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August 31, 2012

Speaking of "Frighteningly White" Neighborhoods....

In the HuffPo, Geoffrey Dunn is appalled to learn that Clint Eastwood's hometown of Carmel, CA is, as he terms it, "frighteningly white":

Eastwood, of course, has a political resumé of his own, having served a two-year term as mayor of the upscale and frighteningly white community of Carmel--with a population of 3,800, there were only eight African Americans recorded in the 2010 census--very close in size and demographics to Sarah Palin's Wasilla, albeit without the meth labs and strip malls.

The number of African-Americans living in Carmel is supposed to mean something. It's a not especially subtle, coded suggestion: we all know what kind of folks choose to live in a community with only 8 blacks. Racists, that's who! You know, like that outraged fellow from that overwhelmingly white news station:

[CHRIS MATTHEWS] ...I go back to living in DC all these years. I've lived there 40 years, a black-majority city, and anybody who wants to get up early in Washington and drive down North Capitol (Street) and drive past Florida Avenue, sees nothing but youn-, but black people up at 6:30 in the morning going to work. That's where they're going, to work, and not at big-wage jobs and not to get a welfare check, they're out working hard all day and not coming home with a fantastic paycheck. So this notion of blacks live on welfare and whites live on work is a brilliant political ploy but it's not true, Rachel (Maddow). And you know it, I know it.

Sounds like Matthews spends considerable time thinking about this -- while driving. Which makes sense, seeing how he doesn't actually live in the District of Columbia as he boasts.

Media profiles of Matthews (Washington Post, NY Times) and his wife, former TV reporter and Marriott flack Kathleen (Politico) have reported that the Matthews reside in Chevy Chase, an affluent Maryland suburb.

... the Matthews live smack-dab in Chevy Chase Village -- one of the least diverse locales in the country.

According to census data at Maryland-Demographics.com, 1,953 people lived in Chevy Chase Village as of 2010. Of those nearly 2,000 residents, 10 were black. That's right -- ten. As in, one-half of one percent.

In case you'd like to be one of Chris' neighbors, we hear there are some homes for sale:

House For Sale: $2,888,000
House For Sale: $2,595,400
House For Sale: $2,595,000
House For Sale: $2,250,000
House For Sale: $1,995,000
House For Sale: $1,875,000
House For Sale: $2,200,000
House For Sale: $3,000,000
House For Sale: $2,200,000
House For Sale: $1,900,000
House For Sale: $2,500,000

Question for the ages: if diversity is so important to Mr. Matthews, how can he stand working at a network whose anchors are overwhelmingly white, and then coming home to a neighborhood that's not only "upscale and frighteningly white", but downright exclusive and 1%-ish?

It's a good thing Mr. Dunn doesn't even try to hold his fellow progressives to the standards he professes to believe in. We wouldn't want him to end up looking foolish.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:16 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

August 30, 2012

Dawgs Will Be Dawgs...

Or in this case, Devil dawgs. Insubordination, or completely understandable display of martial spirit? VC asks, you decide:

nosetonose.jpg

The Marines won't say it out loud, but everyone knows that Cpl. Chesty got promoted to sergeant this summer not for being a good Marine, but for his in-your-muzzle confrontation with the top dog in the Pentagon.

Just two weeks before his promotion, the Marine Corps mascot, an English bulldog formally known as Chesty XIII, had a run-in with Bravo, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's golden retriever. Chesty, usually known for happily mugging for photos with kids, revealed his inner grunt when he spotted the larger dog at the conclusion of a pomp-filled military parade held in honor of the Pentagon chief. Chesty growled, barked and ignored his choke-chain of command as he went nose-to-nose with Bravo.

As Chesty's growl erupted into an angry bark, an officer urgently whispered in the ear of his handler, Sgt. Chris Harris: "Keep the leash tight."

That kind of breach of decorum at the headquarters barracks, where the top generals and their wives reside, could have been career-ending for most Marines.

Chesty weathered the controversy and came out of it with a new stripe on his uniform.

...Col. Montanus, who had the dog's fate in his hands, acknowledges that Chesty was wrong to shove his short snout in Bravo's face. "There absolutely was a protocol break," he said. "We don't bark at guests, whether they are human or the canine variety."

But, the colonel said, much of the opposition was baseless. A barracks spokesman says senior Marine wives love and support the current Chesty. And at 54 pounds, Chesty fits nicely in the dress blues he was issued as a younger dog, thanks to being served half the daily kibble ration of his chunky predecessors.

Nevertheless, in a speech at Chesty's June promotion ceremony, Col. Montanus acknowledged the decision was "touch and go."

"There are some Marines that are destined to be sergeant," he said. "Then there are some whose conduct is…questionable. Chesty is one of those Marines."

Col. Montanus said he had considered formally punishing Chesty for "disrespect to a superior commissioned dog."

It is true that "Chesty made threatening gestures," he said. "But we decided the body of work for Chesty was enough he rated becoming a sergeant."

...Col. Montanus calls the clash with Bravo a minor infraction. Chesty, the colonel says, excels at his main responsibility: Accepting hugs from children with enthusiasm and without biting.

As for Bravo's master, there seem to be no hard feelings. "Chesty may bark a lot," Mr. Panetta said. "But he understands the chain of command.".

May it ever be so.

On the thorny question of insubordination, we'll let Grim decide :p

Update: Grim has spoken!

The problem with having a human assign a dog rank is that we don't do it the same way that the dogs do. Chesty was simply establishing that, in dog-rank, he was not the subordinate.

If the Marines want a dog who will act like a corporal instead of a two-star general, they should enlist a chihuahua.

Heh...

Posted by Cassandra at 08:11 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Another Ugly, Racially Tinged Incident at the RNC

Oddly, the overwhelmingly white faces of MSNBC were unavailable for comment:

whmsnbc.jpg

She added, to loud applause, that the United States “cannot lead from behind.”

Rice’s speech, which began with her vivid recollection of Sept. 11, 2001, sought to link economic concerns that are the dominant issue in this year’s election with the broader question of America’s standing in the world.

“When the world looks at us today, they see an American government that cannot live within its means,” she lamented. “The world knows that when a nation loses control of its finances, it eventually loses control of its destiny.”

The audience responded with unbridled enthusiasm to much of Rice’s speech, which she delivered without a teleprompter. She was greeted with a minute-long standing ovation when she first took the stage. Her counterattack on the Obama campaign’s assaults on Romney’s business record also hit the mark with the crowd. “We have never been jealous of one another and never envious of each other’s successes,” she said.

In part, the ardent reaction in the hall reflected the enthusiasm for Rice in a party that has long enjoyed her combination of gravitas and charisma. Earlier in the day at a panel discussion, Joshua Bolten, who had served alongside Rice in the Bush White House as chief of staff, told her she was “a celebrity at this convention.”

We sure wish these folks would make up their mind whether those racist Rethugs care more about the color of someone's skin or what they have to say. This kind of thing looks bad.... for the race baiting media narrative.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:06 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 27, 2012

The Real Thing, vs The Appearance of It

Say thou to Harry of England:
Though we seemed dead, we did but sleep:
advantage is a better soldier than rashness.

- Henry V, Scene VI

A few interesting items from our morning browsing:

When it comes to deficit-fueled government spending, Warren Buffet, of Buffet Rule fame, is voting with his feet:

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) recently terminated credit-default swaps insuring $8.25 billion of municipal debt, according to the company's latest quarterly SEC filing. The original bet was a bullish one -- in the event the municipalities defaulted on their debt, Berkshire would have to pay out. The move to terminate those contracts may have made some investors more skittish about the finances of U.S. states, cities and towns, but this shouldn't come as a surprise to those who have closely followed Buffett's remarks.

Since at least 2009, Buffett has warned about the risks of insuring municipal bonds. In his annual letter to shareholders, he said rather than raise taxes to fill budget gaps, government officials might be inclined to default on bonds whose payments are guaranteed by insurance companies. Guaranteeing munis against default, he wrote, "has the look today of a dangerous business -- one with similarities, in fact, to the insuring of natural catastrophes."

We find his lack of faith in the Obama admininstration's policies disturbing. But also extremely amusing:

[Buffett] has wholeheartedly supported President Obama’s economic agenda of higher spending and higher taxes on wealth creators to pay for the welfare state both he and the president envision.

He even allowed the president to use him as a political prop and put the Buffett name on a new tax that won’t raise much revenue but may win the president a few more votes as he fights for re-election.
Which is why the last thing he wants to do is explain that his move isn’t a bet against all bonds but just some of those in areas that have adopted the same misguided fiscal policies both he and the president are advocating on a national level.

What does it say about these policies when the "smart money" decides they're too risky?

In other news, Andrew Ferguson belatedly discovers the inverse (or is it obverse? Multiverse? Buehller?) of the old maxim, "All that glitters is not gold" - maybe there are more important qualities in a candidate than glibness and a convincingly authentic inauthenticity:

Romney once famously called himself “severely” conservative. Other adverbs fit better: culturally, personally, instinctively. He seems to have missed out on The Sixties altogether, and wanted to. As a freshman at Stanford he protested the protesters, appearing in the quad carrying signs of his own: SPEAK OUT, DON’T SIT IN! In 1968 the May riots stranded him in Paris. “The disorder appalled him,” the authors write. He left Stanford for BYU, where long hair, rock bands, and peace symbols were banned. As a young go-getter he liked to give friends copies of Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill—a Stephen Covey for the Coolidge era, sodden with moral uplift. (Even his anachronisms are anachronistic.) “There was nothing jaded about him,” a school friend tells the authors, “nothing skeptical, nothing ironic.”

At his wedding, he declined when the photographer asked him to kiss the bride: “Not for cameras,” he said. Since that day, Ann says, they haven’t had an argument; friends believe her. And their kids—we’ve all seen their kids. The authors tick off a typical week for the young family. Sunday: “church, reflection, volunteer work, family dinners.” Monday: “family night,” when the family gathered for Bible stories and skits about animals. Tuesday was for family basketball games and cookouts. Friday was date night for Mitt and Ann. Saturday was for doing chores, and so on, in a pinwheel of wholesomeness that a -post-60s ironist can only gape at, disbelieving. The Romneys present a picture of an American family that popular culture has been trying to undo since—well, since An American Family, the 1973 PBS documentary that exposed the typical household as a cauldron of resentment and infidelity.

And now, here, 40 years later, it’s as though it all never happened: a happy American family, led by a baby boomer with no sense of irony! Romney is the sophisticate’s nightmare.

Almost every personal detail about Romney I found endearing. But my slowly softening opinion went instantly to goo when The Real Romney unfolded an account of his endless kindnesses—unbidden, unsung, and utterly gratuitous. “It seems that everyone who has known him has a tale of his altruism,” the authors write. I was struck by the story of a Mormon family called (unfortunately) Nixon. In the 1990s a car wreck rendered two of their boys quadriplegics. Drained financially from extraordinary expenses, Mr. Nixon got a call from Romney, whom he barely knew, asking if he could stop by on Christmas Eve. When the day came, all the Romneys arrived bearing presents, including a VCR and a new sound system the Romney boys set up. Later Romney told Nixon that he could take care of the children’s college tuition, which in the end proved unnecessary. “I knew how busy he was,” Nixon told the authors. “He was actually teaching his boys, saying, ‘This is what we do. We do this as a family.’ ”

Romney’s oldest son Tagg once made the same point to the radio host Hugh Hewitt. “He was constantly doing things like that and never telling anyone about them,” Tagg said. “He doesn’t want to tell people about them, but he wanted us to see him. He would let the kids see it because he wanted it to rub off on us.”

If we didn't know better, we'd be wondering whether actions weren't more important than words? There's a certain irony in the fact that it took Romney's enemies to make a conservative focus on substance rather than seeming. There's an old saying about that too, but we'll spare you.

Doug Mataconis wonders whether the Afghan Surge was a success?

... Kandahar and Helmund have been the location where most of the “Green on Blue” attacks by members of the Afghan military and police forces have taken place in recently. Measuring the surge simply the the level of violence in those two areas, then, one would have to conclude that the operation has fallen far short of its goals to say the very least. Starting later this year, American troops will begin their draw down, including in Helmund where the number of Marines will be reduced to just about 7,000 troops. At that point, the beginning of the end of the surge, and of the American presence in Afghanistan itself. It should have come a lot sooner, of course, but at least it will have been reached. Looking back on all of it now, it’s hard to see what we’ve accomplished, and even harder to see what President Obama’s decision to ramp up our commitment significantly over the past two and half years has accomplished.

If anyone can tell us what the goal of the Afghan Surge was, we'll be eternally grateful. When The Shrub announced the Iraqi Surge, we were earnestly assured that without clear, measurable goals, it was impossible to assess whether our strategy was working.

Iraq's political and military success is considered vital to U.S. interests, whether troops stay or go. And while the Iraqi government has made measurable progress in recent months, the rate at which it's done so has been achingly slow.

The White House sees the progress in a particularly positive light, declaring in a new assessment to Congress that Iraq's efforts on 15 of 18 benchmarks are "satisfactory" — almost twice what it determined to be the case a year ago. The May 2008 report card, obtained by the Associated Press, determines that only two of the benchmarks — enacting and implementing laws to disarm militias and distribute oil revenues — are unsatisfactory.

The media reaction to the startling revelation that 15 of the 18 benchmarks had been achieved was to complain that progress was "too slow". Meanwhile, we've heard precious little about the Obama administration's benchmarks, quite possibly because they were so vaguely worded that no one - including Obama's supporters - could figure out what they meant (much less measure to what extent they had been achieved).

Back in 2009, we were surprised when Time did a fairly decent job of documenting the flawed assumptions underlying what, had it been advanced during the Bush years, the media would have called "the so-called Afghan Surge". What a difference an election makes.

It's such a hassle for the media, holding government accountable. Perhaps now we can get on to more important matters.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:15 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Dogs Are Made of Love

Funny, that's just how we felt when the Spousal Unit got home from Afghanistan. No matter how many of these we see, they just never get old.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:52 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 23, 2012

Blogging

The Blog Princess is trying to wrap up two massive projects at work by the end of August, so blogging will be intermittent for the next week or so. Lots of 14 hours days, and her spine is just about fused from huddling over the computer screen.

Grim's taking a break from politics. He In solidarity, Eric Hines has posted a few Patsy Cline videos up at Grim's place. Some day the princess will learn to read the signature line on posts!

The princess has a soft spot for Cline - she's one of the few female chanteuses (Bonnie Raitt is another) who sing in her key. Being an alto has its benefits - learning early on to harmonize with just about any melody being one of them. But it's also a joy to be able to sing a straight melody every now and then.

A while back we discussed the dumbing down of modern music. The other night the Spousal Unit and I watched a special on Frank Sinatra as we enjoyed a post-prandial libation. It featured clips from his TV show (we'd forgotten he even had one), but what came across rather painfully was just how beautifully crafted some of those old classics are, and how masterfully they were performed.

When she was just a young lass the princess sang in church choirs, concert choirs, choruses and several combo groups. Doing so gives one an appreciation for how much practice (and talent!) is required to perform well. The human voice is an instrument, and virtuousity doesn't just happen, even for soloists. For groups, even more work is required for things to go smoothly.

At any rate, we've always loved this Patsy Cline number:

Whilst Googling up our favorite version, we ran across a little history on the song. Apparently it was originally written for another singer, but was rejected. Cline didn't care much for the tune either at first, but was persuaded to record it anyway.

When she performed the song on TV in 1957, the audience went wild:

In January 1957, Cline performed the song on an episode of the CBS television program, Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. It garnered a strong response from viewers, and was therefore rush-released as a single February 11, 1957. "Walkin' After Midnight" became Cline's first major hit single, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard country music chart, and No. 12 on its pop chart. Although the song was her only hit until 1961, the single version sold over one million copies and is often included on authoritative lists of the all-time greatest songs in country music.

And to think it was almost never recorded! We had no idea of the history, never having heard it until the early 90s when we bought a Patsy Cline's greatest hits tape and fell in love with the tune. This part is particularly lovely:

I stopped to see a weeping willow
Crying on his pillow
Maybe he's crying for me?
And as the skies turn gloomy
Night winds whisper to me
I'm lonesome as I can be

I love the mixture of hope and longing in the song, and the key change after the second repetition never fails to send a small shiver of pleasure up my spine.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:17 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

August 22, 2012

Should I Devour Her, Or Take a Nap?

It's the decisions in life that get you:

Posted by Cassandra at 07:49 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Apparently, Our Non-existent God Hates Republicans

La Althouse is wickedly funny today, riffing on Dana Milbanks' lame "Proof God Hates Rethugs" shtick:

If God controls the weather, let's not worry about global warming. Or are you going to say He controls the weather but not the climate? We're talking omnipotence, or do you think that's some kind of joke?

But this skinny dipping story... what the hell? Hell, I say. Swimming naked has been the normal way to go swimming since forever. I'm virtually certain Jesus and his disciples swam naked in the Sea of Galilee. God sends us into the world naked. The unborn — are they human? — float naked in the waters of the womb. Is there something wrong with nakedness that the Democrats would like to make a big deal about? Some Republicans were unholy in the Holy Land?

Explain your theory/theology and why it's consistent with American principles of keeping religion and politics separate.

Many progressives seem to regard religious faith as an unreasonable and deeply ignorant superstition - sort of like believing in Fairies or Chupacabras. Naturally, denying God's existence doesn't keep them from using him as the ultimate appeal to authority (yet another tactic progressives claim to reject!) when it's politically expedient.

Texan99 serves up more Democratic incoherence wrt religion. Apparently, Paul Ryan's an insincere Catholic if he doesn't embrace the Social Justice wing of the Catholic church. Ryan's bishop sets them straight on the Church's priorities:

Mr. Ryan's own bishop wrote recently that the Church considers abortion
an "intrinsic evil" (meaning always and everywhere wrong, regardless of circumstances). In sharp contrast, he said, on issues such as how best to create jobs or help the poor, "there can be difference according to how best to follow the principles which the church offers."

Once again, when progressives oppose Catholic principles, they're brave, enlightened truth-to-powerers. When conservatives do it (not that Ryan has actually done that, mind you) they're hypocrites.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:43 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 21, 2012

In Case Y'all Were Wondering....

Unintentionally funny statement of the day:

Numerous congressional ethics-law experts interviewed Monday said the FBI does not care if lawmakers swim naked ...

MRUN must have been unavailable for comment.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:58 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Baseball More Dangerous Than Football?

Last week the Editorial Staff weighed in on the War on Football. This week, a new study claims that baseball is actually the more dangerous sport:

Last Thursday, Grantland’s Bill Barnwell published an informal study of mortality rates among professional football and baseball players. The results were surprising: Among the 3,088 ex-football players who played for parts of at least five seasons between 1959 and 1988, 12.8 percent had died; in a sample of 1,494 baseball players active during the same era, the death rate was 15.9 percent.

The study was meant to serve as a clarification or maybe a rebuke of a similar study published last spring. That one, conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (and then peer-reviewed), compared mortality among retired football players and nonathletes matched for age and race and found that the ex-athletes were dying about half as often as one might expect. In other words, the health risks associated with playing football were being more than outweighed by the benefits of being a pro athlete—excellent training and nutrition, a good salary, top-quality medical care, and so on.

We know that other sports confer survival benefits to their athletes, too—a study of more than 5,000 Italian soccer players who were active at some point between 1975 and 2003 found a reduced mortality of almost one-third. But the bigger issue for Barnwell and just about everyone else who saw those NIOSH data was how they might relate to football’s concussion panic. What do the mortality numbers mean, asks Barnwell, for "the group of retired [NFL] players that had spent the past two years launching lawsuits against their former employer"—i.e., the ones who have alleged a league-wide conspiracy to conceal the long-term effects of brain damage?

If the Grantland study had shown that, comparing "apples to apples," football players die younger than baseball players, we would all have assumed that head injuries were a major reason why. But Barnwell's numbers went in the opposite direction and left us with a perplexing question: Why might baseball, the gentleman's game, be more deadly than football over the long term?

Aye, chihuahua muchachos. This is why we plan to stay with our longstanding regimen of Competitive Dacquiri-scarfing (lime, blended, not stirred) and lobbing digital snark at professional politicians.

Carpal tunnel syndrome may take us down eventually, but what a way to go...

Posted by Cassandra at 05:40 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

It Seems That Girls Will Be Girls

We womynfolk can't help it - this is just the way we're made:

The suit, by James Hayes, a special agent in charge of New York City investigations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement federal court accuses Suzanne Barr, ICE’s chief of staff, of regularly harassing male employees. Barr was Napolitano’s chief of staff when the latter was governor of Arizona.

The lawsuit accuses Barr of calling a male ICE agent into her hotel room and asking to have oral sex with him, and says Barr once stole another male ICE official’s BlackBerry and sent a message to his female superior indicating the agent was attracted to his boss. It also says Barr relocated three male agents’ desks to the men’s bathroom at ICE headquarters.

According to the Post and Daily News, Hayes’ suit accuses Napolitano of freezing him out in favor of Dora Schriro,who is now the head of New York City’s Department of Corrections and previously led corrections departments in Arizona and Missouri. Before he took over in New York, Hayes was the director of ICE’s detention and removal operations. Schriro was brought in as a special adviser to Napolitano on those topics, and began replacing Hayes in meetings, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit says Schriro is a close friend of Napolitano’s.

Excuse us whilst we take our Bad, Estrogen Soaked, Wired That Way self on home to create a frat girl culture with a hostile environment, IYKWWMAWTYD.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

More Fact-free Idiocy on Rape

Via Memeorandum, move over, Todd Akin! This time the stupidity is coming from the Left:

There were also, under Rice’s watch, 19,000 reported sexual assaults of women combat troops in the the US Armed Forces every single year. As the Guardian reported, “A female solider in Iraq is more likely to be attacked by a fellow soldier than killed by military fire.”

Please, please learn how to read English (your native language). And do math. I know you really, really want this to be true but your ludicrous assertion was eminently checkable by anyone who knows how to use Google. Or by anyone who knows how to use a calculator.

Women comprise about 14.6% of the armed forces. That gives us a total of just over 200,000 women. The majority of these women (like the majority of men) are not combat forces. In fact, 91% of military jobs don't involve direct combat. So we're down from 200,000 women to possibly 18,000 ... who might be in combat.... assuming men and women were equally likely to serve in combat roles (they're not, but let's be generous here).

Of those 18,000 women who *could* be in combat (if women were even allowed in the combat arms... or were even equally likely to be in combat) this author would like us to believe that 105% were raped ... every year.

Now *that's* what I call a force multiplier.

This assertion is so mind-numbingly stupid that it can be refuted on common sense grounds without resorting to anything so mundane as actually looking up the number of reported rapes. But hey, let's go there anyway.

Last year, on President Obama's watch, there were 3191 reported rapes - a number that is "up dramatically" (64%) from what it was in 2006 when Condi Rice was serving in the Bush adMENistration. We say, "on President Obama's watch", not because we believe Obama actually raped these women or was in any way responsible for the reported rape rate, but to highlight the boneheaded (pun fully intended) suggestion that there's any connection between Condi Rice's tenure and the military rape rate.

Do read the rest of this unintentionally hilarious diatribe. Not sure whether this guy is more upset that one of the first two women admitted was a Black or a conservative, but rarely is this level of fact free self-beclownment attained with a single essay.

It's really quite an achievement.

Posted by Cassandra at 11:14 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Race, Culture, and Resilience

Over the weekend the blog princess read something that disturbed her. In a post entitled, "How Culture Works", an author describes a novel about Japanese families interned during WWII:

At some point the family returns to their home which they discover has been inhabited by people they do not know. All of their furniture is gone and there's (presumably racist) graffiti on the walls. When they lay down for bed, they all sleep in the same room.

...When I read this, I thought of all our previous conversations around culture. Specifically, I thought of how brothers come home from prison institutionalized (acculturated) to their old lives, and have to struggle to make their way in the new. And of course, more broadly, I thought of the black community, whose entire experience in America has been marked by great violence.

What Otsuka gives us here--and for the rest of the book--is a traumatized family, reeling long after the initial trauma has faded. They struggle to regain their shape, their old easiness with their neighbors, their sense of beauty and self. It sounds so familiar.

The bolded lines struck me most forcibly: "It sounds so familiar,", and "I thought of the black community, whose entire experience in America has been marked by great violence". Familiar, why? What has the author personally experienced to make a story about families driven from their homes during wartime without evidence of wrongdoing, without so much as a hearing, seem "so familiar"? Under what circumstances was his family driven from their home, his belongings and business taken from him, his family's freedom of movement abruptly curtailed? If he has not experienced these things, how can they be "so familiar"? How can he truly understand something he has never actually experienced?

What great violence (presumably racist in nature, like the graffiti on the walls of our Japanese family's home) has marked this author's life? If the "entire experience" of American blacks has indeed been marked by great violence, what is the nature of that violence? How is it perpetrated, and by whom? Perhaps our author is a statistical anomaly - a black victim of white on black crime? I don't know his personal history. According to a few bios available online, he grew up in West Baltimore - just down the road from where we live.

The quotes illustrate a phenomenon that can only deepen already festering grievances between groups of people with different perspectives and interests: the racialization of human conflict and - perhaps more disturbingly - the perpetuation and adoption of other people's grievances: the nurturing of resentment and hatred.

Let's begin with the part about the "entire experience" of blacks in America being "marked by great violence"... as opposed to, what? Are we to infer that the experience of blacks in Africa has been marked by uninterrupted goodness and light? To this day, Africa continues to experience unbelievably horrific violence that is far worse and more pervasive than anything in the experience of today's American black community. American slavery itself would not have been possible, were it not for the already widespread practice of African slavery, which gave rise to African slavers trading human beings for other commodities they could sell for a profit:

At first the Europeans went to Africa to trade for gold, other metals, feathers, and ivory tusks. Soon it was discovered that many of the African Rulers would also sell their slaves who were taken to distant places and traded for other supplies. When colonies were settled in the Americas across the Atlantic Ocean they established trade routes with them as well. In 1532 AD, the first slave was taken directly from Africa to the Americas.

To this day, slavery is still practiced in much of Africa and Asia.

As for violence against American blacks, despite the media hype surrounding the Trayvon Martin case, the fact is that the vast majority of violent crime is intra, rather than inter-racial:

Each year, roughly 7,000 blacks are murdered. Ninety-four percent of the time, the murderer is another black person. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1976 and 2011, there were 279,384 black murder victims. Using the 94 percent figure means that 262,621 were murdered by other blacks. Though blacks are 13 percent of the nation's population, they account for more than 50 percent of homicide victims. Nationally, black homicide victimization rate is six times that of whites, and in some cities, it's 22 times that of whites. Coupled with being most of the nation's homicide victims, blacks are most of the victims of violent personal crimes, such as assault and robbery.

The magnitude of this tragic mayhem can be viewed in another light. According to a Tuskegee Institute study, between the years 1882 and 1968, 3,446 blacks were lynched at the hands of whites. Black fatalities during the Korean War (3,075), Vietnam War (7,243) and all wars since 1980 (8,197) come to 18,515, a number that pales in comparison with black loss of life at home. It's a tragic commentary to be able to say that young black males have a greater chance of reaching maturity on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan than on the streets of Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Oakland, Newark and other cities.

A much larger issue is how might we interpret the deafening silence about the day-to-day murder in black communities compared with the national uproar over the killing of Trayvon Martin. Such a response by politicians, civil rights organizations and the mainstream news media could easily be interpreted as "blacks killing other blacks is of little concern, but it's unacceptable for a white to kill a black person."

How do our perceptions become so distorted that this kind of context free recording of history becomes the accepted truth? The abuses of slavery and the Jim Crow era were real, and continue to be worth remembering. But the Japanese were not the only emigres from the Axis powers to be interned during WWII (there were German and Italian internment camps too).

german_internment.png

What are we to make of such troubling incidents in history? The answer is likely to depend on how selectively we consider them. If we choose to excluse the tragic history of African and Asian treatment of people of their own race - if we consider only Japanese internment by a mostly white America and overlook the internment of Germans and Italians - if we speak vaguely of an entire American experience marked by great violence and somehow neglect to mention that our own generation (whether white or black) is far more likely to experience violence at the hands of one of our own race than at the hands of The Other, it's easy to come away with a distorted view.

What can we say of a culture (or a micro-culture, as I've never been convinced that there's any such thing as a monolithic Black or White culture?) that views history through a selectively distorted lens?

Throw a stone in America and odds are, you'll hit someone whose ancestors experienced racial or religious persecution. My daughter in law is a Jew. We are Christians. Her ancestors are from Eastern Europe, a place known for pogroms. On another level, we are both women. If we want to feel persecuted or nurture some shared sense of grievance, we could (and some women do) choose to focus on the fact that 99% of rapists are male, though not all of their victims are female. What does this say about men? Not much really, without the vital context that the vast majority of men are not rapists, or that men rape men too.

Still, it's so easy to think you're special - that the panoply of human history, which is marked by violent oppression and savage persecution of so many groups, by so many groups, for so many reasons (or no reason at all) has singled you out for special attention.

And then there's the Rape of Nanking, committed by Asians against other Asians:

Or unspeakable horror of Dachau, where predominantly white Germans tried to exterminate predominantly white Jews.

Or the mass killings and rapes in Darfur, which could be about race or sex or religion or just resources, depending on who one talks to, but is undeniably horrific regardless of the etymology.

We are a savage and brutal race: the human race, I mean. It is easier to divide into groups than to remember what we have in common; our essential humanity with its twinned propensity for savagery and self sacrifice. "How Culture Works" is an interesting topic, because culture can broaden or restrict awareness; it can distort or clarify history. My grandmother's family were of German ancestry. Does my daughter in law harbor secret resentment against my ancestors for offenses she has never personally experienced? If so, does she resent me more for being part German or all Christian? Is blame passed from mother to daughter or father to son? How about victimhood?

The deliberate distortion of history by selective omission strikes me as something of a cultural dead end - the ultimate First World problem to be worried over by people clutching secondhand horrors to their bosoms because they confer an unearned sense of specialness. The idiocy of some feminists blaming all men for the transgressions of a few is about to be replaced by some men's rights activists blaming all women for reasons no more convincing. A pox on both houses.

Where does it all end? And is this really how culture should work? God, I hope not.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:06 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

August 20, 2012

It's That Time Again...

The Editorial Staff wait for this every year. Our favorite, so far:

She slinked through my door wearing a dress that looked like it had been painted on … not with good paint, like Behr or Sherwin-Williams, but with that watered-down stuff that bubbles up right away if you don’t prime the surface before you slap it on, and – just like that cheap paint – the dress needed two more coats to cover her. — Sue Fondrie, Appleton, WI

Where, oh where is Brett Barboursville you need him?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:08 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Two Villages, Missing Their Idiots

Exhibit One:

Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri who is running against Sen. Claire McCaskill, justified his opposition to abortion rights even in case of rape with a claim that victims of “legitimate rape” have unnamed biological defenses that prevent pregnancy.

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview posted Sunday. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

A few points: pregnancy resulting from rape may be less common than pregnancy resulting from consensual sex - we're not sure. We've heard that many rapist never manage to complete the deed, so to speak. But rare? Define "rare", Senator.

And from the Anchorage, Alaska Daily News, exhibit two:

Somewhere in Delaware, a sleepy village finds itself without an idiot as Vice President Joe Biden again is on the loose, tilting at presidential windmills.

Known in some circles as the Galloping Gaffe, Biden is Romney's second-best secret weapon, with President Barack Obama being the first. Unfortunately for Romney, Biden clearly is becoming a mouthy liability for the Democrats as he fumbles to focus the public's attention on anything but the broken economy.

His latest craziness? Biden told Virginia voters that Mitt Romney's policies would put "you all back in chains" by letting "the big banks once again write their own rules," the Wall Street Journal reported. Biden was referring to Romney's desire to roll back 2,300 pages of inane Wall Street "reform" foisted on America by Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., -- the uberbrilliant architects of the U.S. housing disaster.

The Virginia crowd -- uh-oh! -- included black supporters, and Biden's remarks immediately sparked a heated ancillary debate about whether he was being stupid or engaging in casual, but calculated, race-baiting. "It's far from clear that he misspoke," the Christian Science Monitor said.

The Romney campaign was smokin' hot, accusing Biden of hitting a "new low," apparently forgetting it was dealing with Chicago thug gutter politics.

Biden's goofiness did not -- could not -- stop with his chain rattling. "With you -- and I mean this -- with you, we can win North Carolina again," he assured the Virginia crowd. Huh? Go figure. (The guy is on crack. I swear. Somebody called me and told me, but I'm not supposed to say who.)

The truth is, Biden and the Obama apparatchik cannot stop. They even have stooped to hinting Romney evaded his taxes for 10 years (untrue), accused him of causing some guy's wife to die from cancer (untrue) and -- gasp! -- revealed he is rich.

We normally don't link to these kinds of pieces, but this one was just too funny to pass up.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:13 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

August 16, 2012

The "War on Football"

Since no self respecting pundit seems to be able to resist hyperventilating hyperbole these days, the Editorial Staff have reluctantly decided that if we can't beat the transporting silliness, we might as well join it. There are, it seems, "wars" springing up all around us - wars on women, senior citizens, the middle class, drugs, and our fave: the deliciously silly war on porn (evidenced by DoD's completely unreasonable expectation that soldiers use their government-issued computers to do the work they are being paid for and refrain - as heartless as that may seem to the enlightened among us - from downloading porn during the work day).

Oh, the humanity!

The whole "war on" meme reeks of spoiled entitlement and victim mentality. How dare you disapprove of/criticize/not wish to subsidize, or - heaven forfend! - not appreciate the transcendent shiny-ness of [fill in sacred cow]! The latest in a long parade of professional victims (albeit not of their own free will) are the stalwart, manly men of the NFL:

One of the most quoted routines of the late George Carlin was his explication of the differences between football and baseball. “Football has hitting, clipping, spearing, piling on, personal fouls, late hitting, and unnecessary roughness. Baseball has the sacrifice.” I always think about that routine when each sport is beginning to stretch its legs to prepare for the start of a new season. Baseball’s spring training is all about the smell of freshly cut grass, about renewal, about being eternally young, about hope. Football’s training camp is about fighting for your right to exist, about weeding out the weak, about grueling two-a-days, about a boot camp where you’re expected to run until you puke and then get back up and run some more. It is about destroying yourself in order to live.

So much of the enjoyment of football is tied up in this notion of self-immolation: The sport doesn’t really work without it. The players, outside of the glamour positions on offense, are essentially anonymous and interchangeable. Player careers are so short—and NFL franchise rules make it so easy for them to be cut with no penalty—that most franchises don’t even have a signature star longer than a year or two. Fantasy football is so simple and easy to play that you can consider yourself a huge NFL fan but only know the names of about 8 percent of the players. Everyone covers their faces with masks, for crying out loud. The actual men who play the games are almost tangential to the experience: It is all about Team and Any Given Sunday and the National Football League. The NFL is about order, the organization over the individual. It is faux-military at its very essence.

We enjoy the NFL because we can forget what goes on behind the scenes, the brutal things these players do and put themselves through, the notion that they need to make themselves fatter and less healthy in order to better land on the quarterback with a crunch and put bounties on other teams’ stars. We enjoy the NFL because it looks so good on tele­vision that you can follow it linearly—just follow the ball—without having much idea of what’s actually going on. The NFL makes you believe you are an expert even though 99.999 percent of the millions who watch every Sunday couldn’t say the name of a single play.

The NFL wants you to think about what goes on behind the curtain as little as possible. I don’t blame them. There’s a lot to hide back there. I’m just not sure I can do it anymore.

Last May, Jets linebacker Bart Scott said something curious. “I don’t want my son to play football,” Scott said. “I play football so he won’t have to. With what is going on, I don’t know if it’s really worth it … I don’t want to have to deal with him getting a concussion and what it would be like later in life.” It is worth noting that Bart Scott is not some pearl-clutching punter sitting idly by as those big scary football players do brutal things to each other. He is one of the more powerful, violent linebackers in the NFL, famous for uttering WWE-esque screams during an ESPN inter­view after the Jets’ upset playoff win over the New England Patriots. (He would later appear in an actual WWE event.) He is no sensitive violet. And he’s talking about his job like an old coal miner with black lung who just doesn’t want his children to have the same horrible life he had.

It's hard to know what to make of this. Do we really need to turn every freely made choice into some twisted form of oppression, complete with victims who (apparently) have no other options than to play professional football?

The Spousal Unit played football while he was in school and from everything we could see, was quite good at it. But it's hard to imagine him having ever entertained the idea of playing professionally.

Football isn't about self-immolation. It's probably as close to simulated combat as a team sport can get. It's about pushing yourself physically and (yes) beating the other team. Years ago, we asked the Unit what it was that he liked so much about football. He thought a minute, then said, "Well, I enjoyed winning. I enjoyed hitting other players - the way it felt."

This, from a guy who wasn't the type to get into fights unless there wasn't a real alternative. But there's something in men that enjoys competing with other men - enjoys the sort of socially sanctioned and carefully channeled aggression that sports make possible. The Editorial Staff, being unrepentantly and unapologetically female, will probably never understand that feeling but that doesn't mean it has no place in our society.

As long as no one is being forced to play football, what is the moral argument for banning it? That freely consenting players, knowing the risks, might get hurt (and that third parties may find that risk "not worth" the benefits or the pay)?

We can't help feeling that what the growing chorus of anti-footballers really want to eradicate is thumos - the natural tendency of men to be aggressive, to take risks, to fight, even:

We are currently engaged in a titantic struggle with radical Islamism, which is, if has, if you stop and think about it, all the characteristics of unbridled thumos - they certainly have no problem standing up for their kin, their religion, their country, their principles. The problem with Islamism is that it is untempered by the feminine influence. There is no partnership: they have totally subjugated women, shut them away, as the Left would say, silenced their Voices, marginalized them and treated them as the Other.

America, on the other hand, seems to be going too far in the other direction. We are marginalizing the masculine and becoming femininized in an attempt to right past imbalances, and that is just as great a mistake as what radical Islam is doing. In fact, it may be an even greater error, for it leaves us defenseless.

In the 6 years (good Lord!) since we wrote that post, we've changed our opinion about what is causing young men to drift, to be less than they could be. Certainly it is partly that society is training masculinity out of young men, and we still believe that's harmful and wrong. But at the same time, we're not setting limits or boundaries. We're not expecting enough of young men (or young women, for that matter).

We can't escape the feeling that men, by their very nature, need something to push against. They need obstacles to overcome in order to realize their potential. And most of all, they need risk to feel fully alive. What happens to the character of a nation whose overarching goal is to remove the very things from daily life that men need to be happy?

And what happens to a nation that sees victims hiding around every voluntary decision, and tries to protect others from making "the wrong choices"? Traditional morality does this, by the way, so it's a more interesting question than it might seem on the surface.

Discuss amongst your ownselves, knuckle draggers.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:10 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Helpless, Clueless Parents

File under "Overthinking Life":

Dear Prudence, I have a beautiful, awesome 17-year-old daughter. She does well in school and she doesn't get into trouble. This morning I dropped her off for band camp and she accidentally left her phone in the car. When I discovered it, I texted her with it, saying I had her phone. Then a few texts caught my eye, and I snooped. It turns out my daughter is sexting with a couple of boys, sending naked pictures of herself over her phone. Should I pretend I never saw it but somehow subtly offer some advice about the dangers of sexting? I don't want her to feel the shame of knowing I know. But even worse, I don't want her to feel the shame of the entire world knowing if one of these boys decides to be an ass. These boys have sent pictures of their junk, too. If she were in a serious relationship, I could understand her having sex, but it's the sending of pictures that really has me bothered. What do I do?

—Bewildered Mom

Wow. Just wow.

The blog princess apologizes in advance, because this is going to turn into a rant. What in the blue blazes is wrong with parents these days?

And perhaps more importantly, who is paying for this kid's phone, anyway?

There is something deeply disturbing about a parent who doesn't seem to understand that a 17 year old is not an adult - not by any stretch of the imagination. A teenager who is sending nekkid photos to guys she's not even involved with (one hopes, though this particular parent has already demonstrated a degree of cluelessness rarely seen outside Congress or the Executive branch) is clearly neither old enough nor responsible enough to use a phone.

Having a cell phone is not a human right. It is not necessary to get through school. In the extremely unlikely event that we had given our teenaged sons a cell phone, it would not have been one with texting or Internet access. But if we had - for some reason that escapes us - done that and learned they were using a phone we paid for to do something we didn't want them doing, the answer would be obvious: downgrade the service or take away the phone.

Good Lord. Quit worrying about your daughter's feelings and start worrying about what she's obviously been doing with the phone you're paying for.

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

August 15, 2012

Questions for the Upcoming Presidential Debates

Pure. Comedy. Gold. Democrats don't want to discuss the recommendations of Obama's Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform during the debates:

In the original letter, Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Joe Lieberman, (I-Conn.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) asked the debate commission to devote “specific and extensive attention to the question of how the candidates would get our nation’s fiscal house in order during the first debate dedicated to domestic policy.”

“Specifically, we request that you ask the presidential candidates which of the recommendations of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform they would adopt as part of their plan to reduce the deficit,” they wrote.

But that caused Reps. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) to cry foul, writing in their own letter to the debate commission on Tuesday that although the Simpson-Bowles commission’s plan “may contain proposals helpful to our recovery…to hold it out as the only pathway to fiscal responsibility and economic success is foolish and wrong.”

By this reasoning, the Ryan Plan must be off limits too. After all, though it "may contain proposals helpful to our recovery" (such as pushing Granny off the nearest cliff), it would be foolish and wrong to pretend it's the only pathway to fiscal responsibility and economic success.

Other topics expected to be off the table:

1. Why we haven't had a budget for nearly 4 years:

2. The economic repercussions of Sequestration, and the Labor Department's shameless directive to federal contractors ordering them not to WARN employees that layoffs might occur (in violation of federal law).

3. Why the Department of Defense is only now planning for sequestration, and perhaps more importantly, why they appear to be the only department doing so.

4. Why, if jobs are this administration's latest #1 priority, the President's Jobs Council hasn't met for 6 months.

Serious debate questions pre-approved by the DNC:

How many helpless senior citizens has Paul Ryan really murdered?

Non-consensual haircuts: alternative lifestyle choice or early warning for sociopathic personality disorders?

How Mitt Romney's dog really feels about global warming.

If an Obama bundler a Bain executive lays off one of the near-poor and there's no journalist around to cry foul, did it still happen on Mitt's watch?

In your opinion, at which moment in the last 4 years did the rise of the oceans slow and the planet begin to heal?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:24 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Our Vice President's Endearing Racial Insensitivity

Alexandra Petri reacts to Onion Joe Biden's loveable clumsiness:

Take the already widely circulated clip from Danville, Va., of Vice President Biden telling voters (the town, the L.A. Times notes, is about 50 percent black) that the Republicans are “going to put y’all back in chains.”

Onion Joe! Get back in the box!

This is, quite frankly, not the sort of thing a Serious Person could ever say and hope for anything less than a public pillorying.

Bad enough to insinuate that your opponent intends to enslave a section of the populace. How mortifyingly divisive. And with that single twanged y’all, this whole interaction became even more awkward than it needed to be. But this is so far from the sort of thing that anyone in a position as lofty as the vice presidency would be expected to say that one’s first response is a sort of mirthful discomfort. Can he hear himself? you wonder. You cannot help feeling that if he could hear himself he would stop at once.

That is the trouble with Joe.

He inspires the sort of discomfort one feels upon introducing one’s fiance to Grandpa after he has had a scotch too many.

“Please,” you mumble under your breath. “Please, please don’t say anything.”

It is not that Tipsy Grandpa has any sinister intent. It is just that his list of Acceptable Ways To Phrase Things has not been updated since 1943 or so. Routinely, in the company of the family, he makes Pole jokes and everyone laughs politely. Sometimes, when the spirit moves him, he recites limericks that imply his opinion of the Irish is low. Every few years you steal his prized lawn sculptures, but he always finds replacements. It is impossible to make him see what is so wrong about them.

I am not saying this to excuse Onion Joe’s periodically alarming outbursts. And sometimes he is completely right. But my instinctive response is to wince apologetically at his cringe-inducing gaffes, not denounce the man. He inspires less anger than embarrassment.

“All right,” you say, after he finishes. “Well, that was — very — informative, Joe. Who wants dessert?”

Except he’s the vice president.

Stop and think for a moment about what she's saying here.

Sure, loveable Uncle Joe routinely says things that are racially insensitive. Shortly before joining the democratic ticket in 2008, he referred to his future boss thusly:

"I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," Biden said. "I mean, that's a storybook, man."

Like something out of a fairy tale, it is. And sure, when he mocks Indian call center workers or 7-11 employees, you get the feeling that deep down, he doesn't really have all that high an opinion of Asian immigrants. But he doesn't mean anything by it. It's impossible to make him see why what he's doing is wrong. You know, kind of like those adorable little lawn jockeys with the black faces. Enlightened people wouldn't be caught dead with something like that on their lawns, but Joe is old fashioned. Like Harry Reid, he's having trouble adjusting to that whole color-blind society thingamajobber:

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid apologized on Saturday for saying the race of Barack Obama – whom he described as a "light skinned" African-American "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one" – would help rather than hurt his eventual presidential bid.

Men like Reid and Biden aren't racists. They just don't know any better! In fact, they're just saying what we all think. Joe's special brand of adorable tone deafness is so authentic - so likeable - that we can't help but give him the benefit of the doubt! No delving into his subconscious for signs of lingering or coded racism - we'll just admit that what he said is deeply offensive on a number of levels, not the least of which is the trivialization of one of history's most blatant moral evils.

This administration has played the race card so often and so cynically against its opponents that it's hard to manufacture the requisite outrage on Romney's or Ryan's behalf. They're big boys - they can take care of themselves. What disturbed me the most about Biden's latest gaffe - the really cringe-inducing takeaway - was what it suggests about what he thinks about his audience. Who were, by some accounts, not moved in the direction Mr. Biden anticipated:

It might have been helpful to have reported that the general response from the crowd was a groan.

Good on them.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:34 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

August 14, 2012

No, I'm Not Dead ...Yet

I've been traveling, when I'm not buried under a ginormous pile of work.

Will try to get something up here tomorrow morning. Sorry for the unbearable suckitude.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 09, 2012

Evensong

I was driving home late last night, going about 70-something. Well OK, it may have been a little faster than that. Heard this woman on the radio and was so blown away that I actually wrote down her name and the title of her CD (Time to Go) while I was driving. What a voice.

Go here and listen to "Louise". The other songs are good too, of course :)

Erin McDermott. If this lady doesn't make it big someday then there's no justice in the world.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:19 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

"My Face Is Up Here"

Today's annoying debate question: what if all sports coverage were more like women's volleyball coverage?

diving1.jpg

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...and our personal fave, the likes of which we've seen on too many blogs (albeit always featuring a member of the fair sex)

gymastics.jpg

Personally, we always have a much clearer appreciation of the finer points of a sport after viewing a extreme close-up well framed crotch shot.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:43 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Random Musings

A few odds and ends from my browser tabs:

The flip side of postraumatic stress is postraumatic growth:

Traumatic events can rattle us to the core, leaving us in shambles both mentally and physically. But despite all the glaring negatives, psychologists are also finding that traumatic events can transform us into stronger, better individuals. The name given to this universal phenomenon is "posttraumatic growth."

...Psychologists have amassed a large amount of data on posttraumatic growth, but the problem is that most of it is self-reported, prompting skeptics to reasonably decry the data as invalid.

Fresh research conducted in 2008 sought to remedy a few of the structural problems that plagued previous studies. Scientists had visitors to a website complete an unsolicited survey with questions meant to reveal how certain character strengths like humor, love, perseverance, and hope apply to the respondent. Afterwards, subjects were asked if they experienced certain traumatic events such as a near-death experience, watching somebody be killed, or kidnapping. Subjects were not told what the survey was for.

Interestingly, respondents who reported falling victim to traumatic events were found to score higher on traits associated with posttraumatic growth, such as kindness, bravery, curiosity, and spirituality.

The Editorial staff can't help wondering how much this has to do with the contrast effect:

Contrast effects are ubiquitous throughout human and non-human animal perception, cognition, and resultant performance. A very heafted weight is perceived as heavier than normal when "contrasted" with a lighter weight. It is perceived as lighter than normal when contrasted with a heavier weight. An animal works harder than normal for a given amount of reward when that amount is contrasted with a lesser amount and works less energetically for that given amount when it is contrasted with a greater amount. A person appears more appealing than normal when contrasted with a person of less appeal and less appealing than normal when contrasted with one of greater appeal.

As a young Marine wife, I spent a lot of time listening to other military wives discuss their problems. That's part of being an officer's wife - whether you feel [or actually are] qualified or not, you become someone others turn to for help or advice. The natural temptation (at least for a woman) in such situations is to try to solve other people's problems for them.

But over time, I found that had the same effect as giving someone the proverbial fish - it might solve the immediate problem, but 10 new problems soon sprang up in its place. A more effective solution was to admit that I was often discouraged by various issues in my own life until I remembered that other people routinely overcome far more serious problems.

We need adversity - and reminders of just how common it is - to put our own troubles into perspective, but also to stimulate us into taking the appropriate action (whether that be trying harder, changing our own behavior, thinking more creatively, or better risk mitigation to prevent the same thing from happening again).

But what happens to the human spirit when government tries to eliminate adversity from our lives? What happens to a nation led by a President whose entire campaign platform is based on blurring the relationship between cause and effect, decisions and consequences? Resiliance is like a muscle: it grows stronger with frequent exercise and atrophies with disuse.

Our parents and grandparents knew this. "Adversity builds character." What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger. Or this gem, from the Marines: "Pain is weakness, leaving the body".

My father likes to say, "Pain is a wonderful motivator." What does that imply about a life free from worry, fear, or adverse consequences?

Lawyers in space: the new frontier?

Olympic poetry competitions: an idea whose time came. And apparently, went:

O Sport, you are Fecundity! You strive directly and nobly towards perfection of the race, destroying unhealthy seed and correcting the flaws which threaten its essential purity. And you fill the athlete with a desire to see his sons grow up agile and strong around him to take his place in the arena and, in their turn, carry off the most glorious trophies.

Variations on the theme to enliven the presidential campaign: "O Politics, you are Mendacity!" Or it Hyperbole! a better fit? This could be fun.

Parenting as narcissism:

Summer can take a harrowing turn when family vacations and young romance intersect. Suddenly daddy's little girl who a year ago wanted to play tennis with you has now completely forgotten you exist. No, she's too busy texting, curling her lashes and scouring the beach for Todd the surfer dude.

"In a certain way dads really do feel jilted, bereft even," says neuropsychiatrist Dr. Louann Brizendine. "They almost feel like they've been left at the altar. Often they think, 'what did I do wrong? How do I get her back?'

Wow.

The Editorial Staff like this because it confirms a theory we've always had:

People who tested positive for allergy-related antibodies had an almost 50 percent lower risk of developing a glioma 20 years later. For women, testing positive for the IgE associated with specific allergens that are common in Norway, such as dust, pollen, mold and pets, was also associated with a 50 percent lower risk of glioblastoma. In men, no such association was found, but those who tested positive both for these specific antibodies and for other, unknown antibodies did have a 20 percent lower risk of developing this same type of tumor. The earlier IgE was present in patients' blood samples, the greater the reduced risk of glioma.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:25 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

August 08, 2012

Apparently, We Womynfolk Have Good Reason to Fear Mitt Romney....

If the Blog Princess has learned one thing from the latest spate of political ads to hit the airwaves, it's that we should be deeply afraid of Mitt Romney. Because he has scary, woman hating testicles. And he hates our freedoms.

Every time we turn our TV on, we're confronted with the furrowed brows and anxious natterings of The Sistahood:

"I’ve never felt this way before but it’s a scary time to be a woman," she says. "Mitt Romney is just so out of touch."

The announcer says, "Mitt Romney opposes requiring insurance coverage for contraception. And Romney supports overturning Roe vs. Wade. Romney backed a bill that outlaws all abortion, even in case of rape and incest."

We haven't seen such blatant fear mongering since the 2008 election, when those racist Rethugs just wouldn't let poor Barack talk about the content of his character rather than the color of his skin. Lord knows, the poor man tried to protect gullible voters from the Scary, Divisive Politics of Fear:

I don't know. Could you work the words "fear", "afraid", "scary", and "black" in there just a few more times, Barry? Because I'm "afraid" voters might miss the point.

You know, that you're... like, totally ... black. And the bad, scary Republicans want us to be afraid of you. Because you're so ... black. Even though you're half white. Which we're not supposed to talk about, because that would be focusing on race and you were so hoping we could get beyond that, I know. Damned Republicans. If only they'd quit bringing up the fact.

That you're black. And we should fear you.

Odd tactic, for a man liberals keep saying is so likable and non-threatening he may well be our first woman president. The looming menace must express itself in a disarmingly feminine, non-threatening way.

Which is why the Republicans have to keep reminding everyone of your essential Blackitude and scariliciousness. It's subtle, man. Under the radar, sub rosa, float like a butterfly sting like a bee .... BAM!!! That's what makes you dangerous. You're a dangerous black man, with an Ivy League education. You use words like numchuks.

It was bad enough when Mitt Romney only wanted to turn the clock back to the Stone Age when women were routinely impregnated against their will and forced to procreate for Teh Patriarchy. Yes, that was bad enough, but not as terrifying as the latest troubling revelation about this Deeply Scary Candidate.

Apparently, he can unilaterally overturn Supreme Court decisions, repeal acts of Congress, kill women, and cancel our insurance policies.

With his mind....

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

Update: The Agony! The Irony!!!

Update – in what must be the pinnacle of irony and cognitive dissonance, an Obama fundraiser and large bundler, Jonathon Lavine, was the head of Bain at the time of the evil layoffs and closing in question. Obama does not shy away from taking donations from Evil, Job-killing Capitalist Pig-Dogs filthy Bain campaign dollars, but earning money from Bain makes you a vulture or vampire.


I tell ya, it's like deja vu, all over again!

When President Obama’s aides said they weren’t familiar with former Missouri steelworker Joe Soptic’s life story, all they had to do was check their own campaign archives.

Soptic, laid off from Bain Capital-owned GST Steel, stars in a Priorities USA Action spot this week in which he tells of how his wife died without health insurance after he lost his job. Soptic also appeared, wearing what appears to be an identical shirt, in a May television ad for the Obama campaign.

...he also told the story about his wife losing her insurance because of heartless Obama campaign Bundler Jonathan Levine Mitt Romney during an Obama campaign conference call:

Exit quotation lie via Obama campaign spokesman Jen Psaki: “[W]e don’t have any knowledge of the story of the family.”

There are professional comics who aren't this funny.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:14 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

White Folks Occupy Wrong Side of Digital Divide

Oh, the humanity!

It has become a platitude in the technology industry that the future is mobile. But as more people turn to their smartphones for email, web browsing, and social networking, one group of Americans is being left behind: white people.

Nielsen's latest Mobile Insights study shows that whites are the only group of U.S. mobile subscribers who are more likely to own an old-school "feature phone" than a smartphone like the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy. Two-thirds of Asian-American mobile subscribers, 57 percent of Hispanics, and 53 percent of blacks own smartphones. For non-Hispanic whites, the figure is just 45 percent.

It's a good thing this grave social injustice is confined to People of Pallor, because that means we can absolutely rule out racism as a cause. If the stats were the other way around, such a troubling statistical disparity would be considered proof positive of America's perplexing determination to view everything through the prism of race.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:47 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 06, 2012

On "Disenfranchising" Military Voters

Last week, I posted a quick response to a story about the DNC/Obama campaign's lawsuit challenging a 3 day extension of early voting privileges for Ohio military voters on the grounds that any privilege extended to military (but not civilian) voters violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment:

On July 17th, the Obama for America Campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the Ohio Democratic Party filed suit in OH to strike down part of that state's law governing voting by members of the military. Their suit said that part of the law is "arbitrary" with "no discernible rational basis."

Currently, Ohio allows the public to vote early in-person up until the Friday before the election. Members of the military are given three extra days to do so. While the Democrats may see this as "arbitrary" and having "no discernible rational basis," I think it is entirely reasonable given the demands on servicemen and women's time and their obligations to their sworn duty.

A few commenters noted that the suit did not ask for the extra three days to be denied military voters. Rather, it argued that if military voters are given an extra three days to vote early, that privilege must also be extended to civilian voters. I agree that extending extra time to civilians does not actually "disenfranchise" military voters, at least in the ordinary sense of that word. My use of that term was not meant to be taken literally. I thought my meaning was clear from the 2004 post I excerpted, which contrasted faux disenfranchisement of convicted felons and people who can't manage to fill out a ballot correctly with actual disenfranchisement (throwing out legitimate military absentee ballots).

I would like to suggest, with respect, that those of you who are focusing on the 3 day disparity in early voting are missing the forest for the trees. My objection to the Obama campaign's lawsuit is not so much that it seeks to grant an extra 3 days of early voting access to civilians. As I have previously acknowledged, doing so takes nothing from military voters and their families. What the Obama campaign is suing over - a mere 3 days additional early voting - will have little impact on military voters. It is likely have a great impact on the number of civilian votes cast, however:

The Ohio Democratic Party contends that 30 percent of all votes cast in the last presidential election were cast before Election Day, with 93,000 votes cast on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before the election. It’s hard to verify, but pundits believe that extended early-voting periods would benefit Obama.

Extending early voting for 3 more days may well hand Barack Obama the election, but that's really beside the point as far as I'm concerned. There's another thing it would do, and this is what matters: it would strike down as an unconstitutional violation of the 14th Amendment any law that extends additional time to military voters in recognition of the special difficulties faced by service members and their families - difficulties the Obama campaign deems it "arbitrary" and "irrational" to recognize.

If anything is arbitrary or irrational here, it's the notion that civilian voters face the same obstacles military personnel and their families routinely encounter. Here's just one example of those obstacles - an example of what our Commander in Chief doesn't think the states should be allowed to address:

My husband graduated from high school in a small town in Florida in 1976 and then reported to the United States Naval Academy for “plebe summer.” In 1980, he graduated and was commissioned a second lieutenant of Marines. We met in 1981, in California, where he was stationed at the time, and we married in 1983. In the last 23 years, I have accompanied him all over the United States, as he has moved up the ranks to Colonel. When he deployed overseas, I stayed in the United States with the kids.

My husband has maintained his legal residence or domicile in Florida-he still votes by absentee ballot in that small Florida town. On his Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), he uses the address where he lived with his parents when he graduated from high school and then traveled to Annapolis almost 30 years ago. His father died in 1985, and his mother then moved to retirement community in another state, where she died in 1995. His family no longer owns the house where he grew up and graduated from high school, and the house itself has been torn down to make room for a commercial development. But the local election official has never given him any hassle about using that address as his permanent residence address.

My husband has maintained his Florida domicile for tax and other reasons, but I have never lived in Florida, either before or after the marriage. I was a legal resident of California at the time of the marriage. As I have moved to each new home, as my husband has been transferred from duty station to duty station, I have registered and voted in each new community, and my right to do that was never questioned until recently, when my husband and I moved to Stafford County, Va., to be near his Pentagon duty station.

The Registrar of Voters of Stafford County rejected my voter registration application. He said that I am not a resident of the county because I cannot swear that I will still live in the county after my husband retires or transfers to a new duty station. I have no way to predict where I will be five years from now, or even next year. My husband can retire at any time, since he completed his 20 years of active duty in 2000, but he is not required to retire until May 2010. If he is selected for brigadier general, he could well remain on active duty past May 2010. When he does retire, he will look for a civilian job and move to the location of that job, if he cannot find a suitable job in the Washington area. Of course, I plan to move with him, wherever he goes. I don't think that it is fair that my right to vote is under attack because of the circumstances of my husband's service to America. (My husband and I have two sons on active duty, one in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan.) If I cannot vote in Stafford County, where am I supposed to vote?

I am very angry about the way that the registrar has treated me. I am not alone-there are hundreds of other military spouses who have sought to register in the county and who have been hassled by this man. I have a good job in Washington, and I pay Virginia state income tax. I think that I should have a say in the election of the governor and other state officials who spend my tax money, but my greatest concern relates to the local school board. Military children (including our two younger children) are not getting a fair break in the local school system, and the school board thinks that it need not give any respect to military families, because they don't vote here or are not permitted to vote here.

It is well known (and has been for well over half a century) that the ballots of active duty service members are routinely discarded for various reasons. It was in recognition of widespread and persistent disenfranchisement of military voters that Congress passed the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which directs the states to do precisely what the Obama campaign is suing to force an end to - take affirmative action to correct a system under which military voters are TWICE as likely to be disenfranchised as members of the general public.

THIS is why a group of 15 military organizations are objecting to the Democratic National Committee and the Obama campaign's shameless attempt to use the very Constitution the armed forces swear to defend to strike down any attempt to deal with serious and persistent problems that prevent America's defenders and their families from voting:

.... Among voters voting in person on Election Day, a disenfranchisement rate of 1/10 of 1% (voters disenfranchised by systemic problems or election official error) would be considered absolutely unacceptable, but among military absentee voters disenfranchisement rates in excess of 50% have been ROUTINE in recent decades.

In a 1952 letter to Congress, President Harry S. Truman wrote:

"About 2,500,000 men and women in the Armed Forces are of voting age at the present time. Many of those in uniform are serving overseas, or in parts of the country distant from their homes. They are unable to return to their States either to register or to vote. Yet these men and women, who are serving their country and in many cases risking their lives, deserve above all others to exercise the right to vote in this election year. At a time when these young people are defending our country and its free institutions, the least we at home can do is to make sure that they are able to enjoy the rights they are being asked to fight to preserve."

That military members and their families face special challenges at the ballot box is not in dispute (the Obama campaign's ludicrous arguments to the contrary). Nor is it even the case that all Ohioans had an equal number of early voting days before the new law mandated that the polls close by 6 pm on Friday. As Paul Mirengoff points out, the law being challenged by the Obama campaign made access to the polls MORE (not less) consistent:

... there was a valid reason for the Ohio legislature to amend the old law that gave everyone the extra days. According to Ohio’s Secretary of State Jon Husted, the old law did not create consistent early voting rights across the state because most local jurisdictions decided to close for the weekend. Husted notes that the Dems did not sue when 6 counties had weekend voting and extended hours while 82 counties did not.

Clearly, then, the Democrats’ concern is not equal access to voting for all Ohio voters. It was only when military members became the beneficiary of extra access that the Democrats found the system arbitrary.

This is the problem with progressive policies: they continually agitate for special treatment for what they deem disadvantaged minorities... until they encounter a genuinely disadvantaged minority - military voters - whose votes cannot be purchased. Suddenly, their moral outrage over the supposedly sacrosanct right to vote disappears faster than a Justice Department investigation into voter intimidation committed by one of those "disadvantaged minorities".

Quite frankly, I don't give a rat's ass whether civilians are given an extra 3 days of early voting in Ohio. I care very much, however, about setting a precedent that prevents states from doing everything in their power to count the votes of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines and their families.

Your mileage may vary, of course.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:40 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 02, 2012

Disenfranchising the Military Is The Most Rational Thing In the World

Hmmm.... where have we heard this before?

President Barack Obama, along with many Democrats, likes to say that, while they may disagree with the GOP on many issues related to national security, they absolutely share their admiration and dedication to members of our armed forces. Obama, in particular, enjoys being seen visiting troops and having photos taken with members of our military. So, why is his campaign and the Democrat party suing to restrict their ability to vote in the upcoming election?

On July 17th, the Obama for America Campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the Ohio Democratic Party filed suit in OH to strike down part of that state's law governing voting by members of the military. Their suit said that part of the law is "arbitrary" with "no discernible rational basis."

Currently, Ohio allows the public to vote early in-person up until the Friday before the election. Members of the military are given three extra days to do so. While the Democrats may see this as "arbitrary" and having "no discernible rational basis," I think it is entirely reasonable given the demands on servicemen and women's time and their obligations to their sworn duty.

The National Defense Committee reports:

[f]or each of the last three years, the Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program has reported to the President and the Congress that the number one reason for military voter disenfranchisement is inadequate time to successfully vote.

I think its unconscionable that we as a nation wouldn't make it as easy as possible for members of the military to vote. They arguably have more right to vote than the rest of us, since it is their service and sacrifice that ensures we have the right to vote in the first place.

Wait! It's coming back to me!

Once again, we'll hear ad nauseam about disenfranchisement of convicted felons and people who can't be bothered to fill out a ballot correctly.

But no one in the Democratic Party seems particularly concerned that more than 160,000 troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan may lose their right to vote in the coming election. Apparently "supporting the troops" doesn't mean supporting their right to vote. The outrage only extends to registered Democratic voters. This is likely to be a repeat of what happened in the 2000 election, when the Gore campaign aggressively blocked overseas military ballots cast by active duty enlisted personnel and officers from being counted:

When vote counters arrived Friday in heavily Republican Duval County, five lawyers from the Al Gore camp stood poised to contest virtually every military ballot waiting to be opened. During a 19-hour process that ended Saturday at 4:30 a.m., the Gore team challenged the authenticity of signatures, dates and addresses. They got one Navy lieutenant's ballot thrown out. The officer wrote on the envelope he could not get a postmark on his ship before sending it to Florida. "The big story here is this was a systematic, heavy-handed effort by the Democrats to eliminate absentee military ballots," said Jim Post, a Republican attorney who fought the Gore challenges. "That was clear from the beginning of the day." Mr. Post said he has never seen such a concerted campaign to disqualify overseas ballots.

...Due to frequent moves, deployments, TAD, and field assignments, many military personnel do not receive their voting materials on time and cast last-minute votes. So it is not at all unusual to receive a flood of late votes from active duty servicemembers - it is hardly suspicious as the Gore campaign alleged. Unless they mean to imply that active duty servicemembers are forging ballots en masse and sending them in at the last minute? That is an allegation I would like to see them make openly, but somehow I doubt it will be made.

How appalling is it that the Commander in Chief of the armed forces would fight to disenfranchise the very people who guarantee our freedoms?

There are no words adequate to describe my contempt for this man.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:44 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Disturbing Study of the Day

Via Eric Hines, do nice girls finish last?

In the first research of its kind, a study has found feminine charm does have economic benefits and can improve the chances of success by as much as a third.

However, the flirting must have a selfish intent because women who come across as merely friendly or caring lose out, according to the study.

Those with the right balance include the fictional TV character Joan Holloway from hit US series Mad Men and former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

That *thud* you heard was our jaw dropping on the floor.

Debate question: is this news something either party could use as a negotiation aid in Congress? If Madeleine Albright can flirt her way to success, we see no reason why Nan Pelosi, Babs Boxer (she could read sections of her novel to set the mood!), and Bella Abzug can't follow in her footsteps...

/running away

Posted by Cassandra at 08:38 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 01, 2012

More on Federal Tax Rates and Revenue over Time

Because I'm an annoying sort of Blog Princess, I have more tax charts. Over the last few weeks I have been trying to make sense of the ongoing arguments about tax rates, paying down the deficit, et cetera, ad nauseam. It's tough when so many charts grossly oversimplify or game the numbers (mostly by omission). Hopefully some of these charts will help.

Here's the first one: what it shows is Total Federal Tax Revenue over time, broken out by the type of tax, as a percentage of GDP. The data comes from the ever-helpful Tax Policy Center website.

fedtaxrecpts_overtime.png

Why did I waste my time on this? Because I see too many charts that lump all federal tax revenue together and then use it to make claims about what will happen if we raise specific taxes. This is misleading because the composition of federal tax revenues changes over time and these changes muddy the waters. Now the same problem affects this chart, because the composition of the tax base (income wise) also changes over time. I tried to address that with the chart I put up last week and we'll be looking at it again later in this post.

Meanwhile, here's what I see in this chart:

1. For the past decade, total federal tax receipts have been BELOW the historic average (18% of GDP).

2. For 6 of the past 10 years, individual federal tax receipts have been BELOW the historic average (7.9% of GDP).

3. Corporate income tax receipts have been below their historic average (2.89% of GDP) since 1973. Three decades.

So my first question is: with our debt to GDP ratio increasing over time, how do we justify a decade of individual, corporate, and total federal tax receipts that are all below their historic averages?

It's a bit odd to see so many folks talking about a return to historic average rates and/or revenues as "Taxmageddon". Even this article admits, we're not talking about new taxes. We're talking about the expiration of tax cuts that were temporary.

The federal debt is money we already owe. It can't be "unspent". In what world are we seriously going to cut spending so much that we not only halt several decades of growth in federal spending (and several decades of federal revenues that don't match spending), but pay down the debt?

Discuss amongst your ownselves.

The next chart comes from intrepid VC commenter Yu-Ain Gonnano. It shows the change in the share of total federal income tax receipt over time, by income quintile:

taxshare.png

The two takeaways here are:

1. The top earning 20% are paying over 90% of federal income taxes received.

3. The other 80% of earners are paying a far lower share than they used to.

This is one area I wish Republicans would hit harder. The two themes the Dems keep hitting over and over are that we need to make the well to do pay their "fair share" and that we don't have a spending problem, we have a revenue problem.

What this chart makes crystal clear is that the well to do are already paying far more than their fair share, and that you can't have 80% of earners pay less without reducing total tax revenues. If we have a revenue problem, it's because a full 80% of taxpayers aren't paying as much as they used to.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:51 PM | Comments (73) | TrackBack