Archive for the ‘current events’ Category

Civil Oddities

April 16, 2014 - 2:38 pm 3 Comments

So recently, I had to spend my morning and early afternoon at a local government office oriented toward the low-income. (We are fine. I was there to get off a roll I was mistakenly placed on.) I was not, to put it mildly, looking forward to the experience, being acquainted with the motor vehicle departments in Phoenix and New Orleans, and even here in our tiny whitebread little burg. I walked in with low expecations.

So to my immense surprise, the waiting room was quiet and pleasant, all the conversation I heard was in articulate, unaccented English (I was the only white face in the room until another walked in near the end of my visit), many of the waiting room inhabitants were chatting pleasantly with one another, the line was moving efficiently, there were zero tantrums or meltdowns, all the employees were polite and seemingly possessed of a genuine desire to help, and though there were small children present, their parents were keeping them quiet, supervised, and amused. Once it was my turn, my task was completed easily and efficiently, with zero surliness on the part of the fellow behind the counter.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to go re-examine a whole bunch of assumptions.

Told You So Edititon

September 18, 2013 - 1:54 pm 3 Comments

As a fan of both guns and coffee, I of course have to weigh in on the banality du jour of Starbucks asking Customer McHeatertoter to not give them his/her money.

Oh wait, I already did.

Tam, as ever, makes and covers all the salient points with a finely sharpened tongue cutting no more or less than is appropriate to the targets in need.

Being more of a blunt instrument type myself, let me merely add this: Nice work you jackshit chucklefuck aspires-to-merely-inadequate fuck stained cuntblast cock-sockets. Well fucking done there, turning “Meh” into “Please stop.” Does it suck rancid donkey cocks that “Meh” is a desirable state? Yup! Thanks for noticing. You know what sucks worse? Making such a shit-heel of yourself that the hand is forced to turn “Meh” into an open “No, really, we’re against you. We just like money. Stop being a shitheel, please.”

Frankly I’m tempted to buy a cup just by way of thanks for honesty.

(And if the return to vulgar profanity or the older post tickled your funny bone, please consider kicking a few bucks into the pot for Kilted To Kick Cancer and help fight prostate cancer.)

12-21-12

December 21, 2012 - 6:17 pm 9 Comments

OH MY GOD THE DOCTOR DID IT! HE SAVED US ALL!

….wanker.

National Review: Newtown Shooting Fault of Women

December 20, 2012 - 8:39 pm 11 Comments

Because with all the back and forth of “it was GUNS that killed the children” vs. “it was MENTAL ILLNESS that killed the children” vs. “it was THE MEDIA that killed the children*”, it’s certainly… novel… to see a mass murder blamed on basically every woman involved as a change of pace.

Here we go.

Like most people, I’ve been thinking and thinking about the Sandy Hook massacre. I’ve even pored over a map of the school and its killing sites — and studied a timeline of the incident, which appears to have unfolded over about 20 minutes. I have three observations:

These observations do not include “once somebody who’s never done anything to get themself locked up decides they’re going to kill a whole bunch of soft targets, generally it’s very easy for that person to do so for purely logistic reasons”. Neither is “elementary aged children are really easy to kill if you have no moral or empathetic objection to doing so”.

There was not a single adult male on the school premises when the shooting occurred. In this school of 450 students, a sizeable number of whom were undoubtedly 11- and 12-year-old boys (it was a K–6 school), all the personnel — the teachers, the principal, the assistant principal, the school psychologist, the “reading specialist” — were female. There didn’t even seem to be a male janitor to heave his bucket at [redacted- scumbag's] knees.

Actually, there was. He did something more useful than throwing buckets, i.e. shouting warnings.

Women and small children are sitting ducks for mass-murderers.

This reads as a strange dispatch from an alternate universe where mass murders in schools (and malls, and other “safe” places) have never happened before, or where all the others were stopped by random men on the scene. In the universe I inhabit, at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, the University of Texas, and other mass murder scenes with mixed genders, the same thing happens to the unarmed men as the unarmed women and children: they get shot and maybe die. (Sometimes armed ones get shot too.)

The principal, Dawn Hochsprung, seemed to have performed bravely. According to reports, she activated the school’s public-address system and also lunged at [scumbag], before he shot her to death. Some of the teachers managed to save all or some of their charges by rushing them into closets or bathrooms.

A fuller accounting is in the article linked above re the custodian. The school psychologist died challenging the shooter too. One of the teachers died standing between the shooter and her class locked in the closet. (The article does not mention, but she did indeed manage to save some.)

The thing of it is, again in the universe where school shootings have happened before, the people who survive DO tend to be the ones that managed to successfully hide or escape, and the heroes in the wake DO tend to be those who help others do so, like Liviu Lebrescu. I’ve never heard anyone question his masculinity for doing exactly what the Newtown teachers tried to do, with varying degrees of success.

But in general, a feminized setting is a setting in which helpless passivity is the norm.

So we’re going to ignore all the women we just mentioned who displayed great courage trying the best way at hand to save their charges and sometimes gave their lives doing it in favor of a general where women are helpless and passive. Check.

Male aggression can be a good thing, as in protecting the weak — but it has been forced out of the culture of elementary schools and the education schools that train their personnel. Think of what Sandy Hook might have been like if a couple of male teachers who had played high-school football, or even some of the huskier 12-year-old boys, had converged on [scumbag].

…I’m going to snort at the apparent alternative to what the Newtown teachers did in “protecting the weak”, facepalm at the idea of a husky twelve year old boy being the savior of the day if only they weren’t so feminized, and note that again, this imaginary alternate scenario isn’t hypothetical and has already been run here on Earth. What happened was: they got shot and died, or they got lucky and hid or escaped. The only teacher killed at the Columbine massacre was an athletic coach. He was shot doing exactly what every other teacher we’ve mentioned did, or tried, to do: get their students to safety.

People, even unarmed people, need to fight back against criminals — because usually, no one else will. It took the police 20 minutes to arrive at Sandy Hook. By the time they got there, it was over. Cops and everybody else encourage civilians not to try to defend themselves when they are criminally assaulted. This is stupid advice. There are things you can do. Run is one of them, because most shooters can’t hit a moving target. The other, if you are in a confined space, is throw things at the killer, or try a tackle. Remember United Flight 93 on 9/11. It was a “flight of heroes” because a bunch of guys on that plane did what they could with what they had. They probably prevented the destruction of the White House or the Capitol.

The big difference between Flight 93 and any given mass shooting is that the passengers of 93 knew for a fact that they were dead no matter what happened. Either they were going to die in a plane crash, or they were going to die at the hands of the terrorists, and either way things were going to end for all of them in “plane crash”. It IS possible to survive a mass shooting, and the best way to do it if you aren’t armed (and training would help too), is… hide, or escape. If you want to save others: help them hide, or escape.

Look, I agree with the broad position that resistance is preferable to passivity, and especially that it would be great if a few teachers with the gumption for it and some solid extra training were allowed to carry, in the position the Newtown faculty were actually in at that moment? I would have done EXACTLY the same thing- because it was the likeliest way to actually save some children rather than distract the shooter and use up a few rounds, which would be the probable outcome of rushing him. Maybe if I could convince as many others to rush too… but that’s a pretty hard sell in that moment, to people who want to live and know they might.

There’s also a big difference, when you yourself are unarmed, between a box cutter and a firearm.

Parents of sick children need to be realistic about them. I know at least two sets of fine and devoted parents who have had the misfortune to raise sons who were troubled for genetic reasons beyond anyone’s control. Either of those boys could have been an [scumbag]. You simply can’t give a non-working, non-school-enrolled 20-year-old man free range of your home, much less your cache of weapons.

While I generally agree that if you’re aware your child is mentally ill and also aware that offspring is actually dangerous and merely hasn’t been arrested or committed yet, you should probably not have firearms in the house, the structure of this paragraph is really damn odd.

You have to set boundaries. You have to say, “You can’t live here anymore — you’re an adult, and it’s time for you to be a man. We’ll give you all the support you need, but we won’t be enablers.” Unfortunately, the idea of being an “adult” and a “man” once one has reached physical maturity seems to have faded out of our coddling culture.

…Yeah, sure, okay. The problem here wasn’t that he was that rare slice of mentally ill that was actually legitimately dangerous, the problem was that he lived with his mother. Because being told to man up would have fixed his problems, no mass murderer has ever lived on his own, and the most responsible thing to do if you KNOW your adult offspring is dangerous is to boot him from the house and turn him loose on society.

And with that bit of insanity, this exercise in “my worldview will fit every tragedy if I just shove it through hard enough” is at an end.

*My own position is that it was Colonel Mustard in the hall with the lead pipe. I do have a serious position, but it’s a fairly dull one that provides no useful answers or courses of action.

Ho-hum.

December 14, 2012 - 7:51 pm 50 Comments

Another day, another mass shooting. Let’s get the checklist, hmm?

Hysterical media spewing anything in order to be first rather than right? Check.

Anti-gun groups drumming their worn-out blame-the-tool beat? Check.

Rabid chest-thumping NOT ON MY WATCH from the pro-gun side? Check.

Blog posts with token sympathy for the victims prefacing “HEY WE CAN MAKE THE PRO-GUN SIDE LOOK BETTER”? Check.

Interviews with weeping relatives where the media figure pretends as hard as they can to give a fuck? Well, it’s still early but I’m going to go out on a limb and check this one off too.

Congratulations, humanity. We’ve made mass-murder more formulaic than an episode of “Seinfeld.” If anybody needs me, I’ll just be over here assembling these cold-forged girders with cores of pure selenium.*

*And if you get the reference, you’re welcome to lend a hand. Just think of something cooler at the appropriate time than the last go round.

What ABOUT them?

November 19, 2012 - 1:25 am 41 Comments

Well, we’ve covered birth control 101, in which we learned that hormonal contraception for women is a fixed cost that has absolutely no relation to how much sex she has or how many partners she has it with (and surprisingly often isn’t prescribed AS contraception but for other kinds of health care), and today, class, we’re going to have the 102, because apparently we still need to learn things!

Today I got linked to a post by Dr. Whitecoat, who appears to feel that a)The Affordable Care Act’s coverage of contraception represents a free handout to women, and b)that it offers nothing to men, who will nonetheless be part of the paying pool. This particular point of view, particularly that it represents a handout specifically to young, sexually promiscuous women, is shared by the Romney Campaign. To wit, “Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women.”

Here’s a quick primer on birth control: there are three primary approaches with it. Surgical sterilization, hormonal contraception in various forms, which does not (yet) exist for men as it’s much easier to stop an egg from getting fertilized or implanting than it is to stop fertile sperm production, and barrier methods, which technically include female condoms and dental dams, but as I’ve never actually met anyone who’s used either, we’ll just go with “condoms and diaphragms”. There’s also various formats of spermicide delivery, but as they are really unreliable compared to everything else, they’re usually used as a backup to the barrier method in case it breaks or was put on/in incorrectly. There’s also IUDs, which technically is a surgical approach but is also temporary and only for women, so in effect it can be lumped in with the hormonal contraceptives.

All birth control methods have their upsides and their downsides. Hormonal contraception is fire-and-forget as long as you’re good about remembering to take your pill or renew your shot or your Norplant, but it has a number of side effects and does buggerall to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Of the barrier methods, diaphragms have to be fitted, don’t prevent sexually transmitted diseases, and are fiddly as hell to insert; they have the upside that once you’ve managed that you can have sex “spontaneously”, but that’s a sufficiently small upside I’ve never met anyone who uses one of those still, either. Condoms are cheap and protect against sexually transmitted infection, but they reduce sensation for most men that I’ve talked to, you’ve got to have them on hand and ready to go when you’re ready to have sex, and most of them come with spermicidal lube.

Yes, that’s actually an upside AND a downside. The problem with any form of birth control that uses the spermicidal backup is that the vaginal area is an ecosystem unto itself; it’s normally inhabited by friendly, acid-loving bacteria that keep things clean and healthy, but spermicide kills them as well as killing sperm. Use too much, too often, and most women will become vastly more prone to vaginal and urinary tract infections, since the acid-lovers aren’t there making things inhospitable for nastier-tempered invaders anymore. They’re painful, they’re unpleasant, and they stink. They can also be life-threatening- a UTI untreated can happily migrate up into the bladder or kidneys and start doing some serious damage. Condoms that don’t have spermicide exist, but they can be difficult to find, or at least I’ve never managed to find any on the drugstore shelves. Granted, it’s been a long time since I tried, but at the time, it was special order or nothing doing. (I had a friend with a steady boyfriend who was also allergic to the class of antibiotics most useful in treating urinary tract infections. This was the bane of her existence and led to some pretty serious illnesses.)

All contraceptives have tradeoffs, and which downsides you’re willing to accept have a great deal to do with what kind of sex you’re having, and most of the more serious downsides are the woman’s consequence. If you’re a single woman and having casual hookups, sex buddies, or other short-term relationships, condoms are absolutely the way to go: you need the protection from STIs way more than you need anything else other than the pregnancy prevention, and since you probably have no idea when you’re next having sex, there’s less risk that the spermicide will hurt you, and simply grabbing some birth control from the drug store or night stand when you need it is a much more attractive option.

However, if you’re in a long-term, exclusive relationship, particularly if you’re cohabiting, hormonal birth control becomes much more attractive. You’re having regular sex, so the effects of spermicide are a more pressing concern, neither of you (presumably, obviously there are exceptions and the exceptions will usually be using condoms) is carrying an STI and you’re not going to be picking a new one up anytime soon unless someone is both being horrible and doing it without a condom, and since you’re having regular sex, a form of birth control that’s a fixed, steady cost is much more attractive. Since STIs and infections have been taken (mostly, some hormonal birth control raises the risk of vaginal/urinary infections too) off the table, concerns about men’s sensation are much higher on the priority list now.

Now I’m going to get a little more personal, so cut just in case anybody’s sensibilities are more, well, sensitive than I expect.

(more…)

Yes, we did. Now fuck off.

November 6, 2012 - 9:56 pm 13 Comments

I just voted and nothing you can say will make me feel any better, so just fuck off. I voted for assholes, and if you voted, so did you, and I’m so completely sick of the goddamn media orgasm over this non-decision over which way we get fucked for the next few years, I’m about up to spreading the mayo on my sandwich to take up in the clock tower for the afternoon, so here’s the deal:

We’ll find out tomorrow which asshole we’re stuck with. If you’ve been one of those poll-sniffing borderline gambling addicts, you are formally instructed to fuck right the fuck off. This goes for friends, too. If you’re naive enough to be wound up and excited for the outcome, I will flat out tell you to fuck off, and end the conversation right there. God help you if you’re some excitable dumb fuck working a phone bank calling to ask which asshole I voted for.

With regards to politics, for the next 48 hours you can either bring me whiskey, or fuck off.

Yes, It IS That Bad

September 7, 2012 - 11:29 pm 27 Comments

Alternate title, which was just too long: “You know when people ask anti-rape protestors who’s actually in favor of rape? Well…”

So, there was a thing that went down while we were dark, that I wanted to write about at the time but was Overtaken By Events.

The Catholic Register decided to do an interview with Friar Benedict Groeschel, in which the subject of sexual abuse of children came up, and on which he had interesting opinions. Those opinions were so interesting the Register has since taken down the interview and replaced with a bunch of apologies. Given that, I can only quote from other responses to the original. I’m pretty bummed about that, because I wanted to analyze the original more thoroughly; everyone has quoted the same few lines, but really the whole thing was incredibly problematic. Oh well. Anyway, here’s the lengthiest quote I could get, from Sullivan’s response:

People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to — a psychopath. But that’s not the case. Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer … It’s not so hard to see — a kid looking for a father and didn’t have his own — and they won’t be planning to get into heavy-duty sex, but almost romantic, embracing, kissing, perhaps sleeping but not having intercourse or anything like that.

It’s an understandable thing … there are the relatively rare cases where a priest is involved in a homosexual way with a minor. I think the statistic I read recently in a secular psychology review was about 2%. Would that be true of other clergy? Would it be true of doctors, lawyers, coaches?

Here’s this poor guy — [Penn State football coach Jerry] Sandusky — it went on for years. Interesting: Why didn’t anyone say anything? Apparently, a number of kids knew about it and didn’t break the ice. Well, you know, until recent years, people did not register in their minds that it was a crime. It was a moral failure, scandalous; but they didn’t think of it in terms of legal things.

That’s right, y’all. Considering the case of Jerry Sandusky, his primary sympathy seems to be for Sandusky. You remember him, he’s the dude who was anally raping ten year old boys. Poor dude!

Now, the thing that everyone has focused primarily on is the most obvious thing, the thing the Catholic Register apologized for and Groeschel apologized for and the people defending him (yes, he has defenders, and I’ll get to them specifically in a bit here), is for blaming the victims for causing their own rape by “seducing” their attacker. Which, yes, that’s incredibly fucking awful, it should not be necessary to spell out that even if a kid actually threw themselves at you screaming “HAVE SEX WITH ME”*, it’s still the adult’s absolute moral responsibility to refuse. In no small part because inappropriate sexual behavior in children is almost always a huge red flag for past or ongoing sexual abuse; taking this hypothetical child up on it is volunteering to be their next abuser rather than helping them, which, y’know, clergy are theoretically all about. There’s no grey, there’s no “legitimate”, there’s no modifier: having sex with someone unable to truly consent, like a minor under your authority, is just-plain-rape. (Just because I KNOW I’m gonna get someone in comments going on about sexy teenagers and varying ages of consent, Ozy points out in her own article that the average ages of the molestation victims in the Catholic sexual abuse scandal being 11-14, with the youngest being three- not 14-18.)

The thing that really catches my eye about Groeschel’s original statements is how much reduction of responsibility he consistently applies to the rapists. First it’s, “I bet those kids are seducing those poor priests, who are maybe having nervous breakdowns.” (I know psychological stress makes ME much more likely to accept sexual offers from prepubescents.) Then we get weird “things get romantic, but not planning on heavy-duty.” (Thanks, that’s not screamingly inappropriate at all to compare a mentor-mentee relationship to a teenie romance, I feel better now.) Then it’s, “the clergy aren’t so bad, I bet other professions are doing it too!”. (Just the sort of logic you like to see in someone in the business of ultimate moral authority, that.) Then the highly creepy Penn State bit where apparently it was all on the kids to report that poor Jerry was having problems. (Why didn’t anyone say anything? Maybe because of an institutional culture with more sympathy and support for the rapist than their victims. Would you know anything about that, Friar?) Then as the cherry on top, apparently it’s kind of outrageous and extreme that this is an actual CRIME and not just an unfortunate “moral failing”. Man, cheating on your wife is legally okay, but fucking kids isn’t, what a restrictive world we live in today.

Another theme that leaps out is the idea, which is very much echoed in both the Catholic Register and Friars of Renewal apologies and the huffy defensed linked above, is the idea that in order for it to be justifiable to condemn someone for their actions, they had to set out and plan to do something awful and really meant to be awful. Sandusky probably didn’t get up in the morning and go “Nyaharhar, I’m gonna scar me some boys for life today”, so that makes his doing it more okay and more understandable. A priest might not have set out to rape that three year old in their fetching little pair of PullUps, so throwing him in jail over it is just kind of harsh. Friar Groeschel is old and starting to get a bit dotty and has been acting not himself, so he said a bunch of stuff excusing rapists and blaming child rape victims, he probably didn’t really mean to do that.

To put it bluntly: Who fucking cares and why do you think this is relevant to the morality of their action? If you do something awful, it was an awful thing and your moral responsibility for it doesn’t diminish a whit if you didn’t set out to specifically be awful that day. It’s awfulness rests on the scope of its awful effects, not the mindset of the person committing those actions. This also applies to all the “BUT HE’S A GOOD MAN SEE HERE HE’S DONE ALL THOSE GOOD THINGS”. Which, no. If you are a good person and you do something monstrous, there’s no balance scale there, you cease to be a good person and your good deeds have no bearing on the monstrousness of your actions and the monstrosity of you they reflect. If you want to not be a monster you have to stop doing monstrous things and then work your ass off to atone for the effects, not produce your good deeds chitty. Even then sometimes there’s no going back; I’m pretty sure no amount of Salvation Army time served could have made Hitler not-a-monster.

I have to quote the Catholic League defense, it’s a doozy:

In a recent interview, he hypothesized how a young person (14, 16 or 18, as he put it) could conceivably take advantage of a priest who was having a nervous breakdown. He also referred to Jerry Sandusky, the disgraced Penn State football coach, as “this poor guy.” For these remarks, and related comments, he is now being labeled as a defender of child abuse.

The accusation is scurrilous. In the same interview, Groeschel emphatically said that priests who are sexual abusers “have to leave.” His reference to Sandusky was exactly the way a priest-psychologist might be expected to speak: “poor guy” conveys sympathy for his maladies—it is not a defense of his behavior! Indeed, Groeschel asked, “Why didn’t anyone say anything?”

YOU GUYS THEY WERE HYPOTHETICAL CHILDREN WHAT ARE YOU GETTING WORKED UP ABOUT. >:( (The children who were actually sexually abused in the actual Catholic child sex abuse scandal were very damn much not hypothetical.) Also he TOTALLY SAID abusers who were actively abusing “had to leave”, how can you say he’s defending child abuse?! Plus he of course has sympathy for the rapist! Those victims should have totally reported him so he could get help!

Actually, his position on molesting priests beyond this interview where apparently age and injury turned him into a completely different person who suddenly has no idea that rape is all that bad isn’t impossible to determine, because during the time the abuse that turned into such a scandal was happening he was part of the heirarchy that handled misbehaving priests, so he has actions, not just words, on his record. Actions like using his position as a psychologist to help put molesting priests back into a position to abuse. So maybe his stance isn’t so difficult to puzzle out from just “one little interview”. (Actually, searching Groeschel’s name on Bishop Accountability for more than just that article is quite informative**.)

The fact that the person who interviewed Groeschel, and the editorial staff of the Catholic Register, couldn’t figure out there was anything wrong with what he was saying also speaks, in letters that are ten feet high and flashing red, to an institutional culture that perpetuated and is still perpetuating a climate that excuses and protects predators. This is why the abuse scandal seems neverending: because, on an institutional level, they still believe that rape of those under their care and authority isn’t such a big deal and should really be a rather private affair between the rapist, the victim, and maybe the rapist’s therapist.

*File under “hell of a lot less likely than the adult interpreting affection or even just their own attraction as seduction”.

**Here’s a particularly telling one when it comes to his attitude toward the victims.

Warfare In Food, Fat, and Class

August 15, 2012 - 4:34 pm 28 Comments

Via Chas Clifton, an article by Rod Dreher on the intersection between food, class, politics, and culture, and some of the weird eddies and patterns thereof. His article is specifically about the breed of “fuck you, nanny liberal” conservative that takes perverse joy in eating the opposite of what the “blue elite do”- junk food rather than arugula and organic grass-fed beef. I agree with Chas: read it all, and some of the comments for good measure (they remain surprisingly civil, or have for as far as I’ve been reading), not least because it’s resistant to excerpting and this post will mostly be a collection of thoughts in reaction.

- Several of the commenters brought up a point Dreher didn’t, which is that our food culture- and that of many other nations- is a relic of a time when the average citizen would spend most of the day on his or her feet, sometimes working so hard as to require two or three times the calories to get through the day at “maintenance” that the average citizen with a desk job does. The diet associated with the South and Midwest isn’t saturated in fat and starch because Southerners and Midwesterners are particularly more stupid or indulgent than other regions, it’s because they were the agricultural center of the nation and eating the greens without the pork fat or broccoli instead of mashed potatoes would have been about as productive to the average eater as eating steam. There were still sedentary people, and for that matter fat people (including fat people doing just as much of the physical labor as the skinny people), but the average working life was still not one that primarily involved sitting still.

- A common strain of thought I saw in the comments (firmly to be expected from something aimed squarely at a conservative audience), was the idea that obesity is running rampant because we’re moving more and more to more government- and insurance-funded health care, and thus obese people don’t bear any “costs” for being obese. I regard this as utter bullshit. Being obese IS a cost, and a steep one; insurance and Medicare aren’t funding liposuctions or any sort of magical fat-loss, or even doing anything more than somewhat mitigating the health problems associated with morbid obesity. You can’t pay your way out of crippling arthritis, runaway diabetes, sleep apnea, or doing ordinary errands being a giant and daunting physical challenge, even with someone else’s money. These aren’t inconveniences, being very obese is miserable compared to being thin or even moderately overweight. That isn’t even going into the social costs, which…

- …Dreher doesn’t seem to believe exist. I know it’s pretty much standard for conservatives to see themselves as standing athwart a wholesale abandonment of personal responsibility, but the degree of divergence between the America I live in and the one he apparently does is so great as to make me wonder if we’re inhabiting parallel dimensions. In the one I live in, being fat is regarded as not just undesirable but essentially sinful- perhaps the fact that Dreher agrees with that view in a classic-Christian sort of way is why he doesn’t see it as standout or as another cost associated with obesity. Being fat is like extending a blanket invitation to the world to remind you that you are, and usually accompanied by either a lecture on self-control akin to the one Dreher delivers or instructions that seem to assume that you were raised by wolves and have absolutely no idea that cake is fattening or that you should move around some. Befriending or being family to someone who is noticeably fat is like having a permanent ticket to a movie consisting solely of the world’s rudest people offering the most gratuitous abuse or obvious advice. For whatever reasons obese people are obese, because that state is not sufficiently unpleasant as to be discouraging is clearly not it.

- Speaking of cake, a brief pause for a minirant: What IS it with the cake? I eat cake on exactly two occasions, my own birthday or the birthday of someone sufficiently intimate to me to want to include me in that night’s meal. The vast majority of other people that I know, fat or thin, do pretty much the same. Literally the only person of my acquaintance who has such a sweet tooth they eat cake on a semiregular basis isn’t fat. Is there a secret town in America whose population consists of fat people who subsist solely on cake, donuts, and bacon?

- Moving on to the actual topic at hand, one observation I had is that not only did we essentially lose a generation or two of Americans in which knowing how to cook a variety of nourishing foods from scratch was a bog-standard adult life skill that everyone acquired in the family home, we did a switcheroo on the class associations of this skill. Immediately postwar during the prosperity and technology boom of the fifties, cooking became associated with the lower classes and immigrants who couldn’t afford food that was largely pre-prepared or prepared by someone else- or at least, not having to do much or any cooking for yourself became associated with wealth and status. Sometime around the eighties, yuppies kicked off a home cooking boom in which the type and cost of ingredients scaled up a good deal (setting the origins for those Whole Foods shoppers in the class-warfare game), and cooking from scratch for yourself became associated with wealth and higher class in itself. Knowing how to turn a bag of rice, beans, and maybe one dubious piece of meat into a hearty meal for six became a lower-class thing; then later knowing how to turn the same ingredients (with the price of the meat much higher for its new associations- have you seen what oxtail costs lately?) into a delicately spiced meal for two became the mark of the food snob. Meanwhile relying largely on preprepared or processed food remained the middle norm.

- It’s easy to focus on morbidly obese people who have flagrantly excessive and calorific diets and damn well know it and are suffering dramatically from the physical consequences, but in my experience this actually consists of a very noticeable minority. Most of “fattening America” seems to eat pretty similarly to the America that hasn’t gotten all that heavy. Maybe all the fatties are hiding in closets at night eating boxes of bacon-donuts, but most Americans who have a weight problem and don’t fall into the “fuck you Michael Bloomberg, I’m taking this 20-piece chicken bucket to my grave” camp seem to be if anything more conscious of what they eat, and that it should be smaller portions of not-cake, than folks who aren’t carrying around a gut. (This effect is perhaps only apparent to anyone who has been on a diet and watched lots of perfectly normal-looking folk eating things the dieter’s doctor has told them will make them physically become the Death Star.) Again: “eat less, move more!” and “you just need to be shamed more/told not to eat giant gobs of sugar and butter because clearly you don’t know” do not seem to be working.

- …Which is not to try and claim that diet, class, or our cultural eating patterns DON’T have anything to do with it. Being obese is miserable and you will catch hell for it, but eating is something very basic you have to do several times a day, and the habits we form with respect to what reads as “food, yum” to you, how often you eat and in what contexts, and where you get your food form very early and are tremendously ingrained because eating and drinking are the most basic things organisms MUST do to get on. They are difficult habits to change because evolution favors doing what worked well enough the last time to get fed, and novelty-seeking in times of abundance (which are now a more or less permanent feature of life for first-worlders) carries a lot more costs than benefits.

Which is ALSO not to say that we can’t lose weight because hardwired evolution brain is controlling everything we do, but changing our eating habits is actually pretty difficult. The background desire to do so is low to begin with, which then doesn’t help when you also have to cope with doing something radically different three or more times a day to satisfy a basic physical need, every damn day, for results that are slow to appear and give positive feedback. Throw in the fact that our appetites tend to calibrate around “the usual” as opposed to “what we actually need” (which can lead to undereating as easily as overeating- the habit matters most) rather than what we actually need and it can take a long period of new habits to recalibrate, and “fuck it, I’m having some chicken nuggets” becomes a pretty understandable temptation, even absent the class warfare.

Oh, and all the usual sources trying to give us advice on how to diet and exercise and lose weight are also full to the brim with bullshit it’s hard to recognize unless you already have a pretty good background in nutrition and physiology, so even if you make a superhuman feat of self-control you may not get good results anyway if you were following bad advice. (Free hint: one weird tip will never work.) To make it even more fun, some of those people giving out ludicrously terrible advice have M.D. after their name. A type I diabetic of my acquaintance was told after diagnosis in adulthood to eat a low-fat diet, to spare their heart, a low-carb diet, to keep their blood sugars under control, and a low-protein diet to spare their kidneys. Pointing out that this left literally no macronutrient options on the table for consumption in abundance enough to keep a young adult alive did not seem to register.

- I’ve done a lot of bashing on Dreher here, but I actually agree with much of what he wrote- just not with his fat sinners, thin moderates paradigm. He’s dead bang on that cooking is a disappearing skill, and that cooking quality ingredients from scratch is actually much cheaper than primarily living off fast food and preprepared and processed food, because the base ingredients are pretty cheap and the ones that aren’t aren’t meant to be the bulk of the meal unless you’re throwing a luxury feast. The treatment Jamie Oliver got in Huntington DID have a lot more to do with class warfare than with what was actually benefiting or hurting the schoolchildren. (Saying this makes my teeth grind, because Oliver makes my teeth grind and I happen to think his own attitude of re-educating the ignorants is part of the problem… so inconvenient when people respond with spiteful ignorance right back.)

As Drive-Thru Apple Pie

August 2, 2012 - 3:18 pm 14 Comments

My various collections of beliefs and bugaboos mean I don’t have a dog in this fight, or at least that my various dogs have begun fighting amongst themselves while I wander off (Chick-fil-A donates to organizations I disapprove of and appears to wrap its workers in a moist embrace of big-brotherly nosiness I also disapprove of, on the other hand fuck a whole bunch of government thuggery- let consumers decide who they want to give their lunch money to). Plus, Chick-Fil-A doesn’t have any franchises within fifty miles of me, so my opinion of them means precisely diddly with a side order of squadoo.

I will say, however, that a full-scale culture war fought on the battlefield of a fast-food fried chicken chain, including buycotts, boycotts, sign-waving protestors, and kiss-ins, is maybe the single most uniquely American phenomenon I’ve seen in my life to date.

As insular family-controlled religious fast food chains go, I vastly prefer In-n-Out anyway.