July 28, 2014

Smart Diplomacy Redux


Despite the tendency to criticize US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts, credit should be given where credit is due. Over the weekend, Kerry did manage to facilitate something in the Middle East: unparalleled unanimity.

Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan were all in agreement that Kerry’s efforts were undermining the attempt to bring about a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas as quickly as possible. Moreover, Kerry’s framework and the ideas he presented led to an extraordinary phone call taking place between a senior Palestinian Authority official and an Israeli counterpart, during which the two mocked the senior diplomat’s naivete and his failure to understand the regional reality.

Kerry’s mistakes are embarrassing. A senior official in Washington on Sunday rushed to explain to Israeli reporters that the framework — the key terms of which were first published by The Times of Israel, and which then appeared in full on other media outlets — was but a draft that summed up a series of consultations between Kerry and the foreign ministers of Qatar and Turkey, Khalid al-Attiyah and Ahmet Davutoglu. But this is where the mistake begins: The US administration gambled on the camp that supports Hamas, bankrolls it and pushes it to go on shooting.

US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) talks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (on the phone) on July 25, 2014, from his hotel room in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. (photo credit: AFP/Pool)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) talks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (on the phone) on July 25, 2014, from his hotel room in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. (photo credit: AFP/Pool)

Kerry and his staff made an outrageous decision to turn their backs on the Egyptian framework for a ceasefire in a manner that encouraged Hamas to continue shooting rockets.

This first mistake was exposed by none other than the political leader of the organization, Khaled Mashaal, who said in a press conference in Doha, the Qatari capital, that Kerry had turned to al-Attiyah and Davutoglu two days after the Israeli operation in Gaza began and asked them to push for a ceasefire. At the time, Kerry knew full well that a major Egyptian effort was underway to persuade Hamas to stop firing immediately. By turning to Doha and Ankara behind the backs of Cairo and Jerusalem, Washington — no doubt unintentionally — strengthened Hamas’s resolve against Egypt and Israel.

But the mistakes didn’t stop there. The farce continued with the amateurish draft that was immediately rejected by Israel’s security cabinet; it then reached new heights on Saturday in Paris, when Kerry decided to participate in an international summit on Gaza, attended by his new friends al-Attiyah and Davutoglu as well as the foreign ministers of the European Union, but not by a few players that Kerry apparently perceives as marginal – representatives of Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and, of course, Israel.

It’s hard to say what caused the Obama administration to join forces with the Muslim Brotherhood of all camps — loyally represented by Turkey and Qatar — and turn its back on the movement’s sworn enemy, the Egyptian government. The best case scenario is that it might have been amateurism or a misreading of the situation. In a less ideal scenario, Washington decided to forge an alliance with organizations and entities that would be happy to see Israel disappear from the map. I prefer to bet on the first option, the one that was discussed with such ridicule by the senior Israeli and Palestinian officials — that Kerry just doesn’t understand who’s playing against whom in the Wild Mideast.

Of course this isn't the first time the former Junior Senator from Hanoi underestimated the dangers of cozying up to violent extremists:

Continue reading "Smart Diplomacy Redux"

Posted by Cassandra at 08:51 AM | Comments (2) |TrackBack (0) |

Revenge: A Dish Best Served Cold

It may have taken several centuries, but finally some enterprising soul has come up with the definitive retort:

Colin Furze, a plumber and inventor from Stamford, Lincolnshire, has begun building the biggest fart machine ever, which he plans to place on top of the cliffs of Dover and aim across the Channel towards France. His hope is that the French, 21 miles away, will hear the blast.

The machine, which Furze will house in a pair of specially constructed buttocks, is a giant pulse valveless jet engine – as used in Nazi V-1 bombs during the Second World War – that creates a plume of fire to go along with its deafening roar. Furze hopes to mount the contraption on the cliffs of Dover on July 24, between 6 and 7pm.

And to think we missed this historic event. Men.... They are inventive:

Furze's previous homemade inventions include a pair of pneumatic 'Wolverine' claws, magnetic 'Magneto' shoes, hand-mounted 'Pyro' flame-throwers (all inspired by the X-Men films), a 50 mph baby pram, and a fire-spurting mobility scooter.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:26 AM | Comments (5) |TrackBack (0) |

Risky Business

Have these people lost their minds?

At Chevron Corp, any worker at the company's San Ramon, Calif., headquarters can halt an activity he or she deems dangerous by whipping out a small white "stop work" card. Workers take the authority seriously; filming for a safety training video stopped when an employee noticed props scattered on the ground and invoked that power.

At the U.S. arm of food and beverage company Nestlé SA, NESN.VX -0.51% employees begin meetings by checking for hazards, like computer cords that can cause tripping, and reviewing emergency exit protocol. Workers are also expected to spot two safety incidents each month—such as someone holding elevator doors open.

At a company event held at a hotel, an assembled crowd of Nestlé workers audibly gasped when a hotel employee jumped up onto the stage instead of using an adjacent staircase.

"Everyone went 'Whoa,' " said Joanne Crawford, a marketing director in the company's Glendale, Calif., office. The chief executive of Nestlé USA made the worker leave the stage and ascend the correct way.

Safety-minded employees of Exxon Mobil Corp. XOM -1.05% recently camped out near two stairways in the firm's Irving, Texas, headquarters to observe who held the handrails while going up and down, who carried too many items or ones too large, who was using their mobile phones and who was in a rush. The workers, members of a company safety and wellness committee, mostly just recorded the incidents, for fear they might startle someone and cause an injury.

"We will intervene if we can do so safely," said Glenn Murray, who coordinates the company's safety programs.

Question for the ages: has anyone documented the possible hazards of startling a co-worker with a white, "stop work" card?

Posted by Cassandra at 06:48 AM | Comments (5) |TrackBack (0) |

July 25, 2014

Summer Songs Thread

So, this song has been playing in my head on and off all summer:

I stood out there in the covering
In the baskings of a holy night
Oh I was lucid and conscious
And hovering like a firefly

My mind stretched out on the canopy
It put its arms out slow
I heard the whispers of silence
Floating down from the radio

So come on, come on, I'm ready now
I got that feeling honey - like I'm ready to roll

Not sure what makes someone associate a song with summer. Sometimes it's a memory. Other times, it's the way the sound captures the feeling of sun and wind on your face at the beach, or the light filtering through the trees, or the scent of honeysuckle on a soft Southern night.

Or just that feeling when, unexpectedly, the weight of all those summers past falls away and you feel like a child again, riding your bike so fast that the world slips by in a blur.

What songs make you think of summer?

Posted by Cassandra at 05:03 PM | Comments (9) |TrackBack (0) |

Mein Gott im Himmel! How Can This Be????

This morning, Thomas Ricks (who, in 2006, bravely announced that Anbar province was "irretrievably lost" just as the Anbar Awakening was picking up speed) informs us that he is "moving leftward".

In the fullness of time, it turned out that Mr. Ricks hadn't actually read the classified report that so deliciously confirmed what he already believed to be true. But that didn't stop him from reporting its supposed contents.

Alas. If only the Obama White House had been there to warn him how unreliable those pesky anonymous sources can be:


What we knew of the report, by Marine intelligence office Col. Peter Devlin, and which instantly became “the conventional wisdom” on al Anbar, came via essentially a single source. That was Washington Post reporter Thomas E. Ricks, in a Sept. 2006 article “Situation Called Dire in West Iraq: Anbar Is Lost Politically, Marine Analyst Says,” and a follow-up in late November, “Anbar Picture Grows Clearer, and Bleaker.” It’s obvious now that either the report itself or the Ricks’ presentation of it missed the mark worse than an F-16 bombing Baghdad and hitting Basra.

Yet even at the time, articles from Al Anbar itself (not Ricks’ roost in D.C.) contradicted the Post’s presentation.

...As to Ricks, he admitted to NPR “I haven’t actually read [the report],” rather “I’ve had many people describe it to me.” You’d hardly guess that from his articles though, such that supporters of the war effort were just as likely to claim the report was “leaked” to Ricks as were opponents.

Instead what we got was a report as seen through two filters: First, Ricks selected his interviewees who, since by definition they agreed to discuss a classified document, probably held a grudge against current military actions. The second filter was Ricks himself, hardly the epitome of even-handedness as author of the best-selling book about Iraq whose title says it all: Fiasco.

...Perhaps Ricks was trying to pull off an Iraq version of the media’s Tet Offensive offensive, a battle that crushed the Viet Cong and yet the media declared it a terrible U.S. defeat. Life imitated art as portrayal sucked the life out of our war effort. In any case, others in the mainstream media seemed to have that idea.

NPR relied on Ricks to pronounce “we’ve lost the fight” in Anbar. “The message is, stay the course,” MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann declared, “But in the huge Anbar Province, word from our military is that we’ve already lost there politically.” Jim Miklaszewski told NBC Nightly News viewers that "The top secret report . . . says there’s no chance the U.S. military can end insurgent violence in al Anbar” and “the U.S. is preparing to eventually concede a large piece of Iraq to the enemy . . . ” CNN’s Michael Ware used Ricks’ “revelations” to opine “we only have a third of the troops there that are needed to even begin to make a dent in al Qaeda.” (Incidentally, some pundits have said success in Anbar was a direct result of “The Surge.” In fact, “The Awakening,” in which fed-up local Iraqi tribes turned against AQI and other terrorist groups, began a year before “The Surge” did.) So much for needing three times the troops to “make a dent.”

This is shocking news to those of us who have followed Ricks' journalistic exploits with leg-tingling anticipation. Drifting leftward???? Who could have predicted such a stunning volte face?

But perhaps more importantly, what caused this titanic shift in polarity? To hear Mr. Ricks tell it, the answer is simple. During the Evil Bush Years, he lost faith in government due to its corrupt, inept, and bumbling ways. Natürlich, meine Damen und Herren, the only rational response to incompetent governance is - apparently - more government.

Surely things will be different, this time. Admit it, knuckle draggers. The logic is well nigh irrefutable.

Update: Oh for Pete's sake... (CWCID)

Unmarried conscripts don’t need such a safety net. And much of the labor currently contracted out to the private sector could be performed by 18-year-olds for much less.

... The pool of cheap labor available to the federal government would broadly lower its current personnel costs and its pension obligations — especially if the law told federal managers to use the civilian service as much as possible, and wherever plausible. The government could also make this cheap labor available to states and cities. Imagine how many local parks could be cleaned and how much could be saved if a few hundred New York City school custodians were 19, energetic and making $15,000 plus room and board, instead of 50, tired and making $106,329, the top base salary for the city’s public school custodians, before overtime.

Amazing how often the road to lefty Utopia involves government taking away other people's basic freedoms.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:42 AM | Comments (5) |TrackBack (0) |

Achieving "Paycheck Fairness"

The Blog Princess saw this a few days ago and it made her day:

... given that gender pay discrimination has been illegal for more than half a century, if the Congressman is truly committed to “erase that disparity” as he sanctimoniously states in his letter, he may go about that in one or more of the following ways:

First, the Congressman could introduce a bill to restrict women’s ability to work fewer hours than her male counterparts to shrink the gender wage gap. The plain fact is that one of the largest contributors to the wage disparity between men and women is the simple fact that men, on average, work longer hours than women. In fact, of full time workers, 26% of males work more than 40 hours per week, compared to just 14% of women (How Pew Research measured the gender pay gap | Pew Research Center). However, this can be easily remedied by government forcing men and women to work the exact same hours per week, their own personal preferences be damned!

Second, the Congressman could introduce a bill to coerce women to go into male dominated fields that they themselves have not chosen to enter. Some of the most male dominated majors and career fields also happen to be the most lucrative, such as engineering, computer science, and business. The fact that most women choose not to enter these fields should not stop the Congressman from attempting to get the government involved to force women to go into them, if he is serious about closing the wage gap. As an aside, the Congressman may also, in the name of equality and wage parity, seek to force men to enter women dominated (and relatively low pay) fields such as psychology, education, and gender studies.

Third, the Congressman could introduce a bill mandating that men and women devote equal amounts of time to raising children and other household responsibilities. Why allow individual couples the power to decide how do divide up domestic responsibilities when it could be dictated to them by their enlightened rulers in Washington DC? The fact that most women actually enjoy and get substantial satisfaction from raising their own children should not dissuade the Congressman from attempting to stamp out this root cause behind the gender wage gap.

Upon even a cursory look at the evidence, it is abundantly clear the the gender wage gap is not chiefly (if at all) a result of discrimination or some eery unjust force that needs to be battled with legislation. Rather it is a result in the difference choices that men and women make.

Thus if the Congressman is genuinely committed to ending this wage gap he will have no other option than to use the coercive power of the federal government to make women (and, to a lesser extent, men) do that which they would not themselves choose to do.

We are reminded of a particularly moronic screed we read several months ago asserting that "...women should not be allowed within fifty feet of a school where boys are taught".

Who will free women from the tyranny of their own value judgments and decisions? Who will free men to abandon their well paid jobs and flock to the elementary schools where they can *finally* indulge their beautiful and natural desire to work with small children all day?

Verily we say unto you: these suboptimal lifestyle choices must be stopped in our lifetime before they kill us all. Utopia beckons, if only we have the courage to give it a helping hand.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:01 AM | Comments (6) |TrackBack (0) |

July 24, 2014

How To Fix Everything

How To Repair Anything.png

Thus endeth the lesson.
You're welcome.

Posted by DL Sly at 07:25 PM | Comments (12) |TrackBack (0) |

Caption Contest

Here you go, villains! Your next picture to snarkify.


Have at it.
And may the Farce be with you.

Posted by DL Sly at 07:12 PM | Comments (17) |TrackBack (0) |

Let The Judgement Begin

Well, my villainous, invisible friends, you shirley had a good time with last week's picture. A couple of you had so much fun that I had to tweak the judgement just a bit this week, as you'll see.
So, with that in mind, it's time for old business with the ensmallened pic review...
and now comes the Judgement.

Kicking off the top five is htom with this astute observation - Amb. Kerry and Sec. Lew, at the Great Wall of China (Badaling Gate) demonstrating the non-conformity of America by being out of step, even with each other!

Followed by Don Brouhaha's ode to the directionally-challenged Sec. of State - "Is this the way to Lambert Field, where the Packers play?"

model 1066 fires a shot at an oft-noted comparison - Water this way, Mr. Horse.

Azrael Eshu (I always want to say, "Bless you" when I read your last name. 0>;~]) takes second with this "we-all-think-it-but-few-say-it-outloud" comment - "And here, Comrade Kerry, is the Leaping Lizard Lounge and Marina. We have taken the liberty of providing you with a lifetime subscription to both as a professional courtesy..."

And, finally, our own Princess grabs the gold with this snort-worthy reminder of the directionally-challenged, former junior Senator's time *spent* in the service -
So.... are we in Cambodia yet?

Congrats, everyone.

Now, I know you've noticed that a couple of the regular smartasses were not in the previous list. This is because they were so busy having so much that I felt the need this week to create a special category just for them where I've chosen the two best comments from the many that each posted. So, I present the "spdy flyer" edition of the Judgement: (in no particular order)

"And over here we have the People's Soylent Green Works."
"Green? I love protecting the environment."
"Yes, yes... so do we. Please, gentlemen, right this way."

Posted by: spd rdr

"And this is the remains of what so many American journalists have described as the "Hanoi Hilton". Contrary to their descriptions, note the spacious rooms--the recreational facilities--the re-education library.................."
Posted by: frequent flyer

"Look! See, Mr. Kerry! SEE! We have found your Lucky hat from the Christmas you spent in Cambodia!
Posted by: frequent flyer

Kerry: "Where do you keep all the kimonos? I promised Teresa I would get her a kimono."
Guide: "Over there, Mr. Ambassador. In Japan."
Kerry: "Is Japan close?"
Guide: "We could reach out and touch it, Mr. Ambassador. And we will."
Kerry: "Good. My feet hurt."

Posted by: spd rdr

That's the Judgement for this week, villains. As usual, a great job by everyone.
Another pic...well, you shirley know by now.

Posted by DL Sly at 04:20 PM | Comments (5) |TrackBack (0) |

Inflammatory Debate Topic: Caring About Other People's Sex Lives

This article is generating a lot of weird commentary in the Blatherosphere:

Here’s a loaded question: Is casual sex immoral?

From Hester Prynne to Hobby Lobby, from our dorm-mates to our politicians, it’s an issue that’s sparked more than its fair share of fiery public debate (after all, we Americans are a judge-y people). A recent study done by researchers at Cornell and New York University summed it up this way: Casual sex is psychologically good for you if you if think it’s acceptable, but not if you don’t.

So the answer, clearly, depends on who’s being asked—but odds are that either way, they won’t feel tepid about it.

Your answer may depend, at least in part, on where your money comes from (if you’re a woman) or where it goes (if you’re a man). At least, that’s the argument of a paper recently published in The Archives of Sexual Behavior, which found that promiscuity—by both men and women—is more likely to be considered a moral violation in places where women are economically dependent on men.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but.... duh. But wait! There's more!

We’ve evolved to consider sex, the researchers argue, as a game of finite resources. For our ancestors, multiple sexual partners meant things could get knotty when it came to proving whose kids were whose. For women who depended on men for their livelihoods (and the livelihoods of their offspring), that uncertainty meant losing out on the support of their male partners. Bad news. For men, it meant investing in the well-being of children they hadn’t necessarily fathered. Also bad news.

The connection between sexual behavior and morality, then, may have come about as a way of keeping a gender-based social order intact. “Through moralizing,” the researchers wrote, “individuals can promote behavior which serves their own personal and coalitional interests.” Back in the day, judgment was a form of defense.

While religious arguments against casual sex still exist, the paternity justification for promiscuity’s immorality is of another time. Sex and pregnancy no longer have to be synonymous if we don’t want them to be (and most don’t—more than 99 percent of sexually active women in the U.S. have used birth control at some point in their lives, according to the Guttmacher Institute). Paternity tests exist. The idea that a man should forever be his family’s sole breadwinner seems more than a little anachronistic. The idea of family itself is changing in ever-expanding ways.

But when it comes to this particular area, we don’t really care. As the Archives of Sexual Behavior paper explains, “The beliefs may persist due to evolutionary adaptive lag, that is, because the environment has changed faster than the moral system.” In other words, our psyches are sluggish—and in a rapidly evolving world, they haven’t necessarily kept pace.

It's hard to know where to start with this idiocy, but because we are all about the giving, we'll try anyway.

Continue reading "Inflammatory Debate Topic: Caring About Other People's Sex Lives"

Posted by Cassandra at 06:21 AM | Comments (12) |TrackBack (0) |

July 23, 2014

The Decider Decides Alone

He acts alone.
Yeah.... with nobody else.
'Cause you know when he acts alone
He prefers to be by himself.

Fortunately for the Multiverse, unilaterally bypassing our democratically elected Congress is *so* not an arrogant power grab by a deranged, power-mad autocrat bent on imposing his imperial will on the voters he promised to represent:

I asked University of Oregon political scientist Daniel Tichenor how extensive Obama's executive powers on immigration are. Tichenor's answer, via e-mail:
In the absence of Congressional action/legislation, the White House has broad authority. This is especially true when presidents are responding to large-scale and uninvited entries into U.S. territory. Truman, Eisenhower, and JFK invoked parole powers to assist European refugees in the context of World War II displacement and later the Cold War. Asylum seekers and other migrants who enter U.S. territory for relief without prior authorization present a more immediate dilemma that our chief executives have considerable authority to address.

Precedents (noted in Tichenor's excellent book on the history of U.S. immigration politics) are plentiful. Harry Truman issued an executive order in 1945 extending relief to tens of thousands of refugees from war-torn Europe. Dwight Eisenhower used a loophole in the McCarran-Walter Act to admit 30,000 Hungarian refugees after the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary. When Lyndon Johnson signed a landmark 1965 immigration law, he said he would use his parole power to open the nation to refugees from Fidel Castro's Cuba. (Congress later passed legislation facilitating asylum for Cubans.) Likewise, Richard Nixon used executive power to enable more than 40,000 Czechs on travel permits to stay in the U.S. after the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia. Additional Czech refugees were admitted from other countries.

None of these actions was on the scale that pro-immigration advocates are urging on Obama. Thousands are not millions. But the same principle of parole power could extend protection to, for example, the roughly 5 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. with children or spouses who are either citizens or legal residents.

It's all about the principle, people. Please try to stay focused.

The crisis he created forces him to act boldly and unilaterally. Eggs. Omelets.

Update: Oh quit your sniveling. It could be so much worse. He could be out there spending your tax dollars to raise oodles of dark money (you know - the toxic stuff he's forever promising to remove from politics?) for the DNC:

President Obama’s fundraising swing through the Seattle area Tuesday will include a high-priced dinner event benefiting a Democratic super PAC.

The event is at the Hunts Point home of former Costco CEO Jim Sinegal and his wife, Jan, according to a copy of the invitation obtained by The Seattle Times.

The price tag for the event is $25,000 per person, with proceeds going to the Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic group that accepts unlimited donations.

As a candidate, Obama has railed against U.S. Supreme Court rulings that opened up a flood of unfettered political spending through nonprofits and super PACs.

But Obama has come to embrace super PACs on his side of the political divide, especially as he campaigns for Democrats in the 2014 midterms.

For those of you tempted to say this looks a bit hypocritical, just shut yo' moufs:

A letter accompanying the dinner invitation pleads for donors to help avert a Republican takeover of the Senate.

“A mere six seat shift would alter the makeup of the Senate, allowing the GOP to control everything from choice to federal judge confirmations and the Supreme Court. We cannot afford to let this happen, and we need your help,” the letter to donors for the Sinegal event reads.

However, in a feat of legalese probably designed to appease campaign-finance regulators, the letter says Obama would only be appearing as a special guest and is “not soliciting funds for this event or acknowledging your contribution at any point.”

Thank Gaia someone is looking out for the interests of the poor, the near-poor, and the middle class. At $25K a pop.


Posted by Cassandra at 07:08 AM | Comments (9) |TrackBack (0) |

Thomas the Tank Engine: Fascist Oppressor

Verily, it hath been many moons since the Editorial Staff raised the consciousness of the assembled villainry by exposing the shocking exploitation of one Knut - the Adorably Psychotic Gay Teen Bear.

Truth be told, Knut was a bit of a puzzlement to us at first. On the surface, he was not your garden variety, undertrodden pawn of the vast evil, reich-wing (but we repeat our ownselves) conspiracy. Unrepentantly white in color, a Haver of Decidedly Masculine Naughty Bits, poor Knut was the sort of bear at whom we would have felt more comfortable wagging the stern finger of international opprobrium.

Thankfully, our friends the Germans performed a seemingly impossible feat. They managed to turn this white, male bear into that most useful of social justice avatars: the perpetually aggrieved victim. Of course Knut deserves some of the credit for copping to a deliciously transgressive inter-species fling with his human handler (Thomas Dörflein's suspicious demise is alleged to have resulted from a random-but-completely-understandable S&M role playing encounter gone tragically wrong - possibly brought on Dörflein's boringly clichéd polyamorous adventures with female bipeds of his own kind). There is no shame in any of this - these are all perfectly legitimate lifestyle choices. And how could enlightened folk like us help but love Knut when he bravely led the German Gay Polar Bear movement to oppose Sarah Palin's VP nomination? In a civilized society like Amerikkka, even the voices of Deutschen Eisbären have their place?

The young ursine has been the target of death threats for his prescient and principled opposition to European Islamofascists. Thus, we found ourselves deeply disturbed to learn that, not content with being a bad mother, animal hater and strident foe of a woman's exclusive right to determine the reproductive destiny of both partners in a sexual relationship, Gov. Palin has come out against same sex marriage rights for polar bears.

But sadly, even in death our hapless fUr-brother (no thanks to PETA, still possessed of his huevos) has been pressed into service to bolster the brands of his heartless, capitalistic oppressors. We shall speak of this atrocity no more.

not_a_usefulengine.pngIn the culture wars, Evil never takes a day off. So neither must we.
Sadly, a new menace looms ... err... menacingly... on the horizon: a racist, sexist, rampantly authoritarian and Otherist danger to everything we hold dear.

That's right: we're talking about Thomas the Tank Engine:

Thomas and those friends are trains that toil away endlessly on the Isle of Sodor – which seems to be forever caught in British colonial times – and, on its surface, the show seems to impart good moral lessons about hard work and friendship. But if you look through the steam rising up from the coal-powered train stacks, you realize that the pretty puffs of smoke are concealing some pretty twisted, anachronistic messages.

For one, these trains perform tasks dictated by their imperious, little white boss, Sir Topham Hatt (also known as The Fat Controller), whose attire of a top hat, tuxedo and big round belly is just a little too obvious. Basically, he's the Monopoly dictator of their funky little island. Hatt orders the trains to do everything from hauling freight to carrying passengers to running whatever random errand he wants done, whenever he wants it done – regardless of their pre-existing schedules.

Inevitably, the trains get in a fight with or pick on one another (or generally mess up whatever job they are supposed to be doing) until Hatt has to scold one of them about being a "really useful engine", because their sole utility in life is their ability to satisfy his whims. Yeah, because I want to teach my kid to admire a controlling autocrat.

But there was one particular episode that caused me to put the brakes on Thomas for good. It revolved around James, a red engine who is described in the opening credits as "vain but lots of fun." (Wait, it's OK to be vain if you can show others a good time occasionally? Great – that's going in my Parenting 101 book.) In the episode "Tickled Pink", poor vain James, is ordered by Topham Hat to get a new coat of paint. But while James has only had an undercoat of pink slathered on, Topham Hatt interrupts and demands that James go pick up Hatt's granddaughter and deliver her and her friends to a birthday party right now.

This reckless and unsanctioned Pinklighting must not be allowed to stand. Until the oppressed locomotives of Sodor have achieved gender parity, we honestly don't know how we can sleep at night.

Admit it, knuckleheads. This is quite possibly the defining issue of our time. How will our children grow up to love social justice and resolve never to possess more material goods than the least fortunate among us if they are continually being fed warped values by self loathing cartoon locomotives who continually refuse to recognize their own best interests?

Now perhaps if Thomas were to come out in a future episode as a Locomotive of Unambiguous and Unapologetic Transgenderness, honor *might* still be served. Whatever happens, Percy should definitely be forced to parade around in a shiny new coat of pink paint. With rainbows.

And unicorn decals. OCCUPY SODOR!!!!

Posted by Cassandra at 06:03 AM | Comments (14) |TrackBack (0) |

July 22, 2014

Jumping On The Bandwagon

The Princess' posting about 'Weird' Al's new album earlier this morning aroused my curiosity. I've always been a fan, especially of his later songs, but I must say, this one really appeals to my inner grammar nazi.

I never liked the original song much due to the nature of the lyrics and video, but the music and beat were very earworm-like. I like this version much better.
Tip o'the Stetson - IMAO

Posted by DL Sly at 02:53 PM | Comments (12) |TrackBack (0) |

July 21, 2014

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes???

The end, maybe. But first part - and most of it - sounds more like "Carry On" to this CSNY fan. What say you, cheesy 70s retread types?


“I wanted to do a song about all the ridiculous double-speak and meaningless buzzwords that I’ve been hearing in office environments my entire life,” Yankovic says by e-mail. “I just thought it would be ironic to juxtapose that with the song stylings of CSN, whose music pretty much symbolizes the antithesis of corporate America.”

Posted by Cassandra at 02:13 PM | Comments (5) |TrackBack (0) |

Of Presidents and Priorities

Buried on page A16, the NYTimes furiously chides the President for stubbornly "staying the course" on his true number one priority - Democratic party fundraising:

As smoke billowed from the downed Malaysian jetliner in the fields of eastern Ukraine on Thursday, President Obama pressed ahead with his schedule: a cheeseburger with fries at the Charcoal Pit in Delaware, a speech about infrastructure and two splashy fund-raisers in New York City.

The potential for jarring split-screen imagery was clear. Reports of charred bodies and a ground-to-air missile attack from Eastern Europe dominated television screens while photographers snapped pictures of a grinning Mr. Obama holding a toddler at the restaurant. The presidential motorcade was later filmed pulling up to Trump Place Apartments, the Riverside Avenue venue for his first fund-raiser.

And yet, White House aides said no consideration was given to abandoning the president’s long-planned schedule, even during the hourlong flight from Delaware to New York, when word suddenly arrived that Israel had begun a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, providing the day’s second international challenge.

We don't know why so many Republicans racist, mean spirited, partisan poopyheads are saying this guy is incompetent. Why, just look at all that can be accomplished in America if you're determined to stay focused and work hard at your job!

On Thursday morning, President Obama is off to a party fundraiser in New York. Next week, he’s flying to the west coast for another fundraiser with the Hollywood glitterati. When Obama was in Denver last week, he attended no less than four cash-gathering events in the space of 24 hours.

In his first term, Obama attended more fundraising events than any other president in recent history. According to author Brendan J. Doherty, from 2008 to 2012 Obama went to 321 events, compared to just 80 for Ronald Reagan. And, as the chart below shows, he’s done 72 events in his second term – 34 this year alone. So far, he’s ahead of the pace of George W. Bush, who had been to 30 events at this point in 2006. In his two presidential terms combined, Bush hosted 318 fundraisers. Obama has already smashed that number with 393 events to date.


He's no Bill Clinton, though.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:06 AM | Comments (3) |TrackBack (0) |

It Isn't Just Science That Is Ignored

Like so many Bush-era lefty rallying cries, "Listen to the Generals" appears to have fallen by the wayside too:

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., asked Dunford if he, or any other senior military leader, recommended “a policy of everybody out by 2017, no matter what?”

“No sir, not that I know of,” Dunford responded. “We still plan to have, as you know, some presence after 2017, but no one recommended zero.” He acknowledged that setting specific target dates for withdrawal comes with risks. “I think all of us in uniform, including the Afghans, prefer that would have been a bit more ambiguous.”

“In Iraq, we withdrew, with the associated consequences,” Dunford said. “And for me, that’s the most significant change. We knew when we left Iraq that there was work remaining to be done to develop sustainable Iraqi security forces, as well as to ensure that political stability existed in Iraq such that security would continue. In Afghanistan, we’ve got a chance to get that right, and my argument is for us to a responsible transition for Afghanistan, as opposed to withdrawal.”

Posted by Cassandra at 07:17 AM | Comments (4) |TrackBack (0) |

Ignoring the Science, Immigration/Welfare State Edition

During the Evil Bu$Hitler Era, the plaintive cri de coeur of the Enlightened Progressive was often heard throughout the land. "Why, oh why! do those horrid conservatives ignore what Science tells us?"

Now, of course, we live in a more respectful age, when public servants obligingly decide which scientific debates are "settled" and which should simply be ignored:

Many young progressives think they have found a fail-safe way to end poverty: a universal basic income (UBI). The idea is very simple, they say: Every month, the government cuts a check to everyone. Period. That way, no one has to fall below the poverty line.

The UBI is an old idea, which also has a storied history on the right. Many conservatives like the idea of a simple welfare system that would replace arcane programs and nosy bureaucracies.

And indeed, right-winger that I am, I was for a very long time a strong proponent of a UBI. But now I oppose it.

What happened? I looked at the best science, and changed my mind.

Social science has been plagued with amateurish studies featuring non-random samples, missing control groups, and dubious attempts to conflate correlation with causation. Only one method - repeated, randomized field trials - addresses these deficiencies. And the repeated conclusion of numerous randomized field trials is that the guaranteed basic income creates dependency and dysfunction, weakens economic growth, and erodes the work ethic:

...the UBI is one of the very few, if not the only, domains of social science policy where we have exactly that: extensive, long-term, repeated RFTs, which are the gold standard of evidence in social science.

As RFT expert Jim Manzi writes, these experiments "tested a wide variety of program variants among the urban and rural poor, in better and worse macroeconomic periods, and in geographies from New Jersey to Seattle"; more than 30 experiments were done in the U.S. from the '60s to the '90s and there was another set of experiments done in Canada in the '90s. The universal basic income is one of the few areas of social policy where we can say with some confidence "science says..."

And science says the UBI doesn't work.

As Manzi writes, one of the few consistent findings across all these experiments is simply this: the only type of welfare policy that reliably gets people who can work into work is a welfare policy with work requirements. All the evidence strongly suggests that if you have a UBI, the outcome is exactly what many conservatives fear will happen: millions of people who could work won't, just listing away in socially destructive idleness (with the consequences of this lost productivity reverberating throughout the society in lower growth and, probably, lower employment, in a UBI-enabled vicious cycle).

This is not a minor concern. As Megan McArdle has noted, the latest research suggests that work is a central part of human flourishing. Long-term unemployment is worse for self-reported well-being than divorce or the death of a spouse.

A related study finds that countries with less generous social welfare programs benefit more from immigration than those with more generous programs. Why? Because relatively weaker social safety nets encourage immigrants to become net contributors to the economies of their adopted countries:

Life can be tough for immigrants in America … And if you can’t find work, don’t expect the taxpayer to bail you out. Unlike in some European countries, it is extremely hard for an able-bodied immigrant to live off the state. A law passed in 1996 explicitly bars most immigrants, even those with legal status, from receiving almost any federal benefits. That is one reason why America absorbs immigrants better than many other rich countries. … The opposite was true in some countries with generous or ill-designed welfare states, however. A one-point rise in immigration made the native-born slightly worse off in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. In Belgium, immigrants who lose jobs can receive almost two-thirds of their most recent wage in state benefits, which must make the hunt for a new job less urgent.

Part of the reason progressive public policy is so popular is that - in theory at least - it sounds so kind and caring. But at some point, it has to matter whether these policies actually produce the intended results. What results has this administration's announced refusal to vigorously enforce our immigration laws produced? Ignoring repeated warnings didn't make the problem go away:

During the president's 2012 reelection campaign he announced plans to defer the deportations of certain immigrants brought to the country illegally as children before June 2007.

Critics now argue that the administration chose to ignore reports about the growing number of immigrant children and instead focused on trying to push his reform bill through Congress.

'Was the White House told there were huge flows of Central Americans coming? Of course they were told. A lot of times,' one former government official told the Post.

As many have noted, this problem is neither new nor unique to this administration:

The U.S. faced a similar challenge in the mid-2000s, when border patrol was caught unawares by a surge of Brazilian illegals. The Bush administration determined that word had gotten back to Brazil that people apprehended at the border would be released and able to stay, so the Department of Homeland Security initiated an operation dubbed "Texas Hold 'Em."

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff explained the results during a Senate hearing in 2005. "We prioritized the existing space, dedicated bed space and began detaining and removing all of the illegal Brazilians we apprehended," said Mr. Chertoff. "The word spread surprisingly swiftly; within its first thirty days, the operation had already begun to deter illegal border crossings by Brazilians. In fact, the number of Brazilians apprehended dropped by 50%. After 60 days, the rate of Brazilian illegal immigration through this sector was down 90%, and it is still significantly depressed all across the border. In short, we learned that a concentrated effort of removal can actually discourage illegal entries by non-Mexicans on the southwest border."

What is the kinder policy in the long run? To stubbornly ignore the tragic consequences of well meaning but completely unrealistic public policy decisions on the real people they were designed to help? To craft policies that encourage people to lie to and cheat each other? Is it socialism itself that encourages the erosion of reciprocity and social trust? Or is it the poverty and scarcity endemic to life in these so-called worker's paradises?

The authors found that, on average, those who had East German roots cheated twice as much as those who had grown up in West Germany under capitalism. They also looked at how much time people had spent in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The longer the participants had been exposed to socialism, the greater the likelihood that they would claim improbable numbers of high rolls.

The study reveals nothing about the nature of the link between socialism and dishonesty. It might be a function of the relative poverty of East Germans, for example. All the same, when it comes to ethics, a capitalist upbringing appears to trump a socialist one.

As Hillary Clinton is wont to say, "What difference does it make?". The outcome is the same.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:12 AM | Comments (5) |TrackBack (0) |

July 17, 2014

Sugar And Spice And Everything Nice

"Making the decision to have a child - it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body." ~ Elizabeth Stone

This heartbreaking, yet inspiring, story was below the fold of my paper this morning.

"TOLEDO, Ohio — Just days after his infant daughter’s death, Nathen Steffel asked strangers on the Internet for only one thing: He and his wife wanted a photo of their daughter without the breathing tubes and tape that masked her little face.

The response has been overwhelming.

Hundreds of photos, sketches and paintings have poured into the family’s northwestern Ohio home and their inbox."

Some with beautiful results...


Speaking of beautiful results...

Continue reading "Sugar And Spice And Everything Nice"

Posted by DL Sly at 12:46 PM | Comments (22) |TrackBack (0) |