Monday, September 17, 2012

Things "Better Left Unsaid," a Reaction to Clint Eastwood and David Brooks' Ideas on the Sexes

More Things “Better Left Unsaid” ?

In the last posting, I included some thoughts on things “better left unsaid.”  I referred to certain remarks made by Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and the former Palm Beach County Democratic Chairman.  They all spoke about something which in their minds they felt was the truth, and while you cannot fault them for that, I made the point that some things are “better left unsaid,” when possible consequences are taken into consideration.

Let’s expand that to the obvious disagreement between Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama concerning stopping Iran’s nuclear program.  The two men disagree as to what action to take and when to take that action.  This is the kind of thing that heads of state and foreign ministers are constantly doing, disagreeing with one another.

       Bibi and Barack Disagree?

I have no doubt about the sincerity of either of them but “going public” with the disagreement serves no purpose other than politicizing it, and thereby hampering the quiet, dispassionate diplomatic exchange which will result in a resolution of  differences.  It matters not whether or not they like each other.  Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt (and later Truman) talked at great length at Yalta and Potsdam but that doesn’t mean they were fond of one another.

What I know and What I don’t know: 

I don’t know how effective economic sanctions can be in specifically halting Iran’s nuclear program nor in effecting damage to the Iranian economy to a point where we develop greater leverage to use in talking to them.  I do not know at precisely what point in time an attack by Israel would no longer be effective.  Nor do I know at what later point in time an attack by the United States would still be effective.

I do know that during a Presidential election campaign here, no candidate, including the President, is going to say anything which would precipitate avoidable military involvement.  I also do believe that the Iranians know this and are acting accordingly.  I also know that the chances of any attack being effective would have to be measured against the cost of Iranian retaliation on Israel and elswehere.  Finally, I do know that Israeli military and intelligence sources are less enthusiastic about attacking Iran than it sounds like Benjamin Netanyanu is. 

Sounds pretty complicated, doesn’t it.  Well, one thing I believe is that it shouldn’t be part of a political campaign in this country.  It should be the topic of quiet diplomacy.  Sometimes, things that everyone knows are going on are “better left unsaid” in public.

But there's another category of things which also may be "better left unsaid." These are things which, regardless of their truth,  can result in violence or even death, 

This leads us to that questionable anti-Muslim You-tube video which precipitated the Middle Eastern riots which were the backdrop for the killing of our Ambassador to Libya by extremist Muslims.  The motivation behind its being made still needs to be determined as does the identity of those individuals or groups which funded it. Clearly, however, it is the work of "Islamophobes" and is as offensive and scurrilous toward Muslims as is  the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" toward Jews.

Nevertheless, there is no question that our Constitution protects the rights of whoever had produced and distributed the video in this country, regardless of their motives.  But this was also true of the Danish cartoons mocking Mohammed, the Koran-burning minister in Florida and similar anti-Islamic rhetoric in the Netherlands which resulted in the assassination of a right wing film maker there a few years ago. I also recall that Salman Rushdie's 1968 novel, Satanic Verses, brought about a "fatwah" from the Iranian mullahs condemning him to death because of the way he dealt with Mohammed in the book. 
For years, Rushdie lived in hiding in the United Kingdom, knowing that his life was in jeopardy. The right to speak your mind as provided by our First Amendment is not respected throughout the globe.

Some Questions: 

When one considers the possible consequences of an action, are some things better left unsaid,” particularly in a world where all things are global, and nothing is merely local nor national any longer?  True, we have the right to say almost anything we choose to say, but in a world filled with people who insist that we do not have that right, what is the wisest course of action, particularly when some of such people are willing to kill because they feel you do not have that right, regardless of what our Bill of Rights and similar guarantees in Danish or Dutch law say?  Are some things then “better left unsaid”?   

To what extent should a person stand on their rights and adhere to their beliefs and take a position which can put their life, and the lives of others, in danger?  The boundary between courage and foolhardiness is a paper-thin one.  These are universal questions, ones that were asked during the Inquisition, the American and French Revolutions, the Civil War and at almost all other important times in history.  And if you dig deeply enough, the ultimate question is "What is worth dying for?"

It takes a lot of courage to stand for one's beliefs in the face of danger, but it also takes a lot of courage to have the wisdom to know that some things are "better left unsaid" because of the possible consequences of saying them.

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And speaking of courage, the other night I watched Sean Hannity on Fox, where he questioned President Obama’s support of the 2011 change in government in Libya, inferring that we might have been better off standing with Ghadaffi, rather than the rebels, who were and continue to be, an unknown quantity.  


In the warped minds of people like Hannity and the gullible millions who watch him on TV, the attack on our consulate in Benghazi and the killing of our Ambassador was thereby somehow indirectly attributable to President Obama. It takes an absence of courage to make such vile inferences, but I have not come to expect better from the Fox team of propagandists.

I urge you to spend some time watching Fox so that you may take note of the unbelievable way they address any issue whatsoever in a manner which reflects negatively on the President of the United States.  Ya gottta see it to believe it!   If you happen to have an airsickness bag around, keep it handy while watchng Fox.

If you have thoughts on these questions, I will be glad to include them in the blog.  Just send them on to me.
Jack Lippman

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Clint Eastwood G.O.P. Convention Appearance Criticized

Bloggers Were Quick to Come Up with this "Imitation  Simpsons" Version of Eastwood's Speech

Here is the content of a “Letter to the Editor” recently sent to the Palm Beach Post by a friend and neighbor, Bruce Brodsky.  As of this time, it hasn’t been published there yet but it certainly is worthy of your attention.

“Although many would be believe that there is a limit to the level of rudeness and incivility in the world of presidential politics it appears as though actor Clint Eastwood has broken through that level by establishing a new low.

As Mr. Eastwood addressed an empty chair and made disparaging remarks to a receptive audience at the Republican National Convention, accented by inferred four letter words targeting the President of the United States, it struck me that the level of public discourse has sunk to an all time low. Mr. Eastwood has the freedom to say whatever he wants to say wherever and whenever he wants to say it. Our Constitution grants and I do not deny him that right. I am not even shocked at his politics because just like his freedom of speech he is entitled to support whomever he believes will do the best job. I am however, shocked and offended by his complete lack of respect for the Office of the Presidency. Where do we as individuals and as a nation draw the line? Is there no line? Is there no limit?

We are witnessing the highest of high stakes political contests that this nation goes through every four years. The stakes are enormously high and passions understandably run deep but have we become so rude and so crude and so void of respect for our nation’s leaders that anything goes? Any commentary? Any actions?

After decades of positively entertaining the world I can only say that Mr. Eastwood’s antics were not only disappointing but highly inappropriate, offensive and insulting. Not only insulting to me as a citizen but insulting to the Office of the President of the United States and that is totally unacceptable. I can only protest his actions the only way I know how and that is to make certain that my chair at the movie theaters will remain empty whenever any of his films are showing."
Bruce Brodsky

YES  !!!

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Seatbelts and Building Codes

If State seat belt laws do not apply to cars manufactured before 1968 when Federal law first required them, why are insurance companies looking for compliance with current building codes for houses built before those codes were put into effect? 

I can understand their doing so if non-compliance creates a fire hazard or the danger of a building collapsing.  Otherwise, I think they can simply address the problem by charging a premium based on the home’s age and the codes in effect at that time but allow some credit to those who have taken the expensive steps necessary to bring older structures up to current codes.  In many instances, older homes are structurally sounder than newer ones and as the old saying goes: “they don’t build them now the way they used to.” 

A home that was “hurricane-proofed” and complied with building codes when it was built should not be held to the same standards as a structure built in 2012 for the same reason that a 1967 Chevy is allowed on the road without seat belts. 


                                       Legally Seatbelt-less1967 Chevrolet

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From the New York Times of September 10, here is a very interesting column by David Brooks.  If it were written by a female columnist such as Maureen Dowd or Kathleen Parker, it would have less impact than it has coming from a man.

David Brooks

Why Men Fail      (Published: September 10, 2012  in the New York Times)

You’re probably aware of the basic trends. The financial rewards to education have increased over the past few decades, but men failed to get the memo. 

In elementary and high school, male academic performance is lagging. Boys earn three-quarters of the D’s and F’s. By college, men are clearly behind. Only 40 percent of bachelor’s degrees go to men, along with 40 percent of master’s degrees.Thanks to their lower skills, men are dropping out of the labor force. In 1954, 96 percent of the American men between the ages of 25 and 54 worked. Today, that number is down to 80 percent. In Friday’s jobs report, male labor force participation reached an all-time low.

Millions of men are collecting disability. Even many of those who do have a job are doing poorly. According to Michael Greenstone of the Hamilton Project, annual earnings for median prime-age males have dropped by 28 percent over the past 40 years. 

Men still dominate the tippy-top of the corporate ladder because many women take time off to raise children, but women lead or are gaining nearly everywhere else. Women in their 20s outearn men in their 20s. Twelve out of the 15 fastest-growing professions are dominated by women. 

Over the years, many of us have embraced a certain theory to explain men’s economic decline. It is that the information-age economy rewards traits that, for neurological and cultural reasons, women are more likely to possess. 

To succeed today, you have to be able to sit still and focus attention in school at an early age. You have to be emotionally sensitive and aware of context. You have to communicate smoothly. For genetic and cultural reasons, many men stink at these tasks. 


But, in her fascinating new book, “The End of Men,” Hanna Rosin posits a different theory. It has to do with adaptability. Women, Rosin argues, are like immigrants who have moved to a new country. They see a new social context, and they flexibly adapt to new circumstances. Men are like immigrants who have physically moved to a new country but who have kept their minds in the old one. They speak the old language. They follow the old mores. Men are more likely to be rigid; women are more fluid.
This theory has less to do with innate traits and more to do with social position. When there’s big social change, the people who were on the top of the old order are bound to cling to the old ways. The people who were on the bottom are bound to experience a burst of energy. They’re going to explore their new surroundings more enthusiastically. 

  Hannah Rosin

Rosin reports from working-class Alabama. The women she meets are flooding into new jobs and new opportunities — going back to college, pursuing new careers. The men are waiting around for the jobs that left and are never coming back. They are strangely immune to new options. In the Auburn-Opelika region, the median female income is 140 percent of the median male income. 

Rosin also reports from college campuses where women are pioneering new social arrangements. The usual story is that men are exploiting the new campus hookup culture in order to get plenty of sex without romantic commitments. Rosin argues that, in fact, women support the hookup culture. It allows them to have sex and fun without any time-consuming distractions from their careers. Like new immigrants, women are desperate to rise, and they embrace social and sexual rules that give them the freedom to focus on their professional lives. 

Rosin is not saying that women are winners in a global gender war or that they are doing super simply because men are doing worse. She’s just saying women are adapting to today’s economy more flexibly and resiliently than men. There’s a lot of evidence to support her case. 

A study by the National Federation of Independent Business found that small businesses owned by women outperformed male-owned small businesses during the last recession. In finance, women who switch firms are more likely to see their performance improve, whereas men are more likely to see theirs decline. There’s even evidence that women are better able to adjust to divorce. Today, more women than men see their incomes rise by 25 percent after a marital breakup. 

Forty years ago, men and women adhered to certain ideologies, what it meant to be a man or a woman. Young women today, Rosin argues, are more like clean slates, having abandoned both feminist and prefeminist preconceptions. Men still adhere to the masculinity rules, which limits their vision and their movement. 


If she’s right, then men will have to be less like Achilles, imposing their will on the world, and more like Odysseus, the crafty, many-sided sojourner. They’ll have to acknowledge that they are strangers in a strange land. 
David Brooks

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