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March 31, 2012

Adventures in Home Appliance Repair

So the Blog Princess spent about 2 hours this morning trying to fix a recalcitrant Keurig single-cup coffeemaker. This involved a lot of furious Googling and the viewing of several YouTube how-to videos.

But this one was her favorite, hands down:

Posted by Cassandra at 11:45 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

March 30, 2012

Friday Night Blues

One of my all time favorites:

Just let me roll up the windows and belt this one out and I can sit in DC traffic with the world's biggest smile on my face.

Enjoy :)

Posted by Cassandra at 06:56 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Decline of Hypergamy?

Over at Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen has an interesting post about declining female hypergamy:

In Puerto Rico, women already outearn men — in 2009, women’s wages were 103 percent of men’s. In other regions, women are close to catching up: in the District of Columbia, with a high number of federal workers and a high proportion of minorities, women earn 88 percent of what men do…Among 25- to 34-year-olds working full-time, women’s earnings were 91 percent of men’s in 2010, up from 68 percent in 1979.

That is from Liza Mundy’s The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners is Transforming Sex, Love, and Family. It is an interesting book, though it does not always focus on the questions that I would. The core thesis is that women will learn to marry down and men will learn to marry up.

A 2010 study by the Pew Research Center suggests this is already happening:

wifely_income.gif A larger share of men in 2007, compared with their 1970 counterparts, are married to women whose education and income exceed their own, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of demographic and economic trend data. A larger share of women are married to men with less education and income.

From an economic perspective, these trends have contributed to a gender role reversal in the gains from marriage. In the past, when relatively few wives worked, marriage enhanced the economic status of women more than that of men. In recent decades, however, the economic gains associated with marriage have been greater for men than for women.

...There also is an important gender component of these trends. Forty years ago, the typical man did not gain another breadwinner in his household when he married. Today, he does — giving his household increased earning power that most unmarried men do not enjoy. The superior gains of married men have enabled them to overtake and surpass unmarried men in their median household income.

Several of Cowen's commenters make a point we have discussed here: what does "marrying up" really mean? Women don't all have the same preferences, and it seems rational to suppose that as circumstances change, so will the relative value women place an various characteristics.

A woman who grows up assuming she will not work is more likely to value earning power in a mate than a woman who has a degree and a high paying job before marrying. It's not that income or status are no longer important - they are just relegated to a lower place on the wish list.

The assumption the hypergamy or mate selection will always be driven by a single attribute (income, good looks, status, social class, education, intelligence) seems simplistic to me, as does the oft repeated argument that women always prefer aggressive, alpha males. Several studies have concluded that women are attracted to different types of men at different points in their monthly cycle. If this study can be believed, evening out those cycles (as happens when a woman goes on the Pill) seems to produce more balanced mate selection:

In the lab, women using oral contraceptives show a weaker preference for masculine men—those with high testosterone levels and the corresponding physical hallmarks—than their non-pill-using counterparts. To investigate this issue in a real-world setting, psychologist S. Craig Roberts of the University of Stirling in Scotland and his collaborators gave online surveys to more than 2,500 women from various countries. According to the results, published online October 12 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, participants who used hormonal contraceptives while choosing their partner were less attracted to him and less sexually satisfied during their relationship than were individuals who did not use hormonal birth control. Pill users were happier with their mate’s financial support and other nonsexual aspects of the relationship, however, and they were less likely to separate.

This relationship stability might be caused by the bias of women on the pill toward low-testosterone men, who tend to be more faithful. Roberts suggests that women who met their mate while taking the pill might want to switch to nonhormonal contraceptives several months before getting married to test whether their feelings for their partner remain the same.

Estrogen and testosterone are powerful hormones, and the notion that they ought to be making our decisions for us is - to say the least - a bit suspect. One of the most valuable things I learned during my dating years was that even the most intense attractions don't last. A huge part of attraction is challenge, uncertainty, and risk: will he or she return my interest? Will the physical part of our relationship live up to the courtship phase?

What's left after the initial rush of hormones is what is genuine and real.

I don't understand the impulse to reduce complex and wonderful interactions between men and women to some kind of sterile formula. Kind of takes all the zing out of things.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:18 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Rape Discount

Don't know how many of you have been following this story, but it's a stunner:

A woman who was sexually assaulted by her husband and then ordered by the court to pay alimony and legal fees to her ex -- once he is released from prison, may get relief from California lawmakers.

Crystal Harris, 39, told the judicial committee of the Calif. State Assembly Wednesday that the judgment, which was handed down in 2010, "amounted to making a rape victim write a check to her own rapist every month."

She described to lawmakers how her husband would choke her and sexually assault her while the couple's two children were upstairs. One of the attacks was caught on tape.

... Crystal Harris, who earns between $110,000 and $120,000 a year as a financial analyst, said she had been supporting her husband, who worked as a car salesman, ever since their first son was born in 2002.

Under normal circumstances, Crystal Harris would have been required to pay $3,000 a month in spousal support after the divorce, but because of the domestic violence she endured, the judge said he would lower that amount to $1,000.

"I call that the rape discount," Harris said. She was also ordered to pay her now ex-husband's $47,000 legal bill. Even if the new law passes in the legislature, Harris will still be on the hook for her husband's legal fees.

She tried appealing the judge's ruling last year, pointing out that her ex-husband will have no expenses while he's in jail.

The judge agreed, but pointed out that California law entitles Shawn Harris to alimony.

It's more typical to hear men complain about alimony, and when they do, they usually characterize it as unfair to men because more men pay alimony than women. But alimony laws in most states are gender neutral - the higher earning spouse has to pay alimony to the lower paying spouse regardless of whether the payer is male or female.

The original purpose of alimony was to compensate non-working spouses (almost always female) for the economic value of their contributions to the marriage. A secondary purpose was to recognize that spouses who stay home are less competitive in the job market - and thus less able to support themselves - than they would have been, had they focused on their careers.

Being a mostly stay at home wife and mother for nearly two decades while our children were growing up, that makes perfect sense to me.

The argument that alimony discriminates against men because men are disproportionately affected by it amounts to a disparate impact argument:

Adverse effect of a practice or standard that is neutral and non-discriminatory in its intention but, nonetheless, disproportionately affects individuals having a disability or belonging to a particular group based on their age, ethnicity, race, or sex.

Questions for the ages: if more men have traditionally paid alimony because women were more likely to stay home with the children and men were more likely to be the high earners even if the wife worked, is this really discrimination against men based on their sex?

Or is it simply the law's attempt to address problems better worked out between the parties?

Do you think alimony should be eliminated? Can you see any unintended adverse consequences?

Finally, what kind of jackwagon refers to this kind of ruling as a rape discount? Note: In the comments Dan pointed out that it was Ms. Harris herself who calls this a rape discount. Thanks so much for alerting me to my mistake!

Posted by Cassandra at 05:52 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

March 29, 2012

That Demmed, Elusive Limiting Principle

They seek it here
They seek it there
Verilli seeks it everywhere...

*Bonus points for correctly identifying the obscure reference

David Kopel comments on the increasingly desperate search for a limiting principle that would constrain the power Congress seems determined to arrogate to itself:

Under modern doctrine, Congress has the authority to regulate almost every market. If Congress enacts regulations that are extremely harmful to that market, such as imposing price controls (a/k/a “community rating”) or requiring sellers to sell products at far below cost to some customers (e.g., “guaranteed issue”) then the market will probably “unravel” (that is, the companies will lose so much money that they go out of business). So to prevent the companies from being destroyed, Congress forces other consumers to buy products from those companies at vastly excessive prices (e.g., $5,000 for an individual policy for a health 35-year-old whose actuarial expenditures for health care of all sorts during a year is $845).

So Siegel’s argument is really an anti-limiting principle: if Congress imposes ruinous price controls on a market, to help favored consumers, then Congress can try to save the market’s producers by mandating that disfavored consumers buy overpriced products from those producers.

As much as I enjoyed reading Atlas Shrugged as a young woman, I still remember thinking to myself that parts of the story line were ludicrous exaggerations - a literary convention meant to cast real problems with human nature into sharper relief. Which makes it all the more surreal to see Rand's nightmare scenarios playing out on the evening news.

Go read the whole thing. It's quite good.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:42 AM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

March 28, 2012

Moral Reasoning

Here’s a question to ponder. Steven Landsburg poses two scenarios that require one to make a moral choice. Here's the first:

Question 1: If forced to choose, which of these nightmare scenarios would you prefer?
Scenario A: An evil alien flips a coin. If it comes up heads, he destroys all human life; otherwise he goes home.

Scenario B: The same evil alien flips 7 billion coins, one for each person on earth. He destroys anyone whose coin comes up heads.

And here's the second:

Question 2: Suppose you’re happily married. If forced to choose, which of these nightmare scenarios would you prefer?
Scenario A: An evil alien flips a coin. If it comes up heads, he kills you and your spouse; otherwise he goes home.

Scenario B: The same evil alien flips a coin. If it comes up heads, he kills just you; if it comes up tails, he kills just your spouse.

What interests me here is not so much the answers to the questions, but the rationalization he provides for his choices (which, though our eventual choices were identical, was 180 degrees out from why I chose as I did). The striking difference in our rationalization (or moral reasoning) reminded me of something I read the other day:

My old professor, David Berman, liked to talk about what he called the "typical mind fallacy", which he illustrated through the following example:

There was a debate, in the late 1800s, about whether "imagination" was simply a turn of phrase or a real phenomenon. That is, can people actually create images in their minds which they see vividly, or do they simply say "I saw it in my mind" as a metaphor for considering what it looked like?

Upon hearing this, my response was "...Of course we have mental imagery. Anyone who doesn't think we have mental imagery is either such a fanatical Behaviorist that she doubts the evidence of her own senses, or simply insane."

...The debate was resolved by Francis Galton, a fascinating man who among other achievements invented eugenics, the "wisdom of crowds", and standard deviation. Galton gave people some very detailed surveys, and found that some people did have mental imagery and others didn't. The ones who did had simply assumed everyone did, and the ones who didn't had simply assumed everyone didn't, to the point of coming up with absurd justifications for why they were lying or misunderstanding the question.

...Dr. Berman dubbed this the Typical Mind Fallacy: the human tendency to believe that one's own mental structure can be generalized to apply to everyone else's.

It's stunning to think how many areas of life this typical mind fallacy applies to: politics, relationships between men and women, parenting, learing to manage people at work.

The one thing I took away from 4 years of tutoring math is that we really don't think in the same ways at all. An explanation that resonates with one student is completely ineffective with another. I used to believe that in order to fully grasp a concept, students need to be able to relate it to something they already know, whether through experience or formal learning. But I now believe that although the ability to relate new knowledge to existing knowledge is important, so is the actual process by which people process information.

We keep looking for a simple rule that will explain why we have so much trouble understanding each other, and there isn't one. And arguably, the biggest impediment to understanding people who differ from us is the assumption that we can generalize from our own thought processes: that we are the template others ought to conform to.

Early in their 20-year marriage, Mr. Ford, a 61-year-old retired social-studies teacher, began to feel his wife didn't fully reciprocate his affection. She rarely initiated hugs and kisses. And while she let him hold her hand sometimes, Mr. Ford says he could tell she didn't really enjoy it. He began to pull away. "I didn't want to waste my time," he recalls. "If the marriage isn't working so well, I can go fish or hunt or work on my studies or business relationships." He worried the relationship wouldn't last.

Then Ms. Ford asked her husband what was wrong. He told her, "I need more physical closeness, and not necessarily sex." She reminded him that she had been raised in a German-American household that wasn't "huggy-kissy." She told him she prefers to show love through actions—making a nice home, planning vacations, setting up get-togethers with his family. "I was raised in a very bonded family that showed their love by spending time together," she says.

The Spousal Unit and I are the opposite of this couple - I am less emotionally reserved and enjoy physical displays of affection. Yet I am generally far less troubled by the prolonged separations typical of military life than he is. Over the last three decades, though, each of us has changed. He now enjoys and actively initiates what psychologists call bonding behaviors and I have come to appreciate the value of emotional reserve.

In an age where economic security and family ties no longer seem to be the prime reasons for marrying, I often wonder whether this gradual appreciation for how others think - and the subsequent modification of our self-centered (in the literal sense) world view - doesn't provide a valuable benefit to society as well as the individuals involved?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:27 AM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

Quote of the Day

Via Betsy Newmark:

You can correct me if these figures are wrong, but it appears to me that the [Congressional Budget Office] has estimated that the average premium for a single insurance policy in the non-group market would be roughly $5,800 in—in 2016.

Respondents—the economists have supported—the Respondents estimate that a young, healthy individual targeted by the mandate on average consumes about $854 in health services each year. So the mandate is forcing these people to provide a huge subsidy to the insurance companies for other purposes that the act wishes to serve, but isn't—if those figures are right, isn't it the case that what this mandate is really doing is not requiring the people who are subject to it to pay for the services that they are going to consume? It is requiring them to subsidize services that will be received by somebody else.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:18 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 26, 2012

Monday Morning Tune

As this weekend marked the achievement of our 33rd year of connubial bliss, the Spousal Unit and I drove up to Baltimore for the weekend. We took in a show on Saturday. Though the poor sound on the Youtube video really does not do it justice, the group was quite good good.

You can get a better feel for their music here.

We bought their CD and were pleasantly surprised at how good it was. Enjoy :)

I will have a long, boring essay out later - probably this evening. Meanwhile, need to catch up with work.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:42 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Men...

They have the mad dance moves:

Update: Today in Maryland news....

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

March 23, 2012

Today in Art News

So the Princess finally decided to decorate her office after months of looking at mostly bare walls and blah furniture. She bought a silk tree shrub and a few autumn landscapes for the walls...

... and then it happened. What always happens once you finally make a decision: you find that perfect something you were looking for.

If that isn't the quintessential office picture, we don't know what would be. Perhaps this little gem will come up for sale:

The_Biting_Pear_of_Salamanca_by_ursulav.jpg

We confess that we were oddly obsessed by quite taken with the Sumo Chipmonk and the giraffes loitering in the background. Of course it might be safer to stick to a more well known artist:

vangogh.jpg

Still, when it comes to making a statement it's hard to beat The Biting Pear of Salamanca. Feel free to suggest your favorite object d'art in the comments section.

It's Friday, peoples.

Update: Sweet. Merciful. God.

bitch_please.jpg

I knew I should not have gotten out of bed this morning.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:08 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Paradigm Shift

The other night, the Editorial Staff were standing in the Marital Abode chopping parsley and shallots for an Italian chicken dish when in strode the spousal unit bearing the day's mail.

We dutifully fetched him a chilled libation and he set to sorting through the pile of bills, junk mail, and about 90 gazillion catalogs we get because we are too lazy to go to the store prefer to shop online. Nestled in the pile was a small Jockey U-Trau catalog, which Said Unit began flipping through. The Princess's attention was fully focused on the intricacies of dicing pesky Phrench vegetables that refuse to meekly submit to their cruel fate when the sound of husbandly snorting rudely pierced her blissful vegan reverie.

He handed us the catalog, and what to our wondering eyes should appear but a parade of extremely skimpy men's briefs in various bright jewel tones, sported by a veritable army of escaped ALASE addicts muscular, tanned Chippendale's dancers.

Well, that's what they looked like to us anyway.

"Keep turning", spake the spousal unit. Having just experienced the equivalent of an all male burlesque show, the Editorial Staff will admit that we were rather dreading the women's section. But our fears were for naught, for when we finally got to the ladies' undies, they were...... modest. Luxurious of fabric... capacious, even. Compared to the men's handkerchief-size briefs, it almost appeared as though some confused individual had mistakenly conducted a panty raid on Grandma's unmentionable drawer.

This amused both of us no end, as the Princess has often wondered what the world would be like if we were continually bombarded with beefcake the way we are with cheesecake?

Only one thing is for certain: all this talk of cake is making us hungry.

At any rate, this amusing interlude was quickly forgotten until we saw this story on our morning travels:

Cheerleaders, with their micro-minis, tight mid-riff baring sweaters and iconic pom-poms, have been impressing male fans and rousing excitement among eager sports spectators in America for decades.

But the half time show of a professional football game that these days centres around a group of scantily clad women writhing and waving their toned arm in the air to the beats of the latest number one hit, was once a strictly male-only arena.

In fact in the late Thirties, the job was deemed too 'masculine' for women whose appropriation of slang and loud shouting was seen as unfeminine.

Cheering was a 'valiant' sport, one that required strength, leadership and athletic wherewithal; qualities that were not seen as pertaining to women.

Being a cheerleader in those days was an honour almost as coveted in high school or college as that of being on the team itself and certainly as respected.

As publication Nation noted in 1911: 'The reputation of having been a valiant "cheer-leader" is one of the most valuable things a boy can take away from college. As a title to promotion in professional or public life, it ranks hardly second to that of having been a quarterback.'

... Too masculine? Being a cheerleader for men in the Twenties and Thirties was as respected as being the quarterback himself and a role that many past American presidents played.

Some of America's most famous leaders, in fact, owe their political achievements to time spent noisily stirring up excitement on the sidelines of their college sporting events.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Franklin Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan were all cheerleaders as well as actor Jimmy Stewart and Republican leader Tom DeLay.
It wasn't until World War I forced the men to the battlefields that women were given the opportunity to step into their cheerleading shoes. And they had to fight for the right to keep them on until long after the Second World War.

In 1938, one opponent argued: '[Women cheerleaders] frequently became too masculine for their own good… we find the development of loud, raucous voices… and the consequent development of slang and profanity by their necessary association with [male] squad members…'

Clearly this is one thing we can blame thank feminism for: fighting for the right of delightfully pneumatic young women to bounce around in skimpy outfits so other women could complain about feeling objectified.

Question for the ages: is the Jockey catalog a harbinger of things to come?

male_cheer.jpg

Oh brave new world, that hath such wonders in't!

MALE-CHEERLEADERS.jpg

Will American men respond to this revelation by demanding that we return to a time before pushy female types took over what was once a proudly all male endeavor? We suspect not. Certainly, we are not sure what to wish for.

Discuss amongst your ownselves. Oh, and ladies:

You're welcome.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:34 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

March 22, 2012

Work

In the context of the Charles Murray discussions, I got to thinking about the kinds of jobs I've held over the years. Here are some of the ways I made extra money from 18-38 (pre college degree). I'm sure I've left some out, but this is a representative sample:

Dessert girl/dishwasher in a cafeteria

Burger flipper and ice cream machine cleaner

Cashier (numerous times - for Woolworth's, the Navy Exchange in Norfolk VA, Dart Drug, a tiny book store in the high desert among others. At one job, I worked all the way through my first pregnancy up until a few days before I delivered. The store manager nearly had a cow - he was deathly afraid I'd go into labor during my shift.)

Contract cleaning and yard work for couples moving out of base housing. Second hardest job I ever had, but I enjoyed it most of the time.

Head cashier, customer service mgr for a large national discount store

Self-employed yard work (mowing lawns, planting shrubs, weeding, trimming) in my mid-20s. I also did odd jobs like minor home repairs for military wives whose husbands were deployed.

Home day care provider for one baby, a large group of toddlers, and 2 8-10 year olds. A lot of diaper changing and nose-wiping and cooking and cleaning up. And the joy of going to the Commissary with 4-5 small children in tow. I felt like Jemima Puddleduck.

House painter (alone, mid 20s). Fun job, hard work. On my first job I earned enough money to buy a lovely country Queen Anne walnut china cabinet and a cherry piecrust table.

Window washer (alone, mid 20s). Only job that ever made me so tired that I cried at the end of each day from sheer exhaustion. Not enough upper body strength to move a large extension ladder around all day.

Making slipcovers and curtains for other people (short lived, as was my patience).

Tech support/CSR for a large credit card issuer.

Tutor (primarily College Algebra and Calculus).

Supplemental instructor for Business Law, College Algebra, Probability & Stats.

Financial aid counselor.

Legal Intern.

Paralegal, Family Law practice.

Note that most of these jobs were either menial jobs or jobs earning minimum wage or barely above it. At 39 I got my degree. It took me a year to find work, but I'm still at the same job. My initial salary nearly tripled the highest salary I'd ever made before. I now make over twice that amount.

This is one reason I so often object to the conservative jihad against college degrees. When you're worked mostly manual jobs for twenty years for very little money, it is almost surreal to hear people asking whether a degree is worth anything. If working with my hands for years taught me anything, it was that manual labor becomes increasingly hard with age. And because you don't make much, there's not much security in that kind of work.

A degree is not a guarantee of anything, but it opens a LOT of doors.

One other thing I realized is that while I enjoyed some jobs more than others, I can't think of a single job that I would never do again. Each one had something to teach me.

What kind of jobs have you held? Which did you like? Dislike? Why?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:45 AM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

Death Defying Puppy of the Week

And though she be but little, she is fierce!

Must be the Dachshund blood.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:29 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Blast from the Past

Since I have far less time to write now than I used to, I thought it might be interesting to revive some older posts to fill in when I'm distracted by this desk I'm chained to, thanks to feminists and their evil, freedom-harshing ways.

If only the Blog Princess had choices....

It's amazing to me how many things I've forgotten having written, but more importantly it's interesting to go back and see how well our thoughts, hopes, and dreams have stood up in light of recent events. Sometimes we'll see old faces. Today's post was brought to mind by thoughts of Lex, who recently left us.

It concerns a speech made by candidate Barack Obama, and the reactions of several bloggers (including our dear friend Grim) to his words.

This section, in particular, seems applicable to a topic I've been writing about a lot lately: the gender wars. Here, I was talking about race but I think the same ideas apply to the eternal battle between the sexes:

I am not sure we have to get inside each other's skin, to get along. I do think it is tremendously important that we try to come to some agreement about the broad standards of equity under which we plan to live our lives. These values are eternal, and they know no skin color. This is what Martin Luther King preached: what ought to matter to a man or woman is not the prism through which they view the world because if you will not resist the tendency to think and act as a white or black person rather than as a human being, you are part of the problem with race relations in America. What matters, is not the color of a man's skin, but the content of his character.

That is the conversation we should be having about race in America. We should be talking about color blind values and trying to take an honest look at whether our own experiences sometimes interfere with our efforts to live up to those values. Because the pain that lies behind the debate on race in America lies, not in "not understanding each others' anger", but in the refusal to see that if we can only learn to set aside the subjective prism of race when it threatens to betray our better natures, the rest will follow.

What is needed, in the post-civil rights era, may not be so much a thundering "Let my people go", but "Let go of identity politics." Treat those of all races as you would be treated.

I wonder whether we'll ever get to that point?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:29 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 17, 2012

Missing the Point on Charles Murray

In the WSJ, Charles Murray corrects some recent commentary on his much discussed book, "Coming Apart":

If changes in the labor market don't explain the development of the new lower class, what does? My own explanation is no secret. In my 1984 book "Losing Ground," I put the blame on our growing welfare state and the perverse incentives that it created. I also have argued that the increasing economic independence of women, who flooded into the labor market in the 1970s and 1980s, played an important role.

Simplifying somewhat, here's my reading of the relevant causes: Whether because of support from the state or earned income, women became much better able to support a child without a husband over the period of 1960 to 2010. As women needed men less, the social status that working-class men enjoyed if they supported families began to disappear. The sexual revolution exacerbated the situation, making it easy for men to get sex without bothering to get married. In such circumstances, it is not surprising that male fecklessness bloomed, especially in the working class.

I barely mentioned these causes in describing our new class divide because they don't make much of a difference any more. They have long since been overtaken by transformations in cultural norms. That is why the prolonged tight job market from 1995 to 2007 didn't stop working-class males from dropping out of the labor force, and it is why welfare reform in 1996 has failed to increase marriage rates among working-class females. No reform from the left or right that could be passed by today's Congress would turn these problems around.

The prerequisite for any eventual policy solution consists of a simple cultural change: It must once again be taken for granted that a male in the prime of life who isn't even looking for work is behaving badly. There can be exceptions for those who are genuinely unable to work or are house husbands. But reasonably healthy working-age males who aren't working or even looking for work, who live off their girlfriends, families or the state, must once again be openly regarded by their fellow citizens as lazy, irresponsible and unmanly. Whatever their social class, they are, for want of a better word, bums.

To bring about this cultural change, we must change the language that we use whenever the topic of feckless men comes up. Don't call them "demoralized." Call them whatever derogatory word you prefer. Equally important: Start treating the men who aren't feckless with respect. Recognize that the guy who works on your lawn every week is morally superior in this regard to your neighbor's college-educated son who won't take a "demeaning" job. Be willing to say so.

This shouldn't be such a hard thing to do. Most of us already believe that one of life's central moral obligations is to be a productive adult. The cultural shift that I advocate doesn't demand that we change our minds about anything; we just need to drop our nonjudgmentalism.

The Blog Princess has been writing for years about boys and men dropping out of society and falling behind, and Murray's point (though rendered unrecognizable in much of the commentary from the right) is fully consistent with her understanding of the problem. From a post written two years ago:

Some conservatives and men's rights activists will tell you that the widespread defection of men from the meritocracy is "understandable" because life in an age where men must compete with women is "unfair".

It's too "hard". These are generally the same folks who will tell you that men are stronger than women. And smarter. And harder working. Having raised two sons and lived with a Marine for over three decades, I can tell you that men are not motivated by having excuses made for them, nor by the emasculating bigotry of low expectations.

They are motivated by challenge. And risk. And by older men who will not brook shiftless behavior.

And by women who won't tolerate it either: mothers, wives, girlfriends, sisters. We don't need to berate or belittle our sons, but we do need to encourage them to act like men. What we don't need is conservatives who extol traditional masculine virtues but undermine any attempt to encourage responsibility and accountability.

...Anyone who has ever attended a graduation ceremony at Parris Island knows that men thrive on overcoming obstacles - that they need to believe in something greater than themselves. Our sons need the goad of high expectations, not the treacherous lure of inflated self esteem and self serving excuses.

The question is, do we love them enough to do what is right? Blaming feminism doesn't solve anyone's problems. The world has always been a competitive and unfair place, and men have always risen to the challenge. The truth is that it is far easier to survive and prosper now than it was for our parents and grandparents.

I very much fear it is our own softness that is the problem. The question is, will we accept what we see in the mirror and try to change? Will we take responsibility for our own part in this fiasco before it's too late?

I've returned to this theme over and over again because I believe it is vital to get our society back on the right (pun fully intended) track.

Several months ago I pre-ordered a book I suspect will be just as widely discussed as Murray's "Coming Apart". Or at least I hope it will:

Why can’t our political leaders work together as threats loom and problems mount? Why do people so readily assume the worst about the motives of their fellow citizens? In The Righteous Mind, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explores the origins of our divisions and points the way forward to mutual understanding. His starting point is moral intuition—the nearly instantaneous perceptions we all have about other people and the things they do. These intuitions feel like self-evident truths, making us righteously certain that those who see things differently are wrong. Haidt shows us how these intuitions differ across cultures, including the cultures of the political left and right. He blends his own research findings with those of anthropologists, historians, and other psychologists to draw a map of the moral domain, and he explains why conservatives can navigate that map more skillfully than can liberals. He then examines the origins of morality, overturning the view that evolution made us fundamentally selfish creatures. But rather than arguing that we are innately altruistic, he makes a more subtle claim—that we are fundamentally groupish. It is our groupishness, he explains, that leads to our greatest joys, our religious divisions, and our political affiliations. In a stunning final chapter on ideology and civility, Haidt shows what each side is right about, and why we need the insights of liberals, conservatives, and libertarians to flourish as a nation.

What Haidt calls "groupishness" is critical to building flourishing societies. I believe it explains why the Left will excuse away gross irresponsibility in women while blaming men for everything wrong in the world.

And I believe it explains why you will almost never see right leaning pundits hold men responsible for their own actions in favor of the perverse suggestion that men can't succeed unless women either bribe the men in their lives or patronize them by playing dumb.

Both positions are morally reprehensible. And neither position befits a free society.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:25 AM | Comments (69) | TrackBack

March 16, 2012

Women As Helpless Victims

At the beginning of this week I wrote about the disturbing embrace by some on the right of the "men as helpless victims" meme.

My point, in that post, is that it's problematic when conservatives use arguments that run counter to their professed beliefs to score rhetorical points. There's a way to point out the hypocrisy of your opponents, and it's fairly simple: apply their arguments to a situation where, if we all played by their rules, the outcome would be unacceptable to them. Then point out that if you only support Policy X when it favors your team, you don't really support Policy X. What you really support, is any policy that allows you to win.

The affirmative action for men suggestion in the "Men as Victims" fails on two counts:

1. Conservatives have always argued that affirmative action doesn't really help the intended beneficiaries. But more importantly,

2. Suggesting that liberals are hypocritical for not extending affirmative action to men when that happens to be exactly what they're doing just makes you look ignorant. And arguably, stupid.

Over at Firebrand Blog, Elise skillfully points out exactly what is wrong with the victim narrative in Sandra Fluke's testimony. Fluke has been relentlessly criticized on the right for a lot of things she didn't actually say. Such willfully ignorant exaggerations and distortions make it far too easy to dismiss legitimate objections to what she did say. Responding to Fluke's parade of heart rending anecdotes, Elise deftly exposes what should have been seen as an inherently self refuting narrative: women as smart, liberated, fully equal adults who - despite being admitted to an elite law school - apparently cannot decipher an insurance policy or (even more amusingly, considering the skills required of a licensed attorney) advocate for their own legal rights:

She is powerless to force the pharmacist to give her something she can’t pay for. She is powerless to force her insurance company to pay for something for which it did not contract and she did not pay. She is powerless to force Georgetown to offer a different insurance policy.

However, she was not powerless to read and understand the conditions of the insurance policy she signed up for. She was not powerless to choose a school other than Georgetown, one which would offer the kind of insurance that is so crucial to her. She was not powerless to understand that Georgetown’s insurance policy would not cover birth control pills and decide to postpone attending for a year while working at a crummy job and living in a crummy apartment with three roommates so she could save enough money to cover expenses when she did attend Georgetown.

Furthermore, she is not powerless to decide to refrain from sex until she can afford birth control pills. She is not powerless to do research on whether there are cheaper forms of contraception, perhaps even cheaper birth control pills. She is not powerless to ask her sexual partner (or partners - it is absolutely none of my business whether we’re talking singular or plural) to provide some form of contraception or to chip in for her purchase of birth control pills. And she is not powerless to leave school and take a job which will allow her to purchase items she wants to purchase.

To say, “Women like her have no choice but to go without contraception” is to make an intelligent, ambitious, hard-working, disciplined adult into a helpless pawn in life. I’m extremely uncomfortable with the idea that women have stopped waiting to be rescued by Prince Charming, only to begin waiting to be rescued by Uncle Sam. How about if we rescue ourselves? Or, better yet, let’s stop thinking that the very state of being female means we need to be rescued by anyone or anything. Instead, let’s start thinking in terms of what options we have, of making our own decisions and living with them, of taking care of ourselves. It’s like Fluke is living in some bizarre version of a 1950’s sitcom where wifey can’t take care of herself financially and must cajole hubby into doing so. Not everything retro is good.

If young women at an elite law school aren't smart or capable enough to read an insurance policy or negotiate with and defend their own rights, what client in his or her right mind would hire a female attorney to navigate the American legal system on their behalf?

Fluke's victim narrative directly undercuts the image she wants us to have of women as smart, independent, and fully capable. If you care about whether your cause is gaining traction with the public, making arguments that directly undermine it is probably not the best way to be the change you seek.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 13, 2012

In Case of My Death

"My death did not change the world; it may be tough for you to justify its meaning at all. But there is a greater meaning to it. Perhaps I did not change the world. Perhaps there is still injustice in the world. But there will be a child who will live because men left the security they enjoyed in their home country to come to his. And this child will learn in the new schools that have been built. He will walk his streets not worried about whether or not his leader's henchmen are going to come and kidnap him. He will grow into a fine man who will pursue every opportunity his heart could desire. He will have the gift of freedom, which I have enjoyed for so long. If my life buys the safety of a child who will one day change this world, then I know that it was all worth it.

Semper Fidelis means always faithful. Always faithful to God, Country and Corps. Always faithful to the principles and beliefs that guided me into the service. And on that day in October when I placed my hand on a bible and swore to defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, I meant it."

- Sgt. William C. Stacey, 23
United States Marine Corps

Via Dana Milbanks, who writes:

Washington is debating that greater meaning and whether all the trouble — the civilian killings, the Koran burnings, the feckless Karzai government — justifies continued fighting in Afghanistan even though al-Qaeda has been routed and public opinion on the conflict has soured. There’s no good answer, but no policymaker should make a decision about the war without strolling through Section 60. Its rows tell the story of this generation’s wars: A few headstones from Afghanistan quickly yield to monuments mostly from Iraq; then, toward the end, the Afghanistan dead return.

Among stones topped by crosses, Stars of David and the occasional crescent, a makeshift museum has been built by friends and family of the fallen. A helium balloon boasting “30” floated above the tombstone of Thomas J. Brown, whose 30th birthday would have been Tuesday; he died in 2008 in Iraq, and his grave had a fresh arrangement of pink roses, yellow daisies and white gladioluses, with a note: “Miss you. Love always, Mom.” A photo taped to the back of his headstone showed him smiling in his combat helmet two days before his death.

Arlington authorities, perhaps recognizing the significance of Section 60 and its young dead, have exempted the graves from their policy against decorations. On Tuesday, there were purple Mardi Gras beads, crosses fashioned from toothpicks, laminated photos, heart stickers, decorative stones, pinwheels, plush toys, a can of chewing tobacco, a marathon finisher’s medal, a plastic leprechaun hat, even a cat-shaped yard ornament. A red T-shirt at one grave said, “R.I.P. Big Mac.” A seashell was inscribed: “To my big brother. Love, Your little sister XOXO.”

A prayer to Joan of Arc decorated the grave of a young woman killed in Iraq. On the stone of Sgt. Karl Campbell, an Army ranger who fell in 2010 at age 34, is a school photo of his son, missing a front tooth, and a letter in a plastic bag, to “my best friend always.”

Among the most heartbreaking is the stone of Spec. Douglas Jay Green, killed in Afghanistan in August at age 23. A Valentine’s Day card had a quotation from Hermann Hesse, “If I know what love is, it is because of you,” and a handwritten message: “Doug, This year you would have been home for Valentine’s Day. . . . But I have to remind myself that ‘could haves’ and ‘would haves’ were never supposed to be.”

Nearby, an older couple sat on fresh sod, grieving over a soldier buried so recently there was no headstone. They stepped aside as the caisson approached with Sgt. Stacey’s remains. The young man, the son of college professors, was to have returned to Camp Pendleton by now, his overseas deployments done. He planned to attend a Marine Corps ball in April with his fiancee.

Instead, she joined Stacey’s sister and parents in accepting folded flags Tuesday afternoon from a sergeant major on bended knee. Among those paying their respects were several young Marines, one in a wheelchair.

In the letter to his family, Stacey wrote of his service: “If my life buys the safety of a child who will one day change this world, then I know that it was all worth it.”

The nation must soon decide whether Stacey’s hope remains true.

I was fine with Milbanks' essay until the final sentence. Having supported the war on terriers during the evil Bu$Hitler years, there is little in it that this erstwhile Marine wife has not thought many a time. I cannot argue, for instance, that we have no duty to weigh the terrible costs of war against what we hope to achieve by resorting to the force of arms. We do, and we must.

But that is a separate question from whether the vast majority of us who have experienced no personal cost over the last ten years have any right to substitute their uninvolved and uniformed judgement for that of a man who volunteered to serve, knowing full well what the unhappy end state might be for him and for those he loved.

The coin of William Stacey's life was his own to spend as he chose. In the end, he chose to spend it on something he valued. I am reminded of the words of a taxi driver in a faraway land:

Late March, 2003. I’m travelling within Germany on business and get into a taxi. I notice by his accent the driver isn’t a German national. Because there’s kind of a bond between ex-pats, we start talking. I ask him where he’s from.

“Iraq. What about you?”

“I’m an American.”

The anti-war sentiment in Germany is high during this time, so we start slowly. But soon the words come tumbling out as he tells me his story.

He spent many years in Saddam’s Army and fought in the never-ending and bloody war with Iran. But when the order came to invade Kuwait, he’d had enough. He left the country and made his way to Germany, hoping to send for his wife and two children once he was settled.

His wife and children were “disappeared”.

He becomes increasingly emotional, gesturing and saying if he could only find Saddam, he’d kill him with his bare hands.

I ask him about his children; their names, how old they’d be now. He tells me.

Then, suddenly, he pulls the taxi over, puts his head on the steering wheel, and starts sobbing uncontrollably.

“Nobody cared”, he says with tears running down his face. “Nobody cared about us – except George Bush and America."

It is easy to lose hope; to focus more keenly on our present losses and setbacks than on a bloody past we have already forgotten or a shadowy future we cannot see yet clearly. It was easy - far too easy - to close our eyes to the savagery protected by our ineffectual no-fly zones and economic sanctions. That we fastidiously contained evil rather than opposing or exposing it was just one more truth preferred not to think about:

I came to know several Iraqi officials well enough that they confided in me that Saddam Hussein was a maniac who had to be removed. One Foreign Ministry officer told me of a colleague who, finding out his brother had been executed by the regime, was forced, as a test of loyalty, to write a letter of congratulations on the act to Saddam Hussein. An aide to Uday once told me why he had no front teeth: henchmen had ripped them out with pliers and told him never to wear dentures, so he would always remember the price to be paid for upsetting his boss.

The image of America as a beacon, a shining city on a hill is often mocked by the sort of person who fancies himself to be far too sophisticated to see things in black and white. But what we too often forget is that to those who have never experienced the freedom and security we enjoy, America still represents a dream: a vision of a life relatively free from fear of violent repression, a life in which the rule of law can be taken for granted.

A life in which hope becomes a hackneyed campaign slogan rather than a faintly flickering candle raised against the terrifying dark.

We have that life because men like William Stacey risked their lives and their fortunes to secure it. In the end, talk is cheap and the words of politicians who speak of global consensus and the international brotherhood of men pale into insignificance when weighed against the deeds of men who put words aside and acted on their convictions.

Who are we - the protected - to second guess them?

Posted by Cassandra at 09:01 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Taking Back the People's Airwaves

Sandra Fluke takes to The People's Airwaves once more to declare that she won't be silenced by the Silencing Silencers of ... err.... Silence.

What a relief! For a moment, the Editorial Staff were afraid her political opponents would launch some kind of official campaign to get her banned from the airwaves:

The FCC takes such complaints into consideration when stations file for license renewal. For local listeners near a station that carries Limbaugh's show, there is plenty of evidence to bring to the FCC that their station isn't carrying out its public interest obligation. Complaints can be registered under the broadcast category of the FCC website: http://www.fcc.gov/complaints

This isn't political. While we disagree with Limbaugh's politics, what's at stake is the fallout of a society tolerating toxic, hate-inciting speech. For 20 years, Limbaugh has hidden behind the First Amendment, or else claimed he's really "doing humor" or "entertainment." He is indeed constitutionally entitled to his opinions, but he is not constitutionally entitled to the people's airways.

It's time for the public to take back our broadcast resources. Limbaugh has had decades to fix his show. Now it's up to us.

When The People finally manage to take back their broadcast resources, America won't have to worry about freedom hating partisan dimwits silencing speech they don't care for.

Because the right people will be in charge. And they would never do that.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:43 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Secondary Boycotts

Michael Kinsley on secondary boycotts:

Consumers who are avoiding products by Limbaugh’s advertisers are engaged in what’s known in labor law as a secondary boycott. This means boycotting a company you have no grievance with, except that it does business with someone you do have a grievance with.

Secondary boycotts are generally frowned upon, or in some cases (not this one) actually illegal, on the grounds that enough is enough. There’s sense to that outside the labor context, too. Do we want conservatives organizing boycotts of advertisers on MSNBC, or either side boycotting companies that do business with other companies who advertise on Limbaugh’s show, or Rachel Maddow’s?

As we all know, Limbaugh’s First Amendment rights aren’t involved here — freedom of speech means freedom from interference by the government. But the spirit of the First Amendment, which is that suppressing speech is bad, still applies. If you don’t care for something Rush Limbaugh has said, say why and say it better. If you’re on the side of truth, you have a natural advantage.

Ay, there's the rub: what do you do when you doubt your ability to "say why and say it better"? Well, there's always intimidation:

The Hill reports that unions and other liberal groups are vowing to make life miserable for any companies that contribute to Republican campaigns this year:
Liberal interest groups, watchdogs and unions on Monday threatened to boycott, protest and publicly embarrass corporations that spend money trying to sway the outcome of the November election.

Gathered Monday at the Washington headquarters of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the groups issued a call to arms for the 2012 campaign, vowing to aggressively challenge companies that contribute to super-PACs and 501(c) nonprofit groups.

“If you secretly contribute and scheme to buy our elections, we’re going to come knocking on your door,” said Aaron Black of the Occupy Wall Street movement. “And it’s not just going to be a couple of us. It’s going to be thousands of us. Everywhere you turn your head.”

Or distraction:

This chart from Open Secrets shows the top 25 donors to political campaigns from 1989 through 2012. You will note a remarkably consistent pattern...

...you have to get all the way to number nineteen to find a donor that gives primarily to Republicans. Not only that, of the top 20 donors, 12 are unions...

Wasn't I just saying that arguments that call attention to your own hypocrisy are stu...

Oh, nevermind.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fair Weather Feminists and the Stolen Concept

Recently the Editorial Staff has been having a little fun with arguments supported by assertions the speaker has previously rejected on their face. A particularly vivid example is supplied by proponents of admitting women to the combat arms. One the one hand, they claim that there are no significant differences between men and women and that fully integrating women into the armed services will not place additional burdens on military leaders. Having gained what they wanted taking that position, they then claim the exact opposite: that women (because they are smaller, physically weaker, and less aggressive/assertive) require a whole host of special protections not currently extended to their supposedly equal male counterparts.

Which are we to believe? That women are the same as men (in which case they should require no protection that men do not also require)? Or that women are different from - and weaker than - men (and thus require special protections that impose additional burdens on military leaders)?

The Right has its own gender issues. Having long dismissed the notion that statistical disparities suggest institutionalized bias, they now argue that declining male academic achievement is attributable to a feminized, hostile environment in academia that discourages boys and men from competing. When the shoe was on the other foot, women were told it was their job to meet society's standards, not society's job to make them feel safe and valued.

Having pooh-pooh'd the idea that male dominated environments sometimes dishearten and discourage women from entering the fray, they now embrace the idea that female dominated environments sometimes dishearten and discourage men from doing the same thing.

Again, which is it? Both sides are engaging in what Ayn Rand called the fallacy of the stolen concept:

Objectivists define the fallacy of the stolen concept: the act of using a concept while ignoring, contradicting or denying the validity of the concepts on which it logically and genetically depends. An example of the stolen concept fallacy is anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's assertion, "All property is theft".
While discussing the hierarchical nature of knowledge, Nathaniel Branden states, "Theft" is a concept that logically and genetically depends on the antecedent concept of "rightfully owned property"—and refers to the act of taking that property without the owner's consent. If no property is rightfully owned, that is, if nothing is property, there can be no such concept as "theft." Thus, the statement "All property is theft" has an internal contradiction: to use the concept "theft" while denying the validity of the concept of "property," is to use "theft" as a concept to which one has no logical right—that is, as a stolen concept.

This said, Gloria Allred's latest stunt raises the stolen concept to an art form:

What is curious about Allred’s embracing of this law is that it is overtly sexist. The law suggests that a woman who is viewed as unchaste is so harmed that she constitutes a crime victim. Chastity is defined by Webster’s as “(a) : abstention from unlawful sexual intercourse; (b) : abstention from all sexual intercourse.” The law is based on the out-dated notion that a woman who has sex before marriage is damaged and subject to social stigma. To put it more colloquially, such a woman was viewed as a “slut or prostitute.” That is precisely the outrageous view voiced by Limbaugh in relation to Fluke and led to a worldwide condemnation. Now, Allred wants him prosecuted under a law that assumes that is based on the same assumption. The law was not designed to prevent women from being called sluts. Laws like Florida’s code provision were designed on the belief that a woman who is unchaste is a slut — and that “good” women should never be accused of sex before marriage. So Allred wants Limbaugh prosecuted for saying Fluke is a slut based on the law that effectively treats unchaste women as sluts. It does not protect men because an unchaste man was viewed under these dated laws as just a normal man. A man was not viewed as harmed or demeaned by being sexually active. Only a woman was harmed by the suggestion of sexual activities. Not also the law only protects women who are “falsely” accused of being unchaste. Thus if a woman has been sexually active before married, she would presumably not be protected under the law.

...Using sexist laws to fight sexism is never a good idea. In this case, the prosecution suggested by Allred would not only reaffirm the very sexism at the core of Limbaugh’s comments but add an attack on free speech to magnify the harm.

One day, supposed feminists like Gloria Allred are going to have to reconcile the contradiction between their constant demands to be treated exactly like men and their constant demands for special protections and privileges not afforded to men.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:42 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

March 12, 2012

Unemployment Rates by Educational Attainment

In the "Men as Helpless Victims" thread, we have been discussing the relationship between educational attainment and unemployment.

For the past twenty years, the federal government's Bureau of Labor Statistics has tracked unemployment and labor force participation by level of education. Their data is anything but ambiguous. For every single year over the past two decades, there has been a clear correlation between education level and both unemployment and labor force participation.

Higher education is positively correlated with labor force participation and low unemployment. Here is the data for unemployment vs. education level:

unemployment.gif

As you can clearly see, the gap in unemployment rates between workers with a college degree or higher (green) and those with only a HS degree (dark blue) holds pretty constant over the entire 20 year period. In general, unemployment is about twice as high for HS grads as it is for college grads.

For those with less than a HS degree (tan line), the gap is even larger. Now let's look at labor force participation:

01houcon-1.gif


Once again, there is a constant (and quite clear) correlation between labor force participation and education level. But there's something else going on that isn't immediately apparent from simply inspecting the data:

Those with a college degree or higher have the lowest unemployment rates over time, and the unemployment rate increases as attainment decreases. The unemployment rate approximately doubled for each group during the recent recession. Since those with low educational attainment already started out with higher unemployment rates, this doubling translates into larger absolute changes for these attainment groups. That is, while we see similar patterns for all groups, higher educational attainment is associated with smaller changes in unemployment.

The relationship between education level and both unemployment and labor force participation is both robust and consistent over time. The final chart is quite interesting - it shows male vs. female unemployment rates over time:

malevsfemaleunemplchart.png

Note that there are only 3 times when a wide gap opens up between male and female unemployment, and each one occurs either at or immediately after an economic downturn:

The unemployment rate time series for men and women also begins in 1948. Traditionally, women have had greater employment stability than men during economic downturns.

We are not sure what to make of this chart, but we suspect there's a James Taranto column lurking in there somewhere :p

Posted by Cassandra at 05:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Men As Helpless Victims

Following up on the theme of the Right embracing the Left's victim narrative, Glenn Reynolds cites "Education's Gender Gap":

In every other academic realm, the existence of a statistical disparity — such as the fact that fewer men than women pursue advanced degrees in certain science and technology fields — is taken as definitive proof of gender discrimination.

For instance, in 2010 the American Association of University Women lamented the “striking disparity between the numbers of men and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” and concluded that “we must take a hard look at the stereotypes and biases that still pervade our culture. Encouraging more girls and women to enter these vital fields will require careful attention to the environment in our classrooms and workplaces and throughout our culture.”

We look forward to a robust debate on how institutions of higher learning can correct the discriminatory circumstances that are leading them to graduate nearly three women for every two men.

Indeed. But don’t expect help on gender equality from a hate group.

Question for the day: why would conservatives be looking for "help on gender equality" at all? Has gender equality ever been something the Right thought worth pursuing?

Traditionally, the conservative position on affirmative action has been that admitting un- or under-prepared students harms both the admitted student and harder working or better prepared students who are effectively told that society doesn't value their achievements. The conservative position on quotas has always been that they proposed legally sanctioned discrimination as the remedy for discrimination that has not actually been proven to have occurred.

We understand the temptation to confront the Left with the ongoing dichtomy between its professed principles and its behavior, but in this case the attempt seems particularly misguided since their intended targets - colleges and universities - are not only talking the talk, but walking the walk as well:

While some news reports indicate that discrimination against women on the basis of sex in college admissions is increasingly common, there has been relatively little public discussion about it—especially compared to the much more heated public debate concerning race-based affirmative action. Not surprisingly, therefore, there have been few attempts to study the extent of the problem systematically….

Multiple news reports indicate that some colleges and universities, both public and private, have what they regard as “too many” women applicants and are therefore discriminating in favor of men—largely because more women than men apply to college and their academic credentials are in some ways better. Several colleges have more or less openly admitted to discriminating against women – including the University of Richmond (a private institution) and the College of William and Mary (a public institution). Others—including Southwestern University (Texas), Knox College (Illinois), Brandeis University (Massachusetts), Boston University (also Massachusetts), and Pomona College (California)—shy away from admitting directly that they are discriminating, but admit that maintaining an optimal gender balance by non-discriminatory means is difficult….

Sex discrimination in admissions at public universities is illegal under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. But under federal law, it is perfectly legal for private institutions to engage in sex discrimination in admissions—though once both sexes are admitted, neither may be discriminated against….

Perhaps the most attention-getting piece on this topic was a 2006 New York Times op-ed by Jennifer Delahunty Britz, an admissions officer at Kenyon College, in which she admitted that her office often gave preferential treatment to men. Some admissions insiders wrote in response to Delahunty Britz’s piece that these preferences were quite common—what was shocking was only Delahunty Britz’s candor in airing this information publicly. Inside Higher Ed noted that “[w]hile few admissions officers wanted to talk publicly about the column, the private reaction was a mix of ‘of course male applicants get some help’ along with ‘did she have to share that information with the world?’” Several years later, after the wave of chatter over Delahunty Britz’s piece had died down, Columbia University law professor Ted Shaw referred to such discrimination as an “open secret.”

So where are the protests against unfair gender discrimination now? What is the conservative position on gender preferences? Decades ago when women were lagging behind, we argued that merit and achievement were the only rational basis for college admissions.

Do you think colleges should actively discriminate against young women with better academic records in favor of young men with worse ones? And if so, what makes this different from the policies conservatives vehemently opposed when the shoe was on the other foot (so to speak).

Discuss amongst your ownselves.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:10 AM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

The Secret Hearts of Men

"Somehow on Tuesday there was something electric in the usually almost stifling air in Whittier. And now I know. An Irish gypsy who radiates all that is happy and beautiful was there. She left behind her a note addressed to a struggling barrister who looks from a window and dreams. And in that note he found sunshine and flowers, and a great spirit which only great ladies can inspire,"

Amazing.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:06 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 11, 2012

Laughter is the Best Rebuttal

Via McQ

Posted by Cassandra at 09:52 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 10, 2012

File Under: "They Just Can't Help Themselves"

Via Walter Olsen, the Quote of the day:

The Limbaugh Scandal Fades, With an Assist From Gloria Allred

Happily for Limbaugh, though, Gloria Allred has just become involved in the scandal, which means the issue has officially jumped the shark. According the Associated Press, Allred sent to a letter to the Palm Beach County Attorney’s office suggesting they prosecute Limbaugh, who lives in Palm Beach, for the misdemeanor of “falsely and maliciously question[ing] a woman's chastity” when he called Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute.” Allred is so adept at stretching feminist outrage right up to (and sometimes over) the line of ridiculousness that I sometimes wonder if she is attempting some sort of satirical theater.

We prefer to think of it as performance art.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:27 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Mantyhose

There are no words for how much the Blog Princess did *not* need to see this before finishing her first cup of coffee:

While it was WWD who coined the term 'mantyhose', brosiery' is a clear leader in the survey, ahead of 'guylons', 'he-tards', and 'beau-hose' - a term surely reserved for the most confident men out there.

Mr Cavallini said that his company's 'brosiery' is tested on its male employees and that their research had led to a special, breathable fabric being designed to account for men's higher perspiration levels.

In other news, the Editorial Staff would like to thank the Southern Poverty Law Center for teeing it up for her.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, founded in 1971 as a civil rights law firm, has released its latest "Intelligence Report" on hate groups in the United States. This year's report contains a new category: the Manosphere.

From the SPLC's introduction to the misogyny report:

The so-called “manosphere” is peopled with hundreds of websites, blogs and forums dedicated to savaging feminists in particular and women, very typically American women, in general. Although some of the sites make an attempt at civility and try to back their arguments with facts, they are almost all thick with misogynistic attacks that can be astounding for the guttural hatred they express. What follows are brief descriptions of a dozen of these sites. Another resource is the Man Boobz website (manboobz.com), a humorous pro-feminist blog (its tagline is “Misogyny: I Mock It”) that keeps a close eye on these and many other woman-hating sites.

Hating women (or spending hours and hours and hours bragging about how those stupid [expletives deleted] can't resist your Mad Seduction Skillz) is not a crime against anything but common sense.

Women don't need to be protected from the manosphere - there's this nifty little x button at the top of our browser windows that we hear is quite effective.

Now please excuse us whilst we take Our Bad, Hypergamous Self into the kitchen for another cup of coffee.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:41 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

March 09, 2012

The Right Endorses the Left's Victim Narrative

Definition of a victim: a person to whom life happens.

- Peter McWilliams

If I had to identify the insight most responsible for my rejection of progressive ideology, it would be the realization that life is governed by tradeoffs. Each choice we make entails benefits and costs. Life is inherently risky and often unfair. This is a fact of life and nothing government or society can do will change it.

Some people are born with beauty, brains, or talent and others are not. Some parents are industrious and loving. They teach their children the skills and habits that bring success and prosperity. Other parents are selfish and immature - their only gift to their children is an object lesson in how not to succeed. People are born incredibly lucky, snake bitten, or somewhere in between but no government program can make a plain woman gorgeous or a stupid person smart. Public policy cannot force bad parents to love their children, nor can Congress save a bad marriage.

The Left's answer to unfairness is to beseech government to do something beyond its capability: to erase inequality and make a profoundly unfair world, fair. In a perfect world populated by perfect human beings, this would be unnecessary. And because we do not live in a perfect world populated by perfect human beings, our attempts at social engineering usually succeed only in adding artificially imposed unfairness to the unfairness that already exists in the natural world.

The Right's answer to unfairness has been to ask more from ourselves; to marshal our forces and overcome adversity. This approach, like government solutions, carries with it no guarantee of success. What it does, however, is harness unfairness to our advantage: it enables us to develop coping mechanisms; to adapt and overcome.

One ideology views man as a helpless victim of forces beyond his control. The other recognizes that adversity brings out the best of which the human spirit is capable. To the Right, hardship is not a bug to be eliminated but a necessary goad that propels us onward and upward. It sees the human will as a force capable of overmastering even the cruellest Fate.

Lately, though, some on the Right seem to be endorsing the very victimhood mentality we've so often opposed. Recently, Rush Limbaugh did something every human being since Adam and Eve has done at one time or another: he failed to live up to his own standards.

The Left has often maintained that if we can't be perfect, we should just do away with standards altogether. Their outcome based morality has been disatrous for society, because a world without accountability and consequences is a world where moral hazard blinds us to the causal connection between bad decisions and the bad outcomes that flow from them. It deprives us of the feedback we need to learn from our mistakes.

The Right has always maintained that though human nature is indeed fallible, we need standards. It does not matter that we cannot always live up to them: the right response to failure is not to lower our aim, but to try harder until we succeed. A society without standards becomes a race to the bottom where the acts of the very worst drag the best of us down to their level. A society with no standards and no accountability defines the human spirit down to the lowest common demonimator.

I would like to believe it was a deeply conservative belief in the value of accountability and standards that led Mr. Limbaugh to apologize for his actions in L'Affaire Fluke. Doing so cannot have been easy for him. That his enemies would gloat and sneer and glory in his humiliation was a foregone conclusion. That they would be ungracious was utterly unsurprising.

But a man of honor does not apologize in expectation of reward. He realizes that self respect is not a cookie that can be granted or withheld by others. Self respect is something we earn for ourselves, often at considerable cost. The man who holds himself accountable acts in his own interest, not in anticipation of praise or external rewards.

Many of his supporters have suggested that Limbaugh did not mean it when he apologized. Let's think about that for a moment: some of his defenders are saying that despite sincerely believing himself to be in the right, he bowed to pressure from enraged sponsors or caved to political correctness. If this is the correct interpretation, why are they defending him?

I have criticized his actions, but I believe he deserves the benefit of the doubt. We are all fallible. We all make mistakes, and when we do the right course of action is to face reality squarely, difficult and embarrassing as that may be. The facts in this case seem to be that Mr. Limbaugh didn't bother to read Ms. Fluke's testimony before calling her a slut and a prostitute and suggesting that women who believe insurance should cover birth control should post online sex tapes to compensate their fellow taxpayers. Mr. Limbaugh's offensive words appear to have been removed from transcripts of his shows.

What does this suggest to you about how he feels about them? Does it suggest pride and principled refusal to bow to the Left's concerted attacks? Or does it perhaps suggest a recognition that he, like so many others these days, substituted the standards of Bill Maher for his own?

Via Memeorandum, James Taranto, who has been on an odd one man jihad against feminists, working women, and birth control of late, also endorses the Left's victim mantra.
In an essay entitled: The Unchained Woman: What used to be a normal family life is now available only to the affluent, he suggests that working women are "chained" to their desks. O Uncaring Fate, that leaves otherwise sensible men and women who could easily choose otherwise (were they to accept that life is full of tradeoffs) with "no choice"!

An increasing number of affluent women with affluent husbands are casting off the chains of professional work, according to a forthcoming Federal Reserve study that Reuters apparently obtained in advance:

It shows that between 1993 and 2006, there was a decline in the workforce of 0.1 percent a year on average in the number of college-educated women, with similarly educated spouses.
That contrasts with growth of 2.4 percent a year between 1976 and 1992.
The result: the labor force in 2008 had 1.64 million fewer such women than if the growth rate had kept up its earlier trend, slightly more than 1 percent of the total workforce in that year.
"The trend is not limited to top earners," Reuters notes. "It has been detected among households earning around $80,000 per year." But $80,000 goes a lot further in the middle of the country than it does in New York or San Francisco. A husband has to be fairly affluent for his wife to be able to afford to stay home: "Only a few households can afford to give up a good second income."

For women with lower levels of education, the picture is markedly different, as Charles Murray shows in "Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010." One-income households have become common at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum as well--but because women are less likely to be married at all, while men are less likely to be in the labor force.

Marriage and male responsibility for families were once the norm at all levels of American society. Feminism was supposed to liberate women from dependency on men. Instead it has helped to create a two-tiered culture in which the norm is for women to be "chained to a desk," but those who hit the jackpot in the mating game can realistically aspire to escape that status. Nice going, ladies. Happy International Women's Day.

This is just plain bizarre. The idea that it is "impossible" for a married couple to get by on one income has long been advanced by the Left but I never thought I'd see the idea that the unwillingness to accept tradeoffs deprives us of choices advanced by conservatives.

Cruel fate does not prevent even low income mothers from staying home with their children. The refusal to live frugally, to resist instant gratification or live within one's means often does, however. For well over 20 years, my husband and I happily got by on one salary. We lived below the poverty level for the first two years of our marriage, but "poverty" in America is not what it is in the third world. Our poverty merely meant we had to be careful with money. Like so many things the Left has defined down, poverty is no longer absolute and objective. Conservatives should not buy into the narrative of the poor and the "near poor" as helpless victims who have "no choice" but to make bad decisions. To turn the poor and "near poor" into helpless victims gives too much credit to feminists and far too little to their own moral agency. This is a profoundly patronizing view of human nature that even the all too human desire to score points on one's opponents cannot excuse.

Today my son, his wife, and two sons manage to get by on a police officer's salary. They own their own home in a very nice neighborhood and have two cars. They are - by every objective measure - better off than we were at the same age. They have more things. Their house is far nicer than the first home we bought. They have two cars to the one my working husband and I shared. They have a TV and two computers and so many clothes for my grandsons that they don't need our help.

If working mothers are choosing to stay home with their families, that is a good thing. It's also a voluntary choice. If they choose to work, that is also a choice. To suggest that people who have more choices than their parents have somehow been deprived of choices by evil feminists is just plain delusional.

We are all responsible for the decisions we make in life. Blaming others for the tradeoffs that have always been part of life has never been a conservative value. The suggestion that free people have no obligation to be better than the dregs of society, as though responsibility were something that can be defined away by simply pointing out that somewhere, someone has done something even worse, ought to offend conservatives on the merits.

Contra Mr. Taranto, who I'm pretty sure has no idea what it's like to be a wife and mother (working or otherwise) I trust women and men to make their own decisions about the relative value of time with their children and a little extra income. The answer to the human propensity to make mistakes is not to limit freedom or define our standards down to those of the Left.

************

Update: Welcome, Michelle Malkin readers!

Update II: This is so well reasoned. Especially this:

Male or female, a working person can find himself/herself in a stultifying or otherwise unpleasant job, and a job-free spouse may find himself/herself lacking power in an abusive relationship. There's no one answer to how to stay out of the many bad positions a human being can get into. You can go too far protecting yourself from dysfunctional dependency on a lackluster job or a lackluster jobless life. And you can go too far clinging to one or the other. People need to pay attention to the details of their own lives and exercise good judgment as they make their own individual decisions. You can get into trouble using big ideologies to make those decisions.

A criticism that could fairly be made of my own post, quite frankly. If you read nothing else today, go read this.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:38 AM | Comments (73) | TrackBack

March 08, 2012

Feminists, MGTOW, and Selective Attention Syndrome

In a post about the upcoming Pixar movie "Brave", Grim writes:

The difference between a traditional fairy tale and this kind goes beyond the obvious -- the female hero who can outfight all the boys with ease, which is now the standard rather than the transgressive model. Rather, the real difference is masked by that aspect: you couldn't make this movie with a male hero, because people would be outraged to see young women portrayed as a pack of useless losers. People would hate the male hero whose attitude conveyed that it was an insult to his excellence to suggest he might marry some penny-ante girl from his village. The female lead allows them to tell the story they want to tell without running up against the uncomfortable truth about what kind of a story it is they are telling.

The real difference is that the love story has been replaced, in our age, by the story of the 'hero' in love with herself. Prince Charming, whatever his flaws, was driven by love for another: his service, and his sacrifice, were for a beloved lady he valued above his own life and for whom he would suffer any pain and dare any peril. The modern 'hero' is focused on her own fulfillment, resisting every duty to her family or her society as an injustice that interferes with her personal journey of self-actualization.

It struck me, during the admittedly obnoxious trailer and the ensuing discussion, how often men and women look at exactly the same things but see vastly different messages in them. In many ways, this is not surprising. Despite the best efforts of feminists and progressives, girls and boys are still socialized differently. It's not just that our hormones, physiology, and life experiences differ. Our dreams for our sons and daughters bear little resemblance to one another:

Trendy middle-class couples call their little girls “Billie” or “Charlie” and dress them in jeans. But this is not a sign that the gender barrier has disappeared. If it were, they would also call their little boys “Daisy’”or “Violet” and send them to school in frocks.

To give a girl a masculine identity is to pay her a compliment, implying she is better than the others. To give a boy a feminine identity would count as child abuse.
- Kate Saunders

There's an uncomfortable truth there, if we're willing to face it.

In the trailer I saw a brash, overconfident, defiant young girl whose body language should be depressingly familiar to any parent who has ever asked their son or daughter to do something he or she does not want to do. Granted, for most teenagers "something they don't want to do" encompasses pretty much everything their parents think is good for them. Their opposition isn't particularly well thought out. Often it's not even indicative of their true desires: they haven't figured those out yet. At that age, rebellion is more reflex than philosophical statement.

During the scene where the young men are shooting at the targets, the young woman and her father are on the same page with respect to the suitors: both are derisive and scornful. The father is, if anything, more harsh. If the suitors fail to impress Merida, they impress her father even less.

So what did my admittedly feminine brain take away from this short trailer? I saw a classic fairy tale theme: the brash young hero(ine) overreaches, is taught a lesson, and becomes a better person. And so, when I Googled up the plot of the movie, it turned out to be:

Set in Scotland in a rugged and mythical time, "Brave" features Merida, an aspiring archer and impetuous daughter of royalty. Merida makes a reckless choice that unleashes unintended peril and forces her to spring into action to set things right.

It's hard for me to see this story as one in which selfishness is glorified. A frequent theme in Disney and Pixar stories is the rather callow, obnoxious young hero who has some growing up to do. Think Lightning McQueen or the Emperor Kuzco. The challenges he overcomes are often of his own making and he benefits from being taken down a peg or two. Putting a female face on this tried and true theme doesn't seem particular dangerous to me. It just suggests that women have flaws too.

Grim also objects to what he calls the "standard narrative" of a girl who can outfight all the boys. Given that "Brave" is the first Pixar movie to feature a female protagonist that seems like a bit of a stretch, if an understandable one. The blog princess has wondered many times why members of the Oink Cadre (including her esteemed spouse) don't even see the pervasive negative female stereotypes in popular culture. Men simply don't notice them, even when they're obvious and in-your-face. It took years of my pointing out how women are portrayed in the media (helped along by a one year deployment, during which he saw literally no TV) for the spousal unit to remark to me one day, "You know, I always thought you were blowing that whole thing way out of proportion. But being away from TV and movies for a year, I am seeing things through different eyes. For the first time, I do see what you have been complaining about."

Somewhat ironically, I was also the first in our house to notice the rising devaluation of traditional masculinity. Oddly, no one argued with me on that score. They were able to see it right away because it concerned them. And it offended them - just as it has always offended me to see women and wives depicted in the sneering, leering way they are so often portrayed. There's more than a little truth in many of these negative stereotypes: wives do nag, men who build bridges become strategically clueless when it comes to sorting socks, women can be conniving and manipulative, men can be brutal and controlling. It's not so much the noting of our respective flaws, but the reductive portrayal of masculinity and femininity that rankles.

Just as Grim saw something different than what I saw in the trailer, both T99 and I saw something different in Grim's post than what he says he was trying to convey:

What do you make of the proposed MGTOW fairy tale in which the prince refuses to marry any of the pack of women in order to 'go his own way,' wherein all of whom are portrayed as variations of negative female stereotypes?

E.g., instead of negative stereotypes about boys -- the three options being an idiotic oaf, a vainglorious emotional jerk, and an incompetent child-man -- we have all the girls portrayed as archetypes of the negative qualities that these movements tend to portray as emblematic of women.

That seems like the kind of thing that would annoy.

Well yes, it does annoy. I suspect I may have written about this a time or twelve :p

What do I think of the MGTOW movement? When it comes to the individual, I'm not sure what I think matters. To the extent that MGTOW is about men becoming the kind of men they admire rather than defining themselves in relation to women, I think it's a good thing. In fact, that is precisely what I have advocated to both women who despair of ever finding good men and men who despair of finding good women: become the kind of person you think is worthy of respect.

I broadly approve of men (and women) learning not to be controlled by their desires. I broadly approve of men (and women) getting to know themselves and deciding what they want out of life before getting married, though I did not take that path myself. What I do not, and cannot, commend are reactionary ideolologies that pre-emptively declare war on the other half of humanity. On this score, I see no real distinction between radical feminists and radical men's rights activists.

No, that's not quite right. There's one big difference. Radical feminists are excoriated 24/7/365 on conservative sites. Feminism is widely blamed for everything from global warming to the heartbreak of psoriasis. Interestingly, the torrent of outrage is almost surgically selective:

What fuels the selective outrage against feminism? Is it principle, or personal pique? Keep in mind that Playboy began bashing marriage in the 1950s - years before Betty Friedan wrote the book that launched second wave feminism. No fault divorce and Roe v. Wade were still decades away and birth control was still illegal in many states. Yet somehow, evil feminists found a way to go back in time and brainwash poor Hugh. Who knew they had such power? Their message was a simple one: chumps settle down with one woman and raise families. Real men demonstrate their sophistication and manliness by ducking marriage and wallowing in commitment-free sex:
According to the writer, William Iversen, husbands were self-sacrificing romantics, toiling ceaselessly to provide their families with “bread, bacon, clothes, furniture, cars, appliances, entertainment, vacations and country-club memberships.” Nor was it enough to meet their daily needs; the heroic male must provide for them even after his own death by building up his savings and life insurance. “Day after day, and week after week the American hubby is thus invited to attend his own funeral.” Iversen acknowledged that there were some mutterings of discontent from the distaff side, but he saw no chance of a feminist revival: The role of the housewife “has become much too cushy to be abandoned, even in the teeth of the most crushing boredom.” Men, however, had had it with the breadwinner role, and the final paragraph was a stirring incitement to revolt:
The last straw has already been served, and a mere tendency to hemophilia cannot be counted upon to ensure that men will continue to bleed for the plight of the American woman. Neither double eyelashes nor the blindness of night or day can obscure the glaring fact that American marriage can no longer be accepted as an estate in which the sexes shall live half-slave and half-free

The "slaves" in this utopian manifesto were married men and traditional family life was the enemy of happiness and fulfillment.

This is not to say that second wave feminism, which became prominent well over a decade after Playboy began touting its siren song of self uber alles, did not have its own part to play in the dissolute and rootless culture we live with today. But to blame feminism first and foremost is to put the cart before the horse. Looking back at the world Hugh Hefner and his cronies worked so assiduously to destroy (and conservatives praise so long as no one expects them to adhere to the "prudish" moral code that made it possible), one can't help but wonder at the blind folly of human nature:

It was a world largely constituted by what he calls “desire”—desire chastened by deliberation, restrained by prudence, constrained by self-respect and rendered noble by a concern for the welfare of others. Since the 1960s, thanks to “the democratic project”, we have lived to an ever increasing extent in a world constituted by what he calls “impulse”, passion liberated from restraints and constraints, unchastened and utterly irresponsible
.

These days, I see ever increasing numbers of conservatives arguing against the very qualities that made (and make) traditional marriage possible: temperance, self restraint, consideration, selflessness. Hard work. We are told that unless society rewards virtue, men cannot reasonably be expected to finish school, get jobs, or move out of their parents' basements because... I've never figured that one out.

Some day I fully expect to walk into the children's book section of Barnes & Noble and see a book entitled, "If you give a boy a cookie... (he won't turn into Tucker Max)". The result is an entire generation of adult sized children who were raised without punishment and without disapproval even when their actions merit it; a generation who demand bribes before doing what our parents expected from us as a matter of course. Is it any wonder they can't be bothered to stand on their own two feet... unless, of course, we continually massage their egos?

What used to be the bare minimum society was willing to accept - self sufficiency - is the new virtue.

So to answer Grim's question, behind the radical fringes of both feminism and the men's rights movement I see a self absorbed, entitlement mentality that views civilization as a zero sum game in which they are determined to see "their side" win at all costs. The problem is that there aren't supposed to be sides.

There's no real secret to marriage. Choose your mate wisely and then work at it every single day, keeping in mind that your mate sees things very differently than you do for a reason. And though you will frequently not understand him or her, you don't get to unilaterally demand that someone else's world revolve around you. Each of us has our own dreams, desires, hopes, and sorrows and our own feelings are no less (but also no more) important than those of our better halves.

Marriage is a balancing act that forces us to stretch, to grow, to become wiser, more understanding, kinder, braver. I understand Grim's disquiet at what he sees as a "heroic" portrayal of a girl whose life doesn't revolve around marriage (especially to someone she didn't choose for herself). I feel the same disquiet when I see conservative men blaming everything that is wrong with today's society on women being allowed to contemplate a life that doesn't revolve around finding a husband and forcing him into a life of indentured servitude (a la Hefner, who wasn't motivated by a sincere desire to liberate anything but his own libido).

What I could wish for, and what Grim almost uniquely among male writers has so often blessed his readers with, is an honest attempt at balance; at seeing the world through different eyes. That's a tremendously difficult thing to do, but it is also a noble endeavor.

Grim and I don't always agree, but I love that he will engage on difficult topics without one sided blaming and simplistic narratives. We may never see things the same way - after all, he is a man and I am a woman. But my life is so much richer for the male friends I have been privileged to know.

We need each other, men and women. And we are none of us blameless.

"As, notwithstanding all that wit, or malice, or pride, or prudence will be able to suggest, men and women must at last pass their lives together, I have never therefore thought those writers friends to human happiness, who endeavour to excite in either sex a general contempt or suspicion of the other.

To persuade them who are entering the world, and looking abroad for a suitable associate, that all are equally vicious or equally ridiculous; that they who trust are certainly betrayed, and they who esteem are always disappointed; is not to awaken judgment, but to inflame temerity."

- Samuel Johnson

Posted by Cassandra at 05:19 AM | Comments (36) | TrackBack

March 07, 2012

Lex

He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.

- Hamlet

It seems odd to me that I never met Lex in person. As so often happens with things we depend upon and chances postponed because we assume they will always be there for us, this particular road not taken has now been closed forever:

When Lex “left the keys in it” for me to be a guest blogger here about a year ago, we didn’t discuss what to do in this occasion. I am at a loss.

Today I think we are all at a loss.

I can't claim to have been close to Lex, but I deeply admired and respected both the man and the writer. Over the years, his elegant prose and subtle wit have delighted and reassured me more times than I can possibly recount here. His graceful writing seemed so effortless that one might be forgiven for thinking something so natural must also be easy to find.

It was - it is - not, and we are all made poorer by the loss of this good man and his insights.

Though I never knew them except through his loving descriptions, my heart goes out to his family. For some reason, I am reminded of a line from the end of the movie Gladiator:

Is Rome worth one good man's life?
We believed it once. Make us believe it again.

He was a soldier of Rome. Honor him.

Captain Carroll LeFon, United States Navy, spent his life defending the modern day equivalent of Rome. The most enduring tribute I can offer to Lex and those who loved him is that, in a world that seems determined to bring out the worse angels of our nature, he had the rare ability to inspire us to become more worthy of the country we live in.

We should honor such men. That America still produces them is cause for considerable pride. That we have lost another such is a desolation.

*******************

A few moments ago I posted a verse that didn't pop into my head until I was sitting in a parking lot traffic an hour ago. I think you should read them here, though.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:53 AM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

March 06, 2012

One Life to Live, Far East Style

And you thought America has problems with big government. Is there anything the Nanny State won't try to regulate?

In one of history’s more absurd acts of totalitarianism, China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is "an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation."

If the Chinese had the sense God gave a grapefruit, they'd slap a hefty tax on the afterlife. It would be amusing to watch them try to collect.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:40 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Five Fun Facts About Pirates...And Other Random Links

Some may disappoint you:

No Buried Treasure. Extensive research by University of Pittsburgh Professor Marcus Rediker has debunked this common belief. Pirates rarely buried their treasure, partly because they didn't see the point of saving or hiding their riches, but mostly because the type of loot they took on -- usually food, trading goods, clothes, etc. -- was either perishable or served absolutely no purpose buried in a treasure chest.

For the most part, pirates actually traded their stolen goods in the New World. In fact, this trade infusion may have greatly boosted the local economies of large seaports and struggling settlements in the Americas.

Finally an invention we can all get behind:

Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada have built a gun they call the 'Speech Jammer', which could be ideal for an unruly classroom or noisy library.

It forces individuals into 'vocal submission', they say, and is accurate when fired from up to 30 metres away.

...A preliminary study has found that it worked best when used on someone reading a pre-prepared speech rather than more spontaneous chat, meaning it would be perfect to quieten your least favourite politician.

I dunno. I suspect my long suffering spouse would pay real money for such a gadget.

The trials and tribulations of DSK's lawyer.

Hmmmmm.....

... even though the BMI scale applies to men and women equally, the two sexes tend to measure themselves on highly different parameters – a tendency which has been demonstrated in similar overseas studies.

One of the novel approaches in this study, however, was that Christensen also asked the participants to estimate their partner’s weight.

Here the survey showed that whereas the women tend to underestimate their men’s weight levels only slightly, the men showed a clear tendency to overestimate their women’s weight when the women were either underweight or normal weight.

On average, it only took a BMI score of 22.59 for the men to start assessing their partner as overweight, even though it takes a BMI score of 25 or more to be considered overweight.

“This shows us that it’s not only us women who have unrealistic perceptions of our weight, but that the perceptions tend to transfer between the sexes, leaving both sexes with this perception,” says the researcher, who is a little surprised at this finding.

”When men start to perceive women as overweight even before they are, it goes against the general idea that men like women with shapely figures.”

Adam Smith:

...The vices of levity are always ruinous to the common people, and a single week’s thoughtlessness and dissipation is often sufficient to undo a poor workman for ever, and to drive him through despair upon committing the most enormous crimes. The wiser and better sort of the common people, therefore, have always the utmost abhorrence and detestation of such excesses, which their experience tells them are so immediately fatal to people of their condition. The disorder and extravagance of several years, on the contrary, will not always ruin a man of fashion, and people of that rank are very apt to consider the power of indulging in some degree of excess as one of the advantages of their fortune, and the liberty of doing so without censure or reproach as one of the privileges which belong to their station. In people of their own station, therefore, they regard such excesses with but a small degree of disapprobation, and censure them either very slightly or not at all.

Beautiful, beautiful, and most beautiful:

Food for thought:

Even the simplest item became a desperate bargaining scrum, with both sides scouring the other for weaknesses and gleefully “sticking it to them” whenever possible. If you approached a NY transaction with the attitude of a midwesterner, you were going to get screwed, because they were going to walk all over you and push for favorable terms and lord over you their advantages while you would be loathe to use the same tactics in return. Soon even the dimmest types have to take on #1 attitudes, and then regular update meetings are just taking turns throwing the other guy “under the bus” and scheming to leverage the fine print. A real joy.

The difficulty with #1 behavior is that it “negates” itself when confronted by both parties using this set of tactics. Now you get back to equilibrium, but the entire transaction and work effort is bitter and poisoned. As far as future work, you just “roll forward” your grievances into the NEXT transaction and find ever more creative ways to win with #1 tactics in the future, as both sides escalate.

The total of #1 behavior on both sides over time isn’t better than “golden rule” or Midwest behavior – you get back to the same equilibrium either way – and in the Midwest model of reasonable assumptions and giving the other guy a break and not living by the “letter” of the law, the entire process isn’t poisoned and miserable all along.

Recently I read that lenders were paying homeowners not to “trash” their houses during short sales; the lenders would give an amount of money sometimes in the tens of thousands to current residents (don’t want to call them “homeowners”, because they obviously own nothing it is a short sale) to keep the homes tidy and work with prospective buyers as they tour the home. In this instance the current resident isn’t even paying their mortgage, and yet the bank is paying them MORE to not trash the home, to boot. This is an example of “the Dick economy” where we have to assume negative, single-transaction behavior on the type of actors.

A similar example is a horror story of someone in Chicago I know who rented to a prosperous engineer who promptly failed to pay any rent at all and then due to the slow process of eviction was able to live rent free for six months. The time would have been far longer except that the home owner had a contact with the sheriffs department that allowed the process to get expedited. It is interesting to speculate that the type of moral indifference that lets people strategically default on loans wouldn’t come up in more forums; after all, if you don’t pay your mortgage and live free in your house for years, why wouldn’t you play that same trick on the stupid landlord who lets you come into the building?

New York, on the other hand, has this figured out. Want to rent in New York City? You need to have your income verified and have a co-signer. If you can’t pay, they go after whomever co-signed. And you can believe that they are going to do this. New York expects #1 behavior among all players, and the game is played that way.

It will be interesting to see if “walk away” behavior infects more of the Midwest and we all end up like NYC. If people start to walk away from mortgages and then push the rental situation to the same place, you can bet that soon a co-signer or many months of pre-payment will become the norm here.

Possibly related:

Trust is a fundamental prerequisite for the welfare state. If we didn’t trust one another, the whole model that the Scandinavian societies are built around would collapse even before it was implemented.

So says Christian Bjørnskov, an associate professor at Aarhus University’s Department of Economics and Business.

This argument turns the welfare debate on its head as the common conception has been that the high levels of trust in Scandinavian countries are generated by the welfare state.

“Our research indicates the exact opposite,” says Bjørnson. “We’ve always had a great trust in other people in Scandinavia, and this trust is the cornerstone of our welfare state.”

Another mystery solved! I'm guessing this is where Sandra Fluke gets her prescriptions filled.

*rim shot*

Welcome, Michelle Malkin readers!

Posted by Cassandra at 06:12 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

March 05, 2012

My Party, Right or Wrong Is Not A Winning Message

Over the past week or so, millions of innocent pixels were frog marched off to war for or against Rush Limbaugh's latest own goal. In the course of the debate here at VC, some interesting arguments have been made:

1. Rush Limbaugh says outrageous things to get attention. Thus, the best response is to ignore him.

Having mostly chosen to ignore Mr. Limbaugh myself, I profoundly sympathize with the desire to overlook the latest gaseous emanations from his stately blowhole. Has criticism of Limbaugh's antics been rewarding to him? Here's the scorecard as of today:

A flower company is the seventh advertiser to pull its ads from conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh's radio program in reaction to his derogatory comments about a law student who testified about birth control policy.

ProFlowers said Sunday on its Facebook page that it has suspended advertising on Limbaugh's program because his comments about Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke "went beyond political discourse to a personal attack and do not reflect our values as a company."

The six other advertisers that say they have pulled ads from his show are mortgage lender Quicken Loans, mattress retailers Sleep Train and Sleep Number, software maker Citrix Systems Inc., online data backup service provider Carbonite and online legal document services company LegalZoom.

Seven advertisers have pulled the plug on Mr. Limbaugh's show and he has been forced to apologize publicly. Many conservatives have criticized him as well. If this constitutes a reward, I need to find a new dictionary.

2. The Left has treated conservative women badly and "no one" did anything about it. As Don Surber points out, this isn't quite true:

Conservatives need to take a little mental trip back to June 2009 when David Letterman joked about Sarah Palin’s “slutty flight attendant look” and joked about her 14-year-old daughter, Willow, having sex at Yankee Stadium with Derek Jeter in the middle of a game.

Remember?

We called to boycott the advertisers of David Letterman and demanded that CBS fire him.

Remember?

In all fairness, not all conservatives called for Letterman to be fired. I didn't. Nor did I call for his advertisers to boycott him. I didn't even ask him to apologize. In both the Letterman and Limbaugh cases, I did criticize unwarranted crudity and the substitution of personal attacks for reasoned arguments. In the marketplace of ideas, no one should demand immunity from criticism. For free market conservatives to do so is especially troubling.

3. Rush is the best thing that's happened to conservatism since sliced bread. Therefore conservatives should never criticize him.

This one is so bizarre that it's hard to know where to start. Ace does a pretty good job here:

Anyone who moves from liberal to conservative will always describe it as liberating epiphany, of breathing free air.

So please listen to me, if on nothing else at all, when I tell you that this dopey attempt to pound people into accepting the groupthink by appeals to solidarity and appeals to authority (authority which is not universally conceded, even on the right) is a loser.

...If you want to move someone to the conservative side, you must first convince them that conservatives are not, as the media claims, crazy or weird. That is 90% of the battle, actually, as Breitbart knew, and as he made it his life's mission to prove.

If there's a mystery here, it's how the media's favorite narrative (Conservatives are hate filled bigots whose extreme views deserve to be marginalized and silenced) was in any way undermined by Rush's decision to call a young woman who never once talked about her own sex life during her testimony a "slut" and a "prostitute"?

Whatever her issues with math, if you bought into the meme that Fluke hid her affiliation with women's rights groups, you need to read her testimony:

“My name is Sandra Fluke, and I’m a third-year student at Georgetown Law School. I’m also a past-president of Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice or LSRJ. And I’d like to acknowledge my fellow LSRJ members and allies and all of the student activists with us and thank them so much for being here today.

When I want to hide something, I generally try to get it out there in plain sight. I will freely admit that I didn't read her testimony until this weekend, but when I did, I found I didn't recognize it from the descriptions I'd read on various blogs. If you bought the meme that she testified about her own sex life (the supposed justification for calling her a slut/prostitute), you need to read her testimony because you're flat out wrong. If you believe condoms were mentioned anywhere in her testimony, you need to read it. Nowhere were condoms mentioned, which is hardly surprising since they aren't even covered by ObamaCare.

How do arguments that demonstrate ignorance of the facts enhance our credibility? Answer: they don't. We don't need to distort the facts to make our case.

How was our credibility enhanced by the absurdly ignorant suggestion that the cost of oral contraceptives (what Fluke actually testified about, contra the prevailing meme) has ANYTHING to do with the frequency of sex? The facts should matter. Honesty and integrity should matter.

How was our credibility enhanced by the implication that she should post online sex tapes so Rush (and presumably other taxpayers) could watch?

How was it enhanced by the frankly ludicrous conflation of prostitution (the crime of accepting money in exchange for sex) with the acceptance of Congressionally mandated subsidies for birth control (which is not criminal and does not involve anyone paying for illegal sex acts)? Is this the best conservatives can do? If so, we're in more trouble than I thought.

I've heard quite a bit over the past week about how no one is as smart or as verbally adept as Rush. In fact, he is *so* smart and so skilled that his arguments must be protected from people who agree with him more often than not!

In what world does that make sense? We've all heard this argument before from feminists who claim that women are just as capable, strong, and smart as men but inexplicably can't compete unless the government guarantees preferential treatment. Apparently Rush is the best we have, but like feminists, he must be protected from criticism because his arguments can't stand on their own.

During any debate, both sides try to frame the issue on their own terms. The right wanted to frame this debate around religious liberty and limited government. The left desperately wanted to talk about evil, sex hating conservatives and their dubious War on Women. They wanted to talk about the conspiracy to snatch our birth control and force women to bake cupcakes in pale pink Easy Bake ovens while dressed in stiletto heels and frilly aprons.

And while I don't for one moment buy into that framing, I have to admit that for the very first time in my adult life, this 3 decade conservative-voting woman saw what the left sees when they look at Republicans. I don't buy their framing because I refuse to concede that Rush or some conservative bloggers have the right to speak for all Republicans or all conservatives. They don't, and we shouldn't encourage that notion.

Here's a hint: when your rhetoric alienates and offends loyal voting conservatives, you're doing the persuasion thing wrong.

All too often, the Left has been aided in their quest to frame conservatism as extremist and anti-woman by "real" conservative pundits and bloggers who seem only too happy to play the role they've been assigned. Never mind the economy or the federal deficit (areas where Obama and the Dems are actually vulnerable)! Let's talk about those uppity womenfolk and how they're depressing the wages of men, preventing boys from going to college, and (inexplicably) forcing the lower class to abandon marriage!

Dear God. Hard to think of a message more likely to sweep Republicans into the White House, isn't it?

4. Lighten up - Rush was just kidding. He's an entertainer.

If one accepts this argument, then on what rational basis do conservatives complain about Letterman, Maher, Stewart, or any other lefty comedian who takes a cheap shot at conservative women? Here, Allahpundit nails it:

...[Rick Santorum] says Rush is being absurd because he is, after all, an “entertainer,” but that excuse never spares, say, Jon Stewart from criticism on the right. Stewart, in fact, is famous for his “clown nose off, clown nose on” schtick, operating as a satirical yet fundamentally serious commentator until he’s called out for something he’s said, when suddenly he’s “just a comedian” again and you should really lighten up, dude.

The argument cuts both ways, or at least it should if we believe what we say we do.

5. The Left never takes their own to task.

This is simply not true. In a must read essay, Kirsten Powers does just that:

Liberals—you know, the people who say they “fight for women”—comprise Maher’s audience, and a parade of high-profile liberals make up his guest list. Yet have any of them confronted him? Nope. That was left to Ann Coulter, who actually called Maher a misogynist to his face, an opportunity that feminist icon Gloria Steinem failed to take when she appeared on his show in 2011.

This is not to suggest that liberals—or feminists—never complain about misogyny. Many feminist blogs now document attacks on women on the left and the right, including Jezebel, Shakesville, and the Women’s Media Center (which was cofounded by Steinem). But when it comes to high-profile campaigns to hold these men accountable—such as that waged against Limbaugh—the real fury seems reserved only for conservatives, while the men on the left get a wink and a nod as long as they are carrying water for the liberal cause.

After all, if Limbaugh’s outburst is part of the “war on women,” then what is the routine misogyny of liberal media men?

It’s time for some equal-opportunity accountability. Without it, the fight against media misogyny will continue to be perceived as a proxy war for the Democratic Party, not a fight for fair treatment of women in the public square.

Ms. Powers is hardly the first on the Left to try to hold her side to their own professed standards. Conservatives generally speak in glowing terms of the courage and integrity of Democrats like Tommy Christopher who demand accountability from their own ranks.

Which only makes it more inexplicable to see some conservatives suggesting that the party of accountability and standards should betray everything we claim to stand for. I am proud that so many conservatives stepped forward on this issue.

In fact, I have rarely been prouder of my own party. We are not so fragile that we can't withstand honest and open debate. "My side, right or wrong" is not a winning message. Nor should it be.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:13 AM | Comments (76) | TrackBack

This Is How It's Done

Youtube in honor of Debra Saunders, who clearly knows how to articulate the conservative objection to taxpayer subsidized (free) birth control:

Abortion used to be a matter of choice. Ditto birth control. But now that they have considerable political power, the erstwhile choice advocates want to take away the choice of dissenters to opt out.

Choice is gone. Tolerance is musty memory. "Access" is the new buzzword -- and access means free. Under Obamacare, employer-paid health plans can charge women copayments for necessary and vital medical services if they are seriously ill, but birth control is free.

Fluke did address Congress. She observed: "Conservative Catholic organizations have been asking (us) what did we expect when we enrolled at a Catholic school. We can only answer that we expected women to be treated equally, to not have our school create untenable burdens that impede our academic success."

I cannot imagine how a Georgetown law student could expect the Catholic Church to treat women equally. It doesn't let women be priests.

What is more, Fluke asserted that if students have to go out and get their own birth control -- because they chose to attend a Catholic institution -- that hurts their grades. Therefore, Washington must force religious institutions to go against their deeply held beliefs and hand out birth control, if indirectly.

Washington has accomplished a great leap, from a plea for choice to a roar of entitlement.

No doubt, this approach works well with intolerant liberals who want to impose their views on others. But it is enough to cause some of us social moderates, who worry about the encroachment on religious and personal liberty, to go into the loving arms of social conservatives.

It's not hard to counter Ms. Fluke's flimsy arguments without resorting to name calling. Her argument essentially boils down to, "People Women are having trouble coming up with the money for a single medication. Therefore, the federal government must provide that medication (at taxpayer expense) in the name of fairness."

So let's talk about fairness. I am a working woman. I am also a migraine sufferer.

Since I was Ms. Fluke’s age, my migraines have been so severe and so frequent that for nearly two decades I was on a prophylactic (as in "preventative", though I find the double meaning particularly apt in this case) daily medication. This medication reduced the frequency of my headaches from 20-25 days a month to 3 or 4. It allowed me to function in a way most people take for granted.

But when I got a migraine, it did nothing to reduce the pain or control the nausea. So I needed a second medication to deal with pain and nausea: Imitrex tablets. There's just one problem. Because my husband’s health care plan was run by the federal government, it was far more difficult than it should have been for me to get a prescription. What should have been automatic took years of fighting and complaints. I had to submit my request to a medical board to get the very same medication civilians were routinely prescribed.

In the meantime, every month or so my husband ended up rushing me to the emergency room, usually after 2 to 3 days of agony during which I was unable to keep even a glass of water down.

The thing is, using the medical benefits my husband earned was our choice. No one forced us to go through the military health care system. We had options, but decided (for once) to spend our money on decent schools for our two boys rather than on out of pocket medical expenses. This was the only time we did so during my husband's active service, and there's a good reason for that.

So, did the Navy's penny wise, pound foolish policy with respect to Imitrex save the federal government money? I doubt it. The bill for an ER visit (which is all that was available without an advance appointment) was far higher than what it would have cost the Navy to simply prescribe a medication civilian doctors had the freedom to give their patients.

This wasn't the Navy's fault, by the way. Mind numbing red tape brought to you courtesy of federal waste, fraud, and abuse regulations is what happens when the federal government hands out (and thus controls access to) "free" health care. Medical decisions are taken out of the hands of doctors, patients, and insurance companies and put into the hands of medical boards.

Eventually after months of waiting my request was approved. My doctor was incredibly frustrated by the process. She couldn't believe a patient who had already tried every medication out there was put through such a ludicrous ordeal.

Recently, I was able to wean myself off the daily meds. This is a good thing, as the side effects were almost worse than the original malady. I now have far fewer headaches than at any time during the past 25 years. As a consequence, though, the few headaches I do get are far more severe than they used to be. So much so that injectable Imitrex is the only thing that stops them.

So even with what Obama calls a "Cadillac health care plan", I gladly pay a deductible of several hundred dollars every Jan. 1st, with a monthly co-pay of $100 for a grand total of about $1500 a year.

Now last time I checked, there are no clinics handing out free or discounted injectable Imitrex though without it, I would not be able to hold a job. Yet you don't see me asking the federal government to subsidize my preventative care. And you never will. You don't see me arguing that my "need" for this medication is something the federal government must address.

If we extend Ms. Fluke's ”need based” arguments to everyone who has an expensive medical condition, simple "fairness" dictates that everyone should get the care they need for free. What makes women's contraception a special case when there are people with far worse (and far more expensive) conditions than migraines. Surely their needs matter too?

Doesn't Ms. Fluke care about them?

Nowhere in Ms. Fluke's testimony does she explain why it is "fair" for women (but not men) to get free contraceptives. Nowhere does she explain why women should be exempted from the deductibles and co-pays the rest of us have to pay out of our pockets. Nowhwere in her testimony does she explain why only women's contraception is covered. Let's not forget that the Pill does NOTHING to prevent STDs, yet condoms are not covered by ObamaCare. If it's in the public interest to prevent pregnancies, isn't it equally in the public interest to prevent STDs and diseases like AIDS from spreading?

Nowhere does she explain how handing out free medication to a special interest group helps the federal government hold down health care spending.

These are all questions her critics could and should be asking. Instead, some of them seem obsessed with calculating how many condoms (did I mention they’re not covered by ObamaCare? I'm sure I must have) can be purchased for $3000 or gleefully speculating about how many times a day Ms. Fluke (who said not a word during her testimony about her own sex life or contraceptive bills) has sex.

For most of my husband’s 30 years of military service, I paid our family’s medical expenses out of my own pocket rather than wrestle with the frustrating bureaucracy that results from federally managed health care. Unlike Ms. Fluke, my husband earned his health care benefit by serving this country for three decades. So I don't have a whole lot of sympathy for a student at Georgetown law who "can't afford" (if you accept Ms. Fluke's laughable estimate of $3000 for 3 years) an expense of under 20 dollars a week. I know college students who spend that much on Starbucks.

Nor is relative poverty an excuse. My husband, son, and I lived well below the poverty level for the first few years of our marriage. That’s a fairly common scenario for married college students. But then no one forced us to marry or have a child. We had NO medical insurance, but were easily able to save enough money to pay our medical expenses (which included 9 months of pre-natal care and a hospital delivery) from our savings. And that's with only one of us working. I stayed home to watch our infant son.

A lifetime of federally managed health care has taught me that there is nothing more frustrating than feeling like your options are being dictated by a large bureaucracy that isn't the least bit afraid of losing your business (and therefore has little incentive to fix things when they go wrong). I love my civilian insurance. I cheerfully pay my $100 monthly co-pay and choose from a wide array of doctors who compete for my business. If I am dissatisfied with my care, I can fire them.

There are many fine and dedicated military medical professionals. My brother in law is one. But the system is broken. I'll never go back voluntarily to a system where I have fewer choices and less control over my own health than I do in the free market.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:38 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 02, 2012

Surreal Quiz of the Day

Speaking of low hanging fruit, a Friday time waster:

Rick Santorum, or Megadeth?

The Blog Princess got 4 out of 10.

h/t: Aegon01

Posted by Cassandra at 07:36 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

No Great Regard for Intelligence

That laughter costs too much, which is purchased by the sacrifice of decency

- Quintilian

A book review about writer James Wolcott touches on something that has been bothering me for a long time:

Beginning as a rock critic explains a lot about James Wolcott’s overwrought prose—that old air guitar—which he slathers lavishly on all subjects. “Being facile is harder than it looks,” he writes. To which I would reply that finding a paragraph in his memoir free of heavy injections of false energy and sloppy phrasing isn’t any easier. Wolcott will strike off a straight arresting sentence, then follow it up with two or three clotted ones, usually larded with sexual metaphors, similes, and allusions: “I had too much altar boy in me to seize the bitch goddess of success by her ponytail and bugger the Zeitgeist with my throbbing baguette” is but one example among scores. In writing about punk rock, he alerts us that this was a time before “the gold medallions and furry testicles of disco descended” (get that metaphor to a urologist!). “A date movie for the damned, Looking for Mr. Goodbar looked as if it had been coated from floor to ceiling with contraceptive jelly.” “Niche journalism hadn’t yet whittled too many writers into specialty artists, dildos for rent.”

Such prose is beyond mere editing; it requires Drano.

“Our idols are our instructors,” writes Wolcott, and his own idols have been Norman Mailer, Seymour Krim, John Leonard, Marvin Mudrick, Alfred Chester, and above all, Pauline Kael. What these writers have in common is that—with the exception of Mudrick, a literary attack specialist—they all vaunted, and themselves went on, instinct, and had no great regard for intelligence. Pauline Kael once remarked in Wolcott’s presence of the movie reviewer David Denby: “All that boring intelligence.” If a porn movie, a rock performance, a book feels good, it must, ipso facto, be good. Feeling, which must never be betrayed, is all.

Often I begin my day by visiting Memeorandum. I don't go there so much for the links, but because I find it fascinating to watch what floats to the surface and who links to which stories. Some draw commentary from both sides of the political spectrum, but the items I find most interesting are the ones where the reactions are lopsided. That tends to happen when one side finds a story useful (more evidence - as though more were needed - to establish the utter perfidy and shamelessness of the other side) and the other side would like to pretend the story didn't exist or can't quite stomach defending the behavior on display.

Yesterday we saw a bit of that shamelessness (but also some decency) in the left's reactions to Andrew Breitbart's sudden passing. It would be easy - and predictable - to suggest that the more regrettable reactions were somehow the exclusive province of the left. But to do so, one would have to ignore items like this.

I'm always interested to see who bucks the general trend on each side. This morning on the rightist leaning side of the blatherosphere, it seems to be Don Surber and Eugene Volokh:

There’s nothing substantive in common between being paid to have sex, and having contraceptives be provided by a health plan. (Would you call a man a gigolo because he uses a condom that he got for free from some university giveaway?) The allegation that somehow Ms. Fluke is “having so much sex” strikes me as misunderstanding the way birth control pills work: You have to take them all the time even if you’re having sex only rarely, and even if you’re having sex with only one person (I mention this because the implication seems to me that Ms. Fluke is being promiscuous). Beyond this, I should think that most parents have to recognize that their 21-to-24-year-old daughters — remember, she’s a law student — probably are having sex with someone; I would think that even in conservative circles, many 21-to-24-year-old women these days are having sex (even assuming Limbaugh was limiting his comments to unmarried women).

But beyond that, consider the manners: Instead of dealing with a woman’s arguments on their own, he’s trying to slime her with vulgarities. I would think that parents would much rather hear on the radio that their 21-year-old daughters are using birth control than that their grown sons are calling women “sluts” on national radio.

I realize that Limbaugh's show purports to be "entertainment", and certainly he is free to say whatever he likes on the air. But Fluke's testimony was about as close to low hanging fruit as it gets, which only makes it more inexplicable that Limbaugh felt he could not refute it on the merits without descending into the gutter:

Limbaugh on Wednesday had referred to student Sandra Fluke as a “slut” for supporting a requirement that health insurance cover contraception. On his radio show Thursday, Limbaugh went a little further:
"So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you Feminazis, here's the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex. We want something for it. We want you post the videos online so we can all watch."

Mr. Limbaugh's defenders will no doubt argue that his Wolcottesque metaphors were intended to make us laugh. I suppose there are conservatives who find this sort of thing entertaining. No doubt Bill Maher and his audience feel the same way about his unique brand of invective.

But I've never been able to escape the feeling that every time we stoop to the ad hominid, we move farther and farther away from two standards conservatives ought to admire and defend: decency and self restraint.

Voluntary self restraint is not tantamount to allowing the other side to determine the terms of the debate. Self regulation is something adults used to do voluntarily, at least until the perennial defense of the five year old - "But Mom - he did it first" became justification for a race to the bottom in which both sides lose something priceless: the capacity for shame.

Update: Welcome, Michelle Malkin and Memeorandum readers :)

Update II: Pitch perfect response - don't condone someone else's stupidity and don't fall into the trap of apologizing for (and thereby taking responsibility for) it:

“The speaker obviously believes the use of those words was inappropriate, as is trying to raise money off the situation,”

If only our President could get that one down.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:15 AM | Comments (102) | TrackBack