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February 29, 2008

Consult the Oracle

Bwa ha ha ha ha!!!!


CWCID: Holly

Posted by Cassandra at 11:56 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Favorite Childhood Books

The discussion on this post about the relationship between good reading habits and strong performance on standardized tests reminded me of a short essay I wrote almost 20 years ago for my freshman English class.

It was written long before computers were commonplace, so it is in longhand, double-spaced, on notebook paper. Remember those days? Oddly enough, when I found it, it seems to be the first one I ever wrote as a student! I thought you might enjoy a glimpse of a far younger Cass as she started her journey back to school after ten years as a home maker; and at any rate the essay serves as a good lead in to today's discussion on favorite childhood books.

Enjoy.

Reading: A Home Away From Home


I was born the daughter of a military officer, and in the course of my life I have changed homes more times than I care to count. But throughout all the years of change and upheaval, books have given me a steady fount of accumulated wisdom wisdom that has refreshed me whenever I have felt weary or confused.

My earliest memories of reading take me back to long summer afternoons when I was supposed to be unpacking my toys and books. Surrounded by cardboard boxes, I lost myself in adventure novels and fantasies like Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda, J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings, and T.H. White's The Once and Future King. With each new book I devoured I was reassured that others before me had faced new and sometimes terrifying challenges and I came away filled with confidence and an impatience to conquer my new world.

By the age of twenty I was married and had moved away from my family to start a new life as a military wife and mother. Confronted with the challenges of raising two children alone, I turned again to books. Manuals on infant and child care taught me how to care for each new baby; when to call the doctor, or to expect a first tooth. Novels like Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice helped me explore and define the values I planned to pass on to my children. Whenever I felt worn down and bewildered by the constant demands of motherhood and military life, I retreated into another world populated by characters who had faced every kind of dilemma. I could compare their experiences with mine, and I always came away armed with a new perspective on my problems.

Ten years later, I have returned to school to finish my education. Having created my own inner world I am ready to explore the world around me. As I learn, I know that reading will continue to provide a place for me where, as in the mythical Shangri-La of John Hilton's Lost Horizons, time seems to stop and I can reflect and reaffirm my goals before I emerge: rested and refreshed.

So, what were your favorite childhood novels? Or if you can't remember them, which novels have you most enjoyed reading to your children, and which do they most enjoy?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:19 AM | Comments (62) | TrackBack

February 28, 2008

Commentary of the Day

Overheard at that other VC:

I am surprised the headline didn't say:


GRIM MILESTONE: Thomas' Silence Reaches Two Year Mark

And apropos of observations the Editorial Staff made this morning about a certain candidate planning to fight the War on Terriers Terror with Hope, perhaps that shouldn't come as any great surprise when you campaign based on your sex appeal:

I just heard a funny remark on PBS. Not sure who made it. “Hillary’s conducting a job interview. Obama’s on a date.” The whole sex thing is being turned upside down, as is the race thing, where a candidate’s charm is magnified by a matter of race that would once have been a great hindrance, and a woman who has spent her adult life in her husband’s shadow is seen the the more experienced. So maybe the Dems are doing all of us a service this time around, as a sort of rinse cycle, getting a lot of these issues out of everyone’s system. So the next time women and/or blacks run, maybe it won’t be that big a deal and we can focus on whether, other things being equal, they will actually make good presidents or not without the accusations of sexism and racism. We’re part of the way there, but not quite, and hopefully by November people will have figured out they need to look at who might actually make the best leader at this critical time in our history.

Naaaaaah.

CWCID: The New Republic

Posted by Cassandra at 08:30 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Obama Will Use "Hope, Change" to Fight Al Qaeda

Can Barack Obama be any more clueless on national security?

OBAMA RESPONDS TO MCCAIN: “There was no such thing as Al Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq.”

Glenn Reynolds snarks:

The problem with this statement is that, although it's an article of leftie faith, it's not true. (Remember how Richard Clarke was worried that Osama would "boogie to Baghdad" if we invaded Afghanistan? It's not really Obama's fault though -- as an Illinois State Senator when these events transpired, he probably wasn't paying much attention.)

But it's not just that. Didn't the man read newspapers like the Christian Science Monitor, (that Bush mouthpiece) back in 2002?

A radical Islamist group – with possible links to Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein – is growing and threatening the stability of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

The group – Ansar al-Islam – emerged just days before the Sept. 11 attacks on the US. It delivered a fatwa, or manifesto, to the citizens in mountain villages against "the blasphemous secularist, political, social, and cultural" society there, according to Kurdish party leaders.

Since, Ansar al-Islam has nearly doubled in size to 700, including Iraqis, Jordanians, Moroccans, Palestinians, and Afghans – a composition similar to the multinational Al Qaeda network. Villagers here claim it has ransacked and razed beauty salons, burned schools for girls, and murdered women in the streets for refusing to wear the burqa. It has seized a Taliban-style enclave of 4,000 civilians and several villages near the Iran border.

Kurdish military sources say that Ansar al-Islam's Mr. Kreker is a former member of a Kurdish Islamic party who joined Ansar al-Islam after its formation in September. Kreker replaced Abu Abdullah Shafae – an Iraqi Kurd who trained with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan for 10 years – and changed his name from Warya Holery. Mr. Shafae is now Ansar al-Islam's deputy.

Another of the group's leaders, Abu Abdul Rahman – who, the Kurds claim, was sent to northern Iraq by bin Laden – was killed in fighting in October.

Commander Qada also claims that Ansar al-Islam has ties to agents of Saddam Hussein operating in northern Iraq. "We have picked up conversations on our radios between Iraqis and [Ansar] al-Islam," he says from his military base in Halabja. "I believe that Iraq is also funding [Ansar] al-Islam. There are no hard facts as yet, but I believe that under the table they are supporting them because it will cause further instability for the Kurds."

But don't tell Obama that. He knows everything, so he can state definitively that al Qaeda wasn't in Iraq before we invaded. And don't even bother bringing up Human Rights Watch, that ruthless cabal of neo-con warmongers:

PUK officials have repeatedly accused Ansar al-Islam of having links with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, and that its members included Arabs of various nationalities who had received military training in Afghanistan. The PUK also said some fifty-seven "Arab Afghan" fighters had entered Iraqi Kurdistan via Iran in mid-September 2001. While Human Rights Watch did not investigate these alleged links, the testimonies of villagers who had fled Biyara and Tawela and were interviewed in September 2002 appeared to support this contention. A number of them, including former detainees, said that there were foreigners among Ansar al-Islam forces, that on occasion they were interrogated by non-Iraqis speaking various Arabic dialects, and that they had heard other languages spoken that they did not recognize.

Scores of Iraqi Kurds affiliated to Ansar al-Islam, including key leaders, consider themselves veterans of the Afghan war. They had spent time in Afghanistan, initially fighting against Soviet forces during the 1980s. Representatives of other Iraqi Kurdish Islamist groups who maintain links with Ansar al-Islam told Human Rights Watch that a small number of Iraqi Kurds affiliated to the group had also fought alongside the Taliban, and that they then returned to Iraqi Kurdistan following the latter's defeat.

There are also other indications of possible Ansar al-Islam connections with al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan. Documents discovered in an al-Qaeda guest house in Afghanistan by the New York Times discuss the creation of an "Iraqi Kurdistan Islamic Brigade" just weeks prior to the formation of Ansar al-Islam in December 2001, and some Ansar al-Islam members in PUK custody have described in credible detail training in al-Qa'ida camps in Afghanistan. The existence of any ongoing links between al-Qa'ida and Ansar al-Islam is unknown.

Don't mention the NY Times either, though now that they've discovered al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, they seem to have forgotten they reported the presence of al Qaeda in Iraq long before we invaded:

The group, which formed late in 2001 in opposition to the autonomous and largely secular government in the Kurdish enclave, is mostly composed of Kurds. But Kurdish leaders here say that about 150 of its members, mostly Arabs, trained in Qaeda-sponsored camps in Afghanistan, and that Osama bin Laden's network has an interest in its success.

''This is a group that Al Qaeda set up here as an alternative base of operations in the Middle East,'' said a senior Kurdish official familiar with the intelligence collected on Ansar. ''It is certain from various sources that this was to be an alternative base to Afghanistan.'' The official declined to be identified.

How conveeeeeeeeeenient.

But no worries. Just keep moving - there's nothing to see here. At any rate Barack has all of this covered. If it turns out he's wrong about the need for us to oppose al Qaeda in Iraq later (like he was mistaken about the presence of al Qaeda in Iraq before we invaded, we can always, you know, re-invade...

I think Obama made a huge boo boo in last night’s debate. When asked what he would do if we pulled out of Iraq and the place turned into an al-Qaeda haven, he said he would re-invade. Smooth as butter, didn't miss a beat.

You know, with that broken Army of ours....

The one that's racking up unprecedented debts this nation can ill afford:

discretionary.jpg
US military spending as a percentage of discretionary spending, 1962--2003

military-relative-size-graph.jpg
US military spending as a percentage of GDP, 1940--2003

Yep. It's enough to make one long for the Reagan years, when we were at least fiscally responsible:

... let’s take a look at the Reagan legacy on federal spending and deficits. In 1980, the last year of Jimmy Carter’s presidency, government outlays were running at 21.7% of GDP and the budget deficit was 2.7% of GDP. (The economy was also a basket case, which is when you would expect budget deficits to be at their worse.) In 1988, Reagan’s last year in office, outlays as a percent of GDP were running at 21.3% with a deficit of 3.1% of GDP. The budget deficit over Reagan’s eight years averaged 4.2% and ran as high as 6.0% in 1983.

Bush entered office with an economy that was booming: in 2000 government outlays ran at 18.4% of GDP with a budget surplus of 2.4%. But the stock market implosion, 9/11 and the war quickly changed the budget dynamics and the surplus switched to a deficit of 3.5% in 2003 and 3.6% in 2004. In 2005, the budget deficit came in at 2.6%, with government outlays running at 20.1% of GDP.

The point here is that there is lot of hyperventilating about the Bush administration’s spending and “out of control” deficits, much of it by folks who praise Reagan yet trash Bush. But the most recent “out of control” Bush deficit at 2.6% of GDP is far below the eight-year Reagan average of 4.2%.

This is not meant to disparage Reagan, only to provide perspective. When you look at the numbers on a proportional basis - which is the only way to honestly compare different eras - Bush’s federal spending is not “out of control,” at least in comparison to Ronald Reagan.

But I guess in order to reign in all of this out of control military spending, we'll just have to go to war with the Army and Marine Corps we have.... or whatever's left of them after Obama brings us all that inspiring Hope and Change he keeps talking about.

I hear you can do a lot with Hope.

Let's hope so.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:03 AM | Comments (60) | TrackBack

NY TimesWatch: Is Our Kidz Learning Edition?

Are our children learning?

Apparently not. And 'twill no doubt shock the assembled villainry to learn The BushReich is to blame for the sad intellectual decline of our nation's youth:

Fewer than half of American teenagers who were asked basic history and literature questions in a phone survey knew when the Civil War was fought, and one in four said Columbus sailed to the New World some time after 1750, not in 1492.

The survey results, released on Tuesday, demonstrate that a significant proportion of teenagers live in “stunning ignorance” of history and literature, said the group that commissioned it, Common Core.

The organization describes itself as a new research and advocacy organization that will press for more teaching of the liberal arts in public schools.

The group says President Bush’s education law, No Child Left Behind, has impoverished public school curriculums by holding schools accountable for student scores on annual tests in reading and mathematics, but in no other subjects.

Damn that Shrub. Is there no end to his depredations?

It's bad enough he allows that horrid little mutt of his to run about soiling the carpets and shredding the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Must he be allowed to snatch books from the hands of screaming schoolchildren too? How else can it be possible to forget that old nursery rhyme:

"In fourteen hundred and ninety two Columbus sailed the ocean blue..."

What else can explain their inability to recall when the Civil War was fought? Some Evil Genius must have figured out a way to follow the poor tykes home from school and prevent them from reading in their spare time. He (for such a heartless fiend can only have been a man) must be literally shoving Nintendo Wii's into their unwilling hands when they'd much rather be reading books.

The horror!

And once the damage is done, even a fancy college education can't reverse it. That's right, you heard me. The ill effects of No Child Left Behind are so pernicious and invasive, they somehow extend right into the ivory towers of academe, nullifying even the gloriously mind-expanding influence of a Harvard education:

College seniors know astoundingly little about America’s history, political thought, market economy and international relations.

The overall average score for the approximately 7,000 seniors who took the American civic literacy exam was 54.2%, an “F.” That is consistent with the overall average of 53.2% posted by seniors last year. Not one college surveyed can boast that its seniors scored, on average, even a “C” in American civic knowledge.

Harvard seniors scored highest, but their overall average was 69.6%, a “D+.” That is almost identical to the 69.7% earned by Harvard seniors last year. Yale and Princeton seniors averaged only 65.9% and 61.9%, respectively. At 18 colleges, the average senior scored less than 50%.

The average senior failed all four subjects, scoring less than 60% in each.

If only this nation can hold on until November, when President Obama brings Hope and Change to a nation that has been suffering at the hands of a fiendishly moronic despot who ruthlessly steals facts from the minds of small children: a man with all the stunning intellectual prowess of a mildly confused chimp, who - despite his bumbling ineptitude - somehow managed to hoodwink not just Congress but the entire nation into waging an illegal and immoral war and defeated two vastly more intelligent opponents in a national election, while simultaneously betraying the Republican base by dishonestly doing precisely what he promised to do on the campaign trail.

No one expects that kind of duplicity from a politician. Especially one we enjoy despising so very much. But we won't get fooled again.

Obama in 2008.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:29 AM | Comments (34) | TrackBack

February 27, 2008

A Man of Letters

William F. Buckley Jr. has passed on.

letters.jpgIf you admired the man, you will perhaps enjoy this essay written about him recently in the Wall Street Journal. I hope I may be forgiven for excerpting it in toto. I do so in tribute to a great talent who will be sorely missed:

I don't think I'm giving away any trade secrets when I say that, in many magazines, the letters page is not quite what it appears to be. The ruse is less noticeable in daily newspapers (particularly this one!), where the editors rely on feedback from their readers and labor to put together a letters page that lets off steam even as it provides genuine interest.

It's a different story, though, in the high-end glossies, the ones that are fat with ads and self-regard. In their slick, rubbery pages, it's more often the editor himself (or herself) who benefits from the illusion provided by a letters page. He does, after all, get several pages of copy that he doesn't have to pay a writer for. His Platonic ideal of the perfect contributor--the writer who hands in his article and is then run over by a bus before he can complain about the editing--comes to life in the letter-writing reader, who is advised in the fine print that while the publication "welcomes letters to the editor" it nevertheless "reserves the right to edit the letters for length and style." (Meaning: Send us whatever you want; we'll print whatever we want.) At the same time, the editor gets to appear egalitarian and concerned, flattering his readers by making a show of seeming to care what they think when all he really cares about is whether they drop the $85,000 for the Lexus advertised on page 187.

One reason the old New Yorker magazine--the one with A.J. Liebling and E.B. White--was so unusual was that it refused to print letters to the editor at all, thus making the editor's disdain utterly transparent. (The magazine didn't run corrections, either.) The message was unmistakable, and you could almost hear it through the lockjaw of that foppish, monocle-wearing Eustace Tilley on the cover: "It seems scarcely possible, dear reader, that any letter you write could be of any interest to us whatsoever. We write, you read." So just be still and go back to that eight-part series on glaciers.

Another nervy, equally admirable approach was conceived by William F. Buckley Jr. In addition to his duties as columnist, TV talk-show host, lecturer, novelist and Manhattan boulevardier, Mr. Buckley was founder and, for 35 years, the editor of the magazine National Review. In this role, as in others, he was an innovator. Instead of merely parking all the letters to the editor in a few pages at the front, in the editorial equivalent of a mud room, he set aside a special department in the middle of the magazine to showcase the ones that caught his eye. And then, more often than not, he would gut the letter writer right there on the printed page. At NR the letters page became an abattoir.

Mr. Buckley called his department "Notes and Asides," and he has now gathered between hard covers a "best of" collection culled from the years 1967 through 2005, when the department was discontinued. In "Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription," we find the whole range of letters to the editor: complaints and condescending jibes, lame jokes and wry observations, galloping know-it-all-ism and--always a favorite of letter writers--nitpicking. The tone varies with the subject, of course, but certain notes recur.

"You ridiculous ass," begins one early letter. Another opens: "You are the mouthpiece of that evil rabble that depends on fraud, perjury." And another: "You are a hateful, un-Christian demagogue." "You are the second worst-dressed s.o.b. on television." Mr. Buckley's responses are equally pithy, though slightly higher toned and always more allusive. To one disgruntled reader who identifies himself, in his righteous indignation, as the Second Coming of Jesus, Mr. Buckley warns: "And I am the second coming of Pontius Pilate." He sometimes composes his insults in Latin--a bit of one-upmanship that even Eustace Tilley would envy.

Arthur Schlesinger Jr. writes to complain about some perceived slight: "I might have hoped that you would have had the elementary fairness, or guts, to provide equal time; but, alas, wrong again." "Dear Arthur," Mr. Buckley replies. "I should have thought you would be used to being wrong."

Not all the exchanges are purely contentious. The literary scholar Hugh Kenner writes in to critique a single sentence--a long, zig-zaggy construction that Mr. Buckley wrote to open an essay in Esquire magazine. Abashed, Mr. Buckley protests that the sentence was "springy and tight."

" 'Springy and tight' my foot," says Kenner. "Those aren't springs, they're bits of Scotch tape." What follows is several pages of literary dissection, with Kenner attacking vigorously and Mr. Buckley defending his published sentence with slackening strength. If it sounds fussy, it isn't. It's a miniature tutorial in rhetoric and style from one of the century's most rigorous critics directed at one of its most accomplished journalists. You can't imagine finding it in any other letters column.

Over time "Notes and Asides" became a grab bag of odds and ends, a way for Mr. Buckley to clear his desk. There are speeches, random squibs, and tributes to the living and the dead. A lot of this material is included here along with the letters, and given Mr. Buckley's unrelieved involvement in the public affairs of his time, the book stands as a kind of informal intellectual history of the final third of the 20th century. These items of Buckleyana are good to have in more permanent form, but I bet it's the letters to the editor that readers will savor most--even those magazine readers who have once or twice been duped, by distant editors, into writing a letter to the editor themselves.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:45 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Will The Media Listen To These Troops?

Not bloody likely:

Scott Radcliffe believes two tours of duty in Iraq gave him the stuff to serve in Congress. As a platoon commander, he helped spearhead economic development, built citizen coalitions and made many tough decisions, often amid enemy fire.

“I would be putting all I learned in that pressure-filled environment into practice. So it really cuts through metal,” said Radcliffe, 28, who seeks to unseat a newly elected Republican in northwest Ohio.

He’s among the dozen or so Republicans from across the country helping each other campaign under the banner of Iraq Veterans for Congress, cross-promoting each other and directing donors to a shared Web site. It’s a response to the anti-war veterans whose campaigns drew attention in 2006, among them Patrick Murphy of Philadelphia, the lone Iraq war vet serving in Congress.

The platform of Iraq Vets for Congress grew out of the attitudes of the previous election: They believe in victory in Iraq, staying on the offense in the war on terror and taking care of all veterans, said founder Kieran Lalor, who’s running for a seat in New York.

Lalor’s pro-war band of brothers includes California’s Eric Egland, a military intelligence officer who gained national attention for his book “The Troops Need You, America” and a charity of the same name. Other members of the group hail from Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Indiana and Maine.

“Most people say we (Republicans) lost the Congress last time because of the war,” said Lalor, 32, of Wappingers Falls, N.Y. “I put my life on the line there, I lost friends there, and if I didn’t believe American national security was at stake, I would be the first to say so.

“We as messengers are as important as the message.”

Ah, but they've violated Arkin's Law, and so the media is entitled to ignore them while touting the patriotic dissent of truth-to-powerers who dare to voice authentic opinions about the war on terror.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:29 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 26, 2008

Snakes On The Plains!!! Aliens on Capitol Hill!!!

Where, oh where, is The Goracle when we need him????

Snow cover over North America and much of Siberia, Mongolia and China is greater than at any time since 1966.

The U.S. National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) reported that many American cities and towns suffered record cold temperatures in January and early February. According to the NCDC, the average temperature in January "was -0.3 F cooler than the 1901-2000 (20th century) average."

China is surviving its most brutal winter in a century. Temperatures in the normally balmy south were so low for so long that some middle-sized cities went days and even weeks without electricity because once power lines had toppled it was too cold or too icy to repair them.

There have been so many snow and ice storms in Ontario and Quebec in the past two months that the real estate market has felt the pinch as home buyers have stayed home rather than venturing out looking for new houses.

In just the first two weeks of February, Toronto received 70 cm of snow, smashing the record of 66.6 cm for the entire month set back in the pre-SUV, pre-Kyoto, pre-carbon footprint days of 1950.

And remember the Arctic Sea ice? The ice we were told so hysterically last fall had melted to its "lowest levels on record? Never mind that those records only date back as far as 1972 and that there is anthropological and geological evidence of much greater melts in the past.

The ice is back.

It's beginning to look as though the Earth does indeed have a temperature... and it's below freezing. What's a carbon-neutral friend of Gaia to do?

Fortunately, it would seem the perfect storm of hot air emanating from betwixt the lips of one Albert R. ("It Snows Wherever He Goes") Gore is beating back the advancing Ice Age; at least if the mainstream media can be believed. Via Ed Driscoll, this just in! If the glaciers don't get us, it will be the Giant Tropical Death Snakes from Hell:

python.jpg

... global warming will cause giant snakes to start roaming the fruited plains.

Curiously, only a couple of weeks ago, we were told that global warming killed oversized reptiles.

The stories change so fast... who can keep track?

Remember the “secret Pentagon report” on global warming from a few years back? The secret report that wasn’t secret? Here’s one of the report’s predictions, as understood by Britain’s Observer newspaper:

As early as next year widespread flooding by a rise in sea levels will create major upheaval for millions.

That was written four years ago - before the Great Upheaval of ’05. Caused by the rising.

As one little toad and pimple on the behind of the body politic so rudely pointed out, this is not necessarily to be construed as a contraindication of global warming. Doubtless it's just another bizarre manifestation of the Gore Effect.

When pressed for comment, the Editorial Staff had nothing to say aside from,


"Dear sweet Jesus we're all going to di....

Ummm... never mind.

aliens.jpgWe got a bit carried away. But then what can you expect when there are alien UFO's over Capitol Hill? There is nothing worse than a space creature with an agenda.

Unless, of course, it's your random, disorganized extraterrestrial who blows into town waving its arms about wildly and lacking the foggiest notion of what he/she/it wants to accomplish. That terrifies us.

Though on second thought it's hard to see how that would be any different than a typical session of Congress.


Posted by Cassandra at 10:25 AM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Crayon Physics

This is amazing. A few days ago, Pile sent me this game, which you may have seen. I'd seen a less fancy version a few months back. This is an extended version of the game, and it's fascinating:

You can read about it and see the prototype here, but best of all you can register to be notified when the full version of the game comes out. Pretty neat.

This is fun, too.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:28 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

February 23, 2008

Saturday Lyrics

Some people remember the first time
Some can't forget the last
Some just select what they want to from the past
It's a song that you danced to in high school
It's a moon you tried to bring down
On a four-in-the-morning drive through the streets of town

Come on come on, it's getting late now
Come on come on, take my hand
Come on come on, you just have to whisper
Come on come on, I will understand

It's a photograph taken in Paris, at the end of the honeymoon
In 1948, late in the month of June
Your parents smile for the camera in sienna shades of light
Now you're older than they were then that summer night

Come on come on, it's getting late now
Come on come on, take my hand
Come on come on, you just have to whisper
Come on come on, I will understand

It's a need you never get used to, so fierce and so confused
It's a loss you never get over the first time you lose

And tonight I am thinking of someone, seventeen years ago
We rode in his daddy's car down the river road

Come on come on, it's getting late now
Come on come on, take my hand
Come on come on, you just have to whisper
Come on come on, I will understand
Come on come on, it's getting late now
Come on come on, take my hand
Come on come on, you just have to whisper
Come on come on, I will understand
Come on come on

- Mary Chapin Carpenter

Posted by Cassandra at 10:26 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

February 21, 2008

The Fountain

Au borde d'une fontaine je me suis reposée
Je me suis reposée au bord d'une fontaine
Au bord d'une je me suis reposée
Et l'eau était si claire que je me suis baignée

Et l'eau était si clair que je me suis baignée
Je me suis baignée et l'eau était si claire
L'eau était si claire que je me suis baignée
Avec des feuilles de chêne je me suis essuyée

Dessus la plus haute branche le rossignol chantaite
La rossignol chantaite dessus la plus haute branche
Dessus la plus haute branche la rossignol chantaite
Chante, belle rossignol, et toi a le coeur gai

Oui, je l'attends, je l'attends
Je l'attends que mon coeur aime
Oui, je l'attends, je l'attends
Je l'attends celle que mon coeur aime tant

Jean, mon ami, a la guerre et allé
A la guerre et allé Jean, mon ami
Jean, mon ami, a la guerre et allé
Pour un bouton de rose que je lui refusaiw

Je voudrais que la rose fut encore en rosier
Encore en rosier je voudrais la rose
Je voudrais que la rose fut encore en rosier
Et que mon ami, Jean, fut ici à m'aimer


By the side of a fountain I took my rest
And the water was so clear that I bathed in it

The water was so clear that I bathed in it
And I dried myself with the leaves of an oak tree

From the very highest branch,
the nightingale was singing
Sing on, pretty nightingale,
you are the one who has a happy heart

John, my friend, has gone to the war
Because of a rosebud which I refused from him

Yes, I will wait, I will wait, I will wait
I will wait for the one my heart loves
Yes, I will wait, I will wait, I will wait
I will wait for the one my heart loves so much.

I wish that rose were still on the bush
And my friend John were here to love me

By the side of a fountain I took my rest
And the water was so clear that I bathed in it

Posted by Cassandra at 07:18 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Coffee Snorters: Is It Drafty In Here? Edition

What-the-hell-are-you-gawping-at, you sexist pig?

Yeah, you. Some people just have no sense of decorum.

Sheesh.

Update: Heh....

I blame spd and those joyless, repressed scolds in the White House who don't understand the completely understandable desires of today's strong, fully-independent women to taunt men with their sexuality while demanding that they be treated just like one of the boys**.

**For the sake of clarity, all opinions expressed are to be attributed to the Editorial Staff and not to mr rdr.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:09 PM | Comments (103) | TrackBack

Link of the Day

An unexpected love story.

CWCID: Travis Kavulla

Posted by Cassandra at 07:34 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

February 20, 2008

Items of Interest

Boy, the Princess has got to get more sleep. Thought I had published this a day or two ago. Guess that explains the lack of comments :p

Sometimes, work bites.

If you knit or crochet, the Marine Corps needs your help. Yes, you heard correctly!

Spread the word.

Via Eric, this young man can write. Well worth your time.

Yesterday A few days ago was the 20th anniversary of the kidnapping of Lt. Colonel Rich Higgins.

I was mildly astonished at how few remembered the Hezbollah connection when the death of Imad Mugniyah was announced last week. For those of you who may be rusty on the story, Lt. Col. Higgins was tortured and murdered by Islamic extremists. His wife, Lt. Col. Robin Higgins, was a Marine PAO at the time. Her grace and dignity under extraordinary pressure have been an inspiration to many Marine wives. You can read more about Lt. Col. Higgins here.

"Boredom is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. That debased and attenuated state of ennui which thinks that nothing is worth making fun of is far worse.”

Posted by Cassandra at 09:18 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

A Teachable Moment For Parents?

Interesting article in the WaPo yesterday:

Greg Barlow, an Air Force officer in the defense secretary's office at the Pentagon, was helping his 8-year-old son, Christian, one recent night with a vexing problem: What is 674 plus 249?

The Prince William County third-grader did not stack the numbers and carry digits from one column to the next, the way generations have learned. Applying lessons from his school's new math textbook, "Investigations in Number, Data, and Space," Christian tried breaking the problem into easier-to-digest numbers.

But after several seconds, he got stumped. He drew lines connecting digits, and his computation amounted to an upside-down pyramid with numbers at the bottom. His father, in a teacherly tone, nudged him toward the old-fashioned method. "How would you do that another way?" Barlow asked.

In Prince William and elsewhere in the country, a math textbook series has fomented upheaval among some parents and teachers who say its methods are convoluted and fail to help children master basic math skills and facts. Educators who favor the series say it helps young students learn math in a deeper way as they prepare for the rigors of algebra.

The debate over "Investigations in Number, Data, and Space," a Pearson School series used in thousands of elementary classrooms, including some in Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Howard counties, is one of the newer fronts in the math wars. Such battles over textbooks and teaching methods are fueled in part by the anxieties of parents who often feel powerless over their children's education, especially in subjects they know.

I found the parents' reactions interesting on a number of levels. As someone who grew up in the military, I moved frequently. An inevitable consequence of military life is that for children, their education becomes a patchwork of different pedagogical methods and curricula as they are bounced from state to state and school district to school district. Some are better, some worse. I faced the same problems when raising my own boys: overseeing their education (and this is something I view as the parent's, and not the teacher's responsibility) can be challenging at times.

But I can honestly say that although there were times when I thought my children's teachers and/or their teaching materials were unbearably wrongheaded, it never once occurred to me to undermine what they were told to do. The message they got from me at home was simple: this is your job as a student; put in whatever amount of time is required for you master the material. If you need help, it's available, but whether you do the work is not negotiable and the terms under which you do it are not either. Suck it up.

I would not want to be a teacher these days. Without having had time to get into this particular program in depth, the example provided by the Post is less than compelling. Unfortunately, their graphic does not display, but the problem on the front page when like this:

Traditional approach:

42
+34
76

The steps a child would take to solve this problem follow:

2+4=6

4+3=7

= 76

New approach:

42 + 34 =

2 + 4 = 6

40 + 30 = 70

70 + 6 = 76

Now you tell me which approach actually contributes more to a child's fundamental understanding of what he or she is doing during the process of addition? The parents' main complaint against this method seems to be that it is "too hard" and that students are "struggling" with it. Well guess what? When one has to actually think one's way through a problem as opposed to simply memorizing a rote algorithm without ever mastering the underlying concept, one often finds it a struggle at first.

One parent (a meteorologist with a degree in atmospheric sciences) has gone to the trouble to make a video explaining why alternative methods of teaching math are so wrong/bad. She succeeds in raising a valid concern that, if some of these methods are taught as she presents them (and we don't know that) they may be confusing. Personally I found one method very easy to understand and thought it, also, would enhance a student's understanding of place value.

This math professor presents the opposing viewpoint and asks what I believe parents ought really to be concerned about: "What is the real goal of mathematics education?"

Is it to pass a standardized test? To memorize rote algorithms (which can, after all, be easily taught at home)? Or is it a mix of concept and skill mastery?

I think he's right. I have mentioned this many times, but I tutored college algebra, stats and calculus for many years and found that in addition to lacking skills, the vast majority of students had little or no understanding of what they were doing or why they were doing it. They just wanted to be given a quick, easy, painless way to pass what they viewed as a meaningless exercise.

But that is not the point of education. The true goal of education is to teach us to reason. We do use math in every day life, and a huge part of the reason we don't retain the skills we learn in school is that we never understand how they "fit into" our daily lives in the same way verbal skills do. We lack the context that would allow us to link math to the rest of what we know, to make it useful and relevant. That 'context' is that math involves critical reasoning skills that every human being ought to develop more fully in order to understand things like politics, practical economic forces that affect our lives, or just every day physics. Mathematical illiteracy is responsible for all sorts of poor decision making, and if people understood that better they might be inclined to spend more time mastering these critical skills. Moreover, in an increasingly technical world, America is falling behind in math and science literacy to the point where we are being forced to import math talent from abroad..The world is becoming more rather than less complex, and math fluency is no longer optional for employees who want to be competitive in a rapidly changing global marketplace.

My youngest son and his wife attended St. John's College in Annapolis. St. John's is an unusual school in that it focuses exclusively on a Great Books curriculum. Consequently, he has never taken a modern collegiate-level Calculus class (or any other college level math or economics class, for that matter). Nonetheless, his undergraduate education prepared him to think, and he had no trouble being hired in a highly technical field where he works with PhD economists on mortgage risk algorithms.

The St. John's curriculum is non-traditional by any standard you care to name, and yet it produces students who easily move into diverse fields because they know how to think.

Interestingly, the protest web site against this method cites (as support) a rather lengthy study of the Singaporean mathematics program, which ranks #1 in the world in math education:

Singapore’s framework, shown in Exhibit B, lays out a balanced set of mathematical priorities centered on problem solving. It includes an emphasis on computational skills along with more conceptual and strategic thinking processes. The framework covers a relatively small number of topics in-depth and carefully sequenced grade-by-grade, following a spiral organization in which topics presented at one grade are covered in later grades, but only at a more advanced level. Students are expected to have mastered prior content, not repeat it.

By contrast, the frameworks of Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, and Ohio exceeded Singapore’s average numbers of topics per grade by 70 to 160 percent. If Singapore’s excellent test performance is evidence that its curriculum exposes students to about the right number of topics per grade, then these states’ test performance suggests they cover too many topics and should reduce breadth of coverage and deepen topic instruction.

I just find it interesting that so many parents these days want to go to war with their school systems. While I can sympathize, I think I might insist my child learn the mandated method, but also teach them to check their work by the traditional method. There is nothing that says a parent can't add to what their child learns at school (and I often did). But I don't see how it can be good for your child to let him see you undermining the school, even if you disagree, and even if he or she has to work a little harder.

Anyway, it's an interesting dilemma. What do you think?

Posted by Cassandra at 06:37 AM | Comments (40) | TrackBack

February 19, 2008

I BELIEVE!!!!!

And The Holy Spirit Descended Upon Them and anointed them and they began to testify and to speak in tongues of devils and of angels...

You've gotta love Southerners. These are God fearing people.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:20 PM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

Ha!

Sorry for the lame posting this week guys.
I'm ungodly busy. However, whilst grabbing an apple and a cup of coffee, I did manage to produce this with spd's poster generator for your amusement and befuddlement:

Obamessiah.jpg

"We are the Change that we seek"

- Obama, Super Tuesday

I still cannot get over the silliness of that line.


Anyway, fortunately Darleen is in prime snark. Go. Now.

Posted by Cassandra at 03:54 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

February 18, 2008

Cult Of Obama Caption Contest

I'm sorry but this is too funny to pass up:

ObamaPrays.jpg

Your Obamanecdote of the Day:

It was early 1994 when Nelson Mandela gave a speech in a slum outside Cape Town and spoke in grand terms of a new beginning and how when he was elected president every household would have a washing machine.

People took him literally. A few months later he became South Africa’s first black president. That’s when clerks in department stores in Cape Town had to turn people away demanding their free washer and dryer.

Having spent some time as a reporter in South Africa watching the Mandela presidency I was reminded of that story this week when I travelled with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on the campaign trail. ...

How does a cult figure, in the eyes of some something akin to a messiah, make the transition to a political frontrunner – president even – where disappointment will soon crush what seemed to be a journey to a promised land?

Just remember:

"We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."
- Obama, Super Tuesday.

The future begins here, tomorrow. Today. Or words to that effect.

- Cassandra.I.am

Posted by Cassandra at 12:03 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Suddenly FISA's Not Important? Since When?

In the past few years we've seen the Iraq Study Group touted, and then mysteriously vanish into thin air. Then it was The Generals: "Listen to the Generals!", the Democrats shouted... they are the only reliable source of opinion on how the war is going. Until General Betrayus came to Capitol Hill.

Suddenly, listening to Generals was a Very Bad Idea. So untrustworthy, these military types. How can we know they're not just partisan mouthpieces for the Bushreich? And after all, men in uniform just parrot whatever they're told to say, so there's really no point in listening to them, is there? And whatever happened to that leaked classified memo about Anbar Province being irrevocably lost? Thank God Thomas Ricks broke the law to bring that to our attention.

And the emerging civil war in Iraq. How's that working out for the New York Times?

And the benchmarks. Whatever happened to the criticism that assessing our progress in Iraq was really all about the benchmarks?

In an age of constantly shifting goalposts, the Editorial Staff should not be surprised to see one more pillar of lefty outrage abruptly retired from the public stage when it proves no longer "useful":

According to top Democrats, the expiration of the Protect America Act (PAA) when the clock strikes midnight Sunday is no big deal. Our ability to monitor foreign threats to national security, they assure us, will be completely unaffected.

This is about as dumb a talking point as one can imagine. And it is just as demonstrably false.

Think for a moment about Tuesday’s crucial Senate bill overhauling our intelligence law that Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to allow the House to consider before recessing Friday — for a vacation. (Democrats evidently had no time for national security, having exhausted themselves on such cosmic matters as a baseball pitcher’s alleged steroid use and unenforceable, unconstitutional contempt citations in a stale investigation into something that wasn’t a crime and that no one but MoveOn.org cares about any longer).

As McCarthy explains, in the Senate, the same bill easily passed. In fact, both parties made significant concessions to ensure its success:

In a Senate controlled by the Democrats, the bill passed by an overwhelming 2-to-1 margin. To attract such numbers, the Bush administration (as I detailed yesterday) gave ground on critically important issues of executive power and expansion of the FISA court’s role.

Democrats surely did not want to give President Bush this legislative victory, and President Bush certainly did not want to cave on these issues. But both sides compromised precisely because they understood that failing to do so, failing to preserve current surveillance authority, would endanger the United States.

That is why so many Senate Democrats went along. That is why Democrats in both houses agreed to the PAA in the first place. That is why 34 House Democrats defied their leadership on Wednesday, voting against another temporary extension of the PAA in an effort to force a vote on the Senate bill — which, had Pelosi allowed it to come to the floor, would have become law by a healthy bipartisan margin.

If the expiration of the PAA made no difference, as top Democrats are speciously claiming now, there is not the remotest chance any of those things would have happened.

And yet as Ace points out, even some sources on the right maintain intelligence gathering will be unaffected by the House's failure to act on FISA:

Timothy Lee, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, said the last time Congress overhauled FISA � after the September 11 terrorist attacks � President Bush praised the action, saying the new law "recognizes the realities and dangers posed by the modern terrorist."

What Lee fails to mention is that in February or March of last year (we can't be sure because the ruling is secret), a FISA court judge ruled that foreign-to-foreign communications are subject to a warrant requirement if they are carried over the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure. So there's actually a pretty good reason to think our nation will be in more danger in 2008 than in 2006.

That hasn't stopped Democrats and others from claiming that the Bush Administration is just fear-mongering on the issue. That was the claim of congressional Democrats in August, sore at the spanking they'd received after the intelligence community reported a drop in intelligence gathering of 75%:

At a closed-door briefing in mid-July, senior intelligence officials startled lawmakers with some troubling news. American eavesdroppers were collecting just 25 percent of the foreign-based communications they had been receiving a few months earlier.

...The report helped set off a furious legislative rush last week that, improbably, broadened the administration’s authority to wiretap terrorism suspects without court oversight.

Now let's all put our Big Logic Hats on for just a second.

If the intelligence community came to Congress because suddenly they were only collecting 1/4 of the information they had been, previously, and Congress were so concerned about this they passed emergency legislation to fix the problem...

...and Congress just allowed that legislation to expire...

What logical consequence should We the People expect from this? Let's ask Senator Jay Rockefeller, (D, West Virginia):

Now, let me say something more. What people have to understand around here is that the quality of the intelligence we are going to be receiving is going to be degraded. It is going to be degraded. It is already going to be degraded as telecommunications companies lose interest. Everybody tosses that around and says: Well, what do you mean? I say: Well, what are they making out of this? What is the big payoff for the telephone companies? They get paid a lot of money? No. They get paid nothing. What do they get for this? They get $40 billion worth of suits, grief, trashing, but they do it. But they don't have to do it, because they do have shareholders to respond to, to answer to.

Senator Rockefeller seems to be trying to tell us something.

Perhaps that if we don't give the intelligence community the tools to do the job, and American corporations some protection against frivolous lawsuits, the quantity and quality of our the intelligence we collect is going to be degraded.

And if past performance is any indicator, we can quantify the amount of that degradation: about 75%.

Fortunately, Nancy Pelosi is not the least bit concerned about Terrorists B-ZZ.

Sleep well, America.

Congress has got your back.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:55 AM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Irony Alert

"If you believe in the seamless mutuality of journalism and propaganda - come out and say it! There is a dictionary definition, one word that describes that toxic blend. You're a propagandist- get them to print you a T-shirt with “Propagandist” on it! What else is this but propaganda?"

Posted by Cassandra at 06:11 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 17, 2008

Prayers Needed

Below the fold is a repost of something I wrote on March 1st, 2007 and have since deleted. I have resurrected it because one of the subjects, Sergeant DJ (David) Emery is once again in need of your prayers.

Over the past year, this young man has been engaged in an extraordinary struggle to hold on to the gift of life that Sergeant Major Joseph Ellis unselfishly gave his life to ensure:

Corporal Emery spent days in a combat hospital in Baghdad before he was stable enough to move to Landstuhl.

DJ's mother, Connie, and his young wife, Leslie, were told initially that he just had shrapnel wounds to the legs. They waited for more than 2 days before they got the call -- come to Germany immediately, DJ may not make it. Today, Connie and Leslie both just shake their heads when asked to describe how DJ looked when they arrived in Germany. "He was swelled up bigger than all of us together," Connie said, adding, "his eyes were swelled open."

Over the next few weeks, DJ died on the operating table 6 times, and he received more than 300 units of blood. He had so many blood transfusions that his blood type actually changed to O positive. The doctors in Germany and Bethesda completely re-built DJ's legs, but the infection became too strong. Nearly 2 months after the attack, doctors amputated one of his legs. Two days later, they amputated the second leg.

Then, as DJ lay unconscious on the 6th floor of Bethesda Naval Medical Center, his wife Leslie was admitted to the 3rd floor -- the maternity ward. And on April 21, 2007, Carlee was born. DJ was still in and out of consciousness when his mother came in to tell him that his daughter had been born. He opened his eyes and said, "OK." Two days later, DJ really awoke for the first time, and he realized that his legs were gone. He says that he cried for a while when he found out. "It sucked," he says now.

DJ Emery, his wife, their new baby, and his mother Connie are all living together in a cramped room at Walter Reed Army Medical Center now. But DJ says that he does not regret joining the Marine Corps, or serving in Iraq. And when asked what gets him through this difficult time, he choked up and said softly, "family."

That article was written in July of last year.

I don't write about it much, I should write about it more; but the most severely wounded of our soldiers and Marines undergo a battle to recover some semblance of normal life - in some cases, just to stay alive - that makes a combat tour look like child's play.

These men and women are, in every sense of the word, heroes. The courage, honor, and integrity required for them and their families not to give in to self-pity or despair, to keep fighting, to remain strong and self-reliant in the face of overwhelming odds is truly inspiring. And they deserve our support, encouragement, and thanks; not only for their service, but for the magnificent example they provide to future generations.

You know I am not one to ask this sort of thing lightly, but please spread the word. Email this to everyone you know who might be inclined to help.

We do not always get everything we ask for, but I would ask that you lift DJ and his family up in prayer. They have beaten the odds so many times. You can send Sergeant Emery a card at:

Sgt. David Emery c/o National Naval Medical Center 3rd West 8901 Wisconsin Avenue Bethesda, Md 20889

A Distant Trumpet

Dawn.

Once again too many cups of coffee have flooded my veins with a heart-pounding rush of caffeine, the writer's heroin. Maybe this time, I'll be able to push past the bleakness. Somehow I can't manage to get the sneering words out of my brain:

...yawning hulk, combat-addled, lumbering, blue-eyed, big ox baby...

There is no dignity there, no grace for someone whose service should have incurred gratitude or at least some minimal respect in token of the debt we all owe him. Instead there is only a stunning disregard for someone who seems no longer useful; who can, therefore, be safely treated with casual contempt. I suppose the words were deliberately chosen to provoke anger. They succeeded, though perhaps not in the intended manner.

Interesting that in several days' worth of torrid exposes, the Post can't manage to find anything positive to say. Anything, as usual, that makes our men in uniform look like determined fighters instead of drug-addled losers. We don't want to minimize their pain, or the severity of their wounds, or the horrors of war.

We'd just like people to see how utterly magnificent they are, still, these men we call Marines. How worthy of admiration.

To do that does not glorify war. It merely recognizes the greatness of the human spirit:

Marines wounded by what the military calls improvised explosive devices often have a hard time telling a coherent story about their injuries. They remember driving away from a dusty combat outpost in Fallujah or Baghdad, then recall waking up in a hospital bed in Maryland or California or Texas.

That was the case for Lance Cpls. Josh Bleill and Eric Frazier, who last month sat beneath a scarlet Marine Corps flag at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and described their injuries.

But Cpl. Chad Watson, who sat with them, is an exception. He remembers exactly what happened about 9 a.m. Nov. 29 as he led a team of Marines in the streets of Fallujah. The team from the 1st Battalion of the 24th Marines had just searched the car and were starting to roll again.

"We didn't get more than 100 meters, and it was like I got punched in the face like 10,000 times," Watson said.

What pummeled Watson was a bomb, not a fist. The moment he looked down, he knew his life had changed forever.

"I looked at my right leg, and it was gone - completely gone," said Watson, 24, a college student from Mt. Zion, Ill. "There was a big hole under the driver's side; that's where it hit."

Watson's training took over. Despite his missing leg, the smashed bones in his left heel and ankle, a fractured vertebra, burns and shrapnel wounds to his face, arm and eye, he grabbed his weapon and struggled to get out of the Humvee to defend himself and his comrades. But he couldn't free his twisted left leg from what remained of the Humvee's floor. Marines from other vehicles came running to help.

"I remember them yelling, `Is anybody still alive?'" said Watson.

Finally, after his fellow Marines dragged him into a nearby courtyard, a Navy corpsman tied off his bleeding right leg with a tourniquet. The corpsman gently informed Watson that most of his right leg was gone.

"I was kind of like, `Yeah, no kidding, I saw that.'"

Through it all Watson - still the team leader, despite his grievous wounds - was shouting orders.

"I was actually yelling at the guys to get out of the courtyard ... because there were too many of them," and a large group was liable to draw the insurgents' fire, said Watson. "I was glad how I reacted. I acted good under pressure, and I was happy to hear that they told my parents that."

But then Marines take care of each other. And the three are still taking care of each other now:

Generally, Marines like to organize things by threes. Three Marines make a fire team, three fire teams make a squad, three squads make a company, and three line companies make a battalion.

So Watson, Frazier and Bleill have formed their own sort of rehabilitative fire team during their stay at Walter Reed. "We joke with each other, or say, `Hey, we gotta catch up with him,'" Watson said. "It makes us work that much harder."

When they're working painfully to build their upper body strength, they push each other to work even harder. When one is working on his balance on the parallel bars, the others are watching.

Marines have always taken a perverse pride in their grueling daily doses of group PT, or physical training. It binds them together. And the equation hasn't changed much just because they're wounded. Now, the initials "PT" stand for "physical therapy."

"It's the same thing, just a different setting," Watson said. "It's just a different group of guys you're with now."

Even for Marines like Schuring, who is getting rehabilitation through Beaumont Hospital near his home in Farmington Hills, Mich., thoughts of his fellow Marines in Iraq are never far away while he's sweating and groaning through painful physical therapy. Teamwork is something the former center on the Hope College football team in west Michigan has understood for a long time.

The ceramic plate in his body armor saved him from the shot to his back. His Kevlar helmet helped dissipate the shot to his head, which didn't penetrate his skull. And the bullet that hit his right thigh missed the bone.

But the one that hit his left thigh almost cost him his leg, shattering his thighbone in three up near his hip. An infection nearly did the rest until it was brought under control by antibiotics.

His doctors expect he'll make a full recovery - thanks to physical therapy sessions it would take a Marine to love.

None of the wounded men is willing to let his injuries define him. None expressed bitterness. All said they would rejoin their units tomorrow, if they could.

Schuring, whose mission was training Iraqi soldiers, was especially emphatic.

"We were doing good things there in Ramadi - I mean phenomenal things," Schuring said. "The Iraqi army, the soldiers, they're the Iraqi heroes. They're not the best soldiers in the world, but they're trying."

The wounded men have had time while convalescing to process their experiences. They've met cabinet members and generals and members of Congress. Some have gone to the Super Bowl, and Watson was personally introduced to his baseball heroes, the St. Louis Cardinals, by the president of the United States.

But that's all gravy. It's everyday life that's a gift to these survivors.

"This puts everything into perspective," Lockwood said. "You get blown up, and all of a sudden the type of rims you have on your car, that doesn't mean anything. Your family, your friends, that's the stuff that's important. That's what keeps you going."

Perspective can be difficult, on the other hand, when you get news like this:

Marine Corporal David Emery Jr. of the Battalion Landing Team of the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit was serving in Iraq. David, aka "DJ", graduated high school in 2003. He is married to the beautiful lass in the above photo, Leslie, and she is pregnant. DJ's unit was extended past their rotation date of January 1st and he was hoping to make it home in time for his child's birth.

On February 7th, 2007, DJ was at a checkpoint near a crowded place when a terrorist walked up to the Marines. DJ's Battalion Sergeant Major, Joseph Ellis (a recon Marine of 23 years), suspected that a bomber was approaching and put himself between the bomber and his Marines.

The bomber quickly detonated himself, instantly killing Sergeant Major Ellis. The Sergeant Major's sacrifice absorbed enough of the blast to barely keep DJ from being killed. DJ was hit hard in his abdomen - an artery was cut causing kidney failure - both legs and one arm were shattered, and, in fact, his wounds were so severe that doctors didn't think that he'd make it. They had him on a respirator, fighting infection, fever, kidney failure and other problems for a time before he stabilized enough (just barely) to make the flight to Germany where his parents and wife met him. While still unconscious, his family kept telling him to fight. Then, on the 18th, DJ was strong enough to make the trip from Germany to the US (Bethesda).

DJ had a tough surgery yesterday. His prognosis is hour to hour so prayers at anytime are needed.

As always, the military family is rallying around their own. Matt has more on how you can help Leslie and DJ. MaryAnn has lots more information on DJ and Sgt. Major Ellis, and Fuzzybear Lioness also has a beautiful post on the Sergeant Major:

[He] was always "healthy and alive," a perfectionist in what he did and who made anything seem possible. "I always thought he wouldn't be one of those people who wouldn't come home," Rachael Ellis, 20, said Monday. "In my eyes, he was superman."

...With additional education, Ellis could have moved up even further, Rachael said, but as an officer, he wouldn't have been as hands-on. She said all three of his tours of duty to Iraq weren't mandatory; he volunteered.

"He just wanted to make a difference," she said. "Anytime he was asked to go somewhere, even times when he didn't have to, he would. He wanted to be there for his troops."

DJ's father has the last word:

"I think of him as a hero," David Emery said of Ellis, a 40-year-old Marine from Ashland, Ohio. "He saw [the suicide bomber] pushing his way through the crowd. He moved to get this guy and probably saved my son's life."

As they handed that folded flag to Joe Ellis' wife, I wonder what was going through her mind?

There are so many things we fear, we who remain behind. Mostly, we manage to put those thoughts out of our minds and go on with our daily lives. But they are never far from us.

They hover in the back of our minds, circling slowly like fireflies on a summer evening until, unbidden, one alights every now and then in an unguarded moment in our consciousness. Perhaps when we're driving the car at sunset and our minds wander aimlessly, or when that sappy country song comes on the radio. Why do they continue to fight when so many in this country appear willing to have given up on everything we believe in?

What kind of nation plays foolish games with the lives of its soldiers, calling for war one moment and the next claiming they were deceived? One moment calling for troop withdrawals and the next saying we need to attack?

Where do these men, these Marines, get the strength to continue to defend such a people?

There are so many things I do not understand. But in the end, it does not matter that I understand them. It only matters to me that my husband understands them, and as long as he does that is enough for me. All I know is that, like so many others, he hears a distant trumpet calling him to faraway places.

And all I know is what I hear echoing in my ears. I imagine every Marine wife hears something quite similar in the silent hours of the night. I imagine Joe Ellis' wife hears it still, and Leslie Emery.

How can we help but love such men?

I'll be yours until the sun doesn't shine
Till time stands still
Until the winds don't blow
When today is just a memory to me
I know
I'll still be loving
I'll still be loving you

I'll still be loving you...

Update: I should have known! HF6 is all over this :p

You have to get up very early in the morning to beat those Army broads.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:45 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 16, 2008

Damn Straight

Well we must say, this is simply penetrating political analysis from Jane Fonda. Who knew she had it in her?

Eve Ensler: "You know what? The Mayor of New Orleans (the notorious Ray Nagin) just declared himself one of the first vagina friendly mayors."

Eve Ensler: "He's walking through the streets of New Orleans talking about it."

Jane Fonda: "Think about it -- it (New Orleans)'s moist, it's a wetland, it's a place -- it's a place where people come for fun. And when things go south, forget about it, shut it down."

Eve Ensler: "That's right."

This is why art education is so important in our public schools.

It allows us to make connections between things one would hardly have suspected could exist. Isn't life amazing?

Posted by Cassandra at 11:28 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Obama Quote Of The Day

2008-02-11-PBS-Tavis-Saran.jpg

"So I think he definitely has convinced people that he stands for change and for hope, and I can't wait to see what he stands for."

Neither can we, Susan. Res ipsa loquitur.

The Editorial Staff proposes to make this a new category. We have been seeing so many loony quotes from Obama followers that we think this could be a self-perpetuating thing. Send us your entries.

What a hoot.

Posted by Cassandra at 11:18 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Lamestream Media Howler Of The Day

Professional journalism is not for the faint of heart. Unlike that upstart blog mob who stoop to ideological gamesmanship with the news of the day, reporters are charged with a sacred trust: the Public's Right to Know.

Theirs is an ancient and honored craft. They are Gatekeepers at the entrance to a vast, information highway; and since bloggers can do little else but latch on to them like loathesome, disgusting leeches , it behooves the media to take great care with the crumbs they let fall into our fumbling, greedy hands:
IraqChart1.jpg

Media interest in Iraq has declined as conditions have improved. The February 4 CyberAlert item by the MRC's Rich Noyes, "As U.S. Troops Succeed, Media Retreat from Iraq War Story," reported:

...over the last five months, the broadcast networks have consistently reduced their coverage of Iraq, as if the story of American success in Iraq is less worthy of attention than their old mantra of American failure in Iraq.

Media Research Center analysts tracked all coverage of the Iraq war on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts from September 1 through January 31, and we documented a steady decline in TV coverage of Iraq that has coincided with the improving situation in Iraq. Back in September, the three evening newscasts together broadcast 178 stories about the war in Iraq; in January, that number fell to just 47, a nearly fourfold decrease....

Last year about this time, the media said they didn't report the good news in Iraq because they couldn't find any good news. Now, there is more good news than bad, and yet they seem to have gone largely silent. Why is that?

howler.jpg

Unlike the Wednesday CBS and NBC evening newscasts, ABC's World News highlighted a favorable development in Iraqi political progress as anchor Charles Gibson gave 20 seconds to: "Overseas, in Iraq, a breakthrough for the country's government that has been so often criticized. Iraq's parliament approved three contentious, but crucial, new laws long sought by Washington. The laws set a budget for 2008, grant amnesty to thousands of detainees and define the relationship between the central government and the provinces."

A month ago, on January 14, Gibson was also the only broadcast network evening newscast anchor to cite how "Iraqi lawmakers have put their differences aside and agreed to allow some members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to take government jobs. It's a key benchmark sought by the United States."

The CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News on Wednesday night both found time to report on how Secretary of Defense Robert Gates broke his arm in a fall on ice and how, for the first time, a Beagle (named "Uno") won "Best in Show" at the Westminster Dog Show. Gibson, who broadcast from Philadelphia, the site of the dog show, managed to note the development in Iraq as well as Uno's win.

As Oh Bloody Hell, who sent the Editorial Staff this item, so aptly put it:


"News about *a Beagle* vs. Important *positive' news on Iraq. Which one gets air time? Need you ask?"

It's enough to make you howl with frustration.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:35 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

February 15, 2008

Hope Is Not a Blank Slate

I like the relationships. Each character has his own story. Of course, the puppy is a bit too much, but you have to overlook that. The way he's holding her, it's almost... filthy. He's about to kiss her and she's pulling away. The way his leg is smashed up against her. Look how he's painted the blouse, sort of translucent, you can make out her breast, and it's sort of touching him...

It's really pretty torrid, don't you think? And of course you have the onlookers peeking out like they're all shocked. They wish. I must admit, when I see a painting like this, I get emotionally...
erect.

- Harris K. Telemacher
L.A. Story

Watching the producers of the trance-like video Yes I Can struggle to articulate what makes them so hopeful about the candidacy of Barack Obama, I was reminded of a favorite film from the 1990s. I heard a lot of talk about hope, change, and inspiration; about emotion and belief.

What I did not hear was an answer to the question: “What policies of Senator Obama’s do you support?” Listening to the video, my mind drifted back to that long ago film. What made L.A. Story so memorable was the delightful juxtaposition of Shakespearean allusions, Steve Martin's comedic skills and the screenplay's deft parodies of southern Californians. In one scene, sAnDEe the gum-chewing spokesmodel, a character who would be right at home on Will I am’s video, (i kId yOu kNOt) contemplates the wonders of the Pacific Ocean as she twirls in dizzy circles along the Malibu beachfront: "Have you every wondered why all the water doesn't just... fly up into the sky?", she asks spacily. But perhaps my favorite scene occurs in the modern art museum. Harris Telemacher, a TV weatherman, has worn those ridiculous sneakers with the concealed plastic wheels in the soles into the museum so he and a friend can film each other gliding around when the guards aren't looking. He runs into a woman he is attracted to in front of an enormous abstract painting and, to impress her, begins reading all sorts of torrid sexual innuendo into an amorphous red blob of paint on the canvas in front of them. It's a perfect metaphor for a city full of confused people trying way too hard to conjure something impressive out of thin air.

Charles Krauthammer highlights the almost mesmerized fervor of Obama’s followers. They aren't persuaded by force of logic or reason. His rhetoric appeals not to the mind, but to the emotions. His followers are exhorted to suspend disbelief; to want what he's selling with their hearts, not their minds. It is a call to faith. Accept, and you have taken the noble path. Do other than what he asks and you have given in to cynicism and despair:

There's no better path to success than getting people to buy a free commodity. Like the genius who figured out how to get people to pay for water: bottle it (Aquafina was revealed to be nothing more than reprocessed tap water) and charge more than they pay for gasoline. Or consider how Google found a way to sell dictionary nouns-- boat, shoe, clock -- by charging advertisers zillions to be listed whenever the word is searched.

And now, in the most amazing trick of all, a silver-tongued freshman senator has found a way to sell hope. To get it, you need only give him your vote. Barack Obama is getting millions.

This kind of sale is hardly new. Organized religion has been offering a similar commodity -- salvation -- for millennia. Which is why the Obama campaign has the feel of a religious revival with, as writer James Wolcott observed, a "salvational fervor" and "idealistic zeal divorced from any particular policy or cause and chariot-driven by pure euphoria."

"We are the hope of the future," sayeth Obama. We can "remake this world as it should be." Believe in me and I shall redeem not just you but your country -- nay, we can become "a hymn that will heal this nation, repair this world, and make this time different than all the rest."


Listening to the video, one hears the same few phrases repeated over and over:

"I want change."


"Yes, we can."
"We are one nation."
"Nothing can stand in our way."

It's an effective device. But what, pray tell, do they believe they can change? That's really the question, isn't it?

Barack Obama seems to be a walking Rorschach test. No wonder his followers have a blank look in their eyes. They're trying to figure out what they see in that amorphous blob of paint on the canvas in front of them.

It looks, vaguely, like hope. And everybody needs hope.
Don't they?

You have to admit, for a political candidate this amounts to nearly perfect product positioning. What reasonable, decent opponent would dare to stand in the way of Hope, Progress, or Change? What monster would have the heart to obstruct the unification of America? Who in his right mind would want to oppose "Us"?

Only one of "Them".

Clever, that. The great man, the Unifier, tells us only Cynics refuse to believe. Only Unbelievers stand between "Us" and Hope. And no one likes a cynic, do they?

One of the most fascinating notions raised by the current presidential campaign is the idea that the United States can and must finally overcome the divisions of the 1960s. It's most often associated with the ascendancy of Sen. Barack Obama, who has been known to entertain it himself. Its most gauzy champion is pundit Andrew Sullivan, who argued in a cover article in the December Atlantic Monthly that, "If you are an American who yearns to finally get beyond the symbolic battles of the Boomer generation and face today's actual problems, Obama may be your man."

No offense to either Obama or Sullivan, but: No he isn't. No one is.

I realized that when I read this e-mail from a friend, a passionate Obama supporter who's a veteran of the anti-Vietnam War movement: "Who are you supporting for prez? You know my feelings -- and my son has been working 16-hr days for him up in NH. Kind of like his 60s . . ."

I realized it again when I saw the online ad produced by Sen. John McCain's campaign, arguing that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton didn't deserve the presidency because she earmarked one-millionth of the federal budget ($1 million) for a museum commemorating the rock festival Woodstock.

I realized it, too, when Bill Clinton accused Obama of leaving the role of Lyndon B. Johnson out of the civil rights story, and when Sen. John Kerry announced his endorsement of Obama with a quotation from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. -- and both set off a strange bout of opinion-journalism shadowboxing over which camp, Clinton's or Obama's, better grasped the historical legacy of the civil rights movement.

I realize it anew just about every day of this presidential campaign -- most recently when a bevy of Kennedys stood behind Obama last week and spoke of reviving the spirit of Camelot, and when the conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks responded by making fine distinctions between "the idealism of the generation that marched in jacket and ties" -- the "early-60s," which he took Obama to represent -- and the "late-60s," defined "by drug use and self-indulgence," of which the Clintons are the supposed avatars.

The fact is, the '60s are still with us, and will remain so for the imaginable future. We are all like Zhou Enlai, who, asked what he thought about the French Revolution, answered, "It is too early to tell." When and how will the cultural and political battle lines the baby boomers bequeathed us dissolve? It is, well and truly, still too early to tell. We can't yet "overcome" the '60s because we still don't even know what the '60s were -- not even close.

Born myself in 1969 to pre-baby boomer parents, I'm a historian of America's divisions who spent the age of George W. Bush reading more newspapers written when Johnson and Richard Nixon were president than current ones. And I recently had a fascinating experience scouring archives for photos of the 1960s to illustrate the book I've just finished based on that research. It was frustrating -- and telling.

The pictures people take and save, as opposed to the ones they never take or the ones they discard, say a lot about how they understand their own times. And in our archives as much as in our mind's eye, we still record the '60s in hazy cliches -- in the stereotype of the idealistic youngster who came through the counterculture and protest movements, then settled down to comfortable bourgeois domesticity.

What's missing? The other side in that civil war. The right-wing populist rage of 1968 third-party presidential candidate George Wallace, who, referring to an idealistic protester who had lain down in front of Johnson's limousine, promised that if he were elected, "the first time they lie down in front of my limousine, it'll be the last one they'll ever lay down in front of because their day is over!" That kind of quip helped him rise to as much as 20 percent in the polls.

It's easy to find hundreds of pictures of the national student strike that followed Nixon's announcement of the invasion of Cambodia in the spring of 1970. Plenty of pictures of the riots at Kent State that ended with four students shot dead by National Guardsmen. None I could find, however, of the counter-demonstrations by Kent, Ohio, townies -- and even Kent State parents. Flashing four fingers and chanting "The score is four/And next time more," they argued that the kids had it coming.

The '60s were a trauma -- two sets of contending Americans, each believing they were fighting for the future of civilization, but whose left- and right-wing visions of redemption were opposite and irreconcilable. They were a trauma the way the war of brother against brother between 1861 and 1865 was a trauma and the way the Great Depression was a trauma. Tens of millions of Americans hated tens of millions of other Americans, sometimes murderously so. The effects of such traumas linger in a society for generations.

What Obama's lofty words gloss over is that there were good reasons for our ideological disagreements in the 1960s, and there are good reasons for our differences now. "Hope", however artfully packaged, is not going to erase our disagreements. But you have to admire the artistry of Obama's rhetoric. It is all very neatly done: a bumper sticker campaign for a Party that excels at turning complex issues into pithy bon mots.

It's not divisive... at least openly. Nothing nasty is ever said. It's just that to oppose Barack Obama is to oppose everything good and decent in life: hope, unity, progress.

Unlike those who called for Donald Rumsfeld's head when they claimed he was demonizing his intellectual opponents, conservatives must defend Senator Obama's right to say what he pleases. But we would be wise to counter his free speech with a few searching questions of our own. It is disturbing to see so many Americans jumping on a bandwagon that seems to involve suspending their critical thinking facilities. That is their choice and it one we cannot, and should not, make for them.

But the surpassing weightlessness of "Yes We Can", while ideal for consensus building, lacks a certain ...what's the word in the original French? specificity when used as a foundation for public policy issues. What conservatives and liberals alike must trust in is the essential common sense of the American people: that the longer he talks, the more likely it becomes that some of his followers will wake from their long sleep and begin to ask questions:

I know this is going to sound strange, but it's not you, Barack, it's me. Really it always was me, but now it's really, really about me. I don't know when we started to feel weird supporting you, but: My friend Hanna thinks it started with that "Yes We Can," video. I mean, last week I was totally crying watching it. Now just thinking about how choked up I got gives me the creeps.

"Yes we can... do what, Senator Obama?" He seems suspiciously vague upon that point. Is it, perchance, because neither liberals nor conservatives agree upon the specifics? They say the devil is in the details.

It's easy to poll registered voters with throwaway questions like "Is Osama bin Laden a threat to America?" and get 90% agreement." But such consensus is illusory because the real question is not whether bin Laden is a threat. The real question - the one which divides us - is what do we do about that threat? Oddly enough, that type of question is rarely asked in polls.

Liberals and conservatives in this country are not going to agree on major policy issues any time soon. We disagree for good reasons. We need not come to blows over our differences, but neither should we sweep them under the rug. Conflict, debate, and the ability to disagree openly and honestly, properly handled, are constructive rather than destructive qualities. They are profoundly American activities and in the final analysis this may be the most frightening thing about Barack Obama: his very likeability, because it is at the core dishonest. Obama is the perfect date; a social chameleon promising us smooth sailing; telling us exactly what we want to hear, but ultimately revealing far too little of himself and his plan for overcoming something which cannot be overcome: our fundamental disagreement on substantive policy issues.

Hope, if it is ever to be anything more than a huckster's trick, must be based on something real. It must be based on the truth, not on little white lies told to make us feel better about things we had rather not face. The kind of hope promised by Barack Obama is not empowering. On the contrary; it encourages us to avoid reality and duck confrontations, to purchase peace at the price of our principles:

Encouraged to tell so many white lies and hearing so many others, children gradually get comfortable with being disingenuous. Insincerity becomes, literally, a daily occurrence. They learn that honesty only creates conflict, and dishonesty is an easy way to avoid conflict....

In the thesaurus, the antonym of honesty is lying, and the opposite of arguing is agreeing. But in the minds of teenagers, that’s not how it works. Really, to an adolescent, arguing is the opposite of lying.

That's right. A fighting man can be an honest man; but an agreeable man is a liar.

A society that desires agreement and concession is a dishonest society, a civilization of liars. More, it is a society of people who don't respect each other.

America, in the end, can tolerate civil disagreement. We have tolerated robust debate and dissention for over two centuries. What it cannot tolerate, is dishonesty.

Hope lies in facing up to our differences, not in pretending they do not exist.

Update: Fainting for Obama and the ultimate in self-referential politics: the cult of Obama gets its own blog:

"We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."
- Obama, Super Tuesday.

"... a light will shine through that window, a beam of light will come down upon you, you will experience an epiphany ... and you will suddenly realize that you must go to the polls and vote for Obama" - Barack Obama Lebanon, New Hampshire.
January 7, 2008.


obama_noland_poster.jpg

Sometimes the comedy just writes itself.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:10 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

February 14, 2008

Woo Hoo!

Rep. John Boehner, doing the work Republican Senators won't do.

Update: [looking at non-existent watch] Not even Miller time and my readers are already lobbing lobbing the snark. I see how you people are:

Not to be disagreeable, =;^} but
"Rep. John Boehner, doing the work Republican Senators won't do."
shouldn't that be House Democrats, since the Senate has put forward and passed their effort on renewing the FISA bill?

- bthun aka Mud

*cough*

Isn't it Valentine's Day or something, buddy?

[tapping foot]

CWCID: Janette

Posted by Cassandra at 03:48 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Coffee Snorters: Be My Valentine Edition

As rosy-fingered dawn stole across the sky and her detestable little alarm commenced to hopping from one foot to the other like a small child badly in need of a bathroom break, the Princess reluctantly emerged from beneath a nest of warm covers.

She was greeted by a blast of icy air and the spicy smell of roses. 'Twas the feast of St. Valentine: that time when we on the Distaff Side really ought to venture out and summon up amusements for the Oink Cadre. Valentine's Day has, for some unknown reason, become all about pleasing women. Men are guilted into manfully going forth and procuring flowers, candy, jewelry, and all other manner of filthy lucre; and Woe unto him who fails to divine her every wish. Or at least that's what the marketers would have you think.

prn_women.jpgThe truth is really a good bit more simple than that. We just want to know you care about us. That's the best aphrodisiac of all.

But in this age of gender equality, we women need to be asking ourselves some honest questions like, "Isn't Valentine's Day just another relic of outdated gender stereotyping that attempts to relegate women to submissive positions in a rigid, male dominated power structure?"

As strong, powerful, equally-capable women, should we really be engaging in what amounts to emotional blackmail? If we are truly the equals of men, shouldn't we be giving as good as we get?

Shouldn't we be rising up and providing men with some quality entertainment on the Feast of St. Valentine?

Why are we demanding that men woo us? Why don't we seduce them, for a change? Seriously, though, when was the last time you put some serious thought into putting a big, silly grin on his face?

Or have you considered taking him on a Beer Odyssey across America? Or how about gadgets? Finally, if your man is a hard worker, how about surprising him with a special getaway next year? Doesn't he deserve something special for all the long hours he puts in at work? Let's face it, flowers and candy just won't cut it for the man in your life this Valentine's Day.

Finally, what would Valentine's Day be without a few laughs?

OK: everyone out of the gene pool...

A woman in Germany who became pregnant after an online sex auction has won a court battle to force the Web site that hosted the sale to reveal the names of the winners, so she can find out who's the father.

Six different men won Internet auctions to have sex with the woman in April and May last year. They were only known to her by their online names, a spokesman for a court in the southwestern city of Stuttgart said Wednesday.

'The woman wanted to discover which one of the men had made her pregnant,' the spokesman said. 'So she needed their contact details.

Mommy, I'm scared...

The ultimate symbol of Teh Patriarchy finally gets its comeuppance:

"I've pulled out a lot of vehicles," he said. "But that's the first wiener I've ever pulled out."

It was a first for the women, too. They left none the wurst for wear.

"Usually we try to keep from scratching our buns," Goudie said. "But sometimes, things go wrong."

*sigh*

Professional journalism. Don't try this at home.

And finally, since 'tis St. Valentine's Day and sonnets are the language of love, a sonnet from neo-neocon in praise of sonnets, and a love letter.

Cheers.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:00 AM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

February 13, 2008

Patronizing Jackass Of The Day

moron.jpg

It wasn't easy, destroying all those copies of "Saving Private Ryan" and "Full Metal Jacket".

But it had to be done. Otherwise, how would the Corps get them to believe all those Lying Lies?

Moron...

Posted by Cassandra at 04:45 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

February 12, 2008

OK. I Suck, Massively...

But then you knew that, didn't you?

Go. Now.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:08 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Major Coughlin Update

Back in January, the Editorial Staff regaled the assembled Villainry with the sad tale of one Major Stephen Coughlin, whose DoD contract was not renewed, allegedly because he published a thesis harshly critical of The Religion of Peace:

Mr. Coughlin, a lawyer and reserve military intelligence officer, has been the Pentagon's sole specialist on Islamic law charged with lecturing senior officers on jihad doctrine — military leaders who have been fighting the so-called war on terror for years without an inkling of Islamic ideology. His contract with the Joint Staff will end in March, Mr. Gertz wrote, because Mr. Coughlin "had run afoul of a key aide" to the Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England.

That "key aide" is Cmdr. Hesham Islam (USN ret.), an Egyptian-born, Arabic-speaking Muslim whom Gordon England describes as "my interlocutor" and "personal, close confidante." According to Mr. Gertz, Mr. England's interlocutor and confidante confronted Stephen Coughlin seeking "to have Mr. Coughlin soften his views of Islamist extremism."

Various reasons are being given for the decision not to renew Coughlin's contract. Some say he is being terminated for speaking to the press without authorization, others that budget cuts are to blame for the move. His supporters dismiss these explanations, pointing to Cmdr. Islam's characterization of Coughlin as "a Christian zealot with a pen" as evidence of what they suspect is the real reason for his dismissal:

......critics, like Mr. Islam, want him sidelined because they oppose his hard-to-refute views on the relationship between Islamic law and Islamist jihad doctrine. Those views have triggered a harsh debate challenging the widespread and politically correct view of Islam as a religion of peace hijacked by extremists.

Now (h/t Glenn Reynolds) the plot thickens:

In a stunning turn of events, a high-level Muslim military aide blamed for costing an intelligence contractor his job will step down from his own Pentagon post, WND has learned.

Color us stunned. You just can't trust anyone these days, can you? Islam's bio (which mysteriously disappeared from the DoD web site but comes up if you click on the cached link) described Islam as "rarely at his Pentagon desk". But the intriguing part of the short article is described by Claudia Rosette:

It begins: “If Hesham Islam’s life story was translated into a screenplay — and it’s got all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster — the director would be hard-pressed to come up with a more compelling chain of events landing him as a top adviser to the deputy defense secretary.”

As told by Islam to the reporter, “The movie would open with Islam as a young boy growing up in Cairo, Egypt, huddling in terror as Israeli bombs came raining down, demolishing much of the building around him and his family.”

There’s one problem with this scene. As far as I have been able to discover, Israel during Hesham Islam’s entire lifetime has never bombed Cairo. Asked to explain this, the Pentagon spokesman duly conferred with Islam, and relayed to me by phone that Islam says this building-wrecking bombing raid took place during the 1967 Six-Day War. But as for details that might substantiate the when and where in Cairo of this graphic scene, Islam “Doesn’t remember. He was seven years old.”

It is of course possible that Islam was privy to a piece of history with which expert historians on the region are not acquainted. But if this tale is based solely on the unsubstantiated impressions of Islam as a seven-year-old, then what is it doing on the U.S. Defense Department website? Queries I have made to a number of experts in Tel Aviv, the U.S., and Cairo itself all get the same reply: It didn’t happen. According to Michael Oren, author of the extensively researched Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, Israel during the Six-Day War struck the Cairo airport, but “Israel did not bomb any residential areas of Cairo.”

The profile continues: “Next would be the scene of the teenager who moves to Iraq when his Egyptian naval officer father is transferred to help establish the Arabian Gulf naval academy Islam would later attend.”

That family move to Iraq came as Saddam Hussein was consolidating his Baathist rule, though neither the Pentagon profile nor Hesham Islam’s Pentagon biography any makes mention of that context. In answer to questions, the Pentagon spokesman says Islam’s father was invited to Iraq by Saddam Hussein, but the spokesman doesn’t know when: “It was in 1971-1973 time frame.” Surely with Pentagon background checks, more exact information would be easily available? “It’s available,” says the spokesman, but “I don’t have his C.V. kind of thing.”

The profile goes on to describe young Hesham Islam as a “merchant mariner adrift for three days in the Arabian Sea after an Iranian torpedo sunk his 16,000-ton cargo ship, drowning all but Islam and four of his crewmates.”

That sounds memorable. But after more than a week of my repeated requests made by phone and e-mail, the Pentagon spokesman — despite being presumably in touch with Islam himself — was either unable or unwilling to provide such basic information as the name of the ship, or the date of its sinking. He just kept saying he was “looking into it.” But no answers.

Before I began the marathon requests for specific information, the spokesman had speculated earlier, based on conversations with Islam, that the ship might have been called the Ibn Khaldoon, which might have been registered to the Iraqi merchant marine, and might have sunk sometime in 1979. A check with the U.K.-based Lloyd’s Register turns up two cargo ships registered in Iraq during that time and under that name, but no record that either was ever sunk, either in the 1970s, the 1980s, or beyond. One is still in service; the other was broken up — and not by a torpedo — only a few years ago.

Rosette then asks:

So, what qualifies Islam to serve as an adviser to whom Gordon England listens all the time, and whose advice England takes? According to Kevin Wensing, England’s public-affairs aide: “Mr. Islam brings 20 years of experience in the U.S. Navy and international relations to his current assignment.”

This includes an M.A. in national-security affairs, awarded in 1992 at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. For this degree, Islam wrote a 139-page thesis about the Middle East, entitled “Roots of Regional Ambition.” In it, he devoted dozens of pages to lambasting Israel, and the influence of American Jews on U.S. politics. He deplored “Israeli activities which have detrimentally affected U.S. objectives but which have continued with impunity.” He argued that U.S. support for Israel “has negatively affected the attainment of U.S. objectives in the Middle East.” He blamed the influence of American Jews on U.S. policy for a host of ills, ranging from Arab “retaliation” against Americans, to jobs lost overseas, to hampering sales of “defensive arms to friendly Arab states.”

Whether Gordon England (or Defense Secretary Robert Gates, for that matter) considers such views a relevant qualification for Islam’s current duties is unclear. But what’s emerging at the Pentagon is a landscape in which Stephen Coughlin’s insistence on crafting doctrine based not on politically correct assumptions, but on facts, is apparently deemed a bridge too far.

So it would seem that Islam, in addition to having a bit of a problem establishing at least part of his background story, begins to sound a bit like a "Muslim zealot with a pen" who, it now appears, is has been wielding a malign influence over DoD policy:

At the urging of a subordinate, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England scheduled at least two meetings with foreign emissaries in direct contradiction of U.S. policy at the time. The meetings date back to 2005. They involved a Lebanese ambassador considered a proxy for the Syrian government and a leading member of Syria's Muslim Brotherhood.

U.S. policy at the time was not to engage in talks with either man, because they represent groups with whom the United States was not to communicate. The meetings were organized by England's special assistant for international affairs, Hesham Islam.

An invitation to Muslim Brotherhood official Husam al-Dairi was canceled in late 2005 after a senior State Department official heard about it and insisted it not take place. That official, J. Scott Carpenter, told IPT News he was shocked that such an invitation was issued, let alone that it was done without anyone consulting the State Department.

After Carpenter relayed his concerns to England's office, a staff member called back. She told him it would be "a huge hassle to postpone it" and if that happened, England's office would make it clear this was the result of the State Department "putting its foot down and [saying] the meeting should not take place."

Carpenter said that was fine by him. The episode, including the serendipitous way he learned about it, made him wonder whether other meetings like that took place without State Department consultation, he said.

"When the United States is meeting with dissidents, it is important to know who those dissidents are and what message we send by meeting with them. It is incredibly important that the wrong signal not be sent," Carpenter said.

That may have happened earlier in 2005, when England met with Farid Abboud, a Lebanese ambassador to Washington. Viewed as a proxy for the Syrian government, Abboud was frozen out by U.S. government officials working to isolate Syria, especially as tensions rose following the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The attack is widely suspected of having been orchestrated by Syria.

David Schenker, a former adviser in the Secretary of Defense's office on Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestinian affairs, described Abboud's influence in Washington in an article column published last March in the Weekly Standard. Schenker described Abboud as "unabashedly pro-Syria, pro-Hezbollah" and explained his diplomatic isolation resulted from that perception.

"Essentially, Abboud has spent the last six years of the Bush administration largely isolated, having little or no contact with executive branch personnel. Since 2003 Abboud has met with only one senior administration official--then Deputy Secretary of Defense-designate Gordan England--but the meeting happened only because of negligence on the part of one of England's junior staffers. As a matter of policy, the administration has treated Abboud as a Syrian official and has studiously avoided contact."

Schenker declined to discuss the controversy in England's office or Hesham Islam. But he confirmed that Islam is the "junior staffer" referenced in his article.

U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who chairs the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said news of the invitations was a cause for concern.

"You have to wonder, what do you have, freelancers out there?" Hoekstra asked. "Clearly it's sending a conflicting message to some of these groups. When you have a lack of clarity it always creates problems."

It gets worse from there:

... Mr. Islam arranged for Deputy Secretary England to be a featured speaker at ISNA's 43rd Annual Convention in September 2006. England reciprocated by hosting an ISNA delegation at the Pentagon on April 25, 2007. According to ISNA's publication, Islamic Horizons, Hesham Islam also attended the meeting, along with Abuhena Saifulislam, the U.S. Navy chaplain trained by ISNA's Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences (GSISS).

The ISNA was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the US vs Holy Land Foundation trial, which is coming up for retrial soon. Though DoD is hardly alone in their misguided "outreach" efforts, one has to wonder who is minding the candy store?

This author does not endorse knee jerk suspicion of Muslims living and working in the United States.

But when we are at war with a determined and fanatic enemy, neither reasonable caution nor mere questions (uncomfortable though they may be when they touch on ethnic or religious sensibilities) should be out of bounds. If Islam's borderline anti-Semitic rantings raised no red flags, why was the same forbearance not extended to Coughlin's thesis?

And why (if this report can be believed) are some officials at the DoD trying to block Coughlin's new appointment?

In one intelligence briefing, Coughlin argued that the Pentagon should end its outreach programs with ISNA, which also put him at odds with Islam.

Pentagon insiders say Eric S. Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy, has sought to stop the awarding of a new contract to Coughlin. Edelman served as ambassador to Turkey from 2003 to 2005.

Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., who co-chairs the House Anti-Terrorism Caucus, has been fighting to keep Coughlin in the Pentagon, where she says his blunt analysis of the Islamic enemy is sorely needed.

Last time I checked, we are not at war with Israel.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:24 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

February 10, 2008

All Of Humanity Is Our Tribe

AH-64 gun cameras capture a grueling air rescue after an ambush killed 5 soldiers and 1 Marine:

The Crew Chief operates the hoist, as he pulls a casualty into the aircraft. This is a one person operation that is difficult to perform when the casualty is in a SKED, especially when the casualty has the added weight of body armor and equipment. The Medic rides the hoist to the ground and back up, time and time again.

Imagine performing this operation 20-25 continuous times wearing Night Vision Goggles (NVGs), the Crew Chief continuing to advise the pilots of aircraft drift and rotor clearance as the mountain side is dangerously close. He ensures the hoist is ready for the next lift and watches the Medics hand and arm signals as he also directs the positioning of the aircraft. It becomes apparent this task is physically exhausting and difficult to master in routine conditions, let alone this punishing-unforgiving terrain at night.

The cabin of the aircraft becomes crowded, and the difficulty the Crew Chief and the Medic have maneuvering recovered personnel inside becomes increasingly challenging.

Dust-off has a crew of 4: Pilot, Copilot, Crew Chief, and Medic. During one of the earlier MEDEVAC missions the previous night, Dust-off, with its normal crew of 4, extracted 8 casualties, and 1 non-injured soldier in a single lift for a total of 13 on board. That operation was conducted under zero-lunar-illumination NVG conditions with no supplemental lighting used in the rear of the aircraft due to the tactical situation, adding dramatically to the level of difficulty.

Dust-off departed the pick-up (PZ) zone after 31 combined hours of medical evacuation, and without further incident.

The six men who were killed:

1st Lt. Matthew C. Ferrara, 24, of Torrance, Calif.
Sgt. Jeffery S. Mersman, 23, of Parker, Kan
Spc. Sean K.A. Langevin, 23, of Walnut Creek, Calif.
Spc. Lester G. Roque, 23, of Torrance, Calif.
Pfc. Joseph M. Lancour, 21, of Swartz Creek, Mich.
Marine Sgt. Phillip A. Bocks, 28, of Troy, Mich.

Back home in the States, a young man learns his best friend will not be coming home:

At a Pentagon ceremony this month, 1st Lt. Walter Bryan Jackson became one of a handful of soldiers since 2001 to receive the Distinguished Service Cross, the military's second-highest medal, for saving another soldier's life while himself wounded and under heavy fire in Iraq.

Jackson's award was overshadowed a week later, though, when he learned that his closest friend and West Point roommate, 1st Lt. Matthew C. Ferrara, had been killed in a mountain ambush in Afghanistan. Last weekend, Jackson was on stage in Los Angeles for his friend's eulogy. And on Friday, after a quiet Thanksgiving with his parents in Fairfax, Jackson packed his bag for another yearlong deployment, this time to lead a rocket platoon along South Korea's demilitarized zone.

"It's kind of hard to explain" how it feels to be part of a small segment of the U.S. population that is "bearing the brunt of the responsibilities" from today's conflicts, Jackson said as he waited for his flight at Dulles International Airport. "It doesn't affect society at large in the slightest. Life just goes on, and a lot of people . . . are more concerned about the price of gas than about soldiers fighting and dying," said Jackson, who has lost several comrades in the wars.

As young as he is, Lieutenant Jackson has already seen more than his share of action:

"We are a lot more serious," said the fresh-faced artillery officer, who turns 25 today, "because we know how short life is."

Within a few months of his graduation [from West Point], Jackson, the son of a naval officer, was sent to Iraq as an artillery officer for the 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment. Based in the town of Hit in Iraq's western Anbar province, Jackson and his company commander were checking on Iraqis detained after a mortar attack when their Humvee almost rolled over, getting stuck in a ditch.

Standing guard with three other soldiers in an exposed area, Jackson spotted a few Iraqi men drive slowly by on scooters, apparently surveying the soldiers' location. A minute later, machine-gun fire tore into the soldiers from two directions, bringing down Jackson's commander, Capt. Eric Stainbrook, and 1st Sgt. David Sapp.

"A round hit me in the leg and kicked my leg out real hard," recalled Sapp, of Metter, Ga. "I fell over, and I felt another round hit my head, and my eyesight went out. Everything was black."

Lying on the ground, Sapp recalled, he began praying he wouldn't get shot again. "I was completely helpless, and I wanted to see my wife and daughters again."

Help came in the form of Jackson, who rushed to give Sapp first aid. But within seconds Jackson, too, was shot, in the left leg and hand. Slumped down, he nevertheless managed to return fire with his M-16 rifle.

Jackson tried to reload, but found the blood loss had left him too weak. "I didn't have the strength to pull the loading chamber back," he recalled. But he managed to stand up and help other soldiers carry Sapp to a Bradley Fighting Vehicle 30 feet away. "I knew how dire the situation was," he said. "If I didn't help out, someone else might get killed or wounded."

Sapp, whose arm and leg bones were shattered by bullets, was screaming in pain, both men recalled. In the Bradley, Jackson grasped Sapp's hand to comfort him, refusing medical aid for himself until they reached their base and he could no longer stand.

Sapp's wounds were life-threatening, and he was at risk of losing his limbs, doctors told him later.

"I don't think I would have lived" without the help of Jackson and another soldier, Sapp said in an interview this week as he underwent physical therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "I'm forever grateful to both of those guys," said Sapp, who is now legally blind in one eye but hopes to remain in the Army unless he is medically discharged.

Jackson was also evacuated to Walter Reed, where he has undergone more than a dozen surgeries, the latest four months ago. Still, he has gradually made almost a full recovery, and considers himself lucky.

So he was devastated to learn last week that such fortune had eluded his roommate, Ferrara.

Ferrara, 24, of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, was returning from a meeting with tribal leaders in a remote border region in eastern Afghanistan when his foot patrol of about 30 soldiers was ambushed along a narrow mountain path, Jackson said. Insurgents fired AK-47 assault rifles on the patrol from different directions, killing six American and three Afghan soldiers, and wounding 19, the most U.S. casualties of any single incident this year. Without room to maneuver, Ferrara, a nephew of New Zealand Defense Minister Phil Goff, and the rest were trapped.

"Matt was killed instantly," Jackson said of his roommate, who was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and promoted to captain. "The reason they didn't take more killed in action was a lot of the casualties rolled down the hill."

Jackson said he plans to stay on active duty, at least until his obligation ends in 2 1/2 years. "I feel I kind of owe it to the people who have already sacrificed," he said. Still, he said he wishes more Americans would appreciate how soldiers continue to volunteer and put their lives at risk. "We don't ask for very much," he said.

Sometimes when I see the lunacy in Berkeley, or that fool of a mayor in Toledo playing at being a human being, I wonder why anyone would step forward to defend this nation? But then I read stories like this one:

I am a Marine Corps dad who picked up my son from the U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Training Depot at Parris Island on Jan. 25. I had no idea what was in store for him when he came home to Columbus.

Upon our return, we have witnessed a gratitude from the people of Columbus that we did not expect. Last Sunday, my son, Pvt. Tyler Allen Leavitt, put on his dress-blue uniform for church to visit those who have prayed for him during the tough training that Marines must endure for the honor of being called a United States Marine.

During this "victory tour," Tyler has witnessed a grateful nation through the awesome, intimate hand of fellowship from the people of Columbus.

Read how the good people of Columbus, Ohio honored the service of a newly minted young Marine. It's a day brightener.

They get it. They really get it. This nation will never fail so long as we have people like the citizens of Columbus, Ohio and like Linda Ferrara; mother to four soldiers serving this country in the United States Army. And First Lieutenant Matthew C. Ferrara, killed November 9th, in Nurastan Province, Afghanistan.

May light perpetual shine upon him.

Some people don't think that we have to fight just yet,
that we can wait and the crazies will go away
and not harm our little tribe.

They are already harming our little tribe.
All of humanity is our tribe.

- Linda Ferrara
Mother of 1LT Matthew C. Ferrara

Posted by Cassandra at 04:51 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Grow Up Already: Why Married Love Isn't "Settling"

Whilst drinking her morning coffee, the Princess ran into a rather perplexing piece (via Glenn Reynolds) on Settling for Mr. Good Enough:

... while Rachel and her supposed soul mate, Ross, finally get together (for the umpteenth time) in the finale of Friends, do we feel confident that she’ll be happier with Ross than she would have been had she settled down with Barry, the orthodontist, 10 years earlier? She and Ross have passion but have never had long-term stability, and the fireworks she experiences with him but not with Barry might actually turn out to be a liability, given how many times their relationship has already gone up in flames. It’s equally questionable whether Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw, who cheated on her kindhearted and generous boyfriend, Aidan, only to end up with the more exciting but self-absorbed Mr. Big, will be better off in the framework of marriage and family. (Some time after the breakup, when Carrie ran into Aidan on the street, he was carrying his infant in a Baby Björn. Can anyone imagine Mr. Big walking around with a Björn?)

When we’re holding out for deep romantic love, we have the fantasy that this level of passionate intensity will make us happier. But marrying Mr. Good Enough might be an equally viable option, especially if you’re looking for a stable, reliable life companion. Madame Bovary might not see it that way, but if she’d remained single, I’ll bet she would have been even more depressed than she was while living with her tedious but caring husband.

What I didn’t realize when I decided, in my 30s, to break up with boyfriends I might otherwise have ended up marrying, is that while settling seems like an enormous act of resignation when you’re looking at it from the vantage point of a single person, once you take the plunge and do it, you’ll probably be relatively content. It sounds obvious now, but I didn’t fully appreciate back then that what makes for a good marriage isn’t necessarily what makes for a good romantic relationship. Once you’re married, it’s not about whom you want to go on vacation with; it’s about whom you want to run a household with. Marriage isn’t a passion-fest; it’s more like a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business. And I mean this in a good way.

It's hard to know what to make of this. On the one hand, I think the author has hit on something here. Too many young women run about with an Unrealistic Marriage Template in their heads. It seems to be composed of a laundry list of non-negotiable qualities which either don't exist in real, human males or do exist but effectively price them out of the marriage market (in the sense that any man who possesses all of those qualities isn't going to be willing to "settle" for them). Men are not our personal meal tickets. They shouldn't have to shower us with material things to win our affection; nor should they be expected to read our minds or surrender their independence to The Relationship. If we are adults, we will take responsibility for our own happiness and not expect a man to "make" us happy. Oddly enough, if we do this most men will bend over backwards to make us happy without our ever asking them to. It's just that they dislike traps.

But I hear the same kind of complaints coming from single men. "There are no good women out there." This is unreconstructed bunk. There are plenty of decent women out there. Contrary to the peevish meme that pervades too many comments sections, not all American women are spoiled brats. Look no farther than the nearest military base and you'll find women who regularly give up careers, friends, interests, virtually their entire lives to ensure their families and their husbands' careers are a success. And they have plenty of civilian counterparts.

One does not have to leave the continental U.S. to find a partner willing to take on her fair share of the marital workload. On the other hand, if your idea of the perfect wife is a 19 year old compliant Czech super model with pencil thin, cellulite-free thighs and DD-cup bustline whose fondest ambition is to have 4 children, stay home and do housework (and whose body will magically look just like those airbrushed girls in Maxim even after multiple childbirths) then perhaps it is your attitude that needs a bit of adjustment.

Nine tenths of marriage is work; the decision to get along with your partner and be happy. It's really no mystery. In that sense, the author has a real point. It's the gap between many people's unrealistic expectations and reality that makes them miserable.

On the other hand, marrying an unsuitable person; one with whom you are unevenly matched, makes marriage an uphill battle. If you find someone "tedious" at 20, odds are you're not going to warm to him as the years pass. But if you can talk for hours at 20 and the only thing standing in your way is that Roman Candles don't shoot out of your ass every time he kisses you, you'd be a fool to pass him up for the devastatingly handsome guy who makes you weak in the knees, but never listens to a word you say. That's infatuation, not love. Adults are supposed to know the difference between the two.

One of the biggest lies of feminism is that men and women are equally willing to don the yoke of marriage and childbearing.

They're not.

From the time we're children, women dream of our wedding day. Little girls dress up as princess brides. When was the last time you saw a little boy dress up in a bridegroom outfit?

Yeah. I thought so.

Girls envision, even if they plan on college and a career, that white picket fence, a loving husband, and 1.5 children somewhere at the end of the rainbow. Truth be told, this vision is somewhere in the back of most young men's minds too but there's a crucial difference: it's in the back of their minds. Way in the back.

When a man and a woman begin dating, he doesn't instantly begin assessing their "relationship potential", how willing she is to "commit", or where they'll be 5, 10, or 24 months down the road. He is focused on today (and very likely hoping she won't object if he sees other women on the side). In the mean time, the old biological clock keeps right on ticking with consequences that don't bode well for her. A woman's shelf life on the marriage market can only decrease with age while a man's remains fairly flat for decades. He is just as attractive (if not more so) at 45 as he was at 25 because women look at a whole host of attributes other than just looks: education level, range of interests, personality, maturity, stability, income. And all of these qualities are enhanced rather diminished by the increasing maturity that comes with age. And to add insult to injury, he can still father children at 50 while her fertility begins to decline after 35.

Given all of these considerations, it's hardly surprising men are quite willing to bide their time before entering into holy wedlock. Kay Hymowitz, in a provocative article for City Journal, bemoans what she calls an epidemic of child men hanging out in a hormonal limbo between adolescence and adulthood:

It’s 1965 and you’re a 26-year-old white guy. You have a factory job, or maybe you work for an insurance broker. Either way, you’re married, probably have been for a few years now; you met your wife in high school, where she was in your sister’s class. You’ve already got one kid, with another on the way. For now, you’re renting an apartment in your parents’ two-family house, but you’re saving up for a three-bedroom ranch house in the next town. Yup, you’re an adult!

Now meet the twenty-first-century you, also 26. You’ve finished college and work in a cubicle in a large Chicago financial-services firm. You live in an apartment with a few single guy friends. In your spare time, you play basketball with your buddies, download the latest indie songs from iTunes, have some fun with the Xbox 360, take a leisurely shower, massage some product into your hair and face—and then it’s off to bars and parties, where you meet, and often bed, girls of widely varied hues and sizes. They come from everywhere: California, Tokyo, Alaska, Australia. Wife? Kids? House? Are you kidding?

It's interesting to see the explanations for this phenomenon. Dr. Helen thinks it's because men aren't being treated well by society:

Nowadays, for many men, the negatives of marriage for men often outweigh the positives. Therefore, they engage in it less often. Not because they are bad, not because they are perpetual adolescents, but because they have weighed the pros and cons of marriage in a rational manner and found the institution to be lacking for them. It’s a sensible choice for some and the video games, magazines, and humor websites that Hymowitz disses are a way to fill one’s time with fun activities that don’t tell you that you suck, are an “unfinished person,” emotionally detached or on your way to jail for fake domestic violence charges. People used to treat men better than this.

I question this assumption. A lifestyle that consists of filling their free time with video games, serial bouts of promiscuous sex and porn somehow:

(a) doesn't remind me of how society "used to treat" my husband, father or grandfather, who all settled down and got married, and

(b) doesn't impress me as particularly convincing argument for "how grown-up, adult and rational single young men really are".

I don't contest their right to spend their time as they please, and if they choose to spend their free time in that manner they are probably not particularly good candidates for marriage and fatherhood anyway. But don't expect me to call their choices rational or mature. I wouldn't condone the same choices in young women, and my father's and grandfather's generations would have been far quicker to condemn such behavior than I. In fact, they would have been downright scathing in their condemnation; which explains why (at 26) the young men in Hymowitz' article settled down and got married. They were expected to.

Grim, on the other hand, argues that young men are somehow "letting young women win" out of some misplaced sense of chivalry, an argument I find equally unpersuasive:

City Journal, having previously pondered young women who won't get married, now looks at young men who won't. The two articles posit a view of women who've decided they can go to college, "hyper-achieve" at jobs, and put off families until much later; and men who've decided to put off growing up until they're 30-something.

The problems they posit for this new arrangement are, for society, fewer children to grow up into the next generation; and for women, fewer men who are suitable mates. For young men, the only problem is that they're jerks, but they seem happy that way.

Before we engage in a thorough examination of the specifics of these articles, let me offer this analysis: what you see here is how post-feminist society has achieved a new equilibrium.

We read that women are getting the majority of college diplomas, 'hyper-achieving' (meaning achieving early), and then still wanting children -- but fewer, later. We read that men are taking on slower paths to the job market and obtaining fewer college degrees as a percentage. What does that mean?

What it appears to me to mean is this:

1) Young women have decided they want both a family and a career; so they "do" a career seriously-and-in-a-hurry, so they'll have time for the family too.

2) Young men recognize that the women are going to compete hard for promotions and such early, and rather than 'fight the girl,' which they've always been taught not to do, they let the girl win. Fewer go to college, so there will be more room for women in women-friendly careers (i.e., careers built around offices); more work in jobs most women didn't want anyway (such as construction or policing).

Then, around the 30s, the women start opting-out of the fast track, letting the men who did get degrees move up and marry them; and they start families at this point.

I think this indicates a sort of stability, in which most of these folks are getting what they really want: for post-feminist women, the chance at both a career and a family; for men, a longer period of freedom and play, and a softer landing into family and career. Young men now often only have to support wife and progeny for a few years until the wife will want to return to her (now more-balanced) career; so there will be two incomes, even if hers is no longer what it once was.

I'll tell you what I find more convincing than arguing that young men are nobly standing aside from competing with young women. Any mother could tell you what is wrong here - two sayings that have come out of the mouths of Moms from time immemorial both apply:

1. Give them an inch, and they'll take a mile. And,
2. No one buys the cow when they can get the milk for free. People behave up or down to the standards we set for them. If society no longer looks down on young men who don't marry by a certain age, who spend their time playing video games, sleeping around, and consuming porn, why should they spend their free time working? There is no penalty for goofing around, and a demonstrated reward for doing so.

Regarding the delayed marriage phenomenon, if you wish to entice someone into entering into a partnership, you offer something the other person desires greatly. In this case (unlike their fathers' and grandfathers' generation) these young men already have all the sex they want without the responsibilities that come with marriage. But what happens to these overgrown boys when the prospect of sex with someone they care about is withdrawn - when suddenly it's no longer free?

Just 18 months ago, I was your average bachelor dude, bumbling into my late thirties with a girlfriend stashed across the country. As such, I spent a lot of time strolling down less-than-wholesome cultural avenues. To be specific, I wasted approximately a week and a half (if you add up all the 20-minute segments) trolling the Internet for a free version of the Paris Hilton sex video. My friend Karl had told me it was hilarious, that she actually answers her cell phone in the midst of the action. Then there was the Britney saga. And the Lindsay saga. And whatever stray cleavage those might offer.

But in 2006, a number of things happened very quickly. I realized I was turning 40. My girlfriend announced that she would be staying across the country if I didn’t propose to her. I proposed to her. A week later, she called to say she was pregnant. In the space of six months, we eloped, bought a house, moved in together, and welcomed the arrival of Josephine.

Suddenly marriage becomes attractive again. Amazing how that works, isn't it? It was just a question of applying the proper incentives.

Men are not animals. Like women, they select a mate on the basis of a range of attributes (like compatibility). But at the heart of it, few men want what they think they can get too easily. Men are driven to compete and win; this is part of our basic biological drives. It helps us improve the gene pool. So in a sense, nature doesn't want us to "settle" for anything less than the best we can realistically get in the marketplace. On some level, we instinctively know this.

The key word in all of this is "realistically". Often, the guy or girl who makes our head rush or our heart pound like a triphammer is neither our soul mate nor our true love. That's biology, not love talking; and that's why the rational blend of attraction and compatibility that goes into selecting a mate isn't "settling". That's why, though every parent must judge what their child can handle, I've never agreed with not letting kids date.

I dated early, and often, and that's how I learned to tell the dizzy rush of infatuation from the more permanent glow that comes with true love. It takes practice; trial and error of many relationships over the years. Some people never do get it right.

What if the prince on the horse in your fairytale
Is right here in disguise
And what if the stars you've been reaching so high for
Are shining in his eyes?

Don't look at yourself in the same old way
Take another picture
Shoot the stars off in your own backyard
Don't look any further
And you will see
It's the stuff that dreams are made of....
It's the slow and steady fire
It's the stuff that dreams are made of
It's your heart and soul's desire

It's the stuff that dreams are made of.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:45 AM | Comments (113) | TrackBack

February 08, 2008

Mitt! Mitt! Where Art Thou???

Having shuffled off to elysium last night in a deep state of Romney-induced funk, the Blog Princess sprang from betwixt the sadly vacant marital sheets this morning grimly determined to find something to be cheerful about. Thus, when the alarm clock commenced its detestable chirping, she smashed it with more vigor than was strictly necessary, donned her trusty red bathrobe, and began the long trudge towards redemption in the form of a massive infusion of caffeine and a smidgeon of good news.

Dropped by Grim's place as I usually do of a morning to see what trouble he was causing. Was reminded it is now The Year of the Rat. This got me thinking about all sorts of thinks I like; like fireworks...

China_Kyling_Fireworks_Display_Shell.jpg

China welcomed in the Year of the Rat Thursday with a bonanza of fireworks and festivals, but the celebrations for many were subdued due to ferocious cold weather that kept them from their families.

Explosions of colour could be seen in the skies of Beijing and across China in a centuries-old fireworks tradition that is meant to scare off evil spirits but this year also sought to raise national morale after the horror cold snap.

...and Chinese horoscopes. The Princess was (watch it, guys!) born in the Year of the Pig. This makes her honest and extremely loyal, but also stubborn and a bit naive:

The Pig is true to his goals and beliefs. Their natural simplicity makes Pigs popular and loyal - once a friend, they'll be your friends for life. Pigs can be stubborn, but they will give in for the sake of peace. A Pig is happy to share what he or she has but needs to be the one taking the initiative in giving and wants to be rewarded for it. Sensual and energetic, she is persuasive and perceptive. The Pig sees and remembers everything.

So just remember that, peoples. I know all, and see all. Downright omniscient, I am; from the tip of my cute little nose to the tip of my curly little tail...

As I sagaciously sipped my morning java, I pondered with piglike perspicacity the many hopeful signs portended by the incoming Year of the Rat:

Super Bowl Indicator? Whatever. The real coincident indicator to pay attention to is the Year of the Rat, which is the year the Chinese calendar is now in.

Phil Roth, chief technical analyst at Miller Tabak — with tongue planted firmly in cheek — notes in commentary today that “the rat is honest, popular, ambitious, clever, and inventive, at least according to Chinese mythology. That sounds bullish to me.”

Indeed. With a bit of backward-reconstruction analysis, Mr. Roth finds that in more than 200 years, there’s only been one very bad Year of the Rat — 1842, when stocks fell about 20%. Recent performance has been steady, including a 20% gain in 1996 and a 15.6% rise in 1972.

It would seem that Hope is just busting out all over the place!

Romney has been faulted for lacking "authenticity," but this is probably unfair. He is--authentically--a cool technocrat, a management consultant at heart. But a leader, as opposed to a manager, needs not just analytical skills but also intuition and emotion, not just information but also conviction. He needs to be able to consult his gut as well as the data when deciding how to proceed.

Romney, in the end, failed to inspire. By contrast, Barack Obama is nothing but inspiring--so inspiring that it is becoming deeply creepy. The Boston Globe reports on a new music video touting Obama:

Inspired by the speech Barack Obama delivered in Nashua the night of the state primary, will.i.am [of the Black Eyed Peas] set Obama's text to simple guitar and a soulful melody, recruited 36 artists to appear in a music video that was conceived, shot, and edited over three days last week, and posted "Yes We Can" online over the weekend. . . .

The split-screen video features clips of the candidate speaking alongside shots of R&B singer John Legend, actress Scarlett Johansson, rapper Common, jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, actor-singer Nick Cannon, rocker Ed Kowalczyk, and others echoing Obama's spoken words in song. Will.i.am set the song's tempo to synch up with the New Hampshire audience, which supplies the song's rhythm with chants of "We want change, we want change!" . . .

"I do think it allows people an accessible way into politics," Jesse Dylan said. "Rallies can be dry, but Will has taken the words and dramatized them with these wonderful artists and it gives people an easy way to become passionate."

The video, which you can watch here, depicts people who appear to be in some sort of trance as they mouth along with Obama's various rhetorical flourishes from his speeches, then repeat the mantra "Yes, we can." The whole thing has the feel of a cult of personality.

We aren't the first to make that observation. The other day one Kathleen Geier, who says she voted for Obama and considers him "a good progressive," took to the liberal TPMCafe site to declare that she is "increasingly weirded out by some of Obama's supporters":

She quotes from a Sacramento Bee article that she (and we) found "unsettling":

"He looked at me, and the look in his eyes was worth 1,000 words," said [Kim] Mack, now a regional field organizer. Obama hugged her and whispered something in her ear--she was so thrilled she doesn't remember what it was. . . .

She urged volunteers to hone their own stories of how they came to Obama--something they could compress into 30 seconds on the phone.

As Geier notes, "this sounds more like a cult than a political campaign":

The language used here is the language of evangelical Christianity--the Obama volunteers speak of "coming to Obama" in the same way born-again Christians talk about "coming to Jesus."

But he's not Jesus! He's not going to magically enable us to transcend the bitter partisanship that is tearing this country apart.

ABC's Jake Tapper notes other enthusiasts and detractors from the enthusiasm, all on the Democratic left. "I've been following politics since I was about 5," Chris Matthews tells the New York Observer. "I've never seen anything like this. This is bigger than Kennedy. [Obama] comes along, and he seems to have the answers. This is the New Testament."

On the other side, Time's Joe Klein writes that there is "something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism" of the Obama campaign, which "all too often is about how wonderful the Obama campaign is." Adds the dyspeptic leftist James Wolcott:

Perhaps it's my atheism at work but I found myself increasingly wary of and resistant to the salvational fervor of the Obama campaign, the idealistic zeal divorced from any particular policy or cause and chariot-driven by pure euphoria. . . . I don't look to politics for transcendence and self-certification.

What are we to make of Obama himself in the midst of all this adulation? A cynic would say that he is a manipulator if not a demagogue, exploiting the gullible to further his own ambitions. A more charitable view is that his intentions are all to the good, that he has simply figured out how to tap into a genuine desire for inspiration in politics, and that if elected he will use his political powers to do good for the country.

I, too, find myself deeply disturbed; not only by Obama's vagueness and his followers' over-enthusiastic response to it, but by my own party's response to Mitt Romney's campaign.

Of course I knew he was fighting an uphill battle, but I hoped in my heart of hearts that people would see what I saw in him, the qualities that were so astonishingly plain to me that it made the choice over before it started. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was forming a theory about how the vast majority of people choose presidential candidates. In the ensuing weeks I have had many conversations on this topic and have seen nothing to dissuade me from this theory and much to bolster it. It is not a theory that inspires much confidence in an informed and rational American electorate:

As Barbara Poole of Greenville listened to presidential candidate John McCain speak at a campaign stop, she had a gut reaction.

“I can’t recall what he was talking about, but he really impressed me,” Poole said. “It’s kind of like when you meet someone and you immediately like them or don’t like them. It’s hard to put into words.”

As South Carolinians head to the polls Saturday for the Republican primary and Jan. 26 for the Democratic one, many voters will choose the primary to vote in and the candidate to vote for on the basis of something other than voting records, decision-making experience or position papers.

Poole, for instance, likes McCain’s talk about hard issues. She says it is honest and direct. “When he talks about war, he knows first-hand what it’s about.”

Being likable is a basic test on the road to the White House. But it’s a test that can make or break a candidate.

“Voters really don’t vote on the issues to any significant extent,” said Ken Warren, pollster and political scientist at St. Louis University. “It’s mostly because they don’t know how the candidates differ on the issues. The difference are so subtle, particularly in primaries, that even analysts have a hard time keeping them straight. So (voters) rely on the candidates’ persona instead.”

The confusion created by subtle differences is compounded this year by a crowded field of candidates and a quick-paced primary schedule. That leaves voters to ponder whether they simply like the candidate.

“We want a president who is (similar) to us but a little bit better,” said Betty Glad, a USC professor whose expertise is political psychology. “Someone who we can relate to, but without our flaws.”

In some ways, this may not be an irrational way to choose a candidate. Politicians have to make a lot of empty and contradictory promises to get elected; there is no way they can keep all of them. But on the other hand one has to wonder whether personal charm is really the best predictor of executive performance?

The current crop of candidates offers a particular compelling example of this problem. The two front runners are United States' Senators.

In over two hundred years of American history, we have only elected a Senator with no executive experience twice:

Abraham Lincoln
John F. Kennedy

Interestingly enough, both were assassinated. One has to wonder at the rationality of a republican base that utterly discounted a candidate with more quantitative and qualitative experience than the entire rest of the field: Mitt Romney, because he wasn't "exciting" enough. Hearing Romney talk about his experience running a state government, a successful company, and the Olympics was compelling to this author. When I hear someone interview for the job of the leader of the most powerful nation of the free world, I am not impressed by a candidate who thinks on-the-job training is any kind of substitute for a proven track record. I cringe when I hear the "exciting candidates" sneer at a man for being good at making money and giving other Americans paying jobs. Is that really what the "party of ideas" is all about? Not impressive.

It utterly mystifies me why anyone in my party thought the ability to quote from the Federalist papers and the Constitution was more important to running the Executive branch than the demonstrated ability to run a large organization, keep its budget out of the red, and work with the opposing party?

Yet demonstrably, it was. Because Mitt Romney wasn't "passionate" enough? "My" party has a long track record of fooling itself and rewriting history. George W. Bush ran in 2000 and again in 2004 as a compassionate conservative. These are ideas he believes in passionately. He was never shy about articulating them, and anyone in the Republican base who claims they were "fooled" wasn't paying their attention bill. The ugly truth conservatives don't want to face is that America is a centrist nation; neither a left wing, nor a right wing one. We are not, and have never been a nation of idealogues. We may poll one way, but when we are faced with the practical consequences of some of those harsh policies that sound so attractive on paper, we back down quickly. Like it or not, we do not live in a majority conservative nation.

And perception is reality for most people. Which is fine, until it leads to eye-roll worthy excesses such as likening the Bush presidency to a "national near death experience" or (as Peggy Noonan breathlessly informs us) pronouncing that "George W. Bush is responsible for the demise of the Republican party".

Give it a rest, Peggy. You're starting to sound like a reich-wing Randy Rhodes:

ANNOUNCER: The following is a paid advertisement from Republicans for Mitt Romney, or mass suicide. If John McCain is the Republican Presidential nominee, it will destroy the Republican Party. We’re Romney supporters and we know. Cause, if you vote for John McCain, we’re going to go on a killing rampage. Hey, better dead then moderate.”

REPUBLICAN CHARACTER VOICE: "Look, I for one don’t want to die in a hail of gun fire from crazed Mitt Romney supporters, but it’s better then nominating a man who opposed the Bush tax cuts. Hell, John McCain spent years in a North Vietnamese prison. A prison? That doesn’t make him a hero. That makes him an ex-con.”

ANNOUNCER: Exactly, and um, you know what men do in prison. You see if John McCain is President, he’ll make sodomy mandatory. Now, Mitt Romney, well, he believes all sex should be outlawed.

Can we all just give the hyperbole a rest?

The last eight years have been wearisome. It seems the only person who hasn't been a complete jerk is the object of most of this venom: George W. Bush:


Watch him - in a foreign and hostile land - go rescue the Secret Service agent who was being detained and kept from protecting him. See him shoot his cuffs, afterwards, and greet his host.

I don’t care what anyone says - Bush is one cool customer; This guy is due some serious appreciation, even if you feel “betrayed” by him. Name the president who got it all right, all the time.

A much-esteemed, long-neglected friend sent an email this morning, which was delightful to recieve. At one point he mentioned this post from yesterday and wrote:

I think (President Bush) has lost his bearings. but then, so did Moses from time to time, it’s quite understandable.

That made me wonder a little - has President Bush lost his bearings, or have we? Is it President Bush who has broken faith with “his base” or have they?

When I read my friend’s line, I thought of a line from Pride and Prejudice, in which Elizabeth Bennett says in new appreciation of Mr. Darcy,

“In essentials, I believe, he is very much what he ever was.”

Perhaps I am a dim bulb, but President Bush has never surprised me, and that is probably why I have never felt let down or “betrayed” by him. He is, in essentials, precisely who he has ever been.

That was what I saw in Mitt Romney.

Something solid.

Something - at the core - true. Dependable. I didn't need to feel "excited" by him. I didn't need him to entertain me: to tell me bedtime stories, to motivate me. I can provide my own motivation. I don't need him to "sell" me the war on terror. I'm not a child who needs to be propped up every twenty seconds. I can read a newspaper. I have my own mind. Don't patronize me.

This is not what Presidents do. I don't want a cheerleader with pom-pons and a ponytail. I want someone who will be cool, calm and collected in times of trouble, not someone who will fly off the handle. I want steadiness. Bush had that quality. Romney has it.

I don't see it in John McCain. I'll say it bluntly: I think my party are fools, though I suppose I'll support them come election day, because I'm not a child and hope doesn't put dinner on the table:

Obama's whole campaign is based on some of the most noble and inspiring sentiments in political life: hope, togetherness, bipartisanship.

As he proclaimed last February at a Democratic National Committee meeting: "There are those who don't believe in talking about hope. They say, 'Well, we want specifics, we want details, and we want white papers, and we want plans.' We've had a lot of plans, Democrats. What we've had is a shortage of hope. And over the next year, over the next two years, that will be my call to you."

He's stayed true to that pledge. Not only does he talk about hope - a lot - he talks about the importance of talking about hope. He talks about how he hopes to talk more about talking about the importance of talking about hope. Hopefully.

He touts unity the same way. If we all buy into his "message of hope," he explains, then everybody - blacks and whites, men and women, Republicans and Democrats, lions and gnus, bears and park rangers, Superman and Lex Luthor - will be united!

But united toward what end, exactly? Or does it all boil down to being united about being hopeful and hopeful about being united?

...What if you disagree with Obama's ideas? Are you suddenly against hope?

Perish the thought. I knew what George Bush was when I voted for him. I didn't like the prescription drug bill, but I liked many of the other things he stood for. I took the good with the bad and I've never regretted my choice. Nor have I fooled myself about what the man campaigned on: a compassionate conservatism plank that was designed to appeal to moderates, not classic conservatives. This is precisely what won him the crossover vote and put him in the Oval Office.

Own it.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:01 AM | Comments (44) | TrackBack

February 07, 2008

Coffee Snorters: Crime and Punishment Edition

The Editorial Staff wishes to apologize for the Luminescent Suckitude of its blogging of late. It is the silly season at our place of employment, and we see no end in sight in the near future. Please be patient.

In the mean time, having nothing better to do, we propose to amuse ourselves and the assembled villainry by lobbing snark at unsuspecting fellow bloggers:


IT might harm their reputation, but Israel's air force is considering giving its combat pilots Viagra to improve their performance in the air.

A recent study conducted by Israeli doctors among mountain climbers in Africa found a link between erectile dysfunction drugs and improved performance in high altitudes, the mass-selling Yediot Aharonot reported.

The active ingredient in the drugs was found to make climbers perform better in an environment with less oxygen, which causes fatigue and dizziness.

This has led army doctors to consider giving jet fighter pilots - who can fly at altitudes of up to 50,000 feet - the same drug.

"The Viagra family of drugs is considered effective in these conditions because when there is a long shortage in oxygen it leads to high blood pressure in the lungs, and the drugs help fight that," the report quoted military medical sources as saying.

*crickets chirping*

The noise you hear is the sound of the Editorial Staff laughing its a$$ off sound of freedom...

Yeah, right. Awfully quiet over there.

In other news, everywhere we look, a vile wave of crime seems to be sweeping the nation:

Thieves are robbing long-distance coaches by sneaking dwarves into the luggage holds in sports bags.

Once inside, they slip out from their hiding places to rifle through the belongings of unsuspecting travellers.

Then they take their loot back to their hiding place and wait to be collected by another gang member when the coach reaches its destination, reports The Sun.

Is there no end to the depravity of humankynd? Apparently not. Prepare yourselves for a crime so hideous, so foul, so callous that it will freeze the very marrow of your bones:

Interfering With a Dolphin

'I grabbed his fin, but he didn't seem up for pulling us along. I said: “Give him some space. Don't upset him.” The dolphin came to us. It's a powerful creature.

He could have gone any time if he had wanted to.'

Oh sure. Tell yourself that if it makes you feel better, you monster. It's the oldest excuse in the book: "He *enjoyed* it...".

Great moments in crime journalism:

The woman called police – but when Officer Frank Cavallaro arrived at the aptly named Hardscrabble Road, Lu charged at him, nakedly. Cavallaro responded by Tasering him.

Beer: not only is it tasty. It's useful:

It was a dramatic scene at a Boise gas station after two citizens helped stop an armed robbery with a six pack of beer.

Police say James Edward Bridges, 46 walked into the store went behind the counter, shoved a clerk and started grabbing money out of the cash register.

An off-duty jailer swung into action using a six pack of beer bottles, whacking the suspect over the head.

Another customer helped pin the suspect to the ground until police arrived. Police say Bridges resisted arrest – kicking and fighting – resulting in a battery on an officer charge in addition to a felony count of robbery.

Bridges suffered a cut on the head from the beer bottles and was taken first to a local hospital then to the Ada County Jail.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:17 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

February 06, 2008

Yet Mitt Romney Is "Insincere" and "Untrustworthy"

Tell me about it. From Russ Vaughn:

I was afraid this was going to happen when McCain started coming on stronger in the primaries. To an even greater extent than John Kerry, John McCain possesses the ability to politically divide American veterans more than any other presidential candidate. With Kerry, a key determinant of which way veterans’ loyalties fell was party affiliation. I’m sure there were many liberal Democrat veterans, particularly Vietnam veterans, who held their noses and supported a man they viscerally disliked because he was their party’s candidate and represented their overall liberal positions. It was easy for those of us who were politically conservative Vietnam vets to take a hard, unrelenting stand against the man we knew had smeared us because he was the candidate of the party whose positions we opposed.

Today, this division among veterans in general and Vietnam veterans in particular has been turned by McCain’s candidacy into a family fight among Republican veterans that threatens our already diminished prospects for victory in November. While virtually all of us admire and respect McCain’s military service and POW sacrifice, there are millions of us who feel that is simply not enough for him to be able to command our political loyalties four decades later. Setting aside the fact that McCain sided with John Kerry in 2004 and denounced those of us who dared to question Kerry’s very questionable war record, there are many reasons why we do not see John McCain as being someone we can trust to represent the mainstream views of the Republican party. I will spare you a Sean Hannity, rapid-fire recitation of the litany of McCain’s transgressions against his own party because I think there is a single issue far more compelling.

Go ahead and Google “McCain switching parties?” and look at the pages of hits which take you to articles from every sector of the media examining whether or not John McCain was preparing to switch parties as far back as 2001 and continuing into the 2004 campaign. The most chilling of all these reports is one from the Boston Herald in which McCain is quoted as responding to ABC’s Charles Gibson’s question as to whether he would even entertain the idea of running as John Kerry’s VP if Kerry extended such an offer:

“John Kerry is a very close friend of mine. We’ve been friends for years. Obviously I would entertain it.”

That is a very telling quote. In his own words, to further his political ambitions, John McCain would have considered abandoning his party and his supposedly conservative principles to serve on the ticket with one of the most liberal candidates ever to run as a Democrat presidential candidate. Even worse, reading down, one reads that Kerry now claims it was McCain’s people who initiated such a proposal, not that we’d be inclined to lend too much credibility to that particular source. Some very close friends, huh? No wonder then that McCain was able to denounce his fellow Navy Vietnam veterans as “dishonest and dishonorable” when they dared to attack Kerry’s self-promoting war record. McCain was selfishly attempting to curry favor with the man and the party which could do the most for his personal political future.

Now I ask you, just who was being dishonest and dishonorable here? Was it the sailors who served in combat with Kerry and raised issues with his war record that Kerry never successfully refuted and refused to release the Navy records which he claimed would do so? Or was it the self-serving maverick politician who was entertaining the possibility of forsaking his Republican party to fill the number two position on the Democrat ticket?

A good friend and fellow Old War Dog, Bill Faith, cites Mitt Romney’s contradictory and self-serving statements about not serving in Vietnam as proving Romney unworthy of his vote. To that I would respond that talking out of both sides of one’s mouth is congenital in politicians and that perhaps Romney might have gone AWOL on the issue. But Romney’s transgression completely pales against John McCain’s admitted willingness to “entertain” the possibility of full-fledged desertion to the enemy in the midst of political combat.

I don’t know about you but I don’t want a commander-in-chief who even entertains such considerations.

Russ Vaughn



Due in large part to the McCain-Feingold Act, this site cannot and will not endorse any candidate for political office. I have to be careful about even giving the appearance of campaigning for a candidate on a site I pay for and I have neither the time, the inclination, nor the energy to ensure that I don't inadvertently, in some arcane way, violate some provision of a law I don't have time to commit to memory (let alone try to comprehend).

That is why I have commented so little on the presidential primaries despite my passionate opinions on this matter.

Anyone who has read me for any length of time knows how I feel about John Kerry. I leave you to draw your own inferences from there.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:30 AM | Comments (35) | TrackBack

February 05, 2008

Must Read Post Of The Day

Here.

It is well worthy of your consideration; not just because I happen to agree with it, but because it is unusually thoughtful and well reasoned. If only more of us but this much care into the election of our public servants America would be a far better place.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:53 AM | Comments (51) | TrackBack

February 04, 2008

Hmmmm......

Bwa ha ha ha ha!!!!

Perhaps our theory needs more work.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:58 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Nope, Still Nothing...

Tragically, Media Matters proves you still can't fix stupid:

On the February 3 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, panelist and New York Times columnist Bill Kristol said the only people supporting Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) presidential campaign "are the Democratic establishment and white women." Kristol then asserted that "it would be crazy for the Democratic Party to follow an establishment that's led it to defeat year after year," and added, "White women are a problem, that's, you know -- we all live with that." After fellow panelist Brit Hume responded, "Bill, for the record, I like white women," Kristol said, "I know, I shouldn't have said that."

For whatever it may be worth, the Princess was sitting about 2 feet from the TV set when Kristol made that wisecrack. And yes, it was fairly lame, as jokes go ...and she thought no more of it than that.

Disclosure: she has no particular love for Kristol, one way or the other. But it was just a joke gone awry, for Pete's sake. If one spends sufficient time in front of a camera, sooner or later one is bound to say something that makes one look less than thoughtful.

No, the quip wasn't funny but it was hardly cause to hand Kristol over to the Druid priests to be deprived of his man-bits either. The Princess - white womyn that she is - wasn't the least offended by Herr Kristol's little fit of "misogyny" (Good Lord - if *this* is what passes for misogyny these days, our national wussification is complete).

Get. A. Grip, America. Can't a person can make a joke without it being taken as some sort of Dead Giveaway that he's a greedy, snake-handling racist, misogynistic Red-state Jesus-freak who spends his weekends tipping over the nests of endangered gay spotted owls?

Clearly the man must be fired.

Or perhaps he could just be take out and shot. Some people have way too much time on their hands.

Update: Yanno....

The upside to finding out white women are now an oppressed minority is that The Princess no longer needs to wallow in guilt over her unearned race, class and gender privileges.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:41 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

February 03, 2008

Men In Tights XLII

There are many things the Princess does not understand about the Male of the Species.

Chief amongst these arcane mysteries is a deeply disturbing gender-linked tradition called "football". She knows, from decades of reading womens' magazines, that it is tremendously important to the delicate, flower-like male psyche that men be allowed to indulge this primal need; that not interrupting or infringing upon this important ritual is (quite literally - no sarcasm here) vital to the continued existence of freedom, democracy, and the American Way of Life, not to mention the perpetuation of the human race.

She also realizes the importance of keeping a constant supply of beer and munchies flowing to replenish the priceless man-essence consumed by yelling, pounding various household objects, and throwing small domestic animals at the TV screen.

What she never quite understood, however, was why men enjoy football so much? Football, to women, looks quite a bit different than it does to men:

Football is a sport for men only, preferably of the muscle-bound variety, who wear tight spandex pants and play with an awkwardly-shaped ball. The object of the game is to score, whatever the hell that means, and one of best ways to score is by making passes. With positions called tight end and wide receiver; and team names such as Packers, Rams, Giants, Cowboys, Raiders, and Oilers, we simply cannot continue to overlook the gayness of this beloved American sport.

Oh, and one cannot possibly forget the almighty Saints, a moniker whose concept didn’t succeed at keeping the gays out of Catholicism either. The ruse is most definitely over, boys.

Now onto the exhibits. Let us get started with an easy one. What in the holy hell is this?

footballgay1.jpg

*cough*

Football... a manly sport, for manly men, to help them get reconnect with The Man Within.

On the otter heiny, this is inexcusable:

CWCID, dri at Ace o'Spaces

Soooo...... who do you like for tonight's game, guys????

Posted by Cassandra at 09:03 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Peace

A cold winter morning, a log on the fire, a small brown dog in your lap, and George Winston on the stereo.

lake4.jpg


Perfection.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:11 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 02, 2008

Berkeley City Council Lectures Marines, Citizenry About Freedom of "Speech"

speech.jpg

"We made really great statements by blocking the door," said one of the three blockaders, 64-year-old Mary Ann Thomas of Oakland. "It's time we became more articulate about what we're doing."

speech2.jpg

"I guess they've never heard of free speech"
- Councilwoman Dona Spring

What Code Pink actually had a license to do:

The council ... voted to allow members of Code Pink, the protest group that helped organize Friday's blockade, to park at a designated space in front of the recruiting office every Wednesday afternoon and operate a loudspeaker.


"It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure."

- James Madison


Posted by Cassandra at 05:23 PM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

February 01, 2008

Heh...



What military aircraft are you?

F/A-22 Raptor

You are an F/A-22. You are technologically inclined, and though you've never been tested in combat, your very name is feared. You like noise, but prefer not to pollute any more than you have to. And you can move with the best.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by YouThink.com quizzes and personality tests.

CWCID: Kat

Posted by Cassandra at 07:00 PM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

Signs of Hope Caption Contest

Yes, I *know* I still have an unjudged (actually I judged it a long time ago - it's just *unposted*) caption contest and an unjudged game out there.

Get over it. It's Friday, my desk is bulgier than Pam Anderson's upper thoracic region, and I am *not* working through the Superbowl...

signs_of_hope.jpg

Do your wurst, peoples :p

I need a good laugh!

Posted by Cassandra at 03:09 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack