Monday, December 5, 2011

The Most Feminist Muslim in Britain, Shaista Gohir

This is the post that someone made a false copyright claim against.  That is, after checking it appears that neither the author or The Times, entities with claim to copyright, made the complaint. Regardless, after I heard back from Stephanie Marsh, the author, I did not hear anything further.  I have left this as a draft for a while, but have now removed more of the excerpt, as the complaint was I used too excerpted too much of the original article.  


The Times paywall is a pain. Here is the link for subscribers. Here is an excerpt for everyone else:

By her own admission, forced marriage is not a subject that many British Muslims want Shaista Gohir to be talking about. But here she is at a conference in Birmingham where Gohir, a married mother of three with Pakistani roots and a degree in chemistry and physics, is to deliver a lecture on “taboo issues”.
Because Gohir is known to be more or less the only outspoken Muslim feminist in Britain today, the conference organisers have given her free rein — and she has decided not to pull any punches: as well as forced marriage, her chosen subjects today are homosexuality, child abuse, polygamy (“It’s on the rise in this country”), female genital mutilation and mental health — all subjects that, she reminds her audience, are not considered taboo in the wider British culture....
Friday night, the BBC News. Gohir has been asked to comment on women’s dress. She is defending their right to wear the veil. Later, she receives several e-mails. “How dare you come on national TV in full Western attire?” reads one. “Your head was not covered, you had lipstick and make-up on.”...
Later she tells me that she finds it frustrating how introverted Muslim girls can be. Yet it doesn’t surprise her: “We grow up with the idea that women can’t do this, can’t do that. The list of can’ts goes on and on. Where is the list of things women can do? As a Muslim girl you’re never told. Whatever the question, the answer is always no.”
In a way it feels odd calling Gohir a feminist. Many of the things she argues for — that women have a right to go to university, say, or that they should not be subjected to domestic violence — have long been taken for granted in mainstream British society. Not so in some Muslim communities, she says. It’s like a parallel universe....
Yet conservative extremists in liberal countries such as Britain have been advancing their agendas. “I mean,” says Gohir, “the idea that women need male chaperones — we’re moving back towards that in this country. I can’t believe it’s happening. In other countries women are fighting to take off the veil; in Britain they are fighting to put it back on again.”
I first met Gohir three years ago. Then, as now, she ran the Muslim Women’s Network, the aim of which is to educate Muslim women about their rights and supply the information they need, especially about Islamic texts, “to think for themselves”. I was fascinated by the amount of research she had undertaken and impressed by her sense of humour, passion and pragmatism (“I’ll stick my head above the parapet. If you want to make a difference you have to be prepared to take risks”).
At the time she had just returned from a Foreign Office trip to Egypt. Over coffee, she laughingly recounted an argument she’d had with a British imam: “He told me that most inhabitants of Hellfire were women. To back up this claim he quoted a Hadith (Hadiths are accounts of the words and deeds of the Prophet, categorised as strong, ie, likely to be accurate, or weak, ie, likely to have been made up). But I immediately said, ‘That’s a weak hadith. You shouldn’t quote that or you end up misleading people’.”
Gohir reminded the imam about a verse in the Koran that describes the inhabitants of Hell, “and nowhere does it say that there are more women than men”. The imam then began to list his intellectual credentials. “He was trying to make me feel unsure about my knowledge. But I was sure! So I kept pressing him, and eventually he admitted that it was a weak Hadith. ‘Well then,’ I said, ‘You shouldn’t have quoted it. It doesn’t make sense anyway — if you look at what’s happening around the world, most atrocities are carried out by men.”....
She grew up in Northampton and was the only Muslim girl she knew to go to university. Her mother worked as a seamstress in shoe and clothing factories, and Gohir knew instinctively that she wanted more for herself. By the time she met her husband-to-be (she describes him as a progressive Muslim), she was working in environmental health. But then her thoughts of a career evaporated. “When I was 30,” she laughs, “I just wanted to get married, have children and be a housewife. I didn’t have any ambitions about women’s rights.”
That changed once she had given birth to her three children. “In my mid-thirties I began to feel rather bored,” she says. “I’m a bit of a thinker.”
The was in 2003, two years before the July bombings in London and before Muslim extremism rose up the political agenda. Being at home a lot, Gohir often watched the TV news “and it would just be Muslim men commenting on Muslim issues. I kept thinking, ‘Where are the women?’ ”
She also found it frustrating that the Labour Government “engaged only with one or two prominent Muslim men, mainly from the Muslim Council of Britain.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Han Shot First: a self-serving screenwriter strikes again, Breaking Dawn

So I finally got to see Breaking Dawn and have a couple of observations, most of which only use the movie as illustration.  That is, this isn't a movie review.
My long standing annoyance with screenwriters messing with stories got a stir.

I take apart a Rosenberg interview on writing the abortion dilemma below. As mentioned, I didn't find Rosenberg's edit nearly as clear cut after watching. As a practical matter, whether Bella doesn't see a choice or makes a choice, without Bella's inner monologue from the book, the difference is not noticeable. The whole idea in the book was that Bella is in love with her husband and instantly recognizes that the baby is the product of their union and something to be desired.

Director Codon is a man. Screenwriter Rosenburg has no children. Neither recognize that in most circumstances pregnancy is a blessing. And they certainly don't understand that many women's reactions to pregnancy destroy the notion of "choice."

There is a reason, besides allegations of mass cougardom, that women my age love the book. Stephenie Meyer knows what it feels like to be a mother. We read the chapter when Bella learns she is pregnant, and completely understood it. Sometimes the transition to protective momma is that quick, and that soon. Women are often struck by how quickly they become mothers. Guys and single women think it happens when the baby is born, but often it happens the second you learn you are pregnant.

Rosenburg, in her need to serve herself rather than the story, has excised that element of Bella's character and reduced the pregnancy line to mere personal desire on Bella's part. Ironic that the leftist feminist is the one to gut Bella's strength, but of course feminists only see strength in acting for the self, being true to the self. And here is where feminism and so many other Sixties -isms fail. Strength doesn't lie in service of the self.

Rosenberg's self serving edits probably explain why the movies aren't nearly as good as the books, either. She's editing concepts that she doesn't understand. Cultivated relativists, Hollywood intelligentsia simply can't write myth. Why is Hollywood reduced to remaking comic books, cartoons, and critically slammed novels?  Because those are the last places the chattering classes have looked to spread relativism.  

Joseph Campbell was right about the abiltiy of an archtype to propel a story forward. Deviate too far from the redemed rogue or the self-sacrificing hero and the archetype looses it's power to propel. This is one of the few advantages conservatives have left in pop culture. We can still write archtypes. And that is how Mormon Stephanie Meyer and Anglican JK Rowling fired up the book presses. They wrote the stories that sprang, almost fully formed into their heads. That is why SM can say that she didn't set out to make a political statment. She set out to tell the story in her head.  Rosenburg set out to make the political statement.  

The intelligentsia fancy that that can 'improve' the simpletons and capitalize on the successes. They don't see that they eviscerate the story in the process.  And don't get me started on beautiful writing for beautiful writing's sake.

A final note, it is one thing to see Kristen Stewart mention that their honeymoon scene had to be recut because it earned the film an R rating. It is a bit creepy, however, to see interviews with Melissa Rosenburg and Bill Codon making the same point with a wait for the DVD hint. Its kinda like 'wait for the DVD for a Robsten sex tape.' It creeps me out.

From a screenwriter Rosenburg and director Codon interview, I note: [comments in red mine]

The Movie’s Alleged “Pro-Life” Message 
Rosenberg: I am rabidly pro-choice and very much a feminist, and I would not have taken this book on if it was in some way going to violate my beliefs. No amount of money would have done it. And the book is very much Stephenie’s point of view, so I had to find out how I could tell this story without violating my own beliefs, and without violating Stephenie’s. So simply translating the book to screen isn't an option for her.  She had to bend the story to her beliefs.  Fans find this annoying.  Conservatives find it par for the course.  I really struggled with it. I talked it out with my sister, who is an ACLU feminist lawyer, and she pointed out that having a child is a choice, and that’s something that gets lost very often in the debate. So that was my way in.  Pro choice is their mantra, yet the fact that carrying a pregnancy to term is a choice is often forgotten.  I've been discussing this "choice feminism" over at the Dissenting Justice blog.  Prof. Hutchinson thinks that "choice feminism" is the main feminism.  But here someone like Rosenburg had to be reminded that choice might mean a woman makes a choice that she, herself, would not.  Yes, she came around to that view, but it wasn't her instinct.  
Condon: For both Melissa and me, that’s an area of discomfort. Talking to Stephenie, it was never her intent to make a political statement there. People see it as an abstinence parable, then she has sex, and pregnancy is the punishment for having sex, The complications of the fine distinction between punishment and simple consequences: pregnancy is a common, often sought, outcome of sex, not a punishment.  Conservatives are often dismayed by the pro-choice proponents often reflexive assumption that pregnancy is bad. Sure, in some circumstances it is not desirable, but it isn't punishment.  It is natural consquences.  which I think is reading too much into it. It’s Bella’s stubborn sense throughout the films of always knowing what’s right for her that’s crucial here and not any political position. 
Rosenberg: In the book, Bella doesn’t believe she has a choice; she’s going to have this baby at the expense of her own life. In the movie, that’s not the case. She honestly believes that she is going to survive this. Since I read this interview before watching the movie, I was looking for this distinction.  It isn't really there.  At first Bella thinks she might survive, but later knows she won't likely live, to the point that she tells Edward that he will at least have part of her, the baby, with him.  In fact, book-Bella is far more optimistic about her chances than movie-Bella.  I have friends on the right who have seen it who say, “Oh, this is a very pro-life movie,” and I have friends on the left who have seen it who say, “Oh, you really altered that point of view for the movie.” Bella says aloud, “It’s not your decision. It’s not any of yours.” And Edward says, “You chose this. You decided this without me. I don’t choose this.” It’s very much debated throughout.  As mentioned, I don't think the issue was further debated in the movie than the book.  I did notice something sadly common about this "my choice, not yours" attitude.  In deviation from the book, Bella does tell everyone it is no one eles's choice but hers.  Shortly thereafter, Edward, who has been angry with Bella for choosing to leave him through certain death, apologizes to Bella for leaving her alone in this, for not being there for her.  All too often in modern relationships, men are simply supposed to accept the dictates of women.  Women on the other hand are damn well entitled to Bitch status: a lover, a child, a mother, a sinner, a saint, who does not feel afraid.  We aren't going to change.  We aren't going to do anything for you.  (Continuing with the pop music analogies, we won't even write you a love song.)  You are a pig if you don't accept us just the way we are, but you had still better be there to support us.  A bit of a raw deal, no?  


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Domestic Feminism?

A few days ago, I posted on a discussion in another blog about feminist views of domestic lives.  The blogger, Dissenting Justice, contended that feminism has never devalued domesticity.  I disagreed.  My last comment is long enough to be a stand alone post.  So from Dissenting Justice's comment thread: 


One of the foundational tomes of feminism, The Feminine Mystique implied that a women doing housework was like a mindless animal. That’s hardly a ringing endorsement of domestic work, and Betty Friedan spent considerable time in her later years trying to rehabilitate domestic lives which had shockingly, to her at least, been abandoned by women. (I think Jonah Goldberg said it best when describing some sixties advances. They sought to burn out undesirable elements of our culture but couldn’t manage a controlled burn and scorched the landscape instead.) 

More recently, Linda Hirshman made quite a fuss about the damage wrought by what she saw as the newly fashionable and immoral “choice feminism,” which is the feminism you describe. Hirshman and some of the older line feminists think that the women of Gen X forward are betraying the cause by wearing high heels, embracing the “lavender menace” (their term, not mine), and staying at home with children. It is immoral for PhD’s to wipe butts. You can see similar themes from rank and file feminists in the pop culture examples I mentioned, and I’ll get you a few links soon as I’m finishing up my post on the movie and will find some examples, I’m sure. 

Beyond the blunt Linda Hirshman types, the take home message of even choice feminism is that a domestic life is beneath intelligent, educated women. It condescends, as Chronicler so aptly noted. (I forgot I had another take on domestic work here.)

Look at the lives of modern women. Why do we seek advanced degrees, delay marriage, and childbearing, sometimes to the point of impossibility?  Because we are told from an early age to establish our careers, to experience life ourselves, to do our thing before becoming tied down by a child. Why are children often viewed as a burden, pregnancy as punishment? Because they keep us from doing things which are implicitly better. Why did we even coin the term 'stay at home mom'?  Because, among other things, the domestic flavor of the word ‘housewife’ was degrading. 

From childhood on, we have been told by parents, teachers, and peers that we can be anything we want to be. We were encouraged to get advanced degrees, to do something more than mere domestic or traditionally female anything. To do otherwise was a waste of our life. My dad, hardly a left leaning guy, arranged an intervention when I wanted to be a nurse because it was too domestic. It involved changing “bed pans and bedsheets.” Women who get married before 28 are pitied. Others who might desire to leave work when they have children are paralyzed by worries that they will be bored. Girlfriend interventions are often scheduled then. The idea, the “click” moment of that a domestic life is mind-numbing--its in the water supply. It informs everything modern women do.

In the feminist world, a domestic life is a second rate life, and only among young feminists is it accepted for the sole purpose of child rearing, by the way. (A quick search turned up this illustrative gem.) As the article that so annoyed you took pains to point out, she was home for her children’s nutrition and education. She focused on one of the creative tasks of domestic work, cooking. Had she mentioned anything about being home also to make sure the toilets got cleaned or that she wasn’t too tired to engage in maintenance sex, she would have become a pariah--among women.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A parent review of Hill House International Junior School, London, England

As of late November, London is finishing up assessment season, when children at the ripe age of 4 have interviews for private, i.e. not state run, primary schools.  Offers come quickly, as do decision deadlines.  So while few in the US read blogs over Thanksgiving week, I offer this parent review of Hill House International Junior school in Chelsea.  

UPDATE October 2012, after a year and a term back in the States: Everything I have written about Hill House's superior education below, I believe even more firmly now. The foundational education that my son received in three years of Hill House eclipses the foundation his sisters have received here. My eldest daughter did kindergarten back to back, reception at Hill House and kindergarten in Texas, and the difference was stark as well as discouraging. The fault line is not US v UK academic instruction, though the UK is not as in thrall to early academic testing that has eviscerated US early education. The fault line lies on how we teach children. We don't educate children. We teach them to complete tasks. The lucky children are the ones taught to complete those tasks themselves.  I will revisit most of these issues in articles at PJMedia (I'm now a freelance writer) starting with  an upcoming review of Camille Paglia's Glittering Images. It is a remedial art history book that she wrote for homeschooling parents so that they could provide the rich education that we were fortunate to have for a few years in London. 
The short take: We moved back to Houston because our entire family, both sides, lives here.  Yet despite such significant ties, every day I question whether I have done the right thing by my children in moving home and leaving Hill House.  I knew the school was a rare gem while I was there.  I really had no idea how much of an oasis from modern parenting chaos it was until I had to go somewhere else.    

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tales from Pop Radio

I only listen to the radio in the car.  Since I never drove in London, I lost touch with pop music.  I did stream KGSR sometimes (the best music radio station in the world and it has live streaming), but otherwise I was cut off from new music.  You might think that a blessing, but I like doing pop culture analysis.  Therefore, a few random observations from a few months in the car.  
Lady GaGa has a better voice than Madonna, though her fans, or a small number of her fans, lack qualities to be desired.  Regardless of their insults to Adele, however, voice-wise she can mop the floor with Lady GaGa.  The attacks make me like her more frankly.  I first found Adele on my KGSR stream about a year ago.  I had no idea she was so popular over here.  She’s beautiful, confident, and pure talent.  What is not to like?
Katy Perry’s Friday might be the most morally vacant song I have ever heard.  It is a hard call with the also popular Pumped Up Kicks (see comment 'I used to think this was a song about shoes!'), but I think she inches it out because Friday speaks to ordinary people, not sick psychopaths.  
The first time I heard it, Rebecca Black’s Friday popped into my head.  From the video it seems that she intended the comparison.  Rebecca Black is the friend that does the makeover: 

Perry’s Friday is just as vapid, complete with the “TGIF’ chant to match the days of the week recital. Only Perry’s Friday is not at all innocent. It aspires to the traditional party girl, Girl Power, ‘do it because it feels good’ meme.   Alanis Morissette’s You Learn is my favorite of this meme because it recognizes that ‘to learn’ is why mistakes are valuable.  ("Why do we fall, Master Wayne?”  Whoops.  Crossing the pop culture streams.) P!nk’s Bad Influence looses the value of learning from mistakes but at least sees some value in occasionally cutting loose.  That is, in both of those songs, and most others in the meme, the mistakes have some sort of purpose towards good.  
But in Perry’s Friday, an “epic fail” is just what you do on Friday.  Next Friday you will “do it all over again.”   There is no sense of consequence.  There is no sense of redemption. It is supposed to be an upbeat party song, but it is stunningly depressing, the mundane consequences of Nietzsche’s philosophy reduced to a peppy beat.   
UPDATE: I first saw the video when writing this post.  I've had a day to digest the video and now wonder if Perry intends to endorse the moral vacancy or damn it.  My guess is the former, but I don't know enough about Perry to be sure.  
There is a country song for everything, and I do mean everything.  There’s home grown tomatoes (one of only two things that money can’t buy) and crime and punishment (I thought of linking to that song over the summer, but that is the sort of humor conservatives aren’t permitted to do.  Willie himself is liberal, and Toby Keith has only donated to a Republican recently).  Recently we have everything from breast cancer to red Solo cups (the plastic disposable cups?  Yep.  Those are the ones.)  Now, I am proud to present to my British audience and Texpat, who is homesick, with Camouflage: 
You can blend in in the country/you can stand out in the fashion world/be invisible to a white tail/and irresistible to a redneck girl


It's right up there with Ra Ra Rasputin.  You need the lyrics for full effect:
Kevin wasn't really all that popular in school
But I remember well when I thought that guy is pretty cool
He pulled into the parking lot and everybody cheered
Because he had gone and painted his Chevy Cavalier 
Camouflage
Camouflage it disappears when it pulls out of his garage
Camouflage-Camouflage 
I asked Penny to the prom and her mom knew how to sew
so she made a matching tux and gown from Duckline Mossy Oak
We took pictures in the backyard before we went to the dance
And the only thing you can see is our faces and our hands 
Camouflage, Camouflage
Camouflage you seen have seen the way it popped with her corsage
Camouflage, Camouflage, ain't nothing that doesn't go with Camouflage 
You can blend in in the country
you can stand out in the fashion world
being invisible to a white tail and irresistible to redneck girl 
Camouflage, Camouflage
Oh you're my favorite color Camouflage 
You can blend in in the country
you can stand out in the fashion world
being invisible to a white tail and irresistible to redneck girl 
Well the stars and bars offends some folks and I guess I see why
nowadays theres still a way to show your southern pride
the only thing is patriotic as the old red white and blue
is green and gray and black and brown and tan all over too 
Camouflage, Camouflage
designed by mother nature and by God
Camouflage, Camouflage
Oh you're my favorite color Camouflage

Monday, November 7, 2011

But you seem so normal.

Comrade C and his family came to London. As per my usual, I took them to tea at the place with the nude in mosaic. The girls are in high school. They are Christian and conservative and sadly accustomed to the "but you seem so smart/normal/nice/well informed" remarks.
Such comments are common conversation topics when conservatives get together. I told them about the recent, "I can't believe my best friend is a Republican." article in Salon. Read the whole thing, but this bit caught my attention:
When I moved to Los Angeles, the 2004 election had just finished ravaging the neighborhood. Friendships had ended over differences of opinions, a few marriages had learned what they were made of when one couldn't abide what hadn't been that big of a deal before 9/11. And so when I met Janet, she was on the defensive. That first dinner at her house, someone brought up her Republicanism. I looked down into my soup, sure this was something we shouldn't talk about. I don't remember the comment, or Janet's reply, but I remember my husband asking why she'd be friends with all these liberals -- and yes, it was only liberals at the table -- if she felt so strongly. Throwing her hands up, she said, "I guess I lack the courage of my convictions."
But it's not that. I don't speak for Janet, but I think there's something deeper at play. Janet's willingness to associate with so many liberal friends -- though I know she seeks refuge in chat rooms and magazines that share her beliefs -- makes her a better and more interesting person. She has her beliefs challenged constantly. She is more well-read and educated in her politics than most of the liberals I know. Too many liberals I know are lazy, they have a belief system that consists of making fun of Glenn Beck and watching "The Daily Show." Shouldn't their beliefs be challenged, too?
I won't quibble with Taffy's conclusion about liberals needing to be challenged, but she is wrong about the reason for her friend's comment.  She missed, or avoided, that her friend's comment about courage of her convictions was ironic. Her friend doesn't lack the courage of her convictions. In a moment of frustration, she was accusing liberals of lacking the courage of theirs.*  

Liberals tell us that they are the most open and tolerant, yet it is the liberal Janet who can't look her friend in the eye and missed the subtle jibe that refusing to socialize with the Other is hardly courageous.  It is the friend who is willing to sit amongst the Other, willing to have her beliefs challenged, willing to calmly explain and defend her beliefs to someone who sometimes won't even look her in the face. It is the friend who will have to endure the common smear that conservatives are so intolerant that we must find it difficult to associate with people with whom we disagree--while we sit amongst those with whom we disagree.

We conservatives know of liberal contempt. Liberals should not imagine that they hide it well. When the friend seeks refuge in chat rooms and magazines, I assure you that the topic of the left's impressive irony resistance capabilities comes up from time to time. Sometimes we get weary.  But we pick up and carry on. After all, we aren't going to win any hearts or minds by crying on a pillow or preaching to the choir.

In related links, Another heartless conservative (last item)
If you want intolerance, move to California.  (h/t Instapundit)

*Note, we conservatives do respect the courage that people like Taffy have. We know how our liberal friends have to defend themselves and, perhaps, to keep us separate from their other friends. Some are braver than others, of course, but we know they come under fire for associating with us. The effort does not go unnoticed.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Romney Can't Win


It was a very clever move by the media to wait for a Perry supporter to comment on Romney’s religion.  Now the media can start incessantly reminding us all that Romney is a Mormon while making it sound like the other guys have the problem. 
Despite the conventional wisdom that centrist/moderate Romney has a harder road in the primaries but has the best chance of beating Obama, Obama’s people and the press want a Romney candidacy because the big secret they are guarding is that Romney is the one they can beat.  Sure, if Perry got the nomination, they’d go for Bush comparisons, but the facts will only allow those comparisons go so far and many people might realize that they were better off economically and the world was a calmer place under Bush.  They make noises like they want such easy pickings, but only to throw us off.  Those pickings aren’t that easy.  In many ways, Cain is worse for them.  His biggest weakness is his lack of political experience, but Team Obama doesn’t want to make that argument too often lest they turn to stone in the reflection.  But Romney, they have an ace in the hole: his political history makes conservatives wary of him and his religion will make independents wary of him.  
Most discussions about how Romney’s religion plays in the general focuses upon evangelicals, of which Pastor Jeffress comment was an example.  Obviously there is some truth to the issue, especially in the West where Mormon history is more contentious.  But, for we evangelicals, I think Romney’s religion will matter less than expected.  The Dallas pastor, he made the comment because his flock is less bothered than he thinks they should be.  
Why?  Partially because Mormons are less strange to us.  We see some common ground with Mormons and points to admire, even if we disagree with major tenants of their faith.   Also, Mormons are increasingly mainstream.  We know Mormons.   Incredibly successful pop culture people are Mormon.  
But for the sought after moderates, independents, socially liberal/economically conservative voter, Mormonism is strange.  To those who think all religion a cult, Mormonism is what the cults think is a cult.  (This article and comment thread is from The Telegraph and so, one assumes, has mostly Brits commenting, not Americans.  I find, however, that  Telegraph reading Brits are a decent stand in for the moderates, independents, socially liberal/economically conservative American voter.)    
With Romney, Team Obama will have their cake and eat it too.  Conservatives will be apathetic about Romney because he’s never been a conservative. (An example of this concern from today.)  Moderates and assorted disillusioned liberals will not cross over to vote for Romney because they will be too afraid of what a Mormon would do now that he’s trying to be conservative.  If the press can stoke that fear enough, they might even be able to put some fire back into the disillusioned left.  ‘Sure Obama is a disappointment, but we can’t let that guy win.’ 
The media has stoked fear of Christians for decades.  This will be easy pickings.  That they will blame the fear on the right, that will just be bonus.   

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I’m not cut out for blogging breaks.  I’m trying, and I certainly didn’t plan on posting on 9/11, but sheer asininity keeps finding me.  This time it is a Daily Mail article using not just 9/11, but vivid horror of the jumpers of 9/11 to perpetuate the stereotype of Americans as backward religious or patriotic nuts.  
The author baldly suggests that Americans are “airbrushing” the jumpers from history because we religious nuts think suicide is a sin, or cowardice.  From original posting, the 10th, to now, the evening of the 10th, I suspect the editors at the Daily Mail thought the theory a bit of a reach because they reposted the article under a different title and with a new comment thread.   Regardless, the text is still little more than the author’s suggestion that Americans think the jumpers committed suicide and think less of them for it.   My comments, as usual, in red.
The 9/11 victims America wants to forget: The 200 jumpers who flung themselves from the Twin Towers who have been 'airbrushed from history'’‘It looked like they were blinded by smoke... they just walked to the edge and fell out.’ Victims who plummeted from Twin Towers [The title change backs away from the author’s premise that the jumpers are airbrushed from history.  The original title is more true to the article in that it leads the reader to question why the jumpers are airbrushed, why we want to forget them, the author’s answer to which is the premise of the article: because religious Americans believe the jumpers committed suicide, or the patriotic think they were cowardly.]
Almost all of them jumped alone, although eyewitnesses talked of a couple who held hands as they fell.
One woman, in a final act of modesty, appeared to be holding down her skirt. Others tried to make parachutes out of curtains or tablecloths, only to have them wrenched from their grip by the force of their descent.
The fall was said to take about ten seconds. It would vary according to the body position and how long it took to reach terminal velocity — around 125mph in most cases, but if someone fell head down with their body straight, as if in a dive, it could be 200mph.
pastedGraphic.pdf
Horror: A person falls to their death after jumping from the north tower following the audacious terror strike which shocked the world a decade ago
When they hit the pavement, their bodies were not so much broken as obliterated.
Nothing more graphically spells out the horror of the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers than the grainy pictures of those poor souls frozen in mid-air as they fell to their deaths, tumbling in all manner of positions, after choosing to escape the suffocating smoke and dust, the flames and the steel-bending heat in the highest floors of the World Trade Centre.
And yet, tragically, they are in many ways the forgotten victims of September 11. [They are forgotten?  They are unknown, but not forgotten.  Never forgotten.  The author’s first mistake is conflating forgotten and unknown.] Even now, nobody knows for certain who they were or exactly how many they numbered. Perhaps worst of all, surprisingly few even want to know. [Why is this worst of all?  Why is it surprising that few want to know?  Do family members really want to know that their loved one knew death was coming?  Would it be to the rest of the public’s credit to want names and details?] 
From the earliest days after the 9/11 attacks, the American establishment and the media showed an overwhelming reluctance to dwell on those who jumped or fell from the Twin Towers. 
If this was simply down to qualms at being considered intrusive or voyeuristic when individuals in the most appalling circumstances chose in desperation to die very publicly, it would be understandable. [There is a but coming.]
But there are other, more complicated, reasons. [Of course there are. The subject is Americans.  The simple and obvious reasons for reluctance to dwell can’t possibly be the whole story.] In the aftermath of this attack on America’s sovereign territory — a period of intense patriotism — some considered that to choose to die rather than be killed showed a lack of courage.  [I assume that the author will back up this bold assertion with some shred of evidence.  To save the reader the suspense, he doesn’t.  This bald assertion, complete with the offset m-dash signal to Brits that something sinister or tasteless, i.e., patriotism, is involved, is it.]
And in this country of intense religious fervour, many believe that to be a ‘jumper’ was to choose suicide rather than accept the fate of God — and suicide in whatever circumstances is considered shameful or, indeed, a sin that will send you to Hell.  [Not only does he not back up the cowardiace assertion, but also he adds the sinful assertion. He won’t back that one up either.  No statements from religious leaders, no quotes from family--not even a Joe Mainstreet or somebody from Westboro.   His “other, more complicated, reasons” for reluctance to talk about the jumpers: the patriots think it was cowardly and the devout think it a sin.  Does any of the following evidence back up these assertions?]
At the office of the New York chief medical examiner, a spokesman said this week that they did not consider these people ‘jumpers’. She insisted they fell from the 1,350ft tall, 110-floor skyscrapers, for jumping would imply suicide.
‘Jumping indicates a choice, and these people did not have that choice,’ she said. ‘That is why the deaths were ruled homicide, because the actions of other people caused them to die. The force of explosion and the fire behind them forced them out of the windows.’  [A perfectly reasonable and widely held belief that the jumpers did not commit suicide.  Whether the devout think suicide a sin or patriots think it cowardice is not relevant.]
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Terror: An estimated 200 people jumped to their deaths to avoid being killed by the fires on 9/11
For those who have discovered that their loved ones may have been among the estimated 200 or more who plunged to their deaths, this uncomfortable official reticence can only compound the suffering they have already endured. [Another bald assertion, and at odds with his premises.  If the devout and patriots are uncomfortable with the thought of suicide, why would an official finding that the jumpers did not commit suicide compound their suffering?  Wouldn’t it relieve a tiny fraction of it?]
University administrator Jack Gentul cannot possibly imagine his late wife’s torment before she died. Alayne Gentul, mother of two and the 44-year-old vice president of an investment company, was in the South Tower and had gone up to the 97th floor to help evacuate staff after the other tower was hit. In her final moments, she rang Jack to say in labouring breaths that smoke was coming into her room through vents.
‘She said “I’m scared”,’ he tells me quietly. ‘She wasn’t a person who got scared, and I said, “Honey, it’ll be all right, it’ll be all right, you’ll get down”.’
Alayne Gentul’s remains were found in the street outside the building across from the tower — sufficiently far from the rubble to suggest she had jumped. Mr Gentul, who has since remarried, is not convinced she took that option but is clearly irked that some believe jumping was some sort of cop-out.  [“[C]learly irked that some believe”--who are the some?  He provides no quote above or below from someone stating that jumping was a cop-out. The only “some” seems to be the author.   I wonder, did he call Mr. Gentul and suggest that “some” believe jumping was a cop-out so he could get a story up for the anniversary?]
‘She was a very practical person who would have done whatever she could to survive,’ he explains in a quiet voice. ‘But how can anyone know what one would do in a situation like that, having to choose how you go from this Earth?’
The notion that she jumped is, indeed, consoling to Mr Gentul in some ways, in that she exercised an element of control over her death. [So Mr. Gentul is neither one of the patriots nor the devoted who make up the other, more complicated, reasons for reluctance to discuss the jumpers.]
‘Jumping is something you can choose to do,’ he says. ‘To be out of the smoke and the heat, to be out in the air, it must have felt like flying.’
On the clear, blue morning of 9/11, investment banker Richard Pecarello watched from his office on the other side of the river as the second plane hit. His fiancée Karen Juday was working as an administrator at bond traders Cantor Fitzgerald in the North Tower.
He tried to phone her but there was no answer, and for days and weeks after he looked at photographs on the internet and wondered if she had jumped. She was vain about her face and used anti-wrinkle cream, and he was certain she would have jumped rather than face the flames. [And the author thinks Americans dishonor the jumpers’ memories?]
Mr Pecarello, 59, made contact with Associated Press photographer Richard Drew, who had captured images of many of the jumpers, and asked to look through his archives. He saw a couple of photographs of a woman in cream trousers and blue top which he is convinced were of Karen.
‘There was one of her standing in a window with flames behind her and one of her falling from the building,’ Mr Pecarello says. ‘It made me feel she didn’t suffer and that she chose death on her terms rather than letting them burn her up.’ [So Mr. Pecarello is also neither one of the patriots nor the devoted who make up the other, more complicated, reasons for reluctance to discuss the jumpers.]
He has no time for suggestions that she took the easy way out. [Once again, I must ask, exactly who is doing the suggesting?  Nobody but the author of this lousy example of journalism.] ‘The people who died that day weren’t soldiers. They were everyday people — parents and housewives and brothers and sisters and children,’ he says in his gruff Brooklyn accent.
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Horror: The U.S. authorities have shown no interest in discovering who decided to jump rather than wait to be killed by the fire that ripped through the World Trade Center
When he tried to show the photos to Karen’s staunchly Protestant family back in Indiana, they didn’t want to know. They go by the official version, that nobody jumped. [I can think of many reasons someone might not want to know such horrors of a loved ones last moments, much less see pictures of it, reasons that have nothing to do with being staunchly anything.  I don't know why this popped into my head, but I recall that Terri Irwin never watched the footage of her husband getting speared by the sting ray.  I wonder if Daniel Pearl's wife watched the footage of his murder.  Such is the stuff of nightmares. Furthermore, even the passengers on Flight 93, they had a chance to fight back, which they took.  No such options existed for the jumpers.  Their only available act of defiance of evil was to name the terms of their immanent deaths. That their families might just not want to think about that kind of helplessness should be understandable.]
In fact, nobody liked talking about the jumpers. [Of course they didn’t! What did the author expect?  That he would call up the families and ask them about the jumpers and that they would want to talk about this to a reporter?  Was he contacting them to talk about their loved ones and then suggesting that "some" think them cowards or damned hoping to get juicy quotes for his anniversary piece? Perhaps they just didn’t want to give fodder to an obvious foreign hit piece about American culture using their personal tales of horror.]
Unofficial estimates put the number of jumpers at around 200, but it is impossible to say for certain because their bodies were indistinguishable from others after the collapse of the Towers. The official account is that nearly all 2,753 victims in the Twin Towers attack officially died from ‘blunt impact’ injuries.
Ten years on, more than 1,000 have yet to be identified from remains. They were vaporised in the inferno.
After the planes hit, raging fires pushed the temperatures to 1,000c, sufficient to weaken the skyscrapers’ steel frames.
The metal conducted the heat through the building at a terrifying speed and it reached the upper floors long before the flames did.
There were reports of people having to stand on desks because the floor became so hot.
Fire experts say people rarely throw themselves out of burning high-rises until they have exhausted every other option. Indeed, as survivors desperate for fresh, cool air crowded at the windows smashed open by the force of the planes’ impact, it is possible some of the ‘jumpers’ were actually pushed out in the crush.
The only research that comes close to being an official account is buried deep in an appendix of the huge report into why the towers collapsed, conducted by the National Institute for Standards and Technology.
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Grim: 2,753 died from 'blunt impact injuries' on 9/11 and it is thought that around 200 people jumped to their deaths. They would have fallen for around 10 seconds
As part of its research into where the fire was at its most intense, NIST analysed camera footage and still photographs, and counted 104 jumpers, often recording the floor and exact window from which they left.
All but three leapt from the first building to be hit — the North Tower. The second plane struck the South Tower 16 minutes later but it collapsed first, giving occupants less time to react.
The first jumper is recorded plunging from the North Tower’s 149th window of the 93rd floor on the north face of the building at 8.51am, just over four minutes after it was hit by the first hijacked Boeing 757 between the 93rd and 99th floors.
Sometimes the fallers were separated by an interval of just a second. At one point nine people fell in six seconds from five adjacent windows; at another, 13 people fell in two minutes. Twenty minutes after the building was struck, two people fell simultaneously from the same window on the 95th floor.
At least four jumpers tried to climb to other windows for safety then lost their grip. One person climbed from the 93rd floor to the 92nd, clinging to the window’s edge before falling just one second after someone else plumetted from the same window — number 215 on the east face of the tower.
The early jumpers came from the crash zone where the plane entered the building — the offices of the insurance brokers Marsh & McLennan.
The last jumper fell just as the North Tower collapsed 102 minutes after the building had been hit. Photographer Richard Drew says he has a picture of this person clinging to some debris while falling.
What drove some to jump and others to remain? Those who were in the South Tower, just 120ft away, at the time — and managed to escape — had the clearest view and may provide the best insight.
Kelly Reyher watched from the South Tower’s 78th floor as people started to fall out of ‘the hole’ the aircraft had ripped in the North Tower. To him, they looked ‘completely confused’ rather than consciously deciding to end it all.
‘It looked like they were blinded by smoke and couldn’t breathe because their hands were over their faces,’ he says. ‘They would just walk to the edge where the jagged floor was and just fall out.’ [This detail became the new title of the article when the DM removed the “airbrushing” suggestion from the title.]
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Charred remains: A huge investigation was launched following the terror tragedy - but no one has ever investigated at Ground Zero who may have jumped
Six floors below Mr Reyher, James Logozzo watched with stunned colleagues from the Morgan Stanley boardroom. He recalled that it took three or four jumpers to flash past him before he realised they were people. Then a woman fell, lying flat on her back and staring upwards. ‘The look on her face was shock. She wasn’t screaming,’ he recalled. ‘It was slow motion. After she hit the ground, there was nothing left.’
For those down below, the bodies landed with sickening, almost explosive thuds. Many said it was raining bodies.
One fireman, Danny Suhr, was killed as he made his way to the South Tower after a jumper landed on him, ‘coming out of the sky like a torpedo’ and breaking his neck. Compounding the tragedy, the priest who gave him the last rites was later killed by falling debris.
When she learnt how Danny died, his childhood sweetheart Nancy thought: how horrendous for that poor person who had to choose to jump; at least Danny did not have to make that choice. At least she had a body, for Danny’s colleagues took him to hospital after he was hit.
It was a decision that saved their lives — they would otherwise have been in the tower when it collapsed.
Firefighter Maureen McArdle-Schulman says she felt like she was intruding on a sacrament as the bodies fell. She adds: ‘They were choosing to die and I was watching them and shouldn’t have been. So me and another guy turned away and looked at a wall and we could still hear them hit.’
Bill Feehan, the deputy chief of the fire department, screamed at a man filming jumpers with a video camera: ‘Don’t you have any human decency?’
Fire battalion chief Joseph Pfeifer put out a desperate plea on the North Tower’s public address system. ‘Please don’t jump. We’re coming up for you,’ he said, not realising that nobody was listening — the system had long since been destroyed.  [Horrific details, all, but nowhere in that summary of the jumper evidence and witness testimony was anything about cowardice or sin, or even airbrushing, though the author tried to shore up that assertion with the comment about a ‘deeply buried appendix’--to a public report.]
Images of the falling bodies disturbed and appalled all who saw them. On the first anniversary of the tragedy, an exhibition showing a work called Tumbling Woman, a bronze sculpture by artist Eric  Fischl, lasted just a week in New York’s Rockefeller Centre before it was closed following protests and even bomb threats. [The author wants the reader to use his assertions of cowardice and sin and assume that the protests and bomb threats were related, without providing any actual evidence.  It sounds far more complicated than he suggests.  The Tumbling Woman reminds me of the 9/11 play that did so well in London but bombed in NYC and the a UK paper’s piece on uptight Americans that failed to mention the falling confetti at the end of the play.]
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Human tragedy: Someone leaps from the burning World Trade Center on 9/11. It is thought that jumpers would have fallen for around 10 seconds
But one picture has become an iconic image. When a man fell at 9.41am from near the top of the North Tower, Richard Drew caught a dozen frames of his descent, including one in which he is diving vertically, arms by his sides and left leg bent at the knee. The image, all the more horrific for its desolate stillness, appeared the next day in newspapers around the world.
Dubbed the Falling Man, it prompted the media to hunt for the man’s identity. None of those who jumped from the towers has ever been officially identified and, tellingly, nobody rushed to claim Falling Man as their own. [“Tellingly”, tell me, what does the lack of rush to claim the falling man tell?  Once again, the author wants the reader to recall all the unsubstantiated assertions of cowardice and sin and assume that that is what the picture tells.]
Dark-skinned, goatee-bearded, wearing an orange T-shirt under a white shirt , he was first thought to be Norberto Hernandez, a pastry chef at the restaurant Windows on the World, on the top floors of the North Tower. His deeply religious family angrily rejected the notion, insisting that for him to have jumped would have amounted to a betrayal. [A betrayal--his word it seems, not the family's-- of what?  From the previous bald assertions and the “deeply religious” detail, I suspect that the author again wants the reader to assume, without him providing actual facts, the betrayal is of religious values.]
‘He was trying to come home to us and he knew he wasn’t going to make it by jumping out a window,’ his daughter Catherine says. [So not a betrayal of religion, but of family.  Is it so strange that the family wants to believe he fought to the last to get back to them? Regardless this fact supports neither the patriots think cowards nor devout think sinners premises.]
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Grim: United Airlines Flight 175 collides into the south tower of the World Trade Center
Since then, the hunt for the Falling Man has moved on to another of the restaurant’s staff, Jonathan Briley, a 43-year-old sound engineer. The reaction of his deeply religious family has highlighted the deep moral complexities that suicide — whatever the circumstances — poses in a country where so many believe it is a sin, unforgivable by God. [If so many believe it, you think he could have gotten at least one quote in support.]
[So the reaction of this deeply religious family that supposedly highlight the deep moral complexities of suicide:] Some of Mr Briley’s family have never believed he jumped, [Ok.  There are many possible reasons for that, many of which have nothing to do with religion] and say they were vindicated after the authorities found his largely intact body.
‘I had no idea it would give me the peace years later to know that,’ says his sister Gwendolyn. ‘If he had fallen from the 110th floor to the ground we wouldn’t have had that.’ [What is “that”?  The author has left it undefined because he wants the reader to associate “that” with ‘didn’t commit suicide’ but based on context “that” is far more likely to be the finding of his body, the physical remains that the family could bury.  Regardless, again the author has no quote about sin or cowardice.]
Investment banker Richard Pecarello, 59, who tracked down that picture of his fiancee as she fell, also found peace. But for him it was in knowing that his fiancée did choose to jump. [Again, nothing about sin or cowardice, the opposite in fact.] Most families have recovered no more than a fragment of bone, identified through DNA, of their loved ones, Mr Pecarello points out.
‘To me, the photo of her falling was like finding the body,’ he says. ‘I thought it was something that would help me move on. I needed to know how she died.’
When a 9/11 Memorial Museum opens at Ground Zero next year, it will have a small display dedicated to the jumpers, but reflecting the intense feelings of unease the subject has provoked, it will be tucked away in an alcove, on the grounds that the images are considered too private and too distressing.
It seems a harsh fate [Why a harsh fate?  Was it worse than the jumping?    Does he assume that their souls long for fame?  Should we park Tumbling Woman at the front door and have video footage of the jumpers playing on a loop in the lobby?  If an alcove is too hidden, what does the author suggest is appropriate?] for those agonised mortals who faced the naked terror of that ten-second plunge to certain death. For the jumpers saved lives even as they were losing theirs.
In testimony after testimony, survivors of the South Tower say they only realised they had to ignore the official safety all-clear and get out fast when they saw those terrible shapes tumbling past their windows.
He had a theory and is making the facts fit, easy to do when writing for an audience that assumes the worst of Americans, witness the comments.  They see what they want to see and find what they are looking for.  The common refrain among foreigners is that America squandered the goodwill from 9/11, but alas, we cannot squander what we never had.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bruce Wayne-at-play hair, comb overs, and pretty boys

Oh, how The Times vexes me.   So I give them up because I am vexed that I cannot link behind the paywall and most likely some jerk in Turkey made a false copyright claim against this blog thereby making me cautious of quoting.  And now Suzanne Powers tells me I missed this, which, please note, is only part of the article from Sarah Vine last weekend:
One factor has emerged as a key predictor of success in the race for the White House: hair
I may be married to a man who not only owns, but has actually read, Donald Rumsfeld’s memoirs; still, I understand remarkably little about US politics. From where I’m sitting (surrounded by bookshelves that boast titles such as Treason: Why Dumb Liberals are Turning Us into Europe) the whole thing seems even more nuts than the British system, which is, I can assure you, pretty nuts. Still, we must be grateful for small mercies: at least our general elections don’t take 15 months from start to finish.
There is, however, one clear factor that seems to be emerging as a key predictor of success in the race for the White House, especially among Republican candidates: hair.
Take Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. The former is the Governor of Texas, the latter was runner-up in the 2008 nomination race. Both are what you might call hunky regular guys: in their early sixties, firm of jaw and fierce of vision. Both (I am told) have a good chance of success. And neither would look out of place on the side of a Grecian 2000 packet.
Romney wears his crowning glory in a swept-back, Bruce Wayne-at-play style, just a little salt and pepper around the edges but dark enough to imply virility. These are serious times for America, and he projects an image of a man of solid principles, with hair to match. In fact, his determination in public life is probably the greatest threat to the ozone layer since Cheryl Cole’s ill-fated Stateside sojourn.
Perry, meanwhile, wears his in a more debonair, make-mine-a-martini sort of way. From certain angles he could almost be one of those sexy continental football managers that British teams are so fond of hiring. His hair has all the bounce and lustre of a man who is no stranger to a little volumising conditioner. Occasionally he struggles to stifle a curl. How ironic that he is an anti-gay marriage candidate in this race, when in a certain light he looks like Liberace.
Of course, the notion that what’s on top of a man’s head matters more than what’s inside it is absurd; but voters are not as rational as politicians would like. They vote with their instincts, and there is very little anyone can do about it.
Why this should be is explained, in part, in a new book by the academic Catherine Hakim, Honey Money. In it, she explores the power of what she calls “erotic capital”: the better-looking or more charismatic a person, the more positive characteristics we attribute to them, and the farther they get in life.
This runs counter to what we are taught as children — never judge a book by its cover (with Rumsfeld’s memoirs this is certainly true). But however distasteful the concept, there is more than a grain of truth in it, as all successful politicians know, from Bill Clinton (who once held up flights at LAX airport while he had a haircut on Air Force One) to George Washington, who, myth has it, hid his red hair under a wig, and our own blond bombshell, Boris Johnson. Meanwhile, in America it’s hairdryers at the ready. Both Perry and Romney are running on jobs tickets. In the circumstances, hairdressing looks like a solid career option.
"Bruce Wayne-at-play".  Fabulous.  Read the whole thing here, if you are a subscriber.  It is another excuse to link to the cowboy and the breck man video, which Patterico found with soundtrack!  (It was a hard find. Last item.)  He linked to the video in a post on how much Trump's--remember when people thought he was a serious candidate?--comb over bothered him.  I'm rethinking the conventional wisdom that holds that a woman's physical appearance matters more than a man's.  It still does, I think, but not by such a wide margin.  

Friday, August 12, 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

London Riots, post 3: What to do?

My first two article commentaries on the London riots--the psychology of looting and defenders to vigilantes--drew many questions. For those who asked about parental control of the younger looters, expecting the mothers to control their children is an expectation in vain; these mothers discussed what they prefer their children bring home from the shops.  Electronics, not clothes, apparently.  

In that post, Lara asked what a good, law abiding mother should tell her children about the riots.  Her eldest, like mine, noticed that the police afforded little protection.  (Christopher Robin stopped interrupting me typing once he knew that I was calling for sterner police action.  He was very disturbed by the police watching the mayhem and wanted me to give them a piece of my mind.)  My advice to Lara, (which didn't post on her blog for some reason) and everyone else, will sound harsh to a society that still debated water canons on the 4th night of violence.  That society, however, teeters on the brink of breakdown.  Whishy-washy soft sentiment is done.  So what is a concerned mother to do?



First, we need to tell the children that they must always be prepared to rely upon themselves.  Regardless of good intentions, one cannot depend upon the state.  Sometimes the state fails, and individuals must be prepared to feed and protect themselves.  Second, we must begin giving them the tools to do so. That means, in the main, raising them focused on what kind of person and citizen they will be at 35 rather than transient things like what university they will attend at 18.  In the details, this means we must teach them to be self-sufficient and responsible.  


Part of that involves teaching them proper self defense, as the riots demonstrated.  For most Brits, that will entail teaching themselves first.  


I recommend the Little Black Book of Violence to start.  (h/t Instapundit.  I'm sure I got the book from a link there.  It is the sort of thing he'd highlight.) It is an excellent resource on self defense.  STRATFOR is a good online resource for situational awareness how-to.  


Before anyone gets into too much of a twist over my book recommendation, I suggest researching it first.  This is not a book on how to get your Rambo on.  The book focuses first on recognizing and avoiding violence, the only sure means of self defense and only gets to the ins and outs of fighting after a fight has become inevitable, which we have seen is sometimes the case.  From one of the reviews on Amazon:
The book is divided into three sections, essentially corresponding to the three stages of violence.

Section 1, Before Violence Occurs, details the best methods for avoiding conflict before it begins. This section includes chapters on everything from general awareness to peer pressure, and is probably the most important part of the work. If this were mandatory reading in high school health classes, I think we'd all be better off for it.

Section 2, During a Violent Encounter, contains many no-nonsense self-defense tips and techniques. You won't find instructions for doing a flying scissors kick here, but you will find practical advice that might help you get out of a violent conflict alive. There's not much more I could say about this section except that the techniques are grounded in reality, and in the authors' experience as martial artists and security professionals.

Section 3, Aftermath of Violence, is a vital part of the book, and a topic that really deserves an entire book of its own. Kane and Wilder manage a very useful and usable section on feuds, and overall this section maintains the strength present in the other two. 
Think of it as sex ed for violence.  Of course abstinence is the only sure fire way to avoid disease or pregnancy, but as the Left constantly reminds us, one needs to be realistic about primal urges and accept that teens will have sex, hence condom lessons.   Only a naive fool would rely upon abstinence-only education.  Well, one also needs to accept that teens will fight, hence self defense lessons.  Only a naive fool would rely only upon the good in Man.