The End Of Roe v. Wade

Is the title of this post alarmist? No, not really. That is effectively what the new Texas law has done, and has now been fulsomely endorsed by the Supreme Court, without even the courtesy of full briefing, oral argument and a merits decision. It was known this was coming when SCOTUS let this bunk take effect yesterday morning without action, it was just a question of what the backroom dynamics were in that regard. Now we know.

Here is the “decision”. As anti-climatic as it is, it is important. This is decision on a law, and the words count.

It is madness upon not just in Texas, but the entire country. These earth shattering decisions used to come only after full briefing and argument. No longer, now the shadow path is supreme.

Agree with Mark Joseph Stern in Slate when he says this:

At midnight on Wednesday, in an unsigned, 5–4 decision, the Supreme Court effectively overturned Roe v. Wade. The five most conservative Republican-appointed justices refused to block Texas’ abortion ban, which allows anyone to sue any individual who “aids or abets” an abortion after six weeks, when the vast majority occur. There is no exception for rape or incest. The decision renders almost all abortions in Texas illegal for the first time since 1973. Although the majority did not say these words exactly, the upshot of Wednesday’s decision is undeniable: The Supreme Court has abandoned the constitutional right to abortion. Roe is no longer good law.

Texas’ ban, known as SB 8, constitutes a uniquely insidious workaround to Roe. It outlaws abortion after six weeks, but does not call on state officials to enforce its restrictions.
Instead, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in dissent, the law “deputized the state’s citizens as bounty hunters, offering them cash prizes for civilly prosecuting their neighbors’ medical procedures.” Random strangers can sue any “abettor” to an abortion anywhere in Texas and collect a minimum of $10,000, plus attorneys’ fees. The act’s language is incredibly broad, encompassing any friend, family member, clergy member, or counselor who facilitates the abortion in any way. Every employee of an abortion clinic, from front-desk staff to doctors, is liable as well. And when an individual successfully sues an abortion provider, the court must permanently shut it down.

What other questions does this action, really inaction, by SCOTUS generate? A lot. Peterr asked this elsewhere:

Next up, perhaps, in the Texas legislature, now that SCOTUS has affirmed (5-4) their new approach to enforcement of state laws . . .

Texas declares that black and hispanic people shall not be allowed to vote, and delegates enforcement to any citizen, allowing them to sue for at least $10,000 if they can prove a black or hispanic person voted.

Texas declares that marriage is reserved to one man and one woman, and delegates enforcement to any citizen, allowing them to sue any same-sex couple who presents themselves in any form or fashion as “married” for at least $25,000 . . .

etc. etc. etc.

Again, not hyperbole. For now though, it is crystal clear that Roe is gone. There will be different laws in different states, at best. That is it.

What happens when states like Texas/their citizen plaintiffs start trying to enforce their craven law as to conduct occurring in other states? I don’t know, but that is the next horizon.

At any rate, this is going to be a problem for a very long time. If SCOTUS will do this though, given their clear previous precedent contrary to today’s order, means you can kiss voting rights cases goodbye.

It is a not so brave, nor honorable, new Supreme Court world.

Reading Through The Eyes Of Others

Most of the books I’ve posted about here are non-fiction. They include histories, intellectual histories, semi-philosophical texts, and a few polemics. I read lots of other stuff too, often just to clear my head from abstractions and theories. I’ve read a lot of murder mysteries, sci-fi (not so much fantasy), serious novels (think Pynchon), old novels, thrillers (not so much lately, real life is scary enough), as well as science, historical fiction, religion, and more.

I never bothered with romance novels, though. I read a couple of Janet Evanovich novels I found in a beach rental: they were delightful reading in the hot sun. I read one or two Outlander novels by Diana Gabaldon I found in another rental, which were fun light reading. That’s about it. Several years ago my excellent daughter gave me a copy of Courtney Milan’s The Suffragette Scandal. I enjoyed it immensely. It’s an imagined history set in 1877 England, the sixth in a series called The Brothers Sinister. So I bought the series and became a Courtney Milan fan.

Milan writes both historical novels set in 19th C. England, and contemporary novels. She writes lots of interesting characters, including those of different ethnic backgrounds and gender identities. Some books have interesting plots, others are more focused on relationships.

Well, turns out Milan is actually Heidi Bond, a graduate of U. Mich. law school. She clerked for Alex Kozinsky who resigned in disgrace. Here’s one reason why. She went on to clerk for Sandra Day O’Connor. I learned all this because the Michigan Law Review asked her to do a book review. She chose one of my favorite novels, Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen. Her review is titled Pride And Predators, and it’s great.

I sent a link to the Bond/Milan review to Rayne, a real Janeite, and of course she’d already seen it. I explained that I’d read a bunch of romance novels, which I found more or less randomly, through Goodreads, best-sellers lists, and NetGalley, among other sources. I really didn’t like most of them. They rely on improbable plots, like billionaires marrying single moms who work at Denny’s; there are whole series based on single working women marrying billionaires. Characters have stomach flutters and goose pimples when they meet, and these continue until they get together for sex; it’s like the only thing on their minds is sex. The men are all buff hardbodies (google “hard-planed chest”); I didn’t see a single one that looked like someone you’d see on any beach. There is a lot of discussion of clothes.

The single most irritating thing is the paragraphs of discussion about what’s in the heads of characters, even in scenes based on dialog. The character says something, and the next paragraphs are discussions of that something. Then the other character says something, followed by more discussion. None of this advances the plot. Sometimes we get new information about the character, but most of it tells us nothing new. There’s a lot of repetition, as if we can’t remember what we read earlier. There is an excellent example of this in this post by writer and editor K. J. Charles. (H/T Kate).

It’s distracting and mildly unpleasant to me. I’m good with the omniscient narrator who occasionally explains what’s happening with characters. We see that in Pride And Prejudice, where the narrator becomes another character, in that case, one I’d like to know. But in the romance novels I read, it was a real problem. I found myself skipping ahead to the next line of dialog, ignoring the commentary.

As Charles says in the blog post, it’s just bad writing. So why are these novels so popular? Romance is the largest selling genre of books. They’re everywhere from drug stores to grocery stores to real bookstores, to airport stores, and of course the online book sellers. Amazon has a list of Romance best-sellers, about which I express no opinion. People are paying for them and they must offer something.

Rayne gave me some advice.

1. She suggested I read Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema by Laura Mulvey, which is one of the early articles addressing the male gaze. The idea is that movie-goers, men and women, watch movies through the psychological formations that they bring with them. Watching movies generates two kinds of pleasure:

The first, scopophilic, arises from pleasure in using another person as an object of sexual stimulation through sight. The second, developed through narcissism and the constitution of the ego, come from identification with the image seen.

Because we live in a patriarchal society, looking is divided into two kinds: active/looking (male) and passive/looked-at (female). Movies privilege the male gaze. They seem to be designed to fulfill the scopohilic pleasure of the male on the screen and the male watcher in looking at others on the screen, especially women; and identification by the male spectator with the male on the screen who acts toward the more or less passive woman. The analysis is grounded in Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis.

Psychoanalytic theory is thus appropriated here as a political
weapon, demonstrating the way the unconscious of patriarchal society has structured film form.

It’s a fascinating essay. The idea of the male gaze is not dependent on psychoanalytic theory. It’s easy enough to deduce from a close watching of movies from years before 1975 when Mulvey wrote. Jane Fonda’s Barbarella springs to mind. A later example more focused on the pleasure of identification with the male lead, there’s Kiss Of The Dragon, starring Jet Li and Jane Fonda’s niece, Bridget Fonda.

The idea of the male gaze is easily transferred to books. I’d like to think The Great Transformation by Karl Polanyi and The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt are neutral as respects gender and sexuality, because neither focuses on those matters. As respects the prose of these books, I doubt that even a careful reader would be able to assert with confidence that one was written by a man, the other by a woman. But as to choice of themes? I don’t know. Maybe Arendt is a special case of transcendent genius, and the comparison isn’t fair.

Anyway, it’s obvious that romance novels, especially the ones I don’t like, aggressively reject the male gaze. The writers don’t care what I think about literature, or how I approach their works. They aren’t trying to impress me and they don’t care if their sex scenes titillate me. That’s a really useful way to read these books. I should ask myself what it would feel like to enjoy them. What are the points that make them interesting to so many other people? What needs or desires do they fulfill? Is it voyeurism to read them?

2. As to my complaint about bad interior monologue, Rayne introduced me to the idea of free indirect speech.

Free indirect discourse can also be described as a “technique of presenting a character’s voice partly mediated by the voice of the author”, or, in the words of the French narrative theorist Gérard Genette, “the narrator takes on the speech of the character, or, if one prefers, the character speaks through the voice of the narrator, and the two instances then are merged”.

Rayne wrote:

I hear you about the use of free indirect speech in romance genre. Austen is one of the earliest to use it, and she may have done so in part because she didn’t have formal education afforded to young men of her time.

For the last hundred years writers have been encouraged (bordering on pressured) to “show, don’t tell” in fiction as well as narrative non-fiction. But many of the authors who exemplify this style of writing, from Chehkov (“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass”) and Hemingway (see his Iceberg Theory) to Chuck Palahniuk (who wanted to ban dialog tags referring to thinking). They’re nearly all men — I can’t think of a woman author who typifies this push. The emergence of modern marketing copy which sold sizzle, not the steak, also shaped this move away from indirect speech, and much of that emergent copy was written by “Mad Men.”

In other words, much of modern writing and the subsequent education which embraced it reflected “male gaze.” It’s what Carla Lonzi rejected in the late 1960s but didn’t yet have a concise theory to express her perspective. Laura Mulvey fleshed out her theory of “male gaze” in her 1975 essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.”

What you read in romance written primarily by women authors may be an unconscious rejection of the male gaze. In some cases it’s a pointed rejection — the smut and clothes serve female gaze not served elsewhere, and the authors knowingly include it though they may call it “fan service” to do so. And the excess of free indirect speech is an embrace of what women experience, their tendency to overthink everything in a world which punishes them for failing to fit a model mold. There are a plethora of memes about women overthinking:

Women spend more time thinking about what men are thinking than men actually spend time thinking.

Perhaps women authors are ready to turn a corner, though, because they don’t need to overthink what’s finally given to them.

It’s taken since Mulvey’s essay for TV/film industry to fully embrace serving female gaze. STARZ’s Outlander series is one example as is Netflix’s Bridgerton, both of which are based on period fiction with the latter far more inclusive. So sorry, you may have to bear with more bare male ass and proportionally less heaving female bosoms in both.

Well. According to the Wikipedia entry on male gaze, there is some agreement with Rayne about Austen’s use of free indirect speech. That seems wrong to me; as I said, I see the form as the omniscient narrator, and frequently a delightful character. But we can disagree about that without disturbing the main points about gendered writing.

Conclusion

Here’s a good site with tons of reviews of romance novels of all types.

It’s Summer without Covid-19. Let’s enjoy all of it.

Illiberal Hollywood: Kicked in its Pants by a Panther

[Graphic: Black Panther (2018) theatrical release poster, Walt Disney Studios distributor, Marvel Studios producer]

Though conservatives love to disparage the American entertainment industry as liberal, Hollywood’s business practices have been anything but. I’ve written before about its misogyny and sexism; it has only recently received the scrutiny it deserves, thanks to open protests by women actors and directors, and sadly the cascading revelations about sexual harassment and abuse.

Hollywood has likewise been racist; though minorities make up nearly 40 percent of the U.S.’ population, minorities are poorly represented in front and behind the camera. As of 2013-14, only scripted broadcast television had seen any gains in diversity. Their numbers were stable or falling in nearly all other areas. In film alone, minorities were underrepresented by:

  • Nearly 3 to 1 among film leads
  • Nearly 3 to 1 among film directors
  • Nearly 5 to 1 among film writers

(source: UCLA Bunche Center’s 2016 Hollywood Diversity Report (pdf))

Which is why this week’s release of Disney/Marvel Studios’ live action superhero film, Black Panther, has received so much attention. The director (Ryan Coogler), screen writer (Joe Robert Cole), and leads (Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o) are all African American. This is a first for a film belonging to a major franchise (Marvel Studios), produced by a major studio, with a blockbuster-sized budget of $200 million. While there are a few roles played by white actors, they are small parts which exist to support the story — a complete inversion of racial representation typical across the majority of American films.

The film’s reception even before this week’s release was overwhelmingly ecstatic; many theaters sold out once online ticket sales were available. Reaction from viewers at advance press screenings were joyful, which sold even more tickets. Box office sales this weekend are expected to surpass the film’s budget.

Eager audience response offers a solid swat in the butt of Hollywood’s bigotry, which for too long has rejected scripts or denied minority-led/directed/written films adequate funding, saying, These films aren’t what audiences want. We’ve heard the same excuses about women-led/directed/written films, too, yet they often blow away expectations. Like Wonder Woman (female director and lead), which was the third highest grossing film last year at $412M; it would have placed higher except for the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (female lead) and long-awaited live action reboot of Beauty and the Beast (female lead).

Another refrain too often heard after a minority-led/directed/written film releases: This film exceeded expectations. Hollywood never sees this as a signal not that the film outperformed their forecasts but that audience demand is greater than films supplied. In other words, institutional racism thwarts normal free market response.

Black Panther has garnered some racist reactions, predictably from those who haven’t even seen the movie. DailyCaller’s EIC Ben Shapiro had one of the stupidest as well as most racist takes:

“‘Blade’ was not enough,” Shapiro quipped, referencing the 1998 film and subsequent two sequels that starred Wesley Snipes.

His rant lumped in Halle Berry’s appearance in Catwoman (2004) and Will Smith as lead in the Men in Black trilogy (1997, 2002, 2012), implying that African Americans should be content with what they have in film representation since they’ve been free for more than 200 years and assured their civil rights more than 50 years ago.

Never mind that his first example, Blade, though it featured Wesley Snipes as its lead was made in 1998 with a white director and writer and predominantly white cast. Ditto for the following two entries in the series, released in 2002 and 2004. Apparently black Americans shouldn’t expect to see a black lead in an action film more than once every couple of years — maybe once a year if they’re lucky.

If you’re white — and let’s face it, most of this site’s readers are — imagine a lifetime of rarely seeing anyone who looks like you in film, let alone TV. The idea that minorities, who make up such a large percentage of our population, should be satisfied with rarely ever seeing themselves in all manner of stories is repugnant. It’s both an economic and cultural apartheid. Or worse; it’s not a walling off but erasure of human beings.

It’s a pretty grotesque and deeply unaware stance coming from a guy with the family name Shapiro. It’s an insult to the writers who created Black Panther as a comic book character for Marvel — Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.

There are better criticisms of the film, and they come from those who are much better informed. WaPo’s Karen Attiah interviews Kenyan journalist and broadcaster Larry Madowo on the subject of Black Panther’s fictional fantasy representation of African culture and the ‘messed up’ relationship between Africans and African Americans. Critic Leslie Lee III takes issue with Black Panther’s politics. Warning: Both critiques are spoilery, with Lee’s feedback much more so. However, these critiques are educational for a white audience unfamiliar with African culture let alone African American culture.

Based on casual feedback from creative community and fandom members alike, Black Panther may be the top grossing film this year — and in spite of its release in February, typically the slowest time in the release calendar. It may crack the all-time top 20 films for box office ticket sales.

But will this finally be enough to get through to Hollywood’s other major and minor studios that their expectations need to be reset, that minority-led/directed/written films are successful and deserve a more proportional share of the film market?

In case you’re thinking of seeing Black Panther soon, here’s a decent primer. about its place in the Marvel Studios’ Avengers mythology. I’m not going this week; I’m going a couple weeks from now to an early Monday matinee when I might have 50 percent of the theater to myself so I can take notes. I don’t expect the theater to be less than half full before then.

International Women’s Day 2017: #DayWithoutAWoman

It’s been 108 years since the first National Women’s Day was declared in the U.S.; in 1911 it became International Women’s Day.

It would be another nine years before American women’s right to vote was enshrined in the 19th Amendment, and another 68 years after IWD 1911 before women’s suffrage was deemed a fundamental human right by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

In spite of women’s enfranchisement, they are under-represented in elected office; they have not realized parity in employment or pay across most industries. Their work is devalued more often and more deeply if they are engaged in emotional labor. They are far more likely to be under paid if they are women of color.

And now they fight to change this continuing inequity in spite of a world leader whose words and actions further denigrate their innate value.

The International Women’s Day 2017 theme is Be Bold for Change — but after a couple lifetimes, more than slogans are called for. The Women’s March movement, bolstered by its January 21st event and in concert with the International Women’s Strike organization, called for A Day Without A Woman to emphasize the role of women in the economy as part of their

As part of A Day Without A Woman, women are on strike when they can afford to do so. If you see a woman on the job, consider how challenging it is to support a family making wages which have not only stalled over the last two decades, but are on average 20% less than men make in the same jobs. Depending on whose study one reads, it will take 60 to 170 years for women to reach parity. This is absolutely unacceptable.

Today, women are wearing red to show their solidarity with their striking sisters. If you see women not wearing red, consider how their individual right to free speech has been degraded by corporatism in spite of their enfranchisement.

Today, women are avoiding purchases. If you see women buying goods or services, consider how difficult it is for some women to buy what they need in advance because of pay inequity in spite of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Families are deeply impacted by economic precarity based in gender pay inequity.

Today, consider how women’s freedom to make decisions about their reproductive health; will they be forced to quit their job because of unexpected pregnancy or inability to obtain adequate health insurance?

Today, consider the importance of women — regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, cis-/trans-/straight-gay-bi-sexuality — to a healthy economy and a thriving country.

Illiberal Hollywood: It’s 1984 — Or Is It 1964? Can’t Tell from EEOC’s Inaction


If you haven’t watched this Bloomberg-produced video yet, you should. The women directors interviewed are highly skilled and have been fighting Hollywood’s not-at-all-liberal misogyny for decades.

And yes, decades — nothing substantive has happened since 1983 when Reagan-appointee Judge Pamela Rymer ruled for two major studio defendants in the Directors Guild of America‘s lawsuits against them for their discriminatory hiring practices. There was an uptick for about one decade after the suit; by 1995, roughly 16% of movies were directed by women.

But since then the numbers have fallen, and neither the DGA nor the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have done anything about it.

We could cut some slack on the first decade, between 1995 and 2005, right? Congress was full of right-wing zealots chasing the president over a blowjob, and the president who followed him was hyper-focused on going to war, pushed by Dick Cheney’s hand up his backside. Their administrations drifted along with them, shaped by their leaders’ attentions.

But a second decade now — over thirty years in all since 1983 — and the EEOC gave the matter no attention at all? It’s not as if the film and television industries aren’t right under the noses of people charged with paying attention. Who can work in government and say they haven’t watched any television or film in thirty years? Hello, West Wing?

Or is that an answer in itself, that the film and television industries are merely acting with government sanction, that it is U.S. government policy to discriminate in entertainment media because it serves national interests? Read more

Illiberal Hollywood: What’s the Point of a Union if It Doesn’t Represent Members?

BrokenHollywoodThis year continues to be a big one for women in film. Films featuring women as leads and/or directed by women made beaucoup at the box office. Mad Max: Fury Road, Pitch Perfect 2, Insurgent, and Fifty Shades of Grey are among the top ten films out of more than 284 released so far this year. Two of these films were directed by women; all four featured female leads. And two of these films put to lie once again the bullshit claim that ‘women can’t lead action films.’

The immense popularity of these movies — especially with women — demonstrates how much Hollywood underserves the female audience, in spite of repeated studies revealing how much women contribute to box office results. Women want women’s stories, told by women, and they’ve gotten them too rarely.

You’d think that Hollywood would actively court the single largest demographic by catering to its desires — but no. The film production pipeline remains solidly weighted toward men, still chasing the increasingly distracted 18-25 year-old male demographic.

It’s not as if women aren’t available as actors or directors. The Directors Guild of America (DGA) — the labor organization representing directors — counts among its ranks roughly 1200 female directors, reflecting the parity of female students who’ve been through film school or learned on the job in other production roles.

Which makes one wonder why actor/director/producer George Clooney said in a recent interview, “…there’s something like 15 female directors in a town of directors …

If a household name like Clooney doesn’t know more female directors, what exactly is it the DGA is doing for its female membership? It’s clearly not representing them within their own organization, let alone to studios and the public.

The ACLU‘s May 12th letter to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) spelled out DGA’s complicity with Hollywood’s exclusion of female directors, when it asked the EEOC to investigate discriminatory practices. DGA has denied the use of short lists, but apart from preparing regular reports on diversity in hiring, it’s not clear at all what the DGA does to further the hiring of women directors. Read more

Hollywood Illiberal: The Entertainment Industry’s Misogyny and Society’s Broken Mirror

BrokenHollywoodIn a recent heated discussion I was told, “Hollywood is liberal.” That’s bullshit, I said.

“But the themes they use in their stories—they’re liberal,” they rebutted. Again, bullshit.

The proof is in the numbers. Hollywood is a backward institution, the leadership and ownership of which are overwhelmingly white and male.

Entertainment looks as bad if not worse than most other industries in the U.S., when diversity measurements are compared. The entertainment industry in no way resembles the public to which it sells its wares, whether in front or behind the camera.

For women, a majority of the population at 51%, the numbers are grim:

  • Males outnumber females 3 to 1 in family films. In contrast, females comprise just over 50% of the population in the United States. Even more staggering is the fact that this ratio, as seen in family films, is the same as it was in 1946.
  • Females are almost four times as likely as males to be shown in sexy attire. Further, females are nearly twice as likely as males to be shown with a diminutive waistline. Generally unrealistic figures are more likely to be seen on females than males.
  • Females are also underrepresented behind the camera. Across 1,565 content creators, only 7% of directors, 13% of writers, and 20% of producers are female. This translates to 4.8 males working behind-the-scenes to every one female.
  • From 2006 to 2009, not one female character was depicted in G-rated family films in the field of medical science, as a business leader, in law, or politics. In these films, 80.5% of all working characters are male and 19.5% are female, which is a contrast to real world statistics, where women comprise 50% of the workforce.

[Source: Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media]

Boldface above is mine; the numbers are beyond absurd when it comes to female directors. The Directors’ Guild of America has a folder (binder, if you’d rather) with the names of 1200 female directors. The Director’s List has collected the names of 1800 female directors, even larger than the DGA’s binder full of women.

But the number of women contracted by the major studios to make films is in the single digits?

That’s far from liberal by any stretch of the imagination.

The lack of women behind the camera distorts what the public sees before it:

  • Only 15% of all clearly identifiable protagonists were female (up 4 percentage points from 2011, down one percentage point from 2002), 71% are male, and 14% are male/female ensembles (see Figure 1).
  • Females comprised 29% of major characters, down 4 percentage points from 2011, but up 2 percentage points from 2002.
  • Females accounted for 30% of all speaking characters (includes major and minor characters) in 2013, down 3 percentage points from 2011, but up 2 percentage points from 2002.

[Source: It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: On-Screen Representations of Female Characters in the Top 100 Films of 2013, Martha M. Lauzen, PhD, Center of the Study of women in Television and Film, San Diego State University (White paper, PDF)]

Nor does it appear to matter whether film or television, when looking at the composition of directors. White men hold nearly identical percentages of directors’ slots in either media.— roughly 70%.

What does a crowd with realistic, or even equitable representation of women look like? We can’t rely on Hollywood to show us, based on this data. Our societal mirror is broken, at the expense of our mothers, daughters, sisters, ourselves. Read more

The Carnage In Isla Vista, Hashtag Justice and Echidne

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 11.41.50 AMI have not been there in a while, but I have been there quite a bit before, and the Isla Vista/Goleta area surrounding UCSB is everything good and bad that surrounds any major university. It is a melting pot teeming with brilliant young minds, eager to expand and ready to experiment and socialize. It is also cliquish and too easy to separate the in from the out crowd and, sometimes, rich from poor. Above all else, at least from my visits there when I was younger, IV was one wild party that could be anywhere along a couple of key streets, if not indeed out in the streets themselves. It was one hell of a good time.

But not this Memorial Day weekend. Something different and jolting happened, leaving seven souls dead, seven more injured and yet another community, and national audience, grieving and reaching for answers.

I don’t know what the answers are, and to a great extent, I do not think the pathology of this incident is yet ripe enough to draw them with any real definition. That has not, of course, stopped the light speed social justice court of Twitter and the internet.

The reaction on Twitter has run the spectrum from sober to hysterical. If you are on Twitter, you have seen it, if you are not, it is not hard to imagine if you are internet savvy enough to be reading the instant post. Speaking only for myself, however, I have been a little disturbed by the alacrity with which valuable social justice movements, and their participants, have glommed on to a tragic spree crime as the defining vehicle for their arguments, whether it be women’s rights, gun control or otherwise.

It strikes me, while certainly all of these things figure into the Rodger situation to some extent, hitching up to a spree murder by a mentally disturbed individual is not exactly a great vehicle for your social justice movement. It is more complex than that, and it is too easy in haste to mistake manifestations for root causes. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc if you will.

And, while I know the intent was good, I have found the “hashtag advocacy” via such tags as #YesAllWomen, and the reflexively responsive #NotAllMen, to not necessarily do all that much to further the well meaning intention of their adopters. While some of those tweets have seemed germane and helpful, a great many seem Read more

The Maneuvers to Get Ahead of the NSA Review Group Recommendations

Here’s a quick summary of all the events happening in response to the NSA Review Group report:

Tuesday, January 7: James Clapper “and other Intelligence Community Leaders” meet with Geoffrey Stone, Cass Sunstein, and Peter Swire; SSCI holds closed briefing with Review Group

Wednesday, January 8: Obama meets with Intelligence Community leaders; Obama meets with PCLOB; NatSec Aides and Congressional staffers meet in Situation Room

Thursday, January 9: Obama meets with (reportedly invited) Dianne Feinstein, Saxby Chambliss, Mike Rogers, Dutch Ruppersberger, Pat Leahy, Chuck Grassley, Bob Goodlatte, John Conyers, Ron Wyden, Mark Udall, and Jim Sensenbrenner

Tuesday, January 14: Review Group testifies publicly before Senate Judiciary Committee

PCLOB, which I believe has a better understanding of the dragnet than several members of the Review Group, was supposed to present its own recommendations sometime this month, and the White House claims to be conducting its own internal review which is finishing up work.

I raise this schedule to point to the several times when Obama will meet with advocates for reform in a venue where some horse-trading can go on. Not only will he meet with PCLOB before their recommendations come out (as he met with the Review Group), but he will have the sponsors of legislation that would reform NSA and FBI’s counterterrorism programs, as well as Wyden and Udall, in a room with a larger number of opponents of reform.

Jay Carney said today Obama will introduce his own “reforms” before the State of the Union on January 28. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Obama moved to pre-empt these other discussions even earlier than that, as he did with the Review Group suggestion that the Director of the NSA position be split from the Cybercommand position.

Will he try to get an agreement from the legislative critics to withdraw their legislation if he makes some changes as executive prerogative?

GM’s New CEO: This Model Has Titanium Features

Mary Barra, CEO-General MotorsThe woman in the photo at the right has big titanium ovaries — not malleable brass or rusting iron. Do I know Mary Barra personally to attest to this fact? No. But I have a pretty damned good idea where GM’s new CEO has been, and it takes a pretty tough set of specifications to survive the road she’s traveled.

Like her I grew up in the I-75 corridor in Michigan, where much of the automotive industry’s OEM facilities and Tiers 1 through 3 suppliers could be found. Like her father, my father worked in the automotive business; if her household was like mine, there were copies of Car and Driver, Road & Track, machinist, tool-and-die, and metalforming magazines cluttering coffee tables or in dad’s man-cave. The smell of machine oil and the grit of metal chips are familiar, as are an ever-present collection of safety glasses, hearing protection, and greasy jumpsuits. Picture a garage like that in Clint Eastwood’s movie Gran Torino; I’ll lay good money her dad probably spent a lot of his free time between shifts in a home shop like that, and where she might have been found as well if he needed a hand or she needed a tool to fix something.

It was in her blood, I’m sure; I’ll bet she could taste it. I’m pretty certain this is why she went into engineering, and likely why she went to that particular private engineering school.

After working for a couple years as a high school engineering co-op student I had been accepted at the same school, but I went a different road, preferring business and then-nascent computing technology over engineering. My daughter, though, is at that school now. She could taste it, too; we have pictures of her at age nine, wearing safety glasses, proudly holding her first aluminum machined part. She’s the first person her dad asks for help when working on the cars at home.

I wish now I’d taken pictures of her the time she was so damned mad at her brother and his friend for accidentally breaking the sibling-shared PlayStation 2 console. She ripped it down, diagnosed it using internet research, fixed and reassembled it on her own in an afternoon.

Driven to identify and solve the problem — that’s what it takes to choose engineering as a career, particularly if you are a woman.

Sure, men too must be driven to pursue the same field, but they don’t face the hurdles that women faced then or even now, 30 years after General Motors’ new CEO first started college at the former General Motors Institute. Nobody ever questions a boy’s right to pursue engineering, or a man’s right to practice that discipline. Nobody ever questions the gender of a man with an engineering degree when he makes it to the pinnacle of the corporate ladder. Read more

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