April 09, 2013
My Inner Child is feeling sooooooooooooooooo spanked.
And not in a good way. That is all.
February 27, 2013
I'm Not Dead (Yet)
I'm not even in Philadelphia. Just incredibly busy, working, visiting GrandPunks, etc.
Will try to have something up by Thursday am. Have been researching a big post.
November 09, 2010
Thoughts on Leaving Blogging
Marc Ambinder is quitting blogging. He has some thoughts on the medium and the effect it has had on traditional journalism:
My experience has not been unique, but it has spanned the life of this newly evolved species of reporter. I've had some time to think about what effect doing this day and night has had on the practice of journalism, on the quality of news-gathering and dissemination, and on the people who do it. I've written quite often on the first two subjects and participated in many discussions about them. All I will say here is that the mere fact that online reporters feel they must participate in endless discussions about these subjects is something new, a consequence of the medium, and is one reason why it can be so exhausting to do primarily web journalism. The feedback loop is relentless, punishing and is predicated on the assumption that the reporter's motivation is wrong. Unfortunately, the standard for defining oneself as a web journalist depends upon establishing a certain credibility with a particular audience of critics. Responding to complaints about content and structure and bias is part of the way one establishes that credibility.
Really good print journalism is ego-free. By that I do not mean that the writer has no skin in the game, or that the writer lacks a perspective, or even that the writer does not write from a perspective. What I mean is that the writer is able to let the story and the reporting process, to the highest possible extent, unfold without a reporter's insecurities or parochial concerns intervening. Blogging is an ego-intensive process. Even in straight news stories, the format always requires you to put yourself into narrative. You are expected to not only have a point of view and reveal it, but be confident that it is the correct point of view. There is nothing wrong with this. As much as a writer can fabricate a detachment, or a "view from nowhere," as Jay Rosen has put it, the writer can also also fabricate a view from somewhere. You can't really be a reporter without it. I don't care whether people know how I feel about particular political issues; it's no secret where I stand on gay marriage, or on the science of climate change, and I wouldn't have it any other way. What I hope I will find refreshing about the change of formats is that I will no longer be compelled to turn every piece of prose into a personal, conclusive argument, to try and fit it into a coherent framework that belongs to a web-based personality called "Marc Ambinder" that people read because it's "Marc Ambinder," rather than because it's good or interesting.
What I find so remarkable about Ambinder's farewell to blogging is his determination to shoehorn blogging into a definition that doesn't fit. To him, reporting seems to be more a matter of identity than of conviction or focus. At the risk of making an offensive analogy, in these hands journalism bids fair to follow religion down the path of Things That Used to Matter But Have Become Largely Pro Forma. These days, many of us aren't Catholic or Episcopalian because we intend to be bound by the will of God, but because being vaguely spiritual (albeit in some New Age-y fashion that doesn't require obedience to confining biblical teachings that are, like, so five minutes ago) allows us to don the mantle of moral legitimacy. "I believe in some-amorphous-thing-to-be-defined ... umm... later", but somehow this makes me different - better - than folks who don't believe.
Likewise we know reporting when we see it because it's done by reporters (even when they're really doing is opining). And because we all know that reporters are dedicated professionals, blogging is different - more legitimate, more objective, more moral - when they do it. I'm not sure where that leaves the rest of us. You know, the ones who are just trying to make sense of it all?
The thing is, I don't know too many bloggers who think what they do is reporting. Journalists seem almost obsessed by the idea that blogging has upstaged traditional journalism, but I've never been able to figure out exactly what bloggers offer that can even hope to replace news reporting? If the news media disappeared tomorrow, could blogging take its place? Who and what would we link to? Comment upon? Discuss? The vast majority of bloggers begin each day by pointing to news items that interest them. The best ones add commentary or context. Some go on to compare and contrast related news items, fact check, present independent research in confirmation or rebuttal or simply throw a contentious topic out for discussion and debate. But most of us don't report.
Journalists seem determined to set up a false dichotomy in which news reporting proceeds from a noble desire to convey facts and truth in an objective fashion while blogging clings to it like a tapeworm, burying all those lovely facts and truth in mountains of ego driven, partisan blather.
I don't know what I meant to accomplish when I first visited a site called ScrappleFace in March of 2003. I think mostly I felt a sense that the attention bill was overdue; that America was at war and I knew little or nothing about the events that had led us to that pass because I'd been too busy living my life to pay attention to the news. It seemed remote; unconnected to my life. And then, suddenly, it wasn't any more.
If I had to explain why I showed up all those years, it was to answer a question: what does it all mean? Certainly there is an ego affirming aspect to blogging. If you do it long enough, readers say kind things to you and that feels good. They also say perfectly awful things to you: things that make you want to crawl under the covers and never come out. On balance the back and forth has been a good thing. It has toughened my skin more than a bit, made me less cocksure, less glib, less convinced of my own ineffable wisdom.
I said earlier that I didn't know what I intended to do when I began blogging. But I do know what blogging became: a way to stay in touch with people I like and - in some cases - came to love. A way to make sense of the incomprehensible. A conversation with a group of people I wish I were lucky enough to know in real life. People who are interesting. And intelligent. And funny.
I'm always a bit mystified when bloggers describe blogging as ego driven because if you have a comments section, the very first thing you discover is that it was never about you or your opinions. It's about the conversation.
Thank you all for making VC a fun place to wake up to every morning. You all, for me, are what blogging is all about. Bit by bit you made this former housewife and tech wench smarter, more thoughtful, better informed. Which is not the same as being smart, thoughtful, or informed.
But it's progress, no es verdad?
After the Valour IT fund raiser is over on Nov. 11th, VC will go the way of so many blogs. Carrie and Cassy have done an outstanding job of leading the Marine team this year and I hope you'll take a moment to thank them when this is all over.
I always resisted putting up a PayPal link here but if you've found any value in anything you've read here over the years, please consider making a donation to Valour IT. Those are the folks who make conversations like this possible.
September 23, 2010
Those Darned Women Voters Again
Grim notices something I wondered about, too:
Here at home, well-known right wing echo chamber The New York Times says that the real reason the Tea Party is doing well is women. Well, we knew that, right? Part of the power of the movement is that it represents a breakthrough in involving women with an interest in protecting the integrity of their families, and the traditions of liberty for their children.
Except the Times has a different point: actually, they say, the problem is that women aren't paying attention, are confused, and either depressed about politics or just unenthusiastic about it. If only women would outperform men at the polls, the Times says, the Democrats would do great!
That kind of underlines the problem, though, doesn't it? Why should it be true that the only portion of women to be generally enthusiastic and engaged this year is on the right, especially among those leading the Tea Party? Isn't this supposed to be the year that the Great Health Care Takeover represents such a relief to women (whom, we hear, disproportionately favor these kinds of socialist programs)? Shouldn't they be lining up to express their enthusiasm for more of the same?
The opposite is happening, and that's the real marker.
Of course he says it far better than I would have... probably because he's a man, and men are logical like that.
*running for the barricades*
Sorry for the lack of bloggitudinal fare of late. Your hostess journeyed far from the Land of Bedwetting Socialists, but now she is back and completely overwhelmed with work.
Fortunately, there's lots of good reading around the Blatherosphere. Darleen Click teases out the history of the Gadsden flag:
Up until 2009 the only time most of us encountered the Gadsden Flag was as a picture in our grade-school American History books. With the advent of the grass-roots tea parties in April of that year, the Gadsden Flag has made a spectacular public comeback, and launched a few controversies as the unofficial flag of the leaderless Tea Party movement.
But where did we get this powerful symbol?
If you're following the Senate horse races, John Hawkins provides one stop shopping for all your November election needs.
Over at Spousebuzz, Andi dissects the yin and yang of military life:
After reading the arguments for and against this game, I pushed the superficial discussion aside and examined why it was, exactly, that actual soldiers can be unbothered by something like this, but family members can be deeply affected by it.
Military families struggle, thrive, fight, fail and succeed as a unit, but the spouse and the service member often employ very different coping mechanisms and have opposite reactions to events which affect the military community. Namely, war. When my husband is preparing to deploy, he is very matter-of-fact regarding the tasks at hand. Things like updating living wills, wills, SGLI paperwork, POAs and the zillion other forms that must be completed before deploying are mere tasks. Check the box and move on. Paperwork. But the things contained in that haunting yellow envelope are more than papers to me. They're a prescient reminder of what could go wrong. Where he sees a piece of paper, necessary and important though it is, I see a possible death warrant. There have been times in the past when I've been all "wee-wee'd" up over some anti-military sentiment and my husband didn't give it a second thought.
I've seen this happen in reverse, too - things that don't bother me for a millisecond sometimes grate on The Unit's last nerve. All a matter of perspective.
Greyhawk looks at Afghanistan then... and now.
"Dynamite in the hands of a child is not more dangerous than a strong policy weakly carried out."
That's a quote from Winston Churchill - a man more quotable than most. You may have an image in mind of Britain's prime minister during the Second World War, a man whose long life in the political arena well-prepared him for his role. And yes, the quote is from that Winston Churchill - but then again, it isn't... that was 23-year-old Winston Churchill, opining specifically on his nation's policy on Afghanistan in 1897, but doing so with a truth on broad terms.
Maybe that's an obvious truth to twenty-somethings of any generation; then again maybe it's something some people go through life without fully grasping.
Kanani Fong on Afghanistan:
In Kunar today, girls are going to school, and women are selling handcrafts. Medical treatment is given to locals by military doctors, and they're training Afghan doctors and nurses. The ISAF has worked in Helmand to secure the local population. Bazaars are busy, schools have reopened. Contractors (unfairly painted as corrupt by the press and politicians) have delivered on sanitation, road, Wi-Fi and other projects at a fraction of the cost of USAID. Nonprofit organizations such as the La Jolla Rotary Club and MIT's Fab Lab fund schools and computer labs in Jalalabad. To media cynics, these efforts might seem small. To an Afghan, however, these efforts are huge, whether it's sending a daughter to school or simply having a child treated for burns from a cooking mishap.
Still, the Taliban has a hold on many areas; their beheadings, torture of females and forcing children to fight is documented. The murder of ten medical health workers in Badakshan by jihadi tourists in August is a reminder of the danger. Now, there's a growing political crescendo in the United States for an orderly pullout from Afghanistan. The reality is there is nothing orderly about ceding a battle to the enemy.
Finally, this is awesome:
September 17, 2010
The Thinking Man's Guide to Drinking the Hatorade
September 16, 2010
Pitch perfect response to Olbermann's nonsense. Plus, there's pie involved. We can't help but think Mr. On would approve.
September 10, 2010
More Things I've Been Meaning to Link To
September has been a busy month so far. The blog princess has a big project at work that will be tying up a lot of her time and attention so blogging may be even more lame than usual around here.
My Inbox is overflowing with highly linkable material, however.
No Sheeples has a video up promoting Project 2996. I'm late in getting this up here but there's still time to participate! Any readers without blogs (or smaller blogs who want to experience the awesome power - *not* - of a Cassandralaunch) who decide to write a tribute, please let me know. If you don't have a blog I'll post your entry here. If you do have a blog, send me your links and I'll post them on 9/11.
Speaking of 9/11, DellBabe remembers.
In 1967, on a military flight returning an air force sergeant's 3 year old child after stomach surgery, a three time wounded Viet Nam vet spoke with the child and gave him his purple heart medal in hopes that the youngster's spirits would remain strong.
That youngster, now 46 years old, is trying to find and thank that wounded soldier. And give him his medal back...
Real Warriors Profile:
Following his second deployment to Iraq, in which he lost troops and a clear sense of mission, Army Maj. Hall became increasingly angry, began pushing away his family, and contemplated suicide until his commanding officer helped him get needed help for PTSD.
Today, September 10th, is World Suicide Prevention Day. Real Warriors, like Maj. Jeff Hall, who have had the strength to reach out for treatment and are proving through example that reaching out makes a difference.
And now, something completely different...
August 31, 2010
The annual Blog World and New Media Expo is gearing up to take place this October in Las Vegas, and if you aren’t planning on coming, you should. This year, a free pass to the military track is being offered to all active duty military and veterans. Not a member of the military? Well, you should still consider coming, because it is going to be a great time. The amazing Greyhawk from the Mudville Gazette is the host/MC for this year’s military track.
And, OK, the entire military track doesn’t feature me. But I am going to be moderator for one of the panels. Here’s a little sneak peek of what we have planned for you:
Panel 1: Surprise for now
Panel 2: Social Media: Force Multiplier for Spouses?
Panel 3: Media and the Military: Myth versus Reality
Panel 4: Ideal versus Field: Social and New Media In Less Than The Best Circumstances
I'll be on Panel 2 - I won't be hard to recognize - I'll be the "seasoned" brunette sandwiched in between two smart and talented ConservaBabes: Cassy and Melissa Clouthier. Here's a preview of what's in store:
Social Media: Force Multiplier for Spouses? New and Social media have changed how spouses communicate with each other and share information within their companies and with other groups. It also is changing how spouses cope with the stresses of being separated and with having their other halves in harm’s way. Join spouse blogger and journalist Cassy Fiano, journalist and commentator Melissa Clouthier, and spouse blogger Cassandra of Villanous Company as they explore how changes in media and technology are changing the world of spouse blogging.
I'm looking forward to a spirited discussion, not to mention the chance to highlight some of the truly inspiring ways military families have turned the Internet into a do-it-yourself virtual family readiness network.
During the coming weeks I'll be writing more about this, but I wanted to get something up in time for those of you who might want to attend to make reservations and travel plans. Hope to see you there!
August 29, 2010
Greetings From 37000 Feet
I'm posting this from somewhere above Montana - there are blue skies as far as the eye can see, dotted here and there with patches of clouds.
I hope I never become immune to the wonder of flying. Will catch up with email, comments and the like momentarily.
July 19, 2010
Light Posting Alert
Posting will be very light for the next few weeks. The Blog Princess is at the beach soaking up rays and getting her Grandma fix on :)
I'm not going to write while I'm on vacation but I'll try to post some good reads each day if I have time in between kissing those grandbabies of mine.
From JD, pickup lines from philosophers. There are some pretty good ones in the comments, too!
From htom, a man says goodbye to his dog. Beautifully written.
Via Mary Ripley, The Beautiful Man Project:
MISSION: During your time trapped among the rigid Hesco Barriers and flexible, yet sharp concertina wire, you too are to become rigid in muscular tone and develop a sharp, yet flexible mind in order to transform the literal and the figurative you into something better for the benefit of your health, society, and the chicks you find next to you on mornings after successful evenings on the town. A “suck less every day” philosophy provides a basic ethos. What can you do to improve physically, mentally, socially, artistically? How can you navigate the river into your own, personal heart of darkness and emerge a better man? What can you do to make your brother better? Within the confines of our close circle “I am my brother’s keeper” is a staple. When one falters, the others pick him up. When the collective begins to languish in mediocrity, the individual invigorates the group with novel concepts for self improvement.
Having been married for over 3 decades to a man who always comes home from deployments lean, mean, and ripped, I heartily approve. My only fear is that he'll decide I need a Beautiful Woman Project :p
What is the deal lately with the War on Air Conditioning?
For the first 3 or 4 years we were married The Unit and I couldn't afford to use our a/c (the heat was on 55 during the winter, too). I got very good at strategically opening and closing windows and blinds to take advantage of (or block out) the sun. I'm sure it's healthier not to use a/c but having brought up two babies without it, I'm surprised we avoided child abuse during the summers. I have a very long fuse, but when it's 80+ degrees inside the house and your toddler is pitching a fit, you'd do just about anything for some relief.
From No Sheeples Here, something inspirational.
July 02, 2010
Sexism, Misogyny, Misandry? VC Asks, You Decide
I'm creating a new category - Sexism Watch - rather than continuing to put these items under Battle of the Sexes.
The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that both men and women have all kinds of attitudes towards the opposite sex that, whether or not they translate into actual sexism in practice, aren't terribly different.
I don't like the terms "misandry" and "misogyny". Over the years I've stayed away from using labels like misogyny because it seems odd to me (on the one hand) to insist that there are very real differences between men and women and on the other, to characterize any mention of these differences or the disparate public policy preferences that might flow from honest contemplation of these differences as as "misogyny".
Misogyny isn't discrimination or disparate treatment. It is - quite literally - contempt of or hatred for women. As a woman I neither hold women in contempt nor hate them and yet I favor some forms of legalized discrimination against women and oppose some forms of legalized preferences for my own sex. I do so, not from any dislike of women, but as a function of the costs and benefits such policies entail for society at large.
Lately I've noticed the term "misandry" being used indiscriminately to describe any language or policy that is perceived as being unfair to (or disparaging of) traditional masculinity or men. There's just one problem with that: that's not what misandry means. Misandry is hatred or contempt for men. Using hyperbolic and exaggerated language when it's not warranted has the effect of defining real hatred/contempt for men down. It's precisely the kind of "shaming language" feminists have used for decades to discourage debate and discredit opposing viewpoints without the tiresome necessity of actually having to demonstrate why they're wrong.
Such hyperbolic debate tactics are nothing more than thinly veiled ad hominems that seek to discredit an idea by impugning the motives of the speaker rather than discrediting the idea by demonstrating why it is wrong. The intended message is, "All those who believe X do so because they hate cute, fluffy yellow ducklings. Since it is irrational to hate cute, fluffy ducklings of any color, the ideas of duck hating haters can be dismissed without further examination".
It's what Thomas Sowell - in a phrase I just love - calls "arguments without arguments":
Sowell is perhaps more convincing when he identifies the demonization of opponents as the favorite rebuttal of the anointed. The refusal to accept the goodwill of one's opponents — as a starting point for honest debate — is an all too common device employed by the anointed, according to Sowell and this writer's personal experience. This often leads right away to personal attacks. From John Stuart Mills' admonition of Conservatives as the Party of Stupid to pacifist J.B. Priestley's assertion that the British public favored war only out of ennui and the desire for patriotic displays, Sowell portrays the ad hominem as a first line of attack.
Should insults fail, the assumption of the moral high ground is the second wave of attack: How can one defeat an opponent who presents him or herself as more compassionate toward fellow humans or presents themselves as more caring about the beauty of nature and the state of the environment? As Sowell aptly puts it:While the conflicts between the tragic vision and the vision of the anointed can lead to innumerable arguments on a wide range of issues, these can also lead to presentations of views that take the outward form of an argument without the inner substance of facts or analysis — in other words, arguments without arguments.
I've never seen any evidence that men are any more sexist than women. On the other hand, I've seen no evidence that they're any less sexist than women. Since it's Friday and this has been a really long week, today I'm just going to throw out some amusing items and let you all do with them what you will.
Men of VC, science comes to your rescue:
Guys who hate going to the store have the perfect excuse to stay home: Shopping could render them impotent. Some receipts harbor a gender-bending chemical that could suppress male hormones in the body, according to research reported in the Daily Mail.
The hazardous compound, known as Bisphenol A (BPA), can be ingested by shoppers when they handle their receipts and then handle food or touch their mouth, researchers found.
"A substance like that could shift the balance of the sex hormones in men towards estrogen," said Berlin-based urologist Frank Sommer, according to the Daily Mail. "In the long term, this leads to less sexual drive, encourages the belly instead of the muscles to grow and has a bad effect on erection and potency."
So the next time your SO tries to drag you to Bed, Bath and Bored Beyond Belief, you may thank the Editorial Staff for providing you with an ironclad excuse.
Golddiggers can't help it - they're wired that way:
Researchers say that women with low IQ's are much likelier to pursue rich men than females who have higher intellects.
The experts say the reason is not so much naked greed, rather an instinctive urge to guarantee a secure financial future for any potential children.
The study may throw a fresh perspective on the actions of the late Playboy model and school drop-out Anna Nicole Smith, who was dubbed a 'gold-digging blonde bimbo' after she married 89-year-old billionaire James Howard Marshall.
Moral of the story: if all the women you date seem to be unduly entranced with your wallet, perhaps your own selection criteria merit a second look?
Who can identify the problem with this virtuoso display of confirmation bias masquerading as "science"? (courtesy of Fuzzy)
… single moms tend to be more involved, set more rules, communicate better, and feel closer to their children than single dads. They have less difficulty monitoring their children’s whereabouts, friendships, and school progress. Their children do better on standardized tests and have higher grades, and teenagers of single moms are actually less likely to engage in delinquent behavior or substance abuse than those of single dads. Go, Murphy Brown.
The quality of parenting, Biblarz and Stacey say, is what really matters, not gender. But the real challenge to our notion of the “essential” father might well be the lesbian mom. On average, lesbian parents spend more time with their children than fathers do. They rate disputes with their children as less frequent than do hetero couples, and describe co-parenting more compatibly and with greater satisfaction. Their kids perceive their parents to be more available and dependable than do the children of heteros. They also discuss more emotional issues with their parents. They have fewer behavioral problems, and show more interest in and try harder at school.
I see several logical errors. And not just for the authors' position.
Children who converse with their father “most days” rated themselves 87 out of 100 on a happiness scale, while those who rarely talk to their dads scored a 79. The study results, released by the Children’s Society in Great Britain just in time for Father’s Day, called the findings “highly significant” because research has demonstrated that a person’s well-being later in life has a lot to do with their relationship with both parents during the teen years.
Of the 1,200 children in the study, who were 11 to 15, nearly 50% said they “hardly ever” talk to their dads about important subjects, as compared with just 28% who report rarely discussing important subjects with their moms.
Just plain good news (except for those Dads who don't believe they ought to have to support their own kids):
When Penn State sociologist and demographer Paul Amato researched changes in nonresident father-child contact over the past 30 years, he found substantial increases in the amount of contact. The percentage of fathers who reported no contact with their children went from 37% in 1976 to 29% in 2002.
Amato, whose work was published in the journal Demography, learned that nonresident dads’ involvement in their kids’ lives varied. Some 38% were highly involved, but 32% were rarely involved. The highly involved dads tended to have kids who were older at the time of the breakup. They were likely to have been married at one time and to have paid child support.
Yikes. A woman's work is never done.
Nearly ten per cent of women wear false or acrylic nails and nearly one in twenty wear extensions in their hair to make it more full and lustrous.
More than half of girls regularly get their hair highlighted or coloured and 19 per cent regularly resort to wearing fake tan to look more sun-kissed.
One in twenty secretly apply false eyelashes and nearly one in twenty have even tried coloured contact lenses and ultra expensive teeth veneers to appear more beautiful - and still kept quiet.
An honest 17 per cent said that people would be utterly shocked if they saw how they looked minus hair extensions, fake tan and perfectly waxed eyebrows.
WOMEN'S TOP BEAUTY CHEATS
1. Shave or wax legs
2. Plucking eyebrows
3. Applying make-up
4. Shave or wax underarms
5. Highlighting / colouring hair
7. Fake tan
8. False / acrylic nails
9. Wax or shave bikini line
10. Bleach facial hair
11. False eyelashes It'
12. Hair extensions
13. Waxing facial hair
14. Pluck nose hair
15. Regular facials
16. Wear coloured contact lenses
17. Teeth Veneers
18. Eyelash extensions
20. Permanent make-up
June 29, 2010
Tuesday Debate Question
Attila asks a question that ought to get you all going:
Is the Blogosphere Truly a Meritocracy?
I think Foxfier (in the comments) nailed it:
Sorta, depends on where you draw the “merit” line.
Here's an interesting thought experiment:
Exhibit A: Go here and look at the items which receive the most clicks. Is that merit?
Exhibit B: Merit?
If you define merit as giving your readers what they want, then yes the blogosphere is a meritocracy with traffic acting as the ultimate measure of value. I haven't had much luck in discerning any relationship between my own standards of worth and traffic. Over the last six years, the posts I have put the most thought into (and been the proudest of) have rarely received much attention. The same has been true of posts I believed to be the best written. Others - nearly always ones I tossed off with barely a moment's thought - have gotten piles of links. The takeaway is that there seems to be a distinctly inverse relationship between what I think is good and what others think is good.
I used to be consistently surprised by what got linked. Now I have a fairly good sense of what will be well received and what won't. I try not to let that get in my way.
In the end, I don't think it makes a whole lot of sense to get wrapped around the axle about merit because people value different things for reasons that seem good to them (if they even think about any of this consciously). None of us can force others to value what we consider important. Nor should we be able to.
Shakespeare had a few wise words in this regard:
To thine own self be true
and it must follow
as the night the day,
thou canst not then be false to any man.
I'll bet he would have made a hell of a blogger.
June 25, 2010
Sorry for the lack of posting, guys. I've been sick.
Still not able to sit up for long, and I need to spend what time I have catching up on work.
June 18, 2010
Correcting the Record: MUST READ
Anyone can get a story wrong. Online writers link to each other all the time. There's an element of trust there - trust that we're all committed to being as accurate as possible.
Still, mistakes happen. The question is, what do you do when you find out you published something that wasn't true?
For her the experience was a first. For me, it was just the (then) latest example of someone turning to me with behind-the-scenes trouble with Mike Yon.
It wouldn't be the last.
Postscript: The Daily Mail version of the story, and the version posted by Mike Yon at Big Journalism (long after he had acknowledged its inaccuracies and pledged to correct it on his own site), remain uncorrected to this day.
The thing is, if we don't correct our own mistakes the whole thing kind of falls apart, doesn't it?
It's something to think about.
June 16, 2010
Mommy! I'm Scared of Debbie Schlussel!
This is a cease and desist letter and a demand for retraction of false, defamatory statements on your blog. You have 2 hours from the time this e-mail is sent to remove the false information you knowingly printed, or I and my lawyers will not only pursue this, but we will contact your host and demand not only that the page in question be removed, but also that your site be removed for violating your host's terms of service, which undoubtedly forbid the publishing of false, defamatory information.
In your lie-filled piece of trash defending your anti-Semitic friend Emily Zanotti and displaying that your obsession with me mirrors hers, you wrote:
So, after talking about it, Jaz gave Debbie Schlussel the boot, he offered me her weekly slot on his radio show, and the rest is history.
In fact, I never gave Jaz any "ultimatum," and I was never given "the boot" by Jaz or anyone else. I quit on the spot on his show, when I was scheduled to go on. And Jaz begged me to come back. All of this took place in writing, and I have all of the e-mails from him to me and his inquiring listeners proving this in writing. I demand a retraction of this lie, and per defamation laws, a retraction must be printed in a prominent place on your site, including at the top of the entry in a correction note. (You should also note that Jaz McKay also said--in writing--in an e-mail that you said Emily Zanotti is "crazy" and "a bitch." I may publish that, since you've taken to lying.)
As you know, your anti-Semitic lunatic stalker friend, Ms. Zanotti linked to Muslim Holocaust-denying death, rape, and torture threats on my life in the part where she said that the person sending me death threats was "making very valid points." If you think that is humorous or funny, then clearly you are the anti-Semite and nutcase you claim you are not. You must also include a link to that piece, or that is more defamation, and we will pursue this if you do not and do not make a correction, stating so. Here is the link:
Again, you have two hours to do so. Time is of the essence, and we WILL pursue this.
The web may give you the freedom to say what every you want. But it does not give you the freedom to print false, defamatory information without consequences. I promise you this will not go away.
Please notify me that you have complied with the demands herein.
cc: Michael Schwartz, Attorney at Law
Who knew that calling someone a lunatic stalker, Jew-hating anti-Semite nutcase was neither defamatory nor libelous? When I think of all the fun I could have been having for the past 6 years, I could just weep.
Standing Up to Blog Rage
John Hawkins takes it on:
Earlier, I referenced a complaint Emily Zanotti filed with the Michigan Bar in an attempt to try to get Schlussel to stop cyber stalking/harassing her. In that complaint, Emily referenced a number of blogs where Debbie showed up and made comments about her. It wasn't like those people were filing complaints themselves or even testifying on Emily's behalf. Most of them didn't even know they were being referenced beforehand. It was just Emily posting examples of what Schlussel was doing for the Michigan Bar.
Well, Debbie apparently saw them as just more enemies who were against her because she actually started harassing those people, too. She said nasty things about some of them on her web page. She attacked some of them, rather randomly, on Twitter. In at least two cases I know of, she contacted where they work in an effort to make trouble for them. To this day, it's still going on.
That brings us to yesterday, when Schlussel bizarrely accused Mark Levin (and Fred Thompson) of supporting Hezbollah....
Full marks to John for standing up to Ms. Schlussel. Not sure how many of you remember, but this isn't the first time she's threatened legal action against a blogger.
Recently, Attila had similar problems with some other blogospheric blowhard.
In opinion writing, disagreements are inevitable. Most bloggers expect this and handle them with grace and aplomb. A few, for some reason, go off the deep end and resort to threats, insults and intimidation.
I've never understood what they think they're accomplishing (other than making fools of themselves)? The world would be a boring place if most of us didn't feel passionately about at least one topic or if we blandly agreed with each other like sheep all of the time.
The Internet is no place for the insecure or thin skinned.
June 09, 2010
"Hysteria" vs. Inability to Read
Wow. Apparently I hit a nerve:
The practice of blogging makes one fairly insensitive to strange things being said about you. But occasionally, things made up by other writers approach the threshold of bizarre and at least mildly humorous. Recall that Michael Yon reported that he had received a letter alleging that U.S. troops were being ordered to patrol without rounds chambered in their weapons...
...After publishing this article I sent the link to Lt. Col. Tad Sholtis, saying that if the report was true, the ISAF had really big problems. Sholtis responded that he didn’t think so, and later e-mail me the denial that there was a blanket order like that to all U.S. forces or ISAF forces. I have no reason to doubt his account, though it should be noted that he didn’t deny that there were specific units that engaged in this practice. He couldn’t possibly know what every unit had ordered. I amended the article to publish Shotis’ response in the interest of complete openness.
Enter someone named Cassandra who blogs at Villainous Company. Behold the hysteria.
I found this post fascinating when it came out. Note the total lack of specificity: no rank, unit, or location. Absolutely no attempt to provide context or to verify the “information” provided. Interestingly, a blogger who defended Yon back in April decided that if this unsourced rumor (and absent a single shred of corroborating evidence, that’s essentially all it was) had any meaning then perhaps he ought to do a little fact checking. He received this response …
And then she proceeded to reproduce the note that Sholtis sent me. It’s strange how someone can get something so totally wrong. The only answer I have is that a writer takes certain presuppositions to a subject and that tends to cloud all of the facts.
First let's take what I said line by line:
1. I found this post fascinating when it came out. Note the total lack of specificity: no rank, unit, or location. Absolutely no attempt to provide context or to verify the "information" provided.
Cursory examination of my original post shows that "this post" and the two sentences that follow it clearly refer to Yon's Facebook page:
An American soldier emailed from Afghanistan saying that his unit has been ordered to patrol with no round in the chamber.
I found this post fascinating when it came out. Note the total lack of specificity: no rank, unit, or location. Absolutely no attempt to provide context or to verify the "information" provided.
Accuracy check: Did I find the post fascinating when it came out? Well, you'll have to take my word for it. In any event, this is opinion not fact. Was any rank, unit, or location provided? No, it was not. This is clear from reading Yon's post (which I excerpted in its entirety, by the way). Did Yon make any attempt to verify whether the soldier's unit had issued such an order? If so, no evidence of this was provided. Did Yon make any attempt to verify whether the order came from ISAF, or whether ISAF was even aware of it? Again, if he did either of these things no evidence was provided. Nor was any contextual information (such as was provided by Smith) provided.
Conclusion: so far, nothing I said was inaccurate.
2. Next line:
Interestingly, a blogger who defended Yon back in April...
Accuracy check: Did Smith defend Yon back in April? Yes, he did - in a post entitled "In Defense of Michael Yon - An Open Letter to Milbloggers".
On to the next part of my post:
... decided that if this unsourced rumor (and absent a single shred of corroborating evidence, that’s essentially all it was) had any meaning then perhaps he ought to do a little fact checking. He received this response [Sholtis' response is then quoted].
Accuracy check: Do I know what Smith was thinking? Of course not. I don't read minds. However, he clearly decided a single sentence from Yon was important enough to write about. And clearly he didn't think just quoting it was enough. On the contrary, he attempted to provide context about patrolling practices. This is something many bloggers who wrote about it thought was important. To do so, Smith contacted a Marine who was at Fallujah in 2007 who essentially told him that such an order was laughable and would get soldiers killed.
So now we have far more information that Yon's single sentence post conveyed. But Smith apparently didn't think even this was sufficient. After writing his post (something I could not know at the time) he went on to address an important contextual question: did this order come down from ISAF (IOW, is the practice widespread)?
The answer was: NO (hence Sholtis' response, which I quoted).
Is noting that Smith, unlike Yon, took the time to do a bit of checking so he could provide as much context as possible an "hysterical response"? If so, precisely what makes it "hysterical"? Was my characterization of his post inaccurate? As to the fact that he did some checking and provided context that added information, no. As to what he was thinking, clearly I could not know that.
What I do know is what he did: he attempted to find out as much as he could and then conveyed that information to his readers. Far be it from me to infer anything from these actions, but it hardly seems "hysterical" to posit that he checked what he could because without any context it was hard to know what to make of Yon's post.
Did I ever claim that Yon was wrong? No, I did not. My criticism was that - unlike the three bloggers I cited (one of whom is an admirer of Yon's and two of whom are not) - Yon didn't do any checking. He passed on an unverified rumor from an anonymous source with no attempt to verify any of the particulars and no contextual information as to whether such orders are out of the ordinary.
While we're on the subject of bizarre and amusing responses, I refer you to Smith's initial comment on my post:
That you would have a problem with me discussing whether there are local COs requiring their reports to patrol without a round chambered is bizarre in the superlative. I said in the very post that I must assume that the report is accurate, and then commented from there in order to address certain weapons "conditions" based on previous experiences. The very response from Tad Sholtis that you copied and pasted into this post is what he sent to me, and in fairness, I posted his exactly response to me in the same post.
I didn't corroborate the facts or do "fact checking" as you call it because it is impossible for me to do so. Is this hard for you to understand? The article was about the requirements IF THE REPORT WAS TRUE. The presupposition was stated right there in the post.
Again, truly bizarre. I cannot possibly begin to understand your moral preening on this. I think you ought to relax a bit.
Let's look at Mr. Smith's rather emotionally charged comment.
1. Did I "have a problem with [Smith] discussing whether there are local COs requiring their reports to patrol without a round chambered"?
No. Nowhere do I criticize him for doing so. In fact, I did precisely the opposite: I praised him for discussing the rumor in a responsible manner:
... what is more credible? A single, unsourced, unsubstantiated sentence on Facebook? Or the posts of three bloggers who took the time to ask questions and to provide context and information?
2. Did I ever say Smith thought the report was inaccurate?
No. Here's what I said:
Interestingly, a blogger who defended Yon back in April decided that if this unsourced rumor (and absent a single shred of corroborating evidence, that's essentially all it was) had any meaning...
Nowhere do I say I thought Smith didn't believe the report. Nowhere. What I said is that he provided additional information about the report. And I praised him for doing so.
3. I didn't corroborate the facts or do "fact checking" as you call it because it is impossible for me to do so. Is this hard for you to understand?
Here is my response to Mr. Smith's comment:
Given that there was no unit mentioned, no location, and no supporting details there was really only one "fact" you could check: whether the supposed order to patrol without a chambered round had come from the top or not.
This is, in fact, what you did. And the entire purpose of mentioning this was that, unlike Yon, you did attempt to ascertain that fact. The rest of your post, which I said precisely nothing about, dealt with evaluating whether such an order would have made sense.
4. "The very response from Tad Sholtis that you copied and pasted into this post is what he sent to me, and in fairness, I posted his exactly response to me in the same post."
Did I ever say Sholtis had not sent the response I excerpted to Smith? No.
Did I claim Smith hadn't posted Sholtis' response in his post? No - in fact I praised him for emailing ISAF and informing his readers of the response.
Now on to the McChrystal post Smith references next. Here's what he has to say about it:
Cassandra also seems to equate support for individuals with support for the campaign. For instance, after General McChrystal called Marjah a bleeding ulcer, she published the standard lines from the PAOs, namely that the quote had been taken out of context.
I was disturbed the other day to hear that Gen. McChrystal had supposedly said that Marjah was a "bleeding ulcer". I wondered at the time whether he had been quoted accurately as the remark seemed impolitic, to say the least.
Interestingly, according to ISAF the "ulcer" quote was taken out of context...
All of which only confirms the old adage, "If it bleeds, it leads"!
It "seems" that once again, Mr. Smith is doing exactly what he accused me of - attempting to read my mind. Note that I said nothing about support for McChrystal being the same as support for the campaign. All I did was inform my readers that PAO objected to the McClatchy article.
Here's a suggestion for Mr. Smith: if he feels the need to respond at such length to a post which only mentions him tangentally, he would do better to read it carefully. That might help him avoid making a lot of accusations that, given what I actually said, seem... how shall I say it?... a bit overwrought.
Lighten up, Frances.
June 03, 2010
My Inner Child is *So* Spanked.
I am thinking of suing for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
May 18, 2010
Brave New World
Last Friday I shut down the comments on two posts here at VC. Closing the comments section, like deleting individual comments, is something I have tried very hard to avoid over the years.
Shutting down debate on an entire post, in particular, smacks of punishing everyone for the misbehavior of a few. That's the wrong answer, and it's not the way I want to run this site. That's why, going forward, I am going to be far more aggressive about deleting comments that, in my opinion, lower the tone of debate.
I'm not going to publish a long list of guidelines for acceptable commentary. We are all adults here, or we're supposed to be.
The nature of the Internet is that it offers the ability to do and say all sorts of things we would never dream of doing or saying in real life. In many ways, the 'Net is the ideal vector for moral hazard. Online, the causal connection between act and consequence, between cause and effect becomes blurred. Both logic and moral reasoning suggest that the lure of nearly unlimited freedom requires more rather than less self restraint. But online it becomes far too easy to distance ourselves from the self imposed boundaries that govern our behavior in real life.
There are two items I'd like you to think about. The first is something I read back in the Fall of 2007 during an extended hiatus from blogging:
There is a personal value — the presumption of decency — that counteracts the tendency to let hatred befuddle our reason. If we hold tightly to the view that people around us are as decent as ourselves, trying, like we are, to muddle honorably through life, it is harder to turn them into villains and to turn ourselves into creatures of irrational judgment. Besides, I'm certainly no more decent than most of mankind.
The presumption of decency is not naiveté. Instead, it requires a certain amount of realism. If you expect perfection, you will spend your days being furious at irresponsible teenage babysitters and equally irresponsible politicians. A better approach is to recognize human frailty and to be generous in our judgments.
The second is a pretty good summary of the way I've been feeling lately:
Much as I love thoughtful comments (even by those who disagree with me), one of the problems that plagues me is when commenters jump on me by playing GOTCHA games, misreading what I said, putting words in my mouth, or even attributing to me positions I never took or beliefs I do not hold. This happened over the past couple of days, and I was so disgusted that I just didn't feel like blogging.
Too much work.
Writing is that way. If you start worrying that anything and everything you say might be misinterpreted, jumped on, or used as an invitation to start an argument (which is not why I write), it becomes a distraction, and makes writing feel more like a nuisance instead of the creative, introspective process I want it to be. I write to find out what I think and as a release, and I am often engaged in a dialogue with myself. If someone comes along with a goal of starting an argument, then it makes me feel that the post I wrote was not a release, but only created more work for myself in the form of an argument.
I started VC because I love the world of ideas and I enjoy discussing them. But there is a difference between discussion and argument. In one sense, no one "wins" a discussion. But in another sense everyone wins if - in the process of exchanging views - the participants gain some understanding of how other people think or see an aspect of some issue they had never fully considered before.
That is why I write, and why I have tried to encourage vigorous and free ranging debate, even on contentious topics. It doesn't always work.
I've often been told that VC has the best comments section on the web. I'd like to think that if there is any truth to that observation, it is because I've tried to encourage all sorts of readers to participate in our discussions: not just conservatives, not just men, not just those who agree with what I've written. In other words, not an echo chamber or a vehicle for people who only want to have their pre-existing biases confirmed by like minded individuals.
Discussion (as opposed to argument) requires a certain degree of detachment and restraint. I don't expect perfection from people who - like me - are human and highly fallible. We all have bad days - days when we're primed to take offense (often where none was intended). We all, from time to time, have had some random observation that more often than not has nothing to do with us strike a nerve. Perhaps it reminds us of a painful experience, or we infer disparagement when in fact the speaker may not even have been thinking of us at all. These things are to be expected, and have generally been handled well by all of you.
What I am not willing to tolerate is comments that violate the presumption of decency. If your only "explanation" for the fact that someone disagrees with you on a matter of public policy is that they're stupid, a sexist, a bigot, or a bad person, keep that insight to yourself or go elsewhere. I've experienced that sort of "argument" at other sites and it isn't helpful. I'm also not willing to tolerate what I'm going to call harassing comments. A good example of this is when commenter A clearly states, "I don't think X is true", to which commenter B replies (often repeatedly), "You think X is true."
If you are commenter B, either you have not bothered to read carefully or you are implying that commenter A is a liar. Both are unacceptable here.
Because I don't wish to waste valuable time arguing over the comments policy, I am simply going to delete any comments I find objectionable (IOW, I will leave the commenter's name and substitute a brief statement for the objectionable part of the comment). Those of you who remember our years at ScrappleFace will perhaps remember that Pile and I had repeated encounters with the big Cheeto eraser in the sky for comments that violated the family friendly policy of the site owner. We never took it personally - it wasn't always clear to us where the line was drawn but it was unquestionably his prerogative to run his site as he pleased.
I hope you all will view this regrettable change in that light and understand why I believe it is necessary.
April 24, 2010
Sorry for the lack of posts. Am traveling in the Land of AFE. Didn't bring my laptop, so posting will be light.
April 19, 2010
Guys, I am really sorry for the lack of posts lately.
I've been pretty upset lately and don't like to write when I feel like that. I just need some time to sort things out.
Thanks for your patience, your good humor, and above all your comments.
March 19, 2010
Friday Morning Update
Just shoot me now.
Really. You will be doing me a favor.
OMG. One of my all time faves:
February 22, 2010
I've been mulling this over for several months now and I need to take a break from blogging (as in a total break). I've been trying to figure out a way not to quit, but nothing I've tried so far has worked terribly well.
I'm going to take the next two weeks off. I'll be back on Monday, March 8th and at that time I'm going to give this one more go. Please don't think I'm not grateful for the pleasure of your company each day. I just don't have anything to offer right now - lately it has seemed as though I'm trying to pour water out of an empty boot.
January 29, 2010
Drive By Reax
I am *not* wearing socks!
January 02, 2010
The Official 2010 Villainous Company Banned Bloggers List
Inspired by the same spirit that animates this old post, the Editorial Staff has decided it is high time we came out with an Official List of Banned Bloggers.
Banning seems to be all the rage in the Blatherosphere these days. And by our own calculation, we do not do nearly enough banning around this place. Nossir - not by a long shot. What is the use of
being a moralistic windbag having all this lovely "free speech" if we cannot harsh the collective mellows of our fellow bloggers – especially those who wield said freedoms with insufficient regard for the self evident self-evidentness of our "opinions" (hereinafter, "The Truth" or "The Facts"). I think we can all agree that while everyone is entitled to their own truth, some truths are way more shiny than others.
Fortunately for us, it is well established on both sides of the Blatherosphere that frankly silly or incandescently outrage-making opinions are highly useful. For instance, the Transitive Property of Internet Idiocy allows us to impute the utterances of one blogger to every other blogger of his acquaintance, to anyone who shares the same political persuasion or who dares to agree with him. This is entirely justified because, unlike Them, We are always fair and reasonable. Thinking people realize that "They" (yes, every durned one of them!) all think alike. "We" would never do anything like that, though. We think for Ourselves. You see, unlike some folks we could name (you know the type – smug, morally superior, blind to their own faults) we're just better than they are. We’re tolerant and open minded folk: above the sort of wildly exaggerated, broad brush generalizations They employ with profligate abandon in lieu of, oh, I don't know, logic, actual arguments, or other irrelevant/boring fare.
So, without further ado, the Official Villainous Company Banned Bloggers List for 2010:
1. Clifton B. Very handsome young man. Seems smart, too. Under ordinary circumstances we would be tempted to have an extremely favorable impression of him.
But FERCRYINOUTLOUDBUDDY! You speak as though one man's opinion were actually... you know, worth something in and of itself irrespective of the vastly more significant sociopolitical metacontext to be deconstructed from rehashing ancient grievances that occurred between people who are not us, mostly before we were out of diapers.
Young folks these days. They get the oddest notions into their heads.
It ought to be obvious to anyone with half a brain that that image is deeply racist. A few months ago, I hired a housecleaning company to do the heavy housework around Casa Cassandranita. A few times I have been tempted to feel "guilty" for purchasing services I don't have time to provide for myself with the money I earned doing the job that leaves me no time to keep my house as clean as I kept it when
I didn't have a paying job taking care of our home was my job.
Some people would be tempted to see a "win-win" situation here, but they would be deeply wrong (not to mention patronizing and racist). The problem is that the nice ladies who clean my house so ably and with such dispatch are Hispanic. You know… melanin-having folk. Which makes it demeaning when they clean my house for money (as opposed to when I cleaned my house so that my husband
would not pout and withhold his man favors would have sex with me four times a week).
This makes total sense when you stop and think about it.
Though obviously skin color makes absolutely no difference in any way that ought to be important to us as human beings, we're not really supposed to pretend it simply doesn't matter either (IYKWIM...AITYD). I can't help but sense that my unearned race and gender privileges have resulted in an unjust degree of income inequality that tragically prevents the cleaning ladies and I from having the honest, beautiful and mutually beneficial dialogue we would no doubt enjoy if we were still fighting over herds of Wild Chorizo on the Llano Estacado like civilized folk did in the olden days.
I just cannot figure out where the human race went wrong. In a truly just world, people who have more money than time would not be allowed to freely exchange their earnings for the services of people with more time than money. Even though that's exactly how I got myself and my children through college: by cleaning the houses, mowing the lawns, and watching the children of folks who had more money and less free time than I did. Come to think of it, they should never have been allowed to pay me for doing work I was happy to do. In retrospect, I feel exploited.
At any rate, the gentleman is banned until he learns to demonstrate a more convincing level of outrage. I certainly hope he has learned his lesson.
2. Patterico. We are not sure how he manages to maintain street cred as a Crypto Lefty Racist Accuser type whilst simultaneously sporting a righteous Crypto Reich Wingnut Racist Appeaser persona, but one thing is certain.
Any blogger who has been accused of so many mutually exclusive offenses by so many important bloggers is Not To Be Trusted.
Banned, sucka. And don't go bringing your tricksy ways around here neither. We see how you are. Oh yes, we see.
3. Tigerhawk. The man just drinks way too much coffee.
The body is a temple, dude. Seriously.
4. Michelle Malkin, excessive success. Disparities like this are inherently suspicious unless of course it's Barack Obama who is successful, in which case we can attribute the success to raging against the machine, hard work, and intelligence.
I was born in the Philippines. Why is she hogging all the pretty? I sense a lucrative government redistribution program lurking in the wings....
Also for being wenches. When the world finally ends in fire and ice, it will be revealed that women were to blame and poor, strong, smart helpless (though clearly morally and intellectually superior) menfolk were utterly powerless to avert the fall of mankind. The poor dears - one weeps just thinking about it. However, this is as close as the right gets to religious dogma these days and frankly we're scared not to go along. Banned, biyotches!
6. Glenn Reynolds, for being so mean to that nice Mr. Sullivan fellow. And also for being the Intellectual Godfather to the New American Torture Regime.
You know, there are times when I think Keith Olbermann might still be sane if Glenn hadn't had him carted off to an airless cell in Gitmo. Ever since the frilly panties of fascism were pulled over his shrieking head, old Keith just hasn't been the calm, even handed pundit we once knew and loved.
7. Dan Riehl, because laughing at "Snowbama" means that we are racist. Also, there is something deeply indecent about shaved ice.
8. Elise, for overthinking. Damnitall, woman.
Stop being so fair. It makes us suspect you of deep moral failings, not to mention insufficient outrage and conviction.
9. The Armorer and Jane Novak: Blogging Without an Ego.
You people disgust me :p
December 22, 2009
If any of you want to talk me off the ledge, now would be a very good time.
It's Christmas, and I have no love for my fellow man.
November 12, 2009
I love you all dearly, but I just need to walk away for a few days. I don't have anything left right now to give you. Check back Monday. I should be rested up by then.
November 01, 2009
... O' Lantern.
I was lucky enough to meet Tigerhawk (after years of being friends online) in DC a few years ago. I mean no disrespect to his lovely wife when I say that he is far better looking than that handsome visage on the pumpkin. But then that runs in the family - the Charlottesvillian (who I also met during dinner) is no slouch himself in the looks department.
How do we get all the handsome devils on our side?
October 21, 2009
Busy This Morning.
My apologies. Go watch Jules break it down.
Best thing I've read this morning.
September 03, 2009
You Go, Girl!
Apparently, Conservative Bloggers Who Support The Gay Justice Roberts is still bringing in a fair amount of traffic.
Humbling. And too funny.
August 06, 2009
Where is Cass????
Our abject apologies. The Editorial Staff have been much occupied with the tedious but necessary business of earning a living this week. Consequently, there has been little time for stunning hapless readers senseless with our inane ramblings :)
On the bright side, our federal government has demonstrated an admirable solicitude for your welfare:
Thanks to Kat.
Update: Something to keep you folks busy as the Editorial Staff go out in search of distressful bread. Supply your own slogan.
July 19, 2009
I'm sorry about the lack of blogging lately folks.
Lately I've been having a tough time reconciling my values with blogging. I began writing because an old friend kept telling me she thought I had something valuable to say. After all these years, I'm still not entirely sure what she saw in me.
For as long as I've been writing, I've tried to stand up for what I believe in - whenever possible, without attacking other bloggers directly. I've always thought the important thing was the ideas, not the personalities. We ought to be able to disagree civilly even when there are strong beliefs at issue.
One of those beliefs is that in most cases, the Golden Rule makes a pretty good starting place for dealing with others. If you wouldn't appreciate something being done to you or to someone you care about, don't do it to someone else.
Sometimes, it really is that simple. Try thinking about how your wife or teenaged daughter or sister would feel in the same position. This may be really hard for some people to understand, but not all women want men they don't even know looking at them in the nude.
I shouldn't have to say this, but apparently it does need saying.
I guess I wish more people on my side of the political fence would treat women as human beings who have the same feelings as they do. This doesn't make me a feminist. In my book, it just makes me someone who believes in decency and it's a measure of how far we've strayed from our professed values that it needs to be said at all, or that such a stance requires a defense or an explanation.
June 10, 2009
When Adults Act Like Children
'Tis but thy name that is my enemy.
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.
- Romeo and Juliet
I've been mulling this post over for several months. This is something of a departure for me because in over five years of writing online I've almost never hesitated - even for a moment - to take on a fight I believed in with all my heart and soul. But the truth is that I'm tired. I am finding that the longer I spend on the Internet, the more my faith in human decency and common sense are eroded.
During most of a largely misspent youth I leaned to the Left politically. The reason for my youthful liberalism can be summed up in a single word: empathy. When I saw another human being in trouble, pain, or need it seemed only natural to offer my help and support. Since the world is full of struggling people - far more than one sympathetic young woman could ever hope to assist - it seemed reasonable to extend my own moral guidelines to government. In my youthful estimation the world would be a far better place if everyone could just agree to pitch in and help those in need.
But as I grew older and began to put my principles into practice I noticed a troubling thing. Empathy based decision making rarely produced the results I expected.
A year or two of helping friends who seemed to reel from one self-induced contretemps to another raised disturbing doubts in my mind. Empathy as an overarching guide for human behavior was often counterproductive. Not only did it not help; in some cases it seemed to be actively harmful.
Over the years I noticed that rescuing friends from serial disasters of their own creation didn't encourage them to make smarter decisions. If anything, my interventions skewed the risk/reward calculation we use to select the best course from a range of alternatives. By stepping in and helping each time friends chose poorly, I made it harder for them to learn from their mistakes. They continued to do predictably self destructive things and then look for someone more responsible to bail them out.
Over time I realized I couldn't keep substituting my judgment for theirs. The natural world punishes bad decisions. This natural feedback mechanism helps us distinguish what works from what doesn't. But I was subverting the learning process; unintentionally rewarding bad decisions and encouraging more of the same. With the best of intentions, I had produced the worst of results.
And so I became a conservative. I embraced the idea that people make the most efficient and productive choices when they base their decisions on the way the world *does* work, not the way they wish it would work. I came to believe subjectivity, empathy, and tribalism make extremely poor foundations for building a society or governing one's personal conduct because they elevate subjective feelings over objective experience and morality. I learned to separate my personal feelings and loyalty from notions of right and wrong, responsible and irresponsible. I learned that even though I often chafed at them, rules are not always bad. Centuries of accumulated human experience have resulted in some pretty smart guidelines for getting along with each other and achieving our goals.
I learned that sometimes, the best way to help someone you care for is to hold them accountable.
This is difficult and often unpleasant. We humans are a clannish species. It's only natural to view those we like and agree with more charitably than those outside our social circle. Women, in particular, tend to shrink from confrontations (especially with friends and colleagues). It seems disloyal, somehow. But balanced against these natural feelings was the chastening effect of experience. Discounting principle for empathy hadn't produced the results I'd thought it would. I had learned a valuable lesson: if you care about a person, institution, or nation you encourage it to be the best it can be. You want those you care about to make good decisions, not irresponsible and counterproductive ones.
But elevating principle over natural sympathy or personal loyalty has a steep price tag. Sometimes you find yourself taking positions which make you unhappy or uncomfortable. Attempting impartiality can make friends angry and conflict with your personal desires or sensibilities:
Like most people, Justice Holmes had empathy for some and antipathy for others, but his votes on the Supreme Court often went against those for whom he had empathy and for those for whom he had antipathy. As Holmes himself put it: "I loathed most of the things in favor of which I decided."
After voting in favor of Benjamin Gitlow in the 1925 case of Gitlow v. People of New York, Holmes said in a letter to a friend that he had just voted for "the right of an ass to drool about proletarian dictatorship." Similarly, in the case of Abrams v. United States, Holmes' dissenting opinion in favor of the appellants characterized the views of those appellants as "a creed which I believe to be the creed of ignorance and immaturity."
By the same token, Justice Holmes did not let his sympathies with some people determine his votes on the High Court. As a young man, Holmes had dropped out of Harvard to go fight in the Civil War because he opposed slavery. In later years, he expressed his dislike of the minstrel shows that were popular at the time "because they seem to belittle the race."
When what is popular doesn't coincide with what is right, it becomes difficult to stick to your principles. But I became a conservative because traditionally conservatives have upheld the notion that there are objectively discernable standards of right and wrong; standards whose application does not and should not depend upon personal loyalty or natural sympathy.
Perhaps that is why I find sentiments like this so perplexing:
You guys get a pass. I have different standards for people I like.
Yes, I understand it may have been a joke. But it also happens to illustrate a troubling trend. In a post entitled - with unintentional irony - "Nation of Seventh Graders", an old and respected friend manages to defend every single thing I dislike about the blogosphere:
I don’t understand why Whelan needs to apologize for identifying a law professor who thinks he can engage in public debate and orchestrate a targeted attack on Whelan under a false name. I think the law professor’s employers should be taking a close look at such low ethical behavior, and consider what kind of example he is setting for aspiring lawyers, who will operate in a very public world, governed by personal responsibility and consequences.
It's rare when I disagree with Jules, but on this occasion it's hard to find much I agree with in his post. Outing Publius did nothing to rebut a single argument he made. The act was intended to inflict personal damage and quite possibly to retaliate for statements Ed Whelan objected to. The problem is that generally accepted principles of self defense dictate the principle of matching force. If you are confronted with deadly force, you may use deadly force to defend yourself.
If you are called names or insulted, however, you do not get to deploy the tactical nukes. It makes no sense to argue that if a blogger "attacks" another blogger (good luck defining "attack" - there's a subjective standard for you), anything you do to him in retaliation is justified. I also disagree - vehemently - with characterizations like this:
Unfortunately, as the law prof who aggrandizes himself as Publius reportedly states, identity-masking pseudonymity is an accepted norm on the blogosphere, and given how much of our lives is being conducted in cyberspace, it is in danger of becoming a societal norm. That raises the prospect of our (accelerated) evolution into a nation of seventh graders, making prank hangup calls and writing things on walls.
...anyone who has professional reasons for not expressing an open opinion, as the law professor seems to think he does, may want to consider whether doing it by pseudonym doesn’t corrupt whatever standards and ethics he thinks pseudonymity is allowing him to maintain.
It isn't anonymity by itself that contributes to objectionable online behavior. It's the fact that online, we can do things we'd never get away with in real life. At first blush that might seem like a good argument for "outing" pseudononymous bloggers. Punish them for writing things you don't like. Make the argument personal. Hit them where they live - make them pay for angering or offending you.
But self defense doesn't require such drastic measures. The remedy for objectionable speech is not to damage your opponent personally. The remedy is opposing speech: cogent and coherent refutation of the offending idea.
The notion that writing under ones' own name forces bloggers to behave responsibly or decently is unsupported by experience. After all, Ed Whelan was writing under his own name and yet that didn't stop him from responding to a battle of words with an act that brought near universal condemnation from both the right and the left. Jules writes under his own name. Somehow, I suspect that in real life he'd think twice before applying words like "coward" to those who blog under a pseudonym. That's a thinly veiled ad hominem argument which appeals to the sad tendency of human beings to substitute bias and knee jerk reactions for careful consideration. We've heard this argument before. The Left use it all the time:
"Just ignore what he said. He's a wingnut/Republican/Faux News watcher/sexist/homophobe/chickenhawk. Because of who he is, it's perfectly acceptable for me to gloss right over his argument and substitute insults for a well reasoned rebuttal."
I've blogged under a pseudonym for years. I do it for reasons I consider well thought out and worthwhile. My husband is a senior Marine officer. I don't think either the Marine Corps or he ought to be associated with my opinions. I don't think I should have to worry that some unprincipled person will dig up and publish personal information about my family in retribution for some opinion I've expressed that offends them. If I do something unfair, unwise, or embarrassing, I think it should be only me who suffers.
And at times, I have suffered. The idea that using a pseudonym shields a blogger from scorn, ridicule, disagreement, embarrassment or correction is frankly silly. I have a comments section where anyone is free to take apart my arguments. I publish my email address too. I've been harrassed, threatened, and had my site hacked more times than I can count. In fact, though it may seem convenient for conservatives to attack the messenger rather than consider an unpleasant idea, women online are far more likely to experience vicious personal attacks than men:
On some online forums anonymity combined with misogyny can make for an almost gang-rape like mentality. One recent blog thread, attacking two women bloggers, contained comments like, "I would fuck them both in the ass,"; "Without us you would be raped, beaten and killed for nothing,"; and "Don't worry, you or your friends are too ugly to be put on the black market."
Jill Filipovic, a 23-year-old law student who also writes on the popular blog, Feministe, recently had some photographs of her uploaded and subjected to abusive comments on an online forum for students in New York. "The people who were posting comments about me were speculating as to how many abortions I've had, and they talked about 'hate-fucking' me," says Filipovic. "I don't think a man would get that; the harassment of women is far more sexualised - men may be told that they're idiots, but they aren't called 'whores'."
Most disturbing is how accepted this is. When women are harassed on the street, it is considered inappropriate. Online, though, sexual harassment is not only tolerated - it's often lauded. Blog threads or forums where women are attacked attract hundreds of comments, and their traffic rates rocket.
That's why a lot of us use pseudonyms. It's not as though readers don't know who we are or how to contact us. Pseudonyms just make it a tiny bit harder for the nuts in this world to hurt those we love.
Oddly, when the name "Deb Frisch" comes up most people think of Jeff Goldstein. But long before the Goldstein/Frisch brouhaha consumed most of the available oxygen in the blogosphere, Deb hung around VC. She was here for months. Like Jeff, both my readers and I were insulted, stalked, threatened, and generally harassed. My server was hacked. But unlike Jeff, I chose not to turn what on balance was merely an unpleasant experience with a troll into a three ring circus.
I've objected to uncivil behavior many times over the years regardless of whether it was perpetrated by liberals or conservatives:
If you have any doubts whatsoever about this, all you need do is imagine the look on one of the Obama girls' faces as they are confronted with the term 'bukake' or 'raped' in conjunction with their mother. They don't even need to read it themselves. Children are cruel - someone might easily tell them about it just as someone told me about this post.
Was this really necessary? Standards. They are supposed to apply to both sides.
The response - as often, lately, from conservatives as from liberals - has been depressing.
Rather than respond to the case for evenly applied standards of decency, some conservatives and some liberals seem to prefer nasty personal attacks. I rarely recognize anything I read about myself in their so-called rebuttals: I hate men. Or I hate sex. That one's an eye roller. I must be fat, ugly, or a lesbian. Or I want to control what other people do. That is arguably my favorite.
It is also arguably the most stupid thing I've read in all my years on the 'Net.
How on earth does merely expressing an opinion equate to forcing another adult to do what I want? When did women obtain the magical power to control helpless grown men via the written word? I must have missed that memo. When other bloggers disagree with me, are they trying to control me too? Odd - I thought they were simply expressing opinions contrary to my own (something they have a perfect right to do). I don't get my pantyhose in a wad, even when people on my side choose to resort to insults rather than reasoned rebuttals. In the world I live in my actions are my own responsibility. So long as what I do comports with my own values, I can sleep at night.
Conservatives - and especially conservatives online - need to think about what kind of world it is we want to live in. If what we want is a bare knuckle free for all where personal attacks are not only condoned but applauded (but only so long as the attacker is firmly on "our side"), that's one thing. But if we want to have any credibility when we object to our opponents treating conservatives and their families with contempt and derision, we might want to consider actually practicing what we preach.
We might want to consider not calling women who dare to voice opinions we disagree with sluts and whores; to consider speaking up when some on our own side forget themselves.
We might want to take a long, hard (heh... she said 'long and hard') look in the mirror, because our online community - any community - is what we decide to make it. Standing up for civility is not political correctness and it's not wimpy. In fact, there's quite a bit of evidence for the proposition that there are times when taking offense plays an essential part in maintaining a well ordered society:
You could say our lives as social beings are ruled by the three R's: respect—the sense that proper deference has been paid to our status, reputation—the carefully maintained perception of our qualities, and reciprocity—the belief that our actions are responded to fairly.
...Being on the alert for scoundrels is exhausting, and confronting those who violate social rules is potentially dangerous. But humans feel compelled to do it because without vigilance, fairness and cooperation break down. Gazzaniga cites experiments that show that individuals who take the risk of punishing cheaters enhance their own reputation within a group. (Here's a real-life example.)
Humans' sense of indignation is not just limited to violations against us. Even if you're able-bodied, think of how offended you feel when you see another able-bodied person pull into a handicapped parking spot. Most of us will just walk on, quietly irate, but a few will yell at the driver. These moral enforcers are vital to society. Frans de Waal writes that experiments with macaques show that if you remove the individuals who perform this policing function, hostilities increase among the entire band.
Perhaps this is why, unlike Jules, I was encouraged by Ed Whelan's decision to apologize for outing Publius. I was encouraged because whatever one thinks of his actions up until that moment, Ed Whelen did the right thing. He acted the way I expect a conservative to act. He elevated what was right over what was personally expedient.
And that took enormous courage, because in so doing he had to admit that he was wrong. That takes integrity, a quality I see all too rarely on our side of the blogosphere these days.
Ed Whelan made me proud to be a conservative.
His actions, and those of conservatives who urged him to do the right thing, gave me hope that perhaps we do stand for something after all. They gave me hope because if conservatives continue to condone the substitution of personal attacks for civil discourse when it suits our purposes, there will be no place for people like me on the Internet. They will be driven away and the only voices left will be the ones who enjoy shouting and feces flinging. The conservative side of the blogosphere will be blissfully free of dissent or thoughtful discussion. We'll become the echo chamber the Left makes us out to be: a place where only those willing to defend and agree with the tribe are heard.
I've taken my share of lumps over the past five years and contrary to the brash talk of the bare knuckle crowd I've held my own just fine. I've chosen not to take the name callers and the trolls seriously and though I can't claim I've never been hurt or angered, I haven't let silly personal attacks stop me from writing or rock my world.
But while incivility doesn't frighten me, it has worn me down. What I find most distressing is when my own side scream like banshees over some perceived insult from the Left and then proceed to dish out the same or even worse. I can't - and won't - defend such people.
Even though they're supposedly on "my side". And contrary to what many on the right seem to think, simple disagreement is not an "attack". It's not personal and it's not disloyal, and calling those on your own side crybabies, wimps, sluts or whores doesn't make you a brave warrior for truth (much less do anything to advance conservative ideas). Arguing that a blogger should "know better" than to advance unpopular opinions because conservatives will "just attack you"; that we lack the ability to control our own behavior or rise above our instincts is a pretty depressing indictment of our claim to be the party of ideas.
Of course these tactics do generate a lot of traffic. And perhaps, in the end, that's the point. I suppose we all have to decide why we're doing this. All I know is that when my own side abandons its principles, the cost of blogging begins to seem unacceptably high.
June 02, 2009
I have been doing a little thinking and I think it would be best for me to step away from the keyboard for a while.
I don't want to create a lot of drama, or leave people wondering what is going on. So in the interest of lucid, Obama-like transparency and openness, I'm going to take a bit of a break. When things become too fraught or nasty, it takes all the joy out of it.
I will see how I feel about things on Monday, June 8th. Until then, take care :)
April 09, 2009
Lame Blogging Alert
On behalf of the Editorial Staff, we wish to apologize for the lame blogfare from you-know-who.
It's not easy driving 80 mph, talking on the phone, and applying mascara all at the same time, but we imagine this is why the Powers That Be gave the blog princess knees.
Be patient with her. Lord knows we are.
Half Vast Staff of Itinerant Eskimo Typists
December 28, 2008
A Deep and Abiding Faith
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
- Robert Frost
Bombing through Maryland woods on a snowy evening (at an admittedly intemperate rate of speed) the Blog Princess found herself snidely pondering the thick fog of unreality which pervades everything from politics to parenting to the economy these days. This is a time when connections seem to have been severed. Or perhaps they've simply been obscured by affluence and long complacency. Maybe we're so thoroughly insulated by our relative safety and prosperity that we no longer recognize how decisions and the consequences that flow from them are related. We don't like speaking of cause and effect; such talk smacks uncomfortably of "being judgmental" and "imposing our values on others" as though it were overly rigid values (and not the impersonal but remorseless physics of action and reaction) which cause bad results to follow from foolish decisions. Perhaps if we just keep refusing to face unpleasant consequences, they will fade away and lose their power over us. Like unacknowledged monsters under the bed, if we wish and hope hard enough maybe we can banish the real world to some dark corner of our subconscious minds for another decade or two.
After all here we are: still huddled in our larger-than-ever McMansions with our smaller-than-ever families, our two-plus cars per household (sometimes one per driver!), our multiple TV sets, VCRs, Wiis, iPods, stereos, laptops and desktop computers. Though we whine about how expensive everything is and fear losing it, we continue to enjoy riches our parents and grandparents never dreamed of. We fear losing our comfortable lifestyles and yet we seem oddly untroubled by the loss of something infinitely more precious than personal possessions easily come by and all too soon forgotten. Lost in all of this manic celebration of the now is appreciation of the eternal; of those quieter joys that satisfy the soul long after whatever shiny baubles momentarily capture our highly distractible eyes have lost their luster.
Driving down that country road, The Princess found herself thinking of a few lines written by Patrick O'Hannigan regarding the closing of a favorite coffee house:
I mentioned an Advent angle to the challenge that Mistress Roaster and her manager now face, and it is this: Stephanie calls the coffee house her church, and Carrie is a Christian whose denomination I do not know, but both are buoyed by a joyful confidence that hard things happen for a reason, and that everybody in the coffee chain from producers to consumers deserves respect.
Joyful confidence. I think that is what is most missing from our lives these days. We have been living in the moment so often and to such a great degree that I think we have lost our bearings. We are adrift on the vast ocean of the present; choking and sputtering on information as wave after wave of events batters the fragile defenses we have erected. Without history, without the traditions and duties our parents accepted (but we knowingly abandoned) we can't seem to get our feet upon solid ground.
And so, nothing makes sense anymore. We know this, in our hearts. But so long as there's a hope the dream of affluence might continue, who wants to face boring reality?
Individuals, companies or cities with heavy debt and shrinking revenues instinctively know that they must reduce spending, tighten their belts, pay down debt and live within their means. But it is axiomatic in Keynesianism that national governments can create and sustain economic activity by injecting printed money into the financial system. In their view, absent the stimuli of the New Deal and World War II, the Depression would never have ended.
On a gut level, we have a hard time with this concept. There is a vague sense of smoke and mirrors, of something being magically created out of nothing. But economics, we are told, is complicated.
It would be irresponsible in the extreme for an individual to forestall a personal recession by taking out newer, bigger loans when the old loans can't be repaid. However, this is precisely what we are planning on a national level.
I believe these ideas hold sway largely because they promise happy, pain-free solutions. They are the economic equivalent of miracle weight-loss programs that require no dieting or exercise. The theories permit economists to claim mystic wisdom, governments to pretend that they have the power to dispel hardship with the whir of a printing press, and voters to believe that they can have recovery without sacrifice.
As a follower of the Austrian School of economics I believe that market forces apply equally to people and nations. The problems we face collectively are no different from those we face individually. Belt tightening is required by all, including government.
Governments cannot create but merely redirect. When the government spends, the money has to come from somewhere. If the government doesn't have a surplus, then it must come from taxes. If taxes don't go up, then it must come from increased borrowing. If lenders won't lend, then it must come from the printing press, which is where all these bailouts are headed. But each additional dollar printed diminishes the value those already in circulation. Something cannot be effortlessly created from nothing.
Driving down that back country road to the accompaniment of a seasonally appropriate holiday tune, I couldn't help musing that the inhabitants of the delightful stretch of pavement I frequently cut across to bridge the gap between my 100% natural, crunchy granola neighborhood and the mean streets of downtown Fredneck must really despise people like The Princess.
But you see, it is Not My Fault. "Those people" ought to have had more sense than to buy homes on a relatively untravelled road with such sinuous curves - luscious, nearly naked stretches of open road that whisper seductively to the arch of the foot, caressing it into exerting a dangerous pressure that is translated almost without conscious thought to the innocent toes resting on the accelerator pedal.
No. It is not the fault of people like us. We cannot be held responsible for our actions. Clearly the road should have been better designed; Someone in Authority should have put Systems in place to prevent us from doing what we know is wrong and if they only had done their jobs, how many now-flattened squirrels would be sitting upright in the middle of the road, taunting our brand new Michelins with a flick of their arrogantly twitching tails?
All I know is that despite what has turned out to be a momentous year, I continue to have a deep and abiding faith in America. Yes, we screw up a lot.
That is because we are human. But it is also because we are free.
And what a glorious, glorious gift freedom is. We are free - free even to choose the wrong things, to make bad decisions. Free to do stupid things that hurt us more than they hurt others. And often, all too often, we do exactly that. If living with the consequences of our own fecklessness continues to be the worst thing we have to whine about, America may continue to consider herself truly fortunate. No one else is oppressing us. If we can be said to be victims, we are victims of our own freedom of choice. There are worse fates, and perhaps if the consequences of our own bad decisions continue to mount we may finally begin to see some reality - some admission that liberty is not a risk-free proposition; that free people have responsibilities to go along with all those glorious rights we hear about constantly.
Meanwhile, half a world away a developing democracy exercised its freedom too this Christmas season:
Iraq's government declared today an official holiday, and issued congratulations to Christians here on the birth of Christ. Iran, after a fashion, did the same thing.
This is a momentous thing. But no doubt the media will continue to flog the story of an Iraqi reporter - a reporter who would never had the chance to do his job without state interference during the reign of Saddam - passing up his newfound freedom of speech to bravely assault a visiting head of state. We will, no doubt, continue to be admonished by professional journalists that reporters perform an indispensable service, albeit with no recognition that they continue to fall grievously short of their own standards:
The common thread here, whether the subject is foreign, national or local, is that the writer in question is performing a valuable task for the reader -- one that no sane man would perform for free. He is assembling what in the business world is termed the "executive summary." Anyone can duplicate a long and tedious report. And anyone can highlight one passage from that report and either praise or denounce it. But it takes both talent and willpower to analyze the report in its entirety and put it in a context comprehensible to the casual reader.
This highlights the real flaw in the thinking of those who herald the era of citizen journalism. They assume newspapers are going out of business because we aren't doing what we in fact do amazingly well, which is to quickly analyze and report on complex public issues. The real reason they're under pressure is much more mundane. The Internet can carry ads more cheaply, particularly help-wanted and automotive ads.
So if you want a car or a job, go to the Internet. But don't expect that Web site to hire somebody to sit through town-council meetings and explain to you why your taxes will be going up. Soon, newspapers won't be able to do it either.
I agree with Mr. Mulshine. Journalists do perform an indispensable service and bloggers cannot and should not think we can entirely replace them. To the contrary, we depend upon professional journalists. Without them, we could not do what we do. But journalists are wrong to dismiss the contributions made by bloggers, and even more wrong when they gloss over the very real deficiencies in their reporting; deficiencies that created the competition they so fiercely resent. Bloggers found an audience because they perform the a critical oversight function over an essentially unaccountable profession. The irony is that the media use their oversight role to justify nearly everything they do, from releasing classified documents to concealing the sources of their stories, yet they find oversight of their own profession intolerable. Jules Crittenden, a professional journalist and blogger, points one the hypocrisy in this stance:
...someone needs to tell Mulshine about the important role that the blogosphere he is dismissing has played in keeping professionals honest.
It’s tireless work, done for little or no money, and there is no end to it, as the recent election shows. Where would most people have found out anything about Obama … or anything true and relevant about Palin … without the blogosphere, anyway? Who would there be to continue tirelessly pointing out what a bad joke Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize is, especially now that it’s fundamental premise is … cooling off. Meanwhile, Dan Rather is spending his days muttering to himself when he isn’t muttering to lawyers who are milking him with a multi-million lawsuit that’s going nowhere. I don’t know what Adnan Hajj is doing these days, since his Beirut Photoshop got shuttered. I don’t even want to talk about what the Iraq war coverage was like.
Glenn Reynolds notes that many bloggers, contrary to Mulshine's dismissive and dishonest snark, do in fact produce original reporting - and in a war zone to boot:
It seems that often when big-media types write about the failings of blogs, they engage in the kind of lazy inaccuracy they condemn. In an earlier column, Mulshine wrote:Anyone can travel to a war zone and write about it. I would strongly recommend this for any of the critics of the MSM who are seeking to get out the real truth about Iraq. Go for it, guys. War coverage is great fun. One word of caution, though: Don’t lose your heads in all the excitement.That, of course — as Mulshine should have known then, and now — is exactly what J.D. Johannes does — along with Michael Yon, Michael Totten, Bill Roggio, and others in the blogosphere. Mulshine, meanwhile, brags about having once covered the Toms River Regional Board of Education in New Jersey. That’s worthy work, of course, but if his reportage there was as poor as his work in the Wall Street Journal, then — oh, who am I kidding? “If”?
But I think bloggers also perform another very important function: because bloggers are available and accountable to our readers in real time, we have brought ordinary citizens back into politics. By engaging them in the news cycle; involving them in discussions about the latest stories and challenging them to actively question what they read and hear, we are - quite literally - revitalizing democracy:
...here again is one of the major strengths of blogs: if a story is proven false, it's a rare blogger who isn't deluged with emails and comments. Most bloggers will publish an update to correct the story immediately. I would argue that blogs are uniquely accountable to their readers in a way the MSM are not: if we are consistently wrong, our readers stop listening and find someone who can get the story straight.
The article leaves out another important advantage of blogs: posts are supported by links to the sources used to support the story. The more credible blogs use multiple sources to support a post. Readers can follow the links to learn more and evaluate the credibility of the information supplied. This is not possible with the nightly news or daily newspaper.
Strangely, the main advantage of blogs was never mentioned in the article, and it's an important one: blogs make the news cycle interactive. Blogs with comments enabled allow readers to discuss the news, argue policy and trade facts, offer links to related stories, correct false or misleading information, and offer their insights for debate and review by the Internet community.
Even non-commenting blogs let readers participate by emailing the blogger (who more often than not will respond) and by contributing stories. Most readers like to see their names on the screen and many important stories are broken, not by the investigative work of the blogger, but by an intrepid reader with a modem and a thirst for information.
By allowing readers to participate in the news cycle, break stories, investigate rumors, and share their thoughts with a vast network of other readers who care passionately about world events, blogs are revitalizing democracy. People are meeting on the web to discuss the issues instead of on the front porch or down at the corner store. But for the first time in years, they're talking. The once-disconnected and apathetic voter is getting involved in a way he or she hasn't in years, and it's exciting to see.
In a private email this week, I expressed some doubt as to whether our love affair with television and the Internet have contributed to the deep and pervading air of unreality that seems to surround us right now. I do worry when I see kids texting at the table instead of talking to their family. I think it's rude. I don't like to see people chained to their Blackberries 24/7 - I wish they'd put them down and talk to the very real people right in front of their noses; people who (most of the time) are far more important to them at the end of the day than whoever is on the other end of those pixels. I wonder whether all this technology and the affluence it brings is severing us from a right appreciation of the critical connection between our decisions and the consequences that flow from them.
I worry, when I see the media selectively flogging a highly politicized agenda for all it's worth and calling it news, that people don't take the time to cross-check facts or separate punditry from news reporting. I worry about all the stories that never make it into our living rooms. But then I look at the explosion of the Internet and I see that people do realize they're not getting the whole story. They are curious. That's encouraging.
When I look at history I can't help but have a deep and abiding faith that somehow, we will figure it all out. We human beings screw up a lot, and if we screw things up enough eventually we will encounter consequences even we can't defer or deny.
Should that day come, I suspect we'll deal with it just as our parents and grandparents did. It's comforting, in a way, to realize that even with all the shiny gadgets and geegaws we possess nowadays, getting smacked upside the head with the 2x4 of stupidity still hurts like hell. It's just that we have better tools nowadays.
Now if we can just work on that wisdom thing.
December 04, 2008
It is hard to believe, but it has been 4 years since VC started up.
I know I've wiped out most of my old posts. Sorry about that - must be the Celtic blood. I've been leaving things all my life. It's hard to believe I've stayed with this for so long, even if there have been a few bumps and twists along the road.
I tried to find the old picture of me I had up at Jet Noise. It's kind of funny - in that one I was obviously several years younger and I still had the short hair. Couldn't find a copy quickly. But I did find something even funnier - dumb photo of me in high school from that stupid 70s post I did years ago. My Dem friend in NYC (Yo!) will get a kick out of it. She will remember the ultimate horror of the Princess in high school... heh.
I swore I wouldn't get emotional about this, but I've already blown that resolution (Watch it, Bill....[tapping foot]). I would just like to thank you guys for coming along for the ride.
I have a love-hate relationship with blogging.
One thing I'm absolutely not conflicted about is you all. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for you guys. Several times I've left, and several times I've come back and it has never been about the writing. I can write anywhere. I've always come back here because this is home.
This is where my family is.
Anyway, thanks. Sometimes, even for me, there are no words.
November 25, 2008
Here and There
Today women (and yes, it's women) across America begin a week of hectic chaos that only the holidays can bring. Like me they are looking forward to visiting relatives and only have a few things to attend to.
Make a menu, not only for Thanksgiving day, but for breakfasts and lunches while visitors stick around for the weekend. Go the grocery store where hundreds like yourself check off 2 notebook pages of items. The grocery store never has enough checkers. Why should they? Are you just going to leave? Not likely. So while standing in line you catch up on what Brad and Angelina are doing with their brood, while your head is filled with what else you have to do.
Go home unload the groceries, clean the house, change the sheets (get out the good ones), wash clothes and the tablecloth you haven't used in a year, run buy some candles for the centerpiece, make sure the bathrooms have towels that match, run buy wine and beer, wash the dust off your good china and crystal, and don't forget.....you have to make dinner tonight, you know.
How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm, once they've seen gay Paree? Beth's got a brand new blog!
SemperFi Wife and LAW from the ParentsZone are going to be at Arlington National Cemetery on December 13th for the Annual Wreath Laying ceremony. I've written about this before - if you're a DC area resident, it's very much worth your time. Do check it out.
November 20, 2008
There is nothing worse than a snarky web page.
November 17, 2008
I just got rid of Firefox.
I've used it for ages, but this weekend was the last straw. After one of those special "automagic updates", I could no longer get it to launch. That's not impressive.
But even before that it was freezing up all the time and crashing (several times helpfully losing several hours of work - often entire posts - in the process) and on that right brain/left brain quiz I did a few days ago it wasn't compiling the scores correctly. I took the quiz in Firefox and came out 18 left brain, which I knew was incorrect because several of my answers were clearly right brain answers.
I re-took it in IE and came out 9 right/9 left, dominant left brain. It's just not worth the trouble when you have to go out of your way to make an application work.
October 26, 2008
Well Good Morning
We are back.
We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, among which we must account the dearth of bloggitudinal fare here at VC lately. The Editorial Staff were otherwise occupied.
Don't ask us what this photo has to do with Mimosas, or with not having written anything for several days, because we could not tell you to save our lives. We spent yesterday (in part) looking at vintage clothing - something you perhaps did not need to know about the Editorial Staff: we have a mad passion for vintage clothing, though we rarely purchase anything because it is so rarely in good condition. However, the oddest things come up when one Googles "Mimosa", and green *is* just about our best color.
Among the odd items we saw on our travels was a 195x edition of The Lucky Bag (the Naval Academy yearbook). The Unit's father in law graduated that year, so naturally we stopped to leaf through the yearbook. It was an oddly touching reminder of a vanished world.
Can you imagine midshipmen showing up in suit and tie? Page after page of neatly attired young men and women, invariably putting their best foot forward, regardless of their social station? Men were always in collared shirts and wool worsted pants with neatly shined shoes, women wearing hats, lipstick, high heels and stockings with coats that coordinated with their outfits.
The Unit and I often comment, when we go to the airport, that people can't even be bothered to get out of their sweatpants or worst jeans when they fly. Look at an old film from the early sixties and you'll see people in suits and coordinated outfits, having made an effort to look their best for travel in public.
The end of an age... and perhaps the subject of a future post. Anyway, it was a lovely dress and it caught our eye: graceful, feminine and calculated to accentuate the best of the female form while not revealing more than needed to be revealed: alluring and beguiling without being cheap and tawdry. This, we think, is a lost art. There is something to be said for leaving something to the imagination. In a world of 24/7 online porn and in your face pop tarts who keep defining decency down, feminine mystery and the subtle charm of the reserved offers something truly special: the possibility that perhaps not everything in life is for sale or worse - free to all comers.
At any rate, being now fortified with our customary Sunday morning beverage of choice, the obscenely large Mimosa, we expect to be making very little sense in no time at all.
Thank you for your patience.
October 06, 2008
Male vs. Female Bloggers: A Theory
Glenn Reynolds asks and answers: why aren't there more female lawprof bloggers?
... here's my own hypothesis: Men are genetically programmed to try to stand out through action, in the hopes of attracting women. It's true, of course that blogging is a relatively ineffective way of doing that -- but so are many other ways this urge manifests itself, like extreme Star Trek fandom. The point is the genetically programmed urge, which isn't programmed into women in the same manner. Is this true? Beats me, but it's amusing.
Ilya Somin piles on (lot of that sort of thing going on lately):
I don't doubt that men (at least heterosexual ones) have a strong genetic drive to attract the attention of women. I'm a bit more skeptical, however, of the claim that this explains the predominance of male political bloggers. Looking at the demographics of political blog readers some 72 percent to 80 percent of them are men themselves. Since political blogging reaches an overwhelmingly male audience, it probably isn't a very efficient way to attract women. It may not be quite as irrational a dating strategy as trying to attract women through "extreme Star Trek fandom," but it's probably less effective than checking out to Ladies' Night at the local bar. If you spend a lot of time blogging, you probably could have devoted that time to other activities where meeting women would be more likely.
What then explains the prevalence of male political bloggers? Many factors may be involved. But one crucial one is probably the fact that women generally have a lower average level of interest in politics than men. The gender gap in political blogging is just one of many manifestations of the broader gender gap in political engagement.
The blog princess finds this observation broadly true, notwithstanding her own predilection for enthusiastically thwacking our Democratic brethren in Christ upside the head with a clue bat on the flimsiest of excuses. However, she would like to offer an alternate theory.
Male bloggers (as with men in general) are intensely competitive by nature, and blogging, like sports, offers just one more arena for guys to test their mettle against each other and (potentially) showcase one set of manly skills: that of argumentation. Blogging involves many of the same features as competitive sports: teams (alliances), statistics, rankings and scores (how many guys are positively fixated on their sitemeter stats and ecosystem rank?), grudge matches (flame wars) and a safe outlet for aggression (let's face it - although many onllne arguments can get quite nasty, when was the last time blood was spilled?). Blogging offers men a direct way to participate in a highly competitive hobby that stimulates their minds and gives free reign to their competitive instincts; instincts I would add that are often stifled and discouraged in the "real" world. In short, in the less straitlaced, more freewheeling online world, men are more free to be men: they experience less opprobrium and more (and more immediate) gratification.
The experience is different for women. Not necessarily bad, just different.
Women tend to blog for different reasons. While I can't speak for all women, let me lay out the reasons I've blogged as long as I have.
First and foremost, unlike men I don't blog to compete with other bloggers. The competitive aspect of blogging is not only not attractive to me, but a positive turnoff. I genuinely don't care about having my site become bigger or more popular than someone else's site. All that means is someone else will get their Hanes Ultrasheers in a wad for no reason. Yee ha.
It deprives them of something they value, while awarding me something I neither want, nor need. No one wins. Every time VC goes over 2000 visits I day, the minuses of blogging begin to outweigh the pluses. The site gets too big for me to handle in my spare time and I end up quitting out of desperation, which effectively knocks my traffic back to a manageable level for a while. Things like getting rid of trackbacks, deleting old posts and my blogroll have also helped. While one hates to be a stinker, it's a question of sanity and balance and in the end, I think blogging has to be something you do on your own terms, or not at all.
So why do I blog? Conversation. The Internet is like a funnel. I'm an introvert. That doesn't mean I'm shy - in fact, I'm quite self confident. It does mean that I'd rather talk about abstract things or one topic in depth than engage in small talk about taking my dog to the vet or your sister Ariel's boob job. In real life, the chances of my running into other people who are interested that kind of conversation (about 25% of the population) are fairly remote. The blogosphere sifts the wheat from the chaff, allowing me to engage in conversations with like-minded people. I don't have to endure conversations about Auntie Mabel's hysterectomy when what I am really interested in discussing is whether a Surge will succeed in Afghanistan or why simply suspending mark-to-market accounting rules won't alleviate the credit crunch.
Women, I have noticed, tend to blog for the joy of initiating conversations and friendships with other people. They enjoy getting to know their readers - talking to them, exchanging views with them, knowing their likes and dislikes and even sometimes the major things that are going on in their lives. To me, my regular readers are little different than people I know in real life. But therein lies a problem.
If you are any good at what you are doing, you will form a connection with your readers and your site will grow. And when your site grows, that growth destroys the very thing that attracted you to blogging in the first place. Increased traffic attracts trolls and administrative effort begins to outweigh the 'fun stuff', like the pure joy of writing.
When my site gets too big, I start to feel I don't have enough time to respond to people and I get overwhelmed. The site takes over my life as opposed to being a welcome diversion and because I've always had a hard time not answering mail when people take the time to write me, I feel guilty when my work or my home life make it impossible for me to keep up with mail from readers, or with comments.
I realize this doesn't make sense, but feelings often don't. Over the years, I've realized that I have to set boundaries. Sometimes now, I just don't answer mail when I get a flood of it. But I feel bad every single time.
The thing is, I feel genuinely honored when someone takes the time to write me. I always hate to think that someone has taken a moment from their day to write and then not gotten a reply. At any rate, just a theory. I think the inherent nature of blogging rewards men (whose interest in blogging tends more towards the competitive). It has been less rewarding for me at least, as my sites have grown.
August 27, 2008
Good morning. The Editorial Staff are attempting to motivate our intrepid staff of itinerant Eskimo typists with a combination of dire threats and liberal doses of caffeine. While you await yet another display of their typing prowess, a few interesting reads from around the 'Net:
FactCheck.org has looked into Obama's claim that pro-life activists are "lying" when they say he supports infanticide:
At issue is Obama's opposition to Illinois legislation in 2001, 2002 and 2003 that would have defined any aborted fetus that showed signs of life as a "born alive infant" entitled to legal protection, even if doctors believe it could not survive.
Obama opposed the 2001 and 2002 "born alive" bills as backdoor attacks on a woman's legal right to abortion, but he says he would have been "fully in support" of a similar federal bill that President Bush had signed in 2002, because it contained protections for Roe v. Wade.
We find that, as the NRLC said in a recent statement, Obama voted in committee against the 2003 state bill that was nearly identical to the federal act he says he would have supported. Both contained identical clauses saying that nothing in the bills could be construed to affect legal rights of an unborn fetus, according to an undisputed summary written immediately after the committee's 2003 mark-up session.
Whether opposing "born alive" legislation is the same as supporting "infanticide," however, is entirely a matter of interpretation. That could be true only for those, such as Obama's 2004 Republican opponent, Alan Keyes, who believe a fetus that doctors give no chance of surviving is an "infant." It is worth noting that Illinois law already provided that physicians must protect the life of a fetus when there is "a reasonable likelihood of sustained survival of the fetus outside the womb, with or without artificial support."
Of particular interest is Sen. Obama's comment on the 2001 Illinois bill (which he also voted against):
... whenever we define a previable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we’re really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a – a child, a nine-month-old – child that was delivered to term. That determination then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place. I mean, it – it would essentially bar abortions, because the equal protection clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this is a child, then this would be an antiabortion statute.
What the FactCheck article elides right past (and what I continue to find deeply troubling) is the fact that it makes it expressly legal to deliver abort a live fetus and then leave it - unattended - to die. The physician has no duty of care unless, in his or her own judgment, the fetus "has a reasonable likelihood of sustained survival outside the womb, with or without life support".
What doctor in his right mind, accused of having letting a baby that *could* have survived with life support die unattended, is going to scratch his head and say, "Gee whiz... now that you mention it, maybe I made the wrong call? Go ahead and throw me in jail."
As a parent, one of the first things you learn is never to make an unenforceable rule. This strikes me as one such.
Punishing kids for being competent:
A Connecticut youth baseball team with a phenomenal 9-year-old pitcher has been disqualified because its team is too good.
The team, Will Power Fitness, has an 8-0 record thanks in large part to pitcher Jericho Scott, the New Haven Register reports. His pitching is so fast and accurate, the Liga Juvenil De Baseball De New Haven asked the team's coach, Wilfred Vidro, to replace him so he wouldn't frighten other players.
What a lovely message to teach our children: now inequality of ability is "unfair"? Whatever happened to learning to accept both wins and losses with grace? Losing seasons happen and ability is not always evenly distributed between teams. That's not a bad preparation for life, which isn't always fair either. When my sons played rec soccer, often the "town" teams (vs. the base teams) had kids who went to expensive soccer camps and had skills the base teams, who accepted all players, couldn't easily compete with. We played everyone, every game, where the town teams did not. But a good coach teaches kids to compete with pride, to do their best, to work together, and above all, not to let defeats beat them down. These are valuable coping skills, as in real life it is often the most persistent competitor rather than the most talented who eventually walks off with the prize. How much more valuable would it have been, had the league decided to use this boy's ability to challenge the other players to do their best?
This is just one more manifestation of our education's penchant for promoting self-esteem over ability and effort over achievement - the league lost a 'teachable moment', here. Via a certain Colorado Feline.
Heigh ho, heigh ho, it's off to work I go...
Are fathers necessary? Apparently so:
While a rare condition PWS (Prader-Willi Syndrome) is thought to be the leading cause of genetically caused obesity, its effects can be mitigated by the participation of the father.
The research by University of Tennessee, Knoxville, professor Francisco Ubeda finds that the amount of care a father gives to his child may cause a shift in the syndrome in which its symptoms, in essence, reverse themselves.
In a world where fathers are now considered akin to the appendix, its interesting to find more information that the presence of a father changes the outcomes for the children in drastic ways. Yes I said more, as females raised without a blood father present have lower ages of onset of first menses. That if a human female is raised without a father, or with a stepfather, she matures earlier, and so her time to learn is clipped by biological urges appearing earlier than later.
Personally, this type of research seems like a threat to a woman's total control over her reproductive destiny. It should probably be suppressed immediately.
Meanwhile, the allegedly nonpartisan press, fresh off a cover version of "Hopelessly Devoted to You," is doing its best to convey every jot and tiddle of the Obama narrative as given to them by his campaign. They want voters to look at Obama and think "We Go Together." The risk in this, of course, is that the gap between the Democrat call for "change" and "chang chang changity chang shoo bop" is a small one, and either mantra can give your legs a tingly feeling.
So prefabricated Americana hangs in the Denver air like dust motes spiraling through a shaft of sunlight, and paid operatives are desperately trying to bottle patriotism for anyone who harbors doubts about the candidate who edited the Harvard Law Review but never wrote an article for it...
And the Freudian Slip of the Week goes to:
... that's not even to mention good old Charlie Wilson:
"We should be led by Osama bin Laden," he said, then quickly corrected himself. "I mean Obama and Biden."
Honestly, this is the best convention anyone has ever had. The Republicans don't have a chance of topping this.
Via Grim, who is having way too much fun.
And finally, via Glenn, a few thoughts on love. My favorites:
'When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.' Billy - age 4
'Love is what makes you smile when you're tired.' Terri - age 4
August 26, 2008
A Message From Management
The Editorial Staff have not been abducted and impregnated by aliens. We apologize for the bloggy lameness - we are just experiencing technical difficulties negotiating the space-time continuum**
We expect to restore normal programming NTL tomorrow a.m. If you have any questions, concerns, etc., please tune into tonight's live coverage of the DNC. We hear Barack Obama has a plan for that.
Thank you for your patience. We now return you to the usual villainry, mayhem, etc.
** in other words, we have been a busy little bee this week.
August 02, 2008
Site Meter/IE Crash Problem Fixed (I Hope!)
Thanks to DL Sly, hopefully the Site Meter/IE crash problem is fixed.
FWIW, what worked for me was just moving this code snippet:
<!– Site Meter –>
<a href=”http://s36.sitemeter.com/stats.asp?site=yourIDhere” target=”_top”>
<img src=”http://s36.sitemeter.com/meter.asp?site=yourIDhere” alt=”Site Meter” border=”0″/></a>
<!– Copyright (c)2006 Site Meter –>
...outside of the div tag (I had it inside a div tag, but often people put it in a table, too, and that seems to be what causes the problem in Internet Explorer) and placing it all the way at the bottom of my page, just before the closing body tag. Actually, it was already the last element on the page just before the closing body tag, but the div tags were the problem.
Also, I threw up some news headlines in the sidebar. Don't know if I'll keep them - I've been meaning to do that for some time now since I just don't have as much time as I used to for blogging. I'll keep my eye out for interesting things. Let me know if you like them. I don't like a lot of clutter on a site, but I thought it might be nice.
July 08, 2008
The Internet As Public Space
Grim poses an interesting question:
"Public" Online Space:
There was an interesting article on Yahoo/Flickr today, which touches on a topic that interests me. To what degree is the Internet "public" space? On the one hand, there's nothing to stop anyone at all from coming to visit; on the other, no part of it that citizens can use to express themselves is "public" in the traditional sense of the term. It is privately owned.
There are legal consequences to that, but those don't interest me particularly -- what interests me are the normative questions. In other words, I am interested not in what the law currently says, but rather in the question of what the law ought to say.
We increasingly live on the internet: don't we want some of these public-space protections for our speech?
Under what legal rationale would American citizens be entitled to legal protection for online speech? Our first amendment rights protect us against government censorship; they do not guarantee us the unrestricted right to bloviate on someone else's server (much less on their nickel!). How do we guarantee online speech rights?
Do we force site owners to grant access to all comers, even though they may be sued for the actions of commenters? Does this not amount to a taking of private property? Or have we, post-Kelo, simply abandoned the notion that individuals have any enforceable property rights against the collective?
The 'Net may be the one place where we face the disturbing notion that, as special as each one of us may be in our own eyes, other people's rights matter too...unless, of course, they happen to be lousy, stinking spicists.
June 30, 2008
Freedom of Speech
I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.
- Hamlet, scene II
For every drawback that comes with long deployments there is a corresponding silver lining. Sometimes one has to be willing to turn over a rock or two to see it, though. One unintended side effect of packing the spousal unit off for an all expense-paid vacation at Camp Sandy Trau in Iraq was that it prompted me to begin taking road trips on weekends.
I enjoy traveling. As a child I loved to go exploring; to take off through woods and fields, going as far as my little legs or my bicycle would take me. When my boys were small I thought nothing of piling into the car and driving 12 or even 24 hours to visit my parents and in-laws. I drove halfway across the country to meet my husband once. But until last year I never did much traveling all by myself, never went anywhere just because I felt like it. The idea was intoxicating.
Freedom, or perhaps more accurately the perception of freedom, is a strange thing. When I left college, married, and became a mother in fairly short order my freedom of action narrowed suddenly and dramatically. At first I found the limitations hard to bear gracefully at times, though of course I said nothing. Each Spring the world grew green and vibrant again, and each Spring I grew distracted and restless as I went about my daily routine.
Once or twice I even dreamed of abandoning the life I had chosen: the life I loved with all my heart. I was reminded of this last October when I attended my first high school reunion in thirty years. That's a long time to go without seeing anyone who knew you "way back when", who hasn't seen you since you were young and didn't have a care in the world. It was an interesting and I suppose characteristic experience. As I prepared to leave I thought of all the times I'd read about women preparing for months on end for their high school reunions: cutting and coloring their hair, going on diets, getting their makeup and nails done, planning their outfits carefully.
Well, that wasn't me. I never prepare ahead. I don't even pack in any organized fashion - it ruins the sense of adventure. I like to throw my things into a suitcase on the spur of the moment and go. That's exactly what I did; crammed a pair of blue jeans, my favorite high heeled boots, a camisole, cropped blazer and a few t-shirts into a small bag, called the dog sitter, and bombed down 95 with the CD player blaring. Once there, I checked into a posh hotel, drove from one waterfront to another and stepped from my car straight into my past.
I don't know what I expected. I wasn't prepared to see myself through other people's eyes:
"Oh my God, you look exactly the same as you did in high school!" (Is this the Official Greeting of high school reunions?)
But there was also this:
"I can't believe you married a Marine. I just can't picture you staying home with your kids all those years. You were always so WILD."
I'm not sure when I began to contemplate turning this into a drinking game: every time someone says the word "wild" in reference to your checkered past, chug one brewski.
Can you say 'confirmation bias', boys and girls? I knew that you could. I thought it was funny the first time I heard it. By the end of the evening I found myself thinking: "You never knew me." Isn't it funny how people only see what's on the outside? I may have been a little wild a long time ago when nothing I did mattered, when I wasn't responsible for anyone else.
And it may have taken me a long time to reconcile myself to being a stay at home wife and mother. But it's also true that even as young as I was then, I never once doubted I was on the right path. As young as I was then, I never failed to understand there is a price to be paid for everything that truly matters in life. That is just the nature of the world we live in. Choices imply trade-offs.
I always understood that no matter which path I took in life I would have to give up something of value. Perhaps that's why I don't understand statements like this:
Bottom line - I am sorry that the Field level O is a jerk, and sorrier that LT G is in trouble for airing dirty laundry on his blog. Reality is that those serving don't really have freedom of speech, and here's the proof.
I understand the good impulses that prompted it, just as I understand John's protective instincts. They both come from a good place. But what bothers me about so much of the outrage over DoD regulation of Milblogging is that ironically, military bloggers enjoy far more freedom of speech when it comes to blogging than most civilian employees.
The fact of the matter is that civilians have been fired for blogging even on their own time and even when their blogs are anonymous, entirely personal in nature and don't mention their employers. Employees who believe the First Amendment gives them the legal right to voice their personal opinions without fear of termination should think again:
Cliff Palefsky, a San Francisco employment lawyer, says there's a false sense that employers can't punish their workers for voicing personal opinions -- on their blogs or anywhere else. "People mistakenly believe that the First Amendment protects them in the workplace, which is generally not the case," he said.
There are a handful of exceptions. Several states, including California, specifically protect workers from retaliation for their political views. Other states have broader protections covering "off-the-job" activities, said Palefsky.
Even those safety nets have limits when it comes to bad-mouthing the boss. "If you're going to be talking about your employer, it's hard to call that 'off-the-job' conduct," said Palefsky.
Military bloggers know this. What rational basis do they have, then, for expecting to be treated differently from their civilian counterparts, especially when one adds OPSEC and public policy concerns to the existing concerns of civilian employers?
What basis do they have?
It's an interesting argument. In fact, it's an argument we've heard before. You can't stop us from publishing, no matter what the rules say. What? You say that ordinary citizens are required to comply with this set of rules? Well, we are special. We should not have to comply with that set of rules because America depends upon us to supply them with critically needed information. You can't shut us down.
The end justifies the means. Where, oh where have we heard this argument before? Oh yes. Bill Keller. The New York Times.
"Just trust us".
And then there's the issue of the act which generated the post. I'm more than willing to concede that if everything is exactly as it was presented, it is a bit disturbing, though even there I have questions. But perhaps this entirely hypothetical scenario will illustrate my disquiet with some of the conclusions which have been drawn from Lt. G's post:
You are the regimental commander.
It has come to your ears - never mind how - that one of your field grade officers has threatened retaliation against a young Lieutenant.T The only "evidence" is a blog post. In the post, the Lieutenant accuses - in a roundabout way - his senior of threatening him with some unspecified and petty harassment as a consequence of the Lt.'s having refused a lateral transfer. The post is disdainful, contemptuous, and openly defiant of the officer.
You note, a few posts later, that the Lt. has been ordered to cease posting. Apparently he went on leave and posted the account of his falling out with his senior officer without clearing the offending post, something he knows well he is required to do. Given the tone, you are not surprised.
His photo is on the site, so there is no mistaking who he is. Anyone in the command would be able to trace it back, and therefore likely also identify the senior officer.
QUESTION: Based on nothing more than the contents of the post, do you call in the senior officer and tear him a new one?
It's too dark
to put the keys
in my ignition,
And the mornin' sun is yet
to climb my hood ornament.
But before too long I might
see those flashing red lights
Look out, mama,
'cause I'm comin' home tonight.
roll another number
for the road,
I feel able to get under any load.
Though my feet
aren't on the ground,
I been standin' on the sound
Of some open-hearted people
- Neil Young
June 24, 2008
Via MathMom, the Editorial Staff learned (to our vast amusement) that our humble site is included in this map of the political blatherosphere.
Frankly, we are mildly shocked ... and not at all certain that there has not been a tragic mistake of some sort. However, our position on the map does make sense, given our linking policy.
At any rate, check out the map. We found the Fish Eye view interesting.
June 23, 2008
Oh No... No We Can't
The Editorial Staff apologizes for the lame blogging, but we are hiding out in an undisclosed location, desperately trying to recover from the shock of this weekend's bombshell revelation.
Damned hard to demonize and oppresse the downtrodden masses when they insist on keeping this sort of thing secret, you know.
Heh... it's turned into a Coalition of the Shocked:
I'm sure I'm missing someone. Oh well, they'll let me know.
June 17, 2008
The Meme of Seven
What on earth did the Editorial Staff do to Dave Schuler? Whatever we did, it must have been une crime unimaginable, for he has tagged us with a crappy meme!
The rules are
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
5. Present an image of martial discord from whatever period or situation you’d like.
Before we begin, we have a confession of the most amusing to make. We, too, read "marital discord" for "martial". There is a Freudian slip in there somewhere, however, we shall not go there for the present :p
Because I never follow rules exactly (I can never follow a recipe exactly as written - I almost invariably throw in a little twist of my own) I'm not going to show an image of martial discord - of battle - per se, but of the moment before battle, and of the faces of the men who are going into battle.
A few weeks ago I spent the weekend with Carrie and DL Sly. One of the neater things we did was visit the Marine Corps Museum at Quantico, Virginia. This is something I've wanted to do since it opened.
I found it incredibly difficult to walk through the exhibits. I still can't even think of it without tearing up for some reason. It's odd. Carrie and I have spoken many times of how much 9/11 changed both of us. That is one way in which I have changed. I was not a terribly sentimental person before 9/11. I had little patience for sappiness.
I have more, now. Still don't like it much, but I understand where it comes from. I think it's good that we commemorate these things.
I have to say another thing which is difficult for me.
After walking through the Vietnam exhibit, I was struck by a thought that has bedeviled me many a time. I came out of there very shaken.
As I left, I thought to myself, not for the first time but more forcefully than many other times at which the same thought has crossed my mind, that walking through that exhibit made it easier for me to understand some of the really visceral opposition to the war. Not necessarily agree with it. But understand it. I understood thinking, "My God, nothing is worth this". These are hard and painful choices and to a certain extent, whichever side of the question you come down, you will have to discount somebody's suffering. I am not sure that discount is the right word. Perhaps it is sufficient all the same. It will have to do.
I also came away humbled by the spirit and faith of the men who have taken that silent walk through history. That may be why I select this watercolor.
There is a phrase from Shakespeare that floated into my mind when I first saw this work: "... in patient stillness". It is from a scene in Henry V. The French are preparing for the battle of Agincourt. They are nervous, champing at the bit, and begin to idly boast of what the coming battle will bring. The prince beings to brag of the wondrous virtues of his horse:
What a long night this is!
I will not trade my horse for any
that walks on four legs.
He leaps from the ground
as if his insides were light as hairs.
He's a flying horse, a Pegasus,
breathing fire out of his nostrils.
When I sit astride him,
I soar, I am a hawk.
He trots on air.
The earth sings when he touches it.
He is pure air and fire.
The duller elements of earth and water
have no part in him,
except in the moment of patient stillness
when his rider mounts him.
That is the way I imagined this night-time patrol: as a moment of weary, perhaps patient stillness.
An oasis of calm amid the chaotic storm of war.
Dear Lord. Only I could turn a post about a crappy meme into a boring soliloquy on war. Images above are the work of Michael D. Fay, combat artist. You can check out more of Michael's work here. Seven dubious but riveting details about my oh-so-boring life upcoming momentarily.... also eventually there will be a highly embarrassing post about MaryAnn :p
Obscure facts about moi:
1. When I little, I climbed everything in sight. When I was about two I decided to climb the family Christmas tree. Unsurprisingly, when I got near the top, it fell down. When my Mom came home, my Grandma was comforting a sobbing little Princess.
2. I was born with shallow hip sockets and so as a toddler, I had to wear these stupid orthopedic shoes with a rigid metal bar in between them. They didn't slow me down one bit. My Mom says I still managed to climb things with them on. Sometimes at night I'd get them tangled up in the sheets and I'd get stuck, and I got very scared. Every once in a very great while, even now, I'll wake up at night with the covers over my head and my heart racing :p
3. I can't tie a knot in a cherry stem when it is inside my mouth. I have never understood why people do this in bars, but I think it is messed up.
Of course if I could do it, I would brag about it.
4. I am left eyed, but ambidextrous. Or at least this is what my test scores say I am in theory: it probably explains why I write, bat, and golf with my left but use scissors do a few other things with my right hand. I can't write with my right hand and I'm too lazy to learn.
5. I reverse things a lot. I'm hopeless at figuring out how 3 dimensional things fit inside other things - this is an ability most men have that many women don't, and one I love to have men around for, because it makes me feel stupid all the time. There is actually a name for it: structural visualization. I suck at it: 11th percentile. Interestingly enough, it is passed through the female though. So guys, if you have it, you got it from your Mom.
6. On the otter heiny, I'm quite good at deducing things, often from startlingly little information. In fact, sometimes I'm not even sure how I figure things out. I just know them, which can be a bit scary. As I've gotten older I've had to work at not letting my rational mind get in the way of my intuition (which is often faster and more accurate than the 'logical' side of my brain that I worked to hard to develop later in life). You need many kinds of thinking to be a well rounded person, but as I finally figured out it's kind of dumb not to go with your core competencies. Just make sure you always have a back up plan.
7. I think too much. But then you knew that, didn't you?
I will share the hate with seven unfortunates shortly.
June 06, 2008
Over Red Coffee Cans and Cigarettes
Patrick O'Hannigan remembers:
As a teenager in Hawaii, I spent memorable weekends sitting across a kitchen counter from an old woman who exhaled plumes of smoke over my head. She was Helen to her friends and Tutu to her grandchildren. She would open a louvered window for the sake of our lungs, but could not abide the idea that standing next to it was the only socially acceptable way to enjoy a cigarette.
When Tutu tired of crossword puzzles, or wanted to postpone a four-block walk to the Ala Moana Shopping Center for another can of Folger’s Coffee and the latest paperback mystery by Harry Kemelman, she would kvetch about politics, or fix me with a blue-eyed look, run a hand through blonde hair going gray, and tell stories.
Her ethnic background was Swedish and Celtic, which in disreputable circles might pigeonhole her as a typical white person. She left the Bronx for life in the tropics at the invitation of her eldest son when he became a rookie with the Honolulu Police Department.
Like other people in her old neighborhood, she had marinated in the Italian and Jewish cultures that mingled with her own. Tutu had the family recipe for all-day pasta sauce, knew a good matzo ball when she tasted one, and sometimes lamented the lack of delicatessens in Hawaii. Her side of the family was proof positive that the working-class boroughs of New York blended influences almost as seamlessly as the Honolulu suburbs where I grew up. The way she told it, you could drink New York tap water too, although you were unlikely to smell Plumeria blossoms on the breezes there.
Tutu died four years ago, but knowing about those Hawaiian weekends, you may not be surprised to learn that it was she who sprang to mind when one paragraph from a speech of almost 2,500 words made news earlier this month because President Bush denounced the appeasement of tyrants while he was in Israel addressing the Knesset.
As they say, read the whole thing. I loved this post.
June 04, 2008
Back From the Dead
The Princess, she is muy cansado. Yesterday consisted of roughly 21 hours spent staring helplessly into the Yawning Maw of Third Party Service Provider Hell.
The Blog Princess has never before had her patience raped, but the last 24 hours proved there is a first time for everything.
Fortunately there is a sovereign cure for every ill known to tech wenches. Simply find a large container, fill it with steaming hot water and nice smelling substances (nothing too perfumed or musky - it should smell like a spring garden or a fresh sea breeze), throw in a lemon verbena bath candle, a natural bristled back brush and a pretty little jar of Mediterranean sea salts (why do women of a 'certain age' suddenly go gaga and start buying Mediterranean sea salts? Whatever... they smell nice and make your skin feel heavenly) and you have the closest thing paradise on this good green earth.
At five a.m. this morning the Princess felt like putting her fist through the nearest wall, but as her shoulders sank beneath the warmly scented water, she felt all the tension seep out of her body. There is nothing like lying in the tub staring up at the trees to hit the 'reset' button of life. So what if you've had all of two hours of sleep? Grab a cup of coffee, scrub every inch of your skin until it is pink and glowing and suddenly, your problems shrink down to manageable size and the world seems like a friendly place again. Wash your hair and smooth on that conditioner that summons up memories of that unforgettable evening in the sand dunes, years ago.
Oh yeah. It's all good.
April 07, 2008
My apologies for the light blogging the past few days. What can I say? In the end, it's the housework that gets you...
Having a husband creates an extra seven hours of housework each week for women, according to a new study. For men, tying the knot saves an hour of weekly chores.
That, and the constant pressure of this rock star lifestyle:
Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December.
Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet.
To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic. There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths...
But why let a few pesky facts interfere with a really riveting narrative? This, you see, is the beauty of professional journalism (with its rigorous layers of editorial fact-checking and control), as opposed to more interactive media like blogging.
Once you get the formula right, you can pretty much phone it in.
March 12, 2008
Hello, Old Friend...
What a hoot...
The Donovan has been pestering the Editorial Staff for some time now for a copy of The Trivet. It has been so long now that we could not find it in our archives.
How many of the Assembled Villainry remember this old relic from the original site design?
The things we do for the readership.