Sunday, August 30, 2015

So, Female Adultery is Okay Now?

Although I never actually watched the movie, I have the impression that the release of the movie Bridges of Madison County was attended with some controversy, and it required strenuous efforts on the part of the intelligentsia to assure us how empowering (or something) adultery was for women.  But I strain to recall having seen or heard about subsequent movies whose female protagonist cheated on her husband and that the movie celebrated this.  The movies I can think of – Unfaithful, Chloewith unfaithful wives uniformly carried the message that adultery was, you know, bad; those two in particular carried the message that it was dangerous, much in the way Fatal Attraction presented the dangers of male adultery.

Has the zeitgeist shifted more decisively in favor of adulterous wives?  It may be coincidence, but I happened to have caught two movies in the last couple of months that celebrated adulterous heroines:  This Is Where I Leave You, with Tina Fey cheating on her workaholic husband with the high school boyfriend she broke up with when he was brain damaged in a car accident; and The Best of Me, with Michelle Monaghan cheating on her workaholic husband with the high school boyfriend she broke up with when he went to prison.  I note that in neither movie was the wife intending to divorce her husband (although both movies make the eventual outcome ambiguous).  She just wanted a little extra-marital action.

Neither of these movies are very good.  TIWILY presents its progressive family as the cliché I identified back in this post, and it strains unsuccessfully to reconcile its approval of Fey’s adultery with Justin Bateman’s character being the victim of his wife’s adultery.  TBoM, meanwhile, avails itself of almost every movie cliché every invented, and it’s kind of distracting when you can see the plot lines coming a mile away.  But the point is that the movie presented this kind of behavior as okay if it makes women happy.*

Neither of these movies generated even the least bit of controversy that I heard about, and this strikes me as something new.  Mrs. Φ said she is surprised that I’m surprised at the moral degeneration of popular culture.  But I see enough of it to know when it ratchets downward.

* Popular culture – or at any rate its purveyors – doesn’t seem to extend this indulgence to men.  I can’t even think of a recent movie celebrating the adultery of a married man.  Relatedly, I have the vague impression that media opinion was really on the fence about the Ashley Madison hack until Gizmodo revealed that virtually all of its distaff accounts were zombies. Ashley Madison was only cool when it was “empowering” women; now that it’s a hangout for desperate men, it suffers the obloquy of being a late-nite punchline.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Wrong Hermeneutic

Leon Wolf (via Ace) writes:

As a conservative . . .

Really? I've never even heard this guy's name before, but let's see what he has to say:

. . . who has advocated for criminal justice reform, I have a lot of admiration for the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which has been remarkably effective at raising awareness of the myriad ways that black Americans are treated differently — or, put more bluntly, treated worse — by law enforcement.

So, already we're off the rails. I say this as a conservative who has himself been critical of the police: their methods are characterized by excess aggression, poor accountability, and insufficient regard for the Constitutional rights of American citizens. But I have no sympathy at all for criticisms centered around "disparate impact" analysis, and for two very good reasons: (1) it's factually wrong; and (2) it doesn't contribute to my well-being.

As the experience of, most prominently, Martin O'Malley at the Nut-Roots convention demonstrate, the #BlackLivesMatter movement isn't motivated by the desire to improve police behavior in a disinterested way. It is motivated by the desire to socially and politically validate black racial grievance, and his claims to conservatism notwithstanding, Wolf buys into this motivation.* His analysis may be more sophisticated than the crude slogan -- "Po-po b' raciss'!" of the street, but his column is about the structural racism of "Big Government". Nowhere does this "conservative" mention the easily observed and incontrovertible reality of disproportionate black criminality and anti-social behavior. I don't have a firm fixed opinion about whether "loosies" should be sold legally by street peddlers in NYC, whether parking and traffic laws are in all cases constructive or the fines for their offenses onerous, or whether the drug laws and their associated sentences are socially optimum. Indeed, I can understand the arguments on both sides of these questions. But I am sure, by common experience, that blacks run afoul of these laws in the numbers they do, not by some conscious or unconscious discrimination on the part of the police or in the structure of the law, but rather by the inability or unwillingness on the part of black Americans to observe the standards of behavior expected by their fellow citizens.

Believing otherwise is unlikely to end well. We already see what disparate impact analysis did in the Wells Fargo lending prosecution: Wells Fargo allowed its loan officers to charge not-smart borrowers above-market interest rates, but the government didn't bring a case on behalf of not-smart borrowers. It brought the case only on behalf of not-smart black borrowers, and only the black borrowers received redress in the eventual settlement. The white not-smart borrowers? The government sent them away empty-handed.

I'm not interested in these kinds of settlements. I'm not interested in a world where the police continue the violate with impunity our rights under the First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments, where we have no right of self-defense against those violations, where the legal system itself refuses to vindicate those rights, and where vindication, even when possible, is lengthy, expensive and uncertain . . . BUT where the police structure their violations such that blacks and whites are victimized in equal proportion to their percentages of the population. Because THAT is the likely outcome of admiration for #BlackLivesMatter.

* Wolf links to a Ken Cuccinelli column that considers the effects of drug sentencing reform, mostly in Texas. The column is too vague for me to understand what trade-offs might have been involved, but to be fair to Wolf, it's apparently an example of the kind of changes he has in mind.