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October 29, 2010

Fundraising Ideas Shamelessly Swiped From Cassandra's Post Last Year

(Carrie again)

I know times are tight. Believe me, we're counting pennies here too.
I started to write a post about alternative fundraising ideas that get groups and organizations involved when I remembered that Cassandra had already done that last year.
Now, I love Valour IT and especially the Marine Team but I am not a fan of re-inventing the wheel.

So again, mostly Cassandra's words (with some adjusting for circumstances this year) but they still ring true a year later.

1. If you have cross posting privileges, ask if you can cross post or - better yet - post a donation widget on other sites you belong to.
Joining the Marine team is a click away.

2. Reach out to churches, Scout troops, and other civic organizations. This is a great way to reconnect the civilian community with our armed forces.

3. If your corporation or employer matches donations, PLEASE ASK THEM TO MATCH FUNDS. Again, this is a HUGE multiplier for us. I asked my boss yesterday and I hate asking for anything.

4. If you have connections in the print media, TV or radio, ask them to cover Valour IT and especially the MARINE TEAM! The history of Valour IT makes a fantastic human interest story and the interservice rivalry aspect only makes it better.

5. You can make a donation in memory of someone on the official donation site. This was not an option last year but it is this year.
If you would like to share with me your memories of the individual, please click on my name in the comment section of this post. If you're amenable to the idea, I could put up a post about your loved one or friend. People who know me know that I am all about the remembering. It's our duty.

6. Don't forget asking your readers to promote Valour IT (and the MARINE TEAM) on social networking venues like the Tweetosphere and FaceBook-o-sphere.
Go Marine Corps. Beat Army!!!

Posted by at 05:01 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Project Valour IT

As the old saying goes, "All gave some. Some, gave all".

Sometimes, giving hurts. That's why they call it "sacrifice".

Right now Landstuhl RAMC, Bethesda and Walter Reed are full of young Marines who, when they were asked to dig deep and give their country just a little more, didn't hesitate. They didn't bat an eye.

There are so many reasons to be grateful to the United States Marine Corps. For over 230 years the Marines have always answered their nation's call.

The question is: will you do your part? Even if it hurts a bit?

You know what to do, people. Join the Marine team. Tell your friends and neighbors. But above all, make that thermometer jump.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Headline of the Day

Democratic Closing Argument: Personal Attacks
Democrats Attack Over Personal Issues, Republicans Over Policy

It's not just the Aqua Buddha and David Vitter's prostitute, Democratic candidates across the country are closing out the campaign with personal attacks on Republican candidates, sometimes digging up decades-old legal problems.

In one typical example, Democratic ads have transformed Kentucky Republican House candidate Andy Barr into "a convicted criminal" -- complete with images yellow police tape and fuzzy video of crime scenes. Not mentioned is his crime: As a college student 19 years ago, he was caught using a fake ID during spring break.

Impressive, no es verdad?

Posted by Cassandra at 12:28 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Lists!! We've Got Lists!!!

It's day two of the Valour IT fundraiser.
David Letterman has a Marine Corps Top Ten List from last year.

I like Cassy's list better.

So now, as if you needed them, you have more reasons to support the Marine team in the Valour IT fundraiser.
Dig deep, people! Please? Our Marines are.

Posted by at 09:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Shocker: People Who Kiss and Tell are Still Jerks

And don't even get me started on those who profit from such betrayals of trust:

Gawker was convicted Thursday in the court of Twitter opinion. The charges: misogyny and reckless link-baiting.

"Today, we are all Christine O'Donnell," wrote Salon's Justin Elliott.

He was one of several journalists and bloggers to criticize Gawker for posting an anonymous account by a Philadelphia man claiming to have gone home with Delaware Senate candidate on Halloween night three years ago, following a night of drinking.

Not many things still have the power to shock - or unite - people on both sides of the political spectrum. In a way, that's reassuring. What bothers me a bit, though, is watching so many people calling this misogyny (as though exposing private sexual information to literally millions of total strangers isn't objectionable and wrong no matter who it's done to).

Given the rash of recent news stories featuring men betraying women who were foolish enough to think what happens between two consenting human beings ought to stay between them (as opposed to being plastered all over the Internet), it isn't too hard to paint this as just one more instance of boorish male behavior.

That would be convenient for those who spend their days searching for shocking anecdotes that confirm their pre-existing hostility to the opposite sex. But regardless of who does what to whom more often (or whether it's fair to despise one sex and admire the other for engaging in the same promiscuous behavior) not every bad thing some men do to some women is misogyny. Likewise, not every bad thing some women do to some men is misandry.

Some people are just spiteful, self aggrandizing, inconsiderate jerks and they deserve every last bit of scorn that can be heaped on their heads.

Several liberal bloggers (and some conservative ones) are brandishing the sexism card. Oddly enough, none of them seem to be blaming sexism for prompting Lillian McEwen to reveal things best left private about her decades old relationship with Justice Clarence Thomas:

In 1991, the world divided itself into two camps: those who believed Anita Hill and those who didn't. I fell somewhere in the middle: She may have told the truth, but so what?

On bended knee, give thanks if you are too young to remember. A brief summary: Hill testified that then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her by verbally sharing his enjoyment of porn films and his sexual proficiency.

Yes, yawn if you must. This was scandalous, of course, because . . . well, I'm still not certain. You see, to be scandalized, one must be deeply sensitive to the mention of anything sexual. Indeed, in this case, one needed to be scandalized for an indefinite period of time.

Hill's testimony came several years after she worked for Thomas at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where the alleged harassment took place. In other words, she didn't protest at the time of these conversations, which were boorish, assuming they happened as she described. Or were they merely lame attempts at humor?

The context has never been clear. In any case, other options available to Hill included telling Thomas to get over himself. Or, at the very least, assuming deep offense, complaining to a higher authority. She did neither, apparently.

Maybe it's just me, but every time some moron feels the need to tell me things I don't care to know about a public figure, I can't help thinking, "Why on earth would you TELL me this?"

What kind of person are you, anyway?

I don't trust the kind of person who would do such a thing, because the one thing I know for certain about people who reveal private information about their former lovers is that they don't deserve my - or anyone else's - trust. If there is a just punishment for such betrayals it's that in exposing their former lovers, these tattletales can't help but expose their own character flaws.

I'm not a Christine O'Donnell fan, and to this day I have no idea whether she did any of the things her anonymous accuser says she did. What I do know is that Dustin Dominiak - if we can believe his story - kept photos of a woman he didn't even have sex with for over three years.

Even though he wasn't really all that "into her". Riiiiiiiight.

I also know - because he told me - that the mere sight of a woman whose nether regions weren't waxed as bare as a preteen's so disgusted him that he was unable to... how shall we say it?... rise to the occasion. Make of that what you will. And then there's Lillian McEwen, who despite her indecent willingness to smear a man who - according to her - did nothing to deserve such a betrayal, assures us that she once cared about Thomas. Of course that was back in the days when he was a "raging alcoholic" with a consuming interest in hard core pornography. Not that there's anything wrong with hard core porn, at least according to McEwen. According to her, all men are into porn. Heck - the entire Supreme Court is into porn! Which begs the question: what are we supposed to take away from her revelations? That Thomas is no different from other men? Do all men who watch porn sexually harass their co-workers? Or are such men merely more likely to sexually harass women?

Trust me - I'm no big fan of hard core porn but the cognitive dissonance here is mind blowing. Here we have a woman who characterizes her former lover as a womanizing, porn obsessed drunk. Let's face it, ladies: what woman has not dreamed of acquiring a mate with these sterling qualities?

Of course all good things must come to an end. Sadly (again, according to Ms. McEwen) the future SC Justice gave up his binge drinking, porn loving ways and got into all sorts of freaky deaky activities like exercising and working hard at his chosen career. No wonder she dumped him - what sane woman puts up with a man like that?

To this day I still don't know whether Thomas said the things Anita Hill accused him of. McEwen's ill advised and despicable revelations neither corroborate nor disprove Hill's charges because she wasn't there when Thomas was supposedly doing things Ms. McEwen doesn't find the least bit morally troubling (but really wants us to know about anyway because of what they imply about his character).

And I still don't know whether Christine O'Donnell did the things Dustin Dominiak says she did. And I never will. Somehow, I think I can learn to live with that.

What I do know is that folks like Lillian McEwen and Dustin Dominiak are the last people on earth I would trust to protect my own reputation. Why, then, are we so willing to trust them with anyone else's?

Posted by Cassandra at 09:28 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

October 28, 2010

Why I Support Valour IT

(This is Carrie back to start some trouble. :)

When I first started volunteering at Bethesda and Walter Reed, I remember tiptoeing around words like amputee. I had to call the Marine Liasons at the hospital to verify a piece of information and I stuttered when discussing a wounded Marine's status. The Marine, as Marines are known to do, was not shy and came right out and said it. "He is a paraplegic."

That was over 5 years ago. Now, acronyms like BKA (below the knee amputation), TBI and PTSD are part of my daily vocabulary. I have come to accept the fact that when we send young men and women into war zones, some are bound to get hurt.
Please don't confuse my acceptance with a lack of caring because I care very much and want to see our wounded get all the support available to make their rehabilitation and recovery as successful as possible.

THAT is why I support Valour IT. Valour IT supports our wounded with their (free) laptops with voice activated software. These laptops provide a level of independence for servicemembers who, for whatever the reason, are not able to use their hands. Valour IT also provides personal GPS devices for those who have short term memory loss or other issues stemming from TBI or PTSD.

The need for such support has never been greater. As of Tuesday and just at Bethesda, there were 39 combat injured Marines and Corpsmen there. That number climbed higher when the plane landed from Landstuhl Tuesday night. I do not remember the number of wounded at Bethesda being that high even during the surge in Iraq.

I am co-leading the Marine team with Cassy Fiano this year. If you have a blog and would like to join the Marine team, please go here and sign up. The fundraiser starts today, Thursday, October 28th and ends on November 11th. We would love to repeat last year's victory but more importantly, we want to see our wounded and injured servicemembers get the tools they need to recover and lead full lives.

More to come....

Posted by at 09:51 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 27, 2010

Dads' Opinions Wanted

After a long day at work, the Blog Princess hath been known to peruse the vasty store of Instapunditry that accumulates during the workday. During just such a foray this evening, she happened upon this item:

DAUGHTERS SUFFER from sexism against men.

Allow me to stop for just a moment and ask a question of the villainry: if it's objectively wrong (not to mention unreasonable) for feminists to blame pretty much everything that happens in this wicked veil of tears on sexism, is the same true when men play the sexism card?

I just thought I'd ask. Because last time I checked, I thought men and women were supposed to be playing on the same team?

At any rate, my curiosity was aroused so I clicked through only to find (much to my horror!) that apparently there is a war on men! And it is keeping them from discussing sex with their teen-aged daughters who, sad to say, are suffering in unimaginably horrible ways as a result of this Traveshamockery:

The war against men has claimed another victim: their daughters.

In today’s America a man knows that he can be sued for workplace sexual harassment if he looks at a woman in the wrong way, if he makes a sexually suggestive remark, or if he touches her inappropriately.

He also knows that children, especially female children, are strictly off limits. Speak to his daughter in the wrong way and a man can find himself charged with child molestation. Even when the charges are false, it is very, very difficult to restore a reputation tarnished by the suspicion of child abuse.

It isn’t easy being a man in America today. The culture has made men into a threat, into the enemy of women and girls.

Not everywhere, not for everyone, but enough of the time for men to be wary in their dealings with female children.

The attacks on men, the stigmatization of men, the distrust about their motives have created a cultural miasma. If you were a father living in such a culture, would you want to talk about sex with your preteen daughter?

Who among us does not recall the halcyon days when your average Paterfamilias couldn't wait to wade into the angst-ridden conversational minefield that is female adolescent sexuality? Damn those buzz killing Femisandrists for coming between red blooded American Dads and their beautiful and natural desire to... umm... talk ... about... uhhh, sex and relationships.

Sure that the Spousal Unit would join me in my outragey-ness, I hied me down to the man cave Spousal Office to ask the question that was burning a hole in my pea sized brain:

"Babe... did you ever talk to our boys about sex?", I said, batting my eyelashes furiously and attempting to look harmless. A look of consternation briefly flitted across his face, quickly followed by the expression of Benign And Infinite Patience with which The Unit greets all such inquiries.

"No", he said. I may have mentioned from time to time that my beloved is a man of few words.

"Are you quite sure?", I responded?


This was followed, after I failed to go away within a reasonable amount of time, by, "No one talked to me about sex when I was a kid either. I figured it out."

"Huh", I noted with an air of feminine inscrutability. The whole "inscrutability" shtick is rarely successful with him, largely because it's extremely difficult to cloak oneself in an enticing veil of feminine mystery without shutting up for at least a few seconds.

You have to let the anticipation build. You know, give the poor guy time to wonder what you're thinking. I am assured by various women's mags that this is something men do nearly as often as they dream of discussing sex with their teenaged daughters.

On a serious note, in our media and sex drenched culture I can't imagine why any parent would need to discuss the mechanics of sex with a child. I learned most of what I knew about sex from reading and that was back in the 1960s when popular culture was considerably more restrained. My boys came of age in the 90s, and I bought them an excellent set of books (which I read first, in case there was a pop quiz) that covered male and female anatomy, sex, pregnancy, childbirth and birth control. I gave them the books, asked them to read them, and told them afterwards that I'd be happy to discuss any questions or concerns they might have.

They said they were good to go.

When they started showing an interest in girls, I did talk to my sons about relationships: how girls think, how to talk to girls, how girls view relationships and sex, what most girls would interpret various things. They were good talks that gave me a chance to impart the values my husband and I wanted our sons to take on board. We didn't talk just once; this was an ongoing conversation administered in small doses as they ran across (or seemed likely to need to know) various things.

Oddly enough, my Dad talked to me about boys many, many times. But then my Dad changed diapers in the 1950s and 60s. I can't honestly say I believed my father when he told me the boys I dated spent the vast majority of their time wondering what I looked like naked ... or trying to figure out how to get into my knickers. It irritated me that he didn't think I was smart enough to take care of myself.

But those talks - along with the time he spent teaching me to change spark plugs, change oil and air filters, and unstick a stuck butterfly valve - accomplished something vastly more important than educating me about boys and sex. They taught me how to recognize a good man.

Looking back at my dating years, I'm not sure how I avoided the bad apples. I was so naive and trusting that I could easily have been badly hurt or taken advantage of, and yet I never was. I can't help but think my relationship with my father taught me that if a man truly cares about a woman, he won't mind spending time with her (whether or not she's sleeping with him). Fathers have a lot to offer their daughters.

And a good father won't let political correctness or feminism dictate how he raises children of either sex.

Dads: I welcome your comments.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:27 PM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

Some Days You Just Can't Win


OK, so the Princess is feeling a bit down today. But at least I didn't have the kind of day this little guy had.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:06 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

October 26, 2010

We Shall Not See His Like Again...

Sometimes it's hard to find the right words:

Paul the Octopus, who correctly predicted the outcome of games during this year's World Cup soccer tournament, has died.

The eight-tentacled cephalopod oracle died of natural causes, the aquarium where he lived said Tuesday. He was 2 and a half.

"We are consoled by the knowledge that he enjoyed a good life here ..." said Stefan Porwoll, manager of the Oberhausen Sea Life Center in western Germany. "We had all naturally grown fond of him and he will be sorely missed."


Posted by Cassandra at 08:19 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

October 25, 2010

Important Ursine Misandry Alert

Betwixt largely unprofitable attempts to make The Unit feel guilty about the distressingly puppy-free state of the Marital Abode and the joyous contemplation of the non-linear interaction between the code volume, effort and schedule of delivered software projects, The Blog Princess has found precious little time of late for stunning readers senseless with her random musings.

But there are times when even the busiest among us must set aside mundane tasks for the vastly more important work of keeping the blatherosphere appraised of the growing menace of Ursine Misandry.

knut_goatee.jpgWhen last we left our fave sexually confused teen bear, he was sporting a soul patch and cavorting with sloe-eyed Italian bear-babes whilst PETA operatives schemed to deprive him of his Lucky Charms:

PETA is now demanding that Berlin zookeepers castrate Knut, as things have started to get fairly serious between the Vanity Fair cover bear and his girlfriend Giovanna. Giovanna hails from Munich, but has been temporarily crashing with Knut while her place there was getting fixed up. Of course things were a little tense at first—she hit his face; he gradually grew out of his boyish good looks—but over time they just got used to living together and eventually they fell in love. The twist is that Giovanna and Knut actually share a grandfather. It’s always something, isn’t it?

“Knut fans should be aware that only Knut’s castration would allow a long-term cohabitation of Giovanna and Knut. All other hopes and desires would bring the polar bear population in captivity to its pre-programmed demise even more rapidly,” said a PETA spokesman, as reported in Der Spiegel.

sigh_bear.jpgAh, but the course of true love ne'er doth run smooth, doth it? In the fullness of time it was revealed that the young hussy was more interested in his carrots than his stick (groan...):

The polar bear, who was joined by Gianna in September last year at Berlin Zoo, did not appear to be upset at the separation, as she had reportedly been stealing his carrots since she moved in.

And isn't that just like a woman? Of course it was just a short trip from Vegetable Thievery to the Hell of Domestic Violence:

The Berlin Zoo's adorable polar bear, who shot to global fame as a cub, is reportedly being bullied by a trio of older females, causing the country's media to worry about the superstar's love life.

Playing hard to get, The Telegraph reports that "Knut has become a heap of misery, instead of enjoying himself with the three ladies, he cowers fearfully in a corner."

For several weeks, the 3-year-old bear has shared his zoo enclosure with his mother, Tosca, and two other females, Nancy and Katjusch, with the intent of finding a mate. However, Knut, who is definitely not a fan of tough love, has instead become the victim of a number violent altercations.

As if his current troubles weren't depressing enough, the beknighted celebrity bear must also deal with the misandric musings of rampant speciests:

One video posted online showed Katjuscha hurling herself at Knut's throat, in an apparent attempt to bite him, before tipping him into the water.

"These sad images of Knut are pulling the heartstrings of people around the world," said Bild.

But Heiner Kloes, Knut's keeper, downplayed the affair, telling AFP it was "only two minutes in the life of a bear."

"It was a small altercation that is completely normal among bears," he said, underlining that the four bears were still getting used to living together.

"For the time being, Knut is not yet an adult male and doesn't yet know how to get respect like his father did. But day by day, he is imposing himself and with time, this type of problem will go away," he said.

This is where we must turn to you, dear readers, for help. Will a thorough mastery of Game help poor Knut get in touch with his Inner Alpha or will he settle for an emotionally barren existence relieved only by the sporadic use of panda porn and confusing sex toys? Will our little cultural bellwether eventually triumph over the sexist machinations of his critics or will Bearkind suffer the loss of yet another talented spokesbear?

Is there a reality TV show in his future? Does Obama have a plan for this, too?

Stay tuned, haters.

Previous Knut blogging.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:04 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

"Not That There's Anything Wrong with 'Vice'", Mind You

In an NPR-worthy moment of cognitive dissonance, Scotland Yard strikes an important blow in the ongoing battle to destigmatize criminal behavior:

Scotland Yard's famous Vice Squad, which deals with prostitution and other aspects of London's underworld, has changed its title to the rather less dynamic "Serious Crime Directorate 9: Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Command", or SCD9 for short.

The explanation is one that would draw a robust response from DCI Hunt, the old-school detective from BBC One's Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes.

Metropolitan Police sources said the switch had been ordered in part because the word "vice" was thought to have negative "connotations".

I can't help but wish the knuckle dragging Neanderthals in our own law enforcement community would get on board with the UK's enlightened affirmation of the essential human dignity and moral equivalence of non-conforming lifestyle choices.

Crime is only objectionable because we think it so.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:40 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

October 22, 2010

More Crushing of Offensive Speech

I guess supporting the armed forces violated their editorial standards.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:15 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Friday Browser Dump

Sorry guys. I am just too busy to write anything but you're welcome to peruse the approximately 90,000+ browswer windows I opened this morning:

1. First off, this hilarious sendup of Babs Boxer:

Call Me Madam Joe from RightChange on Vimeo.

2. More college sex slides surface. A teaser:


Women are such pigs...

3. Meant to link to this yesterday but I was hoping to have some time to make a few comments on the value of ritual.

4. Tom Ricks jumps on the "Don't Know Much About History" bandwagon:

The textbook makes the extraordinary claim that there were two black battalions fighting under Stonewall Jackson.

Extraordinary? Why? Because Ricks doesn't like the idea? To understand the progressive concept of historical evidence, one need look no farther than the "Nyah nyah, he/she's such a dummy!" school of ad hominem non-refutation, wherein attacking the speaker without providing the slightest bit of evidence in refutation or his or her arguments is considered persuasive.

Would Mr. Ricks believe the contemporaneous statements of Frederick Douglass, who upbraided the Union for refusing the aid of black soldiers in 1861? Or was he lying, too?

It is now pretty well established, that there are at the present moment many colored men in the Confederate army doing duty not only as cooks, servants and laborers, but as real soldiers, having muskets on their shoulders, and bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down loyal troops, and do all that soldiers may to destroy the Federal Government and build up that of the traitors and rebels. There were such soldiers at Manassas, and they are probably there still. There is a Negro in the army as well as in the fence, and our Government is likely to find it out before the war comes to an end. That the Negroes are numerous in the rebel army, and do for that army its heaviest work, is beyond question. They have been the chief laborers upon those temporary defences in which the rebels have been able to mow down our men. Negroes helped to build the batteries at Charleston. They relieve their gentlemanly and military masters from the stiffening drudgery of the camp, and devote them to the nimble and dexterous use of arms. Rising above vulgar prejudice, the slaveholding rebel accepts the aid of the black man as readily as that of any other. If a bad cause can do this, why should a good cause be less wisely conducted? We insist upon it, that one black regiment in such a war as this is, without being any more brave and orderly, would be worth to the Government more than two of any other; and that, while the Government continues to refuse the aid of colored men, thus alienating them from the national cause, and giving the rebels the advantage of them, it will not deserve better fortunes than it has thus far experienced.--Men in earnest don't fight with one hand, when they might fight with two, and a man drowning would not refuse to be saved even by a colored hand.

Perhaps the diary of a Union surgeon would suffice, containing as it does a a firsthand contemporaneous account of the presence of 3000 black Confederate troops among Stonewall Jackson's army?


I understand that the idea of uppity blacks making decisions that don't support Mr. Ricks' preferred narrative must be quite distressing, but human beings are like that. It's that whole free will thing, doncha know.

5. Speaking of progressives doing their damnedest to silence uppity blacks, NPR continues to undermine their own credibility:

Schiller issued an internal memo on Thursday saying that Williams was fired for violating an NPR principle that states that on other networks "NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist,” reads the memo obtained by Fox News.

"News analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts, and that's what's happened in this situation," she added.

Examples of personal public positions on controversial issues that don't violate NPR's editorial standards:

....the evaporation of 4 million" fundamentalist Christians would leave the world a better place

saying if there was "retributive justice" in the world, former North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms would "get AIDS from a transfusion, or one of his grandchildren will get it."

You know, I've given literally thousands of dollars to NPR over the years. I'm thinking that since they appear to be bought and paid for by George Soros, they don't need my money any more.

It's a damned shame. For years I've been willing to subsidize a network that actively promotes ideas I don't agree with. NPR's rabid intolerance of ideas THEY don't agree with is the straw that finally broke this conservative camel's back.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:19 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

October 21, 2010

Was Juan Williams Fired Because He's Black?

Provocative post title, no es verdad? Dan Riehl thinks so:

... if Juan Williams is impacted by the behavior of Muslims, then progressives - and NPR is that, can't lecture white America that their concerns are based on hate, religious intolerance, bigotry or xenophobia. Juan Williams didn't drop his mask and reveal any Islamophobia last night on Fox. What he did was rip the mask off the tactics NPR and other progressives, including the liberal media, use to lecture America and prevent an honest discussion of the threat from Islam.

I agree with Dan in one respect - I think denial has a lot to do with why NPR decided to apply its conveniently flexible "editorial standards" to statements made by Williams on another network. Fortunately for my personal supply of schadenfreude, Williams wasn't the only one to stray off the ideological reservation this week:

Shirley Sherrod, meet Juan Williams.

Three months ago, right-wingers clipped a video of Sherrod to make her look like a racist. They circulated the video on the Internet, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture fired her.

Now it's happening again. This time, left-wingers have done the editing. They clipped a video of Juan Williams, a commentator for Fox News and NPR, to make him look like an anti-Muslim bigot. They circulated the video on the Internet, and last night, NPR fired him.

Saletan goes on to point out that no reasonable person watching Williams' comments that night (and I was) would construe them as a ringing endorsement of racism:

The damning video clip of Williams, like the damning clip of Sherrod, cuts off the speaker just as he's about to reverse course. According to the full transcript, immediately after saying, "I don't think there's any way to get away from these facts," Williams continues: "But I think there are people who want to somehow remind us all as President Bush did after 9/11, it's not a war against Islam." That continuation has been conveniently snipped from the excerpt.

A few seconds later, Williams challenges O'Reilly's suggestion that "the Muslims attacked us on 9/11." Williams points out how wrong it would be to generalize similarly about Christians:

Except that the "McVeigh/Christianist/terrorist" meme is pretty standard fare for lefty pundits (none of whom have been fired or even reprimanded for their offensive intolerance as far as I know). I went back to see what I had to say during the Sherrod brouhaha:

Because blaming Bush FoxNews never gets old:

The White House spokesman and the agriculture secretary weren't the only ones offering regrets Wednesday to the lower-level official abruptly fired over a videotape excerpt that turned out to be totally misleading. Bill O'Reilly apologized to Shirley Sherrod as well.

But for all the chatter -- some of it from Sherrod herself -- that she was done in by Fox News, the network didn't touch the story until her forced resignation was made public Monday evening, with the exception of brief comments by O'Reilly. After a news meeting Monday afternoon, an e-mail directive was sent to the news staff in which Fox Senior Vice President Michael Clemente said: "Let's take our time and get the facts straight on this story. Can we get confirmation and comments from Sherrod before going on-air. Let's make sure we do this right."

Sherrod may be the only official ever dismissed because of the fear that Fox host Glenn Beck might go after her. As Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack tried to pressure her into resigning, Sherrod says Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook called her Monday to say "do it, because you're going to be on 'Glenn Beck' tonight." And for all the focus on Fox, much of the mainstream media ran with a fragmentary story that painted an obscure 62-year-old Georgian as an unrepentant racist.

I think Rick Lowry got this one right:

Her saga over the last couple of days is a lesson in how the culture of offense often works in contemporary America -- chewing people up and spitting them out before they even have a chance to defend themselves."

Years ago the Spousal Unit got into it with a senior Naval officer who proceeded to complain to the Unit's boss. My husband was not only in the right but acted with integrity in a tough situation. I've never forgotten how his boss handled it - he informed the offended officer that his description didn't sound like my husband at all and before responding to the complaint he felt honor bound to hear my husband's side of the story.

That's not exactly rocket science but it's a shame how few bosses show that kind of loyalty and common sense to their subordinates. A little of that courage would have gone a long way here.

Though I agree with Saletan on the transcendent silliness of firing someone for a sentiment that is precisely the opposite of what they did say, I think there's a bit of revisionist history going on here.

"The Right" didn't fire Shirley Sherrod.
The OBAMA administration fired Sherrod.

Now the shoe is on the other foot, but once again it isn't the right who fired someone for saying That Which Must Not Be Said, but NPR, a left leaning network paid for with federal tax dollars.

What's the common thread here? Progressives stifling speech they don't like, even when it is made outside the course and scope of the employer/employee relationship. Of course some kinds of intolerant bigotry don't violate NPR's lofty editorial standards and practices:

There will be no apology and Fiore's cartoon is staying up, said Ellen Weiss, senior vice president for news. "Opinion and satire are going to sting some members of the audience and soothe others," she said, noting NPR has received some positive feedback. "This one satire is not the only coverage on the topic and while it offends some members of the audience, I see no reason to remove it."

I don't think Williams was fired because he's black. I think he was fired for speaking an inconvenient truth because the credibility of progressivism depends to a large extent on preventing critics from pointing out how the real world works. What we're supposed to focus on is how a hypothetical, utopian world none of us have ever seen would work, if only that world actually existed anywhere outside the imagination of lefty pundits and Paul Krugman.

Reminding the public that the real world doesn't work the way we wish it did tends to harsh the whole progressive mellow. Consequently, we get lefty pundits and news anchors alike erupting in outrage over the unsurprising fact that unemployment benefits make people less likely to take paying jobs.

Never mind that it's true. Damn it all, IT SHOULDN'T BE TRUE, and if you rudely insist on reminding the public of the way things actually work, you are a cynical naysayer. Reality, it would appear, has a cynical bias.

Administration officials have threatened American businesses for daring to speak the unsurprising truth that they can't provide more benefits without increasing premium prices to cover their increased costs.

Wow. You mean businesses can't make a profit unless the prices they charge cover their costs? Who knew?

Recently two professors attempted to point out the unsurprising fact that most of us do not go to work every day in order that we might receive a heaping helping of Social Justice on payday. An even more shocking revelation was to follow: people who make lots of money really do consider the effect of tax policy when deciding how many hours they should work every week.

Those of us who do not rush down to the nearest homeless shelter every week to sign over our paychecks may have found this news less than earth shattering, yet still it must not be spoken of.

So many inconvenient truths... so little time to deploy that Chilling Effect we were all so exercised about during the BusHitler years.


Posted by Cassandra at 01:20 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Hegel, On Love and Passion

Grim has been reading Hegel:

... to have thrown your whole soul into a vision of beauty, that is passion. To have passion for a woman is, then, not to have some physical longing alone; that belongs to mere appetites, which rank much lower on his scale of mind. Rather, what you have is a longing for an idea of what the woman would be if she were as perfect as you wish her to be.

Well, and she is not; so is this not a lie? And are you not betraying her, if you will not take her as she is rather than demanding some perfection no one can possess?

Here I am reminded of Cassandra's wise words, directed towards men: that biology is not an adequate excuse for bad behavior. It is not what you are that makes you worthy of love, but what you could be; and the fact of trying to be that better thing.

One of the most painful arguments I ever had was with an old and very dear friend. It happened in the 8th grade.

My friend had been a rather chubby child - not obese, but not exactly athletic either. Her vision was quite bad. In fact, she was legally blind and had worn thick glasses for as long as anyone could remember.

Until the 7th grade - the year before I moved in next door to her - she had been the frequent target of teasing, insults, and even bullying. And then something magical happened: she began to grow into a young woman, and she got contact lenses.

Suddenly, the formerly despised child found herself the object of swarms of admiring boys, many of whom had tormented her just months before. It didn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that not one of these boys liked her for the person she had always been: bright, intellectually curious, possessed of a wickedly sharp wit, but most of all a loving and tender heart.

None of these things were what drew the boys to her side like moths dancing around a brilliant candle flame. Her personality, brains and character were utterly irrelevant.

The moment I met my friend, I felt a connection with her that I have really never felt with anyone else. Our lives could not have been more different and yet on some weird level, we understood each other. At any rate, during the first year at my new school I watched her struggle to adjust to her newfound popularity. She made the cheerleading team and even the girls started to suck up to her. At times I was envious of her stunning beauty, but despite the fact that she was far prettier than I was, our friendship seemed one of equals. We balanced each other, and when everything was weighed together I didn't feel threatened by her. We even went steady with the same boys - normally something that would be the kiss of death for a friendship between two young girls. Our friendship survived and, if anything, grew even stronger for the experience.

I had always made friends at every duty station but I had never felt as close to anyone as I did to her. To this day she remains my oldest and dearest friend, though we have often gone months - years, sometimes! - without speaking to each other.

The fight was over a boy, though it did not occur in the way you might think. At the tail end of the school year, we both became aware that a boy in our class liked her very much. Unlike the boys we had both gone steady with on and off that year, this boy was not one of the cool kids. He was nice enough looking, but nothing special. You would not notice him in a crowd.

And yet, of all the boys who had chased my friend that year, I could tell that he saw who she really was. I'm certain that he wasn't exactly put off by her beauty, but to him who she was mattered, too.

And she was afraid to go out with him.

You see, she had been made fun of and ostracized all her life. The hurt of years of meanness lurked under the newly confident face she presented to the world, and the crowd she ran with were not particularly tolerant of outsiders. And so, she hesitated.

I am ashamed to say that I was not as understanding as I should have been. Like any other teen I had my share of insecurities, but I never had to put up with the abuse my friend had silently endured for so many years. And so I was impatient with her fears; to me they seemed foolish. "Who cares what those jerks think?", I said to her. "Do what YOU want to do".

And when she still hesitated, I was deeply disappointed in her. I thought she was being shallow; that if anyone on earth should have been able to look beyond the surface wrapping, she should have. Being highly intuitive and far more sensitive than I am, she sensed what I would not say and it wounded her. And so I brought the subject up with her one Friday evening when we were taking one of our nightly walks.

What she told me then has stayed with me for decades. She felt that because I was her friend, I should have taken her side unquestioningly. When I didn't do this, she felt as though I didn't care about her enough to give her my loyalty.

I tried to explain to her that my concept of friendship was different; that she would always have my loyalty and love, but that didn't mean I would always agree with her or approve of her decisions. Nor did I expect she would always approve of mine. Moreover, if I ever did something she thought was wrong I hoped she would tell me.

What I tried to explain to her then is very close to what Grim speaks of: the notion that in loving someone passionately, we don't always love who they are right now, but who they have it in them to be.

I think this is how I have always loved: not expecting perfection, nor condemning the one I love for occasionally falling short of it, but always keeping their potential in mind. I know this is why I fell in love with my husband. I saw in him, not only the young man he was then but the man he has become.

Eventually my friend did decide to go out with this young man. They dated all the way through high school. I have a photograph of them, all dressed up for Homecoming. She sent it to me after I moved away. It's my favorite picture of her because in it, she is literally glowing with happiness.

I was often foolish as a young girl, and I can't say I've outgrown the tendency as an adult. But I do try to remember that the world seems very different to others than it does to me, and vice versa. The people I've loved most in life have not been the ones who are just like me, but the ones who see things through a different lens and it is the perspective I've gained from trying to see the world through their eyes for a moment that I treasure. That difference is what they offer me, and what I most value in them.

So I don't think it's wrong to love a slightly idealized version of someone else. What seems important is that that ideal should be based upon that person's actual qualities and potential. It's no good expecting someone to be what you need them to be, because they don't exist for your benefit. And it's no good expecting them to be something they can't hope to become, because you will end up disappointed and bitter. But worse, your disappointment will wound them.

Illusions in love have value. They give us something to live up to, and there is something to be said for the knowledge that you are loved not only for who you are today, but for the promise of who you have the power to become.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:39 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Micromanaged Kids

What do today's kids lack, that kids in the 1950s had in abundance? Breathing room:

Clue: My parents divorced before I was 3, necessitating that my mother get a job outside the home. During my preschool years, I was one of the small minority of children who attended what would today be called daycare.

In this happy place, our teachers fostered creative activity. They taught us nothing academic. Therefore, I went to first grade not knowing my ABCs. I would not trade that for anything in the world.

Clue: In the course of my entire childhood, I engaged in but two adult-directed after-school activities. I was a Cub Scout for a year and didn't like it. I played Little League for a year and didn't like it. In both cases, the source of my dislike was well-intentioned adults. My buddies and I much preferred pick-up games where we ran the entire show. I've never understood why some adults think they are better qualified than children to tell children how to play with one another.

Clue: When I began school, my mother made it clear that my homework was my responsibility. She helped me figure out the answer to the occasional problem, but I was free to determine when I did my homework, in what order, in what posture, and whether the radio in my room was on or off. I don't think my mother ever asked me if I had homework or had finished it. She never checked it either. Therefore, most of the schoolwork I did at home was done imperfectly. I still managed to get through high school on time and go to college, then graduate school. Oddly enough, most people my age report having grown up in my mother's care.

Clue: My mother ignored me most of the time. Do not confuse being ignored with being neglected. I was not neglected. Mom left me alone to figure out how I was going to spend my time. She didn't talk to me much, either. Days might go by when no more than the occasional pleasantry would be exchanged between us. Nonetheless, I always knew that if I truly needed her, she would be there. I never wanted for love or attention, albeit I received little of the latter. Mom did insist that if I was bored, I was to keep it to myself lest I put myself in danger of chores. Again, if the reports of my peers are true, my mother had thousands of children. Where were they?

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:33 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

October 19, 2010

Tea Party Vs. RNC Question

Now, Cass, are you ever going to address the Tea Party vs the Republican Establishment issues? I double-dare ya. Chicken. Bwak-bok-bok-bok.:)

For a while now, afe has been trying to get me to comment on the Rethug establishment's reluctance to support some of the Tea Party candidates who recently won state primaries.

I'm not really sure what I can say about this, except that the issue seems to epitomize the divisions in the party. Back before Obama was elected, I seem to remember a lot of conservatives saying they were going to stay home on election day even if it meant handing power over to the Democrats. They made two arguments:

1. They were sick and tired of feeling like the party wasn't listening to them or representing their concerns and if the only way they could get the party's attention was to stay home and hand an historic election to the Dems, so be it.

2. They didn't believe that far right or "true" conservatives were unelectable.

"Just give us the chance to try", they argued.

There's really nothing wrong with either of these arguments. It's just that having argued then that you are a free spirit and the party didn't own your vote would seem to preclude arguing now that the party owes you (or your candidate) their absolute and unquestioning support in return for... what was that again? Your conditional support?

I'm not sure I agree that teaching the RNC a lesson was "worth" seeing Barack Obama in the Oval Office and the Democrats in control of Congress, but there's certainly no law against disagreement. Whether or not the party was actually taught a lesson I leave to you all. Personally, I'd say not. Which begs the question of just why it was wise to teach them a lesson they appear not to have taken on board?

Now we have essentially gotten to the #2 scenario: in several states, dark horse candidates won their primaries and the same folks who lectured people like me (who in turn lectured them about ordering from the menu) are mad as hell that the Rethug establishment - including, by the way, horrid, traitorous RINO bastards like Charles Krauthammer - have the nerve to wonder whether their candidates are electable? Or even worse, whether electing them is even a good idea?

So the question arises here: is it OK for conservatives who *don't* agree with Christine O'Donnell (or who think it may be counterproductive to put up candidates who may not command the Independent votes needed to win most elections, especially in the largely blue NE states) to heed their consciences, adhere to their principles, and stay home? And if you are one of those who argued that you were justified in doing so, on what principled basis do you now argue that others are wrong to do as you did?

This is what bothers me so much about the scorched earth bullshit rhetoric I've been reading so much lately. This isn't aimed at afe, but it's why I generally keep my mouth shut on issues like this.

I've voted solidly Rethug for over 30 years now. My Dad has been voting consistently Rethug for about 60 years now. And yet, to many of my peers, we're both no good stinking RINOs simply because we have the freaking nerve to disagree with them on a matter of political tactics? Screw that.

I've taken a fair amount of heat over the past two years for saying that there's something to be said for being a team player, that politics is the art of the possible, and that half a loaf is better than being powerless to stop abominations like the Unaffordable Care Act. I don't insist that anyone agree with me. In fact, I think I've been pretty good about honestly entertaining viewpoints I disagree with.

This is politics. Do I always agree with the RNC? Hell no. Do I think they're doing the best possible job of getting conservatives into office. No, I don't.

But I don't think it's out of bounds for people to disagree on tactics, fercryinoutloud. I think some of the candidates (not all, but some) we've put up don't reflect well on us as a party. Back in 2008 I argued that in general it's better to have a Republican in office than a Dem. If I lived in Delaware, I'd probably vote for O'Donnell because she's better than her opponent.

But I also happen to think it's quite possible that taking over Congress in 2010 may not be the best outcome for us. The opposition are foundering in a sea of their own incompetence now (which, by the way, is precisely what I said would happen right after Obama was elected). People are fed up, but I'm not sure they're fed up enough.

If we take over Congress, all we do is give them another excuse for the epic failex going on in Washington. Divided government takes the pressure off the Democrats, and I want people to remember the taste of that crap sandwich we're eating right now for a very, very long time.

I wouldn't have ordered the sandwich in the first place. I did my damnedest to prevent the sandwich from being served.

And I really, really resent (and again, this is NOT aimed at afe) a lot of what I'm reading these days from a lot of folks who are supposed to be on "my side". Back then, I argued tactics with a lot of you. I didn't say you were wrong to believe what you believe, nor did I call you names or ask that you be cast out of the party.

There is real damage being done here. I'm angrier than I can ever remember being. And that's why I haven't commented.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:36 PM | Comments (70) | TrackBack

Women in Politics

Grim and Elise are discussing the treatment of women in politics (in particular, the use of sexist and sexually demeaning language against female politicians):

... we've all been thinking about the problem of female politicians, right? To whit, sexist remarks appear to be highly effective against them.

Especially among women. Look at any poll you like, and you'll find that the Sarah Palins and Christine O'Donnells poll far worse among women than men. Men are willing to give them a chance, along partisan lines -- in other words, as ready to vote for them as for any other person who came along in their preferred party. Women are much less willing.

I think there are a number of things going on here. First and foremost, I don't think we can disregard the enormous degree to which people - male or female, machts nichts - are influenced by physical appearance and body language. For men, height is a huge asset. You can see vestiges of the notion that physical dominance is a leadership trait in the body language of men and women:

... men's nonverbal training is often directed specifically toward showing strength, not weakness. Allowing someone too close or into his space would render a man vulnerable. A man can better control his environment by creating more space around him. Boys are told to "stand tall" in order to show confidence and assertiveness, and even occasionally aggressiveness.

Women cannot command as large a personal space as men. Consequently, they are often perceived as having "lower status."

The same phenomenon crops up in our speech:

... several other paralinguistic features of women's nonverbal communication work against them.

Take, for instance, the notion of being soft-spoken. How often have we heard this term applied to a man? Almost never. No, it's women who keep their voices small and delicate. Part of that is biological, as explained above. However, when men and women's voices are compared to the respective size of their vocal tracts, women talk as if they are physically smaller than they actually are. Their voices are pitched to the upper range, the decibel level is reduced, and vowel resonances are thinned. These paralinguistic elements are not the effect of biology but of socialization and learning-the imperative to be soft-spoken.

In fact, according to communication professors Deborah Borisoff and Lisa Merrill, "Women, like children, have been taught that it is preferable for them to be seen rather than to be heard." Following this line of reasoning, Borisoff and Merrill point out in The Power to Communicate that when not held in check, women's louder voices are considered abrasive or displeasing: "carping, brassy, nagging, shrill, strident, or grating." And female conversation may be referred to as "babbling, blabbing, gabbing, or chatting"-none very serious endeavors. Unfortunately, however, a woman's quiet voice is rather ineffectual-a credibility robber.

There are ways women can compensate for the undeniable fact that we are neither as tall nor as physically imposing as men, but doing so requires us to override some very powerful social conditioning. And women walk a fine line here - the postures and tones of voice men use so effectively to command respect almost invariably provoke hostility when women use them. Then there are the things women do that are perceived one way by women and quite another way by men.

I do believe women in general operate at a slight disadvantage in politics, but I also think it's on us to play to our strengths and minimize our weaknesses. Grim mentions the problem (though I'm not at all sure it *is* a systemic problem) of women supposedly refusing to give other women a chance. I can't speak for other women, but personally I'm not seeing this.

The fact is that right now women are still a minority in political life. There simply aren't that many of us, so the idea that we can infer any broad, overarching conclusions about the willingness of women to support female politicians from our reactions to a handful of cases seems a bit problematic to me.

When the buzz started over Condi Rice as a possible candidate back in 2003, I didn't think she was ready. I looked at her record and she simply didn't have the experience I expect in a candidate for the Presidency. Had she run in 2008, she would most likely have gotten my vote. I watched Rice blossom in office, but more importantly her mental toughness and verbal acuity grew by leaps and bounds. She projected confidence, competence, and a masterful grasp of world affairs (one of my #1 requirements in a President).

Palin is undoubtably intelligent and charismatic and she does project assurance, but she has been consistently unimpressive in her responses on certain issues. She might well just need more time, but for now my assessment of her is that she's simply not seasoned enough.

O'Donnell mystifies me. By any of the criteria I use to evaluate male candidates, she's a disaster waiting to happen. I don't trust a woman who takes 10 years to pay off less than $5000 of college debt. Her inability to handle her own finances doesn't inspire me to trust her with public money and it raises serious questions about her character. I couldn't possibly care less about her youthful opinions on masturbation, porn, or Wicca. They're irrelevant, except to the extent that they make it far too easy to dismiss her as a flake. I'm not at all sure she's electable but fortunately that's for the voters of Delaware to decide.

Sharron Angle seems competent enough. I haven't paid enough attention to her to comment knowledgeably but I'd love to see her beat Harry Reid. Carly Fiorina seems likewise competent and were I a California resident I'd gladly support her over Babs Boxer.

Overall, I am dismayed by the suggestions I've seen in many quarters (no, I'm not referring to Grim) that we ladies ought to vote with our lady parts. If you want my vote or my support, convince me you deserve it on the merits. Appealing to identity politics is the wrong tack - it's insulting and ultimately counterproductive. Likewise, I fail to see the point in going on and on about how we bold, strong, New Age Womyn are taking the political world by storm.

We're. not. Not even close, people.

Are there more successful female candidates these days? Sure. Is this a good thing? Probably, although I find the notion that women will be any less of a mixed bag than male politicians to be highly suspect. It's a brave new world and I have every confidence that, given the opportunity, women are just capable of making jackasses of ourselves as any man :p

Finally, on the sexually demeaning rhetoric thing I think this is just something women will have to learn to deal with. It's clearly wrong and even more clearly extremely effective, dealing as it does with entrenched perceptions of women and our uses. We live in a culture that has very little respect for women and unlike Grim, I don't believe we can - or should - expect men to defend us.

Leaders don't look to others to do what they ought to do for themselves. If a politician can't even defend herself, she's not going to be seen as a leader. This is going to be a tough nut for women to crack, but if we want to be taken seriously in what is still very much a man's world, we're going to have to figure it out.

Politics is a dirty, ugly business. We should object when politicians hit below the belt, but what I find most disturbing isn't sexist language but the vicious and deliberate attacks on the children of female candidates for political office.

Women are particularly vulnerable to such tactics and if anything will keep women out of politics, it will be that kind of collateral damage. It is used against women because it's more likely to succeed against us. I'm not sure what we can do about that, except to make sure the perpetrators pay dearly.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:07 AM | Comments (33) | TrackBack

A Sense of Justice

Having cleared a small space on her desk and brushed a few of the cobwebs out of various Inboxes, the Princess is back.

Read this during the plane ride back from Vegas. I can't speak for the Tea Party, but this adequately describes my sense of what is wrong with the direction government is taking in America:

The notion of karma comes with lots of new-age baggage, but it is an old and very conservative idea. It is the Sanskrit word for "deed" or "action," and the law of karma says that for every action, there is an equal and morally commensurate reaction. Kindness, honesty and hard work will (eventually) bring good fortune; cruelty, deceit and laziness will (eventually) bring suffering. No divine intervention is required; it's just a law of the universe, like gravity.

... To understand the anger of the tea-party movement, just imagine how you would feel if you learned that government physicists were building a particle accelerator that might, as a side effect of its experiments, nullify the law of gravity. Everything around us would float away, and the Earth itself would break apart. Now, instead of that scenario, suppose you learned that politicians were devising policies that might, as a side effect of their enactment, nullify the law of karma. Bad deeds would no longer lead to bad outcomes, and the fragile moral order of our nation would break apart. For tea partiers, this scenario is not science fiction. It is the last 80 years of American history.

This, in a nutshell, is my problem with liberalism. I understand liberal ideas, and if the world were a different place or human nature different than it demonstrably is, I might even be on board with some of it.

My problem with liberalism is that I believe progressives are elevating a utopian vision that willfully ignores how people act in the real world over a more pragmatic and constrained vision that takes the real world into account. I don't believe public policy that ignores human nature will be any less disastrous than would a public policy that ignored the law of gravity.

Laws have to work in the real world. They are implemented and enforced upon real people, not ideal beings who only act from the purest of motives. And although I acknowledge that the world is often an unfair place, I've seen no evidence that my fellow human beings can come up with a scheme that doesn't just replace the natural unfairness of the real world (which I stand a chance against, as an individual competing with other individuals) with artificial unfairness enforced by a government jackboot.

I think Haidt is spot on when he talks about competing notions of fairness. To liberals, fairness means equality but to conservatives, fairness means justice.

Equality? What I'm fighting for is to prove I'm a better man than many of them. Where have you seen this "divine spark" in operation, Colonel? Where have you noted this magnificent equality?

No two things on Earth are equal or have an equal chance. Not a leaf, not a tree. There's many a man worse than me, and some better. But I don't think race or country matters a damn.

What matters, Colonel,is justice.

Which is why I'm here. I'll be treated as I deserve, not as my father deserved. I'm Kilrain... And I damn all gentlemen. There is only one aristocracy... And that is right here. [points to his head] ...and that's why we've got to win this war.

As I said last week, we are engaged in an all out battle for the soul of a nation and it is being fought by those who understand moral hazard against those who want to pretend it doesn't exist.

I think the reason the Kilraen quote has always resonated with me is that that's what I want too - the freedom to fight for my own vision of America, to fight for what I believe in. I don't need government's hand on the scale, tipping it in one direction or the other, because I don't trust government to be impartial.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:13 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

October 16, 2010

Vegas is a Deeply Weird Place


Do not be deceived by the hype, people. Vegas is a family place.

I have never seen so many friendly brunettes.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:14 AM | Comments (35) | TrackBack

October 14, 2010

BlogWorld Expo 2010

In case y'all are wondering where the blog princess has taken herself off to this time, she is in Las Vegas at BlogWorld Expo for one of the panels on the military track.

I'll be posting more about the conference later on, but you can watch today's panels over at YouServed courtesy of Troy, who is doing a fantastic job of capturing the panel discussions.

We're having a great time, meeting and talking with some amazing people. One of the most incredible experiences I've had so far has been getting to meet my co-presenter, Mrs. P of A Little Pink in a World of Camo.

Like me, Mrs. P is a Marine wife. Unlike me she lost her husband, Corporal Jonathan Porto, in March of this year.

Those are hard words to type and even harder words to say. About two weeks ago, she stepped up to the plate to replace a panelist who couldn't make it at the last minute. I spoke with her for the first time last weekend by phone and was just blown away by her courage, humor, and pure moxie.

I've known many Marine wives over the years. Mrs. P was a Marine wife for just a little while, but she epitomizes everything we so often try to be (and mostly fail). Anyway, check out her site and don't forget to look at some of today's panels and the opening remarks by General Petraeus over at YouServed!

Posted by Cassandra at 07:06 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Online Support Links for MilSpouses and Families

My apologies for the lame to nonexistent blogging this week.

The blog princess has been swamped between work and getting ready to go to sunny Las Vegas for the BlogWorld Expo conference at Mandalay Bay. Several months ago, the lovely and talented Cassy Fiano asked me to participate in one of the Military Track panels. Cassy wasn't able to make it and she was sorely missed!

Whilst noodling over what in the heck we might talk about today, it occurred to me that it would be nice to have a list of some of the online resources available to military spouses and their families. This list is just a start - I'd love to add to it over time. If you know of any additional resources, please feel free to add your suggestions via the comments and I'll get them onto the list.

If anyone wants the html (with the links already embedded) for the list, shoot me an email and I'll be happy to provide it to you. You're welcome to post it on your sites - no need to link back here unless you want to. I'd really like to get the word out to as many milspouses as possible.

Today's discussion on the Spouses and Social Media panel was fantastic, but what really made it work was the great questions and comments from the audience. Thanks so much to everyone who attended and participated!

SpouseBUZZ is a virtual Spouse Support Group that features nearly nearly 20 authors and a lively and interesting comments section.

MILblogging.com Military Spouse Blogs: searchable index of (at last count) 465 blogs written by military spouses. Don’t forget to check their main page for blogs written by service members!

YouServed offers blog posts and podcasts by military and spouse bloggers. Focused on military and family.

Widow's Voice:
7 widows/widowers from different stages in their grief journeys. Not all are military widows but they all are insightful for the journey of grief.

Discussion Forums

Military.com Spouse Forums: general discussion forums dealing with all aspects of military life from deployment, TRICARE, individual augments, marriage, parenting and family issues to career and relocation questions.

The Spouse Connection: service specific discussion forums for National Guard/Reserve, Navy, Army, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard spouses.

CinCHouse offers articles and discussion forums for military wives and women in uniform.

MilitarySOS.com support and information resource for military spouses and significant others from all branches of the military around the world. From basic and boot camp to relocation and retirement, you'll find friends in your area, deployment support groups, people who understand military life and your feelings, ideas for care packages, support for post deployment reintegration, advice on helping kids cope with the military lifestyle and much more.

Marine Parents: news, information and discussion forums to support and educate Marine moms, dads, spouses, families and friends.

Internet Radio

Military Spouse Talk Radio: an internet-based talk show created by and exclusively for military spouses to inspire, empower, and educate military spouses with relevant topics, issues, information and resources that matter.

YouServed offers blog posts and podcasts by military and spouse bloggers. Focused on military and family.

Army Wife Talk Radio is an internet talk radio program for Army wives, by Army wives.

Real Widows: Discuss everything "widow" even the controversial topics. By widows, for widows.

Information, Referrals, and Resources

MilitaryOneSource: a wealth of information on a wide variety of topics pertaining to military families.

Military.com: one stop shopping for everything military for active, reserves, retirees and spouses.

MilSifters is an online, searchable database designed to help military families find the answers and help they need. Search by category or keyword or ask the MilSifters staff a question!

FamilyLine Navy family volunteers answer your questions, provide education, and offer free publications and share experience, strength and hope.

Military Homefront- official Department of Defense web site for reliable Quality of Life information designed to help troops and their families.

American Widow Project: an organization designed to connect military widows (including any kind of significant other to a fallen service member) to find others to share and connect with

T. A. P. S: (Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors) an organization designed for all member's of a fallen service member's family. Features discussion boards and chats, mentoring programs, and conferences around the nation.

Blue Star Families: military families support, connect and empower other military families.


Military Spouse Magazine- a magazine covering a wide variety of topics of interest to military spouses


FOCUS (Families OverComing Under Stress) provides resiliency training to military families. It teaches practical skills to meet the challenges of deployment and reintegration, to communicate and solve problems effectively, and to successfully set goals together and create a shared family story.



Military Monday

Posted by Cassandra at 05:31 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

October 12, 2010

Fact Checking the President

Over at Memeorandum, everyone seems to be fact checking the Prez. ABC's Jake Tapper finds "scant evidence" to support Obama's smears:

... while Obama is trying to tie Republicans and some of their backers to the specter of foreign interference in U.S. elections, an examination of the evidence provides little support for the claims.

"We have no idea if the Chamber or any 501(c) organization as defined by the IRS code, is taking foreign money for the purposes of playing politics," said Dave Levinthal of the Center for Responsive Politics. "Saying that that foreign money is actually going toward attack ads or any type of messaging in the political realm, you just don't know. It's speculation and nothing more."

piles on, noting that the President and his supporters are claiming that the Chamber is "guilty until proven innocent":

The chamber says it does receive money from foreign sources, but that it amounts to only a small fraction of the chamber’s $200 million budget. The chamber says none of the foreign money is used in its ads, and no evidence has been produced to show otherwise. Federal Election Commission opinions state that organizations taking in foreign money may make political donations legally, so long as they have "a reasonable accounting method" to keep foreign money separate and have enough money from U.S. sources to cover the donations.

...some Democrats are taking the position that the Chamber of Commerce is guilty of using foreign contributions until proven innocent. MoveOn.org is using this claim in a fundraising appeal, both in e-mail messages and on its website:

MoveOn.org website: Foreign corporations are funding some of the $75 million the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is spending to defeat Democrats this election cycle. Ask the Justice Department to investigate.

President Obama, in recent campaign appearances, has been a bit more circumspect, but not much. He has hedged his claim with words like "maybe" and "could."

Even the NY Times got in a few digs:

[T]here is little evidence that what the chamber does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents.

In fact, the controversy over the Chamber of Commerce financing may say more about the Washington spin cycle — where an Internet blog posting can be quickly picked up by like-minded groups and become political fodder for the president himself — than it does about the vagaries of campaign finance.

What I find remarkable about this story is that the President of the United States believes he can use totally unsubstantiated smears against a group of American businesses without being called on it by the press. His arrogance is even more stunning when you consider his own history with regard to accepting untraceable donations. He seems to have forgotten that past performance is not always indicative of future behavior:

... I’d kind of forgotten this scandal until Obama brought this stuff up. It didn’t get much attention then, but it may get more this time around.

"Indeed"... :)

Update: Your Majesty...the peasants are revolting!

In a potential sign of Democratic unease with the White House midterm political strategy, some of President Obama's allies have begun to question his sustained attack on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has long claimed bipartisanship but is being increasingly identified as a GOP ally.

Some Democrats on Capitol Hill worry that the White House is going too far in charging that the politically powerful business lobby may be using foreign money to fuel its election efforts.

... "The White House may reap the whirlwind," said one top Democratic staffer. "What are we going to do next year if a Republican Congress is making baseless claims about President Obama? We'll want the media to hold them accountable to the facts and the evidence."

Posted by Cassandra at 08:54 AM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

October 11, 2010

Burying the Lede

The majority of soldiers who have committed suicide — about 80 percent — have had only one deployment or none at all.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:06 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

WaPo Yanks Cartoon, Thereby Proving Cartoonist's Point

wheres_muhammed.gif Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present the winner of this year's Unintentional Irony in Media award:

"Non Sequitur" is a popular comic that runs daily in about 800 newspapers, including this one. But the "Non Sequitur" cartoon that appeared in last Sunday's Post was not the one creator Wiley Miller drew for that day.

Editors at The Post and many other [Ed. Note: "many" is 20] papers pulled the cartoon and replaced it with one that had appeared previously. They were concerned it might offend and provoke some Post readers, especially Muslims.

Miller is known for social satire. But at first glance, the single-panel cartoon he drew for last Sunday seems benign. It is a bucolic scene imitating the best-selling children's book "Where's Waldo?" A grassy park is jammed with activity. Animals frolic. Children buy ice cream. Adults stroll and sunbathe. A caption reads: "Where's Muhammad?"

...Style editor Ned Martel said he decided to yank it, after conferring with others, including Executive Editor Marcus W. Brauchli, because "it seemed a deliberate provocation without a clear message." He added that "the point of the joke was not immediately clear" and that readers might think that Muhammad was somewhere in the drawing.

The WaPo's commendable concern about the adequacy of your IQ notwithstanding, some of you knuckleheads will no doubt foolishly insist that you're smart enough to read the funny papers without the expert advice of the WaPo's editorial staff. OK, go ahead but don't forget... you were warned....

Now admittedly the Blog Princess is nowhere near as smart as a WaPo editor, but she can see only two possible targets here:

1. The media's cowardly double standard with regard to offending people of faith. This, I might add, is the most obvious interpretation given the cartoon's caption:

"Picture book title voted least likely to find a publisher"

2. Muslims who use violence and threats to intimidate the media and silence critics of Islam.

Notably, the most likely target of Wiley's satire has nothing to do with Islam. Let's face it: when it comes to the press and double standards about religion, examples aren't exactly difficult to find:

In the past eight days, ABC News has filed two shocking stories about "a serious epidemic" of sexual abuse and rape of children in Kenya. Not only did the network report that "over 1,000 teachers have been fired for sexually abusing girls over the last two years," but it also relayed systemic cover-ups, police corruption, and perpetrator interference.

And while the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe have frantically and endlessly trumpeted decades-old abuse allegations in the Catholic Church from anywhere in the world, neither paper has found a single square inch to dedicate to these sickening new revelations.

Is there anything more entertaining than watching professional journalists turn themselves into rhetorical pretzels in a vain attempt to justify their blatant hypocrisy with regard to both the First Amendment and religious sensitivity?

This knucklehead thinks not. Fortunately, the editorial staff of the Washington Post stand ready to protect itself against criticism and rioting Muslims protect readers like myself from thinking too much.

I don't know about you all, but I feel safer already.

Posted by Cassandra at 03:29 PM | Comments (29) | TrackBack

October 09, 2010

A Nation of Insurers

Frequent VC commenter Eric H. sent me this Peggy Noonan column in an email with the subject line, "An Interesting Moral Argument":

If you write a column, you get a lot of email. Sometimes, especially in a political season, it's possible to discern from it certain emerging themes—the comeback of old convictions, for instance, or the rise of new concerns. Let me tell you something I'm hearing, in different ways and different words. The coming rebellion in the voting booth is not only about the economic impact of spending, debt and deficits on America's future. It's also to some degree about the feared impact of all those things on the character of the American people. There is a real fear that government, with all its layers, its growth, its size, its imperviousness, is changing, or has changed, who we are. And that if we lose who we are, as Americans, we lose everything.

Noonan goes on to examine various ways in which public policy decisions create moral hazard. There is the salutory example of Greece, which for decades has voted its citizens an ever expanding smorgasboord of benefits financed by heavy borrowing and blissfully unencumbered by any serious attempt to reconcile revenue with expenditures. She goes on to point out the many ways big governments incent destructive and irresponsible behavior, erode our sense of right and wrong, and discourage risk taking and entrepreneurship. These things are all true, and I was with her right up until she revealed the widely quoted takeaway from all this woolgathering:

... this is another theme in my mailbox, the rebellion against what government increasingly forces us to become: a nation of accountants.

No matter what level of life in which you operate, you are likely overwhelmed by forms, by a blizzard of regulations, rules, new laws. This is not new, it's just always getting worse. Priests are forced to be accountants now, and army officers, and dentists. The single most onerous part of ObamaCare is the tax change whereby spending $600 on goods or services will require a 1099 form. Economists will tell you of the financial cost of this, but I would argue that Paperwork Nation is utterly at odds with the American character.

Because Americans weren't born to be accountants. It's not in our DNA! We're supposed to be building the Empire State Building. We were meant—to be romantic about it, and why not—to be a pioneer people, to push on, invent electricity, shoot the bear, bootleg the beer, write the novel, create, reform and modernize great industries. We weren't meant to be neat and tidy record keepers. We weren't meant to wear green eyeshades. We looked better in a coonskin cap!

"A nation of accountants". It's a powerful and emotionally attractive metaphor, but I'm not at all sure it's an accurate one.

No one likes accountants. They are nearly as unpopular as lawyers and for the same reasons: we go to them when we're in trouble and it's always easier to blame the messenger than to accept the message. All this talk of costs and trade offs is boooooooring. Everyone likes to think of earnings and benefits but few of us want to confront those troublesome costs.

And that's what accountants do. They faithfully record - "account for" - what we spend and what we earn. But their cardinal sin lies in the reconciliation of those two things, because the one immutable law of accounting is that there's always a bottom line. In the end, revenue and expenses must balance. That balance can be zero, in which case we are spending what we take in in earnings. It can be positive, in which case we are living within our means with something put aside as a contingency against a future we can't predict with any accuracy.

Or it can be negative, which means we are spending money we don't have. How rude of them to point that out!

Of course in the abstract world of financial statements, funds can be shifted around in such a way that these basic calculations are obscured. But the fact remains that America's current financial and moral crisis did not spring from too much attention to costs and revenues, but from too little.

Noonan makes some good points about the destructive nature of big government but she shies away from the reason democracies gravitate to larger, more intrusive, more bureaucratic governments over time: there is no limiting principle to the social contract. We freely bargain away freedom of action for protection against our fellow citizens and the real world. The problem is not that America has become a nation of accountants, but that we have become a nation of insurers. Under ordinary circumstances, insurers (or at least those who don't wish to become bankrupt) must - like accountants - reconcile income, risk, and expenditures. Under ordinary circumstances, insurers hire actuaries who constantly assess the natural risks associated with every day living against the willingness of their clients to insulate themselves from those risks.

Like natural costs, risks exist regardless of whether we acknowledge them - whether they are explicitly accounted for - or not. Risks and costs are painful. We don't like to think about them, and so we vote for politicians who tell us that we shouldn't have to face the consequences of our own decisions, of our failure to plan properly, to hold something in reserve against the real possibility of financial reverses or catastrophic downturns in the business cycle.
The financial meltdown provided a particularly painful object lesson in the consequences of risk spreading behavior.

It is no accident that the term moral hazard comes to us from the insurance industry. Insurers, if they mean to stay in business, must take all forms of risk into account - even the risk created by their own product. What insurers know is that in some ways, insurance heightens natural risk. Once insulated from natural risks, people behave differently from those who are fully exposed to it. This is important, because insurance does nothing to decrease natural risk. It merely spreads the pain to others who are willing to trade present income for future security. In addition to the natural risks that are already associated with various endeavors, insurance adds a new risk: the artificially induced complacency that occurs when the connection between action and consequence is obscured.

Co-pays and deductables are an attempt to allocate natural costs to those who incur them, but they tend to work better on those who can least afford risk (and who, therefore, are more likely to be cautious).

What happens to a society when government becomes the insurer of choice? We take bigger and bigger risks, spend more, save less, take on levels of debt that assume our present income stream won't suffer the cyclical up and downswings experience tells us are inevitable in a free market. Our moral intuitions also suffer. In a risk buffered world, we forget why certain behaviors were deemed vices by generation after generation. Insulated from the visible harm such behaviors used to produce, we can't quite put our finger on what is wrong. After all, no one is getting hurt.

Combine the insurance mentality with the uniquely western idea that inequality of outcome amounts to systemic social injustice and you have the South Fulton fire department story. It's a moral hazard cocktail of sorts, combining serial personal irresponsibility with our own misguided desire to shield ourselves from reality; to treat everyone the same even when they demonstrably don't make the same decisions or pay the same for various services.

What seems strange to me in Noonan's essay is her refusal to assign any responsibility to the governed. The sad truth about the social compact is that we, the governed voluntarily contract away some of our freedoms in exchange for what we perceive as security. That barter of freedom for security is fundamental to democratic governance - it is why it exists. That a wise barter depends on a responsible electorate is something we don't like to think about so much.

Governments do not elect themselves. Politicians make promises and we pick and choose from the menu they present to us. Representative government, unrestricted by some limiting principle, inevitably reflects the human failings of the governed. The problem is not government, nor too many bean counters, but our own desire to insulate ourselves from risk.

Where is this leading us? I think we are in a battle for soul of this nation, with those who understand moral hazard in a pitched battle against those who don't. There is an illusory security to be found in large numbers. Somehow we feel safer in a crowd. Making society more interconnected and interdependent doesn't eliminate risk - it expands it.

Greece and the nations of Western Europe preceded us down this road and it is no accident that they are getting the bill sooner than we. The question is, will we pay attention to their experience or wait until the folly of governmental risk spreading is driven home to us in a way even the most risk averse among us can no longer deny?

Posted by Cassandra at 09:21 AM | Comments (36) | TrackBack

October 08, 2010

The Value of Space

I've been meaning to comment on this essay over at RIGHTNETWORK for quite some time, but until today I wasn't sure what I wanted to say about it:

In a small and crowded house, you guard your privacy.

Long married people may relate . . . Newlyweds in the throes of lust, with no kids, may be appalled. I would have been appalled.

When we were engaged, we jeered at the hippies who wrote their own vows; especially the ones who quoted Kahlil Gibran, with the bit about “and let there be space in your togetherness.”

We figured that everyone grows apart over the years—so if you start out with a lot of space between you, you’ll be a galaxy apart and eventually divorced. We chose the 1662 Book of Common Prayer service that stressed making babies, mutual aid, and comfort—and contained not one word about giving each other space.

I moved into his house after our honeymoon, and we settled happily into married life. We had similar tastes and schedules, and we got along so well that soon we were three, and then four. And then five.

After that, the trouble began: there wasn’t a single room unoccupied by children or dedicated to some family function (laundry, playroom, husband’s study). I began cramming my papers into family desks here and there, and books in another room. I hid Christmas presents somewhere else. I felt fragmented.

I've always been a big believer in the need for personal space, whether physical or emotional, so I had to laugh at the Kahlil Gibran reference. The truth is, I've always loved his verses on marriage:

Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.

Does all of this sound a bit corny? Certainly, but there's a huge grain of truth there, and it's the same one expressed by his verses on children:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

To me, this "separate togetherness" - a partnership of two people who love one another dearly but never completely submerge their separate desires, dreams, selves - is what marriage is all about. It's also a primary ingredient in the best kind of parenting: one that allows a child to discover his own way in life, but also teaches him the value of growing close to and loving others.

Whether one is talking parenting or marriage, finding the right balance between intimacy and independence can be a tricky business. There is no one size fits all prescription - some people want and need a degree of closeness that might overwhelm others. Too little bonding and a couple begin to drift away from each other, pulled apart by their separate interests and desires. Too much, and one or the other will begin to feel trapped, stifled, overwhelmed. We literally lose ourselves.

I have always suspected that this feeling of having being assimilated, Borg-style explains why women are most often the ones who initiate divorces. In a way, we women do it to ourselves. In most relationships, it's the woman who works hard to create a sense of intimacy in the relationship. We do this for many reasons; partially because our natural talents predispose us to the task, partly because women need emotional intimacy in the same way men need physical closeness. In most relationships women end up being the relationship managers, and that's an important job because most men are neither particularly interested in, nor particularly adept at that sort of thing.

But while a certain amount of intimacy and bonding cements and strengthens a relationship, too much turns what was meant to be a comforting sense of closeness into a confining - and stultifying - straitjacket:

... therapists have assumed that couples could improve their sex lives by practicing free and open communication, by breaking down of barriers between spouses.

In theory, it sounds good. In practice, it does not look quite so good.

Arana and Davis do not much concern themselves with theories. They try to examine the way these are translated into behaviors, as in: spouses watching each other perform intimate bathroom functions. Doesn't that meet the requirements of free and open communication, not keeping any secrets from each other, not hiding anything.

The author consider this to be a bad habit. If you want to bring back that loving feeling, they advise you to: "close the bathroom door." Intimacy has its limits; each person must have a zone of privacy, even secrets. You cannot feel sexual desire for someone after you have been watching them move their bowels.

It's possible to be too close, and if you are too close, you will want each other less.

The crux of the book, its central concept, the one that I am inclined to call brilliant, lies in the title. The authors declare that you should stop using terms of endearment and go back to calling your spouse by his or her proper name.

Arana and Davis do not recommend soulful conversations. They do not seem to believe that empathy is going to rekindle your lust. Their prescription: change one small, but critically important, habit.

I'm not so sure it matters what you call your spouse, but I do think there's something to be said for the notion that outward form can shape our inward way of thinking:

Once, after having a 'discussion' with my husband, it occurred to me that in marriage outward behavior (i.e., our "form") was in many ways more important than (and may even at times play a role in determining) what both partners think to themselves privately. In other words, some times if we are not happy, it's because we've fallen into the habit of not acting happy. Correct the behavior and you correct the state of mind. Relationships are a bit of a feedback loop. In marriage, people tend to get sloppy and stop doing the nice things they did when they were courting. They take each other for granted. And all of a sudden, there is no positive feedback and they wonder where the 'magic' went? What they forgot was that the magic wasn't an externally created force: they had a role in creating it. If the flame dies out, you can re-ignite it.

What made those long ago encounters in the back seat of your boyfriend's Chevy so breathtaking wasn't just novelty, or even youth. Part of it - a big part - was doubt, fear, risk, and the thrill of bridging the gap between two people. This is why makeup sex enjoys a well deserved reputation amongst the ball-and-chain set - it reconnects us, and part of the unique joy to be found in that reconnection lies in the knowledge that we came perilously close to losing something unbearably precious.

Close relationships provide enormous strength, but if we're not careful they can also breed the sort of casual contempt and complacency that suck the life out of a marriage. It's always easier to take the other person for granted than to face the disturbing thought that no matter how close we become, we will never completely know them. But somewhere in the knowledge of that space between us is the magic we need to keep passion alive.

It's odd to think that the very things that bring us together (sharing, trust, closeness) in one sense may create problems in other areas of a relationship. But as with so many things, it's not a question of there being one right or wrong answer but of finding a balance that allows us to be happy. Understanding and intimacy are important, but so are respect and autonomy.

No wonder so many people call marriage "work"! Then again, what else in life is so worth the effort?

Posted by Cassandra at 05:25 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Lucky Me

A hauntingly lovely reminder of all we have to be thankful for. I've heard a lot of these over the years, but this one is magic:

May we always remember that our way of life has a cost, and that we're not always the ones to pay it.

CWCID: Andi over at Spousebuzz

Posted by Cassandra at 03:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 07, 2010

Feel Good Story of the Day

Kind of restores your faith in human beings, doesn't it?

Posted by Cassandra at 12:09 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

October 06, 2010

More on the South Fulton FD Brouhaha

The more I read about this South Fulton FD brouhaha, the more mystified I am by the outrage it seems to have touched off.

Most of the commentary I've read so far seems to expect the city of South Fulton to provide fire protection for people who don't live in Fulton and don't pay Fulton taxes. This is just bizarre: the city has no ability to enforce collections or levy a tax on non-city residents. As it turns out, Obion county voted to create a county fire department over twenty years ago. There's just one problem: they "forgot" (seems to be a lot of that going around) to pay for it.

From the document Craig linked, this gem leaps out:

According to survey information, over 75% of all municipal fire department’s structure calls are rural. All fire departments in Obion County charge a $500.00 fee per call in rural areas, but collections are, less than 50% and the fire departments have no way of legally collecting the charge. Therefore, the service was provided at the expense of the municipal tax payer.

That's just stunning. Essentially Obion county expects a small minority of citizens living in incorporated areas to foot the bill for everyone else. Must be nice to be a county resident - your commissioners vote to create imaginary unfunded county fire departments and then freeload off incorporated areas and citizens who understand that services cost money.

Now let's apply this to the "city" of South Fulton, a sprawling metropolis spanning a truly impressive 3 square miles. South Fulton boasts a population of 2500 residents whose median household income amounts to the princely sum of $27,500 a year. I'm not sure what egalitarian theory of social justice would require this tiny, not terribly well off group of taxpayers to shoulder the burden of maintaining a fire department that fights 3 times more fires OUTSIDE the city limits that it does INSIDE the city limits, but undoubtedly it has something to do with the well known inability of conservatives women to handle complex mathematical problems.

Let's look at the facts here:

1. This is not the first time the Cranicks "forgot" to pay their attention bill fire subscription.

2. It's also not the first fire at the Cranick residence:

The Cranicks said they also forgot to pay their fire service fee on time about three years ago. But the fire department then did not hesitate to put out a chimney fire and let them pay the fee the next day.

Now perhaps it's just me, two fires at the same residence in a 3 year period seems like a pattern of carelessness to me - especially when combined with a pattern of "forgetting" to pay your bills.

3. Cranick didn't just "forget" to pay the fee. He was sent a bill and then was called and reminded. How much effort is the city of Fulton required to exert to get people to subscribe to a voluntary service? They have to pay people to work billing and collections, have no way to enforce collections, and only recover 50% of unpaid bills.

4. This year's fire was started by (you guessed it!) a member of the Cranick family:

The fire started when the Cranicks' grandson was burning trash near the family home.

5. Cranick's fire insurance requires that he participate in the fire subscription!

Simmons said he knows of one other time this has happened. He said the insurance policy has a provision for a reduction in payouts if a fire protection service has not been subscribed but that the insurer has not enforced that in these situations.

But rules are for other people.

Sorry, I'm seeing a pattern of carelessness here. But wait - it gets even better! After not paying their fire subscription - not once, but TWICE in three years and having not one but TWO fires in three years, how does Cranick's son respond?

By going over to the fire station and cold cocking the Fire Chief!

I'm having a hard time buying these people as victims, but if anyone else is to blame here, it's the county and not the city of South Fulton. As further evidence of this, the county has just voted to make the fire subscription service county-wide (previously only a few lucky cities offered fire service outside city limits):

The municipalities named would agree to provide rural fire service outside of their established town and city limits and would agree to expand their rural fire service areas as indicated on a map which defines the areas in which the present municipal fire departments provide rural fire protection.

Each municipality would agree to implement a standard subscription rate, with individual properties classified by a parcel number as listed on the county tax assessor’s map/tax card and a separate subscription fee to be charged for each parcel/address for which the customer desires to have rural fire protection coverage.
According to the pro-posed agreement, South Fulton intends to provide rural fire service outside its city limits as directed by its city commission in a designated fire service area and would not be a party to the interlocal agreement.

There are obviously real issues here with funding and they can only be addressed by the county. But it's easier to ignore the facts and place the blame on one of the few cities in Obion that actually tried to help county residents.

Update: an excellent and informative response from the Union City FD:

So much “finger pointing” has ensued, that the true facts of the incident have been blown out of proportion. The firefighters in this county are taking a beating when it is not their fault; nor is it the cities responsibility. It’s a county problem.

The first point that needs to be noted is that Obion County Tennessee does not have a county fire department. Secondly, no county tax revenues are even ear marked for county fire protection.

The county is made up of 8 municipalities which do provide fire protection to its city residents, through city property taxes, which fund their respective fire departments.

Three of theses cities, South Fulton; Kenton and Union City allow their departments to respond outside the city limits by way of a Subscription Service which charges a $75 yearly fee to receive fire protection. After they respond to a “members” fire, the member is billed $500 for the response.

Why the $75 and a charge of $500? This can be compared to any insurance. You have a premium; the $75 and then you have a deductable; the $500. The policy, of these cities is that if the fee isn’t paid, then the fire department does not respond. The only exception being; life endangerment. (A report that someone may be inside the home.)

These fees help offset the cost of equipment and manpower, paid for by the city tax payers to help fight fires in the county.

The remaining 5 city fire departments have for years responded into the county without a subscription service, banking on collecting fees for their services, “after the fact.” The problem has been, that once those people have been provided the service; they often seem to choose not to reimburse. Attempting to charge on a per call basis does not generate the needed funds nor does it give county residents an incentive to support the cities, if they can wait until they actually have a fire to pay anything.

I wish my car insurance company would let me “wait” until I had an accident before I had to pay my premium. Why should fire service be looked at any different? The fire service has gotten expensive just like anything else. If it is not run as a business it won’t be around for anybody.

Those city fathers have reached the point where they can no longer ‘foot the bill” for county residents using city tax payers monies.

The fire chiefs have spent four years working with the county to address the problem Nothing short of a true fire tax will remedy the situation completely. But for now the county at this time is considering everyone going to a subscription service. Yes, this would help fund the remaining 5 departments, but it will not keep what happened to South Fulton from happening again.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:37 PM | Comments (34) | TrackBack

War Dogs: A Love Story

Gunnar, a USMC war dog, has a new family. You may recognize their name:

Gunner, a bomb-sniffing dog mustered out of the Marines for canine post-traumatic stress disorder, has found a new home with Deb and Dan Dunham, whose Marine son died in Iraq protecting the men beside him.

With patience and a red-rubber toy, the Dunhams are trying to coax Gunner back to emotional health. With liquid brown eyes and Labrador loyalty, Gunner is giving the Dunhams back a little of what they lost. Together, they are healing what they can and living with what they must.

"My Marine never came home," says Deb. "I have a place for a Marine."

In 2004, during a patrol near the Syrian border, Cpl. Jason Dunham found himself fighting an insurgent hand-to-hand on a dusty road. When two other Marines ran over to help, the Iraqi dropped a hand grenade.

Instead of rolling away, Cpl. Dunham covered the grenade with his helmet, shielding his men.

Though peppered with shrapnel, the other Marines walked away. A grenade fragment penetrated Cpl. Dunham's brain, sending him into a coma.

Doctors in the field gave him up for lost, but he survived the trip to the Naval hospital in Maryland.

Deb and Dan met Jason there, expecting to watch him recover. Instead, doctors told them that their son would never regain consciousness.

In keeping with instructions Jason left before going to war, the Dunhams removed him from life support. He was 22 years old.

At the White House in 2007, then-President George W. Bush presented the Dunhams with their son's Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award.

I've been following Gunnar's story for a while now and I can't tell you how touched I was to see that the Dunham's have adopted him. I cried like a baby at the part of the video that described Gunnar's reaction to thunder and lighting. I once knew a brave little dog who was terrified of storms.

If loving Gunnar brings Dan and Deb Dunham one thousandth of the joy Sausage brought into our lives, they will be more than repaid for taking him into their home.

What a family.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:02 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

October 05, 2010


I had forgotten what a lovely song this is.

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Today's Colossal Jackwagon

Because nothing says "Me so tolerant" quite like announcing to the world that you collect gay men like preteens collect Bratz dolls:

There seems to be a shortage of one particular commodity on the Main Line: gay men. I realized this limitation had reached crisis proportions after my birthday party recently when one of my female friends accused me (jokingly, I think) of hogging all the gays. Apparently I have too many gay friends and haven’t been sharing the wealth. To count, there were exactly four gay men present. Not exactly a huge cache.

Gay men have always been great friends as well as hot accessories for women. I’m just going to go ahead here and attribute sweeping generalizations to an entire demographic. In my experience, they’re fun, gossipy, and usually have good jobs (read: the means to do things). They enjoy shopping, spas and black-tie events, have great taste, and don’t compete for the same men—hopefully. For married women, they make wonderful platonic companions. They’ll give solid feedback on how your hair or outfit look and fill in where straight men (read: husbands) fall short. They’re right up there with the Birkin bag.

Don't you just love it when someone tries to innoculate themselves against being called a world class dimwit by pointing out their jackassery in advance? My favorite riposte came from a guy named Bill:

I, myself, would love to have more straight female friends. They are so talented at mopping floors, wiping snotty noses, and changing poopy diapers. Not to mention how great they are at doing the grocery shopping and picking up the mail, all with a great attitude and lots of laughter and smiles along the way.

But, I guess since I am a gay man that likes sports, and hunting, and can fix his own car when it breaks, I am just not fabulous enough. : (

I'm no great authority on gay men but the ones I have known are all over the map, probably because [gasp!] they're human.

Sexuality - like race or gender - does not define us. It's a part of who we are, but only a part - not the whole enchilada. Either way, I pick friends based on some combination of personality and shared interests, not because their taste in bed partners makes me feel all tingly in my special places. Somehow I'm guessing I wouldn't be invited to go shoe shopping on the Main Line.


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Teh Tuesday Afternoon Awesome

From KJ, by way of Neil Boortz:

Of course if you're an Art purist, nothing can compare with this.

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So Much Good Stuff to Link to Today...

...so little time. Over at RIGHTNETWORK, Darleen Click responds to my earlier column on raising strong sons with a marvelous essay on raising strong daughters. I especially loved this:

Society focuses attention on boys’ nature – aggression – and how to control and channel it. Rarely does society address girls’ nature – emotionalism. Bullying and intimidation don’t just come by way of physical prowess; ask any woman about the social experience of junior high. Girls learn early on which emotional buttons to push.

When faced with a 50-decibel tsunami, remain calm. Quickly disengage until the screaming stops. Later on, discuss with her (without revisiting the triggering issue) the unacceptability of such behavior—while acknowledging the validity of her emotions. Spell out expected consequences if such behavior is continued while soliciting from her what strategies she should employ to remain calm in such situations. On the other hand—and this advice is aimed primarily at Dads— don’t fall for emotional manipulation. When she comes up to you with big puppy eyes and says, “Daaad-dy, can I …” you must realize that you are probably about to be had. Remember: if you can stand there and listen to your daughter scream “I hate you! I wish I was never born!” without turning into a quivering mass of goo, you are doing your job as a good and effective parent.

Whilst reading Darleen's essay, it struck me repeatedly that what girls need most is something I'd guess few people think of:

Leadership training.

I've had the same thought repeatedly with respect to the military's attempts to help spouses cope with the stresses and strains of deployment when the answer is right in front of them: teach leadership.

After years of feminism, we still aren't comfortable with the idea of women as leaders but in life women are called upon to be leaders all the time. That's what a mother is.

In many ways a wife is a leader too. She may not always be the head of the household, but she is almost invariably the person who ends up in charge of family dynamics - the person who sets the tone and ground rules, manages conflict and relationships, and resolves day to day crises.

Like boys, what little girls need most is discipline, self mastery, and loving guidance that helps them channel their natural strengths in a positive way and teaches them to overcome their natural weaknesses.

Anyway, great essay.

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I wonder whether the folks over at The Castle have seen this?

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Must Read

On government medicine and compulsion:

In my life and work, when rules and regulations become overbearing and nonsensical, I tend to remove myself from the situation. For example, the rules governing Medicaid are so arcane that after a brief flirtation with the system, very early in my career, I dropped out of Medicaid. (The rules were such that filling out the insurance forms were annoying and the reimbursement for the first [and last] patient I ever saw under Medicaid took 18 months to finally arrive and required multiple iterations of forms first.) When HMO's and various insurance panels were first set up, I joined one panel. Here, too, the rules were arcane and more than a little annoying. I almost never filed the proper paperwork on time (my disinterest in paper work is deep and profound) and almost never got the proper pre-approvals; as a result I was only paid about 50% of the time for patients I saw for through the insurance panel. I dropped out after about a year. Finally, I dropped out of Medicare because of similar problems. If I submitted an insurance claim and my pen stroke extended beyond the lines, the form was summarily rejected, usually with no explanation. (I would start to wonder why I hadn't been paid and would call Medicare; after varied waiting times and multiple holds, I would finally be told my claim had been rejected and that I should resubmit. Sometimes this repeated more than once.) At the end I hired a billing service for my Medicare claims; they took 8% of the already reduced fee but at least I was able to get paid.

The Medicare system involves a fair number of rules designed to make it difficult for a Doctor to stay in the system or to leave. If a Physician sees a patient on Medicare and believes they need a certain type of treatment, Medicare can determine that their diagnosis and severity do not deserve as much treatment as might be offered. Further, they will not allow the Physician to privately contract for the additional services, even when the patient can afford it, nor will they allow him to see the patient at a higher frequency or intensity than they determine is warranted. This is the essence of a government run health care system. Once a Physician decides to leave the system, there are new impediments. While the Doctor may privately contract with his patients, his patients cannot then send the bills to Medicare for reimbursement (which would reimburse the patients at the Medicare schedule, not the billing fee.) In other words, if a patient cannot afford even a lower than Medicare fee, he cannot get reimbursed by Medicare for the privately contracted services. This stays in effect for two years from the time the Doctor leaves the system.

This kind of bureaucratic red tape is why so few doctors and dentists accept military patients. Dealing with TRYTOGETCARE is so cumbersome, slow and onerous that even doctors who are former military end up leaving the system in frustration.

Keep in mind that these are people who understand and empathize with military families. They want to treat military families.

Government cannot solve all problems or eliminate the structural costs associated with certain activities or choices. If you're looking for a good indicator of when government intervention is "too much", it's hard to argue with "when it makes doing business so hard that people who would otherwise be inclined to do provide a good or service give up in frustration".

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People Who Should Not Be Allowed to Use Email



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Harvard's Hypocrisy Diversity Problem

Matty O'Blackfive riffs on a Glenn Reynolds essay about Harvard's ongoing diversity problem:

The hypocrisy of the Ivy League is profound. The ultimate irony of all of this is a school that, veiled in the spirit of the First Amendment, invites a murderer, a terrorist and a madman to lecture at a university that also denies ROTC which produces the soldiers that take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution.

Matt was kind enough to link to something I wrote on this issue back in 2005 (good nightshirt!):

America's elite universities have cloaked their hostility to our armed forces in the language of civil rights. They portray this as a principled stand against the military's legal policy of discharging homosexuals ("don't ask, don't tell"). It's an interesting stance, since these colleges booted ROTC off campus long before "don't ask, don't tell" became official policy:

As it is, the military's policy on gays wasn't the reason Columbia originally expelled ROTC in 1969. Rather, it was opposition to the Vietnam War and, once that was over, reflexive hostility to all things military. On other campuses, that hostility has abated in recent years, particularly after 9/11; Princeton, Cornell, Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania, among Ivy League schools, have ROTC programs, while Harvard University President Larry Summers has been outspoken in his advocacy for ROTC's return to Harvard.

Universities claim that this is a First Amendment issue: that by forcing them to grant access to military recruiters, Congress is forcing them to tacitly express approval for a policy they disagree with. As I argue here, this argument is preposterous:

Universities can and do sponsor a wide variety of speakers, some of whom (Ward Churchill comes to mind) advocate extreme and morally offensive points of view. Allowing or facilitating speech does not constitute official endorsement of a speaker's viewpoint. If it did, robust debate would be impossible as only one side of an argument can be 'endorsed' by an institution at a given moment in time.

This line of reasoning is made even more laughable when you consider that colleges vigorously resist any attempt by students, alumni, or tuition-paying parents to limit their freedom to hire speakers (an affirmative action that requires a school to first choose and then compensate a speaker for expressing a given viewpoint), yet see no hypocrisy in refusing to passively allow access to military recruiters; an act which, especially if compelled by federal law, can in no way be reasonably construed to imply approval or acceptance.

In a far away country, a company of Marine Reservists from Ohio, citizen-soldiers, have paid the ultimate price for the freedoms Columbia's professors now take for granted. They were very likely, like most Marines, plain-spoken men. Men of deeds, not words.

Their families and the few members of "Lucky Lima" who survived will never forget the awful price of freedom, even when it is purchased for someone else. They will never forget what it costs to keep us secure here in our comfortable homes. They do not need to be lectured about civil rights, they who paid the ultimate price to bring the most basic of rights to others.

Most times I cringe when I go back and read old posts. Not this time.

I wouldn't change a word.

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Well It's About Time....

Yet another reason we need to be more like Europe:

The European Union Court of Justice has ruled that working fathers in Spain have the same right to breastfeeding leave as do moms.

Thursday's ruling grants Spanish dads the same rights as the mother of their child to leave work up to twice a day for a total of an hour or to shorten their workday by 30 minutes for the first nine months of the baby's life.

The court called the law "an unjustified discrimination on grounds of sex" that fathers weren't granted breastfeeding leave in the same instances as women were.

The statute, challenged by Pedro Manuel Roca Alvarez, didn't allow dads to take the same leave afforded to women if the mother of their children didn't work or were self-employed.

And we call ourselves a free country....

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Interesting Studies

On memory and the self reference effect:

Birthdays are easier to remember the closer they are to your own, according to a study in Psychological Science. In one of three experiments, researchers told 225 college students to write the names of 10 friends on paper. Then they asked the students to add any of these friends' birthdays (the month and day, but not the year) that they could recall. Finally, the students searched social-networking websites and personal calendars to find the forgotten birthdays.

The remembered birthdays were an average of 79 days away from the subject's own birthday, while the forgotten birthdays were an average of 98 days away. The phenomenon is an example of the "self-reference effect" in memory, which makes memories easier to retrieve the more closely you can relate to them, the researchers said.

And on the link between motor activity and learning/thinking:

Recent research illustrates how writing by hand engages the brain in learning. During one study at Indiana University published this year, researchers invited children to man a "spaceship," actually an MRI machine using a specialized scan called "functional" MRI that spots neural activity in the brain. The kids were shown letters before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction. In children who had practiced printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and "adult-like" than in those who had simply looked at letters.

"It seems there is something really important about manually manipulating and drawing out two-dimensional things we see all the time," says Karin Harman James, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Indiana University who led the study.

....Other research highlights the hand's unique relationship with the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas. Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, says handwriting differs from typing because it requires executing sequential strokes to form a letter, whereas keyboarding involves selecting a whole letter by touching a key.

She says pictures of the brain have illustrated that sequential finger movements activated massive regions involved in thinking, language and working memory—the system for temporarily storing and managing information.

And one recent study of hers demonstrated that in grades two, four and six, children wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.

When I first started blogging, I found it extremely difficult to write using a keyboard - all the way through school I wrote out essays and papers longhand and only typed them up later.

Over the years I've finally gotten used to using a keyboard but I suspect it's more of an adaptation than an even swap. On the one hand, typing is great for me because I write very slowly. But on the other, having that limiting constraint in place seems to help me think through things more thoroughly.

Discuss amongst your ownselves.

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October 04, 2010

Bonus Points

...for gratuitous use of the Eminem lyric in the title.

If you want to see government services taken over by the private sector, sooner or later those inconvenient real world consequences will tend to rear their ugly heads.

We've just gotten used to never having to deal with them. Someone's always there to pick up the pieces for us.

Update: a bit of context.

The situation is this: The city of South Fulton’s fire department, until a few years ago, would not respond to any fires outside of the city limits — which is to say, the city limited its jurisdiction to the city itself, and to city taxpayers. A reasonable position. Then, a few years ago, a fire broke out in a rural area that was not covered by the city fire department, and the city authorities felt bad about not being able to do anything to help. So they began to offer an opt-in service, for the very reasonable price of $75 a year. Which is to say: They greatly expanded the range of services they offer. The rural homeowners were, collectively, better off, rather than worse off. Before the opt-in program, they had no access to a fire department. Now they do.

And, for their trouble, the South Fulton fire department is being treated as though it has done something wrong, rather than having gone out of its way to make services available to people who did not have them before.

As I said in the comments, this story illustrates the difficulty of reconciling competing interests with the true cost of various public policy options in a very graphic way.

This is much more than a dry, theoretical discussion about intellectual consistency - it's the kind of conversation we ought to be having more often in the public policy arena: one where people on all sides of an issue confront the unpleasant fact that life is full of tradeoffs (many of which are far too easy to dismiss when they are still hypothetical in nature).

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Uh Oh...

Maybe there's some point to this communication thing after all:

... there was a gap in perceptions — 85 percent of the men said their latest sexual partner had an orgasm, while only 64 percent of the women reported having an orgasm in their most recent sexual event.

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Dept. of Thinly Veiled Threats

Why, O why do I hear a sotto voce "...or else" lurking in the background?

Doctors, like most people, don’t love to work weekends, and they probably don’t enjoy being evaluated against their peers. But their industry can no longer afford to protect them from the inevitable. Imagine a drugstore open only five days a week, or a television network that didn’t measure its ratings. Improving the quality of health care and reducing its cost will require that doctors make many changes — but working weekends and consenting to quality management are two clear ones.

Who says either of these things is "inevitable"? In a market where the number of patients seeking care suddenly expands without a corresponding increase in the supply of doctors providing care, wouldn't the bargaining power of said patients tend to diminish? It's one thing if patients (you know, the consumers of health care) decide not to patronize doctors who don't want to work on weekends or submit to peer reviews

It's entirely another when government tells American workers that their industry can no longer "afford" for them to control their own hours or working conditions. When government pays the bill, it (rather than the end consumer) gains the whip hand over American businesses.

That doesn't strike me as a good thing for freedom of choice but then as we're constantly being told by our intellectual betters, we common folk don't really know what to do with all that freedom anyway....

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October 03, 2010

A Tale of Two Rallies

The Washington Post describes attendance at yesterday's One Nation progressive rally (top photo below):

"Tens of thousands attend progressive 'One Nation Working Together' rally in Washington":

A wide array of progressive groups drew tens of thousands of activists to the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday for a rally aimed at firing up their members and showcasing the diversity of their movement.


How the Washington Post described attendance at the conservative Restoring Honor rally (bottom photo) on August 28th:

"Glenn Beck 'Restoring Honor' rally draws thousands"

Remember people - perspective is important:

"Tens of thousands" (top photo).

"Thousands" (bottom photo).

Update: Unintentionally funny line of the day (referring to the One Nation rally) comes from one of the WaPo's numerous (diversity being such a core value, donchaknow) progressive blogs:

Did I hear that a few people hung out on the National Mall yesterday?

Almost as funny as their reaction to the Beck rally! There is some serious assclownery going on here.

15 Photos of the One Nation Rally You'll Never See in the Legacy Media

The Princess didn't attend the rally yesterday, but she was downtown near the Mall attending another function last night. On the drive in, there was literally trash everywhere.

Isn't it remarkable that a crowd many times smaller than the Beck crowd left so much more trash behind? So much for living up to progressive principles.

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October 02, 2010

Useful Study of the Day

Science addresses one of the great mysteries of life:

If you think you hear women saying "I'm sorry" more than men, you're right. Women apologize more often than men do, according to a new study.

But it's not that men are reluctant to admit wrongdoing, the study shows. It's just that they have a higher threshold for what they think warrants reparation. When the researchers looked at the number of apologies relative to the number of offenses the participants perceived they had committed, the researchers saw no differences between the genders.

"Men aren't actively resisting apologizing because they think it will make them appear weak or because they don't want to take responsibility for their actions," said study researcher Karina Schumann, a doctoral student in social psychology at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. "It seems to be that when they think they've done something wrong they do apologize just as frequently as when women think they've done something wrong. It's just that they think they've done fewer things wrong.”

The study's conclusions are interesting in the context of marriage. A fairly frequent source of conflict in my own marriage before the spousal unit and I had gotten used to each other's ways was my inability to understand how he could do things that - to me - seemed inconsiderate. I interpreted such acts as disrespectful and uncaring.

The interesting thing is that some of these things were, in fact, inconsiderate by both our standards (not only did I consider them to be inconsiderate but he would have considered them inconsiderate at the time, had I done the same thing to him). In all fairness, at this point I should admit that I did - and do to this day - things that are inconsiderate of him as well. The point here is not that one or the other of us can be inconsiderate at times, but that in addition to the things we both think are inconsiderate, there is also a considerable area where our sensibilities diverge.

The interesting thing to me is that over time, I have come to apologize less and he apologizes more. My sense is that I apologize less even though my List of Things That Are Inconsiderate is just as long as it ever was. I apologize less because over time I've learned that in certain cases, it's overkill - I'm trying to "right" a "wrong" that in his view doesn't even exist (though it does in my view). I don't gain anything by not apologizing to him when I've done something I think is wrong. In fact, I feel worse, because there's no outlet for my discomfort at failing to live up to my own standard. It's just that now that I have a better sense of when his threshold has been crossed, it seems best to me to deal with that discomfort on my own rather than inflicting it on him.

He, on the other hand, now apologizes more (even though his list of Inconsiderate Things hasn't changed all that much) because he has also learned that our respective offense thresholds differ, and thus that something he wouldn't view as "wrong" (if it were done to him) may still seem "wrong" to me if I'm on the receiving end.

This kind of mutual accommodation and adjustment - so long as it truly is mutual - doesn't seem like a bad thing to me. What changed my behavior was finally understanding how he sees the world (at least to some extent) and what changed his was understanding how I see it.

When you take a giant step back the obvious fact that men and women have different needs and see the world differently isn't exactly rocket science, but it never ceases to amaze me how easy it is for us (and I include myself in that) to persuade ourselves that the other person is unreasonable for seeing things differently than we do.

But what drives our differing offense thresholds? I can't help but wonder whether a higher female offense threshold acts as a counterweight to a higher male prospensity to dominance and aggression?

... Being on the alert for scoundrels is exhausting, and confronting those who violate social rules is potentially dangerous. But humans feel compelled to do it because without vigilance, fairness and cooperation break down. Gazzaniga cites experiments that show that individuals who take the risk of punishing cheaters enhance their own reputation within a group. (Here's a real-life example.)

Humans' sense of indignation is not just limited to violations against us. Even if you're able-bodied, think of how offended you feel when you see another able-bodied person pull into a handicapped parking spot. Most of us will just walk on, quietly irate, but a few will yell at the driver. These moral enforcers are vital to society. Frans de Waal writes that experiments with macaques show that if you remove the individuals who perform this policing function, hostilities increase among the entire band.

I find it fascinating that (so long as it's not overdone) the strategic taking of offense may actually reduce conflict in the long run. It's always been my intuitive sense that any relationship, whether it be a business relationship or a personal one, won't survive unless both parties can handle conflict and meet the other party halfway. Certainly it seems to have worked that way in my own marriage and in most successful marriages I've seen. Maybe marriages that don't work out, don't do so because the mutual accommodation part never takes place?

If that's so, does it happen because one party is too aggressive, because one party is too passive, or because one or both parties simply refuse to deal with conflict at all?

Discuss amongst yourownselves.

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Thought for the Day

From the author of a longitudinal study of the long term effects of early child care:

"In America today, it is normative for children to start childcare at some point in the first year of life and stay there until they start school. This is the case for over 50% of children," he says.

He continues: "Let's imagine these are small effects. But let's imagine a reception class of 30 children in which two-thirds of them have small effects that make them a little bit more aggressive and disobedient ... versus another class of 30 in which only 10% of them do. Are those teachers going to be doing more time managing and less time teaching? Are those playgrounds going to be less friendly? Are those neighbourhoods going to be affected?

"No one single car pollutes central London or central LA. It's all the cars that do it. People are so ideologically opposed to these findings that instead of being thoughtful about them, they respond as if there is only one way to think about them – small, don't matter, ignore," he says.

He is resigned to the way that parents, policy-makers and fellow academics recoil from his findings. "Anybody who speaks ill of childcare is the enemy – end of story. The guy who first linked Aids with homosexuality back in the early 1980s was accused of being a homophobe. The same kind of idiotic, kneejerk, ideological reaction occurred here. People think I'm against daycare. What I say is, if the weather man says it is going to rain tomorrow, is that because he is against sunshine? People feel very defensive about this area."

I think this "small effects" idea explains a lot of the continuing arguments about the effect of various policies on human behavior (especially with contentious social issues where people adamantly insist that if public policy X were adopted, Y would be certain to/would no longer occur, despite copious examples where X was in fact adopted and Y did not occur/was not abolished), or in cases where the potential harm arising from Y is being debated.

It's amusing, in a way, to see the very same arguments being arrayed against Science that have been used for centuries to argue against Religion. In both cases, essential truths about human nature are too often discarded because they can't be proved beyond the shadow of a doubt.

The odd thing is that that standard of proof (that a proposition must be unfailingly true) is rarely if ever applied by the doubters to their own propositions. Skepticism (even when skepticism based on belief in some alternative proposition) apparently requires far less evidence to establish than the proposition it seeks to discredit.

Update: Welcome, Instapundit readers :)

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October 01, 2010

Rumors of My Death

Have been greatly exaggerated. I do, however, have something up over at RIGHTNETWORK.

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