Chelsea Clinton Finally Realizes Who She Wants To Be -- And It's Ivanka Kardashian
There's been this recent PR push to show Chelsea all slimmed down and fashionista'ed up.
Just a guess here, but I suspect that Chelsea sees that Ivanka got her pretty little self to The White House with zero political chops, so why the hell can't she? With her connections and a few workouts, blowouts, and teeth-whitenings...maybe at least a Senate seat or something, huh?
What does she stand for? Um...um...somebody all those Hillary voters can proudly blacken a ballot for?
I think T.A. Frank put it perfectly -- as quoted by Jesse Walker in this tweet:
"Chelsea Clinton seems to have a more crippling want: fashionability." https://t.co/goyu0jwnih— Jesse Walker (@notjessewalker) April 22, 2017
The link is to a T.A. Frank piece at Vanity Fair:
Chelsea, people were quietly starting to observe, had a tendency to talk a lot, and at length, not least about Chelsea. But you couldn't interrupt, not even if you're on TV at NBC, where she was earning $600,000 a year at the time. "When you are with Chelsea, you really need to allow her to finish," Jay Kernis, one of Clinton's segment producers at NBC, told Vogue. "She's not used to being interrupted that way."
Sounds perfect for a dating profile: I speak at length, and you really need to let me finish. I'm not used to interruptions.
...What comes across with Chelsea, for lack of a gentler word, is self-regard of an unusual intensity. And the effect is stronger on paper. Unkind as it is to say, reading anything by Chelsea Clinton--tweets, interviews, books--is best compared to taking in spoonfuls of plain oatmeal that, periodically, conceal a toenail clipping.
Take the introduction to It's Your World (Get Informed! Get Inspired! Get Going!). It's harmless, you think. "My mom wouldn't let me have sugary cereal growing up (more on that later)," writes Chelsea, "so I improvised, adding far more honey than likely would have been in any honeyed cereals." That's the oatmeal--and then comes the toenail:I wrote a letter to President Reagan when I was five to voice my opposition to his visit to the Bitburg cemetery in Germany, because Nazis were buried there. I didn't think an American president should honor a group of soldiers that included Nazis. President Reagan still went, but at least I had tried in my own small way.
Ah, yes, that reminds me of when I was four and I wrote to Senator John Warner about grain tariffs, arguing that trade barriers unfairly decreased consumer choice.
The way I see it, Chelsea has led the sort of life of extreme wealth and ease that makes for very little building of character. It's not necessary to be poor to have character -- I know some very wealthy people who were raised to have it. However, from what we've seen of Chelsea, she's just arm candy -- but without all the visible plastic surgery.
Silly Teen Vogue-ers, Fashion *Is* Appropriation
This bit -- from Teen Vogue -- is hilariously sad and sadly hilarious:
In our new column Don't Do It Girl, Jessica Andrews explores the cultural appropriation epidemic at Coachella.
EPIDEMIC! Like AIDS, Zika, or Ebola!
Fashion always has been about appropriation. Appropriating style and appropriating culture. Those lace-up-the-ankle sandals? Ancient Rome!
Yet, do you see Italian kids mewling that you stole their culture? Of course not, because Italians, generally speaking, are exuberant people who really know how to live life.
Meanwhile, back here in America...
The kids growing up now, especially in the United States, are the freest people in human history -- both as individuals and through the technology that removes the drudgery that's been a constant companion for humans throughout the ages.
Naturally, their response to all this unparalleled freedom is to try to control other people's behavior.
Fashion policing, in this case. Here, from Andrews story on that EPIDEMIC of appreciation:
Even when people feign ignorance, there's little excuse. In the past, I've worn a Pocahontas costume for Halloween. It's a mistake I regret, and I'll never do it again knowing how hurtful it is.
Oh, please. I grew up Jewish. If you pretend to be a character from Fiddler on the Roof, should I take to bed and cry for a few days?
With appropriation being such a huge conversation these days...
So much talk...so little reasoning
Like fashion, appropriative hairstyles are now ubiquitous at Coachella. Cornrows or box braids are not a "hot new festival trend"; black women have been wearing them for centuries. When outlets cover the hairstyle as if it started with Kylie Jenner, it's not appreciation; it's erasure. Those celebratory headlines are yet another reminder that black hairstyles are only acceptable when they're removed from actual black people.
Do you need to be high to write for Teen Vogue? It's a fucking hairstyle. Women wear it because they think it will look good on them. If they're white with dark hair, they're probably wrong (nothing like rows of scalpage showing through to make a woman's head remind us of freshly plowed fields). Women with big honking faces like mine don't look so hot in them, either.
Unbeknownst to some Coachella attendees, there's a stigma associated with cornrows and braids when black people wear them.
Unbeknownst to a fucking lot of us, I'd guess.
I have, especially in humidity, the closest thing you can get to black hair while being a white, Ashkenazi Jew. A really great way to organize said ornery locks is to railroad them into some format -- whether it's cornrows or my hair-organizing style of choice: the German prison guard bun. The big reason I don't have corn rows? I would look like shit in them.
There are myriad ways to dress up at Coachella without offending an entire group of people.
There's also the thought that if they're offended by your doing what people have done for centuries with fashion -- appropriate styles they like -- that they're idiots who shouldn't be catered to.
That said, I do suggest being prepared to politely explain yourself, should any of these idiots approach you about the horror you're perpetuating with your hairstyle.
I am not optimistic about the generations coming up.
Oh, and hilariously, at that Teen Vogue link, there are a bunch of videos with up-talking girls expressing their horror about the "cultural appropriation" through fashion.
What's especially hilarious is going to the video and spotting all the styles these historical illiterates have copped from others.
For example, the nose ring on one of the black women -- which always gives me a knee-jerk reminder of black African slavery, but actually gets mentioned in Genesis as being worn my peeps, the Heebs.
With "cultural appropriation" being such a DEVASTATING thing, I guess I should expect to be in fragile mental health over this by Saturday!
Also, as @CHSommers (from whom I found this link) notes:
Pet the alligators.
Mental Illness Chic
Brendan O'Neill has a point:
One of the great media myths of the 21st century is that there's a taboo against talking about mental illness. Please. Then how come I can't open a newspaper or flick through my TV channels or browse social media without seeing someone go into grisly depth, often replete with sad selfies, about his latest bout of mental darkness? Far from taboo, having a mental illness, and talking about your mental illness, is all the rage. It's the latest must-have. You're no one unless you've had a mental episode. And I find this transformation of mental illness into a fashion accessory far worse than the old treatment of it as a taboo (which was very bad).
...The problem here is that people are being told it's cool not to be able to cope, to embrace the identity of fragility. They are invited to think of themselves as incapable, to build their personality around being pathetic. That's terrible. The generous reading is that this ultimately expresses society's inability to provide people with a sense of purpose in their lives, with a moral framework for making sense of the world and our place within it, and this gives rise to a situation where people come to understand the problems they face not as social, political or economic, but as psychic. This is true, and it's a very worrying phenomenon. But at the same time, don't people also have choice and autonomy, however diminished these things might now be? Can't they refuse to adopt the mental-illness tag?
Note all those students claiming to be "triggered" by bits of Plato or "The Great Gatsby"? This is part of the whole trend of how it's cool to be mentally weak.
I blogged about this recently: "Suffering Chic: The Longing To Claim Membership In The Victim Class."
Professing victimhood as a way to get attention is a form of "covert narcissism" -- a term I once heard from a professor friend. It describes people who use "Oh, downtrodden me!" and awful things that have befallen them to get others to feel sorry for them, attend to their needs, and generally put the spotlight on them.
There's a whole lot of that going on on campus, with so many students claiming to be traumatized. This being America in 2017, with more comforts and ease for all than at any other time in human history, what is there to be traumatized by?
There are people -- of course -- who have suffered actual trauma. But for the rest, hurt feelz will have to do. This ends up causing students who feel in need of attention and something to be a part of to claim microaggressions and all other manner of bullshit to be injuring them. Deeply, deeply.
Unfortunately, a big taboo is telling these people to snap the fuck out of it.
Merely questioning them -- debating them in the slightest -- can bring down all sorts of hell (and especially, social media hell on a person or a professor). Professors without tenure are especially worried about saying the wrong thing -- which, really, is anything anyone says gives them a case of hurt feelz.
The most shocking example of this is a professor friend -- a white guy -- who greeted his white, Jewish dad, who'd stopped by his class, with "'sup?"
He was accused in a student's email of misappropriating AAVE -- "African American Vernacular English."
Luckily, this went no further.
He didn't feel he could debate this. I can't remember what the outcome was. I hope he didn't apologize.
P.S. Elmore Leonard built a career on "appropriating" "African American Vernacular English," like in the great character of ex-Panther Donnell Lewis. Made his books a fun read.
The UC Berkeley Administration Goes Laissez-Faire On Rioting Against Speech
Terrific post by Greg Lukianoff, the President and CEO of the campus free speech defending organization, TheFIRE.org -- the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education:
The Berkeley administration is incentivizing anyone who doesn't want a particular speaker to be heard to threaten (or even engage in) acts of violence. This all but guarantees that controversial speakers on a particular campus will be silenced, and teaches a generation of students that resorting to violence will be rewarded. Students are learning deeply illiberal lessons. I can think of few things that are more corrosive to higher education or a pluralistic democracy.
Anyone who responds to speech with violence should be prosecuted. So far, to our knowledge, nobody has been charged at Middlebury College, and possibly only one person has been charged in the Berkeley riots.
When students physically block access to speeches or shout down speakers to prevent them from being heard, they should likewise be punished. Failing to address these disruptions grants an ongoing heckler's veto to would-be censors. This is inimical to both freedom of speech and academic freedom on campus.
There is a reason nobody says, "If you want to stop a bully, give him everything he wants." Failure to address violent responses to speech only encourages more violence, while turning great institutions like the University of California, Berkeley, into environments where what can be said -- and therefore, what can be taught -- is dictated by a minority of violent students and other protesters.
To put it in stark terms, not taking a stand against violent protesters is eventually going to get someone killed.
UPDATE: "UC Berkeley reverses decision to cancel Ann Coulter visit."
Whatever you think of Ann Coulter or Milo or anyone else, the thug's veto should not be allowed to prevail. (The answer to speech you disagree with is more speech, not trying to silence the person making it.)
We're All Selling Something
The notion that sex work should be illegal is antithetical to individual rights.
If you think sex workers "sell their bodies," but coal miners do not, your view of labor is clouded by your moralistic view of sexuality.— Eric Sprankle, PsyD (@DrSprankle) April 19, 2016
An anti-prostitution activist tweets up -- and the reply (which is what I was thinking about the coal work):
I choose not to be a sex worker but it's not my right (or anyone's) to stop other adults who wish to earn a living that way -- like, for example, @Maggie_McNeill.
Modernize The Damn Tax Code, So We Freelancers Aren't So Screwed
Working as a freelancer isn't some odd passing trend. It's increasingly the employment of today. However, the tax system screws freelancers.
Op-ed in the LA Times by Sara Horowitz:
Because the system is so complicated, freelancers often pay not only their taxes, but also penalties for miscalculating or missing their quarterly payments. And because freelancers can rarely catch their breath, setting aside retirement or any kind of savings becomes all the more challenging. In a 2016 survey commissioned by the Freelancers Union, independent workers reported that debt was among their top three concerns. In part for this reason, Silicon Valley is pouring billions into developing software that emulates withholdings and automates tasks like expense-tracking and invoicing.
But the real rub is that freelancers are paying taxes toward a social safety net to which they have little access. Many pay both employer and employee contributions to Social Security, yet are ineligible for unemployment benefits and workers' compensation.
Freelancers who make just enough to receive little or no subsidy for their health insurance are arguably the most penalized. Though they usually live in expensive urban areas, they may bring in only $35,000 or $40,000 a year, and are often subject to unpredictable swings in income that make them highly susceptible to debt.
Say you're a freelancer making a net income of $40,000. You would pay roughly $5,000 in self-employment taxes, $3,500 in income taxes and $4,500 in health insurance. That's 30% of your income. Compare this to a traditional worker with the same salary. Such an employee would pay 9% to 15% in taxes and health insurance payments, depending on what portion of the insurance is covered by the employer. They would also have access to group-rate benefits at a fraction of the cost an independent worker would pay.
Of course, another thing that makes no sense is how health care is tied to the workplace at a time when few people stay in the same workplace for long.
Sadly, it seems no legislators bothered to check for that when they were passing Obamacare to see what was in it.
This country is increasingly a complicated mess with government employees being among the better paid. I'm not seeing reasons for optimism, save for the world of technological innovation and entrepreneurs -- that is, those whom the government doesn't manage to squash.
Slinky that lost its curves.
NASA Sends Careerist Government Assholes After 74-Year-Old Woman Trying To Pay Medical Expenses
She wasn't even doing anything illegal. And she was completely open about what she was doing with the government. But it's much less fun to pick up the phone and ask a couple of questions to clarify matters than to get a bunch of armed agents together to set up a sting like some little old lady is El Chapo, North.
Also, agents make their careers through their wins -- as do government prosecutors -- which is why the unscrupulous ones go for the win even when they're doing wrong instead of making right and dropping the case.
As for the case with this woman, Tim Cushing writes at TechDirt:
The "she" here is Joann Davis, whose late husband worked on the Apollo program. He was given two Apollo souvenirs by Neil Armstrong -- paperweights containing pieces of a moon rock and a heat shield, respectively. Davis was looking to sell the items to a collector to defray her son's medical expenses. She asked NASA for assistance, which turned out to be a mistake. NASA sent the feds after her.
It's not always illegal to be in possession of these items, but as Lowering the Bar's Kevin Underhill explains, it's almost always going to be treated as illegal by the federal government.
And the government's response:
Davis may have told the government what she was up to, but the government didn't return the favor. Instead, it decided to engage in sting operation, because that's obviously the best way to deal with a 74-year-old woman trying to pay medical expenses -- and who had made the government fully aware of her NASA-related items and her planned sale of them.
The government thugs refused to let her go to the bathroom, and then, when she urinated in her clothing, made her stand for two and a half hours in urine-soaked pants while she was questioned.
The asshole agent is Norman Conley, and his immunity has been stripped by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Great news. Because there's too much of this going around -- from asset forfeiture...to TSA thugs clearly using their positions as a means of revenge against travelers who aren't quite compliant sheep...to taking people's property because they deposited under $10,000 and never mind having any evidence they were selling drugs, arms, or the like...and so many more abuses under the cover of law.
If these government-employed thugs begin to see there are some costs, maybe they'll cut back on all this thuggery against citizens.
Stupid On Post-Modern Steroids: College Students Finding This "Search For Truth" Business A Form Of Oppression
Obviously, we're doomed. We went from "The Greatest Generation" to "The Great Big Triggered Baby Generation."
Check out this quote reflecting how students at one of the elite colleges in this country think. It's hard to believe this shit is real.
Here's an example of a vigorous disregard for seeking the truth by college administrators -- until the video proved this guy was falsely accused.
The "Do Not Hire Lady Ironworkers!" Union Benefits Package
Female ironworkers are about to get big chunk of paid maternity leave, reports Buzzfeed's Cora Lewis. Six to eight months of paid maternity leave before delivery, and six to eight weeks post-delivery.
The membership of the 130,000-strong Ironworkers union is an overwhelmingly male crowd, but the approximately 2,100 women just won a benefit that would be prized by working women across the country: Six months of paid maternity leave.
The leave, designed to be taken prior to delivery, complements six to eight weeks of post-delivery leave.
"The challenges of physical work associated with the ironworking trade create unique health challenges that can jeopardize a pregnancy," the union said in a statement announcing the benefit, noting that paid maternity leave "is virtually unheard of in the building trades."
...Bill Brown, CEO of Ben Hur Construction Co., called the benefit "an investment, because we want our well-trained ironworker women to come back to work."
A company can choose to do this -- but a mandate from the union? Not good.
I'm not saying that it's a bad idea for women to take leave around their pregnancy -- especially women in dangerous jobs. But who should pay for this?
I've blogged about this before -- how these mandated paid maternity leave packages are likely to affect women's hiring.
So, here's an employee whom you will be forced to give six months of with pay -- an employee who, at the end of it, maybe decide not to return at all.
You could hire that employee or an employee who does not get the chunk of leave.
Tough choiciepoo, huh?
Oh, and notice that nobody's mentioning time off for the men who are daddies, paid or otherwise. Perhaps the logic is that men don't endure the physical costs of pregnancy.
And check this out:
Using back-of-the-envelope calculations, Brown estimated that training a new iron worker costs $32,000 over the course of a four-year apprenticeship, during which time the workers are also paid regular salaries.
"So when you add payroll to 32K a year, and you lose a woman worker, you're out more than 32K," he said. "Then you have to train another person to take their place, so it's a 64K proposition if you lose one female apprentice.
"To protect our investment, if we wanted women to stay in our industry, we had to do something."
Brown acts as co-chair of the Iron Workers labor-management working group, which came up with the plan for six months of paid leave along with Iron Workers General President Eric Dean.
Dean said he believes the benefit is the first of its kind in the building industry, but that he hopes it will be a model for others. The working group began talking about maternity benefits when looking into why such a high number of women were leaving the workforce for other professions.
"We've always had women, but never had an abundance of women," Dean said. "And many of them were leaving the industry after we spent an inordinate amount of time training them."
Maybe there's a reason that this is an overwhelmingly male job, and maybe it has to do with sex differences in muscle mass, testosterone, and (intertwined) differences in willingness to take risk. Male risk-taking is a mating display -- it helps show male physical and emotional quality. Female risk-taking, on an evolutionary level, is mainly just stupid.
WELDER-RELATED: My time with the welders -- a special post for Crid. (From the Ironworkers' Local 443 picnic, where I went with Gregg for his Killshot movie research for Elmore Leonard and director John Madden.)
CNN Is The ESPN Of Politics
It leads to cheap, easy-to-make TV -- kind of like the Roman coliseum, but without that nasty feeding the Christians to the lions business.
There's the sport of politics, CNN-style, and then there's the news -- which is occasionally made by reporters and photographers doing some serious shit:
CNN via @YvonneLeow @HowardOwens
Ride the spinning teacups!
Millennials' Push To Ban Free Speech
It isn't just millennials, of course, but I perceive the notion that speech should not be free to be the strongest amongst millennials.
Eloquent and smart piece by the UK writer Nick Cohen -- who happens to be on the left.
In the piece, he explains John Stuart Mill's "harm principle," Mill's notion that stopping speech is only permissible when it incites violence -- actual physical violence.
Yet now, students -- using thinking out of the academic left -- conflate emotional safety and physical safety. They use this conflation to call for bans on speech they dislike or disagree with, because it fails to conform to what is considered correct -- correct in terms of what the rational quicksand that is po-mo academia says is correct.
A bit from his piece:
To a woman struggling to be treated equally and taken seriously, Mill's permissiveness must appear next to useless. All around her society shows women as lumps of meat for men to drool over and prod. They challenge her sense of who she is and what she may become. But according to the old liberalism, she cannot censor unless she can prove that pornography and sexualised films and advertising are causing rape or promoting prejudice. Why should she accept a bar raised so high she can never jump it? Why should she spend years arguing for men to change, when experience has taught her that men don't change? State power could spare her from hard and unsatisfactory argument and give her what she wanted in a moment.
The same applies to a black man confronted with the everyday racism of parts of the Right, or a Jew confronted with the everyday racism of Islamists and parts of the Left, or a gay man worried about homophobia or a Muslim frightened of Islamophobia. They don't want to be told they can ban speech only if a speaker whips his audience into such a state they are ready to attack a mosque or a gay bar or a synagogue. They feel the urgent hurt of prejudice now, and they want it stopped. A failure to demand that newsagents take sex magazines off the shelves, or that the police arrest a racist on Twitter, or that the government pass laws against "hate speech" is a kind of betrayal. Defeating your opponents in argument is not enough, when argument contains an admission that they at least have a case that is worth arguing against. Only silencing them can show your commitment to the cause, and provide an authentic measure of your disgust. Anything else is a collaboration with those who hate you.
...Go into the modern university and you won't hear much from Mill, John Milton, George Orwell, or from the millions around the world who have had to learn the hard way why freedom of speech matters. Instead, academics promote philosophers far less rigorous than Feinberg. Jeremy Waldron, for instance, suggests speech which attacks the dignity of others should be banned. Rae Langton of Cambridge University puts the arguments of the anti-pornography campaigners of the 1980s into obscure - and therefore academically respectable - prose. Pornography silences women, she argues, not by actually silencing them, but by making their protestations harder to believe.
...When I argue for freedom of speech at student unions, I am greeted with incomprehension as much as outrage. It's not only that they don't believe in it, they don't understand how anyone could believe in it unless they were a racist or rapist. The politicians, bureaucrats, chief police officers and corporate leaders of tomorrow are at universities, which teach that open debate and persuasion by argument are ideas so dangerous they must be banned as a threat to health and safety. Unless we challenge them in the most robust manner imaginable, whatever kind of country they grow up to preside over is unlikely to be a very free one.
There was a bit of an argument on Twitter yesterday, in response to cognitive scientist Christopher Chabris' tweeting of the op-ed from the Wellesley paper. The thing merely said that "hostility" could be warranted, not "violence." But Chabris took it to mean "violence" -- a coded way of saying violence -- and I think Cohen's piece makes a good argument that Chabris is right.
A frightening document: student *journalists* endorse violence against speakers who "refuse to adapt their beliefs" pic.twitter.com/dpedkBCQUg— Christopher Chabris (@cfchabris) April 16, 2017
@hardsci The "hostility" they say "may be warranted" is more than mere debate or discussion--so it must include physical blocking of speakers etc.— Christopher Chabris (@cfchabris) April 16, 2017
Chabris, on his blog, posts his version of what a college president should say to people demanding that a speaker invited to campus be disinvited:
To those who say the speaker may make them feel unsafe, I must point out that higher education is not designed to make people safe. Instead, it is our society's designated "safe space" for disruptive intellectual activity. It's a space that has been created and set apart specifically for the incubation of knowledge, by both students and faculty. Ideas that may seem dangerous or repugnant can be expressed here--even if nowhere else--so that they can be analyzed, discussed, and understood as dispassionately as possible. Many of humanity's greatest achievements originated as ideas that were suppressed from the public sphere. Some, like the theory of evolution by natural selection, equal rights for women and minorities, trade unions, democracy, and even the right to free speech and expression, are still seen as dangerous decades and centuries later.
If you are against this speaker coming here, please also consider this: Some members of our community--some of your friends and colleagues--do want him to visit. By asking me to disinvite him, you are implicitly claiming that your concerns and preferences are more important than those of the people who invited him. Are you really sure that you are so right and they are so wrong? Psychologists have found that people tend to be overconfident in their beliefs, and poor at taking the perspective of others. That might be the case here.
...Note that it's especially important for us to be open to viewpoints not already well-represented among our faculty. The professors here are a diverse group, but many studies have shown that professors tend to be more politically left-wing than the population at large. Even the most conscientious instructor may inadvertently slant his teaching and assignments towards his own political viewpoint. Of course, this applies more in the social sciences and humanities than in math or physics, but it does happen. Giving campus organizations wide latitude to invite the speakers they wish helps to increase the range of thoughts that are aired and discussed here.
If you feel that this speaker's talk might upset you, I offer this advice: Go. Yes, go to the talk, listen to it, record it--if the speaker and hosts give permission--and think about it. Expose yourself to ideas that trouble you, because avoiding sources of anxiety is not the best way to cope with them.
But don't try to interrupt or shout the speaker down. Take this golden opportunity to train yourself to respond to speech that upsets you by analyzing it, looking up its sources, developing reasoned counterarguments, and considering why people agree with it and whether it might not be as contemptible as you have been told. These are the skills that all members of our community are committed to building.
Who Is Donald Trump And What Does He Stand For?
Depends on the moment.
Andrew Sullivan chronicles this perfectly at NYMag:
Every day, the incoherence deepens: He's going to cover "everyone," but he's going to push 24 million people off their health insurance. He's going to wipe out the debt, but his tax cuts and spending spree will add trillions to it. He's never going to intervene in Syria, but he just did. He's going to get Mexico to pay for a big, beautiful wall, but he isn't. China is a currency manipulator, but it isn't. The media is the enemy of the people, but he is on the phone with them every five minutes and can't stop watching CNN and reading the New York Times. He's going to be a tightwad with taxpayers' money, unlike Obama, but his personal travel expenses are on track to be eight times more than his predecessor's. He's going to work relentlessly for the American people but he spends half his days watching cable news. We've got to be "very, very tough" in foreign affairs, but when he sees dead babies on TV, he immediately calls General Mattis and lobs 59 Tomahawk missiles. He has a secret plan to defeat ISIS, but pursues Obama's strategy instead. He is for the "forgotten men and women" of America, but his tax plan -- which is itself changing all the time -- benefits the superrich and depends on removing health insurance for the working poor. He wants to be friends with Russia, but he doesn't. He's going to challenge China's policy on Taiwan, but he isn't. He is against crony capitalism, but he is for it. He's going to keep the focus on America, but just upped the ante in Yemen and Afghanistan. He's a deal-maker, but he cannot make deals even with his own party. He's a great manager, but his White House is consumed with in-fighting and he cannot staff his own administration. He's a populist who stacks his cabinet with Goldman Sachs alums. He's going to pressure China to take on North Korea, but "after listening for ten minutes" to China's dictator, he changes his mind.
...What on earth is the point of trying to understand him when there is nothing to understand? Calling him a liar is true enough, but liars have some cognitive grip on reality, and he doesn't. Liars remember what they have said before. His brain is a neural Etch A Sketch. He doesn't speak, we realize; he emits random noises. He refuses to take responsibility for anything. He can accuse his predecessor and Obama's national security adviser of crimes, and provide no evidence for either. He has no strategy beyond the next 24 hours, no guiding philosophy, no politics, no consistency at all -- just whatever makes him feel good about himself this second. He therefore believes whatever bizarre nonfact he can instantly cook up in his addled head, or whatever the last person who spoke to him said. He makes Chauncey Gardiner look like Abraham Lincoln. Occam's razor points us to the obvious: He has absolutely no idea what he's doing. Which is reassuring and still terrifying all at once.
Of course, the last to admit anything even coming close to resembling an inconsistency in the man are those who voted for him. At least, many of those.
The Libertarians have a few years to get their shit together. Is it still too much to ask that they -- when there's greater opportunity than ever to elect a Libertarian -- put forth a candidate with both a personality and a clue?
The Useless "Diversity" Dump That The Academic Humanities Have Become
I should say that I obviously don't know that this is how things are at all colleges. Also, personally speaking, I mainly know professors in the social sciences, not the humanities arena. However, the experiences the writer details sound like many I've read and heard about.
There's a terrific pseudonymous piece at Quillette on how standards have been yanked from academia.
I was appointed by the dean of General Studies to serve as the chair for a writing hiring committee, a committee charged with hiring one full-time writing professor, who not only could teach first-year writing classes but also offerings in journalism. The committee of three met late in the fall semester to discuss the first group of candidates, before undertaking the second set of Skype interviews. I mentioned that I had received an email from one of the candidates and shared it with the committee members. After reading the email aloud, I argued that the missive effectively disqualified the candidate. The writing was riddled with awkward expression, malapropisms, misplaced punctuation, and other conceptual and formal problems. Rarely had a first-year student issued an email to me that evidenced more infelicitous prose. I asked my fellow committee members how we could possibly hire someone to teach writing who had written such an email, despite the fact that it represented only a piece of occasional writing. The candidate could not write. I also pointed back to her application letter, which was similarly awkward and error-laden. My committee colleagues argued that "we do not teach grammar" in our writing classes. Sure, I thought. And a surgeon doesn't take vital signs or draw blood. That doesn't mean that the surgeon wouldn't be able to do so when required.
In the Skype interview following this discussion, a fellow committee member proceeded to attack the next job candidate, a candidate whom I respected. In fact, before the interview, this colleague, obviously enraged by my criticisms of her favorite, announced that she would ruthlessly attack the next candidate. She did exactly that, asking increasingly obtuse questions, while adopting a belligerent tone and aggressive posture from the start. That candidate, incidentally, had done fascinating scholarship on the history of U.S. journalism from the late 19th through the first half of the 20th Century. He had earned his Ph.D. from a top-ten English department, had since accrued considerable teaching experience in relevant subjects, and presented a record of noteworthy publications, including academic scholarship and journalism. He interviewed extremely well, except when he was harangued and badgered by the hostile interviewer. He should have been a finalist for the job. But he had a fatal flaw: he was a white, straight male.
After the interview, I chided my colleague uncompromisingly, although without a hint of bias. I believed, and still do, that her behavior during that interview was utterly unprofessional and prejudicial, and I told her so. Next, I was on the receiving end of her verbal barrage. Not only did she call me some choice expletives but also rose from her chair and posed as if to charge me physically, all the while flailing her limbs and yelling. I left the room and proceeded to the dean's office. I told the dean what had just occurred. He advised me to calm down and let it rest until the following week.
What happened next was telling. I was unwittingly enmeshed in an identity politics imbroglio. The woman who had verbally assaulted me was a black female and the candidate whom she championed was also a black female. I was informed by the dean that pursuing a grievance, or even remaining on the committee, was now "complicated." Shortly after the dean recommended that I step down from the committee, I realized I was in a corner and stepped down, going from chair to non-member.
The committee went on to hire the woman in question. Since assuming her position, the new hire posted an official faculty profile linked from Hudson's General Studies program page. Her faculty profile page betrays the same awkward prose, poor incorporation of quotes, and other problems of expression typical of first-year student writers, but usually not professors. The profile also includes a glaring grammatical error: "The two main objectives in teaching is ..." I strongly believe that her official evaluations are likely as bad as her RateMyProfessors.com reviews.
To be perfectly clear, I am not arguing against the diversification of the faculty and student populations within Hudson's General Studies program and beyond. Rather, I am suggesting that the diversity initiatives recently introduced by the university and our program have been hastily and thoughtlessly administered and mistakenly construed, to the detriment of academic integrity and real equity. Qualified academics can be found among all population groups. The university must ensure that those selected are qualified, first and foremost, not by their identities per se, but by what they know and are able to do and teach. It is sheer cynicism to suppose that qualified candidates cannot be found among minority groups. Blatant tokenism in hiring and promotion jeopardizes the integrity of higher education and also undermines the objectives that diversity initiatives aim to promote.
Further, when markers of race, gender, gender fluidity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion and other factors are deemed the only criteria for diversity, students are cheated, as are those chosen to meet diversity measures on the basis of identity alone. Nothing is more essentialist or constraining than diversity understood strictly in terms of identity. Such a notion of diversity reduces "diverse" people to the status of token bearers of identity markers, relegating them to an impenetrable and largely inescapable identity chrysalis, and implicitly eliding their individuality. Meanwhile, there is no necessary connection between identity and ideas, identity and talents, identity and aspirations, or identity and beliefs.
Likewise, if we wish to foster real diversity in higher education, we must consider not only diversity of identity but also diversity of thought and perspective. This is the kind of diversity that we are supposed to recognize and foster in the first place.
Perhaps intentionally, perhaps unthinkingly, the author gave us something to Google: "The two main objectives in teaching is"...
And Google I did.
The professor mentioned -- who writes "The two main objectives in teaching is ..." -- appears to be Kaia Shivers and the school appears to be NYU. The program is their "Liberal Studies" program.
I've preserved a screenshot of Kaia Shivers' online page from NYU:
The first line of a paper she published has a similar error in the first line -- one that would disqualify a person from being my assistant. It should also disqualify a person from becoming a professor, and the notion that skin color would give a person pass is one of the most disgustingly racist things I can think of.
Negotiating Identity in Transnational Spaces: Consumption of Nollywood Films in the African Diaspora of the United States
Kaia Niambi Shivers
Journalism and Media Studies Rutgers University, New Jersey USA
The consumption of Nollywood films in the United States is a site of complex translational engagements and a location of disjunctured processes that illuminate how Diasporas are imagined, created and performed. This study focused on how three major groups in the African Diaspora community located in the New York Metropolitan area negotiate identity within the historical, political, and socio-cultural circumstances of their locality. African-Americans, Caribbean migrants, and African migrants who interact with each other via the consumption of the popular African video films, articulate an intricate and layered understanding of each other, as well as their group's meaning of blackness. These articulations show that blackness is a concept that differs inter-ethnically and intra-ethnically.
She does write in the tangled bullshitese of post-modernism, which I suspect is another plus in getting hired these days.
Shivers gets a 1.9 (out of 5) on Rate My Professor from seven students rating her. She would have done far worse, save for the one student who gave her a 5. Students clicked the box to deem her teaching either "poor" or "awful." A few examples of Shivers' reviews:
She's completely disorganized. Her eCollege site was just a mess and there was no consistency which was really frustrating. She was never clear about what she wanted in an assignment so students would spend half the class just clarifying. However, her assignments are still easy and consist of just making blog posts and a shared paper at the end.
I never felt the need to rate a professor until now. She's the most disorganized professor! The syllabus was copy pasted from the previous semester, so all the dates are all wrong. It's really a guessing game trying to figure out when assignments are due. Grades are never posted so you don't know how you're doing in class.
Never grades anything, does no prep for class. Exams are on things we have never seen.
I have never written a professor review but felt obligated to do so. I have never been in a more unprepared and disorganized class. NOTHING was graded the entire semester nor did we ever receive feedback on anything. How is a student supposed to improve with no feedback or even know where they stand in the class. The professor was also rude.
But, hey -- she did win the diversity vote:
IDK101 Honestly if you're into the truth and knowing that people in this world are so messed up because of the small things we do on a daily basis really affecting people who we don't know, please take a class with her. I am never going to forget her because she really helped me remember how important it is to have some sort of voice in this society.
It would help if the "voice" you have includes a fifth-grader's command of grammar.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Gottschall, whose beautifully-written and insightful book, "The Professor in the Cage: Why Men Fight and Why We Like to Watch," I featured on my science podcast, is yet another exceptional person with a Ph.D. who had to leave academia because he just couldn't get more than a low-paying adjunct lecturer job. He's now completing a novel.
This guy, at any other time, would have been a plum that colleges fought over.
Now, he's just a white guy, and that makes him not-so-employable.
Ability now seems to be an afterthought in academic hiring. What's essential is that you come in the "right" color.
Men Aren't To Blame Because A Woman Lacks Boundaries
Sadly, figuring out how to say no takes a little more than figuring out how to whine about the results of failing to do that.
A woman -- Avigayil Halpern -- published an article-length whine in the Yale Daily News about the results of her failure to be assertive or set boundaries:
Like many Yale students, I lead a busy life. My time is full of homework, emails and meetings. But the homework, emails and meetings I deal with are not just my own: To abuse a term, I work a "second shift" managing those things for the men in my life.
Many Yale men, by now, are familiar with the concept of "emotional labor." Male friends rarely expect me to discuss their relationships with them for hours on end, and left-leaning men I'm close with almost never talk to me about their feelings at length without ironically asking if they're a "softboy." I'm lucky not to do unreciprocated emotional work for my friends -- most Yale women can't say the same. But in all the discussion of and worry over emotional labor, men have lost sight of the "real" labor they expect women to do.
The collective hours Yale women spend managing men's lives -- doing work that, in another context, could go on a resume as administrative assistant experience -- could probably add up to taking another class. In a given week, I help men remember what the homework is and when it's due. I remind men to attend meetings they scheduled themselves, set up chairs for programs I no longer run and always get asked to take notes in meetings.
The load of these individually tiny tasks is death by a thousand cuts. There's not a good way to tell a male friend to look up the homework himself on Canvas instead of texting him back when he asks what it is. I once snapped at a man who constantly asks me what a regular meeting we had was and was told not to "go into hysterics." Who is so selfish that she will not tell a friend a simple piece of information? At this point, though, I've spent hours of my life passing on easily accessible information to this man.
If, stuck in this trap, a woman performs these tiny tasks, it becomes increasingly harder to say no. A friend describes a freshman counselor who took a language class with her in the fall of her first year who would text her every week to ask what the homework was. Over time, she says, she began to feel responsible for keeping him up to date, even explaining assignments to him.
If you're unhappy about how you're being treated, there's a simple answer: Speak up. Tell people you want to be treated differently. Each time you feel that way. Not as a general screed in the college newspaper.
Behaving differently is also extremely helpful.
And guess what: If you generally telegraph to people that you are not there for the using -- and, if need be, show them and/or tell them that's the case -- they will move on to more accommodating marks.
P.S. Bizarre attempt at creating a clever word -- "dele-guy-ting" -- for her headline and spelled slightly differently within the piece.
Oh, and I found this link tweeted as a response to the remarks by Linda Gottfredson that I posted an excerpt from on Saturday. My response, in brief, is in the tweet below.
Your phone, of course. I mean your phone.
Advice For Young Women Going Into Science
It's from educational psychologist Linda Gottfredson. She's apparently controversial, and you might strongly disagree with her work, which I haven't read and first read about Friday night when I looked her up on Wikipedia.
(I'm in the final throes of my book polish and I was too tired to do any reading on Friday night when I posted this. However, here's a piece at dana.org)
However, unlike those driven to censor speech, I try to take ideas and speech on their own merits, and this is right in line with what I know about evolved sex differences.
The question posed to her:
Q: Do you have any advice for young women going into science?
A: Yes, and it dawned on me only recently. I see women getting more caught up in committee work and other service activities than do men. The women also tend to be more conscientious about it. In my setting, I observe some men but no women refusing to carry out the assignments they have accepted, and I see relatively more women among the stellar performers. Nonperformance seems to go unpunished, but conscientious performance draws yet more requests to serve. I therefore suspect that women tend to accumulate more service time, much of it untallied. I know that they often have a harder time saying no to requests or to doing just the minimum. My close male colleagues simply cannot fathom such gratuitous helping behavior and think it foolish; close female colleagues cannot understand the males' dismissive stance toward community obligations.
I am referring here to a fairly subtle but powerful sex difference that seems rooted in known differences in temperament, interests, and priorities. Evolutionarily, women have been the glue of social groups. They tend to be more concerned with ministering to families and communities, take more pleasure from such activity, are more moved by the gratitude it generates, and suffer more anxiety and guilt when they skimp on it. I have long recognized these feelings in myself and know they generalize to work settings, but I only recently realized that I experience them as physiological reinforcement. No wonder men tend to behave differently when faced with the same choices. So my advice to women is, "Restrain your natural impulse to indiscriminately serve and help. Choose wisely, because time is your most precious resource."
This relates to absolutely nothing. Though I think I might have seen Samuel Beckett wanding down the highway in a yellow jacket and carrying a beer.
How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes
This study -- normally behind a paywall -- was posted through a special share link by the author.
Please Feel Free To Call Me A "Girl"
Because I don't feel weak and victimized or feel diminished in comparison with men, you can feel free to call me a "girl" or "one of the girls." (I also won't mind if you call me bossy -- in fact, I take it as a compliment.)
Yet, there's this ridiculous pickywickiness on "girls" from actress Mayim Bialik, posted by Phoebe Maltz Bovy at The Forward:
Do you cringe when you hear adult women referred to as "girls"? Have you never really thought about the phenomenon? Either way, you should check out Mayim Bialik's video, "'Girl' vs. 'Woman': Why Language Matters." Bialik makes the excellent point that a man behind a bank counter would not typically be referred to as a "boy."
Ridiculous. (And Cathy Young points out why at the very bottom.)
The need to demand to be called some proper term -- "WOMEN!" or "WOMAN!" -- instead of the informal "girls," in fact, screams weakness. When you don't feel weak, when you feel the antithesis of weak, you can even shrug it off when somebody calls you what are supposed to be really terrible names.
I'm talking about how, for a laugh at work, the woman who edits me part-time occasionally calls me terrible names. Last week, she wrote on Skype something like: "Hurry up, whorebag." Me: "I prefer ho-bag, thanks." (The "hurry up" part is the only part I'm not quite sure of.)
Truth is, I love this. We have the least PC workplace left in America, I'd guess.
Getting back to the "girls" hysteria, one of the emotionally strongest people I knew -- the late Cathy Seipp -- would refer to people as girls. In fact, I named the breakfast we used to organize about once a month, the Writergirl Breakfast. It was a meet-up, about once a month at the 3rd and Fairfax LA Farmer's Market for writer friends -- almost always women, though we didn't try to make it that way. It just happened to be Cathy's circle from Buzz Magazine, and most of them were women.
Here's a sane thought in response to the Bialik silliness from another Cathy, Cathy Young:
I think "girl(s)" is generally used, in reference to adult women, as a counterpart to "guy(s)" https://t.co/KbuEqx6d7D— Cathy Young (@CathyYoung63) April 13, 2017
We're pink and we're proud, and we're kinda bossy, too.
Paglia: Women Have To Stop Blaming Men For Their Malaise. Alkon: And Here's What Evolutionary Science Suggests Is The Answer
She thinks women are feeling a sense of displacement. I think men are, too. But it's women who lash out at men, thinking men are to blame. And I think women are pointing the finger in the wrong direction.
She points out something I've long thought was a problem -- the unnatural nuclear-family way we live, with women (for the most part) hard-focused on their children in a way they haven't been throughout human history.
I've long thought five families should band together in a sort of collective -- mimicking a hunter-gather group way of caring for children -- with one parent and maybe a babysitter/assistant helping. Ideally, the families would live in an sort of co-housing situation.
No, not some commie situation where everybody has to live under one roof -- unless people want that. (There could be a shared kitchen area and then private areas for each family.)
But maybe houses built around a green and shared areas for community. (Older people and single people could be -- and would ideally be -- in this community as well.)
It doesn't have to happen this way, but this sort of use of the environment to foster behavior is something that helps both in habit formation and maintenance and in -- I think -- in fostering a situation that is more conducive to psychological well-being and maybe even feelings of fulfillment.
Getting back to Paglia, and related to what I'm saying above, she also brings up -- very quickly -- the loss of community in modern society.
This is something my books are based on -- how we now live in vast, transient societies that are "too big for our brains," as my theory goes (based on the work of British anthropologist Robin Dunbar) for why we are experiencing so much rudeness. Read "Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck" for more on this.
And I explain that we've lost something more in my TED talk -- the community we had as a natural part of life in the past.
We evolved to live in small, continuous bands where we were interdependent, and the society we now live in seems problematic for us on many psychological levels. In fact, evolutionary psychologist and psychiatrist Randy Nesse believes the depression so many people experience today may stem from how our society now lacks the framework for the doing and experiencing of kindnesses we evolved to give and receive.
For more on the problems -- and how women are taking things -- the video from Paglia's talk.
She's calling for a stop to the anti-male-ism, the blaming of men. I'm absolutely, positively with her on that.
However, I offer an answer -- for both women and men -- and I include it in both my books and my TED talk, and it's to stop chasing happiness.
This is an empty pursuit, because, as psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky points out about "hedonic adaptation," we quickly become adapted to both positive and negative experiences in our life. Things that initially made us happy -- like new shoes or a new car or a new house -- pretty quickly stop giving us the boost they once did.
So, to be happy, we need to see pursuing happiness this way as a fool's errand. We instead need to pursue meaning, which we get from going outside ourselves, from extending ourselves for others. I call for us to do one kind act a day, which I see as our cover charge for living in this world.
Our society is already transient, so loss of community is built in, but to alleviate the psychological cost to us -- without moving -- we can at least reach out to strangers in small ways like I suggest.
Try it for a week -- extending yourself for strangers -- and I think you'll see (as I describe with examples in my talk) how great it feels to live interconnected instead of disconnected -- in tune with the evolution of human psychology.
Watch my whole talk here:
Paglia via @Mark_J_Perry
The TSA Has Caused More Deaths - Possibly Of 2,300 People - Not Prevented Them
Terrific piece by Dylan Matthews at VOX on the rights-yanking, passenger groping securitydoggle known as the TSA, and the sorry results, from the 95 percent failure rate to the deaths they've very likely caused:
One paper by economists Garrick Blalock, Vrinda Kadiyali, and Daniel Simon found that, controlling for other factors like weather and traffic, 9/11 provoked such a large decrease in air traffic and increase in driving that 327 more people died every month from road accidents. The effect dissipated over time, but the total death toll (up to 2,300) rivals that of the attacks themselves.
Another paper by the same authors found that one post-9/11 security measure -- increased checked baggage screening -- reduced passenger volume by about 6 percent. Combine the two papers, and you get a disturbing conclusion: In their words, over the course of three months, "approximately 129 individuals died in automobile accidents which resulted from travelers substituting driving for flying in response to inconvenience associated with baggage screening."
This isn't just one set of studies; there's other evidence that 9/11 led to an increase in driving, which cost at least a thousand lives. The 129 deaths per quarter-year figure is, as Nate Silver notes, "the equivalent of four fully-loaded Boeing 737s crashing each year."
You can dispute the precise figures here; these are regression analyses, which are hardly perfect. But it stands to reason that having to get to the airport two or three hours before a flight reduces demand for flights relative to a world where you only have to arrive 30 minutes beforehand -- particularly for flights on routes where a two- to three-hour wait dramatically increases travel time relative to driving, like New York to Washington, DC, or Boston to New York. That means more driving. That means more death.
That might be worth it for a system that we know for a fact prevents attacks. But there's no evidence the TSA does...The solution is clear: Airports should kick out the TSA, hire (well-paid and unionized) private screeners, and simply ask people to go through normal metal detectors with their shoes on, their laptops in their bags, and all the liquids they desire. The increased risk would be negligible -- and if it gets people to stop driving and start flying, it could save lives.
Audrey Hepburn with Professor Plum in the living room with an umbrella she borrowed in Cherbourg.