimed at congressional Republicans who, if summer polls are any indicator, only need to keep breathing in order to regain control at least of the House on Nov. 2.

The Democrat is trying to portray Republicans in Congress as obstructionists, as if American voters gave the GOP lopsided majorities in both houses in the 2008 elections, instead of the other way around.

If Republicans were such obstinate obstacles, why didn't Democrats approve healthcare last year when they had 60 Senate votes and the GOP was helpless to halt it?

Bear in mind that this breathless commentary comes to us from Obama's supporters:

Obama now blames poor job numbers on congressional inaction. Wait! His party runs Congress.

Just a few minor things to catch up on for the weekend now that the Fundraiser-in-Chief has gone on another vacation (Don't worry though. White House chef Sam Kass went along, so the first family need not eat ordinary human food.)

And it just keeps getting better:

... before leaving for his ninth presidential vacation, 10 days at a secluded estate on Martha's Vineyard, Obama devoted four minutes in the White House driveway to a special statement on the latest disappointing jobs numbers. (Full text, as usual, can be read on the jump, along with a brief reaction from the Republican National Committee chairman.)

No questions allowed because the president didn't want to explain why despite the administration's announced Recovery Summer Program, the jobs numbers have started going backward again after 19 months of promises and $787 billion in alleged stimulation spending.

The Editorial Staff think Andrew's being a bit harsh. After all, this President is focused like a laser beam on his top priorty: creating and saving jobs. Hasn't he said so over and over again?

It's heart rending - no, really! I mean it! - to hear the disappointed laments of Obama's erstwhile supporters:

Will the failed administration of George Bush ever end, and the time for hope and change ever arrive?

Will President Obama ever accept responsibility for something — anything?

Morning in America it ain't. But take heart - there's always another scapegoat waiting in the wings.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:58 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

August 19, 2010

A Moment of Silence

Today, Grim reminds us, marks the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom:

4/2 SBCT rides out.

The 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which left Iraq this week, was the final U.S. combat brigade to be pulled out of the country....

"Operation Iraqi Freedom ends on your watch!" exclaimed Col. John Norris, the head of the brigade.

"Hooah!" the soldiers roared, using an Army battle cry.

Shortly before midnight Saturday, a group of infantrymen boarded Stryker fighting vehicles, left an increasingly sparse base behind and began scanning the sides of a desolate highway for bombs. For many veterans, including some who made the same trip in the opposite direction years ago under fire, it was a fitting way to exit.

"They're leaving as heroes," Norris said of his soldiers. "I want them to walk home with pride in their hearts."

They are heroes. The advise and assist brigades, and the strong Special Operations contingent, remain behind for a time. It's a strange war that ends this way; but as Clausewitz said, war is the continuation of politics by other means. We're moving from war to a very tense political environment. That's more or less what we should expect. What comes next? Either compromise arises that allows tensions to ramp down, so that the political takes over from the war; or it goes the other way, and war blooms anew from the failure of politics.

This is a day I never thought would come. And yet I hoped for it every day, especially when it seemed that the sun would never come out again. I'd like to write something beautiful, something to stir the soul. Something to mark out this day - to etch it in my memory forever. But I can't find the necessary distance. What I will do is something I have asked you all to do so many times over the past 7 years. Please take a moment tonight after you get home from work, perhaps in that quiet moment just before you drop off to sleep, and say a silent prayer for all those who made this day possible.

Their faces have passed in silent review before me all day long: the ones who lifted me up with their courage, who put grief and fear and weariness aside and did what needed to be done. Those who never made it home. And those who came home forever changed; some for the worse, some for the better. Most probably somewhere in the middle. And all those who still keep watch on distant shores.

This week (in anticipation of this day) I've been uploading some of the thousands of old posts I deleted a while back. The war on terror ones are here. I spent my lunch hour re-reading some of them. So many memories, but the most poignant words were all written by others. A lot of the posts are sad, or angry. But I would like to think that today is a hopeful day for Iraq and so I'd like to re-post two of the happier ones. The first came to us via a Marine dad (our own JHD) writing about the return of his son:

I remember like it was yesterday when our young Marine came marching out on the parade deck of Parris Island sporting a brand new chevron proclaiming him a PFC in the United States Marine Corps! A merit stripe earned in the sand fleas and swamps of South Carolina. God how proud I was. I bet I stood a full two inches taller. His Mom squeezing my hand harder as his Training Battalion passed the stands. The tears of pride I enjoyed wiping from her cheeks. The virality, the strength, a man where a boy should stand. It was all there.

From that day forward our home became a staging area of sorts for the next four years and even now. Young Marines we met on that very same Parade Deck stopping in on their way one place or another knowing they would get a home cooked meal and lodging with others of their kind. After SOI they came in bunches, full of themselves, cocky, with the innate ability to use the F word as a noun, adjective, verb, adverb. All in the same sentence! Vulgar? Not for a minute. These are young men that enlisted in a time their country is at war, knowing full well what they were facing and where they were headed. They are young men "with the bark" on as the saying goes from my generation. Respectful to Mom and Sis to the max, loving them after minutes of meeting them. You could see the protection trait in them even then. The seriousness they held in their minds of what they were doing was embodied in their Moms and Sisters, Girlfriends and Fiancees, Wives and Daughters. A finer lot of young fire eaters you could never imagine!

What a difference three combat tours make. There is the weariness of too many death notices, too many faces who will never, now, drop by for a beer and a few laughs. And yet through the tears there is still hope and an abiding belief in the values that make this country great, in why we fight:

There he is. Stepping off that damn slow bus. You can see the death in his eyes from where you stand. The Stare. The flatness and lack of emotion shines from the depths of what used to be the light. You take in everything at a glance. The skinny form where the beef used to be. The scars already healed. The stiffness of his walk and the sheer power that exudes from him. The unbelievable animal magnetism that screams his manhood. You take that in as you watch his Mom and Sis attack him in a hug. There was a tiny flicker of light forming his his eyes when he first spied them that has now become a full glow that threatens to light up the night. Happiness for the first time in awhile envelops him. You worry that that deadness will return and has it entered his very soul. Thoughts only of a dad. But that light! Ah, you know he will heal, you know he stands true, you know he is loved, and love heals all!

But most of all, you stand there while the women folk fuss over him and notice the numbers missing. You notice the ones that aren't here. You witness the ones that he saw last as he put them in the MEDEVAC broken and bleeding surround him and shout to the rooftops with hilarity. You see the bond of real men and real brotherhood staring at you in the face. You stand there and remember that Pride from Parris Island and it washes over you anew! Then it is your turn and that young Marine walks up to you, shakes your hand looking you dead in the eye, and tells you he is home. There are no words to describe the Pride a dad has for his Son at that time. No words can do it justice. The pain he knows I carry for his Fallen Brothers because he carries it too. Were it I could carry his burdens and he understands. The meeting of a dad and his Son. The same as it's been throughout history. Two men that believe in one another.

Yeah, half the folks in this great nation that these young men and women sacrifice for will never, ever "get it". I will also never, ever stand down in their stead either. My strength is much greater than theirs. Mine was forged in the fires of Hell! Their's given them by men and women they will never understand.

The second is from Christmas of 2006:

Now that I work, I find I don't enjoy the yearly round of shopping, baking, decorating, and holiday parties as much as I used to. Too many 'to-do' items crammed into too few hours often leave me feeling more frantic than festive, and visions of sugarplums are displaced by shopping lists during those all too short winter nights before the alarm clock summons me to another round of holiday mayhem. At first, last Friday night seemed no different. I sat curled up on the sofa; a glass on wine in one hand and before me a stack of boxes full of Christmas cards, their envelopes hand-lettered with studious care:

"Fellow American"
"Happy Holidays!"
"Dear Soldier"
"USA Army"
"Dear Fellow Human"
"Dear Friend"
"Hello military person!"

...and the number one choice of first grade boys (often with a flag or other patriotic emblem): "Go USA!" Then there was my favorite in the bunch:

"Hellooooooo Troop!"

I had before me the work of grades K-5 of my daughter in law's elementary school destined for Operation Santa. My task for the evening, to read each one before sending them on to the next step in their journey: Carrie Constantini, who would make sure they got to their final destination.

After three years of writing about the global war on terror my faith, once almost boundless, had been at a low ebb. But as I sipped my glass of wine and read I began to smile, then to chuckle softly, then finally I was laughing out loud. Recently, Hillary Clinton took it on herself, out of her vast military experience, to advise General John Abizaid that "Hope is not a method" for winning wars.

The General responded:

“I would also say that despair is not a method.”

“When I come to Washington, I feel despair. When I’m in Iraq with my commanders, when I talk to my soldiers and Iraqi leadership, they are not despairing,”

Neither, apparently, are the children of this nation. Somehow they have managed to resist the waves of negativity emanating from Capitol Hill. As I opened card after card, messages of hope, faith, and reassurance came through loud and clear whether from tiny tots barely able to eke out a few letters or 5th graders who wrote lovely (and often literate) notes to our men and women in uniform:

"Thank you for all you do."

"Thanks so much for keeping us safe. I hope we win."

"Thank you for protecting our country."

"Win this war for us!"

"Go USA!"

"Stay safe!"

"You are very brave to fight for us."

Sometimes the message was very simple, like this one from a 5 year old:

"We love you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Of course, where there are children, there are questions. Lots of questions:

"Dear Troopers:

I wonder how you do all that fighting? Do people from other countrys come and fight you when you are sleeping?"

"What is your favorite book? What is your job in the military?"

Do you have a dog? Do you miss your Mom?

Do you like to wear suits?

"Are you scared? If I were fighting a war, I would be scared. I hope you are not scared and I hope that you come back soon."

"Can you read my handwriting? If not then I am writing to nobody."

Some told "their soldier" about their lives and asked for details in return, adding "please write back!". One boy displayed a touching regard for the privacy of his pen pal, adding that he'd like to have all his questions answered, but only "if it's not too personal". Some added their own special touches: one boy closed his card with the note, "Here is a little poem I wrote myself...Just to get you through the day." Another added a quote from Oscar Wilde. A girl made tons of extra homemade cards - a labor of love.

It is odd, on a winter's night, to look at war through the eyes of a child. To see what we adults have made so unbearably complex, reduced once more to first principles. Whose side are we on? Who do we want to win? Do we even want to win this war? A frequent (and wistful) thought, expressed in many ways but running like a constant thread through the holiday wishes sent to our troops was:

"Fight hard! We appreciate all you do. Please win this war for us."

"It would be nice to win."

Yes it would. It would be nice to win.

Go USA! And thank you. Thank you for all you do. We love you.

And we do, still. Thank you - all of you. "Thanks" seem so inadequate in light of all we have lost. And all you have won.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:50 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

August 18, 2010

"Some Things Do Not Getter Better With Time"

You all know the type of thing I'm talking about, don't you? Sure you do (wink wink, nudge nudge):

If I am not mistaken, today marks the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

Make sure you watch the linked YouTube video. The other day I expressed some frustration with conservative men (and some conservative women) who indulge in the kind of wholesale, unthinking, broad brush condemnation I used to think was uniquely the province of the worst sort of Lefty. A reader commented:

I find it hard to imagine a conservative blogger or commenter being applauded for even hinting that the world would be a better place if African-Americans (who vote overwhelmingly Democratic) or American Jews (who tend to vote Democratic) couldn't vote. This is a great mystery to me: Why are comments like this acceptable when they're made about women?

I'm not sure what Williamson thought he was saying with that video. I do know that if being able to find a bunch of high school girls who are willing to sign a petition to end women's suffrage supposedly proves something about the wisdom of allowing women to vote, then Mark Dice has pretty well established that men shouldn't be allowed to vote either:

If this is what passes for wit - or worse, serious commentary - on the right, we're in deep, deep trouble. I expected better from the National Review.

Update: Hmmm.... here's one conservative who isn't unhappy that women are "allowed" to vote.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:02 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

More Crushing of UnAmerican Dissent

Be careful what you say... because if Nan Pelosi doesn't like it, she'll sic the awesome investigative power of the federal government on you:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, called for an investigation of those who are protesting the building of the Ground Zero Mosque on Tuesday. She told San Francisco's KCBS radio:

"There is no question there is a concerted effort to make this a political issue by some. And I join those who have called for looking into how is this opposition to the mosque being funded," she said. "How is this being ginned up that here we are talking about Treasure Island, something we've been working on for decades, something of great interest to our community as we go forward to an election about the future of our country and two of the first three questions are about a zoning issue in New York City." (h/t Kristinn)

Calls to investigate the funding for those proposing the $100 million "Cordoba House" have fallen on deaf ears, though, as New York's Mayor Mike Bloomberg has described such an investigation as "un-American."

This all reminds me of when the Republicans called for a Congressional investigation into who was backing all those violent anti-war protesters.

Ooops. My bad - that never happened, did it? That was protected speech.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:15 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

"The Peasants Are Revolting!", Redux

Reader Glenn Sutherland sends:

Since you were writing about narcissism awhile back, I thought you might find these billboards interesting. Sometime during last winter, the Marxist sign went up and was then replaced about a month ago by the Narcissist billboard. It's on southbound I-29 about half way between St. Joseph and Kansas City and I drive past it on my way home from work every day. These are very large, high quality, high visibility billboards (and not cheap, I'm sure). I've not seen photos of either billboard on any of the "major" blog sites.

Marxist Sign.jpg

Narcissist Sign.jpg

Meanwhile, in the Obamas' vacation spot of choice, more civil unrest:

“Last year, Obama gave you goose bumps, but I don’t think you’re going to see that this year,” said Alex McCluskey, co-owner of the Locker Room, who sold more than 4,000 “I vacationed with Obama’’ T-shirts last year. But so far this year, he said, his hot item is T-shirts of former President Bush asking, “Miss me yet?”

It would seem that Obama Everywhere is something less than an unqualified success. Dang.

Posted by Cassandra at 11:53 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Today in "Teddy Bears in the News..."

...teddy bear censorship rears its ugly head.

Everywhere we look these days, someone's human rights mellow is being severely harshed. Who will stand up for our basic freedoms?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:12 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Sex Is A Human Right?

According to the Nanny State, it is:

A 'man of 21 with learning disabilities has been granted taxpayers' money to fly to Amsterdam and have sex with a prostitute.

His social worker says sex is a 'human right' for the unnamed individual - described as a frustrated virgin.

His trip to a brothel in the Dutch capital's red light district next month is being funded through a £520million scheme introduced by the last government to empower those with disabilities.

Money quote from his state appointed "counselor":

'Wouldn't you prefer that we can control this, guide him, educate him, support him to understand the process and ultimately end up satisfying his needs in a secure, licensed place where his happiness and growth as a person is the most important thing?

'Refusing to offer him this service would be a violation of his human rights.'

It amuses me no end to watch the social safety net concept continue to evolve. What will be the next 'human right' taxpayers are placed on the hook for?

France, one of a few countries that has made Internet access a human right, did so earlier this year. France's Constitutional Council ruled that Internet access is a basic human right. That said, it stopped short of making "broadband access" a legal right. Finland says that it's the first country to make broadband access a legal right.

Feel free to vote for your favorite human right in the comments section.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:01 AM | Comments (44) | TrackBack

August 17, 2010

Deeply Disturbing Tidbit of the Day

Via Betsy Newmark:

[I]t seems more and more Britons have come to see nothing wrong with keeping ted in the bed.

More than a third of us still hug a childhood soft toy while falling asleep, according to a survey of 6,000 British adults.

More than half of Britons still have a teddy bear from childhood and the average teddy bear is 27 years old.

Those who slept with a teddy told researchers that they found it was a comforting and calming way to de-stress at the end of the day.

And 25 per cent of men polled said they took their teddy away with them on business because it reminded them of home.

Even Prince Charles travels everywhere with his childhood teddy, according to claims in a book by the U.S. writer Christopher Andersen.

Hotel chain Travelodge, which carried out the research, said that in the past year staff have reunited more than 75,000 teddies and their owners.

Spokesman Shakila Ahmed said: ‘Interestingly the owners have not just been children, we have had a large number of frantic businessmen and women call us regarding their forgotten teddy bear.

There are some who might aver that a woman who keeps a giant, stuffed Moose on the daybed in her spare bedroom should keep her snarky opinions to herself on this subject.

In my own defense, I will say that I do not sleep with The Moose. Nor does he travel with me.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:35 PM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

WEIRD Sampling Bias Skews Social Science Research

Via a great article from Jonathan Haidt that I'll be commenting more upon later, yet another reason to view the pronouncements of "experts" with a bit of skepticism:

Who are the people studied in behavioral science research? A recent analysis of the top journals in six sub‐disciplines of Psychology from 2003‐2007 revealed that 68% of subjects came from the US, and a full 96% of subjects were from Western industrialized countries, specifically North America, Europe, Australia, and Israel (Arnett 2008). The make‐up of these samples appears to largely reflect the country of residence of the authors, as 73% of first authors were at American universities, and 99% were at universities in Western countries. This means that 96% of psychological samples come from countries with only 12% of the world’s population. Put another way, a randomly selected American is 300 times more likely to be a research participant in a study in one of these journals than is a randomly selected person from outside of the West.

Even within the West, however, the typical sampling method for psychological studies is far from representative. In the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the premier journal in social psychology—the sub‐discipline of psychology that should (arguably) be the most attentive to questions about the subjects’ backgrounds—67% of the American samples (and 80% of the samples from other countries) were composed solely of undergraduates in psychology courses (Arnett 2008). Furthermore, this tendency to rely on undergraduates as samples has not decreased over time (Peterson 2001, Wintre et al. 2001). Such studies are thus sampling from a rather limited subpopulation within each country.

Why is this a problem?

Behavioral scientists routinely publish broad claims about human psychology, cognition, and behavior in the world’s top journals based on samples drawn entirely from highly educated segments of Western societies. Researchers—often implicitly—assume that either there is little variation across human populations, or that these “standard subjects” are as representative of the species as any other. Are these assumptions justified? Here, our review of the comparative database from across the behavioral sciences suggests both that there is substantial variability in experimental results across populations and that standard subjects are particularly unusual compared with the rest of the species—frequent outliers. The domains reviewed include visual perception, fairness, cooperation, spatial reasoning, categorization and inferential induction, moral reasoning, reasoning styles, self‐concepts and related motivations, and the heritability of IQ. The comparative findings suggest that members of Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic societies, [Ed. note: WEIRD] including young children, are among the least representative populations one could find for generalizing about humans. ... we need to be less cavalier in addressing questions of human nature on the basis of data drawn from this particularly thin, and rather unusual, slice of humanity.

The road to Hell is paved with unquestioned assumptions.

I know I've mentioned this before, but as an undergrad I tutored graduate level Education and Psych students in probability and statistics. I was routinely appalled at their complete inability to grasp (and disinterest in learning to avoid) the most basic sampling errors.

We heard a lot during the last administration about how government should base sweeping public policy decisions on the latest research from the social sciences. Skeptics who dared to question The Pronouncements of Science were demonized. How dare these superstitious, ignorant, inbred, snake handling freaks challenge their intellectual superiors?

When I read articles like this, I want to slap one of those "Question Authority" bumper stickers on the forehead of the closest expert I can find. A little humility from these folks would be a refreshing change.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:54 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Quote of the Day

“I can promise you, Homocon 2010 will be a hell of a lot more fun than chaining yourself to the White House fence,”

OK, that was sidebar worthy...

And get a load of some of the sponsors. That giant "boom" you just heard is the sound of a thousand heads exploding. Too funny!

Posted by Cassandra at 11:04 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

August 16, 2010

Random Gender Related Rants

A lot of thoughts have been building up inside my head lately. I've mostly skirted around the edges of what's bothering me, but I'm beginning to feel like my head will explode from all the things I haven't written about. So, dear readers, though it may prove to be a mistake I'm going to put a few of them out there for discussion. Feel free to argue with me because I do value your opinions. I will ask that we adhere to the usual VC standard of civility.

Nota bene: In the following post, "you" does not refer to anyone here at VC specifically. It is a general pronoun that refers to "people who make this sort of argument". During the first 4 or 5 years after I began blogging, I often wrote about the excesses of radical feminism. I did so for two reasons:

1. Unevenly applied standards (arguing that men ought to be held strictly accountable for their misdeeds but that excuses should be made for irresponsible or misbehaving women, or that women are fully equal to men in all respects yet we need special laws that "level the playing field") will rarely if ever find favor with me.

2. I despise over broad generalizations that blame an entire class of people for the misbehavior of a few. If you don't like the way *some* men behave, take it up with those men. But don't tell me that all men suck because you'll only convince me you're an oxygen thief.

After several years of ragging on radical feminism, I simply ran out of fresh things to say about it. An odd thing happened then. About the time I got bored with complaining about the "all men suck" school of feminism, I encountered the exact same victim mentality from an unexpected source: men.

Obligatory disclaimer time. I have absolutely no problem with men or men's rights activists lobbying or seeking to change existing laws they deem unfair. If men want to change the laws, they will need to make arguments that appeal to a majority of voters (some of whom will be female). It's up to each of us - male or female - to stand up for what we believe in. Fighting for what you believe in is a healthy response and in the case of family law, arguably a necessary one. What I don't care for so much is hypocrisy and double standards. If your best argument for any policy change begins with "Women always...", "All women...", or the especially entertaining, "All American women..." (inevitably followed by an exhortation to check out ads for Russian mail order brides) I'm going to go out on a limb and say you're trading in the same unthinking bigotry radical feminists have employed for decades.

If you seek to blame every negative social development of the 20th and 21st centuries on women or feminists, you can rely on me to point out that women are only one half of the human race and none of the changes you deplore could have taken place without the active support of men.

If you argue that men are strong, hard working, principled, and rational (while women are lazy, weak, amoral, and dominated by emotion) it's probably not a good idea to claim that men only went along with Those Evil Feminists because they didn't want to sleep on the sofa. That's hardly strong, principled, or rational behavior. And you probably shouldn't try to tell me that getting laid is so important to the male of the species that men will gladly bargain away their souls for sex. That kind of weak minded and idiotic behavior doesn't inspire respect, and if men are guilty of it (your argument, not mine) then they're equally to blame for the changes you object to.

Before 1920, women possessed no Constitutional right to vote. For six decades afterwards, women voted at lower rates than men. Conservatives love to slam liberals for "giving" women the vote. The truth is that it was the Republican Party who championed women's sufferage:

Only after the Republicans won control of congress in 1919 did the Equal Suffrage Amendment pass. It found favor in the House of Representatives in May and then passed the Senate in June.

As the 19th Amendment was circulating for ratification, the states with Republican legislatures passed the amendment. Thirty-six states ratified the Amendment. Twenty-six states had Republican legislatures and easily ratified the Amendment. Nine states voted against its ratification—eight of those states had Democratic legislatures.

Even before the Amendment was part of the Constitution, twelve states, all with Republican congresses, had conferred suffrage rights on women.

Conservatives also enjoy reminding progressives that the Civil Rights act would never have passed without the overwhelming support of the Republican party. When it comes to women's rights, though, suddenly they're ashamed of fighting for equal treatment under the law. Go figure.

Here's another inconvenient fact for those who think voting Democratic is primarily a function of gender: for the first 5 decades after women gained the vote, they were more likely to vote Republican than Democrat. There's a simple reason for that. Until recently, married women outnumbered single women and married women (like married men) have always been more likely to vote Republican.

Looking at the outcome of presidential elections in the 20th Century reveals some interesting insights. Women didn't gain the vote until about 40% into the first half of the 20th century. Even after we gained the vote, women voted at lower rates than men and most of them voted Republican. Given these facts, one might reasonably expect the number of presidential elections won by Republicans to greatly outnumber those won by the Democratic party.

One would be wrong, however. For the first half of the 20th Century when men dominated the vote, the ratio of Democrat to Republican terms was roughly equal (7D to 6R):


If women voters throw the balance of power to the liberal side, shouldn't we expect to see more Republicans winning elections when men dominated the voter roles and more Democrats winning elections as the number of female voters increases? That would make sense, but it's not what happened.

During the second half of the 20th Century the number of female voters rose steadily and yet the ratio of Democrat to Republican victories holds fairly constant (changing from 7D-6R to 5D-7R). In 1964, the number of female voters exceeded the number of male voters for the first time. By 1980 the proportion of women who vote exceeded the proportion of men who vote. And yet the ratio of Democrat to Republican terms didn't change significantly. If anything, as the number and proportion of women in the electorate increased, the balance of victories tilted even more strongly to conservatives.

The trend of Republican domination of the White House continues in the 21st century with 2 Republican terms to 1 Democrat term so far - this despite record numbers of female voters and the lowest participation of male voters in recent history. Those who argue that female voters are tilting the balance of power away from Republicans and towards Democrats have some 'splainin' to do. The future may well prove them right but the past 100 years certainly do nothing to support their case.

For years I've argued that there are fundamental differences between men and women. Contrary to the arguments of identity politics groups, I believe that some of these fundamental differences merit exceptions to my usual insistence on equal treatment under the law. I've never believed men are as likely as women to want to stay at home with small children. Neither do I believe women are as likely to voluntarily go into highly technical fields. If you don't believe that lower numbers of women in these fields is prima facie evidence of unjust discrimination, it seems to me that you're on shaky grounds arguing that lower numbers of men being granted primary custody of their children after divorce is prima facie evidence of unjust discrimination.

It's impossible to evaluate the overall fairness of custody awards without asking how many men pursue sole or primary custody of their children? And it's impossible to evaluate the overall fairness of hiring (or degrees awarded) in technical fields without looking at the number of women who actively pursue jobs or degrees in those fields. When feminists trotted out horrifying anecdotes featuring evil men who victimize innocent women, both men and women properly pointed out that isolated anecdotes do not prove the existence of systematic (must less unjust) discrimination. Without unfairly presuming the outcome, I think the same logic ought to apply regardless of whether this week's victim happens to be male or female.

Men have some very legitimate complaints with regard to the excesses of feminism, but they do themselves no credit when they stoop to tactics they previously argued were unprincipled and illogical. One of these tactics is labeling everything in sight, "misandry". Misandry is hatred of men, as opposed to disagreement with a man. Feminists who accuse everyone who disagrees with them of misogyny are arguing from emotion - they can't possibly know what motivates their opponents. Simple disagreement with feminism or the goals of feminists doesn't prove hatred of women. Likewise, simple disagreement with men's rights activists or their goals doesn't prove hatred of men.

Another phrase that chaps my ass is "shaming language". As this humorous commercial suggests, men have used that kind of language to dominate each other for centuries:

The real irony here is that in the world I grew up in, men regularly used "shaming language" on each other and anyone who complained about this was viewed - by men - as weak and unmanly. The military is arguably the last bastion of traditional male standards and it's no accident that "shaming language" is more common in the military than it is in society at large. You have to admit there's a palpable irony to pining for the return of the good old days when men were men ... by men who can't stand up to the kind of abuse they were expected to take in stride during said "good old days".

My final rant involves the soft bigotry of low expectations. Via Retriever comes this case in point. The article, entitled "Why It's OK for Men to Judge Women on their Looks" essentially argues that "it's OK" because that's the way the world works.

Contrast this article in which a woman who finds her boyfriend's excess avoir du poir offputting is excoriated for not being able to see the beautiful person lurking behind her man's beer belly. The truth is that the world would be a better place if both men and women looked at the whole package rather than just the outer wrapping. The world isn't that way, though.

Biology is used all the time to excuse male behavior. I have rarely (if ever) seen biology used to justify female behavior. If normal and natural male irrationality is to be excused by a breezy, "That's just how we're wired", shouldn't the same excuse be extended to women who are just following their instincts?

The real tragedy here is that the single thing I've always found most admirable in men of my acquaintance is not biology, but the self-discipline and integrity that allows men to rise above their base instincts.

We can be no better than our worst instincts or we can choose to be something more. Something human. Which is it to be?

Posted by Cassandra at 01:10 PM | Comments (84) | TrackBack

Pillars of Government Week: Part V - Do We Need A Constitutional Convention?

Back in 2006, we had a series of conversations about what I called the Pillars of Government. Part I was inspired by a post of Grim's on the military:

...I have lost all confidence in the Federal institutions governing our country, with the sole exception of the military. The institutions, which have served us well for so long, are breaking or are broken along key fault lines.

Spurred on by his analysis, we looked at the major institutions that make up the federal government. Part I dealt with the military. Parts II and III covered Congress and the Judiciary Part IV dealt with the Executive branch. We never got to what I intended to be Part V: the Constitution. This post is intended to remedy that deficiency.

To those on the right side of the political spectrum, judicial activism and the growing irrelevancy of the Constitution have been perennial topics of interest. The left, on the other hand, looks to the judiciary to remedy the perceived injustices that are a very real result of a representative government in which the majority necessarily retains enormous power. We discussed these issues to some extent in our conversation about the judiciary:

I believe the judiciary as an institution has become corrupt in the sense that it no longer works the way the Founders intended. Arguably change itself is neither positive nor negative in nature; institutions are designed to evolve over time. But that evolution should result in improvement and increased efficiency, not degradation of performance. Instead, the evolution of the judiciary has occurred in such a manner that the system of checks and balances has become disrupted. Consequently the judiciary is no longer accountable to the public it serves, and this presents an issue that must be addressed. Increasingly, judges are usurping the legislative role and overstepping their constitutionally designated function. Many now actively make law where they should be deferring to the will of the people.

Why is this a problem? At the level of SCOTUS, unelected judges are removing important public policy matters from all possibility of debate and effectively writing them into the Constitution, from whence there is no possibility of review or repeal, unless by those same unelected judges. They are carving their own policy preferences into stone.

Because of the long standing practice of stare decisis, their decisions are unlikely to be overturned, even by their peers. Judges cannot easily be removed from office when they overstep their authority and they are almost never held accountable for their actions. They serve for life. Thus, their encroachment on the legislative and executive functions represents a clear and present danger to democratic governance that cannot and must not be tolerated.

When was the last time any of you recall a federal judge being removed from the bench for cause?

Remarkably, in 200+ years only six judges have been impeached. Congress critters may be voted out of office and Presidents have term limits. Judges, on the other hand, unless they are Alcee Hastings, who for his sins was sentenced to hard labor in the House of Representatives, seem to receive their severance notices mainly from the hand of Almighty God, as Chief Justice Rehnquist recently learned to his immense surprise. We'd like to think the boss was not displeased with his performance.

What was the Founding Fathers' original intent for the Judicial Branch? We may look to two sources: the Constitution and the Federalist papers. Grim places most of the onus for the current problems with the judiciary on the 14th Amendment, but we would trace them farther back than that to Marbury vs. Madison and the advent of judicial review.

The gradual evolution of the Constitution from its origins as a document intended to limit the power of the federal government to a set of explicit, enumerated powers to a living, breathing document that actually expands the power of the federal government and aligns policy with the evolving mores of the global community must be the mother of all slippery slopes. But having identified the problem, how do we restore to the Constitution its intended power and functions?

One way would be to hold a Constitutional Convention (or a series of them). In this manner, the People would directly determine the powers granted to the several states and the federal government. Larry Sabato has identified 23 proposals for directly amending the Constitution. Accordingly, I'd like to set forth several questions for the villainry:

1. What, in your opinion, are the most pressing problems with the Constitution (this includes both the original text and court decisions that have interpreted that text, regardless of whether they expanded or limited federal power).

2. Is a Constitutional Convention the right remedy for these deficiencies? If so, what form should it take?

3. What overarching goals should such a convention seek to accomplish?

4. Finally, which of Sabato's suggested amendments appeal to you most, and why? Do you have proposals of your own?

I look forward to the discussion!

Posted by Cassandra at 08:19 AM | Comments (33) | TrackBack

August 15, 2010

A Few Bones to Pick

Because the blog princess is feeling a mite cantankerous this week, she's going to try something new (albeit with a bit of trepidation). Every week I read things that make my head explode. A good 98 or 99% of the time, I don't write about them - mostly because I hate blog wars and can rarely understand why so many bloggers take disagreements personally rather than viewing them as a jumping off point for discussion or an opportunity to sharpen their arguments.

When I do argue with another blogger, it tends to be someone I like and/or someone who, in my estimation, is unlikely to take disagreements to heart. In that vein, I'm going to pick on two bloggers I like this week! The first is my old friend and Cycle of Violence adversary, Tigerhawk. Earlier this week, he commented on the Laura Schlessinger brouhaha:

The lefty blogs are in high dudgeon over Laura Schlessinger's repeated use of the "N" word in an exchange with an African-American woman who called in with a genuine issue, her frustration -- which sounds legitimate to me -- that her white husband would not stand up for her when his friends and family make "racist" or at least race-based comments. Conservatives should object just as loudly. Dr. Laura's rant is brain dead stuff from beginning to end. Forget the N-word baiting. Where's the sense or compassion in advising people to avoid "marrying out of their race" if they do not want suffer the indignity of dumbshit generalizations? Huh? You do not have to be a politically-correct academic liberal to think that is both idiotic and mean. And, by the way, it is bad for America, which could use a little more interracial marriage.

Makes me embarrassed to be a conservative.

Whatever one thinks of Dr. Laura's comments (not having read the transcript yet, it sounds as though her use of the much ballyhoo'd 'n-word' was gratuitously offensive, but I agree that people who can't defend themselves against "dumbsh**", racially insensitive remarks probably should not marry outside their own race) I'm mystified by the suggestion that she in any way represents conservatism as a movement.

For whatever it may be worth, years ago I was on the other side of this woman's situation. I dated outside my own race, and it wasn't my white friends who made the racially insensitive remarks. It was his black friends.

And he didn't defend me, either. But then I never expected him to. Dating him was my decision and I was perfectly capable of defending myself.

One of the benefits of being an adult is that adults can do as we please within reason. Unfortunately, the freedom to act doesn't imply freedom from ignorance, criticism, or hurtful remarks. It also doesn't guarantee that others will approve of your choices. Adults who can't deal with ignorant remarks have two choices: stop associating with ignorant people or learn to stand up for yourself.

But I have a more serious beef with TH's reaction. Why should statements made by a radio talk show host make anyone feel embarrassed to be conservative?

What are we saying? That every utterance by a radio talk show host is hereby incorporated by reference into the core belief system of their chosen political party? Given the plethora of conflicting opinions on offer from both parties these days, that could be confusing (to say the least).

That moral people feel ashamed any time someone who shares some of their beliefs says something stupid (even if they don't share those beliefs, and even if they have absolutely no connection to that person)? If we accept that principle, then Rev. Wright's racist rants should make all progressives ashamed.

I wonder how willing the lefty sites TH links to would be to accept that reasoning? My guess is, "Not very".

Update: OK, now I've read the transcript of Schlessinger's remarks and, if anything, I'm more confused than ever. Was she blunt to the point of insensitivity? Certainly, but then that's her trademark. She didn't treat the caller any differently than she treats any caller. And the use of the 'n-word' was limited to stating that black comedians use it all the time. Is that untrue?

Anyone looking for sensitivity from Dr. Laura clearly hasn't paid their attention bill. For the life of me, I can't see how the caller was treated any differently than Dr. Laura treats callers of other races. It seems to me that the underlying complaint relies on the same arguments used to justify hate crime laws. Somehow, when a person of color voluntarily consults a controversial talk show host who is famous for her bluntness and straight talk and gets... the same brand of blunt, straight talk every other caller gets ... this should make all right thinking righties embarrassed?

It seems to me that if you have a problem with the way this caller was treated you should have a problem with the way Schlessinger treats all callers.

Next bone coming up in a moment... below the fold.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:41 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Barack Obama: Man of the People

In the midst of an otherwise gushing article in the WaPo, snark rears its ugly head:

Michelle Obama just returned from Spain with Sasha. And there was the Maine weekend, when the family escaped to a tiny seaside town in the cool air of the upper Northeast. And earlier, the family spent a couple of days at a fancy North Carolina resort that has hosted presidents for 100 years.

The Obamas took in Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon earlier this year. But it is Martha's Vineyard -- haven of the rich and powerful -- that appears to have the most appeal. Obama and his family vacationed there last August for a week, and they are returning this summer for 10 days.

Lest you think the Post is being too hard on the Obamas, it could have been worse. Far worse.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:55 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

August 13, 2010

For Carrie

...because I care so very much:

Posted by Cassandra at 02:39 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Pressing Social Problem of the Week....

Hat Anxiety:

Hector Ramirez sort of knows, from watching old movies, that men are supposed to take off their hats when indoors. But the 19-year-old Brown University student wears fedoras in class—with jeans—anyway.

"If I'm wearing a hat and it's part of my look, I don't think I should have to take it off," he says. On a recent trip to New York, an usher at a church had to remind him to take off his fedora. "I was wearing it all day and I guess I kind of just forgot I had it on."

Inspired by designer runway shows, celebrities such as Justin Timberlake and even, in some cases, old pictures of Frank Sinatra, more young men are going mad for hats. But the hat renaissance is creating a quandary for a generation of men and boys who grew up without learning hat-wearing etiquette from their fathers. Many are making up their own rules about when and where to take them off.

Civilization is a fragile construct. We are not sure it can withstand a new generation with an inflated sense of Hat Entitlement.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Posted by Cassandra at 11:10 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

August 12, 2010

Lame Blogging Alert

Please be patient with me, guys. I've been dealing with migraines this week so I'm not firing on all cylinders. Will get something up later but I've got work I've got to do first.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:20 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

August 11, 2010


...they just can't help showing off their weiners.


Posted by Cassandra at 11:06 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Harry Reid: Real Man of Genius

...this Bud's for you, big guy:

While campaigning in Nevada Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told an audience of mostly Hispanic voters: "I don't know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, okay. Do I need to say more?"

Because Those People all vote alike, you know. It's in their blood.

Can you say, "On the ropes", boys and girls? I knew that you could. I wonder if they have bedbugs in Nevada?

Posted by Cassandra at 10:49 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Elusive Critter Report

The indefatigable BillT is at it again:

I was walking back from locking up the classroom late yesterday and, when I turned the corner, I came nose-to-kneecap with something coming around the corner from the opposite direction.

A golden jackal.

Remember I said that desert foxes and jackals don't hang around waiting to have their pictures taken? He did a *clackity-clackity-claws-scrabbling-on-terrazo-running-in-place* about face and lit out like he'd just bumped into Michael Moore with a bottle of ketchup in his hand. By the time I got into my office, grabbed the camera, set it to outdoors, cranked it to 10x mag, turned it right-side-up and looked through the viewfinder, he was a quarter-mile away, and moving *fast*.

The blog princess feels his pain. Over the last week, she has "just missed" more incredible critter pictures than she can shake a digital camera at.

First there was the sacked out squirrel.

Our house is built on a 45 degree hill. That means that when you look out the French doors on either side of the stone fireplace in our living room, you're looking directly into the branches of about a hundred trees in our back yard. Lately it has been hitting 100 degrees here in western Maryland, and the other day as I walked past the French doors I espied a squirrel lounging around on a branch right outside the window.

He was really comical - his little body was stretched out along the branch with his paws were hanging down limply on either side for balance. He looked like a piece of overcooked pasta. I called The Unit over to see him and then went to find the camera. By the time I returned, parted the wood blinds to get a better view, desperately tried to find the Tree Rodent in the viewfinder and zoomed in for a closer look, he was happily scarfing berries and the shot was gone.

The princess had another close encounter with a small painted turtle over the weekend. Turtles not being known for their lightning fast reflexes, it is (perhaps) a comment on her picture taking skills that by the time she went inside, found the camera, etc. said turtle had halfway buried himself in the mulch.

We won't even discuss the fat young woodchuck she missed yesterday right outside her kitchen door but she did manage to get two perfectly useless shots of the flower bed and the retaining wall.

We have got to get a more cooperative brand of critter out here. Either that, or a faster photographer.

Still no sign of the ribbon snake, by the way. Though we did espy a recently shed snake skin in the stone wall. I miss seeing his little darting tongue tasting the air while I'm pulling weeds.

Update: BUSTED!!! Not nearly as funny as the original snap I missed, but perhaps good for a smile:


This is the branch he was completely stretched out on the other day:


Can't believe I missed that shot. A more cooperative critter:


Posted by Cassandra at 08:36 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Is Jenny the Job-Quitting HPOA Another Hoax?

According to MediaMemo, quite possibly:

Today, our favorite job quitter is “Jenny”–”a girl” who left her job by sending co-workers a series of photos where she uses a whiteboard to insult her boss and expose his fondness for Farmville.

We know that the Steve Slater story is true. But what about Jenny’s story?

Almost certainly made up.

The story showed up this morning on theChive.com, a dude-centric site run by brothers John and Leo Resig, who own a series of photo/humor sites. (That’s Leo on the left.) Before that, the Resigs ran a site called Derober, which features doctored photos of celebrities in their underwear.

And Derober’s moment in the spotlight came back in December 2007, when it made up a story about Donald Trump leaving a $10,000 tip on a $82.27 bill. The story was convincing enough to fool Fox News and the New York Post (both of which are owned by News Corp., which also owns this site).

So Jenny is a fake, too. Right, Leo Resig?

No, Resig says over the phone. “Jenny’s very real.”

Really? Really, Resig says.

He says Jenny is with his brother John at this very moment, and that the three of them are trying to figure out the best way to identify her and tell her story.

Jay Leno wants Jenny on his show, Leo Resig says. “Good Morning America” wants her, too. He’s not sure the best way to proceed, because “we’re trying to be respectful of that girl.”

But don’t worry, Leo says. The brothers plan on identifying Jenny “tomorrow morning around 10 am. We’re not exactly sure who or how we’re going to release it. Obviously it will be on thechive.com as well.”

Okay. But you’re the same guys who gave us the Donald Trump story, and that was fake. Is this one different?

Pause. “Good homework. That was a good time.”

Ah. So is Jenny’s story real, then? “This one is to be determined. People are kind of making up their own stories.”

Either way, the stunt was amusing. More at 11.

Update: "Jenny" is an actress from LA who was hired to do the photo shoot. This picture is worth a thousand words:


CWCID: TechCrunch

Posted by Cassandra at 08:14 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 10, 2010

Major Norm Hatch on YouServed Radio

Starting... now! Major Hatch is a Marine veteran of Iwo Jima and a maker of combat films. He will be talking with CJ Grisham. You don't want to miss this:

Maj Hatch spoke at the 2010 MilBlog conference and received multiple standing ovations for his service, dedication to the country, and awe inspiring stories.

Go now, peoples.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:55 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Sternly Wagging Finger of the Nanny State Strikes Again

Fear it:

On Wednesday afternoon, New York officials held a press conference to announce the city's concerted, coordinated, multi-agency crackdown on the ongoing problem of bedbug infestation. Christine Quinn, the speaker of the City Council, offered strong words for an itchy metropolis, the New York Times reported:

“To bedbugs in the city of New York,” Ms. Quinn shouted from the steps of City Hall, “Drop dead. Your days are over, they’re numbered, we’re not going to take it anymore, we’re sick and tired.”

Seriously, does this remind you of anything?
This, perhaps?
Or this? Or perhaps this?

If you're not already hysterical with laughter, there's more brilliance where that came from!

Beginning tomorrow, the city will send teams of bedbug-control officers door to door throughout the five boroughs, accompanied by bedbug-sniffing dogs, with fumigation teams following on their heels, and—

Oh, sorry, Speaker Quinn got me a little too exercised, and I made that whole plan up. What is the city really going to do about the bedbugs, according to today's declaration of war and its promise of "strong action"?

Recommendation 1.1: Take a proactive approach to public education and awareness.

Super! People should know things, first of all. Knowledge is power!

Recommendation 1.3: Launch and maintain an online Bed Bug Portal devoted to bed bug facts and resources.

Replace "bed bug" with "magazine" and this was Conde Nast's Internet strategy for 10 or 12 years. (It was not a good strategy.)

Recommendation 3.2: Develop integrated monitoring, tracking, and reporting tools.

Yes! Keep track of the bedbugs, so you can kill kill kill kill them!

Recommendation 3.3: Improve the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) bed bug infestation inspection protocols and code enforcement capacity.

Wait, that does not say "kill kill kill kill."

This time, they're serious. Really - they mean business. After all, if mere sternness doesn't do the trick, they can always get angry.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:18 PM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

August 09, 2010

Job of the Week

Many moons ago whilst the Blog Princess was working one of what proved to be an endless series of underpaid and unrewarding jobs, she took comfort in mocking occupations that were even more pointless and bizarre than her own. This highly nuanced form of mockery was usually indicated by the sarcastic phrase, "Yeah... I want that job".

Being bored beyond belief at work, she has decided to turn this into a blog category used to denote weird occupations. This week's entry?

"Monkey annoyance expert", as in:

Japanese macaques will completely flip out when presented with flying squirrels, a new study in monkey-antagonism has found. The research could pave the way for advanced methods of enraging monkeys.

OK, the truth is that she just wanted an excuse to post this photo:


As a potential growth industry, "Monkey Annoyance Expert" strikes us as being right up there with "Breast Navigator".

That is all.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:36 PM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

Would Tax Breaks Lead to Higher Birth Rates?

Though I usually find Robert Samuelson's articles well thought out and well researched, I'm not sure that's why people have children:

Among the government's most interesting reports is one -- published by the Agriculture Department -- that estimates what parents spend on their children. The latest version finds, not surprisingly, that the costs are steep. For a middle-class husband-wife family (average pretax income in 2009: $76,250), spending per child is about $12,000 a year. Assuming modest annual inflation (2.8 percent), the report estimates that the family's spending on a child born in 2009 would total $286,050 by age 17. A two-child family would cost about $600,000. All these estimates may be understated because they do not include college costs.

A few questions and observations:

1. Do people spend more on their children because the cost of raising children has increased? Or because affluent societies have fewer children (on average) and most disposable income?

2. Does spending more on kids mean you're doing a better job of raising them? I happen to believe there's something to be said for teaching children the value of hard work. I bought my sons their first bicycle because they were too young to earn money but when they wanted to move up to a "grownup" bike, I told them they should work and save up for it.

Likewise, though paid for much of both sons' college educations, they were required to take their own loans and to earn their spending money and contribute towards their tuition.

Children work fewer hours now than previous generations and yet they have far more possessions. That seems like a perverse lesson in incentives to me. I've also noticed that those least able to afford large families seem more inclined to have them while those most able to afford large families delay childbirth and have small families.

Possibly related:

“From Washington to Wall Street,” Reuters columnist James Pethokoukis wrote on Thursday, “there are rumors that the Obama administration is about to order government-controlled lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to forgive a portion of the mortgage debt of millions of Americans who owe more than what their homes are worth.”

Let's take this slowly: despite several government initiatives designed to make it possible to homeowners to keep homes they clearly can't afford, even folks who have the money are defaulting on their mortgages. This administration's answer to a problem largely created by too lenient lending policies seems to be ... wait for it ... to relax the rules even farther.

Yeah, that'll work. Discuss amongst your ownselves.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:55 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Do Men Work More Hours Than Women?

According to this article, the answer is "yes":

A study published this week by Dr Catherine Hakim of the London School of Economics has found that men do slightly more work than the women they live with when employment and domestic work are measured together.

Note that the exact same study is summarized by Reuters as "Men and women do the same amount of work". Got agenda? Oddly, the article provides no link to the study. Nor did it provide any information other than the general conclusion that men work slightly more hours. Curious about the study's methodology (not to mention the accuracy of this author's summary), I decided to do a little research. What I found was considerably more nuanced than the Telegraph would have us believe:

Who works hardest? Feminists have long complained about women’s ‘double shift’ – a term invented in the United States, and automatically assumed to apply equally in western Europe, despite our shorter work hours and widespread availability of part-time jobs. Indeed, the European Commission actively promotes the idea that women carry an unfair burden, working disproportionately long hours in jobs and at home as well, juggling family and work (1). However time budget studies show that women’s double shift is a myth.

I don't find the claimed debunking of the "double shift" nonsense particularly surprising. It is well documented that men perform the lion's share of difficult and dangerous jobs:

According to the International Labor Organization, an estimated 1.1 million workers are killed in industrial accidents each year, exceeding the number killed from road accidents, war, violence and AIDS.

These accidents occur primarily in mining, logging, heavy agricultural labor, construction, fishing, heavy manufacturing and various other overwhelmingly male jobs. The ILO estimates that some 600,000 lives would be saved every year if available safety practices were used. The ILO also estimates that there are an approximately 250 million occupational accidents and 160 million occupational diseases each year. The ILO doesn't keep figures by gender, but in countries like England, Australia, Canada, and South Africa, where such figures are available, the fatalities and serious injuries are usually over 90 percent male.

The gender breakdowns in the U.S. are little different. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were over 125 million workplace injuries in the United States between 1976 and 1999. Nearly 100,000 workers died from job-related injuries between 1980 and 1994 with 95 percent of them male. Of the 25 most dangerous jobs listed by the U.S. Department of Labor, all of them are at least 90 percent and are often 100 percent male. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, more than three million workers a year are treated in hospital emergency rooms for occupational injuries and nearly 50 American workers are injured every minute of the 40-hour work week. On average, every day 17 die, 16 of them male.

It is also well documented that, whether one looks at lifetime employment statistics or average hours worked per week, men spend more hours than women at work. Again, given that women are far more likely to take time off from work to care for small children or other relatives, this is hardly surprising (and in fact, I think it's a good thing).

What interested me about this study was the odd gap between what the study actually found, what the author of the study claims it proves, and the way the results were reported in the media:

On average, women and men across Europe do the same total number of productive work hours, once paid jobs and unpaid household work are added together – roughly eight hours a day. Men do substantially more hours of paid work. Women’s time is divided more evenly between paid and unpaid work.

Hmmm... and yet both the author and the media claim the study shows that men do more work than women do. Let's read some more:

Men and women do roughly equal amounts of voluntary work – contrary to the popular myth that women do vastly more than men. Results for Britain are repeated in the USA and other countries, despite differences in the length of working weeks and lifestyles. It is only in the poorer nations that women work longer hours overall.

Again, I have no problem with the author's claim that her study refutes the feminist mantra that women work way more hours than men. That's not surprising in light of the number of studies I've cited that show the same thing. I'm just not sure how Hakim gets "men work more hours than women" from "on average, men and women work roughly the same number of hours". Perhaps it's that sophisticated Euro-weenie nuance thing again....

Indeed, in Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands, men actually do more productive work than women.

Mystery solved! Instead of looking at the overall study results, we're going to cherry pick the data! And it turns out that if we only look at British men with children at home, we can add Britain to the list!

The pattern of equality in total productive work hours is found among couples aged 20-40 and those aged 40-60, so is reasonably constant across the lifecycle. In fact, an analysis by Susan Harkness shows that British men work longer hours in total than do women when there are children in the home, largely because men often work more overtime to boost family income at this stage, while wives switch to part-time jobs, or even drop out of employment (Harkness, 2008).

Suddenly, though, an inconvenient truth rears its ugly head:

Couples with no children at home and both in full-time jobs emerge as the only group where women work more hours in total than men, once paid and unpaid work hours are added together.

Oddly enough, when we begin selectively citing data from portions of the sample, a vastly different picture begins to emerge:

Feminists constantly complain that men are not doing their fair share of domestic work. The reality is that most men already do more than their fair share, and this is most pronounced in the ‘gender egalitarian’ cultures of Scandinavia. These conclusions have long been established by Gershuny’s research, and are re-confirmed by the new time budget studies across Europe and North America. The only exceptions are Eastern European countries: under socialist governments, women did more hours in total, as they were forced into full-time jobs, and they continue to work longer hours in a few ex-socialist countries today.

What I'm seeing here is that when women work full time - regardless of whether they do so as a result of socialist political policies or because they are in a two full-time wage earner relationship - they work longer hours than men do overall. When men have small children to provide for, they often work overtime to provide for their families and thus (after helping around the house) work longer hours.

It turns out that the author has a bit of an agenda herself:

... last week Hakim put the female arts of looking appetising firmly onto the academic agenda. In a controversial new paper for a sociological journal, she suggests we may all be missing a trick by not recognising the power of “erotic capital”.

She defines the key elements of erotic capital as “sex appeal, charm and social skills, physical fitness and liveliness, sexual competence and skills in self-presentation”. She claims that men and women with erotic capital can expect to earn 10% to 15% more than those without.

In more down-to-earth terms, what she’s talking about is anything from an ability to flirt subtly with the boss to the commercial exploitation of a large pair of breasts.

In Hakim’s world, a female historian is in no way devalued if she chooses to strip off in order to publicise her book. Nor is there anything wrong with being a gold-digger.

“We live in a sexualised age: that’s the trend. Let’s just relax ... There’s not much point in swimming against the tide,” she says.

Hakim's "preference theory" (the idea that women's choices reflect women's values rather than the influence of jackbooted patriarchal oppression) makes perfect sense to me, which probably explains why I've been saying the same thing for the past 6 years. The claim that, when all things are considered, men pull their weight in most relationships is likewise reasonable.

What doesn't make so much sense to me is how she gets "men are doing more than their fair share" from "men and women work roughly equal hours once paid and unpaid work are accounted for"? At any rate, do read the entire study.

Given the well documented tendency of both men and women to respond to survey questions in socially desirable ways, I've always viewed studies that don't control for self reporting bias with a certain amount of skepticism. When the author herself claims that her purpose is to force the Nanny State to "compensate" people for cleaning their own houses and caring for their own children, my BS meter goes off big-time. This was a loony idea when feminists first suggested it, and I'm not any more inclined to support it when its suggested by a purported anti-feminist.

The state has no duty to compensate anyone - male or female - for supporting their own families. To the extent that any man or women provides value to third parties, it makes sense for those third parties to compensate these workers. That condition is not satisfied when private citizens - be they male or female - do housework for themselves, shop for groceries, or bathe Junior.

I suppose we can all count it as a Great Leap Forward that these days, Dad is just as stressed as Mom. Everyone's a victim these days.

Oops! Nearly forgot - thanks to FuzzyB for the Telegraph link.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:39 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Dept. of Overcoming Confirmation Bias

I've been meaning to link this excellent post by neo-neocon:

... the entire demographic “unmarried women,” ... seems absurd to me. It’s a term used by various research groups in studies, but it describes a conglomeration of women so disparate as to be virtually meaningless as a unit.

Think about it—”unmarried women” consists of women who have never been married (mostly younger ones, who will probably become married in the not-too-distant future), divorced women (many of whom will remarry, sometimes briefly and sometimes long-term), women with children and without, and widows (mostly older, most of whom will never remarry). What do these women have in common, besides being women, and besides being at least temporarily single?

As for unmarried women voting for Obama—whatever their reasons—some of this can be explained by the fact that they are predominantly young.

I also commend to you the linked study on why women file for divorce at the end of her post.

I do research for a living and there are two things I've learned over the years:

1. People love simplistic answers, especially if they happen to affirm what they already believe.

2. It's extremely hard to control for all - or even most - factors that influence outcomes. Many people dispense with this requirement by simply pretending they don't exist. That's not a strategy for success unless the purpose of your "study" is to confirm a pre-existing bias.

There's an old saying that goes something like, "Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity". When surfing the Intertubes, I often think to myself that this old maxim ought to have a corollary:

Never attribute to a single, poorly defined factor what could just as well be attributed to numerous other factors you haven't controlled for (or even considered). That ought to go double for anyone who just found a handy study that "conclusively proves" them right.

I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:27 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Divorce Insurance

The perfect wedding gift for the PoMo groom who has everything:

Here’s a new option for those worried they’ll end up on the wrong side of the statistics that show so many marriages ending over time: divorce insurance.

SafeGuard Guaranty Corp., an insurance start-up based in North Carolina, recently released what it’s billing as the first world’s first divorce insurance product. Here’s how its WedLock product works.

The casualty insurance is designed to provide financial assistance
in the form of cash to cover the costs of a divorce, such as legal proceedings or setting up a new apartment or house. It is sold in “units of protection.” Each unit costs $15.99 per month and provides $1,250 in coverage. So, if you bought 10 units, your initial coverage would be $12,500 and you’d be paying $15.99 per month for each of those units. In addition, every year, the company adds $250 in coverage for each unit.

Then, if you get divorced and your policy has matured (see below for the maturation rules), you would send WedLock proof of your divorce. In return, you’d receive a lump sum of cash equivalent to the amount of coverage you had purchased.

So how does the company prevent people who know they are going to get a divorce from signing up? To prevent that kind of adverse selection, the policies don’t mature until 48 months after their effective date (though people can purchase additional riders to reduce that maturity period to 36 months and to get their premiums back if they happen to divorce before the policy matures).

And what about other possible selection problems related to people with volatile relationships or a family history of divorce purchasing policies in large numbers? John A. Logan, chief executive officer of SafeGuard Guaranty, said the company has performed risk assessment and actuarial studies with this in mind. He notes that even in the worst case scenario, not all of those divorces would happen at once.

Interesting that the article mentions the adverse selection problem but says nothing about moral hazard:

Because insurance changes the costs of misfortune, and because people's choices depend on costs and benefits, insurance should change people's behavior. They should make less effort to avoid misfortune, and this change in behavior is called moral hazard. For example, if an accident costs a person $1000 but insurance pays $900, the insured person has less incentive to avoid the accident. If the accident costs the person $1000 but pays $2000, the person not only has no incentive to avoid the accident but may have an incentive to seek it out.

Sometimes moral hazard is dramatic. Fire insurance encourages arson, automobile insurance encourages accidents, and disability insurance encourages dismemberment. In a story in its December 23, 1974 issue, The Wall Street Journal reported this bizarre instance of moral hazard:

"[T]here is the macabre case of "Nub City," a small Florida town that insurance investigators decline to identify by its real name because of continuing disputes over claims. Over 50 people in the town have suffered 'accidents' involving the loss of various organs and appendages, and claims of up to $300,000 have been paid out by insurers. Their investigators are positive the maimings are self-inflicted; many witnesses to the 'accidents' are prior claimants or relatives of the victims, and one investigator notes that 'somehow they always shoot off parts they seem to need least.'"

The problem of moral hazard also affects government programs that insure people against misfortune. A variety of programs help people who suffer the misfortune of poverty. Aid to dependent children helps people who suffer the misfortune of having children to raise that they cannot financially support. Unemployment compensation pays people who suffer the misfortune of losing their jobs. Food stamps and public housing help the poor. Yet all these programs also suffer from problems of moral hazard. They increase children born out of wedlock, unemployment, and poverty.

Moral hazard is the result of maximizing behavior. A person weighs the costs and benefits of an action, and when benefits exceed costs, he takes the action. This does not mean that if a person has a building insured for $50,000 but only has a market value of $30,000, the owner will necessarily commit arson. There may be costs of violating one's moral code and of getting caught and convicted for arson. But some people put into this situation will find a way to torch the building because they do not find the cost of violating a moral code very high and they consider the chances of being caught small, and other people will be less careful about avoiding fires. Moral hazard does not require that people intentionally cause the misfortune. If they simply take fewer measures to prevent misfortune, the same outcome occurs.

Now here's the 64,000 dollar question. The everything-we-don't-like-is-misandry crowd love to go on and on about how no fault divorce has increased the divorce rate. It's an attractive theory (and one I was inclined to believe myself before I actually looked at the actual data on marriage and divorce rates over time).

The following chart shows normalized marriage and divorce rates from 1860 on:


Well known cautions about correlation not proving causation notwithstanding, the advent of unilateral divorce grounds (irreconcileable differences, not no fault) in the late 1960s appears to coincide with steep increases in both overall and new divorces per 1000 people. So if we were inclined to think correlation proved causation, it would appear that it was irreconcilable difference that drove divorce rates through the roof and not no fault. No fault, though popularly supposed to have increased the divorce rate, was available in only a few states in 1977 and didn't become widely available until 1983 - long after divorce rates began to rise steeply.

What's interesting to note is that the steepest increase in divorces occurs before the advent of no fault. The increase begins about 1958 and peaks about 20 years later in 1979. After no fault became widely available, both new and overall divorce rates actually declined. The data don't even show the correlation that is so often (and wrongly) used to imply causation.

Note also the peak in the marriage and divorce rates roughly corresponding to WWI and Vietnam.

I can't help wondering whether differences in the composition of marriage cohorts (age at first marriage and other demographic factors) wouldn't better explain divorce rates? As the following chart shows, the proportion of first marriages that fail during the first 25 years rose steadily from 1950 through 1979 but has fallen for couples married for the first time after 1980:

divorces by year married.jpg

This study provides some evidence that changing demographics may explain both the increase in divorce rates from 1958-1979 and the decrease in both marriages and divorces thereafter:

First, the proportion married at each age has been surprisingly stable over more than a century; the pattern in 1980, for instance, is remarkably similar to that in 1880. Second, consistent with our earlier analysis, the 1960s were unusual, reflecting not only more marriage, but earlier marriage. Third, the data for 2000 suggest a very different pattern, with marriage less prevalent among young adults, but more prevalent among those at older ages. This trend toward rising age at first marriage represents both a return to, and a departure from, earlier patterns. The return to earlier patterns is the later age at which men first marry; in 1890, the median age at which men first married was 26, declining to 23 by the mid-1950s, and then returning to 27 in 2004.

Finally (and most inconveniently for those who believe that women's lib is destroying marriage), it turns out that the proportion of college educated women who marry has been rising for decades and that such women are less likely to divorce:

Historically, women with more education have been the least likely to marry and have children, but this marriage gap has eroded as marriage and remarriage rates for women with a college degree relative to those with less education have risen.

In fact, college-educated women now marry later, have fewer children, are less likely to view marriage as "financial security," are happier in their marriages and are the least likely to divorce.

... college-educated women are the only group of women whose marriage rates in the 21st century are higher than they were at any point in the 1950s.

Sometimes, facts are inconvenient things. I used to believe that earlier marriages (at least for women) would foster lower divorce rates. I also used to believe that no fault divorce was largely responsible for the high rates of divorce we see these days. But although those beliefs were emotionally satisfying to me (since they validated my own life experience and values), they don't appear to be supported by the factual evidence on historical marriage and divorce rates.

For men who believe marriage presents an unacceptably large financial risk, divorce insurance may be the answer to their prayers. Statistically speaking, however, the best insurance against divorce for men may well be to marry later in life and choose a woman with a college education.

Can't you just hear the heads exploding?

Posted by Cassandra at 06:34 AM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

August 06, 2010

Thought for the Day

From Will Wilkinson:

In my thinking about the contrasts between Rawlsian and Hayekian liberalism, I’ve begun to think about the former as the “liberalism of respect” and the latter as the “liberalism of discovery.” The liberalism of discovery recognizes the pervasiveness of our ignorance and the necessity of liberty for the emergence of useful knowledge. I would argue that the ideal of a social order embodying respect for persons as free and equal–the ideal of the liberalism of respect–comes to seem appealing only after a society has attained a certain level of economic development and general education, and these are largely consequences of a prior history of the relatively free play of the mechanisms of discovery celebrated by liberals like Hayek and Jim. But liberals of respect have tended to overlook the conditions under which people come to find the their favored ideal worth aspiring to, and so have tended to fail to acknowledge in their theories of justice the role of the institutions of discovery in creating and maintaining a society of mutual respect and fair reciprocity.

More on this later.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:11 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Myths of ObamaCare

A physician explains why ObamaCare's "preventative care" provisions are oxymoronic:

To apprehend the folly, it is necessary to understand what is meant by "preventive."

...devoted to or concerned with prevention :precautionary : as a : designed or serving to prevent the occurrence of disease

It is clear that preventive care should "serv[e] to prevent the occurrence of disease."

...Here are a couple of the "preventive services" that "beginning on or after September 23, 2010, ... must be covered without your having to pay a copayment or coinsurance or meet your deductible, when these services are delivered by a network provider."

HIV screening for all adults at higher risk

Syphilis screening for all adults at higher risk [bold in the original]

There is an inherent conflict: "The objective of medical screening is to identify disease[.]"

Unquestionably, for a disease to be "identified," it must be present, and therefore, its "occurrence" was not prevented.

It's astonishing how many of this administration's promises depend on verbal trickery like sweeping redefinitions of commonly used words like "preventative" and "affordable".

Another of Obama's repeated promises has been that involving government in health care delivery will somehow increase the availability and use of health services. Anyone who has experience with the military health care system realizes how ridiculous that claim is.

For the past few months I've watched with bemusement as my husband fights the system to get the physical exams required for retirement after 30 years of service. Keep in mind that he is an active duty officer who - by virtue of his employment status - supposedly has top priority in getting appointments.

For 3 or 4 weeks prior to going on leave, literally every time he called or went in person to schedule medical or dental appointments, he was told to "come back later". The "system" was down. Meanwhile the clock keeps on ticking. We're talking about initial consults, each of which will entail one or more follow up appointments... all of which must be completed before he retires. Earlier this week he drove in for a scheduled appointment only to be informed that it had been mysteriously canceled with no notice.

I have never, in over 10 years of going to civilian doctors, had that much trouble getting an appointment. That is no accident - a private physician who routinely treats patients that way will soon find that his patients have deserted him for a provider who understands he's being paid to provide a service. Unfortunately, when health care becomes "free", the usual for-profit incentive structure (provide good service or go out of business) doesn't apply. Such experiences were so common during the years when my boys were growing up that I gave up on military medical care and got a doctor out in town at my own expense. Fortunately, unlike patients in countries like the UK, I was free to seek care at my own expense without jeopardizing my military coverage.

I heard a term on the radio the other day that describes this situation perfectly: rationing by inconvenience. Being "entitled" to benefits means little when you have to fight an entrenched bureaucracy every step of the way. It means even less when the justification for that entrenched bureaucracy is dishonest on its face:

The sick care industry is a repair and rescue industry. It springs into action after an infraction (bodily damage) has occurred. (Review ICD and CPT codes for proof.)

This is similar in some respects to the police. They ticket after an infraction has occurred -- e.g., someone runs a "STOP" sign. They do not counsel drivers to obey the rules of the road before the fact. They don't screen persons randomly to test them for safe driving knowledge or whether they know the meaning of octagonal red signage.

Preventive care failure is the most probable result of the PPACA lie.

Learning how to drive is up to the individual, and he/she is supposed to learn that someplace other than traffic court or the back of a squad car. Once in custody, an infraction has (likely) occurred.

Preventive care is similar. It is what you are supposed to learn outside of the sick care system. Once you are in the sick care system, a disease has (likely) not been prevented.

Going to a sick care worker to learn preventive care is like going to the body shop to learn how not to get a fender-bender.

There is virtually nothing that the sick care system or anyone can do to teach the means to prevent some illnesses since so few factors are under the control of an individual and there are myriad illnesses unrelated to prevention by known learned behaviors.

Read the whole thing, as the saying goes.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:11 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Historical Perspective on Wars of Choice and ROE

I saw this item a few days ago, but wanted to think about it a bit before responding:

The Department of Defense announced today that retired Air Force Major General John D. Lavelle has been nominated posthumously by the President for advancement on the retired rolls to the rank of General. This follows an Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records decision and recommendations from the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Air Force.

In April 1972, Lavelle was removed from command as a result of allegations that he ordered unauthorized bombing missions into North Vietnam, and that he authorized the falsification of reports to conceal the missions. Lavelle was retired in the grade of major general, two grades lower than the last grade he served on active duty. Lavelle died in 1979.

In 2007, newly released and declassified information resulted in evidence that Lavelle was authorized by President Richard Nixon to conduct the bombing missions. Further, the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records found no evidence Lavelle caused, either directly or indirectly, the falsification of records, or that he was even aware of their existence. Once he learned of the reports, Lavelle took action to ensure the practice was discontinued.

In light of the new information, a request was made to the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records for reinstatement to the grade of general, Lavelle's last grade while on active duty.

The natural or instinctive reaction is to feel outrage at the injustice to an officer who turned out to be acting under orders and in full harmony with the desires of civilian leadership. It seems unfair to punish a subordinate for exceeding his authority when in fact he did no such thing.

My reaction, though, was a bit different. For the past 8 years we have watched two wars conducted under the relentless scrutiny of 24/7 news coverage. We have seen repeated leaks of classified information - often information that hampered the war effort or endangered warfighters - justified on the dubious grounds of transparency. But the notion that military decisions ought to be completely transparent - even to the enemy - is a relatively recent one. The expectation I grew up with was that nations are entitled to keep secrets during wartime even if that practice inadvertently provided cover for questionable acts and decisions.

The assumption that Nixon should have 'fessed up assumes there is no justification for a government conducting unannounced military operations during wartime. The difference between today's climate and the one I grew up with is that it was understood that the national interest required that some things remain secret until decades after the war's end. It was also understood that there was a reason for this secrecy: that war is by nature a dirty, messy business with few moral bright lines and that continually questioning every military decision (especially when the strategy chosen by military leaders are at best the least bad of a range of ugly options) makes war not just difficult to prosecute but nearly impossible to win.

A continually scrutinized war will tend to be one conducted by inefficient and roundabout means rather than one that is brutal, effective, and above all short. Such wars require patience.

But we live in an impatient age. We want quick results, but the zero defect mentality doesn't lend itself to the bold innovation and risk taking most likely to give us what we want. There is an old saying: you can have it fast, or you can have it good.

We want both: the speedy resolution without the messy moral ambiguity. We want the illusion that war can be conducted without collateral damage. We want the end state without the price tag.

I've been thinking about America a lot lately. More and more, we seem to have adopted a bizarre value system that prizes individualism over a more constrained vision that balances individual happiness with a sense that we are part of something larger than ourselves; that our affluence and security were bought and paid for by sacrifices our parents and grandparents took for granted. Unlike past generations, what we take for granted is not duty to others, but individual fulfillment. Our preoccupation with our own happiness crowds out any duty we might feel to ensure that the benefits we inherited will be available to our children and grandchildren.

I can't help but think that part of the problem is that, unlike previous generations, the adults of today have never faced an existential threat to their existence

Existential war? Whazzat? For us, the Revolution, War of 1812, Civil War, possibly WWI, and certainly WWII were wars where we firmly believe our national exsistence were at stake, and we fought them as such. The other wars we've fought have been wars of choice, in one form or another. You can argue WWI both ways, though I, in the end, would come down to a finding of it was a war of choice that most of the people fighting it thought was a war for existence, though the top political leadership in the US, President Wilson, may have seen it more as an opportunity to remake the US into a state more amenable to his preferred manner of governance. Yeah, weaselly.

Mind you - that characterization oft-times only applies to one side in a conflict. Our Revolution and the War of 1812 were not existential wars for the British Empire. Both were, in fact, distractions to them from greater concerns- and were conducted accordingly, good thing for us. The Indian Wars were optional for us, existential for the native americans. The Korean War was existential for South and North Korea, but not for any of the other players. One of the problems inherent in that kind of war is exactly what we've seen in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both wars, as conducted, are wars of choice for us, but not for the people who live there - for them, it's existential, which allows, encourages, perhaps even demands that they fight in ways we find bewilderingly brutal, while we tie our hands with political constraints. Just as we were pretty brutal fighting the Civil War and World War II.

In the discussion of ROE in Afghanistan of late, there are parallels, ghosts, of Vietnam. I'm not making an Afghanistan=Vietnam argument - the premises for both conflicts are as different as their structural components are different. But that doesn't mean that there aren't similarities in some of the political realities.

It has become axiomatic to point out that our involvement in WWII only lasted a few years while the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have dragged on and on. But the means to any end are greatly affected by circumstance and exigency.

I suppose it's possible to argue that Vietnam - a war of choice - didn't justify the sort of secrecy routinely employed in existential wars. I might even buy off on such an argument, though as we're likely about to see with the recent Wikileaks, transparency can exact an equally high price.

What I find remarkable, however, is the degree to which Americans assume that individual fairness should outweigh duty to one's country. My heart goes out to General Lavelle and I recognize the injustice in the way he was treated.

My sense of history, however, tells me there was a time when leaders willingly suffered injustice as the means to a larger end. They "took one for the team", as it were. And rather than lamenting the necessity, we honored such choices and the sense of duty that made them possible.

We saw heroes, not victims. Nowadays, however, the man who gives his all to protect something larger than himself is not a hero, but a chump. Explains a lot about today's world, doesn't it.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:49 AM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Scumbag Alert

I hope they throw the book at this woman:

A Kentucky woman was convicted Thursday of demanding millions of dollars from Rick Pitino to keep secret their one-night stand in a restaurant, then claiming the Louisville basketball coach raped her after he reported the extortion.

Karen Cunagin Sypher, 50, of Louisville, was found guilty of three counts of extortion, two counts of lying to the FBI and one count of retaliating against a witness. She stared at the ceiling as the verdict was read, while one of her sons wept openly.

Neither Pitino nor Sypher comes out of this looking good but unlike Sypher, when Pitino was confronted with the consequences of his actions he eventually faced up to them and took his lumps.

Cheating on your wife with some bimbo you meet in a restaurant is obviously not a good thing, but such behavior pales when compared to what Sypher did: knowingly seducing a married man and then blackmailing him.

Sypher needs to spend a very long time behind bars and I can't think of anyone who deserves it more. Far from being a victim, Sypher is a predator. The fact that her victim was apparently a bit too willing to play along doesn't excuse her behavior in the least. Pitino will face his own punishment.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:07 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

August 05, 2010

Must Watch Video of the Day

I can't recommend this enough. About 3/4 of the way through I found myself watching with tears running down my face.

They were tears of pride, and oddly, hope. To the extent that there is something called the black community, they should be proud to embrace Americans like these.

That we live in a world that ridicules and demonizes men and women of such caliber strikes me as unbearably sad.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:20 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack


...they are nothing but trouble:

Posted by Cassandra at 12:39 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Interesting Reads

Quote of the day:

"[Manning] would always speak up if he thought that something was wrong without actually thinking of the consequences."

Oh, and he was openly gay. Which is not news, and if you say it ought to be then you're obviously one of those folks who think journalistic bias is a mistaken perception not reflective of the actual news coverage we see every day.

Stories and photos about Obama in the news pages outnumbered those devoted to McCain. Reporters, photographers and editors found the candidacy of Obama, the first African American major-party nominee, more newsworthy and historic. Journalists love the new; McCain, 25 years older than Obama, was already well known and had more scars from his longer career in politics.

The number of Obama stories since Nov. 11 was 946, compared with McCain's 786. Both had hard-fought primary campaigns, but Obama's battle with Hillary Rodham Clinton was longer, and the numbers reflect that.

McCain clinched the GOP nomination on March 4, three months before Obama won his. From June 4 to Election Day, the tally was Obama, 626 stories, and McCain, 584. Obama was on the front page 176 times, McCain, 144 times; 41 stories featured both.

Our survey results are comparable to figures for the national news media from a study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism. It found that from June 9, when Clinton dropped out of the race, until Nov. 2, 66 percent of the campaign stories were about Obama compared with 53 percent for McCain; some stories featured both. The project also calculated that in that time, 57 percent of the stories were about the horse race and 13 percent were about issues.

I've been meaning to write more about the "diversity is our top priority" idiocy at the Naval Academy. Phi Beta Cons has been doing a great job on the story:

Lots of money was wasted on the academy’s diversity efforts, which the commandant said was “the number one priority” there. Not finding, educating, and graduating the best possible naval officers, period — no, the key was that they have the right skin color and have ancestors from the right foreign countries.

Now, according to recently leaked memos, the stupidity appears to have spread to the entire Navy:

As revealed in the latest national-security leak — an e-mail from a Navy admiral on “Diversity Accountability” — the whole Navy has adopted this same priority.

The message, from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead, directs other key officers to identify by name [on a secret list due to its“sensitive nature” -- a list also likely to be leaked] “the diverse officers with high potential . . . [and] the plan for their career progression.” Roughead indicates he may follow up on “what is being done within to ensure they are considered for key follow on billets within the Navy.”

According to the Times:

In practice, the Navy will be creating a list of privileged “diverse” officers who will enjoy special benefits and career mentoring not available to people of the wrong race, as well as a virtual guarantee of fast-track access to the highest reaches of command . . . [i.e., it] is erecting a wall of segregation between what will amount to two parallel promotion systems: one for the “diverse” and another for the monotone. If this isn’t illegal, it should be . . .

This ought to be required reading for anyone who doesn't see how heavy handed government attempts to force equal outcomes are inherently corrupting. I can't tell you how sad it makes me to see the United States Navy stoop so low.

Remember that oil spill that was the administration's latest "#1 priority"? Apparently it was just trivial, after all.

One more reason not to trust "the experts" to make sweeping changes to the status quo: it turns out scientists still don't understand human behavior all that well:

Jim Manzi, the peripatetic founder of APT, sees education as a growth market, but he also cautions against thinking that randomized testing will ever bring the kind of certainty to social policy that it has to physics or chemistry. In an article published this week in the conservative City Journal, Manzi reminds us that that unlike gravity or atoms, people in one region, or culture, or moment in time, don't predictably behave the same way as humans in other settings. Try as we might, try as we should, we may never achieve a fully scientific understanding of human behavior.

Gee, perhaps that's the reason conservatives favor gradual, organic changes that develop in response to real world conditions to grandiose and untried social experiments based on "science" and the opinions of so-called experts?

Krauthammer nails it on Obama and Iraq:

Obama had one task. [It was] not succeeding in the surge — that already happened. [It was] not announcing a timetable — that was already established. He had one task — getting elections done and having a stable government established. On that he has not succeeded — it’s not all his fault, the majority of the fault lies with the Iraqis themselves – but … as a result, the entire enterprise, with all the blood and the suffering involved, is now in jeopardy.

Remember all that talk about how the military couldn't possibly "win" the war - that we needed to put more time and effort into diplomatic solutions?

Obama appears to have disregarded his own advice. Quelle surprise.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:15 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Scientists Finally Prove A Man Grim Right....

... sort of:

According to research, women buy sexier clothes when they are ovulating in a bid to outdo their love rivals.

Scientists claim that they are driven by an unconscious desire to impress at the time they are most likely to conceive.

Perhaps surprisingly, though, they are not doing it for the benefit of men – but to intimidate other women.

Kristina Durante, of the University of Minnesota, said: ‘The desire for women at peak fertility to unconsciously choose products that enhance appearance is driven by a desire to outdo attractive rival women.

‘If you look more desirable than your competition, you are more likely to stand out.’ The study, to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research, reveals that consumer choices can be driven by hormonal factors.

In way, a study that concludes that women's fashion/grooming choices are highly influenced by the level of perceived competition from other women could be interpreted as evidence that women dress for other women.

The pedant in me, though, has to ask: who are these ovulating women really dressing for? Are they dressing to impress other women? Or are they dressing to impress men, but in deciding what will most best impress men, first assessing what they're competing against?

Discuss this important social question amongst yourselves.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:57 AM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

August 04, 2010


Efficient. Affordable. Green. What's not to like?

Living on a nearly 45 degree hill as we do, the Editorial Staff found this of significant interest:

Recently, the patch of weeds behind Steve Holdaway's Chapel Hill, N.C., home grew so unkempt that he hired outside help. For six hours, the crew's members tackled tall grass and thorny blackberry plants and toiled without a break—other than to chew their cud, that is.

His workers: seven hungry—and carbon-emission-free—goats.
Goat-Powered Lawn Care

As more homeowners, businesses and towns seek to maintain land with fewer chemicals or fossil-fuel-powered machinery, a growing number are trying goats to get rid of unwanted vegetation. Internet rivals Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. hired herds to clear around their Northern California headquarters this year. So did the Vanderbilt Mansion, a national historic site in Hyde Park, N.Y. And this April, nannies and billies were deployed at the U.S. Naval Base Kitsap Bangor in Silverdale, Wash., to annihilate pesky scotch broom plants.

While predators, poisonous plants and peeved neighbors can test goats on the job, the small livestock are well-suited for such labors.

Easy to manage, they relish prickly brush and weeds and their agility makes them "popular employees" for navigating steep slopes that can thwart humans and machines, says Brian Faris, president of the American Boer Goat Association in San Angelo, Texas.

It cost 55-year-old Mr. Holdaway $200 to clear a 1,700-square foot swath on his land with goats, pricier than the weed-whacking he's been doing himself for a decade with a gas-powered trimmer. "But like many organic practices, you are going to have to pay a premium sometimes," Mr. Holdaway says.

Livestock owners and towns plagued with brush fires or invasive species like kudzu have rendered goats' services for years. Now new interest among the eco-conscious is giving rise to a cottage industry of rental operations—since unlike lawn mowers, you can't just buy a goat and park it in the shed come wintertime. Some owners say business is so good, they're angling to license and expand with sheep, which do particularly well trimming grass.

Sounds like one o' them green industries the administration has been yammering on about. We sense a business opportunity for some enterprising conservative bloggress.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:20 AM | Comments (36) | TrackBack

Blessed Relief for the Oink Cadre

Gentlemen, the gods of the Intertubes have heard your piteous cries of anguish.

The next time the Little Woman asks [batting eyelashes innocently], "Does this dress make my butt look big?", send her here.

Via David Foster

Posted by Cassandra at 08:02 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

August 03, 2010

Virginia's Challenge to ObamaCare and the History of the New Deal

Grim responds to the White House's (mis)characterization of yesterday's decision to allow Virginia to challenge the constitutionality of the so-called Affordable Care Act

Here is the White House's chosen response to the news that a constitutional challenge to their health care mandate has been permitted by the courts.

We saw this with the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act – constitutional challenges were brought to all three of these monumental pieces of legislation, and all of those challenges failed. So too will the challenge to health reform.

This, then, is the understanding of our opponents: Constitutional challenges are to be expected, but they will always be overcome. The Constitution isn't so important that it could stop "monumental" legislation; complaining that the Constitution does not permit something is merely a temporary holding action by the rear guard of a defeated army.

Both the White House's latest argument and the process used to pass ObamaCare (a hastily drafted and poorly thought out bill of dubious constitutionality) are eerily similar to the arguments and process that gave us Social Security (another hastily drafted and poorly thought out bill of dubious constitutionality). Thomas H. Elliot, general counsel to the committee that drafted the SSA, remembers:

The Potomac atmosphere in early 1935 was one of importunate enthusiasm--of aggressive confidence, too, with one great exception. That exception, which colored the thinking of even the lowliest contributor to policy making, was grave uncertainty as to the Supreme Court's view of the constitutionality of New Deal legislation. To be sure, the Schechter decision, which invalidated the NRA and provoked President Roosevelt to angry comments about the "horse-and-buggy Court," was not handed down until late May. Long before that, however, all of us working to prepare social insurance legislation were aware of the constitutional difficulties involved. A young lawyer saddled with more responsibility than he should have accepted (I not only accepted it, I clung to it) was unceasingly conscious of the threatening shadow cast by the Constitution or the justices or both.

The bill was introduced on January 17. It was not ready for introduction. The President's committee headed by Miss Perkins had not agreed on its main features until after the new year began; in fact, one member of the committee, Secretary Morgenthau, at the last moment withdrew his agreement to the proposal's financial provisions. But, as everything in the program except old age insurance--unemployment compensation, old age assistance, aid to dependent children, child welfare--depended on complementary state action, speed seemed desirable. Almost all of the state legislatures were in session in 1935. They would not meet again in regular session for two years, so unless Congress acted quickly, state action might be long postponed. It seems odd now that anyone could have imagined that Congress would pass such a long and novel measure in the space of a few weeks. Yet at the time it seemed possible. Perhaps we were still bemused by the unique performance of Congress in the spring of 1933, when measures of great import had been rushed so swiftly to enactment. But those "hundred days" were unique in peacetime legislative history, and are likely to remain so.

...the original bill was certainly not well drafted. It was, in fact, a hodgepodge, not of unrelated subjects but of drafts prepared by various people, drafts which I either accepted in toto (the old age insurance provisions ably but hurriedly prepared in the Treasury Department) or edited far too hastily (the welfare titles written in the Children's Bureau). Inevitably, too, it reflected my heedless failure to resolve many small but significant policy issues which had been discussed little or not at all by the President's committee. Drafting is not just a technical job; it requires foreseeing every possible question that may arise and eliminating every ambiguity.

...The bill became law on August 14, 1935. And still no one could be sure that it would last. Was it constitutional? Certainly its welfare provisions, grants-in-aid to the states, were valid, but what of unemployment compensation and old age insurance? In regard to unemployment compensation I had been tiresomely insistent during the drafting of the bill in proposing a federal tax on employers which would be "forgiven" to the extent that the employers paid contributions into state unemployment compensation funds. I was insistent because there was a judicial precedent for upholding this method of persuading the states to act and because Justice Brandeis had casually mentioned that precedent to his son-in-law, a leader in the unemployment compensation movement in Wisconsin. With respect to old age insurance, the Constitution gives the Congress power to tax and spend for the general welfare. But was a particular tax on employees, who would eventually be paid benefits in amounts measured by the taxes they had paid, a proper exercise of this congressional power? Or was it an attempt to establish a compulsory retirement insurance system, and if so, was it beyond the authority of Congress?

Here, another history lesson is in order. According to the Social Security Administration's own online history pages, the Court's decision not to strike down Social Security was neither free of coercion nor clear cut:

Few Americans now recall that in the months leading up to the Court's review of the Social Security Act, judges had been striking down one New Deal law after another. Even fewer Americans remember FDR's response to this judicial defiance:

Enraged, Roosevelt decided to subdue the Court. His megalomania inflated by his 1936 landslide, on February 5, 1937 he abruptly asked Congress to enact a bill empowering him to appoint one additional Justice for every one who turned 70 and did not retire, for a maximum of six, thus enlarging the Supreme Court from nine Justices to up to fifteen.

A firestorm ensued. Critics rightly called Roosevelt’s proposal a plan to pack the Court. Even liberals who deplored the Court’s decisions, including many congressional Democrats, opposed it.

Its arm cruelly twisted by Roosevelt’s threat to its independence, the Supreme Court began surrendering in self-preservation.

An aging Supreme Court, intimidated by Roosevelt's threats, capitulated and refused to declare Social Security unconstitutional. But the important point here is the argument provided by Justice Cardozo in the majority ruling (which, by the way, largely relied upon the administration's case that Social Security was a valid exercise of Congress's spending power):

Regarding whether Titles II and VIII together were an invalid old-age insurance scheme, Cardozo merely noted Davis’s argument that they dovetail so as to justify concluding that Congress would not have passed one without the other, and the government’s opposing position that Congress could spend the revenue as it willed. "We find it unnecessary to make a choice between the arguments, and so leave the question open." So the Court ducked the core issue of whether Social Security is an unconstitutional government insurance program. Why?

...The majority of the Helvering v. Davis majority, Hughes, Roberts, Van Devanter, and Sutherland, were conservatives. Most had bitterly criticized the New Deal. Can anybody really believe that they found Cardozo’s half-baked opinion, mostly lifted from the Administration’s brief, an adequate expression of their views on Social Security’s constitutionality?

Am I the only one to see the similarities in the White House's justification for ObamaCare?

In order to make health care affordable and available for all, the Act regulates how to pay for medical services – services that account for more than 17.5% of the national economy. This law came into being precisely because of the interconnectedness of our health care costs. People who make an economic decision to forego health insurance do not opt out of the health care market, but instead shift their costs to others when they become ill or are involved in an accident and cannot pay.

...many reforms provided by the law – such as the requirement that insurers cover individuals with pre-existing conditions – can only be effective if everyone is part of the system, which is why the minimum coverage, or shared responsibility, requirement is part of the law.

Actually the last sentence in the first excerpted paragraph is demonstrably untrue. While the uninsured may seek care and pass the cost to others, they also have the right to refuse care. Under what legal or equitable doctrine does the federal government force individuals to pay their "fair share" of costs they never incur nor pass on to others? What is a fair share of zero? As for the second paragraph, it seems to assert that unconstitutional provisions of federal laws are justifiable so long as they are required to make the law "work". This is essentially a glorified version of "the end justifies the means" even if those means exceed Congress's constitutionally derived authority.

That said, given the Court's penchant for presuming the constitutionality of congressional legislation, the administration's confidence may not be unwarranted: (CWCID: spd)

Since the New Deal, Supreme Court justices have generally assumed a law is constitutional and overruled it only when it infringes on an individual right that is enumerated in the Constitution (free speech) or not (privacy). "If you're talking about the regulation of economic activity, the presumption of constitutionality is for all practical purposes irrebuttable," Mr. Barnett says.

Instead, Mr. Barnett would have the court adopt a "presumption of liberty," placing the burden on the government to show that a law has a clear basis in Congress's constitutional powers. "The easiest way to explain it is, it would basically apply to all liberty the same basic protection we now apply to speech," he says.

A presumption of liberty - now there's change we can all believe in. Who's against liberty? Well, for starters, anyone who wants to avoid the responsibility that goes along with freedom.

Isn't it remarkable that the administration has chosen to ground its arguments for ObamaCare in FDR's flagrant New Deal arm twisting of a Supreme Court that - if one believes the historical materials posted right on the Social Security Administration's web site - initially struck down most New Deal legislation as unconstitutional and departed from this stance only in response to threats from the Executive branch?

I certainly never learned any of this in my history classes. I'm betting the administration hopes you never did either.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:29 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

August 02, 2010

Inflammatory Debate Topic of the Day

Inspired by an offline conversation I've been having by email: how desirable is a woman's virginity to a potential husband?

Religious convictions aside, I've never understood the emphasis on women going to the altar in a state of untouched innocence. I hear men raise the issue all the time, but mysteriously the exact same religious considerations they use to argue that women ought to be virgins when they marry are mysteriously suspended when it comes to the male half of the human race. I have no particular issue with believing that it's better to wait to have sex until you're married. It's just that no one has ever explained to me why premarital sex is sinful for women but natural and good for men.

You've got to love the moral relativism. The phrase, "How conveeeeeeeeeeeenient" comes to mind.

Likewise, I've also never been convinced that premarital sexual experience is - in and of itself - a net positive and I find the argument that virgins "don't know what they're getting into" particularly unpersuasive.

No one knows what they're getting into when they marry because dating and living together aren't the same as marriage. All of which makes it that much more important to get to know the person you are marrying before you take that big leap.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:15 PM | Comments (80) | TrackBack

The Lure of the Simplistic Answer

When confounded by life's great mysteries, we yearn for a simple, one size fits all explanation.

While there's certainly nothing wrong with discussing the general characteristics of men vs. women in general, I'm becoming increasingly annoyed by the "all men" and "all women" school of unthinking gender stereotypes. I've never met "all men" or "all women". Have you?

On the other hand, I have known many men who differ a great deal in their likes and dislikes, their character and integrity, their self control and self awareness for others. Which makes me appreciate Attila's comment even more:

Guys like different things. They’re almost . . . . almost like individuals.

Which reminds me of something I once saw in a movie:

The thing is, you cannot judge a race. Any man who judges by the group is a pea-wit. You take men one at a time.

Women, too.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:16 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Signal to Noise

After two weeks largely spent away from blogging and the Internet, the Blog Princess returns to find the vitriol level unchanged:

These days it's getting increasingly embarrassing to publicly identify oneself as a conservative. It was bad enough when George Bush 43, the K Street Gang, and the neo-cons were running up spending, fighting an unnecessary war of choice in Iraq, incurring massive deficits, expanding entitlements, and all the rest of the nonsense I cataloged over the years in posts like Bush 43 has been a disaster for conservatives.

These days, however, the most prominent so-called conservatives are increasingly fit only to be cast for the next Dumb and Dumber sequel. They're dumb and crazy.

How does calling people who disagree with your preferred policies and tactics "dumb and crazy" prove that modern conservatism is risible? Risible as compared to what? Some unspecified golden age when erudite and high minded public intellectuals debated the finer points of conservative thought on the merits rather than resorting to blissfully argument-free epithets like "dumb and crazy"?

Funny thing about debates: it's hard to have one absent some disagreement as to the subject of the discussion and if one views that disagreement (not to mention those who disagree with you) as "dumb and crazy", the debate would seem to be somewhat pointless. Come to think it, Prof. Bainbridge may have a point. When self professed conservatives can put forth no more substantive criticism of modern conservatism than to label members of their own party "dumb and crazy" (extremists, feminists, RINOs, polite company conservatives), that is embarrassing.

Patterico has a bone to pick with Bainbridge:

Bainbridge’s complaints include: a lament that Palin is being considered a leading contender for the 2012 GOP nomination; complaints that the GOP is running candidates that are too extreme to take seats that should be ripe for the picking; complaints that certain Republicans have (in Bainbridge’s view) criticized Obama unfairly and too harshly; and criticism of birthers, “nativists,” and the “anti-science and anti-intellectualism that pervade the movement.”

...In addition to the above nonsense, which has nothing to do with conservatism and everything to do with the shortcomings of the GOP, Bainbridge also has a perfectly legitimate complaint regarding the GOP’s lack of fiscal restraint during the Bush years. But, again, why should that GOP failure to act in line with true conservative principles make anyone ashamed to be a conservative??

I agree that conservatism and the GOP are not necessarily one and the same, but I'm not sure how much that really matters. It's a fine thing to have lofty policy debates over the nature of true conservative principles, but absent a viable third party the GOP is the public face of conservatism. In a sense, the Republican party is conservatism in practice (as opposed to conservatism in theory).

Even the most elegant theories must be implemented in a world that is decidedly messy and imperfect. Even the purest and most ardent conservative must be able to convince an electorate who are anything but pure (and far from monolithic) in their beliefs. Thus, theory rarely survives contact with a world in which the opposition also has a vote.

In a world where neither party has enough votes to carry a national election, it's hard for me to see much utility in the name calling that seems to pass for debate these days and as much as I enjoy online discussion, I can't help but think that the instant nature of the Internet encourages the substitution of reductive rhetoric for substantive debate. Don't tell me that you think Tea Partiers are a bunch of racist nutjobs simply because you can point to one or two examples of jackassery in a broad based movement with no real central authority, or that all liberals are America hating communists because you can easily identify a few extremists who haven't been run out of the movement on a rail. Any large political movement will attract thousands or even millions of people who may actually share only a small subset of beliefs. Candidates who can successfully appeal to that small set of shared beliefs will tend to win elections, and the arguments needed to accomplish this are unlikely to resemble the essays of Russell Kirk or William F. Buckley, neither of whom (admirable as they may be) typifies the average American voter.

This isn't a flaw in the political system - it's human nature. And like reality, it's messy.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:35 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack