April 30, 2013
This is Just Bizarre
Ezra Klein, on the President's stealth delivery of what Klein calls "harsh truths":
“Everybody has got plenty of advice,” sighed President Obama at Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. “Maureen Dowd said I could solve all my problems if I were just more like Michael Douglas in ‘The American President.’ And I know Michael is here tonight. Michael, what’s your secret, man? Could it be that you were an actor in an Aaron Sorkin liberal fantasy? Might that have something to do with it?”
That’s it. That’s the joke. Or, perhaps more to the point, that isn’t the joke. There’s no punchline. It’s more of a straightforward rebuttal to a recent Maureen Dowd column.
Obama’s speech at the White House correspondents’ dinner was well received, and for good reason — it was very funny. But there were a lot of moments when Obama seemed to be subverting the rules of the evening in order to get away with telling harsh truths that he could later claim were just jokes.
“Some folks still don’t think I spend enough time with Congress,” the president said. “‘Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?’ they ask. Really? Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?”
Everyone laughed. But do you detect an actual joke there? And lest you think I’m cutting the punchline, here’s Obama’s next sentence: “I’m sorry. I get frustrated sometimes.”
Since we seem to be overanalyzing things this week, let's break this down a bit further. Klein's first "harsh truth" involves a President contemptuously dismissing a female critic whose grasp of politics was (Obama slyly suggests) shaped by watching sappy romantic comedies.
The "straightforward rebuttal" Klein refers to seems to consist of the President of the United States snootily suggesting that a female pundit is way out of her depth. "You've been watching too many B movies, sweetie" isn't a rebuttal, by the way; straightforward or otherwise. Klein's post contains a link to the Dowd piece. To imply her argument consisted of advising Obama to act more like Michael Douglas is stunningly dishonest.
The irony here is that the Michael Douglas shtick would actually work as a joke. But Klein maintains the President wasn't joking.
Think about that for a moment.
"Non-joke" number two: apparently, the President doesn't think having a drink with the Senate Minority Leader would be more fun than the proverbial barrel of monkeys. He doesn't want to have to talk to McConnell. He'd rather someone else do it. How about you? It's not as though he's being paid to run the country.
Of course you know where this is going - a full blown apologia for Obama's unwillingness/inability to work with the other party:
If Republicans don’t want to work with President Obama, there’s nothing he can do to make them work with him.
Actually, there is something Obama can do to get Republicans to work with him. He can offer them concessions they can't get on their own. That's the entire point of negotiation - it's a long process of offer and counteroffer that is supposed to result in both parties getting something they want by offering something the other party values.
If you don't offer anything (or the value of what you offer doesn't outweigh what you're asking the other party to give up), there will be no deal. Period. Charm isn't enough. Speeches that gin up animosity against Republicans or accuse them of bad faith make it harder, not easier, to meet in the middle. Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound:
... politicians understand their incentives. Republican legislators have to win primaries among electorates that deeply dislike President Obama. In that world, working with the White House very likely means losing your job. It also means making Obama more popular, which means making it less likely that you and your party will get back into the majority in the next election. And on the other side of this equation is — what? Bourbon with Obama? A speech Obama gave to 2,000 people in your state?
The White House can employ better or worse strategies, of course. But it’s deeply insulting to the grown men and women who populate the U.S. Congress to posit that the only reason they’re acting as they are is that the president doesn’t lavish them with sufficient attention, or campaign in their districts, or twist arms like Lyndon Johnson. Give Congress a bit more credit than that. Like the president at the White House correspondents’ dinner, they take this stuff seriously.
It's deeply insulting to the grown men and women who populate Congress to suggest they would rather placate irrational voters who loathe Democrats so much that they can't wait to hand them the White House for 12 or even 16 years in a row than do their jobs.
I keep wondering when the immovable incentives that prevent Democrats and Republicans from compromising came into being? During the last administration, I'm pretty sure Mr. Klein wasn't complaining about the perverse incentives preventing Democrats from working with George Bush. Nor do I recall him suggesting there was nothing Bush could offer Democrats that would overcome their deep seated loathing for him (or their fear of irrational and deeply partisan voters in their home districts).
So it must just be those horrid, irrational Republicans after all. If that's not a straightforward rebuttal to the growing bipartisan consensus that this President doesn't know how to govern, we don't know what would be.
Overthinking the Dove Sketches Ad
Last week we had a little fun with the Dove sketches ad (and later, the male parody version). Mercifully - and somewhat uncharacteristically - we eschewed any attempt at serious commentary. We're not ashamed to admit the ad made us cry, but then all sorts of fairly trivial things have been known to fill the eyeballs of the Editorial Staff with tears: cute babies, pictures of kids with dogs, weddings, sea otters, older couples holding hands or sitting close to each other.
Our MasterCard bill.
Apparently we were not alone: the ad has garnered something like 30 gazillion views. Clearly it resonated with women. It struck a chord. A dark, creepy, sinister chord:
People, these Dove ads are sinister. With some basic dissection we see that the message is: You may have low self-esteem but someone else might describe you as pretty and therefore you should have high self-esteem and then buy our product because we are promoting a world where people base their self-esteem on other people’s superficial perceptions of each other, which may or may not be higher than you thought.
Sorry, but you don’t overcome a world where physical beauty is overemphasized by . . . emphasizing beauty. And self-esteem is never properly built from the outside in.
A woman’s self esteem should never, ever, come from her physical appearance.A woman’s self esteem should never, ever, come from her physical appearance.
Repeat that to your ownselves a few times (it helps if you click your ruby slippers together after each repetition), because the best way for women to FINALLY learn to think for themselves is for other women to tell them how they should feel and what they should think.
The feelings police then came calling, armed with pale-y pink posters. Foolish women! How shallow and easily manipulated you are, letting the big, bad corporate barons prey on your delicate emotions for commercial gain! Because you just know that every.single.woman.who.liked.the.ad ran right over to her local CVS and stocked up on Dove products to shore up her abysmally low self worth. Admit it - that's exactly what you did, didn't you?
We're just counting the days until the Dove ads spawn a new round of reality TV shows. "Her life, though shallow and plagued by recurring bouts of worthlessness and self doubt, was fairly normal... until she saw that Dove sketches ad. Now, secret caches of Dove products are stashed all over the house. Body butter, moisturizing shampoo with real Moroccan argan oil from a lost trove of ancient nuts hidden beneath the Egyptian sands by Princess Nefertiri. A miraculous little eye cream made from an obscure cantaloupe grown only in the South of France! Springtime fresh antiperspirant that doesn't leave those icky white stains on your favorite little black dress! When she began stuffing stray bars of soap and tiny bottles of shower gel under the sheets on his side of the bed, her long suffering husband moved out of the marital abode. He didn't miss waking up with shea butter between his toes, but the lingering fragrance of Dove's Cool Fresh Essentials with Cucumber and Green Tea Extract filled his dreams like an evanescent avatar of lost desire and broken dreams...."
Holy crap, people. Get a grip. Sometimes an ad is just an ad.
We can't speak for All Womankynd, Everywhere (mostly because we'd never get a word in, edgewise) but here's why the ad connected with the Editorial Staff. It had very little to do with looks, unrealistic body images, or the silky firmness of the Editorial Thighs. It was the two parts mentioned by this author:
One man described a woman as having “nice eyes; they light up when she spoke,” presumably indicative of a woman who has passion and joy that she shares with those she speaks with. Another woman got teary eyed as she looked at the sketch dictated by a stranger and said, “she looks more open, friendly, happy.” Open. Friendly. Happy. These are internal traits that are often displayed outwardly in our smile, our bright eyes, and the general uplifting manner in which we carry ourselves.
The message we got from the ad was the antithesis of "See??? You're not really such a narwhale. And other people don't really find your outer wrapper cringe-inducing ...much."
The ad was a reminder of two things. First, that what's on the inside: joy, passion, enthusiasm, intelligence, wit, kindness - is written on our faces. People do see glimpses of who we are in the way we carry ourselves, or the way our eyes soften when we're thinking of someone or something we love. Men appreciate a nice pair of legs or a perky pair of breasts, but they also enjoy what a classical author once described as "a fine pair of eyes" or a merry countenance.
And secondly, most of us are far harder on ourselves than others are on us.
Men are often made to feel guilty about their natural enjoyment of female beauty. In some ways that's a great shame, because there's nothing wrong with the way God made men (or women, for that matter). Usually, the objection isn't so much to the attraction as it is to the modern inability to keep from publicly expressing normal feelings best kept private. I often wonder how most men would react if women started saying, "I'd hit that" every time they saw a good looking young man? How would most husbands react if their wives inexplicably felt the compulsion to publicly remind others that they secretly fantasize about having hot, nasty monkey sex with the Eagle Scout down the street because dayum, that kid is hot? There's this sort of aggressive, in-your-face vibe about something anyone with the sense the good Lord gave a grapefruit already knows. Most men don't even talk this way but as with so many things in life, the vocal few are the only precincts heard from.
Ace had an interesting take on this, though naturally we feel bound to take issue with it because he's a man:
Women are starved for this sort of positive messaging, even when, if you think about if for five seconds, 1, it doesn't make any sense that Dove could tell you this about yourself and 2, Dove is obviously a corporation attempting to get attention by peddling an embarrassingly-transparently cloying-ingratiating message to women in hopes they're so starved for a kind word they'll take it anyway.
So it worked. I'm not blaming women for this; it is different for girls, and a single virtue, beauty, is far more central to their sense of self worth than any single virtue is to a man.
There's more than a grain of truth here, just like there's a grain of truth in stereotypes about men being obsessed with beauty. The problem is that it's nowhere near the whole truth. It sells the human spirit short. Women do want to be attractive. For that matter, so do men. Ace is right to observe that society values female attractiveness so much more than it does male attractiveness. But valuing one trait - beauty - highly doesn't mean society values none of women's other attributes. It has always seemed very odd to us that men allow themselves to be so manipulated by sex. The insinuation that real men are having 4 times nightly sex with surgically enhanced Czech supermodels is drilled into their heads pretty much 24/7. And yet we suspect that although men are just as susceptible to the messages in advertising aimed at men as we are in ads aimed at us, they're not mindless automatons.
Women aren't, either. And we're no more vulnerable to cynical attempts to leverage the odd - and completely normal - self doubt than men are. Which is to say, sometimes those kinds of ads work. But not for long and not as well as their makers think they will.
What made me tear up while viewing the Dove ad was the reminder of how perceptive and decent people can be - how often they see and appreciate what we most want them to value: what's on the inside. It was a reminder of how often we fixate on unimportant things while missing the big picture.
Seems like a lousy way to sell soap, doesn't it?
April 29, 2013
Sensor Driven Discrimination
In 2011, Intel and Kraft teamed up to launch iSample kiosks that rely on an optical sensor to determine the age and sex of the shopper and then suggest products to serve him or her. The machine was initially used to market Temptations—a jelly-based dessert advertised as “the first Jell-O that's just for adults.” So, on detecting a child, the machine would ask them to step away. A similar vending machine in Japan relies on facial recognition technology to recommend drinks to different consumers: Men younger than 50 are recommended canned coffee drinks, while women in their 20s are offered tea. Right now, sensors could help automate simple, binary decisions—don't let youngsters borrow adult DVDs!—but it won't take long before they enable interventions of the more elaborate variety: Once our faces can be tied our social networking profiles, all sorts of other manipulations enter the picture. Discounts, yes—but there may also be situations in which our willingness to pay for something is clearly greater than the price we are charged by a dumb, sensorless machine. If the machine can predict those situations—by analyzing our social networking profile or querying the self-tracking app on our phone to find out just how thirsty we are—it can charge us exactly what we are willing to pay.
Bonus question: how does a machine go about "creating inequality"? Isn't the entire point of sensor-based marketing and pricing that we're already not-the-same?
Parents, Please Get Over Yourselves
The Blog Princess has been much distracted of late with work insanity and the joyous rites of home ownership: the driveway resurfacing, the whole house power wash, the spring yard cleanup and mulching (you will no doubt be relieved to hear that she narrowly avoided the despicable practice of Volcano Mulching).
Suck Such delights have left little time or energy for boring the assembled villainry into stunned silence with her inane meanderings.
So you can only imagine the bitter glee with which she viewed the latest dispatch from the Narcissistic-Obsessive-Compulsive Parenting crowd. Having successfully convinced most of the country that spanking - a punishment our parents, grandparents, and peers mysteriously survived with no visible signs of Deep Psychological Damage (unless one counts that whole distasteful kitten torturing episode in the second grade... or the human body parts neatly stowed in that oversized freezer tucked under the basement stairs... or the inexplicable addiction to reality TV) - inevitably leads to the ravaging of obscure Asian nations in a manner reminiscent of Genghis Khan, the smart set have now set their minds to eliminating the scourge of time outs:
So there I was last week, perusing a preschool parent handbook, when I stumbled across a curious anti-timeout policy. “Time-out is not an effective form of discipline,” the packet explained. “This focuses on the negative and alienates the child.”
I felt an immediate pang of guilt. I’ve given my almost-2-year-old a handful of timeouts—defined as a brief time away from rewarding stimuli like toys, parents, and friends—for hitting the dog, throwing rocks, and standing on chairs. A few Google searches later, I learned that proponents of attachment parenting advise against timeouts because the interventions give kids “the feeling of being rejected by their parents.” This backlash isn’t even that new—Child magazine published (and Parents magazine republished) an article in 2003 called “Why Time-Out Is Out.”
Have my attempts to raise a good little boy scarred him for life? Or are these anti-punishment policies way overprotective and perhaps even harmful?
Some psychologists do believe that if you practice good “positive discipline” techniques, by stating facts rather than demands, using distraction to steer kids away from danger, and working out solutions as a family, you shouldn’t need timeouts, or at least not very often. And timeouts can be ineffective, psychologically damaging, and make behavioral problems worse. But that’s not because they are inherently dangerous; it’s because so many parents and teachers misunderstand how they should be done. Indeed, plenty of research suggests that timeouts are safe and useful when parents employ them properly and in the right situations. For instance, evidence-based parenting programs, including the internationally implemented Triple-P Positive Parenting Program, recommend timeouts, and such programs have found that the interventions successfully reduce misbehaviors as well as the risk that children will suffer from psychological issues like anxiety and depression. And in its guidance statement on effective discipline, the American Academy of Pediatrics notes that “ignoring, removing, or withholding parent attention to decrease the frequency or intensity of undesirable behaviors” is “especially important in promoting positive child behavior.”
"Pre-school parent handbook"?
When did preschool - hardly a complex endeavor at the best of times - become so complicated that it requires an operating manual? This is the kind of detail that makes us feel like a superannuated geezer who has outlived everyone who might understand the world we grew up in. In our day (she said, brandishing the sternly wagging finger of Age-ist opprobrium), preschools did not have handbooks because the popular consensus held that they were a good way for Junior to ease into the world beyond home for a few hours a week and for Mom to get more done around the house or spend some quality time with younger children. We didn't expect our little darlings to memorize ancient Ghazals in the original Urdu or be exposed to differential Calculus. Rules were fairly simple: no biting or kicking, and no kids still in diapers. Oh, and if your child caused problems or you didn't pay your bill, he or she would be banned for life... or at least until he or she turned 5 and attained the right to attend free public schools.
Having been blessed with progeny in 1979, the Princess entered the estate of motherhood with her head filled with all kinds of romantic nonsense about parenting. Having #1 son at home with a midwife was quickly shot down by the spousal unit, but we found one of the few hospitals in our area that "did Lamaze", signed up for 24 hour rooming in, and gave birth while in the lotus position whilst enveloped in peaceful prana.
OK, that's a total lie.
We did do Lamaze and rooming in (but did not go Full Leboyer, mostly because no one in Norfolk, Virginia had the slightest idea what that was). And the Princess embraced on demand nursing and envisioned parenting as a gentle interlude, during which she would calmly guide her offspring through the vicissitudes of daily life armed with nothing more than sweet reason and an inexhaustible supply of patience.
As it turned out, Number One Son hadn't been reading the same parenting books as his mother.
The red headed little beastie displayed an alarming ignorance of the latest theories on How Children Learn, rudely preferring rigid feeding routines (shudder!) and violating every precept of enlightened child rearing put forth by older and wiser souls. As it turned out, toddlers aren't terribly interested in sweet reason. They'd rather eat the dirt out of Mommy's house plants and pull the TV over on themselves than memorize Baby Einstein flash cards.
And so we improvised.
By the time Number Two Son came along, we had attained the ripe old age of 23. Number One Son had pushed every button, ridden every piece of tippable furniture to the ground at least once, and memorized all the words to The Night Before Christmas and several age-appropriate childhood dittys. The hell with all those parenting books written by so-called experts - we were ready to write our own book. Unfortunately, Number Two Son wasn't a big fan of our hard won parenting philosophy. If you're beginning to sense a trend here, a neatly stuffed marmoset is on its way to you by parcel post.
Number Two Son pretty much confounded every insight his parents had gained from parenting Number One Son. As so it remained during the entire time Heckle and Jeckle were growing up - if Heckle reacted one way, Jeckle could be counted upon to react in the opposite manner. Unless, of course, his parents had counted on him to do this. In that case, the rulebook went out the window and he triangulated.
Having reached the other side, its hard to figure out how much influence parenting style has on children. After 34 years of marriage, I'm still amazed at how often one or the other of us instinctively reacts to disputes in a manner that clearly echoes the very different parenting styles of our own parents. On the otter heiny, I never cease to be amazed at how different my grown sons are from one another. It's almost as though they were raised in different families, under different rules.
I find most modern parenting practices to be no more sensible than the ones I absorbed and then rejected when it became apparent they would not survive contact with the reality that children have their own personalities and agendas. They're not little blank slates, eagerly waiting for our scribbles. What disturbs me most, though, is the idea that children are delicate snowflakes who must never be allowed to experience pressure, disapproval, anger, rejection, failure.
These things are all part of life and if parents have one overarching goal, it is to prepare children to navigate a world in which the vast majority of people they meet have no special affection or regard for them. It's a world in which they will have to compete for jobs, for mates, for resources that are neither infinite nor inexhaustible. Sending children out into such a world with the misguided notion that every person is entitled to unconditional approval and affection (or equal income regardless of the choices they make) seems more an act of cruelty than of love.
What produces such delusional thinking?
April 25, 2013
The Dove "Real Beauty" Sketches for Men
April 22, 2013
Media: "Please Don't Stereotype Muslims (Like We Stereotype White Males, Tea Partiers, Etc.)"
Now that the Boston bombers have been found, it's time for an after action report on press coverage of the tragedy. Mark Steyn sums up the delightfully un-selfconscious cognitive dissonance:
...if nothing else, the Boston bombing has usefully distilled the media template for such stories to its absolute essence.
Let’s Hope The Boston Marathon Bomber Is A White American
The Boston Bombers Were Muslim: So?
Translation: stereotypes based on group identity (race, gender, faith, or socioeconomic status) are stupid, ignorant, and wrong/bad... except when they're used by Really Smart People Like Us to educate Really Dumb People Like You. Enter David Sirota (recently of "#Siroting" fame):
...There is a double standard: White terrorists are dealt with as lone wolves, Islamists are existential threats
Did we miss something? Perhaps the unifying ideology that unites "white terrorists"? Why do the press find race-und-gender stereotyping to be less dangerous than stereotyping people based on entirely voluntary decisions such as... say, joining an extremist group whose raison d'etre involves the deeply intolerant smiting of non-believers? Oh well, at least Herr Sirota had mathemagic firmly on his side:
Since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass shootings* across the country
Two involved partners (Columbine and Westside Middle School), for a total of 64 killers.Forty four of the killers were white males. Only one of them was a woman.
Simple arithmetic says that 19 were male shooters of color, unless Mother Jones can't identify white people accurately.
So, are white men over-represented in that group? Well, men are over-represented in this group: men are about half the total population but over 98% of mass shooters.
But once we embrace the grim reality that mass shooters are men, white men don't look so bad. In the US, whites are roughly 70% of the population today and were a higher proportion back when this time series begins in 1980 (per this chart, non-Hispanic whites were 80% of the population in 1980).
And 44 of the 63 male shooters were white, which is 70%. So whites are engaging in mass shootings roughly in proportion to their place in the population. Will that track over to bombers? Who knows?
Thankfully NPR, home to Highly Evolved Humyns who would never stoop to thinly disguised Demonization of The Other, were more tolerant and objective:
“The thinking, as we’ve been reporting, is that [the Boston Marathon bombing] is a domestic, extremist attack,” explained Temple-Raston. “And officials are leaning that way, largely because of the timing of the attack.”
Temple-Raston explained that the month of April was “a big month for anti-government and right wing individuals,” citing Hitler’s birthday, the Columbine school shooting, the Oklahoma City bombing and the assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco.
Ah - the joyous rites of Spring, when a pallid
man's right-wing whack job's thoughts naturally turn to blowing up his fellow human beings! And if he (isn't it always a "he", the media's laudable refusal to endorse outdated gender stereotypes notwithstanding) can manage to do it on Hitler's Birthday, so much the better!
Fortunately for our national sanity, a few brave souls are still willing to abjure one-sided politicization of tragedies like the Boston bombing:
We need more restraint and less wild guessing. Free-flowing debate in the search for meaning is a part of these moments and a part of the human condition, but what I’m talking about is using tragedy for evidence shopping. That people reach immediately for their pet political theory at moments like this highlights what's wrong with a lot of political debate. But perhaps this moment also offers a useful sorting technique. If you can't shut up now, when either reason, decency, or good taste requires it, you disqualify yourself from the conversation in calmer times.
Sadly, mean spirited haters lurk in the comments sections of these Enlightened Souls, just waiting to pounce:
Sorry, Dickerson, but it'll be a cold day in Hell when I take advice for evenhandedness from a man who called for Obama to destroy Republicans.
Hmmmm... how much do you want to bet said commenter is a white male?
This little guy is having way too much fun.
April 18, 2013
Whew! Congress Definitely *Not* Overthinking Life...
snidely pondering Googling up the STOCK act amendments for Grim, the Editorial Staff ran across this delightfully amusing snippet:
The STOCK Act was modified on April 15, 2013, by S.716. This amendment removes the online disclosure portion of the STOCK Act, so that affected persons can no longer file online and these records are no longer easily accessible to the public.  The reasoning for this change was to prevent cyber criminals from gaining access to the financial data and using it against affected persons.
This bill was introduced by Senator Harry Reid on April 11, 2013. It was considered by the Senate for 10 seconds and passed with unanimous consent. In the house, S.716 received only 14 seconds before being passed by unanimous consent.
We'll say this for Congresscritters - they are getting more efficient every day.
Oh, and here you go, Grim.
Those Pesky, Long Term Trends
This chart fascinated me:
Two things that leapt out at me:
1. In the early 20th Century, about half of unmarried women 25-54 did not work. How did they survive? Did they live with siblings? Parents? Were they (perhaps) performing domestic work in return for their room and board that did not show up in official labor statistics? Were there large numbers of Naughty, Kept Women roaming the fertile plains?
Remember: this is before the social safety net supposedly made women into mindless, zombie-like wards of the state :p That 50% of single adult women didn't work is a surprising number to me.
2. The steep increase in the percentage of married women who worked from 1920-1960. This is the much mourned golden age of Leave it to Beaver fame, where women lived lives of blissful contentment in suburban houses with white picket fences.
Now admittedly, two World Wars and a Great Depression occurred during a fairly short period of time (1920-1945). But the acceleration only increases after that time increment... before The Pill, and before Betty Friedan came along to tell us how miserable and oppressed we were.
This reminds me of the long term trends we observed with divorces (not to mention the inconvenient decline in divorce rates once No Fault became the law of the land):
I never fail to be amazed the power of looking at a longer time window. One other sentence from the linked post struck me as odd:
In a previous post I suggested that stalled progress [emphasis mine] resulted from feeble work-family policy, anti-feminist backlash, and weak anti-discrimination enforcement.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but that sounds like a narrative in search of supporting evidence. Why should "progress" be defined as lots of married women working? What evidence do we have that the majority of married women want to work outside the home?
"Progress", in this woman's view, consists of families having the freedom to arrange their lives in ways that make them happy and prosperous. Being a two wage earner couple is not the only path that leads to that end, especially when one considers the costs (both social and economic) of day care.
Kids These Days....
Is the Blog Princess the only one who thinks this is just nuts?
Millennial couples are more likely to buy a house together before they take their wedding vows than their parents and grandparents were, according to a new Coldwell Banker Real Estate survey.
Almost a quarter of married homeowners aged 18 to 34 bought a home together before they were married, compared with 14% of those aged 45 and older.
It's good news for the housing industry that has fretted about a steadily growing trend: Every year, men and women are waiting longer to get married. In 2012, the median age of men who married for the first time was 28.6, up from 26.1 in 1990. Women: 26.6, up from 23.9.
Since buying a home often follows nuptials, delaying marriage could delay homeownership.
"We didn't expect to find that couples committed to each other to buy homes before they were married," says Robi Ludwig, a psychotherapist who works for Coldwell on lifestyle surveys and buyer habits. "It's almost like buying a home is the new engagement ring."
When the spousal unit and I were dating, we discussed living together. But I didn't even consider the idea seriously. It's not that I had any moral objections - as a still young and naïve product of the 70s, I tended to think living together was "cool". What stopped me was that when I stopped and thought about it, I didn't really want the hassle of dealing with another human being 24/7 unless we knew the relationship was for keeps. In my mind, the negatives outweighed the positives.
Is this a healthy thing, or another sign of younger people having somewhat unrealistic expectations when it comes to relationships?
We married when The Unit was 20 and I was 19. We bought our first home at 23, mostly because we had two children and wanted to get into the housing market. When I look around the DC area, a lot of homes are on the market because the couple are divorcing.
Call me old fashioned, but buying a house is one of the most stressful decisions in life. It's hard for me to understand why anyone would want to place that much strain on their relationship that early. But maybe there's a crucible effect going on.
April 17, 2013
Through Different Eyes
Sorry for the dearth of posts. I've been caught up in projects at work and consequently have been working very long hours.
There's no time to read or write before work, and after work I'm just drained.
I'll try to have something up Thursday or Friday - it's not going to happen today. In the meantime, you may find this video interesting.
Update: for spd -
April 15, 2013
WaPo's Cillizza: Romney Was Right on Tax Rates
Now that the election is over, Chris Cillizza makes a startling discovery:
Eighty-five percent of Americans — and 86 percent of registered voters — say that they approve of people “doing everything within the law to lower their taxes.” Nearly six in ten say they “strongly” approve of doing all you can to pay as little as possible. Those numbers are remarkably consistent across party lines with 90 percent of self identified Republicans expressing that view as well as 83 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of independents.
And yet, people regularly pillory politicians — particularly the wealthy ones — for doing what they can to pay as little as possible.
Remember Mitt Romney? The two-time presidential candidate, whose considerable wealth made the release of his tax returns a focal point of the 2012 campaign, insisted that he paid what was required but no more.
“I pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more,” Romney said at a debate in January 2012 just prior to releasing his 2010 and 2011 returns. “I don’t think you want someone as the candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes.”
Eighty-five percent of the American public should have agreed with Romney. But, of course, they didn’t. Romney was cast as trying to game the system for the benefit of he and his wealthy friends. In a February 2012 Washington Post-ABC News poll, two in three Americans said Romney did not pay his fair share of taxes (the public was split over the question in the fall). And a majority of voters in the 2012 exit poll said that Romney’s policies would generally favor the rich and he lost that portion of the vote overwhelmingly.
Those American peoples... they can be so irrational. Where do they get these cockamamie ideas? I mean, it's not as though someone in authority - the President of the United States, maybe - criticized Romney for
doing exactly what Obama does paying the lowest rate allowed by law:
The Obama campaign released an ad Friday attacking Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for paying 14 percent in federal taxes last year on the $20 million he made -- and for saying that's fair to others who pay higher rates and make far less.
And it's not as though the President cited a non-random (biased) survey as support for his claim that most millionaires think they pay too little in taxes, ignoring an earlier survey from the same group that concluded the opposite:
... another Spectrem poll, from a month earlier, has been cited by CNN Money as evidence that millionaires do not support the Buffett Rule. That survey found that only 24 percent of millionaires said that higher taxes on higher income was the fairest tax system.
And it's not as though the President repeatedly told voters that higher tax rates for the rich would substantially reduce the deficit:
President Obama admits it: His proposed “Buffett Rule” tax on millionaires is a gimmick.
“There are others who are saying: ‘Well, this is just a gimmick. Just taxing millionaires and billionaires, just imposing the Buffett Rule, won’t do enough to close the deficit,’ ” Obama declared Wednesday. “Well, I agree.”
Actually, the gimmick was apparent even without the president’s acknowledgment. He gave his remarks in a room in the White House complex adorned with campaign-style photos of his factory tours. On stage with him were eight props: four millionaires, each paired with a middle-class assistant. The octet smiled and nodded so much as Obama made his case that it appeared the president was sharing the stage with eight bobbleheads.
And if that’s not enough evidence of gimmickry, after his speech Obama’s reelection campaign unveiled an online tax calculator “to see how your tax rate stacks up against Mitt Romney’s — and then see what the Buffett Rule would do.”
How can a journalist point out what he calls an unrealistic and unfair standard and never once mention that the ideas he's lampooning were a central part of Obama's campaign platform? Ah, but there's method to Cillizza's convenient memory lapse:
It’s not just Romney who is held to a taxing double standard — not bad, eh? — by the public. President Obama released his 2012 taxes last Friday afternoon (the timing was not an accident), returns that showed he paid an effective tax rate of 18.4 percent last year. The Drudge Report, a popular conservative-leaning aggregation site, quickly went with a banner expressing incredulity at the 18 percent rate. Conservatives on twitter were similarly disgruntled.
Why the double standard? Perhaps because — at least in the case of Obama and Romney — politicians who run for president tend to be people of significantly more means than the average person. And, there is a general sentiment in the country that to whom much is given, much is expected.
Whatever the reason, the disconnect between the massive majority of the public who believe paying as a little as possible in taxes makes sense and the disdain with which they hold their politicians trying to do the same suggests that elected officials in future campaigns will continue to view the release of their tax returns as news to be buried not touted.
Amazing how the standards change when we're talking about the President. Behavior that was out of touch and elitist when we were talking about Romney suddenly become downright understandable!
April 12, 2013
Web Site of the Day
Toddlers are such drama queens.
The last stanza always just takes my breath away.
I can hear you downstairs crying on the phone
Telling someone that I'm here but you still feel all alone
Maybe we were too young?
"Goodbye, I've gotta go"
I can hear the baby waking up
Got to get back to the life I know
I should have never believed him
Maybe I should just leave him?
Maybe I'm not, but you're all I got left to believe in
Don't give up on me
I'm about to come alive.
And I know that it's been hard
And it's been a long time coming
Don't give up on me
I'm about to come alive
No one thought I was good enough for you
(Except for you).
Don't let them be right, after all that we've been through.
'Cause somewhere over that rainbow
There's a place for me -
A place with you
Maybe I'm not, but you're all I got left to believe in
Don't give up on me
I'm about to come alive.
And I know that it's been hard
And it's been a long time coming
Don't give up on me
I'm about to come alive
In every frame upon our wall
Lies a face that's seen it all.
Through ups and downs (and then more downs)
We helped each other up off the ground.
No one knows what we've been through
But making it ain't making it without you.
April 11, 2013
File Under, "Huh???"
This may well be a sign of our warped sense of humor, but we found this bit of Inbox fluff perversely amusing:
Subject line: Cass, Are You a Powerful Woman in the Channel? Nominate Yourself Today for Our 2013 List!
In our more deluded moments we like to think of ourselves as Immensely Influential in a kind of understated postfeminist, self effacing kind of way. Once or twice, we have wondered if we aren't downright Leaderful? On the otter heiny if we were all that powerful, would we really have to nominate our ownself for high honors such as this?
Women who are really in the Channel probably have minions who take care of the mundane details. Who knows? Perhaps they even make stroganoff.
Seeming vs. Substance
In 1960, during the presidential campaign, Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested following a sit-in at a segregated lunch counter in Atlanta. Hundreds of other protestors were released, but King was jailed on a trumped-up probation violation for failing to have a Georgia driver's license.
King's aides reached out to then-Vice President and Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon. They also reached out to the Democratic nominee, John F. Kennedy. Bobby Kennedy called the Atlanta judge handling the case. Shortly after that call, the judge released King. Nixon, according to Harry Belafonte, a King supporter, "did nothing." Is that true?
...According to historian and presidential biographer Stephen Ambrose, while Nixon made no public comments, he telephoned Attorney General William Rogers to find out if King's constitutional rights were being infringed, thus opening the door for federal involvement. Nixon, a lawyer, was concerned about the ethics of calling a judge to get him to release someone.
Nixon, writes Ambrose, told his press secretary: "I think Dr. King is getting a bum rap. But despite my strong feelings in this respect, it would be completely improper for me or any other lawyer to call the judge. And Robert Kennedy should have known better than to do so." That Bobby Kennedy, also a lawyer, nevertheless made a phone call to the judge did not alter the issue of whether it was appropriate. In retrospect, an easy call, but not at the time.
Two million pamphlets titled, "'No Comment' Nixon Versus a Candidate With a Heart, Senator Kennedy," were distributed in black churches. Never mind that in 1956 Nixon revealed he was an honorary member of the NAACP. Or that Nixon pushed for passage of the '57 civil rights bill in the Senate. Or that Time magazine wrote that Nixon's support for civil rights incurred the wrath of one of his segregationist opponents, Sen. Richard Russell, D-Ga., who sarcastically called Nixon the NAACP's "most distinguished member."
We did not know the part Everett Dirksen played in getting the Civil Rights Act passed either:
...as a percentage of the party, more Republicans voted for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than did Democrats. For his key role breaking the Democrats' filibuster and getting the act to pass the stalled Senate, Republican Sen. Everett Dirksen, a conservative from Illinois, landed on the cover of Time magazine. President Lyndon Johnson called Dirksen "the hero of the nation." The Chicago Defender, then the country's largest black daily newspaper, applauded Dirksen's "generalship" for helping to successfully push through the bill.
Pay no attention to misleading suggestions that racist, obstructionist Democrats opposed the civil rights movement. As properly educated Americans well know, the
bigots bold Progressives of yore were so enraged by the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the integration of America that they promptly jumped ship and joined the party without whose leadership neither of these civil rights victories regrettable developments would have occurred.
The New York Times bestowed a big sloppy wet kiss on Anthony Weiner’s NYC mayoral ambitions yesterday. The piece allows Weiner to portray his decision to come clean and to resign as mostly unforced; a laudable decision to lay bare his soul to save his marriage and show his fidelity to the truth.
Nonsense.In April 2012 it was revealed that evidence of Weiner’s potentially inappropriate contact with underage girls was the ultimate reason he was forced to resign. Somehow that fact never made it into yesterday’s piece. The following quote is from an April 2012 New York Post piece:President Obama was willing to put up with a lot of Anthony Weiner’s antics — the bad boy congressman’s sexting with women he never met, tweeting pics of his own penis, and acid tongue.
But the White House finally got fed up when reports emerged that the pol was in contact with an underage girl.
According to a new book, the cold shoulder from the White House was the beginning of the end of Weiner’s career in Congress.
Some actors get the airbrush, others the tar brush. Thank heavens there isn't any kind of agenda at work here.
Knowing the Editorial Staff's oft professed adoration of all things pachydermal, you totally knew we'd be covering this shocking story:
A reward from multiple sources is being offered in the drive-by shooting of an Asian elephant with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
A total of $21,250 is being offered for information leading to the conviction of the responsible person or persons responsible for shooting and injuring the female elephant named Carol on Tuesday while she was in an enclosure outside the BancorpSouth Arena in downtown Tupelo.
The circus has offered $10,000 toward the reward. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the animal-rights group PETA each pitched in $5,000. Crime Stoppers of North Mississippi contributed $1,000 and $250 is coming from former 1st District U.S. Rep. Travis Childers.
Good on them. The pachyderm is a noble and underappreciated beast. Once we got over our outrage at the callous attack on poor Carol the Elephant, we couldn't help thinking of another elephant story:
Spoiler Alert: Yet Another Weaponized Budget Designed to Fail
Behold the President's tactical brilliance, which appears to consist of running the same cynical play over and over and over again:
Step 1: Propose something full of poison pills both sides will have to oppose.
Step 2: Pretend to "fight" for it by randomly inserting pithy sound bytes into your fundraising speeches as you jet around the country doing the really important work of Organizing for Obama.
Step 3: Subtly suggest that
when if it fails, Someone Else Will Be To Blame.
Step 4: Remind the American people that you can't do this without their help.
Step 5: Time for the weekly email blast! It's another critical fundraising deadline!!!
Step 6: Demonize the "do-nothing Congress" to distract from your complete disinterest in forging a deal. Everyone hates Congress.
Step 7: At the 11th hour when the press begin announcing that your plan is going down in flames, call Republicans to the White House for a heroic attempt to "save" a proposal that was designed to fail from the very beginning. Allow, say, 25 minutes for both sides to compromise on serious policy differences that have existed for decades.
Step 8: Loudly proclaim that you can't work with opponents who more interested in partisan politicking than solving the nation's problems.
Now that President Obama has released his budget with its concessions to Republicans, revenue increases, infrastructure and education investments I have a very strong sense of deja vu. Like I’ve seen this movie before.
Oh yeah, the American Jobs Act of 2011! While it never really went anywhere, it gave Obama a handy hammer with which to knock congressional Republicans as putting politics ahead of country and holding back the economic recovery. By including revenue and chained CPI in his budget, the president has the hammer in hand again.
Mein Gott im Himmel!!! Has Herr Capeheart not received his copy of the presidential playbook? Good Lord, man, don't spoil the surprise!
Chained CPI is a proposed calculation to limit the rate of increase in Social Security benefits, and it is loved on the right and reviled on the left. So, as a show of good faith, Obama proposed it as part of a fiscal-cliff deal with Speaker John Boehner, who turned up his nose at it in favor of a Plan B for which he couldn’t even rustle up Republican votes. Now that it’s back as part of the White House budget, many Democrats fret that chained CPI will be the beginning of many more concessions. They needn’t worry.
“Obama and his people apparently know that this whole thing is smoke and mirrors … ,” noted Michael Tomasky on the Daily Beast. “It really doesn’t much matter what Obama proposes because as long as it includes revenues, which it always will, nothing is going to happen.” Adding to the smoke and mirrors is the fact that the president doesn’t even like chained CPI. “[A]dministration officials insisted yesterday that Obama does not view Chained CPI as good policy,” Greg Sargent wrote, describing a call in which Obama officials outlined the president’s budget.
This is sheer political genius, because nothing promotes an atmosphere of trust, hope, comity, and compromise (not to mention underscoring the fundamental seriousness of your plan) more than proposing Important Concessions and then telling the press you think they're bad policy.
It almost brings a tear to the eye.
April 09, 2013
My Inner Child is feeling sooooooooooooooooo spanked.
And not in a good way. That is all.
When You've Lost Stewart....
Update: their embed code does not seem to work. Use the CWCID link above, first video.
April 08, 2013
Coffee Snorters, Monday Edition
It's Squirrel Week at the WaPo, and this is your big chance to learn more than you ever wanted to know about the frisky little varmints. Don't miss the slideshow on the aerial acrobatics of flying squirrels - amazing photography.
I hope you had it while you could because, last week, sex ended. And the stupid just keeps on coming....
Catholics and Protestants, are your ears burning?
The Defense Department came under fire Thursday for a U.S. Army Reserve presentation that classified Catholics and Evangelical Protestants as "extremist" religious groups alongside al Qaeda and the Ku Klux Klan.
The presentation detailed a number of extremist threats within the U.S. military, including white supremacist groups, street gangs, and religious sects.
The presentation identified seventeen religious organizations in a slide titled "religious extremism." They include al Qaeda, Hamas, the Filipino separatist group Abu Sayyaf, and the Ku Klux Klan, which the slide identifies as a Christian organization.
"Religious extremism is not limited to any single religion, ethnic group, or region of the world," the slide explains, in language that closely resembles the text of a Wikipedia page on "extremism."
While outfits such as al Qaeda and the KKK are explicitly violent, the presentation also lists Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism as extremist groups.
Remember when all the "fact checkers" objected to Romney calling Obama's "investment" in green carmaker Fisker a loser? Looks like Romney has been proven right again:
Fisker Automotive Inc.’s mass firings after receiving federal loans to build luxury plug-in cars is adding to the political debate over the U.S. government’s funding of clean-energy programs. Most of the assets of Fisker’s battery supplier that received a $249.1 million federal grant, the former A123 Systems Inc. (AONEQ), were acquired last year by a Chinese company. Now Fisker, awarded $529 million in U.S. loans, is firing 75 percent of its workforce after failing to secure a deal with an automotive partner to fund operations.
If the goal was to subsidize job creation overseas, I'd say this administration is doing a heckuva job.
America's greatest strengths and weaknesses, seen through the eyes of a foreigner who doesn't hate us:
Is the United States in systemic decline?
"Absolutely not." It is the most militarily powerful and economically dynamic nation in the world. America faces debt, deficit and "tremendously difficult economic times" but "for the next two to three decades" it "will remain the sole superpower."
America has shown over its history "a great capacity for renewal and revival." It doesn't get stuck in "grooved thinking" but is able to think pragmatically and imaginatively. Its language "is the equivalent of an open system that is clearly the lingua franca" of all the economic and political leaders and strivers in the world. In the coming decades "it is the U.S. that will be pre-eminent in setting the rules of the game. No major issue of world peace and stability can be resolved without U.S. leadership."
A major factor in America's rise and economic dominance: All the brightest people in the world know "Americans will let you work for them in America and in their multinational corporations abroad." But America will lose its technological edge unless it is able to continue attracting talent.
What threatens America's standing in the world?
Our elections have become "a never-ending process of auctions" in which politicians outbid each other with promises. America's leaders seem captive to popular sentiment. They must break out of this and do what is necessary for America, "even if they lose their re-election."
Our consumer society and mass communications "have made for a different kind of person getting elected as leader." Politicians hesitate to speak needed truths: "A certain coyness or diffidence seems to have descended on American politicians."
Mr. Lee is "amazed" that "media professionals can give a candidate a new image and transform him . . . into a different personality. . . . A spin doctor is a high-income professional, one in great demand. From such a process, I doubt if a Churchill, a Roosevelt, or a de Gaulle can emerge!"
What worries him about the prevailing U.S. culture? A lot: "guns, drugs, violent crime, vagrancy, unbecoming behavior in public—in sum, the breakdown of civil society."
"The ideas of individual supremacy . . . when carried to excess, have not worked," and the world has taken note: "Those who want a wholesome society where young girls and old ladies can walk in the streets at night, where the young are not preyed upon by drug peddlers, will not follow the American model. . . The top 3 to 5% of a society can handle this free-for-all, this clash [but] if you do this with the whole mass, you will have a mess. . . . To have, day to day, images of violence and raw sex on the picture tube, the whole society exposed to it, it will ruin a whole community."
Bread and circuses. Speaking of which:
A mom and dad were flying from Denver to Baltimore with their two sons -- ages 4 and 8. During the flight, a PG-13-rated movie (Alex Cross) was being shown on drop-down screens above the seats. After seeing the opening scenes (apparently the movie includes graphic violence and sex), the parents decided this was NOT a movie they wanted their sons to see and asked the flight attendants to fold up the monitor in the boys' line of vision. Even though the passengers sitting behind them lent their support, agreeing that the movie was definitely not appropriate for children, the family was told folding one screen was not an option. The parents nicely asked if the captain would be able to make this happen. The flight attendants very nicely told them no.
The next thing the family -- and the rest of the passengers knew -- the flight was being diverted to a Chicago airport because of "security concerns."
No -- there was nobody having a baby on the plane, no one trying to light a shoe bomb, nothing wrong with the plane itself. Apparently, the pilot decided that the family's complaint about the movie constituted "grave danger to the aircraft."
Funny thing, that slippery slope we're always being threatened with: it works both ways. Speaking of which, this was a thought provoking read.
April 05, 2013
Situational Awareness Is Not All That Complicated
... this is the point when guys complain that they are cursed if they do and cursed if they don’t, and you wind up with scenarios like this, where a “post-gender-normative” man is rejected by a woman in a bar and concludes by saying “I thank you for your time, which was equal to mine.”
“You are creating a hideous nightmare dystopia,” they say, “where I am confronted with a beautiful woman in a very fetching black dress and I have to stare at her and say, ‘What a great Thursday! I have never felt more strongly that you were my intellectual equal!’”
I think we need a variant of the comic-book Hawkeye Initiative. How about the McCain rule? If you wouldn’t say it about John McCain — don’t say it about Hillary or Michele or Michelle or Kamala. “And before we finish introducing war hero and veteran public servant Senator McCain, allow me a moment to comment on his raw physical magnetism. Hottie with a legislative body, right there!” “Senator McCain, looking especially fetching in a variant on his usual two-piece suit ensemble, bestowed smiles on all around him.” “Senator McCain’s Haircut: Three Tips To Achieve The Look.”
Certain compliments are worse than insults. It’s not just the back-handed– “You look so much healthier now” — or my favorite that I’ve actually heard someone deliver, “Oh my gosh, that shirt. It’s — it’s so you.” It’s like the beginning of that New York Times obituary for a female rocket scientist that first complimented her skills in the kitchen. True, sure. And I’m sure it took effort. But it seems like a waste of time spending years studying and working hard, just to get the exact caliber of compliment you would have gotten if you had just stood on the street corner in sweatpants near a construction site. “Oh, hey, you’re a nationally respected [Blank]!” these compliments say. “Here is a compliment on your looks, over which you have comparatively limited control and into which you did not put years of effort! You’re welcome!” Remember all the chatter about John Edwards’ hair? It’s dismissive — whether intentionally or not.
“So what should he have said? Nothing?” Yes.
Setting aside the usual howling about (and often by) feminists, this really isn't all that big a deal.
But it's not really appropriate, either. Over the years, I can think of several co-workers of the male persuasion that I have found attractive. What I can't imagine, under any circumstance, would be my voicing that opinion.
It's simply not appropriate. It has nothing to do with the work we do, and it's out of place in a professional setting for all the same reasons low cut tops, tight skirts, and manscaped, shirtless guys in assless leather chaps are inappropriate.
Adults are supposed to understand these things. And leaders are expected to set a higher standard.
Discuss amongst your ownselves.
President Obama called California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Thursday to apologize for his comments about her appearance that have drawn a storm of criticism.
"He called her to apologize for the distraction created by his comments," White House press secretary Jay Carney said during his briefing Friday, later adding that the president had also "apologized for the remark."
The distraction??? If he didn't think it was inappropriate, why is he apologizing?
"I'm really sorry those mean spirited poopy heads made such a big deal about nothing. Umm.... I'm also sorry for what I said." Never waste an opportunity to take a swipe at your critics. If you can combine it with an act of humble contrition, so much the better :p
Before we bid adieu to this fascinating news story forever, allow us to unequivocally and strongly condemn this EXTREMELY INAPPROPRIATE AND DEEPLY INSULTING DISPLAY OF... err.... sexistpiggery.
We want anyone who just clicked that link to know that we just lost all respect for you as a human being.
April 04, 2013
Questioning Obama's Empathy...
Richard Cohen, the big brute, has the temerity to point out that a 5% pay cut to The Presidential Salary does not have quite the same impact on disposable income as a 5% pay cut to the salary of your average federal worker:
I once had a boss who was independently rich, and when I asked him for a raise, he turned me down, adding that he, too, had forsaken a raise that year. A surge of anger, resentment and sheer hatred welled up in me, and were it not that I needed the job, I would have gone for his throat. His unthinking and unthinkable attempt to make common cause with me brought to mind Anatole France’s observation that “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” Now it brings to mind Barack Obama.
The president yesterday announced that he would return 5 percent of his salary to the Treasury Department. This is an effort to make common cause with federal employees who may have to take a similar paycut. This is the way this tone-deaf White House put it:
The president has decided that to share in the sacrifice being made by public servants across the federal government that are affected by the sequester, he will contribute a portion of his salary back to the Treasury.
The president makes $400,000 a year. In addition, he is provided living quarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, several limos, a very nice (Rose) garden, an (Oval) office and some very nice bedrooms, one named for a former occupant, the late President Lincoln. The president also gets a $50,000 expense account and an additional $100,000 for travel. The average government worker, I dare say, does not get quite that much for travel and might have to live in his or her own home, invariably not on Pennsylvania Avenue, necessitating a tiring and expensive commute.
But wait: This president is independently rich. He is rich by dint of his own talent and industry, but rich is rich –- and you probably ain’t. Obama has made a small fortune in book royalties, and last year the president and Michelle Obama reported an adjusted gross income of $789,674. Without having to Google it, I can say that the Obamas made more than your average federal employee –- even including overtime.
So the $20,000 Obama is kicking back to the Treasury is a pittance that will not be missed. (What’s the difference between $789,674 and $769, 674? Will the kids not go to camp? Is Hawaii out of the question for next summer? ) But 5 percent for someone making $100,000 is a different story. That’s five grand, and it well could be camp or a vacation. It is not chump change.
Cohen's point is fine, as far as it goes, but there's a better point to be made here.
During the last presidential campaign, this President consistently called for the rich (of which he is one, by the way) to make greater sacrifices than the hoi polloi because they can afford to. The essence of his argument was this: because the rich have more than everyone else, they need to pay more than everyone else.... Obama called this "economic patriotism":
“What I’m going to need, what the country needs, what the business community needs to get to where we need to be is the acknowledgement that folks like me can afford to pay a little higher rate,” Obama said.
So if he thinks the rich should sacrifice more, why isn't he?? Paying a little higher rate, we mean?
It is a puzzlement.
I do not know about you people, but I am feeling all warm and fuzzy:
President Obama plans to give up 5 percent of his salary this year to draw attention to the financial sacrifice of more than 1 million federal employees who will be furloughed by automatic spending cuts starting in less than three weeks, the White House said Wednesday.
The gesture comes as the president has struggled for weeks to convince Americans that the $85 billion sequester that kicked in across the government a month ago is having dire consequences for government services.
Obama, who earns $400,000, wrote a check to the U.S. Treasury this week, the first installment of his donation of $20,000, retroactive to March 1, the day sequestration started to slice 5 percent from non-Defense programs, a White House official said. The checks will continue through the end of the year.
Obama cannot claim true solidarity with most federal employees. He has published two best-selling autobiographies and the vast majority of his income comes in the form of royalties. According to tax returns, the president and Michelle Obama made $750,000 in 2011. In the previous year, the couple made $1.8 million and in 2009 they reported an annual income of $5.5 million.
As is his wont, the President eventually followed the example set by his subordinates:
... On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he will return a portion of his salary to share the pain with 750,000 Defense civilians who will lose 14 days of pay this fiscal year. The Environmental Protection Agency announced that Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe decided — before the president’s action became public — to donate 32 hours of pay to a fund that provides emergency loans, child-care subsidies and other financial help to federal workers.
And the Department of Housing and Urban Development disclosed that Secretary Shaun Donovan and eight politically appointed deputies will donate seven days worth of salaries. Their checks will either go back to the Treasury or to a nonprofit housing group that helps low-income Americans.
“HUD’s leadership stands in solidarity with the rest of the employees and we are committed to sharing in this sacrifice together,” Deputy Secretary Maurice Jones said in a statement.
Vice President Biden’s office said he has not decided whether he will follow suit.
Too funny. Since December, the Spousal Unit has been saying, "If that man had any brains, he'd offer to take the same pay cut as the people who work for him". And to think that all it took was the shame of being beaten to the punch by middle management....
In case you're wondering, the word for the day is, "Solidarity":
All three networks on Wednesday and Thursday parroted the exact same talking points from the White House, touting Barack Obama for expressing "solidarity" with struggling workers by taking a five percent pay cut. The President made the move, which amounts to a minuscule $1700 a month, in the wake of sequestration. On Good Morning America, Josh Elliott trumpeted, "[Obama] says he wants to show solidarity with government workers who face a furlough because of budget cuts."
Over on NBC's Today, Natalie Morales touted, "In an attempt at solidarity with federal workers feeling the sequester spending cuts, President Obama is giving himself a five percent pay cut on his $400,000-a-year salary." Offering a remarkably similar thought, World News anchor Diane Sawyer rounded up the amount to a year's total: " That's $20,000, to show solidarity with government employees who will be furloughed." In an impressed tone, the host praised, "The White House says Obama will personally write a check to the Treasury."
Showing group think, Evening News anchor Scott Pelley insisted, "President Obama will return five percent of his salary each month as a show of solidarity with federal workers whose pay was reduced by those recent across-the-board budget cuts."
The anchors of Thursday's CBS This Morning did not use the word solidarity. However, after recounting the news, well-known Obama fan/co-host Gayle King gushed, "Thank you, President Obama!"
Dang. It's almost as though these people share the same copy editor.
April 02, 2013
The Alaskan Department of Victimization
A couple of items over at Grim's place caught our wand'ring eyeballs last week, but we were too busy to stop and think about them. The first one concerns the State of Alaska which - for some reason - conducts a Victimization Survey every now and again. Now we are not too sure how many discrete identity groups are being Victimized (or just who is to blame for all this Victimization -- the State of Alaska? Feral, Transgendered Arctic Wolves? Sarah Palin and her Scary Black Helicopters of Death?), but one has to admire a state that doesn't wait for its victims to come looking for them. No, indeedy - when it comes to victim-handling, the State of Alaska is most definitely leaning in:
Senator McGuire requested the Status of Women Report after reviewing a 2010 Alaska Victimization Survey, which interviewed nearly 1,000 women and found that 59 percent have experienced domestic abuse, sexual violence, or both.
“We were waiting until the timing was right to release the report,” McGuire’s legislative aide Amy Saltzman told Yahoo! Shine, explaining that the office had spent the start of 2013 mired in issues including the recently passed oil tax bill.
Among the state’s upsetting findings: In 2010, women working in Alaska only earned 67 cents for each dollar a man earned (the national average is a still-low 77 cents to the dollar). As for crime and imprisonment, the number of women going to prison in Alaska is growing: In 2007, women made up 6.5 percent of Alaska’s prison population, but that number had jumped to nearly 11 percent in 2011.
Alaskan women are slightly more likely to have health coverage than Alaskan men, but the coverage for Alaskan women is still below the national average, with 21 percent going without (compared to the national rate of 20).
In the mental-health realm, the suicide rate for women in Alaska is twice as high as the rate nationally—nearly 10 percent of girls in high school attempted suicide in 2011. In addition, nearly two-thirds of Alaskan women were found to be in treatment for alcohol related problems, compared to just one-third nationwide.
As far as homelessness is concerned...
We'll stop here, because we're fairly certain you can see where this is going. With all these Victims lying thick upon the
ground never ending snow and ice, you can bet there are a whole passel of Victimizers lurking about. Care to guess who they might be? If you guessed "Men", a stuffed marmoset is on its way to you by parcel post:
So why the raw deal for women in this state? It may have something to do with the ratio of men to women there, which was noted in the state report as being higher in Alaska than in any other state, with 108.5 males to every 100 females. Nationally, there are 96.7 men to every 100 women. (Among the women in Alaska, 70 percent are white, over 17 percent Alaska native or Native American, and just 4 percent African American.)
As a reference point, the average global male-to-female sex ratio at birth is 105. Over time, it evens out to something closer to 1:1. The logical inference here is just so self-evidently self evident as to require no refutation (or proof, either!):
1. Women are being Victimized.
2. There are more men than women in Alaska.
3. Ergo, men must be responsible for the following outrages:
- Preventing fully-equal (and equally capable!) women from taking higher paying jobs
- Causing women to commit crimes at rates far in excess of the national average
- Driving the distaff sex to drink
- Causing the number of women who have health insurance to plummet to a full 1% below the national average
- Somehow causing large numbers of young girls to commit suicide
It's a good thing we already know who the culprits are, because none of the disturbing statistics cited by The Victimization Survey could possibly have anything to do with the fact that Alaska is cold, dark, and has fewer of the amenities, comforts, and opportunities offered by more densely populated states, could they? Of course they couldn't - that's just silly. Consequently, we're pretty confident that the problem is menfolk... oppressing everything within groping distance, keeping women from leaving the state or seeking better lives for themselves or their children, depriving young girls of the will to live. Guys can't help it, the poor dears - it's just how they're wired. Perhaps it's something in the culture of masculinity... or maybe it's the toxic combination of white skin and testosterone?
Imagine if African American men and boys were committing mass shootings month after month, year after year. Articles and interviews would flood the media, and we’d have political debates demanding that African Americans be “held accountable.” Then, if an atrocity such as the Newtown, Conn., shootings took place and African American male leaders held a news conference to offer solutions, their credibility would be questionable. The public would tell these leaders that they need to focus on problems in their own culture and communities.
Let's take a moment to put all this hyperbole into perspective. To ensure valid comparisons, we'll use a consistent time window: 1980-2010, or three decades. During this period:
1. There have been 20,223 multiple homicide cases (mass murders).
2. According to the source just linked, whites were responsible for 60% of those murders. And blacks were responsible for 36%.
3. So how many mass murder victims are we talking about during our 30-year period? According to this source, a good estimate is 100 per year x 30 years, for a total of 3,000 victims: That's right - a whopping 3000 people. Over 3 decades. If that doesn't qualify as an Epidemic of Violence, we're not sure what does.
Now let's look at the overall homicide rate, because last time we checked, victims of single homicides end up just as dead as victims of multiple homicides.
So we're looking at an average of 100 people per year (mass murders) vs. an average of 15000 people per year (all murders). That means for every mass murder victim, about 150 people are killed in single homicides. Now let's look at the percentage of single and mass murders committed by white and black men and contrast each stat with their relative share of the population:
Now if we accept the bizarrely racist and sexist notion that individuals share some form of collective responsibility for the actions of other individuals with the same skin color or genitalia (we don't accept it for one second, but let's set that aside for just a moment), who has the most pain and suffering to answer for?
It's not white men. Not by a long shot.
That's the problem with broad brush characterizations: they are a weapon that cuts both ways.
And it's not just progressives who do this. We've written about sly suggestions that we'd all be better off if the 19th Amendment were repealed. Never mind that the proportion of women who vote Democrat isn't nearly as high as the proportion of Blacks or Jews who do so... and yet we don't recall seeing calls to take away their voting rights. Decent conservatives don't say this sort of thing because punishing or blaming an entire class of people for the actions of a subset of that class is not just profoundly stupid, but inimical to what conservatism is supposed to be about.
Just as trying to hold all white men - the vast majority of whom have never killed anyone (much less multiple people) - answerable for the actions of a few is not just profoundly stupid, but inimical to progressive values.
Imagine what the world would be like if people of all political persuasions avoided such sloppy, broad brush characterizations? Failing that, imagine a world where we stood up for each other instead of trying to divide people into warring camps?
Yeah. Kinda dumb, isn't it?
Mind the [Energy] Gap
As freezing temperatures, gales and blizzards of deadly "100-year, record-smashing" spring storms battered Europe this past month, the energy gap I've warned about for years hit the headlines: "It's payback time for our insane energy policy," snarled London's Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
Hypothermia has killed thousands, losses to the economy have soared into the billions, and the wintry spring has wrought mayhem on the roads, closed businesses and smashed power lines.
Last weekend, the head of the United Kingdom's second-largest energy supplier announced that the nation had barely 48 hours' worth of stored natural gas left to keep the population warm. "Our generating capacity has fallen so low that we can expect power cuts to begin at any time."
Why? Because instead of developing its vast natural gas resources to fuel gas-fired generators, Britain has been building wind turbines, which provide almost no electricity during frigid weather.
What's an "energy gap"? (the Editorial Staff had never heard the term)
The "energy gap" is the amount of "green energy" we actually produce, compared with how much more we would need to produce to replace energy from fossil fuel, nuclear and hydroelectric power that greens and bureaucrats want to shut down. It's a reality check.
Every year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration provides a simple chart useful for calculating America's energy gap. EIA's website calls it "Total Energy Supply and Disposition." It lists all energy sources and the number of BTUs each contributed. (A British thermal unit is a standard measuring unit for energy.) The EIA chart shows BTUs in quadrillions. Here's how America's energy sources and use stacked up in 2012.
Liquid fuels and other petroleum: 36.74 quadrillion BTUs; natural gas: 25.80; coal: 19.46; nuclear: 8.50; hydropower: 2.67; biomass: 2.73; other renewable energy: 1.77 (includes grid-connected electricity from landfill gas, biogenic municipal waste, wind, photovoltaic and solar thermal sources, and nonelectric energy from renewable sources, such as active and passive solar systems); other: 0.38. Total U.S. energy for 2012: 97.93 quadrillion BTUs.
Fossil fuels alone -- oil, gas and coal -- contributed 82 percent of this total. Wind and solar provided a mere 3.32 percent of our overall needs in 2012. America therefore had an energy gap of 96.7 percent last year.
Oh well, surely the investment in green energy is worth a few human lives. If it saves just one bird....
A few months ago, the Justice Department brought charges against Oklahoma oil company Continental Resources as well as six others in North Dakota for causing the death of 28 migratory birds in violation of the Bird Treaty Act.
...Continental was accused of killing one bird “the size of a sparrow” in its oil pits. “It’s not even a rare bird. There’re jillions of them,” Hamm said during an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
Yet in central California, 70 golden eagles were killed by wind turbines at Altamont Pass, without prosecution. The findings follow a 2008 study by the Fish and Wildlife Service that estimates wind farms kill nearly a half million birds per year in the United States.
Thought Provoking Comment of the Day
The irony is that I'd have never heard of Yvonne Brill the rocket scientist, had it not been for the stroganoff in the first line of her obituary.
Interesting, no matter how you interpret it. Reminds me of this poignant essay I meant to link to a while back:
Myra Ferguson was born in 1924. A fine student, she pursued studies that were nearly unheard of for women of her generation. She met my father, John E. Kilpatrick, when both were studying for advanced degrees in physical chemistry at the University of Kansas. They went on to study together at Berkeley, where my father, four years the elder, completed his Ph. D. My mother interrupted her own doctoral work to marry and have three children. I suppose she thought she would have time to return to her studies later, though as things worked out she did not.
In the meantime, she published research on her own and with my father. It is an amazing feature of the internet that some of her work is preserved there, like this paper on elastic constants and sound velocities from 1949, based on work for the Condensed Matter and Thermal Physics Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where she and my father still make a ghostly appearance on the list of former consultants and collaborators. It is touching that, in some later published versions, my father is listed as co-author in the second position -- something that can't have been a common practice in 1949. They were very devoted to each other. I have copies of several other papers they published together, but none I can locate on the net.
Myra F. Kilpatrick was diagnosed with cancer shortly after the birth of her third child, myself. She must have known how unlikely it was that any of the rudimentary treatments of the time would cure her. Nevertheless, she kept a journal of the doctors' efforts, and considered herself to be contributing to research. After one treatment, she noted that the doctors had learned something about just how far a patient's white blood cell count could drop without resulting in death. She died at home in the spring of 1959.
Barack's Rules for Responsible Financial Management
As the old saying goes, those who can, do. Those who can't, preach:
President Barack Obama, who has increased the national debt by $53,377 per household, has proclaimed April “National Financial Capability Month,” during which his administration will do things such as teach young people “how to budget responsibly."
“I call upon all Americans to observe this month with programs and activities to improve their understanding of financial principles and practices,” Obama said in an official proclamation released Friday.
...The proclamation on the White House website links to two other government websites: the site for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and MyMoney.gov, which includes materials from 21 federal agencies.
Listed among the “popular topics” on MyMoney.gov is “Managing Debt and Credit,” which includes a link to a page on the Federal Reserve’s website called “Getting the most from your credit card.” Tip 2 on that page is: “Stay Below Your Credit Limit.”
To help young people manage their money responsibly and avoid excessive debt, the White House has released the following guidelines. Each one has been thoroughly tested by the administration:
1. The only sure way not to exceed your budget is to avoid having one in the first place.
2. If, year after year, you continue to spend money you don't have and borrow to make up the difference, you don't have a spending problem. You have an inequality problem.
3. The remedy for spending more than you earn is not to cut back and live within your means. You simply need more revenue (and that neighbor who just bought a fancy new car seems to have plenty of money he doesn't need). Have you ever thought of asking him to fork over some of his ill-gotten gains?
4. If your college loan balance is so high that you can't make your payments, don't blame yourself. "Someone" should have forced you to read those papers you signed - you know, the ones that spelled out exactly what your payments would be. "Someone" should have prevented you from signing on the dotted line, and you are completely within your rights to stiff those corrupt Wall Street types who loaned you other people's money on nothing more than your word that you would pay it back.
Granted, defaulting will make it harder (and more expensive) for other students to obtain credit, but that's hardly your problem. You're a victim! Pay no attention to naysayers who try to tell you that adults honor their promises. Whatever you do, don't work two jobs so you can make your payments. Accountability is for suckahs.
5. IRS regulations and tax bills should be treated as optional guidelines for purely voluntary contributions that promote the common welfare. Economic patriotism is only for the rich - it doesn't apply to
victimspeople who are having trouble making ends meet. When in doubt, follow the example set here at the White House.
6. In a pinch, talking about financial responsibility goes a long way towards ensuring that you'll never have to actually practice it. If your parents, friends, or spouse begin to nag you about the gaping chasm between your actions and your rhetoric, try the old divide and conquer routine. Mom didn't really need that new purse, did she? She should have asked Dad before spending all that money. And how about that new car Dad just bought? Mom wanted an economy model, didn't she? Keep at it, and they'll be at each other's throats in no time (leaving them no time to confront you with your serial irresponsibility).
7. If all else fails, there's the old "priorities" scam. You can't pay attention to your finances right now! First, you have to deal with the crisis du jour. It's your number one priority!
8. In the unlikely event that none of the preceding tactics work, you can always blame your parents. Your failures are never your fault - you inherited this mess from those who came before you. Remember: the best defense is a good offense.
We hope you take these lessons to heart, America. They've worked well for the President of the United States, and there's no reason to think they won't be just as effective for you.