Thursday, November 29, 2012

With a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Politics

1924 sheet music. From Wikipedia.
Collins said she was “very troubled by the fact that we seem not to have learned from the 1998 bombings of two of our embassies in Africa at the time when Ambassador Rice was the assistant secretary for African affairs. Those bombings in 1998 resulted in the loss of life of 12 Americans as well as many other foreign nationals.” 
She said, “What troubles me so much is the Benghazi attack in many ways echoes the attacks on those embassies in 1998, when Susan Rice was head of the African region for our State Department. In both cases the ambassadors begged for additional security” but she said, as with the Sept. 11 attack on the consulate in Benghazi, those requests were turned down by the State Department. (NBC News, 11/28/12)
In what sense, exactly, "troubled"? Is she blue?* Would she be in distress, affliction, difficulty, or need? Would she be exhibiting emotional or behavioral problems? Cold sweats, night fright, apparently unmotivated panic? Somehow I doubt it. Maybe troubled like a teenager, infected by all the bad faith around her and acting out.

I mean, I'm not saying she's a liar or anything like that, just that it's really interesting, if you will, how all the words that spill out of her mouth, one or two syllables at a time, in that des-olate croak, seem to be sug-gesting this re-mark-able story about how every time you give Susan Rice a job, someone seems to blow up the em-bassy or murder the am-bass-ador. Doesn't it look, on the face of it, a little careless? I mean, nothing like that ever happens in the Collins family.

She's that girl, in seventh grade, who likes to see a fight. She's poison.

*But she won't be blue always, 'cause that sun gonna shine in her back door one day, eh, Suse?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Graphic language

In breaking news, it turns out there are people, possibly in Iran itself, in any case people who can type in Persian, who have inexplicably acquired the capacity to draw graphs.
The undated diagram that was given to the AP by officials of a country critical of Iran's atomic program allegedly calculating the explosive force of a nuclear weapon _ a key step in developing such arms. The diagram shows a bell curve and has variables of time in micro-seconds and power and energy, both in kilotons _ the traditional measurement of the energy output, and hence the destructive power of nuclear weapons. The curve peaks at just above 50 kilotons at around 2 microseconds, reflecting the full force of the weapon being modeled. The Farsi writing at the bottom translates "changes in output and in energy released as a function of time through power pulse" (AP Photo)
And not just any kind of graphs, either—graphs that apparently describe things that occur in time and involve energy: things like turning on the television, opening a can of Diet Pepsi, and nuclear explosions, to name only a few.

In a story datelined from spooky Vienna (remember Harry Lime?), George Jahn writes,
Iranian scientists have run computer simulations for a nuclear weapon that would produce more than triple the explosive force of the World War II bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, according to a diagram obtained by The Associated Press.
You can see for yourself! (Except for the Iranian, scientist, computer simulations, and nuclear weapons parts. But that number at the top of the bell curve, 50 kilotons, is totally three times the explosive force of Little Boy! Approximately.) And what do you suppose that country critical of Iran's atomic program is? Obviously somebody who knows a nuclear weapon when they see one.
Do not trust this man.
For further information see Wide Asleep in America and Tikun Olam.

Cabinet of curiosities

"I would dearly love to see Arne Duncan explain to Bibi Netanyahu that Israel's foreign aid is now cut off because they filled out the forms incorrectly". (Jersey Jazzman)

Madame Tussaud's spare heads. From
The project of shuffling Obama's cabinet around just got a lot easier, now that Thomas P. Friedman, also known as Thomas L. Friedman, or by the Linnaean handle of Moustaccium intellectionis, has laid down the criteria for doing it well: you just have to pick people Friedman knows, not that he knows all the best people for all the jobs, though that is probably also true, but because only if he knows them can we be sure that they'll work out:
Kerry is an excellent choice for defense. I don’t know Rice at all, so I have no opinion on her fitness for the job, but I think the contrived flap over her Libya comments certainly shouldn’t disqualify her. That said, my own nominee for secretary of state would be the current education secretary, Arne Duncan.... because I think this is an important time to ask the question of not just who should be secretary of state, but what should the secretary of state be in the 21st century?
This is not the first time Friedman has proposed Arne Duncan as diplomat; my response is here. What I'd like to do now is look at some possibilities for filling out the rest of the cabinet by Friedmannian rules.

For instance, the Secretary of Energy should be Michael Mandelbaum, not just because of who he is (a political scientist and Friedman's co-author for That Used To Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back, 2011), but because of what he is, capable of duplicating Friedman's literary style to the comma:
“The biggest issue in the world today is growth, and the world is divided into two groups — those who get it and those who don’t,” said Michael Mandelbaum, the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert. “If you’re dealing with the Middle East, it might actually be helpful to have someone who can tell some of the parties why they are going in the wrong direction and how their problems are not what they think they are, nor are their solutions.”
As such, Mandelbaum would undoubtedly be able to convince Congress to increase the gas tax. The current incumbent, Steven Chu, certainly knows that the gas tax ought to be increased, but he carries baggage—notably that Nobel Prize—that makes him seem rabidly partisan. Whereas Mandelbaum can make it sound stupid enough to be non-threatening:
A gasoline tax “is not just win-win; it’s win, win, win, win, win,” says the Johns Hopkins author and foreign policy specialist Michael Mandelbaum. “A gasoline tax would do more for American prosperity and strength than any other measure Obama could propose.”
You can practically hear Eric Cantor leaping on that and agreeing to pass it right away.

Similarly, to replace Duncan at Education you could do worse than picking Bevil Hogg, South African CEO of EndoStim, a company making a kind of pacemaker for your esophagus, which is supposed to regulate acid reflux,
inspired by Cuban and Indian immigrants to America and funded by St. Louis venture capitalists. Its prototype is being manufactured in Uruguay, with the help of Israeli engineers and constant feedback from doctors in India and Chile.
Hogg may not know much about education specifically, but what he knows in general is what he needs to know, which is that everything from now on has to be cheaper, flatter, and run out of a Blackberry:
“In the aftermath of the banking crisis, access to public markets is off-limits to start-ups,” explained Hogg, so start-ups now have to be “much leaner, much more capital-efficient, much smarter in accessing worldwide talent and quicker to market in order to do more with less.” He added, “$20 million is the new $100 million.”
Finally, for secretary of the Treasury why not go for Friedman's multitasking Paris taxi driver of 2006?
After the car started to roll, I saw he had a movie playing on the screen in the dashboard -- on the flat panel that usually displays the G.P.S. road map. I noticed this because between his talking on the phone and the movie, I could barely concentrate. I, alas, was in the back seat trying to finish a column on my laptop. When I wrote all that I could, I got out my iPod and listened to a Stevie Nicks album, while he went on talking, driving and watching the movie.
No special reason, except that this is the only Friedman column I can find in which a taxi driver plays a prominent role, and he doesn't even say anything! As far as I can tell from the research (as David Brooks would call it) for this post, Friedman never talks to taxi drivers at all; we've been lying about him all this time. Who knew?
From Lianhe Wanbao, Singapore, via Sammy Boy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Women aren't women any more?

Any more than what? Haha.
From Beirut Yacht Charter.

Suzanne Venker writes,
According to Pew Research Center, the share of women ages eighteen to thirty-four that say having a successful marriage is one of the most important things in their lives rose nine percentage points since 1997 – from 28 percent to 37 percent. For men, the opposite occurred. The share voicing this opinion dropped, from 35 percent to 29 percent.
These numbers suggest to her that women nowadays want to get married and men don't, evidently because of their impression, discussed late on in the essay, that women are no longer women, i.e., if women were clearly women from this standpoint men would definitely want to marry them but not otherwise.

But it all depends where your head is at in relation to the yoga mat. To me, these numbers say that most people ages 18 to 34 really don't think a successful marriage is among the most important things in their lives, and they didn't in 1997 either: 63% of women to 71% of men, versus 72% to 65% 15 years ago.

Ideally, one would like to know what question Pew was asking, an open-ended one, a yes-or-no, or a multiple-choice list, or ranking a long list; and whether "one of the most important" means one of the two top factors, or five top factors, or whatever; and how many of the people in the sample were married themselves. It is however clear what these data do not show:
Believe it or not, modern women want to get married. Trouble is, men don’t.
They do not show any strong feelings either way, or any significant differences between the genders, or anything particularly interesting at all, except maybe that there is a turbulent minority that thinks about it more than the rest do. Those probably are less in need of marriage itself than they are of Lexapro.


I’ve spent thirteen years examining social agendas as they pertain to sex, parenting, and gender roles. During this time, I’ve spoken with hundreds, if not thousands, of men and women. And in doing so, I’ve accidentally stumbled upon a subculture of men who’ve told me, in no uncertain terms, that they’re never getting married. When I ask them why, the answer is always the same.
Women aren’t women anymore.
If her website didn't classify her as "author. speaker. wife. mother." I'd suspect her of referring here to a subculture of men she dated over that 13-year period. But something tells me in any case that we're not talking about the young fellows whose intentions to marry or not are at issue—that "anymore" pointing to a time when women used to be women and so on. Men, in fact, who have been married before, and who associate feminism with that damned child support, which they wouldn't of had to pay if she hadn't of walked out on them even though they practically went down on their knees. I'm talking about you, Smitty, you lousy Republican. And no, in real life it is not actually cheaper to stay married.

But after decades of browbeating the American male, men are tired.
It’s the women who lose. Not only are they saddled with the consequences of sex, by dismissing male nature they’re forever seeking a balanced life.
The fact is, women need men’s linear career goals – they need men to pick up the slack at the office – in order to live the balanced life they seek.
The first of those is just a garden variety dangled participle. No allegation is intended that the men are really browbeating themselves, tiring as that might be.

The second is kind of mysterious. What is dismissing male nature? ("At ease, male nature, I won't be needing you any further tonight.") Apparently it's refusing to let them "provide for and protect their families", which is "in their DNA" (And I thought I was supposed to be beating back my DNA and its will to impregnate everything within 30 feet!). Saddling them with the consequences of sex may be an elegant circumlocution for knocking them up without that all-important child support check. Is it a bad thing to be forever seeking a balanced life? Or is the implication that you could get the balanced life right away if you would only stop dismissing that male nature?

The third is really hard. I think she's trying to say that women don't need to have men's linear career goals but need men to have them, "linear" meaning with their minds fixed on the idea of a properly funded retirement and that final three-week cruise to Jordan and the Holy Land, after which they can at last just crack a beer, sit down, and spend the rest of their lives with ESPN and the wide-screen. But do they have to pick up the slack at the office because the women are slacking at home, with their girlfriends and pitchers of iced tea and vodka while the little ones toddle with their little trucks and Happy toys among the unshaven ankles? And are you saying in the end that women can have that balanced life because men don't?

All they have to do is surrender to their nature – their femininity – and let men surrender to theirs. 
If they do, marriageable men will come out of the woodwork.
And you'll be able to take the vacuum cleaner to them. Or just swiff them up. 

Cruise wedding dress, from Lanvin Cruise Collection 2010.

There's definitely an argument, but trust me, you've heard it before. Suzanne Venker is the niece of Phyllis Schlafly, and it hasn't really changed in 50 years, except for the economics getting more and more improbable.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Grover forgive me, for I have sinned...

“No pledge-taker has voted for a tax increase,” Norquist explained to CNN’s Soledad O’Brien on Monday. “They’ve had some people discussing impure thoughts on national television.”
"When did you first start thinking about tax increases?"

"Oh, I must have been thirteen, fourteen... Physically capable of  legislating, you know, but not at all ready emotionally. Your body's been going through all these changes, and it's hard to concentrate, and these images kind of wander into your head unbidden."

"What kind of images?"

"You know how it it is... you'll be out in the garage with your buddies, and there's a stack of old Congressional Records, harmless stuff mostly, National Accordion Week and the like, and then every once in a while something a little titillating. Like, look at this one, Eddie, voting rights! From the sixties!  And sooner or later you see a revenue bill, and you don't say anything to anybody and shut the volume as quick as you can, but you can't squeeze that stuff back into the tube. You can't unsee it, if you will. You can't stop wondering what it feels like to vote for something like that."

"And how do you cope with it?"

"Well, you pray, naturally. And there's the Bible. 'Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's.' Doesn't say anything about giving Caesar your own stuff, does it?"
Reading Playboy South Africa for the articles. From

Sunday, November 25, 2012

World of Dronecraft

Malia Obama standing for peace, November 2009. From Eclectablog at Kos.
So suddenly last summer it occurred to somebody in the Obama administration that one of the consequences of losing the election would be Willard Mitt Romney's thumbs on the World of Dronecraft console. Which could turn out to be a Bad Thing. So they set to laying down some rules and regulations on the use of this remarkable tool of modern statesmanship, in the hope that Romney (or let us say Mr. Adelson) would at least be somewhat inhibited.

They would have been totally finished with this project, too, by the end of  December, if Romney had won, according to Scott Shane. As it is, they are not in so much of a hurry, but Obama still wants it to get done; in fact he'd like somebody to inhibit him a bit:
“One of the things we’ve got to do is put a legal architecture in place, and we need Congressional help in order to do that, to make sure that not only am I reined in but any president’s reined in terms of some of the decisions that we’re making,” Mr. Obama told Jon Stewart in an appearance on “The Daily Show” on Oct. 18.... 
The president expressed wariness of the powerful temptation drones pose to policy makers. “There’s a remoteness to it that makes it tempting to think that somehow we can, without any mess on our hands, solve vexing security problems,” he said.
There are two ways of looking at this kind of utterance against Obama's record of using those drones so far. You can say that this is somebody working through a set of moral difficulties in much the same way as anybody else, but with a somewhat different value set than yours or mine or Emptywheel's—he sincerely worries about the murderous power he has abrogated to himself, but isn't convinced he's done anything really bad so far; or you can say he's an insane comic book tyrant. But there isn't much ground between the two.

Because why would he keep using this liberal kind of argumentation, unless (a) he meant it, or (b) he was satisfying an irresistible urge to tease Emptywheel and the rest of us into our own fits of psychotic rage? It's not as if it could get him any votes, still less any votes he needs, for an election that has already taken place.
I'm convinced that he means it—that he's a real liberal himself in the broad sense. He just isn't a hippy. He's never been radicalized into it.
Though publicly the administration presents a united front on the use of drones, behind the scenes there is longstanding tension. The Defense Department and the C.I.A. continue to press for greater latitude to carry out strikes; Justice Department and State Department officials, and the president’s counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, have argued for restraint, officials involved in the discussions say.
Father John there is the left end of the arguments he's hearing; I don't know who's the left of his understanding of banking or housing or health insurance, but it's in a similar position, balanced by a similar right. He's not sufficiently challenged: he really believes that we are at "war" and that wicked bond fairies will punish us if we don't have a plan to balance the budget by 2016, and I read somewhere that one of his concerns about health insurance is the number of people that the industry employs: what would happen to them in a single payer system? (Not to go all Yglesias or anything on you, but it's a legitimate question.)

But it doesn't do us any good to refuse to believe him. If we'd had Carter's back, you know, we might have a sustainable carbon policy by now; if we'd shown Clinton some love in his hour of need, welfare and the banking system might have been a little less "reformed". Go back and read, or reread, this great essay; it's as valid as it was four years ago.
That rumor is totally fabricated. Get it? Via Wonkette.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Call for signatures

From Avaaz, the people-powered global web movement, this graphically somewhat cleaner version of the map sequence explaining why Palestinians think they want a state, and a call for support for the Palestinian Authority in its campaign for non-voting UN membership.

Also, via a commenter over there, a music video (I bet you didn't know Pat Boone wrote the lyrics to this song).

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Bibi loser

Dear Prime Minister,

If you had just called off the Gaza blockade and hung a sign labeled "Kick me" on your back, you know, you would have accomplished almost everything worthwhile you got out of this little war, without any war.
Troops spell out Bibi luzr (the second word is a borrowing from American) with their bodies. Viral image via Noam Sheizaf's blog at 972+.
Now you have army boys mocking you for not giving them a chance to get killed, wise old talking heads talking about how President Morsi, formerly of the Muslim Brotherhood, is a true statesman, Morsi getting more phone calls from Obama than you do, the Labor party trying to present itself as Compassionate Warriors (I guess that's good for Likud in the short run, but somebody's going to note sooner or later that all the wars Israel actually won were fought under Labor governments), five Israelis and 150 Gazans dead. And Tzipi Livni, new leader of the Kadima party, is having a victory party as if she were already PM herself.

Oh, but wait—you've made peace in America! At thousands of Thanksgiving tables today, right and left are in agreement for once: Bibi is a turkey!
This was meant as a pro-Netanyahu image in 2010, after Turkey's fiendish attempt to destroy Israel with donated medical supplies aboard the Marmara—our tough guy laying into Anatolia, I guess. But it turns out that bibi بيبي  is the Moroccan Arabic word for the bird (Meleagris).

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ricist insinuations

At some point early in their lives, white kids often become concerned about racism in ways that don't quite get it:
"Who's your friend?"
"You mean Kyle?"
"No, the black kid."
"Shh, Dad, that's racist!"
Eliana Johnson over at the so-called Corner has gotten herself into that kind of difficulty over Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush's first National Security Advisor and second Secretary of State, and her treatment by "liberals", as in a Ted Rall cartoon of 2004 in which he depicted crime-fitting punishments for George W. Bush and his enablers after they leave office:

From here, via John
Rice's punishment is that she is forced to learn how to be black, and to use such ghastly expressions as "house nigga". Rall explained it pretty carefully
The broad important point here is that she's an African-American who works for an administration whose policies hurt blacks.
—but it has served conservatives for all these years as an example of how "you guys are the real racists, so nyah nya-nya nyah-nyah!" and now it is back, in the context of the existence of a new African-American female potential secretary of state, U.N. ambassador Susan Rice, whose conservative detractors are being accused of showing racial bias: "At least nobody called her a house nigga!"

Johnson argues that C. Rice was the real victim, as in these comments from Democratic senators:
Senator Barbara Boxer charged that Rice “frightened the American people” into supporting the Iraq War; Senator Jim Jeffords accused her of being part of an effort to “distort information” in the service of “political objectives”; and Senator Pat Leahy, who voted in her favor, endorsed her by saying that her tenure as national-security adviser lacked “strong leadership, openness, and sound judgment.”  
Nevertheless, Boxer's and Jeffords's objections are not innuendo but concrete interpretations of historical fact (you can disagree if you want, just bring the evidence), and in any case these criticisms have nothing to do with race—there's no stereotype accusing African-Americans in general of deceptive warmongering or lacking leadership. Contrast what is now being said about S. Rice, as Johnson quotes it:
Senator John McCain described her as “not being very bright,” and stated that, “if she didn’t know better, she’s not qualified” to be secretary of state. Senator Lindsey Graham noted, “I don’t trust her,” and that “if she didn’t know better, she shouldn’t be the voice of America.”...
These allegations are purely subjective, snotty, and larded with innuendo; and the innuendo is certainly that she's not one of Us, inadequately evolved, and unrepresentative.

Much more interesting to my mind is the campaign against S. Rice into which poor Dana Milbank has been inveigled, which says she must not become America's chief diplomat because she isn't diplomatic. That is, nobody (nobody in Cokie's beauty saloon? nobody at Sally Quinn's conversazione?) likes her. She is too rough.
when she was an assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration, she appalled colleagues by flipping her middle finger at Richard Holbrooke during a meeting with senior staff at the State Department, according to witnesses. 
My stars, Mabel, did you ever hear the like? And poor Mr. Holbrooke (aka "the Bulldozer" and "Raging Bull") such a gentleman, too!
Rice was one of the first former Clinton administration officials to defect to Obama’s primary campaign against Hillary Clinton. Rice condemned Clinton’s Iraq and Iran positions, asking for an “explanation of how and why she got those critical judgments wrong.”
And did she get one? Because I'm still wondering myself.
Rice’s put-down of Clinton was tame compared with her portrayal of McCain during 2008, which no doubt contributes to McCain’s hostility toward her today. She mocked McCain’s trip to Iraq (“strolling around the market in a flak jacket”), called his policies “reckless” and said “his tendency is to shoot first and ask questions later. It’s dangerous.”
Ah, now we're getting somewhere.  Milbank's the self-denominated "original McCainiac" after all, suppose he's still in touch with the old duffer? Or is that a racist question?

From Ask Mr. William T. Collins.
And so, to paraphrase Mr. Bennett, an unhappy alternative is before you, Mr. President; Mr. Milbank will never see you again if you nominate Ms. Rice for secretary of state, and I will never see you again if you don't. Just kidding, it's really up to you, but Milbank makes her sound like a little of what you need. And I'll bet old Holbrooke would have backed me up on that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Can abortion save marriage as an institution?

Ridicule has been heaped on the heads of the American Taliban for their insistence that same-sex marriage is going to "destroy the institution of marriage":
Some ancient civilizations that recognized same-sex "marriage" collapsed as a result, while some that refused to recognize it escaped that fate. However, Correlation is not causation, and there is not even a large enough data set to get a correlation. (Conservapedia)
(The second sentence is social-sciencese for "However, the previous sentence would be an unjustified inference even if the evidence existed, which it doesn't." I.e., never mind.)
Did the Nephites recognize same-sex marriage? King Mormon bids farewell to his destroyed nation from Cumorah Hill, near present-day Palmyra, New York, 385 C.E., in the celebrated rendering by Arnold Friberg. You can tell the Nephites' Jewish ancestry by the way Moroni has decorated his helmet with shofars.
Legalization of same-sex "marriage" is correlated with social dysfunctions that states and countries banning it have avoided. States and countries legalizing same-sex "marriage" have markedly different levels of quality of life from those that have banned it....
In Norway and Sweden, the adoption of same-sex marriage has led to a loss in respect for the marriage institution itself even for traditional couples. In Massachusetts, the imposition of same-sex marriage led to a decline in property values and an exodus from the state by many. Also in response to the introduction of same-sex marriage the State Department of Public Health changed marriage certificates to read "Party A" and "Party B" instead of husband and wife.
(Indeed, the quality of life in Norway is markedly different from that in Arkansas. The only actual evidence Dr. Google can find suggests gay marriage is good for the real estate market. What your marriage certificate calls you is surely not a central issue in your quality of life, though you might object to a ceremony where they asked whether you, schmuck, take this woman...?)  Let's just say that they have had some difficulty explaining what it is they fear will happen and how.

Just because it's only Chicken Little shouting that the sky is falling, however, does not mean that there is nothing worrisome going on. Marriage really is in a kind of crisis in the U.S., but it has nothing to do with same-sex marriage: it's caused by harsh abortion laws.

This may sound like a paradox. After all, pregnancy was for a very long time a key component of preserving marriage here and in much of Europe; pregnancy and the metaphorical shotgun. Wouldn't abortion—alongside the invention of effective methods of birth control that do not involve the erotically challenging procedure of putting a fellow's thing in a sous-vide bag—
This all-belly porchetta will be deep-fried after its 36-hour bath. Yum! From Serious Eats.
—wouldn't abortion, I was saying, by eliminating the most powerful reason for marriage, tend to depress its frequency?

And the answer is, not at all. Abortion was in fact for centuries the key element to making the marriage system work, particularly among the less wealthy classes—that is, among those who could not afford to keep their daughters in convents. Because the shotgun is only useful when the scalawag in question is a likely lad, one Dad doesn't mind having dinner with a few times in the year; and indeed the shotgun is hardly needed, as the young folks so often make that graceful bow to the inevitable under their own volition. But when the young woman has made a serious misjudgment about her young, or perhaps not so young, man, she and Dad both need some kind of safety valve to leave her able to marry somebody that suits the two of them better, and that is the role abortion traditionally plays.

Hormonal birth control has merely simplified the process, standing in for the shotgun in the way a quick cloture vote in the Senate stands in nowadays for the traditional ritual of the filibuster. The young woman need literally stop taking her pills only in the most recalcitrant of cases; normally, it's enough to say, "I think I'm a bit late," and the well-bred suitor knows what to do. In certain social classes this has had a huge pro-marriage effect, because it has enabled women to postpone marriage until an age when most people in my generation were already getting over their first divorce—and these late-selected partnerships are mature and secure enough to last, so that any minor reduction in the total number of marriages is more than made up for by a large reduction in the number of marital breakups. And abortion hardly even comes into question.

But only in certain classes, where the young women don't have to fight to get hold of the birth control. When Dad, himself insecure, can't deal with the idea of their making their own choices, the old system with abortion at the center is still relevant, and when they stigmatize abortion away it's a catastrophe. Unmarried motherhood is de-stigmatized in return, and alongside a welter of totally unsuitable, doomed marriages you get a plague of teen motherhood, girls who will never go to college, radiating waves of permanent poverty, and all the rest.
Okay, okay, it's not all black and white, if you will. Especially in Norway.

Thus the well-known correlations of Red State to anti-abortion state, to state that takes more Federal aid than it contributes Federal taxes, to state with higher rates of teen single motherhood, teen marriage, and divorce. Of course correlation is not causation, as they say, and to demonstrate that the lack of clean, safe abortion brings these bad things about we would require some actual research, of which little appears to have been done.

All the same this, picked up by Ed Kilgore at the Washington Monthly, is pretty suggestive: the Turnaway Study, of about a thousand women who were or were not given abortions because they were under or over their clinic's gestational limit, found after five years that
  •  Most women (86%) who carried their pregnancy to term kept their baby; 11% gave the baby up for adoption.
  • Being denied an abortion appears to have impoverished women and had a negative effect on their employment status. Researchers say that at the beginning of the study, there weren’t any economic differences between those who got an abortion and those who were denied one. However, after a year, “[W]omen denied abortion were more likely to be receiving public assistance (76% vs. 44%) and have household income below the FPL [Federal Poverty Level] (67% vs. 56%) than women who received an abortion. The proportion of women denied an abortion who were working full time was lower than among women who received an abortion (48% vs. 58%).” 
  • Anti-abortion advocates often claim that women who abort are more likely to develop drug problems. However, the study suggests that that is not the case; abortion did not increase the risk of drug use.
  • One year later, those denied an abortion were significantly more likely to have experienced domestic violence in the past six months and significantly less likely to rate their relationship with their child’s father as good or very good. At the study’s baseline, there were no differences in these areas between the two groups.
(The study hasn't yet been peer reviewed or published, but it looks methodologically very good.) You want to bet after ten years the women who had abortions will be more likely to be married?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Go Godwin yourself

Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza. From The Telegraph.
From the Telegraph (H/T Glenn Greenwald):

Palestinian activists routinely claim to be suffering a "shoah" at the hands of Israel, but the Jewish state normally denies any moral equivalence between the suffering of Palestinians today and European jewry under the Nazis.  
Matan Vilnai, deputy defence minister, broke that taboo when he used the term "shoah" during interview on Army Radio. 
"The more qassam fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they (the Palestinians) will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah because we will use all our might to defend ourselves," he said.
Hmm. Does everybody remember Godwin's Law, according to which every online discussion, if not cut off, will eventually lead to a comparison of something with Adolf Hitler and the German National Socialist Party? And the corollary that
once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress.
How does that apply in this case? Can we just say the Israelis have now lost their war and it is now over? Or have they, by the unusual expedient of Godwining themselves, broken the entire system, so that we are now all licensed to compare the Israeli political establishment to the Nazis whenever we want? Personally I would have been satisfied with being allowed to compare them to Apartheid South Africa. But they condemn themselves out of their own mouths, like Haman in the book of Esther.

“The residents of Gaza are not innocent, they elected Hamas. The Gazans aren’t hostages; they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences,” wrote [Gilad] Sharon in the extremist publication The Jerusalem Post. Sharon elaborated:
We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too. 
There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire. 
Were this to happen, the images from Gaza might be unpleasant – but victory would be swift, and the lives of our soldiers and civilians spared. 
Sharon added that “There is no middle path here – either the Gazans and their infrastructure are made to pay the price, or we reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip.” (Quoted from Ali Abuminah in The Electronic Intifada)
Yes, that's Gilad son of Arik, Arik King of Israel as his followers called him, who started the fashion of campaigning for the premiership by starting a war when he took his famous trip up the Holy Mount and launched the Second Intifada. Hatred for democracy? Check. (They "are not innocent", they voted for the wrong party.) Collective punishment? Check. Race hatred? Check. And now we have a call for holocaust from that ex-general Vilnai, an Israeli cabinet minister, a member of Ehud Barak's "Independence" party!
The images from Europe were unpleasant too. Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names.
(And would you like to tell me that the Hamas warriors would do the same to Jewish Israelis? Maybe they would, who can tell? But one thing for sure is that they won't, because they are too weak. Of course if you carefully cultivate the hatred, over another generation or two, as the population continues to grow... But maybe there's another way; why do you suppose Israel hasn't nuked Germany yet?)

Actually that issue of the Telegraph (the Vilnai quote, not the picture) was from February 2008, just before the last time the IDF invaded Gaza on the ground (nowadays, he has just left the cabinet and Knesset and is off to be ambassador to Beijing), and the government explained at the time that "holocaust" doesn't always mean "holocaust", so the whole thing is a bit less meaningful than it was meant to be (I'm blaming you, Glenn). Alas, so little has changed otherwise that he might as well have said it today, so I'm sticking by the post.

Evolving views

Oh, you conservatives, you're such ethical relativists!
From Geisha School Dropout.
Cal Thomas, 12/14/2011:
Cal: There has long been a debate in Washington about private behavior and public integrity. Some have argued they can be a lout in private but a stand-up person in public. I disagree. You can't put on integrity like a coat after taking it off to be with someone to whom you are not married. Who you are in the dark is what you are in the light.
Bob: So you're saying that a bachelor president, for example, is persona non grata if he has sex with his girlfriend?
Cal: Let me put it this way: If I am looking for a financial adviser, I am less concerned about how he behaves privately than I am about his ability to help me make money in this economy. Unless, of course, he cheats on his wife and cheats me, too. I just find it difficult to accept you can be one thing in private and another in public.
Cal Thomas, 10/4/2012:
Let’s pick another word – “fornication” – and consider its definition: “voluntary sexual intercourse between two unmarried persons or two persons not married to each other.”

It’s an old-fashioned word that has fallen out of favor, but doesn’t it describe Schwarzenegger’s behavior better than “mistake”?

Perhaps the saddest moment in the “60 Minutes” interview with Lesley Stahl is a video of Schwarzenegger’s wife, Maria Shriver, defending him when he was accused of groping several women.

Schwarzenegger’s interviews reveal a man without a moral center.
Cal Thomas, 11/15/2012:
The resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus over an extramarital affair has raised and will continue to raise a number of questions.

First among them (OK, maybe not first, national security being more important, but stay with me) is why should he have resigned? I am always amused when journalists use the words "sex scandal" when writing about such things. Having abandoned most standards for what used to be called "upright behavior," culture now "tsk-tsks" when someone is caught in a compromising position....

Wouldn't it be helpful to have a guidebook? Are there separate guidelines for military and civilian personnel? Should it be tied to one's security clearance? If the secretary of agriculture, say, is engaged in an adulterous relationship, would that be a lesser offense than adultery by the CIA director, or the secretary of defense? Should one stay in office and the others resign?

What would Carrie Bradshaw advise?
I'm not sure about Carrie, but it's conceivable she could have ended up with Schwarzenegger. Then again she kind of likes a moral center or am I thinking of chocolates? Miranda would have totally fallen for the FBI guy, though, and then regretted it. Really, they have nothing in common.
Anonymous Quickmeme, after a 1793 self-portrait by Joseph Ducreux.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Men medium-rare

...but media-frequent! Fighting keyboardists and TV bobbleheads Israeli-style.
Still from Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket with members of the Israeli cabinet. Montage by Amir Schiby.

“And once again the screen is awash with men, battalions, battalions of men, swarms of men; commander men and commentator men, calming men and threatening men, men with a rich past in positions of command, men with greying temples, men with a rich past in position of command and greying temples, Ashkenazi men and Mizrahi men, men who know what’s best now, men who have no idea what’s going on now, men who talk much but say little, stern-gazed men, stern-faced men, men with a knife between their teeth and a quiver in their loins, men who lost their teeth, men who know “their” mentality all too well, men who’ve spent sleepless nights in roles that are best keep silent, men who are best kept silent, explicit men and implicit men, men yanked from among the mothballs, from the kitbag, leftovers from primaries, parachuted CEOs, retired generals, retired experts, retired men, chewing men and swallowing men and men regurgitating, men with frameless glasses, men who start each sentence with “I would suggest that all of us…”, men horny as hell, men horny for hell, for blood and for bombs, men for whom this is their finest hour, men who flower now, youthful men, men whose old age is worthy of their youth, men who’s erection never rests, men whose erection, whose erection, whose erection, whose erection, men who ate from the same tin bowl, men who have known each other since —-  and even since ——, men who say wars are not for sissies, men who lack the female touch, men whose heart is untouched by the breath of a sleeping baby, whose manly, sane, reasonable, baboon-like, warmongering reasoning is unclouded, men who are retired war criminals, who meet in the studio with smiles of relief, hello War Criminal A, hello War Criminal B, men who know how to read aerial snapshots and even utter the words ‘aerial snapshots’ without a blink, men who don’t  blink, grey-eyed men, with eyes that have already seen everything, men who are no easily moved by a residential building being blown sky-high, men who know everything has a price, men who tell us what the leaders are planning, men who love saying the word “leaders,” men who know maybe about one hundred words, maybe two hundred, but what does it matter when these are the right words, men like machines, men with broad shoulders and a belly that’s kept out of the frame, men specialising in restoring deterrence and not in restoring human beings, men who set fires and don’t stick around to put them out, putting out is for sissies,  men without occupational concerns, men who for whom this is their occupation, to observe and explain and justify human wrecks, men drawn to the smell of blood, men who never remember that last time, when they also came and said and promised, men who’s manhood is only longer than their memories, men who announce this is the time to unite, meaning that it’s time for men to unite, agains the women and the children and the fags, men who declare a war on non-men, men who talk of “spaces” and “sectors” as if they were demonstrating geometrical theorems, men squirting testosterone all over the screen, men who move forces, men who like sending wishes of swift recovery and god forbids the wounded should ever run out on them, men who like wounded men, true are the lover’s wounds, men with a bass or a baritone voice, preferably bass, a little rough and a little hoarse, men on the skewer, men medium-rare, men who are hunters, not gatherers, men who understand the other side understands but one language because they themselves understand but one language, men made in the same mould, on either side, men who hate each other the more they become like one another, men who have us all by the balls because they don’t have any of their own, men who push buttons, launchers, men who hit targets and tick them off, men who don’t see people behind the targets, who don’t see bereaved families behind the ticks, men who calculate grief like they calculate munitions and market losses, men who are good at calculating, men with connections in high places, highly connected men, finally contented men, men who will soon depart the studio, wipe off the make-up, get out into the darkening evening, into their despicable anonymity, men who will do anything to come back, next time, to that same brilliantly lit, shining, electrifying studio, who will do anything to be again, if only for one moment, real men, they’ll really do anything, wreck anything.”
Text by Idan Landau in response to Israeli TV coverage of the Gaza operation, English version by Dimi Reider, published in Reider's blog at +972. The original Hebrew version appeared on Landau's blog yesterday. 

Don't get familial with me

Futurist lace-ups by Evan Schultz, ArtKicks.
David Brooks writes:
At some point in recent history people all over the world started acting as if "freedom" meant adults doing whatever they wanted, as long as it didn't hurt anybody.*  Thus, they began refusing to allow their parents to immure them in monastic foundations or marry them off to strangers. More generally, they began to reject any arrangement that might close off their personal options. 
This brave new world brought with it some fairly amazing changes. Society no longer wielded the shotgun that it had used virtually throughout human history, from Austen to Updike, if you will,** to commandeer its young people into mixed-doubles child-rearing teams; and all sorts of bizarre new living formats arose, from single mommitude to Boston marriages and cages aux folles à la provençale, from the strictly single-sex Spartan dorm to the violently heterosexual Negev kibbutz, from the horizontal parental pluralism of polygyny and polyandry to the vertical pluralism of moving back in with grandmamma, it had become an Age of Possibilities. 
And increasingly the family possibilities included the possibility of having no family at all. Nearly 20% of American women in their 40s have never had children, as compared to 10% in 1976, and a Pew Research Center study found that children were 37% less important as a factor in a successful marriage in 2007 than they were were in 1990, while sex was 4% more important, and shared political opinions 9% more important. It is common knowledge that in Washington, D.C., if you want to have a friend you should get a dog. 
Nor is this happening only in America. It is estimated that more than 20% of Italian women born around 1965 will never have children, and I'd guess that by now that one is not likely to go wrong, given that they're turning 60. Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese birth rates are among the lowest in the world. Among middle-aged German men, 48% insist that one can have a happy life without children, three times as many as in their fathers' generation (who were of course famous for their devotion to the KKK of Kinder, Kirche, und Küche***). The world is rapidly turning from dominance by the two-parent family into a cafeteria of options in which you can pick up the main dish of progeny, the starch of housekeeping, and the side salad of some occasional sex in any ridiculous or excessive combination you like with any number of like-minded or complementary partners. 
A deft analysis of this global phenomenon has recently been put together—just last month, in fact—in the Internet pamphlet The Rise of Post-Familialism, by a crack team of researchers under the leadership of noted urban futurist Joel Kotkin of Chapman University, Orange County, California while he was working a holiday gig at the Civil Service College, Singapore.**** Some of the reasons, Kotkin suggests, might be the decline of religion in many people's lives, the decline in fascism (especially in Spain), or the increasing opportunities for women in managerial positions now that they are being admitted to first-class colleges like Harvard, Yale, Radcliffe-Brown, and the Air Force Academy, leaving them clearly less time for violin lessons and lacrosse practice. “In Singapore,” notes demographer Wolfgang Lutz, “women work an average of  fifty-three hours a week. Of course they are not going to have children. They don’t have the time.” 
The situation is Singapore is especially interesting, because being Asians, Singaporeans have always had a fanatical devotion to the two-parent family.***** Nevertheless they now have one of the lowest birth rates in the world, at a rate of 1.15 births per female in 2010, while 37% of the males and 25% of females in the 30-34 age cohort remain single.****** 
These new trends are bound to have enormous repercussions in social life, as inveterate "singlists" concentrate in the dense urban environments where they can hook up for anonymous sexual quickies without leaving their buildings, while breeding pairs continue their traditional spread out into suburbs to raise their free-range organic babies. The former will inevitably vote Democratic and the latter Republican, and it seems likely that we are all on the road to social and biological collapse as the numbers of the former grow and those of the latter shrink. 
But then perhaps the Age of Possibilities is based on a misconception. It may be that freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose, and what we really need is to be enshrouded, in commitments that, like actual shrouds, we do not freely choose but inherit, commitments to spouse, pets, God, and country. It is through such commitments that we learn to worry about others and about the future, when we will be well and truly enshrouded, and whatever children we have produced will be coping with whatever tax policies they have inherited from us. 
And then who knows? Why does it have to be a two-parent family? Perhaps some of these new forms of commitment will leave their victims feeling just as trapped and desperate; isn't that what really counts?

*As opposed to more traditional definitions like
"Freedom is the power rooted in reason and will to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform some deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility. Human freedom… attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1731)
or more concisely
freedom for the Christian is to choose Jesus Christ and to follow His ways. That is what freedom is.
**I, obviously, won't. What Brooks is thinking of is not actually most of human history but merely a kind of Long Victorian Era, when married middle-class women in Europe and North America had as little sexual freedom as single ones—beginning at the moment in Europe and North America when they stopped farming out their babies to wet-nurses, shamed by the polemics of Jean-Jacques Rousseau,  and ending when the use of infant formula became respectable. Thanks to chemical birth control single women achieved sexual freedom for the first time in history at around the same time.

***In fact according to Wikipedia the Nazi régime did not use this phrase, associated with Wilhelmine Germany and the loss of World War I. They did however offer rewards for fertility, as of 1933, giving a very substantial loan to the parents of a first child which was forgiven in installments on the births of a second, third, and fourth.

****Here, after giving you the impression that he has mastered all this data in the course of his extensive reading, is where Brooks reveals the source it all came from; not this time slipped into his Kindle by an anxious publisher, because the thing is not exactly published (it exists in 40 pages of  PDF), but perhaps communicated to Brooksie by Fieldstead and Company, the Orange County nonprofit that funded it, which exists to manage the philanthropic programs of the Howard F. Ahmanson, Jr. family "as part of a Christian worldview." A humble little corner in the land of wingnut welfare, running for example this:
Orange County Rescue Mission is a non-profit organization that uses Biblical principles in programs such as relationships, finance, and parenting. They accept homeless men, women, and children from any faith and do not require the homeless to participate in religious services to receive services such as food.
Ahmanson himself is a former member of C.J. Rushdoony's Christian Reconstructionist movement who left over such issues as Rushdoony's call for the death penalty for homosexuals, which Ahmanson has never supported; a Touretter whose wife takes care of most of his public communications; a major backer of the anti-Darwinist Discovery Institute; and, since 2008, a member of the Democratic Party (like the Christian Reconstructionists, California Republicans are too right-wing for him). 

Way more complex than a Koch brother, as you see, as well as "moderate" in a half-assed Brooksish way, but we are not talking about cutting-edge research environments here. Chapman has no graduate school and issues mostly business degrees; the Civil Service College includes course offerings like Emails@Work for Support Officers (8 hours), Developing Personal Confidence through Public Speaking (24 hours), and Creating Positive Bodies and Minds in Mid-Life and Beyond for Division 1 & 2 Officers (for Women Only) (16 hours).

*****More accurately known as the three-grandparent family in the ideal case for Chinese or Malay-Muslim families, organized around a patriarch with two wives (even though Muslims are permitted to have up to four wives and there is no explicit limit for Chinese). It was partly doomed when the government banned polygamy, under British influence, and when government housing policy began to plan only for four-person households (plus a maid, for the affluent, but in general a Filipina and hence not a suitable concubine). 

******This crisis is indeed one of the reasons for the establishment of the Singapore Civil Service College: it is hoped that in the more relaxed but nevertheless work-oriented atmosphere of, say, a lecture on familialism by Mr. Kotkin, colleagues will feel emboldened to ask one another out on dates, thus reversing the trend of socializing primarily on line. Undoubtedly the College's course offerings include instruction in dating behavior as well. 
Umberto Boccioni, Futurist Evening, 1910.  From Counterlight's Peculiars.