June 28, 2013
Cultural Grammar (and other Delights)
Trayvon Martin’s trial might be intriguing, fascinating cultural theater to some. To me, it is more akin to a cultural trauma: a continual reminder of how unsafe all those young black men that I love actually are as they move through the world — and how tenuous and torturous it would be to seek justice on their behalf. Troubled, though, by the negative characterizations of Trayvon Martin’s friend Rachel Jeantel, after her first day of testimony, I tuned in yesterday in a show of sofa-based, sister-girl solidarity.
Immediately, I heard newscasters referring to her prior testimony, which I had watched on video, as combative and aggressive. And I felt my pressure start to rise.
These kinds of terms – combat, aggression, anger – stalk black women, especially black women who are dark-skinned and plus-sized like Rachel, at every turn seeking to discredit the validity of our experiences and render invisible our traumas. By painting Rachel Jeantel as the aggressor, as the one prone to telling lies and spreading untruths, it became easy for the white male defense attorney to treat this 19-year-old, working-class black girl, a witness to the murder of her friend, as hostile, as a threat, as the one who needed to be regulated and contained and put in her place.
I know these are just classic legal maneuvers of a good defense. Yet these maneuvers also provide an eerily perfect diagram of the cultural grammar that determines how black folks move through the world, always already cast as the aggressors, always necessarily on the defensive, all too often victimized, all too rarely vindicated.
No one knows this better than Trayvon Martin.
The thing about grammars, though, is that they rely on language, on a way of speaking and communicating, to give them power. And Rachel Jeantel has her own particular, idiosyncratic black girl idiom, a mashup of her Haitian and Dominican working-class background, her U.S. Southern upbringing, and the three languages – Hatian Kreyol (or Creole), Spanish and English — that she speaks.
The unique quality of her black vernacular speaking style became hypervisible against the backdrop of powerful white men fluently deploying corporate, proper English in ways that she could not do. The way they spoke to her was designed not only to discredit her, but to condescend to and humiliate her. She acknowledged this show of white male power by repeatedly punctuating her responses with a curt but loaded, “Yes, Sir.”
The only thing we can imagine that would be more tenuous and torturous than the preceding is the spectacle of Joan Walsh explaining how there's really nothing objectionable about human beings, judging other human beings solely on the basis of skin color. But just in case your absurdity meter isn't pegged yet, there's this delightful tidbit:
What we witnessed with Jeantel was a deliberate attempt by the defense to mis-hear and misunderstand her, to suggest, for instance, that statements like “I coulda hear Trayvon, Trayvon,” meant that, in fact, she did not hear Trayvon screaming for George Zimmerman to “get off, get off,” of him.
Still she maintained her composure and clarified, “That means I could hear Trayvon.”
Gayatri Spivak once famously asked, “Can the subaltern speak?” Forever, I have thought the question was wrong. The problem was not in her speaking, but in their hearing.
June 27, 2013
We Blame Feminism for This
Nous sommes tous juste des prisonniers ici de notre propre dispositif...
June 26, 2013
We're Guessing His Views "Evolved"....
We're talking about Ed Snowdon, he of the much-pawed man totem. Like unto The Lightworker's stance on gay bearage, his deeply held convictions were once otherwise. But that was, in the immortal words of Jay Carney, such a long time ago:
< TheTrueHOOHA> HOLY SH*T http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/washington/11iran.html?_r=1&hp
< TheTrueHOOHA> WTF NYTIMES
< TheTrueHOOHA> Are they TRYING to start a war?
Jesus Christ they're like wikileaks
< User19> they're just reporting, dude.
< TheTrueHOOHA> They're reporting classified sh*t
< User19> shrugs
< TheTrueHOOHA> about an unpopular country surrounded by enemies already engaged in a war and about our interactions with said country regarding planning sovereignity violations of another country
you don't put that sh*t in the NEWSPAPER
< User19> meh
< TheTrueHOOHA> moreover, who the f**k are the anonymous sources telling them this?
< TheTrueHOOHA> those people should be shot in the balls.
...< User19> is it unethical to report on the government's intrigue?
< TheTrueHOOHA> VIOLATING NATIONAL SECURITY? no
< User19> meh.
< User19> national security.
< TheTrueHOOHA> Um, YEEEEEEEEEEEES.
< TheTrueHOOHA> that sh*t is classified for a reason
< TheTrueHOOHA> it's not because "oh we hope our citizens don't find out"
< TheTrueHOOHA> it's because "this sh*t won't work if iran knows what we're doing."
Ah, but Ed was so much older then. He's younger than that now.
Quote of the Day
Via Megan McArdle, an interesting study of the displacement effects of affirmative action policies concludes that eliminating racial preferences for Blacks and Hispanics would have little effect on the admission rates of white students.
... without affirmative action the acceptance rate for African-American candidates likely would fall nearly two-thirds, from 33.7 percent to 12.2 percent, while the acceptance rate for Hispanic applicants likely would be cut in half, from 26.8 percent to 12.9 percent.
...Removing consideration of race would have little effect on white students, the report concludes, as their acceptance rate would rise by merely 0.5 percentage points. Espenshade noted that when one group loses ground, another has to gain -- in this case it would be Asian applicants. Asian students would fill nearly four out of every five places in the admitted class not taken by African-American and Hispanic students, with an acceptance rate rising from nearly 18 percent to more than 23 percent. Typically, many more Asian students apply to elite schools than other underrepresented minorities. The study also found that although athletes and legacy applicants are predominantly white, their numbers are so small that their admissions do little to displace minority applicants.
There's a certain irony in the fact that white students usually bring these affirmative action lawsuits (and that defenses of affirmative action are often framed in terms of white privilege). The evidence seems to show that if completely race-neutral admissions policies were adopted at colleges and universities, the admissions rates for blacks and hispanic would fall dramatically . . . but the admissions rates for whites wouldn't change much. The primary beneficiaries would be Asian students, who would fill nearly four out of five of the extra admissions slots.
...everyone seems to be aware that colleges have imposed restrictive admissions quotas to keep Asians underrepresented in their student bodies, akin to the “Jewish quotas” which used to exist at Ivy League schools until the 1950s. But no one seems particularly bothered about systemic, institutionalized racial discrimination against a large group of Americans. I’m not even aware of any concerted effort by Asian community groups to shame universities into stopping this.
It's hard to think of anything that better demonstrates the fundamental divisiveness of affirmative action than this last bit. It pits identity group against identity group, with each group claiming to be motivated by principles they're not always willing to see applied across the board.
June 25, 2013
Inflammatory Debate Topic of the Day
Most conservatives oppose affirmative action on principled or practical grounds. The ideological objections usually center around fairness or opposition to legalized government discrimination. The practical objections tend to address the effect on both the recipients (mismatches between student preparedness/ability and difficulty of the coursework that admissions criteria are intended to address when they're not superceded by social engineering). In fact, recent polls suggest that most Americans oppose racial preferences when they are described as such:
A new poll of American voters has found that 55 percent favor the abolition of “affirmative-action programs that give preferences to blacks and other minorities in hiring, promotions, and college admissions.”
In breaking down its survey’s results by race, the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute found that most white voters oppose such preferences, most black voters support them, and Hispanic voters are split on them — even when specifically asked about preferences that have Hispanics as their intended beneficiaries. The only segment of the population that a majority of all respondents wanted to see given preferences are people with disabilities.
Anyone who clings to a belief in the inevitability of human progress might want to contemplate the latest trend in college admissions. After a half-century of battles over racial and gender preferences for URMs (admissions-speak for “underrepresented minorities,” a term that has traditionally comprised nearly anyone who isn’t a white male), colleges and universities have boldly embarked on a policy of affirmative action preferences for . . . white males. It’s like old times.
BEFORE THE DELUGE: COLLEGE WOMEN, 1970S
Few admissions deans like to talk about their latest innovation in recruitment, understandably enough. Less understandably, the United States Commission on Civil Rights decided earlier this month it didn’t want to talk about it either. And even harder to figure, women’s rights organizations are staying mum too.
By a vote of four to three, the commission shelved a proposal by one of its Independent members, Gail Heriot, to analyze and publish data that might answer this question: “Are private and public liberal arts schools with somewhat selective admissions discriminating against women—and if so, how heavy a thumb is put on the scale against them?” With a Republican majority, commission members had initially voted to study the question in 2009, and since then staffers have been trying to gather admissions data from 19 schools in the Washington, D.C., area—Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Richmond, and others.
Recently, however, the commission has been in the hands of a de facto Democratic majority thanks to a Republican appointee, political scientist Abigail Thernstrom, who frequently votes with the Democrats. When the staff presented its admittedly provisional and incomplete figures to the commissioners, they shut down the project altogether and voted not to allow the admissions numbers to be made public.
That loud noise you're hearing is the sound of narratives on both sides dying a hideous and painful death.... or at least they would be, if the debate over affirmative action actually included all its beneficiaries.
What say you, knuckle draggers? If you oppose the use of racial preferences (or even if you don't), do you favor or oppose affirmative action for the Endangered White Male?
ObamaCare is a Job, Growth Killer
A new Gallup poll of small-business owners indicates that Obamacare is having a dramatic and deleterious effect on Americans’ employment prospects. More than 40 percent of small-business owners say that Obamacare has caused them to freeze hiring, while nearly a fifth say that it has caused them to cut existing workers. According to the poll, 41 percent of small-business owners have frozen hiring, while 19 percent have “reduced the number of employees [they] have in [their] business as a specific result of the Affordable Care Act [Obamacare]” (italics added).
The Gallup poll was commissioned by Littler Mendelson, a firm specializing in employment law. Steven Friedman, an attorney for the firm, said of the results, “We were startled.” He added that these are “some pretty startling answers.”
Just 9 percent of the 603 employers surveyed by Gallup said Obamacare will be good for their business, compared to 48 percent who said it will be bad. Just 5 percent said Obamacare will lower health costs, while 55 percent said it will raise them. Just 13 percent said Obamacare will improve the quality of health care, versus 52 percent who said it will diminish it.
Fully three-eighths (38 percent) of small-business owners said that, because of Obamacare, they “have pulled back on their plans to grow their business.”
In addition to these results, 18 percent of small-business owners say they have already cut their workers’ hours back to part-time levels in anticipation of Obamacare’s effects. Moreover, 24 percent “are weighing whether to drop insurance coverage.”
Somehow, we're guessing this isn't "the change we seek".
Is Cheap Credit Discouraging Personal Saving?
Roughly three-quarters of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, with little to no emergency savings, according to a survey released by Bankrate.com Monday.
Fewer than one in four Americans have enough money in their savings account to cover at least six months of expenses, enough to help cushion the blow of a job loss, medical emergency or some other unexpected event, according to the survey of 1,000 adults. Meanwhile, 50% of those surveyed have less than a three-month cushion and 27% had no savings at all.
Curious about the long term trend (and possible survey bias), we went looking for the long term personal savings trend and it was ugly:
Why, with unemployment so high and a recent recession just behind us, aren't American households saving? The article linked at the beginning of this post blames 401K fees, which seems unlikely.
Many articles on household savings cite unemployment or stagnant wages as possible causes. But unemployment can't possibly account for three-fourths of households not putting money away against hard times. And the supposed stagnation of wages doesn't stand up well to critical scrutiny. As this article points out, the average wage over time hasn't risen for several reasons:
1. Benefits like health insurance, pension funds, and paid leave have grown to 31% of total compensation, and these benefits aren't included in the calculation.
2. Even when wages are adjusted for inflation, the same salary has far more buying power today than it did 40 years ago.
3. The entrance of women and immigrants into the job market caused rapid growth of low skill/low wage jobs at the bottom of the pay scale. These job pull the average wage down.
The reduction in the cost of living over time is stunning:
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, spending by households on many of modern life's "basics"—food at home, automobiles, clothing and footwear, household furnishings and equipment, and housing and utilities—fell from 53% of disposable income in 1950 to 44% in 1970 to 32% today.
Declining personal/household savings would seem to confirm our pre-existing opinion that the social safety net makes saving seem unnecessary, so we went looking for evidence that would support or undermine this theory. Interestingly, the countries with the strongest safety nets - those in Western Europe - still save more than we do:
Although Europe may not be the model of fiscal discipline today in a global macroeconomic perspective, households in continental Europe have a savings rate that has shown much greater long-term consistency, 7 to 8 percent. The big European economies have shown high personal savings rates of over 10 percent for the past 30 years. In 2011, France was at 12.3 percent; Germany was at 10.5 percent; and Sweden at 10 percent, according to OECD data.
How inconveeeeeeeeeeenient: another beautiful theory shot to hell by an uncaring reality. So what explains our dismal savings rate? One possible explanation is that we're substituting cheap credit for personal savings:
"There are huge differences between the U.K. and the U.S. and Europe in terms of people's appetite for risk and their savings styles," said Elizabeth Corley, Global CEO, Allianz Global Investors. "If you go back 20 years, you will see significant savings in the U.K., but what has happened since then, if you look at the savings ratios, was the sudden availability of cheap credit, which has been substituted for short-term savings."
The U.S. is also no stranger to easily accessible credit. The explosion of credit made available in the 1980s and massive deregulation of the financial industry in that decade and the 1990s helped to change the tide. "During that time, we diverged from much of the rest of the world, because it became so easy to get credit," Garon said. The problem intensified with the rapid rise in housing prices from 1995 to 2005. "The early 2000s was really crazy," Garon added.
In Japan—where the savings rate is also consistently high—as well as in Germany and France, there is political and cultural resistance to deregulating the finance industry, and also an aversion to allowing people to rack up debt, Garon said.
It's also harder to get a loan in Europe. In Germany, for example, people are much less likely to take out large mortgages, and home equity loans don't exist. Home ownership in Germany is at approximately 26 percent lower than in the U.S.—about 40 percent versus 66 percent in the U.S.
Many European governments have set policies that actually try to help stop people from becoming overly indebted. In Belgium, if you are 90 days behind in paying back your credit card, auto or housing loan, your name is reported to the bank, Garon said. A series of services are then triggered, which are designed to help you not only budget, but with any personal problems that may have contributed to your situation, such as alcohol or marriage problems, he added. In France, for example, most credit cards are tied directly to personal bank accounts, Corley noted.
During the Middle Ages, Church law held the charging of interest to be wicked. Though this prohibition was often ignored in practice, it led to the odd practice of Christians borrowing from Jewish moneylenders (who were otherwise often treated as pariahs):
Biblical law forbids taking or giving interest to “your brother” (a fellow Jew), whether money or food or “any thing.” The Talmud interpreted this very strictly, so much so that even greeting someone from whom you have borrowed, if such greeting had not previously been the custom, is forbidden. [For Biblical law regarding moneylending, see, for example, Exodus 22:24, Deuteronomy 23:20-21, Leviticus 25:35-37.]
The Bible further permitted lending money on interest to a “stranger”, but prohibited it to a fellow Jew (“your brother”). The Talmud observes that even the borrower transgresses the commandment if he borrows on interest…
Originally, the medieval rabbinical attitude toward lending money on interest to Gentiles was very conservative, restricting it to scholars (not only as a means of income but because it was felt that they would be cautious about such loans and limit the interest charged) or to cases where it was absolutely necessary for livelihood.
It seems odd that these days we downplay the moral hazard associated with lending or borrowing money. In many cases, people who have borrowed other people's money and used it to buy houses or cars, go to school, or finance purchases they could not otherwise afford refer to "their" property with little or no recognition that they haven't paid for it in full (and thus, it's not really "theirs" until their debt has been fully discharged).
The artificial disconnection of ownership from payment and of interest rates from risk may well be one of the greatest moral issues of our age. We've built an economy on artificially cheap credit, and all our economic policy seems to be based on perpetuating a deeply unhealthy state of affairs that weakens personal responsibility and property rights.
Scary, scary stuff.
June 24, 2013
The Fragile Combat Flowers of War...
...have set their sights firmly on one James Taranto, anthill stirrer extraordinaire:
... the Ms. Foundation for Women, in cooperation with an outfit called the Service Women's Action Network, has started an online petition "calling for the disciplining of" your humble columnist, whom they graciously describe as "prominent." They find no fault with our account of the facts; they complain only of our "framing the campaign as a 'war on men' " and of a few phrases they find neuralgic.
That is to say, they want a journalist to be punished for committing journalism--for accurately reporting the news and expressing an opinion contrary to feminist orthodoxy. It is a lovely example of the totalitarian mindset that is the core of contemporary feminism.
The Editorial Staff are chagrined to admit that the thought of Mr. Taranto being "disciplined" by a horde of angry feminists raises the delightful possibility of spanking (and leaves us feeling positively tingly in all the right places)! But we are determined to do the mature thing here. Let's walk through the logic on display.
1. For reasons known only to himself, Mr. Taranto chooses to cloak his entirely valid and well sourced criticism of the factual accuracy underpinning the "military rape crisis" jihad currently underway in Congress in the very same over the top, identity-politics-drenched rhetoric employed with such success by our opponents during the last election. Before we can say, "Isn't that just like a man?", a debate over the scope of the problem and the proper legal disposition of sexual assault accusations has morphed into a full fledged "war on men" that "criminalizes normal male sexuality"!!!11!
And here we thought men were comparatively rational and unemotional.
2. Two fairly obscure women's advocacy groups duly beclown themselves in gratifying predictable fashion, demanding that the Wall Street Journal "discipline" Taranto for offending their delicate feminine sensibilities. They even have a petition you can sign!
James Taranto’s June 17 opinion piece, “Gen. Helms and the Senator's 'Hold'”, was deeply offensive to women’s advocates and expressed a disconcerting lack of understanding of the seriousness of sexual assault. We find such hateful rhetoric highly inappropriate for a newspaper of the Wall Street Journal’s caliber.
We call on you to formally meet with the Ms. Foundation for Women and the Service Women’s Action Network to correct the impression that efforts to end sexual assault in the military constitute a “war on men.” We further ask you to censure James Taranto for his acceptance of sexual assault.
Apparently, the Global War on Terror is about to give way to a Global War on Impressions.
Or perhaps a Global War on Not Taking Sacred Oxen Seriously. No, wait! How about a Global War on Upsetting Opinions? Oh, and reporting inconvenient "facts" (we use the term loosely, in the same sense that Ms. Foundation misrepresents extrapolated poll numbers as actual sexual assaults) somehow constitutes acceptance (approval, even!) of sexual assault.
Ladies, you're not doing your argument any favors here. But then neither is Mr. Taranto, when he claims that upsetting the Perpetually Outraged somehow "proves" his case:
All this viciousness was in the service of denying that there is, as we wrote in yesterday's article, a "war on men." Well, imagine if a prominent feminist journalist wrote about the "war on women" and dozens of conservative male writers responded by subjecting her to similar verbal abuse. Would that not be prima facie evidence that she was on to something? If the answer is yes--and we'd say it is--then either the same is true in our case or the sexes aren't equal. (Select one or both of the above.)
We can take the abuse. In fact, in this instance we delight in it, not only because we see the humor but because it proves us right.
Here are a few debate questions for the assembled villainry:
1. Is being on the receiving end of verbal abuse really all it takes to win an argument? If so, we're going to have to take back everything we've ever said about Andrew Sullivan and his weird obsession with Sarah Palin's lady parts.
2. Does the fact that two relatively unknown women's advocacy groups are calling for a journalist to be "disciplined" (be still, my beating heart!) really establish the "totalitarian mindset at the core of contemporary feminism"? If so, then what do we make of similar calls for Fox News' Shep Smith to be punished for offending conservatives?
Gentlemen, you're not doing your argument any favors....
Oh, never mind.
June 21, 2013
Do the Carney Two-Step!
Jay Carney doesn’t have an answer for that. He hasn’t discussed that subject with the president. He will refer you to the Department of [insert agency here]. He refuses to speculate on that.
He’ll have to get back to you.
But he appreciates the question.
A Yahoo News analysis of the 444 briefings that Carney has held since becoming White House press secretary has identified 13 distinct strains in the way he dodges a reporter's question. Since Carney held his first daily briefing with reporters in the White House Brady Press Briefing Room on Feb. 16, 2011, for example, he’s used some variation of "I don’t have the answer" more than 1,900 times. In 1,383 cases he referred a question to someone else. But will he at least speculate on hypotheticals? No. In fact, he has refused to do so 525 times.
...The main function of a White House press secretary is to shape messaging for the administration, which often requires stymieing questions as a form of damage control. The referral to another agency or person is one of Carney's favorite evasive maneuvers. Over the course of the 43-minute briefing on Jan. 25 alone, for example, Carney referred reporters to the Justice Department four times, the National Labor Relations Board twice, the State Department twice, once to the historic precedent of recess appointments, once to a New York Times article, once to a speech that President Barack Obama delivered earlier in the week, and once to the Defense Department.
As should be abundantly clear, Carney doesn't have all the answers.
As he recently reminded the gathered reporters at his briefing, he and his team are mere mortals battling an army of professionals bent on stumping him.
Happy Friday, knuckle dragging bitter racist gun-and-religion clingers:
Friday Time Wasting Quiz
What if you had to re-qualify periodically in order to retain your American citizenship? Would you make the cut?
The Editorial Staff got a 53. Apparently we do not do enough civic-minded work in the community.
June 20, 2013
A Diet of Mental Junk Food
The well intentioned but misguided campaign to "tempt" kids to read by only expecting them to read things that "interest" them is having the results one would expect:
Thanks to a steady diet of fantasy, science fiction, vampires, and magic, kids today rarely read the more complex or sophisticated literature they once did. In fact, most kids and teens today read significantly below their grade level, according to a recent story by NPR on the topic.
“[R]esearch shows that as young readers get older, they are not moving to more complex books,” reports NPR’s Lynn Neary. “High-schoolers are reading books written for younger kids, and teachers aren't assigning difficult classics as much as they once did.”
That news is backed up by a study by Renaissance Learning, a technology-based educational company that studied what books were being assigned to high school students.
“The complexity of texts students are being assigned to read has declined by about three grade levels over the past 100 years,” Eric Stickney, educational research director at Renaissance, told NPR. “A century ago, students were being assigned books with the complexity of around the ninth- or 10th-grade level. But in 2012, the average was around the sixth-grade level.”
In other words, while the class of 1989 and ’90 were reading works by Sophocles, Shakespeare, Dickens, Wharton, and the Brontës, kids today read novels like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Animal Farm,” even modern hits-turned-movies like “The Help” and “The Notebook.”
According to Stickney, reading levels tend to stagnate sometime around middle school, when kids stop progressing to books of higher difficulty levels.
“Last year, almost all of the top 40 books read in grades nine through 12 were well below grade level,” reports NPR. “The most popular books, the three books in 'The Hunger Games' series, were assessed to be at the fifth-grade level."
And we wonder why so many kids aren't ready for college level work? Why they give up (or tune out) at the first sign that a task will be difficult or boring? I've lost track of how many books I started as a child that took a while to get into. Some of my favorite books are ones I started 2, 3, 4 or more times before the light bulb finally switched on. One of the times I quit blogging, I did so because I suddenly realized it had been months since I'd finished a serious book. Getting offline and re-learning lifelong habits was all it took to get back to polishing off several books a week.
For some reason, the article reminded me of a long ago post over at Jet Noise about Great Books. Looking back over my own list, I was surprised to realize that the vast majority of the classics I've read weren't assigned to me in school. But then most of my childhood was spent either outside, or with my little nose planted firmly in a book.
As a mother, I worked hard to instill a love of reading in my sons and was gratified that they also became avid readers. One of my favorite memories is of the day my youngest brought his then-girlfriend (now wife) out to our home in California. One wall of our living room was taken up with built-in bookshelves, and one of the first things they did on arriving was to make a beeline for the books: pulling one after the other off the shelves and comparing notes.
Serious reading requires effort, concentration, and perseverance. These are habits or skills that require practice and repetition. I don't understand the notion that boys (in particular) can't sit still long enough to read anything not involving Batman, farts, or butt jokes. That's such an insult to their intelligence.
When we lament falling reading scores and failing public schools, somewhere along the line we have to account for the fact that our children aren't being raised - aren't being required - to read challenging books. And that's not the job of the public schools. It's our job as parents.
I suspect that, just as kids will refuse to eat healthy food if they're allowed to substitute junk food, they will refuse to put in the effort required to master substantive books and ideas if they're allowed to substitute more enticing entertainment that requires nothing from them.
Many of you have children who do read. What has worked for you?
Favorite line: "Jake swears this was his actual cost. Looking at his website, I believe him."
Back to "Tried and True" for Google
You can stop counting how many golfballs will fit in a schoolbus now.
Google has admitted that the headscratching questions it once used to quiz job applicants (How many piano tuners are there in the entire world? Why are manhole covers round?) were utterly useless as a predictor of who will be a good employee.
“We found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time,” Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, told the New York Times. “They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.”
A list of Google questions compiled by Seattle job coach Lewis Lin, and then read by approximately everyone on the entire Internet in one form or another, included these humdingers:How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?
Design an evacuation plan for San Francisco
How many times a day does [do???] a clock’s hands overlap?
A man pushed his car to a hotel and lost his fortune. What happened?
You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and your mass is proportionally reduced so as to maintain your original density. You are then thrown into an empty glass blender. The blades will start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?
Too funny. The Editorial Staff never do well on esoteric, "think outside of the box" questions. Our mind just doesn't work that way, yet in real life situations, we would say that our greatest strength is the ability to adapt quickly and solve problems creatively. Our biggest weakness is in the area of sticking to a routine or coloring within the lines. Those are skills we still have to work at, because they don't come naturally.
June 19, 2013
Even More Obamalicious Smartness
Unexpectedly (!), our "First Constitutional Law
Prof Lecturer" President is sandbagged by the real world:
Two defendants in military sexual assault cases cannot be punitively discharged, if found guilty, because of “unlawful command influence” derived from comments made by President Barack Obama, a judge ruled in a Hawaii military court this week.
Navy Judge Cmdr. Marcus Fulton ruled during pretrial hearings in two sexual assault cases -- U.S. vs. Johnson and U.S. vs. Fuentes -- that comments made by Obama as commander in chief would unduly influence any potential sentencing, according to a court documents obtained by Stars and Stripes.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Fulton approved the pretrial defense motions, which used as evidence comments that Obama made about sexual assault at a May 7 news conference.
“The bottom line is: I have no tolerance for this,” Obama said, according to an NBC News story submitted as evidence by defense attorneys in the sexual assault cases.
‘I expect consequences,” Obama added. “So I don’t just want more speeches or awareness programs or training, but ultimately folks look the other way. If we find out somebody’s engaging in this, they’ve got to be held accountable -- prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period.”
The judge’s pretrial ruling means that if either defendant is found guilty, whether by a jury or a military judge, they cannot receive a bad conduct discharge or a dishonorable discharge. Sailors found guilty under the Uniform Code of Military Justice’s Article 120, which covers several sexual crimes including assault and rape, generally receive punitive discharges.
“A member of the public would not hear the President’s statement to be a simple admonition to hold members accountable,” Fulton stated. “A member of the public would draw the connection between the ‘dishonorable discharge’ required by the President and a punitive discharge approved by the convening authority.
“The strain on the system created by asking a convening authority to disregard [Obama’s] statement in this environment would be too much to sustain public confidence.”
The ruling sets the stage for defense attorneys to use the same arguments in sexual assault cases throughout the military.
Should other judges accept the same line of reasoning, commands would have to consider issuing lesser administrative discharges to servicemembers found guilty of sexual assault. In some cases, this could allow servicemembers found guilty of sex crimes to retain veterans benefits, according to Defense Department regulations.
“I think that as a defense attorney, I would raise this argument in virtually any [sexual assault] case I had,” said Victor Hansen, vice president of the National Institute of Military Justice and former instructor at the Army’s JAG school.
Hansen found Thursday’s ruling surprising, since judges have rejected “unlawful command influence” arguments under the logic that statements by high-level officials lose their effect as they reach the military’s lower levels.
However, in recent months there has been a lot more said -- and in overly specific terms -- about sexual assault by military and political leaders, Hansen noted. Obama’s call for dishonorable discharges is an example of such specificity, which begins to sound to military juries like a direct order from the commander in chief.
“This is bad lawyering on [Obama’s] advisor’s part,” Hansen said. “It’s certainly not a problem to say that sexual assault is a bad thing and we need to weed it out … that’s innocuous. It’s when they get very pointed that it’s problematic.”
Last year, Marine Corps defendants in more than 60 sexual assault cases filed unlawful command influence claims following comments by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos, according to a May 9 McClatchy Tribune news report.
In one speech, Amos declared that 80 percent of sexual assault claims were legitimate, according to the report. Judges in nearly all of the 60 disputed cases found the appearance of unlawful command influence, according to the McClatchy report.
You would think a brainy legal scholar like Obama might have learned something from that experience.
"Smart Power" at Work
Thank God the Smart People are finally in charge of US foreign policy:
Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, has suspended talks on a long-term security deal to keep US troops in his country after Nato leaves in 2014, accusing Washington of duplicity in its efforts to start peace talks with the Taliban.
The announcement came the day after the Taliban opened a "political office" in Qatar, saying they wanted to seek a peaceful solution to the war in Afghanistan, and the US announced plans for talks with the insurgent group.
News that American diplomats would sit down with Taliban leaders for the first time since the US helped oust the group from power in 2001 prompted speculation that real progress towards a negotiated end to the war might be in sight.
US officials underlined that they aimed mostly to facilitate talks between Afghans, although they do have issues to tackle directly with the Taliban, including a possible prisoner exchange.
But while the Taliban hinted at meeting US demands of a break with al-Qaida – saying Afghan soil should not be used to harm other countries – there was only the barest of nods to the Afghan government's request that they talk to the current administration and respect the constitution.
Diplomats say Karzai was kept in the loop about plans for the formal opening of a Taliban office in Qatar, but had expected it to be couched differently. After hours of ominous silence, his office issued a terse statement in effect condemning the move.
"In view of the contradiction between acts and the statements made by the United States of America in regard to the peace process, the Afghan government suspended the negotiations, currently under way in Kabul between Afghan and US delegations on the bilateral security agreement," the palace said.
The final straw for Karzai was their display of a white Taliban flag and repeated use of the name "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan", both in their statement and on a printed backdrop used for a televised press conference, according a senior Afghan official.
It was the name the group used when they ruled from Kabul, and together with their official flag gave the group's representatives the air of a government-in-exile as they addressed the media.
The US had pledged the Taliban would only be able to use the office as base for talks, not as a political platform, and Karzai felt the press conference was a clear violation of that promise, an official Afghan source told the Guardian.
The president was also unhappy about the lack of any reference to the country's constitution, which both he and the US say the Taliban must respect.
Instead the statement made more than one reference to the "establishment of an independent Islamic government"; as the group have often denounced Karzai as a puppet, that could be read as a call for a change of leader or change of system.
We'll say one thing: this certainly sends a clear message to our allies about the advantages of working with the United States.
James Taranto is Right (and Wrong) on Military Rape
A recent column by James Taranto has generated a lot of outraged commentary. Mr. Taranto begins by asserting:
Lt. Gen. Susan Helms is a pioneering woman who finds her career stalled because of a war on men—a political campaign against sexual assault in the military that shows signs of becoming an effort to criminalize male sexuality.
Before exploring all the things that are wrong with his rather polemical intro, let's explore all the things Taranto is right about (at least in this author's opinion).
WHERE TARANTO IS RIGHT
1. It's not unreasonable to describe the hold placed on General Helms' nomination as politically motivated grandstanding. General Helms exercised her entirely legal authority to set aside a criminal conviction under the UCMJ. Simple disagreement with her decision does not magically render Helms unfit for confirmation, and smacks of politically motivated punishment for doing something Congress itself gave her authority to do. Having actually read both the memorandum justifying her decision and the very lengthy (over 450 pages) transcript of the proceedings, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accuser did not consent.
This is not a trivial point for two reasons. Firstly, our entire justice system rests on the presumption of innocence for the accused and the resulting requirement that to secure a guilty verdict, the prosecution must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that all elements of the crime are satisfied. And secondly, the UCMJ standard for lack of consent requires actual evidence that the defendant knew the Lieutenant did not consent. The only evidence brought by the prosecution was the uncorroborated (and in several cases, disputed) testimony of the "victim".
After reading the aforelinked (yikes - a neologism!) documents, I do not see how General Helms could have reached any other decision than the one she eventually rendered. The prosecution's burden of proof simply was not met.
2. Sen. Claire McCaskill's rhetoric has been consistently over the top. Describing the alleged victim as a "sexual assault survivor" is tantamount to declaring that Capt. Herrera is guilty of sexual assault. This is something that has not been established. Moreover, the deliberate conflation of the intentionally fuzzy term "sexual assault" with rape is inflammatory. Let's remember that we have no actual evidence of sexual assault, let alone rape, other than the word of the accuser. Publicly asserting Capt. Herrera's guilt (or innocence, for that matter) is unfair, irresponsible, and potentially slanderous.
Herrera was proven neither guilty nor innocent, and any statements to the contrary are factually inaccurate.
3. Taranto fairly describes the evidence as "he said/she said", and further notes that the alleged victim's testimony conflicts with the testimony of the accused, the driver of the car (a woman), and copious evidence from the accused's cell phone. When the only evidence of an alleged crime is the uncorroborated testimony of the alleged victim, establishing her credibility (or impeaching the credibility of the accused) is paramount.
That didn't happen.
4. This statement, by McCaskill, is both obscene and outrageous:
Ms. McCaskill said earlier this month that the clemency decision "sent a damaging message to survivors of sexual assault who are seeking justice in the military justice system."
The purpose of a criminal trial is not to "send a message to survivors of sexual assault" regardless of the evidence. Adopting McCaskill's reasoning makes a mockery of our criminal justice system. It is the mother of all end-justifies-the-means arguments, and ought to be offensive to anyone who professes to believe in the rule of law.
5. Taranto's argument here is dead on:
The presumption that [sexually] reckless men are criminals while reckless women are victims makes a mockery of any notion that the sexes are equal.
WHERE TARANTO IS WRONG
1. To describe efforts to revoke a commander's authority to set aside convictions under the UCMJ as "a war on men" is every bit as inflammatory and outrageous as McCaskill's assertions that she knows what actually happened that night, or that Herrera is guilty of sexual assault. Simply say a thing does not make it so. Herrera pled guilty to a lesser offense (indecent acts), not sexual assault.
The efficacy of adopting the frankly silly "war on women" rhetoric of our progressive brethren in Christ is at best unclear. Is the tactic inherently wrong? If so, then why are we doing it? Is it justifiable under certain circumstances? Then we're going to have to make a better case than simple disagreement on a complex public policy issue. Rhetorical bomb throwing doth not an argument make.
Reasonable people can disagree about whether it is a good idea to allow commanders to set aside jury verdicts, or whether it's a good idea to trust military commands to police their own ranks. Conservatives were rightly appalled at Eric Holder's brazen argument that the DoJ should investigate the DoJ. If we see a 'fox guarding the henhouse' problem there, why apply a different standard to the DoD?
I have no problem with the current system for two reasons. There is ample precedent for executives (governors, presidents) to issue extrajudicial pardons of convicted criminals. Though the idea is hardly novel, it has also been abused on many occasions. And the power is so rarely exercised (by one estimate, only 1.5% of such convictions are overturned) that changing it would do little to combat the so-called 'epidemic of military rape':
It is rare for commanders to grant clemency. The Air Force said it has recorded 327 convictions over the past five years for sexual assault, rape and similar crimes, but only five verdicts have been overturned in clemencies.
To characterize simple disagreement on this issue as "a war on men" undermines fundamentally serious conservative objections to the Obama administration's contemptible "war on women" meme.
2. Characterizing the admittedly politicized campaign to "end military rape" as "an attempt to criminalize male sexuality" is likewise objectionable on its face.
This debate isn't about changing the criminal definition of sexual assault under the UCMJ. It's about whether commanders should be allowed to set aside a guilty verdict with no public justification.
It is worth noting here that Gen. Helms' legal advisors counseled her not to overturn the verdict. They did so because of a little known fact: under the UCMJ, guilty verdicts in criminal cases with heavy penalties are automatically appealed. Moreover, the UCMJ court martial process is arguably more tilted towards acquittal than its civilian counterparts.
So the idea that "but for" General Helms' decision, Capt. Herrera would have had no legal recourse is questionable. It is distinctly possible that a reversal on the basis of erroneous fact finding is not a remedy in criminal appeals under the UCMJ. Generally, appeals are limited to examining legal or procedural errors committed during the trial. Appellate courts do not usually re-try the facts; instead, they examine trial procedures to ensure that the law was fairly and properly administered.
One final note: setting aside jury verdicts also has a civilian judicial precedent. I dimly recall from long ago law classes a legal remedy in which a judge can set aside an unreasonable jury verdict. It's called judgment NOV (non obstante veredicto, or "notwithstanding the jury").
The point here is that this debate, though highly politicized and laced with inflammatory rhetoric on both sides, is hardly a slam dunk. We do our own arguments no service when we stoop to tactics we have right deplored when our opponents use them.
Two day brighteners to go with your morning coffee:
...and you thought you needed to spend a lot of money on toys:
Update: this is wonderful, too.
June 18, 2013
"Playful", "Unapologetic Masculinity"? Really???
I'm always somewhat mystified when I see "masculinity" defined as a flagrant lack of self control coupled with a broken moral compass. Sometimes it seems that we have forgotten the distinction between acting like a child and choosing to be an adult; between doing what comes naturally and doing what's necessary to ensure not just the survival but the continued evolution of our species.
Last week, I read an essay that moved me to tears. I read it again this morning and cried just as hard as I did the first time I read it.
They were tears of anger as much as tears of grief.
The essay was written by a man remembering his father, and that still, quiet voice reaffirmed everything I have always admired and loved about the best kind of man - the one who isn't in it for himself. The one who thinks ahead; who looks before he leaps; who tempers emotion with reason. Who thinks about the future of the society he lives in, the children he fathers, the destiny of the human race.
After decades of self-justifying articles about how men are hard wired to value quantity over quality and transitory gratification over permanence and progress, we're now being treated to similar arguments about the true nature of women. Being female (and therefore no stranger to the darker impulses of femininity), I'm less skeptical about such arguments than one might suppose. Like Chesterton, I've always thought the traditional restrictions on men and woman were put there for a reason. They are there to restrain us, and to protect others from the deeply destructive aspects of human nature.
Both sexes tell themselves comforting stories about the nature of our better halves. Men like to believe they are the only ones whose instincts bear watching. It's comforting to reduce complex phenomena to a simplistic, almost mathemagical formula: women are hypergamous (which means men's looks don't really matter - in theory at least, any man with a fat enough wallet can die surrounded by compliant, nineteen year old Czech supermodels). Hope springs eternal, so long as one can view females as mostly inert, asexual objects of the male sex drive who can be relied upon, contradictory beliefs about the arbitrary and capricious nature of womankind notwithstanding, to behave in predictable ways. We women just live for marriage and commitment; never acting, always acted upon. When they don't, that's not nature! It's some outside force, acting upon them. Both sides do this, by the way. Conservatives do it every time they fulminate about how feminism has "tricked" a whole generation. It's as though we can't be expected to think about our own lives. When we screw up, it's not our fault! We were sold a lie.
Even our most idiotic lapses our not our fault, really. There's no personal responsibility; only helpless, pathetic victims of feminism (or patriarchal oppression - take your pick) whose choices, like those of all those men who are "only doing what comes naturally", mustn't be questioned or judged because people who judge are prudes. Or busybodies.
Such a framework explains so much. Except it doesn't, really. If women value marriage above all else, why are 60-70% of divorces initiated by women? The conventional wisdom has several answers: they're gold digging hussies (never mind that their standard of living actually drops, post divorce). Or they're brainwashed by the siren song of feminism (never mind that rising divorce rates predate no fault and The Feminine Mystique by a good century or so). Failed marriages are never their fault, nor their husbands' faults. Facts have never been able to compete with a really comforting narrative that essentially dismisses the notion that all of us - male or female - have the ability to move beyond our wiring and assume responsibility for the decisions we make.
We women have our own fables. Too many of us continue to believe that men can be trained, like seals, to want what we want and value what we value. We tell ourselves that it's "the system" that makes people behave the way they do. This is the opposite of the hard wiring meme - it's not human nature, it's those unnatural, rigid gender stereotypes that are holding us back. If we could just cast aside the shackles of patriarchal oppression, women could be just.like.men - wanting what they want, valuing what they value, and thereby achieving the same outcomes; improbably without sacrificing one iota of what makes us female, and feminine.
And men would be 'free' to want what women want and value what women value, in scrupulously equal amounts.
I'm so sick of reading articles about why women (and men) can't have it all. What about our children? What kind of selfish jerk seriously thinks he or she deserves to have everything they want?
All this focus on what men and women naturally want, coupled with furiously reflexive defenses of what various parties perceive to be "natural" for men or women, can't be good for the future of the human race. We have all but divorced parenthood from marriage, because why on earth should men and women have to limit their lifestyle choices simply because they chose to express their beautiful and natural desire to bring a child into the world?
Selfishness and self absorption are the New Rationality. Self restraint is wimpy and eminently mockable, shame is off limits, and "What's in it for me?" is now the gold standard by which moral judgments are made. Thumbing our noses at our opponents (#winning!)has become more important than doing what's right even though it's hard. Or doesn't get us ahead. Or gets us laughed at.
Dear God, what a wasteland we're leaving our children.
June 17, 2013
The Obama Admin's War on Transparency?
A major press theme during the Evil Bush Years was that brave, truth-to-powering patriots who tried to hold the administration accountable would be harshly dealt with. So imagine our shock to read this, from a former Inspector General fired by the most transparent administration evah:
... I learned, through being fired by the Obama administration, that performing one’s responsibilities as one should, and potentially adversely affecting the administration’s image, is not the way to keep one’s job. (Fortunately, I was not dependent on my federal IG salary.)
That reality was made apparent to me — and, through what happened to me, to all IGs — when I supported my staff of longtime dedicated civil servants, who had recommended taking action against one Kevin Johnson, a former NBA player who had misused, for personal purposes, about $750,000 of an AmeriCorps grant intended for underprivileged young people. What I did not then know was that he was a friend and supporter of President Obama — a fact that caused the proverbial you-know-what to hit the fan.
Without detailing all that happened, the bottom line was that I started to receive pressure to drop the case against Mr. Johnson. When I declined to repudiate my staff’s work, the guillotine fell: I was summarily telephoned that if I did not resign in one hour, I would be fired. And I was, along with my special assistant, John Park. The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote of my firing: “The evidence suggests that [President Obama’s] White House fired a public official who refused to roll over to protect a Presidential crony.”
Similar questions have been raised about other IGs who somehow have been discarded. Amtrak IG Fred Weiderhold, Treasury special IG Neil Barofsky, and International Trade Commission IG Judith Gwynn all left their positions after disputes that weren’t appreciated by the administration, giving more reason for others to go easy with the administration. Further, the president has significantly failed to fill IG vacancies in important agencies (State, Interior, Labor, Homeland Security, and USAID) – well-documented by former IG Joseph Schmitz — demeaning the importance of the IG position.
We are shocked.... shocked to learn that the administration would intervene on behalf of a wealthy one percenter who stole from poor, underprivileged youth.
Is Congress Smarter Than the WaPo's Editorial Board?
In an overwrought editorial about the "epidemic" of military rape, the Washington Post Editorial board once more show that they can't even get basic facts right:
Of the 26,000 unwanted sexual contact incidents in 2012 contained in a recent Defense Department survey, only 3,374 were reported and, Ms. Gillibrand said, only one in 10 ended up going to trial.
The Post links to a list of DoD surveys. Apparently, selecting (never mind reading) the correct source and linking directly to it was a bridge too far. Had one of the Post's editorial board actually read the survey (you can stop laughing now), this paragraph in the summary section might have given them cause to doubt that the report describes an "epidemic" of rape. Can you spot the refrain running through the cited statistics?
Unwanted Sexual Contact. Overall, 6.1% of women and 1.2% of men indicated they experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012. For women, this rate is statistically significantly higher in 2012 than in 2010 (6.1% vs. 4.4%); there is no statistically significant difference between 2012 and 2006 (6.1% vs. 6.8%). There is no statistically significant difference for men in the overall rate between 2012 and 2010 or 2006 (1.2% vs. 0.9% and 1.8%). Of the 6.1% of women who experienced unwanted sexual contact, 32% indicated the most serious behavior they experienced was unwanted sexual touching only, 26% indicated they experienced attempted sex, and 31% indicated they experienced completed sex. There were no statistically significant differences in the most serious behaviors for women between 2006, 2010, and 2012. Of the 1.2% of men who indicated experiencing unwanted sexual contact, 51% indicated the most serious behavior they experienced was unwanted sexual touching only, 5% indicated they experienced attempted sex, and 10% indicated they experienced completed sex. There were no statistically significant differences in the most serious behaviors for men between 2006, 2010, and 2012.
So much for the layers of editorial oversight and rigorous fact-checking that separate the pros from the wannabes.
June 14, 2013
"More Women = More Female Friendly Policies"
How would this debate go if America had a female POTUS and Commander -in-Chief?
What could she do with her executive power without the legislature or judiciary meddling?
But unlike India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Brazil. Costa Rica, Germany, Ireland, Argentina, the U.K., Russia, China, and Australia, America has never had a female head of state or government.
- Comment on Military Rape article
One of the more amusing themes that crops up in gender punditry is the notion that getting more women into X (whether X is government, corporate leadership, positions of power, or the male dominated profession de jure) will magically lead to more female friendly policies and outcomes. If some of the astoundingly tone deaf utterances we've heard from both sides lately are any indication, the idea isn't completely without merit. It's always somewhat appalling to the Editorial Staff how quickly humans of both sexes dismiss problems that uniquely or disproportionately impact the other half of humanity.
But there's plenty of evidence against the notion that simply getting more women (or more men, for that matter) involved in policymaking will result in policies that are fairer to people of the same sex. Furious denunciations of feminists (a notable minority in government) aside, most of the laws deplored by the "manosphere" were in fact passed by overwhelmingly majority-male legislatures bedazzled by the tantalizing possibility that passing Female-Friendly Law Y will
get them laid attract hordes of lust-filled women clutching well thumbed copies of the Kama Sutra and dreaming of breaking all 10 Commandments at once. The mind boggles at the possibilities: "Come here, Mitch McConnell, you big female friendly law-slinger, you!"
Or maybe they're just afraid of having to sleep on the sofa when they get home, men being innately so much more logical and rational than women but yet utterly at the mercy of their hormones. Unsurprisingly, we find ourselves confused by the irrefutable logic of such arguments. Perhaps they're just too complicated for a woman to grasp :p
The thing is, contra the comment cited at the beginning of this post, nations that have had one or more female leaders are not exactly noted for the unusual freedoms and rights granted to the women living under female rule. Many of these nations are downright backwards in their attitudes towards the oft-debated humanity of women.
Believing as we do that neither men nor women have a monopoly on gender sensitivity or objectivity, imagine our delight at this mellow-harshing passage from an article on the military "rape" crisis:
When Senator Carl Levin of Michigan stripped a measure aimed at curbing sexual assault in the military out of a defense bill this week, it was widely seen as a trampling by a long-serving male committee chairman on female lawmakers seeking justice for victims.
But the truth reflects a more complex battle driven by legislative competition, policy differences and the limits of identity politics in a chamber where women’s numbers and power are increasing.
The vote to replace the measure offered by Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, in favor of a more modest provision pushed by Mr. Levin, the Democrat who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, did not break down along gender lines: of the seven women on the committee, three, including a fellow Democrat, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, sided with Mr. Levin. “I think all of us need to acknowledge that this isn’t a gender issue,” said Senator Deb Fischer, Republican of Nebraska, during a recent hearing on the issue.
Nor was it particularly partisan. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, two of the most conservative Republicans on the committee, sided with Ms. Gillibrand, while seven Democrats and an independent peeled away.
This carefully crafted narrative dies so beautifully.
June 13, 2013
Ed Snowdon: Sex Marathoner
My [ex?] girlfriend is the most amazing girl I’ve ever dated. She’s one of those who even wanted it more than me, sometimes, and would kind of sadly paw at my man-totem like a cat after it has killed the prey. Some of it comes from natural sex drive, yes, but this same girl took like six months to get into bed the first time.
This is incredibly touching. Even after she heartlessly toyed with his dead man totem, he still pines for her.
"But Leaking Is OK When *We* Do It!"
In 2010, NBC News reporter Michael Isikoff detailed similar secrecy machinations by the Obama administration, which leaked to Bob Woodward “a wealth of eye-popping details from a highly classified briefing” to President-elect Barack Obama two days after the November 2008 election. Among the disclosures to appear in Woodward’s book “Obama’s Wars” were, Isikoff wrote, “the code names of previously unknown NSA programs, the existence of a clandestine paramilitary army run by the CIA in Afghanistan, and details of a secret Chinese cyberpenetration of Obama and John McCain campaign computers.”
The secrets shared with Woodward were so delicate Obama transition chief John Podesta was barred from attendance at the briefing, which was conducted inside a windowless, secure room known as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or “SCIF.”
Isikoff asked, quite logically, how the Obama administration could pursue a double standard in which it prosecuted mid-level bureaucrats and military officers for their leaks to the press but allowed administration officials to dispense bigger secrets to Woodward. The best answer Isikoff could find came from John Rizzo, a former CIA general counsel, who surmised that prosecuting leaks to Woodward would be damn-near impossible to prosecute if the president or the CIA director authorized them.
The political uses of official leaks never goes unnoticed by the opposing party. In 2012, as the presidential campaigns gathered speed, after the New York Times published stories about classified programs, including the “kill list,” the drone program, details about the Osama bin Laden raid, and Stuxnet, all considered successes by the administration. The reports infuriated Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who essentially accused the Obama White House of leaking these top secrets for political gain.
“This is not a game. This is far more important than mere politics. Laws have apparently been broken,” McCain cried. To the best of my knowledge, no investigation of these alleged leaks to the press have been ordered or are active, and I have yet to hear Messrs. Brooks, Simon and Cohen describe these leakers of those details as self-indulgent, losers or narcissists. [Addendum, 9:24 p.m.: There is a Stuxnet investigation.]
Another variety of the political leak is the counter-leak or convenient declassification, designed to neutralize or stigmatize an unauthorized leaker. The National Journal’s Ron Fournier, a former Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press, explicitly charges the Obama administration with dispensing intelligence about the bin Laden raid to the press to “promote the president’s reelection bid.” He claims that virtually every unauthorized leak ends up being matched by the release of classified information or “authorized” leak. Indeed, immediately following Snowden’s NSA leaks, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, is said to have claimed NSA spying helped defeat a planned attack on the New York City subway system, although that claim is disputed.
Sometimes the counter-leak is more revealing than the leak it was intended to bury. In 2012, then-national security adviser John Brennan went a tad too far counter-leaking in his attempt to nullify an Associated Press report about the foiled underwear bomber plot. In a conference call with TV news pundits, Brennan offered that the plot could never succeed because the United States had “inside control” of it, which helped expose a double-agent working for Western intelligence. Instead of being prosecuted for leaking sensitive, classified intelligence, Brennan was promoted to director of the CIA; that’s the privilege of the policy leak.
We're not enamored of the argument that, because some lawbreakers escape prosecution, all lawbreaking should go unpunished. Still, we'd sure like to see some of the white hot outrage generated by the self-described "outing" of Valerie Plame applied to Obama administration officials who endanger the lives of agents and double agents still in the field.
Guess that level of intellectual consistency is too much to hope for in a supposedly impartial press.
Glass Houses and "The Party of Stupid"
In a post dripping with deliciously unintentional irony, Ta-Nehisi Coates brings the funny. One has to hand it to Mr. Coates - it can't be easy, crafting post titles that subtly establish the author's obvious moral and intellectual superiority while delicately (was that a nuance?) suggesting that people who don't share your political beliefs are - how shall we say this without stooping to the base ad hominid tactics of our opponents - "not too bright"?
To Stop Being the Party of Stupid You Must Stop Being Stupid
Good advice, that is. If only more people would take it. Consistency being the hobgoblin of great as well as little minds, Mr. Coates continues in much the same vein:
My label-mate David Graham finds the GOP saying dumb things about women, pregnancy, and rape again:"Before, when my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest the subject -- because, you know, the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low," Franks said.
Franks continued: "But when you make that exception, there's usually a requirement to report the rape within 48 hours. And in this case that's impossible because this is in the sixth month of gestation. And that's what completely negates and vitiates the purpose of such an amendment."
This got us thinking: do political parties really "talk"? Perhaps more to the point, who is empowered to speak for a party composed (as most parties are) of people whose beliefs, intelligence, and backgrounds cover a wide spectrum?
Under normal circumstances, the obvious answer would be, "A party spokesman or official, of course!". You know, someone who is authorized to speak on behalf of the organization as a whole. Statements from official spokesmen (or women, for that matter) are generally not sourced in their personal opinions. After all, they're getting paid to represent the party's official positions.
Yet for some strange reason, progressives like Mr. Coates feel entitled to elevate a never-ending procession of random nitwits to the august position of Official Spokesman for the GOP. First, there was an inflammatory talk radio host well known for slamming the GOP establishment. At first glance, a loose cannon who openly criticizes the GOP Establishment might seem an odd choice for an official party spokesperson. But you see, when someone with no actual role or power within the Republican Party says something deplorable, it's downright useful to be able to smear that organization with a broad brush held by one of its fiercest critics.
Mr. Limbaugh was soon replaced as official spokesman of the GOP by another public figure whose authority to speak for the party is similarly unclear: one Todd Akin, a representative for Missouri's 2nd Congressional district who was running for re-election.
Republicans Stupid people who lack Mr. Coates' obvious brainpower might be forgiven for wondering how a relatively minor Congressman from a fairly obscure state came to be The Voice of the GOP, but Akin's bona fides are self-evidently self evident to the intellectual elite: he said something that was useful both stupid and sexist. And he was roundly criticized for it by his fellow Republicans.
Which seems an odd thing for "the GOP" to do to their own spokesman, doesn't it? Oh well, maybe Akin's Republican critics didn't get the official memo.
But let's ignore this insignificant fly in the rhetorical ointment for now. In his turn, Mr. Akin was duly replaced by yet another obscure Republican we had never heard of before he opened his mouth just wide enough to fit both feet inside it. Once again, stupid people and conservatives (but we repeat ourselves!) may be excused for not immediately flashing on what more nimble minds grasped immediately: the "Stupid Party" (as it is affectionately known by far more tolerant and enlightened souls) really need to find better official spokesmen.
In a way, though, we are oddly comforted by the knowledge that it is now considered fair game to smear the opposing party with the most embarrassingly sexist utterances and deeds of any one of its members. Because if we adopt the same standard Mr. Coates so willingly applies to the GOP, it would appear that the Democratic Party is The Party of Sexism:
As the Democratic nomination contest slouches toward a close, it's time to take stock of what I will not miss.
I will not miss seeing advertisements for T-shirts that bear the slogan "Bros before Hos." The shirts depict Barack Obama (the Bro) and Hillary Clinton (the Ho) and are widely sold on the Internet.
I will not miss walking past airport concessions selling the Hillary Nutcracker, a device in which a pantsuit-clad Clinton doll opens her legs to reveal stainless-steel thighs that, well, bust nuts. I won't miss television and newspaper stories that make light of the novelty item.
...Political discourse will at last be free of jokes like this one, told last week by magician Penn Jillette on MSNBC: "Obama did great in February, and that's because that was Black History Month. And now Hillary's doing much better 'cause it's White Bitch Month, right?" Co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski rebuked Jillette.
I won't miss political commentators (including National Public Radio political editor Ken Rudin and Andrew Sullivan, the columnist and blogger) who compare Clinton to the Glenn Close character in the movie "Fatal Attraction."
Usefully (for those who can't wait to apply Mr. Coates' strategy to the DNC) the 2008 Democratic primary offered up a veritable gold mine of hate-filled, sexist invective:
Hillary Clinton is a bitch. A big ol’ bitchy bitch. And a c**t. A “big f**king whore.” Fortunately, you can “call a woman anything.” She’s “Nurse Ratched.” She’ll castrate you if she gets a chance. She would like that. She’s a “She-Devil.” She’s a madam, and her daughter’s a whore. She’s frigid, and she can’t give head. She’s a “She-Devil.” A lesbian. A nag. When things get tough, she cries like a big dumb GIRL. In fact, she’s just that — a “little girl.” In FACT, she wants to “cry her way to the White House.” To be, ahem, “Crybaby-in-Chief.” That proves that she’s not tough enough. But she’s also not feminine enough. She’s “screechy.” She’s an “aging, resentful female.” She’s “Sister Frigidaire.” She really ought to quit running for President and stick to housework. She basically spent her entire times as First Lady going to tea parties. She’s a monster who just won’t die. In fact, she really should just die. You can buy a urinal target with her face on it to express what you really think of her. OMG she’s got claws! She’s crazy. In fact, she’s a lunatic. She’s petty and vindictive and entitled. She’s a washed-up old hag. She’s “everybody’s first wife standing outside probate court.” She’s a “scolding mother.” She’s shrill… shrill… shrill. She can’t take it when people are mean to her. She’s a “hellish housewife.” She’s Tanya Harding. She CAN’T be President, what with the mood swings and the menses. Any woman who votes for her is voting with her vagina, not her brain. Women only like Hillary because she’s a fellow Vagina-American. And because they vote with their feelings. Frankly, anyone who still thinks we need “feminine role models” should get over it and move on, already. Oh, and men who supporters are castratos in the eunuch chorus. You shouldn’t make her President because she wants it too much. She’s totally just banking on support from ugly old feminists. And she looooves to “play the victim.” She cackles! And cackles. And cackles. It’s like she’s a witch or something! She’s definitely“witchy.” And now you can buy her cackle as your ring tone. Her voice, too, is “grating”–like “fingernails on a blackboard” to “some men.” She’s hiding behind her gender. She isn’t a “convincing mom” because she’s too strident. She never did anything on her own. Her husband keeps her on a leash. She hates men. Her campaign is a “catfight.” She makes people want to kill themselves, is like a “domineering mo ther,” and is cold. And OMG she has boobies! All of which are reasons to hate her. (And boy, could I go on.)
This is exactly the kind of talk that, had it been pointed at his fellow blacks, would have had Mr. Coates in high dudgeon. Fortunately, the targets - women - are "people" (we use the term loosely, of course) who don't really rate the white-hot outrage normally reserved for coded racist dog whistles. We apologize for posting such crude, ugly fare but we're simply passing along stupid/sexist things "the DNC has said". Be sure to click through to the original post, which is full of links to all those deliciously sexist bon mots, straight from the mouth of the Democratic Party! Or you could just ask EJ Dionne. Or Kirsten Powers.
Or John Walsh:
Or Julia Gillard, who is having her own problems with the Liberal Party in her country:
The Australian prime minister has again been forced to confront sexism in the country's politics after it emerged that the menu at an opposition fundraising dinner offered "Julia Gillard quail … with small breasts, huge thighs and a big red box."
Gillard, who has repeated attacked misogyny among her political rivals, called on the Liberal National party to drop Mal Brough, the candidate responsible for organising the dinner.
She implicated opposition leader Tony Abbott in a pattern of behaviour culminating in a "grossly offensive and sexist menu" being produced for the fundraiser in Brisbane in late March.
Does Mr. Coates seriously believe that smearing an entire party with the embarrassingly sexist quotes of a few members is a legitimate debate tactic? If so, he may wish to consider another old maxim: those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
There are a lot of stones out there.
June 12, 2013
Today's Looming Childhood Trauma
The horror of mean Lego faces!
Think back on your experiences with Lego men and Lego women. Probably you have happy memories of the time you spent with those tiny figures ...But a new study reports an ominous finding. “The children that grow up with Lego today will remember not only smileys, but also anger and fear in the Minifigures’ faces.”
...While the “vast majority” have happy faces, “the trend is for an increasing proportion of angry faces, with a concomitant reduction in happy faces,” as Christian Jarrett explains in his summary of the study for Research Digest. Hence the researchers’ concern about our children’s futures. They connect this finding with the “considerable array of weapon systems” that are now part of the Lego family, with the toys “moving towards more conflict based play themes.”
Less trumpeted is the fact that each face “received an average of 3.9 emotion labels,” i.e., there was a lot of disagreement about what each face was communicating. ...The real lesson here, I think, is that today’s children are growing up at a time of unparalleled Lego diversity.
Thankfully, we're to be spared the existential angst of Racist Lego:
While attaching the faces to “a body tended to increase ratings for anger and happiness but reduce ratings for disgust and sadness,” skin color “made no difference.”
While we're on the subject, what in the holy heck is wrong with "conflict based play"?
Update: we'd forgotten the Pink Ghetto brouhaha. And don't even get us started about the blatantly oppressive male privilege of "Erector Sets".
Sex As Be-All and End-All of Marriage
The Editorial Staff loved this essay by Noah Berlatsky:
How do you maintain desire in a long-term relationship? How can you keep that edge of excitement and danger through long years of monogamy, convention and familiarity? How do you keep rutting like horny adolescents when you're pushing middle-age?
Well now there's a unappealing mental image for the ages. "Get some, Grandpa!" may well be the stuff of which nightmares are made.
Daniel Bergner, author of What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, is asking readers to contemplate such questions at Slate's Double XX. Specifically, he asked, "How can women maintain desire within long-term committed relationships?" In response, readers have written in with a series of predictably titillating responses from the familiar grab-bag of shocking alternative lifestyles and fetish. You've got threesomes, you've got costumes, you've got group sex, and so forth. As of this writing we haven't gotten to bondage or S&M yet, but presumably something along those lines will show up before we're done.
The almost ritual tour of kink suggests strongly that Bergner's question is less an interrogative, and more an excuse. The way the issue is framed—how to maintain desire?—makes the answers inevitable. This is, clearly, good copy—everybody likes to read about sex. But it seems like the predetermined nature of the exercise might, possibly, be leaving something out.
...I read his essay and the responses and I feel like every possible lifestyle choice is validated—except that old, boring one, where you have sex occasionally with your wife and maybe go to Good Vibrations if you're in San Francisco, and generally enjoy your marriage in part because it means you don't have to place desire at the center of your lives. How many people will react to this essay by assuming that my marriage is less stable than I think it is, or by thinking that I'm missing out on real passion and real love and real life? The one sin left, it sometimes feels like, is not being sexy enough.
By far our favorite head exploding comment was this one:
... there are simply too many of us for whom sexual satisfaction is key. For me, it's a pillar of who I am as a man, and whether or not I'm in a committed relationship, I deserve a fulfilling, rewarding, and exciting sex life, period.
When we wonder what has happened to marriage, it might help to look at attitudes like this. How does anyone come to believe they "deserve" a fulfilling/rewarding/exciting sex life regardless of their relationship status? Such self absorption boggles the mind. If you "deserve" something, are others obligated to provide it to you? Or does this simply mean that you're entitled to it, that whole for better or for worse thingy be damned?
Married sex can be many things: joyous or simply comforting, elevating or debasing, magical or tawdry, selfish or generous, cherished or regretted. But a pillar of who we are as human beings?
We must be more screwed up than we thought. We can think of many things that make us who we are, but up until now we wouldn't have said that having an exciting sex life was one of them.
Our Partisan Suspicion of/Tolerance for Government Surveillance
We are shocked... shocked (we tell you) to find that our willingness to allow Big Brother to watch us has a distinctly partisan character to it:
When news broke in late 2005 that the National Security Agency was eavesdropping without warrants — surveillance that was authorized by President George W. Bush — Democrats were not happy campers. More than six in 10 (61 percent) Democrats said the practice was “unacceptable” in a Washington Post-ABC News poll shortly after the story broke.
But Democrats have changed their tune in the wake of new disclosures that the NSA is tracking millions of phone records under President Obama. According to a new Post-Pew Research Center poll, fully 64 percent say the agency’s latest program to access phone records is “acceptable,” which is 27 percentage points higher than their tolerance for the NSA’s probes when polled in 2006.
...Republicans have shifted as well, but in a predictably different direction: 75 percent were OK with the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program in 2006, but a bare 52 percent majority says the NSA’s current phone tracking program is acceptable.
If there's one takeaway from all of this, it's that those durned Independents are an unprincipled bunch.
To be continued....
June 11, 2013
The Morality of Hacking
A few days ago, the Editorial Staff engaged in a little compare and contrast exercise, juxtaposing two cyberattack scenarios:
Scenario 1: Hacker who participates in cyberattacks to uncover self-incriminating evidence from rapists stupid enough to brag about their misdeeds by cell phone and social media...
Scenario 2: Liberal president who promised to restore the moral legitimacy squandered by the Evil BusHitler administration and protect America's civil rights draws up a Disposition Matrix for cyberattacks at home and abroad, where doing so would advance the administration's interests...
We used the term "cyberattack" advisedly, because in both cases what we're contemplating is the deliberate invasion of someone else's communications and/or computers, whether they be handheld telephonic devices, electronic communications, or secured networks.
Legal rationales or prohibitions on such attacks aside, we think it's useful to explore the moral justifications as well. The two are (though some might argue they should not be) distinct issues. Such questions become particularly interesting when applied to a president who has taken it upon himself to school both his predecessor and the global community on the transcendently shiny morality of his own world view whilst secretly violating the values he publicly professes to hold sacred:
When Merkel meets Obama, “you can safely assume that this is an issue that the chancellor will bring up,” Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters on Monday. Merkel grew up in the East German system, where the government collected vast amounts of information about its citizens.
Other German officials said they were unhappy that their citizens appeared to have fewer rights than Americans.
“I cannot be happy that U.S. citizens might be protected in an appropriate way — I’m not sure if they are — but we are not,” said German Federal Data Protection Commissioner Peter Schaar, who is charged with protecting the privacy of German citizens both from private companies and from governments. “In the Internet, we cannot distinguish anymore between us and them, inside and outside our country. It’s an international network, and the data is going around the world.”
One analyst said the concerns are not merely about privacy, but also economic.
“The German business community is on high alert,” said Volker Perthes, director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “It’s not just about listening in on some bearded guy from Ulm who bought a ticket to Afghanistan and makes conversation with his friends in Waziristan. . . . The suspicion in large parts of the business sector is that Americans would also be interested in our patent applications.”
In the brave new world that is Obama's America, long time allies see us as little different from the Chinese. That can't be good for international bonhomie.
But we had another reason for raising the moral question. Simply put, most people (the Editorial Staff included) can find all sorts of reasons to justify an action whose outcome we applaud, especially when committed by actors who share our inflexibly suburban viewpoints. But when we do what comes so naturally to us - loyally defending "the good guys" and being outraged at the nefariousness of "the bad guys", what happens to our principles? In a particularly well written essay, Cathy Young addresses just that question:
The Steubenville, Ohio rape case that ended with the conviction of two high school athletes last March has faded from the headlines—but now, fallout from the scandal is causing a new stir in the online media. A member of “Anonymous,” the activist hacker group that championed the victim, has gone public out of concern about his legal troubles. Deric Lostutter, formerly known as KYAnonymous, had his home raided by the FBI last April and his computers confiscated. Reports that he may face prison have sparked outrage in the left-wing blogosphere. “Hacker Who Exposed Steubenville Rape Case Could Spend More Time Behind Bars Than The Rapists,” proclaims a ThinkProgress.org headline. On Slate.com, Amanda Marcotte hails Lostutter as one of the Steubenville saga’s “anonymous heroes.”
But the online vigilantes of Anonymous are no heroes—except of a false narrative—and their crusade has been far from benign.
At the center of the false narrative lies the idea that if Anonymous had not “exposed” the story, the Steubenville rapists would never have been brought to justice. Yet by the time Anonymous got involved last December, the criminal case against the two teenagers who sexually assaulted an intoxicated girl after a school party was already well underway. Despite allegations that the authorities had tried to protect the local football stars, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond were arrested and charged with rape on August 22—six days after the victim and her parents went to the police—and on October 12 Judge Thomas Lipps ruled there was sufficient probable cause for the case to go to trial. The claims of a “cover-up” had to do with the belief that other boys were also implicated in criminal acts; but the efforts of Anonymous have not led to any new charges, though a state grand jury on the case has been meeting since late April.
Anonymous also did not “out” the rapists, as some bloggers have suggested—their names had been mentioned in news reports at least as early as October—or even propel the story into the national media. The group’s first post about the Steubenville rape case was made on December 23, a week after The New York Times published a 5,800-word story about it. Indeed, a Mother Jones article which gives Lostutter credit for “turning Steubenville into a national outrage” quotes Lostutter himself as saying that he first read about the incident in the Times.
We have many times criticized the press for recklessly publishing unverified information in their rush to beat their competitors to the punch. In this case, the press were actually fairly restrained for once, and that restraint was seized upon by people who were justifiably horrified and outraged by the Steubenville story as justification for blowing the lid off the story... even when that involved getting several key facts wrong and committing acts they would find hard to justify, had they been committed against more sympathetic victims.
We here at the Editorial Staff were among those horrified and outraged by Steubenville. The story pushed every emotional button we possess (and trust us, there are a LOT of buttons). That's why we didn't write much about it.
Over the years, the "need" to blow the lid off some story that wasn't developing quickly enough to satisfy various interested parties has been used to justify some pretty specious acts. NYT Editor Bill Keller claimed it was necessary to expose the SWIFT terrorist training program because the mere suspicion that an elected official *might* be breaking the law (this turned out to be utterly false, by the way) somehow empowers unelected and unaccountable for-profit journalists to break the law.
Legal justifications aside, we should be just as suspicious of would be saviors who claim to be exposing wrongdoing by committing wrongdoing as we are of public servants who promise transparency and accountability while practicing their polar opposites.
Discuss amongst your ownselves, knuckle draggers.
June 10, 2013
Coffee Snorters, Poetic Justice Edition
Our head keeps telling us this was wrong, but we're having trouble seeing past the delicious schadenfreude. So: karma or crime? VC asks, you decide:
"If this is your husband," wrote a Facebook user on Wednesday, "I have endured a 2 hour train ride from Philadelphia listening to this loser and his friends brag about their multiple affairs and how their wives are too stupid to catch on. Oh please repost ..." And people did -- the post currently has over 27,000 shares.
Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuucy, jou got some 'splainin' to do...
Whilst doing some research on ADHD and the medication of children diagnosed with it, the Editorial Staff came across this interesting tidbit:
Around the world, societies show remarkable agreement. Kids aren’t expected to show much self-discipline until they reach the 5-to-7 transition.
In a famous study, psychologist Barbara Rogoff and her colleagues reviewed 50 different cultures to discover when ordinary people think kids are capable of self-control and ready to meet responsibilities (Rogoff et al 1975).
The researchers considered a wide array of criteria, including these:
• The age at which people think kids are capable of making rational decisions and showing common sense
• The age at which people make a special effort to teach kids manners, etiquette, morals, and social taboos
• The age at which kids are included in games that require adherence to the rules.
• The age at which people expect kids to learn the practical and technical skills modeled by adults
The results suggest that regular people don’t demand much executive control from young children.
The majority of societies surveyed didn’t expect to observe common sense and rationality before the age of 6.
In most places, kids weren’t even asked to play rule-based games until they were at least 6.
And the most common age at which people began making a special effort to teach kids social rules was 7 years.
So it seems awkward to try to diagnose a child with ADHD while he’s still in preschool. Or even first grade. Behavior that is entirely normal and age-appropriate might get labeled as ADHD.
If kindergarteners are getting diagnosed with ADHD because they have a real psychological disorder—and not because they show developmentally-normal signs of immaturity—then there should be no correlation between a child’s age and her diagnosis.
In other words, the youngest kindergarteners should be no more likely than the oldest kindergarteners to get diagnosed with ADHD.
But that’s not what he found.
The youngest kindergarteners were 60% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than were the oldest kindergarteners.
Interesting. The relative age effect has been studied in several contexts: sports, chances of becoming a CEO, academics. In many cases, the relative age effect appears to confer an initial advantage that often declines over time. We recall reading once that a startling number of successful CEOs are dyslexic. Isn't there an ancient Chinese parable about this?
If this is "typical", we've got bigger problems than Islam:
Before his conversion (and for some time after it, until he rededicated himself to Islam), he was drinking, smoking, using drugs, and indulging in promiscuity – in other words, he was a relatively typical, rudderless early twentieth-century American male.
Regional word maps.
June 08, 2013
Moral Juxtaposition of the Day
Scenario 1: Hacker who participates in cyberattacks to uncover self-incriminating evidence from rapists stupid enough to brag about their misdeeds by cell phone and social media may well get more jail time than the low life criminals he targeted:
At first, [Lostutter] thought the FBI agent at the door was with FedEx. "As I open the door to greet the driver, approximately 12 FBI SWAT team agents jumped out of the truck, screaming for me to 'Get the fuck down!' with M-16 assault rifles and full riot gear, armed, safety off, pointed directly at my head," Lostutter wrote today on his blog. "I was handcuffed and detained outside while they cleared my house."
This is not the first time that actors on the periphery of this case have faced legal trouble. Earlier this year, First Amendment attorney Marc Randazza spoke to Reason TV about a whistleblowing Ohio blogger whom he successfully helped defend against defamation charges she faced after publishing commentary, photos, and social network posts related to the case.
Scenario 2: Liberal president who promised to restore the moral legitimacy squandered by the Evil BusHitler administration and protect America's civil rights draws up a Disposition Matrix for cyberattacks at home and abroad, where doing so would advance the administration's interests:
Barack Obama has ordered his senior national security and intelligence officials to draw up a list of potential overseas targets for US cyber-attacks, a top secret presidential directive obtained by the Guardian reveals.
The 18-page Presidential Policy Directive 20, issued in October last year but never published, states that what it calls Offensive Cyber Effects Operations (OCEO) "can offer unique and unconventional capabilities to advance US national objectives around the world with little or no warning to the adversary or target and with potential effects ranging from subtle to severely damaging".
It says the government will "identify potential targets of national importance where OCEO can offer a favorable balance of effectiveness and risk as compared with other instruments of national power".
The directive also contemplates the possible use of cyber actions inside the US, though it specifies that no such domestic operations can be conducted without the prior order of the president, except in cases of emergency.
The aim of the document was "to put in place tools and a framework to enable government to make decisions" on cyber actions, a senior administration official told the Guardian.
The administration published some declassified talking points from the directive in January 2013, but those did not mention the stepping up of America's offensive capability and the drawing up of a target list.
Remember: this is a guy who, as a Senator, proposed a law that would make what he's doing as president illegal:
[S]oon after the PATRIOT Act passed, a few years before I ever arrived in the Senate, I began hearing concerns from people of every background and political leaning that this law didn't just provide law enforcement the powers it needed to keep us safe, but powers it didn't need to invade our privacy without cause or suspicion.
Now, at times this issue has tended to degenerate into an "either-or" type of debate. Either we protect our people from terror or we protect our most cherished principles. But that is a false choice. It asks too little of us and assumes too little about America.
What a difference an election makes. One day you're a Senator and everything looks like a "false choice". Pre-emptive military strikes and a vigorous unitary executive are dangerous and wrong, and the only thing standing between the America becoming the 4th Reich is an inexperienced junior senator from Illinois with big ears and an even bigger mouth.
Before you can say, "D'oh!", you wake up in the White House and realize you're the monster you spent all those years warning the nation about.
That lost moral legitimacy is getting harder and harder to find every day.
June 07, 2013
Drugs vs. Standards
Sacre bleu!!!! We may have to stop making fun of the Phrench:
From the time their children are born, French parents provide them with a firm cadre—the word means "frame" or "structure." Children are not allowed, for example, to snack whenever they want. Mealtimes are at four specific times of the day. French children learn to wait patiently for meals, rather than eating snack foods whenever they feel like it. French babies, too, are expected to conform to limits set by parents and not by their crying selves. French parents let their babies "cry it out" if they are not sleeping through the night at the age of four months.
French parents, Druckerman observes, love their children just as much as American parents. They give them piano lessons, take them to sports practice, and encourage them to make the most of their talents. But French parents have a different philosophy of discipline. Consistently enforced limits, in the French view, make children feel safe and secure. Clear limits, they believe, actually make a child feel happier and safer—something that is congruent with my own experience as both a therapist and a parent. Finally, French parents believe that hearing the word "no" rescues children from the "tyranny of their own desires." And spanking, when used judiciously, is not considered child abuse in France.
As a therapist who works with children, it makes perfect sense to me that French children don't need medications to control their behavior because they learn self-control early in their lives. The children grow up in families in which the rules are well-understood, and a clear family hierarchy is firmly in place. In French families, as Druckerman describes them, parents are firmly in charge of their kids—instead of the American family style, in which the situation is all too often vice versa.
We have never understood the idea that children can't control themselves. Assuming they're not sick, overtired, or ravenously hungry, even very small children are quite capable of behaving themselves from a very young age.
The thing is, self restraint is a skill like any other. Which means they need considerable practice before they'll be any good at it.
Sounds like good advice:
Advise her to give that poor young gentleman back his family ring. Miss Manners is not recommending this as a way to allow your daughter to squeeze another ring out of him, along with some treacly drama of a proposal. Rather it is to spare him from a marriage made miserable by the influence of childish ideas from his wife’s scatterbrained friends.
The other advice is for you: You have a lot of parenting left to do. No matter what your daughter’s age is, she is too immature to be married. You may not be able to ground her, but you should strongly oppose any idea of marriage until you are able to instill some values in her.
That made our day.
What's in a Name?
Quick, make a guess: Are Liam's parents Obama voters, or did they pull for John McCain? How about Kurt's mom and dad?
If your gut suggested that Kurt's parents might swing conservative while Liam's are liberal, congratulations. A new study of baby names does, indeed, show that parents in liberal neighborhoods are more likely to choose softer, more feminine sounds, such as "L," for their babies' names, while conservative parents go for macho-sounding K's, B's and D's.
The same research finds that liberal, well-educated parents are more likely to pick obscure names for their children, while conservative, well-educated parents take a more conventional naming path. Both methods seem to be a way of signaling status, said study researcher Eric Oliver, a political scientist at the University of Chicago — though it's unlikely parents realize what they're doing.
...The results revealed that overall, the less educated the parent, the more likely they were to give their child either an uncommon name (meaning fewer than 20 children got the same name that year in California), or a unique name (meaning only one child got that name in 2004 in California). When parents had less than a college education, there were no major ideological differences in naming choice.
However, among college-educated whites, politics made a difference. College-educated moms and dads in the most liberal neighborhoods were twice as likely as college-educated parents in the most conservative neighborhoods to give their kids an uncommon name. Educated conservatives were more likely to favor popular names, which were defined as names in the top 100 in California that year.
For boys, 46 percent got a popular name in conservative areas, compared with 37 percent in liberal areas. For girls, 38 percent were given a popular name in conservative neighborhoods, compared with 30 percent in liberal neighborhoods.
Notably, the kinds of uncommon names chosen by upper-class liberals differed from the unusual names picked by people of lower socioeconomic status, Oliver said. Lower-status moms tend to invent names or pick unusual spellings of common names (Andruw instead of Andrew, for example). [10 Scientific Tips for Raising Happy Kids]
"Educated liberal mothers are not making names up," Oliver said. "They're choosing more culturally obscure names, like Archimedes or Finnegan — or, in our case, we named our daughter Esme."
That seems almost cruel.
June 06, 2013
The Souls of Elephants
This is a remarkable piece of writing. It's lengthy, but even if you're not as fond of pachyderms as the Editorial Staff you'll find it full of wonderful ideas:
What is it like to be an elephant? Is it like anything? How would we know?
One of the major clues that elephants have something we would recognize as inner lives is their extraordinary memories. This is attested to by outward indicators ranging from the practical — a matriarch’s recollection of a locale, critical to leading her family to food and water — to the passionate — grudges that are held against specific people or types of people for decades or even generations, or fierce affection for a long-lost friend.
Carol Buckley, co-founder of the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, a retirement ranch for maltreated veterans of circuses and zoos, describes the arrival of a newcomer to the facility. The fifty-one-year-old Shirley was first introduced to an especially warm resident of long standing named Tarra: “Everyone watched in joy and amazement as Tarra and Shirley intertwined trunks and made ‘purring’ noises at each other. Shirley very deliberately showed Tarra each injury she had sustained at the circus, and Tarra then gently moved her trunk over each injured part.” Later in the evening, an elephant named Jenny entered the barn — one who, as it turned out, had as a calf briefly been in the same circus as Shirley, twenty-two years before:There was an immediate urgency in Jenny’s behavior. She wanted to get close to Shirley who was divided by two stalls. Once Shirley was allowed into the adjacent stall the interaction between her and Jenny became quite intense. Jenny wanted to get into the stall with Shirley desperately. She became agitated, banging on the gate and trying to climb through and over.
After several minutes of touching and exploring each other, Shirley started to ROAR and I mean ROAR — Jenny joined in immediately. The interaction was dramatic, to say the least, with both elephants trying to climb in with each other and frantically touching each other through the bars. I have never experienced anything even close to this depth of emotion.
We opened the gate and let them in together.... they are as one bonded physically together. One moves, and the other shows in unison. It is a miracle and joy to behold. All day ... they moved side by side and when Jenny lay down, Shirley straddled her in the most obvious protective manner and shaded her body from the sun and harm.
They were inseparable until Jenny died a few years later.
Thanks to YAG for the photo :)
CWCID: a co-worker
June 05, 2013
Your Tax Dollars at Work, Global Edition
If ever we've seen a burning issue that demands immediate Congressional action, it is the reckless and uncontrolled proliferation of.... camouflage patterns:
A Democrat in Congress says he will propose a measure Wednesday to cut down on duplication in the U.S. military’s camouflage uniforms — requiring the services to share one camouflage pattern, instead of the 10 in use now.
Rep. William L. Enyart, an Illinois freshman, said he thought of the idea after reading an article in The Washington Post last month.
The Post story detailed how, before 2002, all branches of the military shared the same two patterns: a green one for the woods and a brown one for the desert. But since then, individual services have produced their own patterns, with varying degrees of success. The Air Force, for instance, created the “Airman Battle Uniform,” but then decided it was not a good idea for airmen in Afghanistan to wear it in battle. They wear Army camouflage instead.
“Congress needs to exercise its oversight to make sure we don’t do silly things,” Enyart said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
Sometimes the comedy just writes itself.
If you're wracking your feeble brains to think of a more pressing social issue than unregulated digital clothing patterns, have no fear. The Editorial Staff have got your backs. You see, somewhere in the Multiverse, someone is printing and selling offensive t-shirts:
Matthew Taylor, 35, the owner of Taylor’s clothes store on Emlyn Walk in the city, printed up and displayed the T-shirt with the slogan: “Obey our laws, respect our beliefs or get out of our country” after Drummer Lee Rigby, 25, was killed in near Woolwich barracks in London last week.
But following a complaint from a member of the public, police came to his store and threatened to arrest him unless he removed the Tshirt from sight.
Mr Taylor said: “I had a visit from two CSOs (community support officers) because it has been reported by someone who felt it was offensive.
“It’s not meant to be offensive.
I didn’t produce it to be offensive. It’s what I believe.
“At the end of the day if you don’t like the way a country is run and don’t like our beliefs then go somewhere else, don’t go killing people.
“I don’t care if you Welsh, Scottish, English, go somewhere else if you don’t like it.”
Newport city councillor, Majid Rahman said: “I believe in freedom of speech and defend his rights to say what he wants, but once it starts offending people then it’s a police matter and it’s up to them whether they think it’s broken any laws.”
We dunno... we were pretty offended by liberal bumper stickers, t-shirts and even arm bands during the BusHitler years. Who protected our God-given right not to be offended?
Going for the trifecta of stupid, we've gone beyond threatening breakfast pastries, Hello Kitty bubble blasters and tiny toy weapons smaller than most bullets. Now, even mentioning guns is a looming threat to our collective security that cannot be tolerated:
OWINGS, MD -- The father of a middle schooler in Calvert County, Md. says his 11-year-old son was suspended for 10 days for merely talking about guns on the bus ride home.
Bruce Henkelman of Huntingtown says his son, a sixth grader at Northern Middle School in Owings, was talking with friends about the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre when the bus driver hauled him back to school to be questioned by the principal, Darrel Prioleau.
"The principal told me that with what happened at Sandy Hook if you say the word 'gun' in my school you are going to get suspended for 10 days," Henkelman said in an interview with WMAL.com.
So what did the boy say? According to his father, he neither threatened nor bullied anyone.
"He said, I wish I had a gun to protect everyone. He wanted to defeat the bad guys. That's the context of what he said," Henkelman said. "He wanted to be the hero."
The boy was questioned by the principal and a sheriff's deputy, who also wanted to search the family home without a warrant, Henkelman said. "He started asking me questions about if I have firearms, and [the deputy said] he's going to have to search my house. Search my house? I just wanted to know what happened."
No search was performed, and the deputy left Henkelman's home after the father answered questions in a four-page questionnaire issued by the Sheriff's Office.
Now that we think of it, from some angles a penis and testicles could be said to resemble a handgun. The State could confiscate all such threatening equipment too.
You know, just to be on the safe side.
June 04, 2013
Grim's recent comment reminded me of something I have promised to find and post a gazillion times - an NPR series on the effects of testosterone on personality and perception:
Consider my wife. Over the years I have learned that the world that she lives in is not like the world I inhabit at all. For one thing it is more brightly and more warmly colored. Many things that seem grey to me are blue or green to her, and purples and reds pop out to her where I wouldn't notice them.
Her world is full of flowers, which leap to her attention. I might walk past a field of wildflowers and never see them at all, but each one stands out to her.
Moreover, it's a world inhabited by very different kinds of people. Her brain contains, science tells us, about 1/30th the testosterone of mine. We have learned that the hormone has a huge effect on your experience of the world. Of course she has entirely different chemicals that likewise transform her experience in ways I cannot but begin to imagine. As a result, the people she meets and knows are completely different from the ones I do, even though they are the same people.
It is actually impossible for me to really understand what it would be like to live in her world.
This series is truly one of the most amazing things I have ever listened to. You may (or may not) be surprised to see me recommend it, given the number of times I've argued that men and women are in many ways as much alike as we are different. But life (and youth) are short. Over the course of our lives hormone levels wax and wane, our experience and understanding deepen, and we respond to - and are changed by - circumstances and events.
My relationships with my husband and sons and my male friends and co-workers continually remind me of just how much we have in common despite our differences. That doesn't mean I don't believe there are no differences, but rather that we often overstate them. Our differences don't always define us, and I will never stop believing that men and women are capable of understanding each other better, if not completely. Certainly, we're capable of loving and honoring each other.
As early as the 1980s, large-scale US research began to endorse Erin Pizzey’s view: women often initiated violence and could give as bad as they got. In Britain a big Home Office survey in 1995 found that 4.2 percent of men said they had been physically assaulted or injured by their partner within the last year – precisely the same figure as for women. A subsequent trawl through over eighty studies, mostly from America, came up with a similar verdict: there was little difference between men’s and women’s perpetration rates. Even so the terms ‘domestic violence’ and ‘wife battering’ continued to be used interchangeably. Again and again successive BCS and other surveys showed how strikingly the prevailing view was incomplete, yet still none of this made much impact on popular or political consciousness. When fifteen years of British findings were put together in 2012, they told an essentially consistent story: between 30 and 40 per cent of those assaulted were men and they suffered a quarter of all the attacks. Although in many cases neither men nor women reported injury or emotional effects, about one in ten in both genders had suffered bleeding or broken bones and 3 per cent of men and 2 per cent of women had attempted suicide.
Not that most men would confess how they were injured. Females are twice as likely as male partners to confide in a professional, five times more likely to tell a doctor or a nurse and three times as likely to go to the police. Bear with me on this because the women-as-victims view is so entrenched the evidence does need spelling out. And if anyone could still be unconvinced, the same pattern emerged more or less by accident from a landmark health investigation in New Zealand. In the early 1970s about a thousand children born in Dunedin’s Queen Mary Hospital were chosen for regular checks on their well-being as they grew up. The idea was to see if there were paediatric indicators of what would happen in later life. When the cohort reached the age of twenty-one, the researchers became interested in the relationships that were being formed, and were intrigued to find that violence between couples was quite common. What was even more surprising, and was crosschecked by interviewing partners separately, is that the women generally hit out first and ‘engaged in serious woman-to-man domestic abuse that was not explained by self-defence’. The researchers point out that because women are usually physically less powerful they tended to come off worse but ‘naively’ believed that if they hit their partner he would not hit back.
The Dunedin study shows, along with other studies, that women’s overall rates of partner violence perpetration are similar to those of men. This is not an isolated finding. Many studies have found that substantial numbers of women self-report abusive behaviours toward male partners, and epidemiological studies show that although males are more likely than females to engage in almost every type of violence, the single exception is family violence.
The fact that males as well as females are victims does not diminish the horror of domestic abuse, especially when it is repeated, severe and one-sided. Women do tend to come off worst, and a small proportion of them suffer relentlessly, staying out of low selfesteem or fear, out of stoicism or because, as more than one has told me, they find themselves ‘attracted to the rugged ones’. But we should not underestimate the extent of mutual aggression that takes place within the hurly-burly of mundane human discord. Nor should we forget the extent of emotional bullying, where the wounds don’t show, or the effect on children, with the demonstrable likelihood that they will grow up to be violent themselves. Mothers as well as fathers must take much of the blame. Incidentally, feminists, criminologists and journalists have paid scant attention to violence in same-sex relationships. Claire Turner, who founded a British support group after her female partner tried to strangle her, said:
You end up thinking that society will not think it serious enough because it was another woman who perpetrated the abuse. I did not report it. I really believed that women were great and incapable of being anything but nice to each other. But you come to realise that anybody in society has the potential to behave badly.
...So let’s now turn to the other crime with which women are almost exclusively identified as victims: rape. Here too we need to challenge assumptions while avoiding the flying fur which purports to be rational debate. Rape is one of the most violating crimes. Victims tend to feel dirty, embarrassed, wracked with revulsion and self-blame. And, since it almost always involves a male assailant, rape is one of the defining issues for radical feminism. But have the red mists of politics and emotion clouded reality here too?
Again we owe much to advances brought about by feminist campaigning. For centuries women were belittled and held responsible if they let themselves be ‘ruined’. Until quite recently it was perfectly acceptable for sons to sow wild oats while daughters’ purity had to be protected – and in some cultures that remains the case. Until at least the 1970s and ’80s the institutions of the state were steeped in prejudice. There was tactless condescension from judges and, as a seminal TV documentary showed with shocking candour in the 1980s, police officers sometimes treated rape complaints with crass insensitivity. There was a widely held assumption that victims had probably been asking for it or at least had rashly encouraged it. Conviction rates were said to be a risible 10 per cent.
Reforms in court procedure and changing public attitudes brought improvements to the way rape victims were treated in the 1990s. Several police forces set up dedicated sex crime facilities, with officers selected and trained for sensitivity; complainants were allowed anonymity when giving evidence in court; judges began to frown on cross-examinations which implied promiscuity. When that failed to raise conviction rates, England’s Solicitor General announced packages of targets and ‘guidelines’ for judges and juries which would shift the presumption of innocence towards a presumption of guilt. Yet conviction rates appeared to fall. The figure of 6 per cent was widely quoted in the media.
As so often, the politicians and the media misunderstood the problem. In this case they were suckers for politicised advice powered by a desire to push rape higher up the political agenda. On cool analysis it is not that prosecutions fail; they just don’t happen. So far as we can tell, roughly 4 per cent of women are raped at some point in their lives, some repeatedly, and about 0.6 per cent of women (and 0.1 per cent of men) are victims of rapes and other serious sexual assaults each year. Yet despite the fact that reporting rates have soared, fewer than 20 per cent go to the police. When they do, about a sixth of rape complaints are rejected (rightly or wrongly) by police as implausible, a third are abandoned for lack of evidence, and a third are dropped because the complainant withdraws. Bear in mind that some of the allegations are made weeks or even years after the event took place and the average rape case takes nearly two years to get to trial. Officers have sometimes pressured women to abandon complaints – if they have no crime it improves their detection rates – but there is no evidence that police fail to prioritise sex offences in general. In fact the detection rates for sex crimes are comparable with many other crimes including robbery, burglary and fraud. For rape specifically the conviction rate is around 33 per cent with a further 23 per cent of those accused found guilty of lesser charges such as sexual assault. The real issue is that hardly any rapes ever get before a jury in the first place.
Is that such a bad thing? The implicit assumption is that any woman who chooses not to pursue a claim is being let down by the state or is acting irrationally. But could it be that she is right? What if she feels partly responsible for what happened? What if she realises there is no evidence other than her word against his? What if her life is bound up with that of her assailant? What if she feels humiliated as well as violated? Should she be expected to disclose all this in public and then put her life on hold for the greater good? Do we want a justice system that overrides the victims’ sense of what is in their own best interests, or one that, in order to accommodate them, ceases to be just? Indeed, before we complain about the failure to get more convictions it might be sensible to ask women themselves whether a formal prosecution process is always the most rational way to deal with rape.
Homo sapiens is a narrative race: we like our facts to fit neatly into a story like framework that makes a profoundly messy reality appear linear and orderly. We construct templates and use them to organize information; snapping this usebit tidbit into the structure and discarding the puzzle pieces that don't fit as unimportant or irrelevant:
The notion of templates is an interesting metaphor for the value systems and lenses we use to evaluate ourselves and those around us. Templates can be as simple as a set of expectations - often other people's expectations - that prevent us from being satisfied when we get what we want (but what we want doesn't conform to someone else's idea of what we should want). This is the problem with viewing unequal results as prima facie evidence of social injustice: such a stance assumes that we all deserve the same outcome. More importantly, it assumes - incorrectly, as it turns out - that we all desire the same outcome...
It is farcical to insist that women be viewed as "equal" to men while buying into a narrative in which women (unlike their supposedly-equal counterparts) are always presumed to be the prey and never the predators.
Surprise: Married Men, Women Pretty Much Equally Happy
Three charts from an article about "marriage myths":
Thus, in average families across the nation, married men and married women work roughly the same total hours for their families, judge their marriages to be fair, and enjoy happy marriages.
How utterly depressing. The pundits and the grievance peddlers had best gin up some hate and discontent. This can't be good for business.
June 03, 2013
The corporate version of the yellow card in soccer:
Those dirty, rotten 8 percenters are at it, again:
When Robert Gibbs was preparing to step down as White House press secretary in early 2011, Barack Obama stressed to The New York Times that he understood the life pressures weighing heavily on his loyal aide. After all, the president said in a revealing comment, Gibbs has been “going 24/7 with relatively modest pay.”
Gibbs was making $172,200 a year on the public payroll in a bad economy, which was an income higher than 92 percent of all American families. But such is the bipartisan sense of martyrdom in Washington that almost no one questioned Gibbs’ intention to move to greener pastures while Obama was still in the White House.
So what is Private Citizen Gibbs up to these days?
He was was recently in Baku, Azerbaijan, along with David Plouffe (Obama’s 2008 campaign manager) and Jim Messina (who held the job in 2012). The Washington Post uncovered the reason behind the mid-May reunion in such an exotic locale: The three political operatives were paid five-digit fees to speak at a conference designed to burnish the image of a former Soviet republic with a dicey human rights record.
So much for restoring America's moral legitimacy in the eyes of the global community. Oh, and all that talk about the need to address the unbearable injustice of income inequality? You didn't take it seriously, did you?
Because in Washington, a sound argument grounded in facts is no substitute for playground-level name calling:
"Strong words from Mr Grand Theft Auto and suspected arsonist/insurance swindler," tweeted David Plouffe, the political guru (and unofficial adviser) for President Obama, referring to the chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
"And loose ethically today," Plouffe ended his tweet, linking to a story about Issa answering questions on CNN's “State of the Union” with Candy Crowley about the controversy over IRS staffers targeting conservative groups for scrutiny, in which Issa referred to White House press secretary Jay Carney as a "paid liar."
...Plouffe, however, is clearly interested in another focus, allegations one or two generations old about Issa, not current questions about the IRS and the Obama administration.
Asked what his tweet allegations have to do with whether IRS officials in Cincinnati took direction from officials in Washington, Plouffe told CNN "the credibility and motivation of accusers are valid here."
Of course the press will fulminate about the 'paid liar' jab endlessly and gloss over "Mr. Grand Theft auto". That's business as usual, but one sided press coverage doesn't change the fact that neither side is enhancing its credibility here. Is there anyone left in Washington who can still make an argument on the merits?
If there were, would anyone listen? Maybe that's the real problem.
Rules for Raising Daughters
All of you will have guessed that I'm interested in the list in part as a way of exploring the differences between sons and daughters. How many of these rules would be different if written for sons? Are there other rules you'd advise for sons but not daughters, or especially for sons, that are not on this list?
One that strikes me as an obvious choice is number 7, "She will fight with her mother. Choose sides wisely." This is not a problem with a son: you are always on his mother's side, even on those occasions when you take her aside later and persuade her to change her mind.
Unsurprisingly, the Editorial Staff found itself unable to resist such shameless Cass-baiting :p Several years ago, we penned a list of rules for raising strong sons in which we asked our own set of questions:
What is the essence of masculinity and how can we cultivate and honor it in our sons? Harvey Mansfield once defined manliness as “a quality that causes individuals to stand for something”. If men have a salient quality, surely it is strength of body, mind, spirit and character. Is it still possible to raise strong, adaptable sons in a society that views manhood as a debased currency?
When we were writing the post, we almost titled it, "12 steps for raising good (as opposed to strong) sons". Strength, if not harnessed to some moral end, is anything but an unalloyed good. But after some consideration we felt that male strength - be it force of will or physical force - has been under attack in popular culture. The Left loathes and fears it, the Right often seems to fetishize masculine forcefulness. We would be far more supportive of the popular conservative mantra of boys-and-men-as-cruelly-oppressed-victims if its adherents weren't so determined to defend any and all manifestations of masculinity. Where we get right off the bus is when we read that deliberately refusing to pull one's own weight is a rational response to ... well, anything, really. "What's in it for me?", while possessing a certain natural allure, is hardly the philosophical grounding upon which great civilizations are built.
In all fairness, we have lodged the same complaint against the more self absorbed elements of the feminist movement.
Women now have the opportunity to choose careers over marrying and having children but no one owes us a path in which the natural opportunity costs of choosing X over Y are gently airbrushed away... generally at considerable cost to others. We can't get excited about the endless parade of articles bleating about the terrible injustice of "not having it all". Men have never "had it all". They have had some things at the expense of others. Traditionally, men have had greater freedom but that freedom carried a whopping price tag: a life spent working to support their wives and children, the strong possibility of being drafted and sent off to war, shorter life spans, a (comparatively) narrow emotional life that some men find not at all hard to bear but others find intolerable.
Whether we're born male or female, growing up involves the distressing realization that life is anything but fair. None of us competes on the much ballyhoo'd level playing ground the press are always nattering on about. We are born male or female, taller or shorter, smarter or dumber, better or worse looking, weaker or stronger, with more or less natural self control or foresight. We share an utter lack of control over our genetic inheritance, but possess a great deal of control over what we do with the chromosomal cocktail we're handed at birth.
Before answering Grim's question, we'd like to quibble with this:
One that strikes me as an obvious choice is number 7, "She will fight with her mother. Choose sides wisely." This is not a problem with a son: you are always on his mother's side, even on those occasions when you take her aside later and persuade her to change her mind.
Should a father of daughters always be on their mother's side? If so, why? Having raised only sons, the Editorial Staff always (publicly at least) supported the father of our sons, but this had nothing to do with the sex of our progeny and everything to do with presenting a united front to our children. Often, we were actually on the side of one or the other of our sons but this was conversation that took place in private, where we worked out the shape of that united front.
As for different rules for raising boys and girls, the only ones I can think of are slight variations on the same theme:
1. Never reward manipulative behavior (unless you want to see more of it). This rule strikes us as equally necessary regardless of the sex of the child involved. Girls are slightly more likely to cajole, charm, or wheedle to get their way but this is anything but an absolute rule. Boys whine and cajole all the time, and little girls can be extremely overbearing when they are allowed to be. As boys grow larger and stronger, whining can turn to aggressive or bullying behavior. Never give in to either.
2. Teach your child to be secure and to stand up for him or herself. Again, for boys this often means teaching him to deal with physical aggression. Girls may need more help dealing with verbal aggression. Both sexes need to learn to stand up for what is right. Boys and men pressure each other by shaming or questioning each other's bravery or masculinity. Girls will often play the loyalty card - "go along with the group or you'll be ostracized". Children need to know that their parents will support them, but they also need to know that their parents expect them to do the right thing even when it's hard.
3. Teach respect for others by example. Never, ever allow your child to treat you (or others) with disdain. Again, girls and boys may vary in the way disrespect is expressed, but the offense is the same.
This is an area where I often have trouble with modern child rearing practices. Parents sometimes seem so afraid of damaging their child's self esteem that they allow flagrantly inconsiderate and disrespectful behavior to go unchallenged and unpunished. One of the most important parenting tasks is developing a natural love of justice in a child. This is what will help a child regulate his own actions when no adults are present.
A few 'rules for Dads' that I had trouble with:
12. It’s never too early to start teaching her about money. She will still probably suck you dry as a teenager… and on her wedding day.
Realizing that this rule was probably meant to be humorous, why on earth would any parent allow their child - male or female - to "suck them dry"? Parents can't purchase good behavior or happy children with material things. Children need to learn to live within their (and their parents') means. The single worst mistake we see parents make with daughters is overindulging them - giving them everything they want. How is this good parenting? A wife, if she doesn't work, must be thrifty and learn to stretch her husband's income. If she does work, she shouldn't consider her paycheck to be her personal slush fund - it goes into the family pot.
22. She’s as smart as any boy. Make sure she knows that.
No, she's not "as smart as any boy". Some boys will be smarter than she is. So will some girls. One of the things my father got 100% right was not talking down to me because I was female (in the 1960s, no less!). He was perfectly happy to explain how a carburetor worked, or let me help him change the oil in his convertible. Just treat her like the person she is - that's enough. Don't assume she can't do this or that simply because she's female, but don't give her the idea that she's in some kind of unspoken competition with boys. If Dad treats women with open respect, his little girl will get the idea.
Feel free to posit your own rules in the comments section. And here's a question for you: what's the single biggest mistake you see parents make with boys?