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December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve

Happy New Year, bitter gun clingers :)

Posted by Cassandra at 05:12 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Children, Our Values, Culture, The World We All Live In...

As Tammilee Webb (of Buns of Steel fame) likes to say, "There's a major, major connection"! If parents lack the backbone to stand up for their own values in the one area where they have complete control (their own homes) at an age when children are easy to influence (toddlerhood), how on earth do they expect to handle rebellious and impulsive teenagers?

Over the holiday, the Editorial Staff have been stunned at the number of bizarre parenting articles on offer. First up is a progressive vegetarian father who - by his own admission - is shocked and horrified that his 2 year old son adores a book distributed by Evil, Hating Haters (Who Hate), but can't bring himself to perform the most basic of parenting duties: setting limits.

How this fast-food branded book got into our house, I have no idea — we are vegetarians and have never set foot in a Chick-fil-A either before or after CEO Dan Cathy’s grotesque comments about equal rights. But somehow — maybe it was a gift? — this book is here, with Cathy’s mug smiling at me and my son from the first page on the nights we read it. Which, lately, has been every night.

It’s been that way because my son loves the book, and I’m too much of a pushover to say “no.” I’m also thankful that he wants to read anything, so I go ahead and read it to him.

There are so many things wrong with this father's reasoning that it's hard to know where to begin. By his logic, if a toddler prefers junk food to a balanced diet, the caring parent feeds him cookies and chips. After all, we all want our children to grow and at least he's eating something. If he enjoys Quentin Tarantino films or gang bang videos, Pushover Dad lets Junior watch whatever he likes.

Whatever happened to parental judgment?

Why would a parent who believes that meat is murder, gay marriage is a civil rights issue, and soulless corporate demons like Chick Fil-A are single-handedly destroying "agriculturally diverse" family farms, deliberately expose his 2 year old son to a veritable Trifecta of Evil? Dithering Dad fairly wallows in pointless angst over the deceptive view of reality presented by The Jolly Farmer, but feels powerless to do anything so mundane as saying, "I'm your father, and I've decided X is not consistent with our family's values":

...They don’t want kids to equate a Chick-fil-A sandwich with inhumane treatment of chickens in crowded factory farms — they want kids to equate that sandwich with the page in the “Jolly Barnyard” where Farmer Brown feeds his chickens a treat while they roam free. They don’t want kids to equate a Chick-fil-A meal with the unsustainable and often unsafe monoculture practices of corporate agribusiness — they want kids to equate that meal with the agriculturally diverse operations of individuals like Farmer Brown.

In short, they don’t want my son and his fellow two-year-olds to equate Chick-fil-A with what Chick-fil-A really is...

The same sort of delusional cluelessness is on display in this WSJ article touting "Smarter Ways to Discipline Children":

What can be more effective are techniques that psychologists often use with the most difficult kids, including children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder. [Ed. note: these are what a less enlightened generation of parents used to call unacceptable behavior] Approaches, with names like "parent management training" and "parent-child interaction therapy," are backed up by hundreds of research studies and they work on typical kids, too. But while some of the approaches' components find their way into popular advice books, the tactics remain little known among the general public.

The general strategy is this: Instead of just focusing on what happens when a child acts out, parents should first decide what behaviors they want to see in their kids (cleaning their room, getting ready for school on time, playing nicely with a sibling). Then they praise those behaviors when they see them. "You start praising them and it increases the frequency of good behavior," says Timothy Verduin, clinical assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.

So what do you do when your little darling simply refuses to go along? Ignore it? Do "smart" parents teach their children to function in the real world by rewarding them - effusively - for every good thing they do but never, ever showing anger or "negativity" when they behave poorly, are defiant, break important rules, or are inconsiderate of others? What lesson does that teach a child, other than "No matter how badly you act, there will be only mild negative consequences"?

According to parent management training, when a child does mess up, parents should use mild negative consequences (a short timeout or a verbal reprimand without shouting).

Giving a child consequences runs counter to some popular advice that parents should only praise their kids. But reprimands and negative nonverbal responses like stern looks, timeouts and taking away privileges led to greater compliance by kids according to a review article published this month in the journal Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review.

"There's a lot of fear around punishment out there," says Daniela J. Owen, a clinical psychologist at the San Francisco Bay area Center for Cognitive Therapy in Oakland, Calif. and the lead author of the study. "Children benefit from boundaries and limits." The study found that praise and positive nonverbal responses like hugs and rewards like ice cream or stickers, however, didn't lead to greater compliance in the short term. "If your child is cleaning up and he puts a block in the box and you say 'great job,' it doesn't mean the child is likely to put another block in the box," says Dr. Owen.

For some reason, we are reminded of a young man the Editorial Staff fired during her very first job as a supervisor. She was all of 21 and the young man was about the same age. Despite being told - repeatedly - what would happen if he failed to show up for his scheduled shift on New Year's Day, he called in sick...

...and then showed up to the store and pointedly played video games within 10 feet of his register.

We fired his sorry butt.
He filed a discrimination claim with the state employment commission.
When they showed up to investigate, we showed them copious documentation of his serial refusal to show up for work or follow rules.

He stayed fired. Clearly, this was an eventuality Our Hero had never considered.

Last up is another father who seems belatedly to have grasped (and been disturbed by) the distinct possibility that popular culture reflects the tastes and aggregated choices of people just like ... well... him:

Parenthood changed the way I related to popular culture in a more subtle way, too. I found that I naturally developed — I mean, without thinking about it; it was an intuitive thing — an aversion to certain modes of thought, behavior, and expression in film, music, and suchlike. This was not because these films, etc., involved children in peril, but because I found myself confronted with this question: What kind of world to people who think, talk, and act like this create for my children?

To be clear, I’m not simply talking about the world in which they will spend their childhood. I’m talking about the world in which they will live as adults, and raise kids of their own.

... we Americans are so focused on what we desire, and on our “right” to that desire, that we rarely stop to consider whether we ought to desire those things. We’re all implicated in this. I was listening in the car the other day to one of my favorite rock albums, and the thought occurred to me that if my kids were riding with me, I wouldn’t play it, because the lyrics are pretty dirty. And then I thought: should I be taking pleasure in this? Do I want my children to grow up in a world in which sex is treated in popular song so coarsely? I do not. But I have helped to create that world for them.

I’m not saying that all art must be safe for 10 year olds. Not at all! What I’m saying is that we contemporary Americans are so focused on satisfying our own pleasures, and so passive in our consumption, that we lose sight of our role as stewards of culture. Failure to exercise that role intelligently and discerningly is a choice, and we are responsible for that choice.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but ... duh! Human nature has remained fairly constant over the centuries. Cultural mores and notions of what is tolerated/accepted in public, however, have varied tremendously. It strains even our overstretched credulity that the notion that there just might be a connection between culture, values, and behavior would just now be occurring to any adult. How does one not see any connection between a world where graphic sex and extreme, gratuitous violence are popular and ubiquitous forms of entertainment and this sort of thing?

Coming to NYC public schools, the mandatory sex ed program. Among its features, according to a report in the NY Post:

Workbooks reviewed by The Post include the following assignments:

* High-school students go to stores and jot down condom brands, prices and features such as lubrication.

* Teens research a route from school to a clinic that provides birth control and STD tests, and write down its confidentiality policy.

* Kids ages 11 and 12 sort “risk cards” to rate the safety of various activities, including “intercourse using a condom and an oil-based lubricant,’’ mutual masturbation, French kissing, oral sex and anal sex.

* Teens are referred to resources such as Columbia University’s Web site Go Ask Alice, which explores topics like “doggie-style” and other positions, “sadomasochistic sex play,” phone sex, oral sex with braces, fetishes, porn stars, vibrators and bestiality.

During our growing up years, "real world skills" taught by schools were things like how to balance a checkbook. But that was a different world - one in which pretty much everything that goes on in the public square today was still happening, but one had to go looking for it (and it was generally frowned upon). People were shocked by what barely elicits a yawn these days.

In an era where individual freedom has been decoupled from individual responsibility and morality, children need limits more than ever. We can't protect them from everything, but we can at least look at the world we've created honestly and teach our children the skills they need to make good decisions.

Alternatively, we can praise them effusively and turn a blind eye to problems.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:32 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?

Could it be ... the headlights on the Clue Bus?

By the following spring, they were talking openly about marriage. Pepper knew it was right because she found herself being flexible in ways she never had before. “It was probably the first time in my whole life where I’ve been willing to compromise,” she says. “In the past I’d say, ‘Well that’s just me, that’s my personality, and if you try to change it, it wouldn’t be me.’ That’s an interesting stance, but it’s a good way to be alone for the rest of your life.”

Good Lord.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:22 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 29, 2012

Write Your Own Thomas Friedman Column

Courtesy of the folks at Powerline. With just one click of the mouse, we created this delightfully Friedmanesque offering:

When thinking about the recent problems, it's important to remember three things: One, people don't behave like muppets, so attempts to treat them as such are going to come across as foreign. Muppets never suddenly set up a black market for Western DVDs. Two, Costa Rica has spent decades being batted back and forth between colonial powers, so a mindset of peace and stability will seem foreign and strange. And three, freedom is an extraordinarily powerful idea: If authoritarianism is Costa Rica's ironing board, then freedom is certainly its flowerpot.

Indeed. Not since the demise of the Alanis Morissette lyric generator have we been so diverted.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:16 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

French Court Strikes Down La Patriotisme Economique!

For whom are these vile chains,
These long-prepared irons?
Frenchmen, for us: Ah! What outrage
What fury it must arouse!
It is us they dare plan
To return to the old slavery!

- La Marseillaise

Sacre bleu! Our more evolved European brethren appear determined to keep the Evil Rich from paying their "fair share" of taxes! Who could have predicted such a shocking turn of events?

President Francois Hollande’s 75 percent millionaire-tax is unconstitutional because it fails to guarantee taxpayer equality, France’s top court ruled today.

The tax, one of Hollande’s campaign promises, had become a focal point of discontent among entrepreneurs and other wealth creators, some of whom have quit French shores as a result. The ruling comes as the president seeks to cut France’s public deficit to 3 percent of gross domestic product next year from a projected 4.5 percent this year.

“Politically, this has an impact because it was a symbol for French public opinion, and was considered abroad as the emblem of French tax excess, of French tax hell,” said Dominique Barbet, senior economist at BNP Paribas SA in Paris. “In deficit terms, it’s truly negligible.”

...The constitutional court lowered a series of other tax increases, calling them excessive or saying they also violated equality of treatment for taxpayers. The tax rate on stock options and free shares was lowered to a maximum of 64.5 percent from a rate of as much as 77 percent. The marginal tax rate on a type of private retirement benefit, known as “retraites chapeau,” was cut to a maximum of 68.34 percent from a planned rate in 2013 of 75.34 percent.

Looking at France’s wealth tax, the court said that unrealized gains couldn’t be included in assessing the tax because it ignores the requirement to take into account a payer’s ability to meet his obligations.

We must say that this is a disturbing development. How long can enlightened Western democracies keep spending money they don't have if buzz-killing jurists prevent them from enacting punitive taxes on the rich that don't even cover our existing debts, much less all the glorious new spending they've promised us?

Posted by Cassandra at 11:10 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 22, 2012

Holiday Blogging

Yes, the Editorial Staff have been AWOL this week.

We have several posts rolling around in the brain housing group, but have to take care of some holiday errands first. However, we would be remiss not to mention that - and our surprise and delight was, for once, more than half-vast - some kind person has nominated us for the much coveted Grande Conservative Blogress Diva award over at GayPatroit:

With apologies for the failure to get to this until today, I hereby announce the nominees for the 2012/13 Grand Conservative Blogress Diva. Bear in mind that we consider a diva to be a strong, confident woman who commands the respect of men.

So whilst you are waiting for us to get done with our last few errands, please head over to Gay Patriot to see who's on the list and vote for your favorite conservative blogress! We've read the work of most of the ladies on this list and whoever you vote for, they are all eminently deserving of the award.

You can vote here.

Our heartfelt thanks go out to Gay Patriot, a wonderful blog you should be reading if you're not already, for taking the time to showcase some outstanding female bloggers. I think most of my fellow nominees will agree that it's hard to think of two finer accolades than the respect of men and recognition from the folks at Gay Patriot. We like it when our fellow women enjoy our work, but most of us have a big soft spot in our hearts for our better halves.

And thanks to whoever - perhaps spurred by a bit too much holiday cheer - nominated the Editorial Staff. We'll be walking on air all week :)

Posted by Cassandra at 10:03 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

December 20, 2012

Christmas Cookie Thread

Sorry for the lack of bloviation.

Every now and then the Editorial Staff have a massive sense of humor failure, usually generated by reading things that fill us with a most unfeminine urge to put our fist through the drywall. We've tried and failed several times to write about various items in the news, but it's all coming out vaguely rant-ish.

So we thought we might try focusing on happier topics like, "What are your favorite Christmas Cookies?" Or just, "What kinds of cookies are you baking this year?" On good years we like to make 4 or 5 kinds, but working is putting a definite dent in our beautiful and natural urge to bake tiny fat pills. At any rate, here's our list:

Chocolate Rum and Whisky Balls
Lemon Squares
Tiny Ginger Cookies
Gingerbread Men
Swedish Wedding Cookies

Yes, we know: there are no sugar cookies on the list. We usually make them anyway because some random Marine likes them, but they don't make the top 5. Snickerdoodles with cinnamon sugar are pretty good though.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:43 AM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

December 18, 2012

Media Induced PTSD

The mother of all First World problems:

Can consuming too much social media and news coverage during upsetting events like the Newtown school shooting cause post-traumatic stress disorder? The journalism blog Muck Rack asked that question on Monday, writing, “Is it possible to consume too much news and media, and be adversely effected [sic] by it?”

NPR’s Andy Carvin threw his weight behind the potential trauma of overdosing on news. So did David Clinch of the social media news tool Storyful: “We provide professional PTSD advice for all @Storyful staff who routinely watch/verify video from war zones,” he tweeted.

Some journalists, however, found the notion … a bit “ridiculous.” Just “log out,” they wrote on Twitter a bit flippantly. “ 'War veterans aren't the only ones suffering,' says group with absolutely no concept of perspective,” wrote Sara Morrison, an assistant editor at the Columbia Journalism Review.*

But as ridiculous as it may sound at first glance, Todd Essig, a clinical psychologist who blogs about mental health and technology for Forbes, believes PTSD from social media is a genuine possibility. He pointed me to studies showing media-induced PTSD following Sept. 11, and he mentioned that some children who kept re-watching footage of the World Trade Center towers collapsing developed PTSD.

Clearly, more regulation is needed. We must do "something". Possibly related (and trauma-inducing!):

We May Never Know What Was on Adam Lanza's Hard Drive

Somehow I suspect my heart will go on.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:13 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

"...Companies must operate in the world that actually exists, not the world that [Congress] would prefer"

The best part of this excellent article on gun control neatly summarizes many of the arguments used to justify "meaningful action":

1. Something must be done

2. This is something

3. Therefore this must be done.

The obvious implication being that if you're not willing to buy off on that "something" then you don't care enough. How easily the entirely foreseeable real world consequences of various legislative "fixes" are trumped by unsupported accusations of bad faith:

When employers like Microsoft MSFT +1.05% and Intel go searching for engineers and complain that our artificial caps on high-skill immigrants place them at a competitive disadvantage with their global competitors, lawmakers in Washington dismiss such concerns. Protectionist politicians argue that these high-tech firms are merely interested in "cheap labor" and that foreign nationals are displacing U.S. workers, not filling jobs that would otherwise go unfilled.

In fact, labor regulations and fees make foreign professionals more expensive to hire than Americans. But the other reality often ignored in this debate is those test scores cited above. Our K-12 education system is not producing the world's top talent in math and science, and hasn't been for some time. U.S. companies want access to foreign workers to help them stay competitive and keep jobs in America. We all want the U.S. to do a better job of educating children, but companies must operate in the world that actually exist, not the world that they would prefer.


Posted by Cassandra at 07:48 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

To Change Others, First Change Yourself

I loved this:

10:20 pm. I emerged from the garage entrance to the house, setting down my computer bag and purse, and walked into the kitchen. Six hours earlier, the crock pot worked preparing a meal for the family while I left to teach my business communications training class downtown. Now it sat in the sink, filled with soapy water, soaking. Dirty dinner dishes lay on the counter. The pan with the cornbread sat uncovered on top of the stove. I heard snoring. I gazed across to the living room, where my husband lay on the couch, television playing in the background. Tears of exhaustion, anger, and hurt welled in my eyes.

I took off my jacket, rolled up my sleeves and went to work cleaning up. With each dish, I grew more resentful. "How could he not see these?" I stewed. "I work all day, I prepare a home-made dinner for him and the kids before I go teach a class, and he can't even make sure the mess gets cleaned up," I fumed. The slamming of the dishwasher roused the sleeping husband. "I was going to get those before I went to bed," he mumbled, sensing my irritation. "Well, you already went to bed, didn't you?" I responded, wondering how long he'd been blessed with sleep, when both of us had been up since 5:00 am. "Here, let me help," he offered. "I'm nearly done now. I don't want your help," I lied. His brow furrowed. "Fine. Suit yourself. I'm going upstairs," he said.

I had no idea he really did plan on doing the dishes, but accidentally fell asleep on the couch because he, too, was exhausted. I didn't know that he had lovingly spent time with each of our kids, reading them stories before tucking them in and praying with them before bed. He went to bed that night feeling disrespected. I went to bed feeling unloved. Small interactions like this occurred often enough to create a growing chasm between us. These little conflicts went unresolved or were dealt with in unhealthy ways and resulted in a barren relationship on the road to destruction.

...Being a practicing Christian, I eventually ran across a Bible verse that at first angered me: Ephesians 5:33, "and the wife shall respect her husband." Another verse suggested I "submit" to my husband, and I had the same reaction. I couldn't believe God expected me to pay homage to a man who was, in my eyes, uninterested in working on our relationship.

A decade later, I can say that those two concepts--"respect" and "submission"--saved my marriage. And it wasn't because I became a doormat or no longer communicated my feelings. I learned that Biblical submission, boiled down, is basically "don't be a contentious competitor to him." After learning that, I argued with him less. I stopped rolling my eyes with disgust when he had something to say - even if I thought it was not such a great idea at the time. I started practicing the Bible verse which reads, "Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and even slower to become angry."

I started asking him questions about his life. I started being interested in him again as a person. I decided he was more important to me than whether or not a dish made it into the dishwasher or his socks were left on the floor. There were even a few things he did that could be considered big mistakes that just didn't seem to matter as much when I viewed him as a person of worth. I could forgive him - and I saw my own flawed nature clearly.

This frame of mind, where the default state is for each sex to treat the other with respect and gentleness, is how I think of chivalry. Unlike Grim, I know little of the history or origins of chivalry. So I cannot comment knowledgeably on what it is supposed to be or how it was practiced in bygone ages. When done correctly, it brings out the very best in both men and women because at its heart, it is based upon respect and love:

A code that teaches men how to love women is good. If it also makes men into the kinds of creatures that are worthy of love themselves, it is better.

Lack of respect makes us suspicious of each other's motives and can lead us to react antagonistically to each other instead of extending the benefit of the doubt. This weekend, I was at the mall. I stepped into the entryway briefly to throw out my coffee cup. As I turned to go back into the store, I spied a man walking towards the door. So instead of walking through, I opened the door and held it for him.

He paused, and as he did a woman I had not seen approached from the other side and walked through the door I was holding without saying a word. I attributed this, not to her being female or to feminism, but to the fact that some people are self absorbed.

The man was still paused on the other side of the door, so I stayed where I was and gestured with my hand to show that I was holding the door for him. He hesitated a moment, then walked through. He had a look of slight amazement on his face as he said, "I'm not used to that! Thank you."

That struck me as very sad. The gesture was automatic on my part. I've said the same thing when a man has obviously gone out of his way to hold a door for me because I don't expect doors to be held open simply because I'm female. To work, I think chivalry has got to be reciprocal, and moreover at some point it has to include some recognition that men and women don't see the world through the same eyes and don't need the same things (love, or respect) in equal amounts. That's one reason a template can be helpful:

I think is very healthy for society to have gender roles, because men and women are quite different. On average, such roles help us relate to each other by giving us forms we can rely upon to smooth our interactions just where misunderstandings are most likely.

Perhaps the most difficult thing for me to understand about men (or my sons) has been male pride. Men often complain about women being unreasonable when they get their feelings hurt over some slight that wouldn't even register to a man, and sometimes they are right. But women are often just as mystified by the male need for respect - like the hurt feelings thing for men, it just doesn't register with most of us because - after all - *we* wouldn't react that way! Things that don't seem disrespectful or antagonistic to us often seem that way to men.

The interesting thing about chivalry is that it seems to build in the unique needs of men and women without necessarily making those needs explicit. Where it can sometimes go wrong is (as Grim notes) when it becomes too rigid, assuming that women don't need respect.

Or men don't need love.

Sets of rules are great for ordering societies, but I can't help thinking that understanding is important, too. The real irony here is that I've often observed that men can perceive helpfulness from a woman as implied disrespect ("You obviously think I am the sort of person who needs help") when often it's proferred with the best of intentions and no disrespect. So men obviously understand on a gut level how deference or helpfulness might be unwelcome in certain circumstances, especially if the recipient feels the need to project strength or independence. If this feeling is natural for men, why should it be a cause for offense in women?

What I loved about the reaction of the man in that store is that he was mildly taken aback, but put the best construction on my gesture and accepted it graciously. It requires effort to set aside our instinctive reactions, but it's well worth the trouble.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:29 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

December 17, 2012

"Meaningful Action"

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

I started to write about the Newtown shooting over the weekend, but once I began thinking about what I wanted to say it became apparent that to weigh in before I had had time to let the news sink it and the rest of the facts come in would be a violation of everything I planned to say. But the President's initial statement, which promised "meaningful action" to "prevent" another tragedy like this from occurring, just hit my last nerve.

Full disclosure: despite being married to a man who served as an active duty Marine officer for 30 years, we don't own a single gun. I grew up in a household that did contain guns but they were so well hidden that I never knew we had any until the day my father took us out to the woods to practice shooting a rifle. I don't think I ever saw them again.

The spousal unit and I are of the same mind on the subject of guns. We don't have anything in particular against them, nor are we particularly enamored of them. A gun is a tool designed for a narrow set of purposes. We don't own a jackhammer or an air compressor either - not because they are noisy, but because we don't anticipate having enough use for either tool to make such a purchase worthwhile.

Because we don't own guns, the heat of the debate over gun ownership often annoys me. I see the point of the Second Amendment, but I don't believe it prohibits all regulation of the sale, use, or ownership of guns so long as that regulation is not so burdensome that it materially infringes on the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

Being poised somewhere in the middle between the camp that would disarm everyone (that pesky Constitution be damned!) and the one that sees widespread gun ownership as the answer to violent crime is an uncomfortable place to be. Pondering the President's purposely vague prescription for "meaningful action" (what in the holy hell is that?) seems like a road to nowhere. What action would have prevented this shooting?

He can't seriously be suggesting that the federal government round up the hundreds of thousands of guns legally owned by Americans. That makes absolutely no sense. E.J. Dionne puts forth his own recipe for meaningful action:

What, minimally, might “meaningful action” look like? We should begin with: bans on high-capacity magazines and assault weapons; requiring background checks for all gun purchases; stricter laws to make sure that gun owners follow safety procedures; new steps to make it easier to trace guns used in crimes; and vastly ramped-up data collection and research on what works to prevent gun violence, both of which are regularly blocked by the gun lobby.

Would any of his suggestions have prevented this shooting? It's doubtful. The weapons used were legally owned by the shooter's mother. It is she who would have undergone a background check, but it was not she who used the guns. Unless we're now planning to subject not only gun owners but their entire families to background checks, it's not apparent to me how this would prevent future shootings. Nor is it clear how following better safety procedures would have prevented the shooting.

But I'm equally unconvinced that gun use or ownership should be unregulated.

In 1981, we lived in a small, one bedroom apartment just off the Quantico Marine base. Several of our neighbors were other Marines going through Officer Basic school with the spousal unit. One morning, I went across the hall to have a cup of coffee with another Marine wife. My two year old son was with us.

As we talked, he scampered off down the hall and I immediately jumped up and ran after him. I caught up with him just a few seconds later. He was standing next to their nightstand, and in his hand was a loaded gun with the safety off. It was one of those moments when your heart just stops for a second.

I blamed myself, even though I had been watching him carefully. Kids move fast and it takes only a second or two for the unthinkable to happen. But after I got home, I had to wonder what was so incredibly dangerous about our apartment complex that it required sleeping with a loaded gun (with the safety off!) on the bedside table?

A few weeks later, another neighbor told us that he had nearly shot their new talking bird. Apparently he woke up in the middle of the night and - being still sleepy or even perhaps slightly drunk as 2nd Lieutenants are wont to be on weekends - thought the bird was a burgler. It was a funny story, but again I had to wonder.

Despite the overabundant and overwrought news coverage they receive, shootings are actually fairly rare in America:

Mass shootings are no more common than they have been in past decades, despite the impression given by the media.

In fact, the high point for mass killings in the U.S. was 1929, according to criminologist Grant Duwe of the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

Incidents of mass murder in the U.S. declined from 42 in the 1990s to 26 in the first decade of this century.

The chances of being killed in a mass shooting are about what they are for being struck by lightning.

Think about that for a moment. It doesn't minimize the shock or the horror of mass shootings, but it does - and should - have some bearing on the seriousness of the problem. Undoubtedly at this point, someone will accuse me of being insufficiently sensitive to the horror of gun violence.

But I know someone who was - if only metaphorically - "struck by lightening". A few years ago, a family member was shot to death by a mentally ill man in an incident fairly similar to the Newtown shooting. She wasn't his only victim: two families lost a parent, a husband, a wife. Someone they loved and depended on.

When something like this happens, it's only normal for people to look for a simple cause or a simple remedy. We want certainty; reassurance that the world is an orderly and predictable place. We want to believe that if we just follow the rules, we'll be safe from lightening bolts and gunfire. And the truth is, most of us are safe. Most of the time, it makes far more sense to worry about automobile accidents than deranged killers.

The question I'm left with is, "Is there any meaningful action we could take that would materially lessen the risk of that rare lightening strike?". I'm not entirely comfortable with rejecting the question out of hand - to me, that smacks of reflexive resistance rather than careful consideration. But I'm more uncomfortable with fluffy promises of "meaningful action" that will somehow "prevent" a tragedy in which the mother of all random elements - human nature - was enough to cause school personnel to buzz in a young man armed with weapons, and a mother of a mentally ill young man didn't follow existing standards for gun safety, and a supposedly gun-free zone turned out not to be gun free at all.

The question for conservatives is, "Is there ANY regulation of gun ownership, purchase, or use that you wouldn't oppose?"

And the equally important question for liberals is, "Would any of the laws you want to pass have prevented this from happening? Would they seriously lessen the risk of future mass shootings?"

These are serious questions, and they deserve serious answers. Discuss amongst yourownselves, knuckle dragging heathens.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:49 AM | Comments (97) | TrackBack

December 11, 2012


...they are gentle with small things:

Let's hope Mrs. Claus had a nice steak and a cold beer ready for him when he got home.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:16 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

The Swedish Are At It, Again....

Those wacky Swedes and their obsession with gender equality. First there was the gender-free kindergarten classroom:

At the school, boys and girls play together with a toy kitchen, waving plastic utensils and pretending to cook. One boy hides inside the toy stove, his head popping out through a hole.

Director: Lotta Rajalin says the staff try to help the children discover new ideas when they play Lego bricks and other building blocks are intentionally placed next to the kitchen, to make sure the children draw no mental barriers between cooking and construction.

At the inimitable Mr. On would say, "Huh???" We can't begin to tell you knuckle draggers how sad it makes us to think that the only thing preventing Humynity from doing their woodworking (or sandblasting!)next to that gently boiling pot of chicken soup is a lack of imagination stemming from centuries of oppressive gender stereotyping (that could easily have been eliminated by a well intended government program). Happily, we can now look forward to a brave new world where a more enlightened and tolerant generation will think nothing of whipping up crepes suzettes in the midst of construction sites!

Because at the end of the day, it's all about tolerance. Except for those atavistic, heteronormative types. They shall not be spoken of, lest anyone get the absurd idea that human reproduction once required the active cooperation of both sexes. Parthenogenesis, here we come!

Meanwhile, nearly all the children's books deal with homosexual couples, single parents or adopted children. There are no 'Snow White,' 'Cinderella' or other fairy tales.

Unexpectedly, all this glorious equality hasn't always led to equal outcomes:

A greater proportion of women than men complete their upper secondary education. Women comprise roughly 60 percent of all students in under-graduate university studies and almost two-thirds of all degrees are awarded to women. Significantly more women than men participate in adult education. The gender distribution among students in postgraduate studies and doctoral degrees is today equal.

Clearly, the problem is pronouns. Personal pronouns, to be precise. And toy catalogs. And peeing while standing up. And, well... men and their penis-having ways:

Is it discriminatory and degrading for toy catalogs to show girls playing with tea sets and boys with Nerf guns? A Swedish regulatory group says yes. The Reklamombudsmannen (RO) has reprimanded Top-Toy, a licensee of Toys"R"Us and one of the largest toy companies in Northern Europe, for its "outdated" advertisements and has pressured it to mend its "narrow-minded" ways. After receiving "training and guidance" from RO equity experts, Top-Toy introduced gender neutrality in its 2012 Christmas catalogue. The catalog shows little boys playing with a Barbie Dream House and girls with guns and gory action figures. As its marketing director explains, "For several years, we have found that the gender debate has grown so strong in the Swedish market that we have had to adjust."

Swedes can be remarkably thorough in their pursuit of gender parity. A few years ago, a feminist political party proposed a law requiring men to sit while urinating—less messy and more equal. In 2004, the leader of the Sweden's Left Party Feminist Council, Gudrun Schyman,proposed a "man tax"—a special tariff to be levied on men to pay for all the violence and mayhem wrought by their sex. In April 2012, following the celebration of International Women's Day, the Swedes formally introduced the genderless pronoun "hen" to be used in place of he and she (han and hon).

Freeing humanity of repressive social pressure is hard work! But how else will we ever be free to interact with each other in State-approved ways? And don't even get us started about freeing the Multiverse from all those racist code words and imagery:

... how far a culture should go to challenge honorable traditions that coincidentally run afoul of modern sensitivities. In Sweden, for example, modern sensibilities are chipping away at the traditional Santa Lucia celebration, which has seen children, since forever, parade around dressed up as stars, gnomes, Santa Lucia, or gingerbread men. The politically correct brigade is now worried about those gingerbread men. You and I think of them as tasty, spicy cookies that all sensible people love; the PC crowd knows that they have a darker symbolism (pun intended):

Schoolchildren in Sweden have been banned from dressing up as gingerbread men for a Christmas parade because their teachers fear the costumes could be considered racist.


[H]eartbroken 10-year-old Mio Simiv was told he could not wear his gingerbread man costume to the celebration because it might be seen as ‘offensive’.

Angry mum Jenny Simic told local media: ‘I thought he had to have got it wrong so I called the school and they said people might find a brown gingerbread character offensive.

Mrs. Simic also went on to make a larger point, which is that the other costumes, when taken out of context, can be forced into equally ugly interpretations. You see, those gnome costumes really don’t stand up to close scrutiny ….

‘I said, well then my son won’t participate. He won’t support some Ku Klux Klan procession – because that’s what the little Lucias look like when they all come in with white hoods and white dresses.’

Just looking at that last photo makes the princess feel ashamed of her bad, heternormative self. And so should you...

Feel ashamed of yourselves, that is.

UPDATE: Dear Lord. It's contagious:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Some well-known male chefs are getting behind a New Jersey girl's call for Hasbro to make a gender-neutral Easy-Bake Oven.

Chefs including Manuel Trevino of TV's "Top Chef" and Michael Lomonaco of Porterhouse New York are featured in a YouTube video applauding McKenna Pope's online petition, which had reached about 40,000 signatures as of Tuesday on the website Change.org.

The 13-year-old 8th-grader from Garfield, N.J., started the petition when she went to buy an Easy-Bake Oven for her 4-year-old-brother, Gavyn Boscio, but discovered it comes only in purple and pink. She wants Pawtucket, R.I.-based Hasbro to feature boys on the box of the toy and to make it in gender-neutral colors.

Celebrity chef Bobby Flay said last week he agreed that Hasbro should make an oven in other colors to appeal to boys, and in the nearly 3-minute-long video posted online Tuesday by Flay's publicist, several chefs from around the country joined in on the call.

A spokesman for Hasbro did not comment.

That is a wise man....

Posted by Cassandra at 08:54 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Punished for Succeeding

A female entrepreneur - an example of the kind of success Democrats claim to want for women everywhere - writes Obama to ask why the Affordable Care Act is forcing her to move operations overseas?

Theragenics makes “medical devices for prostate cancer, vascular access and wound closure.” In her letter to Mr. Obama, Ms. Jacobs noted that her company has four factories in four states in the U.S., which employ 626 people. She stated: “In our 30-year history we have treated over 200,000 men for prostate cancer, and we have been proud of our workforce and proud to have treated so many dads, brothers and husbands for cancer. As a public company we have fallen prey to the heavy burden of being public with increased expenses associated with [Sarbanes Oxley] and now Dodd Frank.” She also reminded the president that she had written to him back in 2009, when she stated, “We were paying about $8,000 per employee per year to be public and comply with the new Dodd Frank regulations. That money could be better spent on jobs and expansion.”

Under Obamacare, there is a new tax specifically on the gross revenue of medical device manufacturers. Most people (outside of Washington) understand that if we tax something, we get less of it. A higher tax on medical device manufacturers means fewer and more expensive medical devices that save lives, and less research and development to develop new and better devices. As Ms. Jacobs explains: “Our products are for people with prostate cancer, heart disease, breast cancer and orthopedic knee or hip surgeries. Our 626 employees’ futures are now uncertain. The cost of regulation, legislation and now the Device Tax have provided an atmosphere that is close to untenable.”

Ms. Jacobs, who started out as a nurse with a passion for science, has headed Theragenics Corp. for the past two decades. She is a classic entrepreneur, an all-American woman, who likes to hunt, fish and go to the symphony. She serves on the boards of many civic institutions and other organizations. Now, having built a successful company that competes in the global marketplace, she is being forced by ignorant and misguided legislators and regulators to move operations outside of the United States. She concluded her letter to the president: “Our 30-year-old company has done all our country has asked of it and has been punished. I am immensely sad at this writing.”

Perhaps she should look into green energy? The federal government is willing to invest millions of dollars in unsuccessful companies with no strings attached.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:05 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

In Which We Agree With Obama

We've got to hand it to him: when he's right, he's right:

Right-to-work laws are "giving you the right to work for less money," Obama said in his speech at the Daimler Detroit Diesel Plant.

Damned straight. That is precisely what right to work laws guarantee: that I get to decide when the pay offered to me by a prospective employer is acceptable... to me.

If I'm a single mother who is about to be evicted and a low paying job will keep me and my children from being thrown out on the streets, I should be "allowed" to accept that job and that wage. I shouldn't be forced to hold out for more money if less money now is what I really need.

Right to work laws are about giving workers control over their own lives. They're about freedom of choice.

When I was a young Marine wife, jobs were almost impossible to get in most military towns. This was doubly true if the cost of child care was added into the mix. But I had the right to offer child care from my home for the paltry sum of $1.00 per child, per hour. I doubt that would be possible now, but it was a great deal - both for me and for the struggling families who hired me to care for their children. It was the right service, at the right price, made possible because back then, government wasn't busy interfering in our lives and protecting us from choices that don't have the federal stamp of approval.

I had the 'right' to offer to paint my neighbor's house for $400. He got a great deal and I got lots of repeat business and - because of the low price - the freedom to work on MY schedule: a schedule that put the needs of my 5 and 2 year old ahead of finishing his house quickly. Both he and I were delighted with the arrangement.

Neither of these jobs paid a living wage, but I didn't need a living wage. What I needed was just enough money to send my oldest boy to private school, and I thank God that I had the freedom to decide for myself how much money and what working conditions were acceptable.

Workers are not all created equal. Nor do they have equal needs and goals. Some work to survive, some work purely for the pleasure of working, and some work so they can afford a few extras like better schools for their children or a family vacation. Americans should have the freedom to decide these matters for themselves.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:26 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Depressing Thought of the Day

Three quarters of those who try to join the Army can't meet the physical standard:

Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling said he was floored by what he found in 2009 when he was assigned to overhaul the Army’s training system. Seventy-five percent of civilians who wanted to join the force were ineligible, he said. Obesity was the leading cause.

Of the 25 percent that could join, what we found was 65 percent could not pass the [physical training] test on the first day,” he said in a recent speech. “Young people joining our service could not run, jump, tumble or roll — the kind of things you would expect soldiers to do if you’re in combat.”

If you're not already contemplating self defenestration with extreme prejudice, there's more where this came from:

Between 1998 and 2010, the number of active-duty military personnel deemed overweight or obese more than tripled.

In 2010, the highest percentage of overweight troops were females, members of the Air Force, and those older than 40. Marines and troops under 20 were deemed the most fit.

Perhaps we should put Michelle in charge?

*running away*

Posted by Cassandra at 06:49 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

December 10, 2012

Obama's Untenable Position on Taxes, Growth

In the WSJ, Kimberly Strassel puts forth an amusing suggestion that the Editorial Staff has already stated its support for:

To read the current fiscal-cliff coverage, President Obama holds the upper hand and is poised for the "victory" of winning an increase in the top two tax rates.

So successful has the White House been in defining this fight, few have stopped to consider how paltry that victory is likely to be. For a short-term win on this ideological issue, President Obama may well cede most everything else.

Let us assume that Mr. Obama is correct in his bet that the GOP will prove more responsible than he is and won't cliff-dive. The president's recent baiting of Republicans—his unreasonable offers, his public campaign to belittle them, his refusal to negotiate—has not put them in a generous mood. If Republicans have to fold on the top tax rates, it's a decent bet they will do only that—and nothing more.

If the pundits are correct, the President's entire "plan" for raising revenue and righting the economy amounts to proposing something even his own party is unlikely to swallow: tax hikes for the top 2 income brackets (that won't raise the revenue they need) with no matching cuts in spending. Now that it's safe to point out the flaws in Obama's position, even the NY Times is starting to complain that the President's math doesn't add up:

Even if Republicans were to agree to Mr. Obama’s core demand — that the top marginal income rates return to the Clinton-era levels of 36 percent and 39.6 percent after Dec. 31, rather than stay at the Bush-era rates of 33 percent and 35 percent — the additional revenue would be only about a quarter of the $1.6 trillion that Mr. Obama wants to collect over 10 years. That would be about half of the $800 billion that Republicans have said they would be willing to raise.

We know that raising marginal tax rates on top earners will NOT raise the revenue Obama is promising. But there's another problem that doesn't bode well for the Democrats' future electoral chances. When the new ObamaCare taxes kick in, families who earn over $250,000 will see their tax rates go up even more:

Under the healthcare law adopted in March, the Medicare tax will rise that year, from 2.9 to 3.8 percent. Also, a new 3.8 percent tax, called the Unearned Income Medicare Contribution (UIMC), will be imposed on high-income taxpayers’ interest income and most of their pass-through business income that’s not subject to Medicare tax. So, under the president’s proposal, virtually all of top earners’ ordinary income will be taxed at 44.6 percent, starting in 2013. We’re not just going back to the Clinton-era rates of 40.8 and 43.7 percent.

A similar pattern holds for capital gains. Under the president’s plan, in 2011 and 2012, the top rate on gains, now 15 percent, will go to 20 percent, with the stealth provision adding 1.2 percentage points, sending the tax back to its 1997–2002 level of 21.2 percent. Starting in 2013, though, capital gains will also be hit by the UIMC, pushing the rate to 25.0 percent.

How will these families react? Let's look at one family - the one residing at Villa Cassandranita. Our combined income is over $250K. We are very comfortable, but hardly wealthy. Because we both work and have no child labor units infesting our domicile, we hired two enterprising Latina women (one of whom started her own business and is going back to school at night) to clean our house. We also pay for a yard service staffed by Latino men to mow and edge our lawn once a week. Remembering how grateful she was for the opportunity to earn money performing the very same jobs during the early years of her marriage, the blog princess remains blissfully free of racial or class guilt about this arrangement. This weekend, after reading an article about how this generation of retirees isn't divesting itself of debt in anticipation of living on a fixed retirement income, we had a discussion about the effect of this administration's tax and economic policies on our current work and lifestyle choices.

The conclusion was hard to escape - the Obama administration's tax policies amount to a punitive tax on my earnings (the "marginal" portion of our joint income). Once one factors in the extra money we spend on travel and personal services associated with my job, it's doubtful whether it makes economic sense for the blog princess to work.

There's a palpable irony here. During her years as a stay at home wife and mother with no college degree, the blog princess worked at mostly menial jobs (child care, lawn care, small repairs and painting) for pocket money. My earnings, though meager, yielded just enough extra money to fund DITY home improvement projects and a few small luxuries we would not otherwise be able to afford. Most weeks, she worked 25 hours or less.

Now, with a college degree and 14 years of continuous FT work experience, her earnings have multipled by a factor or 40 or 50 and yet, the Obama administration's policies bid fair to make working 50+ hour weeks no more profitable than it was to work fewer than 25 hours a week at a salary 40+ times smaller.

If this administration had purposely designed its economic policy to inflict maximum damage on women who aspire to move up the economic ladder through education and hard work, it could not possibly have done better. WAR ON WOMYNS!!11!

To add to the hilarity, the decision to stop working would mean less work for the Hispanic men and women we have been able to employ with my earnings.

One of the hardest lessons we learned as parents is that sometimes, the best way to drive home a point with our sons was to let them try whatever bone headed scheme they were hell bent on advancing. In our more mean spirited moments, we snidely ponder administering a similar object lesson to the Democrats. Stop arguing that their policies won't work and allow the same buyer's remorse that followed the passage of ObamaCare to do the work for us.

Discuss amongst your ownselves, knuckle draggers :p

Update: more grist for the discussion mill:

Even 39 percent of Republicans support raising taxes on households making more than $250,000. Independents favor such a move by 21 percentage points, 59 to 38 percent. Only 38 percent buy the GOP argument that raising taxes on households earning over $250,000 per year will have a negative impact on the economy. Fifty-eight percent do not.

In this post, I've argued that raising taxes on households making over $250K will negatively impact the economy (and moreover, it is likely to hurt lower income workers far more than it will hurt higher income workers).

Again, how do we change minds on this issue? We also found this rather amusing:

Since the era of Ronald Reagan, women have traditionally been more open to cutting defense spending than men. This has changed in recent years, and now women take a harder line than men on the military budget. While 41 percent of men favor making significant defense cuts and 56 percent oppose them, only 34 percent of women favor cuts and 62 percent oppose them. That’s a 15-point spread. Women believe the world is more dangerous, Democratic pollster Lake explained, and they see cutting the military budget as harmful to the troops.

There's a joke in there, somewhere. Fortunately our high principles prevent us from making it.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:31 AM | Comments (52) | TrackBack

December 06, 2012

Nature, Nurture, or Perceived Benefit?

So the Blog Princess saw this yesterday and it amused her extremely:

Yesterday, a video asking "What if guys and girls swapped roles at the bar?" went viral, skewering every part of the club-going experience. In the video's world, girls, rather than guys, end up waiting in line forever to get past the doorman, pressure men into taking shots, and harass guys with low-cut tops. And guys don't know their limits when they drink, talk sloppily about commitment to women they've just met, and grind with each other on the dance floor. As far as pointing out bad/lame behavior via gender role reversal, the video's an equal-opportunity expose.

The video embedded in the article is pretty funny but we thought the one on dating/relationships was even better:

We showed both vids to the spousal unit over a pre-prandial libation and gained the oink seal of approval, so we thought you might enjoy them too. I was more than a little surprised at how differently I react to the same behavior depending on whether it is exhibited by the male or the female of the species.

During the inevitable marital "discussions", the blog princess has more than once been known to say, "Be honest here - if someone did that to you, how would you feel?" It's a question I've learned to ask myself over the years, because it's really hard to step outside your own skin and try to imagine the world as it looks to our better halves. But it's very much worth doing - I've had my mind changed more than once as a result of such exercises.

The videos reminded me of another thought I have fairly frequently: how many of the observable differences in male/female behavior and decision making have to do with biology, and how many have to do with the simple fact that the world doesn't work exactly the same for men and women? We are faced with many of the same decisions in life, but the risks and benefits attached to various decisions are profoundly different depending on whether one is male or female. Decrying these differences as "unfair" has become something of an equal opportunity sport on the Internet. So is the elaborate man- or woman-splaining often used to massage gender studies around until they neatly "prove" what various combatants in the battle of the sexes already believe:

Writing in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Conley describes a series of experiments that refine the results of a seminal 1989 study widely cited in articles and textbooks. That study, by psychologists Russell Clark and Elaine Hatfield, found that when a female college student introduced herself to a male colleague and asked if he wanted to have sex with her, 69 to 75 percent of the guys said yes. When the genders were reversed, not a single woman was interested. That huge difference has largely been explained in terms of Sexual Strategies Theory, an evolutionary approach that focuses on the desire, conscious or unconscious, to pass one’s genes to the next generation. If that’s our driving impulse, women need to be choosy about their sexual partners; they’re looking for men who are likely to stick around and provide support during their child-rearing years. Men, on the other hand, have an evolutionary incentive to spread their seed as widely as possible.

Setting aside for a moment the most glaring flaw in this analysis - that women are smaller and physically weaker than men, and therefore have more to fear from going home with a complete stranger - leaves several other differences in the risk/benefit calculation. One I almost never see cited when this study comes up occurred to me within seconds of reading it for the first time: society looks down on women who engage in casual sex. They are sluts, whereas promiscuous men are studs. So imagine my amusement upon reading this study:

... why did the young men and women in the 1989 study — and in a repeat of that experiment that Conley conducted — react so differently to the offer of casual sex? After conducting a series of follow-up experiments, in which she tweaked Clark and Hatfield’s sexual-invitation scenario in different ways, she came up with an answer sports-conscious men should be able to easily grasp: The playing field isn’t level. Men, after all, can almost be guaranteed a pleasurable sexual encounter if they’re with someone they find attractive. But Conley points to new, yet-to-be published research by sociologist Elizabeth Armstrong which finds “women orgasm only 35 percent as often as men in first-time sexual encounters.” “Women’s perception that their heterosexual casual sex partners will be unlikely to give them pleasure is not unwarranted,” Conley states. This lack of confidence in men as pleasure-givers was indirectly supported by another of Conley’s experiments, which focused on bisexual women. They were “significantly more likely to accept an offer (of a one-night stand) from a woman than from a man,” she reports.

On first glance, this explanation isn't exactly flattering to the male ego but once you take into account the fact that men have to do more to arouse/satisfy a woman than women do to arouse/satisfy men, it makes perfect sense. And it strikes me as far more plausible than attributing disparate willingness to have casual sex to abstract evolutionary theories about spreading one's seed (because guys are totally thinking, "Woo ha! An opportunity to spread my seed!" when they see an attractive female) or equally unsupported ones about men having vastly stronger sex drives. Positing - for a moment - equally strong sex drives but very unequal prospects of surviving or merely enjoying a casual one night stand, is it really surprising that women are less willing? How much sense does it make to construct elaborate rationalizations involving the survival of the species to explain spur of the moment decisions?

If a proposed activity has more risks and fewer benefits for a certain group, shouldn't we expect the decisions of that group to reflect the risk-to-benefit ratio? And if this is the case, shouldn't we expect the decisions of both sexes to change when the risk/benefit balance changes? The clear implication here is that humans of both sexes adapt to their circumstances. Though we may tend more or less in a particular direction, we are not completely hard-wired to choose commitment or casual sex. To a far larger degree than we may wish to believe, our choices reflect our circumstances: we weigh the perceived benefits against the perceived harms that may result from our decisions. Change the circumstances, and we can expect different reactions.

This argument, by the way, applies just as much to many male behaviors that women don't understand, like to criticize, or attribute to Evil Testosterone: change the incentives and you often change the behavior. If such behaviors were hard wired, they'd be incredibly difficult to change. If they change with the perceived benefits, incentives, or risks, then they're probably not as hard-wired as we thought they were.

Increasingly, I'm becoming convinced that we really have a very poor grasp of the degree to which various gender differences are caused by biology, culture, or more abstract considerations like opportunity, risk, benefit, and even perceived power. There has been a huge shift in the opportunities afforded to women, and they are making decisions that surprise a lot of folks in the biology-is-destiny crowd. They shouldn't.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:21 PM | Comments (26) | TrackBack


Will have some posts up later this morning that I started last night and just need to finish up.

Between Christmas and things going on at the office, this has been a crazy week. Tuesday, the blog princess slipped from betwixt the Marital Sheets at the ungodly hour of 3 am to begin the long slog into Tyson's Corner.

She fired up the WRX only to hear a distressing sound emanating from the front corner of the car, like unto an extremely perturbed cat.
Hoping it was just a bit of construction debris wedged into the brake shoe and not the sound of a really big brake repair job, she tried hitting the brakes hard a few times but the noise continued intermittently.

That night, the spousal unit gallantly offered to take the car in to the shop (up near Baltimore, which is far closer to his office than mine). The mechanic pointed out that this wouldn't be covered under the warranty, which was no surprise.

It turned out to be a rock wedged somewhere in the brake. Again, the mechanic very gingerly pointed out that the bill wouldn't be covered under the warranty. The Spousal Unit replied, "I figured that - if a rock had been thrown up and cracked the windshield, that wouldn't be covered either."

At which point the mechanic heaved a big sigh of relief and said, "Wow. Most people don't understand that."

The Unit left, shaking his head. Not sure whether to attribute the whole thing to DC area pushiness or whether people seriously expect a warranty to behave like insurance (or to cover everything under the sun).

Very weird.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:37 AM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

December 05, 2012

Santa Claus Runs Afoul of the Nanny State

Wethinks some of our more enlightened and tolerant brethren in Christ are going to find lumps of coal in their Festivus Footwarmers:

When Hampton held its annual Christmas parade on Saturday, Santa and Mrs. Claus were not allowed to wave from their traditional perch atop the town’s fire-department ladder truck. The reason: There are no restraints up there to keep them from falling off as the vehicle inches along at a walking pace. Earlier in the week, Deputy Fire Chief Jamie Ayotte had pointed out that National Fire Protection Association guidelines prohibit people from riding outside the truck. As a result, the Clauses were told they could ride inside the cab but not outside on the apparatus, according to the Hampton-North Hampton Patch.

Luckily, the fire department from nearby Rye came to the rescue, and the honored couple was able to join the parade strapped into the open-air seat of an antique firetruck instead.

Santa has been penalized for another bad habit — smoking. Book publisher and anti-smoking advocate Pamela McColl has taken issue with the well-known holiday poem, “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” written by Clement C. Moore in 1823. The story contains the lines, “The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth / And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath.” The text is often accompanied by a drawing of the red-suited elf smoking a pipe.
Ms. McColl has published a modern version of the poem with the offending lines and artwork excised. “I just really don’t think Santa should be smoking in the 21st century,” she told the Telegraph of London. For folks like Ms. McColl, being a “right jolly old elf” doesn’t give Santa a pass from following the smoke-free rules of this politically correct age.

This story got the Editorial Staff thinking about all the coded racist dog whistles, misogyny, specie-ism, patriarchal triumphism, and cruelly exclusive and insulting imagery inflicted upon the proletariat during the so-called "holiday season". Consequently, we were heartened to see signs of a more evolved and inclusive celebratory aesthetic:

They dined on fried Oreos, vented their grievances and- because Festivus is all about feats of strength - they arm wrestled, Sumo wrestled and stuffed marshmallows in their mouths.

It was prime Festivus celebrating in Nashua Wednesday night as IUGO, a networking group for young and young-at-heart professionals, marked the holidays with the alternative party made famous by the sitcom, "Seinfeld."

For years, Festivus has been the celebration for the rest of us who aren't quite into the traditional holiday mode of operating.

"People who aren't married and don't have kids need a place to come," said Fouad Mahfuz, chairman of IUGO which is part of Nashua's Chamber of Commerce.

...The night started off with people airing their grievances via their Twitter accounts. Complaints were displayed on a screen at one end of the room.

There were short rants about heating bills, close talkers and several people mentioned their annoyance with the fiscal cliff.

At the other end of the room, people tossed bagels for points and competed for top honors in arm wrestling bouts. A prize was up for grabs for whoever came dressed in the ugliest sweater and plenty of people wore bight red knits with reindeers, Santas and bells.

Now if we could just do something about all that horrid music laced with coded intolerance? Maybe re-write some of the old standbys?

"Jolly Old Saint Nicholas"

Could stand to be updated to something a bit more sensitive:

"Happy, Plus-sized, Chronologically-Gifted, Highly Virtuous Nicholas"

We kept the term Nicholas to preserve some tradition. We are not implying that Nicholas has to be a male name and males are the only ones who are capable of amassing enough fortune and possessing the generosity to be able to give presents to masses of people. Nor are we implying that females lack the physical strength and endurance to accomplish such a task. In order to balance this mistaken perception, we shall apply modern day affirmative action in order to level down the male ego and help balance the playing field.

We haven't had a contest in quite some time. Perhaps you knuckle-dragging, racist trogolodites could stop chasing the almighty dollar long enough to lend a hand?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:13 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

We Picked a Bad Week to Stop Drinking...

What's wrong with this picture?

Supporting retirees is now the federal government’s main activity. There’s a huge redistribution from young to old — a redistribution that will be made worse if retiree programs are largely excluded from deficit reduction, as many liberal groups urge. Either taxes will rise steeply or other federal programs (defense, food stamps, environmental protection) will be cut sharply. The young will pay more and get less.

Doubters should ponder the numbers. In fiscal 2012, non-interest federal spending totaled $3.251 trillion. Of that, $762 billion went for Social Security, $469 billion for Medicare (insurance for the 65 and over population) and $251 billion for Medicaid (insurance for the poor — two-thirds goes for long-term care for the aged and disabled). Altogether, that’s 46 percent of non-interest spending. Defense, $651 billion and declining, was 20 percent.

As baby boomers retire and health costs rise, this spending will mount. In 2010, there were 40 million Americans 65 and older. By 2020, that number is projected to be 55 million; by 2030, 72 million.

All these trends are old news; I have repeatedly written about them. If we had begun cutting benefits years ago, changes could have occurred slowly. People would have received ample notice. Now we lack the luxury of time. Benefit cuts will be unfair to retirees; but avoiding cuts will be unfair to the young. That we have arrived at this juncture indicts our democratic system and many Democratic politicians, who have obstructed constructive change in retiree programs.

So we have a system that over time is becoming more and more dependent on taxes paid by younger workers, coupled with a generation that is less inclined to create enough younger workers to support it. How long will it be before the current talk of "economic patriotism" is replaced by talk of reproductive patriotism?

The retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion — a decadence that first arose in the West but now haunts rich societies around the globe. It’s a spirit that privileges the present over the future, chooses stagnation over innovation, prefers what already exists over what might be. It embraces the comforts and pleasures of modernity, while shrugging off the basic sacrifices that built our civilization in the first place.

More and more these days, reading the news resembles the low-budget 70s sci-fi flicks we used to roll our eyes over. Where's Charleton Heston when you really need him?

Oh yeah. We are so screwed.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:32 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

December 03, 2012

White House Press Coverage: Now With 20% More Respectful Toughness!

Via Memeorandum comes this delicious quote:

"Liberals in the media are going to be tougher on Obama and more respectful at the same time," Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker's chief political commentator and a former speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, told POLITICO. "He was the champion of our side, he vanquished the foe….. [but] now liberals don't have to worry about hurting his chances for re-election, so they can be tougher in urging him to do what he should be doing."

Question for the ages: if journalists are now openly admitting that their commitment to holding the White House accountable depends on whether that helps "their side" win, is their coverage of Republican presidents/candidates driven by the same considerations?

If producing a "win" for their side determines the degree to which the media are willing to hold politicians accountable, then it logically follows that it's always going to be in their interest to hold Democrats to a lower standard... and likewise, to Republican politicians to a higher standard than Democrat politicians. Glenn Greenwald nails it:

Once one decides in the name of electoral expediency to abdicate their primary duty as a citizen and especially as a journalist - namely, to hold accountable those who wield the greatest political power - then this becomes a permanent abdication. That's because US politics is essentially one permanent, never-ending election. The 2012 votes were barely counted before the political media began chattering about 2016, and MSNBC is already - as one of its prime time hosts put it - "gearing up" for the 2014 midterm. [...]

There is never any justification for those who work in media or hold themselves out as journalists - as opposed to, say, those who are party apparatchiks - to refrain from holding the nation's most powerful political leaders accountable.

So much for "fairness". Or professionalism. Or pretty much any pretense to integrity.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:25 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

The Fierce Urgency of "I Want It NOW!"

This is the guy who feels our pain and best understands the concerns of ordinary Americans?

Now safely ensconced in the White House for 49 more months, the Obamas have decorated the place with 54 Christmas trees this year. Even allowing for the usual Washington excesses with taxpayer money, that's a whole grove of Christmas trees.

"We have 54 trees in the White House," an excited Michelle Obama proudly told visitors the other day. "54! That’s a lot of trees."
In fact, the Obamas' 54 trees this year are almost 50% more Christmas trees than last year.

54 trees... hopefully that will be enough to last the Obamas for the two weeks they'll be in residence before they jet off to their 4 million dollar vacation in Hawaii:

The estimated costs to taxpayers of this latest vacation foray is in excess of $4 million. The largest single expense is Obama's 747 jet, Air Force One, which runs about $182,000 per flight hour. It's a nine-hour journey, each way, between Washington and Honolulu. That's about $1,638,000 one-way. Their bags fly free.

Those transportation totals do not include the costs of Air Force cargo planes to haul the fleet of armored cars to the island and back, so the Obamas can visit Hawaii friends, beaches and restaurants. And so the president can get to a nearby Marine base for his morning workouts and to various golf courses with friends.
Besides covering the Christmas and New Year holidays, Obama's vacation dates also strangely coincide with what was expected to be the peak negotiating window for Obama and congressional Democrats and Republicans to address the so-called fiscal cliff. Until recently the cliff has been described as something of a financial doomsday, albeit one that Obama and Capitol Hill protagonists set for themselves.

You would think that perhaps a man who just berated his opponent for insufficient sensitivity to the suffering of average Americans might show a little more situational awareness. Or he could just appear to be taking the fiscal cliff negotiations seriously.


Posted by Cassandra at 06:12 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

"Under the Bus" Caption Contest

This just begs for the derision of the assembled villainry:

President Obama loves to insert himself in other people’s biographies. He also loves to honor people, most recently Neil Armstrong and Vice President Biden, with pictures of himself. All. About. Him. His laser-like focus never wavers from his own image.

And the narcissism continues: To honor the 57th anniversary of the day Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, President Obama paid homage with a picture of himself.

Do your wurst, peoples.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:00 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Caption Contest Winners!

The winners of the "Oh Yeah, I *So* Went There" Caption Contest await your applause:

Snarkammando hits a single to First Base:

FFI:"Hohhmme, home of the duranged,
Where our private parts flap in the breeze.
And seldom is heard,
a clue bat's last word,
But the dog whistles blow in the trees."

TomG51 steals 2nd:

Whew. At least it wasn't a nativity scene on public property....
spd rounds Third base and heads for home:
The dangers of hiring cut-rate Chippendales to deliver your birthday greetings.

Honorable mention:

Yu-Ain Gonnano:

You mean I'm not having that dream where I've shown up to work naked?

And the winners of the MacArthur Park Caption Contest are...

[drum roll]

The indefatigable mr rdr:

"I stood in the rose garden and I told the American people and the world that we were going to find out exactly what happened, that this was an act of terror, and also said that we're going to hunt down whomever it was that left the cake out in the rain."
Sir Don of Brouhaha:
"Leaving the cake out in the rain is a false choice. As I have often said, you can't have your cake and the rain, too."

Yu-Ain Gonnano:

Barack Obama does not get wet. Water gets him instead. He *is* the most interesting President in the world.
Honorable mentions go to:


"$400,000 a year salary, a million bucks in book and recording royalties, and I can't swing by Target to pick up a @#$@ umbrella."


I think you can get in a quick 9 before the heavy stuff comes down
Thanks to everyone who participated!

Posted by Cassandra at 04:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack