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February 29, 2012

Does ObamaCare Illegally Discriminate Against Men?

During a conversation with my daughter in law over the weekend, the topic of faith-based objections to free contraception came up. My DIL brought up the topic as an example of how biased media coverage can be. She told me that although she had often heard me claim the media selectively edit out inconvenient facts, she had never seen this so clearly as with the coverage of the contraceptives controversy.

So I found it even more astounding when, during our conversation, it became clear to me that (despite reading several stories on the topic) she had no idea that ObamaCare mandates that FREE contraceptives be provided to women. In fact, she went so far as to argue with me because she found the idea so ludicrous that she wanted to see proof. (full disclosure, my DIL is a conservative).

Whilst Googling up the proof, I stumbed across yet another astounding factoid. Apparently, under ObamaCare only women get free contraceptives:

1) Are male-based contraceptive methods, such as vasectomies or condoms, covered by the rule?

An HHS official said on Friday that women’s preventive services guidelines apply to women only.

Guidelines issued by the Health Resources and Services Administration, part of HHS, require coverage without cost sharing for "all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity" as prescribed by a provider, according to the Federal Register.

The insurers' letter from September says they interpreted the rule to include only female-based contraception and that the requirement to waive co-payments "does not apply to methods and procedures intended for males."

But Adam Sonfield, senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research group, says the language is unclear, and it would be foolish to exclude vasectomies. For one thing, he says, they are less expensive and pose a lower risk of complications than female surgical sterilization methods. Plus, he says, waiving co-payments for services for one sex but not the other raises issues of discrimination.

“I can’t see how it would be in anyone’s interest to treat them differently,” says Sonfield.

Un.believable... and it only makes this story more amusing:

Speaking at a hearing held by Pelosi to tout Pres. Obama’s mandate that virtually every health insurance plan cover the full cost of contraception and abortion-inducing products, Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke said that it’s too expensive to have sex in law school without mandated insurance coverage.

Apparently, four out of every ten co-eds are having so much sex that it's hard to make ends meet if they have to pay for their own contraception, Fluke's research shows.

"Forty percent of the female students at Georgetown Law reported to us that they struggled financially as a result of this policy (Georgetown student insurance not covering contraception), Fluke reported.

It costs a female student $3,000 to have protected sex over the course of her three-year stint in law school, according to her calculations.

... At a dollar a condom if she shops at CVS pharmacy’s website, that $3,000 would buy her 3,000 condoms – or, 1,000 a year. (By the way, why does CVS.com list the weight of its condom products in terms of pounds?)

Assuming it’s not a leap year, that’s 1,000 divided by 365 – or having sex 2.74 times a day, every day, for three straight years. And, I thought Georgetown was a Catholic university where women might be prone to shun casual, unmarried sex. At least its health insurance doesn't cover contraception (that which you subsidize, you get more of, you know).

And, that’s not even considering that there are Planned Parenthood clinics in her neighborhood that give condoms away and sell them at a discount, which could help make her sexual zeal more economical.

I guess this is what happens when you rush to pass a bill you haven't even read to address the issue of "fairness". Still, there's no rational public policy excuse for such blatant discrimination. Condoms don't just protect against pregnancy - they protect against STDs.

I don't think anyone should get free birth control, but if we're going to go down that road, what's good for the goose should be good for the gander, IFKWIMAITYD.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:08 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

The Myth of Easy Divorce

In yesterday's Perspective and History post, the Blog Princess asked what freedoms (or perhaps more accurately, "whose freedoms") conservatives were willing to give up to return to a supposedly simpler time. My dear friend and intrepid debating partner Grim was quick to reply. His number one choice? Easy divorce. I responded (infuriatingly, if predictably) with more questions:

Is divorce ever "easy"? In this case, it seems you would like to make it harder for other people to get out of their marriages. While I personally don't think much of divorce, I also don't think much of the idea that making it harder for people to leave unhappy marriages would do anything to shore up the state of marriage.

Looking at historical divorce rates supports this notion. Starting in 1960 (LONG before no fault), the divorce rate goes exponential. You can't blame "easy" divorce because divorce wasn't easy back then. So how would making divorce harder change things?

Grim responded by asking about a long ago post in which I explored the idea (which, by the way, I agreed with before I looked at the data) that no fault divorce is a major driver of the divorce rate. It's a powerful and emotionally seductive idea because we would really like for there to be simple answers to complex and troubling questions. If we could just identify that single cause, we could turn back the clock.

The argument goes something like this. Back in the golden age of marriage, it was hard to get a divorce. Then no fault came along and suddenly, as though a light switch had been flipped, the divorce rate went through the roof. If we got rid of no fault, things would go back to the way they used to be.

There's just one problem with this argument. As I pointed out in my earlier post, the facts don't support it:

This conclusion (i.e., there's no real evidence that no fault divorce increased the divorce rate) has strong empirical support in actual divorce rate data over time. If no fault divorce laws incent more women to leave their marriages, shouldn't we see an increase in divorce rates following the advent of no fault? Unfortunately for The Futurist, that's not what happened. Watch what happens to the divorce rate as no fault divorce becomes more prevalent:

divorce rate1.jpg

Note that before no fault, divorce rates were already rising rapidly. And note what happens to the divorce rate after no fault: it goes down, not up. How inconveeeeeenient.

Now let's look at divorce rates over a longer time period:

divorce_rates2.jpg

Again, note that the steepest rate of increase in divorces occurs during time periods before no fault existed. Beginning with the passage of no fault laws in ONE state - California - and continuing as no fault spreads to 9 states and then to 48 of the 50 states, the slope of the divorce rate curve decreases and then goes negative (i.e., the divorce rate declines).

Moreover, if we extrapolate the long term trend for divorce rates, we find that present rates of divorce are entirely consonant with what statisticians would have predicted long before feminism or no fault came along to harsh the collective mellows of so-called beta males. Not a good sign for The Futurist's argument.

A frequent tactic of the simple/single cause supporter is to truncate long term historical trends, notably beginning with an unrepresentative period for marriages and divorces in the US: the 1950s. I'm not sure whether this is deliberate or simply lazy but there's no denying that the practice conveniently airbrushes away over a century of steadily and rapidly rising divorce rates.

The myth of easy divorce is usually accompanied by another popular myth: that alimony and child support create powerful incentives for women to leave their marriages. Once again, the facts don't bear this theory out. Over time, the proportion of divorces in which the woman initiated divorce proceedings has been remarkably stable - it varies between 60-70 percent.

... let's look at some actual divorce data from a comprehensive study of 46,000 divorce cases. You may be surprised about the conclusion it draws on the question of why women file for divorce more often than men:

The solution to the mystery, the factor that determined most cases, turned out to be the question of child custody. Women are much more willing to split up because -- unlike men -- they typically do not fear losing custody of the children. Instead, a divorce often enables them to gain control over the children.

"The question of custody absolutely swamps all the other variables," Dr. Brinig said. "Children are the most important asset in a marriage, and the partner who expects to get sole custody is by far the most likely to file for divorce."

THE correlation with custody is so strong, Dr. Brinig said, that she has changed her view about the best way to preserve marriages and protect children. She previously advocated an end to quick no-fault divorces, but she now believes that the key is to rewrite custody laws.

That's right, it's not the expectation of financial gain - nor the ease of no fault - but custody. Moreover, preferential treatment of women in child custody cases is not a recent invention, nor is it tied to no fault. In fact, the rebuttable presumption that the mother is the best custodial parent has always been a strong component of divorce settlements in traditional fault ground states.

Here's another great quote from the Brinig research:

In most states, including New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, mothers can fight for and usually win sole custody. But some states have recently begun making joint custody the presumptive norm. That change in the law seems to be keeping more couples together, according to this study and other work by Dr. Brinig. She and colleagues have noted a decline in divorce in states with joint-custody laws. And when couples do divorce, fathers who share custody are less likely to renege on their child-support payments.

This is why I've always favored presumptive joint custody. To put a final nail in the coffin of the simple/single theory of divorce, there's this nugget:

Researchers who have interviewed divorcing couples have repeatedly found that, in cases where the divorce is not mutually desired, women are more than twice as likely to be the ones who want out. After the split, women are typically happier than their exes.

Though I've been happily married for over 30 years, my own experience suggests that this makes sense. When my husband and I argue, he is able to compartmentalize his feelings and go about his business.

That's never been the case with me: I am completely, utterly miserable until the dispute has been resolved and we're back in harmony with each other. Decades of talking with other married women suggest I'm not alone in this. There's a lot of misinformation about divorces out there. Did you know that 95% of divorces are uncontested (even though they could be?).

I didn't either.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:53 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

February 28, 2012

Perspective and History

This is a thought provoking essay:

For many libertarians, "the road to serfdom" is not just the title of a great book but also the window through which they see the world. We’re losing our freedom, year after year, they think. They (we) quote Thomas Jefferson: “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” We read books with titles like Freedom in Chains, Lost Rights, The Rise of Federal Control over the Lives of Ordinary Americans, and yes, The Road to Serfdom.

The Cato Institute's boilerplate description of itself used to include the line, "Since [the American] revolution, civil and economic liberties have been eroded." Until Clarence Thomas, then chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, gave a speech at Cato and pointed out to us that it didn't seem quite that way to black people.

And he was right. American public policy has changed in many ways since the American Revolution, sometimes in a libertarian direction, sometimes not.

Brink Lindsey talks of an "implicit libertarian synthesis" in American politics today in his book The Age of Abundance. He argued in 2007:

Nevertheless, the fact is that American society today is considerably more libertarian than it was a generation or two ago. Compare conditions now to how they were at the outset of the 1960s. Official governmental discrimination against blacks no longer exists. Censorship has beaten a wholesale retreat. The rights of the accused enjoy much better protection. Abortion, birth control, interracial marriage, and gay sex are legal. Divorce laws have been liberalized and rape laws strengthened. Pervasive price and entry controls in the transportation, energy, communications, and financial sectors are gone. Top income tax rates have been slashed. The pretensions of macroeconomic fine-tuning have been abandoned. Barriers to international trade are much lower. Unionization of the private sector work force has collapsed. Of course there are obvious counterexamples, but on the whole it seems clear that cultural expression, personal lifestyle choices, entrepreneurship, and the play of market forces all now enjoy much wider freedom of maneuver.

Has there ever been a golden age of liberty? No, and there never will be. There will always be people who want to live their lives in peace, and there will always be people who want to exploit them or impose their own ideas on others. If we look at the long term—from a past that includes despotism, feudalism, absolutism, fascism, and communism—we’re clearly better off. When we look at our own country's history—contrasting 2010 with 1776 or 1910 or 1950 or whatever—the story is less clear. We suffer under a lot of regulations and restrictions that our ancestors didn’t face.

But in 1776 black Americans were held in chattel slavery, and married women had no legal existence except as agents of their husbands. In 1910 and even 1950, blacks still suffered under the legal bonds of Jim Crow—and we all faced confiscatory tax rates throughout the postwar period.

... too many of us who extol the Founders and deplore the growth of the American state forget that that state held millions of people in chains.

... If you had to choose, would you rather live in a country with a department of labor and even an income tax or a Dred Scott decision and a Fugitive Slave Act?

It is that last question that really cuts to the heart of the matter: how we prioritize freedoms. During the evil Bu$hitler years, we were often reminded by our more progressive Brethren in Christ of this Ben Franklin quote, albeit in badly mangled form:

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

- Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Now of course, we live in an enlightened age of government transparency. Gone are the days when brave, truth telling patriots like Keith Olbermann (God rest his soul) were shipped to airless cells at Gitmo to be taunted with the frilly panties of jackbooted oppression:

Last Wednesday in the White House briefing room, the administration’s press secretary, Jay Carney, opened on a somber note, citing the deaths of Marie Colvin and Anthony Shadid, two reporters who had died “in order to bring truth” while reporting in Syria.

Jake Tapper, the White House correspondent for ABC News, pointed out that the administration had lauded brave reporting in distant lands more than once and then asked, “How does that square with the fact that this administration has been so aggressively trying to stop aggressive journalism in the United States by using the Espionage Act to take whistle-blowers to court?”

He then suggested that the administration seemed to believe that “the truth should come out abroad; it shouldn’t come out here.”

Fair point. The Obama administration, which promised during its transition to power that it would enhance “whistle-blower laws to protect federal workers,” has been more prone than any administration in history in trying to silence and prosecute federal workers.

It often seems to me that historical revisionism is very much a function of our current priorities. We see the past through the lens of the present, and that lens distorts the view; magnifying the advantages of bygone ages and minimizing their very real flaws.

When I hear conservatives longing to turn back the clock, I can't help but wonder which of our modern freedoms they would surrender to return to a simpler time? Or perhaps it should be "whose freedoms"?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:51 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

They're Always After Our Lucky Charms

This is nothing short of brilliant, the second and fourth paragraphs in particular:

Myth number five is the contemporary one used by the right to explain the unhappy state of the current Republican primary contest: the idea that Romney and/or his establishment allies have managed on purpose to split the non-Romney vote, enabling the dreaded Establishment Moderate to worm his way up to the top. Oddly enough, Chris Matthews seems also to believe this, as he told his six viewers on the cable network Republicans refer to as MSDLC: “I can’t win the hearts and minds of Republicans, but I can keep them divided,” he imagines Mitt Romney as thinking. “I can make sure the evangelicals get their day with Santorum, that the libertarians get their say with Ron Paul.” In this, Matthews is on the same page as Rush Limbaugh, who told his vastly larger audience that this indeed was the case. “The Republican establishment is trying to split the conservative vote among all the other conservative candidates,” he said in December. “The Gingriches, Bachmann, Perry, Santorum .  .  . they’re dividing that vote.”

That “they” managed to do this was declared with assurance, though the mechanics of how this was managed were never described. Did “they” first discourage all of the stronger conservatives? Did they go to all the non-Romneys early last year, and, knowing that each had a following and yet was too weak to dominate the others, convince them their moment was now? And once all were in, how was a proper balance maintained? If one were too strong, he would dominate, and become a genuine threat and contender. If some were too weak, they would be forced to drop out, or cease to drain the right number of votes from the others. This had to be handled with infinite cunning: A false move made in either direction and the entire grand scheme would implode.

It’s one thing to say this dynamic has helped Romney​—​it has​—​or that it’s what he would do if he did have the power​—​he undoubtedly would​—​and another thing entirely to say that he does have the power, and did. As Jim Geraghty notes, movement conservatives tend to believe that their base is larger than that of the moderates (as well as more virtuous) and that their ideas are more popular; hence defeat in a fair fight is not possible. Thus if they lose, the fight must not be fair, and there must be a reason. If no reason seems clear, then one must be invented. Hence the belief in strange plots.

Hence the belief that an establishment, as opposed to mere voters, must have foisted Dole, McCain, and Bush père et fils on a helpless Republican party, and now plans to do this again. But this is a whole lot of foisting, and bypasses two critical things. One is that there is no evidence of any foisting since 1968, when Democratic insiders gave their nomination to Hubert H. Humphrey after the murder of Robert F. Kennedy, a show of muscle and arrogance that led to changes in both major parties that have made it next to impossible for anyone to do the same again. Since then, potential nominees have foisted themselves on the voters, often to the dismay of their party leaders, flooding the zone with eccentric, unlikely, and vanity candidacies, and leaving it to voters to sort the wheat from the chaff. Party elites, who would give all their teeth for the chance to foist anything, have been forced to gesticulate from the sidelines, while Howard Dean, Herman Cain, Jesse Jackson, Dennis Kucinich, and Pats Buchanan and Robertson disported themselves in the main arena. What’s a poor foister to do?

If only the RNC were that smart.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:43 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Chart of the Day

From the site of John Boehner, via John Hinderaker,

Related thoughts:

With gas prices soaring toward $4-per-gallon and beyond, expect President Obama and his media cheerleaders to repeat the following claims endlessly and uncritically between now and the November election: "There are no quick fixes to this problem ... there are no short-term silver bullets when it comes to gas prices ... we can't just drill our way to lower gas prices ... America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years ... we need a sustained, all-of-the-above strategy." Obama used each of those snippets in his speech last week in Miami, then repeated them in his weekly Saturday address, and incorporated them in his basic stump speech on the campaign trail.

All of the snippets will be addressed in this space in coming days, but for now, the president is just flat wrong about those silver bullets. His predecessor pulled the trigger on one on July 15, 2008, by lifting an executive branch moratorium on oil and gas exploration and development in the Outer Continental Shelf regions off America's coasts. Literally within minutes, the price-per-barrel of oil on the world market plunged from just below its historic high of $149 to $136, a 6.3 percent decrease. Bush also challenged the then-Democratic Congress to lift a parallel legislative moratorium on the same areas.

Examiner contributor and economist Larry Kudlow described what happened next in a column the following day: "Traders took a look at a feisty and aggressive George Bush and started selling the market well before a single new drop of oil has been lifted. What does this tell us? Well, if Congress moves to seal the deal, oil prices will probably keep on falling. That's the way traders work. They discount the future. Psychology and expectations can turn on a dime."

... Obama has doubled the bureaucratic delays on drilling permits, which ultimately adds to the price of gas at the pump. As Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, noted last week, the increased production Obama cites is happening mainly on nonfederal lands and under permits issued before he became president. As with so much that Obama says, his claims sound good, but he is playing fast and loose with the facts in order to steal credit he doesn't deserve and avoid blame that ought to be his.

Bingo.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 27, 2012

Absent Without Leave

Guys - I am down in Georgia visiting my two fine young Grandpygmies.

I will be back tomorrow to bore you senseless with my inane drivel.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:49 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 23, 2012

Amazing Thing of the Day

Here.

Sorry for the lack of blather. Very busy week.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:25 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

February 21, 2012

The Santorum Revelations

After a 14 hour workday straight from Hell, the Blog Princess was snidely pondering the advisability of injecting Chardonnay directly into the veins finally sitting down with a celebratory libation when the latest outrage du jour hit the fan:

"Satan has his sights on the United States of America!" Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has declared.

"Satan is attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity, and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that has so deeply rooted in the American tradition."

Though we will admit to thinking, "Oh for Pete's sake... there he goes again", the Editorial Staff cannot quite summon the requisite degree of indignation over a guy who wasn't then running for President, speaking to a Catholic audience at a church-affiliated university, having the temerity to speak of good and evil in distinctly religious terms.

Though we suspect the black turtleneck and Father of Lies references may have been just a wee bit over the top.

What we do find amusing (albeit unintentionally so) is this little snippet:

And so what we saw this domino effect, once the colleges fell and those who were being education in our institutions [sic], the next was the church. Now you’d say, ‘wait, the Catholic Church’? No. We all know that this country was founded on a Judeo-Christian ethic but the Judeo-Christian ethic was a Protestant Judeo-Christian ethic, sure the Catholics had some influence, but this was a Protestant country and the Protestant ethic, mainstream, mainline Protestantism, and of course we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.

Gallons of digital ink have already been spilled arguing that Rick Santorum is being attacked for defending social conservatism. That is no doubt a comforting belief, and one for which there is considerable evidentiary support. Organized religion and social conservatism have been under attack in the media for as long as I can remember. The only thing more predictable is that the sun will rise every morning.

Still, we can't help wondering: is it too much to ask for a candidate with a modicum of common sense?

This entire process is a job interview in which the candidates are trying to get hired by the electorate. Insulting the electorate and accusing it of spiritual weakness and sinfulness are not the ways to get yourself the job of president.

Here are two revelations that are worth every cent you're about to pay for them:

If your rhetoric turns off people who are already inclined to agree with you, you're doing the whole persuasion thing wrong.

And when even Rush Limbaugh thinks you've got some 'splainin' to do...

Posted by Cassandra at 08:13 PM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Self-Evidently Self-Evident Quote of the Day

"He could easily not have known, because as you can imagine, at these kinds of parties you're not always dressed, and I challenge you to distinguish a naked prostitute from any other naked woman,"

And don't pretend you all have never had the exact. same. problem.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:22 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

February 16, 2012

Are Educated Women to Blame for the Declining Marriage Rate?

According to James Taranto, it would seem so:

As Charles Murray shows in his new book, "Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010," marriage has declined much less sharply among the educated and affluent than among the so-called working class. But it has still declined, and it can be expected to decline more absent a reversal of the trend toward greater female education and accomplishment.

Let's step through Taranto's assertions because I think they deserve some critical review. I've enumerated what I take to be his points and will address each of them in turn:

1. [Quoting Bennett and Hymowitz] These days, educated young women can find jobs, but not husbands.

That's an interesting assertion. Do actual marriage statistics back it up, or are we about to hear the usual string of carefully selected anecdotes and quotes in lieu of evidence? I suspect the latter.

2. In the NYT, Stephanie Coontz disagrees. In the past, educated women were less likely to marry. Today educated women actually have the advantage in the marriage market.

If this is true we should be able to find data that supports her assertion, and in her essay Coontz provides just that:

For more than a century, women often were forced to choose between an education and a husband. Of women who graduated from college before 1900, more than three-quarters remained single. As late as 1950, one-third of white female college graduates ages 55 to 59 had never married, compared with only 7 percent of their counterparts without college degrees.

...By 2008, the percentage of college-educated white women ages 55 to 59 who had never been married was down to 9 percent, just 3 points higher than their counterparts without college degrees. And among women 35 to 39, there was no longer any difference in the percentage who were married.

African-American women are less likely to marry than white women overall, but educated black women are considerably more likely to marry than their less-educated counterparts. As of 2008, 70 percent of African-American female college graduates had married, compared with 60 percent of high school graduates and just 53 percent of high school dropouts.

One reason educated heterosexual women may worry about their marriage prospects today is that overall marriage rates have been slipping since 1980. But they have slipped less for educated women than for anyone else. Furthermore, college-educated women, once they do marry, are much less likely to divorce. As a result, by age 30, and especially at ages 35 and 40, college-educated women are significantly more likely to be married than any other group. And according to calculations by the economist Betsey Stevenson, an educated woman still single at age 40 is much more likely to marry in the next decade than her less educated counterparts.

3. Taranto quotes Charles Murray: marriage has declined less among educated/affluent than it has among the working class. It is then that he lays a stunner on us:

But it has still declined, and it can be expected to decline more absent a reversal of the trend toward greater female education and accomplishment.

Let's see if I have Taranto's argument straight:

1. Today, working class, less educated men and women are less likely to marry.

2. Today, educated, affluent men and women are the most likely to get - and stay - married.

3. Unless the trend of greater female education and accomplishment is reversed, marriage will continue to decline.

What is being argued here? How are educated, affluent women causing the lower classes to steer clear of marriage? If there's a clear cause and effect visible here (or even a clear correlation between educated women marrying MORE OFTEN than they once did and less educated women marrying LESS OFTEN than they once did), it has yet to be made plain to this reader. These are the kind of assertions Thomas Sowell so aptly calls as "arguments without arguments": bold, emotionally seductive statements that require no facts to support them because they are so self-evidently self-evident (at least to the pandered-to reader) that no sane person would question their provenance or foundation.

I can see why so many men think women are incapable of logic, for despite trying manfully to do so, I have utterly failed to tease out the golden thread of reason from this tangled skein.

(4) [Taranto]: Pay no attention to those annoying statistics! Yesterday's educated women were thankfully rare because they were emasculating harpies no man in his right mind would want to waltz down the aisle. Nowadays, "agreeable women" are more likely to get a PhD.

Here I am truly confused. It probably took more gumption in Grandma's time for a woman to earn a college degree, but I'm not sure gumption implies a disagreeable or man hating nature. It seems reasonable to posit that in a time where women were expected to marry, women who resisted that temptation were arguably less interested in marriage (and "less interested" here is not equivalent to "not interested") than women who went with the flow. But again, I'm not sure of the suggested correlation between higher education and misandry.

Interestingly, both my grandmothers earned college degrees. One was a writer who worked on radio and on Broadway and the other was a schoolteacher. They were both working mothers.

My mother and mother in law, on the other hand, both married after high school and stayed at home to raise their children full time. These are anecdotes, not evidence. I didn't finish college until I was nearly 40. My two daughters in law have a PhD and a Masters degree. Neither of my sons does - they both have a Bachelors and no graduate education.

Question for the ages: did my daughters in law "marry down"? If they did, is this a bad thing?

At this point, Mr. Taranto addresses debatable assertions that today's culture is very different from the one in place in the early 20th century (a shocker, I know). Coontz argues that modern men are more accepting of educated, accomplished women than the manly men of yore. In other words, modern men are less inclined to be hypogamous - to marry down. While I have no direct evidence to offer, I well remember the kinds of remarks that were commonplace when I was growing up in the 1960s: women aren't as smart or capable as men, women belong in the home, women's hormone cycles make them prone to fits of irrational behavior (God forbid a woman ever get her Lee Nails on the nuclear football during her period! She'd blow the world up!).

"Don't worry your pretty little head about that, missy."

So are men biologically programmed to look down on women, or have they just learned to cover up their feelings? What are the desires of their hearts?

I can't take men who say stupid and needlessly insulting things any more seriously than I take feminists who blissfully assert that men are responsible for all the violence and discord in the world or assure me that a world run by women would be an egalitarian paradise without blemish. If there is one reassuring constant to be found in history it is that idiocy is no respecter of gender norms, whether traditional or supposedly enlightened.

Though I can cite no evidence to refute or support the idea that modern men aren't as threatened by educated/accomplished women, my life experience suggests that their attitudes have changed somewhat as intelligent people so often do when the world around them changes. I work in a technical, male dominated field (IT). My husband, though initially just as threatened by my shift from stay at home wife and mother to college educated, high earning professional as I was when he earned his Masters' degree, adjusted beautifully. So did I.

Change is always threatening. It's not smart not to be threatened by change - it is, by definition, something we're unprepared for by experience. But humans possess the ability to adapt to change and arguably require it. Coontz's point, as I took it, was not that biological urges are unimportant, but that they are mitigated and influenced by culture. Not so fast, says Taranto:

... it isn't clear to what extent responses to such surveys reflect the heart's desire as opposed to cultural conditioning or social expectation. To be sure, both affect the decisions people make, but when cultural expectations are not in line with human nature, the latter can win out in ugly and disruptive ways. Remember Anthony Weiner? In 1995 he made the politically correct assertion that he wanted to marry "someone smarter than me." He acted on that purported desire, but his subsequent behavior suggested he was deluding himself about what he really wanted.

Did Weiner cheat because he violated a biological imperative that men marry women less educated than themselves? If so, one wonders why cheating was rampant long before feminists and educated women destroyed marriage. Taranto goes on to remind us of another supposed biological imperative: female hypergamy.

... the problem that female education poses to marriage is a product of female, not male, mate preference--of what Coontz calls "the cultural ideal of hypergamy--that women must marry up."

That is where Coontz goes badly wrong. Any evolutionary psychologist will tell you that female hypergamy--more broadly defined as the drive to mate with dominant males--is an animal instinct, not a product of human culture, which can only restrain or direct it. Seemingly without realizing it, Coontz provides powerful anecdotal evidence in support of that assertion:

When the journalist Liza Mundy interviewed young women for her forthcoming book on female breadwinners, she found that most wanted a mate they could "look up to" or "admire"--and didn't think they could admire a man who was less educated than they were. During a talk I recently gave to a women's group in San Francisco, an audience member said, "I want him to respect what I know, but I also want him to know just a little more than me." One of my students once told me, "it's exciting to be a bit in awe of a guy."

For a century, women have binged on romance novels that encouraged them to associate intimidation with infatuation; it's no wonder that this emotional hangover still lingers.

Coontz labors mightily to dismiss these hypergamous sentiments as the product of culture. But in the reality of 21st-century postfeminist America, they are highly countercultural--especially at gathering of "a women's group," and in San Francisco of all places! They are evidence of human nature too strong for ideology to overcome.

Once again we have "powerful" anecdotal evidence (!) in lieu of hard facts. Never mind that the one demographic where marriage is still strong is young, well educated women and men. These pesky facts are somehow overruled when scientists (which Taranto has been quick to ridicule when their latest pronouncements undercut his beliefs about how the world works) play the biological trump card and journalists miraculously ask women who haven't been able to find husbands what they're looking for and find (gasp!) that their ideas of what constitutes a suitable mate are unrealistic.

But the most disturbing thing in Taranto's long essay is his sneering contempt for so-called beta males:

For young ladies anxious about spending their lives alone, Coontz offers this advice:
Valentine's Day is a perfect time to reject the idea that the ideal man is taller, richer, more knowledgeable, more renowned or more powerful. The most important predictor of marital happiness for a woman is not how much she looks up to her husband but how sensitive he is to her emotional cues and how willing he is to share the housework and child-care. And those traits are often easier to find in a low-key guy than a powerhouse.

I am not arguing that women ought to "settle."

That last sentence is both funny and poignant. Coontz has just advised young ladies to marry short, poor, ignorant, obscure, ineffectual men who will help with household chores. If that's not settling, the word has no meaning.

I started being interested in and going steady with boys in the 7th grade. Like most young, inexperienced girls, I was initially bowled over by the tallest, most athletic, flashiest and smoothest talking boys in the class. In the 7th grade, that bar is set pretty low.

By the end of 8th grade I had figured out that the kind of boy who initially attracted me was exactly the kind of boy I did NOT want to date. I knew because I had gone steady with several of them and they bored me to tears. As I matured, my criteria gradually evolved. Appearance and surface charm no longer impressed me as they once had. I learned to distrust my gut reaction and employ my values, my upbringing, and my brain a bit more.

And so when I first met the man who is now my husband, I had a very different impression of him than I would have, had I met him in the 8th grade.

He was one of the tallest boys in the senior class, and one of the few who could grow a beard. He lettered in 3 sports and started in football and basketball. His room was littered with trophies and awards and he easily got into every college to which he applied (including several Ivies and the Naval Academy). He was handsome, broad shouldered, muscular: a man in a class of boys.

And I had no interest in him for most of the senior year. I knew exactly who he was - after all, he lived just two doors down from me. He sat directly across from me in Honors English. He was the very definition of a high status, alpha male.

And I can honestly say none of that moved me until I got to know him as a person and realized that he was precisely the kind of man I was looking for: a man who would be a loving husband and father. A man who was considerate and kind, and who treated me like a princess. He still does, 35 years later.

We are not bonobo apes or chimps. Though biology does shape our world view and sometimes our actions, human beings have a tripartite nature: we are body, mind, spirit. And culture plays a profound role in how we view and interact with the world around us. Scientists are discovering that external events can switch genes on and off. Our hormone levels are profoundly influenced by mundane matters like whether our sports team wins the Superbowl or the sight of a pretty girl. They are influenced by childbirth, which alters the levels of both testosterone and estrogen in both men and women.

I will never forget the moment I fell in love with my husband.

We were sitting in a quiet hallway at school talking about history. It was a two way conversation in which he didn't back down or seem threatened when I ventured an opinion or made an argument. He didn't give an inch when I tested his assertions. But neither did he seem to need to dominate me, which is good because I can't imagine anything more likely to turn me off. I remember looking at his hands and thinking how strong they looked. "This is a man who will protect me and our children", I thought. "And he's intelligent; his intellect is lively. I will still be interested in what he has to say when we're no longer young and attractive."

I don't remember thinking, "Oh THANK GOD he's way smarter than me. He'll be a good little wage earner, well able to provide me with an ample supply of Manolos and high end jewelry." What I felt was more like recognition than ambition; it was a feeling that we fit together. That we were evenly yoked. That I had come home. And I had, and I have, and I always will.

That is what I look forward to every night when I come home after a long day at the office. My heart gladdens and my pulse skips a few beats when he walks through the door.

I don't know what makes some people want to reduce human nature to the level of our most elemental instincts. We are so much more than that: we have souls and minds that, given the chance to blossom, soar to heights no chimp ever dreamed of.

The tragedy of Islam is that it fears giving women freedom. It fears losing control of them. Even if it were literally true that men and marriage can't succeed in a world where women are allowed to - allowed to - stretch their wings (and I don't for one moment believe this to be the case), would it be morally right to purchase predictability and security at such a dear cost?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:36 AM | Comments (66) | TrackBack

February 15, 2012

Unintended Consequences 101

At least one would like to think they're unintended:

As I have noted previously, the Fed’s policy of acting to hold interest rates well below free-market rates in recent years has had the effect of greatly diminishing the earnings of people who rely on interest income. Such people include especially many retirees who do not wish to hold risky assets with substantial variability of earnings. In the past, many retired people have held the bulk of their wealth in the form of bank certificates of deposit, bonds, and bond-heavy mutual funds, hoping that their incomes would be secure and predictable when they were no longer working. The Fed’s actions in recent years have taken a heavy toll on such people’s earnings.

...Defenders of the Fed historically have argued, among other things, that central-bank monetary policies have a sort of neutrality: they affect aggregate demand, the overall price level, and other macroeconomic variables, but they do not attempt to carry out the kind of micromanagement of the economy that Soviet-style central planning attempts. This argument has always been bogus because monetary policy was never—indeed, could not be—neutral. It always had differential effects on different classes of people and different sorts of economic activity, depending in part on who received new infusions of central-bank money first, second, and later in the process and on how these persons’ actions affected ongoing real economic processes. Nonetheless, defenders of the central bank might have argued that at least the Fed did not attempt in any direct way to determine definite changes in the distribution of income, either personal or functional.

Such defenses now ring unmistakably hollow. Even apart from the Fed’s entry into clear credit-allocation activities (e.g., buying mortgage-backed securities rather than Treasury bonds alone), it is plain that the Fed is acting in a way that impoverishes a definite class of persons—those heavily dependent on interest earnings for their income—and, moreover, that a policy of keeping interest rates on low-risk assets near zero must eventually wipe out such persons’ incomes completely. In that event, people who worked and saved over a working lifetime, taking personal responsibility for guaranteeing their self-sufficiency during their elderly, nonworking years, will be able to survive only at the mercy of the providers of private and public charity.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:49 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

A Modest Proposal for the NY times

This made my day:

Noting that “New York is an expensive place to live,” you call upon the legislature there to raise New York’s hourly minimum-wage from $7.25 to $8.50 (“Raise New York’s Minimum Wage,” Feb. 13).

In the same spirit of demanding that government improve people’s economic well-being simply by ordering that people be paid more, allow me to make a similar plea on your behalf.

The newspaper business today is in difficult straits. So I hereby call upon the legislature in Albany to force you and other newspapers in New York to raise your subscription and advertising rates by 17.2 percent (the same percentage raise that you want to force low-skilled workers to demand from their employers). Voila! If your economic theory is correct, your profits will rise. And the magnitude of these higher profits, we can assume (just as you assume in the case of low-skilled workers), will be greater than any negative consequences that might be unleashed by such legislative interference in your ability to determine the terms on which you sell your services.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:40 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Santorum and The Republican Nanny State

Ever since Teh Won ascended the alabaster throne in 2008, the blog princess has amused her reverse side away extremely at the extreme offense occasioned by our First Lady's crusade against the evils of trans fats.

For as long as I can remember, First Ladies have championed causes near and dear to their hearts. Lady Bird Johnson wanted to beautify America. Laura Bush wanted children to read more. And Michelle Obama thinks it would be a good idea for children to eat healthier food and exercise (the horror!).

As a human being, I understand being annoyed when public figures try to tell We the Little People how they think we should live our lives. As a conservative, I broadly approve of the sentiment that we'd all be better off if the federal government kept its big nose out of our private business:

One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea … Many in the Christian faith have said, “Well, that’s okay … contraception’s okay.”

It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, for purposes that are, yes, conjugal … but also procreative. That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act. And if you can take one part out that’s not for purposes of procreation, that’s not one of the reasons, then you diminish this very special bond between men and women, so why can’t you take other parts of that out? And all of a sudden, it becomes deconstructed to the point where it’s simply pleasure. And that’s certainly a part of it—and it’s an important part of it, don’t get me wrong—but there’s a lot of things we do for pleasure, and this is special, and it needs to be seen as special.

Again, I know most presidents don’t talk about those things, and maybe people don’t want us to talk about those things, but I think it’s important that you are who you are. I’m not running for preacher. I’m not running for pastor, but these are important public policy issues.

Do we really need to know what GOP candidates think about sex?

I don't know about you all, but I could do without a President lecturing me about how contraception "harms women". I cannot imagine in what sense my private decisions with regard to family size, contraception, or sex can reasonably be regarding as "important public policy issues", let alone a fit topic for discussion during a presidential campaign.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:53 AM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

February 14, 2012

Parenting in the Internet Age

By now, most of you have probably seen the video of Dad shooting his daughter's laptop full of holes after she posted a petulant, obscenity filled diatribe on Facebook. In the LA Times, the father talks about the response to his now viral YouTube video:

“I just had a friend run Good Morning America off my lawn.. grr.,” he posted to Facebook on Saturday, also saying that CBS called to offer him a show. That could be called a textbook “humblebrag,” by the way; the comment was public and got more than 900 responses.

In fact, even though Jordan turned off his phone and hasn’t been responding to media requests for interviews, you can still learn a lot about him on Facebook, because he hasn’t made a big effort to keep things secret. He’ll vote for Ron Paul. He’s got a stake in an online auction startup he’d like you to know about. He likes coffee and Krispy Kreme.

He’s also talked to his attorneys, and he doesn’t want you to copy his video: “Otherwise, the lawsuits start tomorrow morning.”

Oh, and one more thing: He says on his Facebook page that the police came to visit him after the video went viral. “The police by the way said ‘Kudos, Sir’ and most of them made their kids watch it. I actually had a ‘thank you’ from an entire detectives squad.”

Child Protective Services also apparently paid a visit to interview him and the daughter separately, and Jordan writes that the visit went well. “At the end of the day, no I'm not losing my kids, no one's in danger of being ripped from our home that I know of, and I actually got to spend some time with the nice lady and learn some cool parenting tips that I didn't know.”

I wasn't one of the many parents who were horrified that this man shot his daughter's laptop. It's an inanimate object he bought and paid for and his daughter was nowhere near him when he did the dirty deed. But once I stopped laughing, I couldn't help but be reminded of the most haunting videos I've ever seen about parenting:

When my boys were small, we got into frequent tussles about cleaning up their toys. They shared a bedroom and at times, keeping a path free of Legos, Tinker Toys, Matchbox cars and Brio train tracks seemed like an impossible task. One day when their father was deployed, I finally snapped. I gave them two hours to clean up their room. At the end of that time period, I announced, any toys left on the floor would be put into a lawn and garden bag and given to children who would appreciate them more.

Unsurprisingly, at the end of the two hours quite a few toys remained on the floor. Much to the horror of my small sons, out came the promised lawn and garden bag and into it went a LOT of their favorite toys. I relented - slightly - when my youngest's favorite stuffed animal turned out to be one of them. I let them each pick one thing, but the rest were promptly given away.

I'm not against tough rules, nor do I think it's a bad thing to become angry at one's own children. I can remember calling my Mom one day in tears over the constant contests of will with my oldest boy. I'll never forget what she said because it really surprised me:

"You love him, and yet he's making you extremely angry. If you let him think his behavior is acceptable, how will people who don't love him react when he treats them the same way?"

It seems odd to me that so many parents are afraid or ashamed to show visible outrage when their children behave in unacceptable ways. It's not anger that is problematic. It's losing control of your anger. I never got the impression that the Facebook Dad had lost control of himself, but (perhaps ironically) he is the one who best summed up what bothered me about his response:

...Jordan writes that he’d do it all over again -- except maybe without the cigarette. But he does wish he hadn’t called his daughter an “ass,” which he said was “rude and a bad example of a parent using the ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ philosophy.”

Calling his daughter an ass is far from unforgivable, given the provocation. What bothers me is that he responded to his daughter's passive-aggressive airing of private grievances against her parents in a public medium by retaliating in kind.

At its essence, parenting is leadership and the best kind of leadership is leadership by example. I wonder how his daughter would have reacted had he made the exact same video, but showed it to her privately and asked her to think long and hard (oh nevermind...) about whether it would be right for him to post it on YouTube for the entire world to see?

All parents screw up. Some worse than others:

Some biological fathers abandon their daughters; they get a woman pregnant and then leave her to change the baby’s diapers (after kindly offering to pay for an abortion, of course.) Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs initially fell into this category: He got his on-and-off girlfriend pregnant and refused to be an active father for the first ten years of her life. Jobs eventually assumed his proper role as a father and he deeply regretted his early behavior.

Jobs told his biographer, Walter Isaacson: “I wish I had handled it differently. I could not see myself as a father then, so I didn’t face up to it. But when the test results showed she was my daughter, it’s not true that I doubted it. I agreed to support her until she was eighteen and give some money to Chrisann [his ex-girlfriend] as well. I found a house in Palo Alto and fixed it up and let them live there rent-free. Her mother found her great schools which I paid for. I tried to do the right thing. But if I could do it over, I would do a better job.”

When Jobs married his wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, he brought his daughter into his own home and took her on a special father-daughter trip to Japan as he eventually did with all three of his and Powell’s children.

Jobs understood that his first daughter was still scarred by his behavior early in her life, even at his death, although they did reconcile. He told his biographer that the reason he wanted the biography was not to explain his entrepreneurial story with Apple: “I wanted my kids to know me. I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.”

Parenting is a long process during which children are not the only ones who grow up. What matters most, in the end, is not that we are perfect, but that we are there.

Thanks to GlennS for the Steve Jobs story.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:12 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Obama and His Senate: Doing Nothing by Design

Dana Milbanks exposes the breathtakingly cynical political calculations behind Obama's budget proposal:

The White House’s budget for fiscal 2013 begins with a broken promise, adds some phony policy assumptions, throws in a few rosy forecasts and omits all kinds of painful decisions. Even then, the proposal would add $1 trillion more to the national debt than Obama contemplated a few months ago — and it is a non-starter on Capitol Hill, where even Senate Democrats have no plans to take it up. It is, in other words, exactly what it was supposed to be: a campaign document.

How inept does a leader have to be to send forth a budget purposely designed to fail? A better question would be, how cynical does he have to be?

When you combine this latest in a series of budgets that were never intended to pass with the President's latest excuse du jure (the do nothing Congress), a distinct pattern begins to emerge:

Under Mr. Reid's leadership, the Senate has not passed a budget resolution in three years. It has never voted to extend the payroll tax cut for a full year—which Vice President Joe Biden says is the administration's No. 1 economic priority. Nor did it protest when the president made a controversial recess appointment when the Senate plainly was not in recess.

The one notable area where Mr. Reid did not "do nothing"—ObamaCare—is not pretty. It would be good for Republicans to remind the public of this record. Partly it involved a complete rewrite in Mr. Reid's backroom, along with notorious vote-buying deals to secure enough votes to prevent a GOP filibuster, including the Louisiana Purchase ($300 million in Medicaid funds for the home state of Sen. Mary Landrieu) and the Cornhusker Kickback ($100 million in Medicaid funds for Nebraska's Sen. Ben Nelson).

The point is that with the exception of ObamaCare and the stimulus, Mr. Reid's energies have been exercised largely to prevent action, not take it. Remember Mr. Obama's jobs bill, and how he called on Congress to "pass this bill now"? When Senate Republicans pushed for a vote, Mr. Reid responded by changing the rules of the Senate to prevent one.

The GOP candidates need to ask more questions about Obama's so-called Do Nothing Congress. The best construction would be that Obama is a weak leader who can't even gain the support of the Democrat-controlled Senate. The more likely interpretation would be that Obama is deliberately kicking the can down the road while Senate Democrats run interference for him.

Where, oh where is Obama's Truth Team when you need it?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:05 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Post of the Day

Bruce McQuain, on why the federal government continues to grow:

We often hear the Democrats cited as the reason we’re in this mess today, but that’s a cop out. The right in the guise of the Republican party are just as guilty as the Democrats. In fact, I’d argue they’re more guilty. The reason we’re in this mess today is because over the years the Republicans have accommodated the Democrats by compromising their principles.

The most recent examples are Medicare Part D and No Child Left Behind – two huge government programs one of which put a new entitlement in place and the other which increased federal control of education (at an equally huge cost).

Here’s a quote from the Heritage Foundation report I’d like you to focus on:

The last decade has seen a significant expansion of benefits provided by Medicare, including the new prescription drug benefit created under Medicare Part D. From 2004 to 2010, Part D was responsible for $214 billion in federal spending.[26] Though the role of competition in its defined-contribution model has caused estimates of its 10-year cost to drop 41 percent from initial CMS projections, the program has added substantially to health care entitlement spending.[27] Additionally, the publicly funded Part D program has crowded out private coverage alternatives. Research by economists Gary Engelhardt and Jonathan Gruber suggests that before Medicare Part D was enacted, 75 percent of seniors currently receiving public coverage held private drug coverage. Part D also increased average spending on prescription drugs by seniors, an expense that is funded by an increase in public spending of 184 percent, accompanied by a reduction in seniors’ out-of-pocket spending of 39 percent and private insurance plan spending of 37 percent.[28]

First, remember that we’re talking about the “richest” demographic in our country when we talk about seniors. Yes, everyone knows that, like every demographic, there are exceptions, but for the most part, seniors are pretty well set.

Now, notice the effect that this program has had. It has “added substantially to health care entitlement spending” It has “crowded out private coverage alternatives”. And it has “increased the average spending on prescription drugs by seniors … funded by an increase in public spending of 184%”.

So A) it increased public spending in an ear in which we can’t afford increased public spending, B) it basically destroyed a market that was apparently working prior to its implementation C) the taxpayer is on the hook for more spending as seniors, who now pay less out of pocket, shift the cost to them.

This wasn’t a program supported just by the left, folks. This was negotiated, passed and signed into law with the blessing of a Republican President.

THIS is why we’re in the mess we’re in. THIS is where the precedent for ObamaCare was set.

As much as the other candidates want to hit Mitt Romney on RomneyCare (and they should), one should remember that Rick Santorum voted for Part D (although he now says that was a “mistake”) and Newt Gingrich lobbied for it.

I agree with Bruce but with an important caveat: Republicans haven't supported these programs for no reason.

The single biggest delusion in conservative circles (aside from the remarkable assertion that Rick Santorum is the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney) is that these things happen in a vacuum.

They don't, and that problem won't go away simply because we don't like thinking about it. This is why I keep returning to the question no one wants to address: what do you expect a Republican President to do about the deficit?

This is what Congress looks like now, and we have gridlock. If your response involves any scenario that would only be possible if Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House, allow me to remind you that every two years, all 435 seats in the House are up for vote. And every two years, about one third of Senate seats are up for vote.

At some point, we have to stop and examine the assumptions that are guiding our political choices. Even if we controlled both houses of Congress, the notion that a Republican president could rely on the votes of every Republican representative and senator is, I think, wildly optimistic.

Some members of Congress face re-election contests in progressive or progressive-leaning states and districts, and the will of their constituents is not something they are likely to disregard.

I understand the yearning for ideological purity, but over the years conservatives have rightly criticized progressives for utopian plans that don't survive contact with a real world that is anything but utopian in nature.

As tempting as it is to blame Congress, or the President, or the system, if we are honest about what is driving the increasing size and power of the federal government we cannot reasonably escape the conclusion that the root of the problem is not Washington. It's Main Street.

That's disturbing, because even advocates of small government want a top down solution. Stop and think about that one for a moment: we want a leader who will tell the American people they can't have all the goodies they keep voting for. We want a paternalistic government to put its foot down and tell us, "No".

Question for the day: is that really limited government? Or is it possible we've bought into the very kind of thinking we claim to reject?

Posted by Cassandra at 06:13 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 13, 2012

Who Killed TANSTAAFL?

Grim examines the assumptions underlying the entitlement mentality:

Rather, the Hot Air tag to the article suddenly made me realize how odd it is to expect to receive something expensive for free. It's not usually the case that you obtain expensive things for free.

The argument seems to be that it's important for women, so therefore it should be free to women. There are lots of things that are at least as important, though, that we certainly don't expect to be free: food, for example, or sufficient clothing for the winter. The argument seems to be that birth control ought to be free (and indeed it is, in the form of abstinence, a form of birth control that Catholics consider it a virtue to materially assist: but I digress). It ought to be free, and any employer ought to be sure that any of their employees receives it as free.

This is really an astonishing demand. I could understand demanding it at cost: we could structure an argument whereby insurance companies are understood to receive a reasonable profit, and as part of the price of approving the practice of the business in the state, we mandate that they arrange to provide certain critical medications to their consumers at cost. We might ask, even then, why birth control or abortifacients would be the medicine we chose to occupy this position of special importance -- surely life-saving drugs would be a more worthy choice? Still, at least at cost could conceivably be a reasonable demand.

Free, though? Nothing is free. Everyone knows this.

But do they? The underlying premise of the Occupy Movement is encompassed by the plaintive cri de coeur of a group of men and women who have enough money and food to spend their days camping out in a public park at taxpayer expense rather than earning their bread and shelter.

The underlying premise of the debate over rising income inequality is that people who make less rewarding choices when it comes to occupation, education, training, marriage and hours worked have a right to the same income as those who make wiser choices.

To paraphrase Grim, whence comes this expectation? At the heart of it lies the notion that there is (or ought to be) such a thing as a free lunch: the dubious "right" to pass the cost of bad decisions to those who can (generally through having made better decisions) better afford to pay them.

Update: More grist for the mill.

Exhibit A:

Many young adults have felt the impact of the recession and sluggish recovery in tangible ways. Fully half (49%) of those ages 18 to 34 say that because of economic conditions over the past few years, they have taken a job they didn’t really want just to pay the bills.

The heart bleeds... but wait! There's more pathos ahead:

... I am struck by how wealthy our society is when I look at this chart. Look at answers two and three. In both cases, people are saying that in tough times, they chose to forego income and build their skills, even perhaps paying for the privilege. What other time in history would people have this luxury? How many countries today would have so many people with this luxury in hard times? Even in the Great Depression in this country I don’t think we saw the same phenomenon. Obviously the economy sucks and it would be great for everyone for it to improve, but in most other times and even in many other countries in the world today, a significant bar in bad times would have been “I starved to death.”

Posted by Cassandra at 07:05 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

February 10, 2012

When Dad Isn't a Real Parent

Too funny. Apparently the U.S. Census Bureau endorses outdated gender stereotypes:

It’s not baby-sitting when Daddy does it. Who wouldn’t agree with that? The U.S. Census Bureau, apparently. When both parents are present in the household, the Census Bureau assumes for the purposes of its “Who’s Minding the Kids?” report, that the mother is the “designated parent.” And when the designated parent is working or at school, the bureau would like to know who’s providing child care.

If the answer is Daddy, as it was 26 percent of the time when these numbers were last released, in 2005, and 32 percent of the time in 2010, the Census Bureau calls that “care.” But if Mom is caring for a child while Dad’s at work, that’s not a “child care arrangement,” but something else. Parenting, presumably.

“Regardless of how much families have changed over the last 50 years women are still primarily responsible for work in the home,” said Lynda Laughlin of the Census Bureau’s Fertility and Family Statistics Branch. “We try to look at child care as more of a form of work support.” A mother, said Ms. Laughlin, is “not only caring for the child only while Dad works. She’s probably caring for the child 24 hours and so Dad is able to go to work regardless.”

That bears repeating. If, every morning, I go off to work and my husband stays home with a child, that’s a “child care arrangement” in the eyes of this governmental institution. If the reverse is true, it’s not. I asked Ms. Laughlin if the Census Bureau collected data on the hours mothers spend offering “work support” to their husbands. “No,” she said. “We don’t report it in that direction.”

Though the author seems (with good reason) to feel the Census Bureau's position is sexist with respect to women, I would argue that once we get to the point where between 1/4 and 1/3 of children are being cared for by their fathers, we've gone beyond assuming the mother is the designated parent. What does that make Dad - chopped liver?

What do they do if the father is the custodial parent?

I don't care much for politically correct policies, but in this case the government needs to wake up and smell the coffee... even if it's being made by a stay at home father instead of June Cleaver.

One of the joys of being a grandma to two very active little boys has been watching the close relationship they have to their father. My son is a police officer and his wife works from home. They really do share parenting responsibilities, and I'm immensely proud of my son's involvement in his children's lives. There's nothing unmanly about his parenting style: men do most things differently when caring for children and their perspective on parenting is usually a net positive.

This kind of hands on parenting was difficult if not possible in the world I grew up in. I can't help thinking that the day to day involvement of Dads in their children's lives is one of the few success stories the women's movement can legitimately brag about.

Now if we could just work on some of those drawbacks.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:24 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Where Have All the Milkooks Gone?

Where have all the Milkooks gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the Milkooks gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the Milkooks gone?
They're all on Facebook: every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

The Blog Princess would have thought that was obvious: Yawn single-handedly got us all kicked off the Intertubes... we're all just scalps on his rapidly expanding belt. Seriously, over at The Thunder Run David M. has a two part series on the disappearing Milblogger. In part one, he asks:

Do you wonder where all the blogs went that were being written by the soldiers on the frontlines? I do, I’ve been tracking these blogs for close to a decade now and for information on what is happening on the front lines you are pretty much now resigned to the major media outlets or the Department of Defense official reports, and the few blogs that are out there are primarily being written by civilians or contractors.

So what happened to the wide spread use of social media by the troops? The best I can tell is that they either went dark or completely private, meaning the blog owner has to approve you to view their posts, because Big Army has put the hammer down on anything that doesn’t reflect highly on the mission or the commanders.

I can't speak for the folks who used to blog from the front lines. Nor do I know anything about "Big Army", being the wife of a retired Marine who recorded the ups and downs of her little slice of war from the comfy chair in her office, a small brown dog nestled at her feet. I don't know where the Milblogs have gone.

I do know why I stopped blogging about the war. There were two reasons, actually:

1. In the wake of the glorious ascension of Teh Won to the Alabaster Throne, the media have all but forgotten their uber-outrage-y moral indignation about the war. In the blink of an eye, unmanned drones became humane and Gitmo was no longer the great humanitarian crisis of our time. Killing or detaining U.S. citizens without twelve layers of oversight? Ho-hum. Signing statements and the dreaded unitary executive? So pre-Barack. Dissent, once the lifeblood of a vibrant democracy, transmogrified into dangerous insubordination; disrespect for the very authority figures it was once deemed our civic duty to question.

I spent 7 years of my life countering a never ending barrage of strategically timed leaks, distortions, thinly veiled propaganda, and misinformation because I thought we were doing something important. But when the media stopped covering, stopped criticizing and undermining the New, Improved War Effort the need for that kind of intense effort lessened. I can't say it went away entirely, but it no longer seemed so urgently important to respond to arguments few people were making anymore.

2. For a variety of reasons I won't go into here, I felt very conflicted about supporting the Afghan Surge. When my husband informed me he was going over there, the first thing I said to him was, "You DO understand Obama has no intention of winning, don't you? This is nothing more than window dressing before his eventual pullout, and a lot of people are going to get killed to make him look good."

I stand by that assessment. My husband's response was that regardless of the political motivation for the stepped up mission, the Marines over there still deserved the best support we could give them. I agreed with that, too.

I supported the war effort for years when many of my fellow conservatives did not think we should be over there. I did so because, despite the cost, I thought what we were doing over there was important and I believed Bush was in it to win. To Obama, this war has always been an afterthought. He couldn't make time to meet with senior commanders, the much hyped diplomatic outreach to Maliki and Karzai seemed to consist of undermining them at every turn. So much for efficacy of soft power.

There are times when I don't think I will ever be able to forgive the waste. No, that's not true because the men and women who gave their lives did not waste them. History will eventually reveal what new world will spring from the spilled blood of heroes and the tears of those who kept the home fires burning. Nothing is ever wasted. It's just that we're still too close to see the pattern. Or maybe it's just that emotion obscures our sight.

What I shall never be able to forget are the faces. Somewhere on an old machine I still have their photos. I will try to find them because they should not be forgotten.

War truly is hell, but those who maintain that nothing was ever solved by war need to pick up a history book. In the end, it is our struggles that define us. The only thing that can justify the terrible cost of war is a true commitment to doing what it takes to win. We owe that to those who fight on our behalf.

Just my two cents from the distaff side. My hat is off to the many bloggers who have persevered in chronicling the struggle in Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm reminded of a quote by a general who fought a savage, bloody war faithfully and well:

“In every battle there comes a time when both sides consider themselves beaten, then he who continues the attack wins.”

I wonder how future generations will view the years since 9/11?

I'm sitting here at my desk on the 7th floor with tears streaming down my face. That used to be daily experience - it happened every single time I sat down to write about the war. I can't remember the last time I felt that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach but I will never forget the men and women whose stories I tried not to mangle.

“I have never advocated war except as a means of peace.” - Ulysses S. Grant, Commanding General of the Union Army

Amen, sir.
Amen.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:27 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

February 09, 2012

The "Real" Mitt Romney

Today must be my day for linking to bloggers named James:

I don’t claim to have any special insights into Romney’s personal life but my strong sense is that this “retooled” Romney is the real Romney. That is, he’s a strong family guy who’s strongly shaped by religious faith and its command to minister to those less fortunate–and yet comes from a cultural tradition that counsels against bragging about one’s good works.

What's he talking about? This story:

As Mitt Romney's opponents continue their campaign to cast the candidate as a heartless, uncaring elitist, his supporters have begun to return fire--by circulating a true story of Romney at his most heroic.

If you've got Romney-supporting friends and an Internet connection, chances are you've received the following e-mail at some point this election cycle, the basic facts of which have all been confirmed by news reports and online fact-checkers:

Sometimes, this facet of Romney's personality isn't so subtle. In July 1996, the 14-year-old daughter of Robert Gay, a partner at Bain Capital, had disappeared. She had attended a rave party in New York City and gotten high on ecstasy.

Three days later, her distraught father had no idea where she was. Romney took immediate action. He closed down the entire firm and asked all 30 partners and employees to fly to New York to help find Gay's daughter. Romney set up a command center at the LaGuardia Marriott and hired a private detective firm to assist with the search. He established a toll-free number for tips, coordinating the effort with the NYPD, and went through his Rolodex and called everyone Bain did business with in New York, and asked them to help find his friend's missing daughter. Romney's accountants at Price Waterhouse Cooper put up posters on street poles, while cashiers at a pharmacy owned by Bain put fliers in the bag of every shopper. Romney and the other Bain employees scoured every part of New York and talked with everyone they could, prostitutes, drug addicts, anyone.

That day, their hunt made the evening news, which featured photos of the girl and the Bain employees searching for her. As a result, a teenage boy phoned in, asked if there was a reward, and then hung up abruptly. The NYPD traced the call to a home in New Jersey, where they found the girl in the basement, shivering and experiencing withdrawal symptoms from a massive ecstasy dose. Doctors later said the girl might not have survived another day. Romney's former partner credits Mitt Romney with saving his daughter's life, saying, "It was the most amazing thing, and I'll never forget this to the day I die."

So, here's my epiphany: Mitt Romney simply can't help himself. He sees a problem, and his mind immediately sets to work solving it, sometimes consciously, and sometimes not-so-consciously. He doesn't do it for self-aggrandizement, or for personal gain. He does it because that's just how he's wired.

Many people are unaware of the fact that when Romney was asked by his old employer, Bill Bain, to come back to Bain & Company as CEO to rescue the firm from bankruptcy, Romney left Bain Capital to work at Bain & Company for an annual salary of one dollar. When Romney went to the rescue of the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, he accepted no salary for three years, and wouldn't use an expense account. He also accepted no salary as Governor of Massachusetts.

A while back, I wrote this:

To my way of thinking, it takes considerable courage to adhere to traditional values in a world that finds such standards amusing. Do people really think Mitt Romney is too stupid to know how quaint he sometimes appears to a world that no longer understands people like him? Does anyone seriously believe a man who has amassed millions and governed a highly complex (and very liberal) state doesn't "get" the clash of cultures? That he can't see how much easier his political life would be if he would just loosen up and join the race to the bottom that is American culture; trade his unpopular God and antiquated morals for a more flexible, urban viewpoint?

Question for the ages: if Romney is nothing more than an amoral, calculating politician, why hasn't he bragged on himself more?

I've said it before and I'll say it again. You can pay attention to words and sound byte witticisms, or you pay attention to deeds. Talk is cheap. Action, not so much.

The modern world no longer understands traditional masculinity. Somewhere along the line we began to equate humility and modesty with weakness. That's a tragedy.

I had never heard this story before today, but it encompasses everything I've seen in Romney since I first became an admirer of his back in 2004. Sadly, this will likely be treated as one of those "damned if you do, damned if you don't" things. If a candidate prefers to attack Obama rather than his fellow candidates, he's not a fighter. If he responds to this criticism by showing he knows how to fight back, he's "gone negative". If he is reserved, he must be hiding something, or he has no heart. If he opens up, he's faking it because the openness didn't come naturally.

Aye chihuahua. At some point we need to decide whether we are electing a candidate or a president.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:50 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

James Taranto and the Inconveeeeeeenient Truth

Yesterday, the Blog Princess impudently pointed out that the widely held view that Mitt Romney did little or nothing to support the pro-life agenda is not supported by pro-life activists who were on the front lines at the time:

“Since being elected governor, Mitt Romney has had a consistent commitment to the culture of life. As governor, he worked closely with Massachusetts Citizens for Life. Misguided attempts to blame Mitt Romney for the fact that state-funded health care in Massachusetts funds abortion ignore the facts. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 1981 that the Massachusetts Constitution requires the funding of abortion. This decision forces Massachusetts to fund abortion to the same extent it funds other medical procedures. A 1986 attempt to overturn the court ruling with a Constitutional Amendment failed. Obviously, in providing health coverage, the governor and the legislature were bound by this decision.” Ann Fox President, Massachusetts Citizens for Life

The view from that rear view mirror is so easy to distort, isn't it? All you need to do is 'forget' to mention facts that undermine your narrative.

Likewise, it has become something of an Article of Faith in conservative circles that health care reform in general (and the individual mandate in particular) are evil progressive ideas that real conservatives have always opposed as if their very lives depended on it. Apparently the 'us vs. them' view of political advocacy requires a finely honed talent for selective amnesia and a studied aversion to looking at events in their historical context.

But as James Taranto ably points out, in this regard Google is not our friend:

In an October column, we recounted the origins of the ObamaCare individual mandate at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. In a USA Today op-ed earlier this week, Heritage's Stuart Butler offers his own account. But crucial elements of it are at variance with the facts. Here is the key paragraph:
The confusion arises from the fact that 20 years ago, I held the view that as a technical matter, some form of requirement to purchase insurance was needed in a near-universal insurance market to avoid massive instability through "adverse selection" (insurers avoiding bad risks and healthy people declining coverage). At that time, President Clinton was proposing a universal health care plan, and Heritage and I devised a viable alternative.

Even if you don't know the history, you can see that this is reminiscent of a John Kerry tale: "I remember spending Christmas Day of 1968 five miles across the Cambodian border being shot at by our South Vietnamese Allies who were drunk and celebrating Christmas. The absurdity of almost being killed by our own allies in a country in which President Nixon claimed there were no American troops was very real." Richard Nixon was not yet president in 1968, and neither was Bill Clinton 20 years ago, in 1992.

To be sure, that's a quibble. Unlike Kerry, who cited a specific date, when Butler says "20 years ago" he is referring to a temporal order of magnitude. It would be close enough to say "20 years ago" if Heritage proposed the individual mandate in 1993 or 1994.

But it didn't. Butler's approximation runs in the other direction. He first proposed the individual mandate almost 23 years ago, in a 1989 "Critical Issues" monograph titled "A National Health System for America." (The Heritage website lists the publication date as Jan. 2, 1989, but it was actually June 1 of that year, according to a contemporaneous Washington Post story.)

For most purposes, "20 years ago" is a close enough approximation for 23. In this case, however, it gives the lie to Butler's claim that Heritage first embraced the individual mandate as an "alternative" to President Clinton's "universal health care plan." Bill Clinton became president more than 3½ years after the monograph's publication.

Butler also writes: "My idea was hardly new. Heritage did not invent the individual mandate." He offers only one item of evidence for this assertion: "Even libertarian-conservative icon Milton Friedman, in a 1991 Wall Street Journal article, advocated replacing Medicare and Medicaid 'with a requirement that every U.S. family unit have a major medical insurance policy.' "

That Friedman piece ran in the Journal Nov. 12, 1991--more than 20 years ago, but 29 months after Heritage published the monograph. Forbes's Avik Roy reports that he attempted without success to substantiate Butler's claim of unoriginality: "As far as I have been able to find, Stuart's 1989 brief is the first published proposal of an individual mandate in the context of private-sector-managed health systems."

History is so inconvenient at times, no es verdad? Perhaps this explains why we so often prefer purposely vague verbal zingers to serious attempts to look at historical events in the context of the times?

Full marks to Taranto for his refreshing commitment to accuracy. I like my history served straight up, even with the bitter aftertaste.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:26 AM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

Santorum, Part Deux

Yesterday I asked you all what you think Rick Santorum's 3 state sweep means. Grim made some excellent points in a post over at his place:

You've doubtless seen the news from yesterday; obviously I am pleased to see Mr. Santorum do well. The key thing about yesterday's events, though, is not that they change the race all that much: they put Mr. Santorum in the lead in terms of the number of states won, but given the structure of the primary that has no bearing on who actually becomes the nominee.

What it may do is give him the airtime he needs to become better known to the voters.

His first thought is one I saw pretty much everywhere yesterday: "Santorum has now won 4 primaries. That's more than any other candidate." A frequent rebuttal to that one was, "Yes, but these were only beauty contests that don't mean anything." Neither statement satisfies me.

I don't think winning 3 primaries in a row (regardless of whether they yield delegates) can be dismissed as 'nothing'. For one thing, media coverage of presidential campaigns generally focuses on the ups and downs of the race at the expense of serious analysis and context:

My assistant, Jean Hwang, and I have been examining Post coverage since Nov. 11 of last year on issues, voters, fundraising, the candidates' backgrounds and horse-race stories on tactics, strategy and consultants. We also have looked at photos and Page 1 stories since Obama captured the nomination June 4.

The count was lopsided, with 1,295 horse-race stories and 594 issues stories. The Post was deficient in stories that reported more than the two candidates trading jabs; readers needed articles, going back to the primaries, comparing their positions with outside experts' views. There were no broad stories on energy or science policy, and there were few on religion issues.

If you believe (as I do) that uninformed voters are influenced by the repetitive themes the media chooses to hype, the momentum aspect of this particular horse race cannot be lightly dismissed. Voters are emotional creatures. We get caught up in the excitement of the contest. But this excitement can mislead. How many candidates have suddenly sped to the front of the race, only to suffer an equally swift reversal when their records were subjected to serious scrutiny for the first time? That's the downside of Mr. Santorum's sudden victories: up until now he was been mostly ignored by the media. Now, his greater access to the megaphone will be counterbalanced by heightened scrutiny of his record. And that's not a bad thing. How he handles this scrutiny will tell us much about him. It may well be the making of his candidacy.

I spent a little time looking at the data yesterday to put some context around what are admittedly early (and very few) primary results. What I was looking for was a simple way to provide some context. The chart below lists the primaries in order from the states that awarded the most delegates to the ones that awarded the fewest. the grey bar across the bottom shows the total delegates for each candidate. Red squares denote the winner in each state:



Here's what jumps out at me:

1. Regardless of who won, Romney picked up delegates in nearly every primary.

2. Gingrich has picked up delegates in only 2 primaries: SC (which he won) and Nevada.

3. Santorum picks up delegates in about half the primaries.

Win/loss tallies tell you nothing about the relative importance of winning or losing various primaries. If money is going to be an issue in the national race (and I think it's a foregone conclusion that it is) then that money needs to be spent wisely. So far, based on the few results we have here, Santorum and Romney appear to be more effective candidates. That said, it's still early.

The Wall Street Journal has a great graphic on the relative size of the candidates' war chests:

Sometimes we get so focused on the primaries that we forget that Obama has already outraised every single candidate we have, and he doesn't need to start spending in earnest until after the GOP nomination. In this context, Gingrich's recurring demands for Rick Santorum to drop out make some sense, though given Mr. Gingrich's record to date one might argue that the wrong candidate is being asked to take one for the team.

By this point in the 2008 race, Mitt Romney had won 11 states to John McCain's 13. And he had read the tea leaves and made his decision:

This isn't an easy decision. I hate to lose.

My family, my friends, you, my supporters across the country, you've given a great deal to get me to where I have a shot to becoming president. If this were only about me, I'd go on. But it's never been only about me.

I entered this race -- I entered this race because I love America. And because I love America, in this time of war, I feel I have to now stand aside for our party and for our country.

People will put their own construction on Romney's decision in 2008. Those who hate him will put the worst construction on it and those who support him will take him at face value. There's nothing that will change that.

There is a real sense of desperation about this election, and in many ways the conflict we feel is between the notion of what is achievable, given past experience and a political climate in which conservatives control the House but not the Senate (and thus, cannot pass conservative legislation) and a sense that if we don't DO something drastic, our current problems will snowball out of control.

I understand both positions because I feel that conflict in my own heart. What I am NOT seeing on conservative blogs is any concrete plan for the "doing something drastic" part. How do we turn this country around if we don't control the White House, House, and Senate?

And if we did control all those institutions, for how long would we do so?

If Santorum represents the hope (though nothing in his legislative record or political career shows an ability to win and sustain broad based support for his positions) of drastic change and a conservative turnaround, I think Romney represents the sometimes depressing reality of conservative governance in an environment where other people's beliefs have to be taken into account.

It's easy to look at a leader who has actually done what we're asking the next President to do and say, "He didn't fight hard enough". Such discussions are usually blissfully fact free; mere assertions without any serious attempt to look at the options that were on the table. Looking at any one issue in isolation is a gross oversimplification of a real world where leaders never have the luxury of ignoring everything else and going balls to the wall on a single issue.

I hear it said frequently that unless a leader is willing to sacrifice everything, he is "not really conservative". This statement is frequently made in regard to hot button social issues like abortion. When I hear them, I have to ask myself, "What has the speaker done to prove to the world that he or she opposes abortion?"

If you believe abortion is murder (I do), what are you willing to do to stop it?

If you came upon a mother strangling her infant in an alley, would you intervene? Of course you would. If you believe a fetus is human, what is the difference between a mother strangling her child and woman entering an abortion clinic to end the life inside of her? If you would intervene in the first instance, why would you not intervene in the second?

It's a disturbing question.

What you're willing to do probably depends on an honest examination of the tradeoffs. If you save the baby, you'll be a hero. If you prevent a woman from entering a clinic, you'll be arrested. Consequences matter: often more than conscience. Are you willing to devote a large part of your money or time to reversing Roe? The conservative vision of small government rests on an electorate that doesn't leave these things up to Congress or the Courts. Are you willing to stand in front of abortion clinics, to protest, to take an unwed mother into your home?

If you have not done these things, why have you not done them? Does unwillingness to put everything else aside mean you lack the courage of your convictions? I don't think so. But if that's the standard then it's a question worth asking, and not just about abortion but about every important issue you care about. How many issues can you simultaneously support by doing everything in your power to effect change?

It is a disturbing thought.

How do we convince the rest of the nation that conservative ideals are best? Can this be done in 4 years, and if so, would such a sudden lurch to the right be sustainable?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 08, 2012

What Do Pro-Life Activists Think of Mitt Romney's Abortion Record?

You could believe Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum:

Santorum Accuses Romney of Forcing Mass. Catholic Hospitals to Offer Emergency Contraception

...As David French detailed in a Corner post a few days ago, Romney vetoed the bill that forced Catholic hospitals to offer emergency contraception, but that veto was overriden by the state’s legislature.

[French] There are parallels between this argument over pro-life tactics and the argument over Mitt Romney’s response to the Massachusetts Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling. In both cases some activists demanded a grand gesture, but Mitt responded by fighting the fights he could win: enforcing a little-known, almost century-old law prohibiting out-of-state marriages if the marriage wouldn’t be legal in the couple’s home state, supporting a state marriage amendment, and even filing a lawsuit to force the legislature to act on the amendment.

In the conscience arena, he not only vetoed the EC law and took to the pages of the Globe to explain his reasoning, he supported Catholic Charities’ resistance to placing children with same-sex couples, and even filed “An Act Protecting Religious Freedom” to protect the rights of conscience of Catholic Charities and other religious organizations in Massachusetts. In fact, many of these actions are what convinced me to become an “evangelical for Mitt.”

Or you could believe pro-life activists who actually worked with Mitt Romney in support of the pro-life agenda during his 4 year term as governor of Massachusetts:

“Since being elected governor, Mitt Romney has had a consistent commitment to the culture of life. As governor, he worked closely with Massachusetts Citizens for Life. Misguided attempts to blame Mitt Romney for the fact that state-funded health care in Massachusetts funds abortion ignore the facts. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 1981 that the Massachusetts Constitution requires the funding of abortion. This decision forces Massachusetts to fund abortion to the same extent it funds other medical procedures. A 1986 attempt to overturn the court ruling with a Constitutional Amendment failed. Obviously, in providing health coverage, the governor and the legislature were bound by this decision.”

Ann Fox
President, Massachusetts Citizens for Life

"Governor Romney showed great political courage and expended much of his political capital supporting pro-life measures when he was here in Massachusetts... It was a very difficult political environment. 85% of the state legislature was Democrat...when many of the state house doors were closed to us, we always were welcomed by Gov. Romney and his staff.

- Mary Ann Glendon,
Founder, Women Affirming Life

...Visitors to www.americansformitt.com who have read my biography have noticed that I’ve spent the last few years directing two programs for a nonprofit pro-life organization. This position has allowed me to meet with national pro-life leaders and interact with pro-life Americans on a daily basis. As a proven pro-lifer and an early supporter of Governor Romney’s expected candidacy, I hope I can offer a unique perspective on the issues surrounding his position on abortion.

... Romney's pledge not to change abortion law was absolutely brilliant. The political realities of Massachusetts make pro-life policy victories virtually impossible in the heavily Democratic legislature. By refusing to change abortion laws, Romney launched a strategic effort to keep the commonwealth from further liberalizing abortion policy, including the age of parental consent proposal."

- Nathan Burd,
Founder/Director, Americans for Mitt

“For the four years of his administration, Governor Romney provided strong leadership on key conservative social issues — whether it was politically expedient to do so or not.” He tells National Review Online, “I believe Mitt Romney has done an excellent job in defending traditional family values in Massachusetts despite an extremely hostile legislature and judiciary, not to mention an attorney general and secretary of state who both opposed everything the governor stood for.”

Mineau adds, “From the onset of the infamous Goodridge court decision in 2003, Governor Romney has opposed same-sex marriage and, I believe, correctly sought to overturn it through a constitutional amendment. In 2004, he invoked the state law that prohibited out-of-state same-sex couples from marrying in Massachusetts thus preventing the exportation of these so-called marriages to other states. In 2005, he ardently supported a citizen petition for an amendment to end same-sex marriage that wound up gathering a record number of 170,000 signatures. Throughout 2006 he lobbied the state legislature that was refusing to vote on the amendment. His intense involvement culminated with the filing of a suit in the State Supreme Judicial Court in December to mandate the legislature to hold the vote as required by the state constitution.”

Mineau directly credits Romney with getting the state legislature to vote on a constitutional amendment on gay marriage earlier this month. He explains, “The court unanimously ruled on December 27 that the legislature was constitutionally obligated to vote. This ruling, coupled with the governor threatening to not sign the end-of-year legislative pay raise, resulted in the legislature passing the amendment on January 2nd, the last day of the session. This could never have happened without Governor Romney’s leadership.”

- Kris Mineau
Massachusetts Family Institute

" “Unlike other candidates who only speak to the importance of confronting the major social issues of the day, Governor Romney has a record of action in defending life,” Dr. Willke said. “Every decision he made as governor was on the side of life. I know he will be the strong pro-life president we need in the White House, Governor Romney is the only candidate who can lead our pro-life and pro-family conservative movement to victory in 2008.”...

Dr. Willke, helped found the National Right To Life Committee and served for 10 years as its president. Dr. Willke serves as president of the Life Issues Institute, Inc., and president of the International Right to Life Federation.

- Doctor John Willke

Or you could simply read this:

January 29, 2012

Dear Fellow Conservatives:

At the end of last month, nine Massachusetts leaders representing a broad coalition of conservative activists penned an open letter in support of Mitt Romney and outlined his commitment to the values that we hold dear. We felt that the letter that they wrote was very effective in helping many voters understand that Mitt Romney was a pro-life and a pro-family governor and that his record serves as public validation of his commitment to those same policies as President of the United States.

In light of the fact that in the past few days Newt Gingrich has used inflammatory language to mischaracterize Governor Romney’s record on the issues of life and family, we decided to re-release that same letter from those Massachusetts leaders under our own signature.

It's almost certainly possible to find pro-life activists who think Mitt Romney didn't do enough while governor of a state with a majority pro-choice, 85% Democrat legislature. Maybe some of these folks were even on the scene at the time?

What it is NOT possible to argue is that Romney's alledged perfidy and inconstancy on abortion rights is a slam dunk.

Real life, unlike campaign rhetoric, involves tradeoffs. I used to think re-writing history was the hallmark of the DNC. Our Progressive Brethren in Christ appear to have stiff competition these days.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:22 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Santorum!!!!

Heh.

Will have something up later about Santorum's 3 state sweep, but for now real life needs to take precedence.

It's been interesting reading the various takes (and comments!) on the Santorum Surge. This, from Ann Althouse, particularly amused me:

I'm listening to Santorum speaking. He's saying tonight's results show what happens when we don't have one candidate vastly outspending the others, and this is therefore more like what will happen in the fall. That is, Romney's been depending on his money, but in the end, he won't be able to do that.

Think about this one for a minute. If money (i.e., outspending other candidates) significantly influences elections, then ....

Feel free to finish that sentence in the comments. And do tell me what you think this all means. I've been thinking about that very topic all morning and have some interesting things to throw out later.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:58 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

February 07, 2012

The Perfect Valentine's Gift...

...for the Oink Cadre:

Verily I say unto you: the Internet is a deeply weird place.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:57 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Should The Internet Be A Law Free Zone?

Over at Tigerhawk's place, Aegon (the blogger formerly known as TH Teenager) posts an interesting thought experiment about the online piracy debate. The title of his post summarizes his view - People are citizens on the Internet, too. The argument is framed - literally! - as a series of cartoon panels contrasting online scenarios with their meatspacian counterparts... The suggestion being, "If we don't do this in real life, why should it be acceptable online?"

Now if *that* isn't a question for the ages, I'm not sure what is. Here's the opening panel:

There are a few problems with the parallel presented here, the first being that in meat space the possession or sale of goods that resemble those sold by someone else is not a crime (so long as you actually own the goods in question). And that's just the point here: by definition, online piracy refers to unauthorized appropriation of copyrighted or patented material for sale or personal use. The real world counterparts are theft or copyright infringement, depending on the circumstances.

The conflation of "similar" with "identical/stolen" is (to be generous) sloppy at best. At worst, it is dishonest. Regardless of motive, it elides past the critical distinction between creating something that merely resembles someone else's work product and creating an identical copy without permission. In real life we have a legal way of addressing this distinction. it's called the Fair Use Doctrine, and it sets forth a limited set of circumstances in which the work of others can be used without permission. In the comments, I suggested a more apt real life scenario.

...Try, "The shop next door said you are storing stolen property - that belongs to them." Or perhaps even better, "Your storage facility is being used - not just once or twice, but frequently - to store stolen property."

And then ask yourself what the police would do in the real world?

...If the point of the cartoon is to ask, "What would happen in the real world?" and "Why should the Internet be different"?, then it's pretty important to make sure the real world scenario accurately reflects the problem of internet piracy.

Aegon replies:

Technically, it's replicated property. The original is still there. But yes, it was probably taken without permission. Anyway, what about the other two things?

Once again, the term 'replicated' (like similar) obscures the real issue. Who could object to a little harmless replication that leaves the owner's property intact? Perhaps a movie maker who has spent literally millions of dollars to create a film for commercial distribution? Or someone who posts family photos behind what they thought was a secure firewall only to find they've been hacked and those adorable photos of their toddler in the bathtub have been 'replicated' and posted to a pedophilia site?

The second panel contrasts a scenario in which email will be scanned electronically, but not read by a human being unless it contains some indicator of criminal activity with a scenario in which a person receives a letter that - despite providing no credible evidence of criminal activity - was nonetheless read by a human being:

Again, is this really a comparison of like scenarios? Is it fair, or does it present a straw man scenario? What would make it more accurate? The final scenario presents many of the same problems:

Setting aside for a moment the question of whether the first scenario is actually considered "prudent", this scenario compares scanning everyone's downloads and surfing patterns on a network shared by billions of users worldwide to having the police invade someone's home and search a computer they own without a warrant. This last scenario is the most interesting (and thought provoking) because it could have invited careful discussion of how search and seizure laws in the real world might translate to a virtual - and shared - network environment.

Like our First Amendment right to free speech, Constitutional protection against unreasonable searches is far from absolute or unqualified. First of all, the 4th Amendment only protects us from searches conducted by agents of the federal or state government.

Secondly, to be unlawful the search must take place somewhere where the subject had a reasonable expectation of privacy. Examples are your person, your clothes, your home. Individuals have a far lower expectation of privacy in publicly shared spaces (*cough*) or on commercially owned properties.

Finally, it's not enough for you as an individual to believe you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Other people, viewing the same situation, should also believe you have a legitimate expectation of privacy. The example here would be a crazy guy running through Central Park in the altogether. Though our fictional crazy guy may sincerely believe he has a reasonable expectation of privacy, the average person would disagree.

So how does this all translate to the Internet? Is the Internet "private"? Grim and I have debated this before, but I suspect the answer is, "It depends on the circumstances.". Most web sites reside on servers owned by an ISP. In the real world, if you rent a storage locker at a commercially owned storage facility, you will usually have to sign a promise not to use that facility for illegal purposes. I haven't read my ISP agreement, but I'd be shocked if it doesn't contain similar wording.

Why is this wording there? Because the owner of the storage facility has rights, too. He wants to limit the risk of fallout from your decision to make him an unwitting accomplice to your illegal activities. So my answer to Aegon's question (which I tried to post as a comment, albeit in shorter form) is that I don't see this as a stark conflict between Evil Authoritarian Government and Innocent/Downtrodder Replicators of Ownerless Work Products. Like Aegon, I am troubled by some of the proposed remedies for illegal online conduct. But I'm not quite ready to embrace the notion that because enforcement of online conduct is difficult, we should declare the Internet to be a law free zone.

Real people use the Internet to do real harm to other real people. How we balance the rights of parties with conflicting interests online is a question that won't go away. Aegon's cartoon asks important questions, but does so in a way that skews and obscures the issues.

But I think it raises questions that are worth discussing. To go back to the the beginning of this post, people are citizens on the Internet, too. But people - whether online or in meat space - have different and often conflicting interests. What has never been explained to me satisfactorily is why government should protect some interests and rights while ignoring others?

Update: Here's another oversimplification:

The problem with trying to convince people that copying something you don't have permission to copy isn't like taking something you don't have permission to take. If I steal your car then you don't have a car anymore, whereas if I duplicate a digital media file we both end up with it. The harm in the duplicating is supposed to be that by duplicating content that Fox Filmed Entertainment owns the copyright to, I'm depriving Tom Rothman of some revenue that he might have gotten had I instead gone out and bought a copy of the content for myself. That's fair enough for Rothman to feel sad about, but it's a totally different kind of thing. I didn't buy DC's animated film of Batman: Year One, and I didn't pirate a copy either; I watched it at a friend's house. The difference between watching a movie with your friend and copying your friend's Blu-ray is that one is legal and one is illegal. But in both cases you watch the movie without paying the copyright owner, and in neither case have you stolen anything from anyone.

Yglesias has a point in that conversion (taking someone's property with no intent to deprive them of it permanently) is a lesser offense than theft. Conversion, like duplication, doesn't deprive the original owner of his property. But his scenario blithely ignores the fact that his friend purchased Batman: Year One and used it in a manner consistent with both the law and the terms of sale (he invited a friend into his home to watch the movie). Had his friend put his legally acquired copy of the movie into a Replicator in his front yard with a big sign that said, "Free Copies of Batman! Take as many as you want! In fact, make copies for all your friends!", that would be a different matter.

This analysis was far more thorough. Wish I'd seen it earlier!

In my initial salvo, I pointed out that Yglesias had minimized the harm of copyright infringement with a rationale that could extenuate theft of any kind. Yglesias repeats the error in his reply. He describes copyright holders as monopolists who set high prices in order to maximize profits, thereby pricing some consumers out of the market, and he argues that:
There are customers who would derive some non-zero benefit from using the product, but the benefit would be smaller than the profit-maximizing sale price. To the extent that unauthorized copying helps such people get their hands on works, so-called "piracy" is socially beneficial.

... Yglesias writes that he and I agree that "what copyright does is provide a monopoly on sales of a product." Yes and no; I'm afraid I need to draw a distinction here. Copyright provides a monopoly on a particular expression. That's very different from a monopoly on a material good.

The bolded excerpt is worth thinking about for a moment, as it implies that any time the subjective value of a particular good exceeds its market price, it is "socially beneficial" to help folks who don't think it's worth the price to "get their hands on it". But I loved this one, too:

As an economist, Yglesias believes that the optimal price of a product is its marginal cost, that is, the cost of making one more. ... When it comes to pricing, a work of art appears to have a dual nature: cheap if seen as a collection of bits or ink marks, but expensive if seen as the record of years of intellectual and editorial labor.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:44 AM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

February 06, 2012

No Posts Today

Sorry - out of town yesterday for a SuperBowl party and no Internet access this morning.

Will be back tomorrow.

Update: You can blame this one on one of the assembled villainry telling me it's time for yet another caption contest I have no intention of judging:

I take that as an offer to judge this one.... heh.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:31 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

February 03, 2012

Fairness, Emotion, and the Republican Brand

In light of the omnipresent criticism of the GOP field, the Blog Princess has been noodling over what message she wishes the eventual nominee (whoever he might be) should focus on to unite voters with disparate backgrounds, political leanings, and interests and win the White House.

A post over at Grim's place helped this process along considerably. In it, he quotes several passages from Aristotle on rhetoric:

Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself.

...There are, then, these three means of effecting persuasion. The man who is to be in command of them must, it is clear, be able:

(1) to reason logically,
(2) to understand human character and goodness in their various forms, and
(3) to understand the emotions-that is, to name them and describe them, to know their causes and the way in which they are excited.

Grim's post bothered me a bit. I disagree with his assessment of the candidates, and yet the way he framed the discussion helped clear up something that has puzzled me:

... in our current Presidential contest, we have one man who is apparently good by general standards, which is to say Rick Santorum, the lowest-polling figure in the race; one man who is apparently not good, but who is a highly effective speaker, which is to say Newt Gingrich; one man who may or may not be good, but is a terrible speaker, which is to say Mitt Romney; and one man who is said by some to be good and others to be wicked, and by some to be a great speaker and by others to be a terrible one, but who is currently the actual victor of the last Presidential contest.

Grim's assessment here gets to the heart of what it means to be persuasive. Throughout the primary, I've been stunned at how people with roughly the same values can look at the same candidates and perceive diametrically opposite things about them. A case in point: Grim instinctively trusts Rick Santorum. Santorum has persuaded him, and yet Santorum's inability to build broad support even during the primaries (where he doesn't have to win over independents or moderates) suggests he is not broadly persuasive. Grim deems Santorum to be "a man who is apparently good by general standards". If we're talking about his personal life, the same is true of Mitt Romney, a man Grim deems to be "a man who may or may not be good". If we're talking about political integrity, there is ample reason to question whether Santorum is, in fact, good by general standards... and yet, Grim trusts him. This is important, I think.

Newt Gingrich is widely considered to be an effective and persuasive speaker. I don't argue that he is not verbally adept, but I find Gingrich to be the least persuasive of the Romney/Santorum/Gingrich trio (yes, I'm ignoring Ron Paul), even though I agree with many of Gingrich's stated positions on the issues. I can't get past the towering ego, the bombast, the conspicuous lack of self control and advance planning. I don't trust what he says because I wouldn't trust Gingrich farther than I could throw him. Because I don't trust him on a gut level, Gingrich's undoubted verbal facility actually works against him where I'm concerned.

And then there's Romney. Grim instinctively distrusts him. I instinctively trust him, but agree that he is anything but a natural politician. In my estimation, his too visible discomfort with the transparent asshattery of campaigning redounds to his credit. I don't trust people who enjoy campaigning and the last thing I want is a President who excels at playing upon the emotions of the electorate. Campaigns force candidates to say extremely stupid things the electorate wants to hear. Having the good sense to appear slightly ashamed and/or impatient with this is, in my mind, a good thing.

What explains Grim's and my conflicting impressions of the candidates? More and more, I believe it comes down to emotion. We choose with our gut and then, hopefully, rationalize the decision after the fact. I say hopefully because this rationalization process can temper our gut reaction or solidify it depending on the degree to which we're able to avoid the tendency to pay attention to only those facts that confirm a decision already made.

I'll bet you're wondering when I'll get around to fairness. Be patient - I'll weave it in momentarily.

Update: I will not, after all, be posting the second half of this post. I apologize to you all.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:26 AM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

February 02, 2012

Best. Comment. Ever.

"The real question is: When he stops blaming Bush, will he blame God?"

"And so when I talk about our financial institutions playing by the same rules as folks on Main Street, when I talk about making sure insurance companies aren’t discriminating against those who are already sick, or making sure that unscrupulous lenders aren’t taking advantage of the most vulnerable among us, I do so because I genuinely believe it will make the economy stronger for everybody. But I also do it because I know that far too many neighbors in our country have been hurt and treated unfairly over the last few years, and I believe in God’s command to 'love thy neighbor as thyself.'" "I know the version of that Golden Rule is found in every major religion and every set of beliefs — from Hinduism to Islam to Judaism to the writings of Plato," Obama added.

The president said he often falls to his knees in prayer, and emphasized the role of his religious values in determining where to lead the country.

"I’d be remiss if I stopped there; if my values were limited to personal moments of prayer or private conversations with pastors or friends. So instead, I must try — imperfectly, but I must try — to make sure those values motivate me as one leader of this great nation."

Obama maintained that his call for the wealthiest to give up their tax breaks, he's doing so out of economic necessity, but also in line with biblical teachings.

"And I think to myself, if I’m willing to give something up as somebody who’s been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that’s going to make economic sense. But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that 'for unto whom much is given, much shall be required,'" Obama said, noting Jewish and Islamic teachings say much the same thing.

Cue the Uber-outraged Shreikery about separation of church and state in 5... 4... 3...

On second thought, strike that. This is obviously one of those arguments the media attack when they don't like the outcome, but embrace when they do.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:08 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Well *That* Certainly Settles It...

All of the “institutions” of civil moderation of sexual relationship – marriage, children, families – are founded on the male urge to have sexual relations with women. Men don’t screw women to marry them or have babies or families. They screw them because they are horny. Babies, families, and marriage are the price they have to pay in order to scratch that horniness.

- Bill Quick

Huh. And here I always thought the male of the species was considerably smarter than that.

How depressing to be so convincingly informed otherwise.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:58 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

What We Need Is A More Authentic Inauthenticity

Any politician who starts shouting election-year demagoguery about the rich and the poor should be asked, "What about the other 90 percent of the people?"

~ Thomas Sowell

It is with the heaviest of hearts that the Blog Princess confesses that her support for Mitt Romney is wavering. How can we trust a candidate whose every utterance is nicely calculated to please everyone and offend no one (except on the numerous occasions when he is accused of not being calculating enough)? What kind of man allows his statements to be truncated, neatly excised from their surrounding context, and mischaracterized? The completely unprecedented nature of this debacle is all the proof I need of Mr. Romney's hopeless incompetence.

An electable candidate would have the foresight never to say anything that could be distorted by his opponents.

I'm not going to link to Mitt's latest gaffe, nor will I quote it in full. By now we have all heard parts of it and perception is all that matters. I only know that I cannot support a candidate who coldly and calculatedly refuses to profess believable solidarity and deep, personal concern for the least fortunate among us.

An authentic conservative would have promised that under a Republican President, poorly educated members of the permanent American underclass with few or no marketable skills will compete effectively with the sizeable portion of the middle class who are currently also unemployed. And damnitall, he would have made us believe him.

Perhaps Mr. Romney doesn't actually feel any solidarity or concern for the very poor. But the least he could do would be to emote convincingly or say something that makes no sense, but doesn't offend anyone.

Yes, that would make me trust him.


Posted by Cassandra at 07:22 AM | Comments (35) | TrackBack

A Mother's Arms

For those of you who haven't seen this yet:

h/t: my Dad

Posted by Cassandra at 07:07 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 01, 2012

Why I Hate Valentine's Day

Reason #1: Articles like this:

What does your guy think of Valentine's Day?

a) A great opportunity to express his love in an exciting, romantic way?

b) A pressure filled nightmare where he's forced to produce...or else?

Yes, the dreaded V-Day can be a minefield for men, says Marcus Osborne, of StraightMaleFriend.com. Sure, some guys absolutely love it or see it as an opportunity to score brownie points with their lady friends--even though couldn't care less about the holiday. But many guys live in fear--knowing it's going to be a night in the doghouse with Scooby Snacks for dinner if they don't come through.

"Valentine's Day is the holiday where only the guys can really lose," Marcus insists. "Because even though he could not give a rip about being on the receiving end of a V-Day gift, he knows full well he'd better bring it for his lady love. Every guy knows that even if she tells him, 'Oh you don't have to worry about getting me anything for Valentine's,' he'd damn well better worry about getting her something for Valentine's."

Speaking of that "something," Marcus adds, a smart guy knows there are bonus points if his gift is better than the ones her girlfriends' guys got them.

It's hard to think of anything less likely to make a man feel loving towards his partner than setting up what amounts to an arbitrary relationship test and then letting him know he's being graded on his performance.

The idea that people should take time periodically to do the kinds of things they did when they were courting isn't a bad one. We all get busy, we all get complacent, and we all tend to magnify our own contributions to a relationship and gloss over the many things our loved ones do for our sake.

But I'm not sure that spending money on a woman is the best way to show her you care. I can remember the first year The Spousal Unit and I were married. For Valentine's Day, I cooked him a special meal and wheeled our son into town (a 3 mile walk) to buy my husband a card. I picked fresh flowers and put them on the table. And he came home, after working and attending class, late. With nothing.

And I was very hurt, not because I really cared whether he'd gotten me a card or not but because of what I assumed it meant about how much he valued me.

The thing is, had I just looked inside my wedding ring, I would have seen evidence of his love and thoughtfulness: he had our initials and the date of our wedding engraved inside. I didn't think of anything that special for him. Had I looked around our small apartment, I would have been reminded that he cared enough and was responsible enough to go to work and provide for his wife and son at an age when most young men don't even want to commit to a second date.

The thing I dislike most about Valentine's Day is that it encourages us to focus on the wrong things. Contrasted with flamboyantly romantic gestures, the immense worth of what we already have fades into the background.

And yet it is what happens on the other 364 days of the year that has the power to make us happy or miserable. The odd thing is that over the years I've found that the more I remember to thank my husband for the thousand small things he does every single day, the more likely he is to remember the romantic gestures that make me feel like a young girl on her first date.

Funny how that works.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:22 AM | Comments (26) | TrackBack