June 18, 2013
"Playful", "Unapologetic Masculinity"? Really???
I'm always somewhat mystified when I see "masculinity" defined as a flagrant lack of self control coupled with a broken moral compass. Sometimes it seems that we have forgotten the distinction between acting like a child and choosing to be an adult; between doing what comes naturally and doing what's necessary to ensure not just the survival but the continued evolution of our species.
Last week, I read an essay that moved me to tears. I read it again this morning and cried just as hard as I did the first time I read it.
They were tears of anger as much as tears of grief.
The essay was written by a man remembering his father, and that still, quiet voice reaffirmed everything I have always admired and loved about the best kind of man - the one who isn't in it for himself. The one who thinks ahead; who looks before he leaps; who tempers emotion with reason. Who thinks about the future of the society he lives in, the children he fathers, the destiny of the human race.
After decades of self-justifying articles about how men are hard wired to value quantity over quality and transitory gratification over permanence and progress, we're now being treated to similar arguments about the true nature of women. Being female (and therefore no stranger to the darker impulses of femininity), I'm less skeptical about such arguments than one might suppose. Like Chesterton, I've always thought the traditional restrictions on men and woman were put there for a reason. They are there to restrain us, and to protect others from the deeply destructive aspects of human nature.
Both sexes tell themselves comforting stories about the nature of our better halves. Men like to believe they are the only ones whose instincts bear watching. It's comforting to reduce complex phenomena to a simplistic, almost mathemagical formula: women are hypergamous (which means men's looks don't really matter - in theory at least, any man with a fat enough wallet can die surrounded by compliant, nineteen year old Czech supermodels). Hope springs eternal, so long as one can view females as mostly inert, asexual objects of the male sex drive who can be relied upon, contradictory beliefs about the arbitrary and capricious nature of womankind notwithstanding, to behave in predictable ways. We women just live for marriage and commitment; never acting, always acted upon. When they don't, that's not nature! It's some outside force, acting upon them. Both sides do this, by the way. Conservatives do it every time they fulminate about how feminism has "tricked" a whole generation. It's as though we can't be expected to think about our own lives. When we screw up, it's not our fault! We were sold a lie.
Even our most idiotic lapses our not our fault, really. There's no personal responsibility; only helpless, pathetic victims of feminism (or patriarchal oppression - take your pick) whose choices, like those of all those men who are "only doing what comes naturally", mustn't be questioned or judged because people who judge are prudes. Or busybodies.
Such a framework explains so much. Except it doesn't, really. If women value marriage above all else, why are 60-70% of divorces initiated by women? The conventional wisdom has several answers: they're gold digging hussies (never mind that their standard of living actually drops, post divorce). Or they're brainwashed by the siren song of feminism (never mind that rising divorce rates predate no fault and The Feminine Mystique by a good century or so). Failed marriages are never their fault, nor their husbands' faults. Facts have never been able to compete with a really comforting narrative that essentially dismisses the notion that all of us - male or female - have the ability to move beyond our wiring and assume responsibility for the decisions we make.
We women have our own fables. Too many of us continue to believe that men can be trained, like seals, to want what we want and value what we value. We tell ourselves that it's "the system" that makes people behave the way they do. This is the opposite of the hard wiring meme - it's not human nature, it's those unnatural, rigid gender stereotypes that are holding us back. If we could just cast aside the shackles of patriarchal oppression, women could be just.like.men - wanting what they want, valuing what they value, and thereby achieving the same outcomes; improbably without sacrificing one iota of what makes us female, and feminine.
And men would be 'free' to want what women want and value what women value, in scrupulously equal amounts.
I'm so sick of reading articles about why women (and men) can't have it all. What about our children? What kind of selfish jerk seriously thinks he or she deserves to have everything they want?
All this focus on what men and women naturally want, coupled with furiously reflexive defenses of what various parties perceive to be "natural" for men or women, can't be good for the future of the human race. We have all but divorced parenthood from marriage, because why on earth should men and women have to limit their lifestyle choices simply because they chose to express their beautiful and natural desire to bring a child into the world?
Selfishness and self absorption are the New Rationality. Self restraint is wimpy and eminently mockable, shame is off limits, and "What's in it for me?" is now the gold standard by which moral judgments are made. Thumbing our noses at our opponents (#winning!)has become more important than doing what's right even though it's hard. Or doesn't get us ahead. Or gets us laughed at.
Dear God, what a wasteland we're leaving our children.
June 17, 2013
The Obama Admin's War on Transparency?
A major press theme during the Evil Bush Years was that brave, truth-to-powering patriots who tried to hold the administration accountable would be harshly dealt with. So imagine our shock to read this, from a former Inspector General fired by the most transparent administration evah:
... I learned, through being fired by the Obama administration, that performing one’s responsibilities as one should, and potentially adversely affecting the administration’s image, is not the way to keep one’s job. (Fortunately, I was not dependent on my federal IG salary.)
That reality was made apparent to me — and, through what happened to me, to all IGs — when I supported my staff of longtime dedicated civil servants, who had recommended taking action against one Kevin Johnson, a former NBA player who had misused, for personal purposes, about $750,000 of an AmeriCorps grant intended for underprivileged young people. What I did not then know was that he was a friend and supporter of President Obama — a fact that caused the proverbial you-know-what to hit the fan.
Without detailing all that happened, the bottom line was that I started to receive pressure to drop the case against Mr. Johnson. When I declined to repudiate my staff’s work, the guillotine fell: I was summarily telephoned that if I did not resign in one hour, I would be fired. And I was, along with my special assistant, John Park. The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote of my firing: “The evidence suggests that [President Obama’s] White House fired a public official who refused to roll over to protect a Presidential crony.”
Similar questions have been raised about other IGs who somehow have been discarded. Amtrak IG Fred Weiderhold, Treasury special IG Neil Barofsky, and International Trade Commission IG Judith Gwynn all left their positions after disputes that weren’t appreciated by the administration, giving more reason for others to go easy with the administration. Further, the president has significantly failed to fill IG vacancies in important agencies (State, Interior, Labor, Homeland Security, and USAID) – well-documented by former IG Joseph Schmitz — demeaning the importance of the IG position.
We are shocked.... shocked to learn that the administration would intervene on behalf of a wealthy one percenter who stole from poor, underprivileged youth.
Is Congress Smarter Than the WaPo's Editorial Board?
In an overwrought editorial about the "epidemic" of military rape, the Washington Post Editorial board once more show that they can't even get basic facts right:
Of the 26,000 unwanted sexual contact incidents in 2012 contained in a recent Defense Department survey, only 3,374 were reported and, Ms. Gillibrand said, only one in 10 ended up going to trial.
The Post links to a list of DoD surveys. Apparently, selecting (never mind reading) the correct source and linking directly to it was a bridge too far. Had one of the Post's editorial board actually read the survey (you can stop laughing now), this paragraph in the summary section might have given them cause to doubt that the report describes an "epidemic" of rape. Can you spot the refrain running through the cited statistics?
Unwanted Sexual Contact. Overall, 6.1% of women and 1.2% of men indicated they experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012. For women, this rate is statistically significantly higher in 2012 than in 2010 (6.1% vs. 4.4%); there is no statistically significant difference between 2012 and 2006 (6.1% vs. 6.8%). There is no statistically significant difference for men in the overall rate between 2012 and 2010 or 2006 (1.2% vs. 0.9% and 1.8%). Of the 6.1% of women who experienced unwanted sexual contact, 32% indicated the most serious behavior they experienced was unwanted sexual touching only, 26% indicated they experienced attempted sex, and 31% indicated they experienced completed sex. There were no statistically significant differences in the most serious behaviors for women between 2006, 2010, and 2012. Of the 1.2% of men who indicated experiencing unwanted sexual contact, 51% indicated the most serious behavior they experienced was unwanted sexual touching only, 5% indicated they experienced attempted sex, and 10% indicated they experienced completed sex. There were no statistically significant differences in the most serious behaviors for men between 2006, 2010, and 2012.
So much for the layers of editorial oversight and rigorous fact-checking that separate the pros from the wannabes.
June 14, 2013
"More Women = More Female Friendly Policies"
How would this debate go if America had a female POTUS and Commander -in-Chief?
What could she do with her executive power without the legislature or judiciary meddling?
But unlike India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Brazil. Costa Rica, Germany, Ireland, Argentina, the U.K., Russia, China, and Australia, America has never had a female head of state or government.
- Comment on Military Rape article
One of the more amusing themes that crops up in gender punditry is the notion that getting more women into X (whether X is government, corporate leadership, positions of power, or the male dominated profession de jure) will magically lead to more female friendly policies and outcomes. If some of the astoundingly tone deaf utterances we've heard from both sides lately are any indication, the idea isn't completely without merit. It's always somewhat appalling to the Editorial Staff how quickly humans of both sexes dismiss problems that uniquely or disproportionately impact the other half of humanity.
But there's plenty of evidence against the notion that simply getting more women (or more men, for that matter) involved in policymaking will result in policies that are fairer to people of the same sex. Furious denunciations of feminists (a notable minority in government) aside, most of the laws deplored by the "manosphere" were in fact passed by overwhelmingly majority-male legislatures bedazzled by the tantalizing possibility that passing Female-Friendly Law Y will
get them laid attract hordes of lust-filled women clutching well thumbed copies of the Kama Sutra and dreaming of breaking all 10 Commandments at once. The mind boggles at the possibilities: "Come here, Mitch McConnell, you big female friendly law-slinger, you!"
Or maybe they're just afraid of having to sleep on the sofa when they get home, men being innately so much more logical and rational than women but yet utterly at the mercy of their hormones. Unsurprisingly, we find ourselves confused by the irrefutable logic of such arguments. Perhaps they're just too complicated for a woman to grasp :p
The thing is, contra the comment cited at the beginning of this post, nations that have had one or more female leaders are not exactly noted for the unusual freedoms and rights granted to the women living under female rule. Many of these nations are downright backwards in their attitudes towards the oft-debated humanity of women.
Believing as we do that neither men nor women have a monopoly on gender sensitivity or objectivity, imagine our delight at this mellow-harshing passage from an article on the military "rape" crisis:
When Senator Carl Levin of Michigan stripped a measure aimed at curbing sexual assault in the military out of a defense bill this week, it was widely seen as a trampling by a long-serving male committee chairman on female lawmakers seeking justice for victims.
But the truth reflects a more complex battle driven by legislative competition, policy differences and the limits of identity politics in a chamber where women’s numbers and power are increasing.
The vote to replace the measure offered by Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, in favor of a more modest provision pushed by Mr. Levin, the Democrat who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, did not break down along gender lines: of the seven women on the committee, three, including a fellow Democrat, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, sided with Mr. Levin. “I think all of us need to acknowledge that this isn’t a gender issue,” said Senator Deb Fischer, Republican of Nebraska, during a recent hearing on the issue.
Nor was it particularly partisan. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, two of the most conservative Republicans on the committee, sided with Ms. Gillibrand, while seven Democrats and an independent peeled away.
This carefully crafted narrative dies so beautifully.
June 13, 2013
Ed Snowdon: Sex Marathoner
My [ex?] girlfriend is the most amazing girl I’ve ever dated. She’s one of those who even wanted it more than me, sometimes, and would kind of sadly paw at my man-totem like a cat after it has killed the prey. Some of it comes from natural sex drive, yes, but this same girl took like six months to get into bed the first time.
This is incredibly touching. Even after she heartlessly toyed with his dead man totem, he still pines for her.
"But Leaking Is OK When *We* Do It!"
In 2010, NBC News reporter Michael Isikoff detailed similar secrecy machinations by the Obama administration, which leaked to Bob Woodward “a wealth of eye-popping details from a highly classified briefing” to President-elect Barack Obama two days after the November 2008 election. Among the disclosures to appear in Woodward’s book “Obama’s Wars” were, Isikoff wrote, “the code names of previously unknown NSA programs, the existence of a clandestine paramilitary army run by the CIA in Afghanistan, and details of a secret Chinese cyberpenetration of Obama and John McCain campaign computers.”
The secrets shared with Woodward were so delicate Obama transition chief John Podesta was barred from attendance at the briefing, which was conducted inside a windowless, secure room known as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or “SCIF.”
Isikoff asked, quite logically, how the Obama administration could pursue a double standard in which it prosecuted mid-level bureaucrats and military officers for their leaks to the press but allowed administration officials to dispense bigger secrets to Woodward. The best answer Isikoff could find came from John Rizzo, a former CIA general counsel, who surmised that prosecuting leaks to Woodward would be damn-near impossible to prosecute if the president or the CIA director authorized them.
The political uses of official leaks never goes unnoticed by the opposing party. In 2012, as the presidential campaigns gathered speed, after the New York Times published stories about classified programs, including the “kill list,” the drone program, details about the Osama bin Laden raid, and Stuxnet, all considered successes by the administration. The reports infuriated Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who essentially accused the Obama White House of leaking these top secrets for political gain.
“This is not a game. This is far more important than mere politics. Laws have apparently been broken,” McCain cried. To the best of my knowledge, no investigation of these alleged leaks to the press have been ordered or are active, and I have yet to hear Messrs. Brooks, Simon and Cohen describe these leakers of those details as self-indulgent, losers or narcissists. [Addendum, 9:24 p.m.: There is a Stuxnet investigation.]
Another variety of the political leak is the counter-leak or convenient declassification, designed to neutralize or stigmatize an unauthorized leaker. The National Journal’s Ron Fournier, a former Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press, explicitly charges the Obama administration with dispensing intelligence about the bin Laden raid to the press to “promote the president’s reelection bid.” He claims that virtually every unauthorized leak ends up being matched by the release of classified information or “authorized” leak. Indeed, immediately following Snowden’s NSA leaks, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, is said to have claimed NSA spying helped defeat a planned attack on the New York City subway system, although that claim is disputed.
Sometimes the counter-leak is more revealing than the leak it was intended to bury. In 2012, then-national security adviser John Brennan went a tad too far counter-leaking in his attempt to nullify an Associated Press report about the foiled underwear bomber plot. In a conference call with TV news pundits, Brennan offered that the plot could never succeed because the United States had “inside control” of it, which helped expose a double-agent working for Western intelligence. Instead of being prosecuted for leaking sensitive, classified intelligence, Brennan was promoted to director of the CIA; that’s the privilege of the policy leak.
We're not enamored of the argument that, because some lawbreakers escape prosecution, all lawbreaking should go unpunished. Still, we'd sure like to see some of the white hot outrage generated by the self-described "outing" of Valerie Plame applied to Obama administration officials who endanger the lives of agents and double agents still in the field.
Guess that level of intellectual consistency is too much to hope for in a supposedly impartial press.
Glass Houses and "The Party of Stupid"
In a post dripping with deliciously unintentional irony, Ta-Nehisi Coates brings the funny. One has to hand it to Mr. Coates - it can't be easy, crafting post titles that subtly establish the author's obvious moral and intellectual superiority while delicately (was that a nuance?) suggesting that people who don't share your political beliefs are - how shall we say this without stooping to the base ad hominid tactics of our opponents - "not too bright"?
To Stop Being the Party of Stupid You Must Stop Being Stupid
Good advice, that is. If only more people would take it. Consistency being the hobgoblin of great as well as little minds, Mr. Coates continues in much the same vein:
My label-mate David Graham finds the GOP saying dumb things about women, pregnancy, and rape again:"Before, when my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest the subject -- because, you know, the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low," Franks said.
Franks continued: "But when you make that exception, there's usually a requirement to report the rape within 48 hours. And in this case that's impossible because this is in the sixth month of gestation. And that's what completely negates and vitiates the purpose of such an amendment."
This got us thinking: do political parties really "talk"? Perhaps more to the point, who is empowered to speak for a party composed (as most parties are) of people whose beliefs, intelligence, and backgrounds cover a wide spectrum?
June 12, 2013
Today's Looming Childhood Trauma
The horror of mean Lego faces!
Think back on your experiences with Lego men and Lego women. Probably you have happy memories of the time you spent with those tiny figures ...But a new study reports an ominous finding. “The children that grow up with Lego today will remember not only smileys, but also anger and fear in the Minifigures’ faces.”
...While the “vast majority” have happy faces, “the trend is for an increasing proportion of angry faces, with a concomitant reduction in happy faces,” as Christian Jarrett explains in his summary of the study for Research Digest. Hence the researchers’ concern about our children’s futures. They connect this finding with the “considerable array of weapon systems” that are now part of the Lego family, with the toys “moving towards more conflict based play themes.”
Less trumpeted is the fact that each face “received an average of 3.9 emotion labels,” i.e., there was a lot of disagreement about what each face was communicating. ...The real lesson here, I think, is that today’s children are growing up at a time of unparalleled Lego diversity.
Thankfully, we're to be spared the existential angst of Racist Lego:
While attaching the faces to “a body tended to increase ratings for anger and happiness but reduce ratings for disgust and sadness,” skin color “made no difference.”
While we're on the subject, what in the holy heck is wrong with "conflict based play"?
Update: we'd forgotten the Pink Ghetto brouhaha. And don't even get us started about the blatantly oppressive male privilege of "Erector Sets".
Sex As Be-All and End-All of Marriage
The Editorial Staff loved this essay by Noah Berlatsky:
How do you maintain desire in a long-term relationship? How can you keep that edge of excitement and danger through long years of monogamy, convention and familiarity? How do you keep rutting like horny adolescents when you're pushing middle-age?
Well now there's a unappealing mental image for the ages. "Get some, Grandpa!" may well be the stuff of which nightmares are made.
Daniel Bergner, author of What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, is asking readers to contemplate such questions at Slate's Double XX. Specifically, he asked, "How can women maintain desire within long-term committed relationships?" In response, readers have written in with a series of predictably titillating responses from the familiar grab-bag of shocking alternative lifestyles and fetish. You've got threesomes, you've got costumes, you've got group sex, and so forth. As of this writing we haven't gotten to bondage or S&M yet, but presumably something along those lines will show up before we're done.
The almost ritual tour of kink suggests strongly that Bergner's question is less an interrogative, and more an excuse. The way the issue is framed—how to maintain desire?—makes the answers inevitable. This is, clearly, good copy—everybody likes to read about sex. But it seems like the predetermined nature of the exercise might, possibly, be leaving something out.
...I read his essay and the responses and I feel like every possible lifestyle choice is validated—except that old, boring one, where you have sex occasionally with your wife and maybe go to Good Vibrations if you're in San Francisco, and generally enjoy your marriage in part because it means you don't have to place desire at the center of your lives. How many people will react to this essay by assuming that my marriage is less stable than I think it is, or by thinking that I'm missing out on real passion and real love and real life? The one sin left, it sometimes feels like, is not being sexy enough.
By far our favorite head exploding comment was this one:
... there are simply too many of us for whom sexual satisfaction is key. For me, it's a pillar of who I am as a man, and whether or not I'm in a committed relationship, I deserve a fulfilling, rewarding, and exciting sex life, period.
When we wonder what has happened to marriage, it might help to look at attitudes like this. How does anyone come to believe they "deserve" a fulfilling/rewarding/exciting sex life regardless of their relationship status? Such self absorption boggles the mind. If you "deserve" something, are others obligated to provide it to you? Or does this simply mean that you're entitled to it, that whole for better or for worse thingy be damned?
Married sex can be many things: joyous or simply comforting, elevating or debasing, magical or tawdry, selfish or generous, cherished or regretted. But a pillar of who we are as human beings?
We must be more screwed up than we thought. We can think of many things that make us who we are, but up until now we wouldn't have said that having an exciting sex life was one of them.
Our Partisan Suspicion of/Tolerance for Government Surveillance
We are shocked... shocked (we tell you) to find that our willingness to allow Big Brother to watch us has a distinctly partisan character to it:
When news broke in late 2005 that the National Security Agency was eavesdropping without warrants — surveillance that was authorized by President George W. Bush — Democrats were not happy campers. More than six in 10 (61 percent) Democrats said the practice was “unacceptable” in a Washington Post-ABC News poll shortly after the story broke.
But Democrats have changed their tune in the wake of new disclosures that the NSA is tracking millions of phone records under President Obama. According to a new Post-Pew Research Center poll, fully 64 percent say the agency’s latest program to access phone records is “acceptable,” which is 27 percentage points higher than their tolerance for the NSA’s probes when polled in 2006.
...Republicans have shifted as well, but in a predictably different direction: 75 percent were OK with the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program in 2006, but a bare 52 percent majority says the NSA’s current phone tracking program is acceptable.
If there's one takeaway from all of this, it's that those durned Independents are an unprincipled bunch.
To be continued....
June 11, 2013
The Morality of Hacking
A few days ago, the Editorial Staff engaged in a little compare and contrast exercise, juxtaposing two cyberattack scenarios:
Scenario 1: Hacker who participates in cyberattacks to uncover self-incriminating evidence from rapists stupid enough to brag about their misdeeds by cell phone and social media...
Scenario 2: Liberal president who promised to restore the moral legitimacy squandered by the Evil BusHitler administration and protect America's civil rights draws up a Disposition Matrix for cyberattacks at home and abroad, where doing so would advance the administration's interests...
We used the term "cyberattack" advisedly, because in both cases what we're contemplating is the deliberate invasion of someone else's communications and/or computers, whether they be handheld telephonic devices, electronic communications, or secured networks.
Legal rationales or prohibitions on such attacks aside, we think it's useful to explore the moral justifications as well. The two are (though some might argue they should not be) distinct issues. Such questions become particularly interesting when applied to a president who has taken it upon himself to school both his predecessor and the global community on the transcendently shiny morality of his own world view whilst secretly violating the values he publicly professes to hold sacred:
When Merkel meets Obama, “you can safely assume that this is an issue that the chancellor will bring up,” Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters on Monday. Merkel grew up in the East German system, where the government collected vast amounts of information about its citizens.
Other German officials said they were unhappy that their citizens appeared to have fewer rights than Americans.
“I cannot be happy that U.S. citizens might be protected in an appropriate way — I’m not sure if they are — but we are not,” said German Federal Data Protection Commissioner Peter Schaar, who is charged with protecting the privacy of German citizens both from private companies and from governments. “In the Internet, we cannot distinguish anymore between us and them, inside and outside our country. It’s an international network, and the data is going around the world.”
One analyst said the concerns are not merely about privacy, but also economic.
“The German business community is on high alert,” said Volker Perthes, director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “It’s not just about listening in on some bearded guy from Ulm who bought a ticket to Afghanistan and makes conversation with his friends in Waziristan. . . . The suspicion in large parts of the business sector is that Americans would also be interested in our patent applications.”
In the brave new world that is Obama's America, long time allies see us as little different from the Chinese. That can't be good for international bonhomie.
But we had another reason for raising the moral question. Simply put, most people (the Editorial Staff included) can find all sorts of reasons to justify an action whose outcome we applaud, especially when committed by actors who share our inflexibly suburban viewpoints. But when we do what comes so naturally to us - loyally defending "the good guys" and being outraged at the nefariousness of "the bad guys", what happens to our principles? In a particularly well written essay, Cathy Young addresses just that question:
The Steubenville, Ohio rape case that ended with the conviction of two high school athletes last March has faded from the headlines—but now, fallout from the scandal is causing a new stir in the online media. A member of “Anonymous,” the activist hacker group that championed the victim, has gone public out of concern about his legal troubles. Deric Lostutter, formerly known as KYAnonymous, had his home raided by the FBI last April and his computers confiscated. Reports that he may face prison have sparked outrage in the left-wing blogosphere. “Hacker Who Exposed Steubenville Rape Case Could Spend More Time Behind Bars Than The Rapists,” proclaims a ThinkProgress.org headline. On Slate.com, Amanda Marcotte hails Lostutter as one of the Steubenville saga’s “anonymous heroes.”
But the online vigilantes of Anonymous are no heroes—except of a false narrative—and their crusade has been far from benign.
At the center of the false narrative lies the idea that if Anonymous had not “exposed” the story, the Steubenville rapists would never have been brought to justice. Yet by the time Anonymous got involved last December, the criminal case against the two teenagers who sexually assaulted an intoxicated girl after a school party was already well underway. Despite allegations that the authorities had tried to protect the local football stars, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond were arrested and charged with rape on August 22—six days after the victim and her parents went to the police—and on October 12 Judge Thomas Lipps ruled there was sufficient probable cause for the case to go to trial. The claims of a “cover-up” had to do with the belief that other boys were also implicated in criminal acts; but the efforts of Anonymous have not led to any new charges, though a state grand jury on the case has been meeting since late April.
Anonymous also did not “out” the rapists, as some bloggers have suggested—their names had been mentioned in news reports at least as early as October—or even propel the story into the national media. The group’s first post about the Steubenville rape case was made on December 23, a week after The New York Times published a 5,800-word story about it. Indeed, a Mother Jones article which gives Lostutter credit for “turning Steubenville into a national outrage” quotes Lostutter himself as saying that he first read about the incident in the Times.
We have many times criticized the press for recklessly publishing unverified information in their rush to beat their competitors to the punch. In this case, the press were actually fairly restrained for once, and that restraint was seized upon by people who were justifiably horrified and outraged by the Steubenville story as justification for blowing the lid off the story... even when that involved getting several key facts wrong and committing acts they would find hard to justify, had they been committed against more sympathetic victims.
We here at the Editorial Staff were among those horrified and outraged by Steubenville. The story pushed every emotional button we possess (and trust us, there are a LOT of buttons). That's why we didn't write much about it.
Over the years, the "need" to blow the lid off some story that wasn't developing quickly enough to satisfy various interested parties has been used to justify some pretty specious acts. NYT Editor Bill Keller claimed it was necessary to expose the SWIFT terrorist training program because the mere suspicion that an elected official *might* be breaking the law (this turned out to be utterly false, by the way) somehow empowers unelected and unaccountable for-profit journalists to break the law.
Legal justifications aside, we should be just as suspicious of would be saviors who claim to be exposing wrongdoing by committing wrongdoing as we are of public servants who promise transparency and accountability while practicing their polar opposites.
Discuss amongst your ownselves, knuckle draggers.
June 10, 2013
Coffee Snorters, Poetic Justice Edition
Our head keeps telling us this was wrong, but we're having trouble seeing past the delicious schadenfreude. So: karma or crime? VC asks, you decide:
"If this is your husband," wrote a Facebook user on Wednesday, "I have endured a 2 hour train ride from Philadelphia listening to this loser and his friends brag about their multiple affairs and how their wives are too stupid to catch on. Oh please repost ..." And people did -- the post currently has over 27,000 shares.
Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuucy, jou got some 'splainin' to do...
Whilst doing some research on ADHD and the medication of children diagnosed with it, the Editorial Staff came across this interesting tidbit:
Around the world, societies show remarkable agreement. Kids aren’t expected to show much self-discipline until they reach the 5-to-7 transition.
In a famous study, psychologist Barbara Rogoff and her colleagues reviewed 50 different cultures to discover when ordinary people think kids are capable of self-control and ready to meet responsibilities (Rogoff et al 1975).
The researchers considered a wide array of criteria, including these:
• The age at which people think kids are capable of making rational decisions and showing common sense
• The age at which people make a special effort to teach kids manners, etiquette, morals, and social taboos
• The age at which kids are included in games that require adherence to the rules.
• The age at which people expect kids to learn the practical and technical skills modeled by adults
The results suggest that regular people don’t demand much executive control from young children.
The majority of societies surveyed didn’t expect to observe common sense and rationality before the age of 6.
In most places, kids weren’t even asked to play rule-based games until they were at least 6.
And the most common age at which people began making a special effort to teach kids social rules was 7 years.
So it seems awkward to try to diagnose a child with ADHD while he’s still in preschool. Or even first grade. Behavior that is entirely normal and age-appropriate might get labeled as ADHD.
If kindergarteners are getting diagnosed with ADHD because they have a real psychological disorder—and not because they show developmentally-normal signs of immaturity—then there should be no correlation between a child’s age and her diagnosis.
In other words, the youngest kindergarteners should be no more likely than the oldest kindergarteners to get diagnosed with ADHD.
But that’s not what he found.
The youngest kindergarteners were 60% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than were the oldest kindergarteners.
Interesting. The relative age effect has been studied in several contexts: sports, chances of becoming a CEO, academics. In many cases, the relative age effect appears to confer an initial advantage that often declines over time. We recall reading once that a startling number of successful CEOs are dyslexic. Isn't there an ancient Chinese parable about this?
If this is "typical", we've got bigger problems than Islam:
Before his conversion (and for some time after it, until he rededicated himself to Islam), he was drinking, smoking, using drugs, and indulging in promiscuity – in other words, he was a relatively typical, rudderless early twentieth-century American male.
Regional word maps.
June 08, 2013
Moral Juxtaposition of the Day
Scenario 1: Hacker who participates in cyberattacks to uncover self-incriminating evidence from rapists stupid enough to brag about their misdeeds by cell phone and social media may well get more jail time than the low life criminals he targeted:
At first, [Lostutter] thought the FBI agent at the door was with FedEx. "As I open the door to greet the driver, approximately 12 FBI SWAT team agents jumped out of the truck, screaming for me to 'Get the fuck down!' with M-16 assault rifles and full riot gear, armed, safety off, pointed directly at my head," Lostutter wrote today on his blog. "I was handcuffed and detained outside while they cleared my house."
This is not the first time that actors on the periphery of this case have faced legal trouble. Earlier this year, First Amendment attorney Marc Randazza spoke to Reason TV about a whistleblowing Ohio blogger whom he successfully helped defend against defamation charges she faced after publishing commentary, photos, and social network posts related to the case.
Scenario 2: Liberal president who promised to restore the moral legitimacy squandered by the Evil BusHitler administration and protect America's civil rights draws up a Disposition Matrix for cyberattacks at home and abroad, where doing so would advance the administration's interests:
Barack Obama has ordered his senior national security and intelligence officials to draw up a list of potential overseas targets for US cyber-attacks, a top secret presidential directive obtained by the Guardian reveals.
The 18-page Presidential Policy Directive 20, issued in October last year but never published, states that what it calls Offensive Cyber Effects Operations (OCEO) "can offer unique and unconventional capabilities to advance US national objectives around the world with little or no warning to the adversary or target and with potential effects ranging from subtle to severely damaging".
It says the government will "identify potential targets of national importance where OCEO can offer a favorable balance of effectiveness and risk as compared with other instruments of national power".
The directive also contemplates the possible use of cyber actions inside the US, though it specifies that no such domestic operations can be conducted without the prior order of the president, except in cases of emergency.
The aim of the document was "to put in place tools and a framework to enable government to make decisions" on cyber actions, a senior administration official told the Guardian.
The administration published some declassified talking points from the directive in January 2013, but those did not mention the stepping up of America's offensive capability and the drawing up of a target list.
Remember: this is a guy who, as a Senator, proposed a law that would make what he's doing as president illegal:
[S]oon after the PATRIOT Act passed, a few years before I ever arrived in the Senate, I began hearing concerns from people of every background and political leaning that this law didn't just provide law enforcement the powers it needed to keep us safe, but powers it didn't need to invade our privacy without cause or suspicion.
Now, at times this issue has tended to degenerate into an "either-or" type of debate. Either we protect our people from terror or we protect our most cherished principles. But that is a false choice. It asks too little of us and assumes too little about America.
What a difference an election makes. One day you're a Senator and everything looks like a "false choice". Pre-emptive military strikes and a vigorous unitary executive are dangerous and wrong, and the only thing standing between the America becoming the 4th Reich is an inexperienced junior senator from Illinois with big ears and an even bigger mouth.
Before you can say, "D'oh!", you wake up in the White House and realize you're the monster you spent all those years warning the nation about.
That lost moral legitimacy is getting harder and harder to find every day.
June 07, 2013
Drugs vs. Standards
Sacre bleu!!!! We may have to stop making fun of the Phrench:
From the time their children are born, French parents provide them with a firm cadre—the word means "frame" or "structure." Children are not allowed, for example, to snack whenever they want. Mealtimes are at four specific times of the day. French children learn to wait patiently for meals, rather than eating snack foods whenever they feel like it. French babies, too, are expected to conform to limits set by parents and not by their crying selves. French parents let their babies "cry it out" if they are not sleeping through the night at the age of four months.
French parents, Druckerman observes, love their children just as much as American parents. They give them piano lessons, take them to sports practice, and encourage them to make the most of their talents. But French parents have a different philosophy of discipline. Consistently enforced limits, in the French view, make children feel safe and secure. Clear limits, they believe, actually make a child feel happier and safer—something that is congruent with my own experience as both a therapist and a parent. Finally, French parents believe that hearing the word "no" rescues children from the "tyranny of their own desires." And spanking, when used judiciously, is not considered child abuse in France.
As a therapist who works with children, it makes perfect sense to me that French children don't need medications to control their behavior because they learn self-control early in their lives. The children grow up in families in which the rules are well-understood, and a clear family hierarchy is firmly in place. In French families, as Druckerman describes them, parents are firmly in charge of their kids—instead of the American family style, in which the situation is all too often vice versa.
We have never understood the idea that children can't control themselves. Assuming they're not sick, overtired, or ravenously hungry, even very small children are quite capable of behaving themselves from a very young age.
The thing is, self restraint is a skill like any other. Which means they need considerable practice before they'll be any good at it.
Sounds like good advice:
Advise her to give that poor young gentleman back his family ring. Miss Manners is not recommending this as a way to allow your daughter to squeeze another ring out of him, along with some treacly drama of a proposal. Rather it is to spare him from a marriage made miserable by the influence of childish ideas from his wife’s scatterbrained friends.
The other advice is for you: You have a lot of parenting left to do. No matter what your daughter’s age is, she is too immature to be married. You may not be able to ground her, but you should strongly oppose any idea of marriage until you are able to instill some values in her.
That made our day.
What's in a Name?
Quick, make a guess: Are Liam's parents Obama voters, or did they pull for John McCain? How about Kurt's mom and dad?
If your gut suggested that Kurt's parents might swing conservative while Liam's are liberal, congratulations. A new study of baby names does, indeed, show that parents in liberal neighborhoods are more likely to choose softer, more feminine sounds, such as "L," for their babies' names, while conservative parents go for macho-sounding K's, B's and D's.
The same research finds that liberal, well-educated parents are more likely to pick obscure names for their children, while conservative, well-educated parents take a more conventional naming path. Both methods seem to be a way of signaling status, said study researcher Eric Oliver, a political scientist at the University of Chicago — though it's unlikely parents realize what they're doing.
...The results revealed that overall, the less educated the parent, the more likely they were to give their child either an uncommon name (meaning fewer than 20 children got the same name that year in California), or a unique name (meaning only one child got that name in 2004 in California). When parents had less than a college education, there were no major ideological differences in naming choice.
However, among college-educated whites, politics made a difference. College-educated moms and dads in the most liberal neighborhoods were twice as likely as college-educated parents in the most conservative neighborhoods to give their kids an uncommon name. Educated conservatives were more likely to favor popular names, which were defined as names in the top 100 in California that year.
For boys, 46 percent got a popular name in conservative areas, compared with 37 percent in liberal areas. For girls, 38 percent were given a popular name in conservative neighborhoods, compared with 30 percent in liberal neighborhoods.
Notably, the kinds of uncommon names chosen by upper-class liberals differed from the unusual names picked by people of lower socioeconomic status, Oliver said. Lower-status moms tend to invent names or pick unusual spellings of common names (Andruw instead of Andrew, for example). [10 Scientific Tips for Raising Happy Kids]
"Educated liberal mothers are not making names up," Oliver said. "They're choosing more culturally obscure names, like Archimedes or Finnegan — or, in our case, we named our daughter Esme."
That seems almost cruel.
June 06, 2013
The Souls of Elephants
This is a remarkable piece of writing. It's lengthy, but even if you're not as fond of pachyderms as the Editorial Staff you'll find it full of wonderful ideas:
What is it like to be an elephant? Is it like anything? How would we know?
One of the major clues that elephants have something we would recognize as inner lives is their extraordinary memories. This is attested to by outward indicators ranging from the practical — a matriarch’s recollection of a locale, critical to leading her family to food and water — to the passionate — grudges that are held against specific people or types of people for decades or even generations, or fierce affection for a long-lost friend.
Carol Buckley, co-founder of the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, a retirement ranch for maltreated veterans of circuses and zoos, describes the arrival of a newcomer to the facility. The fifty-one-year-old Shirley was first introduced to an especially warm resident of long standing named Tarra: “Everyone watched in joy and amazement as Tarra and Shirley intertwined trunks and made ‘purring’ noises at each other. Shirley very deliberately showed Tarra each injury she had sustained at the circus, and Tarra then gently moved her trunk over each injured part.” Later in the evening, an elephant named Jenny entered the barn — one who, as it turned out, had as a calf briefly been in the same circus as Shirley, twenty-two years before:There was an immediate urgency in Jenny’s behavior. She wanted to get close to Shirley who was divided by two stalls. Once Shirley was allowed into the adjacent stall the interaction between her and Jenny became quite intense. Jenny wanted to get into the stall with Shirley desperately. She became agitated, banging on the gate and trying to climb through and over.
After several minutes of touching and exploring each other, Shirley started to ROAR and I mean ROAR — Jenny joined in immediately. The interaction was dramatic, to say the least, with both elephants trying to climb in with each other and frantically touching each other through the bars. I have never experienced anything even close to this depth of emotion.
We opened the gate and let them in together.... they are as one bonded physically together. One moves, and the other shows in unison. It is a miracle and joy to behold. All day ... they moved side by side and when Jenny lay down, Shirley straddled her in the most obvious protective manner and shaded her body from the sun and harm.
They were inseparable until Jenny died a few years later.
Thanks to YAG for the photo :)