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March 31, 2014

Why No One Likes "Experts"

They're just so depressingly, unrelentingly negative:

Best part:

Management: That's it - now you've confused everybody! So.... what exactly is preventing us from doing this?

Expert: Geometry.

Client: Just ignore it.

CWCID: a co-worker :)

Posted by Cassandra at 08:36 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

March 30, 2014

Supes Buzzy, Totes Amaze

Hmmmm....

Needs more Miley Cyrus:

CWCID

Posted by Cassandra at 08:48 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 29, 2014

All Kinds Of Kinds

Via Ace comes this truly inspiring video of a young woman who, due to the technological advances of our day, is able to hear for the first time in her life.
Get the kleenex out, villains, this one will warm the cockles of even the most jaded heart.

"The switch-on was the most emotional and overwhelming experience of my life and I’m still in shock now. I have to learn to recognise what these sounds are as I build a sound library in my brain.
"Hearing things for the first time is so emotional from the ping of a light switch to running water. I can’t stop crying and I can already foresee how it’s going to be life changing." The operation also means Joanne has been able to hear her own -- and others’ -- voices for the first time. She said: "I’m so happy. Over the last 48 hours hearing someone laughing behind me, the birds twittering and just being with friends... they didn’t have to tap my arm to get my attention which a massive leap."

Posted by DL Sly at 11:39 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Admiral Jeremiah Denton, An American Hero

Know, all who see these lines,
that this man,
By his appetite for honor,
By his steadfastness,
By his love for his country,
By his courage,
Was one of the miracles of the god.

- Guy Gavriel Kay, The Lions of Al-Rassan

We live in a superficial age where what is true, honorable, just, pure, commendable or praiseworthy stands little chance against the sensational, shocking, or prurient. Like flotsam, we drift (or are propelled) aimlessly; continually distracted by a torrent of lurid images, stories, and disconnected bits of information. An outsider might well wonder why any sane person would voluntarily choose to swim in such muddy water. But there are benefits associated with choosing to relax and go with the flow.

Reflected back at us in the warped mirror of moral relativism, our own lapses seem tiny. Hardly worth noting. Relatively speaking, we are paragons. And so we gradually stop paddling, stop resisting, cease to fight (or even, eventually, to notice) the current that sweeps us along. What once frightened and repelled us now seems normal. Comfortable, even. Come on in: the water's fine. Everyone else is waiting for you.

But from the corner of our eye, we catch a glimpse of a tall man striding across the riverbank. He walks with a bit of limp, and in his eyes lurk shadows that hint at unimaginable horrors:

When Denton recalls his trials in Vietnam, his eyes are often closed. For two and a half years, he spent 17 to 18 hours a day in irons. Alone, in a coffin-sized cell, he had to remain on a 47-inch-by-47-inch square during the day. It was just long enough to walk two paces. At night, he slept on a stone slab. "It wasn't the Hilton," Denton said. There were no windows. Just a 10-watt bulb, roaches and spiders the size of tarantulas. "Jesus was with me all the time," said Denton, who is a devout Catholic. His proudest moment was conquering his claustrophobia. Denton said during that time, he was in an "extremely intellectual and spiritual state." He said it is amazing what the mind can accomplish, if given the opportunity.

He once derived the formula for centrifugal force in his head, something he couldn’t do with pencil and paper at the U.S. Naval Academy. Although the other captives had designated Denton "president of the optimist club," there were times he prayed to die. He didn't want to -- couldn't -- endure another minute of despair. Once, when Denton refused to tell guards how the Americans communicated with each other, he was tortured for 10 days and nights. By the 10th night, he couldn't think anymore. He couldn’t pray anymore.

Denton surrendered. Not to the guards, but to God. "It was a total surrender," he said. "If there was anymore to do, you will do it," he told God. "That instant, I felt zero pain," he said. "I felt the greatest comfort and reassurance in life that I haven’t felt since."

Whatever it is we have glimpsed in those eyes, it has not broken him. Nor can it ever diminish him, because alongside the deep lines remembered pain and fear have etched into his face there is also grace and strength. As we watch silently, he stands a bit taller; straightens his shoulders and waves. Calling out in a voice that easily carries above the dull roar of the water, he says, "Don't give in! Don't give up. There is so much more than just this moment."

You could be so much more. We all can be.

But swimming in these waters for so long has left us weary and cynical. It has left us unable to distinguish between that which merely glitters and true gold.

The word hero has become something of a debased coinage. Tolerance shaves around the edges of the coin, gradually reducing its size and weight while millions of tiny collisions with the culture of self esteem and careful refusal to judge wear it thinner and thinner each day. Some notice that the coin seems to have shrunk in size, but when they reach for a ruler to demonstrate this, no one can find one.

We threw them all away.

Rulers are harsh, unyielding. They tell us something we don't really want to hear; that an inch is still an inch no matter how badly we would like it to be something more. That we don't quite measure up. That we need to try harder, be more, care more, do more. That there is some objective standard that exists outside our own needs and desires.

Some men's lives serve to remind us that there are still standards, still ways to measure ourselves against the eternal. Admiral Jeremiah Denton was such a man. Underneath the tears and the anger and the sick feeling today's news brings there is something else - something that will stand as Jeremiah Denton's legacy.

Faith. Abiding faith that man is not meant, as so many have argued, to be the measure of all things.

I shall think of this good, good man walking along a peaceful, crystal clean river in the presence of the Father who never once left his side. May he dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

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

Via Powerline, a story I had not heard about Admiral Denton. When the plane carrying American POWs back home landed at Clark AFB in 1973, Adm. Denton spoke these words:

“We are honored to have had the opportunity to serve our country under difficult circumstances. We are profoundly grateful to our Commander-in-Chief and to our nation for this day. God bless America.”

More here and over at Memeorandum.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:00 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

March 28, 2014

Caption Contest

Alright, villains. Here is your next picture to snarkify.

25.png

Have at it, villains.
And may the Farce be with you.
0>;~]

Posted by DL Sly at 07:19 PM | Comments (29) | TrackBack

Let The Judgement Begin - March Madness Edition

Wow, throw any picture at you and you guys have a ball with it. I gotta tell ya, though, I'm lovin' it. Because, this week, I wasn't quite sure whether or not this one would be a stud or a dud....so to speak. Not that the pic was all that bad...

7.png

So, on to the judgement and old business.

At number 10 is htom with this public statement: Officials from the Movember campaign insist that neither they nor the Movember campaign have anything to do with this.

afe gives us an idea of what was in his eight-track player in high school with - Giving up their dreams of musical gold to pursue Olympic gold, the band Foghat pose here in their 1976 Olympic uniforms, and demonstrate the perfect baton-passing technique which won them the relay medal, and our hearts.

While from the duelling stereo across the quad comes frequent flyer's woofer blasting his eight hole reply "Frank Zappa had 5 brothers--but eventually made it big as a solo act."

spd rolls a lucky numba seven with - After several early attempts ended in failure, the Albert Einstien cloning project was shelved.

And rounding out the first half is YAG for - In a shocking move, the Obama administration leaked a picture of the undercover FBI agents involved in the arrest of Charlotte Mayor Patick Cannon (D) in an attempt to damage their credibility.

Kicking off the top five is CAPT Mongo making his first port call in the judgement in typical squid style - The Air Farce mustache contest gets out of hand.

OBloodyHell is jammin' in his "luv muhcheen" at number four with - The very short-lived official Cheech Marin track and field team, in one or their rare photos taken together.
The group was swiftly disbanded when, during their first meet, they ran the wrong way, shot the put into the crowd, tossed the hammer at the judges, and generally acquitted themselves amazingly poorly.
In a post-meet interview, one of them admitted that, not only were they all stoned out of their minds, they also found that not a one of them could manage to run fifty paces without wheezing. He also claimed that every one of them suffered from a Basketball Jones that just would not quit...

While Grim is left wondering what, where in third place - Mr. Kotter later left secondary education for the academy, where he did breakthrough work in steroids and cloning.

Bringing us to second place where Don Brouhaha sings a lament to spd's earlier failed experiments - "Send in the clones, there have to be clones....Don't bother they're HERE!"

And finally, catching a tail wind in time to land in first place is frequent flyer with The Mexican Run, Jump, and Swim Triathalon poses for a team photo.


YAG garners best "Sticking with the Theme" props for his reference to this year's March Madness Cinderella team for - The members of the last Mercer Bears basketball team to make the NCAA tournament would like to apologize. They would like blame it on the 70's but can't as it was 1985.

While CAPT Mike fills us in on more of the past experiences that shaped his,...um....sense of....humor, yeah, that's it, huuumohhrrr - Hell, that was gym class at my Seattle High School in '76!

And finally, in what is becoming a common theme, major nostalgia props to frequent flyer for this enjoyable walk down memory lane - For those of us of a certain age.....
At first, I thought the group had their hands up to their ears--reminiscent of Red Buttons song and comedy routine
Thirty years later, his song "Ho-Ho--He-He--strange things are happening" (linked above)took on an entirely different meaning.

Well, that's it for this week. A new picture is forthcoming.
0>;~}

Posted by DL Sly at 05:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Eye of the Beholder

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion...

- Robert Burns

Many moons ago, the Blog Princess aroused the wrath of the assembled villainry by daring to suggest that the way a female politician (or any female professional, for that matter) dresses affects how she is perceived:

Women, whether they dress for social occasions or the workplace, have far more fashion options than men do. No matter the occasion, our attire is more individualistic and more nuanced. The standard male wardrobe, on the other hand, tends to be fairly formulaic. In a formal office environment one sees charcoal grey suits with white shirts and small patterned ties. A more artsy (but still formal) workplace or a sales environment features colored shirts and suits with edgier tailoring and fabric. For social occasions, ensembles range from the suit to the quintessentially Southern khaki-pants-and-navy-sport coat to khaki pants and polo shirt/button down oxford, to the truly casual jeans and t-shirt. On the negative side, male dress codes don't provide much opportunity for the expression of personality. On the positive side, deciphering the dreaded "Business Casual" or "Casual" on a social invitation is far less fraught for men than it is for women.

My mother and I returned home triumphantly brandishing a cute navy suit with a short, peplum jacket and pencil skirt. It looked good on me. Like Palin, I look best in closely tailored suits that are nipped in at the waist and skirts that don't flare out at the hems. After regaling Dad with carefully chosen examples of our shopping mojo, I was dispatched to the back bedroom to subject my purchases to paterfamilial inspection. And this is where I love my Dad. As I paraded back and forth across the living room carpet showing off my best fashion-show model pivot, he beamed with paternal pride. "You look marvelous", he said.

"Well, the skirt needs to come up about 2 inches", I said. At only 5'4", I've learned that skirt and sleeve length makes all the difference between looking sharp and looking like a child playing dress up in Mommy's clothes.

My Dad said, "No. Leave the skirt where it is. And you should wear a lower heel for the office."

I wasn't pleased. Not by a long shot. Anyone who knows me knows I love my high heels. But after a short time in my new office environment I had to admit something: he was right. I didn't like admitting that a shorter skirt and higher heels injected the wrong note into what was supposed to be a professional environment. I'm a woman. I wanted to like what I saw in the mirror; to feel pretty. But that wasn't the goal. The goal was to look professional; to get work done, not attract admiring gazes from my co-workers. I knew Dad was right. It wasn't the office that needed to adjust to me: it was I who needed to adjust to the office.

Thus it was with considerable sympathy that she observed the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth occasioned by this poor man's sage advice.

Jeez, ladies: sometimes it really isn't all about you and your beautiful and natural right to embrace sex positivity in the workplace. None of this has anything to do with sexism.

The real double standard is that men are expected to conform to a certain standard and we women are all too often given a pass. From a male perspective, one might even say that women are given an "unfair" amount of latitude.

If you want to be seen as a professional and a team player, try conforming to the standards of your profession. If you truly don't care how you're perceived, person up. Own it. Stop expecting other people to conform to your standards when you've plainly shown unwillingness to conform to (or worse, utter contempt for) theirs.

Why yes, the Princess is feeling feisty this morning!

UPDATE: Hmmm... so *that's* why I thought of Burns...

For a moment I was feeling positively erudite. Dang.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:44 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

March 26, 2014

Intelligent Design

The Editorial Staff apologize for the dearth of posts this week. Work has been so busy that we haven't been able to find two coherent thoughts to rub together. Last week, though, we did see two interesting items that fired up the old brain housing group. The first is a study of how men and women respond to stress or danger. What struck us first was the annoying way so many of these articles subtly (and sometimes, not so subtly) frame the female response as good, unselfish, and healthy, while the male response is described as "egocentric" or "selfish":

In times of stress, women turn to their friends, while men turn inward. A cliché? Perhaps, but newly published research finds it’s absolutely true.

A research team led by University of Vienna psychologist Claus Lamm reports males and female respond to stressful situations in virtually opposite ways. Men become more egocentric, while women heighten their ability to understand the perspective of others.

“Social interaction skills improve in women under stress,” the researchers write in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology. They specifically found stress spurred women to override normal levels of self-centeredness and respond to others with heightened empathy. The opposite appears to be true of men.

Men respond to stress in a fight-or-flight manner, conserving their energy for the confrontation they fear is coming by turning inward. Women, on the other hand, take a “tend-and-befriend” approach.
As the researchers note, there are two basic responses to taxing situations. Stressed individuals may default to a self-centered state; being less demanding than taking into account the thoughts and emotions of others—this conserves mental and emotional resources. Alternatively, they might be motivated to turn open-heartedly to others, “using social support as a stress-coping strategy.”

But aren't both strategies - preparing for conflict by closing off one's empathetic side, and preparing for difficult times by reaching out to others and seeking cooperation - essentially useful adaptive responses? They can both be helpful, though in certain situations one can also imagine that one might be more effective than the other.

If your neighbor won't stop his dogs from relieving themselves in your yard, it probably makes sense to try the empathetic response first. Confronting people angrily - even when you have a legitimate right to be angry - doesn't tend to make them receptive to compromise. The best outcome here is that your neighbor understands that he's being inconsiderate and voluntarily controls his dogs. If the nice approach doesn't work, you can always get the police or the neighborhood association involved but that's probably not the first resort. If your neighbor is trying to kill you, though, the "tend and befriend" response becomes less useful. Certainly, you might reach out to other neighbors and form an alliance of mutual defense. But if he's serious about killing you, you need to be prepared to defend yourself and your family. In this worst case scenario, empathizing with your neighbor's beautiful and natural desire to be a murdering jackwagon won't help you summon the resolve to kill another human being in self defense.

Both responses are useful in different situations. Living as we do in times of unprecedented peace and prosperity, we value the fight response less and the empathetic response more. But that's more a response to present circumstances than an immutable value judgment. Change the circumstances and public perception of each response is likely to change too.

The second article framed political differences in similarly evolutionary terms: what if the inclination to liberal or conservative policies is a healthy, natural adaptation?

Several research groups have shown that compared with liberals, conservatives have a greater focus on negative stimuli or a “negativity bias”: they pay more attention to the alarming, the threatening, and the disgusting in life. In one experiment that captured this, Hibbing and his colleagues showed liberals and conservatives a series of collages, each comprised of a mixture of positive images (cute bunnies, smiling children) and negative ones (wounds, a person eating worms). Test subjects were fitted with eye-tracker devices that measured where they looked, and for how long. The results were stark: conservatives fixed their eyes on the negative images much more rapidly, and dwelled on them much longer, than did the liberals.

Liberals and conservatives, conclude Hibbing et al., “experience and process different worlds.” No wonder, then, that they often cannot agree. These experiments suggest that conservatives actually do live in a world that is more scary and threatening, at least as they perceive it. Trying to argue them out of it is pointless and naive. It’s like trying to argue them out of their skin.

Perhaps the main reason that scientists don’t think these psychological and attentional differences simply reflect learned behaviors—or the influence of cultural assumptions—is the genetic research. As Hibbing et al. explain, the evidence suggests that around 40 percent of the variation in political beliefs is ultimately rooted in DNA. The studies that form the basis for this conclusion use a simple but powerful paradigm: they examine the differences between pairs of monozygotic (“identical”) twins and pairs of dizygotic (“fraternal”) twins when it comes to political views. Again and again, the identical twins, who share 100 percent of their DNA, also share much more of their politics.

In other words, politics runs in families and is passed on to offspring. Hibbing and his coauthors suspect that what is ultimately being inherited is a set of core dispositions about how societies should resolve recurring problems: how to distribute resources (should we be individualistic or collectivist?); how to deal with outsiders and out-groups (are they threatening or enticing?); how to structure power relationships (should we be hierarchical or egalitarian?); and so on. These are, of course, problems that all human societies have had to grapple with; they are ancient. And inheriting a core disposition on how to resolve them would naturally predispose one to a variety of specific issue stances in a given political context.

Once again, the authors clearly can't help describing conservatives in somewhat derisory terms: we're fearful and risk averse (and our fears may all be imaginary) while liberals are open and willing to try new things.

And broadly speaking, these characterizations may even be true in certain circumstances. A fairly frequent progressive mantra is, "Why not try public policies that have never been tried, or that have been tried before and failed?" And the frequent conservative rejoinder is, "If it never worked before, why risk it now?" On the other hand, liberals - ostensibly accepting of risk - consider not providing women (but not men - even gay men) with free contraceptives and not guaranteeing subsidized health insurance to everyone to be unacceptably risky. And conservatives - ostensibly hierarchical and risk averse - fight the welfare state and bitterly resent the corrosive attempts of big government to trump individual liberty.

Men and women, liberals and conservatives: when we clash, the all too human temptation to describe our perceived opponents as dysfunctional or selfish while seeing ourselves as the "correct" model is hard to overcome. But for all our differences, the overlap between us is larger than we like to admit. If only 40% of political differences can be attributed to our DNA, that means 60% cannot. And everywhere we look, if we choose not to discount them, are examples of people who don't fit the mold or conform to the stereotypes we so often embrace to make a complex world seem simpler or more predictable.

The other day, something prompted us to Google girls who have been suspended from school or punished for talking about guns. We were surprised at how many stories we found. We conducted a similar exercise years ago, looking for stories about acts of heroism from women: women risking their lives to save men, women risking their lives to save children, etc. Does the existence of so many of these stories - largely ignored on conservative blogs, prove that men and women are equally likely to be heroic?

We doubt it. To embrace that theory would require actual evidence. But it certainly provides support for a theory we've often pondered: that the things we pay attention to (and which shape our opinions and world views) are very much affected by who we are: our biological makeups and hormone levels, our experiences, our upbringings, our dispositions, our intelligence, and even that elusive thing we call free will.

Since we work with software in meatspace, software analogies occur to us fairly often. When a particular behavior in a software system becomes problematic to some person or in some circumstance, the first question asked is usually, "Is this the intended behavior? Is it 'by design' or is it a bug - a problem that needs to be fixed?" And if the behavior is determined to be by design, is the design flawed? Or have we simply encountered an unexpected or edge case where the normal (desirable and beneficial) behavior produces unintended consequences?

Too often, we view those who are unlike us as dysfunctional - problems that need to be fixed rather than products of a rational and intelligent design that produces deliberate variations on a theme that each have value in the right circumstances. We often wonder whether the road back to a vibrant democracy might not be as simple as the willingness to respect and value our differences while conceding that there is no single tactic or model that works equally well in all circumstances?

This is not an admission that every ideology is equally valid, equally moral, equally desirable. But we can't help wondering if things wouldn't work more smoothly if we didn't begin by viewing people who disagree with or are unlike us as broken or inferior? Would we understand each other better if we were genuinely able to recognize the value in some of our differences, even if we conclude that our own approach better fits the times and circumstances?

Yeah. Kumbaya and all that.

Still, if our political beliefs are truly a function of our genetic makeup, doesn't that make it Geneti-cist of progressives to describe conservatism as a mental illness? Oh, the humanity!

Posted by Cassandra at 08:28 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

March 24, 2014

"Fairness" in Everything, NCAA Edition

This is brilliant:

President Barack Obama stunned the sports world this morning by using his pen and telephone to impose important new regulations on the NCAA tournament. Noting rampant inequality in athletics department budgets across the nation's higher education establishments, Obama has charged the IRS with the immediate implementation of a point system that will be fair for all.

"The bottom line is, every team should have the same chance this country gives to the top 1 percent of universities with athletics programs. Too many teams enter the tournament without a realistic chance of achieving the American Dream. Selection into the NCAA tournament is an empty promise unless we also do more to make sure our system honors the dignity of work, and hard work pays off for every single tournament player."

Accordingly, the IRS has ranked the 68 teams in the tournament according to their athletics budgets and has given point subsidies on a sliding scale to institutions whose budgets are below the national average.

Obama acknowledges that the system, like every big initiative, may need some tweaking, so he will be using his pen and telephone at halftime to ensure that every team has a fair shot at the prize. In some cases, to ensure that deserving players stay in the game, he may tweak the number of permissible fouls. In other cases, he may change the location of the three-point arc or give a player who has missed the front end of a one-and-one foul shot the chance at a second shot.

Aides are studying a change in the arbitrary time deadline for the end of the game.

Speaking of brackets, maybe we can get the President interested in this one:

Posted by Cassandra at 08:04 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 22, 2014

Caption Contest - March Madness Edition

Alright, villains. Here is your next picture to snarkify.

7.png

Have at it.
And may the Farce be with you.
0>;~]

Posted by DL Sly at 10:47 AM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

Let The Judgement Begin - St. Patty's Edition

Yanno, I was wondering whether or not this week's picture would prove difficult. I know, what was I thinking? This is the Assembled Villainry. Of course y'all'll handle it, and handle it you did.
So, without further ado, on to the judgement and old business.

As per usual, a small reminder of last week's picture:
9.png

Many times here at VC, individual comments within a post will create their own sub-context conversation that inevitably leads to a snarky end. It's one of the many unique aspects of her site that kept bringing me back when I first stumbled upon the Blog Princess' corner of the innertubes some 10 years ago. So, this week, I found it extremely cool, as I proceeded through the judgement, to see a familiar pattern develop.
And with that in mind, we're off like a herd of turtles.

At number ten is Proof with - The new poster girl for Mad Cow Disease was easily amused.

To which one of our ever-lovin' seaman, CAPT Mike, exclaims - I've seen that girl before!

While spd has the typical retort in the eight hole - "You just stay away from my Edgar, hussy!"

Then frequent flyer drops in from the clouds in time to land at seven and deliver the ensuing confirmation, commiseration conversation (heh, say that three times...oh crap, as many times as I just backspaced, just try typing it once real fast.) -
"Then he left you, and later, you saw him in a DAIRY BAR with another girl?"
"Men--they're all the same--one magic night in the cowshed--then you see them on the other side of the pasture with another cow--leading her on with promises of deep clover and a happy home life with lots of calves...........YOU'VE fallen for that line, too?"
"I'm so glad we've had this girl-talk..."

Finally, the camera pulls back and we find OBH, the bystander, rounding out the first half of the top ten in the number six slot with this observation - And at that very moment, the casting director for the reboot of "The New Dukes of Hazzard" realized what a horrible mistake he'd made regarding the girl he'd selected as the new Daisy Duke.

Kicking off the top half at number five is Grim's country girl, slumber-party game suggestion - The girl from New York City thought this was an awesome game, until she tried it on the bull.

Number four finds our own Bossy the Cow (aka the Blog Princess - hey, you chose the screenname, not me!) with an observation for the vernal equinox - Me so horny.

While Don Brouhaha has obviously gotten an early start on the commercial overload that is March Madness - "I don't know who you think you are, but you should eat more chicken!"

Claiming not only second place, but also Walk Down Memory Lane nostlagia props, is htom for - Dr. Dolittle's new intern demonstrates her fluency in Holstein Friesian.

Bringin me to the top slut...um, slot for the this week.
Giving a hint at perhaps an early tv favorite, is afe with - Desperate to finds herself a feller to take her down to the see-ment pond, Lurlene finally asks Bossy fer dating advice.

Congrats, afe on making it to the top, as well as to the rest of the top 10. Outstanding job on a fairly difficult picture.
A new picture is forthcoming.

Posted by DL Sly at 02:20 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 21, 2014

Accountability, Then and Now

Then:

"Everywhere else we are told how inhuman it is to submit men to the ordeal of answering for themselves; to haul them before committees and badger them with questions as to where they were and what they were doing while the ship of state careened from one course to another."

"This probing into the sea seems more merciless because everywhere else we have abandoned accountability. What is done is done and why torture men with asking them afterwards, why?........"

"We are told men should no longer be held accountable for what they do as well as for what they intend. To err is not only human, it absolves responsibility."

"Everywhere else, that is, except on the sea. On the sea there is a tradition older even than the traditions of the country itself and wiser in its age than this new custom. It is the tradition that with responsibility goes authority and with them both goes accountability."

"This accountability is not for the intentions but for the deed. The captain of a ship, like the captain of a state, is given honor and privileges and trust beyond other men. But let him set the wrong course, let him touch ground, let him bring disaster to his ship or to his men, and he must answer for what he has done. He cannot escape...."

"It is cruel, this accountability of good and well-intentioned men. But the choice is that or an end of responsibility and finally as the cruel scene has taught, an end to the confidence and trust in the men who lead, for men will not long trust leaders who feel themselves beyond accountability for what they do."

"And when men lose confidence and trust in those who lead, order disintegrates into chaos and purposeful ships into uncontrollable derelicts."

And now:

On Wednesday, a letter from Sinclair's wife, Rebecca, was read aloud. The general buried his head in his hands, appeared to cry and dabbed his eyes with tissues.

In the letter, Rebecca Sinclair said she hasn't fully forgiven her husband but that she didn't want the Army to punish him and his family further with a significant reduction to his pension and other benefits.

"Believe me when I tell you that the public humiliation and vilification he has endured are nothing compared to the private suffering and guilt that he lives with every day," she wrote.

When evenhanded justice gives way to courtroom theatrics and public accountability to secret back room deals, people and institutions are left rudderless; driven this way and that by our own dictatorial and capricious passions.

Humanity spent a long time crawling out of that gutter. It will be a long climb back up if we don't come to our senses soon.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:58 AM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

March 20, 2014

Command Climate

If the Army can't enforce their own laws when it comes to a jackwagon like this...

Suspicions of an Army general’s extramarital affair with a subordinate had circulated widely enough that soldiers portrayed the two in a sexually suggestive skit at a 2010 party, according to witness testimony Tuesday.

Lt. Col. Benjamin Bigelow testified at a sentencing hearing that the skit was performed during a party at which Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair was being honored in Germany. It involved a soldier dressed up as Sinclair and a soldier dressed as a woman in a brown wig to represent the captain who was his primary accuser, Bigelow testified.

...During the skit, the character in the wig “moved in front of the Sinclair character’s crotch and offered to do something for him,” Bigelow said. “There was absolutely no question.”

Bigelow said Sinclair’s wife attended the party and was “clearly shocked, angered and dismayed.” He said the accuser was not at the party.

But wait! There's more inspiring leadership where this came from:

At Monday’s hearing, prosecutors also called Lt. Nargis Kabiri to testify that she rebuffed advances from Sinclair, who invited her to go horseback riding after she sought him out as a mentor.

Sinclair pleaded guilty to conduct unbecoming of an officer for the advances on Kabiri, who was not one of the three subordinates with whom he admitted an inappropriate relationship.

She said the publicity of being connected to the Sinclair case has hurt her as she tries to move through the ranks in the male-dominated area of field artillery.

Male commanders will refuse to talk to her alone in their offices.

“I have had male leaders who approach me with caution, and I approach them with caution,” she said.

Laws. They are for the little people.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:11 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

FINALLY!!!, Terrifying "Witch Hunt" Ends with Stern Talking-To and [GASP!] Fine

The bottom line is: I have no tolerance for this... I expect consequences. So I don’t just want more speeches or awareness programs or training, but ultimately folks look the other way. If we find out somebody’s engaging in this, they’ve got to be held accountable — prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period.”

- Our Commander in Chief

Watching all this Smart Power transform the planet is truly a marvelous thing. And really, it's hard to argue with the results:

An Army general who carried on a three-year affair with a captain and had two other inappropriate relationships with subordinates [Editor's note: AND misused his government credit card, AND disobeyed his commander's orders AND pestered a third female officer to go out with him] was reprimanded and docked $20,000 in pay Thursday, avoiding prison...

...Sinclair's fine breaks down to $5,000 a month for four months. He earns about $12,000 a month.

"I can't believe it," said Solis, who served 26 years of active duty in the Marine Corps and tried hundreds of cases as a military judge. "I know Judge Pohl to be one of the best judges in the Army judicial system, but ... this is an individual who should not be a general officer. He should have gone to jail and dismissed from the Army."

Sinclair will now go before Fort Bragg commander Maj. Gen. Clarence K.K. Chinn, who approved Sinclair's plea deal, and he'll get either an oral or written reprimand. Then he'll appear before a board to determine whether he will lose any rank, which could cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits.

...In closing arguments, prosecutors argued Sinclair should be thrown out of the Army and lose his military benefits, while the defense said that would harm his innocent wife and their two sons the most. Prosecutors did not ask the judge to send Sinclair to jail, even though the maximum penalty he faced was more than 20 years.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys offered contrasting arguments about the seriousness of the misdeeds that felled the general.

"It's not just one mistake. Not just one lapse in judgment. It was repeated," prosecutor Maj. Rebecca DiMuro said. "They are not mistakes. We are not in the court of criminal mistakes. These are crimes."

The general also pleaded guilty to using his government-issued credit card to pay for trips to see his mistress and other conduct unbecoming an officer.

Best.comment.ever:

... it will be a STERNLY WORDED letter of reprimand, so who can say there's a double standard when it comes to crime and punishment in the Army? ///Sarcasm off///

Talking trash while carrying the world's tiniest stick is pretty much the defining characteristic of this administration.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:20 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

March 19, 2014

Time and Perspective

Via Betsy Newmark comes an interesting overview of Europe's changing borders over the last millennium. Several commenters have pointed out a few inaccuracies, but overall it still provides a fascinating view of the way states grow or implode over time:

How quickly we forget.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:06 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

If You Make A Hundred Mistakes...

...before getting something right, you've learned one hundred and one lessons.

We’ve all heard that the road to success is paved with failure. But that doesn’t make rejection any easier to swallow. What does help? Knowing that the world’s most talented people have been there, too. Here are 10 actual rejection letters that prove it.
ANDY WARHOL

Andy Warhol rejection letter.png

PAPERMAG

In 1956, Andy Warhol couldn’t give his work away. Yes, we mean that literally. On October 18th the artist received a letter from the Museum of Modern Art declining a drawing “which you so generously offered as a gift to the Museum.” Today, MoMA owns 168 of Warhol’s pieces.

It's very interesting to see who was once told, "You're not good enough."

Tip o'the Stetson: Bookworm

Posted by DL Sly at 12:01 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 18, 2014

Math Doesn't Discriminate (Unlike the ACA)

We saw this last week and didn't have time to write a post about it. Though we don't often agree with John Stossel, this is hard to argue with:

President Barack Obama and his supporters brag that Obamacare forces health insurance companies to sell men and women health insurance for the exact same price. On my TV show this week, Democratic activist Jehmu Greene asks indignantly, "Do you want to live in a country where you charge women more than men?"

Well, yes, I do. Insurance should account for costs. Women go to doctors much more often. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say, even if you exclude pregnancy visits, women are 33 percent more likely to visit a doctor.

Insurance companies used to reflect that in prices. That isn't bigotry -- it's just math.

Insurance companies still charge men more for car and life insurance. A survey of car insurance companies found that the cheapest policy for a woman cost 39 percent less than for a man. A 60-year-old woman pays 20 percent less than a man for a 10-year life insurance policy. Seventy-year-old women pay half as much as men.

That's just math, too, because most women live longer than men and, despite the "woman-driver" stereotype, we men get into more car accidents.

I don't hear activists complaining about men paying too much. The "victim" propaganda works only when women pay more.

Pricing isn't the only way the ACA discriminates against men. Two years ago we asked why birth control should be free for women but not for men?

1) Are male-based contraceptive methods, such as vasectomies or condoms, covered by the rule?

An HHS official said on Friday that women’s preventive services guidelines apply to women only.

Guidelines issued by the Health Resources and Services Administration, part of HHS, require coverage without cost sharing for "all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity" as prescribed by a provider, according to the Federal Register.

The insurers' letter from September says they interpreted the rule to include only female-based contraception and that the requirement to waive co-payments "does not apply to methods and procedures intended for males."

Either it's sexist to treat people differently because of their plumbing, or it isn't. We can think of good reasons for doing so in some cases, but that's not the argument this administration has advanced. Why, if sexism and disparate impact are truly evidence of gender injustice, is it acceptable for the federal government to provide benefits to women (funded with our tax dollars) that are not provided to men?

If it's wrong and unacceptable for women to be charged more for health insurance simply because they're women, why is it acceptable for men to be charged more for birth control simply because they're male? Seems to us that all this "cost sharing" is a rather one-way process.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:35 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

More Mean Spirited Thrashing of Conventional Wisdom

frog_and_toad.jpgInteresting piece in The Economist:

Hayek, in the 1970s, came to be seen as opposing everything Keynes and the Keynesian consensus stood for. More recently, many see the change towards more free-market ideas since the 1980s as the victory of Hayek's ideas over Keynes'—a process that has since reversed as a result of the Great Recession. This academic battle of ideas has even made its way into popular media. On Youtube, there is a series of rap parody videos of the academic battle between Keynes and Hayek, available here, here and here.

But Keynes himself in fact did not dislike many of Hayek's ideas in the "Road to Serfdom". On the contrary, he had indirectly helped Hayek to write it. When Hayek and the rest of the London School of Economics moved to Cambridge in 1940 to escape the Blitz in London, Keynes found him rooms at his college, King's, to live and work in, and the two remained in regular contact until Keynes' death in 1946. Ideologically, they also sang from the same hymn sheet: both were liberals with a distaste for authoritarian regimes such as communism and fascism. Keynes agreed with Hayek that fascism was not a healthy reaction against communism, as many contemporaries in Britain thought, but was instead equally dangerous for liberalism.

Keynes rejected the populist interpretation of Hayek's argument—that any increase in state planning is the first step on the way to tyranny—but agreed with the overall view that the bounds of state intervention needed to be clearly defined for liberal democracy to remain safe (and more explicitly than even Hayek himself did in the book). Receiving an early copy of the "Road to Serfdom" from Hayek personally, Keynes wrote back to him, praising the book. But Keynes thought Hayek should have been more explicit in what sort of red lines would be necessary for increased state intervention not to imperil liberty:

“You admit here and there that it is a question of knowing where to draw the line. You agree that the line has to be drawn somewhere, and that the logical extreme [total lassiez-faire policies] is not possible. But you give us no guidance as to where to draw it...as soon as you admit that the extreme is not possible and that a line has to be drawn, you are, on your own argument, done for, since you are trying to persuade us that as soon as one moves an inch in the planned direction you are necessarily launched on the slippery slope which will lead you in due course over the precipice.”

In short, Keynes took the lessons of Hayek's work as a warning that the expansion of state should be limited and politicians need to know when to stop—which he fundamentally agreed with. Although he thought more state control in some areas may be justified, governments always need to demark a line beyond which they do not traverse.

Yesterday the Editorial Staff learned (via Cathy Young) that Christina Hoff Sommers - a writer we had assumed leaned decidedly to the political right - is in fact a Democrat. Today we learn that Keynes and Hayek agreed that firm lines need to be drawn to prevent big government from trampling individual liberty.

The real world is always so much more complex and interesting than the simplistic stories we tell ourselves.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:20 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

"Secretive, Autocratic, Unaccountable"

That's how the director of the Office of Research Integrity (ORI), whose job it is to monitor biomedical research misconduct, describes HHS:

In his letter, David Wright writes that working with ORI’s “remarkable scientist-investigators” was “the best job I’ve ever had.” But that was only 35% of his job; the rest of the time he spent “navigating the remarkably dysfunctional HHS bureaucracy” to run ORI. Tasks that took a couple of days as a university administrator required weeks or months, he says. He writes that ORI’s budget was micromanaged by more senior officials, and that Koh’s office had a “seriously flawed” culture, calling it “secretive, autocratic and unaccountable.” For example, he told Wanda Jones, Koh’s deputy, that he urgently needed to appoint a director for ORI’s division of education. Jones told him the position was somewhere on a secret priority list of appointments. The position has not been filled 16 months later, David Wright notes.

OASH itself suffers from the tendency of bureaucracies to “focus … on perpetuating themselves,” David Wright writes. Officials spent “exorbitant amounts of time” in meetings and generating data and reports to make their divisions look productive, he writes. He asks whether OASH is the proper home for a regulatory office such as ORI, noting that Koh himself has described his office as an “intensely political environment.”

David Wright makes no mention of a recent letter to ORI from Senator Charles “Chuck” Grassley (R-IA), who has complained that ORI was not tough enough on an AIDS researcher at Iowa State University who faked data to obtain nearly $19 million in NIH funding. ORI barred the researcher, Dong-Pyou Han, from participating in PHS-funded research for 3 years, but Grassley has asked why ORI did not make him return federal grant money or impose harsher sanctions (more at Retraction Watch).

Yet we're supposed to hand over more of our hard earned money to these folks?

Posted by Cassandra at 06:55 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 17, 2014

Sexual McCarthyism? The Hyperbole Continues

What is it about the Sinclair case that sends so many conservatives into Kama Sutra-esque defenses of the indefensible? Do facts really not matter to us anymore? On the aptly-named "Twitter", Christina Hoff Sommers accuses the Department of Defense of "sexual McCarthyism":

Wow!Pentagon pursued sex assault case even though it knew accuser lying. Sexual McCarthyism no longer just on campus.

This is just nonsense on stilts. First of all, there is exactly zero evidence that the accuser lied about the charges of sexual assault. What she is accused of lying about is when she found her old cell phone and when she first turned it on. That isn't actually relevant to the charge of sexual assault but it does damage her credibility with a jury. Since the only evidence so far on the sexual assault charges is her testimony, this matters. What it does NOT do, though, is prove she was lying about the assault in the first place. Let's unpack Ms. Sommers' claim:

McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. It also means "the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism."

The charge that DoD has been engaging in "McCarthyism" seems more than a tad ironic, given that conservatives usually argue that Joe McCarthy was right. A brief search yields dozens of mainstream conservative pundits and sites pointing out that the Left's favorite "witch hunt" analogy is a factually inaccurate and misleading progressive narrative used to rewrite history and obscure what really happened. But hey, who needs pesky facts when the credibility of our own narrative (and a few book sales!) are at stake? You know that false "McCarthyism" meme we've been fighting for decades? It just became useful. Let's embrace it. "Reclaiming" is the term generally used in progressive circles.

Where in the Sinclair case is the evidence that the Pentagon made unfair allegations or used unfair investigative techniques in order to restrict dissent or political criticism? Let's walk through what we know. Sinclair was accused of adultery, an offense under the UCMJ, and 7 other offenses. Here are the ones Sinclair has agreed to plead guilty to... so far:

Adultery.
Requesting explicit photographs from several female Army officers.
Possessing pornography in theater (violation of General Order 1).
Seeking a date with another junior officer (a lieutenant).
Disobeying a commander’s order.
Misusing his government charge card.
Mistreating his former mistress, a captain.

General Sinclair was accused of two more offenses:

Sexual assault (forcing his mistress to have oral sex)
Threatening to kill his mistress.
These charges were always going to be harder to prove as there was no objective evidence outside of the witness's testimony. This is why sexual assault charges are always hard to prove. That doesn't mean we should ignore all accusations of sexual assault - only that proving them in court is going to be a "he said/she said" affair. As we pointed out in our very first post on this topic, absent a dramatic revelation of new evidence (which has already occurred when a second cell phone belonging to his mistress surfaced during the trial), there was probably insufficient evidence to prove those charges.

Was it really improper for the military to charge Sinclair with sexual assault? Did they (referring back to our definition of McCarthyism) use unfair investigative techniques or make unfair allegations? In what sense is it unfair to charge a defendant with an offense when there's a witness willing to testify on the matter? Finally (and perhaps more importantly):

1. What happens when a defendant is charged with lesser offenses, but evidence sufficient to prove a more serious offense comes out during the trial (in the same way the second cell phone surfaced unexpectedly)? Is the prosecution allowed to ask for a conviction on a charge not alleged at the start of the trial?

2. Isn't the purpose of a trial to establish the truth? Do conservatives really want to argue that - in hindsight - it was improper to charge a defendant with an offense because during the trial, new evidence unknown to prosecutors at the time the charges were filed damaged the accuser's credibility?

Or are these people seriously advancing another specious argument: some sort of "right to plea bargain to avoid having damaging evidence come out at trial?" Conservatives have often accused the media of ignoring information that doesn't support their preferred narrative, but from what we can see, conservatives pushing the frankly idiotic "sexual McCarthyism" seem to be ignoring all sorts of inconvenient facts. The first is that the prosecutor who dropped out of the case was in the middle of a complete nervous breakdown. What upset him was not that he doubted sexual assault had taken place, but that the accuser had so damaged her own credibility that he wasn't going to be able to prove it in court:

Last month, the lead prosecutor on the case quit after acknowledging to his superiors that he also felt that the captain had been untruthful in the January hearing and that he thought the most serious charges against General Sinclair should be dropped. But Army officials have said that the former prosecutor, Lt. Col. William Helixon, was under extraordinary stress from health and personal issues when he voiced those misgivings, and that he remained convinced that the captain’s account of sexual assault was true.

Most people understand that not being able to prove a criminal accusation beyond a reasonable doubt does NOT prove the defendant was innocent.

The second thing being ignored is that the alleged "appearance of unlawful command influence" consists of accusations that a lowly Army Captain (advocating for the defense, no less!) somehow intimidated a Lieutenant General.

To support the defense’s claim of political interference, they introduced a December letter the military lawyer assigned to represent the accuser sent to Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the commander at Fort Bragg. Under military law, it was up to Anderson to decide whether or not to accept Sinclair’s plea offer and drop the sexual assault charges.

Writing on behalf of the accuser, Capt. Cassie L. Fowler urged Anderson to reject the deal, suggesting that to do otherwise would “have an adverse effect on my client and the Army’s fight against sexual assault.”

“Acceptance of this plea would send the wrong signal to those senior commanders who would prey on their subordinates by using their rank and position, thereby ensuring there will be other victims like my client in the future,” Fowler wrote.

Military judge Col. James Pohl said Tuesday that Fowler’s letter to Anderson was improper, but did not constitute evidence of unlawful command influence. Anderson is a three-star general, the judge said, while the special victim’s advocate is just a captain.

General Sinclair's accuser is not the only one whose credibility has been damaged by this trial. Conservatives lobbing misleading and hyperbolic accusations of "witch hunts" and "sexual McCarthyism" have either not done their homework or - worse - are intentionally misleading their readers.

Which is pretty much what we keep accusing progressives and the mainstream media of doing. Is General Sinclair - a man who has admitted to the vast majority of charges leveled at him - really an innocent victim of a White House-led witch hunt?

Is this guy really someone we want to defend?

This trial seems to have done a pretty good job of getting at the truth. Whether he is or is not guilty of the additional charges of sexual assault is something we'll never know. Legally, he will not be found guilty, and that's as it should be.

But to pretend the military should not have charged him in the first place is preposterous.

Note: thanks to Cathy Young for noting I had misspelled Christina Hoff Sommers' name (and my apologies to Ms. Sommers). Should be corrected now. Cathy also commented:

...knowing Christina, she's decidedly not a "McCarthy was right" kind of conservative -- more an old-style Democratic disenchanted with gender- and race-based identity politics.

That's a good thing to know. I had always assumed she was a conservative because of her work with AEI and the National Review, but her Wikipedia page makes it clear that she is, in fact, a Democrat:

Author Barbara Marshall has stated that Sommers explicitly identifies herself as a "libertarian."[10] Sommers is also a registered Democrat.[11] The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy categorizes Sommers' equity feminist views as classical liberal or libertarian and socially conservative.[12] Sommers has criticized how "conservative scholars have effectively been marginalized, silenced, and rendered invisible on most campuses."[13] In an article for the text book, Moral Soundings, Sommers makes the case for moral conservation and traditional values.

Guilt by association! :) It was possibly defamatory (no, I'm not being entirely serious here :p) and definitely factually inaccurate to accuse Ms. Sommers of being a conservative. I assumed she was making the same argument as several other conservative bloggers who have claimed the White House or DoD are purging senior military leaders, conducting witch hunts, or allowing "iffy" prosecutions to go forward. The term 'witch hunt' (which I've noted repeatedly in 5-6 other posts on this issue) and McCarthyism are often used interchangeably, so I saw a common theme where perhaps there was none.

I still believe that using the term "sexual McCarthyism" is not justified by the facts in this case. My apologies to Ms. Sommers for calling her a conservative!

Posted by Cassandra at 08:06 AM | Comments (33) | TrackBack

Fun St. Paddy's Day Facts

Did you know these facts about Saint Patrick's Day? We didn't:

WE SHOULD REALLY WEAR BLUE

Saint Patrick himself would have to deal with pinching on his feast day. His color was “Saint Patrick’s blue,” a light shade. The color green only became associated with the big day after it was linked to the Irish independence movement in the late 18th century.

IT USED TO BE A DRY HOLIDAY

For most of the 20th century, Saint Patrick’s Day was considered a strictly religious holiday in Ireland, which meant that the nation’s pubs were closed for business on March 17. (The one exception went to beer vendors at the big national dog show, which was always held on Saint Patrick’s Day.) In 1970, the day was converted to a national holiday, and the stout resumed flowing.

THERE ARE NO FEMALE LEPRECHAUNS

Don’t be fooled by any holiday decorations showing lady leprechauns. In traditional Irish folk tales, there are no female leprechauns, only nattily attired little guys.

WARONWOMEN!!!!!!!!11! :p

We feel so much better, having gotten that out of our system. We didn't do too well on this St. Paddy's day quiz (6/10). Maybe you all will do better on this one (11/16)! Or you could check out all the St. Paddy's Day posts at Grim's place.

Oh well, when all else fails there are always Irish jokes. This oldie-but-goody is arguably our favorite:

Into a Belfast pub comes Paddy Murphy, looking like he'd just been run over by a train. His arm is in a sling, his nose is broken, his face is cut and bruised, and he's walking with a limp.

"What happened to you?" asks Sean, the bartender.

"Seamus O'Connor and me had a fight," says Paddy.

"Why, that little sh*t, O'Connor," says Sean, "He couldn't do that to you, he must have had something in his hand."

"That he did," says Paddy, "a shovel is what he had, and a terrible lickin' he gave me with it."

"Well," says Sean, "you should have defended yourself. Didn't you have something in your hand?"

[wait for it...]

"That I did," said Paddy. "Mrs. O'Connor's breast... and a thing of beauty it was, but useless in a fight."

Posted by Cassandra at 07:42 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

March 15, 2014

Caption Contest - St. Patty's Edition

Alright villains! Here is your next picture to snarkify.

9.png

Have at it.
And may the Farce be with you.
0>;~}

Posted by DL Sly at 01:05 AM | Comments (39) | TrackBack

March 14, 2014

Let The Judgement Begin

Outstanding week of captioning, villains! The Blog Princess was right, it has been a challenge to judge the comments this week. Nothing that a lot of beer couldn't handle. (Yes, CAPT Mike, lots of beeeeerrrrr. heh) I'm thinking that y'all are enjoying this top 10 thing, though, by the sheer number of entries. Whatever works!
So, on to the judgement and old business:

A small review of last week's picture,
30.png
and we're off like a prom dress after the dance.

Firing up his jets and launching the judgement is frequent flyer for "On seeing Obama in the stands at the U.S. Open, Ferdinand had the same reaction as Chris Mathews--a THRILL RAN UP HIS LEG!"

Grim is doling out advice at number nine Following the Russian invasion of Crimea, John Kerry realizes he will have to pull up his big boy pants.

OBloodyHell is getting down and dirty in the eight hole with To Ferdinand's dismay, he discovered in the middle of the tourney that one of his opponents, taking a leaf from the Official Tonya Harding Playbook, swapped the club's hash brownies for ex-lax brownies.
His already none-too-illustrious career would, unfortunately, never recover.
... the tennis outfit was, of course, a total loss.

Lucky numba seven finds the ever-modest spd rdr in full projection mode "I'm humbled!" he shouted.

While YAG rounds out the bottom half and garners Obscure Movie Reference props for Say 'Hello' to my little friend.

Opening up the top half of the judgement at number five is afe with a tidbit of obscure European history that few, if anybody, knew: Losing badly in straight sets at the French Open, Jean-Pierre attempts to pull his white shorts over his head in the universal French symbol for surrender. This maneuver was first performed by French players, en masse, in response to the overwhelming play of the German 1940 doubles champions, Team Blitzkrieg.

Arriving in record time to make his next appearance at number four is frequent flyer with truly deflating news "Even while playing mixed-doubles with Maria Sharapova the frustration showed on Ferdinand's face when the Viagra STILL wouldn't work."

Claiming the bronze trivet as her own is our lovely Blog Princess, who shows her compassionate side with "7-LOVE???? I got yer 'love' right here, baby..."

And a shining silver shoe goes flinging towards Don Brouhaha for "This is the most interesting wedgie in the world!"

Bringing me to the top caption for this week. The golden stuffed marmoset for first place lands squarely in the lap of Yu-Ain Gonno for this - After an allegation of illegal equipment usage, the Head Judge asked to see the player's balls.
He immediately regretted the phrasing.

Most Cringe-Worthy caption and the latest walk down memory lane goes to frequent flyer and this low blow "Not only did Ferdinand suffer a blow to his nether regions, but he was dealt a second blow when ABCs Wide Wide World of Sports didn't use the video for its famous lead-in because it was even more violent than the fallen ski-jumper"

That's it for this week, villains! As I am coming to expect, y'all did a fantastic job.
And, MikeD? I'll leave you with Larry Bird's words: “You never make any of the shots you never take. 87% of the ones you do take, you’ll miss too.”
A new caption picture is forthcoming.
0>;~}

Posted by DL Sly at 09:57 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Smartest Thing We've Read This Week

Althouse:

2. Yeah, the ladies said "Ban"... so: Censorship alert!!! Beep! Beep! Beep! Did you bite at the bait? You're boosting their business. You did what they wanted you to do. Oh, how easy it is for women to manipulate men. Putting the man in manipulate. Some women wear push-up bras and red stilettos, and other women say I will control you. And those words impel you to dance your dance of freedom. Dance, man, dance!

3. Ha ha. It's a funny dance, that dance the BanBossy made you do. Mind if I stand off over here? I'm the standoffish one.

4. From over here, in my corner, here's how it looks. There's no banning. There's only pressure to think about the meaning of the things we think and say, to be more aware of the connotations of the words we use. "Bossy" is one word that conveys more gender meaning than the people who use it might realize. There are other words — "shrill" and "hysterical," for example — that you might want to notice are used more quickly against females and that might be unfair or dispiriting.

5. There are words that are used against men too, and women — some women — may feel energized to level the competition by cutting down men.

6. Why don't we all become more conscious of the meaning of words and of the basis of our opinion about other human beings? Why don't we become more generous as we interpret the experiences of other people and interact with them? Why don't we engage in the finest aspects of the life we are given and really try to understand each other and to use language in a way that expands and enlightens our shared existence?

7. See how my point #6 isn't at all viral? You don't feel spurred to talk about that.

Tempest + Teapot = Traffic.

I don't think I've ever heard a man described as "bossy", but just let him publicly display the kind of decency sensitivity or consideration for others that I expect of an adult human being and he's likely to be called pussy-whipped, henpecked, gay, weak, [name your pejorative].

This is almost as idiotic as the shrill, hysterical (ooh! that sounds condescending, doesn't it?) whining about this story.

I keep trying to imagine a world in which conservatives don't complain about liberals interpreting every random news story through the lens of identity politics (while interpreting every random news story through the lens of their own brand of identity politics).

Really, people of all kinds. The universe is not trying to oppress "your kind", whatever kind you identify with this week. Person up.

UPDATE: Dear Lord, make it stop:

The real reason Knox is causing so much consternation is not that she was in porn, but that she thought she had a right to both be in porn and have access to a college education.

No, the real reason she is causing so much consternation is because, like Ms. Sandberg, she deliberately stirred it up. And because most people think she's beclowning herself.

Please don't ask me to feel sorry for a girl who had a full ride to Vanderbilt and turned it down to attend a school she now claims not to be able to afford. The kind of math used in basic budgeting is generally taught well before middle school.

Those women's studies classes don't seem to be producing the critical thinking skills one might expect from a college grad. Color us tres shocked.

It has been a stupid week.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:32 PM | Comments (67) | TrackBack

March 13, 2014

L'Etat! C'est Moi!

It is good to be King:

The Obama administration has decided that the sequester's mandatory spending cuts no longer apply to part of Obamacare.

The health care law provides subsidies to help low-income people cover some of their out-of-pocket costs. Last year, the administration said those subsidies were taking a 7 percent cut because of the sequester, which imposed across-the-board reductions in federal spending.

But now, the White House has changed its mind. It removed the cost-sharing subsidies from its list of programs that are subject to the sequester, eliminating the 7 percent cut for 2015.

Zut alors! Je suis très confus.

Didn't we hire this guy to faithfully enforce the laws passed by Congress?

We are in the midst of a constitutional crisis with sweeping implications for our system of government. There has been a massive gravitational shift of authority to the Executive Branch that threatens the stability and functionality of our tripartite system. To be sure, this shift did not begin with President Obama. However, it has accelerated at an alarming rate under this Administration. These changes are occurring in a political environment with seemingly little oxygen for dialogue, let alone compromise. Indeed, the current
anaerobic conditions are breaking down the muscle of the constitutional system that protects us all. Of even greater concern is the fact that the other two branches appear passive, if not inert, as the Executive Branch has assumed such power.

As someone who voted for President Obama and agrees with many of his policies, it is often hard to separate the ends from the means of presidential action. Indeed, despite decades of thinking and writing about the separation of powers, I have had momentary lapses where I privately rejoiced in seeing actions on goals that I share, even though they were done in the circumvention of Congress. For example, when President Obama unilaterally acted on greenhouse gas pollutants, I was initially relieved. I agree entirely with the priority that he has given this issue. However, it takes an act of willful blindness to ignore that the greenhouse regulations were implemented only after Congress rejected such measures and that a new sweeping regulatory scheme is now being promulgated solely upon the authority of the President.2

We are often so committed to a course of action that we conveniently dismiss the means as a minor issue in light of the goals of the Administration. Many have embraced the notion that all is fair in love and politics. However, as I have said too many times before Congress, in our system it is often more important how we do something than what we do. Priorities and policies (and presidents)change.

What cannot change is the system upon which we all depend for our rights and representation.

Sacre bleu! Obama is a Uniter, after all.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:36 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 12, 2014

A Visual Interlude

A long time ago, I found a site on the web where a guy by the name of Randy Halverson posted his 360 degree panorama pictures. The one that started it all was this South Dakota Bad Lands picture,
Sunrise at Harvey Peak, Black Hill, SD.jpg
that, on his original site, was one of the first interactive pics on the web. You could move around in the picture - side-to-side, zoom in and out, etc. - with a simple movement or click of the mouse.

Well, he's gotten a *little* better over the years....

MT Buffalo under Milky Way.png

As y'all can see, I wasn't kidding about a billion stars in the Montana sky.
Now, he's doing time-lapse pictures converted to video.
Enjoy.

Tip o' the Stetson: AoS

Posted by DL Sly at 11:39 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

All Kinds Of Kinds

Score one for the good guys.

"NBC 7 spoke exclusively with the boy’s coach, Scott Hedenkamp. Hedenkamp says they were in the middle of practice when he noticed the man watching one of his players and pacing back and forth.

Hedenkamp says the man watched the boy from behind home plate and, at one point, joined the group on the field.

“He had a one track mind, and he was going to take my player,” Hedenkamp said. “I wasn't going to let that happen.”

Hedenkamp told NBC 7 the suspect kept saying the same thing over and over: “‘That's my boy. That's my son. C'mon let's go. It's time to go home.’ My player said, ‘Coach, that's not my dad.’”

Hedenkamp said he put his body between the man and the boy, making it clear the 7-year-old wasn’t going anywhere."

Nicely done, Coach.

Posted by DL Sly at 07:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 11, 2014

Revenge...

...is a dish best served cold:

squirrelfeeder.jpg

Posted by Cassandra at 07:46 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Sacre Bleu! Why Were We Not Informed of This???

Just in case any of you missed it the other day, this must-read article from the WSJ makes two points:

1. Contra the Left, worker's incomes have kept pace with gains in productivity. This is a particularly important argument as arguments to the contrary are a key justification for viewing income inequality as "unfair" (and for confiscating and redistributing the supposedly ill-gotten profits of employers):

Many pundits, politicians and economists claim that wages have fallen behind productivity gains over the last generation. This "decoupling" explains allegedly stagnant (or in some versions of the story, declining) middle-class incomes and is held out as a crisis of the market economy.

This story, though, is built on an illusion. There is no great decoupling of worker pay from productivity. Nor have workers' incomes stagnated over the past four decades.

The illusion is the result of two mistakes that are routinely made when pay is compared with productivity. First, the value of fringe benefits—such as health insurance and pension contributions—is often excluded from calculations of worker pay. Because fringe benefits today make up a larger share of the typical employee's pay than they did 40 years ago (about 19% today compared with 10% back then), excluding them fosters the illusion that the workers' slice of the (bigger) pie is shrinking.

The second mistake is to use the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to adjust workers' pay for inflation while using a different measure—for example the GDP deflator, which converts the current prices of all domestically produced final goods and services into constant dollars—to adjust the value of economic output for inflation. But as Harvard's Martin Feldstein noted in a National Bureau of Economic Research paper in 2008, it is misleading to use different deflators.

Different inflation adjustments give conflicting estimates of just how much the dollar's purchasing power has fallen. So to accurately compare the real (that is, inflation-adjusted) value of output to the real value of worker pay requires that these values both be calculated using the same price index.

2. Where has so-called "vanishing middle class" disappeared to? Turns out most have moved into higher income brackets:

The claim that ordinary Americans are stagnating economically while only "the rich" are gaining is also incorrect. True enough, membership in the middle class seems to be declining—but this is because more American households are moving up.

The Census Bureau in 2012 compiled data on the percentage of U.S. households earning annual incomes, measured in 2009 dollars, in different income categories (for example, annual incomes between $25,000 and $35,000). These data reveal that between 1975 and 2009, the percentage of households in the low- and middle-income categories fell. The only two categories that saw an increase were households earning between $75,000 and $100,000 annually, and households earning more than $100,000 annually. Remarkably, the share of American households earning annual incomes in excess of $100,000 went to 20.1% in 2009 from 8.4% in 1975. Over these same years, households earning annual incomes of $50,000 or less fell to 50.1% from 58.4%.

So to recap, upward mobility is alive and well in America and if you include total compensation (benefits that mostly didn't exist in our parents' time, plus wages), worker pay is not stagnant. Perhaps our President will learn this good news the way he learns what's happening in his own administration: by reading a newspaper.

A Blog Princess can dream...

Posted by Cassandra at 07:25 AM | Comments (66) | TrackBack

Kids and the Power of Music

Music has tremendous power to move us, and this is rarely more apparent than when watching young children discover its magic.

In the first of two videos (placed below the fold so they don't slow down site loading), a young girl renders an astonishing version of Billy Holiday's "Gloomy Sunday":

Dreaming, I was only dreaming
I wake and I find you asleep in the deep of my heart here
Darling I hope that my dream never haunted you
My heart is tellin' you how much I wanted you.

We once read an article on the theme, "What makes great art?" Fancy definitions aside, when a work of art communicates so well that someone who has never cared about or experienced a thing nonetheless feels it deeply, that qualifies in my book.

)

One of our favorite memories is of our youngest boy, aged 4, dressed up in a tweed blazer and his very first "big boy" tie, munching on fruit as he stood - completely blissed out and utterly oblivious to anyone else in the room - in front of the bass player in a jazz quartet. His little eyes were closed and one foot was tapping in time with the music.

In his hand was a cluster of grapes. The bass player said he wished everyone could enjoy music that much.

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

March 10, 2014

Caption Contest

Alright, villains. Here is your next pic to snarkify.

30.png

Have at it.
And may the Farce be with you.
0>;~]

Posted by DL Sly at 12:37 PM | Comments (40) | TrackBack

Let The Judgement Begin

So, as I said earlier, I was on the road all day Friday. Now that I've gotten some sleep and washed off the road grime, the judgement will commence.
Once again, y'all have come up with so many entries that I am unable to have just a simple three winner list. So, again this week, we will have a top 10.
Now, to the judgement and old business:

A small review of last week's picture,
28.png
and away we go...

Starting the party off, both here and in the comments, is frequent flyer in true VC fashion - There are 8 women in the photo. It's the trailer for the remake of the James Bond film "Octopussy."

Yu-Ain Gonnano continues his mysterious ways in the nine slot with "On Monday, the Russian State Department responded to the United States' stern warning over it's actions in Ukraine with nothing but this picture of the Russian syncronized swimming team.
US officials are still uncertain of its meaning."

Grim grabs the eighth spot with a truly *grim* caption, "Due to unexpected retirements during his second term, Barack Obama was able to appoint fully eight justices to the Supreme Court -- here pictured during the annual beach party that became their tradition just before the beginning of the winter session."

At number seven, spd shows his "Oink Cadre" cred's with, It's nearly six p.m., and only one of these women knows "what's for dinner."

And rounding out the first half of the judgement, a special candygram goes to CAPT Mongo for "Bill Clinton just dove in."

Pogue serves up a fine second half entre' at number five with "It wasn't until the middle of the synchronized swimming event that the unfortunate after effects of the pre swim burrito lunch materialized."

While frequent flyer hints at his many destinations flown to in his second appearance this week from the fourth place position - "The Synchronized Swim Team World Tour came to a tragic end when they were booked into a Pirhana-filled river in Brazil."

Melissa Fletcher combines the essences of brevity and the timeless saying, "A picture's worth a thousand words." with "Piranhas!!!"

And OBloodyHell takes us out on a waayyy too small boat, "Where the hell is that "Dum-dum dum-dum... dum-dum dum-dum..." music coming from??"

Our resident *Sybil*, a former european, claims the number two spot with "After his escape from Seaworld, Norman, the playful octopus, liked to goose passing swimmersby -- sometimes using all eight tentacles for a real crowd-pleaser."

And, finding himself in the number one slot by virtue his willingness to risk virtual life and limb (or, at the very least, a good knuckle-rapping by Sister Mary Bag O'Metaphors) in order to turn the Blog Princess' recent misfortune into prime snark is spd rdr for "Although it quickly proved itself a much safer alternative to traditional floor exercises, for bloggers and grandmothers Underwater Team Trampoline still took a bit of getting used to."

Longest caption of the week goes to George Pal and "(AP) In a stunning reversal of fortune, the International Synchronized Hydraulic Effervescing Federation (ISHEF) had disqualified the team from Nauru from competition for one year. The team had failed doping tests registering incredibly high and dangerous levels of phosphates. A Government spokesperson from Nauru denounced the decision insisting that linking the tiny island nation’s diminishing sole natural resource, phosphates, and the teams remarkable success smacked of racially inspired speculation.
The IOC, nevertheless announced today it had accepted the International Synchronized Hydraulic Effervescing Federation (ISHEF) bid to include the sport at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil."

Most Trouble with HTML coding, but garnering a *AAA* for effort in triplicate (you were in the Army, weren't you!?) is frequent flyer's trio:
"Fresh from their success in forcing the reform of the health-care industry, the Obama Administration mandated reform of all athletic competition. In the case of water events, they mandated that swimmers wear "floaties" on their feet to prevent drowning. In this photo the tragic results of the ill-considered dictum are shown. There were no survivors.

By Executive Order, enforcement of the edict was delayed until AFTER the elections."
Posted by: frequent flyer at March 5, 2014 12:32 PM

Link didn't work--try again. this photo
Posted by: frequent flyer at March 5, 2014 12:35 PM

Copy and paste

http://www.google.com/imgres?sa=X&rlz=1T4MXGB_enUS512US512&biw=1539&bih=552&tbm=isch&tbnid=u9kgNl6fNI3w_M%3A&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fgalleries.austin360.com%2Fgallery%2Fus-junior-synchronized-swimming-championshi%2F&docid=66R8_Rzp1mZc1M&imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Falt.coxnewsweb.com%2Fcnishared%2Ftools%2Fshared%2Fmediahub%2F08%2F42%2F51%2Fslideshow_1514282_lhs_Synchro_Swim_09.jpg&w=500&h=312&ei=nVsXU9W8KInkyAHo0ID4Cg&zoom=1&ved=0CIYDEIQcMGM&iact=rc&dur=6429&page=6&start=91&ndsp=17
Posted by: frequent flyer at March 5, 2014 12:38 PM

Also, obscure song reference props go to frequent flyer and this walk down memory lane - "Yet another theory was disproved Superior, it's said never gives up its dead when these bodies floated to the surface. Gordon Lightfoot was WRONG."

Well, that's it for this week, villains. Another caption contest pic will be up soon. Great job everyone, and congrats to the top ten winners.
0>;~}

Posted by DL Sly at 03:16 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

March 08, 2014

How Embarrassing....


Which Mythical Creature Are You?

You got: Unicorn

You magical, perfect creature! You have a pure heart and you always see the best in people. You value the simple pleasures in life, and you’re an eternal optimist. You’re protective of those close to you, but you avoid conflict at all costs. You do best in small crowds and one-on-one situations, and when you trust someone, you trust them entirely.

We're not sure we avoid conflict at all costs, but we certainly don't enjoy it.

At work, the Editorial Staff are usually quite outspoken - probably more so than anyone else. Perhaps we are this kind of unicorn:

armored unicorn.jpg

Or this:

unicorn_cat.jpg

Don't ask why we had these graphics on our desktop. It's hard to explain...

Posted by Cassandra at 09:48 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Kleenex Alert

In a cynical world, it's good to know that seemingly minor decisions can still create miracles. God bless this young man and his parents:

Posted by Cassandra at 09:14 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 07, 2014

In Defense of Truthiness

We never thought we'd use the words "epic" and "amicus brief" in the same sentence:

In modern times, “truthiness”—a “truth” asserted “from the gut” or because it “feels right,” without regard to evidence or logic5—is also a key part of political discourse. It is difficult to imagine life without it, and our political discourse is weakened by Orwellian laws that try to prohibit it.

After all, where would we be without the knowledge that Democrats are pinko-communist flag-burners who want to tax churches and use the money to fund abortions so they can use the fetal stem cells to create pot-smoking lesbian ATF agents who will steal all the guns and invite the UN to take over America? Voters have to decide whether we’d be better off electing Republicans, those hateful, assault-weapon-wielding maniacs who believe that George Washington and Jesus Christ incorporated the nation after a Gettysburg reenactment and that the only thing wrong with the death penalty is that it isn’t administered quickly enough to secular- humanist professors of Chicano studies.

Imagine a life without hyperbole.

CWCID

Posted by Cassandra at 09:09 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Hands Off My Remote!!!

Tex linked to this story over at Grim's place:

A machine that delivers an orgasm at the push of a button has been patented in the US. The implant could help women whose lives have been blighted by an inability to achieve orgasms naturally.

Orgasmic dysfunction is not uncommon among women, says Julia Cole, a psychosexual therapist and consultant with Relate, the relationship counselling service. And a number of issues can cause it, says Jim Pfaus, who studies the neurobiology of sexual behaviour at Concordia University in Montreal.

"Some women confuse what's called sympathetic arousal, like increased heart rate, clammy hands, nerves and so on, with fear," he explains. "That makes them want to get out of the situation." Psychotherapy is a common treatment for the condition, although if anxiety is a factor, patients may also be prescribed valium. "But valium can actually delay orgasm," says Pfaus.

The patient remains conscious during the operation to help the surgeon find the best position for the electrodes. Stuart Meloy, a surgeon at Piedmont Anesthesia and Pain Consultants in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, made the breakthrough came one day when he failed to hit the right spot. "I was placing the electrodes and suddenly the woman started exclaiming emphatically," he says. "I asked her what was up and she said, 'You're going to have to teach my husband to do that'."

Meloy expects clinical trials to begin later this year with Medtronic, a company based in Minneapolis. He says the stimulating wires could connect to a signal generator smaller than a packet of cigarettes implanted under the skin of one of the patient's buttocks. "Then you'd have a hand-held remote control to trigger it," he says.

Combine the well documented masculine love of pushing buttons and getting a reaction with the fact that in over 3 decades of marriage, we still have not figured out how to pry the Spousal Unit's hands off the TV remote and this story is terrifying...

Posted by Cassandra at 08:54 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Important Iffy Prosecution Update

Why, O why is the military persecuting this great man?

He pleaded guilty to adultery, improper relationships with three other female officers, impeding an investigation and watching pornography on his personal computer on a military base in Afghanistan.

HE'S A HUMAN, DAMMIT!

Posted by Cassandra at 08:22 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

Many moons ago after years as a stay at home wife and mother, the Editorial Staff went back to school to earn a college degree. Not wanting to go into debt, we kept our grades up and applied for scholarships and worked on campus tutoring math and conducting a series of student-led programs designed to cut the failure/withdrawal rates in challenging courses.

One of these courses was Business Law. For 3 or 4 semesters (memory fails us), we attended class and then planned and conducted 3 study sessions a week for students who were struggling to understand the material. Because this was an undergrad class designed for Business majors, it concentrated on common law definitions of various torts and one or two crimes. We also covered how civil and criminal trials and burdens of proof differ (and perhaps more importantly, why they differ).

Students typically had a hard time understanding how the same offense can be both a crime (violation of a criminal statute punishable by the state) and a tort (a violation of a civil duty typically remedied by ordering the offending party to "make the plaintiff whole" - a fancy way of saying, "The plaintiff suffered a loss because of your actions and you need to compensate him or her for that loss.")

"Isn't that double jeopardy?", they asked every semester. It's not, because the same act constitutes two separate offenses with different "victims". In the criminal action, the plaintiff is the State and the remedy is designed to protect society's interests. Because the potential punishments are more severe and the State has more power than most individuals, the burden of proof is higher. In the civil action, the plaintiff is the party claiming injury, and the remedy is designed to protect the victim's interests. Because (at least theoretically) individuals are on a more even footing and the remedies are usually monetary, the burden of proof is lower.

But there are similarities between civil and criminal actions, too. For example, in most cases the burden of proof is on the accuser. If the accuser can't establish facts proving all elements of the offense by the appropriate standard (preponderance or reasonable doubt), the accused party generally doesn't even have to present their case. Once the accuser does meet the burden of proof, the burden shifts to the accused to establish facts proving a recognized defense. So, for example, if an accuser successfully proves defamation, the accused can avoid punishment by proving the supposedly defamatory statement was in fact, true (truth is a defense to defamation).

This all makes sense, but lately we've noticed several instances of burden-shifting that occurs before an accuser has actually proved the traditional elements of the offense. The first example involves allegations of securities fraud. The Editorial Staff make no claim to know what formal definition of fraud is being used here, but she still remembers the common law elements:

1. An intentional misrepresentation
2. Of a material fact
3. Relied upon by the plaintiff
4. To his detriminent.

In Lay Princess terms, the accuser needs to prove that the accused deliberately misled the accuser, that the deception involved a fact centrally related or relevant to the proposed harm, that the accuser knew about/actually believed the deception, and that as a result of believing this deception, the accuser suffered a loss. That doesn't seem to describe this scenario at all:

The lawsuit is possible thanks to the Supreme Court's 1988 ruling in Basic v. Levinson, which embraced the "fraud on the market" theory. The theory assumes that markets are efficient and the price of a stock incorporates all publicly available information about the company. The Court thus assumed that when an investor buys a stock he relied on that information for his decision.

In other words, judges are directed to accept for class certification that investors were potentially defrauded whenever a company statement turns out to be wrong. Whether an investor bought a stock because Uncle Bob recommended it, or because his wife likes the product became irrelevant.

We respect the efficient-markets argument, but it certainly isn't the only theory of stock-price movements. There is, for example, the madness of crowds. Investors buy shares for any number of reasons, and often the company misstatement alleged as fraud has no discernible impact on the stock price. Yet under the logic in Basic, lawyers don't even have to prove price impact to form a class.

Here's another troubling example:

Uniquely among nations, the U.S. gives mortgage borrowers a trifecta of benefits: extensive tax advantages, no recourse against the borrowers' nonresidential assets if they walk away, and typically no protection for the lender if the borrower prepays the loan to get a lower rate.

These policies long seemed like a great deal for borrowers, but they wreaked havoc on the financial system. People with marginal credit were encouraged to finance more than 90% of the purchase price with 30-year mortgages. If interest rates later fell, they could refinance. If rates rose, they could congratulate themselves for locking in a low rate. If prices rose, they enjoyed all the upside and could tap the equity. If prices fell and they faced foreclosure, their other assets were protected because the loans were usually non-recourse.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau now wants to tip the scale even more against lenders by asserting the legal theory of "disparate impact." Consumers can sue if the volume of loans to any racial group or aggrieved class differs substantially from loans to other groups. No intent to discriminate is required, and it's illegal for a mortgage application to ask the borrower's race. Financial institutions trying to avoid making bad loans by implementing prudent underwriting practices can inadvertently get in trouble. A bank forced to pay a fine one year because it irresponsibly made "predatory" loans to people with bad credit can be fined the next year for not making similar loans.

This type of argument strikes us as particularly pernicious, in that the rules of conduct are applied arbitrarily to protect some people from the consequences of their decisions while assuming others are guilty before the accuser has even proven his or her case.

Kind of reminds us of Taranto's excellent point the other day.

Exactly how granting special favors to classes of people viewed as "disadvantaged" while holding others to an unreasonably high standard of conduct helps society become more tolerant and diverse is beyond us. Seems like a tactic designed to destroy civic engagement and make people fearful of dealing with women, minorities, and the poor. All this is particularly ironic coming from an administration that keeps lecturing us about how we all need to play by the same rules.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:53 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 06, 2014

"Proof" of Hypergamy?

Mein Gott im Himmel! Our beloved Texan99 (who is all about the giving) offers up good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. Finally, Science has helpfully provided a "carefully controlled" study that can be use to "prove" that women are hypergamous!

corvette.pngLike Tex, we can't recall ever being terribly impressed with cars. We dated a lot of guys in high school. Only one drove a fancy car (a 1962 white corvette convertible), and frankly we decide to go out with him despite the fancy car, not because of it. After the first date, we declined to go out with him again. He was from a wealthy family and had a privileged background and we really didn't have much in common.

But as we've repeatedly pointed out, these are anecdotes (the plural of which is not "facts"). Science is concerned with cold, hard facts and rigorous, carefully designed studies that use the scientific method to counter the natural human tendency to cherry pick evidence that conveniently confirms what we already thought was true. OK, you can all stop laughing now.

Let's take a look at this study. Dr. Helen describes it thusly:

I frequently hear women or even men say that hypergamy, the tendency for women to find mates of higher status, is untrue or rarely true. However, a study on status in the book shows otherwise: In a carefully controlled experiment (Guéguen and Lamy 2012), researchers tested the idea of how important status is to women. They placed men in expensive cars and instructed them to approach women and ask for their phone numbers. Then they had the men do the same thing in medium- and low-status cars.
The results? The men were successful 23.3 percent of the time when women saw them in a high-status car, 12.8 percent of the time when they drove a middle-status car, and 7.8 percent of the time when they drove a low-status car. Clearly, women are monitoring our status, and we’re acutely aware of that fact.

So the next time someone asks for “proof” of hypergamy, now you can just give the statistics of the willingness of women to give out their number to the guy in the Maserati.

There are a number of problems with this study (not the least of which is the possibility that driving an expensive car makes a man feel more confident, confidence being a well-known factor in romantic success), but let's start by looking at the numbers. If we assume the results of this study can be correctly applied to all women, the study "proved" that if a random man in a car approaches 100 random women and asks for their phone number, more than half (56%) about 85% will say no regardless of what kind of car he's driving. [Note to self - do NOT attempt math with percentages when you're in a hurry. See explanation at end of post! Thanks, MikeD :)]

That 44% 14.6% would say yes seems more than a bit suspect to us, so we searched for more information about the study. It turns out that the sample of men asking for phone numbers was purposely biased - they were screened for high attractiveness to women. The sample of women they approached was random, though. This doesn't seem like an accurate model of real dating behavior, much less real marriage behavior. Extremely attractive men don't usually approach women randomly, regardless of age or attractiveness. Their standards are higher than those of less attractive men because they can afford to be picky. The same is true for women.

What does the willingness of women to accept non-random propositions from handsome men prove about women's marriage standards? This is important, because marriage behavior (not hooking up behavior) is what hypergamy is actually about:

hypergamy: the practice among Hindu women of marrying into a caste at least as high as their own.

1. anthropol a custom that forbids a woman to marry a man of lower social status
2.any marriage with a partner of higher social status

Notice the surprising lack of references to female biology, the scientifically reconstructed social behavior of prehistoric cavemen, or bonobo chimps in the wild. Hypergamy is about cultural practices and norms, and how women decide whom to marry, not how they decide whether to give their real (or fake) phone number to a decidedly non-random sample of very handsome men in cars of varying price tags.

According to the study abstract, this study wasn't even designed to measure hypergamy (the preference for marrying men of the same or higher status) at all!

Research has found that, for long-term dating, women value men with greater financial resources and higher status, while for short-term dating they value men with greater physical attractiveness. However, there are discrepant results for both long- and short-term dating. As most of the previous studies used only questionnaires, we conducted a field experiment to evaluate women’s receptivity to men’s date requests.

All of this retroactive embroidering of "scientific" studies reminds us of another frequently cited study among the hypergamy-is-destiny crowd:

The study where male college students were far more likely to accept an offer of casual sex with a complete stranger than female college students is often cited as proof that men and women innately differ in their desire for sex. The problem is that it doesn't actually establish that at all. The study tells us only the "what" - not the "why".

We've already pointed out several times that the risks of accepting such an offer are far lower for men than they are for women. Part of that could be chalked up to biology: men are bigger (and more aggressive) than women, so women rightly fear violent rape or injury more than men do. Pregnancy is another consequence where biology can fairly be said to factor into the decision. But many who take the "nature" side of the nature/nurture debate argue that women - simply by virtue of biology - don't want or like sex as much as men.

And this may actually be true: it's one explanation among many possible ones: higher risk, lower reward, cultural conditioning, the asymmetrical stigma attached to casual sex... Biology. Or perhaps simply that, for a whole host of reasons, casual sex just isn't as much fun for women?

Perhaps ironically, hypergamy doesn't actually strike us as a bad thing. Marriage and family formation are all about the creation and preservation of wealth and security. Men and women alike want to see their genes passed to the next generation and presumably want their progeny to be at least as secure and prosperous as the families they grew up in. But if you're a scientist and want to find out whether women are predisposed to marry men of equal-or-greater status, wouldn't it make sense to look at the comparative socio-economic status of actual women who have actually gotten married?

assortchart_1.jpg

Or maybe we could look at how many wives are more educated or make more than their husbands. When it comes to how real people choose spouses, decades of research show that homogamy is the actual norm.

But never mind all this actual marriage data. Explaining complex human behaviors in terms of bonobos, cave men, and non-random handsome men picking up random women makes tons more sense.

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

Hopefully correct math this time. Note, this works only if each man conducts an equal number of trials per car type... I think. Please let me know if I'm wrong and I'll gladly correct and credit you!

horrible math.png

I am such a dork.... sorry about that.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:59 AM | Comments (36) | TrackBack

March 05, 2014

Blogging

The Dorkitorial Staff will be back eventually. Over the weekend, we learned a valuable lesson: Grandma needs to stay off the trampoline no matter how politely the oldest GrandPunk asks, or how fun it looks.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:34 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

March 01, 2014

Caption Contest

I can't wait to see what you guys come up with for this week's picture to snarkify:

28.png

Have at it, villains.
May the Farce be with you!

Posted by DL Sly at 04:10 PM | Comments (55) | TrackBack