And yet how much are the differing choices men and women make a product of the same environment that keeps women from advancing? Etc. You can't factor for those things. However, it's been shown ad nauseam that the differences between men and women are smaller than the variations between individuals, so generally speaking, while there might be a "natural" level of variation between the two, you can at least recognize when things become wildly skewed. And the same applies to other issues of representation.
It's pretty obvious- is this a serious question? When you're talking about representation, what else could it be but population?
Another way to look at affirmative action is to see it as evening up the playing field, and erasing the 'bonus points' given to white/men/whatever just for being white/male/whatever. I mean, it's not exactly news that when presented with two identical applications, people will rate the "white"/"male" one higher than the "black"/"female" one, and associate more positive traits with the white/male application and more negative traits with the black/female application. It's frequently an unintentional bias, which makes it all the harder to address. Which is one of the points of affirmative action. It acknowledges that people will be marked down just because of their race or gender, and gives them a few extra points to try and make up for the harm prejudice will do to their application.
Mirrors only help you see what's behind you; they won't help a big ol' blindspot at 2 o'clock
I don't know if video screens are the answer, but surely the pillar problem is an annoying one. When I got my new(er) car, making left turns to merge onto a busy road became quite nerve-wracking, as I had this huge blindspot that no amount of craning my head could compensate for right smack dab where I needed to be looking. This was a problem especially on turning out from the road I lived on, because the view on the left was further obscured by a building and the road to the right was an overpass and so basically cars would drive into the blindspot before you could see them anyway. I missed the hell out of my old car at those times.
You're making a lot of assumptions there that are on quite shaky ground. That the mid-Republic *had* a middle class, that the destruction of that middle class lead to the fall of the republic, that it was the pursuit of money that did so, that Cato was in favor of that...?
What you're missing out a lot on is how much Cato was outside the traditional power system in Rome- he's a lot closer to that 'middle class' (that didn't really exist) as a non-Roman (as in he was Sabine) pleb, and he built most of his career attacking the power base of the nobles, which is part of the reason he stressed anti-luxury (luxury was assumed to be the underpinnings of greed and corruption) and conspicuous consumption, and it was his anti-luxury positioning that get most often read by modern readers as money grubbing. Luxury and conspicuous consumption were two ways the patrician class set themselves apart, so when he attacks that - like his attacks on the fad for hellenism - it's really part of a program of an attack on the nobility. He's setting himself up with the farmers (thus De Agricultura) as being the kind of true Romans who are productive with their estates, rather than wasting them away on frivolities and conspicuous consumption.
Thus also the positioning on virtue- the reason he harps on that stuff so much was, among other things, it was being descendant from the great virtuous Romans of the past that the patricians used to justify their right to rule. So he was basically usurping their claim to the virtue of the past. That's also part of what's at play with the statue thing, and the fact that he omitted the names of the great generals in his Origines- the nobles especially were always trying to outstrip each other by physically dominating the memory of the past by erecting monuments (actually, that's part of the reason that it was illegal to build permanent theaters, because that would give whoever built it (For whatever festival) kind of a permanent hold over the glory associated with sponsoring eg the festival of apollo). It's an attack on the traditional signs of power of the nobility, and it would have been very well understood by the romans of the day. And you could argue that a lot of this was about playing to his audience. He came to power over the objections of the nobility, which is saying something considering the make up of the comitia centuriata...which puts his support group squarely in the realm of the not-so-middle class you're talking about.
I've read that from a biological point of view, there's kind of a war between a woman's body and a fertilized egg, where the egg basically does everything it can to burrow in and hijack her body, and the woman's body does everything it can to thwart it. (This is why so many fertilized eggs don't actually implant, or are miscarried very early). It makes sense if you think about it- pregnancy and childbearing (and rearing) are risky and a huge drain on the individual woman- The effect this has is that only the most viable conceptions make it to the next stage. One imagines that in times of stress and hardship, the body is even less receptive to potential pregnancies. As male zygotes tend to be slightly less hardy even in times of no stress, it doesn't seem surprising that under even harsher circumstances, fewer xy's make the cut.
I can't tell you how happy it makes me to see some love for Cato the Elder. (I'm writing my PhD thesis on him, and yet when people ask what I'm studying and I tell them, no one ever knows who he is).
Classy. I'm really glad for wikileaks and all, but christ, what an asshole.
Completely different culture on those paintings- besides, art has its own language (so to speak), so I would not be able to comment on those. Why the Romans thought that scratching one's head with one finger was girly we shall probably never know. It's just one of those things.
My thesis is about - well, Cato the Elder, but not the man as much as the cultural figure as he was used and understood in antiquity. To go off your example, we often make reference to hitler (or compare people or things to hitler or nazis) in ways that really are about hitler/nazis as short hand for other concepts- when someone compares a president to HItler, they usually mean something like "bad/tyrannical" rather than...well, everything else you could mean or say about Hitler. Similarly, Winston Churchill or Thomas Jefferson or Richard Nixon even fictional figures like Sherlock Holmes or Robin Hood become stand-ins for discussing other themes/associations/concepts...but which themes etc isn't static- we're always kind of tussling over interpretations, everyone trying to stake out important cultural references for their ideological purposes (e.g. the Tea Party attempting to lay claim to the revolutionary war, fairly successfully, actually and somewhat unfortunately.) Eventually, the themes and associations that figures get tagged with begin to shape the way they're depicted (rather than the themes just being a product of how they're depicted. It's a feedback loop). So Cato the Elder was one of those type figures for the Romans, frequently as a stand in for Romanness, virtue, the past... and how they envisioned him and related to him changed a lot over time, so what I study is that change, basically, and what it represented. (Spoilers: Cato stands for a lot of republican virtues which did not have a place under the principate or the empire, so there's a lot of interesting stuff in how later Romans made sense of a virtuous figure whose virtues were obsolete or had become, in the new order, faults).
That could easily fill several PhD theses. I've already got my hands full with my own. But if you're interested, you might read Catharine Edward's the Politics of Immorality in Rome, which while not focused on Suetonius in particular, does get into the heart of a lot of Roman moralizing discourse and the way it was used (and how differently it was constructed.) The main thing to keep in mind is that where we today tend to explain things in terms of economics, politics, or psychology, for the Romans, all those things were discussed in terms of mores. And, considering it was the primary mode of discourse, Roman morality was very complex.
But, to give a very, very simple example, there's a line in Cicero about Caesar where he says something like, "you wouldn't think such a man would be the type of guy to scratch his head with one finger" which makes absolutely NO sense unless you understand it's a reference to effeminacy... which while a slur, is more than that, and there's more going on. Effeminacy for the Romans was conceptually related to a lot of other things - and not necessarily the things we'd associated it with- especially in terms of luxury and leisure, which were considered the symptoms and cause of immorality, and had links to the idea of the corruption of the state and the undermining of the mos maiorum. It was also linked with adultery, which tends to go against the biases of the modern reader. But for the Romans, it was a challenge to the power of the paterfamilias. Which, as a side note, was the purpose of a lot of Augustus' adultery legislation- not necessarily turning a tide against a presumptive wave of adultery (although writers were always claiming such, for the entire history of Rome, but there are reasons for that), but the legislation was basically a defacto usurpation of the rights and privileges of the paterfamilias, elevating Augustus in such a way that kind of brought all of Rome into his household and under his hand. So for him to be saying (or rather, for writers to be depicting him as saying) "you Roman fathers aren't doing your jobs and reigning in this immorality, which of course threatens the state, so I must step in and fulfill that role, aren't you glad for that" is never going to be a straightforward thing. Which basically is why modern ideas of Rome tend to be full of orgies and excess: the Romans never shut up about those things. But not because they were necessarily happening, but because they were coded in such ways that made them the common weapons of every agenda.
If you think that Roman culture is familiar, it has more to do with the way you're projecting your own cultural interpretations on ancient texts. That isn't really a harsh criticism, everyone does it. we make sense of things by the tools we're used to.
But you should be leery of the familiar, it's usually a tell-tale sign that you're misleading yourself. Suetonius is a great example. You miss a lot of what he's actually saying- in the context of his times and culture- and what he actually meant and was responding to.
Liberal arts education means just studying a little bit of everything in addition to your main subject. It's not necessarily mandatory curricula in the same way as high school - it just means that part of earning a degree is considered having been exposed to subjects outside your main one at a university level. Having been in both systems, I see the advantages to both. I studied history (up to the PhD level), and I have never regretted getting a better-than-secondary-school grounding in in astrophysics, economics, and german, and drama (as were the main classes I took outside my major at the undergraduate level- which were choices. There's a lot of room when the requirement is just a certain number of credits in a social science, a hard science, the humanities, and the arts). Not just for my own personal edification, but they've actually been more useful that you would imagine in my chosen field. If only sometimes for having the benefit of understanding a different perspective on things.
The main downside I've seen to the UK's system is that one, if you realize one year in that you hate your degree subject (as happened to several of my friends in both the US or the UK) you have to start over, and two, it tends to put blinkers on people when it comes to things outside their field (this is more of a problem at the post graduate level). On the other hand, you gain a level of specialized knowledge you have to reach grad school for in the states. It's a trade off.
The UK doesn't do liberal arts education: there aren't any gen ed requirements within degree programs. You study your subject, and that's it. Which has its downsides.
What I've heard is that ski helmets don't do much to prevent the kind of concussions most common to skiing (and most likely to kill you) but will help prevent say, skull fractures, so even if it's not going to save your life, it's still well worth investing in to save yourself further pain (and damage to your wallet). And I guess you're good if someone drops a rock from a ski lift, even if you're still pretty much screwed if you get knocked ass over teakettle by someone who should not be on an expert slope (not that I'm bitter or anything). Although I do wish that they'd invest more in creating helmets that would actually be designed for ski accidents. Concussions suck, even if they don't kill you. So I'm always a little skeptical of the push for wearing helmets on absolute safety grounds (rather than "well, it's better than nothing") because damn, I wish more people would kick up a fuss about the helmets being mostly ineffectual for their primary purpose. We need something better than a bandaid.