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July 31, 2013

Smart Power Alert

If the Brain Trust at 1600 Pennsylvania execute this plan as deftly as they've implemented everything else they've tried, the next few years should be highly entertaining:

When does a nudge become a shove?

Americans may find out in coming years, as the federal government is setting up a 'behavioral insights team' to tinker with the way we accomplish everything from saving money and staying in school to losing weight and becoming more energy-efficient.

A document from Maya Shankar, a late-20s Yale graduate and former violin prodigy, sketches out the Obama administration's grand plans for behavioral science.

Shankar joined the Obama administration in April as a senior policy advisor at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy.

Update: Possibly related story - an Important Economic Study that claims to prove McDonald's could double the salaries of its employees without raising prices much turns out to have been written by ... [wait for it] a college student:

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misrepresented Arnobio Morelix as a researcher for the University of Kansas. Morelix is registered as a[n] undergraduate student at the university, according to University of Kansas School of Business Communications Director Austin Falley

But wait! There's more unintentional comedy on offer! Tom Maguire reads the report so The HuffPo and ThinkProgress you don't have to, and finds a rather sizeable math error.

A wise man once observed that we're all entitled to our own opinions, but we're not entitled to our own math.... or words to that effect. Or.... are we?

“A social justice approach to math is the appropriate type of math for these unjust times,” they write. “Other, traditional forms of math are often too abstract, promote student failure and self-doubt, and, frankly, are immoral in a world as unjust as ours. Traditional math is bad for students and bad for society.”

Explains a lot, doesn't it? The country's in the very best of hands...

Posted by Cassandra at 06:55 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Coffee Snorters: Tip of the Day Edition

"Don't get your penis stuck in a toaster":

It sounds barmy doesn't it, the London Fire Brigade telling people about men putting their genitals where they shouldn't? But the fact of the matter is people put body parts in strange places all the time, get stuck, and then call us out to release them. We're not just talking one or two; our crews have been called out to over 1,300 "unusual" incidents since 2010 – that's more than one a day.

Granted, they're not all penis-related, but some are very silly: people with loo seats on their heads, a man with his arm trapped in a portable toilet, adults stuck in children's toys, someone with a test tube on his finger. And a lot of handcuffs. More than 25 people call us out every year to release them from these. I don't know whether it's the Fifty Shades effect or not, but I can tell you this, most are Fifty Shades of Red by the time we turn up in a big, red fire engine with our equipment to cut them out.

We launched our campaign, #FiftyShadesofRed, in a bid to highlight some of the less conventional incidents we've attended over the past few years. We tweeted about the incidents from our account, @LondonFire, which certainly raised a few eyebrows, not least among some of my international firefighting colleagues who were surprised to see us putting it all out there, so to speak. This included nine instances of men with rings stuck in awkward places; nine people with their hands stuck in blenders and shredders; numerous people with their hands stuck in letterboxes; a child with a tambourine on its head … the list goes on. We've even been called out to rescue a man whose penis was stuck in a toaster. The mind boggles but the message is serious: use some common sense and remember we're an emergency service and should be treated as such.

And suddenly, Anthony Weiner looks relatively sane.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:31 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

July 29, 2013

Racism, Conversations, and the Sound of One Hand Clapping

Yikes! Welcome, Instapundit, David Thompson, and The Virginian readers :)

An old Buddhist koan asks, "What is the sound of one hand, clapping?" A related - and more amusing - one asks, "If a man speaks and no woman is around to hear him, is he still wrong?" We laugh at the second one because there's an element of painful truth to it: the battle of the sexes often leaves women feeling frustrated and men feeling unfairly demonized. The answer to the first question is that, unlike our lonesome man (who is wrong simply by virtue of being male regardless of whether he has an audience), the sound of one hand clapping is actual silence.

Clapping, you see, is an act that requires two hands.

The same insight applies to conversations; any true exchange of views requires the active participation of at least two people. Moreover, two people with exactly the same memories and opinions can't really be said to be exchanging views, can they? Imagine a buyer and a seller, each offering exactly what the other already has: "I'll trade you this brand new crossbow for the identical one you're holding". Not much of an exchange, is it? After all that trouble, each walks away with exactly what he had to start with.

By its very nature, conversation - like any real exchange - implies some back and forth; one person offers his viewpoints and the other counters with a different set of ideas, recollections, or thoughts. The entire point is that, having sincerely tried to understand each other's position, each party walks away a bit wiser, hopefully with a better understanding of how the other person views things.

Pundits love to chide white Americans for their reluctance to speak honestly about race, but that reluctance should not surprise anyone. Attorney General Eric Holder, who commenced his last plea for honest racial dialog by calling the invitees "a nation of cowards", recently renewed the call for yet another national conversation about race; this time, one that is more open and presumably courageous. Mr. Holder (who is black) and our half black/half white President offered up memories of what they clearly presume to be uniquely black - and therefore uniquely painful - experiences: having people lock their car doors as you walk by, women clutching their purses in elevators, and perhaps most amusingly, "The Talk" (only) parents of black teens have with their sons about dealing with the police.

Victor Davis Hanson accepted Mr. Holder's invitation by offering up a few racial recollections of his own. His purpose, like that of Richard Cohen (who was quickly branded a racist), was to explain that the experiences cited by the President and Attorney General are all too often grounded in the actual (and painful) racial experiences of American whites. But rather than provoking that honest dialog Mr. Holder envisioned, the response to Mr. Hanson's recollections was aptly summed up in the title of Ta-Nehisi Coates' response: "It's the Racism, Stupid".

What stood out to this white reader was just how careful Mr. Hanson was to wrap his memories in caveats and context:

... my father was a lifelong Democrat. He had helped to establish a local junior college aimed at providing vocational education for at-risk minorities, and as a hands-on administrator he found himself on some occasions in a physical altercation with a disaffected student. In middle age, he and my mother once were parking their car on a visit to San Francisco when they were suddenly surrounded by several African-American teens. When confronted with their demands, he offered to give the thieves all his cash if they would leave him and my mother alone. Thankfully they took his cash and left.

I think that experience -- and others -- is why he once advised me, "When you go to San Francisco, be careful if a group of black youths approaches you." Note what he did not say to me. He did not employ language like "typical black person." He did not advise extra caution about black women, the elderly, or the very young -- or about young Asian Punjabi, or Native American males. In other words, the advice was not about race per se, but instead about the tendency of males of one particular age and race to commit an inordinate amount of violent crime.

It was after some first-hand episodes with young African-American males that I offered a similar lecture to my own son. The advice was born out of experience rather than subjective stereotyping. When I was a graduate student living in East Palo Alto, two adult black males once tried to break through the door of my apartment -- while I was in it. On a second occasion, four black males attempted to steal my bicycle -- while I was on it. I could cite three more examples that more or less conform to the same apprehensions once expressed by a younger Jesse Jackson. Regrettably, I expect that my son already has his own warnings prepared to pass on to his own future children.

Mr. Coates' response was typically dismissive. The racial experiences of blacks are poignant and touching: the young man who feels alienated by the suspicious glances of complete strangers, the father who finds it exquisitely painful to explain to his teenaged son that he mustn't give the police cause to arrest him, are meant to elicit sympathy.

The racial experiences of whites, on the other hand, are deemed not germane to this "honest" and frank racial discussion. For reasons not explained, they simply don't signify. Actual experiences like being robbed or threatened illustrate no larger theme about race relations in America. In this, they are different from the woman clutching her purse or the click of a car door. These more privileged experiences clearly underscore Deep, Racial Truths. The experiences of white folk, on the other hand, are treated as isolated incidents with no deeper meaning. Bringing them up is Not Helpful - it can only lead to forbidden thoughts and proscribed ideas (like the notion that people of all races are slow to forget unpleasant experiences, or that we all have an unfortunate tendency to generalize from particulars). The President is right to think purse-clutching women are indicative of some larger problem. Hanson is wrong to think that menacing teens are symbolic of anything.

This morning, Patterico highlights a similar attempt to shut down that honest national conversation. It consists of a list of Things White People Shouldn't Say When Discussing Race:

I went to the linked article, by Jenée Desmond-Harris of TheRoot.com, a black online magazine run in part by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. with corporate ties to Slate and the Washington Post. It is a “nonexhaustive list of ground rules and reminders” for conducting our “national conversation on race.” Given the site where it appeared, you will probably not be surprised to learn that Ms. Desmond-Harris’s piece reads like a list of things white people had better not say to black people. Here are some examples:
1. Talking about race isn’t racist. Don’t say that. Vilifying people who discuss race and point out racism — making them the bad guys — is one of the ways racism is maintained. So is acting as if “blacks suffer from racism” and “whites suffer from reverse racism” are equally valid points of view.

. . . .

5. Black people shouldn’t have to fit your definition of what’s respectable to deserve equality or justice. It’s silly and unfounded to blame inequality caused by institutionalized racism on, say, sagging pants or rap music. If you want to celebrate black people who are educated and high-achieving and defy persistent stereotypes, great, but that can’t be a requirement for fair treatment. We got into trouble with this type of thinking when evidence that Trayvon Martin was a normal teenager messed up so many people’s impression of him as a sympathetic victim.

. . . .

7. Individual racism and systemic racism are two different things. We should care about all the structures that maintain racial inequality, not just individual actors. (This is why it’s not unreasonable to jump from George Zimmerman’s impression of Trayvon Martin to racial profiling by police.) That said, individual acts can provide strong reminders about larger attitudes and problems. Ahem, Paula Deen. Ahem.

Individual racism is irrelevant, apparently, unless we’re talking about a white racist, in which case it is super-meaningful and illustrative of whites’ attitudes in general. Got it. Al Sharpton’s racism? Just one guy. Paula Deen’s? That is representative of “larger attitudes”!

The other numbered points are more of the same: don’t cite blacks like Bill Cosby on race issues; don’t talk about black-on-black crime (with a link to a piece titled Exposing the Myth of Black-on-Black Crime); and so forth. They’re basically rules for white people on things not to say to blacks.

Desmond-Harris’s piece noted that Saletan had done his own piece on how to have a conversation on race. I looked at that piece and noted that, with a couple of perfunctory nods to even-handedness, it too was basically a compendium of rules for white people on how to talk to blacks about race (e.g. don’t freak out if someone calls you a racist because, hey, maybe you really are one!).

I wondered: are there any pieces on how to talk to white people about race? Or is that not an important topic?

That's a good question, actually, and it's one I've been thinking about quite a lot lately. If this conversation is worth having then shouldn't it permit a real exchange of views and not just one side lecturing the other (or setting forth ground rules that essentially prevent exactly the kind of honest dialog we're told we're cowards for avoiding)? If we're ever to have a real conversation, then both sides need to be more respectful of each other's experiences, more aware of each other's sensitivities, and more forgiving of unintentional slights.

And neither side gets to unilaterally set the rules.

If we are to have that conversation, whites need to be willing to share their experiences and blacks need to be willing to listen. Here are my experiences with race:

I grew up in New England. When I was thirteen or so, my father was stationed in Washington DC area. Up until that time, my experience with blacks was limited to playing with the friend of a friend in 3rd grade. One of my most vivid memories is of lying in our bathing suits on my neighbor's lawn and holding hands as the sun warmed us. I will never forget looking at her hand in mine and marveling at the deep pink of her palms. My only other memory is of several encounters in the 4th and 6th grades with the lone black girl in my classes. Her name was Linda.

The fact that my very first experience with bullying involved that lone black girl was, to my way of thinking, just a coincidence. Yes, Linda relentlessly bullied the other girls on the playground, cutting in line, pushing people out of her way and grabbing the jump rope whenever she decided it was "her turn". Linda had two turns to everyone else's one. And yes, Linda hung around after school and repeatedly tried to draw me into fights. But that had nothing to do with the color of her skin. It was simply, I thought, that she was miserable and lonely. She had few friends. Given her personality, that wasn't surprising. Linda was like a fish out of water. A tiny white girl named Joy clung to her side like a remora. Linda didn't really like Joy, but even a parasite was better than being alone.

Eventually I managed to make friends with Joy, but while I never got into a fight with Linda, I was never able to connect with her.

In the 7th grade we moved to DC. My new junior high had recently started bussing blacks from the city and rural whites from the surrounding farms into our middle class school district. For the first time, as I walked down the hallways between classes I was groped by black boys and often witnessed black-on-white fistfights. I was uncomfortable with the verbal backlash to this aggression and belligerence. But oddly, I never heard the much-discussed "n word" pass anyone's lips (black or white).

One day, leaving school, a large and vicious group of black girls began beating up another girl. I had never seen a group of kids beat up a lone victim, and it terrified me. At about this time, I lost a new jacket my mother had just bought me. It was very distinctive - a brightly colored plaid. I later saw it on a girl in one of my classes. She was at least two sizes larger than me, and the jacket's buttons were strained to the breaking point.

My name was inside that jacket, so there was no doubt that its new 'owner' knew exactly who it belonged to. Yet I didn't report it stolen. The girl was the one who had incited the group beating I had witnessed the week before. I got the message and suddenly, the jacket didn't seem worth having to fight off her numerous friends.

The next year, we moved to high school and the racial tensions continued. They were, so far as I could see, instigated by a small group of students. I had several black friends - students I shared classes with - so it was clear that not every black student in our school had a problem with whites.

But there is a hard, hard truth here. If it is acceptable for the President of the United States or the Attorney General to regale us with a remembered litany of racial slights, why is it racist and wrong for Victor Davis Hanson to share memories that left an imprint upon him? Why is it racist and wrong for me to do the same?

I don't think I grew up racist. The worst argument I ever had with a friend occurred in my Junior year. My father, a Navy Captain, had transferred again and I now attended a private school in Tidewater, Virginia. There were only 2 blacks in the entire Upper School and there were no fights, ever. My best friend came down to visit me, and one night we sat looking out at the water and talking about school. I'm not sure how we got onto the subject, but the racial problems at my old HS came up and my friend, the daughter of German parents, dared to say something unacceptable.

She dared to say that she deeply resented having to worry about being groped or bullied or beaten up because of events that occurred over a hundred years before her parents came to this country. She resented being targeted because her skin was lighter than the skin of certain other students. She was the descendant of German Jews who were targeted by the Nazis. And she really didn't see why she should have to tread carefully around people to whom neither she nor her ancestors had offered any offense?

I responded with all the airy platitudes I had been carefully taught. Slavery was wrong, and had left deep wounds. She should understand and make allowances. She should watch what she said (and how she said it), lest she compound the injury.

In my defense, I was a child still. But I was still wrong, and what's worse, I was deeply unfair to a friend who had done no wrong except to speak honestly about race during a private moment when there was no possibility of hurting anyone. That's a reaction many whites are familiar with - when they attempt to honestly share their feelings on this topic, they are insulted, vilified, dismissed. Make no mistake - the racial memories of white folks can be painful, too. But the bad experiences - the ones that make us angry, or frighten us - are not all there is because thankfully, bad people of all colors are still in the minority.

Like most Americans, I have other racial experiences; happy ones. Friendships filled with laughter and good times. Acts of kindness and compassion. But pain looms large in our recollections.

Another old friend came to visit me in Virginia - a young, black man I had dated at my old school. I've told that story before, here - how his mother stood up for what was right and held her son to the standard we all should aspire to: seeing the person beyond the culture, the clothes, the accent, the skin color.

Does either side of the racial divide honestly want to understand where the other is coming from?

It's hard to escape the thought that Holder's remembered conversation with his father is offered to white America as some sort of teaching moment: "See? This is what we've been going through all these years. This is the world we live in..." But I read it with a sense of disbelief, because most parents I know have had exactly the same conversation with their sons at some point. Ours occurred after my well groomed, red haired, and very white-skinned son came home from an evening out, complaining that the police had "hassled" him and his friends for "no good reason".

"You're a teenaged boy, out driving around late at night. It's not exactly unknown for groups of teenaged boys to get into trouble, son", I remember responding. "Look at how you're dressed".

How he was dressed wasn't unacceptable, but it was a far cry from the way he dressed at school: no t-shirts, jeans that fit, shirt with a collar, belt, leather shoes. He was wearing baggy jeans, a t-shirt with a flannel shirt over it, Sketchers-type sneakers, and a beanie. His attire was a cross between West coast 90s grunge and hip-hop. I expect his demeanor was subtly different as well.

"What did you expect, son?", I asked. "You look like you're up to no good". And that was the entire point of the costume: to look older, hipper, somewhat edgy. To look dangerous.

Was it wrong for me to teach my son that people rarely look below the surface? Is it profiling when I - a grown woman - instinctively throw my shoulders back and walk more briskly when I find myself alone in the parking garage of my office late at night? I don't believe that all men are rapists - not even close.

On more than one occasion it has occurred to me that a lone man in an elevator or in the parking garage can probably sense the heightened alertness in my body language - the sense of threat. It's not something I'm comfortable with, and it has nothing to do with race and everything to do with the fact that women don't often rape or attack other women. Was I sexually profiling when I locked my car doors several weeks ago while my husband ducked into a convenience store late at night? There wasn't a black person in sight, but there were a lot of men. I doubt I would have locked the doors, had the parking lot been full of women.

Are men who avoid being alone with women they work with, profiling? Or are they just prudent? How can any of us know why another human being is uneasy around us unless we know their history? This is the implied refrain running through our too often one-sided conversations about race: "You have to be extra careful of what you say because you can't possibly understand how I might interpret your words".

That's an observation that cuts both ways. Or ought to. If you only know your side of the story of America, you are operating blindly. And if you won't allow your fellow Americans the same latitude you demand, you can't expect them to engage in conversation with you. Honest conversations are often uncomfortable and painful. They can make us momentarily angry, or paranoid, or resentful.

But at the other side of that honest conversation lies something worth attaining: the understanding that while our experiences do play a role in shaping our perceptions, they don't have to define us. They don't necessarily determine who we are or how we relate to others unless we let them. There is always so much more to learn about other people and other lives if only we are willing to risk a little pain, a little anger, a little discomfort.

A little humility.

Are we ready for that? Will we ever be ready for it? I'm game if you are.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:00 AM | Comments (95) | TrackBack

July 27, 2013

We Question the Timing

But... but... TRANSPARENCY!!!!

Amid the Obama administration's crackdown against whistleblowers, Change.gov, the 2008 website of the Obama transition team laying out the candidate's promises, has disappeared from the internet.

The Sunlight Foundation notes that it last could be viewed on June 8, which was two days after the first revelations from Edward Snowden (who had then not yet revealed himself) about the NSA's phone surveillance program. One of the promises Obama made on the website was on "whistleblower protections:"

Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.

The White House did not respond to multiple requests for comment on why the page was deleted.

That screeching sound you hear is the sound of the President doing another 180. If only there were a profession whose mission it was to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.

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

IRS Union Employees Fight To Keep Their Current Plan

Here is a guarantee that I’ve made. If you have insurance that you like, then you will be able to keep that insurance. If you’ve got a doctor that you like, you will be able to keep your doctor. Nobody is trying to change what works in the system. We are trying to change what doesn’t work in the system.

- Barack Obama, in 2010

These days, guarantees from the President of the United States don't seem to be worth much:

IRS employees have a prominent role in Obamacare, but their union wants no part of the law.

National Treasury Employees Union officials are urging members to write their congressional representatives in opposition to receiving coverage through President Obama’s health care law.

The union leaders are providing members with a form letter to send to the congressmen that says “I am very concerned about legislation that has been introduced by Congressman Dave Camp to push federal employees out of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and into the insurance exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act.”

The NTEU represents 150,000 federal employees overall, including most of the nearly 100,000 IRS workers.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp offered the bill in response to reports of congressional negotiations that would exempt lawmakers and their staff from Obamacare.

Equality always sounds so good in the abstract. When it begins to affect your take home pay and benefits, not so much.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:17 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

ObamaCare Call Center Won't Offer ObamaCare to Half of Employees

Sometimes, the comedy just writes itself:

In order to ensure Americans understand how to access the benefits available to them when many provisions of the Affordable Care Act go online October 1, the Obama administration announced last month that it is setting up a call center that will be accessible to Americans 24 hours a day.

One branch of that call center will be located in California’s Contra Costa County, where, reportedly, 7,000 people applied for the 204 jobs. According to the Contra Costa Times, however, “about half the jobs are part-time, with no health benefits — a stinging disappointment to workers and local politicians who believed the positions would be full-time.”

The Times indicates that a job posting advertised all of the jobs as full-time, and one call center employee, who said no reason for the apparent change was provided, told the paper, ”It reminded me of that George Clooney movie where he goes around the country firing people (‘Up in the Air’). The woman said, ‘I know you were led to believe you would be full-time, but things have changed…You are actually ‘part-time intermittent.’”

All we can say is that it's a good thing for the nation that Mitt Romney wasn't elected. We can't afford to have a bunch of greedy elitists doing what's expedient for them while American workers take it in the shorts!

Perhaps if President Do As I Say, Not As I Do actually understood the meaning of the word "outsourcing", he would stop attacking American businesses for using the same cost-cutting methods as... the Obama Campaign!:
...The Obama campaign spent nearly $4,700 on telemarketing services from a Canadian telemarketing company called Pacific East between March and June, a Washington Free Beacon study of federal election filings shows.

Pacific East is not the only overseas telemarketing firm raking in cash from the president’s reelection campaign. Obama paid a call center in Manila, Philippines $78,314.10 for telemarketing services between the start of the campaign and March.

If outsourcing is a bad thing, why is the President's re-election campaign doing it? And if it's not a bad thing, why is the President trying to mislead voters and gin up outrage against American businesses?

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

Posted by Cassandra at 09:44 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 26, 2013

Worst Fake Disaster Movie Contest Winners

Due to our longstanding aversion to judging contests, the Editorial Staff enlisted the help of a Super Secret Contest Judge to pick the winners of the Worst Fake Disaster Movie Contest. And here are the winners!

Winner: (hands down) Grim’s “2021”: “I didn’t know that was a painkiller?”

“It isn’t, Dave. But it will give you something to hold on to while we rip your liver out.”

2nd place: Joatmoaf’s “CRABS”: Crabs is an infectious comedy everyone’s going to get in the end...

3rd place: spd rdr’s “My Great Big Fat Greek Bailout”
The world’s gonna need a lot more Windex!

Mille grazie to spd for the Volecano poster that got it all started.

Thanks to everyone who played! And many thanks to our Anonymous Judge :)

Posted by Cassandra at 07:25 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 24, 2013

WEINER!!!!

We must say we are disappointed with our Anthony Wiener sexting name.

"Rolando Furtive" just doesn't have the same ring to it as Carlos Danger. We put the Spousal Unit's and our sons' names in. Son #2's was somewhat better:

Narciso Adventure. Typing in our Facebook pseudonym (we don't trust Facebook enough to use our real name) yielded "Benito Evil".

We like that one very much.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:12 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

What Lies Beneath

Two interesting photo essays explore how little of our lives is reflected in the faces we present to the world. The first features young adults, posing with photos of themselves taken during that awkward phase we all go through as children or teens:

awkward.jpg

The narrative that goes with this photo provides a poignant reminder that the beautiful young woman you see walking down the street was once an ugly duckling no one would have noticed:

"Throughout the course of my life, leading up to this photo, I had worn leg braces, had my fourth grade teacher lead the school line down the hall walking pigeon toed to make fun of me, had worn an eye patch in elementary school and braces and a headgear. As you can see in the picture, I was also chubby. My sense of fashion was pretty much nonexistent and it was hard for me to feel secure around my peers. Largely because I was relentlessly teased for all of my imperfections by not only my peers but by my teacher too. At the time this photo was taken, I was 13-years old. Shortly after this photo was taken, my school discovered during a routine screening that I had scoliosis. It was so severe that I had to wear a back brace all four years of high school. Luckily for me, the scoliosis was caught before I hit my growth spurt. In the years to follow this picture, I grew 7 inches taller, I lost weight, I got a job to pay for my own contacts, and overhearing the comments made about my clothing by my schoolmates inspired me to change the way I dressed. I had great friends in high school, but my awkwardness of my younger years was never forgotten by my more popular peers. Looking at this picture brings up many emotions. A lot of sadness over the way I was treated and what I went through. But also pride, because I bore it all and the outcome isn’t so bad."

The second photo essay imagines the elderly as they once were. I particularly loved this one:

nurses.jpeg

My Dad is finally back at home after a bad fall and a long convalescence. I think what most frightened me about the whole experience was watching how hospital and the rehab center staff interacted with him. It was so clear to me that all they saw was a fragile old man. Not the person I know at all.

And I so wanted them to see my father: a handsome, 6'4" Navy destroyer man, a man who still avidly follows the news and politics, someone who passionately loves his family and his country. Someone far more accustomed to protecting and caring for others than requiring assistance.

The experience made me wonder how often I'm guilty of seeing only what's on the surface and assuming that's all there is? There is always so much more, if we only have the patience and grace to look for it.

marine.jpeg

Posted by Cassandra at 07:43 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Amusing Way to Cool Off

...in the summer heat:

Posted by Cassandra at 07:01 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 23, 2013

Interesting Reads

The Editorial Staff will be busy today, so we're posting a list of interesting reads in lieu of our usual inane commentary.

A young college student's thoughts on the inherent conflict between manhood and modern morality. We found this link via another blogger who claims the post proves Dr. Helen Smith's points about the essential rationality of men avoiding marriage and what used to be considered adult responsibilities.

To say the least, we found this assertion puzzling. What do you think?

Two excellent pieces by Walter Olsen: the first points out the contradiction in the idea that weakening legal protections for accused criminals somehow helps minorities. If you truly believe the legal system is already unfair to minorities, how does it help to make it easier to convict them?

The second details the idiocy of abolishing the reasonable person standard when dealing with "unwanted sexual advances". As we've said before, we don't necessarily have a problem with using a preponderance of the evidence to decide non-criminal disputes, but surely it should be left to schools to decide on their own standards, rules, and enforcement mechanisms?

Possibly related story: in what must surely be one of the most mind-numbingly stupid lawsuits ever, a female dental hygienist fired and replaced by another female alleges sexual discrimination. Predictably, the Sisterhood of the Perpetual Grievance piles on.

Someone needs to explain the meaning of "at will employment" and "sexual discrimination" to these folks. Does anyone seriously believe this woman would have been fired if she had chosen to limit her relationship with her boss to a purely professional one limited to normal office hours?

Stacy McCain explains why Trayvon Martin was never charged with a crime after school officials found stolen jewelry in his backpack:

In October 2011, after a video surveillance camera caught Martin writing graffiti on a door, MDSPD Office Darryl Dunn searched Martin’s backpack, looking for the marker he had used. Officer Dunn found 12 pieces of women’s jewelry and a man’s watch, along with a flathead screwdriver the officer described as a “burglary tool.” The jewelry and watch, which Martin claimed he had gotten from a friend he refused to name, matched a description of items stolen during the October 2011 burglary of a house on 204th Terrace, about a half-mile from the school. However, because of Chief Hurley’s policy “to lower the arrest rates,” as one MDSPD sergeant said in an internal investigation, the stolen jewerly was instead listed as “found property” and was never reported to Miami-Dade Police who were investigating the burglary. Similarly, in February 2012 when an MDSPD officer caught Martin with a small plastic bag containing marijuana residue, as well as a marijuana pipe, this was not treated as a crime, and instead Martin was suspended from school.

Either of those incidents could have put Trayvon Martin into the custody of the juvenile justice system. However, because of Chief Hurley’s attempt to reduce the school crime statistics — according to sworn testimony, officers were “basically told to lie and falsify” reports — Martin was never arrested. And if he had been arrested, he might never have been in Sanford the night of his fatal encounter with Zimmerman.

Question for the ages: does anyone really believe the President of the United States didn't know this before his speech the other day?

The President's dismal litigation record is attracting lots of notice:

President Obama celebrated the Supreme Court’s decisions Wednesday on gay marriage, but overall it has been a rocky term before the court for his administration, winning just more than a third of the cases in which it was involved.

Lawyers said the government traditionally averages about a 70 percent winning percentage before the high court. Its advantages are so great that the Justice Department’s chief Supreme Court attorney, the solicitor general, is dubbed the “10th Justice.”

But wait! Isn't Obama the first Constitutional Law Prof President like... ever?

Ilya Somin, a constitutional law professor at George Mason University, said it is striking to take into account the number of times the Obama administration has been on the losing end of unanimous decisions.

“When the administration loses significant cases in unanimous decisions and cannot even hold the votes of its own appointees — Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — it is an indication that they adopted such an extreme position on the scope of federal power that even generally sympathetic judges could not even support it,” said Mr. Somin, adding that presidents from both parties have a tendency to make sweeping claims of federal power. “This is actually something that George W. Bush and Obama have in common.”

Interestingly, Somin's op-ed today seems to feature a decidedly lopsided unanimous judicial smackdown count. It would be interesting to see the actual count of unanimous defeats for each administration.

Mon Dieu!!! As if the news weren't depressing enough already, IMF analysis says the United States has a worse long-term financial position than Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, or France.

Has anyone informed the President? If the IMF says it, it must be true!

A detailed analysis of what George Zimmerman's calls to police imply about his view of blacks. Excellent and thought provoking read.

Study suggests women are less well informed on current events than men.

We're not entirely sure this should bother anyone. People focus on different things and that focus is affected by how relevant we think various things are to our own lives. The Spousal Unit and I both follow the news, but he focuses more on individual stories and I focus more on what I perceive (rightly or wrongly) to be trends. Both are useful, and neither approach is sufficient it itself to ensure that one is "well informed".

Posted by Cassandra at 05:36 AM | Comments (48) | TrackBack

July 22, 2013

Did Sen. Obama Co-Sponsor An Illinois Stand Your Ground Law?

Did Barack Obama really co-sponsor legislation that strengthened Illinois' Stand Your Ground defense (you know, that racist law that encourages people to kill each other for no apparent reason?)

Why yes -- yes, he did!

This past week President Obama publicly urged the reexamination of state self-defense laws (see remarks below). However, nine years ago then-State Sen. Barack Obama actually co-sponsored a bill that strengthened Illinois' 1961 "stand your ground" law.

The Obama-sponsored bill (SB 2386) enlarged the state's 1961 law by shielding the person who was attacked from being sued in civil court by perpetrators or their estates when a "stand your ground" defense is used in protecting his or her person, dwelling or other property.

The bill unanimously passed the Democrat-controlled Illinois Senate on March 25, 2004 with only one comment, and passed the Democrat-controlled Illinois House in May 2004 with only two votes in opposition. Then-Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) signed it into law.

addedascosponsor.png

Now may be the time for a little trip in the Wayback Machine:

When asked about his legislative record, Obama rattles off several bills he sponsored as an Illinois lawmaker.

He expanded children's health insurance; made the state Earned Income Tax Credit refundable for low-income families; required public bodies to tape closed-door meetings to make government more transparent; and required police to videotape interrogations of homicide suspects.

And the list goes on.

It's a lengthy record filled with core liberal issues. But what's interesting, and almost never discussed, is that he built his entire legislative record in Illinois in a single year.

Republicans controlled the Illinois General Assembly for six years of Obama's seven-year tenure. Each session, Obama backed legislation that went nowhere; bill after bill died in committee. During those six years, Obama, too, would have had difficulty naming any legislative ­achievements.

Then, in 2002, dissatisfaction with President Bush and Republicans on the national and local levels led to a Democratic sweep of nearly every lever of Illinois state government. For the first time in 26 years, Illinois Democrats controlled the governor's office as well as both legislative chambers.

The white, race-baiting, hard-right Republican Illinois Senate Majority Leader James "Pate" Philip was replaced by Emil Jones Jr., a gravel-voiced, dark-skinned African-American known for chain-smoking cigarettes on the Senate floor.

Jones had served in the Illinois Legislature for three decades. He represented a district on the Chicago South Side not far from Obama's. He became Obama's ­kingmaker.

Several months before Obama announced his U.S. Senate bid, Jones called his old friend Cliff Kelley, a former Chicago alderman who now hosts the city's most popular black call-in radio ­program.

I called Kelley last week and he recollected the private conversation as follows:

"He said, 'Cliff, I'm gonna make me a U.S. Senator.'"

"Oh, you are? Who might that be?"

"Barack Obama."

Jones appointed Obama sponsor of virtually every high-profile piece of legislation, angering many rank-and-file state legislators who had more seniority than Obama and had spent years championing the bills.

"I took all the beatings and insults and endured all the racist comments over the years from nasty Republican committee chairmen," State Senator Rickey Hendon, the original sponsor of landmark racial profiling and videotaped confession legislation yanked away by Jones and given to Obama, complained to me at the time. "Barack didn't have to endure any of it, yet, in the end, he got all the credit.

"I don't consider it bill jacking," Hendon told me. "But no one wants to carry the ball 99 yards all the way to the one-yard line, and then give it to the halfback who gets all the credit and the stats in the record book."

During his seventh and final year in the state Senate, Obama's stats soared. He sponsored a whopping 26 bills passed into law — including many he now cites in his presidential campaign when attacked as inexperienced.

It was a stunning achievement that started him on the path of national politics — and he couldn't have done it without Jones.

We hear he's evolved, since then.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:18 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Is Money Really "Too Important"?

The Editorial Staff have noticed a definite air of unreality to many of the things she has been reading of late. In this example, an academician has children and suddenly realizes that there's more to life than pursuing one's dreams:

I remember that, when I was a kid, my family, friends, teachers, and other role models told me countless times that money wasn’t the most important thing. Children were, and still are, encouraged to chase their dreams, no matter what. Evidence of that is all over popular media, with movies about underdogs who “make it” and songs about more of the same. In college, some professors, advisers, and others may try to ground students in reality, but by then it’s too late; most students already have unachievable aspirations.

To my own disappointment, I’ve made a decision. As I find it harder and harder to make ends meet, even with my supposedly white-collar job as a tenure-track professor, I’m going to encourage my children to do what they love, but only to a point. I’m going to tell them the thing that I wish someone had told me: They have to make money. Unfortunately, money is too important.

The bolded part struck us forcefully (no, not literally - that would be painful!). Robert Samuelson offers some related thoughts about the gap between what we have and what we seem to think we have a right to expect:

If proverbial Martians descended on Earth and toured America's crowded shopping malls, traveled its congested highways and sampled its technological marvels - from the many cable channels to ubiquitous smartphones - these visitors would be hard-pressed to describe the United States as poor or its economy as failing. The truth is that, even in its current unsatisfactory condition, America is an immensely wealthy society. It produces $16  trillion in annual goods and services, provides 136 million jobs and supports a median household income of $50,000.

I do not cite these facts to excuse our economic faults. But it's important to keep perspective: For most Americans, the economy is performing adequately, though obviously not spectacularly. Despite a woeful 7.6 percent unemployment rate, it remains true that 92.4 percent of workers have jobs (counting discouraged workers who've left the workforce would reduce this to about 90 percent). We have two distinct economies: one that inflicts acute pain on a minority of Americans but inspires mass political and media criticism; and another that creates huge wealth for the majority but is virtually ignored. Though distress is concentrated, unhappiness is widespread.

The standard explanation for this is well-known. We expected better.

For those of you who have older children, have you encouraged them to "follow their dreams"? Is dreaming really an appropriate goal for adults (and if it is, are all dreams created equal?).

When our sons neared the age of majority, we recall advising them to think hard about what kind of life they wanted for their families. Once that decision was made, they needed to find a job that paid an appropriate salary and work hard. They needed to have long range plans that didn't include assuming the status quo was a given and would always continue. Oddly, we don't remember anything about following dreams (unless one considers finding someone worth loving and making an effort to perpetuate the species to be "following a dream").

People seem to be putting the cart in front of the horse these days. During the child rearing years, we decided that raising a family in accordance with our values required a full time parent in the home. Consequently we quite literally never went out to dinner, and economized in ways that allowed us to live comfortably on one salary and maintain a healthy savings account. We weren't poor - far from it. We were living within our means.

We don't understand the idea that anyone can (or ought to be able to) decide on a career without giving serious thought as to whether it pays enough to support basic goals like marrying, raising a family, living in the country, or living in the city?

Money isn't a goal: it's simply the means to some larger end. So how can money be 'too important'?

The author seems only to have decided that money was too important when he had children. But children - especially babies and toddlers - really aren't all that expensive unless one buys into the notion that they must be given everything they want. The problem this gentleman is facing isn't that money is too important - it's that his desires are out of line with his willingness to work and his choice of career.

We just finished an interesting novel that deals with a lot of these issues. In it, an electromagnetic pulse wipes out all electronics. Because nearly every mechanical device these days has some sort of semiconductor or computer chip in it, it also wipes out basic utilities like power and running water. Without computers, banks can't operate and people are quickly reduced to trading tangible goods.

All the assets stored up for emergencies or old age - savings accounts, money market funds, 401Ks, IRAs - become worthless in an instant. What really matters is the ability to produce something someone else needs to survive and trade it for what you need to survive.

Which is really all money was ever about. How did we forget that? Perhaps more importantly, what does it say about our values that someone with a college education can talk about "money" being "too important" without any understanding of what money really stands for: the exchange of value?

Posted by Cassandra at 06:38 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

July 19, 2013

Coffee Snorters: High Five Edition

Posted by Cassandra at 07:56 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Speaking Truth to Entrenched Power

A former gang member on Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson: "I see right through you":

This is the kind of leadership America needs. We have a feeling the Reverend Martin Luther King would approve:

"Do you know that Negroes are 10 percent of the population of St. Louis and are responsible for 58% of its crimes? We've got to face that. And we've got to do something about our moral standards," King once told a black congregation. "We know that there are many things wrong in the white world, but there are many things wrong in the black world, too. We can't keep on blaming the white man. There are things we must do for ourselves."

Intra-racial crime is not unique to blacks - far more whites are killed by other whites than by people of other races. This only makes the deliberate cultivation of racial fear and hatred more evil and perverse.

Thank God there are still courageous and honest men and women capable of facing the truth about the darkness that lies within people of all races.


Posted by Cassandra at 07:38 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Taxi Rapes

In the UK, a BBC radio host is fired for violating the British media's self imposed blackout on acknowledging - or even mentioning - a wave of rapes committed by Muslim taxi drivers. What's really telling is that the offending mention did not happen on the air, but rather in private:

... a much acclaimed report produced by the London Metropolitan Police Service estimates that on average there are a total of 1,125 sexual assaults, including rapes, each year involving taxi drivers in just London; this works out to approximately 22 sexual assaults against women by taxi drivers each week in England's capital city alone.

... Apart from a few high-profile cases, taxi rapes are rarely reported by national newspapers in Britain, apparently because the politically incorrect crimes are not deemed to be newsworthy.

But a survey of stories buried deep inside local newspapers shows that taxi rapes are occurring in all parts of England, Wales and Scotland on an almost daily basis.


A women-only taxi service has yet to arrive in Bristol, where BBC Radio host Sam Mason was fired after she called a taxi company and requested a "non-Asian" driver to take her 14-year-old daughter to her grandparents' home. Mason, a single mother, told the operator that "a guy with a turban on would freak her daughter out," and insisted they send an English driver -- preferably a female English driver -- instead.

The operator refused to book a car and said: "We would class that as being racist. We can't just penalize the Asian drivers and just send an English one." Mason responded: "It's not your 14-year-old girl, is it?" To which the operator answered: "Yes, but that's racist to say you don't want an Asian driver."

The BBC was alerted to the conversation after it was recorded and sent to The Sun newspaper.

Mason was subsequently suspended and fired 24 hours later. A BBC spokesman said: "Although Sam Mason's remarks were not made on-air, her comments were completely unacceptable and, for that reason, she has been informed that she will no longer be working for the BBC with immediate effect."

Sadly, Mason's employers are likely completely within their legal rights to fire her, but it's hard to think of a more damning indictment of a news organization than firing an employee for the crime of inadvertently drawing attention to a major news story they are determined to sweep under the rug.

It's hard not to note the parallels to the George Zimmerman case, where the American press fulminate 24/7 about what they want us to believe is a terrible threat to young black men: that of being racially profiled and murdered by racist white vigilantes. The real threat to young black men is something we're not supposed to talk about.

The media can't afford to let the truth get out. That would give the game away. And so they keep certain news stories to themselves and turn a blind eye to the horrible cost of their complicit silence.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:41 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

July 18, 2013

Another Benghazi Mystery Solved

Incroyable!

"On Tuesday I raised the question of why none of the Benghazi survivors, whether State Department, CIA, or private security contract employees have testified publicly before Congress," said Wolf.

"According to trusted sources that have contacted my office, many if not all of the survivors of the Benghazi attacks along with others at the Department of Defense, the CIA have been asked or directed to sign additional non-disclosure agreements about their involvement in the Benghazi attacks. Some of these new NDAs, as they call them, I have been told were signed as recently as this summer."

Wolf continued: "It is worth nothing that the Marine Corps Times yesterday reported that the Marine colonel whose task force was responsible for special operations in northern and western Africa at the time of the attack is still on active duty despite claims that he retired. And therefore could not be forced to testify before Congress.

"If these reports are accurate, this would be a stunning revelation to any member of Congress, any member of Congress that finds this out and also more importantly to the American people. It also raises serious concerns about the priority of the administration's efforts to silence those with knowledge of the Benghazi attack in response.

Our idea about an official "tip hotline" email address for Obama administration scandals is looking better every day.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:56 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Ice Cream and Personality

The hidden connection.

Too funny. Can't wait to whip this out the next time we have a marital "discussion" over pre-prandial drinks this evening.

The Spousal Unit's favorite flavor is Mint Chocolate Chip.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:23 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Holder's Perverse Idea of Justice

Listening to our Attorney General speak, one often wonders if he pays attention to anything outside of his bizarre crusade to frighten "help" blacks by focusing on statistically remote dangers while rendering them defenseless against extremely common ones:

Attorney General Eric Holder reaffirmed yesterday that federal prosecutors were investigating whether George Zimmerman acted out of racial hostility when he killed Trayvon Martin in February 2012. It seems worth a try, although the Justice Department will get attacked for even looking into it.

Calling the shooting “tragic and unnecessary,” Mr. Holder said in a speech to the N.A.A.C.P. in Florida that it is time for “our nation to speak honestly — honestly — and openly about the complicated and emotionally charged issues that this case has raised.”

Those issues, he said, include laws like the one in Florida that “senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods.”

Mr. Holder said that Stand Your Ground laws try to fix something that was never broken. He said: “There has always been a legal defense for using deadly force if — and the ‘if’ is important — if no safe retreat is available,” in confrontations outside a person’s home. Removing that requirement undermines public safety “by allowing and perhaps encouraging violent situations to escalate in public.

As we outlined the other day, interracial violent crime is actually quite rare. There's really no serious dispute about this: whites are more likely to be preyed upon by other whites and blacks are more likely to be preyed upon by their fellow blacks. Given this reality, ginning up unfounded fears of something that almost never happens (hordes of "White" vigilantes profiling young Black men) seems willfully perverse.

Yet time after time, the press and this administration would rather fan the flames of racial suspicion and resentment than do something about the real problems facing young black men:

...there were 7,000 murders last year of black people, almost all of which were committed by blacks. Elder also said there have been 480 blacks killed in Chicago alone and 75 percent of the cases have gone unsolved.

“Where are the cameras, where are the shows?” Elder asked Morgan. “It’s outrageous to act as if black America should fear some non-black guy stalking some black kid at night. The likelihood of a black person being killed by a non-black person is extremely remote, which is why this became a big national issue in the first place.”

...“Half of the murders in this country are committed by black people, even though black people are 12 percent of the population,” Elder countered. “This is why commonsensical people profile.”

Morgan asked his guest to “calm down,” but Elder just kept on tearing away at Morgan’s argument.

“I’m just bothered by how you are handling all this,” he said. “You think you are doing something for black people but you’re not. You’re making black people feel as if they are under siege and it’s not true, it’s an outrage!”

One wonders if Holder is aware that black defendants in Florida have used the SYG defense more successfully than whites?

The best known African American associated with Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law is Marissa Alexander, who was prevented from invoking the law after firing a warning shot to protect herself from her abusive ex-husband. Alexander, who had no prior criminal record, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and her case has become an important cause for supporters of the law. Alexander was prosecuted by Angela Corey, the same state attorney who lost the Zimmerman case.

Ms. Corey, a kindred spirit to Holder, pops up in the most interesting places, doesn't she? Her latest magical trick is misusing taxpayer dollars to launch a ludicrous "investigation" to protect the public from attorney Alan Dershowitz. His crime? Criticizing her:

Shortly after Dershowitz’s criticisms, Harvard Law School’s dean’s office received a phone call. When the dean refused to pick up, Angela Corey spent a half hour demanding of an office-of-communications employee that Dershowitz be fired. According to Dershowitz, Corey threatened to sue Harvard, to try to get him disbarred, and also to sue him for slander and libel. Corey also told the communications employee that she had assigned a state investigator — an employee of the State of Florida, that is — to investigate Dershowitz.

Someone needs to tell these folks to do their jobs. It's telling when senior public officials choose to waste public resources on self serving crusades against people who pose zero danger to the public rather than investigating very real problems occurring right under their own noses.

Holder and Corey should ask the public to help them correct the problems in their own offices. Give us an email address for IRS abuse tips! While we're at it, let's ask the public to help the White House figure out what happened at Benghazi!

We suspect plenty of Americans would be more than happy to step up to the plate.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:15 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Bwa Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!

You go, girl!

The military judge in the trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning decided on Thursday not to drop a charge accusing Private Manning of “aiding the enemy.” If he is found guilty of the charge, he faces a possible life sentence in military custody with no chance of parole.

...The decision of the judge, Col. Denise Lind, centered on the prosecution’s evidence that some of the classified documents Private Manning admitted giving to WikiLeaks were posted on the Internet and later reached Osama bin Laden.

The judge heard a request from the defense on Monday to drop the charge. David E. Coombs, the lead defense lawyer, argued that Private Manning did not have “actual knowledge” that by leaking the documents to WikiLeaks he was aiding the enemy.

In the past, the government had argued that through his extensive training, Private Manning should have known that the information could end up with groups that wanted to harm American military personnel. But the government acknowledged Monday that “should have known” was not enough to define “actual knowledge.”

Aye Chihuahua. What kind of moron thinks none of our enemies pay attention to the news?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:09 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 16, 2013

Let's Have That National Conversation about Race (and Crime)

Zack Beauchamp (along with pretty much everyone else on the Internet today) is calling WaPo columnist Richard Cohen a racist. To help you identify the more blatantly dishonest parts of this epic paean to idiocy, we've helpfully bolded the relevant parts of his opening paragraph:

In a piece that contains the telling (even in context) line “I am a racist,” longtime Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen employed a mishmash of poorly explained statistics and bafflingly ignorant mathematical reasoning to argue that Trayvon Martin was “understandably suspected because he was black” — that is, Americans should assume any young black men they meet are criminals.

Let's step through the "ZOMG He's such a racist!" nonsense. Does Cohen's op-ed actually contain the line "I am a racist"? Even if it did, would that actually make him a racist? It may help to see what Cohen actually wrote:

...I'm tired of politicians and others who have donned hoodies in solidarity with Martin and who essentially suggest that I am a racist for recognizing the reality of urban crime in America...

We're not entirely sure in what alternate universe objecting to being called a racist is the same as admitting you're a racist, but all will no doubt become clear once the reader discards his principles and jumps on the "WOOHOO -- LET'S ALL GANG UP ON THE JEW!!!" bandwagon.

See what we just did there? It's pretty offensive, isn't it?

We deliberately ignored what we can only presume to be Beauchamp's actual point (he thinks it's racist to consider the real world rate at which crimes are committed by various identity groups when dealing with complete strangers about whom you know nothing) and went straight to the name calling. By this logic, a woman walking alone down a dark alley at midnight should be just as careful around a 5 year old little girl as she would around a young man in his sexual prime. There's no reason to view one as more threatening than the other.

In the real world, of course, everyone knows that 5 year old girls don't rape too many adult women. In fact, we can't think of a single case where that has ever happened. But it could happen, and considering the actual probabilities that a complete stranger will turn out to be a rapist would be sexist, wouldn't it? Herr Beauchamp could just as easily have pointed out the perceived flaws in Cohen's op-ed without resorting to base ad hominid epithets, but it's much more fun to be ugly and divisive.

Certainly such posts generate more traffic.

Beauchamp proceeds to "debunk" the notion that young black men commit a disproportionate share of violent crimes by noting that they smoke pot at the same rate as whites, but are arrested 4 times as often for that offense. Again, we're not sure what pot smoking has to do with property or violent crimes, but why let a few ugly facts interfere with a raging case of confirmation bias?

Is it really racist to take real world crime rates into consideration when dealing with complete strangers? Should police ignore the descriptions given to them by crime victims and target everyone equally? Most people would say this makes absolutely no sense, but then most people don't go around calling people they disagree with racist, either. If it is racist to talk about real crime rates, then Larry Elder (who was still black last time we checked, but the press are good at applying WhiteOut to Melanin-Having Individuals who dare to subvert the preferred story line) must be motivated by a deep seated hatred of people who share his racial heritage. In a post called Five Myths of the 'Racist' Criminal Justice System, Mr. Elder identifies and debunks several popular misconceptions about race and crime:

1) Blacks are arrested at higher rates compared to whites -- but wrongly so.

Not true. While only 13 percent of the population, blacks accounted for 28 percent of nationwide arrests in 2010 and 38.1 percent of arrests for violent crime (murders, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault). But are they unfairly arrested? Studies find that arrest rates by race are comparable to the race of suspect identification by victims.

For example, in a given city, x number of robbery victims describe their assailants as black -- whether or not the suspect has been apprehended. It turns out that the race of those arrested matches the percentage given by victims. This has been found repeatedly across the country, in all categories of crime where the race of an assailant is identified. So unless the victims are deliberately misidentifying their assailants -- unconcerned about whether the suspect is apprehended and knowingly give a false race -- blacks are not being "over-arrested."

2) Blacks are convicted at higher rates and given longer sentences than whites for the same crime.

Not true. Differences in conviction and sentencing rates by race are due to differences in the gravity of the criminal offenses, prior records or other legal variables. A 1994 Justice Department survey of felony cases in the country's 75 largest urban areas actually found lower felony prosecution rates for blacks than whites and that blacks were less likely to be found guilty at trial.

...5) More blacks are in jail than in college.

Not true. "More blacks (are) in jail than college, in every state," said Jesse Jackson in 2007. That same year, presidential candidate Sen. Obama, echoed: "More young black men languish in prison than attend colleges and universities across America."

If Jackson and Obama refer to black men of the usual college-age years, their claim is not even remotely true. The Washington Post "Fact Checker" wrote: "According to 2005 Census Bureau statistics, the male African-American population of the United States aged between 18 and 24 numbered 1,896,000. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 106,000 African-Americans in this age group were in federal or state prisons at the end of 2005. ... If you add the numbers in local jail (measured in mid-2006), you arrive at a grand total of 193,000 incarcerated young black males, or slightly over 10 percent.

"According to the same census data, 530,000 of these African-American males, or 28 percent, were enrolled in colleges or universities ... in 2005. That is five times the number of young black men in federal and state prisons and two and a half times the total number incarcerated. If you expanded the age group to include African-American males up to 30 or 35, the college attendees would still outnumber the prisoners."

In a subsequent article, Mr. Elder compounded his thought hate crime by wondering who was really profiling whom on that fateful day?

The most important witness was Trayvon's friend, the young lady he was speaking to on his cellphone shortly before he was shot. The prosecution needed her to establish that Zimmerman was the aggressor, and that Trayvon felt stalked and threatened.

Rachel Jeantel, a 19-year-old high school senior, said Trayvon told her that a "creepy-ass cracker" was following him. She said he also referred to Zimmerman as a "n--ger."

Doesn't this, suggested the defense, show that Martin was the one doing the racial profiling, a teenager with a chip on his shoulder, spoiling for a fight? No, said Rachel. Neither "cracker" nor the "n" word is a "racial comment." Both words, she said, are simply descriptive race-neutral words.

Really? So had Zimmerman used the "n" word to describe Martin in his police call, this would have been a non-event?

Of course not. So, what are the relative violent crime rates for whites and blacks? The 2011 FBI Homicide numbers tell an interesting story. We graphed up the percentages of inter- and intra-racial homicides here:

homicidesbyraceoffendervictim1.png

As several more mathematically sophisticated pundits have noted, white on white and black on black crime appear to occur at about the same frequency. But these numbers are not adjusted to reflect the fact that our population is 74% white and only 12.6% black. Unnormalized, the murder rates seem comparable. But when we adjust them to reflect the actual frequency of each race in the population, they're not comparable at all:

Whites are over 74% of the population, but in 2011 they committed only 47% of the murders.

Blacks are 12.6% of the population, but in 2011 they committed 49% of the murders.

During the Duke Lacrosse case (another manufactured racial controversy) we took a look at 30 years of DoJ statistics on inter- and intra-racial murder and rape:

The key points to take away from the DOJ graphs are these:

- Statistically speaking, the proportion of blacks who commit homicide is far larger than the proportion of whites who do so (25 per 100K vs. 5 per 100K makes it roughly 5 times higher).

Regarding Obama's grandmother,

- The data suggest that (at least statistically speaking) blacks are far more dangerous to each other than they are to whites (40+% vs. approx. 10%)

- But this is hardly surprising: the vast majority of homicides are intra-racial (i.e., black on black or white on white)

- Blacks about twice as dangerous (again, statistically and hypothetically speaking) to Obama's white grandmother as whites are to blacks. (10+ % vs. <5%)

The important points here are that correlation does not imply causation and that racial groups don't commit crimes; individuals do.

At the same time, if you know absolutely nothing about an individual (the 'random black male on the street' vs. that job candidate who has submitted a resume and can be interviewed) it is perhaps not unreasonable to substitute empirically verifiable observations of the real world for the far more comforting pablum that one should completely ignore race unless it explains behavior we would otherwise find completely unacceptable by any objectively and consistently applied moral standard.

The real irony here is that the media have bent over backwards to portray Martin's death as that of a white predator, motivated by racial animus, profiling an young black man. But the facts tell us that whites and blacks are far more dangerous to our own kinds than to people of other races. Violent crimes are crimes of opportunity - they happen to people who live and work in the same areas. You know, people like George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin.

The story, viewed honestly and without the deliberately misleading descriptions of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, is actually quite consistent with what we know about intra-racial violence. It makes perfect sense when you ignore terms like "White Hispanic" and "self-described Hispanic" and take into account the fact that George Zimmerman had a mixed racial heritage that included Hispanic, White, and yes - Black ancestors:

He was raised in a racially integrated household and himself has black roots through an Afro-Peruvian great-grandfather — the father of the maternal grandmother who helped raise him.

A criminal justice student who aspired to become a judge, Zimmerman also concerned himself with the safety of his neighbors after a series of break-ins committed by young African-American men.

Though civil rights demonstrators have argued Zimmerman should not have prejudged Martin, one black neighbor of the Zimmermans said recent history should be taken into account.

“Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. I’m black, OK?” the woman said, declining to be identified because she anticipated backlash due to her race. She leaned in to look a reporter directly in the eyes. “There were black boys robbing houses in this neighborhood,” she said. “That’s why George was suspicious of Trayvon Martin.”

People shouldn't be called racists for speaking the truth. So let's have that conversation, and let it be an honest one. Maybe then we'll have a real chance of fixing the problems we're so scared to talk about.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:47 PM | Comments (39) | TrackBack

July 15, 2013

Worst Fake Disaster Movie Contest

How could the Editorial Staff resist linking a post entitled, "How Sharknado Explains the Federal Reserve"?

Sharknado, the movie, might just be a dumb story about sharks. But Sharknado, the business, is a story about a cable channel's need to keep upping the ante to persuade viewers that it can always come up with a crazier idea than the last. After all, this isn't the SyFy Channel's first foray into absurdist animal action. Before tornadoes started catapulting great white sharks at unsuspecting victims, there was Sharktopus and Dinoshark and Piranhaconda. But with each stoner nightmare of science-or-nature-gone-wrong, SyFy has had to turn the ridiculousness to 11 to keep anybody's attention: Alright, you've seen a genetically-engineered shark-human hybrid go on a rampage, but what about a genetically-engineered supergator ... versus, um, a a dinocroc!?! (Those are real movies by the way).

Upping the ante isn't just the job of the people in charge of SyFy Channel movies. It's also the job of the people in charge of the U.S. economy. Namely, the Federal Reserve.

sharknado-bernanke.jpg

"He'll get you, Granny! You, and your retirement fund, too!"

For the last five years, the Fed has been in the business of persuading investors that it can be irresponsible. Now, in normal times, the Fed is anything but; it's boring. It just raises short-term interest rates when the economy is too hot, and lowers them when it's too cold. But when short-term interest rates are at zero, the economy is stuck in what economists call a liquidity trap. The Fed can't really cut interest rates below zero, because if it did, people would move their money from bank deposits that were costing them to cash that weren't. The only way the Fed can get the economy moving again is to cut real interest rates by, as Paul Krugman originally put it, credibly promising to be irresponsible. The Fed has to say it will run looser policy than it should in the future to raise expected inflation now -- and markets have to believe it won't go back on this.

In other words, the Fed has to promise to be a little, well, crazy. But the thing about crazy is that once you've been Sharknado crazy, you need to be even crazier to stay ahead of the curve -- or else disappoint everyone.

We admit that even the most perverse imagination may have trouble conjuring up anything more soul destroying than the sight of The Ben Bernanke astride a Great White Shark. But take heart, peoples - the news these days is chock full of bizarre scandals that once would have seemed almost as improbable as the plot of Sharknado.

The scary movie genre offers its own parade of horribles. There's Mansquito, a beloved classic at Villa Cassandranita. And don't forget Mant ("Half man, half ant. All terror".) Or this disturbing Sharknado spook, served up by the indefatigable mr rdr. The Editorial Staff pestered him until - against his better judgment - he agreed to let us use it as a flimsy pretext for something we haven't had here at VC for a long time: yes, we're talking about another stupid contest:

Volecano.png
Mount Vesuvius Blasts Skyward a Verisimilitude of Voracious Vegetarian Varmints

The headlines of late are horrifying enough as they are. But surely the assembled villainry can think of worst things than the fusillade of lame Sharknado references littering the digital landscape?

Feel free to suggest your own ridiculous disaster movie in the comments. Or better yet, take a famous movie and rewrite the plot summary to fit a major story in the news.

This could be fun :)

Posted by Cassandra at 07:16 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Best.Zimmerman.Trial.Post.Ever.

Particularly this part:

I think it's terrible that George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin. That's a tragedy. I don't think he had to shoot him, and had one or two things been different (he didn't get out of his car, didn't have a gun, on and on), we wouldn't be here. I keep hearing Trayvon Martin would have killed George Zimmerman, I don't think so, but I wasn't there.

You weren't there either. You don't know what happened, exactly. As much as you want to believe you were there and know what happened, exactly, you weren't, and you don't.

Not knowing exactly what happened requires a not guilty verdict, no matter how angry or outraged you are. The jury didn't free Zimmerman because they thought he was a good guy or because they weren't sad that a young boy was killed (jurors were rumored to be crying during the state's rebuttal), they found him not guilty because the facts and the law required them to do so.

Much to our sorrow, the Editorial Staff will probably add to the montage of monumentally stupid things being said about the verdict later. But this was just too good to pass on.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:17 AM | Comments (42) | TrackBack

Shocker: Mommy-Friendly Policies Not So Friendly to Moms

The Clue Bus, il est arrivé!:

After moving to France two years ago and having my first child, I’ve decided to go back to work. Or rather, I need to go back to work, for both financial and mental reasons. I’ve read Sheryl Sandberg’s book, and I am ready to lean in.

Here in France, leaning in should be a piece of cake. France has both the highest birth rate in Europe and one of the highest percentages of women in the workforce. There are wonderful supports and guarantees here that we don’t have in the United States—a four-month-long maternity leave, inexpensive health care for all, five weeks of vacation a year, and many quality and affordable full-time day care options. France has made getting mothers back to work a priority.
But after my first job interview here, I realized that progressive France might not be quite as enlightened as I thought. I interviewed at a small, female-led company for a job for which I was quite qualified. The interview was in French, which made me a bit nervous, but after a few minutes I was chattering away. Everything was going great.

Then my interviewer asked if I had children. I told her I had an 18-month-old, and that we found Paris to be a much friendlier city to raise a family in than New York, where we’d moved from. “Ah,” she said, “Votre fille—comment est-elle garder?” What followed was a long discussion of my child care situation, who cared for my daughter during the week, and for how long, and if I’d have to leave work early to pick her up. Then she asked how old I was, and if I was planning to have more children. I felt myself cringing —why was this coming up, and in such detail so early in our discussion? Would you even be allowed to ask these questions in the United States? (No.) My French became emphatic, Neanderthal like, as I tried to assure her I wouldn’t leave at 6 p.m. every day: “I can hire nanny. I want to work at job I like, not just leave every day at six hours.” Eventually, either impressed by my vehemence or appalled at my French, she dropped the subject. And though I haven’t heard one way or another, I’m pretty sure the possibility of hiring me got dropped as well.

I don’t want being a mother to change the way employers see me, but of course, it does. I’m in my 30s. It’s true that I’ll likely get pregnant again. It’s true I will sometimes want to have dinner with my family. And it’s true that any company that hires me is making a long-term investment—it’s much more difficult to fire people in France than in the United States. This causes employers to think about the future when hiring, including how a woman’s eventual or actual children might affect her job performance. It’s also not illegal in France to ask about a person’s age and marital status in an interview. It is illegal to discriminate based on the answers, but this kind of discrimination can be very hard to prove.

As I continued to look for work, I learned that France actually does quite poorly in world rankings of gender equality in the workplace. In its 2012 Global Gender Gap Index, the World Economic Forum ranked France a shocking 57th, behind most other European countries, the United States (too low at No. 22), Jamaica, and Russia. This year, the Economist ranked it slightly higher on its list of best countries to be a working woman, at No. 11—just in front of the United States. And while the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows France doing better than most of the developed world on key indicators, such as women’s education, health care, and the availability of child care, the country has comparatively few women in senior management positions, and even fewer elected female representatives in Parliament (20 percent as opposed to the OECD norm of 25 percent). Though the government has passed legislation calling for equal pay for men and women, an appreciable wage gap (currently 12 percent) still exists, and gets worse as employees age.

Why is a country that is so outwardly progressive still plagued with such basic workplace inequalities? While France has a wonderful safety net for women, much of it is designed to promote the growth of families as a way of boosting the birthrate. Indeed, families in France receive numerous supports and subsidies the more children they have. A family with two children is eligible for an automatic monthly stipend of 125 euros, regardless of income. With three children, a family is designated a “Famille Nombreuse,” which includes a raise in the automatic stipend, a possible further subsidy of up to 500 euros a month for the mother if she chooses not to return to work, and even reduced admission for transportation, museums, and amusement parks. And, at four children, a woman becomes eligible for the “medaille de la famille,” an honorary medal from the French government.

But some of the government protections and incentives offered to mothers in France may in fact make their advancement in the workplace more difficult. Paid maternity leave increases with the number of children, from 16 weeks for one or two children to 26 weeks for three or more. (In contrast, paternity leave stays fixed at 11 days.) This much guaranteed leave can make employers nervous to hire and promote women. In a 2010 survey of French employers, only 25 percent said they were strongly interested in hiring mothers, and 41 percent expressed fear that there would be less flexibility in the schedules of mothers who worked. Interestingly (but perhaps not surprisingly), employers didn’t express this fear when asked about hiring fathers.

That any of this was a revelation to this woman is surely one of the great mysteries of the modern world. This is the problem with policies that focus solely on what's perceived to be "fair" or "good for women/blacks/transgendered Arctic wolverines" - they ignore the obvious fact that raising the cost of hiring Identity Group X relative to other applicants is probably not a great way to boost their chances of getting or keeping a job.

Looked at straight, such "benefits" are actually handicaps.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:02 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Quote of the Day. Possibly the Year.

The secret to success isn't intelligence. It's self discipline:

Dozens of studies show that willpower is the single most important keystone habit for individual success… Students who exerted high levels of willpower were more likely to earn higher grades in their classes and gain admission into more selective schools. They had fewer absences and spent less time watching television and more hours on homework. “Highly self-disciplined adolescents outperformed their more impulsive peers on every academic-performance variable,” the researchers wrote. “Self-discipline predicted academic performance more robustly than did IQ. Self-discipline also predicted which students would improve their grades over the course of the school year, whereas IQ did not.… Self-discipline has a bigger effect on academic performance than does intellectual talent.”

Think about that carefully the next time you read an article about how we shouldn't expect boys to exercise (much less develop) self control.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:25 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 12, 2013

The Next IRS Scandal?

Kim Strassel writes about the FEC's activities:

The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), for instance, makes it clear that staff may not commence investigations until a bipartisan majority (four members) of the commission votes that there is a "reason to believe" a violation has occurred. In theory, this provision should guard against IRS-like witch hunts.

...over the years staff have come to ignore the law, and routinely initiate their own inquiries—often on little more than accusations they find on blogs or Facebook. For a sense of how these investigations can go off the rails, consider that Lois Lerner—before serving as the center of today's IRS scandal—was the senior enforcement officer at the FEC. A Christian Coalition lawyer has testified that during a (sanctioned) FEC investigation in the 1990s—in addition to generating endless subpoenas, depositions and document requests, Ms. Lerner's staff demanded to know what Coalition members discussed at their prayer meetings and what churches they belonged to. Once staff gets rolling, there is little to stop them.

More troubling to some FEC commissioners has been the staff's unsanctioned and growing ties to the Obama Justice Department. In September 2011, Tony Herman was named FEC general counsel. Mr. Herman in early 2012 brought in Dan Petalas, a Justice prosecutor, as head of the agency's enforcement section. FECA is clear that a bipartisan majority of commissioners must vote to report unlawful conduct to law enforcement. Yet FEC staff have increasingly been sending agency content to Justice without informing the commission.

For instance, when a complaint is filed with the FEC against a political actor, the general counsel is required to write a report for the commissioners on whether there is a "reason to believe" the actor committed a violation. This report is confidential and never made public until a case is closed. Yet FEC staffers have sent these reports to Justice, in one case before the report was considered by the commissioners.

In a June memo, Mr. Herman defended staff supremacy with the astonishing argument that big decisions are best made by "non-partisan, career leadership." (No joke.) That way, the commission is shielded from "claims that it is deciding whether to assist DOJ criminal prosecutions" on the basis of "political considerations." Better, apparently, to keep the public completely in the dark.

These ties are disturbing, since the Obama campaign pioneered the tactic of demanding that Justice pursue criminal investigations of its political opponents as a means of intimidation. The FEC's info-funneling to Obama Justice raises the obvious question of whether Obama Justice wasn't in turn influencing FEC reports. (It also raises another question: If Justice had this kind of pipeline to the FEC, did it have one to the IRS?)

A story to watch.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:43 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

July 11, 2013

Should Fathers Be Allowed to "Opt Out" of Supporting Their Children?

Asks Neo-neocon, in a thoughtful essay. Though you owe it to yourself to read her entire post, here's a quick summary of her points. Anything in brackets was added by me and should not be attributed to Neo:

1. When it comes to the consequences of unplanned pregnancy, biology makes men and women unequal.

2. Widespread availability of birth control hasn't reduced unplanned pregnancies. [They've increased, though other factors may also be at work].

3. Legally, the mother decides what to do about unplanned pregnancies because women bear 100% of the physical impact of pregnancy. [This is true, by the way, regardless of whether a woman decides to bear the child].

4. But the emotional and financial impacts of unplanned pregnancies are shared by both parents. [Note - I expanded slightly on her point here.]

5. Abortion laws give full legal weight to the mother's wishes and completely ignore the father’s wishes.

6. The law is designed to deal with reality, not the wishes of mothers/fathers. In an ideal world, consequences would be equal and/or "fairly distributed". In the real world, they can't be. [Possible corollary - if nature distributes consequences unfairly and the law seeks to even things up, then it stands to reason that the law itself cannot be perfectly evenhanded. The only question then is, 'by how much'?]

7. Allowing men to refuse to support their children may result in both intended and unintended consequences:

More fatherless kids
More abortions [added by me]
State picks up support tab
More women might decide to behave responsibly
Men definitely have LESS incentive to behave responsibly [added by me]
Unless married men are allowed same "opt out" in name of fairness, marriage will be even less attractive to men. Thus, fewer couples will marry.

She concludes:

Whenever I wade into these topics I find it depressing. There doesn’t seem to be any good solution to the problems of love gone bad and the resulting turf wars over children. And the comments sections of various blogs (including this one) for posts dealing with these questions often devolve into rageful shouting matches. I see many of the problems, but (as in this post) the solutions that come to mind are fraught with other problems, many of them even worse for children and society.

Life isn’t fair, sad and difficult choices must be made, and you can’t always get what you want—and although the law can change, it can’t change that basic fact. Nor can it change the law of unintended consequences.

I'm actually far more sympathetic to the opt out suggestion than one might think. During a 2005 blogging hiatus, I noted the legal absurdities of our present system:

As we are constantly reminded, the abortion debate is all about something called reproductive choice. Of what does this reproductive choice consist? If a man and a woman, married or unmarried, conceive a child together, both are on the hook financially to support that child until he or she is grown. But there are rules. If the woman decides to rid herself of a fetus that she does not want (but the man does) she may kill it and this is perfectly legal. If the man decides to rid herself of a fetus that he does not want (but the woman does) - perhaps by slipping her an abortifact that does not otherwise harm her - this is murder, and he will go to jail.

Thus, two utterly contradictory things occur at the moment of conception:

Legally, from the point of view of a woman: the fetus is a lump of tissue which may be excised at will if she subsequently regrets having conceived a child. It imposes no obligation or legal duty unless she chooses to accept it.

Legally, from the point of view of the man: the fetus is a human being which must be allowed to live, even if he subsequently regrets having conceived a child. It imposes an absolute and irrevocable legal duty, regardless of his wishes in the matter.

That post has stood the test of time fairly well.

So what do you think? Should men (married, single, or both) be allowed to opt out of supporting their children? The fairness argument suggests they should. But the law isn't always and only about consequences and fairness to individuals. It's also about the relative rights and responsibilities of individuals and the societies they live in.

What bothers me so much about this debate is the twisted points raised by both sides. Though I'm mostly unimpressed by fairness arguments (biology is profoundly unfair), I'm disturbed by the fundamental contradictions in the way the law views unborn children. And the legal status of the unborn is really what's at the heart of this issue: not men's rights, or women's rights, or even society's rights.

Their legal status can't magically change depending on whose rights and responsibilities we're legislating this week, and without addressing this fundamental question we cannot hope to craft laws that are humane (much less fair to all three human beings in this tortured triangle). Abortion laws that allow no limit to so-called abortion rights don't merely insult and infantilize adult women. They insult and infantilize men and make society party to the brutal torture of the weakest and most helpless among us:

It is because I understand women's lives have value and because I respect their intelligence - because I am a woman - that I expect them to behave like adults rather than overgrown children whose lapses in judgment must always be paid for by someone else: a convenient man who can be tapped by the court whether he happens to be the biological father or not (if she wants the child), a helpless fetus who can be vivisected without anesthesia if she puts off an unpleasant "choice" for too long. Sometimes, other people's rights - other people's lives - have value too.

Though I do support limited abortion rights, there is no doubt in my mind that we got where we are today because we are afraid to contemplate the simple truth of what our laws allow us to do to each other:

“It seems as though it is okay to talk about the issue in general, but when you actually put a face to the discussion, then it becomes controversial,” Heroic Media Executive Director Joe Young told the National Review.

Maybe it's time we did just that - confronted and openly embraced the principles embedded in our current laws. This may be the only way both squabbling sides will ever see the ugliness and selfishness behind their respective arguments.

Let them look into the eyes of children abandoned by their fathers. Make people who have acted responsibly pay for the maintenance of unwanted children and then by all means, let's talk about "fairness"! In the posts linked earlier, I outlined the flaws in the abortion rights platform. The underpinnings of the "male abortion" platform are equally pathetic and irresponsible. Let's walk through them one by one:

1. "Men shouldn't have to take even simple precautions to avoid pregnancy. We should be able to have sex with anyone we want, and trust women to take care of birth control!" This one is so transcendently, asshattedly stupid that it's hard to know where to begin. Birth control is a two way, non-delegatable responsibility. And here's a news flash: we can't trust everyone in life. In particular, we can't trust people we don't know well, or whose character we haven't bothered to examine. Adults used to understand this.

2. "But... but... she lied to me!" Guess what: any time you become intimate (and we're not just talking sex here) with another person, you have just made yourself vulnerable. People you associate with can lie to you or about you. They can steal from you, ruin your reputation, and run up your phone bill or your credit cards. The biggest reason they have the ability to hurt you is that you decided to let them close enough to. In light of this undeniable truth, shouldn't we expect adults to exercise prudence and caution in their associations with others? Have some standards, and take responsibility for the choices you make. This goes equally for men and women.

Repeat after me: There is no legal right to consequence-free casual sex. Pregnancy and STDs don't care one bit about your feelings.

3. Birth control sabotage works both ways, even though you won't hear about it from the "it's not fair!" crowd. It happens to both men and women. See item 2, and protect yourself.

4. For God's sake, stop with the historical revisionism on no fault divorce, abortion, and child support:

No fault did not cause the divorce rate to skyrocket:

The effect of legalized abortion on illegitimacy rates is at best unclear (extrapolation lines and legalization of abortion reference added by me):

abortion_extrapolation.png

And finally, child support laws predate feminism by literally hundreds of years. If the State was going after men who refused to support their children back in the 1600s, it's a fair bet that significant numbers of men were shirking their responsibilities long before feminism and the Nanny state came along to provide convenient excuses for the postmodern cad.

It's depressing to watch grown men and women argue over responsibility for an event they both have the ability to prevent unilaterally. And the saddest thing of all is that the only thing that may bring either side to its senses is to give them exactly what they want. Then - maybe - we'll relearn something we should have known all along.

Two wrongs don't cancel each other out. And other people's misdeeds don't relieve us of our own responsibilities in life. Especially when the harm of "adult" (I use the term loosely) irresponsibility is visited upon an innocent child who had no say in any of the decisions that will come to shape his or her life. Or death.

There are no illegitimate children- only illegitimate parents.

- Leon Yankwich

Discussion note:
Because I'm human, and eminently fallible, (and also in a hurry), before responding to any of Neo's excellent points, please take the time to look up what she actually said. Don't rely on my summary unless you're only interested in arguing the point as restated by me.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:55 PM | Comments (42) | TrackBack

If This is "Smart Power"...

... maybe we need some of the dumber variety:

A residual force would be intended to serve two purposes: anti-insurgent operations and training for the Afghan military. Let’s take counterinsurgency first. The 140,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan during the height of the surge were unable to stabilize the country.

Some analysts might have gone on from here to ask, "So... what made Obama think an Afghan surge was a good idea in the first place?" After all, he opposed the one in Iraq and only admitted that it worked grudgingly. But apparently questioning the wisdom of Obama's majesterial thought process is simply not done.

The same goes for the roughly 100,000-strong force present now. So why should we expect an even smaller post-2014 force to do any better?

...the administration might well argue that Afghan forces would be in better shape at the end of 2014 than they were during the surge, and so better able to cope with some American assistance. And critics have also suggested a full withdrawal of U.S. troops would trigger intensified violence in Afghanistan, replicating what happened in Iraq, which was convulsed by sectarian strife after the last U.S. troop left in 2011. These arguments, however, simply overstate the capacities of a modest residual force. Greater instability could result in Afghanistan whether or not a residual force is in place.

Fear not the apparent contradictions, people. For Lo!, the administration hath assured us that we've made a commitment to the Afghan people:

"This evening, senior Administration officials assured me that there is no 'zero option' scenario under consideration. I was assured that the United States has committed to post-2014 support to include troops on the ground. I was further informed that a 'zero option' would violate American commitments to the Afghan people."

If you, like me Dear Reader, are confused by all this hand waving, be assured that America can rely upon one John Foragainst Kerry to shed light on what (to less sophisticated minds) might appear to be a cluster f*** of epic proportions. This is well-trodden territory for the former Junior Senator from Massachusetts:

Kerry established himself early as the senator most likely to pierce through the superficial clarity and embrace the miasma. The gulf war had just ended. It was time to look back for lessons learned. ''There are those trying to say somehow that Democrats should be admitting they were wrong'' in opposing the gulf war resolution, Kerry noted in one Senate floor speech. But he added, ''There is not a right or wrong here. There was a correctness in the president's judgment about timing. But that does not mean there was an incorrectness in the judgment other people made about timing.''

For you see, Kerry continued, ''Again and again and again in the debate, it was made clear that the vote of the U.S. Senate and the House on the authorization of immediate use of force on Jan. 12 was not a vote as to whether or not force should be used.''

In laying out the Kerry Doctrine -- that in voting on a use-of-force resolution that is not a use-of-force resolution, the opposite of the correct answer is also the correct answer -- Kerry was venturing off into the realm of Post-Cartesian Multivariate Co-Directionality that would mark so many of his major foreign policy statements.

And if all else fails, we can always send in Joe Biden. What could possibly go wrong?

Posted by Cassandra at 12:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Sacred Music

Over at Grim's place, Texan99 has been posting lots of music links. She describes one as, "Perhaps the most beautiful music ever composed, especially the instrumental interlude and conclusion."

This aria, which I listen to first thing every Christmas morning, must surely rival Tex's lovely choice. The recording doesn't have quite the lyrical quality of the one I own, but it's good enough to convey something of the magical feeling I get every time I hear it:


This is one of many exquisite choral works by Giovanni da Palestrina (who I had never heard of until my youngest son made me several CDs when he was in college):


Posted by Cassandra at 12:12 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Coffee Snorters: "Is Your Cat on Facebook?" Edition

New smartphone app allows cats to take selfies (sadly, our pop culture street cred is so pathetic that we had to look that one up). But can it post them to Facebook?

First there were animals photobombing pictures - now a new range of smartphone apps lets cats take their own photos, also known as selfies. When the phone is placed on the ground, the screen shows virtual bouncing lasers or moving dots designed so that the cat will chase them. When the cat paws at the screen trying to catch the dot, the hit acts as a shutter press and the phone takes the cat's photo.

Please tell us that these cats are not using people's cell phones to sext other cats. Because that would just be wrong.

Also, dogs opening their mail. And dogs riding the subway and other delights.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:15 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Holy Hypergamy, Batman!!!!

Is hypergamy more economic than biological? Say it isn't so!

A new poll has revealed that when it comes to an extra marital fling, working class women are pining for a Mr Darcy. 67% of working class women polled described an upper class men as their dream date if they were to embark on an affair. Conversely cheating men are hankering after a working class women with a a huge 83% of middle class male members of married dating site AshleyMadison.com choosing affair partners from that class.

Only 40.7% of the middle class women on the site would like an affair with an upper class man, 53.6% specifically preferring to stick to the middle class.

Biderman added: ‘Middle class women are more likely to be financially independent and better educated, their needs are different. They want intimacy and shared experience with an equal rather than to be swept off their feet, Jane Austen style.’

Good Lord. Whatever will James Taranto write about now? We have a suggestion: male hypogamy (which unlike female hypergamy appears to manifest itself pretty evenly across the economic spectrum):

When it comes to male members of the site 83.1% of the middle classes say they want to cheat with a working class woman, 51.8% of upper class men are looking for a middle class woman and 42.4% of upper class men want a working class woman for an affair.

‘Despite the changing socio-economic landscape men across the board still want to be the Alpha partner in a relationship’, says Biderman. ‘Men want someone to admire and look up to them, someone they can impress because fundamentally most men lack confidence.’

For whatever it may be worth, the Blog Princess doubts either hyper- or hypogamy are all that hard wired into either half of the species. We've already covered evidence that this once-useful adaptive behavior is on the wane, which suggests that human adaptivity trumps hyper/hypogamy:

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

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

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

But we can't help yanking Mr. Taranto's chain just a bit, and we're just certain the evo-psych crowd have a handy dandy explanation for the pleasure both sexes get from teasing each other.

Must be hard wired!

Posted by Cassandra at 07:22 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 10, 2013

Whistling Past the Graveyard

How does anyone write nonsense like this with a straight face?

Obama’s election in 2008 was a clear repudiation of the reckless interventionism of the recent past; his re-election in 2012 cemented the shift toward a global American role that is more attuned to our balance sheet and our actual security threats. Leaving remnants of empire behind in places like Iraq and Afghanistan undermines that shift, re-legitimizes the notion that the US must somehow control every nook and cranny of the globe (we can’t and it corrupts us when we try).

In what sense could tripling the number of troops in Afghanistan possibly be considered more "attuned to our balance sheet", much less "to our actual security threats"? Remember the timing here - in February of 2009 the nation was reeling from what the President kept calling the worst recession since the Great Depression.

This is one problem Obama can't pretend he inherited from Bush. Obama explicitly campaigned on the promise to step up our involvement in what he called The Good War - the one we supposedly couldn't afford to lose. And as troop levels increased from 34,000 to over 100,000 at the peak of Obama's surge, the press have remained largely silent about the cost, whether measured in human lives or in tax dollars.

Can someone - anyone? - tell me what we gained from almost tripling the number of troops in Afghanistan? Other than twice as many dead Americans in about half as many years, that is:

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Source data.

Granted, the reporting on Obama's Great Afghanistan adventure has been anything but informative. Back in September of 2012, the White House was busily telling America that troop levels were back to "pre-surge levels". But that wasn't really true, was it?

When Obama took office in 2009, the U.S. had about 34,000 troops in Afghanistan. Obama has initiated two major troop increases in Afghanistan: about 20,000 additional troops were announced in February 2009, followed by the December 2009 announcement that an another 33,000 would be deployed as well; other smaller increases have brought the total to 100,000.

The surge that is "ending" today refers to the 33,000 that were sent in December. But the [20,000] troops that were sent in the earlier Obama surge are still there. As the USA Today article notes, there are still 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, roughly double the number that were in the country when Obama took office.

Only in Obama's America can "double" be described as a return to pre-surge levels.

Anyone care to guess how many troops are over there now? How does the NY Times get through an entire article with no mention of the vastly increased cost of Obama's Afghan strategy? How can they discuss a "zero option" without bothering to ask why, if pulling completely out of Afghanistan is an acceptable (if formerly "worst case") option, it was ever necessary to send so many troops over there in the first place?

Posted by Cassandra at 12:58 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

"Sabotage Governing"

Greg Sargent thinks the GOP's sole agenda boils down to preventing Democrats and the Obama administration from getting anything done - a tactic he calls "sabotage governing":

It’s not unusual to hear dirty hippie liberal blogger types (and the occasional lefty Nobel Prize winner) point out that today’s GOP has effectively abdicated the role of functional opposition party, instead opting for a kind of post-policy nihilism in which sabotaging the Obama agenda has become its only guiding governing light.

... It’s now become accepted as normal that Republicans will threaten explicitly to allow harm to the country to get what they want, and will allow untold numbers of Americans to be hurt rather than even enter into negotiations over the sort of compromises that lie at the heart of basic governing.

Let's leave aside (for a moment) the factual accuracy of his claims and evaluate them as though they were true. If he's right, how would such tactics differ from those explicitly adopted by the Democrats during the Bush years?

Like DeLay, who was also known for bruising rivalries within his party, Pelosi has embraced hard-knuckle partisanship, even if it means standing still. When Bush announced his Social Security plan last year, Pelosi told House Democrats they could never beat him in a straight-ahead, policy-against-policy debate because he had the megaphone of the presidency and was just coming off re-election. So the Democrats would thunderously attack Bush and argue there was no Social Security crisis and therefore no need for them to put out their own proposal. Some members were leery, concerned that Pelosi would make the Democrats look like the Party of No. As the spring of 2005 wore on, some pestered her every week, asking when they were going to release a rival plan. "Never. Is never good enough for you?" Pelosi defiantly said to one member. When Florida Democrat Robert Wexler publicly suggested raising Social Security taxes as the solution, Pelosi immediately chewed him out over the phone. Only one other Democrat signed on to his plan.

The Democrats won the Social Security battle Pelosi's way. That earned her credit with her colleagues, who have embraced her overall strategy. Throughout the past year, Pelosi has demanded that Democrats unanimously oppose g.o.p. bills. By denying the g.o.p votes from across the aisle, Democrats have forced moderate Republicans to back bills like those cutting Medicaid and other social programs that fiscally conservative Republicans have insisted on, votes for which Democrats have then attacked moderate Republicans in television ads. Pelosi has also ordered Democrats not to work on bills or even hold press conferences with Republicans whom the party is trying to defeat in November.

Not that two wrongs make a right, but where in the approach Pelosi openly advocated when Bush was President is there even a hint of willingness to "enter into negotiations over the sort of compromises that lie at the heart of basic governing"?

That's the problem with scorched earth politics - the pleasure is short lived but memories are long....

Unless you're a journalist.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:31 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Blogging

Folks, the Blog Princess awoke at about 4 am to a killer migraine. Will put something new up during lunch break (1 pm or so), but for now the To Do list beckons.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:01 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 09, 2013

OMG WE'RE ALL GOING TO SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUST!

De chaaaahts, dey nevah lie:

global-warmiong-graph.jpg

Nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1998. But forget individual years. That data is noisy. A single year can see its temperatures rocket for reasons having little to do with climate change.

Look, instead, at decades. There, the data is a little clearer, as the idiosyncrasies of any one year are balanced by its nine compatriots.

... Each one of those bars aggregates 10 years of data. And the trend, particularly in recent years, is clear: The world is getting warmer. ”The period 2000-2010 was the warmest decade on record since modern meteorological records began around 1850,” the authors write.

We DARE any of you knuckledragging science haters to deny the obvious conclusion:

IN THE LAST 120 YEARS, THE AVERAGE TEMPERATURE OVER A DECADE HAS RISEN BY AN ASTOUNDING EIGHT-TENTHS OF A DEGREE.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:37 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Inconceeeeeeeeivable!!!

A scientist tests the science behind natural family planning:

Little known and rarely utilized is the single method of birth control supported by the Catholic Church. Righteously termed "natural family planning," the method limits sexual intercourse to women's naturally infertile periods, such as certain portions of the menstrual cycle, menopause, or during pregnancy. Pope Paul VI's rationale for approving natural family planning versus other methods was that it "uses a faculty given by nature whereas contraception impedes nature."

To me, that seems a dogmatic and unscientific argument. So I assumed that the method itself would be similarly lacking in evidence. But to my surprise, I was wrong.

As it's typically used, natural family planning is about as effective as the female condom -- between 75 and 80% successful at preventing pregnancy over the course of a year. But when perfectly used, it can be 95% effective or higher. A large study conducted in 2007 found that the "symptothermal" method of natural family planning, in which the female user tracks both her body temperature and cervical secretions to gauge her fertility, is 99.6% effective when properly adopted, roughly the same as a copper intrauterine device.

Sorry - we couldn't resist the title.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:11 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Rise of Single Fathers

Via Noah Berlatsky, a new Pew study on single fathers:

A record 8% of households with minor children in the United States are headed by a single father, up from just over 1% in 1960, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Decennial Census and American Community Survey data.

The number of single father households has increased about ninefold since 1960, from less than 300,000 to more than 2.6 million in 2011.1 In comparison, the number of single mother households increased more than fourfold during that time period, up to 8.6 million in 2011, from 1.9 million in 1960.

As a result, men make up a growing share of single parent householders. In 1960, about 14% of single parent households were headed by fathers, today almost one-quarter (24%) are.

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The Pew studies contain quite a bit of food for thought. For instance, I was surprised that the majority of families with children are still two-parent households. This surprised me quite a bit, too:

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There's a more comprehensive slideshow of key findings here for those who are interested. Full report here.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:43 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Through Different Eyes

I've always been fascinated by the idea of seeing the world through someone else's eyes:

We have such a hard time not seeing others through the lens of our own wishes and desires. I can't help wondering how much of the anger and nastiness between men and women would vanish if we were all required to walk a few miles in each other's shoes.

Is it really so difficult as all that?

Posted by Cassandra at 05:58 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

July 02, 2013

The "Let's Get the Government Out of..." Meme

Chief amongst the various and sundry things that vex, confuse, and frighten the Editorial Staff of late is the "Problem X would be better if the government would stay out of it" meme. It's a seductive world view; the root cause of our problems isn't human nature, competition for scarce resources, or competing interests. Nope - it's these artificial contrivances we call civilization/authority/rules.

The meme generates some pretty bold (and amusing) assertions:

...We can do a much, much better job taking care of the poor, the sick and the aged using the social and economic tools we already have at our disposal. Looking after the vulnerable is, in theory, the moral reason for having a coercive welfare state, but in fact politics does very little for them.

Is this actually true? Are society's weakest members treated more poorly now than they were throughout most of recorded history when government was far less involved?

How would this brave, new world of voluntary shared sacrifice come about? Would homo sapiens evolve into a worker antlike state where individuals spontaneously decide To Do Something About the Poor/Weak/Aged (the complete lack of a profit motive notwithstanding)? Perhaps we'll develop antennae and communicate/coordinate via oxytocin? If it worked for iPhones, surely a similar set of market incentives will ensure the same result for social justice?

While we're at it, let's get the government out of marriage, because the only reason people are fighting over the definition of marriage is that the federal government is involved:

Government neutrality -- or the closest we can get to it -- is the best way to ensure fairness and social peace on this and most other social issues. Marriage is too important of an institution to be dependent on the wiles of the state. Do we really care if the state validates our marriage licenses?

We certainly don't. On the otter heiny, we care very much how disputes are settled. Will couples stop divorcing if government gets out of the business of recognizing marriages? Will paternity and inheritance disputes go away? If there's no state law saying one cannot disinherit one's spouse, will surviving spouses meekly consent to having marital property jointly accumulated over decades pass to third parties who contributed exactly nothing to the household goods being disposed of?

Will disputes between families and spouses magically cease? What will take the place of government?

Discuss amongst your ownselves.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:38 AM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Bwa Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!

Change we can believe in:

It's word bubble time at Pew Research Center, and that's not really good news for President Obama, especially when compared to the one word Americans used to describe former President George W. Bush as this time.

The word "incompetent" is a popular word for both, though Obama just edged Bush in those references, 27-26.

Another shared word is "honest." Here Bush won with 31 references, Obama just 18.

And "liar" also appears high on both the Bush and Obama list, with Obama collecting the most, 18-13.

At least he's not a metaphoric Hitler...

Yet.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:10 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Where the Jobs Are

This isn't surprising, given the combination of massive public investments and changing demographics:

In the last ten years, job growth in America's non-health-care economy has been dreadful. Just 2.1 percent total -- or barely 0.2 percent per year. (Yes, that's point-two percent annual growth.) In that time, the U.S. health care sector has grown more than ten-times faster than the rest of the economy, adding 2.6 million jobs.

Healthcare Job Changes.jpg

The 20 year trend is even more impressive.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:49 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Brilliant

Laughter is a dish best served cold:

The most successful Subway customers, of course, are the ones who can't keep their hands off their sandwich. Join your artist in the sandwich assembling process. That sneeze guard is a suggestion. That sneeze guard is trying to intimidate you into staying on the "customer's" side of the partition. Are you a customer? Or are you a man?

If you want avocado, you'll get avocado. Avocado is a fruit; it cannot stand up to you. You are a human being, and a very powerful man. Avocado wants to be on your sandwich. It can't help itself. Your job is to make the avocado realize that you know where it belongs.

...Decide that you're going to place yourself in a position where you can touch your sandwich as it's being created. Physically pick it up and get the lettuce yourself. Touch the condiments with your own two hands -- not through the lids, the lids are a barrier designed to scare off lesser men -- touch the condiments.

Don't ask for permission. It's your sandwich. It's not the manager's sandwich. It's yours by all the laws of God and man and commerce. Stick your fists deeply into stacks of cold cuts and inhale their unique bouquet. Force the employees to push you out of their work station. They'll let you know if they're uncomfortable. If they say "PLEASE EXIT THE KITCHEN IMMEDIATELY, YOU'RE CREATING A PUBLIC HEALTH VIOLATION" or "SIR, STOP LICKING THE SPICY MAYO MISTER," you know they're not interested. It happens. Stop escalating immediately and say this:

"No problem. I don't want to do anything you aren't comfortable with." See how you're respecting their boundaries, but also being assertive (and covering yourself in delicious spicy mayo)? Don't let this "no" put you off permanently, however. They want you to want your sandwich. You should make sure that the store employees feel comfortable. If they're not comfortable, take a breather. Use the bathroom, or check out the Otis Spunkmeyer cookie display case.

All that really matters is that you continue to try to escalate things -- burying your hands in the banana peppers, really experiencing the cheese triangles in a physical, sensual way, whatever -- until they make it genuinely clear that it's not happening. They want you to be excited about your sandwich, but circumstances need to be right. You'll learn to distinguish between "No, you can't...the bacon slices are only for the Chicken and Ranch Bacon Melt, that's why they come prepackaged in groups of four..." and "We're calling the police." The important thing is that you're always learning and experimenting with boundaries.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:01 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack