Monday, October 31, 2011

Skin in the Game

Missionaries in southeast Africa write:

On Tuesday Rosa, who had just lost her home and everything she owned (except her plates and pots that were rescued from the fire), came to the meeting to pay her [microfinance] loan amount with burnt coins that she scavenged out of the ashes. . . . Our Ukhalira group gave a money gift to help her.  I’ve encouraged the believers in the group to show God’s love to Rosa. I was encouraged today as I heard that Rosa was refusing to follow traditional ways and her cousin’s demands to hire a man to have sex with Rosa to cleanse away the curse of the fire.

Um . . . yeah. I'm going to go out on a limb here and hypothesize that whoever put forward the notion that curses could be cleansed with retail sex, he was an interested party. Just sayin' . . . .

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Almost Done?


I seldom read or watch the “news”, and seldom believe what I hear or read when I do.  But an email from a friend in SWA gives me hope:

The military is grappling with accomplishing something that we don't train for, that we rarely do, and that is, frankly, confusing to us - wrapping up the mission. We train on how to initiate action, how to maintain continuity, progress, change course, and all kinds of things - but simply "stop" doing what we do is not in our vocabulary. I've asked who the next "enduring" point of contact is for projects - and I've received emails simply saying "no one." It's a novel experience.

A lot of people here are in denial - the mission is really ending?  Nobody seems to be able to just let go - everyone is driving hard to the very last day, minute, second.

This may be the real thing.

* Sunrise over the Aral Sea.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Yay Pandora!

Thanks to my mom, I just became acquainted with the free music service Pandora. For the uninitiated, Pandora asks you for an artist, album or track that you like, and then creates a custom virtual radio channel playing songs that are similar to it.

The thing is, Pandora's algorithm for determining similarity is good. Scary good. I haven't devoted much energy to familiarizing myself with the current crop of musicians in a while -- I listend almost exclusively to classical music on my car radio -- and it takes quite a bit for a group to penetrate my consiousness, let alone make my playlist. So, musically, I tend to listen to the same albums over and over.

Pandora saves me from the rut. For instance, one of my favorite CCM groups is Casting Crowns (and even here, the only album I had was Lifesong). So I gave Pandora "Casting Crowns", and it promptly served up tracks I hadn't heard before from my other favorite artists (Newsboys, Mercy Me) . . . and then proceeded to play the work of artists I hadn't even heard of and yet were perfectly pitched to my tastes, ie. not Creed, but not Amy Grant either (Chris Tomlin, Reuben Morgan). And it isn't repetitive: I've stopped and started the application several times and always hear a new set.

Similarly, my "Taylor Swift" channel played Carrie Underwood and introduced me to the group Boys Like Girls.

Pandora is available not only on a PC but on most smartphones, even the Pre. It plays happily in the background while you use other apps, pausing only for telephone calls. I may have to get myself a quality FM transmitter to replace the $10 one I bought a few years ago.

What a wondrous age in which we live!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Diversity is Strength! It’s also . . . corruption in public contracting.

From Sunday’s Dayton Daily News:

‘Disadvantaged’ firm wins millions in public contracts

Daily News investigation brings up questions of firm’s true ownership.

A wealthy developer, David C. Oakes, and his wife controlled a Washington Twp. company that won millions of dollars in public contracts under a federal program that gives a leg up to companies owned by disadvantaged people, a Dayton Daily News investigation found.

Developer and civil engineer David C. Oakes and his wife, luxury-home builder Shery B. Oakes, controlled TesTech Inc. for years while the engineering company sought lucrative tax-payer-funded contracts claiming Egyptian-American Sherif Adel Aziz of Washington Twp. was the owner, the Daily News found.

Egyptians are not a protected minority group under the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, or DBE, program.  However, Aziz gained entry into the program as an African-American, saying he could trace his heritage to an African Nubian tribe through his religion.

Let me explain how this worked ten years ago.  Businesses that achieve DBE status are allowed to win public contracts at up to 10% more money than the actual lowest bidder.  The reason I know this is because at a major Air Force installation on the Florida panhandle, the contract for base services had been held by the ManTech corporation for a number of years.  But one year, the contractors started identifying themselves by a new name (I forget what; doesn’t matter in this context).  It turned out that a DBE had gotten the contract, and then turned around and subcontracted the entire operation back to ManTech, taking a 10% cut for themselves and . . . well, just themselves actually.  The contract winner didn’t actually have any employees nor any interest at all in actually doing the work.  All they had was a Designated Victim who could overbid by the 10%.

Keep in mind, none of this was a secret.  It was apparently entirely lawful.

Continuing . . .

Federal and state officials are investigating possible violations of DBE law by Aziz and have questioned TesTech’s relationship with two other companies controlled by David and Shery Oakes:  CESO Inc. and Design Homes and Development Co., the Daily News has learned.

The newspaper's investigation, which followed a July 7 raid by FBI and federal transportation agents, uncovered a pattern of activities that raises questions about the true ownership of TesTech, and whether Aziz runs the company as he has repeatedly told government officials.

For example:

  • At the same time Aziz was seeking disadvantaged status in 2004 and calling himself the sole owner of TesTech Inc., Shery Oakes was telling a different government arm that she and David Oakes owned TesTech.  Shery, who like Aziz is an Egyptian-American, and David, who is white, are too wealthy to qualify for DBE status.
  • Shery Oakes was twice listed on 2007 campaign finance reports ad TesTech’s owner.  David Oakes also signed paperwork filed with the Ohio Department of Health as TesTech’s president years after it received DBE status.
  • Federal law requires that DBEs be independent from any other company to ensure that those qualifying for disadvantaged status actually run the business.  Yet a company owned by David Oakes, CESO Testing Technology, for years held federal and state licenses on equipment needed in TesTech’s work.  The two companies also had the same headquarters and shared letterhead, personnel and equipment.
  • The name TesTech appears interchangeably with CESO Testing Technology and CESO Inc. in documents the companies filed with government entities.  Some documents list David Oakes as Aziz’s boss.  And though CESO Testing Technology was doing business under the TesTech name in Ohio, it never filed the required registration with the state.
  • Neither Aziz nor the Oakeses agreed to be interviewed for this story, though in a prepared statement released Sept. 23 Aziz said, “I am currently and always have been the sole owner of TesTech Inc.”

    TesTech provides environmental assessments and a variety of engineering services that include drilling, field and laboratory testing and inspection work at construction sites.  The company’s public clients include Dayton International Airport; Dayton Public Schools; the county engineers in Montgomery, Warren and Greene counties; Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

    The company also won engineering work on federally funded highway projects, including reconstruction of Interstate 75 through downtown Dayton.  Private sector clients have included WalMart and Target.  According to its website, TesTech has 85 employees in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana and Missouri.

    The company reported annual sales in 2009 of $5.7 million, according to documents Aziz filed with the city of Dayton.

    The DBE program that TesTech used to win public contracts was meant to redress discrimination.  It gives small businesses owned by women, members of certain minority groups and other disadvantaged people preferential treatment in winning government contracts.

    The federal government has an “aspirational goal” of giving DBE companies 10 percent of contracts funded by the U.S. Transportation Department, said Steve Faulkner, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation, which administers the program in Ohio.

    “Having DBE status gives you a piece of the pie,” said Eric Chaffee, who chairs the Project for Law and Business Ethics at the University of Dayton Law School.

    Penalties for DBE fraud can range from fines and restitution to exclusion from federal contracts and even imprisonment.  The Transportation Department’s Inspector General in fiscal 2008 helped to obtain 67 federal indictments, 09 convictions, 104 administrative actions against companies and the collection of $544 million in fines and restitution.

    More recently, the g0vernment stepped up enforcement after the Government Accountability Office in 2009 and 2010 found fraud and abuse in other federal contracting set-aside programs. “The main group that gets hurt (by DBE fraud) is the DBE owners who aren’t fraudulent,” said Tim Lohrentz of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development in Oakland, Calif.  Fraud also puts legitimate contractors of all races at a competitive disadvantage, he said, and “it puts doubt in the public mind about the program as a whole.”

Can’t have doubt about the program, now can we.  How touching the concern about the harm to “legitimate contractors of all races”, when putting white contractors at a “competitive disadvantage” is the point of the whole freakin’ program!

Continuing . . .

Federal Raid

On July 7, federal agents executing a sealed warrant removed boxes from the Galleria building at 8534 Yankee St.  The building, which is owned by the Oakes-controlled Yankee Partners LLC, houses the headquarters of TesTech, CESO Inc., and Design Homes.

Aziz, in a statement released after the raid, said, “We have been in discussions with the DOT over the last few years, responding to their questions about our company and we have cooperated fully.”

Federal officials wouldn’t comment and have filed no charges.

The Montgomery County Republican Party also has its headquarters in the Galleria building, paying $1000 a month in rent.  Party Chairman Greg Gantt said he moved the headquarters there last year after seeking out a landlord who was supportive of the party.

The Oakeses and their companies are major political donors, contributing at least $79,700 since 2002 to the county GOP and mostly Republican national, state, and local candidates.

“I don’t see any real connection between whatever issues are going on with the Department of transportation and our leasing space from (the Oakeses),” Gantt said.  “Based on my personal knowledge with them and what personal conversations we have had, they have a conservative Republican philosophy and that’s why they are supportive (of Republicans).”

I tried looking up the Oakeses on, but all I could find was about $2500 in donations to congressman Mike Turner.

[Boring section about case details deleted.]

Continuing . . .

Minority heritage questioned

Ohio and federal transportation officials are moving to strip TesTech of its DBE status.  On March 18, ODOT sent a letter to Aziz giving him the reasons for the decertification:  Officials believe he is not a member of a recognized minority group, makes too much money to qualify and isn’t the true majority owner.

Aziz appealed the finding, signing the letter “president and Sole Shareholder” of TesTech.  A November hearing is expected.

Aziz won the DBE certification on appeal in 2005 after being turned down by the state in 1998 and 2004.

To be eligible for DBE status, companies must be at least 51 percent owned by socially and economically disadvantaged people, and those owners must be in control of day-to-day operations.  There are limits on a company’s gross receipts, and the personal net worth of a disadvantaged owner cannot exceed $1.3 million, an amount that was increased in January from $750,000.

Right.  Because having a net worth of six times the national median just isn’t enough.   The truly disadvantaged have a net worth ten times the median.

TesTech benefited greatly from its DBE status.  It’s impossible to know how much in taxpayer money the company was paid or how much it obtained as a DBE because TesTech did business with so many government entities.  But a Daily News review of area and state contracts found TesTech was paid at least $4.7 million since 2003 by the Ohio Department of Transportation, Montgomery County, the city of Dayton and Dayton Public Schools.

TesTech’s DBE status assisted it in getting much of that work, contract documents and interviews show.

Um . . . duh?  What would be the other reason to have DBE status?

Continuing . . .

TesTech was incorporated in Ohio in 1997 by local attorney James Weprin, who has incorporated various Oakes companies.  After being turned down as a DBE by the state of Ohio in 1998, the company gained limited DBE status in 2002 through the Columbus Airport Authority and a year later through the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.  After Ohio approved TesTech as a DBE in 2005 it was certified by Michigan and Kentucky.  Aziz withdrew TesTech from Michigan’s DBE program in 2009 and the company was decertified by Kentucky in 2010 after TesTech briefly dropped out of Ohio’s program.

Aziz, 49, holds bachelor’s and master's degrees in engineering, respectively, from Egypt’s Cairo University and Wright State University.  He was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1991.  Aziz and his wife, Dr. Nancy Zaki, own a $643,390 Washington Twp. home built on land they bought from Shery and David Oakes Ltd. in 2004 according to the Montgomery County Auditor.

Aziz gave sharply different versions of his net worth to two separate government entities last year.

In April 2010, when he applied for the city of Dayton’s set-aside programs for small, disadvantaged and minority businesses, he said he had a negative net worth of $46,145.  But when he reapplied in October 2010 for DBE status in Michigan, Aziz stated his net worth of $470,697.

I don’t see any reason to believe either of these numbers, but it says about the state of mortgage lending when an Egyptian immigrant can borrow that kind of money with so little capital.

[More boring case history deleted.]

Continuing . . .

The Oakeses live in their $2.3 million home in Washington Twp. where they hosted a major fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society, the Cattle Baron's Ball, in August 2010. Shery, 51, and her family emigrated from Egypt in 1965 and she was naturalized in the United States in 1974.  Her father, Bushra Migally, was a professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin, where Shery earned a bachelor's degree in business administration. In 1987 she established Design Homes and Development Co., the most high-profile of the couple's many companies. In 2007 reality TV star Anna Nicole Smith's lavish post-funeral reception was held at a $ 14.9 million vacation property in the Bahamas built by Design Homes and owned by Shery Oakes. It is not clear if she still owns the property. Shery also is chief executive of DHDC Inc., a real estate, construction and civil survey services company. She successfully applied for Minority Business Enterprise certification through the state for DHDC, stating she is an African-American. The MBE program, which does not place limits on personal net worth, opens doors to set-asides for public contracts but not the federally mandated access to the big pot of transportation money available to DBE companies.

In 2004 Shery sought state assistance for construction of a new headquarters for the various Oakes companies. In her application, she identified the "Oakes Companies" as CESO Inc., CESO Testing Technology, TesTech Inc. and Design Homes - "all owned by David and Shery Oakes."

"All of the Oakes Companies work hand in hand for each other in services,” she wrote in the application filed with the Ohio Department of Development. “No changes in ownership will occur.”

That same year Aziz applied for federal DBE status, telling ODOT he was the owner of TesTech.

Does anyone still get rich by creating value anymore?  Or is it always just value transference.

[More boring ownership history deleted.]

Concluding . . .

Troubling questions

Experts on DBE fraud say the results of the Daily News investi­gation raise troubling questions about the true ownership of Tes­Tech.

"It certainly sounds like you have an affiliation problem here," said Edward DeLisle, a Philadel­phia attorney who specializes in DBE fraud cases. "The highest officer has to be the disadvantaged person. It (the title of president) certainly would signify that he (Oakes) has control."

DeLisle said fraud in DBE con­tracts is becoming more common.

In today's down economy, "you're seeing companies, just to stay alive, creating companies run by people that claim to be disad­vantaged," he said. "Companies are getting desperate, especially in the construction industry where the private industry has pretty much dried up."

The U.S. Transportation Department's inspector general lists DBE fraud as its top priority. Common fraud schemes include use of front companies that do little or no actual work, or part­nering in illegal ways with DBEs, according to the IG website and a number of experts an the program.

"The biggest one we see is, they will hire somebody to be the designated minority or veteran," said Earl Gregorich, who heads the Small Business Devel­opment Center at Wright State University. "(It's) kind of a straw man situation. It’s the most com­mon because it's the easiest one to pull off."

Contact these reporters at (937) 225-7455 or and (937) 225-2264 or

Lynn Hulsey is an investigative reporter who covers government and politics for the Dayton Daily News. She is a graduate of the University of Dayton and has reported for the paper since 1995.

Tom Beyerlein has won state and national journal­ism awards for investigative business reporting.

Let’s review the yummy diversiness:

  • First generation immigrants claiming benefits for “discrimination;”
  • Politically connected real estate developers;
  • Racial redistribution at the expense of whites; and
  • Government corruption.

When I first heard of this story, I almost couldn’t believe it.  Not because the story is unlikely; on the contrary, it’s all too likely.  But rather because I usually read about this kind of thing at Half Sigma, or iSteve, or VDare.  But in fact, this one article is the only reporting in the country on the Oakes/Aziz connection, and the bulk of it is behind the Daily News subscriber firewall.  I only found out about it because I have friends in Ohio.  It’s almost as if the media don’t want us to know about corruption in DBE contracting.

What's a Fundamentalist?

The Inductivist points to Add Health study that measures the difference in property crime rates between religious fundamentalists and non-fundamentalists. The results are as I would have expected, but what grabbed my attention was the way fundamentalism was measured:

White Add Health respondents (sample size = 3,489) were asked, "Do you agree or disagree that the sacred scriptures of your religion are the word of God and are completely without any mistakes?"

This is a far better question than the one the GSS asks for similar purposes: going from memory, "Do you believe that the Bible is the Word of God and should be taken literally word for word?" Now, any educated Christian knows perfectly well that the Bible contains an abundance of allegory, metaphor, and analogy, none of which was intended to be taken literally; that's what those words are for. So they pick option two: "the Bible is the inspired word of God that should not be taken literally word for word." Which fuels Half Sigma's assertions that "religious" people are less intelligent. That said, and as Inductivist points out, there may be other evidence for the claim. But the GSS question is a poor way to measure it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

From the Archive: Infiltration of the Chaplaincy

From May 13, 2005 Washington Post:

DENVER, May 12 -- An Air Force chaplain who complained that evangelical Christians were trying to "subvert the system" by winning converts among cadets at the Air Force Academy was removed from administrative duties last week, just as the Pentagon began an in-depth study of alleged religious intolerance among cadets and commanders at the school.

"They fired me," said Capt. MeLinda Morton, a Lutheran minister who was removed as executive officer of the chaplain unit on May 4. "They said I should be angry about these outside groups who reported on the strident evangelicalism at the academy. The problem is, I agreed with those reports."

I did a bit of googling on Chaplain Morton at the time.  Turns out she had a paper trail.  Read the abstract of her paper submitted to the 30th Annual Conference of the Association for Moral Education (reproduced below) last year.

II. “Corruptive Interpretations of Institutional Culture Change; the Moral Consequences of Pervasive Christian Fundamentalism.”

Authors: Christopher J. Luedtke, United States Air Force Academy

Chaplain MeLinda Morton, United States Air Force Academy

Abstract: Religious belief systems and practices comprise morally forceful elements within a determinative cultural nexus. Nominally secular institutions, seeking to change institutional culture, must address the attendant power dynamic and articulated moral focus apparent within constitutive religious milieu. This paper examines contemporary articulations of American Christian Fundamentalism in an attempt to determine the potential change response of a cultural nexus inclusive of leaders and members espousing the moral grounding and religious perspective of Christian Fundamentalists. Particular to this consideration is the Fundamentalist moral response to gender integration within contemporary, federally funded, military undergraduate educational institutions.

But who is Chris Luedtke?  An instructor at USAFA sent me this tidbit:

Several Christian teachers here used to take out a "Christmas Card" ad in a December issue of the base paper.  We'd put in something along the lines of  "We believe Jesus is the reason for the season.  If you'd like to know more, feel free to contact one of us."

Suddenly this Luedtke guy started showing up at the CLM meetings (Christian Leadership Ministries) and told us he was just there "to monitor."  Along with him came the new chaplain, Whittaker I think his name was.  They ended up harassing us out of running the ad anymore.  They did their part to stop "Pervasive Christian Fundamentalism."

He’s still in, by the way.

Delenda Est Carthago:  connecting the dots since 2004.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

From the Archives: the Cult of Diversity



JUL 31 2005

SECAF/CSAF Letter to Airmen:  Diversity and the United States Air Force

To the Airmen of the United States Air Force,

     Today’s Air Force is composed of America’s finest men and women.  From all walks of life—rural farms, inner cities, and every place in-between—young Americans are drawn to the call of Integrity, Service and Excellence.  We celebrate this diversity, recognizing that such a mix of experience leads to a breadth of perspective and broader horizons, and ultimately innovative ways to maximize our combat capabilities for the Joint Team.

     Harnessing such magnificent differences into an effective, coherent team takes solid leadership,quality training and a conscious effort toward mutual respect on all our parts.  Tolerating harassment of any type is no different than committing the offense.  As we become a leaner, more lethal force, we simply have no place for such potentially criminal or divisive behavior.

     We are all Airmen, and under enemy fire the race, religion, sex or geographic origin of the Airmen fighting next to us is irrelevant.  We expect you to exhibit a similar whole-hearted respect toward your fellow Airmen – your Wingmen – wherever you work today.

     The United States’ first national motto, “E pluribus unum,” means “out of many, one.”  Initially, the motto referred to the formation of our great Nation for the thirteen colonies.  Is subsequently took on new meaning as people from all over the globe immigrated here, making the U.S. a multicultural “melting pot,”  Today, that phrase reminds us that we’re in this fight together.  Let’s make sure the efforts and innovations of all Airmen are welcomed and appreciated.  Your Nation demands no less.


Michael W. Wynne
Secretary of the Air Force


T. Michael Moseley
General, USAF
Chief of Staff

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hoarding Social Capital

I wound up the last post thusly:

I speculate that the motivation behind a lot of the animosity that socially adept kinds of people show towards PCC is precisely that they lose a lot of their social status and power when the rules get written down for everybody to learn equally.

As I thought more about it, I was reminded of one of Steve’s posts:

I want to note a social trend, that's reflective of a general theme: that in contemporary society, a lot of the rules for successful living aren't spelled out for people the way they used to be. This means that people who are smarter and/or raised in better social settings and/or naturally inclined toward successful life choices will still pick up the messages, but lots of other people won't . . . .

[C]onsider single motherhood and the term "bastard." A century ago, single motherhood was deterred, among other ways, by heaping opprobrium on the children of single mothers. That was cruel, but also pretty effective. Today, the term "bastard" has lost almost all connection with its original meaning. Nice people today would be shocked by the notion that society should discriminate against a child just because his parents weren't married. That's hardly the child's fault, now is it?

In fact, society is now deeply uncomfortable with the notion that we should be impolite to single mothers themselves . . . .

Not surprisingly, this decline in "preemptive discrimination" to deter single motherhood means we now have far more bastards. On the other hand, we don't see many bastards in the upper reaches of society, outside of celebrity bohemian circles. In fact, upper middle class life is evolving in directions that quietly but effectively discriminate against not just bastards, but also against the children of divorce . . . .

I suspect that people of ornery and/or impulsive dispositions inherited from their screw-up parents are less likely to make it to the upper reaches of society than in the past. In older times, parents with screw-up inclinations were more likely to be deterred by explicit social pressures against bastardy and divorces.

The whole thing is worth the read.  But I want to open the subject of the ethic of “non-judgmentalism” by way of example.

The LCMS church we attend is, for the most part, solidly middle class.  We do have a couple of families that are well-to-do yet have a family history here that keeps them coming back, and we also have a couple of, judging by their appearance, a couple of poor families.

The teenaged (I assume) daughter of one of those latter families attends sporadically.  She’s never particular well-dressed – thus I discern her socio-economic status – but one Sunday about a year ago her attire was especially egregious.  She was wearing a pair of cut-offs cut off too high.  And by too high, I mean high enough that if my own daughter were to wear them at the beach, I would probably say something.  But this girl was wearing them to a worship service.

This display bothered me enough that I brought it up, first to my wife, and then a few weeks later in the context of our Sunday school class.  (The class is heavily participatory and the discussion ranges widely; you can take my word that it was in a relevant context.)  I was unwilling to embarrass the young lady by name, but it was recent enough that I believed anybody who had seen her should have been able to figure out to whom I was referring.

What bothered me was my inability to get buy-in that somebody – and here I mean specifically one of the women in the church, since I have a vague sense that it would be inappropriate for me – should speak to this young lady in private and explain to her the standards of dress for Sunday churchgoing.  What I instead got was – at least among those who bothered to respond – was a vague appeal to the importance of being welcoming to all comers.  This bothered me because I know the daughters of these families and I know that they know what respectful attire looks like because they make sure that their own daughters abide with those norms.

Yet confronted with the opportunity to share that cultural capital with someone who didn’t have it – I am reasonably sure that the girl dressed as she did from ignorance rather than malice – everybody took a dive, and dressed up their hoarding in the language of non-judgmentalism.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

ISAF Pussy*

The unsung heros of ISAF HQ are the large number of cats that patrol the campus for vermin.  They receive no billeting for this service, but they do tend to congregate around the chow hall for some reason.

BouncyChow Hall Stakeout



* Why, what did you think I meant?  Pervballs.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Where the Line Is

Sofia writes:

Male-female friendships can work, but I don’t think they can be sustained with the kind of regular interaction you see with best friends. And, they usually don’t center around emotional substance. If I have to randomly assign a gender to someone with whom I would rather have an intellectual or abstract conversation, I would probably choose a man 9 times out of 10. Adversely, if I want someone with whom I could discuss something emotionally based, I would probably opt for a woman 90% of the time. I will go ahead and state that male-female friendships with that kind of heavy emotional content is boundary-crossing. If you have that kind of connection with the opposite sex — the kind usually sought out for romantic relationships — what is really prohibiting you from eventually f’ing this person?!

This put me in mind of a conversation I had with Trumwill a while back about Pensacola Christian College, a school that has achieved some notoriety for its heavily regulated social life.  Let me begin by saying that I am not an uncritical defender of PCC, whose enforcement mechanisms strike me as Orwellian, and Trumwill basically persuaded me that their lack of accreditation is less a bold statement of independence than yet another instrument of control.

Yet the people most inclined to point-and-sputter at PCC are not especially motivated by its lack of due process, to which they have evinced no particular attachment.  Rather, they are driven to hysterics by the rules themselves, and on that subject I stand by my comment at HitCoffee:

The actual student conduct standards are on pp 31 - 33 of the student guide. My reading is that they are on the right side of the bell curve when it comes to evangelical Christian colleges, but they’re still on that curve. And now that I think about it, I’m not sure they would have made much difference to me personally. Restrictions on music? I already listen to classical and Christian contemporary. No movies? I didn’t see many anyway (I couldn’t afford them either in time or money.) Don’t dress like a slob (or a slut)? This is just the grown-up dress code we all follow now without being told, so I might as well have got started in college.

No touching? A nerd’s paradise! Seriously, nothing sux to a guy without a girlfriend like watching that guy flaunt his higher status.

I would elaborate that while it’s easy to make sport of PCC’s nitpicky rules once we see them written down in black and white, any socially mature adult carries around a vastly more complex mental schema governing his social interactions, especially interactions with the opposite sex.  I would further assert as generalities that this is more true of women than of men, and even more true of those whose lifestyles resemble that of a Sofia or, once, a Sheila Tone, than of those whose lifestyles resemble that of Dr. Φ.  I bet either of them could explain exactly the socio-sexual distinction between, for example, speaking with a fellow student while walking to class and stopping to speak with him.

Indeed, my own lack of intuition in this regard was brought home to me recently in a conversation I had with Mrs. Φ.  For reasons I cannot recall, we were comparing the relative attractiveness of the young woman I mentioned at the end of this post and her older sister.  I expressed my preference for the older sister, my wife expressed hers for the younger.  But the conversation wound up like this:

Mrs. Φ:  “Anyway, older sister is just weird.  She’s got bizarre ideas about vaccinations [she’s against them] and diet.  And she lacks social grace.  She’s loud and uncouth.  All the women at church thought so.”

Φ [hotly]:  “That is so not right!  Even were I to concede the merely physical component of the comparison – and I don’t – older sister has vastly more social self-possession than younger sister.  Older sister always greeted me warmly whenever we saw each other while we lived there and especially when we’ve visited since.  Younger sister pretty much ignored me the whole 2 1/2 years.

Mrs. Φ:  “Maybe that’s true, but the circumstances were different.  Older sister is married, you are friends with her husband, we got together in groups at Bible study.  Younger sister is single, and single women DO NOT FRATERNIZE with married men.  It just isn’t done.”

Φ:  “Well . . . first of all, that rule sux.  And second of all, in this particular comparison, the difference went beyond context.  Older sister would stop and talk to me even when we were just milling around in the sanctuary, and what’s more, she seemed genuinely happy to do so.  Younger sister, in contrast, never said word one to me even when the context would seem to allow it.  I remember one specific instance when she was minding the nursery and I came  to collect Γ.  You’d think that I would at least get a ‘good morning,’ but no.  Not.  Word.  One.  The effect was not a positive one.

Mrs. Φ:  “Don’t you think that you might be a trifle oversensitive to this kind of thing given your, um, social background?”

Φ:  “Maybe.  But I know the difference between nice and not-nice.  I pick nice.”

On the other hand, it occurs to me that there are two specific advantages of a heavily-regulated place like PCC for someone like me:  I wouldn’t have to guess about what the social rules are, and I would have less opportunity to take things personally.

Less charitably, I speculate that the motivation behind a lot of the animosity that socially adept kinds of people show towards PCC is precisely that they lose a lot of their social status and power when the rules get written down for everybody to learn equally.