Monday, September 22, 2008

Skip(per)ing Out

I'm going to be doing some personal traveling over the next couple weeks: SoCal, Florida, Arizona.

Consequently, for the duration my posting quantity and quality will finally match.


A Hasidic community has had it up to their hats with female cyclists.
They're young, hip, and in a hurry. And on any given day, anyone can find female cyclists cruising through a predominantly Hasidic section of Williamsburg, where conservative religious views frown upon less than buttoned-up commuters.
Unfortunately, dressing to appease those hypersensitive about the female form is a recipe for a clothing-in-the-spokes induced case of pavement rash. Never mind that the women cyclists in question, not being Hasidics themselves, would probably have to be comatose to care even less than they already do about yet another example of Abrahamic misogyny.

The Hasidic's answer: remove the bike lanes from city streets. Not temple streets. City streets. Where safety conflicts with subjugation, so much the worse for safety.

Presumably, this Hasidic community is in the United States because they are free from any worry about persecution. Ironic that they do not extend to others that which they expect for themselves.

Ironic. But not surprising.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Maybe Peter would be surprised

Several days ago in Slate, William Saleton assailed Mr. & Mrs. Palin's decision to have their daughter Bristol carry the pregnancy to term. In creating a new victim class, oppressed minors, Mr. Saleton, in the space of just this article, exposes the toxicity of the liberal "moral" outlook. Here is the nut graf:
"[Sarah Palin backs parental consent laws because consent is required in nearly every other] aspect of a child's life." But that logic is backward. The more profoundly a decision affects a girl's future, the more vital it is that no one, even her parents, be authorized to veto it. And nothing short of death alters a person's life more profoundly than bringing a child into the world. It is the moment when you cease to be the primary purpose of your own existence.
The Advice Goddess [Update: link fixed](whom I stumbled upon thanks a link in Arts & Letters Daily) editorialized, finding in favor of Mr. Saleton. I posted this response (Sep 8, 12:20 am):

Saleton, who I read often and whose writing I generally like, has waltzed the both of you right past the primary point without even noticing it go by. Along the way, you both also make, by omission, an implicit assumption that is completely wrong.

(In the following, keep in mind that I Am Not A Christian, although I know some who are, and also that I Am Not A Woman, although I know some who are. Also, I am pro-choice.)

First, the point: The Mr. & Mrs. Palin have a strong moral attitude towards life and abortion. That I, or you, do not share that attitude does not mean we can avoid its implications in their lives. For them, life begins at conception, and any human action to end it constitutes murder. Abortion, even of a blastocyst, is murder, pure and simple.

This is not the thread to debate the advisability of this moral decision, or some very real contradictions in practice.

However, this is very much the place to discuss the consequences of that moral decision.

First, for Christians, moral decisions do not become optional simply because their consequences are inconvenient, or even life changing. Second, that means that so long as Bristol is a dependent, and her parents are not Christians of convenience, then there is simply no discussion, regardless of all the harrowing statistics surrounding teen pregnancies. For true Christians -- and, I suspect all truly moral people -- moral decisions are not in thrall to the difficulty of their consequences.

I doubt Mr. Saleton even once acknowledged this aspect of the Palin's moral life, which is surpassing odd considering how central it obviously is. Typical of a liberal, but that is a topic for another thread.

The second is the implicit, but far from acknowledge, position in this statement:

The more profoundly a decision affects a girl's future, the more vital it is that no one, even her parents, be authorized to veto it. And nothing short of death alters a person's life more profoundly than bringing a child into the world.

Can you see what the assumption is?

That of the three options on offer -- abortion, adoption, and keeping the baby -- the assumption is that abortion does not constitute a death, and that death will not profoundly alter the mother's life.

Now, as mentioned above, IANAW. However, I happen to know some people who are. One of them is my 15-yr old daughter. In her world, the angels shed a tear whenever a kitten is hurt. There is simply no way, should she become a teen pregnancy statistic, that she could have an abortion and not carry that with her for the rest of her life. It might be the most convenient decision, but that sure as heck does not mean it comes without profound costs.

All the options facing a pregnant teen are bad; all are likely to be emotionally scarring -- for life. Pretending that one is not is simply nonsense. (Since IANAW, nearly everything women do leaves me in a pretty constant state of astonishment, but the obvious failure of girls and young women to take this glaringly obvious -- and existentially central -- fact on board cranks the astonishment level right up to 11.)

As a consequence of missing the fundamental point, and making an unwarranted assumption, Mr. Saleton's conclusion is fatally holed below the water line.

As a society, we must make laws that define one thing from another, even where the boundary may not be terribly clear. Our society defines adulthood as starting at 18. Consequently, a young woman, Bristol in this case, is simply not a moral agent: she does not get to make moral decisions that contradict those of her parents.

Perhaps he would see this more clearly if the shoe was to be shifted to another foot. Do the young man's parents get to make a decision about whether he must -- not should, must -- marry Bristol? If it was my son, all the moral instruction I have given him through life would mean I would do everything in my power to make him marry the mother. He would know that I would always view him as dishonorable should he not shoulder his responsibility, no matter how inconvenient: actions have consequences, our actions define us. That is what parents capable of making moral distinctions do.*

Allowing Bristol to have an abortion would make a mockery of the moral instruction her parents have provided her. Citing inconvenient statistics changes that not one whit. Pretending that an abortion makes the problem go away is staggering nonsense, no matter one's view on abortion's moral considerations, and succeeds only in objectifying women.

So, instead of describing how certain actions -- in this case, pre-marital sex -- can have inescapable life altering consequences, and that stories such as this underline that point, Saleton creates a new victim class; somehow, I doubt he is a parent.

If one wanted to find the shortcomings of the liberal outlook, there is no need to search any further than this.

What surprises me, Amy, is your following his lead.

* I added the preceding two sentences to this post

Saturday, September 06, 2008

I Blame Global Warming II

From your roving TDD correspondent:

Electricity consumption [in Japan] dipped 5.4 percent in August from a year earlier because lower-than-average temperatures cut demand.

Experts dial down sea-rise forecast

Fascinating factoid: Not one sunspot in August, the first time since 1913 this has happened. Cause of the snow, or a snow job?

The mountains around Anchorage, the tallest of which are around 6,000 feet, still have traces of last winter's snow, and got what may be their first layer of "termination dust" in late August. "Termination dust" is the local term given to the very graphic snow line across the mountains that typically starts in late September, and over a month or so, relentlessly works its way down to sea level. This summer, nearly every daily high and low has been at least one degree below average; about half have been at least two degrees. You could count the days above average on the fingers of one hand.

Just sayin.

Sine qua non

'Garden of Eden' grabs World Heritage attention after its post-Hussein revival.
Wildlife-rich wetlands that covered 9,000 square km (3,475 square miles) in the early 1970s had dwindled to just 760 square km (293 square miles) by 2002. Experts said the marshes might be lost completely within five years unless urgent action was taken.
And the urgent action taken was:
After Saddam's downfall locals wrecked many of the dams to let the water rush back in and a $14 million UNEP restoration project prompted the return of thousands of birds and fish.

That included providing safe drinking water to residents, planting reeds to filter pollution and sewage, and the introduction of renewable energy schemes like solar power.

The Iraqi government says more than half the original wetlands have now been restored ...
I'm sorry -- I didn't quite make the out. The urgent action that was taken was?
... Saddam's downfall ...
Nope, sorry. Still didn't quite make that out.

What you really meant to say, al Reuters, is that the urgent action taken was the US invasion, without which Saddam would not have downfallen. That is what you meant, right? After all, it would only add to the MSM's offal reputation to leave that point completely unmentioned. We wouldn't want that, would we?

It is worth mentioning that UN press releases here and here are also conspicuously silent on the whole cause - effect thing

Must have been magic.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Random Noun Generation

This is what passes for descriptive discourse in the art world:
[From the exhibition text for Anish Kapoor's show in Munich's Haus der Kunst (2007/08):] "In Kapoor's work, material plays a central role, although always in connection with an idea of presence and spirituality that transcends the superficial 'actuality' of the object. In Kapoor's words: 'In a certain way matter always leads to something immaterial.' He sees this as the fundamentally paradoxical yet complementary proviso of the material world. (...) Terms like lightness, slowness and growth seem to be the inspiration and driving force for Kapoor's new kinetic objects and spacial objects shown in this exhibition. At the root of them all is Kapoor's expression of anxiety through unabashed emblems and formal reference to sexuality and violence: the unspeakable is given voice."
Beyond the amazement that should accompany reading so many words strung together grammatically yet completely avoiding meaning, it is worth noting the nearly perfect approximation of most religious writing.

I suspect the similarity is not accidental.

"Web" development, huh? Riiiiiight.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Now that Harry has asked ...

The Palin and Obama uprisings do raise the question: what knowledge or qualifications does it take to be an effective president of the United States?

That is a seemingly simple question, but despite knowing up front it is far harder to answer, I will take it on anyway.

The POTUS, like any leader of a large organization, particularly a leader subject to popular acclaim, obviously requires sufficient intelligence and curiosity to learn a brief; some talent for the Machiavellian nature of politics; leadership ability; a reasonably deep knowledge of US history, and sufficient charisma to garner the votes required to get the opportunity in the first place.

So, in order to help answer this question, I shall offer myself as the sacrificial lab rat. Given the list of qualities the POTUS should possess, do I, particularly in terms of experience, qualify? If so, is there any reason to conclude either Obama or Palin do not? If not, should lack of experience be disqualifying?

Here is my CV, in brief: undergraduate degree in International Relations; graduate degree in Computer Science. Twenty years in the military as a pilot, including combat experience, three year tour in the Pentagon, and squadron command. General manager for a small software and hardware engineering company. Software engineer at Ford. Airline pilot. I read The Economist cover to cover every week. I have a copy of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution on my desk. I have read a lot of history books. However, despite the best of intentions, I haven't yet finished the Founding Documents.

From that it is seems safe to conclude I could master any brief at the abstract level of detail the POTUS should occupy. It also appears I have demonstrated at least some ability to make decisions, and some practice making them. Moreover, so far as the CV definition of experience goes, if I am qualified -- in the sense of being able to understand the parameters of a situation, and make effective high-level decisions, then so are a great many other people.

However, beyond some breadth of life experiences, left completely unturned are leadership qualities, Machiavellian tendencies, and vote getting potential.

Like athletic talent, those are things with which one is born. Or not. For example, during one assignment late in my career, my boss's boss was one of the two most natural leaders I have ever known. His boss, with essentially identical experience, could not lead a drunk-fest in a brewery. Other than noting one person's ability to get others to willingly follow an unpopular course of action, and another person's equally amazing ability to divert people from what they would otherwise willingly pursue, the talent remains beyond description, and independent of experience.

Just so with the ability to ditch conventional notions of right and wrong when Machiavelli inevitably beckons, or the ineffable sense of presence that, as much as any substance, awards victories in debates.

So, in the shambolic course of this post, I hope to have demonstrated that, for the easily described qualities we look for in a POTUS, attaining them is no special trick, and requires no particular list of ticked boxes. On those terms, I would consider myself qualified; similarly, I think most that frequent the post-Judd alliance are also eminently qualified.

As for the other, less easily quantified, qualities, experience is meaningless. One either is capable of decisive leadership, or is not. No amount of training or experience will lead to anything more than niggling improvement.

Consequently, unlike, say, a surgeon, trial lawyer, or pilot, I think experience for POTUS is greatly overrated.

Instead, we look for proxies for the undefinables. McCain's conduct as a POW provided an opportunity to demonstrate innate courage. Obama's ability to arouse near religious fervor demonstrates charisma, and indicates at least the potential for true leadership. Palin's ascent from humble beginnings to political success demonstrates tenacity and an ability to make canny political calculations.

Of all the things I for which I would fault Obama, lack of experience is not one of them. Not only do I not think it particularly relevant, I don't think "experience" is at all predictive of success. I seriously doubt any additional accumulation on that score will cause him to reconsider ideas that should long since have been reconciled to the ash heap of history: equal pay anyone?

Just so with Mrs. Palin. While I do not share her religiosity, her instincts lead her to advocate policies that will work far better than the collectivist nonsense emanating from the left. And the matter of "experience" will disappear in comparison to the way she displays the intangibles over the next couple months.

Was it William Buckley who said any dozen people picked at random from the Boston phone book could run the city as well as the elected politicians?

I wouldn't go quite that far with respect to the Presidency. However, regarding experience, I think it completely overrated.

Monday, September 01, 2008

And now for something completely different...

The Daily Duck's resident prediction wizard Skipper correctly called the ascension of Alaska governor Sarah Palin to the veep slot for John McCain back in May. I agree with Skipper that Palin will more than hold her own against Joe "Mad Dog" Biden in the debates. But a very bright friend of mine of the liberal and estrogenic persuasions begs to differ with the Daily Duck brain trust on this matter, and in the spirit of bipartisan bridge building (and to earn the blog brownie points ahead of the inevitable re-establishment of the Fairness Doctrine) I offer my loyal readers this editorial by "Libby".
RE: Elbow, elbow, wrist wrist*

Boys, boys, boys... You all seem too intelligent to lean so heavily on stereotypic assumptions and hyperbole. Ardent feminist that I am, it is a criticism I have of my own party as well.

The "heavily contested" point regarding Palin's gubernatorial win is arguable. She garnered backlash votes against an unpopular administration. Remember Jesse Ventura? And her prior position was as a part-time mayor of a community of, I believe, 7000. Her successes in her state are laudable, but can she survive the kiln of Washington, much less the world? She is interesting, refreshingly honest, apparently hardworking, but not articulate or tough enough to represent us to heads of state.

Reports quote her as stating that once she found out what a veep's responsibilities are she would *consider* the position and she questioned what the position would do for her state of Alaska.

But all that is simply the flotsam to throw back and forth over beers (or better, dirty martinis), my main point is this.... (yes, I actually have one)...

Impartial I am not, but it seems mind numbingly wrong to think that her ovaries will garner the sought after Hillary votes. Barak and Hill hold the same opinions and virtually the same approach to the "major" issues. In our camp, it was a decision between two positives -- one familiar with the system, the other a visionary intent on healing the economy, environment, racial tensions and so on. And the fact that one has black heritage and the other is a woman was bonus--- our government should reflect our country.

That Palin holds an opposite view on so many positions held dear to us is enough to get the most disgruntled hairy-legged Hill supporter to cast her vote for Barak. But, the 'pubs could have selected a woman with more chutzpa and made more movement. Who? Not so sure as I am not overly familiar with conservative women, but think of someone like Elizabeth Dole ten years ago, Condie.... Ann Richards ( ;-)

Somewhere on your blog there are references to her using terms like attractive, bringing feminine calm to the white house and other such things. Be careful. It is terms like that that will create a strong backlash against her. The first woman in space, the first several high ranking in the military, the first on the assembly line, the first in commerce all needed to prove that they could play the house rules before they dared to break them. As much as I want to see a woman in the white house, my sista's and I will not accept Anita Bryant, Phylis Schlafly or Mary Kaye. She, who ever she is, needs to be the soldier first, citizen second and woman third. Biden hold back on the debates because she is a woman? As much as I hate a blood bath, I say bring it on.... if she can't handle his craziness and aggressive nature how could she possibly handle negotiations with the middle east?

Bottom line. Good citizen, could prove to be a successful influence on Alaskan politics, but she is out of her league.

In Obama's acceptance speech, he spoke of finding areas in which we could come together... reducing unwanted pregnancy... keeping AK47s from the hands of criminals.... etc, etc. I guess Palin's run as veep is another issue where both sides seem to be smiling.

Hugs and kisses from the fun party,


* For dense conservatives like myself who are unable to get this reference, "elbow elbow wrist wrist" describes the proverbial beauty queen wave.