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October 31, 2014

Oh for Pete's Sake

People like this grate on our last nerve. Idiotic lawsuit of the week:

Google has been ordered to pay a Canadian woman $2,250 (£1,250) for an image on Street View that exposed her cleavage.

The image showed the woman, Maria Pia Grillo, sitting on a step outside her house, leaning forward with her elbows resting on her knees. In the picture she was wearing a low-cut top that left "part of her breast" exposed.

Although her face was blurred out, she was still identifiable – particularly as her car was parked in the driveway without the licence plate number blurred out.

Grillo filed a lawsuit in 2011 asking Google to blur out more of the image, including most of her body and her licence plate.

She also demanded to be paid $45,000 (£25,000) for the depression she had suffered, after her coworkers at "a well-known bank" discovered the image and derided her for it.

Google agreed to blur out the photo when the lawsuit was filed, but refused to pay Grillo compensation on the grounds that she was in a public place when the photo was taken.

The company also said that it was not responsible for any emotional damage Grillo may have suffered.

However, a Quebecois court in Montreal has now ruled that, despite being in public, Grillo’s privacy had been disrespected and that her "modesty and dignity" had been violated.

“In addition to malicious comments and humiliation she suffered at work, the plaintiff, in particular, has experienced a significant loss of personal modesty and dignity, two values that she held and are eminently respectable,” the judge wrote in his ruling.

Before seeing the photo, the Editorial Staff were actually mildly inclined to give this twit the benefit of the doubt, mostly because we assumed (wrongly) that the photo had been taken from the air and thus provided a view down her shirt that would have been extremely unlikely for a reasonable person to suspect anyone else to have. The average woman isn't expecting cameras from space to peer down her shirt or cameras underground to peer up her skirt, and probably shouldn't be expected to live a life constantly on guard against voyeurs with digital cameras.

But nothing was posted that any passerby could not also have seen. So a largely unsympathetic Blog Princess is left wondering why the obvious fact that anyone walking or passing would be able to see down her shirt to her navel (and therefore wound her personal modesty and dignity) did not occur to this person?

We'll grant that there's a difference between exposing yourself to random passersby and having a photo of that exposure posted to the Internet. But we're inclined to think this more an offense against privacy (don't take pictures of me in my own yard and post them on the Internet) than one against "personal modesty or dignity".

Reading the judgment leaves us in some doubt as to the Plaintiff's sincerity (not to mention her literacy):

As appears from the letter filed as Exhibit P-4, Plaintiff was fully aware that she was being photographed by the Google vehicle and, according to Plaintiff's allegations, Plaintiff waited for five (5) months thereafter, before taking any position in respect thereto.

17. Plaintiff alleges in the Application (see paragraph 2) that she used Street View to view her residence "[o]n or around October 9, 2009". This allegation is contradicted by the statement in Exhibit P-4 to the effect that Plaintiff sent the letter filed as Exhibit P-3, to Google, "on or about October 11, 2009". The undated letter files as Exhibit P-3, which was, according to Exhibit P-4, sent on or around October 11, 2009, begins with "Several Weeks ago, I had the unfortunate displeasure of finding that I appear on your Street View "Service" [our underlining].

18. Moreover, and under reserve of Google's position as set out above, it should be noted that nowhere in the letter filed as Exhibit P-3 does Plaintiff refer to any alleged "mockeries, derisions, disreaspectful ans [sic] sexually related comments in relation with the photographs" which are alleged in paagraph 5 (first bullet) of the Application. In addition, nowhere in Exhibit P-3 does [Plaintiff ask that the image of the person in Exhibit P-1 be removed. Indeed, the only request made by Plaintiff in the letter filed as Exhibit P-3 was the removal of license plate information.

Incroyable! We suspect Plaintiff of being both a ditz and a dirtbag opportunist.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:21 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Friday Inflammatory Debate Topic

So, is this "emasculation", or a reasonable standard?

The commander of U.S. troops in South Korea is dropping the hammer on that country’s notorious “juicy bars,” which use women as sex workers who cater to U.S. troops.

Many of the women are illegally smuggled into South Korea from other countries, including the Philippines. They are treated as the property of “juicy bar” proprietors, who steal their passports and claim the women owe them money for bringing them into the country.

The women are forced to sell themselves as companions to U.S. troops, who can buy overpriced juice drinks from them. A 2002 Military Times investigation profiled a “juicy girl,” who said she did not make enough money by selling drinks to pay off her debt to her bar owner, so she had to resort to charging U.S. service members for sex.

How is this the same/different from the Secret Service brouhaha? (sorry, Don!)

Posted by Cassandra at 12:19 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack


Who makes up these names? The Editorial Staff could totally do that job:

A special operations company from MARSOC will launch from Navy ships and augment larger Marine missions at [Operation] Bold Alligator this year as the Corps embraces a concept that has elite forces and fleet Marines working in tandem.

About 56 operators from 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion, out of Camp Pendleton, California are involved in the large-scale amphibious exercise, which runs along the East Coast and inland, said Capt. Barry Morris, a spokesman for MARSOC.

We're guessing the assembled villainry could do even better. We haven't had a weird contest in a while - what say you, villains?

Kleenex alert.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:47 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

October 29, 2014

Confirmation Bias in Action

On the Epidemics in History post, Tom points out that what I wrote here was completely wrong:

The other interesting insight was that in a world where global population has exploded, borders are porous, and people have the ability and means to travel almost anywhere on earth in just a few hours, every successive epidemic kills fewer and fewer people.

As he points out in the comments, the dots aren't in chronological order. In fact, they're ranked by the number of deaths. I've been trying to figure out how I got the idea that the death toll from epidemics was shrinking over time. The only thing I can come up with is some combination of looking only at the part of the graph I posted (the entire thing was too long to fit) and my simply seeing what my mind preferred to see.

I tried sorting the epidemics chronologically and running several curve fits through the data points to see if there was any discernable downward trend in deaths over time. Frankly, despite having screwed things up the first time, I still expected to see what I wanted to see.

Wrong again:

curve fit1.png

The line does go down, but the first few data points are so extreme that they're driving everything else. I suppose one could say that we haven't had an epidemic/pandemic on the order of the Plague of Justinian (541) or the Black plague (1346) in modern history, so in that narrow sense the death toll is decreasing over time but even if you leave out those two data points, you don't get an unambiguous downward trend.

Here's a color coded (green = plague, red = cholera, blue = flu) and chronologically sorted list:


It's fascinating to me how our minds want to see clear patterns in data, sometimes when there isn't much of a pattern (or even any pattern at all). As a killer of human beings over time, plague seems to have given way to cholera and then to flu. Since 1960, about half of the epi/pandemics seem to be "one offs".

Anyway, thanks to Tom for spotting my mistake and giving me the change to take another look at the data (this time more carefully, though unfortunately I'm still a bit rushed). Please let me know if I've missed or misstated anything.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:29 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Why Has Violent Crime Dropped More in the US than Elsewhere?

Fascinating article on crime rates by Heather McDonald:

From 2000 to 2012, the U.S. violent crime rate fell over 23 percent. Such an improvement in the social fabric would be cause enough for celebration. But the crime drop of the 2000s followed an even larger decline in the previous decade: 32 percent from 1993 to 2000. The 1990s crime drop (in both personal and property crime) was so sharp and so unexpected that by 2000, most criminologists were predicting that an uptick was all but inevitable. Instead, after a brief pause, the crime fall again picked up steam, extending the longest and steepest crime decrease since World War Two.

America’s two-decades-long victory over crime reversed what had seemed to be an inexorable increase in lawlessness since the 1960s. The murder rate had more than doubled from 1964 to 1974, spiking again in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But just as crime was peaking in 1993, it reversed and went into freefall. The greatest beneficiaries of that crime drop have been the residents of minority neighborhoods, where crime was (and still is) highest and where the bulk of the recent crime decrease occurred.

The fact that the American crime drop encompassed every category of serious violent and property offense makes this transformation virtually unique among Western countries. Particular crimes went down by sometimes comparable amounts in other G7 countries, but those nations experienced increases in other serious offenses. And the fact that crime went down everywhere across America makes the phenomenon particularly puzzling, since crime is a local condition.


Neither liberal nor conservative root-cause theories of law-breaking have fared well over the past two decades.

...So what happened? No consensus exists. Favored explanations among criminologists include the collapse of the crack cocaine trade, a shrinking youth population, and a better job market, but none of these theories perfectly fit the data. The spread of New York–style policing and increased incarceration are better, but by no means exclusive, explanations for the national crime drop.

New York’s crime decline over the past two decades has been twice as deep as the national average and greater than in every other large American city.

Read the whole thing. There's a lot of food for thought there.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:29 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

October 28, 2014

Somewhere On The Dark Side...

...a door creaks open, the tinkle of bottles rolling across the floor barely announces the bolt of light that stabs and slices through the shadows.
"Pssst! Da boss! She be back!!" comes the hissed warning from the other side of the accursed door.
Dammit! I thought I had more time....how long has it been anyway?
*glances at the September calendar page*
Quick, gotta come up with some kind of distraction...I know!!
When all else fails, flaunt my mountainous privilege!!!

GNP ridge in the mist.png

MH's birthday was a couple of weeks ago, and given that most of Going To The Sun road would be closed soon, we decided to celebrate with a trip to the top. Along the way, we spotted this...

GNP - Mountain goat.png

GNP mountain goat II.png

GNP - Mountain goat IIII.png

GNP mountain goat 5.png

And, even though the weather wasn't perfect, the mists couldn't hide sites such as this for long...

GNP - Down the valley.png

GNP - Shafts of light along McDonald Creek.png

Did I mention that autumn is in full swing? I didn't?

GNP - Spots of light through the trees.png

As we drove back down, we discovered to where our friend from earlier was so determined to return...and why.
GNP - Mountain goat family.png

Winding our way back down the road, even more of the park's incredible beauty was revealed to us.

Stairstep Falls -
GNP - Stairstep falls.png

GNP - Stairstep falls II.png

And, before exiting the park, we stopped at yet another of the unbelievably clear, glacial pools to be found along the banks of McDonald Creek.

GNP - Green pool.png

The rain having set in for the day, we took leave of the park to continue the birthday celebration with steaks grilled to perfection and a selection of beers from the many local breweries. Sure, other foods were present, but, honestly, after those first two, who cares?

Posted by DL Sly at 02:41 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

The WH Has a Plan for That

Emmanuel Saez, inequality warrior extraordinaire, identifies the main factor driving what he calls "exploding wealth inequality": middle class families save too little and are saddled with too much debt:

The growing indebtedness of most Americans is the main reason behind the erosion of the wealth share of the bottom 90% of families. Many middle-class families own homes and have pensions, but too many of these families also have much higher mortgages to repay and much higher consumer credit and student loans to service than before (Mian and Sufi 2014). For a time, rising indebtedness was compensated by the increase in the market value of the assets of middle-class families. The average wealth of bottom 90% of families jumped during the stock-market bubble of the late 1990s and the housing bubble of the early 2000s. But it then collapsed during and after the Great Recession of 2007–2009 (see Figure 3).

But fear not: the Obama administration has a solution. Never mind the fact that the housing market still hasn't recovered. Let's make it easier for the middle class to assume even more risky mortgage debt, while making it harder for businesses to borrow the money they need to pay salaries and create new jobs!

Washington has settled on a perfect credit-allocation strategy to stunt economic growth. Step One: Hand out mortgages with little or no money down. Step Two: Discourage loans to businesses.

Last week we told you about Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mel Watt ’s plan to bring back down payments as low as 3% to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac , the two government mortgage monsters that helped create the last financial crisis. Along with Mr. Watt’s other initiatives to expand credit, it could lead to another boom and bust housing cycle.

Now the Federal Reserve and other banking regulators have approved new rules for private mortgage-backed securities that don’t require the underlying loans to have any down payments at all.

We hear they've got a nifty plan to reduce soaring black unemployment, too: make it legal for foreign workers to compete for American jobs:

A member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights told President Obama Monday that the administration’s reported plan to grant work permits to millions of illegal immigrants would have a harmful effect on black American workers.

Peter Kirsanow, a Republican appointee to the panel, said in a letter to the president and to the Congressional Black Caucus that issuing millions of work permits to potentially low-wage workers “will devastate the black community.”

“Such an increase in lawful workers would have a deleterious effect on low-skilled American workers, particularly black workers,” Mr. Kirsanow said. “Illegal immigration has a disparate impact on African-American men because these men are disproportionately represented in the low-skilled labor force.”

The president is planning to issue an executive order after the Nov. 4 election that many predict will grant temporary legal status for a significant portion of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.

Mr. Kirsanow should be ashamed of himself. Everyone knows that making it easier for millions of foreigners to come to the United States and work legally has absolutely NO effect on the supply of jobs. And despite all that ill informed, partisan sniping about the administration "making Ebola policy up as it goes along", it turns out that they've been all over this whole disease-preparedness thingy: (CWCID: spd)

A new audit has found major gaps in the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) preparations for viral pandemics like Ebola: many of the supplies purchased by the government are expired.

Officials have spent millions to stockpile medical supplies since 2006 without knowing exactly what to buy or how they would be used, DHS Inspector General John Roth said Friday. The agency also failed to track the supplies it did purchase.

“We could not determine the basis for DHS’s decisions,” Roth told a panel of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee as he presented the 43-page report.

DHS, which is one of the agencies leading the response to Ebola, has “no assurance” that it has enough protective gear or antiviral medications or that its supplies remain effective, Roth said.

The department purchased 4,184 bottles of hand sanitizers that have expired, Roth found.

DHS spent $6.7 million for antiviral drugs, with no plan to decide what types of drugs it should purchase. It also has no way to know that the drugs were maintained at the proper temperature, which could have destroyed the drugs’ effectiveness.

The department has lost track of 2,055 doses of antiviral medication, the report said.

All this concentrated Smart Power is making us positively giddy. We should give more money and power to these people, stat. Their track record speaks for itself.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:51 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Epidemics in History

Interesting piece about epidemics through history. The most surprising thing to us was that cholera was the most common disease (at about half of the most recent epidemics/pandemics). The screen snap below shows just the tail end of the graphic:


The other interesting insight was that in a world where global population has exploded, borders are porous, and people have the ability and means to travel almost anywhere on earth in just a few hours, every successive epidemic kills fewer and fewer people.

Even in remote areas like West Africa.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:23 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Saul Alinsky Would Be Proud

Rule 4: Make opponents live up to their own book of rules. “You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.”

- Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals

Channeling Alinsky, 50 watchdog groups ask the Obama administration to live up to it's own rhetoric:

On his first day in office, President Obama issued a memorandum instructing federal agencies that the FOIA “should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails.”

However, transparency groups and media organizations have been largely disappointed by the self-proclaimed “most transparent administration in history.” Federal agencies largely ignored the memorandum, and the Justice Department has been less than aggressive in enforcing the memorandum.

“Today, more than five years later, we face many challenges in fulfilling your day-one commitment,” the transparency groups wrote to the White House. “The FOIA remains one of the most effective tools for the public to know what its government is up to, but changing agency practices under that statute to meet your transparency goals has been especially challenging.”

The groups support codifying President Obama’s memorandum in law, as well as five other measures that would stiffen requirements for when agencies could withhold intra-agency communications or documents older than 25 years.

“Without this legislative mandate, the FOIA will continue to be subject to the political whims of whoever occupies the White House,” the letter states.

The White House has so far not responded to the letter. It did not return a request for comment for this article.

Among the 50 organizations that signed the letter are the American Civil Liberties Union, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Sunlight Foundation, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the American Library Association.

Perhaps while they're at it, they could ask the National Science Foundation to stop using taxpayer money to monitor/harass conservatives on Twitter.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 27, 2014


The Editorial Staff apologize profusely for the recent dearth of posts.

We've been traveling and just got back to DC last night. Blogging should resume tomorrow after we dig our ownself out from under the to do list.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:58 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 22, 2014

Why Would Any Man Vote Democrat?

It's a bizarre question, but Grim gamely provides a response.

Questions like this are nothing more than brazen appeals to identity politics. Are you black? How could you *possibly* vote for a party that doesn't have put social justice and civil rights front and center? Are you female? How could you *possibly* vote for a party that doesn't put so-called "women's issues" ahead of everything else?

Are you Hispanic? How could you.... Well, you get the picture.

Right leaning pundits have been lambasting such gender and race based appeals for as long as I can remember. But these days we're expected to find a group to identify with and put the supposed interests of our little tribe first. The rest of the country, apparently, can go straight to hell in a handbasket. We recognize nothing greater than our own perceived self interest.

We're all single issue voters in a nation full of complex questions with no simple answers. A nation where the legitimate competing interests of all kinds of people - black, white, rich, poor, male, female, liberal, conservative, religious and secular - must constantly be balanced and prioritized.

That's what America was supposed to be about: that balancing process.

It was bad enough when only one side was doing this. If we've sunk this low then we really are doomed.

The times, they are a-changin':

Earlier this month, a coalition of some 20 African American Democratic leaders called a news conference to endorse the GOP candidate, state Rep. Rick Stream. Armed with voter registration forms, activists like Seals have been roaming black neighborhoods urging people to vote for anyone but the Democrat.

The plan is not only to beat back a local candidate they view as particularly unfriendly to black residents, but also to present a show of force to Democratic leaders all the way up to Sen. Claire McCaskill and Gov. Jay Nixon. By switching their allegiance in this election, these African Americans hope to demonstrate that their votes should not be taken for granted.

Ted Hoskins, the mayor of nearby Berkeley who has endorsed Stream, rattled off a series of slights and sins. They range from the governor’s decision to back the controversial prosecutor in the Brown case to the Democratic Party’s anemic support for the incumbent county executive, a black Democrat who was ousted by a white challenger during the August primary.

“This is about the total disrespect white Democrats have demonstrated against the black community,” he said. “This time, we are going to show them.”

It could be a difficult feat. A Republican has not held the St. Louis county executive’s position in 25 years.

The phrase, "Be careful what you wish for" comes to mind.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:35 AM | Comments (48) | TrackBack

October 21, 2014

Downstream Effects of Sequester Cuts to DoD

This doesn't sound good:

The U.S. Navy’s elite cadre of fighter pilots—made famous by Top Gun—are not flying nearly often as they would like. Instead, many of the Navy’s elite Boeing F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter squadrons are sitting on the ground with only two or three flyable jets available. The rest of the jets are awaiting maintenance for want of critical spare parts—and some of those parts are being cannibalized from brand new jets in an increasingly vain attempt to keep squadrons flying.

...Sources tell The Daily Beast that there are dozens of jets awaiting maintenance—and most of the planes are less than 10 years old, which by aircraft standards is practically brand new. Effectively, dozens of brand new jets worth billions of dollars are sitting on the ground useless.

Some drop in readiness is normal. Whenever a Navy squadron comes back from a deployment onboard a carrier, it loses some of its roughly 12 jets and readiness plummets before building back up. There is a rough floor of about six aircraft that a unit is supposed to have even at low readiness levels. “They have gone below that minimum,” one source said.

The result is that the Navy’s fighter pilots are not getting necessary training to operate their pricey machines in combat should the need arise. Given that the nation is once again at war, that need could arise again sooner than anyone expects.

The problem is neither the Navy nor Boeing has enough trained engineers to inspect and perform needed repairs on the various versions of the F/A-18.

One of the main causes of the problem, according to multiple sources, was the congressionally mandated sequester that automatically cut the Pentagon budget.

Money that was cut during 2012 budget year is only now having a real impact because the skilled engineering force of engineers and technicians at various government contractors were laid off and found other jobs since then. The result is a massive backlog of aircraft that must be repaired.

The Editorial Staff don't have much insight into the aviation community, except to recall that pilots are required to fly a certain number of hours to keep up their skills and proficiency. So in addition to the obvious effects of equipment shortages, there's a safety problem to be considered.

During the sequester fight, there was a lot of uninformed talk from both sides about how little impact cuts to the Department of Defense actually had. This ties in with a long term tendency to eliminate so-called "redundancy" (labeled "inefficiency"). Donald Rumsfeld was big on this, and it never made sense to us.

During wartime, a LOT of equipment is ridden hard and put away wet. Sometimes, it's not worth the cost even to bring it home. In war, things break - either from constant use or as a result of enemy fire. The DoD procurement process is anything but simple and speedy. Contracts that get cancelled now can take years to be resubmitted, approved, and executed.

In what sane world does anyone expect that equipment that is broken/worn/left behind won't have to be replaced? Where the DoD budget needs reducing is all those feel-good, touchy feely add on allowances the Democrats were screaming for during the Evil Bu$Hitler Era. As with so much else in our national infrastructure, we've replaced long term investment in vital public goods like roads and bridges with short term payments that go directly to individuals (and which do NOTHING to enhance the welfare of the country in general).

Scary, scary stuff.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:51 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Isn't "Celebrity Dachshund" Somewhat Redundant?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:44 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 20, 2014

Chart Interpretation for Bloomberg Dummies

Chart illiteracy: there has got to be a word for it somewhere. At any rate, the tragic inability to decipher fairly simple charts weighs heavily upon our sorely abused Brain Housing Group of late.

Speaking of which... how on earth does one get this assertion (bolded text below)...

Women fighting for a broader presence in the upper levels of management face at least one very personal obstacle: Most workers don’t want them there.

...from this study?

Americans are still more likely to say they would prefer a male boss (33%) to a female boss (20%) in a new job, although 46% say it doesn't make a difference to them. While women are more likely than men to say they would prefer a female boss, they are still more likely to say they would prefer a male boss overall.

The study didn't ask whether women should be bosses, or even whether they belonged in upper management. It asked men and women whether would rather have a male boss, a female boss, or whether the sex of their boss is unimportant. Here's the breakout for a mixed sample of men and women:

46% had no preference (this was the most popular response)
33% preferred a male boss
20% preferred a female boss

Now we realize that math is difficult for the intrepid journalists at Bloomberg, but last time we checked, 46 + 20 = 66% of the mixed-sex sample either don't mind or actively prefer a female boss. Now let's look at the breakout for a sample composed of just women:

34% had no preference
39% preferred a male boss (this was the most popular response)
27% preferred a female boss

Again, 34 + 27 = 61% of women (we're pretty sure that's "most women") either don't mind or actively prefer a female boss. So actually, whether you're asking a mixed male/female group or women only, "most people" (roughly two thirds -66% or 61%, respectively) have no objection to having a female boss.

How on earth does this become "most people don't want women in upper management"? The most interesting insight we got from this study is that women are more likely than men to view workplace issues through the tawdry lens of discriminatory gender stereotypes:


We can't help noting that the Bloomberg article was written by two women. Figures...


Posted by Cassandra at 02:36 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack


This kind of idiocy (from Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks) begs to be fisked within an inch of its miserable life:

“Immigration is part of Ebola, is a part of this new virus – I say ‘new’ in quotations marks because it’s relatively new to the degree we’ve seen it in the United States of America that taking the lives of American children, that is causing partial or complete paralysis of American children. All of this is related to immigration because some of these diseases are coming from abroad. By way of example, there was a study in 2013 – I think it was called the enterovirus that is causing the paralysis and death of young children in America – that thousands of residents of Central American countries were found with this illness over a year ago in 2013.

We touched on this topic last week, but we're still seeing volunteer clowns everywhere we turn. Unfortunately for them, the study doesn't say anything even close to what Brooks (and far too many other bloggers) claim it does. Let's walk through Brooks' claim step by step:

(1) Step 1: "...thousands of residents of Central American countries"...

The total number of patients studied (taken from 8 different countries, only 2 of which are in Central America) was 3375. Only 246 of them came from Central America:


Now unless Rep. Brooks and every blogger who has cited this study are using some kind of newfangled math (perhaps Common Core?), it is impossible to get "thousands" from a sample of 246, not all of whom even tested positive for any of the 100-odd types of enterovirus. Thus, simple examination of the first part of his claim is sufficient to show that this man has absolutely no idea what the study he's flogging actually says. But hey, this is fun. Let's keep going.

(2) Step 2: "...were found with this illness". Again, the study says nothing of the kind. Or even anything close. "This illness" is one of about a hundred known strains of human enterovirus (HEV): Enterovirus D68. So, how many TOTAL cases of human enterovirus (of ANY kind) were found? From the study results:

Overall, HRVs and HEVs were identified in 16% (548 samples) and 3% (84 samples) of the ILI cases, respectively.

That 3% (or 84 cases) is comprised of all types of enterovirus, not "the specific strain currently spreading in the United States. And the 3% was taken from 8 different countries (not just Central America). So once again, clearly the people citing this study either haven't bothered to read the [short] summary or can't interpret a chart to save their own lives. It's right there in black and white. It's even in English.

Now let's move to the chart I keep seeing. Due to the extremely graphic [pun fully intended] nature of this chart, I have hidden it below the fold so as not to send the unwary reader into sudden and fatal cardiac arrest:


What does this chart tell us? Well, from a total of 3375 patients, only 632 of whom tested positive for any of the viruses being studied, the study found precisely 10 cases of HEV D68. That's right: 10. By way of contrast, here are the numbers of cases found during the last 6 global outbreaks of Enterovirus D68 (fully half of which occurred right here in the United States):

Philippines - 21 cases

Georgia, USA - 6 cases
Pennsylvania, USA - 28 cases

Netherlands - 24 cases
Japan - over 120 cases
Arizona, US - 5 cases

Notably, the United States is the ONLY country represented more than once in the list of global enterovirus D68 outbreaks. But enough of all these distressing references to actual study findings. Let's move to the final element of Brooks' claim:


Wrong. Again, reading is fundamental. The study was published in 2013. The samples (according to this chart) were taken in 2010 and 2011 (for those of you without home calculators or anyone who has cited this study as "proof" that HEV D68 came from illegal Central American immigrant children), that's 3-4 years ago.

For Pete's sake, if you're going to cite this study (or worse, post and then completely mischaracterize charts taken from it) read the study. This isn't rocket science. This is precisely the kind of thing bloggers rightly criticize the NY Times for doing.

What's our excuse?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:45 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

October 17, 2014

Quote of the Day

When that 3 a.m. phone call comes in, who's going to pick up?

“They said I’m not supposed to call that number and to call the C.D.C. I call the C.D.C., and I can’t get someone on the phone,” Mr. Watters said. “When I do get someone on the phone, I get disconnected.”

We couldn't make this stuff up if we tried.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 15, 2014

Your Moment of Zen for Today

"Viral Turnip" sounds like a great name for a rock band.

Yes, that’s the First Lady dancing with a turnip.

...she’s not entirely uncomfortable wielding a vegetable.


Sorry, haters. Comments turned off for this one.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:47 PM | TrackBack

He's a Lover, Not a Fighter

Ladies and Cruel, Patriarchal Hegemonists, we bring you Dr. Cornell West:

(KMOV.com) – Activist Dr. Cornel West said it was important for him to get arrested during demonstrations in Ferguson to “show how deep the love is.”

Kinda says it all, doesn't it?

Posted by Cassandra at 01:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

"Ordinary Editing" Circular Transparency Alert

Glenn Kessler, the WaPo Fact Checker, examines the White House claim that changes to a draft Inspector General report on Secret Service misconduct in Cartagena were "part of the ordinary process of editing the report.’”:

The White House pushed back hard against a report in The Washington Post that, during the probe of the Secret Service’s 2012 prostitution scandal in Colombia, senior White House aides did not thoroughly investigate information suggesting that a prostitute was an overnight guest in the hotel room of a presidential advance-team member.

One key element of the article concerned a separate probe by the Homeland Security Department’s Inspector General’s office, which had uncovered additional evidence from records and eyewitnesses who had accompanied the team member in Colombia. The article reported that David Neiland, the IG’s lead investigator, “later told Senate staffers that he felt pressure from his superiors in the office of Charles K. Edwards, who was then the acting inspector general, to withhold evidence — and that, in the heat of an election year, decisions were being made with political considerations in mind.

The White House told reporters that a bipartisan Senate report had found that the redactions were part of the normal editing process. This statement was, to say the least, misleading. In Kessler's words:

...this was not actually a finding but merely a claim made by, among others, the very person whose credibility is questioned throughout the report.

The person whose credibility was being questioned was Charles K. Edwards, who was accused of directing the redactions in the first place and who (conveniently) resigned before further hearings into his alleged misconduct could be held:

The often dense report does not paint a pretty picture of Edwards’s tenure, saying “he failed to uphold the independence of the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) … jeopardized the independence of the OIG … directed reports to be altered or delayed to accommodate senior DHS officials … [and] also did not recuse himself from audits and inspections that had a conflict of interest related to his wife’s employment.” He resigned his post before the committee could hold a hearing on its findings.

To recap, to rebut yet another allegation that the Obama administration interfered with yet another Inspector General investigation into administration misconduct, the White House misrepresented the uncorroborated statement of one of the men under investigation as an official finding of investigative report.

Interfering with IG reports is becoming a disturbing pattern of behavior for this administration.

It happens at the Justice Department:

The Justice Department's inspector general said Tuesday that his staff is routinely blocked from getting access to documents it needs for audits and reviews of the department and its law enforcement agencies.

The interference causes delays in investigations and has several times required the intervention of Attorney General Eric Holder or his deputy to ensure that the records are ultimately turned over, Michael Horowitz, the inspector general, told members of Congress.

Horowitz's appearance before the House Judiciary Committee came one month after nearly 50 inspectors general from a broad spectrum of federal agencies complained in a letter to Congress about similar obstruction from the departments they monitor.

And the Department of State:

CBS News' John Miller reports that according to an internal State Department Inspector General's memo, several recent investigations were influenced, manipulated, or simply called off. The memo obtained by CBS News cited eight specific examples. Among them: allegations that a State Department security official in Beirut "engaged in sexual assaults" on foreign nationals hired as embassy guards and the charge and that members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's security detail "engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries" -- a problem the report says was "endemic."

The memo also reveals details about an "underground drug ring" was operating near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and supplied State Department security contractors with drugs.

And at HUD:

A high-ranking official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), who said he was acting at the direction of top lawyers in President Obama’s White House, went to extraordinary and seemingly bizarre lengths to obstruct an Inspector General investigation into illicit lobbying activity at the agency.

The aggressive obstruction of an IG investigation is serious enough that a senior lawmaker says the police may need to be involved.

HUD Inspector General David Montoya revealed, on page 19 of his Feb. 18 report about illegal lobbying by the agency, the lengths to which the acting general deputy assistant secretary Elliot Mincberg went to impede the IG investigation, and how he said he was doing it for, and in “coordination” with, the “White House Counsel.”

The list goes on and on:

Team Hope and Change sacked former Amtrak Inspector General Fred Weiderhold and former Americorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin for exposing financial improprieties and calling out Obama officials' interference with their probes.

And the current kennel of Obama cover-up enablers masquerading as watchdogs includes Interior Department acting IG Mary Kendall. She remains under investigation for allegations that she potentially helped White House officials cover up their doctoring of scientific documents that led to the fraudulent, job-killing drilling moratorium of 2010.

Then there was former DOJ acting inspector Cynthia Schnedar, a longtime employee and colleague of now-Attorney General Eric Holder, who recklessly released secret Operation Fast and Furious audiotapes to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix before reviewing them. She resigned in 2012 to avoid the heat.

How many IGs have to complain before we're justified in seeing a consistent pattern of behavior here? And why aren't the press calling for some of that Executive Action we're always hearing about?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:46 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Surpise, surprise, surprise. Vonderrit Myers, the St. Louis man recently shot by an off duty police officer, had gunshot residue on his shooting hand and the weapon found at the scene (an uncommon model that just happens to match the one Myers was holding 2 days before the shooting in photos on social media) had been fired several times:

Ballistic evidence shows Myers fired three shots before his gun jammed, Dotson said. Police said they recovered the gun, which was reported stolen on Sept. 26.

Roorda said the gun in the photo was an exact match for the gun found on Myers after his death.

"This is a distinct-looking gun, not one seen on the streets very often," he said.

Roorda called political leaders who blamed the police for Myers' death "irresponsible and despicable."

"The allegation that the young man had nothing but a sandwich was a silly allegation proven quickly to be untrue," he said.

The officer fired off 17 rounds. Preliminary autopsy results show Myers was struck six or seven times and died from a wound to the head, according to medical examiner Dr. Michael Graham.

Online court documents show that Myers was free on bond when he was killed. He had been charged with the unlawful use of a weapon, a felony, and misdemeanor resisting arrest in June.

The officer's attorney, Brian Millikan, said the shooting was "a traumatic event in his life." He said the officer is undergoing counseling.

Obviously a frame-up:

St. Louis Police Officer’s Association Business Manager Jeff Roorda said, “With regards to the firearm that`s depicted on social media, there would have to have been an incredible conspiracy for the officer to pull off, as it`s been alleged, throwing down or planting a gun that just happened to match the gun portrayed on social media.”

Roorda also announced that suspect Myers was certified as an adult when he was 16, after being arrested for shooting someone in the leg. Myers was not convicted.

If only someone would host a beer summit.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:28 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

The Predictable Result of Ferguson Hype

Not something to be proud of:

I’m a cop. A few weeks ago, two of my beat partners and I were called to an apartment in a fairly nice complex to help a mother and father with their 16-year-old son.

The son had no criminal history, and by all accounts was a decent kid. But he was having some problems at home — breaking things and making threats with a knife — and the parents needed our help.

When we finally located the son, who is of mixed ethnicity (Dad is white, Mom is Hispanic), he instantly began cussing and yelling at us. He took a fighting stance and said he was not going to do anything we told him.

Luckily, we were able to calm him and get him into handcuffs without any blows being thrown.

We asked why he was so hostile toward us. His response? Ferguson. The cops couldn’t be trusted because of what happened in Ferguson, Mo. He told us that he wanted to kill all white cops because of what “they” had done to Michael Brown.

...Since the shooting of Mike Brown, and the month-plus-long circus that followed, the number of law enforcement officers being shot in the line of duty has skyrocketed, but the average citizen has no idea this is happening.

...Did you know that in just three days last week, six cops were shot in the line of duty, one of whom was killed?

Oct. 7, Chicago: One officer, a captain, is shot in the face and chest. Other officers at the scene take fire and are pinned down by the suspect.

Oct. 8, North Las Vegas: An officer is shot during a gunfight with a suspect.

Oct. 8, Phoenix: An officer on a traffic stop is shot in the face. The suspects flee; the officer calls for help. Two other officers arrive and start rendering aid, only to come under fire from the suspects who circled back and attacked the responding officers.

Oct. 8, Oklahoma City: Two officers are shot by a suspect during the same event.

Oct. 9, Midland County, Texas: Sgt. Mike Naylor is shot and killed while responding to a report of a sexual assault.

Where are those stories in the national news?

What does it say about the media who make a victim out of a criminal, and ignore the good guys being injured and killed trying to keep society safe?

People ask me if things are different for cops since Ferguson.

Yes, yes they are.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 14, 2014

Things the NIH *Did* Have Enough Money For

They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. If so, NIH director Dr. Francis Collins must really admire Barack "The Buck Stops There" Obama, whose legendary ability to blame everyone but himself for his administration's incompetence (if only there were an elected official whose job it was to run the Executive Branch!) is rapidly gaining Guinness Book of World Records stature. Dr. Collins recently blamed complained his agency's failure to produce an Ebola vaccine on a lack of funding.

“NIH has been working on Ebola vaccines since 2001. It’s not like we suddenly woke up and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we should have something ready here,’” Collins told The Huffington Post on Friday. “Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.” … “We would have been a year or two ahead of where we are, which would have made all the difference,” he said.

Oddly, despite lacking funds to develop a vaccine for a deadly disease with death rates between 25% and 90%, the NIH had plenty of money for far more urgent tasks like these:

$2.4 million for a new condom whose inventor is now being investigated for fraud

$939,000 study: Do male fruit flies prefer younger females?

$257,000 to create a website for first lady Michelle Obama's White House garden

$592,000 study: chimpanzees with the best poop-flinging skills are also the best communicators

$117,000 study: most chimps are right-handed (who knew?)

...and these:

$325,525 study: wives who remain calm during marital spats are happier.

$666,000 study: why do people watch re-runs on TV?

$702,000 study on impact of TV's and gas generators.......in Vietnam

$500,000 in federal $$ on canine beauty products

$90 Million in taxpayer funded grants to China

Betsy Newmark goes on to note:

...NIH funding has doubled since 2000 and the funding for the US National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases went from $1.8 billion in 2000 to $4.3 billion in 2004.

Kinda makes one nostalgic for the Evil Bu$Hitler years, doesn't it? But wait - there's more where that came from!

... cuts that have happened over the past few years are due to sequestration. Remember that idea originated in the White House and it was passed by both the GOP House and Democratic Senate.

Y'all remember the sequester, don't you? The one that Obama promised (Holy Insurance Cancellation, Batman!) would not happen?

Last fall during the third Presidential debate, President Obama laid this stunner on a waiting nation:
“First of all, the sequester is not something that I've proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen."

Something Congress proposed? Not according to Bob Woodward:

No one disputes the fact that no one wanted sequestration, or that ultimately a bipartisan vote in Congress led to passage of the Budget Control Act. But the president categorically said that sequestration was “something that Congress has proposed.”

Woodward’s detailed account of meetings during the crisis, clearly based on interviews with key participants and contemporaneous notes, make it clear that sequestration was a proposal advanced and promoted by the White House.

If only there were a profession whose job it was to protect the President. And no, we're not talking about the Secret Service:

... it is strange to see prominent journalists, notably Dana Milbank of The Washington Post, react to ostensibly forthright critiques of Obama's policies by expressing shock at the disloyalty of former administration officials, as if the highest loyalty they owe is to the president rather than their countrymen or the truth. Perhaps it is to be expected that the ruling elite would extol a self-serving variation on omertà. To see members of the press police that code is confounding. The matter at hand is the wisdom of U.S. policy in both Iraq and Syria. Milbank's curious focus: "Leon Panetta, other former Obama subordinates show stunning disloyalty." He goes on to write that "the lack of message discipline is puzzling, because Obama rewards and promotes loyalists. But he’s a cerebral leader, and he may lack the personal attachments that make aides want to charge the hill for him."

Why would a journalist lament a dearth of "message discipline," a euphemism for willful lying? And ponder the "charge the hill" metaphor. It implies an enemy shooting at the man charging up. In this case, the "enemy" would seem to be those who criticize Obama's foreign policy, whether other politicians or journalists.

More message discipline - that's the ticket.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:23 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

October 13, 2014

The Kids Are All Right

Or at least some of them seem to be:

A state university intramural soccer program is under fire by students for it's "sexist" policy of awarding two points when a female scores a goal and just one point if a male scores.

Intramural faculty at Appalachian State University (ASU) said the co-ed league implemented the policy when the program was just getting started in an effort to encourage female participants to join.

Kate Rhudy, a sophomore music therapy student, says the system is outdated and is no longer applicable with the league’s high volume of participants.

“These rules haven’t been evaluated in 20 years and there might have been a reason to have them in the past, but they’re not relevant today,” Rhudy said. “It results in the development of a different game of soccer and it perpetuates a stereotypical gender rule.”

Rhudy has played soccer since she was a child, and says the scoring system perpetuates sexism throughout the intramural community.

“I just want the game to reflect fairness to both sexes and be the real game of soccer,” Rhudy told The Appalachian.

You go, girl :p

Posted by Cassandra at 12:11 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Did Illegal Immigrant Children Bring Enterovirus to the US (and ... err...Canada)?

The Editorial Staff have been seeing suggestions that they did crop up like mushrooms after a few days of rain. So far, the cases we've seen for Obama having caused this traveshamockery seem to follow the same general script:

1. Enterovirus 68 is common in Central/Latin America.
2. Obama allowed a large influx of illegal immigrant children from Central/Latin America.
3. There are reports that some of these children had tuberculosis.
4. These children were sent to other states.
5. About the same time, enterovirus outbreaks occurred.
6. Therefore, the resettling of illegal immigrant children caused the US enterovirus outbreaks.

Some articles note the suspicious (!) coincidence timing of the outbreak, claiming this somehow supports the theory that illegal children are the cause:

Though the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) refuses to discuss the origin of the current outbreak of Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), the fact that emergency rooms across the country began seeing infected children around the same time as the nation's public schools were re-opening for the 2013-2014 school year, should serve as at least a clue as to how the virus made its way here.

Can you say non sequitur, boys and girls? We knew that you could:

Six clusters (equal to or more than 10 cases) or outbreaks between 2005 and 2011 have been reported from the Philippines, Japan, the Netherlands, and the states of Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona in the United States.[6] EV68 was found in 2 of 5 children during a 2012/13 cluster of polio-like disease in California.[7]

Cases have been described to occur late in the enterovirus season,[6] which is typically during the warm months, from spring to autumn (August and September in the Northern hemisphere).

But apparently, rumors are far more contagious than either Enterovirus or Ebola. In case you're not convinced yet, there's even a handy dandy map. We draw the attention of the assembled villainry to the center of the map:


Maps appear to be spreading like... well, enterovirus. Everyone's got one. Here's a map showing the dispersion of illegal immigrant children by state(Note: blue circles mine). Again, please pay special attention to the center of the map:


Now let's go back in time about 4 weeks to see where the early outbreak clusters occurred:


It would seem that these observations require some explanation:

Enterovirus 68 is not new in America. It was first reported in 1962 in California, and it could be related to earlier Enterovirus outbreaks in Asia. Enterovirus 68 has been reported in the United States every year since 1987. What is unusual this year is the higher number of cases.

...The first cases of Enterovirus 68 were reported in Kansas City, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. The location of the outbreak is important, as it does not correlate with large numbers of immigrant children in those areas.

...Enterovirus 68 is not a common virus in Central or South America. Since 2008, outbreaks of Enterovirus 68 have been reported in the United States, Asia and northern Europe, but not Central or South America. Since the 1960s, only a handful of cases have ever been reported in the region. Source: CDC.

...The top ten states receiving immigrant children have seen no major Enterovirus 68 outbreaks.

Oh, and despite a conspicuous lack of illegal immigrant children from Central America there, there's an outbreak in Canada.

Now far be it from the Editorial Staff to make excuses for The Lightworker but we are not seeing a slam dunk case here. Or even a persuasive or credible one. There may well be a case to be made, but it will have to be a lot better than the ones we've seen so far.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:10 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

First, Do No Harm

The EU's "Right to be Forgotten" law accomplishes... something. But not necessarily something positive:

Google has deleted more than 18,000 web links following requests from this country under the controversial ‘right to be forgotten’ laws.

Britons asked the internet search giant to remove links to more than 63,000 pages under EU legislation which has been criticised as an attack on free speech.

In the first month of the ruling taking effect, 60 per cent of the Europe-wide requests came from fraudsters, criminals and sex offenders and one in ten reportedly came from paedophiles.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:36 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 09, 2014

Caption Contest

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


Have at it.
And may the Farce be with you.

Posted by DL Sly at 12:23 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

The Math is Settled

According to our progressive Brethren in the Eurosphere, the best way to reduce income inequality is to make everyone share the cost of the social safety net:

There seems to be an obvious solution to rising inequality: higher taxes. But there's an inconvenient fact here. The way most advanced, industrial countries have made real gains on inequality is through relatively regressive taxes that fund programs that reduce inequality. In fact, America's tax system is already unusually progressive by international standards. Our ongoing research suggests that this unusual relationship is not a coincidence.

The countries in northern Europe that have made the biggest strides in reducing economic inequality do not fund their governments through soak-the-rich, steeply progressive taxes. Instead, they have broad-based taxes that ask all workers to contribute to a generous welfare state.

Brace yourselves for the mother of all unintended admissions:

There's a reason governments in nations with highly progressive taxes end up spending less to combat inequality — those taxes raise relatively little revenue for both economic and political reasons. For instance, the highly progressive taxes in the United States have fostered intense backlash from powerful economic elites, pushing high-earning individuals and firms to find loopholes and lobby for top-end cuts.

Isn't that precisely what Those Horrid Rethugs have been arguing all along? The gang that can't shoot straight can't even do redistribution efficiently.

Math seems to be a recurring theme this week, doesn't it? How distressing.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:35 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

28 .... *Million* People!!!

Ladies and gentlemen, once again we bring you the deeply complex, yet endearingly folksy verbal stylings of The Vice President of these United States. Not since the Common Core has math been so accessible to The (little) People!


Another day, another Vice President Joe Biden gaffe.

Biden overstated the positive impact of raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 by more than 3,000 percent Tuesday, Roll Call reports.

The vice president visited Los Angeles Tuesday as part of his six-city tour to discuss the administration’s push for a higher minimum wage. But Biden seemingly confused his talking points.

“If we raise the minimum wage nationally to $10.10, that takes 28 million people out of poverty. 28 million people out of poverty,” Biden declared.

For those of you at home who do not understand The New Math, that adds up to [furiously working calculator....] 28 MILLION PEOPLE.

The White House has only officially claimed that increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would give 28 million people a raise, not lift them above the poverty line.

In fact, Biden’s statement is a whopping 3,100 percent more than the estimates by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office statement on the effects of a minimum wage increase.

“Real income would increase, on net, by $5 billion for families whose income will be below the poverty threshold under current law, boosting their average family income by about 3 percent and moving about 900,000 people, on net, above the poverty threshold (out of the roughly 45 million people who are projected to be below that threshold under current law),” the CBO report stated.

The White House and Biden himself have had a more generous outlook, Roll Call reported. The Obama administration has been touting a “more than 2 million” figure for the amount of people lifting themselves out of poverty.

900 thousand, 28 million, 2 million... what difference does it make? The point is that the President can't afford to wait for Congress to act. Quibbling over a few million here, errors of a few thousand percent there is unconscionable. You know, kind of like flinging gasoline on an already raging fire and expecting good results.

We just wish those horrid Republicans would stop their incessant fear mongering and be honest with the American people:

The administration has been on thin ice with some of its claims about the impact of the sequestration cuts. Duncan’s assertion that “as many as 40,000 teachers could lose their jobs” also appears to be hyperbole.

An aide to Duncan described it as a “rough back-of-the-envelope calculation,” derived by dividing the average pay and benefits of a teacher — $70,000 — by the amount — $2.8 billion — that needed to be cut in education programs.

But that amounts to false precision. Teacher salaries vary greatly across the nation, and within districts. School districts and states may find many ways to juggle funds or reduce expenses to avoid losing many teachers, which is what has happened during previous periods of financial stress.

The American Association of School Administrators this week released a report, based on a survey, that estimates that “at least 37,000 education jobs” would be lost through sequestration. That at least is based on something more than a rough calculation, though of course it is in the interest of this group to sound the alarm.

Moreover, note that the group refers to “education jobs,” not teachers. We have previously found that 67 percent of education jobs could be broadly defined as being held by teachers or teaching assistants. That would translate into a reduction of about 25,000 teachers, based on AASA’s survey data.

All we have to say is, thank Gaia that The Smart People are finally reforming the education system to produce the skills needed so desperately on Capitol Hill:


GO Math!!!!

Posted by Cassandra at 08:28 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 08, 2014

Quote of the Day

"People behead for all sorts of reasons"

I reject that idea. Similarly, I reject the idea that a beheading as such means terrorism. I mean that’s absurd. People behead for all sorts of reasons, all of them disturbing, all of them disgusting. But the act of beheading per se does not make it terrorism. Now the question of whether this person had a religious connection to Islam is an interesting one and a necessary one to ask. But again, because someone is Muslim and they commit an act of workplace violence, that doesn’t necessarily make them a terrorist.

There's a reason just hearing Mr. Hill's voice makes the Spousal Unit throw things at our TV. This man desperately needs your money. To buy himself a hat.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:43 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Hump Day Music

As y'all know, from the frequency with which I use the genre, I like country music, and one of my favorite's is one of the more prolific of today's country music singer/songwriter's, Brad Paisley. He has a new cd out that, of course, the Dark Lord had to have immediately, and boy am I glad I did. Otherwise I would have had to wait to see whether or not this song would have made the cut for being released as a single:

The boy does know how to turn a phrase. He also has a way of using that talent to make a subtle, yet meaningful, point.

I hope you enjoyed my musical interlude.
Now, coffee break's over.
Back on your heads.

Posted by DL Sly at 02:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Let The Judgement Begin

Alright, villains, it's that time, again. Judgement time. I love Judgement time. Almost as much as I love quick-time harch. (slightly NSFW 0>;~])
And now, to attend to old business with the usual quickie look back:


And let the snarktillery commence...

This week's short, but worthy, list of winners sees the return of the irreverant mr. rdr from whence he has been causing his usual chaos and discontent of late to grab the brass ring with this subtle dig at "I've done nothing wrong, but I'm claiming refuge under the 5th amendment because..." Lois Lerner, "You're lying again, Lois."

Taking the silver this week is Frank Karl's pontifications of a potential problem in the progressively pervasive pull of the power of "just a peek", Throckmorton, discovers to his dismay, he was sent ogling glasses not googling glasses. Even so, it was a step up for him.

And, finally, fleecing the golden goose for first place is George Pal's new Occupy Whatever chant slogan. For which, there were unanimous *up twinkles* - a rare and blessed unison of the multiverse of diverse minds, Harness your brain's neuroplasticity. First, knead it repeatedly - for it feels good. Invoke, repeatedly, the mantra “soft head, soft heart, makes me really fuckin’ smart.” In no time at all, you too can be a knee-jerk liberal.

Recipient of the "Oh, You'll Pay For That....Someday" award goes to our resident ballot-stuffing, fixed-wing flyer, frequent flyer, for his sad attempt to rouse the Dark Lord,
"Professor Merkel the Mindreader was famous for his ability to divine the thoughts of his subjects.
He attempted to read the thoughts of one DL Sly, but came up empty. Was the failure HIS, or did the subject really not have anything on her mind?"

I'm sure, had the Princess known of such beforehand, she would have cautioned said high-flyer of the potential for having his waxed wings melted by a future barrage of snarktillery as the Dark Lord does not soon forget.

Congrats to this week's winners! Welcome back to the Snarkpit of Fascism, mr. rdr, and thanks for playing everyone.

At this point, do I really need to repeat the traditional phrase about a new picture?

Posted by DL Sly at 12:17 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Fighting, Manliness, Freedom, and the Last Frontier (a repost)

Jonathan Chait's liberal defense of male aggression prompted us to look for this old post. Much to our delight, we found at the end of it a poem we wrote in 2005 or 2006 on another blog that we thought was lost forever. Anyway, enjoy. If you want to read the original comments, they're here.

One of my favorite things about blogging is the way it often turns into a huge freeform discussion, sometimes on site, sometimes continuing offline via email or phone conversations, hopping from one blog to another. It just fascinates me. Another thing I love is the sheer connected-ness of ideas: the way even thoughts which, at first glance, may not appear to have anything to do with each other often end up (at least in the zig-zagging breadcrumb trail that is my mind) taking me to totally unanticipated destinations.

Considering the topic of today's peroration, it is perhaps not surprising that the trouble all started with mr rdr, who is himself a veritable feast of manliness. Last week, he sent me a wonderful WSJ piece (unfortunately subscription-only) that has been driving me mad all week because I kept seeing things in it that applied to different topics. But there was also the germ of an idea in the back of my mind that I didn't have a place for, which strangely enough wasn't really the focus of the article at all. It lay in this line:

For Shakespeare, inflexible virtue becomes its opposite, vice. The subtlety of his understanding of the human predicament is incomparable. We pride ourselves, perhaps rightly, on our vast accumulation of scientific and other knowledge; but when it comes to self-knowledge, self-understanding, I doubt that we shall ever progress beyond him.

Believe it or not, that paragraph has been worrying at me all week. They say the first step in the recovery process is admitting that you have a problem.

Oddly enough, I started out thinking I would apply the article, about the play Coriolanus, the protagonist of which is a noble Roman consul too honest to hide his scorn of the vulgar plebians, to the Abdul Rahman story and George Bush. As with most of Shakespeare's plays, things do not end well. The Bard's characters tend to be larger than life, and twinned with their outsized virtues are tragic flaws, often the obverse of the very qualities which make them great. For Coriolanus, his downfall is virtue carried to such extremes that it becomes rigid and inflexible and so, what was within moderation admirable, turns to evil.

But during the week I ended up linking to this piece about young men adrift, in my opinion because they've been emasculated and infantilized by an increasingly out of kilter, feminized society; and as a result my fellow bloggers have given me quite a bit to think about. Grim dropped the next crumb on the trail, and as usual, it was quite thought-provoking:

Nothing could be more natural to a young man than fighting other young men, not just for people but for anyone: it's featured in every nature documentary ever made.

We need a way to expand this concept into the main American society, so that young men will be freer to express themselves naturally. We also need, however, to continue to constrain fighting: like drinking, it can be a good thing that relieves tension and adds to the pleasure of life; but it can also be very destructive to you and others around you.

I propose, then, what I shall call "the Fair Fight Bill." I suggest you write your state representatives and suggest that the laws in all 50 states should come to include it.

Now I had to laugh at my initial reaction to this, which was a decidedly feminine, "Eeeeewwwww!!!!"

I haven't seen many fights. I suppose I've lead a sheltered life. I saw one in the parking lot outside our townhouse when we lived in Annapolis about 15 years ago and I remember that it really upset me hearing the smack! of one man's fist on another's flesh. They were really going at each other and it frightened me. I saw another when I was 21 and managing a store on East-West highway in DC. Oddly, it was the day Reagan was shot. A store detective tried to grab a thief after he tried to smash one of my glass display cases containing power tools and they got into a fistfight that continued up one of the aisles, through the doors and out onto the street outside the store. I had to pull my cashiers off the registers - several of them were crying and my head cashier (an Indian girl in a sari) had fled up to the cashier's cage and locked herself inside so I couldn't get to a phone to call the police until I finally talked her into unlocking the door. What a day. When I finally got back outside, the two men were on top of a stopped car in the intersection punching away at each other like mad.

Reading Grim's post, I had to ask myself if I had raised my sons all wrong. When my boys were little, my husband was often gone: deployed, or in the field. So I couldn't always ask him for advice on how to handle boyish misdeeds like fighting.

My own policies on such things were shaped by a combination of reading books (fiction, mostly) and childhood experiences. I was the oldest of two children and we moved every year. Military kids living out in town are easy target for bullies because you have no friends for the first few weeks or even months. My younger brother was smaller, shyer, and rather quiet and since we walked to school, he got picked on sometimes so I was protective of him.

At times, walking home from school was like running a gauntlet - either someone was threatening to beat me up because I'd refused to back down during some playground altercation, or some group of twits was lying in wait for my little brother and I had to try to find him and walk him home in hopes they'd be afraid to take both of us on. I remember in particular one enormous black girl named Linda. Everyone was terrified of her. The rumor was she had beaten up several people. Of course I never actually saw any of these people, so I was the only skeptic on the topic of Linda's superpowers. But she was enormous and had arms like jackhammers.

Linda detested me. We were always getting into it at school because she cheated at all the games and butted in line. No one would stand up to her, and it really frosted me that people just let her get away with it. She had this little white girl named Karen who clung to her side like a remora, and Karen started threatening to beat me up too, which really made life a Living Hell. I used to mock them mercilessly, which only made them both madder, but I was starting to get scared.

The thing is, I never got into a fight with either girl. A boy would have. There were a couple of big showdowns when I met them after school. They resulted in verbal sparring matches, but no fighting, because I had been taught not to fight. I was able to talk both of them out of fighting by simply pointing out that fighting was dumb. It really wasn't going to solve anything other than getting everyone suspended for no reason, which was pretty idiotic over a dodgeball argument. Eventually they got tired of picking on me and moved on to bigger and better things. I don't know what would have happened if I'd been a boy.

I have always wondered why neither they, nor any of the twits who came after my brother, ever hauled off and just hit me. At any rate, the upshot of all this is that when it came time to raise my boys, I tried to teach them the same thing, because it worked for me. I told them that if they couldn't avoid a fight, to hit as hard as they could, knock the other person down, and walk away. But to try reason first, and above all, to show no fear and no emotion, because my big theory was that it is really, really hard to haul off and hit someone who is just dead calm. I think it just unnerves people and they feel slightly foolish if they persist. I think fighting requires escalation and anger, and if one person refuses to play then it's hard (though not impossible) to manufacture a fight out of thin air.

Reading Grim's post, I have to question whether I did the right thing or not, though. I wonder if there is something in boys that needs to fight, and if I squashed it? I'm not stupid - I know both my sons got into tussles, though neither of them ever got into a major donnybrook. What I don't know, though, is whether that's a bad thing or not?

Fuzzybear Lioness sent me this wonderful piece on being a man. It asks some intriguing questions about our attitudes towards masculinity:

Manliness," he says, "is a quality that causes individuals to stand for something." The Greeks used the term thumos to denote the bristling, spirited element shared by human beings and animals that makes them fight back when threatened. It causes dogs to defend their turf; it makes human beings stand up for their kin, their religion, their country, their principles. "Just as a dog defends its master," writes Mansfield, "so the doggish part of the human soul defends human ends higher than itself."

Every human being possesses thumos. But those who are manly possess it in abundance, and sometimes in excess. The manly man is not satisfied to let things be as they are, and he makes sure everyone knows it. He invests his perception of injustice with cosmic importance.

Manliness can be noble and heroic, like the men on the Titanic; but it can also be foolish, stubborn, and violent. Achilles, Brutus, and Sir Lancelot exemplify the glory of manliness, but also its darker sides. Theodore Roosevelt was manly; so was Harry "The Buck Stops Here" Truman. Manly men are confident in risky situations. Manliness can be pathological, as in gangsters and terrorists.

Manliness, says Mansfield, thrives on drama, conflict, risk, and exploits: "War is hell but men like it." Manliness is often aggressive, but when the aggression is tied to the concept of honor, it transcends mere animal spiritedness. Allied with reason, as in Socrates, manliness finds its highest expression.

I loved this piece, because it embodies the same view of men (and women) that my Dad taught me, and this is why I believe so strongly that little girls need fathers so desperately. Though I was a bit of a tomboy as a child, I firmly believe men and women are intrisically different and our different natures are designed to balance and complement one another.

Fathers teach their daughters not only what to look for in a man, but also something about being a woman. My father always had a great respect for women. He taught me that, at their best, women are a civilizing influence on men. We guard society’s moral traditions, we appeal to their protective, nobler side and channel the innate aggression in the male spirit in a positive direction so that it is used for good: to build, to protect, to explore and expand and extend our knowledge.

This is why I think the whole "gender-neutral" business is so pernicious. In addition to being unnatural, it robs us of that balancing influence and causes people to make rules that defy observable reality:

After almost 40 years of feminist agitation and gender-neutral pronouns, it is still men who are far more likely than women to run for political office, start companies, file for patents, and blow things up. Men continue to tell most of the jokes and write the vast majority of editorials and letters to editors. And--fatal to the dreams of feminists who long for social androgyny--men have hardly budged from their unwillingness to do an equal share of housework or childcare. Moreover, women seem to like manly men: "Manliness is still around, and we still find it attractive," says Mansfield.

The disturbing aspect to the more radical feminist agenda is that it produces aberations like Nancy Hopkins: academicians who see no contradiction in a purportedly-equal woman who gets the vapors when a man dares to express a scientific theory she disagrees with. If a man were to suggest that women be barred from future conferences because they were "too delicate" to hear shocking theories like the one she wanted Larry Summers sanctioned for uttering, Ms. Hopkins would rightly have accused him of sexism. Yet she conveniently hid behind her feminine frailty when it suited her: "How dare he suggest such a thing! The big bully! I feel faint....".

Just try to imagine a man doing such a thing. All right. You can stop laughing now. And yet where is Larry Summers? Gone. Only Nancy Hopkins remains. She won in the end. Which makes me feel just a little bit sick.

Well actually, to tell you the truth, it makes me mad as hell. And to finally close this circle, if it mades me mad as hell at my age, when I've learned to make my peace with things I can't change (or at least most of the time I have) can you imagine how it must make a young man feel, who is still railing against the status quo? Is it really any wonder young men are tuning out in increasing numbers, or choosing to act irresponsibly? How many positive channels do we give them for the exercise of their masculinity? More importantly, how comfortable are we as a society with masculinity itself, anymore? Doc Russia comments:

Talking with my friends who are a little older or of a more rural upbringing, I am struck by how they had somewhere to go where the laws of man lost their power. Today, everyone in double digit years wants to "rebel." Nevermind that they are "rebelling" by Parroting exactly what a bunch of MTV execs have decided the next fad should be, or that they are questioning only what some clueless lefty propagandist says should be questioned. Everyone wants to rebel. Actually, what they really want to do is to exist unfettered. When you go off into the wilderness, you are free. You are unfettered. You do not need to rebel because there is nothing to rebel against. If you want to run around naked screaming "booga booga booga!" nobody is going to be shocked or dismayed, or call the cops, or call the TV station. In fact, all you have to worry about is not paying attention to the brambles your birthday suit is headed for. And if you do wander into those brambles, there will be nobody there to help you out of them, or tend to your wounds. There are no rules, no responsibilities, and no limitations. There are only consequences, and as long as you can handle that, then you can do whatever you want.

So, we now have a population of frontiersmen with no frontier. So they sit, stew and eventually rot.

Some of us get lucky, and avoid screwing up too badly before we can go out and at least see the frontiers, even if we cannot explore them. I do not know what the solution is. I just have this sneaking suspicion that if you were to tell a young man that he had a shot at wealth and prosperity which relied upon his own innate abilities, and not upon what school his degree is from, or whose ass he kisses, and how well he does it, that there was something out there which he could never find the end of, I bet you that a lot of this teenage horseshit would stop.

I had a thought the other day. Who knows, I may be going off the deep end. Shakespeare's inflexible virtue, carried too far, became vice.

We are currently engaged in a titantic struggle with radical Islamism, which is, if has, if you stop and think about it, all the characteristics of unbridled thumos - they certainly have no problem standing up for their kin, their religion, their country, their principles. The problem with Islamism is that it is untempered by the feminine influence. There is no partnership: they have totally subjugated women, shut them away, as the Left would say, silenced their Voices, marginalized them and treated them as the Other.

America, on the other hand, seems to be going too far in the other direction. We are marginalizing the masculine and becoming femininized in an attempt to right past imbalances, and that is just as great a mistake as what radical Islam is doing. In fact, it may be an even greater error, for it leaves us defenseless. We are becoming, as Kim du Toit says, a nation of women.

Reading Doc Russia's post, I was overcome with a feeling I have often: the urge to run away. I felt it all the time when I was a little girl. I used to dream of escaping from my safe home and having adventures. Sometimes I would sneak out of my bedroom early in the morning before anyone was awake just so I could wander for hours without getting caught. When I was a teenager I used to go out the window of my bedroom and walk around at night, just glorying in the freedom of being out under the stars. I wonder, sometimes, what kind of society we are becoming, where we lock our doors and our children up and everything becomes one giant calculation of risk.

I think it is that, most of all, that makes me want to open the door sometimes and just keep on going:

I opened my door
and the night air rushed in

crisp, and cool

and the scent of woodsmoke
and fallen leaves
and possibilities was everywhere

and for a moment
I saw myself walking
down the hill and into the moonlight
like I used to do

when I was younger

Someone has to push the boundaries. I hope we never lose our tolerance for those who are willing to try.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:15 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Masculinity and Aggression

Jonathan Chait has written a magnificent piece about male aggression (and football!). The Editorial Staff found these passages particularly thought provoking:
Time strongly implies that high-school football is a uniquely dangerous activity. “Eight people died playing football in 2013, the highest toll since 2001, when there were nine, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina,” the magazine reports. “All were high-school players. During the 2013–14 academic year, no other high-school sport directly killed even one athlete.”

Those statements are all factually true. The implication is false. The same organization cited by Time found that, over a 30-year period, football is not a uniquely deadly sport for high-school athletes. It is not even the deadliest sport. High-school football has a fatality rate of 0.83 per 100,000 participants. This is actually lower than the rates of boys’ basketball (0.92), lacrosse (1.00), boys’ gymnastics (1.00), and water polo (1.3). There were three heartbreaking deaths of high-school football players last week, each of which attracted wide media coverage the way that tragic low-frequency events often do. But the unusual cluster of unfortunate deaths does not indicate a broader trend any more than the crash of an airliner signals an increasing danger associated with air travel.

And this:

Perhaps we’d all be better off if boys could be guided into totally peaceful pursuits, but not all teenagers are cut out for chess club. Football channels boys’ chauvinistic belligerence into supervised forms, shapes them within boundaries, and gives them positive meaning. These virtues, like those often attributed to the military, can feel like clichés imported from an earlier era — and yet discipline and directed ambition are, as every social scientist knows, the bedrock of success in adulthood. And also like the military, that other bastion of social authoritarianism, football has actually changed with the culture — its disregard for player safety and its misogynistic conflation of weakness with femininity have shrunk from the norm to the hoary exception. To cite just one example, over the last dozen years, the program Coaching Boys Into Men, which uses coaches to teach male athletes to respect females, has flowered nationally. Football has fallen victim to the paradoxical dynamic by which liberal culture’s awareness and sensitivity have succeeded in reducing violence but in so doing made the problem of violence seem even more anachronistic.

Over the last generation, the social experience of American youth has rapidly liberalized. The cultural mores of my school life largely resembled those of my parents’, but the socialization awaiting my children has transformed beyond recognition. Rather than allowing kids to “settle their differences” — i.e., allowing the strong and popular to prey upon the weak and vulnerable — authorities aggressively police bullying. Schools are rife with organizations to support gay students, something unimaginable not long ago. Nerdy and cool, once antithetical terms, now frequently describe the same things, like affinity for comic-book characters or technological savvy. American schools have mostly moved beyond a world where football players (and, correspondingly, cheerleaders) embody the singular hierarchical ideal of their gender. This is entirely to the good, a triumph of egalitarianism.

In fact, it is a sign of this advance that American society is now questioning whether football has any role within it at all. But it also marks a point where the advance of social liberalism has swung from the defensive (creating a place of respect and value for those who have long been excluded) to the offensive (suggesting that only a world conforming closely to down-the-line-liberal values is worth living in).

The social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has argued that people naturally gravitate toward competing notions of morality. Some of those, like fairness and caring, are associated with liberalism. Others, like loyalty and respect for authority, are associated with conservatism. Football is obviously not just for conservatives, but it does embody the conservative virtues. The backlash against it is a signpost of a new social system unwilling to consider that the worldview of one’s political adversaries might have any wisdom to offer at all and untroubled by the fear that, perhaps, football exists because it channels a genuine, deep-seated impulse. In this case, that discipline might be a helpful response to impulses of aggression, and not just a false-heroic myth used to legitimize and justify brutality.

Theodore Roosevelt is remembered today for his populist economic sentiments, but the more coherent theme of Roosevelt’s life is a way of thinking about strength, honor, and violence. As a boy, Roosevelt fanatically built up his sickly body and developed an obsession with athletics, danger, and war. This is one of the many things that we love about him — and yet it is an attitude about self-­mastery, aggression, and courage that is completely alien to the way we think of coming of age today. Any good contemporary liberal could reuse, with modest syntactical changes, Roosevelt’s speeches assailing greed or exhorting the rich to accept social obligations. But his beliefs about masculinity could not be repeated without embarrassment. “A coward who will take a blow without returning it is a contemptible creature,” Roosevelt wrote in a 1900 essay, which naturally ended with a rousing football metaphor: “In short, in life, as in a foot-ball game, the principle to follow is: Hit the line hard; don’t foul and don’t shirk, but hit the line hard!”

Though we don't agree with everything in Chait's essay, there is much to ponder. It made us go looking for an old post that we had lost track of on the same subject - a sort of time capsule we shall repost separately.

Of all the changes in our life over the past three years, we miss the loss of time to think and write the most. Here's hoping some of you will be inspired.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:00 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 06, 2014


We picked a bad week to stop sniffing glue:

As a teenager, holed up in his bedroom, illuminated by the glow of his laptop, Youngbin Chung became addicted to video games. Ten-hours-a-day addicted.

His grades tanked. His parents fretted.

A few years later, the 20-year-old from the San Francisco area leads a team of headset-wearing players into virtual battle in a darkened room at a small private university in Chicago. He's studying computer networking there on a nearly $15,000 a year athletic scholarship — for playing League of Legends, the video game that once jeopardized his high school diploma.

"I never thought in my life I'm going to get a scholarship playing a game," said Chung, one of 35 students attending Robert Morris University on the school's first-in-the-nation video game scholarship.

Once regarded as anti-social slackers or nerds in a basement, gamers have become megastars in what are now called esports. In professional leagues, they compete for millions of dollars in prizes and pull in six-figure incomes for vanquishing their enemies in what have become huge spectator events packing tens of thousands into sports stadiums around the world.

Why do we suspect that - come the Glorious Revolution - this kind of thing is what will replace football?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:35 AM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

The Emotions of Wet Dogs...

...they are complex. Nuanced, even:

She made only portraits, but tried to make each unique by adding including [sic] props, changing the backdrop color and so forth. Although she attempted to direct the dogs and groomers, animals are not known for following directions to the letter. Therefore, the moments she captured were unscripted.

“Those pleading eyes, the anger, it’s real,” she says.

Where is the UN Commission on Torture when we need them?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:28 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Republican Outreach to Female Voters

This author wants to know "why it's so awful"?

The flurry of Republican ads targeting women confirm they know the gender gap is for real. But as the numbers indicate, the ads haven’t narrowed it; they often try too hard, miss the point and make the problem worse.

The article explores various explanations without ever touching on the one we find most likely: women aren't a monolithic group whose voting behavior is determined (or even primarily influenced by) the having of ladyparts. As we observed last week, married voters of both sexes lean Republican while singles lean Democrat:

The storied election gender gap that for years has shown a broad political division between men and women is morphing into a marriage gap where married men and women are the Republican side of the new divide and unmarried men and women are Democrats. The latest proof was revealed in a new Economist/YouGov poll that overall showed women back Democrats over Republicans, 48 percent to 30 percent. But when the population is divided, the poll finds that married women favor Republicans over Democrats 41 percent to 34 percent, unmarrieds prefer Democrats 52 percent to 22 percent.

“Democrats don’t get the support of all kinds of women,” said the poll analysis.

“There is also a marriage gap among men. Married men favor the GOP by more than two to one. Unmarried men support Democrats,” said Economist/YouGov.

It's hard to get someone's vote if the appeal you make clearly shows you haven't gone to the trouble of understanding (or in this case, even identifying) the target demographic. GOP appeals to women voters typically take one of two forms:

1. Married, older white men lecture women about what they ought to think about various public policy issues. This one turns off even the Editorial Staff.

2. A married, affluent, older white woman is dispatched to appeal to other married, affluent, older white women.... who already tend to vote Rethug anyway.

These tactics are fine if the target audience is the margin of female, older, married, white voters who vote Democrat, but they're woefully inadequate if the goal is to persuade single women/mothers that the GOP has better policies to address the issues they care about most (which are not always the issues they are presumed to care about most).

If the GOP is looking for a wedge issue to pry single women away from the DNC, they could do worse than to take [thoughtful] issue with this sort of idiocy:

Katha Pollitt’s Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights is a deeply felt and well-researched book which argues that abortion, despite what any of its opponents might claim, is a palpable social good. Progressives, Pollitt says, can and must treat abortion as an unequivocal positive rather than a “necessary evil”; there is no ethical, humane way to limit abortion rights. The fact that Pollitt needs to make this argument in 2014, however, seems to indicate that pro-choicers have long been a little too nice for our own good.

Which is something Pollitt herself points out, many times. There are the obvious truisms about abortion ideally being “safe, legal, and rare,” sure. Pollitt also cites Roger Rosenblatt's formulation of “permit but discourage,” which makes it sound like reproductive autonomy is a form of social faux pas, like taking the last slice of pizza at the pizza party. Not criminal, sure, but are you sure you need it?

But the language of apology for abortion has seeped ever deeper into our language:

Anywhere you look or listen, you find pro-choicers falling over themselves to use words like “thorny,” “vexed,” “complex” and “difficult.” How often have you heard abortion described as '”he hardest decision,” or “the most painful choice” a woman ever makes, as if every single woman who gets pregnant by accident seriously considers having a baby, only a few weeks earlier the furthest thing from her mind, and for very good reason?

The end of the line, Pollitt says, is the sort of ridiculous decision made by Planned Parenthood in 2013 to move away from the term “pro-choice,” which “was itself a bit of a euphemism: Choose what?” We can hardly be expected to defend abortion effectively if we can't even call the procedure by name.

The problem with calling abortion by name is that for decades, studies have shown that doing so forces people to confront what it is they're really talking about in a way that undermines moral certainty.

We've long thought the GOP could go a long way simply by pointing out the obvious: that at the national level, outlawing abortion would require a reversal of Roe and that's not something Congress or the President have the power to do unilaterally. Sadly, we're not sure a candidate who stated that simple yet obvious reality would not be primaried out of the race.

The other thought we've had frequently has been that both sides seem unable to make an argument without falling into simplistic, binary arguments that irritate people like us who don't see most choices in those terms.

There's got to be a way to make an argument that doesn't amount to (one the one hand) telling people, "This is what you ought to think, because there's only one right answer" or (on the other hand) resorting to using so much touchy-feely "any choice you make is OK and there's no downside" nonsense that no one takes it seriously. The real world is full of hard choices, and we suspect the kind of appeal that might work better on women of all kinds would be a far more nuanced one that the type that appeals to most men. Perhaps one that begins by conceding that reasonable/intelligent people can disagree.

It's considered to be something of a stereotype that women see more nuance in most issues than men, but we think it's a stereotype with a fair amount of real world evidence to back it up. Both of the following types of ad turn us off:

1. "On Issue X, all the goodness and morality is encompassed in my position and anyone who disagrees with me is the antichrist/hates America/WARONWOMEN!!!!ELEVENTY!!/WARONMEN!!!!ELEVENTY!!/."

2. "Oh, hey, every choice is equally valid because I'm enlightened and tolerant like that. Unlike my opponent, who wants to lock women up in pregnancy farms and force them to procreate for the patriarchy. I don't really believe this nonsense, mind you, but you I'm so scared of offending 'you people' that I'm simply going to insist that your choices cannot reasonably be questioned or limited. Ever. By anyone. Even if they affect other people or negatively impact their freedom."

Are political ads even the right way to conduct effective outreach? We have our doubts.

What say you, knuckle dragging America haters?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:54 AM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

He Just Can't Stop Himself, Can He?

The Vice President of the United States:

Vice President Biden apologized on Sunday for the second time in two days, in this instance to the United Arab Emirates, for comments he made suggesting that the United States’ Arab allies armed and funded terrorists in Syria.

The furor over the comments, made during a foreign policy address at Harvard University last week, have exposed deep rifts between the United States and its regional allies over who is to blame for the rise of the Islamic State and how to go about confronting it, underscoring the fragility of the coalition formed to fight the extremist group.

The White House said Biden telephoned Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and the most prominent Emirate leader, to say that the vice president did not intend to imply that the UAE supported terrorists.

The call followed an angry statement from the UAE’s Foreign Ministry earlier in the day expressing “astonishment” at Biden’s remarks and demanding a “formal clarification.”

Biden had described the United States’ allies as the “biggest problem” in the fight against terrorism, then went on to name Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Turkey was the first to complain, about a different remark made on the same occasion in which Biden claimed that Turkish President Recep Tayyep Erdogan had told him that Turkey was wrong to let foreign fighters cross the Turkish border into Syria.

Erdogan responded with a furious outburst, calling his relationship with Biden “history,” demanding an apology and denying that he had either made the comment to Biden or that Turkey had allowed foreign fighters to cross its borders.

Biden called Erdogan on Saturday to apologize, and the White House issued a separate statement in which the vice president said that Biden did not intend to imply that any of those allies had “intentionally” facilitated terrorists.

All we can say is that we're awfully glad The Smart People are back in charge. From the White House website transcript of the Biden foreign policy speech (yes, the same one that resulted in Vice Presidential apologies to Turkey and Saudi Arabia):

On energy, North America is literally -- not figuratively -- the epicenter of energy in the world today. There are more rigs, gas and oil rigs in the United States pumping today than every other nation in the world combined. Combined. North America will account -- meaning Mexico, China and Canada -- for two-thirds of the growth of global energy supply over the next 20 years. By 2018, the United States will be a net exporter of natural gas, and most projections show North America will be totally energy independent by 2020, and the United States shortly thereafter.

Do these people not have proofreaders? Fortunately, because this is Joe Biden and not, say, George W. Bush, we can all dismiss three major gaffes in a single speech as random-but-completely-understandable-verbal-miscues-that-mean-absolutely-nothing-and-should-not-be-interpreted-by-petty, partisan-journalists-as-suggesting-anything-about-the-speaker's-intelligence,-command-of-the-facts,-or-competence.

Thank Gaia!

Posted by Cassandra at 07:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Don't Sass Me, Son

I brought you into this world, and I can take you back out of it:


Posted by Cassandra at 07:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 03, 2014

This Surprised Us

The Washington Post weighted the style of facial hair, or lack thereof, of all active ballplayers on a scale of 0 to 8 — zero being clean shaven, eight being the grizzliest — then calculated the average hairiness of each team.

The results speak for themselves. It is good to be #1:


Posted by Cassandra at 02:23 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

UNM Sexually Harrasses Its Own Students

File under, "If they weren't so willing to beclown themselves, we'd have to make stuff like this up":

The University of New Mexico can’t decide whether it supports or opposes free speech on campus, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

The civil-liberties group called out the university as its “speech code of the month” Wednesday, highlighting its sexual harassment policy, which says:

“[e]xamples of sexual harassment which shall not be tolerated” include “suggestive” letters, notes, or invitations. The policy also prohibits “displaying sexually suggestive or derogatory objects, pictures, cartoons, or posters,” albeit with the vague disclaimer that such displays will be “evaluated for appropriateness such as art displayed in museums … .”

This is a hoot, because

According to The College Fix, this week, September 29–Oct 2 is “Sex Week” at UNM—a weeklong series of programs for students including “Negotiating Successful Threesomes,” “O-Face Oral” and “BJs and Beyond.” Sex Week is sponsored in part by the university’s Women’s Resource Center. Sex Week also violates the university’s own speech codes, since even the titles of the workshops—and thus any Sex Week promotional materials—are “sexually suggestive.”

And the school gave a spirited defense of Sex Week, pointing to its Freedom of Expression and Dissent policy, which says the “appropriate response” to speech that is “offensive, even abhorrent,” and causes “discomfort” is “speech expressing opposing ideas and continued dialogue, not curtailment of speech.”

Loosely translated from the original Phrench that last bit means, "When we do it, it's a joyous celebration of freedom and sexuality. When you do it, it's grossly offensive behavior." You know, like... this sort of thing:

The women’s magazine Cosmopolitan — famous for articles about fashion and makeup — published an article Wednesday attacking Republicans for a political ad spoofing “Say Yes to the Dress,” a reality TV show about women choosing wedding dresses.

“Is this the most condescending political ad ever?” was the title of the article written by Cosmopolitan senior political writer Jill Filipovic.

Filipovic was not happy with the theme of the video, which she mocked, sarcastically claiming, “It’s for ladies, and ladies love marriage and dress!”

Remember, she writes for a website whose current headlines include “Celebrities wearing things!” and “How to create the perfect date-night makeup.”

But it turns out Cosmopolitan is no stranger to parody videos, either. As National Republican Congressional Committee TV and Radio Director Mollie Young noted on Twitter, just one week prior to Filipovic’s article, comedian Megan MacKay posted on the magazine's site a similarly themed parody about makeup and voting.

MacKay sought to tell readers why young, unmarried women should vote in the midterm elections, and threw in “a few makeup tips along the way.”

Why, oh why won't anyone take women seriously???? Sometimes, the parody just writes itself.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:05 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 02, 2014


Haters. They just can't stop their hating ways:

A survey has revealed the cars most likely to be given a ticket on America's roads – and the results prove it is not all about horsepower.

The study found that the Subaru WRX tops the national ranking - and one in three drivers of the turbocharged vehicle has a recent traffic violation.

...Insurance.com Managing Editor Des Toups said it was not all about powerful vehicles.

‘Cars don’t get tickets, drivers do – but those drivers like the WRX,' he said.

Hmmmm..... we have not yet started driving the WRX to work - all that clutching is hard on the knee, so the Spousal Unit has been driving it. He just got a ticket in DC.

The Batmobile was unavailable for comment.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:19 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Pockets are Sexist. And iPhones. Also, Bicycles

This kind of hand wringing over supposed First World Sexism makes us crazy**:

...the biggest problem might be the lack of pockets in the first place: women's slacks, dresses, and blazers often have no pockets, or worse, “fake” pockets that serve no utilitarian purpose besides sartorially leading the wearer on to believe they have a handy wardrobe aide, until it’s too late.

So how can an industry that focuses on women—whether it be models or products created primarily for a female demographic—consistently dodge the very people it markets to? Camilla Olson, creative director of an eponymous high tech fashion firm, points to inherent sexism within the industry. Mid-range fashion is a male dominated business, driven not by form and function, but by design and how fabric best drapes the body.

“I honestly believe the fashion industry is not helping women advance,” Olson said. And the lack of functional designs for women is one example. "We [women] know clearly we need pockets to carry technology and I think it’s expected we are going to carry a purse. When we’re working we don’t carry purses around. A pocket is a reasonable thing.”

First of all, the Blog Princess has no pressing need to "carry technology". Most women already carry purses - ginormous, bottomless satchels in which we manage to cram approximately half of our personal property. Because one never knows when one might urgently require a Matchbox sports car, a nail file, 20 gazillion shades of lip gloss/eye pencils, or a nifty little disposable toothbrush that comes with its own toothpaste all in a neat little shrinkwrapped package that we got in our Christmas stocking. Oh, and BOTH keys to the car we drive. Because you never know.

Most women do this to ourselves voluntarily. The Patriarchy is not demanding that we haul 25 pounds of useless objects with us everywhere we go. And don't even ask us what's in our briefcase.

You don't want to know.

The Patriarchy has likewise expressed very little interest in the size or functionality or placement of pockets in the clothes we buy. We will admit to elevating form over function quite voluntarily. We don't like clothes with big, bulging pockets. They make our hips look bigger and most short women prefer streamlined clothes with very simple lines for aesthetic reasons. Aesthetics tend to matter to a lot of uterus-having folk. Because we have uteruses, or estrogen, or something.

But this just frosts our cornflakes (and not in a good way). Bicycle inequality must be stopped before it kills us all:

Elizabeth Plank at Mic took to the bike paths of New York City to investigate the "huge and under-reported" gender gap in, of all things, bicycle-riding. Turns out way more men ride bikes than women: "In the U.S., 1 woman for every 3 men gets around on a bicycle," Plank writes. "In London, 77% of bike trips are taken by men and only 5% of women identify as frequent cyclists."

This is a gender gap that actually surprised me. After all, if you stick your head into any given spin class, 80-100 percent of the people huffing through sprints are women, guaranteed. So why isn't that the case out on the street? Plank dug in and found that women face a number of obstacles: "Women's aversion to risk, women's clothing, economic and time poverty, as well as sexual harassment."

When we were just a rosy-cheeked little Editorial Staff, we loved our bicycle more than just about anything on earth. We rode every day and ranged far and wide on our trusty green bike.

We almost never ride anymore for all sorts of reasons: weather, hair, distance, definitely (when we were younger) aversion to being continually accosted by random men in cars. We are skeptical of the notion that women will never be free/equal until we stop making decisions like this for ourselves and mindlessly seek to imitate the male half of the species.

For what it's worth, the Spousal Unit wouldn't ride a bike to work either. Even if work were only a few minutes away.

You know the Multiverse has become a far more enlightened and tolerant place when we have time to become uber-outraged about stupid things like this:


Does anyone else from DC remember the kerfuffle when DC Mayor Anthony Williams was excoriated by his black constituents for his supposedly insufficient appreciation for watermelon and fried chicken? We tried to find a contemporary news article, but turned up only a lame "Is Anthony Williams Black Enough?" article seeking to elaborate the many and splendored ways in which one could demonstrate Authentic Blackness.

Random acts of extreme violence are likewise a huge problem in the First World. Which totally explains this story:

Four schools in Onslow County, North Carolina were sent into police lockdown when a cafeteria worker panicked when the employee saw someone dressed like a pirate.

It was “International Talk Like A Pirate Day” and one school employee apparently decided to take it one step further.

A staff member reported seeing a “suspicious person” – the “pirate” – approaching the school and called police.

“The Onslow County Sheriff’s Office said that ‘suspicious person’ turned out to be a Richlands Elementary staff member dressed as a pirate,” ABC 12 reports.

Get a grip, people. A society that has time to worry about such inanities can probably pat itself on the back.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:02 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Correlation, Causation, and the Marriage Gap

Interesting stats on the correlation between voting patterns and marital status:

The storied election gender gap that for years has shown a broad political division between men and women is morphing into a marriage gap where married men and women are the Republican side of the new divide and unmarried men and women are Democrats.

The latest proof was revealed in a new Economist/YouGov poll that overall showed women back Democrats over Republicans, 48 percent to 30 percent. But when the population is divided, the poll finds that married women favor Republicans over Democrats 41 percent to 34 percent, unmarrieds prefer Democrats 52 percent to 22 percent.

“Democrats don’t get the support of all kinds of women,” said the poll analysis.

“There is also a marriage gap among men. Married men favor the GOP by more than two to one. Unmarried men support Democrats,” said Economist/YouGov.

So, does being married "cause" people of both sexes to lean right politically? And how about the pet theory of so many bloggers that women are somehow hard wired to vote for Democrats because... LADYPARTS!!!?

Analysts offer a number of theories about the marriage gap: married women are more financially stable and therefore less reliant on government assistance; they care less about reproductive issues than about their pocketbooks and security; when they marry, they adopt their husbands’ political preferences. But the obvious reason for the marriage gap is that for several decades now, married women have become likelier to be white, educated, affluent, and older—demographic groups that leaned Republican in this election. Romney lost the black, Hispanic, and Asian vote, while he won the college-educated vote (though not post-grads), the votes of those making over $50,000 a year, and the votes of older Generation X-ers, Baby Boomers, and voters over 65. In other words, married women voted less as part of a sisterhood than as part of a cohort of white people holding college diplomas, earning more than $50,000 a year, and wearing reading glasses.

Similarly, unmarried women voted just the way you’d expect them to, considering their age, income, education, race, and ethnicity. A large number of unmarried women are single mothers—and minorities are disproportionately represented among that population. More than 30 percent of single mothers are Hispanic, and 28 percent are black, even though Hispanics are just 17 percent of the population and blacks 12 percent. Single mothers are also likely to be younger, less educated, and poorer than married women are. Sure enough, all these groups went Democratic in this election. The category “single women” also includes childless women in their twenties and thirties. These are by definition part of the “youth vote,” which went heavily for Obama, regardless of gender.

Men, too, have a marriage gap, though it’s a less dramatic one. Sixty-two percent of married men voted Republican, while 55 percent of single men voted Democratic. No surprise: single men, like single women, are more likely to have lower incomes, to be young, and to be black or Hispanic. The question is whether younger voters are only temporary Democrats. If long-term trends continue, the large majority of Millennials will marry eventually. At that point, they may change their political habits and vote the way previous cohorts of married men and married women have. Or they may remain Democrats, representing a permanent generational shift. It’s an open question—but one in which gender plays only a tangential role.

All of this reminds the Editorial Staff of Obama's surety that old, white ladies clutching their purses in elevators is proof positive of racism. It couldn't possibly be that women in large cities are nervous anytime they're alone in an elevator with a man. Or that a black woman would probably react the same way.

Black men in large cities are afraid of other black men, and crime statistics show they're right to feel that way:

...there's also this false narrative being pushed out there by folks like Michael Eric Dyson and [Al] Sharpton and the rest of the hustlers is that black men live in fear of being shot by cops in these neighborhoods. That too is nonsense. I know something about growing up black and male in the inner city and it's not that hard to avoid getting shot by a cop. They pull you over, you answer their questions, you are on your way.

The real difficulty is not getting shot by other black people if you are a young black man in these neighborhoods and again that is something we need to talk more about. Cops are not the problem. Cops are not producing these black bodies in the morgues every weekend in Chicago, in New York and Detroit and so forth. That's not cops. Those other black people shooting black people.

We love to construct elaborate stories to make the world line up with our preconceived biases: white women uniquely fear black men because... racism! Women belonging to demographic groups that already vote Democrat do so because feminists have programmed them to reject men and replace husbands with the welfare state. Or because women are just wired that way.

There couldn't possibly be any other explanation.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 01, 2014

Do Cats Have Elbows?

Perspective, again:

Let’s imagine that Republicans swept the 2012 elections and were now in control not merely of the House but of the presidency and the Senate, too.

Now let’s take it one step further and say that by using the filibuster the Democratic minority in the Senate had successfully blocked President Romney’s appointments to federal district and appellate court judgeships.

What if, faced with this Democratic intransigence, the conservative Federalist Society helped devise a strategy to revamp Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster so that judicial nominees could be confirmed by a simple majority instead of the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster?

The elimination of the filibuster has allowed President Romney to appoint three judges to the critically important United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, establishing a decisive 7 to 4 conservative majority on that bench. What’s more, two of the the three judges newly appointed by President Romney are members of the Federalist Society and the new conservative majority on the D.C. Circuit is now positioned to rule Obamacare unconstitutional.

The Koch brothers — recall we are still in an alt-hypothetical universe — reward the Federalist Society by directing 100 loyal billionaires to contribute to the group.

Would these developments provoke liberal outrage?

They certainly would.

But it’s not only the right that uses secretive organizations to keep rich donors anonymous while it seeks to influence elections and policy. Liberals do the same, and the press in large part gives them a pass.

As you no doubt realized while you were reading, the hypothetical described above did not take place, but something approximating it did. Instead of Republican offenders, the players were President Obama, a Democratic Senate, the progressive American Constitution Society, and the Democracy Alliance, a network of very wealthy liberal donors.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:58 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Valuable Perspective on False Rape Accusations

Have been meaning to link to this excellent piece on false rape accusations for some time now. Here are the two strongest points:

False rape accusations are a lightning rod for a variety of reasons. Rape is a repugnant crime—and one for which the evidence often relies on one person’s word against another’s. Moreover, in the not-so-distant past, the belief that women routinely make up rape charges often led to appalling treatment of victims. However, in challenging what author and law professor Susan Estrich has called “the myth of the lying woman,” feminists have been creating their own counter-myth: that of the woman who never lies.

More than a quarter-century ago, feminist legal theorist Catharine MacKinnon wrote that “feminism is built on believing women’s accounts of sexual use and abuse by men”; today, Jessica Valenti urges us to “believe victims en masse,” because only then will we recognize the true prevalence of sexual assault. But a de facto presumption of guilt in alleged sexual offenses is as dangerous as a presumption of guilt in any crime, and for the same reasons: It upends the foundations on which our system of justice rests and creates a risk of ruining innocent lives.

Here's the second, which is just outstanding:

...official data on what law enforcement terms “unfounded” rape reports (that is, ones in which the police determine that no crime occurred) yield conflicting numbers, depending on local policies and procedures—averaging 8 percent to 10 percent of all reported rapes. Yet the truth is even knottier than these statistics suggest. The answer to “How common are false allegations?” depends largely on how false allegations are defined. Do we count only cases in which a police report—or a complaint to some other official authority, such as a college administrator—is shown to be deliberately false? Do we include informal, word-of-mouth charges like the one against Oberst? What of he said/she said cases in which the truth is never known?

Not all reports classified as unfounded are necessarily false. In some cases, women who were victims of rape were disbelieved, pressured into recanting, and charged with false reporting only to be vindicated later on—the kind of awful story that adds to people’s skittishness about discussing false accusations. Some police departments have been criticized for having an anomalously high percentage of supposedly unfounded rape charges: Baltimore’s “unfounded” rate used to be the highest in the nation, at about 30 percent, due partly to questionable and sometimes downright abusive police procedures, such as badgering a woman about why she waited two hours to report a street assault. By 2013, an effort to provide better training and encourage full investigation of all complaints reduced that rate to less than 2 percent.

On the other hand, “unfounded” statistics do not capture all false allegations—only cases rejected at the earliest stage (correctly or not) because of what investigators believe to be strong proof that no crime was committed. This does not include cases in which charges are filed but rejected for prosecution (between a quarter and nearly half of all cases), or the relatively small number of prosecutions that end in dismissal or acquittal. Of course not all such cases involve innocent defendants—probably not even most; but surely some do.

A similar pattern can be found in a recent study often cited as evidence of the rarity of false accusations: a 2010 paper by psychologist David Lisak, which examined all 136 sexual assault reports made on a northeastern university campus over a 10-year period. For 19 of these cases, the files did not contain enough information to evaluate the outcome. Of the 117 cases that could be classified, eight—or 6.8 percent—were determined to be false complaints; that conclusion was reached when there was substantial evidence refuting the complainant’s account. But does it mean that 93 percent of the reports that could be evaluated were shown to be truthful?

More than 40 percent of the reports evaluated in Lisak’s study (excluding the ones for which there was not enough information to classify them) did result in disciplinary or criminal charges. However, 52 percent were investigated and closed. Lisak told me that the vast majority of these complaints did not proceed due to insufficient evidence, often because the complainant had stopped cooperating with investigators. His paper also mentions another type of complaint that did not proceed: cases in which “the incident did not meet the legal elements of the crime of sexual assault.”

Both sides of the political spectrum are prone to hyperbole, exaggeration, and moral panics. Last week we read something that seems particularly on point:

...why then do 69% of Americans believe that the NFL suffers a "widespread epidemic of domestic violence problems"? The answer is rooted in how we think. Humans are prone to rely on examples and experiences that can be easily recalled. The idea is that if we can remember it, it must be important. This mental shortcut is termed the availability heuristic. A key drawback of the heuristic is that it leads us to overestimate the prevalence of memorable events. Here, you can legitimately blame popular media. Because plane crashes are widely covered, many erroneously view flying as more dangerous than driving. Thanks to Shark Week, people are wearier of sharks than deer. Because 91% of people have seen, read, or heard something about Ray Rice's domestic violence, they overestimate the problem of domestic violence in the NFL.

But it's not just the media - it's also the new media: bloggers, Tweeters, Facebook posts, anything that goes viral. Exposure does not suggest relative frequency. Last week Grim made an interesting point whilst rebutting an unusually idiotic (and that's a high bar) op-ed by Jessica Valenti:

...the figure for frat boys who admitted to rape or attempted rape is nine percent. Now one way of expressing that is that 91% of frat boys are not rapists. That means that 97% of the general population of college men are not rapists. That's a pretty substantial percentage. We may not be all the way to where we want to be, but we've still established that the overwhelming majority of these men don't commit rape.

Now apply that same logic to false rape accusations and think about that for a moment.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:33 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Wednesday Inflammatory Debate Topic

From time to time, the Editorial Staff have a tradition of throwing out what we only half-jokingly refer to as "inflammatory debate topics". Often we do this as a means of testing a position or stance we have always pretty much assumed was valid on the merits. That doesn't mean we've already decided to reject the position, nor does it necessarily mean we've already decided what we think. The outcome is not decided ahead of time - hence, the debate: an opportunity to hear what you all think and critically examine our position to see how well it holds up to closer inspection.

Today's debate question reached out and grabbed us (WITHOUT AFFIRMATIVE CONSENT, MIND YOU!!!!) whilst we perused an article on California's new affirmative consent law for colleges and universities receiving government funding. The point we wish to examine is this one, taken from the law:

The California bill, SB 967, makes clear that silence, a lack of resistance or consent given under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs does not equal consent to sexual activity.

“Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time,” the bill states. “The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.”

The inflammatory debate question is, "As a standard of behavior, which part of this do you think is wrong?" To help focus the discussion, let's break the standard down into its constituent parts:

1. Do you believe that "silence, lack of resistance, or consent given under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs" ought to be viewed as sufficient evidence of consent?

This is a harder question than it may seem at first. First of all, there are both legal and moral duties involved (and they're not necessarily the same). It may help to separate your responses into the legal duty/moral duty framework. Here, the Blog Princess will happily climb out on the limb of bloggy bloviation and provide a preliminary, not terribly well thought out response that you are encouraged to rebut:

Is silence consent? Not necessarily. It depends on the context.

Is lack of physical resistance consent? Not necessarily. It depends on the context.

Has a person who is clearly drunk/drugged/asleep consented to sex by virtue of being incapacitated/unconscious? Absolutely not.

We strongly suspect the answers here will depend to some extent on whether one happens to be male or female. Over the years, we've often heard men argue that women have a duty to forcibly and physically fight off unwanted advances. In other words, when a woman claims to have been raped, she'd better be able to show physical injuries consistent with a physical struggle: bruises, scratches, broken fingernails, perhaps a black eye or a split lip. Quite possibly, broken bones or choke marks around the neck or tearing in places we don't like thinking about. That's what we're talking about when we say "forcible", and in the strict sense a man who physically forces himself upon a silent, unresisting, or unconscious woman cannot really be said to have used force. He may have intimidated or coerced her, but those are distinct from physical force. They leave no convenient evidence behind, and thus are almost impossible to prove in a court of law.

As a moral matter, we have no trouble whatsoever declaring that an adult - male or female - who assumes in all cases that silent, lack of physical resistance, or incapacity equate to consent is acting wrongly. Note the qualifier: in all cases.

We realize this will be an unpopular opinion, but we believe that a woman who seduces a man who is struggling mightily to resist for whatever reason (but does not verbally object or physically fight her off) is acting at least somewhat coercively and - in our opinion - wrongly. Having sex isn't like having another helping of chips and pico de gallo during happy hour. It's a profoundly moral decision with serious ethical and real world consequences, even though popular culture and a sizeable part of both the right and left like to pretend sex is an act of no more moment than deciding which TV show to watch. It's not "entertainment" and it's not risk free because you're not interacting with an electronic device. There's another human being involved.

So to us, expecting people to exert themselves enough to reasonably ascertain that the other person actually wants to have sex (as opposed to being afraid/confused/ashamed) doesn't seem like a terribly high bar, morally speaking. We don't have any trouble whatsoever saying we think that's a reasonable moral duty, especially when the two people involved are strangers or don't know each other well. The duty of care increases when two people don't know each other and decreases the closer they are.

But we're talking about moral rather than legal duties. There are a great number of acts we would unhesitatingly condemn, yet don't think the law should declare to be criminal. Has the CA law "criminalized" them? No, clearly not, because no criminal charges will be filed by colleges or universities and no one will go to jail. Other consequences, some quite serious, will flow from a determination that sexual assault (whatever that means this week) has occurred, but it's not accurate to say that this law criminalizes anything.

What this law concerns is colleges and universities making rules governing the behavior of students who attend CA postsecondary schools. There are no criminal penalties involved.

This is not a trivial point. What we're asking here is, "As a standard of behavior (leaving aside for the moment the reasonableness of the penalties thereuntoappertaining), is it unreasonable/unjust to make a rule saying that silence alone, lack of physical resistance alone, or unconsciousness/incapacity alone will not be considered to be sufficient evidence of consent to sex"?

Framed and limited that way, we would have to say, "No, no, and no." But "framed and limited that way" presents only a small part of the total picture.

2. On to the second part of the standard:

Can consent be revoked during sex? Dear God, I hope so. A man or woman who consents to be kissed does not necessarily consent to any act that hurts, disgusts, or upsets them. If they aren't enjoying themselves, either partner gets to walk away. The oft-cited, "Just let me finish" is utter rubbish given that "finishing" is an act of which we are all capable all by ourselves. You don't get to force the other person to participate in the manner you prefer.

If a person has sex with another person once, have they lost the right ever to refuse sex with that person again? Again, the suggestion is preposterous.

The conclusion we can't help coming to is that - taken in isolation - the standard of behavior posed by the CA affirmative consent law is not only quite reasonable but consistent with what we would expect from anyone old enough to have sex. It's not inherently discriminatory or anti-male (though it will almost undoubtedly disparately impact men). Depending on how it's worded and implemented, it will very likely be misused, and we're already on record as saying we think there are very strong cases to be made that one-way application of the "intoxication invalidates consent" standard is a clear violation of Title IX's prohibition on sex-based discrimination in higher ed.

The main concern we have is that what appears on the surface to be a fairly reasonable standard of behavior will be twisted into an excuse for either shifting the traditional burden of proof from accuser to accused or impermissibly using Title IX (the purpose of which is to ban sexually discriminatory policies in higher ed) to violate - pun fully intended - both the spirit and the letter of Title IX.

We oppose this administration's ill advised meddling in the running of postsecondary institutions. But in all the outrage overthe supposed "epidemic" of false rape accusations (more on that in another post), an important point is being missed. It's this: there is (and should be) a difference between policies set by colleges and universities that govern student behavior and the standards that govern criminal law. Surely we don't want to put universities in the position of saying to their students, "Yes, Student X is causing all kinds of problems on campus, but we lack the ability to discipline, suspend, or expel him or her unless/until he or she is convicted in court of a criminal offense"?

What the administration (and now, California) is doing is clearly not the right response but the ongoing conflation of criminal law and civil policy and rule making troubles us greatly.

Is there a reasonable middle ground? If so, where does it lie? And where does assumption of the risks of casual/drunken come in - on both sides?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:48 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack