Publius, Pissed and Tart

Breaking promises is way more fun than political transparency

Posted in Politics by pissedandtart on January 7, 2010

By now you’ve probably heard about how during the 2008 presidential race Obama promised to have all the health care debates televised on C-SPAN, and how the Congress is bypassing the conference committee, which would be open and televised, and opting for a closed door negotiation between the houses.

Now, Obama can’t really control what Congress does.  So, he really shouldn’t have promised that’s how the bill would be handled.  But, I’ll cut him some slack and interpret that promise as just him promising to at least ask Congress to make the process more open, or maybe even to put some pressure on them, or just show some leadership on the issue.  (He also can’t promise that C-SPAN will do anything, as it’s an independent news organization, but I think he was just making the accurate prediction that it’s something they would televise if given the chance.)

But what about things under the White House’s control?  Obama hasn’t been entirely absent from the decision making (though it does feel that way).  There have been meetings and negotiations and what not involving Obama and other White House staff.  So did Obama invite C-SPAN in?  Nope.

All the White House has done to follow through on its promise is give C-SPAN a one hour dog-and-pony show.  Now, we all know that presidential candidates can’t live up to all their promises.  They don’t control everything that goes on in the country and they have to adapt their plans as facts on the ground change.  But, this is the type of promise that is totally in Obama’s control, which makes it particularly bad that he’s broken it.

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Posted in Politics by pissedandtart on January 6, 2010

Check out this pretty sick video from a Nancy Pelosi press conference.

Now, we all know that politicians make promises on the campaign trail that they can’t keep.  But, I think when Obama promised to hold health care debates openly on C-SPAN he actually believed that’s what would happen.  On the other hand, Nancy Pelosi seems to be taking the position that she didn’t believe what Obama was promising.

If you don’t believe him, why the hell did you support him?  What did you think his actual intentions were?  Did you just support whichever candidate ended up with the (D) after his name?

And to make things worse, Pelosi tries to justify the closed door meetings by saying the process has never been more open and transparent than it is now.  That may be so, but that’s no reason not to make it even more transparent.

What a bitch.

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Who the hell objects to C-SPAN?

Posted in Politics by pissedandtart on January 5, 2010

Can we call Obama a liar yet?  Watch the video below.

[Disclaimer: I’m not a fan of Fox News or Karl Rove.  But, the important thing to watch here is the words straight out of Obama’s mouth.]

In case you’re not quite sure what the problem is, C-SPAN has so far not been allowed to film the House-Senate health care negotiations.  The Democrats are even considering skipping the traditional conference committee and reaching a back-room compromise instead.

Now, Obama is not a member of the Congress, so he can’t take all the blame for this.  But, his campaign promises were largely about things he couldn’t do; they were about things the Congress would do.  I think it’s fair to interpret this as meaning he would pressure, or at least ask, the Congress to do what he was proposing.  So far, he has not.

Technically though, Karl Rove may have been right when he said he didn’t want to call Obama a liar.  For Obama to have lied, he would have needed to know at the time he made those speeches he wouldn’t push for the openness he said he wanted.  Obama may have been ineffective, weak willed, and just more politics as usual.  But at least on this front, he didn’t quite meet the definition of a lie.

Ninth Circuit: 1, Supernintendo Whitehall: 0

Posted in Politics, Religion by pissedandtart on January 5, 2010

The 9th Circuit recently upheld a lower court’s decision to allow a school superintendent to ban the playing of Ave Maria at graduation.  Read the full opinion here.

I think this one is pretty cut and dry: the court was right, the superintendent was wrong.

The suit was filed by a student claiming that the ban violated her first amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  Pretty flimsy arguments.

No one has the right to play any song at a graduation ceremony.  What if another student wanted to interrupt the ceremony and play Freebird?  Pretty sure the school would be right to either silence him or kick him out.

Further, the freedom of religion isn’t attacked by this decision.  All students are still allowed to be Christian, despite Christian music being banned from a secular school ceremony.  Christianity doesn’t require you to hear Ave Maria at your high school graduation.  Jesus didn’t even graduate from high school.

I think the superintendent was wrong in banning the song.  While it has a religious origin, it’s not an overtly religious song.  A huge amount of classical music has religious origins, but the songs have merged into the collective culture to such a degree that without some specifically Christian context, they are simply irreligious music.

Ultimately the question for the court was not must the superintendent ban the song, but can he?  And the answer is most certainly yes.  …And then the school board can dump his retarded ass on unemployment street.

Rule 34 Does Not Apply

Posted in Society by pissedandtart on January 5, 2010

Full-body scanners do NOT break child pornography laws.

Some midguided privacy advocates are complaining that the images produced by a full body scan would constitute child pornography.  While I normally am all for privacy, the advocates are just wrong this time.

Child pornography requires the creation of an indescent image of a minor.  While someone of us may feel self conscious about the scans, the images are hardly indescent.

When you think of porn, do you picture the image to the right?  Hell no!  Not only is this guy simply not in the kind of shape you need to be a porn star, the images are too vague and distorted to be titilating.

If you’re the type of person who can get off by seeing a weird glowing blue somewhat amorphous scan of a child, then you probably could get off just by seeing the child walking anywhere in the airport.  And, the scanners are certainly less creepy than their alternative: a pat down.

And just to drive the point home, which of the two images below do you think is more pornographic?

Operation Oversized

Posted in Society by pissedandtart on January 5, 2010

V Magazine has recently released an issue featuring plus-sized models, and let me tell you, in no uncertain terms, it ain’t sexy.

Starting with the Dove “Real Beauty” campaign, we’ve had a bit of a culture war over what constitutes feminine beauty.  Sorry ladies, but the fatties are losing.  Your best move now is to give up the fight and put your energy into an eliptical machine.

“Magazines and movies promote unrealistic body images.” – False.  While some airbrushing does occur, the women featured in magazines and in movies are in fact real people.  Ergo, their bodies are realistic.  The only thing that’s not realistic is you getting off your ass and putting in the effort to get in shape.  If you were really concerned that airbrushing promotes unrealistic beauty norms, then you’d immediately throw away all your make up.  There’s really no difference in wearing makeup and airbrushing.  Airbrushing is just makeup done in post-production on computers.

“Real women have curves.” – False.  While many women do have curves, not all do.  Keira Knightley might be flat chested, but she’s still a real woman.  You might even find her lack of curves unattractive, but still, that doesn’t make her any less real or any less of a woman.  Saying “real women have curves” is not pushing for acceptance of different body types, it’s pushing for one body type while attacking another.

“Images in the media have a negative impact on young girls.” – False.  This is just another attempt by lazy fatties to demonize women who are more attractive.  Women and girls may from time to time compare themselves to the pictures they see in magazines and on TV, but those images are hardly the most influential in their lives.  Heidi Klum’s appearance has a much smaller affect on your daughter’s self esteem than the appearance of the girl who’s dating the guy she has a crush on.  When a girl goes to the prom, she’s just compared to models who are entirely absent from the venue, she’s compared to the other girls who are right there in the room.

So, can we please stop the visual assault of fatties trying to make us think they’re sexy?  It is an effort doomed to failure.  You can’t logically convince someone that something is sexy.  It’s not an intellectual decision, it’s instinctual.  We are the product of millions of years of evolution and what we find attractive is almost entirely dictated by our instinctive knowledge about who will help us pass on our genetic code.

Being sexy means producing certain emotional responses in others and you can’t argue someone into finding you sexy.  So please, focus your energy on actually becoming sexy instead of trying to trick me into thinking you are.

France is Retarded! (And now I’m a criminal)

Posted in Society by pissedandtart on January 5, 2010

France is currently on the brink of introducing a new law that would criminalize insulting your spouse.  Seriously, this is about to be a crime in France.

What the hell?  Yes, it’s bad to yell at your wife, but it shouldn’t be a crime.  And make no mistake, this law is designed to protect wives from husbands.  I’m not just paranoid, that’s simply what the French government has said it is for.

Domestic problems that do not involve violence should be left up to the family to fix.  And I know the French are calling insults and the like “psychological violence,” but let’s face it, yelling is not violence (unless you’re Paul Atreides in the 1984 version of Dune).  Sometimes yelling is good for a couple.  Not only does it allow people to blow off steam it let’s people’s real feelings out into the open.  They might not be feelings the other person wants to hear, but you’re better off knowing their husband thinks you’re fat and lazy and contribute nothing to the marriage.  At least then you know you either need to fix something or get out.  France is essentially trading explosive honesty with quiet resentment.  I sincerely doubt that will make anyone better off.

And what makes this whole thing worse is that it’s specifically targeted at punishing men.  Yes, it could criminalize women yelling at their husbands, but men are the majority of yellers.

Now I know what some of your are thinking, if men are more likely to psychologically abuse their spouse than women, there’s no problem with more men getting punished for it.  But, that’s not quite what’s happening.  Women are probably as likely to psychologically abuse their husbands (what the heck, I believe in equality), they just use different methods.  France is only criminalizing the male method.  I bet you’d have a hard time prosecuting a woman under the “psychological violence” law for being passive aggressive or strategically withholding affection.  Good luck locking her up for lying about paternity.

Evolutionary Psychology 100

Posted in Society by pissedandtart on January 4, 2010

This post isn’t particularly relevant to anything happening in the news lately, but not many people know about evolutionary psychology, so I thought it was worth giving a brief overview.

There are two basic ideas behind evolutionary psychology, the first (pretty obviously) is that much of our psychology is the result of evolution.  The second is that evolution takes a long-ass time, and our psychology, so far as it is influenced by biology, cannot magically rewire itself over night.  Let’s start with a relatively uncontroversial example, Why We’re Fat:

Imagine two cavemen, OmniMan and LeanMan.  OmniMan has a biological preference for fat, sugar, and savory foods, manifested in both the pleasant sensation in eating them, and an inherent desire to eat such foods.  LeanMan is averse to fats, sugars, and savories and has the opposite sensations and desires.

First, LeanMan will simply die as an infant after refusing to breastfeed, but let’s pretend that didn’t happen.  What would happen to LeanMan out in nature?  Odds are he would find very little to eat.  Without the highly developed agriculture we modern humans have, LeanMan will find few foods that suit his desires.  Without the instinct to eat mammoth meat, he might never try it, and if he does (learned social behavior overcoming his biological instincts), it will taste like soap to him.  He will eat little, if at all, and he will soon starve.  A starving caveman isn’t likely to mate with a cavewoman, and a dead one is even less likely to make the cut.

Meanwhile, OmniMan is chowing down on declicious mammoth meat and the nutrients and energy needed to continue living and bang not only the cavewoman that has a thing for him, but also the cavewoman who thought LeanMan was kinda cute, in a dorky, indy way.  LeanMan didn’t survive long enough to work up the courage to ask her out, but she still wants kids, so she hooks up with OmniMan.

OmniMan’s genes prevail and we inherit them.

Now, consider what OmniMan would be like in the modern world.  Let’s fastfoward him 100,000 years and call him AmeriMan.  AmeriMan has the same food preferences and the same instincts.  He walks into Wal-Mart, buys five pounds of ground chuck, pork rinds, and two cases of Sam Adams.  This is lunch.  AmeriMan soon dies of heart disease.

So why didn’t OmniMan also get fat and die?  Because OmniMan was incapable of overeating.  Not because he had moderate desires, but because there wasn’t enough food around.  OmniMan eats everything in sight, but that’s okay, because there isn’t much in sight.  Plus, OmniMan doesn’t burn the 2000 calories a day your average AmeriMan burns.  He walks everywhere, his body has to regulate its own temperature without central heat or air, and chasing mammoth off cliffs requires more energy than pulling through the Wendy’s drive-thru.  He can eat what he likes because he’s so active.

In short, OmniMan never developed a moderation instinct because it would never have been helpful.  Any time he gorged and put on some fat, that fat would be a useful source of energy to burn when food was scarce.  Since OmniMan never got the moderation instinct, neither did we.  The development of agriculture and supermarkets has vastly outpaced our evolution.

For all the common sense appeal of evolutionary psychology, it has been squeezed out of mainstream education in favor of social psychology.  Babies of all races prefer to play with white dolls than dolls of other races.  Social psychology tells us this is because adults have communicated a conscious or subconcious feeling that white people are better, which they got from a society in which white people are often favored.  The babies pick up on this and thus prefer white dolls.  Evolutionary psychology tells us that parasites and other signs of disease are easier to see on lighter colored skin.  A clean white face says “safe” while a darker skinned face says “safety unclear.”  The baby prefers the face that is less likely to give it a disease.

Which do you believe, that black parents have accidentally instilled in infants the belief that white people are superior, or that babies have an evolutionary instinct to avoid disease?

So, just keep evolutionary psychology in mind whenever you hear that a prevalent norm is due to learned social behavior.

Do men prefer women with a 0.7 waist-to-hip ratio because of magazines, or because women with that shape are generally more fertile?

Are men more likely to pursue positions of wealth and power because women are trained to be less ambitious, or because being ambitious gives men a greater chance to reproduce, while having little effect on a woman’s chance to have kids?

Evolutionary psychology is certainly not a Unified Theory of Everything, but neither should social psychology.  Many of our actions are certainly the product of learned social behavior, but it is foolish to deny the influence of evolution.

America, fuck yeah!

Posted in Society by pissedandtart on January 4, 2010

An article published in the New York Times last Thursday is very likely to stick in the craw of self-hating Americans.  (You can identify them by how much they talk about the greatness of other countries, usually European ones.)

The article is a letter from a British author, talking about the differences in the way Americans are perceived and how they actually are:

When I finally got to America myself, I found that not only were the natives friendly and hospitable, they were also incredibly polite. No one tells you this about Americans, but once you notice it, it becomes one of their defining characteristics, especially when they’re abroad.

You can read the full text here.

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Another Decade of Dumb

Posted in Society by pissedandtart on January 4, 2010

Did you know that women are superior to men?  Lynette Long certainly thinks so“Women are our best citizens.  …our most loyal and generous citizens.” But, apparently the US treats women shamefully.  Let’s breakdown Long’s argument:

First, let’s take a look at why women are so great:

“They graduate from high school, college, medical school and law school in higher numbers than men.”

This isn’t because they’re better.  It’s because schools are increasingly teaching in ways that work better with female brain development.  Rote and competition, which work well for boys, are becoming less common.  Same goes for single-sex schools, in which boys are less likely to have discplinary problems, and are more likely to pursue extracurricular activities, especially the arts.  As for college and grad school, this is due largely to their advantages in high school and the higher pressure on boys to work rather than continue their education.  Being born into a culture that is designed in a way that favors your biology might make you more successful, but it does not make you better.

“They are now a majority of the workforce and still do the majority of heavy lifting at home. They clean our homes, raise our children, care for our senior citizens, and nurture our country.”

They’re the majority of the population, they should be the majority of the workforce.  As for doing the “heavy lifting” at home, they might put in more hours, but not necessarily the heavy lifting.  I don’t think it’s unfair men do the more physically demanding jobs (mowing the lawn, moving boxes, opening jars), we tend to be bigger and stronger.  But, Long is wrong that women do the heavy lifting, and until there is a good way of comparing work put in and not just hours, she can’t really say women do more work at home.  Not to mention raising children, while demanding, is something many people consider the most important, rewarding thing they will ever do.  Boo-hoo that women have to do it.

“And when fathers physically and/or financially abandon our children, it is primarily women who hold these families together and pick up the missing pieces.”

Technically true, but not insightful.  If the father leaves, of course the mother has to pick up the slack.  Who else is going to, the absent father?  Not likely.  But, when a mother leaves, it’s not the absent mother picking up the slack, it’s the father.  Thanks for discovering disjunction elimination.

“And let’s not forget, since scientists have not yet invented a way to grow a fetus in a test tube, every President, Member of Congress, Olympic athlete, Nobel Prize winner, best-selling author and late night comedian, was born of a woman who literally gave her life’s blood and often sacrificed her career and dreams to create our nation’s progeny.”

Again, the fate of your sex does not make you a great person.  Also, squeezing someone out of your utuerous doesn’t mean you can take credit for that person’s accomplishments.  If so, we’d have to remember how many women chose to give birth to people who’d later commit rape, murder, and genocide.  But, more importantly, most women who have children want to have children, and while some sacrifices are required, the rewards generally outweigh the costs.

By the way, anyone think it would be just a little bit racist to argue that white men are better than black men?  They graduate high school, go to college, and go to grad school more.  They’re a larger part of the work force.  More likely to physically, emotionally, and financially care for their children.  And of course, they provided the genetic material for almost every great leader our country has known.

Hint: If you replace an argument about men and women with an argument about blacks and whites and the result is something patently offensive, your original argument was probably a bit bigoted.  Work on that.

Now, let’s take a look at the ways our country treats women “shamefully.”

“The US is the richest, most powerful nation on earth yet a women’s average pay is 78% of men’s wages and American women typically get no paid maternity benefits or leave.”

First, the wealth and power of a country doesn’t make discimrination any better or worse.  Second, the pay gap is largely due to the different education and career choices men and women make, not discimination.  When controlling for education, experience, and job position the pay gap is only about 3-5%.  That’s still a problem, but it’s not the misleading 22% figure Long gives us.

“Violence against women has seen little, if any, decline.”

Patently false.  Violent crimes against women have dropped by 48% over the last 30 years; 41% in just the last 10.  That’s a pretty freaking huge decline.  In the same time frame, men saw drops of 70% and 51%.  This might look like crime prevention has greatly favored men.  But, this isn’t due to discrimination against women; it’s because men are far more likely to be the victim of crime.  Men are 23% more likely to be the victim of a violent crime and 300% more likely to be murdered.  Women are four times more likely to murder a man than to murder another woman.  Make of that what you will.

“Although women make up 51% of the population, women are drastically underrepresented at all levels of government.”

Women win few elections largely because women don’t run for office.  Since 1872, only 85 women have run for President.  That’s 85 women candidates in 34 elections, and they tend to run in minor parties that would have little chance of winning.  If we picked presidents at random, we’d probably still not have a female president.

And not only are women 51% of the population (a very important number when it comes to elections), but they vote more often than men.  Sure doesn’t sound like a way our country treats women shamefully; quite the opposite.

Besides, having men in office doesn’t necessarily benefit other men.  If that were the case, male leaders would draft men into military service and send them thousands of miles away to kill or be killed by the men drafted into service by other male leaders.

“Symbolically the government still treats women as second class citizens.  There isn’t a single national holiday named after a woman, nor does a woman grace our paper currency.  Only nine of the one-hundred statues in National Statuary Hall are of women and less than twenty-five percent of the postage stamps issued by our government to commemorate individuals are of women.”

No one is “symbolically” treated as a second class citizen.  The only way to be treated as a second class citizen is by actually being treated that way.  If women didn’t have property rights or voting rights they could complain about being treated as second class citizens.  Not being on paper money?  Pretty lame.

No man who was born in the 150 years has been on paper money.  Does this mean the country has been treating men as second class citizens for the last 150 years?

Long of course neglects to mention that Sacagawea, Suban B. Anthony and Helen Keller are all on coins, as are Lady Liberty and the anthropomorphized Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

There are only 3 men for whom we have national holidays, so again, a pretty lame complaint.  Is there a woman for whom we should be having a national holiday?

Maybe women don’t get as many statues, but, as Long has already shown us, they do get much greater educational opportunities and are far more likely to be given the responsibility of raising and educating the next generation.  If anything, that makes men sound like the second class citizens.

“And to finish the Decade off TIME magazine named Ben Bernanke, Person of the Year.  TIME changed the title “Man of the Year” to “Person of the Year” in 1999 but hasn’t selected a woman since the politically correct title change.  The last woman to be awarded Person of the Year was Corazon Aquino in 1986 and only four women have received the title individually since 1927 when the first Man of the Year was Charles Lindbergh.”

Again, the facts here are just patently false.  In 2002, three women received the honor together as “The Whistleblowers.”  (No men shared the 2002 award.)  In 2005 it was awarded to Melinda Gates (along with Bill Gates and Bono).  And just a reminder, but no one was named in 2006 (“You”) and 2003 was “The American Soldier” (a group which includes women).

If you want to make this complaint, first get your facts right.  Second, name a woman who should have gotten the honor but did not receive it.  I don’t think Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin should have gotten it over Barack Obama.  The only woman I can think of who should have been in the running but didn’t win is J. K. Rowling.

Oh yeah, in 1975 the “man” of the year was “American Women.”

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