Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Changing Male Mind

Over at the Hooking Up Smart blog Susan Walsh shared a fascinating chart two days ago. Link here.

The chart offers a snapshot of what men want… in a mate. It compares male preferences between 1939 and 2008. Stephanie Coontz  reported on this culture shift a year ago in The New York Times.

The chart tells us that today’s men place relatively greater importance on love, attraction, education, sociability and good looks.

The greatest increases involved education, sociability, good looks and good financial prospect.

Today’s men rated love and sexual attraction most important. Men in 1939 rated good character the most important.

In 1939 men valued: dependable character, emotional stability, pleasing disposition, good health, desire for home and children. They placed far more importance on housekeeping skills, religious affiliation and chastity than do men today.

For whatever the reason, today’s men do not seem to be looking for wives. They seem to see marriage as a romantic interlude. Men in 1939 saw marriage as a social alliance.

As  Coontz notes, the education penalty has nearly vanished. That means, men do not hold higher education against women, especially when those women can help support the family. Of course, in an unstable marital climate a woman who can support herself will receive less alimony.

Yet, the more salient point is that men place the highest value on romantic love, sexual attraction and good looks. Today’s man is not looking for a wife; he seems more clearly to be looking for what a previous age would have called a courtesan or concubine.

Otherwise, it is difficult to understand why a modern man who values his prospective wife’s education also places so much more value on good looks than his 1939 counterpart.

When marriage was seen as an alliance between social beings, qualities like religious affiliation and social refinement were far more important. If you are going to make a life together and become part of a community these qualities are of great importance.

But, if marriage is based on romantic love and attraction, along with good looks, what will happen when they all fade.

Good character gains value over time; sexual attraction and good looks are diminishing assets.

One might say that the institution of marriage has evolved. One might also say that people no longer understand what marriage is, and therefore have unrealistic expectations about it. If the latter is true, the institution is more likely to punish their ignorance.

Perhaps it is too obvious to state, but marriages contracted in 1939 were much less likely to end in divorce than are more modern marriages. 

A Rape Epidemic in Sweden

An anonymous individual commenting on my post about the attitude of French citizens toward Muslims has suggested that the fault lies with the French themselves. They ought, the commenter suggests, learn to be more tolerant of Islam.

The commenter wrote:

The attitude of French citizens in a way is also a reflection of the difficulties faced by "French Muslims" in integrating into French society. There is an inherent bias against muslims in France, partly because of the significant media surrounding their growing population and possible xenophobic attitude of the native French at a time of world recession. The survey does shed some light on how mistrustful these French citizens have become against their Muslim brothers and sisters. It may mean the emergence of a more "conservative" attitude in France due to multiple factors. It may have been pushed by high unemployment and the more recent media surrounding Islamic insurgents in Mali. It also suggests a great deal of confusion among the French when differentiating between Islamic mainstream and Islamic fundamentalism. 

As always, I appreciate thoughtful comments, and this one certainly qualifies.

While reading it, I recalled a story that I read yesterday. It’s about one of the unintended consequences of the arrival of more and more Muslims in Sweden:

Front Page reports:

Sweden now has the second highest number of rapes in the world, after South Africa, which at 53.2 per 100,000 is six times higher than the United States. Statistics now suggest that 1 out of every 4 Swedish women will be raped.

In 2003, Sweden’s rape statistics were higher than average at 9.24, but in 2005 they shot up to 36.8 and by 2008 were up to 53.2. Now they are almost certainly even higher as Muslim immigrants continue forming a larger percentage of the population.

With Muslims represented in as many as 77 percent of the rape cases and a major increase in rape cases paralleling a major increase in Muslim immigration, the wages of Muslim immigration are proving to be a sexual assault epidemic by a misogynistic ideology.

The statistics are skewed by urban centers where the Islamic colonists cluster. In Stockholm this summer there  was an average of 5 rapes a day. Stockholm has gone from a Swedish city to a city that is one-third immigrant and is between a fifth and a quarter Muslim.

Sweden has been very accommodating of its Muslim citizens. One imagines that the new Muslims in Sweden are not Islamic fundamentalists.

Sweden has been paying a dreadful price. One supposes that the ever-gracious and politically correct Swedes will invoke the blame-the-victim logic that Norwegians have used: Muslim men must be excused because they are so unused to seeking women wearing shorts and skirts that they simply cannot control themselves.

As always, we await a statement from NOW.

"Only in America"

I found this Top Ten list on Richard Russell’s Dow Theory Letters site (sub. req.) I don’t know where it comes from, but it certainly has redeeming social value, so here it is, unedited, without commentary:


1) Only in America could the rich people - who pay 86% of all income taxes - be accused of not paying their "fair share" by people who don't pay any income taxes at all.

2) Only in America could people claim that the government still discriminates against black Americans when they have a black President, a black Attorney General, and roughly 18% of the federal work-force is black while only 12% of the population is black.

3) Only in America could they have had the two people most responsible for our tax code, Timothy Geithner, the head of the Treasury Department and Charles Rangel who once ran the Ways and Means Committee, BOTH turn out to be tax cheats who are in favor of higher taxes.

4) Only in America can they have terrorists kill people in the name of Allah and have the media primarily react by fretting that Muslims might be harmed by the backlash.

5) Only in America would they make people who want to legally become American citizens wait for years in their home countries and pay tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege while we discuss letting anyone who sneaks into the country illegally just 'magically' become American citizens.

6) Only in America could the people who believe in balancing the budget and sticking by the country's Constitution be thought of as "extremists."

7) Only in America could you need to present a driver's license to cash a check or buy alcohol, but not to vote.

8) Only in America could people demand the government investigate whether oil companies are gouging the public because the price of gas went up when the return on equity invested in a major U.S. oil company (Marathon Oil) is less than half of a company making tennis shoes (Nike).

9) Only in America could the government collect more tax dollars from the people than any nation in recorded history, still spend a Trillion dollars more than it has per year - for total spending of $7-Million PER MINUTE, and complain that it doesn't have nearly enough money.

10) Only in America could politicians talk about the greed of the rich at a $35,000.00 a plate campaign fund-raising event.
[Thanks to the commenter who explained that John Hawkins deserves credit for first publishing this list. Hawkins does have 20 items, so it's worth looking at his version. Link here.]

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Gone with the Wind

The story is too good to ignore.

A wind turbine in England has been blown down by… the wind.

The £250,000 tower, which stood as tall as a six storey building, was hit by gale force gusts of 50mph.

The structure then collapsed at a farm in Bradworth, Devon, leaving a "mangled wreck".

Margaret Coles, Chairwoman of Bradworthy District Council, said hail storms and strong winds have hit the area and the turbine, installed just three years ago, simply could not withstand the wind.

"The bolts on the base could not withstand the wind and as we are a very windy part of the country they [the energy company] have egg on their face," she said. "There are concerns about safety."

The Bradworthy Parish Council, who opposed the turbine, expressed concern that there was “nothing exceptional” in the speed of the winds.

 Tell me that that does not brighten up your day!

Does Feminism Work?

Feminist firebrand Lindy West is in ecstasy. I’m sure you wanted to know.

Writing in Jezebel West trumpets the good news: feminism is working! It's changing the world. Naturally, West does not say whether it is changing the world for better or worse.

It would be better news if West knew what the word “works” meant, but when you are dealing with an ideologue it is best not to quibble over meanings.

For West, the good news is that more and more people have been indoctrinated in feminist ideology. They may not be living feminist lives quite yet, but, according to a survey conducted in Great Britain they no longer respect traditional gender roles.

She quotes the study’s conclusion:

The vast majority of young people – about 80% of women and 70% of men across all races, classes, and family backgrounds - desire an egalitarian marriage in which both partners share breadwinning, housekeeping, and child rearing.

West is not too worried about the fact that, when it comes to practicing what they tell researchers, people seem to fall back into the familiar old gender roles:

Whatever they actually do in practice, the fact is that 70% of men expressed a desire for an egalitarian relationship. That's huge. And it makes sense that it would take time for practice to catch up to theory. We can want equality before we achieve it. In fact, we have to.

West never considers the possibility that a perfectly egalitarian marriage, of the kind that more and more young people have been brainwashed into thinking they want, is simply dysfunctional. It is a throwback to an economy where there is no division of labor or specialization, and where everyone grows his own food, makes his own clothes, and schools his own children.

A feminist utopia, if you like, but a profoundly reactionary vision, nevertheless.

West is right on one score: a vast majority of women in one survey would rather divorce than become housewives. Clearly, young women have been brainwashed by feminism, but will their attitude contribute to marital stability?

When it comes to traditional gender roles, West is filled with blinding contempt.

The great feminist epiphany, she explains, occurred when women discovered that: “we're more than just babymakers and rug-scrubbers and penis-receptacles.”

To me this sounds like raw misogyny.

West denounces the traditional division of the sexes in typically intemperate terms:

For years and years and years and years and years and years, the expectation was that you should find a "good" husband, and then you're taken care of. 4 LYFE. You take care of the house, beat the rugs, maybe you get a cute little vanity degree, you sleep in a weirdly chaste twin bed with your hair in a scarf. That's your "job." He pays the bills, provides the penising, trips over the ottoman, maybe has an affair or two. That's his no-quotation-marks job. He's happy. You're happy. The end. Except — PLOT TWIST — women weren't happy. And it wasn't the end, it was the beginning of all this shit we're endlessly shouting about.

One might ask how she knows that all of the women who chose such a lifestyle were unhappy, but that would be unkind.

We do need to ask how all of that feminism is working out for women today. Are they happier? Do they have better and more stable marriages? Do they have more or fewer divorces? Do they have as many children as they wanted? Do they have more or fewer eating disorders? Do they take more or less psychiatric medication? Do they consume more or less alcohol and narcotics? Do they suffer more or less abuse?

One doubts that West would be impressed, but the kind of egalitarian marriage that most young people today want and that most parents today want their children to have is, as other studies have shown, 50% more likely to end in divorce and 100% more likely to contain abuse.

Why isn’t Lindy West cheering that news?

And then there’s this: men who follow the feminist playbook and do more womanly household chores have less sex than do men who limit their activity to more manly chores:

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as they say: the more housework married men do, the less sex they have, according to a new study published Wednesday.

Husbands who spend more time doing traditionally female chores -- such as cooking, cleaning, and shopping -- reported having less sex than those who do more masculine tasks, said the study in the American Sociological Review.

"Our findings suggest the importance of socialized gender roles for sexual frequency in heterosexual marriage," said lead author Sabino Kornrich, of the Center for Advanced Studies at the Juan March Institute in Madrid.

"Couples in which men participate more in housework typically done by women report having sex less frequently. Similarly, couples in which men participate more in traditionally masculine tasks -- such as yard work, paying bills, and auto maintenance -- report higher sexual frequency."

The article concludes:

But both men and women in couples with more traditional household labor divisions said they had more sex.

"The results suggest the existence of a gendered set of sexual scripts, in which the traditional performance and display of gender is important for creation of sexual desire and performance of sexual activity," Kornrich said.

How long before men figure out that the feminist vision is a trap? How long before women figure it out? How many broken homes will it take before people discover that utopian feminism leads to dystopia?

Bye, Bye, Hillary

It isn’t very often that John Cassidy of The New Yorker and Dorothy Rabinowitz of The Wall Street Journal find themselves in agreement, so the occasion is noteworthy.

As Shakespeare put it: “Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments….”

Cassidy and Rabinowitz come to the same conclusion about our outgoing Secretary of State's lack of achievements.

Hillary Clinton leaves her job with exceptionally high approval ratings. The media and more than a few Republicans have expressed unstinting admiration for the great job she has done, to the point where few people have noticed that she has accomplished very little, if anything.

Cassidy writes:

[George] Marshall gave his name to an economic-recovery plan for war-torn Europe. Acheson laid down the Cold War policy of containment and helped create NATO. Adams helped conceive the Monroe Doctrine, which defined Central and South America as part of the U.S. sphere of influence. Kissinger pioneered d├ętente with the Soviets, instigated a rapprochement with the Chinese, and did much else besides (by no means all of it estimable). By contrast, Hillary’s signature achievements look like small beer. She was the public face of the U.S. response to the Arab Spring, which involved persuading Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian President, to step aside peaceably, winning international support for U.S. military intervention in Libya, and resisting international pressure for similar action in Syria. How these policies will ultimately play out, it is too early to say.

It’s probably not too early to say that they have been working out very badly, but why cavil.

Cassidy tries try to find some redeeming value in Clinton’s tenure:

Throughout her tenure, she was a vocal proponent of female empowerment, gay rights, and equitable economic development in poor countries. She also defended freedom of expression. Perhaps her most memorable moment was helping to secure the freedom of Chen Guangcheng, the Chinese dissident, who is now a scholar in residence at N.Y.U.

If that’s the best Cassidy can find, one is not awestruck. One respects the effort it took to come up with those.

Cassidy concludes:

Hillary didn’t create these trends, but she did her part for Team U.S.A. As a “rock star diplomat,” she toured tirelessly and put on good shows. Since that’s what she was hired to do, it seems a bit unfair to judge her too harshly.

OK, let’s not be too harsh, but still, in Cassidy’s judgment, her record amounts to very, very little. He gives her credit for logging a lot of frequent flier miles, well and good, but she was more show than substance. Since she had no real background in foreign policy before taking the job, why is anyone surprised?

Now, to Dorothy Rabinowitz, who judges HRC rather more harshly.

Rabinowitz, like many others, notes that the leftist propaganda machine has already started work on making Hillary the first woman president.

Barack Obama has already shown that you can overcome an absence of achievement with good PR, and Hillary is following in his footsteps.

Rabinowitz writes:

What is already clear—what should stand out blazing in neon—are the extraordinary claims now being made for Mrs. Clinton's achievements as secretary of state. One of the greatest secretaries of state America has known, according to the president—and his is one of the more modest assessments. It's not the sort of view, to be sure, for which she can be held responsible, but it is an indicator of the passions that would drive her candidacy for the White House: the first woman president.

No one would dispute Mrs. Clinton's hard work, her travels across the globe, her famous capacity to show up armed with encyclopedic detail on every issue, every side of every question. She has been the most dutiful of secretaries of state, has obligingly and diligently carried forth Mr. Obama's designs for shrinking the American presence in the world. She leaves office having left behind no imprint of a vision, no evidence of concerns other than the dictates of diligent obedience.

Both Cassidy and Rabinowitz are telling their readers to take a step back and to try to evaluate the Clinton record dispassionately. They deserve praise for their efforts.

Jonathan Tobin at the Commentary Contentions blog is considerably less charitable. He is willing to call a failure a failure, so he zeroes in on the greatest failure of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy: the mismanagement of the Arab Spring.

Tobin describes how Hillary Clinton helped facilitate the transition from Mubarak rule to Muslim Brotherhood rule.

In his words:

The significance of the statement from Defense Minister Gen. Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi is that the sidelining of the military during the transition after Mubarak’s fall was very much Clinton’s handiwork. While the administration probably gets more blame than they deserve for the end of Mubarak’s rule, they haven’t gotten enough for the way they helped smooth the way for the Brotherhood’s ascendancy. Clinton used the leverage that the more than $1 billion in American aid Egypt gets from the United States in order to force the generals to stand aside and let the Brotherhood take power. Neither she nor the president has shown the slightest inclination to use that same leverage to push the Brotherhood out or even to make it loosen its grip on total power.

Anyone doubting the importance of this in terms of Clinton’s legacy needs to understand that on her watch, the most populous Arab nation has moved from being a force for moderation in the region to being in the grip of an Islamist government that is not only hostile to our values (as Morsi’s anti-Semitic rants and his equally hateful explanations for them illustrate), but also has re-established good relations with our enemies like Iran, strengthened terrorists like the Hamas regime in Gaza and threatened the peace with Israel.

This is a diplomatic setback of the first order. But instead of speaking out in order to try and restrain Morsi from killing his opponents or supporting those Egyptians who want to know how it is that they have swapped a secular dictator for an Islamist one, Clinton and her boss have made it clear that they will continue funding him. If this is their idea of foreign policy success, we’d hate to see what failure looks like.

It is worth underscoring Tobin’s point: over the past few days Egypt has been in flames. Dozens of people have been killed. Hundreds more have been injured.

To the Obama/Clinton foreign policy team, it’s just growing pains.

Hillary has trotted out an old ploy: declare victory and go home.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Better Orgasms for College Coeds

Unfortunately, it’s not a joke. The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities is going to offer a seminar on the female orgasm.

It’s not part of a human biology program. It’s more a how-to program, something that is designed to help women to have more, better orgasms.

Of course, you’re asking yourself how it’s possible that anyone does not know how to orgasm any more. In the unlikely event that these coeds haven’t seen any porn, the world is awash with instruction manuals for women.

“Orgasm aficionados and beginners of all genders are welcome to come learn about everything from multiple orgasms to that mysterious G-spot,” reads the description posted on the school’s official events calendar.

If you were concerned that America’s universities were not providing students with the skills they will need to get the good engineering and technology jobs that are out there, fear not.

Female students will be able to console themselves with more, better orgasms. Male students will revel in the knowledge that they now possess advanced skills in giving women mind-blowing orgasms.

Of course, this means that these male students have learned nothing from all the porn they watch. It’s so hard to believe.

As it happens, the UMTC event is not an anomaly. The instructors have offered this event it at hundreds of venues across the country. Many have been universities.

No one is against orgasms, but still, is it appropriate for a public university to be running how-to seminars on the orgasmic potential of coeds. Doesn't the word “decadence” immediately come to mind?

Naturally, the sponsors declare it to be empowering-- because modern women will do some very strange things if they believe that it is empowering-- but do you really believe reducing women to their orgasmic potential is respectful?

The experts suggest that nothing embarrasses them,-- I take it as a character flaw—so they will happily be offering a lesson in gross anatomy. Will anyone walk away with her dignity intact? And will anyone’s sex life really be improved by listening to a public lecture where the female body will be laid bare… in the interest of orgasms.

The seminar is going to be conducted by Marshall Miller and Kate Weinberg.

I couldn’t find a picture of Kate, but Marshall Miller was once photographed with another sexpert, one Dorian Solot. For your edification:

I don’t want to be any more unkind than I usually am, but seriously, would you ever want to learn anything from these two? Do they look like the picture of emotional serenity?

If Miller and Sobol are living witnesses to what mind-blowing orgasms do to you, most sensible people will never want to have another orgasm. 

Yoga as Psychotherapy

Here’s the latest news from the war against mental illness: scientists have just discovered that yoga works.

Now we can add yoga to the list of therapies that the mental health profession grudgingly accepts. Among them is aerobic exercise, notable for being an effective treatment for some forms of depression.

Time magazine notes the yoga has become a major cultural phenomenon. Most of the people who do yoga swear that it relieves anxiety and stress. Others believe it provides significant help with depression. Could that many people be wrong? Apparently not. So, science is now playing catch-up.

Yes, we do know that there are some minor risks to it, but it compares well with medication, it costs less, and it does not require you to be drugged out.

Compared to many forms of therapy, yoga does not tell you what to think, what to believe or which cause to favor.

Time reports:

“Most individuals already know that yoga produces some kind of a calming effect. Individually, people feel better after doing the physical exercise,” says lead study author Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke University Medical Center. “Mentally, people feel calmer, sharper, maybe more content. We thought it’s time to see if we could pull all [the literature] together … to see if there’s enough evidence that the benefits individual people notice can be used to help people with mental illness.”

Their findings suggest that yoga does in fact have positive effects on mild depression and sleep problems, and it improves the symptoms of psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia and ADHD among patients using medication.

Unfortunately, the current research has only studied a small number of people. It is too soon to say whether people should throw away their Prozac and Xanax and take up yoga.

Time concludes:

But while the research is promising, yoga likely won’t be a panacea for mental illness. Nor should patients try to replace their medications with the practice. “What we are saying is that we still need to do further, large-scale studies before we are ready to conclude that people with mental illnesses can turn to yoga as a first-line treatment,” says Doraiswamy. ”We are not saying throw away your Prozac and turn to yoga. We’re saying it has the promise and potential. If a large national study were done, it could turn out that yoga is just as good and may be a low cost alternative to people with unmet needs.” In the meantime, he says it doesn’t hurt to add yoga to existing treatments so patients can take advantage of any potential benefits.

We should underscore the idea that yoga and aerobic exercise are not panaceas. Unfortunately, the recent hype over Prozac and even the prior hype over psychoanalysis tended to persuade people that taking a magic pill or lying on a magic couch would make all of their problems go away.

If, as often happens, people who suffer anxiety and depression have difficulty knowing how to conduct their lives. They are very good at feeling their feelings but they do not know how to relate those feelings to their life situation. They have been convinced by the therapy culture that feelings are all in the mind.

More than that, they have never learned how to manage their lives more productively and constructively, the better to diminish their mental agony.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sheryl Sandberg on Gender Stereotypes

Were they not coming from one of the most successful women in Silicon Valley, Sheryl Sandberg’s remarks would have been dismissed as shopworn feminist platitudes.

When spoken by the Facebook COO, the world feels obliged to take notice. All those who want to eradicate gender differences cheered her on.  

According to Sandberg, gender differences are really gender stereotypes. She believes that it all begins with tee shirts.

Using tee shirts the culture teaches boys, to Sandberg’s horror, that they might want to grow up to be smart like Daddy. It teaches girls, to Sandberg’s greater horror, that they might want to grow up to be pretty like Mommy.

The Guardian reports:

Sandberg, who is publishing a book called Lean In on women in the workplace in March, singled out T-shirts sold in the US, with the boys' version emblazoned with the words "Smart Like Daddy", while the girls' version says "Pretty like Mommy".

"I would love to say that was 1951, but it was last year," she said. "As a woman becomes more successful, she is less liked, and as a man becomes more successful, he is more liked, and that starts with those T-shirts."

Sandberg does not explain how she will rectify the problem. Does she want to ban gender-specific tee shirts? Does she want to forbid parents from buying dolls for their daughters and trucks for their sons? How far is she willing to go to impose her view on the populace?

Does Sandberg believe that there is no biological reason why girls want to grow up and become mothers? Does she think that girls would not want to be pretty if there were no gender stereotyping?

One suspects that she has not thought too deeply about these matters.

And then there’s the likability problem. Sandberg seems to believe that women who get ahead are not very well liked.

The Guardian summarizes:

She blasted managers who unconsciously reflect stereotypes when they judge women's performance, saying: "She's great at her job but she's just not as well liked by her peers," or: "She's a bit aggressive."

"They say this with no understanding that this is the penalty women face because of gender stereotypes," she said.

But, do you get the impression that Sandberg herself is eminently likable? Coming across as a moralistic scold who wants to impose her views of child-rearing and gender differences on the world she does not seem very likable.

It has nothing to do with gender stereotyping: it has everything to do with being an ideologue.

For all anyone knows, some female managers might not be very likable. Why is it that every time a woman is criticized, certain people conclude that the criticism must be based on raw prejudice?

When you attribute everything to gender stereotyping you are saying that reality does not exist.

Keep in mind, no less a liberal than Anne-Marie Slaughter resigned her position at the State Department because she discovered could not be a good mother to her children while holding down a very demanding job.

She understood that gender roles are not interchangeable and that when you act as though they are your children pay a price.

Slaughter did acknowledge that there are some superwomen out there who can do both at the same time, but she added that they are few and far between.

But, Slaughter does policy analysis. She knows that you cannot make policy out of exceptional cases.

Let’s grant that Sheryl Sandberg counts as one of them. One must also notice that her wealth offers her opportunities that are not available to the average woman.

To say that all women should live their lives like Sheryl Sandberg is wildly unrealistic.

Good feminist that she is Sandberg also wants to tell people how to organize the division of household labor.

According to the Guardian:

Sandberg also criticised the fact that it is still assumed women will take on the majority of the caring responsibilities at home, even when both parents work. "Women still have two jobs in the most developed countries around the world; men have one."

It’s nice to have a high-powered executive take it upon herself to criticize that way other women live their lives.

She does not know it, but egalitarian marriages tend not to work out very well. If a couple divides the housework equally, a recent study from Norway showed that the chances that they will get divorced increase by 50%.

Do you want to bet your marriage on Sheryl Sandberg’s ideologically driven view of how you should live your life?

Martha Raddatz Gives Robert Menendez a Pass

One understands why the Obama administration would have covered up an investigation of Sen. Robert Menendez’s use of Dominican prostitutes before the last election.

Why risk a safe senate seat for a piffle?

I don’t need to tell anyone that if Menendez was a Republican he would have been indicted in October.

When an American citizen goes abroad and has carnal relations with an underage prostitute he is criminally liable under the American laws.

Yesterday, Menendez sat down for an interview with MarthaRaddatz of ABC News. In the course of the six minute interview Raddatz, good soldier that she is, did not ask a single question about the FBI investigation.

Journalistic integrity, thy name is not Martha Raddatz.

Did Raddatz take it on herself to cover up for Menendez or did she accept conditions demanded by Menendez?

If Menendez had been a Republican, as several media outlets have noted, he would have been grilled on the allegations that he committed statutory rape.

We may draw the following lessons:

The first: the press will allow a liberal Democrat to get away with anything. In this regard, the case of Bill Clinton is clear enough.

Second, the press will not allow a Republican to get away with anything.

We should also note that liberal Democrats, by and large, do not care about sexual transgressions. Republicans, by and large, do care about sexual transgressions.

The hubbub over Newt Gingrich’s infidelity was coming from the right as much as the left.

As for Menendez, the real question is: what does Nicholas Kristof have to say?

As you know, Kristof has been a fearless opponent of sex trafficking and sex tourism, especially the kind that involves underage girls. He has written passionate columns about child prostitutes in Cambodia, among other places.

Shouldn’t Kristof have something to say about the liberal Democratic senators who are being investigated for just such activities?

We do recall that Martha Raddatz moderated the Vice Presidential debate in the last election. The Republicans who negotiated the moderators of the presidential debates obviously got rolled. Witness Candy Crowley and George Stephanopoulus.

If journalists lack even a semblance of integrity, then Republicans should disqualify all journalists from the role of panel moderators. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Another Secret to Success

I am convinced that the world would be a better place if more people would learn how to think more clearly. That is, if they learn how to formulate a concept that has more than a passing resemblance to the point they are trying to communicate.

Last week, Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield offered to explain the secret of success. They concluded that it lies in the capacity to perform a brutal self-examination and self-assessment. It is all about gaining self-awareness.

For the uninitiated, that means: an introspective voyage of therapeutic self-discovery.

They attempted to buttress their point by describing restaurateur David Chang’s efforts to turn around a failing restaurant:

Mr. Chang could have blamed someone else for his troubles, or worked harder (though available evidence suggests that might not have been possible) or he could have made minor tweaks to the menu. Instead he looked inward and subjected himself to brutal self-assessment.

Was the humble noodle bar of his dreams economically viable? Sure, a traditional noodle dish had its charm but wouldn’t work as the mainstay of a restaurant if he hoped to pay his bills.

Mr. Chang changed course. Rather than worry about what a noodle bar should serve, he and his cooks stalked the produce at the greenmarket for inspiration. Then they went back to the kitchen and cooked as if it was their last meal, crowding the menu with wild combinations of dishes they’d want to eat — tripe and sweetbreads, headcheese and flavor-packed culinary mashups like a Korean-style burrito. What happened next Mr. Chang still considers “kind of ridiculous” — the crowds came, rave reviews piled up, awards followed and unimaginable opportunities presented themselves.

Did Chang go to therapy and beat himself up over his failures? Not at all. Did he do a relentless self-assessment of his strengths and weaknesses? No, he did not.

He put his past failure behind him and refused to self-examine.

He did not belabor his failure. He did not ask what he had been doing wrong. He set out, with his staff, to do things differently.

He did not ask everyone to sit around in a meeting brainstorming. He did not ask anyone to do a brutal self-examination. He did not even make a plan.

He let everyone loose and let it all happen as it would. His principle was: what would you like to eat? It had nothing to do with self-examination.

Hdid what the French call bricolageIt means: constructing or creating something by using the materials available, almost like a pot luck dinner. It doesn’t mean following a recipe or even forcing the world to conform to your vision of what it should look like.

When Sweeney and Gosfield suggest that Chang was questioning every aspect of his approach, they are simply wrong. He was not questioning anything. He simply set out to do things differently.

Had he spent his time belaboring the reasons for his failure, nothing would have happened.

Sweeney and Gosfield also offer the example of Martina Navratilova, a tennis champion who reacted to a loss by deciding to work harder at her game:

The tennis champion Martina Navratilova, for example, told us that after a galling loss to Chris Evert in 1981, she questioned her assumption that she could get by on talent and instinct alone. She began a long exploration of every aspect of her game. She adopted a rigorous cross-training practice (common today but essentially unheard of at the time), revamped her diet and her mental and tactical game and ultimately transformed herself into the most successful women’s tennis player of her era.

Navratilova’s transformation had nothing to do with a brutal self-assessment. Her experience on the court had already told her that her approach was ineffective.

The only question was whether would accept or reject the verdict of reality.

Note well, she did not explore everything she did wrong. She did not try to find out why she had gotten lazy. She instituted a new training regimen and worked harder at the tactical and mental aspects of her game.

This has nothing to do with a brutal self-examination. The authors should know enough about formulating a concept to avoid misleading their readers.

Women in Combat

Kathleen Parker has addressed the subject of women in combat before, but she goes back to it, because, apparently, too many people have failed to get the point.

She explains:

Women, because of their inferior physical capacities and greater vulnerabilities upon capture, have a diminished opportunity for survival.

And yes, elevated testosterone levels enhance a young man’s capacity for aggression.

In Parker’s words:

We’re potentially talking about 18-year-old girls, notwithstanding their “adult” designation under the law. (Parents know better.) At least 18-year-old males have the advantage of being gassed up on testosterone, the hormone that fuels not just sexual libido but, more to the point, aggression. To those suffering a sudden onset of the vapors, ignore hormones at your peril.

So many people are so confused about the meaning of equality—many think it is a synonym for “same”—that Parker feels obliged to it does not mean that everyone is the same when it comes to job opportunities:

Now, hold the image of your 18-year-old daughter, neighbor, sister or girlfriend as you follow these facts, which somehow have been ignored in the advancement of a fallacy. The fallacy is that because men and women are equal under the law, they are equal in all endeavors and should have all access to the same opportunities. This is true except when the opportunity requires certain characteristics. Fact: Females have only half the upper-body strength as males — no small point in the field.

Of course, the combat military is not just another job, any more than is playing in the NBA. Do you think that women are being deprived of equal opportunity and career advancement because they do not and cannot play in the NBA?

Further to the fallacy is the operating assumption that military service is just another job. The rules of civil society do not apply to the military, which is a top-down organization in which the rules are created to maximize efficiency in killing enemies. It is not just another job that can be managed with the human resources department’s Manual on Diversity and Sensitivity.

The argument that women’s performance on de facto front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan has proved concerns about combat roles unwarranted is false logic. Just because women in forward support companies can return fire when necessary — or die — doesn’t necessarily mean they are equal to men in combat.

Unbeknown perhaps to many civilians, combat has a very specific meaning in the military. It has nothing to do with stepping on an IED or suffering the consequences of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It means aggressively engaging and attacking the enemy with deliberate offensive action, with a high probability of face-to-face contact.

As a society we are strongly opposed to violence against women. We believe that women need special protection against male violence. Aren’t we contradicting ourselves when we declare that it is fine to expose women to the risk of unnecessary violence:

If the enemy is all around you — and you need every available person — that is one set of circumstances. To ask women to engage vicious men and risk capture under any other is beyond understanding.

Parker adds another point, one that no one really wants to think about: what happens when that eighteen year old girl is captured by the enemy:

The threat to unit cohesion should require no elaboration. But let’s leave that obvious point to pedants and cross into enemy territory where somebody’s 18-year-old daughter has been captured. No one wants to imagine a son in these circumstances either, obviously, but women face special tortures. And, no, the rape of men has never held comparable appeal.

We can train our men to ignore the screams of their female comrades, but is this the society we want to create? And though some female veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have endured remarkable suffering, their ability to withstand or survive violent circumstances is no rational argument for putting American girls and women in the hands of enemy men.

It will kill us in the end.

Feelgood Foreign Policy

Today’s nominee for the Now They Tell Us Award: the Associated Press for an excellent article about what has followed the overthrow of Moammar Qaddhafi.

You remember Libya: that was the NATO attack where President Obama was leading from behind.

Run by amateurs in the State Department and the White House the Arab Spring was feelgood foreign policy. It worked to Obama’s advantage in the election campaign, but, as with all policy decision, the proof lies in the outcome.

In more Biblical terms, from the book of Hosea: For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.

Yesterday the Associated Press offered a long, detailed and comprehensive article by Maggie Michael. Here’s the opening:

Libya's upheaval the past two years helped lead to the ongoing conflict in Mali, and now Mali's war threatens to wash back and further hike Libya's instability. Fears are growing that post-Moammar Gadhafi Libya is becoming an incubator of turmoil, with an overflow of weapons and Islamic jihadi militants operating freely, ready for battlefields at home or abroad.

The possibility of a Mali backlash was underlined the past week when several European governments evacuated their citizens from Libya's second largest city, Benghazi, fearing attacks in retaliation for the French-led military assault against al-Qaida-linked extremists in northern Mali.

More worrisome is the possibility that Islamic militants inspired by - or linked to - al-Qaida can establish a strong enough foothold in Libya to spread instability across a swath of North Africa where long, porous desert borders have little meaning, governments are weak, and tribal and ethnic networks stretch from country to country. The Associated Press examined the dangers in recent interviews with officials, tribal leaders and jihadis in various parts of Libya.

 Already, Libya's turmoil echoes around the region and in the Middle East. The large numbers of weapons brought into Libya or seized from government caches during the 2011 civil war against Gadhafi are now smuggled freely to Mali, Egypt and its Sinai Peninsula, the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and to rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad. Jihadis in Libya are believed to have operational links with fellow militant groups in the same swath, Libyan fighters have joined rebels in Syria and are believed to operate in other countries as well.

Libyan officials, activists and experts are increasingly raising alarm over how Islamic militants have taken advantage of the oil-rich country's weakness to grow in strength. During his more than four-decade rule Gadhafi stripped the country of national institutions, and after his fall the central government has little authority beyond the capital, Tripoli. Militias established to fight Gadhafi remain dominant, and tribes and regions are sharply divided.

In the eastern city of Benghazi, birthplace of the revolt that led to the ouster and killing of Gadhafi, militias espousing an al-Qaida ideology and including veteran fighters are prevalent, even ostensibly serving as security forces on behalf of the government since the police and military are so weak and poorly armed. One such militia, Ansar al-Shariah, is believed to have been behind the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in the city that killed four Americans, including the ambassador. Since then, militants have been blamed for a wave of assassinations of security officers and government officials.

There’s much more. It’s well worth a read.

And remember when French philosopher and self-appointed moral beacon Bernard-Henri Levy was agitating for the overthrow of Qaddhafi. Remember that he was supposedly instrumental in convincing French President Sarkozy to intervene.

How long do you think it will take BHL to accept responsibility for the horrors the policy has wrought?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Should We Blame It on Porn?

Is porn to blame?

Is it to blame for this, reported by Allison Pearson in the London Telegraph:

A friend’s daughter recently started at a highly regarded boarding school. When her mother asked how she was enjoying the mixed-sex environment, the girl said quietly: “You have to give the boys oral sex or they get cross.” Reeling with shock, the mum protested that her darling daughter did not have to do anything of the sort. “Oh yes you do,” replied the girl. “And you have to shave down there or the boys don’t like it.”

The daughter is 14 years old.

Pornography is the young generation’s sex education. We have been hearing from educators that it is essential for children to learn about sex, to explore their sexuality and to experience the full enjoyment that comes with it.

The result: fourteen year old girls are being coerced into offering oral sex.

Surely, the easy availability of pornography is not a good thing. Learning about sex from porn is not a good thing. Trying to mimic what one sees in porn because one has seen it in porn is not a good thing. Sexting pornographic images of oneself is not a good thing, either.

Then again, nothing in porn obliges girls to offer oral sex? Nothing about porn obliges girls to engage in anal sex?

So, we need to address the more important issue: why do these girls feel obliged to go along.

One reason is fairly clear: these children are largely unsupervised. Or else, their parents have a highly permissive attitude toward adolescent sexuality.

When you read the paragraph I quoted you were surely thinking what I was thinking: Did this 14 year old’s mother pull her out of the school?

Since nothing in the article suggests that she did, I will assume that she did not. Since Pearson recommends that parents be more vigilant and protective toward their children, it seems clear that this mother, and the girl’s father, have not been doing their job.

Her daughter is confiding something that is clearly embarrassing. To me, she seems to be asking for help. By allowing her to stay in school, her mother is not only refusing to help, she is condoning what is happening.

I am not familiar with the intricacies of British mores or libel law, but why did Pearson fail to name the school? What if other girls have been coerced into performing oral sex and are not telling their mothers. Don’t the parents have a right to know? Shouldn’t the school administration have to answer for what is happening to the children in their charge?

And then, consider that this mother told her daughter that she did not “have to do anything of the sort.”

Apparently, the message did not get through, because her darling daughter replied that, Yes, she did.

Not to quibble too much, but don’t you think that the mother should have told her daughter categorically that she should not be doing it? Telling her that she did not have to do it is like telling her that she might reasonably choose to do it.

Sometimes children need a more firm set of rules and stricter guidance.

True, today’s parents need to be especially protective of their children. Yet, how many parents still command their children’s respect? How many are sufficiently confident in their judgment to set down clear rules? How many are afraid that they are going to make their children unpopular and sexually repressed? How many can still exercise moral authority?

We, as a culture, have been teaching children to be independent, autonomous and to be rebellious. Children are constantly told not to heed the advice of their superannuated parental units.

Why are we surprised to see that these same children have no way to defend themselves against the siren song of their peer culture?

As for the idea of protection, the only kind of protection that our culture recommends is: a condom. In the past fathers have been charged with the role of protecting their families. Now, no one is allowed to define men as protectors of breadwinners. Thus, condoms notwithstanding, children are not being protected.

And then there’s this: girls today are brought up to believe that they can and should do anything that a boy can do, reality be damned. The American government has just decided, as a matter of policy, that the military should not distinguish between men and women. Even if women cannot pass the tests, they will be sent into combat anyway.

We know that boys very rarely say No to an opportunity for “free love,” so why should girls, who are told to act like boys, feel that they should be the ones who are charged with saying No?

Wouldn't that represent gender discrimination, a throwback to the days when girls were supposed to be virgins on their wedding night?

Many feminists are horrified by the proliferation of pornography, but  these same feminists have been insisting that women should be doing anything that a man can do, and that women enjoy sex just as much as men .

In the feminist manual girls do not need protection; they can defend themselves. They are supposed to be developing as independent and autonomous persons, unfettered by repressive patriarchal authority.

To be fair, Pearson explains that  some “liberal” parents are not quite as horrified as are she and her friend:

Mainstream media has made porn-inspired sex seem compulsory for girls at ever younger ages. “So what?” says the liberal parent who doesn’t think it’s cool to challenge their child’s lifestyle choices, and may secretly envy them. 

If enough liberal parents grant their children permission to have sex at age 14 this will create a cultural norm that is very difficult for other children to resist.