Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The One ... Who Seems to be Late an Awful Lot

Now this is funny. Yeah, I know it is probably unfair, and that it is easy to take snippets out of context and make someone look bad.



I can't think of an easier job than being a Senator. All you really have to do is have a staff that panders to your constituents, show up for most votes, and vote the way your bagmen tell you. You don't hire and fire people and you don't need to make the sort of executive decisions that leave a trail that can be scrutinized by the media. So in contrast to Sarah Palin, Obama has had it easy.

I wonder how he'll do at the first real job he's ever had...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Obama's Hope-ocracy

Interesting video. I have no doubt Republicans are just as guilty as Democrats which is why I'll be voting Libertarian. I like the video because it exposes two myths The first myth is that the absence of regulation causes this crisis. The second is that Obama is somehow different from any other Chicago pol.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Think it is Time to Buy

I have a policy that I've always followed when making financial decisions. Find a trend that seems like a sure bet, and take the opposite position to realize a small advantage.

Bubbles are a fantastic opportunity. Whenever I'm at a social gathering involving a group of people who are casual acquaintances, and they talk about investing, I listen carefully for their consensus on "sure things." Many people will discuss the money they've made, the smart deals that have turned out golden. This was the situation in the late 90's, when it seemed everybody knew of some hot dotcom opportunity, and they spoke confidently about how regular patterns of earnings weren't important anymore. That web traffic was the new measure of wealth. Because of this I never invested in Nasdaq, except to buy a handful of put options on Ebay. I kept my pension money invested in an S&P index fund. Each time the S&P rose another 10%, I took 10% of my money and moved it into government bonds. Hence I maintained a steady, but quite unspectacular, positive rate of return through both sides of the dotcom bubble years.

It's the same with real estate. Two years ago everyone you met at a casual social gathering spoke of rising prices. "They're not making any more real estate." They looked at me like I was nuts when I said that if my personal family situation allowed, I would sell my home and rent for a few years, so I could buy a better home and still make a nice profit.

About three months ago I met someone who said he spent all night the night before trading oil futures. A guy just like me, but he was excited to say that he was making as much money trading at night as he was working during the day. "Time to sell oil" I thought.

When the average guy climbs on a financial bandwagon, the smart money gets out. You know a bubble is happening when the people around you start talking about the smart investments they've made, and they are all bets on the the same market trend. How do you know a bubble is bursting? When there are calls for lawsuits, and prosecution of speculators that fleeced the market. That is what is happening now - and panics are a good opportunity too.

So if I had some cash available (which I don't - I have kids in college) I would either buy an S&P index fund, or buy a nice house in a middle-class neighborhood.

At this point, I'm a lot more worried about the Federal Reserve than I am about the stock market. The market may move lower, but when I see the fed taking on $200 billion of mortgage debt by Fannie and Freddie Mae, and $85 billion for AIG I have to wonder. For many years now it has been clear that the U.S. government is in no position to meet its long term entitlements program obligations. Recently the government has been borrowing $12 billion a month to fund the Iraq war. Now it seems it to be taking on $50 or so billion dollars every single day in a futile effort to stabilize markets. And yet at the same time, investors are flocking to three month Treasury bills in what is called a "flight to safety" I think it is significant that investors only feel safe in making very, very short terms bets on the U.S. government.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Smear is Born

This is pretty funny. Pandagon, Amanda Marcotte's left wing hate blog, claims to have found a ... a ... Smoking Gun! You see Sarah Palin is a rape enabler! Make sure you read the comments to see how they plan on using Sarah's signature on a financial document to cast her as pro-rape. Comments like:

WOW!!!!!!!!!!!

Once this story makes it to the MSM the McCain/Palin candidacy is DEAD. As soon as I clear up a few details I’m going to e-mail this to every big city newspaper editor I can find. I would appreciate it if Amanda (or any commentor) could clarify the some minor points which I couldn’t quite pin down from the links in this post. Part of it may be that I’m just bad at interpreting the documents.
...
I think there’s enough in the HuffPo piece to spark an investigation even without further confirmation so I may go ahead in a couple of days anyway. What newspapers should I e-mail first? Would it be best to start with Andrew Sullivan, who really seems to be on Palin’s case lately?

and:
The way to exploit this is through the fear that mid-stream Americans have about sexual predators attacking them or their loved ones.

Simple. If someone you loved was raped, or you were raped, you would want to have the best evidence possible to secure a conviction and keep the creeps off the street. Here there is no political will - in fact, there is strong political desire - to allow violent pervs to continue to run free.

One commenter had the sense to inject a note of reality:
I’m confused. You guys think that signature on a FINANCIAL STATEMENT means this was her idea or that she was even aware of the change? ROTFLMAO

Of course, this dose of cold water was ignored by all the leftist Karl Rove wannabees, too unwilling to part with their hopes of finding something that will end the appeal of this women. None of them seemed to realize that the issue has been out there for at least a week, and has found zero traction among the only people that matter: normal, everyday voters who are undecided.

Sure, make rape the central issue of this campaign. Bring it up at every campaign stop. Have Obama make an oration on it in each of the battleground states. After all, the persistence of the Patriarchy is one of those hot-button issues that sway voters.

They just can't help themselves.

For another good laugh, check out Dennis the Peasant's Amanda Marcotte Sentence of the Week.

Even Libertarians are Nuts

I'll almost certainly "waste my vote" on the Libertarian candidate this year. But party loyalty only goes so far. This Libertarian-leaning comedian, Doug Stanhope, has created a website where you can contribute money to Bristol Palin to encourage her to get an abortion. The site is easily found if you are so motivated. What a repulsive idea. Lest you think something like this is beyond this pale, or an obvious joke, this lunatic is proud of her contribution.

The world is going nuts. No doubt the pro-choice extremists have no problem with a cash inducement for abortion, as an affirmation of Roe vs. Wade. After all, choice is one of those absolutes that must be unconditionally supported.

The world is going nuts.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

You Will Vote for The One...



Hat Tip: HillBuzz, a blog for disgruntled Hillary supporters. They bear a deep resentment towards Omama, and are gleefully cataloging the excesses of his supporters as they trash Sarah Palin. They very much want his "sexist" politics to be seen as the reason for his loss this year, so they have their day in 2012.

But these extreme Obama supporters aren't sexists - they just have a general hatred for Americans like Palin.

It is also worth taking a look at the differences in the way Charles Gibson treated Obama and Palin in their initial interviews. The full transcript of Sarah's interview reveals that the interview was edited to make her position on Russia seem less nuanced. Of course they took out Gibson's admission that he misquoted her ("I take your point on Lincoln's words."). And while it may be true that Sarah Palin didn't know what the Bush Doctrine was, it seems that Professor Gibson didn't know, either. Given a choice between two people, one that doesn't know something but is aware there is a gap in her knowledge, versus an arrogant poseur with a misguided confidence in his own knowledge, I'll take the first person every time.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Great Piece on Fatherhood

I just came across this and wanted to pass it along. Writing so perfect it takes my breath away. See Dana Blackenhorn on Fatherhood.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Myth of Sarah

From Time:

She embodies the most basic American myth — Jefferson's yeoman farmer, the fantasia of rural righteousness — updated in a crucial way: now Mom works too. Palin's story stands with one foot squarely in the nostalgia for small-town America and the other in the new middle-class reality. She brings home the bacon, raises the kids — with a significant assist from Mr. Mom — hunts moose and looks great in the process. I can't imagine a more powerful, or current, American Dream.


I can. It is the myth of the activist, living in the fire with the common people who are oppressed by racism and capitalism. The heroic activist that stares down bigotry, and, even in the face of threats to his life, rails against injustice like a Prophet. One who stands before the multitude and uses the rhythm and cadences of the old spirituals to inspire new efforts towards justice with the power of extraordinary words.

We see The One in our yearning for the sixties.

She Didn't Cry

Well, she didn't cry. Consider her position: she finds herself suddenly at the center of a media firestorm, and many think her choice for this position was a huge mistake. There are claims she is completely unqualified as a candidate. There are claims she is a terrible mother, and there are all sorts of weird stories floating around the internet about her pregnancy, and about her daughter.

So you need to walk out into a convention hall, stand in the lights, in the full knowledge that there are millions of people watching, many of whom hope you embarrass yourself

She didn’t just do well. She did more than that. I've been following convention speeches since 1968, and there is no question that this was the best speech I've ever heard. I've heard Kennedy in 1980, Reagan in 1980, Cuomo in 1984, Jackson in 1988. I watched The One stride out of his temple, and add yet another speech to his series of Greatest Speeches Ever Made.

But guess what? Sarah, in her very first national appearance, facing pressure greater than Kennedy, Jackson, Cuomo, and Obama, beat them all. It isn’t just me. Look this poll. Democrats liked the speech better than Republicans liked Obama. Twice as many independents felt better about Sarah Palin after her speech than they did after Obama's.

She was poised and composed, and she showed no sign of even the slightest anxiety about what she was up against. She seemed completely unconcerned about the attacks made on her. In fact, she seemed to thrive on the challenge, and seemed as comfortable with an audience as Ronald Reagan.

So the election is, right now anyway, about Sarah Palin. As I predicted, Democrats can’t help but attack her, because of who she is. She is anti-abortion, conservative, religious, white, and happily married. She achieved success in athletics with no help from Title IX lawyers. She became the Governor of a state all on her own, putting the lie to assertions that there is some glass ceiling in politics for woman. She'll be attacked because of who she is. And because extreme leftists are motivated by hatred, not policy issues, the attacks on her will continue to be venomous and personal.

So right now the election is about Palin, and compared to her The One looks like yesterday's news. Sarah Palin has an opportunity that few politicians ever have - the chance to set the agenda for a national political movement. Some have compared her to Reagan or Thatcher, but claims like that are premature. She has an opportunity, but it takes a politician of unusual skills to move a nation. It takes more than speeches. It takes a combination of a personal story, the ability to communicate effectively and an agenda, and it isn’t clear what her agenda is, or if she even has one.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I Don't Think She'll Cry

From the Weekly Standard:


A nervous young McCain staffer took it upon himself to explain to Palin the facts of life in a national campaign, the intense scrutiny she'd be under from the media, the viciousness of the assault that she'd be facing, etc.:

Palin: "Thanks for the warning. By the way, do you know what they say the difference is between a hockey mom and a Pit Bull?"

McCain aide: "No, Governor."

Palin: "A hockey mom wears lipstick."


I think the Obama supporters think they are still dealing with Hillary, who got all teary-eyed when people were mean to her. Nobody, but nobody, made Margaret Thatcher cry.

Some on the Left Understand Palin

Nopt everybody on the left is clueless on why McCain picked Palin. The Huffington Post understands the real Palin demographic:

McCain/Palin polls at 47%, Obama/Biden at 45% post-Palin. So it's tied, according to Zogby. Enter the Wal-Mart voter. Zogby states "Among those who said they shop regularly at Wal-Mart - a demographic group that Zogby has found to be both "value" and "values" voters - Obama is getting walloped by McCain. Winning 62% support from weekly Wal-Mart shoppers, McCain wins these voters at a rate similar to what President Bush won in 2004. Obama wins 24% support from these voters."

130 million people shop each week at Wal-Mart, but many are repeat shoppers. 57% of the country shops there at least once a month. These are unique, i.e., not counted twice visitors. Over 70% of union households shop at Wal-Mart. Palin's husband is a United Steelworkers union member.

In this election, "Wal-Mart voters" seem to be the new soccer Moms. Everyday Americans shop at Wal-Mart. They understand it. They understand Sarah Palin; hunter, angler, Mom of 5. Instead of planning to punish Wal-Mart with check card legislation, maybe Obama should visit a few of their stores to meet their voters.


Maybe Obama will be smart enough to do this. But if he does visit, he'd be wise to avoid offering them restraining orders they can serve on their husbands, sex-ed and "family diversity" coloring books for their kids, or Planned Parenthood leaflets. He'll have to come up with something else to appeal to the bitter, gun-clinging Neanderthals he finds waiting on the checkout lines.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Not Palin's Baby?

Sarah Palin is the perfect candidate to illustrate the fault lines within the left, and the pretenses of Democrats to care about families. See Daily Kos, claiming that Sarah Palin is not the mother of Trig Palin.

Sure, the Democrats care so much about women and families! Talk about the politics of personal destruction - sifting for dirt, to destroy not just the candidate, but her family.

Also worth reading: The Anchoress, responding to one of the "pro-women, pro-family" Democrats.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Real Palin Demographic

I won't vote for John McCain, because I want to dismantle the American overseas empire, while he wants to preserve it at all costs. I'm a libertarian, and I believe that Republicans have lost any Reagan-era credibility they had when they speak of small, limited government. I won’t vote for The One because I refuse to subscribe to any cult of personality that is based on a myth.

Nevertheless, I find the choice of Sarah Palin fascinating because of the problem she poses for the extreme left. They cast themselves as the champion of women and families, but this woman is a living illustration of how little the Democrats have to offer people like her.

First, she is married to a man, and she doesn't seem at all unhappy with her situation. This is problematic for disgruntled HRC Democrats. Joe "would you like some sugar with your restraining order, Ma'am?" Biden Democrats believe that women should be able to leave their marriages for any reason or for no reason, and that taxpayers and child support enforcement policies must be designed to make this choice a neutral one, with no economic consequences at all for mom and her children. The fact that she remains married to a man - after 20 years! - and has born 5 children with him is deeply troubling to Democrats.

The fact that she's been able to embark on a successful political career, and still have 5 children, is a thumb in the eye as far as Democrats are concerned. Democrats maintain that the freedom to have both children and a career requires government assistance, since men, by their very nature, have to be compelled by government to support women and their children. When a women chooses a lifelong partnership with a man, all she is doing is making a sneaky end-run around the government, selfishly consuming his wages and his labor directly from the source.

Second, she is a business owner, with her husband. While far from rich, they appear to be doing quite nicely. I'm guessing they have health insurance, so they don’t need the government to provide it. Unless she leaves her husband, the Democrats have nothing to offer her except for environmental regulations and higher taxes.

He husband is an oil worker! They draw income from the oil business! This is a big red flag, because to Democrats, anyone associated with petroleum, from the men on offshore oil rigs, to men driving oil trucks, to oil traders, to oil company managers, to oil company stockholders, are leeches on society, and defilers of nature.

She is a member of the NRA. Democrats don’t believe anyone, except for lesbians, should be allowed near guns.

She is an anti-abortion Christian. This is anathema to Democrats. Democrats believe that abortion should be a free choice, with no economic or personal consequences, right up to the moment of birth, at the very least. Abortion should be free of charge, funded completely by the public, and available without the slightest inconvenience to any female, of any age, of any citizenship status. Taxpayer-funded abortion clinics should be as ubiquitous as Starbucks, and rural women and children should be provided with a taxpayer-funded stretch limo and a driver to take them to the nearest clinic. It should be illegal for anyone - especially parents - to discourage abortion, or even hint that the decision has a moral dimension.

McCain didn’t choose her because he is trying to get disgruntled Hillary supporters. He is after a completely different and much larger demographic. He is trying to appeal to women that are married to men they don’t hate. Women who are relatively happy with their lives, relatively conservative on social issues, who aren't lawyers and either didn’t go to college, or went to college and avoided Womens Studies courses. Women who are ambivalent about abortion. Women who have managed their lives successfully enough to pay taxes every year. That is a very different demographic than disgruntled Hillary supporters.

I'm part of the demographic he's after, even though I'm a man. I've got a lot more in common with her than I do with the predatory law firm of Obama & Biden.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Biden Wants To Fund Your Wife's Lawyer

It comes out of no where. You're sitting with your family having dinner, and the police show up at your door. It seems your wife has - for any reason or for no reason whatsoever - decided to make a complaint against you. She tells the police you threatened her, and she feels afraid.

From that point on, you're at the mercy of the police and court system, and any constitutional presumption of innocence doesn't apply to you. Since your wife says she feels afraid, the police have no choice but to take you out of the house in handcuffs. Since you've now been arrested for "domestic violence" your wife can easily get a restraining order against you, preventing you from ever seeing your kids again.

You can thank Joe Biden - one of the sponsors of the Violence Against Women Act - for the situation you are in. The VAWA ensures that she has the full weight of the legal system on her side. You can be dragged out of your house and separated from your children based on nothing other than her say so.

But even that isn't enough for Joe. Now he wants to be sure that your wife has the benefit of free legal council so she can sue for total custody and child support payments.

This is why any man that thinks the Democrats have their interests in mind is nuts. The only families the Democrats care about are families headed by single moms and gays.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Delightful Glee of Blasphemy

Via Dean's World, I came across this troubling story of Host desecration.

First, a University of Central Florida student takes an action that appears sacrilegious to other worshipers at Mass. There are claims that no sacrilege was intended, and that physical force was used against the young man in an attempt to pry the Host from his hands.

Cook claims he planned to consume it, but first wanted to show it to a fellow student senator he brought to Mass who was curious about the Catholic faith.
"When I received the Eucharist, my intention was to bring it back to my seat to show him," Cook said. "I took about three steps from the woman distributing the Eucharist and someone grabbed the inside of my elbow and blocked the path in front of me. At that point I put it in my mouth so they'd leave me alone and I went back to my seat and I removed it from my mouth."
A church leader was watching, confronted Cook and tried to recover the sacred bread. Cook said she crossed the line and that's why he brought it home with him.
"She came up behind me, grabbed my wrist with her right hand, with her left hand grabbed my fingers and was trying to pry them open to get the Eucharist out of my hand," Cook said, adding she wouldn't immediately take her hands off him despite several requests.
Diocese of Orlando spokeswoman Carol Brinati said she was not aware of anyone touching Cook. She released a statement Thursday: "... a Catholic Campus Ministry student representative filed a complaint with the Student Union regarding the behavior of the two young men. A Student Government Representative called Catholic Campus Ministry to apologize for this disruption."
Cook filed an official abuse complaint with UCF's student conduct court regarding the alleged physical force.

Next the student receives some email death threats, and returns the Host, with a vow that he'll sue for damages because he was assaulted.


Next Bill Donohue of the Catholic League gets involved, with threats of his own against the University.

For a student to disrupt Mass by taking the Body of Christ hostage—regardless of the alleged nature of his grievance—is beyond hate speech. That is why the UCF administration needs to act swiftly and decisively in seeing that justice is done. All options should be on the table, including expulsion.

Finally, the "progressive" web mob takes over, gleefully egging each other on to even more outrageous blasphemies. I won’t quote this bile.

My Christianity is not about demanding respect for some "us" I identify with, or me. I can certainly understand the very human urge to do this - I went through a phase where I had the attitude: "Boy if only we behaved like those Muslims, they'd never dare disrespect us." But I was as wrong as I could be. It is absolutely true that all the various "hate speech" code proponents could care less when hatred is directed at Christians, but Christ never said that the world owed us fair treatment. Look at what he promised Peter:

I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"

As a Catholic, I believe that the Host is indeed the bodily substance of Jesus Christ. But I also know that Christ has no need for us to protect His person or His honor from others.

In my view, as Christians, we ought to abstain from any temptation to use state power to support or protect the Church, even in the face some of the hatred that is directed at it today. As Christians, we ought to be careful that we are living, as best we can, the truth of the Gospels, and we should not expect this to buy us any favor, respect, credit, or justice from others. I've always been inspired by the simple faith of the Amish, and their willingness to readily forgive even the most heinous crimes against them. To me, that is as good an example of Christianity in practice as there is today.

Sure, I'm troubled that there are lots of people that take a juvenile pleasure in blasphemy. Hatred is nothing new in the world, and it seems every group has received more than its due. But I'm also troubled by Bill Donohue's reaction and the fear that people might view him as a representative of what Catholics are like. As I said before, I don’t like the way he goes about defending Catholicism. When I look at this Catholic blogger, stating the terms of an apology that would be acceptable, I'm troubled too. I can understand the feeling of wanting an apology for what seems like a clear hateful insult, but I have trouble reconciling the setting of terms for an apology with the Gospels as I understand them.

I feel that as Christians we are charged with defending others, not ourselves.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Victim Privilege List

There has been a flurry of discussion about privilege lists lately, triggered by a thread at Feminist Critics, and the response by Ampersand, the author of one of the most popular lists: the Male Privilege Checklist.

I was interested in the topic a while ago, even going so far as indulging in some fun by writing my own Female Privilege List. But I also reached the conclusion that the use of these lists had become silly. I can see some real value in them - it is useful to read something like the White Privilege List (the one that led to all these), or the Average Sized Person Privilege List. They are a useful tool to help you reflect on things that you might take for granted, and advantages other people may not have.

But their use has gone well beyond that. If you read any feminist discussions, all they talk about is privilege. Here is one example. Arguments center not on facts, reasoning or evidence, but rather on the relative privilege of the people staking opposing claims; any good feminist will discount a male's position purely because it comes from a "privileged" position. Women of Color feminists will discount the views of white feminists for the same reason. Even Muslim feminists are learning how seductive privilege rhetoric is - now there is a Muslim Male Privilege List!

I believe that assertions of privilege are just a rhetorical technique used to discount opposing positions. They serve as an amulet to protect ideologies from dissonant views. When I read the Feminist Critics discussion, I was gratified to find that I am not alone in this.

So to have some more fun, and to further illustrate the ridiculous hold these lists have on web discourse, I've written a Victim Privilege List. It is a short one - after all, victims wouldn't be victims if they have lots of privileges! But I think some of these demonstrate why people fight for the victim flag, and how the winner of that flag gains a "privileged" position in discussions and debate. I'm hoping the last one properly conveys the weird paradox of all this nonsense.

And by the way - number 3 is an analog of one of the silly "Male Privileges" - number 11.

The Victim Privilege List

Privileges I have as a member of a historically oppressed group that others (people who haven't suffered from oppression) lack:

1. People I respect have taught me that I come from a long line of ancestors who were forced to survive in the face of hatred and adversity. Others go through life completely clueless about how lucky they are.

2. If I'm lucky enough to live in a post-modern Western country, I can commit heinous acts against others, and remain certain that at least some others will defend me.

3. If I live in a post-modern Western society, I can enjoy the fact that I'll always find other people who will reliably shower me with extraordinary praise for my accomplishments - even if the things I've done are routine for others.

4. If I live in a post-modern Western society, I can be sure that some other people will covet any praise I bestow as a certification that they are good people.

5. I can argue that others believe as they do because deep institutional and historical forces have bred bias and bigotry into the depth of their souls.

6. I can be sure that when others criticize me, it can’t be because I've done anything wrong. I've learned not to waste time listening to such bigots.

7. I can be sure that when I get angry, it isn’t for selfish reasons, but rather because the experience of my people has fostered in me a keen sensitivity to injustice. When others get angry, it is yet another sign of their hatred.

8. I can be sure that when others tell me I'm wrong about something, it means they lack insight, perspective and empathy.

9. I can be certain that any negative views of my people aren’t due to anything we've done. After all, my people have a long history of this sort of bigotry from others.

10. I can be certain that any negative views of me personally just reflect hateful stereotypes promoted by others.

11. I can be dead certain that my negative views of others are based on reality, truth and hard experience, because my people have schooled me on the sneaky depravity of those other people.

12. I can be certain that my own personal advancement represents the culmination of a grand historical march towards human equality. Others just seek advancement for their own aggrandizement.

13. I enjoy the satisfaction of knowing my efforts are focused on supporting those those who are truly needy. I refuse to be distracted by other people's whining.

14. I can be grateful that the one redeeming benefit of all my suffering, and the suffering of my people, is that it has earned me the privilege of seeing how privilege corrupts others.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Studying Women's Studies

I have two children in college, and I work hard to pay the bills. I'm indeed fortunate to be able to do this - I'm sure there are plenty of people in the world who would love to be in my situation, and to have the financial ability to give their children the advantages of a college education. Part of me dreads the monthly bill. Part of me realizes how lucky I am.

Since I have to fund most of this, I'm quite happy that I've never been asked to pay for what I consider "garbage." Thankfully my children have gravitated to areas of study that demand hard measurable learning. The colleges have a core curriculum that is pretty demanding, and the majors they've chosen are areas of study I respect.

Every year with the tuition bill, I take a close look at the courses they've registered for. I know when I was in college (back in the days when the City University of New York was tuition-free) there were a few courses I took because they were known as "easy A's" and there were some I took for scheduling reasons - I wanted at least one day a week off. I wasn't much of a scholar then.

I don’t know what I would do if I got a big bill, and among the courses listed was something like "Feminist and Gender Studies." There is just something about me, a representative of the Patriarchy, forking over dollars so my children can study the nuances of how I've oppressed them and warped their minds during their formative years. There is something about paying for a course in a department so political, so ideological, and so uncertain about the material it teaches that the department has student surveys to decide . . . on the name for the department! Or whose professors, so learned and wise in the ways of gender, have long mailing list discussions about how to teach students of a particular gender. I mean it isn't like biologists studying the million-or-so species, chemists studying the periodic table, or linguists studying the Indo-European language family. For God's sake, there are exactly two genders, and you, the experts, need help in dealing with one of them? Do I want my children taking courses that will teach them how to make arguments like this, found in a comment on Hugo Schwyzer's blog:
Most likely the reason that these women feel this way is becaue we live in a society that allows men to objectify women. Men do this so that they can stay in power. Being with a beautiful women is considred to be a sign of stautus in our society; and because the woment is a status symbol she is treated more like an object than a subject. Also by obejectifying women men don’t have to recognizen them as sujects and take them serioulsly. While it seems like this would be a horrible situation for women and the smart ones would choose not to participate this is not the case; many women feel that by appering beautiful they gain power over men because them man will then want to be in possesion of her. Perhaps teachers who objectify their students are more interested in power than having a relationship with their students. Also I can’t help but notice that many of the comments here are highly hetero-compolsary.

So I don't know what I'd do if I saw a course "Feminist and Gender Studies" on a bill. Perhaps if they took it as an "Easy A" or a schedule filler I'd let it go. I can understand taking some nonsense in college - as long is you know it is nonsense. But if I started to feel that they took this stuff seriously I might well say: "Go for it - but study it on your own dime."

There are always exceptions, however. I came across this Women's Studies professor, answering her Rate My Professor comment that her requirements are "inflexible."



I love the dismissive title she put right on the top of her profile: "Save it for your parents." It sort of appeals to my "Mussolini on the balcony" view that a teacher should have enough confidence in herself, and enough respect for her material that she takes an uncompromising view: I'm the damned expert, learn this stuff the way I teach it, or take a hike!

While I'd question paying for a Womens Studies course, I'd feel like I was getting some value for my money if she was the teacher.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Another View of Obama's Fathers Day Speech

As a counterpoint to my praise of Obama's Father's Day speech, see J. Soltys's view that Obama's Father's Day Speech was irresponsible. Very interesting comparison of how differently Obama approached Mother's Day and Father's Day.

A Shameless "Pregnancy Pact"

I hope this is some sort of hoax, but nothing really surprises me anymore. So a group of High School girls make a "pregnancy pact" and many of them successfully achieve their goal.

Just unbelievable. So a decade or so from now some child is going to learn that their existence is due not to the love of two people, but to a some childish dare. And, by the way - I don't know who your dad is - he was just some homeless guy. Those may be the lucky ones - to me it seems quite possible some of the girls will have abortions.

And by the way - momma did all this so she can can be the recipient, not the provider, of "unconditional love!"

But Amanda Ireland, who graduated from Gloucester High on June 8, thinks she knows why these girls wanted to get pregnant. Ireland, 18, gave birth her freshman year and says some of her now pregnant schoolmates regularly approached her in the hall, remarking how lucky she was to have a baby. "They're so excited to finally have someone to love them unconditionally,"


I can tell how this is going to go down. Lots of blame will focus on the homeless guy. He'll be charged with statutory rape, and I guess, being homeless, he'll have a hard time paying mandated child support. The other "fathers" will be treated similarly. So we'll have more "deadbeat dads."

The Time article skillfully probes into to the root causes of this. Jobs are moving overseas - so it is clearly George Bush's fault. Not to mention the primitive, third-world conditions:

Currently Gloucester teens must travel about 20 miles (30 km) to reach the nearest women's health clinic; younger girls have to get a ride or take the train and walk.

And I read this at almost the same time I read this Hugo Schwyzer post saying how terrible it would be to shame women that get pregnant without being married.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Obama On Father's Day

A great speech:



Especially this:

“Too many fathers are MIA. Too many fathers are AWOL,” he told a huge African-American congregation in Chicago. “There’s a hole in your heart if you don’t have a male figure in the home that can guide you and lead you and set a good example for you.” “What makes you a man is not the ability to have a child — any fool can have a child,” he said, to applause. “That doesn’t make you a father. It’s the courage to raise a child that makes you a father.”

I won't vote for the guy, but I'm rethinking what I wrote here.

Of course, Anne Althouse thinks that some lesbians might be offended because Obama said a child might feel "hole in your heart when you don’t have a male figure in the home who can guide you and lead you." Too bad.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Happy Father's . . . er "Male Role Model" Day!

In honor of Father's Day, I though I'd reprint this post from last year, on why a "male role model" is no substitute for a father:

--

I'm getting pretty tired of seeing things that treat being a father as just a "male role model."

A father is not a male role model. A father is an adult male that a child knows:
a) will take a bullet for them.
b) will work hard for many, many years, doing things he may or may not like, in order to provide a loving, secure home for his wife and children.
c) loves the child enough to consider the well-being of that child the foundation of his worth as a person.

You can be a male role model if you teach a kid how to ride a bike, throw a curve ball, learn a trade or act on a date - all good and wonderful things. Fatherhood is an irrevocable, lifetime commitment to sacrifice - with grace and pride - for the benefit of a child. A child derives great benefit knowing that someone made those sacrifices for them.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Go for it, John!

I'm glad you argued against this ridiculous Supreme Court decision on the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. But you need to go further than that. You need to make this election a referendum on the Supreme Court by issuing a statement along the following lines:

"Like many Americans, I've long held the view that the courts in this country have become an unelected legislature, accountable to no one save the editorial boards of the Washington Post and the New York Times. This latest decision - that non-US citizens held by our military on foreign soil - have rights in U.S. courts, and cannot be held against the will of some unelected federal judge, is offensive to the plain sense of the people.

Consequently, when I am President, when an enemy combatant is captured and held on foreign soil, I will ignore any U.S. court rulings on their disposition, and will handle them in accord with policies enacted by the Congress, and Congress alone. Were we to capture Osama Bin Laden, it would be irresponsible of me to risk his release by a Federal court system which has, unfortunately, demonstrated that it cares more about the rights of foreign combatants than the safety of U. S. citizens."

This issue, and this issue alone, is all McCain needs to win. Obama would have to engage, because the left would see any challenge to Supreme Court preeminence as a threat too vital to ignore. We'd get to see Obama try and use his fancy Harvard Law education to convince NYC firemen how important it is that Osama Bin Laden and his lawyers get a crack at the Federal courts. Good luck with that, Barak!

McCain could use this issue to beat Obama like a rented mule.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I Won't Vote for a Myth

While I've had mixed feelings about Obama, my feelings on Hillary are quite clear. Richard Nixon skillfully showed that lack of moral scruple is usually not a significant obstacle to political success. But when you combine Hillary's lack of scruple with her lack of any tangible accomplishment in her "35 years of service" you realize she is just a front for her husband's otherwise unconstitutional third term. She ran an incompetent campaign, clearly demonstrating that Hillary and Bill's political expertise has been vastly overrated. Her recent attempts at finding some purchase on Obama, like the suddenly discovered outrage over the near 50 year old suppression of Tibet, reminds me of a fish struggling in a net.

I initially considered voting for Obama because I found his anti-war stance attractive. As I wrote here, I think we need to withdraw completely from not just Iraq, but the entire Middle East. Obama is not radical enough, and he's not honest. He's committed to a "measured withdrawal" while I want a sudden one. He isn’t honest enough to admit the plain consequence of a withdrawal: a regional war. My view is that we'll eventually get this sort of chaos no matter what we do, because we've fought ourselves onto ground we can’t hold in the long run. I want to get out so that when there is chaos, we're not in the crossfire. Let the Chinese bleed to preserve "stability" in the Middle East.

But regardless, he lost my vote with his race speech. While I'm not convinced that Jeremiah Wright is a racist, his lies about America make it clear he is no patriot. I've watched his entire sermon leading up to his "God Damned America!" quote, and the longer context does nothing to mitigate the fact that he was exulting in 9/11. I actually subscribe to the analysis that says that that U.S. foreign policy contributed to the event, but that is far different from exulting in it as part of God's anger. Far different. So Wright is no patriot.

Neither is Obama. He's the sort of man that believes that simple love of country is too unsophisticated for his Harvard Law School sensibilities. But as the pictures and commentary on this post make clear, when lack of simple patriotism becomes a political liability - then the flags come out. He wasn't talking about race until his attitudes and associates get called into question. Then somehow it becomes something that requires a national dialogue.

To me it isn’t just the "controversial statements." Jeremiah Wright is a follower of James Cone's brand of Liberation Theology. As a Catholic, I find this deeply troubling. There is a reason that John Paul II publicly rebuked a Nicaraguan bishop on this matter. This is a theology that is rooted in Marxism, and it casts Christ as a political revolutionary for the oppressed, not a spiritual redeemer of all. So that is my problem with Obama - he is really a socialist at heart, and I can find nothing in any speech that disabuses me of that notion.

Geraldine Ferraro was right. Obama would not be where he is if he wasn't black. Obama has the Magical Negro schtick going. He's no more articulate than John Edwards, no more accomplished, no more committed to the Democratic Party's idea of "social justice." Obama is black, so for cultural reasons there are plenty of white people that credit him - based on words alone - with a certain wisdom and nobility because it fits into an Hollywood stereotype. Obama is all myth.

It's nice to know that as a white male I'm somehow a swing voter this year. But there is a reason the Democrats haven't won the white vote since 1964, and they probably won’t win it this year either. There is a certain limit to one's willingness to be the gravy train for someone else's idea of "justice."

So I won’t vote for Obama. Neither will I vote for John McCain. The last time I voted for a mainstream politician was my (proud) vote for Ronald Reagan. Until his like comes again, I'll continue to vote libertarian.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Challenge of Paraniod Outreach

I love reading nasty, contentious feminist threads and blog wars. This one is funny! It's by Black Amazon about her experiences at Woman and Media 2008. Since I read her blog a lot I wasn't at all surprised that her experience was one of being watched, silenced, and stared at. I'm sure she she brought the same open-minded, welcoming attitude to this event that she does to all her other experiences of martyrdom. She says "Fuck Seal Press." Apparently there is some vendetta there - one of the many that she clings like battle ribbons.

So someone from Seal Press posts a comment in response:
Seal Press here. We WANT more WOC. Not a whole lotta proposals come our way, interestingly. Seems to me it would be more effective to inform us about what you'd like to see rather than hating.
I guess she was reacting to "Fuck Seal Press" and I'm also guessing she was hoping for proposals from Women of Color. I'd be surprised if she wanted anything from BA herself, since the upper end of the BA market tops out at the 11 or so fanatical acolytes that find her disjointed rants about being silenced deeply gratifying. Publishers look at things like readability and spelling, and it would take a team of editors weeks to straighten out even a short BA piece. So I'm sure she wasn't fishing for submissions from BA

Seal Press was probably concerned because BA has some strange hold on feminists. They give her a deference that is astonishing among a group of people who consider themselves uncommonly wise about social nuances. More than one has felt themselves compelled to apologize because they didn't treat one of her silly rants like an encyclical. Feminists desperately crave approval from WOC because their relative lack of "privilege" mans they have near divine status within the moral pecking order of leftist analysis. Paranoia that would be easily spotted in other people is hidden because the targets of suspicion and hatred conform to the feminist world view.

The reaction to the entreaty is a typical example of feminist junior-high lunchroom table politics. "Misappropriating language" - i.e. "she's copying me!" Bear in mind that this person is approaching with an offer: send us something! BA and her praetorian guard rake through the offer to find a juicy, satisfying nugget of insult they can sink their teeth into. Finally the Seal Press person has had enough:

I appreciate the dialogue, ladies. First off, the blog feels very informal, and my language is in response to the language here:

1. You hate us.
2. We have nothing on WOC.

I get that you all engage best through negative discourse, but I find that too bad. It's not servitude when we pay our authors advances.

These people just came from a media networking conference! What a hoot!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

My Misogynist Cabal

There is a certain irony in Hugo Schwyzer attending Woman and Media 2008, a networking conference, writing about some discomfort he experienced as one of the few older male feminists, and at the same time writing a post about how hard it is for women to deal with men's social networks. In a post entitled: Refusing membership in the Boys’ Club: an answer to Derek about what feminist men can do, Hugo advises a young feminist men to refuse to join the "Old Boys Club" Like most leftists, Hugo believes that this will be a heroic, noble sacrifice, since success in business (unless it is success by women, gays or non-white men) is more about privilege than talent or hard work.
Particularly for young white men working for older white men, the pressure to join the the Network can be both immense and subtle.

Ahh the secret "Network" of Illuminati! Of course all male networking is akin to Politburo meetings where nation-states and country dachas are doled out. Any success you achieve is merely the result of a blessing by an "Old Boys Club" consisting of misogynistic, drink-swilling white guys:

Invitations to the Old Boys Club don’t come on monogrammed Crane’s stationery. They frequently come in the form of the casual, “Hey, we’re going out for drinks later”. Sometimes, the Club is obvious in its sexism, inviting “Derek” but not his fellow intern “Delilah”. More commonly, Derek and Delilah both get invited. Delilah, however, soon senses that the invitation to “hang with the guys” was made more out of obligation than desire. She may notice that some of the men seem uncomfortable with her, or that the conversation over drinks seems designed to exclude her. The older Boys in the office don’t have to take their junior colleagues to Hooters or a strip club to make the sexism obvious; indeed, that kind of crassness is becoming (one hears) somewhat rarer. But from what I hear even now, it’s still common for a young woman, out in social situations with male bosses and co-workers, to feel the tangible presence of a wall separating her from a group of men who might well wish that she would go home early, so the “free talk” (sexist and profane) can begin.

Sure - there is absolutely no way that men - especially white men - can engage in social activities without dissing women. So much so that they'd rather not have women with them at all, just so they can talk trash and head off to the strip club.

There really isn’t any point in arguing - as a Women Studies professor he's paid to promote stereotypes about men, and when you question stereotypes of male behavior on his blog you're treated like a stereotypical gun-toting male rights activist.

The comment thread on this piece is fascinating. Someone said that harassment laws had a chilling effect on male-female contact in the office and after work hours - that’s when I piped in and spoke of a policy I've always had one of "cool professionalism" in the office. I avoid any private contact with females, because of the small, but real chance of a false allegation. You can read the comments.

But then some twit shows up with this:

I don’t think false allegations are as massive a problem as some people claim. How can they be? As a man, you’ll no doubt ahve witnessed sexual harassment before (hopefully not perpetrating it), or at least inappropriate talk about women colleagues. This is very common, I’m sure you’ll agree.

No doubt? Her smug certainty gave me the impression that she was a Women Studies student.

I can’t say I agree, based on my experience. I’ve been a professional for more than two decades, and have never witnessed anything that I would consider an act of sexual harassment. Not one. Not even close. And when socializing with male coworkers I have never heard a female co-worker spoken of in sexual terms. Not even once.
Lots of women are biased against men, and particularly, as I wrote about here, men in groups. Some people just assume that any male bonding has - as its essential glue - misogyny.
I’m not denying that misogyny exists, or saying that women don’t face unfair obstacles in the workplace, and I’m certainly not asserting that sexual harassment is not a serious problem. I just get troubled when people assume that my male bonding necessarily is based on misogyny.
And she comes back with:

OK, maybe you haven’t seen any sexual harrassment. Maybe you have, and haven’t even recognised it. Maybe your experience isn’t representative of the rest of the world, or even your country. that doesn’t mean that there isn’t sexual harassment.

So men who don’t believe there is inequality by essence can’t not be misogynistic, because not being misogynistic requires the effort to realise that society is, and therefore you are, unless you try to change.

You can read the rest of her incoherent nonsense, but it was clear she felt I had to be lying, or so blinded by unrecognized misogyny that I was an ignorant participant in harassent. Since I was a man, it simply wasn't possible not to have initiated or participated in the harassment of women. She's (clumsily) adopted the feminist rhetorical techniques that I summarized in my response:

I started to write a point-by-point rebuttal, but I realize there is little point, because in your eyes I have no credibility, even when discussing myself and my experiences. It seems you are saying that I must hate women, because I claim not to, and that my failure to admit I saw, or participated in, harassment means that my unrecognized misogyny makes me clueless in such matters. I’m either lying about myself or my experiences or my experience must be so unusual that it proves some more general rule.

She came back with an equally incoherent response, but I've learned it is pointless to engage with people like this. I'd rather let the exchange stand as it is, and let reasonable people judge.

Any socializing I do with co-workers has been at lunch, in hotel bars and airport terminals - not Hooters and strip clubs. Hugo and his students would probably be astonished to learn that the conversation is most often not about sports or telling dirty jokes - it is about the one thing we all have in common: work. We talk mostly about projects we are working on, and the office politics around them. The most frequent subject of conversation that doesn’t involve work is our families. If we talk about women, it is usually about our wives and daughters. Female co-workers can, and do fit right in. It isn’t exclusionary in any sense I can detect.

But for some reason academic feminists want to imagine I'm part of some dark misogynist cabal. Ironically, I work in a largely male profession but there has been an explosion in our female labor force recently - overseas. Women over there don’t waste their time learning Women Studies - they are smart enough to know that an engineering degree gives them a better chance at work than learning how to deal with my misogyny. Odd notion that.

I know lots of Americans are concerned about high tech job losses to overseas competitors. The conventional thinking is that we have to become more productive, or create tax incentives to keep jobs here. I think the best thing we can do to level the playing field is to fund massive endowments for Women's Studies programs in Indian, Chinese and Eastern European engineering colleges.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

So How Does Housing Discrimination Law Work Exactly?

I'm not a lawyer, but I've always been curious how discrimination law works in practice. It seems discrimination is OK in some circumstances but not others. It seems to be OK to offer senior discounts, but not discounts to Finns. Apparently some organizations - like strip clubs, and Hooters - can refuse to hire unattractive people. But others - like Walmart - can't do this.

With housing, it seems fine to build private housing that is marketed to "seniors" but not private housing that is marketed to white people - that would be a red flag, and would certainly trigger lawsuits. So I was amused when I came across this post by A Typical Joe (a great blog where you can always find very thought-provoking material).

It turns out that there is a new, "gay-friendly" housing community in Arizona. The Out Properties Vision Statement starts with "Imagine a place where your neighbors are just like you." Hmmm - can I imagine a community of people just like me - straight white Christian people?

The statement gets a bit more inclusive than that. But not too inclusive. It continues:

It’s an active and vibrant community that invites gays and lesbians and their friends and family to live life to the fullest. We, at Out Properties, know that while activity is very important, home is the touchstone central to life. A real home represents the feeling of safety, acceptance and comfort. This feeling is especially cherished among gays and lesbians because we have worked so hard to earn it.

I'm wondering if there is some vetting process that happens with purchasers, and if it would survive a housing discrimination lawsuit. When you go there and express interest in a home - how do they know you are gay? Do they ask you questions, or do they just assume you are gay because you are interested in living there? And allowing for the "and their friends" part - how do they know you are a gay-friendly straight person?

The development FAQ says:
Who will be living at Marigold Creek?
Anyone who wants to live in an upscale, diverse community of gays, lesbians and their friends and family. Marigold Creek is a welcoming and "straight-friendly" community.
What would happen if a Muslim family, with the wife and daughters in Hajibs, wanted to look at some homes? How can some gay purchaser rest assured that some homophobic bigot doesn't buy the place next door a year after they move in? And if a bigot does move in next door - can you sue the developer for not meeting a promise made to you?

Presumably some of this assumes self-selection on the part of "friends." People generally don't pay cash money for a home to be among people they are prejudiced against. But I'd be surprised to find a similar retirement community for "white people and their friends." There are lots of very segregated communities in the US, but I know of none that are explicitly marketed and promoted as such, other than senior-targeted ones - and this one.

I don’t have any problem with this at all. I think it's great that people can choose to live where they want, and have the type of neighbors they want. I just don’t understand how this is legally possible given housing discrimination laws. Can any lawyer explain this to me?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Wright Stuff - Some Context

Here is some more Rev. Wright. 12 minutes of context leading up to his riff on Hillary. The more I see the guy, the more ambiguous I feel. I see less venomous hatred, more righteous anger. A bit too much Barak as Messiah for me, but I'm in complete agreement with him on Hillary.

I like the line: "Jesus loved the hell out of his enemies!"



The larger context makes one thing clear. While the "Greatest Hits" snippets show him as an accomplished showman and crowd pleaser, when he's talking about Biblical exegesis and the meaning of ancient Greek words, he's just like my priest: boring. So what was Obama doing in the seats for 20 years? He may have been snoozing, just like lots of other good, wholesome Americans.

Religion as an Entirely Private Matter

Funny:




Hat Tip: Fire Dog Lake

Monday, March 17, 2008

Obama Needs the Other O

Rev. Wright is certainly no Rev. Fulton J. Sheen. While hatred of America isn't a problem for some leftists, many Americans will be suspicions of a candidate whose "spiritual adviser" exulted in 9/11. It is not surprising that Obama's national poll numbers fell 7 points overnight.

The good Reverend is a problem for Oprah too. Both ends of the Axis of O promote themselves as unifying figures who have transcended race, yet both have sat in Trinity Church and listened to Rev. Wright.

Oprah will not allow her mainstream brand to suffer. I expect Rev. Wright to appear on Oprah's show soon to elicit sympathy and understanding, and to show what a loving, spiritual person he is.

Update: Perhaps not. It seems Ophrah had the sense to bail out years ago. Hat tip: Blith Spirit.

This quote about Oprah from Rev. Wright makes me think he may be OK after all:
She has broken with the [traditional faith],” he says. “She now has this sort of ‘God is everywhere, God is in me, I don’t need to go to church, I don’t need to be a part of a body of believers, I can meditate, I can do positive thinking’ spirituality. It’s a strange gospel. It has nothing to do with the church Jesus Christ founded.


I'm starting to actually like the guy!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spitzer's Real Crime Was . . .

. . . making the wrong enemies.

I find the guy reprehensible - just an ambitions, power-hungry politician who made a career as a prosecutor by streamrolling unpopular targets for his own personal aggrandizement. Someone who didn't think the rules applied to him. But the way he was targeted should give everyone pause. I don't like Alan Dershowitz, but he is quite correct here:

Even if Mr. Spitzer's derelictions were serendipitously discovered as a result of routine, computerized examination of bank transactions, the dangers inherent in selective use of overbroad criminal statutes remain. Money laundering, structuring and related financial crimes are designed to ferret out organized crime, drug dealing, terrorism and large-scale financial manipulation. They were not enacted to give the federal government the power to inquire into the sexual or financial activities of men who move money in order to hide payments to prostitutes.

Once federal authorities concluded that the "suspicious financial transactions" attributed to Mr. Spitzer did not fit into any of the paradigms for which the statutes were enacted, they should have closed the investigation. It's simply none of the federal government's business that a man may have been moving his own money around in order to keep his wife in the dark about his private sexual peccadilloes.

But the authorities didn't close the investigation. They expanded it, because they had caught a big fish in the wide net they had cast.


That is the danger of this over broad, never-ending "War on Terror" and the "War on Drugs." It gives government the ability to rifle through everybody's business like an industrial fishing trawler. Anyone - anyone - can get caught in the net, and the temptation to target 'disruptive" politicians or just unpopular citizens is just too tempting.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Let Jimmy Sort it Out

Clarice Feldman has a Modest Proposal for sorting out an increasingly toxic nomination process in the Democratic party. When you see fights coming about Florida balloting rules and the disenfranchisment of votors, who can help out more than the "election certifier extraordinaire" - Jimmy Carter!

Have Carter rerun the entire damn primary before June 7. Really, Carter can do this.

I suppose right now you're saying," Where did he get this idea?" I'll tell you, friend. it came to me listening to Carl Levin who asked, "How can you make sure that hundreds of thousands , perhaps a million or more ballots can be properly counted and that duplicate ballots can be avoided?"

See, I read that and remembered that Carter does this all the time. He's the election certifier extraordinaire. From his supervision of the 1990 election in the Dominican Republic to his oversight of the Chavez recall collection in Venezuela he's become the one man in the world who can, with the acquiescence of the entire world, put a gold stamp of approval and purity on a completely unfair and corrupt election. Fraud in counting votes? In registering voters? Discrepancies between the number of cast ballots and voter registration lists? Jiggered machines? Doesn't matter. The guy will keep his eyes and ears closed and stamp the entire thing kosher.


After all, the guy won a Nobel Prize for bringing peace to the Mid East. And that has worked out so well...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Looks, Family and Babies: A Man's View of the Hard Lives of Women

I can’t stomach frequent visits to Shakesville, since the things I read there almost always make me angry. But I visited last week and read something astonishing: PortlyDyke's Robbing the Hearts of Men. I don’t know much about PD, but from what I've read her feminist credentials seem unassailable.

Her post went well beyond just a cursory and grudging acknowledgment of what men have to face. Particularly this part:

Think about this the next time you hear someone say the words: "Be a man!"

Actually look at the situation in which this comes up, and think about what is being demanded. In my experience, it usually means: Shut up about your feelings. Grit your teeth and bear your pain and don't let anyone know you're feeling it. Don't show it on your face, don't talk about it, square your shoulders and your jaw and carry on like everything's OK -- hide it however you can.

That, to me, is unbearably sad.


This seemed motivated by genuine sympathy, and she got some well-deserved complements on it from both men and women. She drew a lot of fire too, and said in a comment:
If you appreciate me seeing the men's side of this with this post -- please go write a post about the women's side of it -- and defend it as thoroughly as I've defended mine.

It wasn't directed at me, but I figured I would try. My readers know I'm certainly no feminist. So here goes:

--

I suppose it happens for every girl. At some point, early in childhood, you suffer the frightening realization that how you look marks the boundaries of your life. Girls and women that are loved seem to have a certain look about them. If you are pretty, someone will come for you. If you are very pretty, in an almost magical way, that person that comes will be a prince, someone strong and good who will build a world filled with happiness for you.

The promise is that you needn't do anything or accomplish anything to gain happiness - if you have that look happiness will come and carry you away.

So you take stock of yourself pretty early, comparing yourself against every woman you see and every girl around you. Am I as pretty as she is? Lots of people help you in this assessment - your parents especially. If nature has favored you you'll gain some reassurance early on, and for a while you'll be able to believe you are good enough. But not for long - the bar is set impossibly high. From childhood on you walk a gauntlet of looks wherever you go. You hear comments or laughter from boys, or behind-your-back whispers from girls who you thought were your friends. People that love you understand this - they praise your good features, and show you how makeup and clothes can be used to obscure your more troublesome aspects. Dolls help illustrate these lessons. So you study yourself and pick your clothes and apply makeup very, very carefully, preparing yourself as if you were a dish being served up.

Of course bodies matter to men too - but not in anything like the same way. Boys are taught to evaluate their bodies based on what they can do. How fast can they run? Can they catch up to a high fastball? Can I win this fight? Boys are taught to treat their bodies like instruments to be honed for a purpose - after all boys learn very early that they have to do something to be loved. You are taught that you have to be something to be loved.

And what a difference that makes! There are so many more ways of doing than of being. And suppose - just suppose - you really, really want to do things? You feel some inner call to change the way things are? You can find a few examples of accomplished, independent women in stories, pictures and movies, but all of these examples make one lesson clear - - yes, it is possible to do "manly" things like this, but you'd better look damned good doing them.

No one expects you to show bravery. No one expects you to put yourself in danger. Quite the opposite you are encouraged to depend on your family for protection as a child, and to find a man to protect you as an adult. Fear is more than allowed - it is encouraged as an opportunity to seek comfort from others. Protection and rescue is men's work and women's due - and you sit with the deep fear that those rescued will be chosen for their beauty, and little else.

You learn that independence is risky, almost radioactive. When boys leave the nest it is a source of pride. You can leave too, but only to join another nest - a man's nest. Otherwise it is a betrayal.

Early on a whole range of emotion is severed from you. You can indulge sadness and fear in a way that boys can't. Anger is fine for boys, because it is properly seen as a spur to action. You are not allowed anger. Anger gives you hard edges, and all your edges must be smooth and inviting. Anger is a sign of ambition, and in you ambition is seen as selfish, and lack of proper consideration of others. Don’t rock the boat, don’t make trouble, swallow any anger and keep the peace. A peaceful family is a refuge - you must keep the inner peace, and let the men fight off the world.

Directness in men is admirable - but if you are direct you are being pushy and demanding and hence unattractive. Men are encouraged - even shamed - into getting things done. If you want things done the only acceptable way is to get others to do it. But this requires great art. If men get others to do their bidding, it is seen as leadership. If you get others to do things, it can be manipulative. Men can be clever - you seen conniving.

Anger isn’t welcome - especially by those who love you. Ambition is closed off. Men can dedicate their lives to a creative or intellectual endeavor - any desires you have in that area must remain second to a far more important endeavor: having babies. If you put any ambition before love and family you are seen as cold and stunted. Love must be your ambition. Seek it you must, but not by hunting it. No - you must set bait.

--

Dolls teach you about the importance of appearance, and dolls teach you about babies. Be pretty, leave your family in the arms of a dashing suitor, and have babies - that is the track that was laid down for you. Get the order wrong and there is big trouble. If you focus on appearance and winning love, and avoid the baby - you are a whore. If your baby is born without the bind of sanctioned love, you are a shameful parasite. If you have a baby and don't keep the baby, your are a murderess. If you can't have a baby, you are an object of deep pity, and no - they don’t prepare you for that possibility as a child.

Babies are essential to society, but you bear the burden, and the terror of that. Men are taught to seek out and face danger as a general matter, but you are armored to face one particular and one very specific ordeal that no army can protect you from: childbirth.

If you get through it - and despite any medical advances every cell in your body knows the odds are not good - there is a reward. Something special, almost sacred you've been pointed at since you were a child. Feeding your newborn infant is one of the most blissful experiences a person can have. This is one of those universal feelings that everyone - even men - can experience. But in contrast to men you must have this inner experience - the blessing is mixed with the burden of obligation. God forbid you are one of those rare women who recoil from your wailing infant. That isn’t a feeling you can share - with anyone.

Women have plenty of time to think while they care for their infants, and to reorient themselves to new, and troubling, circumstances. You have a soul to protect now, a soul more important than even your own. Life has played this trick on you: you've been given something infinitely important to protect, but have always been told you are powerless to do so. While protection of your family has always been the one area where fierceness might be acceptable - you've also been taught that men are better, more effective protectors than you could ever be. If you've followed the right order of things, and have a loving man to protect you, this infant you hold should mean just as much to him. But does it? Every pull from your breast makes you wonder if he cares as much. You know you don’t look attractive at the moment, so you wonder at the strength of his bond to you. He has his child - does he still need you?

All of life has prepared you for a family. You've fought through the pain of childbirth, and you've won the purpose you're allowed. You've won a deep and binding stake in the world, and now you know why you've always been encouraged to feel afraid.

--

Obviously this just scratches the surface of the hard lives that women face. This is just my narrow view of one mainstream pathway in women's lives - I suspect the others are no easier.

So having said the above - how do I feel about feminism? As I've said here, I don’t like feminism because as an ideology it is dangerous, and as a movement it provides a welcoming and supportive refuge for anti-male bigots. Has feminism ever hurt me? I've never raised a hand to my wife, I've never had a child by any woman other than her, and I believe any success I've won is due to my talents. Feminism has not hurt me. Will feminism hurt my son? Perhaps it has raised suspicions against men, and he'll have to deal with that. But after all the odious things that men have done, and continue to do, a healthy suspicion about men - and indeed all people - is surely warranted. Perhaps feminist politics have given some evil women tools they can use to torment him? Yes, but I'm just as worried - or more worried - about the dangers he faces from men. If he is a decent man who makes an honest living, and treats women with love and respect, I doubt feminism will make any difference to him.

But when I consider my daughters I know that feminists have forced open some doors. My daughters have some paths in life and tools to use that they wouldn't have had otherwise.

So I am grateful for feminism.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Goodbye to The Wire

A nice scene-by-scene breakdown of the final moments of the best TV show ever made.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

"Activist" Right-Wing Courts?

Leftists love to complain about our "right-wing" Supreme Court, and how it threatens individual liberties. But look at this: a California court says that 166,000 families may be subject to prosecution if they continue to home-school their children. Has there ever been a right-wing court decision on any level that has ever told that number of people they must stop doing something they've long done?

Or find me a Roberts-Rehnquist "right wing activist" court decision that was as sweeping as the 1964 Warren Court One Man - One Vote decision. It nullified all 50 state legislatures and forced their reapportionment.

We Need a Chamberlain - Not a Churchill

The surge has worked, and Iraq is showing some hopeful signs of order. We've missed several opportunities to get out: the capture of Saddam, the initial elections, and the ratification of the new Iraqi constitution. This is yet another opportunity to leave, but like all the others we'll ignore it. We'll stay until we are driven out, and we will lose thousands of other lives and trillions of dollars we can’t afford.

So why do we remain in Iraq?

Some suppose it is because of our dependence on oil. This is nonsense. The Chinese and Japanese are far more dependent on Mideast oil than we are, yet they have no troops on the ground there, and no carriers patrolling the Gulf. If Iran launched an attack in the Gulf, and (improbably) was able to close the Strait of Hormuz, all economies would suffer, but ours least of all. We're still the largest energy producer in the world, and we get most of our imported oil from Canada, Mexico and Venezuela. We import relatively less oil from the Mideast than any other major power except Russia, and any dramatic spike in shipping costs would significantly reduce the comparative advantages of overseas vs. domestic manufacturing. We'd see more American made goods in Walmart and we'd ship fewer dollars to China The flexibility of our economy means that we would be the first to recover from such a shock, and we'd gain a greater competitive advantage over the rest of the world than we have now.

Some suppose it is because we are fighting al-Qaeda. But we're an easier enemy for al-Qaeda in Iraq, because our natural tendency is to fight to a stalemate. If we leave, they'll be fighting among the Saudis and the Iranians, and that will be a desperate fight to stay alive, not to maintain stability. By keeping our troops between the Sunni's and al-Qaeda on the one hand, and the Shiites and Iranians on the other, we sacrifice our lives for the purpose of keeping all of our enemies alive. Any stability we preserve guarantees that al-Qaeda lives to attack another day. It makes no sense.

Some suppose it is because of a commitment to democracy. But we have no troops on the ground fighting for democracy in Egypt, Pakistan, Syria, Saudi Arabia or the Gulf states.

I've just finished reading Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq, by Michael Scheuer. It is an uneven book, but it is a very strong indictment of American policy in the Mideast during the past few decades, and our conduct of the War on Terror. Scheuer was the former head of the CIA's Bin laden unit, so he speaks with some authority. He says American policy is misguided because:

1) We suffer from an undue allegiance to Israel, spending our resources defending a state that is not critical to America's interest.
2) We support dictatorships in the Mideast, triggering resentment from Muslims.
3) We maintain troops in the Gulf states, triggering resentment from Muslims.
4) We support the Saudi royal family.
5) Our military measures against terrorists like Al-Queda are too weak and insufficient. We fail to destroy our enemies, because we attempt half measures in order to limit criticism from Europeans.

He doesn't deny that al-Qaeda is a real enemy of America, and goes to great length to point out the egregious failure of the Clinton Administration to take Bin Laden seriously, and its failure to take advantage of numerous opportunities to capture and kill him.

Scheuer has studied the writings of Bin Laden. He disagrees with the notion that al-Qaeda and its sympathizers hate America because of our free, secular society. He takes Bin Laden at his word that he hates America because of our policies, and those policies happen to be the same ones - support of Israel and Arab dictatorships, troops in the Gulf, and friendliness with the House of Saud - - that Scheuer criticizes. Don’t for a minute assume this author is some closet Bin Laden supporter - one of his primary points is that we have never treated al-Qaeda with the savagery they deserve. Bush waited to attack in Afghanistan because he was soliciting the favors of allies that had nothing to offer militarily, and this gave Bin Laden time. Bill Clinton had many opportunities to capture or kill Bin Laden, but he didn't act because he wouldn't risk the civilian casualties that would have been necessary to get him. He was more afraid of negative European headlines than attacks by Bin Laden against America.

Just because your enemy wants you to do something doesn’t mean it is a mistake to do it. Our interests should dictate whether we have troops in the gulf, and whether we send money to Hosni Mubarak. Our interests should dictate whether we support the Saudi royal family. We shouldn’t continue to this just because Bin Laden wants us to stop.

So why will we stay in Iraq until we are driven out?

When you fill up the tank of your car, some percentage of the money goes to the Saudi Royal family. Most American's didn’t know this, but until the late 1970's all the money the Saudi Royal family got from selling oil was split 50/50 with us. Aramco was owned by a consortium of oil companies - mostly American, and it had an exclusive licence to pump Saudi oil The Saudis bought out our share in 1980. But lots of that money still gets recycled back to American oil, engineering and construction companies that maintain the oil, pipeline and shipping infrastructure in the Kingdom. The Gulf states have similarly lucrative contracts with US companies.

Should there be a revolution in Saudi Arabia, and some new tribe take over control of the Gulf, these arrangements would be null and void. That is why our military is there - not to prevent disruptions in oil supplies, but to protect the flow of construction and engineering contracts, and to protect the interests of financial partners in many endeavors. If there was any sign of trouble, the ships and ground forces would move in. We would say publicly it was about protecting our oil supplies, but it would really be to protect the profits and contracts of American companies that do business with the royal family - any new tribe that took over Saudi Arabia might choose to do more business with the Chinese, Japanese or Europeans.

From the perspective of a powerful interest group of politicians and businesses, the relationship with the Saudis and the Gulf states is very lucrative. From the perspective of America as a whole, the costs of maintaining a forward presence in the Gulf and the risks of war that such a presence entails - the costs are too great to bear.

As I've said before, I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t think the executives of these companies huddled together and planned all this. To them, their Saudi partners are friends. They know Saudi Arabia and they've lived there, and in their world view the Saudis are more sympathetic figures than they appear to other people. Oil engineers like to build things, and because of environmental sensibilities they just don’t get to build anything in our country. So they like the Saudis. Similarly Bush and Cheney aren’t getting suitcases full of cash from Prince Bandar - they are meeting with a friend of an important domestic constituency and a seeming ally of America. And the Saudis are a public, albeit somewhat erratic, enemy of al-Qaeda. This isn't about evil men (except for Bin Laden), but rather mistaken policies.

We went to Iraq because of the confluence of four factors
1) Legitimate worries about WMD,
2) Concerns about a potential alliance between powerful enemies - Saddam and Bin Laden. There was good reason to fear this - all one need to do is recall the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939 to realize that enemies often make deals with each other for the sake of dealing with a common adversary.
3) A sincere, but misguided, American belief in the power of democracy.
4) The opportunity for special interests to build a second, and equally lucrative, "House of Saud" relationship with an Iraqi government.

The first proved - in hindsight - a mistake. The second was successfully averted. The third will prove futile in the long run. The forth is the real reason we will stay at almost all costs.

We have good reason to be proud of our troops. The military effort against Iraq was breathtaking, and the occupation has been extraordinarily humane, but any historical standard. Go and read After the Reich: The Brutal History of The Allied Occupation for a comparison. The change in tactics that we adopted after the surge showed the fundamental attribute of a successful army - an ability to learn from experience and adapt accordingly.

But it will be all for nothing. Our position is unsustainable in the long run, because there is no constituency for democracy in Iraq, and American politics will not support a brutal occupation. Colin Powell's "pottery barn" analogy is flawed. Just because in a post 9/11 world we needed to make an example out of Saddam does not mean we "own" Iraq, or bear any responsibility for it. Once we dragged him out of his hole we should have left.

Left to what? We'd save hundreds of billions a year - money we are borrowing from the Chinese and Saudis. There would be a surge of sectarian violence in Iraq, but it would be smothered by the regional war that would ensue. Iran, Turkey, the Saudis and Syria would fight over the spoils. Al-Queda would be more intensely invested in this fight than in the fight they have with us, and they would likely be snuffed out.

And this brings me to Neville Chamberlain. History has given him a raw deal, and has labeled him a coward for his policy of appeasement, even though his successor, Winston Churchill, didn't:
I do not propose to give an appreciation of Neville Chamberlain's life and character, but there were certain qualities always admired in these Islands which he possessed in an altogether exceptional degree. He had a physical and moral toughness of fibre which enabled him all through his varied career to endure misfortune and disappointment without being unduly discouraged or wearied. He had a precision of mind and an aptitude for business which raised him far above the ordinary levels of our generation. He had a firmness of spirit which was not often elated by success, seldom downcast by failure, and never swayed by panic. when, contrary to all his hopes, beliefs and exertions, the war came upon him, and when, as he himself said, all that he had worked for was shattered, there was no man more resolved to pursue the unsought quarrel to the death. The same qualities which made him one of the last to enter the war, made him one of the last who would quit it before the full victory of a righteous cause was won.

Chamberlain's appeasement was not motivated by cowardice, but by two realizations that are undeniable. The first was that his nation was not prepared to go to war for the issues presented at the time, and the second was that Woodrow Wilson's peace had saddled the Germans with legitimate grievances against the European order. Chamberlain sought to appease those grievances, in the hope that the impulse to German radicalism could be alleviated.

We find ourselves in a similar situation today. Our nation is not prepared to fight to a savage victory unless we are attacked again. Our nation is not prepared to fight to a stalemate when Iraq explodes again, and to bankrupt our economy in the process. Our nation is not prepared to fight for the House of Saud. Nothing we do in Iraq can prevent another attack. Nothing that is politically supportable now will prevent another attack.

So we need a Chamberlain. Someone with the courage to withdraw from Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, and dismantle our base in Quatar. A one-term president who is prepared to stand by and watch the regional war that ensues there. Someone willing to watch a revolution in Saudi Arabia, and see oil go to $12 a gallon - without intervening. Someone willing to stop the aid we give to Mubarak, Jordan and the Palestinians. Someone willing to leave NATO - an organization that is worthless for US Security - so we can bring 90,000 troops home from Europe.

This will cost the career of a courageous politician, but the nation will survive and eventually prosper. Hard medicine, to undo the bankrupting policies of several decades, but medicine we can take better than any of our competitors. I do not see how al-Qaeda could attack under such circumstances, because they would be in a war of survival in that environment, as opposed to the slower war of attrition we have now. The rocket attacks against Israel would cease, because those rockets would be needed on the Tigris. Israel would be the decisive ally of the winning Arab power in the regional war, and so the Palestinians would be forgotten - as surely as Jordan forgot about them in 1970. The fulcrum of Middle East tensions shifts immediately from the Jordan to the Euphrates. Israel winds up being the indispensable ally of the winner, rather than the way it is now in our seemingly "stable" situation - where Israel is the common enemy of all.

We have no national stake in those events, any more than the Japanese do. Any power that won would need to sell oil on the world market as surely as the Saudis and Iranians and Venezuelans and Canadians do now. I know of no historical example where a power permanently refused to sell a fungible, non-military commodity for political reasons. And the nations of the Middle East have nothing else to sell on world markets.

There could well be another attack. But in contrast to the last we would have freedom of action to destroy al-Queada wherever they are. We would have no fragile international order to uphold, no sensibilities to weigh - we could strike as needed.

Iraq is just the latest in our decades-long policy of tying ourselves to fragile regimes in the Mid East. Now have foolishly fought our way onto the poor ground of Iraq, and we owe it to ourselves to be honest about our situation. The belief that this is somehow a "forward strategy" where we can fight al-Qaeda on their turf is mistaken. If we withdraw, we force them to fight even more savage foes. Our troops could be protecting our borders, not Iraq's.

Consider the worst that can happen. al-Qaeda takes over Iraq? But in doing so they get a fixed address, something to lose, and an addiction to oil revenue. Iran develops nuclear weapons? Then the Saudis will buy some, and you'd have a stalemate or a local exchange. al-Qaeda takes over Pakistan? The Indians will deal with them. All of these outcomes present fewer scenarios than we have now where a Mid East power would see it in their interest to attack America. Muslims have more natural grievances with the Chinese, Russians, Indians and even Europeans than they do against America.

Retreat is a fundamental strategy of war. If we leave now - when the surge has shown success - we'd be making it clear that we are leaving of our own accord, at a time of our choosing, and for purposes of our own. By killing Saddam we've demonstrated that no leader that is our enemy is safe. The surest way of following up that demonstration is that we have full freedom of action to pursue our interests. This retreat must be total - we must end any support - military, financial or political - for any regime in the Mideast.

Let the Chinese and Japanese suffer the heavy burdens of playing that futile game.

The right policy to towards the Iranians, the Saudis, and the Israelis was stated by George Washington:
Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

Neville Chamberlain had the insight to realize his nation would not fight to protect a Europen order that they had no interest in. There are times when nations need Chamberlains, and times when they need Churchills. Bush has the dogged persistence of Churchill, at a time when such doggedness serves not the nation, but a narrow set of special interests.