Category Archives: Excruciatingly Correct Behavior

Manners (or lack thereof)

Booing, Sporting Events, and We

Back in my political campaign days, an old political hand once advised me to try to avoid having a candidate visit a sporting event.  His reasoning was that fans are more than a little irrational in the love for their team, and anything that interfered with their enjoyment of the game could get booed.  Applauding fans wouldn’t be news, but booing would be, so unpredictable sports events should be avoided.  Or, as Dick Armey once put it, “If you insist on center stage, you get the tomatoes” (Axiom 22).

So what, then, should we make of the booing of Michelle Obama at a NASCAR eventWe can look at the video.

To recap, in case you aren’t interested in watching the video: a veteran is introduced, along with his family; his accomplishments as a sniper recounted and he gets applauded; then Mrs. Obama and Jill Biden were introduced; then some booing; then everyone announced, “Start your engines.”

The whole stadium, thankfully, wasn’t booing, but there was clearly a significant number of upset fans.  Unfortunately, we quite literally don’t know what they were upset about. Would there have been booing if Mrs. Obama were white?  Or a man?  Or a Republican? Or would any politician shoehorning in on the tribute to a veteran have gotten booed?  We don’t know.

What has been far more interesting is the reaction of pundits and their interpretation of the boos.  The debate has focused on race: did the fans intend a racial insult or no?  There’s no way of asking the fans what they meant by booing, so the only thing pundits can do is project their own meaning onto the event.

Two friends of mine, Robert and Dan, were tweeting about the event.  Twitter is good for many things, but nuanced debate isn’t one of them.  Dan made a couple of tweets that I’d like to address a bit further. First:

@mikeahub @DCbigpappa it’s inappropriate to boo the first lady for any reason. I don’t care if it’s racial or not.

Dan is utterly right that it’s inappropriate, but whether it’s racial is the whole reason things blew up on Twitter and the blogosphere.  First ladies from Lady Bird Johnson to Hillary Clinton have been booed.  It was wrong then and wrong now.  On first amendment grounds, they have the right to speak.  Common courtesy alone should dictate that we listen politely to what they have to say.  Booing is nearly always the wrong reaction; it’s inarticulate mockery, more worthy of barnyard animals than humans.  It was particularly inappropriate on when Mrs. Obama was ceremonially starting a stock car race.

But since Mrs. Obama is the first black first lady, the question of race comes into many things she does.  You may not care if the booing is racial, but many people do.  Bad manners don’t get tons of commentary, but racism does.

Dan also made a second, rather more inflammatory tweet:

@mikeahub @DCbigpappa how do a group of people claim to be patriotic then publicly disrespect the first lady?

The booing fans are unquestionably guilty of bad manners, but a lack of patriotism? That seems overstated and unprovable. Measuring patriotism is tricky, for the most valiant soldier may have achieved his deeds not through love of country but through love of his own glory; we cannot measure patriotism without God’s abacus.

The booing of Michelle Obama has become a Rorschach test.  What we see in it says more about how we view NASCAR fans than it does about what the NASCAR fans actually think.  Going back to the old political hand, it’s pretty clear that booing politicians at sporting events is relatively common.  We can’t know if the fans are racists, but we can know what you think of them.

***

You can follow me on Twitter, which where this blog post got started. I’m usually much less long winded there for some reason.

Lessons Learned?

Those who read automotive blogs will already be familiar with this story; a bunch of young’uns in Vancouver took their really fast cars on a really fast group joyride. The list of cars is impressive, and, ultimately, the most irresponsible people involved in the story are the parents who bought their bratty kids six-figure cars. Even if you’ve a zillion dollars, you shouldn’t give an 18 year-old a Gallardo. But what caught my eye in the story is the last paragraph, where we get the “cop speech”:

[RCMP Inspector] Massie said the incident highlights an important message to drivers: “Speed is fairly unforgiving. Whenever you’re involved in a motor vehicle accident where there’s any speed at all, it’s unforgiving … Slow down, be responsible and understand that speed limits are there for a reason.”

Um, that can’t possibly be the lesson of the story. The story involves a bunch of spoiled brats driving “over 200 km/h” on public streets and behaving, generally, like jackasses, and no one got hurt. The reality is that, given the capabilities of modern automobiles (in engine performance, braking performance, and handling), just about anyone can drive well in excess of most speed limits without dying a fiery death, or causing others do so. I think the message this story actually “highlights” is that if you’re going to drive double the posted limit, don’t do it in a large group, don’t be a jackass to other drivers, and drive something less conspicuous than a Mercedes SLS.

George R. R. Martin: Man-Hater

Sady Doyle’s review of George R. R. Martin’s fantasy epic, A Song of Ice and Fire — whose first volume, Game of Thrones, was recently adapted for television by HBO — is a classic example of literary criticism done badly: i.e., it says little about the work being reviewed and much about the reviewer.

Doyle’s thrust is that Martin is a raging sexist whose female characters are imprisoned by male conceptions of the proper role for women while being under the constant threat of gang rape, all for our entertainment; in short, J.R.R. Tolkien with Joe Francis’s aesthetics.  Martin’s fans (male) fans devour the misogyny and mayhem with neither examination nor scruple.

To be sure, the people of Martin’s Westeros do have traditional gender roles for women.  These women are, moreover, the victims of a nearly endless series physical and sexual assaults, which Doyle summarizes at length.  The summaries are – in fairness to Doyle – quite funny in how they undercut Martin’s penchant for melodrama.  For instance, her summary of Lady Catelyn Stark, a very serious and important character in the series, begins:

Meet Catelyn! She’s a dutiful, obedient wife and mother. Also, her husband is the hero. She will, therefore, be a sympathetic figure. Catelyn’s an all-around swell gal, and seems pretty sharp and competent, too, except when she is (a) getting all hysterical and non-functional because [of] HER CHILDREN, (b) stupidly kidnapping members of the royal family on a whim because HER CHILDREN, and (c) being a total bitchface to Ned’s illegitimate son because he is not HER CHILDREN.

Taken out of context like this, one can make a seemingly-persuasive case that Martin has issues with women. But as Alyssa Rosenberg argues at ThinkProgress, this analysis fails because it assumes 1) that Martin’s description of such a society is an implicit endorsement of it, 2) that his readers are incapable of rudimentary moral examination, and 3) that there is no literary value for writing about characters struggling against (or within) their society’s expectations, to say nothing of their own identities.

It fails for another reason as well, one Rosenberg either missed or left out entirely: that any society with strict gender roles for women is fated to have reciprocally restrictive ones for men.  Indeed, armed with a perspective equally myopic to Doyle’s,  male characters fare no better than the women (spoilers ahead): Continue reading

It’s Like Everyone Lost, But I Lost Less Than Most

I don’t want people to be accused of crimes they didn’t commit; I particularly don’t want people to be extorted to pay money to protect their names. But:

If someone were to tell me, “A would-be left-wing president of France is going to be framed in for a rape, who would you like to do the framing?” I would immediately say, “Someone connected to a union.”

I don’t like it when bad things happen; I particularly don’t like it when the force of the law comes down on people who haven’t broken the law. But, everything else being equal, if I would be asked as to who should be framed for a crime and who should be caught doing the framing, this might well be what I’d suggest.

Thin, Multiracial Skin

A few weeks ago Drudge linked to a story where Cornell West made some fairly derogatory comments about the president. Because I’m not a fan of Prof. West, and because the comments were of a racial nature that I generally ignore, I didn’t read the story at the time. But today I got around to it and, if you can get just roll your eyes and get past the racial claptrap, the story provides some interesting insights, particularly when West discusses his falling out with the president.

Obama and West’s last personal contact took place a year ago at a gathering of the Urban League when, he says, Obama “cussed me out.” Obama, after his address, which promoted his administration’s championing of charter schools, approached West, who was seated in the front row.

“He makes a bee line to me right after the talk, in front of everybody,” West says. “He just lets me have it. He says, ‘You ought to be ashamed of yourself, saying I’m not a progressive. Is that the best you can do? Who do you think you are?’ I smiled. I shook his hand. And a sister hollered in the back, ‘You can’t talk to professor West. That’s Dr. Cornel West. Who do you think you are?’ You can go to jail talking to the president like that. You got to watch yourself. I wanted to slap him on the side of his head.

“It was so disrespectful,” he went on, “that’s what I didn’t like. I’d already been called, along with all [other] leftists, a “F’ing retard” by Rahm Emanuel because we had critiques of the president.” 

Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president, has, West said, phoned him to complain about his critiques of Obama. Jarrett was especially perturbed, West says, when he said in an interview last year that he saw a lot of Malcolm X and Ella Baker in Michelle Obama. Jarrett told him his comments were not complimentary to the first lady.

Perhaps all presidents try to manage their supporters, but this certainly fits in with the perception that this president can’t handle being criticized. I don’t like West, but he’s no dummy and he seems to have principles, so berating him like that seems quite unlikely to result in anything positive for the president. Moreover, it’s just rude. The president has a lot of authority, of various types, and no one is ever on even ground when engaging the president in public. To see a president use that advantage to berate a private citizen (and a supporter, at that!), knowing that the private citizen will be unable to adequately respond, should (but won’t) revolt those on the Left who claim to constantly be aware of “power dynamics.” It revolts me, though I’m not a Leftist, just an old-fashioned republican.

Kids Get Indoctrinated in the Darndest Ways

Via Prof. Althouse:

Aren’t you forgetting a thing or 2? You’ve got them chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, Scott Walker has got to go” — but what do they know about Scott Walker? That he’s done something the teachers don’t like. So, maybe some day, when you do something they don’t like, some kid might start “Hey hey, ho ho, [TEACHER'S NAME] has got to go.” Today, you’re pleased to teach them “The children, united, will never be divided.” I’m picturing them repurposing that chant back in the classroom.

This confirms my long-standing observation that while you can’t dismiss a political cause because some jerk brings his kid to a rally, you can go a long way toward that when they start coordinating bringing their kids and teach them sloganeering.

Added: On reflection, I was entirely wrong to say parents shouldn’t bring their children.  Bringing a child to a political rally so they can observe and learn about about our civic process is a laudable thing to do. However, the children depicted in this video are actively participating in the rally, indeed chanting “This is what democracy looks like!” in response to an adult’s call (I sure hope our democracy doesn’t look like a bunch of 3rd graders!).

Once again, read the whole thing

John Derbyshire once mostly praised a book that J. Michael Bailey had written; Derb is, depending on your point of view, either a grouchy but honest commentator on matters, or a sort of troll who enjoys saying nasty things for the sheer fun of annoying certain people (Kathryn Lopez, Andrew Sullivan, et al.).  So whether Bailey is a genuine scholar or a crank is something that I remain agnostic on.

Now Joseph Epstein takes on Professor Bailey in an oblique look at a new scandal involving the man:

Northwestern University, the school at which I taught for 30 years, has been visited by a delicious little scandal. A tenured professor, teaching a heavily attended undergraduate course on human sexuality, decided to bring in a woman, who, with the aid of what was euphemistically called “a sex toy” (uneuphemistically, it appears to have been an electric dildo), attempted to achieve a climax in the presence of the students. The professor alerted his students about this extraordinary show-and-tell session, and made clear that attendance was voluntary. The standard account has it that 120 or so of the 622 students enrolled in the course showed up. Questions about what they had witnessed, the professor punctiliously noted, would not be on the exam.

The professor, J. Michael Bailey, is a man with a reputation for specializing in the outré. (Northwestern ought perhaps to consider itself fortunate that he didn’t teach a course in Aztec history, or he might have offered a demonstration of human sacrifice.) The word got out about the demonstration he had arranged, journalists quickly got on the case, and Northwestern found itself hugely embarrassed, its officials concerned lest parents think it was offering, at roughly $45,000 a year, the educational equivalent of a stag party.

There’s more—much more—in this piece.  Read to the end to get Epstein’s unvarnished view of the state of American Education.

Tongue of Newt

If you want more Gingrich bashing (we’re starting to think of him as a pinata that even the blind can whack from any angle these days), you could start with John Kass:

“There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate,” Gingrich told the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Sure, Newt. Sometimes things just happen.

Sometimes you look up at a flagpole and see Old Glory waving in a stiff breeze and that female aide in your office smiles, and the next thing you know, you’re getting your patriotism on.

Obviously, his great love of country will force Gingrich to modify aspects of his as-yet-unannounced presidential campaign.

For example, what’s Newt’s new campaign slogan?

“Newt’s a Yankee Doodle Randy!”

And the soundtrack on the campaign video as Newt and his third first lady walk arm in arm around the Washington Monument?

The theme from the Cialis commercials.

And the joke that the late-night TV comics forgot to write?

“Newt? Is that the Constitution in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”

During that interview, former House Speaker Gingrich parsed words almost as carefully as former President Bill Clinton.

[snip]

As a conservative and self-described Clinton despiser, I found it extremely difficult to type the following words. But in the interest of fairness, I must type them.

Gingrich has surpassed Clinton.

Not even the hypocrite Clinton would blame patriotism for those priapic urges fulfilled in the Oval Office with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

We agree.

The Classiness of Apathy

I think the right-wing gloating over the demise of Keith Olberman’s show is a little tacky (see, e.g., here). From everything I read, it seems that Olberman was a jerk who made O’Reilly look subtle and balanced. But I never watched Olberman, I never considered watching Olberman, and I didn’t care what Olberman said on his show that I didn’t watch.

I think in situations like this one, where an ideological enemy has suffered some sort of downfall, consistent and genuine apathy comes across much better than petty antagonism. Human diversity being what it is, there’s a market for most any point of view on television and the radio (my local talk station is the flagship station for Alex Jones). It’s simply not worthwhile to get worked up about the fact that people you disagree with have shows. Conversely, it’s not worth celebrating when those shows collapse for non-ideological reasons.*

*That is, I’d be slightly happy if Olberman quit his show after announcing that he’d realized he’d always been wrong, was now a conservative, and wanted to take time off to reflect on all this. But Olberman quit his show over money, and I do not care about the financial affairs of people I do not care about.

What on Earth is Life Like in New York?

Hiring a bar tender for a party in a 400 sq. foot apartment? Not even mixing drinks, but pouring punch into cups?

“In my opinion, if you don’t have a bartender at your party, you’re a loser,” said Dustin Terry, who lives a floor below Ms. Argiro and said his job was to get models and Saudi royalty into hot clubs. “The bartender brings class and sophistication.”

“If you can’t afford to hire a bartender,” he added, “you shouldn’t be having a party.”

But I’m already paying a valet to park cars in my driveway, a doorman to open the door, a waiter so that my guests don’t have to go to the counter to get more food, as well as a man I pay to wait around and fill in if my valet, doorman, or waiter gets injured sometime during the night (honestly, imagine the mortification at having to inform guests that they’re going to have to open the door for themselves on the way out just because your doorman pulled a hamstring earlier in the evening). If I have to hire someone else, I won’t be able to afford such high status drinks as “vodka punch” and “rum eggnog;” I’d probably have to consolidate the two into some sort of dreadful vodka eggnog. But at least it would be poured by a guy in a black turtleneck, so perhaps it’d be worth it.

Hired help telegraphs a new maturity and polish, said Marc Levine, who runs Premier Party Servers and Model Bartenders, which cater parties in New York and other cities. “You’re bringing your party to the next level, stepping away from the college kegger,” he said, “and actually entertaining in your New York City apartment.” 

Every time I hear someone say “New York City” like it’s something special, I think of these old commercials:

And there’s a practical consideration. “Hosts don’t want to have to look after their guests’ needs,” said Matt Solan, a bartender who works many such small locations. “But they also want a level of prestige.”

The rule is, I’ll pour you one drink, and after that if you need another, you know where it’s at.

The job may also include helping the host clear tabletops throughout the night, answering the door and hanging up coats. Despite that, Mr. Solan said, “People’s expectations can be somewhat low,” especially when the hosts are young and self-conscious about hiring help. “They’re happy when you just circulate, grabbing garbage,” like dirty cups and cocktail napkins.

Hah! The New Yorkers are so rich and classy that they hire bartenders, even though they don’t know what bartenders are supposed to do. As evidenced by . . .

David Shiovitz, who runs Columbia Bartenders, which sends out Columbia University undergraduates and graduate students, said that, were his bartenders asked, say, to strip or dance, “They have the right to say, ‘That’s not in my contract,’ ” he said.

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, says “I’m a sophisticated young adult now” quite like hiring an undergrad to pour rum punch into cups and then pressuring him to take off his pants for your guests’ amusement.

Another guest, Eric Carson, 32, a stock trader who lives in nearby Greenpoint, agreed that the bartender added class. “I feel very sophisticated at this party,” he said. “And I usually feel like a complete dirt bag.”

Bartender wages: $195. Bartender tips: $80. Making your dirtbag friends feel sophisticated: Umm, I guess that costs about $275. Seems like it’d be cheaper just to ditch the dirtbags and get sophisticated friends who can pour their own damned drinks.

How to get away with Murder

In the Middle East, Egyptians are buzzing over the trial of Hisham Talaat Moustafa, an Egyptian real estate tycoon, for murdering Suzanne Tamim, a Lebanese pop star.  Prettier than Napoleon summarizes the sordid details:

Egyptian millionaire politician woos Lebanese pop singer, spending over $7 million on her. His mother refuses to consent to their marriage, so the pop star leaves him. He pays $2 million for a contract hit and has her murdered.

What boggles Prettier than Napoleon is the reaction of Egyptian women:

“She made him kill her, and she deserves it,” said Sherine Moustafa, a 39-year-old Egyptian corporate lawyer, an opinion that was echoed by every woman of dozens interviewed. “If he killed her, this means she’s done something outrageous to drive him to it,” reasoned Ms. Moustafa, who has no relation to the convicted businessman. Both her sister and mother, who sat next to her, agreed.

This is the standard argument presented, more even by women than by men, in the Arab world, where strict patriarchal traditions continue to hold female victims responsible for crimes against them by men. If a woman is sexually harassed, then she must have been dressed provocatively. If raped, she somehow must have put herself in a compromising position. If pregnant out of wedlock, her conduct is to blame. And if she is murdered, then she must have committed an even more abhorrent crime.

We might be somewhat less boggled if we examine a similar reactions from women to a man murdering a woman. Specifically, OJ Simpson’s murder of Nicole:

“This is a story about race and gender and how they intersect,” said Susan Reverby, a professor of women’s studies at Wellesley College, who is white. “It’s about a black man married to a white woman being judged by black women.”

That alone required an emotional calculus that every black woman had to figure out. As the trial became bigger than the sum of its testimony and more personal to its viewer-chorus, the same facts summoned different interpretations. White women tended to identify with Mrs. Simpson as an abuse victim. Black women, pulled by competing loyalties, tended to see Mr. Simpson as a black man framed by the system — even if he had been indifferent to the black community, and even if they thought he might be guilty.

“We’re willing to put aside his personal preferences,” said Denise Cade, a securities lawyer in Washington, who is black and believes that Mr. Simpson may have had something to do with the murders but that the prosecution was flawed. “We have been oppressed for so long that we really do take people back. Maybe this will bring him home.”

. . . .

“The reason a black man may beat his wife is because he is facing racism on his job and racism in America,” Ms. Cade said. “What is the reason a white man beats his wife? It’s certainly not because of oppression in America. We can understand what our black men feel. That’s why we don’t rally around those feminist people.”

To Hisham Talaat Moustafa and every interviewed Egyptian women, the Lebanese Suzanne Tamim was a nonperson.  To OJ Simpson and many black women, the white Nicole Brown Simpson was likewise a nonperson.  Had Moustafa murdered an Egyptian woman or Simpson a black woman, reactions would be different because a real person was just murdered.  What would have happened if the reporter from the New York Times had asked the Egyptian women how they’d feel if Ms. Tamim had been Egyptian?  It’s likely they’d say that no Egyptian woman would behave in such a way.

CULTURE MATTERS

Prettier than Napoleon asks,

What is the lesson here? Don’t become a Westernized pop star? That’s not what got her killed. Refusing to be this guy’s mistress after he wouldn’t buck his mother and marry her is what got her killed.

Some parts of Lebanon are quite Westernized (see this old Steve Sailer essay for details) and it appears that the relaxed, tolerant, mostly Christian and secular world is where Ms. Tamim came from, as opposed to the more clannish Shiite or Sunni worlds.  The real lesson is that when dating outside your own culture, remember that you might be a nonperson to them.  Given the witches’ brew of cultures and politics that is Lebanon, Ms. Tamim probably never tried to date a Muslim man from her own country: too much blood has been spilled on both sides for there to be trust.  In all likelihood, she thought that Moustafa wasn’t like those crazy Muslims back home: he was a good guy who’d made a fortune and seen the world and who saw her as a human being.  She didn’t realize until too late that to him, she was always a nonperson.

Want some lotion for that burn?

The mafia rule is useful to remember, namely that just because a random person looks defenseless and ridiculous, he might have relatives in the mob.  A corollary to this rule for directors: never be rude to an audience member, as he might be a theater critic for the New Criterion:

In contrast, the extraordinarily rude couple seated next to me at Orlando was a bother and a bore. After about ten minutes worth of their incessant whispering, I very politely asked the fellow if they would be so kind as to knock it the hell off before I choked them (nicely, though). “She’s the director!” he hissed back. And so she was, and the two were discussing the play and taking notes during the performance. What I found perplexing about his riposte is that he seemed to think that I should be less angry at being treated rudely by the director of the play, rather than more angry. She’s not some clueless prole! She’s The Director! Her being the director of course explained her arrogance, but not her stupidity: The Classic Stage Company is a reasonably large venue—the last action I saw performed there was the Trojan War, for pity’s sake—but the director, Rebecca Taichman, apparently saw fit to sit and chat and generally behave like a yokel from Teterboro among people who had paid $65 a ticket rather than sequester herself in a remoter corner of the theater. I mention this mostly as a curiosity—we theater-goers are accustomed to being treated with contempt by directors, but they usually express it through their work, not in person—and as evidence for my longstanding hypothesis that theater companies regard their audiences mostly as a source of revenue and then only as a necessary evil, something to keep the actors from feeling ridiculous while they perform.

Hell clearly hath no fury like a critic scorned.

Bonfire of the inanities

Vanity Fair has compiled a list of best dressed people.  Approximately three quarters of the people featured in the slide show are slobs and frumps with the fashion sense of overcooked cabbage.  The contrast with the well dressed people on the list (stand tall, David Beckham!) is devastating.

Karol argues:

Michelle Obama wouldn’t necessarily make a Vanity Fair’s worst-dressed list, but the fact that she made their best-dressed list and they used a picture of her with full-on boob spillage, shows that they just picked her because they like her, not because she can throw together an outfit.

We here at Federalist Paupers respectfully disagree with Karol’s assessment.  We think that someone at Vanity Fair has read their La Rochefoucauld and had the malicious imagination to apply this maxim: “To praise princes for virtues, which they have not, is to insult them with impunity.”