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March 31, 2008

Re: Fairness, and Obama

Not to say "I toad you so", but "I toad you so":

It has now become conventional wisdom that Barack Obama has weathered the storm over Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Exhibit A in the discussion is last week's NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, which, it is said, shows that Hillary Clinton suffered more than Obama from the Wright controversy. "With all the noise of the last couple of weeks, Sen. Clinton is the one who has been hurt the most," MSNBC's Chris Matthews said recently. "Meanwhile, Sen. Obama has steadily risen." Most analysts on the Sunday shows seemed to agree.

While I agree with Byron here,

... a closer look at the numbers shows that the change in Clinton's position relative to Obama's has been entirely among black voters — and it's pretty clear by now that Hillary Clinton is not trying to appeal to black voters.

...the important point is this: before the Wright debacle, Obama was consistently leading Hillary. Now he is, at best, even:

In any event, when all of those numbers are combined into an overall horserace figure, admittedly an unpopular figure among political analysts, Clinton and Obama are dead even, 45-45.

And worst of all for Hillary, his poll numbers are once again rising. Let's not forget, this is the ADD nation we're talking about here, and the half vast punditocracy are once again talking up the many and spendiferous virtues of The Obamessiah. We all know what kind of inroads having your very own Hallelujah chorus of admirerers singing Hosannahs 24/7 can make against a seven day wonder.

Can anyone say "Down the memory hole?" Don't know about you all, but the editorial staff just felt a thrill run up our leg.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:34 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Aiiiieeeeee!!!!

We don't know whether to damn the BusHitler, or praise him for protecting our brave, child-like, murdering troops from the worst economy since Herbert Hoover:

Thank God for Stop Loss

...because soldiers aren't capable of living in the cold cruel world outside the hellish military cocoon.

At least that's what the LA Times wants you to believe. Vets Face Grim Job Prospects - and if you think I'm exaggerating above, here are a few key quotes from the first few paragraphs explaining why.

It's like a jungle sometimes
It makes us wondah
How we keep from goin' undah:

sagging economy... struggling domestic job market limits their options even more... almost in tears because the outlook was so bad... want so badly to go to work, and there's no question that organizations want to hire them. It's just bad timing that the economy is so awful... forecast for young veterans seems grim.

There's that Grim feller again... kind of suspicious-like, the way he keeps showing up, isn't it? Of course, considering what he's been through, it's only a matter of time before he goes completely off his head and starts shooting up the place.

On the otter heiny, it's just damned inexcusable what George Bush has done to this poor, iggerant fellow:

"I don't put it past our military to spin stories that soldiers will get the best training and, when they get out, they'll have the world at their feet," said Ortiz, a veteran of the first Gulf War. "It is a false promise."

The transitional assistance program run by the Department of Defense is insufficient, Ortiz said. And when veterans get intimidated by the lack of job opportunities, many give up on finding civilian work and reenlist, he said.

Discouraged by an unsuccessful job search, with no gas money to go to interviews or college, Fabian Serrano, 27, of Riverside County, said he was tempted to rejoin the Marines.

He doubts he will ever find his ideal job as a cartoon designer, or any other worthwhile post. And with a wife, parents and younger brother to support, Serrano said he can't take a minimum-wage position and hope for a promotion later.

A fellow Marine persuaded the sergeant, who served in Iraq and is now in the Reserve, to attend his first job fair. But Serrano had no resume -- only a high school diploma and nearly a decade of experience shooting cannons and working as a military policeman.

"I have no good sense of direction of where to start and where to go. None of my experience transfers," he said. "There's nothing out here for me, so I might as well go back to active duty and stay there."

Criminal, really.

Ten years, during which the poor man managed to rack up ... what?

Ten years of on the job training and experience in artillery and police work. I wonder if he ever managed, in that 10 years, to move into a supervisory position?

Not a single thing to put on a resume, in ten years? Not a single training class or marketable skill? That's... incredible. Not even any of that police work.

And to think that he can't just leap from a career as a military policeman into the completely unrelated field of cartoon artistry, as he certainly would be able to in the civilian world! Go figure. Damned military recruiters just lie all day long, don't they. If only they had forced him to take advantage of the military's liberal Tuition Assistance programs or the GI bill during that ten years he was in the military. Because, you know, a college degree really helps when you're looking for work.

But again, lying recruiters. Disgusting how they keep a man down. It's almost like there's some kind of conspiracy out there.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:39 AM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

Winter Soldier II: The Inconvenient Truths Americans Won't Hear from the Media

The other night as my husband and I drove home from a party in Washington, DC we spoke of the war. As we drove, we wondered how historians will one day view contemporary events? It's strange to think that in the time of Herodotus, there were only the verbal accounts of survivors with which to reconstruct battles. Future historians will have many and varied sources to work with: news accounts, blogs, emails and letters, pictures and video taken with cell phones, even YouTubes. It boggles the mind. One might, at first, think such a plethora of sources would yield a more accurate picture of war: lead historians to a swifter consensus about what happened; what it all meant.

I wonder, though. Will all this information clarify, or confuse? Will we, with our human tendency to sift out what confirms our own biases, simply seize from this abundance what we find useful and discard the discordant notes?

The evening, in any event, had been enjoyable but a bit strange. It was a fairly small gathering - no more than forty people - and consequently everyone knew my husband had recently returned from Baghdad. It would not be unfair to say we were very likely the only adults there who continue to support the administration. For me, it wasn't all that different from hundreds of similar encounters I've had over the past year. It gets old, being asked what my husband thinks of the war; of our prospects for success?

It's not, actually, that I don't understand the question. Certainly it's a natural one under the circumstances. What bothers me so much is that, though I try not to inject my own opinions into my response (which necessarily makes it more dispassionate and less positive an assessment than my own would have been) there is always that slight turning away, that tell-tale tightening of the mouth when what they hear doesn't confirm their pre-existing biases.

What they want to hear, you see, is that everything is a hopeless mess over there, and that we're losing. And it frustrates people enormously to have someone who was actually in Iraq for an entire year contradict the narrative.

What to do, what to do? But soon enough, you see The Narrative kick back in: "those people" are just administration shills. They are going to parrot the party line, so we can safely discount what they say in favor of the authentic, unbiased voice of some paid Iraqi stringer with unknown sectarian loyalties, supervised by a professional journalist whose strict neutrality can be trusted (since he isn't on the scene and strongly disapproves of the war).

There's an inherent check here. Though one can't trust people in the military to put aside their personal feelings and tell the truth, professional journalists and anonymous Iraqi stringers living in a war zone absolutely can be trusted to do the same thing. Got that?

My husband had ducked outside midway through the evening to have a cigar with my youngest son, and I found myself dodging the familiar litany of sympathy.

"How long was he over there?"

"Just a year."

"That must have been awful for you."

"Actually, it's really not that bad, though of course I'm quite pleased to have him home again."

[tightening of the lips]

Oops. I forget to play the role again. I am supposed to be bitter and angry. Or was it traumatized and desperate? I keep forgetting? Some four star admiral, years ago, accused my Navy father of being Overly Well Adjusted. I seem to suffer from the same malady, or perhaps it's just the unassuming little Pinot Grigio acting like Vaseline on the lens through which I view life. From where I stand in my corner people watching, everything looks just the tiniest bit softened around the edges.

But that's the way I like it. I've never seen any point in being Edgy. Life is way too full of hard edges. I have very little use for anger - the only way to stay furious, it seems to me, is to adamantly refuse to see anyone else's side but your own. Once you break down and admit you're not the only person on the planet who ever manages to think of a plausible point, it becomes difficult to maintain a truly self-righteous wad of indignation.

But this month, an interesting bit of national indignation is about to repeat itself. It should be amusing to see how much of the skepticism rigorously applied to military men and women who did their duty will be meted out to those who, at least if past history is any indicator of future performance, were something less than zealous in the performance of theirs. In the 1970's, investigative journalism became a household world with the Watergate scandal. Soon, intrepid journalists were investigating all sorts of things.

That is, when it suited them. Some things, like the outcome of the first Winter Soldier investigation, quickly disappeared down the memory hole of history:

From March 13-16, 2008, members of the antiwar group Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) will gather in Washington, DC to "testify" against the US military at a protest event called Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan. The name "Winter Soldier" is taken from the infamous 1971 event at which members of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) related gruesome stories of crimes they claimed to have participated in or witnessed. The VVAW insisted that rape, torture and murder were standard practices for the US military in Vietnam. Organizers of the new IVAW tribunal, which is supported by several former VVAW leaders, say the 1971 conference was where "a courageous group of veterans exposed the criminal nature of the Vietnam War." In reality, it was part of a sophisticated, vicious propaganda effort designed to poison public opinion against the US military. Newly discovered records now reveal what happened when Army investigators asked VVAW activists for evidence of the hundreds of crimes they claimed to have seen.

In 2005, I visited the National Archives at College Park, Maryland with Vietnam veteran and researcher John Boyle. Sifting through the limited material available, we found summary data for the WSI allegations the Army had investigated. The Army's Criminal Investigative Division (CID) had opened cases for 43 WSI "witnesses" whose claims, if true, would qualify as crimes. An additional 25 Army WSI participants had criticized the military in general terms, without sufficient substance to warrant any investigation.

The 43 WSI CID cases were eventually resolved as follows: 25 WSI participants refused to cooperate, 13 provided information but failed to support the allegations, and five could not be located. No criminal charges were filed as a result of any of the investigations.

The CID summary reports are revealing. Most of the WSI participants refused to provide evidence to support their allegations. Some made statements that were contradicted by other witnesses, were discredited, or were not substantiated by subsequent investigation.

Several of the VVAW activists backtracked significantly on their WSI statements

But you see, there was no penalty for going back on their original stories. None of them had testified under oath.

Like another hotly debated Vietnam-era controversy, the "spitting myth", the documented facts of Winter Soldier I turn out to be far different from the received wisdom unquestioningly passed on by the mainstream media and many Left-wing pundits and bloggers:

Many 1967-72 Spitting Incidents Are Documented in the Press.

Hundreds of Vietnam-era veterans have publicly claimed in recent decades that they were spat on by citizens or anti-war protesters because of their military status, either before they went to Vietnam, when they were on leave, or after their returned from overseas. Yet several journalists and at least one scholar, sociologist Jerry Lembcke of Holy Cross, think that such things never happened, that they are an “urban legend.” Lembcke claims: “Stories of spat-upon Vietnam veterans are bogus.”

...I have been looking into these and other claims by Lembcke and they appear to hold about as much water as do his notions about a primal (wet) unconscious.

It is surprising that, without his having done an exhaustive review of published sources in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Lembcke would manufacture such a speculative argument, essentially treating hundreds of eyewitnesses as victims of “false memory” (at best).

...Contrary to Lembcke’s claims, I quite easily found many accounts published in the 1967-1972 period claiming spitting on servicemen.

Unfortunately it is the lie that persisted while the more complicated facts somehow were never 'discovered' by our intrepid investigative media. In yet a third instance of pervasive and continuing anti-war bias the term "Swift Boating" has, in popular parlance, come to connote a dishonorable ad hominem attack on a brave truth teller. The actual facts behind the spin are much more complicated. How many journalists who leapt to the defense of John Forbes Kerry bothered to "investigate" the backgrounds of these "Swift Boaters", or listen to their stories?

How many Americans, when they hear the term "Swift Boater", think of Medal of Honor recipient Colonel Bud Day, America's most highly decorated living veteran?

Name: George E. "Bud" Day
Hometown: Sioux City, Iowa
POW time: 5 yrs, 7 mos, 13 days
Entered 1967- Discharge 1973
Awards:

Medal of Honor
Air Force Cross
Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross

How many of them think of Colonel Leo Thorsness, another Medal of Honor recipient and POW?

How many of them think of Admiral Jeremiah Denton, POW and United States Senator?

Where, in all the wrongly directed outrage at the supposed besmirching of Kerry, a decorated 'war hero' who spent all of four months in Vietnam, was the outrage at the slander of American Medal of Honor recipients who were tortured in Vietnamese prisons for years on end? Where were the media? Where was the concern for fairness and objectivity?

How many Americans, when they are spoon fed sensationalistic stories of real Iraqi "atrocities" by real "war heroes" from IVAW, will hear from our investigative journalists that these war heroes include men who have already lied to us?

Men like Jesse MacBeth and Jimmy Massy? [Ed. Note: Scott Pigeon has asked me to note the Jesse MacBeth is no longer a member of IVAW and that the organization now requires a DD214 for membership. So noted.]

If this piece in the Washington Post is any indication, we will not. Indeed, despite the best efforts of some good men, the media's war stories do echo that earlier Winter Soldier: biased and incomplete:

in late February, I was contacted by a reporter from the Syracuse Post-Standard who wanted to interview me about the upcoming WSI II. I tried to impress upon him the importance of taking the sort of statements he was likely to hear at WSI II with a substantial grain of salt. It was important, I stressed, for reporters covering this story to “dig deep,” asking for details and ensuring that those making the claims were credible.

I told him that the Vietnam generation of journalists who bought the WSI political theater hook, line, and sinker, had merely enabled the dissemination of political propaganda and were complicit in defaming a generation of decent men, most of whom did their duty in Vietnam with honor and restraint. I told him how Jug Burkett had done what journalists should have been doing — asking for documentation and insisting on details — when he unmasked numerous phony Vietnam “veterans,” as recounted in Stolen Valor. I told him that if reporters were truly interested in the truth, they should do what Burkett did: get the name and service number of every one who testified during the WSI II, use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to gain access to their real records, and then check to see if that individual was in a position to have committed or witnessed atrocities.

I haven’t seen much in the way of mainstream reporting on the WSI II event, so I can’t yet tell if today’s reporters are less credulous than their Vietnam-era predecessors. I can only hope they are.

I wish I could be that sanguine about this. Here's what a sympathetic blogger had to say about the Winter Soldier II "testimony":

From the title of the panel, we were looking forward to this panel….

The panel was an embarrassment….

A panel at Winter Soldiers promises testimony. Testimony is based on what you saw. A witness in a court of a law attempting to 'testify' to what they themselves didn't witness would be reduced to rubble under cross examination. For this panel, such requirements were largely tossed out

Would that the Washington Post, my hometown paper, had been as impartial and open-minded in its coverage. But that would have been expecting a degree of objectivity and professionalism I fear we may never see when it comes to journalists and war.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:14 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

March 30, 2008

Important Sandy Day O'Connor Thong Alert

Thing a Thong of Thixpenthe
A Pocketful of Ry...

Hold that thought. This isn't about Ry at all. It's about BillT and his admittedly disturbing habit of prancing around outside the wire clad in nothing but a thong:

Thanks for all the e-mails (mostly inquiries as to when I expected to regain my sanity and take up housekeeping *inside* a bunker) and comments expressing concern for my post-bottle rocket wellbeing, but geez, it's not like I'm doing rilly *dangerous* stuff anymore [note to Twin: Try a spoonful of Pepto before bedtime].

Drives those al Qaeda fellers farging nuts. The good news in all of this is that it doth well appear this blog's fave female former Supreme Court justice won't be joining him anytime soon:

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor acknowledges that she won't have to wear a thong bathing suit if she visits the state parks of Florida: Details are contained in the update to my post from earlier this month titled "At a minimum, don't omit 'at a minimum.'"

Whew! That was a close one.

As always, the Editorial Staff is not to be outdone in its stern commitment to be anywhere the evil Bush administration threatens judicial independence.

The enemies of freedom had best sleep with one eye open: at least as long as BillT and Sandy are around.

All we can say is that we're hoping Bill will run out of ammunition soon. We never thought this run of thong posts would go on this long.

Shameful, really.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:58 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

March 28, 2008

Oh Yes, Yes We Can

martini.jpgMake fun of ourselves, that is.

Along about quitting time at work this Friday (not that we're done yet) the half vast editorial staff looked down at ourselves and noted with no little amusement that we are clothed all in...

[wait for it, people]

Pink.

Oh yeah. Go for it, Carrie, Deb, Sly, and MaryAnn. Oh yeah, it's your birthday. Uh-huh.

And we're about to quaff a very pink pomegranate martini. Because we are getting a headache.

We hope that was good for you.

Because the world moved for us.





Posted by Cassandra at 05:22 PM | Comments (29) | TrackBack

Odds and Ends

spring.gif

CWCID

Received a request to link to this the other day and just couldn't find the right story to put with it.

My name is Kevin Morgan and I am a singer/songwriter from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.

After 911 and the war started I wrote a tribute song called "FALLEN HEROES" in honor of our fallen soldiers, police, and firemen who have lost their lives serving our great country. Fallen Heroes has recieved radio airplay in our tri-state area and was the #1 requested song on WISH radio for 2 months. Also, Fallen Heroes was performed in Washington D.C. for the Vice President, and was used for 2 anniversary dedication ceremonies at crash site of 'Flight 93' in Shanksville Pa.

In the past I have used my talent and resources to raise money for numerous charities and events and in my small way have tried to due my part to help at least a little.

Currently I am turning my efforts to the Wounded Warrior Project
and am going to use Fallen Heroes to try and raise funds for this organization.

While listening to your show it occurred to me that if you could take 3 minutes of your time to play the song for your listeners it may drive traffic to the website that I have constructed for this purpose. While there, they may purchase a copy of Fallen Heroes and help me in my efforts.

Sorry it took me a while.

Patrick has thoughts about connections between the Eagles ... and The Shrub:

It’s the kind of admission you’re likely to hear only when you’re all alone at the end of the evening, and the bright lights have faded to blue. You might not hear it even then. But many Democrats already miss George W. Bush.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May The Bluebird Of Happiness Fly Up Your Nose

It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
Of all things physical and metaphysical,
Of all things human and all things super-human,
Of all true manifestations of the head,
Of the heart, of the soul,
That the life is recognizable in its expression,
That form ever follows function. This is the law.
- Louis Sullivan

When I was in my early twenties I read a lot. I used to polish off between three and four books a week; novels mostly, as I was usually juggling toddlers, volunteer work, and whatever home improvement scheme I'd dreamed up lately (usually involving long hours of tedious sanding, painting, sewing, scraping, digging, sawing or other manual labor since we had very little money). One set of novels that made a particular dent on my young mind was Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

The architect's maxim that the form of a building should express its intended use cleanly and honestly seemed so right. But what interested me even more was a notion that occurred to me in thinking about the human implications of this idea. For often, perhaps because I'm female, I see human corollaries to ideas in economics, math, or even architecture. Not that, as a consequence, I am necessarily quick enough to correct my own behavior, mind you :p

I just lecture other people about how to correct theirs. This is one of the dubious joys of being a solipsistic parasite who traffics more in pronouncement than persuasion.

Once, after having a 'discussion' with my husband, it occurred to me that in marriage outward behavior (i.e., our "form") was in many ways more important than (and may even at times play a role in determining) what both partners think to themselves privately. In other words, some times if we are not happy, it's because we've fallen into the habit of not acting happy. Correct the behavior and you correct the state of mind. Relationships are a bit of a feedback loop. In marriage, people tend to get sloppy and stop doing the nice things they did when they were courting. They take each other for granted. And all of a sudden, there is no positive feedback and they wonder where the 'magic' went? What they forgot was that the magic wasn't an externally created force: they had a role in creating it. If the flame dies out, you can re-ignite it. I think that's the biggest reason modern marriages don't succeed; couples are so busy with careers, the Internet, their iPods, and watching cable TV that they're forgotten to take an active role in their own lives. No wonder they're unhappy:

In 2004 Americans who called themselves “conservative” or “very conservative” were nearly twice as likely to tell pollsters they were “very happy” as those who considered themselves “liberal” or “very liberal” (44% versus 25%). One might think this was because liberals were made wretched by George Bush. But the data show that American conservatives have been consistently happier than liberals for at least 35 years.

This is not because they are richer; they are not. Mr Brooks thinks three factors are important. Conservatives are twice as likely as liberals to be married and twice as likely to attend church every week. Married, religious people are more likely than secular singles to be happy. They are also more likely to have children, which makes Mr Brooks confident that the next generation will be at least as happy as the current one.

When religious and political differences are combined, the results are striking. Secular liberals are as likely to say they are “not too happy” as to say they are very happy (22% to 22%). Religious conservatives are ten times more likely to report being very happy than not too happy (50% to 5%). Religious liberals are about as happy as secular conservatives.

Why should this be so? Mr Brooks proposes that whatever their respective merits, the conservative world view is more conducive to happiness than the liberal one (in the American sense of both words). American conservatives tend to believe that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can succeed. This makes them more optimistic than liberals, more likely to feel in control of their lives and therefore happier. American liberals, at their most pessimistic, stress the injustice of the economic system, the crushing impersonal forces that keep the little guy down and what David Mamet, a playwright, recently summed up as the belief that “everything is always wrong”.

I think there's an expectation gap at work here too.

Happiness, to a great extent, is a function of the gap between what you expect out of life and what you have. If your expectations are way out of line with what you have, or if you focus on things you can't control versus the things you can, it's difficult to be content. Put another way, happiness is the difference between having what you want and wanting what you have. But yesterday George Will highlighted another interesting paradox in the liberal/conservative divide. We may not be able to change the world, but at least we can make sure our actions consort well with our values:

Sixteen months ago, Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University, published "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism." The surprise is that liberals are markedly less charitable than conservatives.

If many conservatives are liberals who have been mugged by reality, Brooks, a registered independent, is, as a reviewer of his book said, a social scientist who has been mugged by data. They include these findings:

• Although liberal families' incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).

• Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood.

• Residents of the states that voted for John Kerry in 2004 gave smaller percentages of their incomes to charity than did residents of states that voted for George Bush.

• Bush carried 24 of the 25 states where charitable giving was above average.

• In the 10 reddest states, in which Bush got more than 60 percent majorities, the average percentage of personal income donated to charity was 3.5. Residents of the bluest states, which gave Bush less than 40 percent, donated just 1.9 percent.

• People who reject the idea that "government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality" give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.

Brooks demonstrates a correlation between charitable behavior and "the values that lie beneath" liberal and conservative labels. Two influences on charitable behavior are religion and attitudes about the proper role of government.

The single biggest predictor of someone's altruism, Willett says, is religion. It increasingly correlates with conservative political affiliations because, as Brooks's book says, "the percentage of self-described Democrats who say they have 'no religion' has more than quadrupled since the early 1970s." America is largely divided between religious givers and secular nongivers, and the former are disproportionately conservative. One demonstration that religion is a strong determinant of charitable behavior is that the least charitable cohort is a relatively small one -- secular conservatives.

Recently, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright excoriated the Bush administration (and white people in general) for doing far too little about the AIDS epidemic. But Bob Geldof had this to say about that:

Bob Geldof astonished the aid community yesterday by using a return visit to Ethiopia to praise the Bush administration as one of Africa's best friends in its fight against hunger and Aids.

The musician-turned activist said Washington was providing major assistance, in contrast to the European Union's "pathetic and appalling" response to the continent's humanitarian crises.

"You'll think I'm off my trolley when I say this, but the Bush administration is the most radical - in a positive sense - in its approach to Africa since Kennedy," Geldof told the Guardian.

The neo-conservatives and religious rightwingers who surrounded President George Bush were proving unexpectedly receptive to appeals for help, he said. "You can get the weirdest politicians on your side."

Former president Bill Clinton had not helped Africa much, despite his high-profile visits and apparent empathy with the downtrodden, the organiser of Live Aid, claimed. "Clinton was a good guy, but he did f**k all."

Lord Alli, the aid activist who is accompanying Geldof on the trip organised by the UN children's aid agency Unicef, echoed his praise of the Bush administration.

"Clinton talked the talk and did diddly squat, whereas Bush doesn't talk, but does deliver," Lord Alli said.

I think this is what cracks me up more than anything else about George Bush. The man is happier than most people, yet he manages to provoke his enemies into fits of incoherent illogic.

You go, Keith. Whatever makes you happy.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:06 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

If Loving This Is Wrong...

...the Editorial Staff doesn't want to be right.

Check out the good looking black guy at the end of the video. Priceless - I laughed out loud.

Via commenter Howard in Boston at Tigerhawk.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:01 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

March 27, 2008

For Mark, With Love

Because sometimes a picture really *is* worth a thousand words.

slam_dunk.jpg

Or even just a few really, really old ones.

Contrived memory (or is it contrived history?) is a wondrous thing. Maybe under a Democratic administration, the US will finally be able to win the coveted United Nations Human Rights stamp of approval.

What a glorious day *that* will be. Stay tuned, sports fans.

Posted by Cassandra at 03:10 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Hope, Realism, and the Obama Doctrine

In the middle of the room a single doll wrapped in a white shroud represents children killed during the iron-fisted rule of Saddam. It is surrounded with toys and cheap plastic flowers.

Mothers and widows who have visited the museum have broken down in tears at the sight of this display, Badawi said.

Also on show are cases containing the personal effects of some of Saddam's victims, whose remains or mutilated bodies have been found over the past five years in dozens of mass graves across Iraq.

The artifacts include combs, identity cards, a rosary, a sock caked in soil, a fragment of a pair of spectacles and bloodstained clothes. Arrest warrants signed by Saddam himself are also on view.

Among the most horrific objects retrieved by Badawi and his team from the notorious torture rooms of the mukhabarat, and now included in the museum, is a wooden table covered in a worn strip of leather and with a domestic iron placed at one end.

"This is an electrocution table," Badawi said.

"The naked prisoner was bound to the table with a steel bar strapped to his shoulder" to ensure maximum immobility as his torturers electrocuted him or used the iron to inflict burns, Badawi said.

Electric shocks were delivered via electrodes attached to a plastic syringe, the needle of which "was inserted into the urethra of the victim's sexual organ," Badawi added. "The pain was atrocious."

Videos of torture sessions are also screened in a basement room. Terrified prisoners can be seen being beaten, having their arms and legs broken and being thrown from rooftops or blown up with explosives.

graves.jpg Badawi spent five years of his life in one of Saddam Hussein's prisons. The fact that you are hearing his story now is due to the American invasion of Iraq:

He was arrested along with 13 members of his family - and seven of his brothers were killed by Saddam's goons.

During the past five years Badawi's committee has helped to locate 106 mass graves and the remains of 1,050 men, women and children killed by members of the ousted regime.

Eugene Robinson, the descendant of African slaves, a man who likes to remind us to remember how the pain of oppression that ended more than 150 years ago can burn white-hot in the minds of people who never experienced it directly, has the gall to ask "4,000 Dead: For What?":

When U.S. military deaths in Iraq hit a round number, as happened Sunday, there's usually a week or so of intense focus on the war -- its bogus rationale, its nebulous aims, its awful consequences for the families of the dead. Not likely this time, though. The nation is too busy worrying about more acute crises, some of them real -- the moribund housing market, the teetering financial system, the flagging economy -- and some of them manufactured, such as the shocking revelation that race can still be a divisive issue in American society.

On this fifth anniversary of the war's beginning when so many in the media gleefully tick off our war dead like obscene hatchmarks in some sick game of "I told you so", it's hardly an idle exercise to indulge Mr. Robinson. Let's ask Mr. Badawi. In his torture chamber, did he think the crisis in Iraq was real enough? On his bed of pain, did he straddle the fence (figuratively speaking, of course)? Or did he find sufficient grounds for reckless, pre-emptive military intervention of a type unsanctioned by France and Germany?

There is a hard truth both Eugene Robinson and Barack Obama (with his impressive sounding Obama Doctrine and its talk of dignity promotion) elide right past. Natan Sharansky, who spent his share of time in Soviet prisons, would be the first to explain it to them.

Men in chains possess very little dignity:

MEQ: Pundits and European governments criticized President Bush for the crudeness of his "Axis of Evil" reference.[5] How important is rhetoric?

Sharansky: The world is full of doublethink. What it most lacks is moral clarity. It is extremely important to call a spade a spade. It is necessary to understand the nature of the war that we are in the midst of. The battle is not between Israel and the Palestinians or between the United States and Iraq. Rather, the current fight pits the world of freedom against the world of terror. I have told President Bush that the two greatest speeches of my lifetime were Ronald Reagan's speech casting the Soviet Union as an evil empire and the president's own speech on June 24, 2002, when he said that Palestinians deserve to live in freedom and that only with freedom would the Middle East enjoy security.[6]

...MEQ: Why has dictatorship flourished for so long in the Middle East?

Sharansky: For too long the free world has been willing to appease dictatorships. The United States is no longer willing to accept a policy of appeasement [toward Middle Eastern dictators]. [Washington's] willingness to coddle dictators has been the main obstacle to dissent in the Arab world.

MEQ: Can't strongmen bring stability?

Sharansky: The more resolute the free world is in not appeasing dictators, the less often it will have to use military power. If you look at the history of struggle between democracies and dictatorships, you will see that outright war is almost always preceded by a period of appeasement. This was the case with both Hitler and Stalin. In the Middle East, Palestinian violence and terror followed a period of appeasement. In Iraq, too, a decade of appeasement emboldened Saddam Hussein and contributed to war. We would not have had this problem in Iraq if the free world had not once thought that Saddam Hussein was good for stability. Had the United States and the West linked their foreign policies to basic human rights, not one shot would need to have been fired in Iraq.

On September 17th, 1862 a battle was fought very near my home that claimed 23,000 casualties in a single day. The principle that freedom is the birthright of all men was thought important enough to conscript free white men and force them to fight back then.

Today, free Americans of all colors volunteer to give that chance to generations yet unborn. There was a larger principle at stake in both that long ago war between the states and the one between freedom and fanaticism. In the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln believed a house divided against itself could not stand: the United States must be all slave or all free, and so he could not allow the South to secede from the Union. There were many who violently disagreed with him. He was by no means a popular president for standing against public opinion, yet today he is widely considered to be one of our greatest, largely because he did stand on principle. His actions were validated by history though at the time, as the Union lost battle after battle to the numerically inferior Confederacy and conscription riots racked Northern cities, they seemed doomed to suffer an ignominious defeat.

In today's borderless world, some want to resurrect an isolationist stance which became obsolete as soon as international air travel, telephony and the internet erased the barriers that separate America from the rest of the world. We can no longer afford that pipe dream: the very people who argue most vigorously in favor of it are the ones who refuse to allow us to protect ourselves from outside aggressors via electronic surveillance, profiling, aggressive law enforcement, and military intervention. They believe it a legitimate function of the media to publish classified documents, including the vulnerabilities of Marine body armor. And yet, oxymoronically, they argue we can somehow protect ourselves from the outside world while not giving up any of our freedoms.

Barack Obama has said he would not hesitate to go into Pakistan, even against the will of its government, after al Qaeda. What reaction, precisely, does he expect from a sovereign state when it is militarily invaded by a foreign power?

Passive acceptance? What reaction does he expect from the most radical Islamist elements within Pakistan? Would this not give them all the excuse they need to stage a coup and topple a government which at present cooperates with us, if not to the extent we desire?

And if military intervention in Iraq was unrealistic, what bizarre realism governs the Obama Doctrine's refusal to distinguish between military intervention where there is at least a demonstrable American security interest and situations (like Darfur) where there is none? Who in Darfur ever tried to assassinate a former U.S. President? Who in Darfur ever gave shelter to the architect of a World Trade Center bombing? Darfur doesn't fund terrorist organizations worldwide. America hasn't paid tens of thousands of dollars for decades to man a no-fly zone over Darfur. Darfur has no history of using weapons of mass destruction - several times - on its own people and on neighboring states:

Saddam launched more than 350 chemical weapon attacks across the border. Iraq has since admitted using 1,800 tonnes of mustard gas and 740 tonnes of the highly toxic nerve agents sarin and tabun. It was the worst use of mustard gas since the First World War and the first use of nerve agents. Iranian soldiers often had inadequate masks and little detection and decontamination equipment. Civilians had nothing.

Does Barack Obama see no moral problem with asking an all volunteer force to give their lives when there is no national security interest to protect?

Because this Marine wife damned well does. I believe in freedom and democracy promotion, but the United States cannot free the entire world single-handed. Where is the much-vaunted realism steely-eyed Progressives have been calling for now? It appears to be a function of political convenience.

Eugene Robinson wants to know what has been gained in Iraq. He might try looking in Karmah:

Just beyond the outskirts of Fallujah lies the terror-wracked city of Karmah. While you may not have heard of this small city of 35,000 people, American soldiers and Marines who served in Anbar Province know it as a terrifying place of oppression, death, and destruction. “It was much worse than Fallujah” said more than a dozen Marines who were themselves based in Fallujah.

Very few insurgents remain in the city. The remnants are thought to be exclusively locals. The Marines believe the foreign leadership cadre has been driven out.

“I had a good conversation with Iraqi Police Lieutenant Colonel Sattar about this last night,” Lieutenant Macak said. “I said Why are your family members the ones kidnapping you, beating you up, and killing your people?”

“It was his family members?” I said.

“Lieutenant Colonel Sattar was captured and held by Al Qaeda for over a year,” he said. “He was beaten and thrashed before they eventually let him go. And the guy who captured him was his cousin. The culture here – they lie, they deceive, they steal, they don't trust each other. In order to survive. That's what Saddam Hussein's era bred in them. If they wanted to survive and do well, they had to go behind everyone's back. After 20 or 30 years of Saddam, they can't break away over night.”

Girl Waving Hands Karmah.jpg

Barack Obama wants to be our next president. Like his predecessor, who called himself The man from Hope, he promises to restore a sense of optimism. But what expression shines in the face of the children of Karmah these days, if it is not hope? If Barack Obama wishes to speak of dignity promotion, he might wish to start here:

After many months of being oppressed by al-Qaeda, many places around Iraq are beginning to come to life. The markets are reopened, citizens fill the streets without fearing for their lives and many people are returnng to work and school. In one community in southern Baghdad, that has never been so evident. The community of Hawr Rajab is returning to normalcy after months of being terrorized by al-Qaeda operatives.

Because security in Hawr Rajab has improved so much, Troops and the Iraqis themselves are beginning to focus their attention on rebuilding the economy. One such rebuilding project, the “Village of Hope,” is a vocational school that is designed to teach the students attending there, the basics of construction. They recently had 50 students enroll for classes.

Troops from the 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division are providing security at the construction sites where the students are attending clsses. The classes are taught by US Air Force Airmen who are in related occupational specialties. The Airmen/teachers are part of the 557th Expeditionary Red Horse Squadron, who are headquartered at Balad Air Base. About 30 members conduct classes at the Village of Hope, from Patrol Base Stone, that is located in the heart of Hawr Rajab. As new as it is for the students, who are just now learning the basics of construction, the new task is also new for the instructors, who had to change their mindset from pounding nails to teaching others how to do it.

Men who have jobs and know a trade have dignity. The Villages of Hope program has been going on since 2004. If you read about it, you'll see a familiar name: one David Petraeus, 101st Airborne Commander.

Otherwise known as General Betrayus.

Small world, isn't it? But it is a world in which good things still happen to those who are willing to stand firm for the principles they believe in. In Diyala, once a hotbed of the insurgency, a graduation is taking place:

A graduation ceremony will be held for the 4th Brigade of the 5th Division of the Iraqi Army at Besmaya Range Complex. A force generation unit formed through the "Unit Set Fielding" program which is used to build capacity for the Ministry of Defense.

The graduating 4/5 Brigade is the first brigade to be fully equipped with equipment (M16s, M4s, tactical and non-tactical vehicles and more) purchased through Foreign Military Sales. Once they graduate, this brigade will be moving out directly to their battlespace in Diyala.

I don't know about Eugene Robinson but to this Marine wife, but when free men can finally tell the story of their oppression without fear of torture or imprisonment, when children are finally able to smile and play in the streets, when a people begin to fight back against the criminals who once controlled their lives, that looks a lot like dignity promotion.

Or maybe just good sense.

Update: A few more thoughts on moral clarity, just because I'm angry today.

These grand, overarching questions cannot obscure, at least for me, the plain fact that Mark Daily felt himself to be morally committed. I discovered this in his life story and in his surviving writings. Again, not to romanticize him overmuch, but this is the boy who would not let others be bullied in school, who stuck up for his younger siblings, who was briefly a vegetarian and Green Party member because he couldn't stand cruelty to animals or to the environment, a student who loudly defended Native American rights and who challenged a MySpace neo-Nazi in an online debate in which the swastika-displaying antagonist finally admitted that he needed to rethink things. If I give the impression of a slight nerd here I do an injustice. Everything that Mark wrote was imbued with a great spirit of humor and tough-mindedness. Here's an excerpt from his "Why I Joined" statement:

Anyone who knew me before I joined knows that I am quite aware and at times sympathetic to the arguments against the war in Iraq. If you think the only way a person could bring themselves to volunteer for this war is through sheer desperation or blind obedience then consider me the exception (though there are countless like me).… Consider that there are 19 year old soldiers from the Midwest who have never touched a college campus or a protest who have done more to uphold the universal legitimacy of representative government and individual rights by placing themselves between Iraqi voting lines and homicidal religious fanatics.

And here's something from one of his last letters home:

I was having a conversation with a Kurdish man in the city of Dahok (by myself and completely safe) discussing whether or not the insurgents could be viewed as "freedom fighters" or "misguided anti-capitalists." Shaking his head as I attempted to articulate what can only be described as pathetic apologetics, he cut me off and said "the difference between insurgents and American soldiers is that they get paid to take life—to murder, and you get paid to save lives." He looked at me in such a way that made me feel like he was looking through me, into all the moral insecurity that living in a free nation will instill in you. He "oversimplified" the issue, or at least that is what college professors would accuse him of doing.

We hold far too lightly what we don't pay for ourselves.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:32 AM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

March 26, 2008

Coffee Snorterz: Caged Panda Heat Edition

Thong, thong of the Thoughth
Thweet potato pie and a shut my mouth
Gone, gone with the wind
Ain't nobody lookin' back again

The Princess is late to this party. She did notice it yesterday, but inexplicably her employer seems reluctant to fork over a paycheck if she doesn't put in this thing called "work"...

Go figure. But while the blog princess labors under the eye of Phoebus in a vain attempt to cram her mouth with distressful bread, the assembled villainry will be glad to know the Balance of the Universe is preserved. Somewhere in a sandbox far, far away, BillT is still fiddling about with women's undergarments:

On the bright side, our USAF Official PX/BX Thong Monitor reports that two-thirds of the thongs nestled coyly between the SWAT-style pistol lanyards and the "Writes Underwater!™" Pens appear to have been purchased. Back to you, Cassie.

On the even-brighter side, the warmer weather (it hit 35C at 1000) has encouraged those contractors of the female persuasion to dress in a somewhat breezier style, resulting in some amusing near-collisions in the chow hall between guys paying more attention to the scenery than to the guardrails lining the salad bar at just-below-belt-buckle level...

Now excuse the Princess while she runs like Helk.

Since we're on the subject of Things Stranger Than Thongs in the PX, we feel it Extremely Important to broach the much neglected subject of Panda Sex:

Panda porn, aphrodisiac herbs, online dating and even Viagra have been tried - now the world's most notoriously shy animals are taking up 'sexercise' to boost their libido.

Pandas at a Chinese research centre are being encouraged to get down and get funky in the hope of improving their sex lives.

We are sorry, but if the ursine denizens of the Washington Zoo start sporting thongs, we're outta here. Sadly, the madness doesn't end here:

Regular readers of this site may remember that several months ago, we covered the story of the sexually incompetent panda at a zoo in Thailand, who was being shown panda porn to get them [sic] ready for breeding.

Well, now video has emerged of exactly what the panda's sex education sessions look like - and it turns out that he gets shown the porn while in a small cage, with photographers looking on, and men pointing to the screen and telling him to watch it.

Just the thing to put you in the mood.

We are speechless. Well, actually we can think of plenty to say, but we'll spare you. Maybe they could try naming the pandas more creatively. We hear it does wonders for their productivity. Here are a few suggestions:


Cholera Peace
Ghoul Nipple
Ima Whore
Hugh Jass
Fanny Whiffer
Emma Royd
Noble Butt
Naught E. Bishop

Or there's always our personal favorite, "Female" (pronounced "fee-mah-lee") Childs. Feel free to suggest a name for our tragically unlibidinous panda friend in the comments section. The winner shall receive a stuffed marmoset by parcel post.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:57 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

March 25, 2008

Admit it. This Is Why You Come Here.

What is best in life? (other than never having to read another post about Obama and race relations?)

Finding your spiritual center.

Where else can you find this stuff, people?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:33 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Getting Beyond Racism

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Recently in response to some disturbing videos of his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama urged America to have a long overdue conversation about race. An honest conversation.

I often wonder if we will ever get to that point, or indeed if such a thing as an honest conversation on race is even possible in this country? I don't see how it can be, when the truth of the matter is that we are still so conscious of skin color that we refuse to conduct the conversation in a race-neutral fashion?

Consequently, blacks are allowed to say certain things:

Obama acknowledges, with no small irony, that he benefits from his race.

If he were white, he once bluntly noted, he would simply be one of nine freshmen senators, almost certainly without a multimillion-dollar book deal and a shred of celebrity. Or would he have been elected at all?

Yet if whites say exactly the same thing, they are accused of racism:

"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," Ferraro told a local California newspaper last week.

"And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept," Ferraro said.

The only difference between those two statements, really, is the skin color of the speaker. So why did Ms. Ferraro's comment create such a furor? And more importantly, why on earth has Mr. Obama mischaracterized her comment, when he freely admitted his race has conferred some political advantages?

“I don’t think that Geraldine Ferraro’s comments have any place in our politics or the Democratic Party. … I think they were divisive.”

He added: “I think that anybody who understands the history of this country knows they are patently absurd. I would expect that the same way those comments don’t have a place in my campaign, they shouldn’t have a place in Senator Clinton’s.”

But this isn't the first time Mr. Obama has condemned "divisive" remarks that would "have no place in his campaign":

"I understand MSNBC has suspended Mr. Imus. But I would also say that there's nobody on my staff who would still be working for me if they made a comment like that about anybody of any ethnic group. And I would hope that NBC ends up having that same attitude. ... He didn't just cross the line. He fed into some of the worst stereotypes that my two young daughters are having to deal with today in America. The notions that as young African-American women — who I hope will be athletes — that that somehow makes them less beautiful or less important. It was a degrading comment. It's one that I'm not interested in supporting."

Oddly enough, though, Mr. Obama was interested in supporting the Reverend Wright's undeniably divisive remarks about racist white America. Moreover, he wasn't the least bit worried they might feed the worst stereotypes (about whites) his young daughters have to deal with. It's a strange paradox for a man who claims to want to unite America. And we blindly follow suit, assigning motives according to melanin content. This, for instance, is obviously racist:

The "Old Punk" post was pretty bad. I wouldn't have linked to it if I'd read it, but I didn't read it -- or, for that matter, link it. Meanwhile, I suppose I could start looking closely at the stuff Greenwald links to, but that would require me to slog through his posts

While this can't possibly be, by virtue of the speaker's skin color:

And yet the content is the same. The sentiments are the same.

And the thing is, I did read Old Punk's posts: both his original one and the response to his critics. And I watched the Chris Rock video. And the same thing struck me, as I watched, and read.

Almost any conversation about race in America is bound to be filled with comforting platitudes and if it isn't; if it starts to stray into the raw, honest territory Barack Obama says he wants us to venture into, things get uncomfortable mighty fast. Things will be said that make us cringe, on both sides of the fence. And when that happens, we need to be extremely careful about making reflexive accusations of racism.

Because we cannot ever, really, know what is in someone else's heart, merely by looking at the color of their skin. If we do presume to know that, aren't we indulging in... well, racism?

What I saw, when I watched that Chris Rock video, and when I read Old Punk's posts, was two sides of the same coin.

It didn't take a genius to see the compassion beneath the anger, in both cases. It only took a wife and mother. Anyone with an ounce of sense can see that beneath Chris Rock's profanity laced, hard-edged comedy lies an amazingly sensitive and intelligent young man. Just as pressure transforms coal into diamonds, he turns the painful ironies of life into laughter. It didn't take a genius, either, to see the pain beneath Old Punk's anger. At least for me it didn't. I saw a human being who took a chance. And at the end of the day, that is what we all are: not black or white, but human. Fallible.

When I look into the faces of American blacks, I see our shared heritage, not the things that divide us. We are family. We are inextricably connected, sometimes in surprising ways.

The other day, I was taken to task for the title of my last post. After thinking about it carefully, I still do not think it was unjust even though it was frank and no doubt made some people uncomfortable. Many things, if we are finally going to attempt to talk about matters of race, are going to make us uncomfortable. But if we are ever going to get past race, get past employing double standards, get past making knee-jerk judgments about each other, part of what we need to get past is this business of looking the other way when something is said that seems wrong.

After thinking about it, I still think that the 'typical white person' remark, in reference to Mr. Obama's grandmother, was objectively wrong. I still believe it does amount to subtle race baiting of a particularly pernicious kind, because according to the rules of the day it cannot be addressed or even responded to without exactly the response I got: "Leave him alone."

But I think that is misguided, because I was not attacking Mr. Obama, but calling out the conflict between what he had called for, and what he did. As someone who is running for President, I think his public actions and statements are fair game, so long as he is not attacked personally, and I did not do so. Furthermore, I believe that full equality demands the same standard be honestly and fairly applied, and I am (in this instance) treating Mr. Obama no differently than I would treat any other candidate. I have two problems with Mr. Obama's dismissal of his grandmother as a 'typical white person'. The first is that it conflicts with his memoirs:

He writes(pp.18-21):
. . . At a bank where she worked, Toot (his grandmother's nickname)made the acquaintance of the janitor, a tall and dignified black World War II vet she remembers only as Mr. Reed. While the two of them chatted in the hallways one day, a secretary in the office stormed up and hissed that Tood should never, ever, "call no nigger 'Mister.'" Not long afterworlds, Toot would find Mr. Reed in a corner of the building weeping quietly to himself. . . .

They (grandparents) decided Toot would keep calling Mr. Reed "Mister," . . . . Grams began to decline invitations from coworkers to go out for a beer, telling them he had to get home to keep the wife happy.

He goes on to tell a story about his 11 year old mother who played in the front yard with a young Black girl. Neighborhood Children gathered outside the picket fence shouting: "Nigger lover!" and "Dirty Yankee!" The grandmother tried to get them into the house. The grandfather went further:

Gramps was beside himself when he heard what had happened. He interrogated my mother, wrote down names. The next day he took the morning off from work to visit the school principal. He personally called the parents of some of the offending children to give them a piece of his mind.

No, his grandfather did not say that he could no more disown racist whites than disown the white community. The grandmother, he dismisses as a "typical white (racist) person" explained their attitudes thus:

Your grandfather and I just figured we should treat people decently, Bar. That's all."

My second objection to Mr. Obama's characterization of his grandmother is that, as Morgan Freeman so eloquently stated, labeling people by skin color only perpetuates the very problems he claims he is trying to get beyond:

Morgan Freeman says the concept of a month dedicated to black history is "ridiculous."

"You're going to relegate my history to a month?" the 68-year-old actor says in an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" to air Sunday "I don't want a black history month. Black history is American history."

Freeman notes there is no "white history month," and says the only way to get rid of racism is to "stop talking about it."

The actor says he believes the labels "black" and "white" are an obstacle to beating racism.

"I am going to stop calling you a white man and I'm going to ask you to stop calling me a black man," Freeman says.

He could well have said that his grandmother reacted as 'a typical person' (i.e., we all sometimes make unconscious judgments on the basis of skin color). I think that would have been the first really honest and courageous statement Barack Obama has made about race. But he didn't do that. He was caught in the trap he accuses others of: the trap of unconscious bias. Does that make him a racist?

Of course not. I think it makes him human.

As I've said before, though I don't think the answer to racism is more talk, the only way to get past our ridiculous squeamishness about certain aspects of both the race and religion debates may well be to just bring them out into the open. There is nothing wrong with asking a candidate for public office (especially one who has invited debate on a topic) polite questions; nor is there anything wrong with discussing current events.

Where I do draw the line is at name calling. I understand the impulse that makes people want to use the word 'nigger'. One seeks, by altering our instinctive associations with that word, to lessen the pain it invokes. That is why many blacks object when whites use the term, yet utter it themselves with careless abandon. But the bottom line is that whoever uses the word, it is still an ugly name.

One day, hopefully, that is all it will be: just one of many ugly slurs with no more power to offend or hurt than any other ugly name. But why go there? Is name calling ever really acceptable behavior? Why not just object to the behavior rather than condemning the person?

In the end, the right response to racism has to be to uphold a consistently applied standard of behavior that holds true regardless of skin color. Chris Rock had it right: we don't get to congratulate ourselves for doing the right thing, whether we are white, black, yellow or brown.

We are supposed to do the right thing, every day, regardless of our skin color. That is the standard Barack Obama forgot to uphold, and one we have a right to expect from the next President of the United States.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:58 AM | Comments (61) | TrackBack

March 21, 2008

New World Order Caption Contest

guns.jpg

Don't say it, Sly.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:51 AM | Comments (40) | TrackBack

I Have Obviously Lost My Mind

Whilst slicing vegetables early this morning, the editorial staff reflected that it's been far too long since we regaled the assembled villainry with the pithy rhetoric of the Obamessiah. As we lovingly packed the finished Spousal Repast into a pinniped choking, Gaia-raping receptacle, we firmly resolved to heed the words of America's savior and eschew further delay. After all (we pondered snidely) me we are the change that me we seek:

We were watching the Obama speech, but at some point, we got tired of listening.

Its the old Eminem defense: Rev. Wright is only giving you things you joke around with your friends inside your living room, the only difference is he’s crazy enough to say it out loud. Fabulous. Additionally, white people may vote for John McCain because they resent black people. Also, its okay that some people like to say things we generally condemn people for because they’ve had hard lives and America does bad stuff, and Obama condemns some of the weird things that have been said that caused the controversy, but he doesn’t want to say which bad things he condemns, just that he unequivocally condemns things. And contrary to earlier statements, Obama was present when Rev. Wright was saying these things, and came back. But he condemns them. Or something.

Never mind that most people don’t think in terms of race, you should think in terms of race because only when you think in terms of race can you overcome thinking in terms of race. Also, we are supposed to feel bad for thinking in terms of race, but of course, we are supposed to think in terms of race. But feel bad. And not think in terms of race. Maybe, we’re supposed to think of it only when it involves Obama? But then not? And we may have forgo all of our qualms about his ability to lead, positions on the issues, and interpretation of his leadership merit and vote for Obama to prove we don’t think in terms of race even though we’re supposed to and then not.

The important distinction here is that though it was really, really bad for Obama's Grandmomma to endorse narrow-minded racial stereotypes, the unifyingly transformational dialectic of the authentically black multiracial candidate from Illinois makes it perfectly acceptable for him to endorse narrow-minded racial stereotypes:

Obama clarifies about Grandma: it’s not that she’s a racist, per se — it’s that white people are typically racist. Think I’m making it up? Audio is here, and here is the relevant quote:

The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity. She doesn’t. But she is a typical white person who, uh, you know, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn’t know there’s a reaction that’s been been bred into, uh, our experiences that don’t go away and that sometimes come out in the wrong way and that’s just the nature of race in our society. We have to break through it.

Because, you know, such narrow minded stereotyping can only be a legacy of decades of entrenched racism, reinforced by America's shameful history of persecuting minorities:

...let’s jump over to today’s ‘real’ world. Any American who is not afraid of black men on some level is simply not thinking straight. Also, remember that fear is an emotional response, so do not think about it too much, it is what it is. I’m afraid, and I AM a tall-ass black man, and one who studied the martial arts for fun. I am afraid for me, my family, my friends, my acquaintances, and lastly for anyone, male or female, white, black or green, who might statistically find themselves in the presence of a black male at the ‘wrong place and wrong time’. Call me whatever you like, I don’t give a Freak, I’m talking about life and death!

So when people make distinctions about blacks and crime, especially violent crime and murder, I no longer immediately jump onto the offensive. Yes, these comments sound racist to me, and piss me off if I think about them too much. But the real question is if the behavior behind them resembles me in it's prudence, and too often it does. I avoid unfamiliar gatherings of black males. I check out how black men present themselves and avoid those that feel dangerous. I also judge black men by their dress and manner, especially those wearing inmate clothing, all in an attempt to keep my life. This method is far from perfect, but it’s all I have, so I use it. If this profiling makes me racist in some way, and I believe it does, so be it. Better to err on the side of staying alive.

For me today’s racism is not about inferiority, but also about mortality. If black males do not want to be racially profiled as life threatening, they need to stop being a danger. And I need to see this in the stats, not out of somebody's mouth. It is as simple as that. In the meantime, I watch myself - it’s not right, but you need to understand.

Interestingly enough, the Editorial Staff downloaded the undeniably compelling graphs Mr. Collier displays in his post a week or two ago. After much thought we concluded, not that it would be unwise to post them, but that it would be unwise to post them without the kind of thoughtful analysis that would hopefully preclude knee-jerk reactions from those on both sides of the racial divide. [Ed. Clarification: as we had not seen Mr. Collier's post at that time, by no means was this intended as a back-hand slam on his post, which we rather enjoyed.]

Homicide+Offenders+by+Race+1976-2005.bmp.jpg Homicide+by+Race+of+Offender+&+Victim+1976-2005.bmp.jpg

Homicide data pose a particularly interesting scenario, because murder is an offense which (unlike, say, speeding) is uniformly taken seriously by both police departments and district attorneys, making it arguably less vulnerable to the influence of uneven prosecution/enforcement. So the question of the day becomes, were we acting like "a typical white person" when we opted not to post potentially inflammatory data absent thorough and carefully-worded analytical context? Or a typical black person?

We're so confused. Perhaps Obama could tell us. The key points to take away from the DOJ graphs are these:

- Statistically speaking, the proportion of blacks who commit homicide is far larger than the proportion of whites who do so (25 per 100K vs. 5 per 100K makes it roughly 5 times higher).

Regarding Obama's grandmother,

- The data suggest that (at least statistically speaking) blacks are far more dangerous to each other than they are to whites (40+% vs. approx. 10%)

- But this is hardly surprising: the vast majority of homicides are intra-racial (i.e., black on black or white on white)

- Blacks about twice as dangerous (again, statistically and hypothetically speaking) to Obama's white grandmother as whites are to blacks. (10+ % vs. <5%)

The important points here are that correlation does not imply causation and that racial groups don't commit crimes; individuals do.

At the same time, if you know absolutely nothing about an individual (the 'random black male on the street' vs. that job candidate who has submitted a resume and can be interviewed) it is perhaps not unreasonable to substitute empirically verifiable observations of the real world for the far more comforting pablum that one should completely ignore race unless it explains behavior we would otherwise find completely unacceptable by any objectively and consistently applied moral standard.

Viewed through the lens of what we know about homicide in America, the fears of both Mr. Collier and Obama's Grandmother begin to look less unreasonable. Final point?

Not everything that makes us instinctively cringe is racism, but the facts are often more complex than most of us have the time or attention to take in. Maybe part of that honest dialog Barack Obama wants us to have on race ought to include thoughtful consideration of the proposition that a refusal to endorse the refusal to think sometimes leads to uncomfortable conclusions.

** i.e., not all the data pertain to the 'random male on the street' scenario

Update: The title of this post has been changed per Grim's comments.

Also I don't have time right now to check on the probability of a random black male vs. random white male committing homicide against a white person. So I am going to take that down for now, because I'm more comfortable doing that than having something up there I can't check. Interestingly (re: Grim's point about my being unfair) the deleted material is more favorable to Obama (and frankly I put it in in an attempt to look at this issue as fairly as possible). But until I can check it, I think it needs to come out.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:44 AM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

March 20, 2008

The Male Mind Is a Wonderful Thing

toilet.jpg

When my boys were small, I painted a small target on the inside back of the bowl with different colors of nail polish. Worked, too, as I recall.

CWCID: my Dad.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:38 PM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Mom! He's At It Again!

Ed (the big brute!!!) is Whelen on Dahlia Lithwick again:

Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick somehow finds in the oral argument yesterday in the Second Amendment case “the abandonment of every principle of strict construction, federalism, and judicial modesty in which the Roberts Court ever purported to believe.” Further, she maintains that counsel for the gun owners implicitly invoked “the spirit of Roe v. Wade” in arguing for judicial review “when a fundamental right is at stake.”

Let's face it: when have we seen, in modern times, a juicy piece of constitutional jurisprudence that did *not* implicitly invoke the spirit of Roe v. Wade?


The judge's logic is both simple and compelling. I commend to you his entire dissent - it is a powerful statement of originalist reasoning. Justice Black points out that though the Founders could hardly have foreseen electronic communications, they were quite familiar with both eavesdropping and the admission of hearsay evidence. Had they felt these fell under the rubric of search and seizure, they would have said so, explicitly. Forgive me for quoting one more passage which I think particularly apt:

With this decision the Court has completed, I hope, its rewriting of the Fourth Amendment, which started only recently when the Court began referring incessantly to the Fourth Amendment not so much as a law against unreasonable searches and seizures as one to protect an individual's privacy. By clever word juggling the Court finds it plausible to argue that language aimed specifically at searches and seizures of things that can be searched and seized may, to protect privacy, be applied to eavesdropped evidence of conversations that can neither be searched nor seized. Few things happen to an individual that do not affect his privacy in one way or another. Thus, by arbitrarily substituting the Court's language, designed to protect privacy, for the Constitution's language, designed to protect against unreasonable searches and seizures, the Court has made the Fourth Amendment its vehicle for holding all laws violative of the Constitution which offend the Court's broadest concept of privacy. As I said in Griswold v. Connecticut, "The Court talks about a constitutional `right of privacy' as though there is some constitutional provision or provisions forbidding any law ever to be passed which might abridge the `privacy' of individuals. But there is not." I made clear in that dissent my fear of the dangers involved when this Court uses the "broad, abstract and ambiguous concept" of "privacy" as a "comprehensive substitute for the Fourth Amendment's guarantee against `unreasonable searches and seizures.'"

The Fourth Amendment protects privacy only to the extent that it prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures of "persons, houses, papers, and effects." No general right is created by the Amendment so as to give this Court the unlimited power to hold unconstitutional everything which affects privacy. Certainly the Framers, well acquainted as they were with the excesses of governmental power, did not intend to grant this Court such omnipotent lawmaking authority as that. The history of governments proves that it is dangerous to freedom to repose such powers in courts.

Obviously Justice Black had not met Dahlia Lithwick. On the otter heiny, we may have to start a new category just for occasions like this.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:51 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Topic of the Day...

...toe reading. Who knew?

Britney Spears is the best example of how your toes change as your life and emotions change. In the April 2, 2007 edition of STAR Magazine Britney was quoted as saying, "My toes are really ugly."

We can see from the picture taken in about 2003, before all the ugliness started, that she toes were as fair and innocent as she was.
The picture to the right was taken while Britney Spears was vacationing in Las Vegas. As a Toe Reader, I noted back then how sensitive and self-conscious Britney's toes were. In this pictures you can see that the toes were relaxed and bowing in a cautious and reserved way. As a teacher of Toe Reading, I used this picture as a teaching example of how people can be "out there on center stage, and yet deep down, they are shy and very concerned about what people will say.”

Today these same feet have become red, swollen and 'gnarly' as the magazine headline refers to them. The same could be said of her emotional life. In Toe Reading, we refer to anything that is RED as acute to mean that there is a red hot emotion buried alive in the toe. Each toe represents an element or aspect of a person's life. When you look at the close-up insert of Britney's toes, you will see that almost every toe is red and acute, indicating that almost every aspect of her life is out of balance. Especially note the fourth and fifth toes in this picture - they are not only red, they are forming lumps which can be viewed as penned up emotions. The redder the toe, the more the toe is storing stories of frustration, anger or rage. The fourth toe on the RIGHT side is indicative of relationships with others in the world. The bump in Britney's RIGHT RELATIONSHIP toe, her fourth toe, accurately depicts the lumps she is having in her relationships currently. The redness speaks for itself - she is storing lots of red emotions.

The LEFT side holds the story of how we are with our internal self. Note that on Britney's LEFT side her first big toe, known as her DESTINY toe, is very big and swollen - it actually looks painful to walk on. The question a Toe Reader would ask her is: Britney, what part of your DESTINY is internally painful for you to look at right now? Are you having pain or discomfort internally as you walk in the world? One can only have incredible empathy for this confused young woman who is filled from head to toe with red-hot emotions.

The Blog Princess remembers fondly the day of yore, when me toes were as fair and innocent as...

Oh nevermind.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:43 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

How I Learned To Quit Worrying and Love the Thong

In today's issue of Women's MagWatch, the blog princess perused (the things I do for you people) an issue of a women's health mag and found that, as in the seamy underworld of men's reading material, "health" seems to be a polite euphenism for "Do me harder, baby... do me NOW".

Hey. Sex is healthy, isn't it? And words have meaning. The princesses' fave entry (besides the one with the lead-in, "Mentally stripping the pool boy?") was this:

My boyfriend and I have different preferences in lingerie. [Ed. note: Hmmm... ya think?] I like sexy but tasteful pieces; he's a fan of garter belts and crotchless panties. How can I dress to turn him on but still feel comfortable in my own skin-er, nighties?

- Gail

To which several snarky replies seemed apropos:

1. Dear Gail: have you ever considered moving to Saudi Arabia?

2. Gail:

He's a man. Quit whining and order the crotchless u-trau already.

3. Dear Gail:

Men like fantasy, variety, the thrill of the chase and at least the illusion that their options are still open. Women like men who are emotionally available; who commit to making the relationship work. But everything in life has a price tag.

If you expect him to listen to you blather on about your feelings don't want him to stray
, it's called "Reciprocity, bay-bee"....

Meanwhile in other news, it's good to see that our brave, murdering, childlike troops are not being depraved deprived by an uncaring BushReich:

Pakistan was the dry run for my current Extended Practical Exercise. I remembered what I figured I'd need but didn't and *did* need but forgot, so I packed the big-item gotta-haves and figured I'd visit the local BX/PX to pick up anything I'd overlooked. Or which happened to break in transit.

My soap dish was a casualty. No problem, I thought -- what's easier to find in a PX/BX than that quintessential item of military hygienic equipment, the plastic soap dish?

Now those of you at home, don't shout out the only obvious answer... thongs:

The PX/BX got eight soap dishes in yesterday. Along with two boxes of designer thongs in designer colors [Cassie -- your e-mail about thongs had *nothing* to do with it].

*sigh*

And while we're on the subject, we have absolutely NO desire to find out what a "buttstock" is.

TMI, my friend.

Just as an aside, you have to love how the NY Times applies 'logic-and-facts' to the issue of marital fidelity and promptly deduces that 2+2 does, in fact, equal 5:

It’s all been done before, every snickering bit of it, and not just by powerful “risk-taking” alpha men who may or may not be enriched for the hormone testosterone. It’s been done by many other creatures, tens of thousands of other species, by male and female representatives of every taxonomic twig on the great tree of life. Sexual promiscuity is rampant throughout nature, and true faithfulness a fond fantasy. Oh, there are plenty of animals in which males and females team up to raise young, as we do, that form “pair bonds” of impressive endurance and apparent mutual affection, spending hours reaffirming their partnership by snuggling together like prairie voles or singing hooty, doo-wop love songs like gibbons, or dancing goofily like blue-footed boobies.

Yet as biologists have discovered through the application of DNA paternity tests to the offspring of these bonded pairs, social monogamy is very rarely accompanied by sexual, or genetic, monogamy. Assay the kids in a given brood, whether of birds, voles, lesser apes, foxes or any other pair-bonding species, and anywhere from 10 to 70 percent will prove to have been sired by somebody other than the resident male.

As David P. Barash, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle, put it with Cole Porter flair: Infants have their infancy; adults, adultery. Dr. Barash, who wrote “The Myth of Monogamy” with his psychiatrist-wife, Judith Eve Lipton, cited a scene from the movie “Heartburn” in which a Nora Ephronesque character complains to her father about her husband’s philanderings and the father quips that if she’d wanted fidelity, she should have married a swan. Fat lot of good that would have done her, Dr. Barash said: we now know that swans can cheat, too. Instead, the heroine might have considered union with Diplozoon paradoxum, a flatworm that lives in gills of freshwater fish. “Males and females meet each other as adolescents, and their bodies literally fuse together, whereupon they remain faithful until death,” Dr. Barash said. “That’s the only species I know of in which there seems to be 100 percent monogamy.” And where the only hearts burned belong to the unlucky host fish.

Those who inexplicably chose fidelity over philandering being roughly comparable to that noble creature, the infantile parasitic flatworm fused for life to the gills of a random freshwater fish. Who was it who quipped that conservatism is a refusal to think?

The wag.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:45 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

March 19, 2008

Talking About Race in America

Having spent some time earlier today telling you what I did not like about Barack Obama's speech, I thought perhaps I might discuss what I did like about it.

Unlike Lex and Grim, I cannot agree that it was a great speech. However, I do believe it was an extremely important and even an historic one. My reasons for hesitating to dub it "great" are perhaps best summed up by my differences with the posts cited above. Lex says:

...the words he has to say - on race, at least - are the most compelling and honest things any politician has put forth on this topic in the last century, perhaps in our history. As rhetoric, it is very nearly flawless. But it is much more than that.

As my post attempted to lay out this morning, I could not disagree more with the 'honest' part of Lex's summation. And yet I do not accuse him of lying. Barack Obama may well believe, or think he believes, the words he spoke yesterday. Yet those words do not square well with his actions. If this is a contradiction I find difficult to overlook, how could I decorate the speech, as distinguished from the man, with the term 'honest'?

It is not always easy for us to see life squarely, to filter out the influence of our own innate bias, our life experiences. In this, I agree with the Left. Our lives are prisms through which we view the world; our experiences and culture, like lenses, can distort and refract events as they occur, coloring the way we perceive them. I cannot help but perceive life as a woman, for instance. It requires a supreme effort for me to try to understand the world as it often seems to men.

And yet I try, for getting along with men is important to me. Also, I find the effort it takes to understand someone else's view of the world enriches my own. Suddenly, I see things I missed before. They are more relevant when this particular 'lens' is applied.

But I also believe there is such a thing as objective reality, and to the extent that I consider myself an educated and rational being, I strive to be aware of, and if necessary, discount my entirely subjective perceptions of the world. I test my reactions against hard, cold facts and if (in my opinion) my experience as a woman or my emotions seem to conflict too much with objectively discernable reality, I set them aside. You may well ask, "How do you know if you're being influenced by passion rather than reason if you view everything through the prism of being female?" I would answer that each of us has a brain in addition to a heart and soul. The three parts of our humanity temper and inform each other. I would not want to be all brain, all heart, or all soul. It takes all three, in the proper measure, to make one a human being rather than an animal.

For the record, it is not just women who must perform this balancing act. Men, too, are emotional. It is just that they experience emotion differently and even feel different emotions, given the same stimuli, as women. But if anyone doubts men are emotional creatures, let him watch the movie 12 Angry Men or attend a sporting event where the crowd loses control.

Anger is an emotion. So are fear, prejudice, pride, insecurity, aggression. Men can and do regularly experience all of these, and more. To each, his own.

James Taranto, in today's WSJ, points out a fascinating and disturbing fact:

The auditorium at Philadelphia's National Constitution Center, York reports, "was filled mostly with guests invited by the Obama campaign." Unsurprisingly, they "thought he delivered a great speech." Disturbingly, several whom York interviewed didn't understand all the fuss about Wright:
"It was amazing," Gregory Davis, a financial adviser and Obama supporter from Philadelphia, told me. "I think he addressed the issue, and if that does not address the issue, I don't know what else can be said about it. That was just awesome oratory."

I asked Davis what his personal reaction was when he saw video clips of sermons in which Rev. Wright said, "God damn America," called the United States the "U.S. of KKK A," and said that 9/11 was "America's chickens . . . coming home to roost." "As a member of a traditional Baptist, black church, I wasn't surprised," Davis told me. "I wasn't offended by anything the pastor said. A lot of things he said were absolutely correct. . . . The way he said it may not have been the most appropriate way to say it, but as far as a typical black inner-city church, that's how it's said."

Vernon Price, a ward leader in Philadelphia's 22nd Precinct, told me Obama's speech was "very courageous." When I asked his reaction to Rev. Wright, Price said, "A lot of things that he said were true, whether people want to accept it, or believe it, or not. People believe in their hearts that a lot of what he said was true."

A survey of black churches revealed that none would condemn Wright's words:

Newsweek's Lisa Miller reports on WashingtonPost.com that black religious leaders take a similar tack:

Last Friday, in an effort to gauge just how "out there" Wright's sermons are in the context of the African-American church tradition, Newsweek phoned at least two dozen of the country's most prominent and thoughtful African-American scholars and pastors, representing a wide range of denominations and points of view. Not one person would say that Wright had crossed any kind of significant line.

Clearly, these people interpret life through a very different prism: one, moreover, that requires no objective proof that whites deliberately created the HIV virus to kill blacks. You see, whether or not it is objectively true, it could be. It fits the way they view the world.

It is the sort of thing "They" do to "Us" all the time.

And yet as I mentioned this morning, many many whites heard in Barack Obama's speech the promise of a better, more perfect union where there will be no 'us' vs. 'them'. But what objectively discernable fact surrounding the Obama/Wright debacle can possibly support this belief? It is clearly not shared by the congregation of Trinity United church, nor by the many black pastors who were asked to comment on Reverend Wright's sermons. If you will not renounce an 'Us vs. Them' mentality, how can you ever hope to reach that state of perfect union where there is no "Us vs. Them"?

Easy. By dismissing or glossing over the beliefs of those who disagree with you:

I think the core question is here: what, to judge from the speech, is the role of the American nation in Obama's view?

It is his starting point: "to form a more perfect union." He declares that he intends to be on the side of "the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag."

But demonstrably many (if not a majority) of those who bleed together under the same proud flag do not agree with Barack Obama that this war should never have been waged. They do not agree it is the proper exercise of patriotism to bring them home with the task so many have fought and died for still unfinished. How can you support people when you aim to undermine and subvert the very values they are willing to die to defend? Have they become invisible to you? How can a speech with such great and glaring contradictions be considered either honest or great?

I promised to say what I liked about Obama's speech.

I liked that he tried to grasp the great third rail of American discourse, however imperfectly (in my opinion) he may have done so.

I like that he called for each of us to confront the anger of what the Left likes to call The Other, and not to dismiss it out of hand. I have always thought it important to talk about race, because only by doing so can we begin to move past it. I think there is a right and wrong way to talk about such a volatile subject. As one of Lex's commenters pointed out:

Morgan Freeman, a man who knows a thing or two, during an interview, when asked about racism in America said, bluntly: “You want to stop racism? Then stop talking about it.” He also stated how tired he was of “Black History Month”. His idea was to have teachers teach, you know, AMERICAN history, all of it, and quit dividing it up by special interests.

The gentleman speaks the truth.

I could not agree more. I am not sure we need to wallow in our competing perceptions of the world as viewed through the subjective prism of race. I cannot know what it means to be black. Blacks cannot know what it means to be white. And as I hope this story will illustrate, I'm not sure that makes any difference to our ability to get along.

When I was in high school, I dated a young black man for a while. During this time my father received PCS orders and we moved away. He, also, graduated high school and went away to a historically black college. In fact, it was my parents and I who dropped him off, freshman year. But though we no longer saw each other physically, we kept in touch.

We wrote each other long letters, and called when we could. I wondered at times, as young girls are wont to do, whether I would marry him one day. I can't say I thought much about the question of race. You see, this is not the way I was raised. It was not a topic that was ever entertained by my conservative Republican parents. To me, he was a boy I liked. He spoke as I do. He was intelligent and ambitious and good looking.

After several months, he invited me back to my former school for Homecoming. I was excited; so much so that my mother and I rushed out and began an orgy of sewing, working on my dress for the dance. Until just a few years ago, I still had that dress, believe it or not; made when I was quite young. I wore it to many a Marine Corps Ball.

When I arrived at my old school, however, I found that some things had changed. My boyfriend had brought new friends home with him from college; friends who didn't attend our high school. And they did not like me one bit; not that they ever said one word to me. So their dislike cannot have been personal. It was just, as it turned out, that I was white and they were not.

Despite my efforts to be sociable, it was clear I was unwelcome and he did not know what to do. And so, I left. I left, actually, in tears (though I did not let him see me crying). I was crushed. None of this is a big deal, or even the point of this story. The point is what happened next.

His mother found out.

And that woman, God bless her, taught her son the right thing. She made him take me to that dance and honor his invitation. She shamed him into apologizing to me and standing up to his new friends. And she herself, though she had done nothing wrong, apologized to me. I was stunned by the majesty of her anger with those boys, and made uncomfortable by her evident embarassment, and moved by her dignity and grace. And at the same time her actions healed something ugly.

What she did was to uphold a standard of right and wrong that applied, no matter what the color of someone's skin might be and no matter whether she personally approved of our relationship. This united her with my parents, of a different race and a different culture (for when I had spent time at his house before, it was often clear to me that he had been raised in a different culture from my own).

But we shared the same values. And though I was hurt and embarrassed, I tried hard that night to make it pleasant. And it was not so bad.

We never dated after that. But we remained friends. He came to visit me, years later. His best friend from high school (who happened to be be white) also came to visit me. He told me that my boyfriend felt he had let himself down. He was harder on himself than I ever was on him.

I am not sure we have to get inside each other's skin, to get along. I do think it is tremendously important that we try to come to some agreement about the broad standards of equity under which we plan to live our lives. These values are eternal, and they know no skin color. This is what Martin Luther King preached: what ought to matter to a man or woman is not the prism through which they view the world because if you will not resist the tendency to think and act as a white or black person rather than as a human being, you are part of the problem with race relations in America. What matters, is not the color of a man's skin, but the content of his character.

That is the conversation we should be having about race in America. We should be talking about color blind values and trying to take an honest look at whether our own experiences sometimes interfere with our efforts to live up to those values. Because the pain that lies behind the debate on race in America lies, not in "not understanding each others' anger", but in the refusal to see that if we can only learn to set aside the subjective prism of race when it threatens to betray our better natures, the rest will follow.

What is needed, in the post-civil rights era, may not be so much a thundering "Let my people go", but "Let go of identity politics." Treat those of all races as you would be treated.

This requires courage; the kind of courage my then-boyfriend and his mother showed many years ago, the kind of courage my parents displayed when they welcomed him into our home despite the prevailing opinions of the day. But imagine what the world could be like, if everyone just adopted that single standard?

We might not all agree, even then. But I'll bet we'd get along a lot better.

Update: Suds46 linked to a VDH post that neatly sums up where Obama went astray:

The tragedy of Obama's speech and the mindless endorsement of it was the rejection of any constant moral standard—an absolute sense of wrong and right that transcends situational ethics, context, and individual particulars. And once one jettisons such absolutes, they won't be there when one wishes to seek refuge in them in a future hour of need.

This is the tragedy of identity politics: that in closing ranks against what they perceive to be a hostile world, minorities and women and (for all I know) transgendered wolves too often embrace the very mentality responsible for their troubles. Once they endorse an "It's wrong for him to do that but perfectly fine for my kind to do it" line of reasoning, they lose the respect of those who would otherwise be inclined to sympathize with them.

A few other viewpoints:

Beth makes a very astute point:


I don’t want the government to be “my keeper.” I can be my own keeper, thank you very much, and how is “be your brother’s keeper” consistent with “self-help,” anyway? This isn’t a government with programs based on selective Christian principles, anyway, is it? And if it is, why does Barack Obama support government actions that are so decidedly un-Christian? (Opposing a ban on partial birth abortion, for example, just to start.) His particular strain of Christianity simply isn’t the Christianity that most Christians–or Jews, or atheists, or anyone else–subscribes, anyway. Nor is Mitt Romney’s religion what most Americans believe, either, but the difference is, Mitt Romney didn’t ask us to accept his beliefs as part of how he has governed or would govern. Joe Lieberman is an Orthodox Jew, but he hasn’t asked anyone to accept his beliefs as part of how America should be run, either. And yes, John McCain is a Christian, but he doesn’t say we must be “our brother’s keeper” as justification for how he would govern. He believes that we do what we do because of our traditionally American values. Duty, honor, country. Independence. And yes, equality.

Of course, I don’t believe that Barack Obama thinks we should live under a theocracy, anyway. He does, however, believe in a theology that insists on social change–even revolution–to bring up the “oppressed.” In my eyes, this isn’t theology; it’s political ideology that uses Christian language (very selectively!) to support its theses.

Fausta thought the speech was aimed at the Superdelegates.

Baldilocks lays it out:

Obama coats his lack of self in Black Liberation Theology--an ego-based, God-as-Sugar-Daddy ideology. But it could have been any other ideology that was equally as metaphysically empty; he suited up in this one because it fit the best for obvious reasons.

Some of us are still trying to clue you all in as to the exact nature of Obama's fraud. So when you stop fretting over the fact that He Done You Wrong, when you stop letting your ego and your fear blind your judgment, pay attention to the big, hairy clues in the guy's background. (No. The other clues.)

They've been sitting there all along.

She has a series of excellent posts on the speech. Read them all.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:47 PM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

Potatoes

I remember reading this poem, years ago, one night when I could not sleep:

When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other's work would bring us to our senses.

So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives -
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

- Seamus Haney

Perhaps you will find one you like.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:51 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Obama: The Artful Dodger

With the candidacy of Barack Obama, presidential politics has taken on a sort of carnival atmosphere. When was the last time we saw women faint, or grown men reveal untoward thrills in their pants? When was the last time George Will gushed like a schoolgirl? Though undoubtedly amusing, the unfolding spectacle can't help but make seasoned political observers wonder if the voting public isn't being sold a bill of goods?

Certainly, there is no doubt Barack Obama excels at selling. His campaign has generated more memorable slogans than Carter has little blue pills:

1. "Yes, We Can!"

Quickly! Close your eyes and make a wish. Now open them.

It's magic! Just like that, Obama has united us into a single, hopeful entity, all wishing for different things.

"We are the change that we seek."

The 60's generation must be thrilled at having, after 40 years laboring in the wilderness of American politics, finally found itself. But there's something here for Gen Xers and the Me Generation too. It really is all about you.

"We are the ones we've been waiting for."

All this time, we were waiting for ourselves? Or does he mean we're strong enough to change the world so it can be more like what we already were? What, then, will have changed? According to axiom #2, we are the change. Just concentrate on Obama: yes, you can learn to ignore the cognitive dissonance.

Obama is a master salesman; his product, the idea that if we just focus on making the journey towards hope and change together, the destination will cease to matter. But there's a problem with his patter, and it's one even lofty rhetoric and pitch perfect delivery can't wipe away. We do, in fact, have vastly different destinations in mind.

The real weakness with Obama's candidacy is that it demands we ignore the evidence of our own eyes. It is based on the demonstrably false idea that there is no "us vs. them"; that there are no honest (let alone substantive) disagreements between people of good will on political issues; that Americans ever did, or ever will speak with one voice unless they are forced to:

By nature, I’m not prone to embrace the “bleeding-heart” language lacing the excerpted portion of Obama’s speech. But I do agree with the underlying sentiment: that for too long and far too often we have conducted our national discourse in terms of division, in terms of “us vs. them” — whomever the “us” and “them” might be.

I further agree the time is ripe to toss aside said divisions and embrace a more inclusive meme. “Just words?” Perhaps. But words are still the currency of discourse, and discourse is still the starting point for action. And if the words of our discourse continue to focus on what divides rather than what unites us, I fear our national spirit and character will continue to flop and flounder and fail.

Obama keeps promising we can have it all, even if the choices are mutually exclusive. We can come together, even if we deeply disagree. He can realize his dreams for America without depriving others of theirs:

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how well show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

But what happens to those in Barack Obama's America who don't agree that this war should never have been waged? Many of them are in the military. How does bringing them home against their will further their interests? Is the defeat of everything they have fought and died for for five years the kind of change they long for?

Somehow, I doubt it.

But the most compelling evidence of Obama's misdirection was, much to his consternation, revealed by the sermons of Rev. Wright. The worst thing about his sermons was not his words. They can easily be dismissed, as Obama did so well yesterday, as the rantings of a cranky elder uncle. What cannot so easily be dismissed was the reaction of his parishioners to his racially charged message. In their faces, we saw neither shock, nor dismay, nor disapproval.

What we saw was enthusiastic acceptance. And the Black Value System of Trinity United, a church he freely chose among all the churches in Chicago, embraces not unity, but division. But Obama has an answer even for that:

The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning.

The word segregation was deliberately chosen yesterday. It conjures up visions of hatred, violence, and repression. But who chose the segregation that took place at Trinity United? This is the underlying contradiction that goes to the heart of everything Obama preaches.

If you claim the right to use race as the most important determinant of your identity, how you dress, how you talk, who you do business with, of your loyalties and your vote; by what right do you complain when those of different races employ that same standard?

If you rail against and reject the values and mores of the community you claim to want to join, by what right do you complain of not feeling accepted? Should society assimilate you against your will, forcing you to give up your cherished separateness?

If you say, "Don't treat me differently because I'm black", by what right do you then say, "You have to treat me differently, because I'm black."

If you constantly demand special preferences and race-based exceptions by what right do you complain that you aren't treated equally under law? By what right can you object to "white privilege" or "Hispanic privilege"? Do not other racial and ethnic groups possess the same rights to promote their race-based interests over the general welfare of their communities, states, or country?

Is there anything intrinsically wrong with a White Value System that "measure(s) the worth and validity of all activity in terms of positive contributions to the general welfare of the White Community...?"

Obama's rhetoric argues we can each have what we want without affecting the ability of others to get what they want, but this is obviously not true. All resources are finite; this is why people squabble over how their tax dollars will be spent. But if you insist on bringing up the real world, you are stubbornly focusing on the wrong thing; resisting hope, if you will:

Obama suggested that if Wright is occasionally angry, he has a right to be, as does the community he serves. And if white Americans are startled to witness that anger, they haven't been paying attention.

That was a risky message, but one that counted on a reliable well of white guilt. Then Obama took another pre-emptive gamble and implored Americans to look at Wright's anger, rather than avert their gaze, and to embrace that anger as a prompt to change.

In other words, he artfully shifted focus from his still-perplexing relationship with Wright to our own dark hearts. The choice is ours, he said:

We can focus on one ol' crazy uncle who sometimes gets a little carried away -- and in so doing, destroy the audacity of hope. Or, we can keep our nation's date with destiny, fulfill the dream imagined 221 years ago to form a more perfect union.

And elect Barack Obama.

Anyone who fails to embrace the only appealing option -- eschewing cheap spectacle for a dance with destiny to the tune of hope -- begins to feel a little woozy and, oddly, un-American.

Abracadabra.

You say you have anger too? Oddly there wasn't much mention, even with all the references to Martin Luther King, of the idea behind that "I Have A Dream" speech: the vision of a color-bind society. This is not surprising, for King's message was utterly incompatible with the values on offer at Trinity United. There was no mention of a uniform rule of law that treats all Americans the same.

Strangely, the concept sounds vaguely hopeful.

Unifying, even.

Update: Grim sees something different, entirely. I read this, this morning, and liked it.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:16 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

March 18, 2008

Never Let Inconvenient Facts Screw With The Narrative

File under, "I hate to say I toad you so...."

The Spousal Unit and I were discussing the Bear Stearns debacle last night over a post-prandial glass of wine and he opined that it was only a matter of time before The Shrieking began. And Lo!, not twelve hours later the piteous wail of progressiva schadenfreudensius was heard in the land. For it doth well appear that We the People must now add failure to predict that greed is bad economic policy to the growing list of The Shrub's crimes:

The economic meltdown is beginning to sound like a bad rewrite of the Iraq occupation. The experts are staring in disbelief.

Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin was at a session at the Brookings Institution this morning at which said that "few, if any" people anticipated the sort of meltdown that we are seeing in the credit markets at present.

I've been predicting the Bushenomic house of cards was going to crash for at least three years now. Of course no one listens to me. I'm not a well credentialed policy wonk. I'm just a cranky old lady who has has an unimpeded view of the street from here in my bargain basement. Unfortunately it turned out I had clearer sightline than those so safely ensconced in their ivory towers.

Egad, but the BushReich has a lot to answer for. If only it had launched a recklessly illegal pre-emptive invasion of the free market system:

Dale Franks said...

Huh. And this has what, exactly to do with "Bushenomics"?

I remember president Bush pushing through some tax cuts. But, oddly enough, I don't remember him setting up structural credit problems in the housing market, leading to problems in housing price declines, and increased foreclosures.

You know, sometimes--just very occasionally--the economy does things that really have nothing at all to do with what the president does.

I know. I was just shocked when I learned that. I think I was in the tenth grade at the time.
3:17:00 PM
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Oh, silly me. Here I thought high level presidential appointees who dictate policy, the wholesale evisceration of regulatory controls that would have prevented deceitful lending practices and the invention of convoluted investment instruments and the president's repeated assurances that the economy was just really great and everyone should keep on shopping might have had something to do with it.

Dale Franks said...

*sigh*

Bear Stearns is an investment bank. Always has been. So, even if Glass-Steagal hadn't been repealed--a repeal signed into law by ultra-conservative president Bill Clinton in 1999--it would have nod no effect whatsoever on the current problem.

Indeed, as far as regulation goes, the majority of the subprime loans originated from firms that are not, and never have been, subject to Federal regulatory scrutiny. In 2005, 52% of subprime mortgages were issued by firms who are not subject to any federal regulation at all. Another 25% were issued by firms with only an indirect regulatory relationship with the fed. As Fed Governor Susan Bies said, "What is really frustrating about this is [federal regulators] don't have enforcement authority to do anything with these state-licensed, stand-alone mortgage lenders."

You see, those mortgage brokers are regulated by the states. Not the Federal government.

So, it doesn't matter who the "presidential appointees" are, or what the federal regulatory environment is, when that regulatory environment doesn't apply to the mortgage brokerage.

In addition, "invention of convoluted investment instruments" simply wasn't covered by the regulations either, since no regulatory scheme can cover entirely new innovations that pop up in the derivatives market, and weren't even envisioned when the regulations were promulgated.

Moreover, many of the problems that are clear now, were simply masked by rising home prices. For instance, the FDIC--while not perfect--does tend to jump in when consumers complains about predatory lending. The trouble in this case was that...no one was complaining because as long as the homeowner had an asset whose value was appreciating, they could always sell the house, make a ton of money on the sale, and clear the mortgage. Once housing values started to decline...well, it was too late to look into the problem.

Moreover, if you're gonna require that much tougher regulation be imposed for loan standards, well, that's fine, but then no fair coming along later and complaining that low-income families can't get a mortgage, because you've implemented a regulatory regime that in effect dries up their access to credit.

It seems to me that the problem isn't that Bush is my guy, but rather that he's so not your guy that you are straining to blame Bush for things that he literally has very little to do with.

The president really isn't some economic czar, who can benevolently guide the economy by fiat.

But when all else fails, shift the goalposts:


Libby Spencer said...

Give me a break Dale. Don't pretend I'm blaming everything on Bush specifically. Bushenomics implies a systemic and deliberate incompetence that encouraged short term greed to the benefit of relative few over long terms gains that would benefit the many. Of course Bush is not personally responsible and I'm aware that economic trends build over units of time that span beyond single administrations, but to say that Bush and those he put in charge of the show had little to no effect sounds more like denial than neutral analysis to me.

Franks obviously needs to get a life before he goes off the deep end and starts sounding like a complete whack job:

This is, to me, the synthesis of this worldview with which I now found myself disenchanted: that everything is always wrong.

But in my life, a brief review revealed, everything was not always wrong, and neither was nor is always wrong in the community in which I live, or in my country. Further, it was not always wrong in previous communities in which I lived, and among the various and mobile classes of which I was at various times a part.

And, I wondered, how could I have spent decades thinking that I thought everything was always wrong at the same time that I thought I thought that people were basically good at heart? Which was it? I began to question what I actually thought and found that I do not think that people are basically good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompted and informed my writing for the last 40 years. I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit subject, but the only subject, of drama.

...I began to question my hatred for "the Corporations"—the hatred of which, I found, was but the flip side of my hunger for those goods and services they provide and without which we could not live.

And I began to question my distrust of the "Bad, Bad Military" of my youth, which, I saw, was then and is now made up of those men and women who actually risk their lives to protect the rest of us from a very hostile world. Is the military always right? No. Neither is government, nor are the corporations—they are just different signposts for the particular amalgamation of our country into separate working groups, if you will. Are these groups infallible, free from the possibility of mismanagement, corruption, or crime? No, and neither are you or I. So, taking the tragic view, the question was not "Is everything perfect?" but "How could it be better, at what cost, and according to whose definition?" Put into which form, things appeared to me to be unfolding pretty well.

Do I speak as a member of the "privileged class"? If you will—but classes in the United States are mobile, not static, which is the Marxist view. That is: Immigrants came and continue to come here penniless and can (and do) become rich; the nerd makes a trillion dollars; the single mother, penniless and ignorant of English, sends her two sons to college (my grandmother). On the other hand, the rich and the children of the rich can go belly-up; the hegemony of the railroads is appropriated by the airlines, that of the networks by the Internet; and the individual may and probably will change status more than once within his lifetime.

What about the role of government? Well, in the abstract, coming from my time and background, I thought it was a rather good thing, but tallying up the ledger in those things which affect me and in those things I observe, I am hard-pressed to see an instance where the intervention of the government led to much beyond sorrow.

But if the government is not to intervene, how will we, mere human beings, work it all out?

I wondered and read, and it occurred to me that I knew the answer, and here it is: We just seem to. How do I know? From experience. I referred to my own—take away the director from the staged play and what do you get? Usually a diminution of strife, a shorter rehearsal period, and a better production.

The director, generally, does not cause strife, but his or her presence impels the actors to direct (and manufacture) claims designed to appeal to Authority—that is, to set aside the original goal (staging a play for the audience) and indulge in politics, the purpose of which may be to gain status and influence outside the ostensible goal of the endeavor.

Strand unacquainted bus travelers in the middle of the night, and what do you get? A lot of bad drama, and a shake-and-bake Mayflower Compact. Each, instantly, adds what he or she can to the solution. Why? Each wants, and in fact needs, to contribute—to throw into the pot what gifts each has in order to achieve the overall goal, as well as status in the new-formed community. And so they work it out.

See also that most magnificent of schools, the jury system, where, again, each brings nothing into the room save his or her own prejudices, and, through the course of deliberation, comes not to a perfect solution, but a solution acceptable to the community—a solution the community can live with.

... I recognized that I held those two views of America (politics, government, corporations, the military). One was of a state where everything was magically wrong and must be immediately corrected at any cost; and the other—the world in which I actually functioned day to day—was made up of people, most of whom were reasonably trying to maximize their comfort by getting along with each other (in the workplace, the marketplace, the jury room, on the freeway, even at the school-board meeting).

And I realized that the time had come for me to avow my participation in that America in which I chose to live, and that that country was not a schoolroom teaching values, but a marketplace.

In other words, maybe this is all just the market's way of correcting a situation that could not have continued indefinitely. An economomist would think of it as a system seeking equilibrium: the proper balance between supply and demand, risk and reward, profit and and loss.

Maybe there is no sinister "system of greed" at work here, unless you consider the vast numbers of people who willingly signed mortagages for houses they could not realistically afford to be greedy and wish the federal government had stepped in earlier, against the law, to strip them of their ill-gotten gains?

Or perhaps you wish the government had forced lenders to take it in the shorts earlier, which loss would likewise have rippled through the economy in the form of layoffs, corporations going under and taxpayers feeling exactly the same stress they are now experiencing? Except, of course, many of the sufferers in that case would not even have had the comfort of ever having enjoyed said 'ill-gotten gains' first?

Ah. What could have been.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:10 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Works For Me

Though I suppose misunderstandings are inevitable given the short-sighted deontological emphasis so sadly prevalent in today's world:

On the matter of Jeremiah Wright, conservatives remain encased in an adamantine literalism. From the perspective of either deconstructionism or postcolonial theory, Wright’s utterances are neither controversial nor disturbing. Lack of general familiarity with these critical discourses accounts for the deep-lying anti-Wright bias of both the blogosphere and talk-radio. The conservative misdirection here parallels the literalist condemnation of Paul de Man.

Let us invoke Homi Bhabha’s encomium to Franz Fanon (Location of Culture, Chap. 2), including Fanon’s meditations on the liberatory effects of anti-European violence. As with Fanon in Bhabha’s gaze, Wright appears as the purveyor of a transgressive and transitional truth. His voice is most clearly heard in the subversive turn of a familiar term, in the silence of a sudden rupture: (not God bless America but...) God damn America. This line of thought keeps alive the dramatic and enigmatic sense of change. That familiar alignment of colonial subjects — Black/White, Self/Other — is disturbed with one sharp reversal, and the traditional grounds of national identity are dispersed. It is this palpable pressure of division and displacement that pushes Wright’s sermons to the edge of things — the cutting edge that reveals no ultimate radiance but, in his words, an "audacity of hope."

Through repeated sonic replication (which Wright surely anticipated, having released the sermon on DVD), the phrase is effectively broken up, or opened up, in a moment of Lacanian jouissance, migrating, so to speak, from God damn America into God(d) am(n) America. The evident echoing of late-capitalist discourse-games (Toys "R" Us) turns God Am America into what is simultaneously a discreet invocation of early-American providentialism, an appeal to business interests, and an identificatory excursus on the Illinois subaltern.

Spivak is no less apt on the problem of literalism (Spivak Reader, Chap. 9). The denial of contingency is a particular loss on the matter of Wright. Deconstruction has taught us that taking contingency into account entails the immense labor of forging a style that seems only to bewilder. On Wright, we must question staying within the outlines of rational agency and instead give a hint of postcolonial heterogeneity in opposition to the impoverished conventions of mere reasonableness. That "high" register, where sermonic production is in the same cultural inscription as the implied listener, cannot be employed for the epistemic ruses of the South Chicagoan subject.

In short, from the standpoint of deconstruction and postcolonial theory (and only from that standpoint), Wright’s remarks are undisturbing, and in fact most welcome. Since the most eminent universities in the United States have consistently valorized these discourses it follows that (unless you’ve got a problem with deconstruction or postcolonial theory — and how could you possibly?) Wright is to be commended. To be sure, the aporias of Wright’s populist discourse are more implicit than in deconstruction or postcolonial theory. Yet in substance (insofar as substance can be attributed), Wright’s views and those of scholarly theorists are quite similar. If anything, the theoreticians are more radical. Obama’s ability to act as both the revelatory sign and unifying signifier of the discourses of Harvard or the University of Chicago, on the one hand, and the demagoguery of South Chicago, on the other, ratifies and validates his location in culture.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:58 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 17, 2008

A father bids a loving farewell to his daughter:

In Jewish lore there is a legend of the lamed vovniks, the thirty-six just men on whom the existence of the world depends (Sarah would have had something to say about the gender prejudice of that). According to the legend, God had become so disgusted with his creation that he was determined to destroy it. But an angel came to plead with Him and to ask for a reprieve if she could find thirty-six just men in the world. In every generation, so the legend goes, there are always thirty-six just men – the lamed vovniks on whom its continued survival depends. The lamed vovniks are not conscious of who they are. They perform their acts of compassion and love out of the purity of their hearts. And the rest of us owe the world to them.

You are a light in our lives Sarah. You are a lamed vovnik. You have set the standard that we all must strive to reach. To never give up hope. To see ourselves in others. To be always putting up candles against the dark.

To be a candle against the dark.

A character in a favorite novel of mine asks, "For what may a man honorably strive?"

That is not a bad answer.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:27 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

For Grim :)

Who has been entertaining me with bawdy songs today: 10 ways to get kicked off a plane

This one seemed apt:


SING ABOUT FOOTBALLERS’ UNDERWEAR

After a fine win over Cardiff last year, fans of Sunderland AFC boarded an EasyJet flight in buoyant mood and sang the praises of their chairman in time-honoured terrace fashion. In case you’re not a regular at the Stadium of Light, the lyrics, to the tune of ’Ere We Go, ’Ere We Go, ’Ere We Go, are as follows:

“Niall Quinn’s disco pants are the best.
They go up from his arse to his chest.
They’re better than Adam and the Ants,
Niall Quinn’s disco pants.”

EasyJet staff, unused to Wearside poetry, called the police and had all 100 fans thrown off. Quinn himself shelled out £8,000 for taxis to get them home.

Though I rather liked this one, too:

BLOCK THE EMERGENCY EXIT WITH A HUGE STUFFED CROCODILE

Update: More Great Moments in British Journalism:

Sex toads force road closure

More than 2,000 lust-driven toads yesterday forced the closure of a road.

Look - it's not as though you can get this kind of hot toad-on-toad action breaking news just anywhere, people.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:23 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Obama's America

You've got to love it:

The overarching theme of Obama's speeches, and of his campaign, is that America is a fetid sewer whose most glorious days lie just ahead, thanks to the endless ranks of pathetic losers who make it a beacon of hope to all mankind.

Here's a partial list of the people that Obama has met lately. All of them are unhappy, and no wonder: Ashley, who grew up eating mustard sandwiches because her mother contracted cancer, lost her job, went bankrupt, and lost her health insurance; the "girl who goes to the crumbling school in Dillon"; "the mother who can't get Medicaid to cover all the needs of her sick child"; a New Hampshire woman who "hasn't been able to breathe since her nephew left for Iraq"; "the teacher who works another shift at Dunkin Donuts after school just to make ends meet"; a young woman in Cedar Rapids "who works the night shift after a full day of college and still can't afford health care for a sister who's ill"; "the Maytag worker who is now competing with his own teenager for a $7 an hour job at Wal-Mart." And beyond these dim, huddled figures lies the American landscape, unbearably bleak: "shuttered factories," "crumbling schools," "a planet in peril."

It's not exactly Walt Whitman. But Obama wants us to know that the picture he paints with his pointillist precision is comprehensive: He's leaving nothing out. He drives the point home when he concludes his litanies of despair by saying: "I have seen what America is."

But then a lifetime of pain has made Barack Obama uniquely sensitive to the suffering of others. In this sense, it was inevitable that he would one day lead the call for Hope and Change:

... it is amusing to take a snapshot of how all these people came up and what was happening in the legendary year 1969. Hillary Clinton was graduating from Wellesley or her way to Yale Law School; Gloria Steinem, after graduating from Smith and publishing a book, was the lioness of the women's movement; Geraldine Ferraro had interrupted her law career to raise children (there may have been some actual suffering in that; she went on to found the - irony alert - Special Victims Unit); Reverend Jeremiah Wright was getting his master's degree. Barack Obama was an eight-year old stepson of an oil company executive in Indonesia. He would go on to Occidental, Columbia and Harvard.

John McCain was being tortured in a North Vietnamese prison.

Because above all, we must end the tragic injustices that prevent the son of a black man from dreaming he could ever be President of the United States. Pray for change, people.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:35 AM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

Beware Of Truth-Telling Admirals and Generals

Mackubin Owens nails the Fallon affair:

The differences between Fallon and the administration were real, not the result of any misperception. It is well established that Fallon worked to undermine the "surge" in Iraq by pushing for faster troop reductions than the commander on the ground in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, thought prudent. He attempted to banish the phrase "the Long War" because, according to Barnett, it "signaled a long haul that Fallon simply finds unacceptable."

Regarding Iran, Fallon undercut the cornerstone of the Bush administration's Iran policy of keeping all options-including the use of military force-open, in order to pressure Iran to forgo its nuclear ambitions. This makes diplomatic sense. As Frederick the Great once observed, diplomacy without force is like music without instruments.

But last fall, Fallon told Al Jazeera TV, "This constant drumbeat of conflict ... is not helpful and not useful. I expect that there will be no war, and that is what we ought to be working for. We ought to try to do our utmost to create different conditions." A week before a trip to Egypt in November of last year, Fallon told the Financial Times, that a military strike against Iran was not "in the offing. Another war is just not where we want to go."

It is thus undeniable that as commander of CENTCOM, Fallon acted in a way that exceeded his authority. The tenor of Fallon's public pronouncements was in stark contrast to that of statements made by other high-ranking military officers who, while they have no desire
to provoke a war with Iran while the U.S. military is heavily engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan, have not taken it upon themselves to constrain American foreign policy to the extent that Fallon has. Indeed, had Fallon not stepped down, the president would have been perfectly justified in firing him, as Abraham Lincoln fired Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, as Franklin Roosevelt fired Rear Admiral James O. Richardson, and Harry Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

Let us be clear. The problem wasn't that Fallon was merely "pushing back" within the administration against a policy he didn't like. The problem was that a uniformed officer was actively working to undermine that policy after the decision had been made--and that he was also speaking out against the policy publicly while being charged with executing it. The playing field is not level for commanders speaking in public. They have a responsibility to support the missions they've been given, not to publicly evaluate the wisdom of the policy because, among other things, such a public evaluation undermines the confidence of their subordinates as they go into battle. This is unacceptable.

In our politicized world, one's response to this affair is likely to be colored by one's attitude toward the defense and foreign policies of the Bush administration. Those who normally would reject the idea that a military officer should "insist" that elected officials or their constitutional appointees adopt the officer's position seem to be all for it when it comes to the Bush administration. For instance, in a March 2005 column for the Washington Post handicapping the field to succeed Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, David Ignatius argued that "the next [CJCS] must be someone who can push back" against Rumsfeld. But those who see Fallon as a hero for "pushing back" against George Bush should realize that someday a President Barack Obama might have to deal with a future combatant commander who is publicly undermining his policies, as Fallon was undermining those of President Bush.

The cornerstone of U.S. civil-military relations is simple and straightforward: The uniformed military is expected to provide its best advice to civil authorities, who alone are responsible for policy. While reasonable people can disagree over the wisdom of military action against Iran or any other adversary, the decision to take such action lies with civilian authorities, not with a military commander.

Of course, uniformed officers have an obligation to stand up to civilian leaders if they think a policy is flawed. They must convey their concerns to civilian policymakers forcefully and truthfully. If they believe the door is closed to them at the Pentagon or the White House, they also have access to Congress. But once a policy decision is made, soldiers are obligated to carry it out to the best of their ability, whether their advice is heeded or not.

Most American military commanders have gotten this. For instance, according to Dana Priest's book The Mission, the Clinton White House wanted U.S. pilots in the no-fly zone to provoke the Iraqis into attacking American planes. The then-CENTCOM commander, General Anthony Zinni, believed that this could lead to war with Iraq and insisted that the White House issue him a direct order to undertake such an action. Faced with leaving a paper trail, the White House changed its mind.

But others, e.g. George McClellan, Douglas MacArthur, and now Adm. Fallon, have chosen to publicly "push back" against policies with which they disagree. In doing so, they pose a danger to republican government. The danger is illustrated by the case of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan during the American Civil War.

Military historians tend to treat McClellan as a first-rate organizer, equipper, and trainer but an incompetent general who was constantly outfought and outgeneraled by his Confederate counterpart, Robert E. Lee. That much is true, but there is more to the story. McClellan and many of his favored subordinates disagreed with many of Lincoln's policies, and indeed may have attempted to sabotage them. McClellan pursued the war he wanted to fight-one that would end in a negotiated peace-rather than the one his commander in chief wanted him to fight. The behavior of McClellan and his subordinates led Lincoln to worry that his decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation might trigger a military coup.

McClellan openly expressed his disdain for the president and the secretary of War. Lincoln and his cabinet were aware of the rumors that McClellan intended to put "his sword across the government's policy." McClellan's quartermaster-general, Montgomery Meigs expressed concern about "officers of rank" in the Army of the Potomac who spoke openly of "a march on Washington to 'clear out those fellows.'"

That McClellan had his own idea for fighting the war, one that did not match that of his commander in chief, was revealed by one of his officers after the Maryland Campaign of September 1862. In response to a query from a colleague as to "why the rebel army [was not] bagged immediately after the battle near Sharpsburg [Antietam]," the officer replied "that is not the game. The object is that neither army shall get much advantage of the other; that both shall be kept in the field till they are exhausted, when we will make a compromise and save slavery."

Lincoln dismissed the officer in question, remarking to his secretary John Hay "that if there was a 'game' ever among Union men, to have our army not take an advantage of the enemy when it could, it was his object to break up that game." Shortly thereafter, Lincoln relieved McClellan himself after another long bout of inactivity following Antietam. Of course President Harry Truman took the same action against Gen. MacArthur, an officer who had taken his disagreements with the president public.

A public disagreement between a president and his military commanders is one thing. But even a private disagreement can cause a commander in chief to lose confidence in his subordinates. For instance, when President Franklin Roosevelt decided to attempt to deter Japanese expansionism by moving the US Pacific Fleet from California to Pearl Harbor during the summer of 1940, the fleet commander, Rear Admiral James O. Richardson, objected, arguing that basing the Pacific Fleet in Hawaii was provocative and could precipitate a war with Japan. The president fired him and replaced him with Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel. As Admiral Harold Stark, the Chief of Naval Operations, wrote to Kimmel after the affair, "This, of course, is White House prerogative and responsibility, and believe me, it is used these days." To his credit Richardson kept his objections to FDR's decision private and went quietly into retirement.

By contradicting the president in public, Fallon clearly exceeded his authority. Had he not chosen to step down, the president would have been obliged to fire him, not least because of the serious threat to balanced civil-military relations that his actions--like McClellan's before him--constituted.

I have written before about how media ignorance of military history can cause them to portray current events in a false and even intentionally misleading light.

Civilians are placed in charge of the military because that is the way our democratic republic is designed to operate. The notion that military personnel ought to be speaking truth to power via the media is ludicrous at best. At worst, it encourages them to both subvert and flout the lawful civilian chain of command. Those who encourage such activity for the temporary political advantage it offers them would do well to beware the precedent they are setting for future administrations, in which they may not find such 'truth telling' a welcome attribute in military officers.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:57 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Well Slap Us Around And Call Us "Susie"

Tigerhawk is writing about sex again.

Men...

Posted by Cassandra at 05:06 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

March 13, 2008

Question of the Day

What do you all think?

Is the ability to make a woman laugh critical in order for a man to be successful with the ladies (or just that special woman who catches his eye?)

Yes or no, and why?

I'll keep my opinion to myself for now. As usual, I have an opinion and it's a fairly strong one, but I'm interested in hearing what you all think so I'd prefer not to say anything just yet.

And yes, there's a mini-rant coming up :p But then you knew that, didn't you?

Posted by Cassandra at 12:11 PM | Comments (79) | TrackBack

Too Funny

This is everywhere, but for those of you who haven't seen it yet, enjoy. FbL linked a great interview with Bob Riggle

CWCID

Posted by Cassandra at 08:00 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Coffee Snorters: Dark Humor Edition

Could this be a sign that decadent Western values are infiltrating the Jihadi world view?

I'm told that translation isn't quite right. More literally, it's, "This device is used against occupation forces only." But still: IEDs with warning labels!??!?

When Achmed the terrorist starts to worry about product liability issues, I'd say the tide has turned.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:46 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 12, 2008

Photo of the Day

bridge.jpg

I took this last Fall on a weekend trip to Pennsylvania. Click here for a larger version.

I don't know why, but I've always loved bridges. They fascinate me. I took a lot of photos of this one - I loved the ironwork. I guess I'm easily amused.

I couldn't get the water flowing underneath, but the colors were really lovely. Very subdued and peaceful in contrast with the rust on the metal uprights.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:51 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

America's Female Warriors Show Bravery, Loyalty

Here are two inspiring stories that should get more attention.

Some time this month, a nineteen year-old Army medic from the state of Texas will become the second woman to earn the Silver Star for valor under enemy fire. Spc. Monica Lin Brown, characteristically, plays down her achievement:

Brown, of Lake Jackson, Texas, is scheduled to receive the Silver Star later this month. She was part of a four-vehicle convoy patrolling near Jani Kheil in the eastern province of Paktia on April 25, 2007, when a bomb struck one of the Humvees.

"We stopped the convoy. I opened up my door and grabbed my aid bag," Brown said.

She started running toward the burning vehicle as insurgents opened fire. All five wounded soldiers had scrambled out.

"I assessed the patients to see how bad they were. We tried to move them to a safer location because we were still receiving incoming fire," Brown said.

Pentagon policy prohibits women from serving in front-line combat roles — in the infantry, armor or artillery, for example. But the nature of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with no real front lines, has seen women soldiers take part in close-quarters combat more than previous conflicts.

Four Army nurses in World War II were the first women to receive the Silver Star, though three nurses serving in World War I were awarded the medal posthumously last year, according to the Army's Web site.

Brown, of the 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, said ammunition going off inside the burning Humvee was sending shrapnel in all directions. She said they were sitting in a dangerous spot.

"So we dragged them for 100 or 200 meters, got them away from the Humvee a little bit," she said. "I was in a kind of a robot-mode, did not think about much but getting the guys taken care of."

For Brown, who knew all five wounded soldiers, it became a race to get them all to a safer location. Eventually, they moved the wounded some 500 yards away and treated them on site before putting them on a helicopter for evacuation.

"I did not really have time to be scared," Brown said. "Running back to the vehicle, I was nervous (since) I did not know how badly the guys were injured. That was scary."

The military said Brown's "bravery, unselfish actions and medical aid rendered under fire saved the lives of her comrades and represents the finest traditions of heroism in combat.

335-9-247+++Cpl+Diana+L+Kavanek+++14+x+11.jpgVia Miss Ladybug's post on combat artists, the Editorial Staff ran across this battlefield love story.

There is an old saying: "Handsome is, as handsome does." Had she done nothing else in her lifetime, Corporal Diana Kavanek, USMC would be, by any measure you care to name, a handsome woman.

A woman of substance.

How many women, for instance, can say they have traveled half way across the world and served as a member of a female search team:







“I found out I was going to be doing entry-control-point duty three days before I went out,” said Lance Cpl. Diana L. Kavanek, engineer, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Headquarters Group, II MEF (FWD). “It was a little shocking to me because I didn’t know I would ever be pulled for a duty like that. But I was ready to do my part.”

Headquarters and Service Company, II MHG, was chosen to fill spots on the ECP female search team after a vehicle-born improvised explosive device killed five Marines and a Sailor, three of whom were female, and injured several more on June 23.

Major Michael J. Corrado, company commander, H&S Company, II MHG, II MEF (FWD), knew of the empty billets only days before the females were scheduled to leave.

“My initial thought was to accomplish the mission by supporting Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division, and not let those bastards who bombed that seven-ton think they would weaken our resolve,” explained Corrado. “My next thought was ‘Where are we going to find the Marines to replace them’? Many of the H&S Company Marines are wearing two and three hats already.”

Entry-control-point duty is allowing some females a chance to fulfill their concept of women in the military.

“This is my opportunity to go out there and do my job,” said Lance Cpl. Christy Phim, supply warehouse clerk, II MHG. “I think we should be treated as Marines, not given special treatment based on our gender. I don’t mind ECP duty because I wanted to get out of my office and do what I joined the Marines for.”

The women are going out to check points trained and are required to wear full combat gear, in 100 degree plus temperatures, just as other Marines at the ECPs.


The female searchers treat every woman with respect, yet always as a potential insurgent.

“I take my job seriously because there are a lot of women that act suspicious,” said Phim, a Providence, R.I. native. “I think we must act professionally and as Marines so the women aren’t afraid, but so they know we mean business.”

“After seeing the posts [at the various ECPs], I was surprised to see the number of Iraqis [the females] were in contact with,” said Thresher, after the first ECP visit. “I, as the first sergeant, was no more concerned with their safety than any other Marine. They were in good spirits, alert, and willing to do whatever was asked of them.”

Having experienced life in Fallujah may make Corporal Kavanek's decision more understandable:

It took Cpl. Aaron Mankin six weeks after his injury in Iraq to finally look at himself in the mirror. What he saw brought him to tears.

"There's this stranger in the mirror that you couldn't imagine in your worst nightmare," he told ABC's Bob Woodruff. "I couldn't help but cry."

Mankin, a 25-year-old Marine, was wounded in 2005 when the vehicle he was traveling in rolled over an improvised explosive device and exploded 10 feet in the air. Four Marines died in the attack and 11 others were injured.

"I was thrown back inside the vehicle and I knew that I was on fire right away," Mankin said. Assuming he would die, Mankin closed his eyes and concentrated on what he thought would be the last image he would ever see — the face of his girlfriend, Marine Lance Corp. Diana Kavanec.

Then again, her choice may have had nothing to do with war.

Love is a powerful thing. What impressed me also about this story was the courage and confidence Aaron Mankin showed in proposing to Diane.

That is so Marine. So many men would have withdrawn into themselves, felt they had nothing to offer anymore, given in to self pity. But Aaron's fighting spirit could not be quenched even by the agony of burns that extended over 25% of his body or the anguish of his ruined face. He saw through to what was important and respected Diane enough to let her make her own choice. She chose wisely.

What a priceless wedding gift. We women are so used to being overprotected and patronized. And Diane responded to Aaron's confidence and trust with love.

I wish them all the best.

Women are doing good things in Iraq. They perform jobs that would be difficult for men due to cultural constraints:

A team consisting of five female Marines from the 1st Marine Logistics Group and two female interpreters recently conducted a census patrol in a nearby town here.

The Iraqi Women’s Engagement Team (IWET) was able to meet and talk with the local Iraqi females one-on-one, segregated from men.

“It was an eye opener,” said Sgt.Veronica Deleon, 26, a member of the IWET, from Bassett, Calif. “We realized Iraqi people are ordinary individuals that want an opportunity at life and a future for their children, just like we do.”

As this exchange demonstrates, meetings like this are vital in the effort to win Iraqi hearts and minds:

Another woman, whose two sons had recently received jobs in Tourist Town cleaning, said things are looking much better in Iraq. “With the American’s help, Baghdad is even getting better.”

“I am really thankful for the projects in Habbaniyah. Both my sons have jobs because of you. The Americans always help me. The Americans care for us more than our own people. They give us mercy.”

“(The visit) made us aware of why we are here and how important it is to conduct these missions so we can continue to earn and keep their trust,” said Deleon.

Deleon is right. Every Iraqi we win over is one who will not be siding with the insurgency and that's all part of fighting smarter, not harder.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:09 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Hello, Old Friend...

[sniff!]

What a hoot...

The Donovan has been pestering the Editorial Staff for some time now for a copy of The Trivet. It has been so long now that we could not find it in our archives.

How many of the Assembled Villainry remember this old relic from the original site design?

trivet.jpg

The things we do for the readership.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:01 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

March 10, 2008

That Terrifying Place....

Rev Mother Gaius: Enough! Kull Wahad! No woman child ever withstood that much. Take your hand out of the box and look at it...young human. Do it!
Rev Mother Gaius: Pain by nerve induction. A human can resist any pain. Our test is crisis and observation.
Paul: I see the truth of it.
Rev Mother Gaius (voiceover): Could he be the one? Maybe...but will he be ours to control?
Girl: Tell me of your homeworld, Usul.
Rev Mother Gaius: Do you know of the Water of Life? The bile from the newborn worms of Arrakis.
Paul: I have heard of it.
Rev Mother Gaius: It is very dangerous. The Bene Gesserit Sisterhood use it to see - within. There is a place...terrifying to us, to women. It is said a man will come - the Kwisatz Haderach. He will go where we cannot. Many men have tried.
Paul: They tried and failed?
Rev Mother Gaius: They tried and died.
- Dune

Since Ace was man enough to go into that terrifying place the other day (God help him!) the blog princess attempted to answer his question. But her answer appears to have stirred up a good deal of confusion on its own. This post is an attempt to address clarify those issues.

On the Hornet's Nest post, Gregory asks a question that seems to be causing enough confusion that I thought it merited its own post:

OK, Cass. As both of us said, the final arbiter is the blog owner. I even agreed that it's rudeness to do what is being done.

Having said that, I still don't see what you are trying to accomplish. Are you trying to get Ace to clean up his site? Cannot be, since it's not gonna happen. Are you trying to shame guys to clean up their act in teh intarwebs? Again, that cannot be, because it's not gonna happen. But if you're just blowing off steam, then yeah, men can be and often are bozos. I admit it. I act the goat more often than not too - and I'm not very nice to my parents, to boot. So they'd say, anyways, and in my introspective moments I would agree that I am often unthinking.

I mean, I'm not exactly advocating that you just throw your hands up, say "men!" and wash your hands of the whole thing. Your blog, your bandwidth, your money, your rules. And if you're gonna be Don Quixote, there are worse windmills to tilt at. (I'm sorry, but you did ask for our thoughts.)

Allow me to state what I want to state in point form, so that I don't clog it up with verbiage.

1. Speech is free on the Net. Men and women alike should and are allowed to be utter and complete boors. Likewise, others should be and are allowed to express their disapproval.

2. I have no personal beef with people online being morons. Knowing as I do that I can avoid them if I want to.

3. The public square is becoming less and less civil. This is deplorable, immoral and quite possibly fattening. But it is a fact.

4. Men and women both are having their sensibilities shocked on a daily basis, and their natures coarsened.

5. You said that you thought the same as 'Jane' the commenter did - that a sense of limits exist on every and all blogs. Very good. The limits are defined on Ace's blog as on yours. I try to abide by the limits both - you will notice I try not to use expletives. Which means, if the limits are a lot looser on Ace than here, then that's what it is.

Was I building up strawmen? I don't think so, but you know what you write and what I understood from it may be two completely different beasts. Hence we are divided by a common language.

Let me see if I understand you correctly. Blogs are not ordinary 'public arenas' like the town hall, or the park, or even a social milieu like the church or community centre. Blogs are private areas which the owner has opened up for people. As you do, and your humble servant is grateful. Even moreso that you are back blogging, since I missed you during your hiatus. In that sense, it is more like the corner pub or country club.

Ace has set the standard, as you rightly put. A grand majority (you can see over 550 posts generally agreeing) is fine with the standards as they currently stand. I'm afraid you'll have to write off AoSHQ as a stag club - with exceptions.

And I am very glad that you believe everyone should be held to specific standards. So do I. And the standard set at Ace is one I will hold to at Ace. I hope I hold to your standard here.

A few points.

Over and over again in the comments on this post I kept seeing the same refrain: what are you trying to accomplish? What are you trying to change?

To which I can only respond, why on earth do you assume I mean to accomplish or change anything? For Pete's sake - VC is one tiny site amongst literally tens of thousands of fairly insignificant blogs out there. I don't even have a blogroll. I don't have trackbacks. I don't shop my posts to other bloggers. What objective behavior on my part indicates that I'm the kind of blogger who goes around trying to change anything? Or even interacts, in any significant way, with other bloggers (especially ones in Ace's league)?

Wouldn't that be just a tad hubristic on my part, thinking I was going to change the way the blogosphere works with one post on a site that, by virtue of the way I have chosen to run it, doesn't get a whole lot of traffic and/or attention? Does this really make sense?

I think if I were trying to change people, I'd be behaving differently, don't you? It would be more effective if I took a more active stance, such as (say) pleading my case assertively at the sites in question; which is something I'm certainly capable of doing. I have never shrunk from arguments in the past when I feel strongly about an issue, and those of you who know me also know how tenacious I am when I feel strongly about an issue. Yet I have done none of those things.

So let's walk through this, because I think it's an interesting comment (at least to me) on the differences between the way women and men think. Don't know how many of you recall the men vs. women cheat sheet. Admittedly it was an oversimplified model, but there's more than a grain of truth to it. One of the things I've often observed about conversations between men and women in general is that when a woman brings up a topic, a guy generally assumes she wants him to do_something_about_it, whereas oftentimes she merely wants to discuss it without doing anything about it.

She is not doing this to be confusicating and make your heads explode. We just don't think the way you do, guys. Not everything in the universe is an action item for us. I think this is a huge source of friction between men and women; moreover I believe it's a major reason guys often think we're being 'controlling'.

Sometimes we are. Women have been known to be maddeningly indirect (i.e., we bring things up in an infuriatingly sideways fashion instead of simply stating what we want straight out and then the man is supposed to read our minds - because 'if you truly *cared* about us, of course you'd *know* what we wanted!). To make matters even worse, we often don't realize we're even doing this, just as men often don't realize they're being maddeningly obtuse when they pretend not to notice the light of his life stopped speaking to him four weeks ago and put fire ants in his jockey shorts because anything would be preferable to having to talk about his feeeeeeeeeeelings :p

But other times, we raise topics because we want to talk about them. We may be irritated and want to vent. We may be trying to decide what to do, or what we think about an issue, and need a sounding board. We may simply enjoy the pure pleasure of having a discussion with someone we like (and Lord knows, women love to talk). It could just be a topic or idea that is bothering us - something we can't be off our minds, and sharing our thoughts about it helps us to process it and put it to bed, so to speak; to stop thinking about it. It may be some combination of these things, or some other reason entirely.

There may well be elements of some or all of these here.

Primarily, I think, my motive pretty straightforward, and it's right out in the open. I wanted to address the question Ace asked in my post:

Are you telling me that it is de facto out of bounds for man to comment on a woman's looks, ever, even if the looks being commented on are purely a choice of the woman's....

I want to know precisely what standard -- applicable to either sex -- I violated or I'd like to know if you yourselves are indulging yourselves in an unfair double-standard.

I thought that was a great question, and I thought it deserved a thoughtful answer.

I also knew I couldn't deliver a thorough answer in the comments section of the Jawa Report, so I chose to do it here. I thought it would make for some interesting discussion.

I still think it's an interesting question.

In the course of answering that question, I decided that while there is probably nothing wrong with commenting on someone's personal appearance, that sort of remark will get you in hot water in real life. It is considered rude, and for good reason.

It's the kind of thing that hurts people's feelings: the kind of comment adults refrain from out of common decency and respect for the feelings of others; in other words, ordinary politeness. Furthermore, I commented that what had specifically upset some of the women in this case was some unnecessarily crude and ugly derogatory sexual commentary (and by the way, I didn't direct anyone to the objectionable comments, but they weren't limited to "I'd hit that", which IMO is eminently shrug-offable. Some of them were just way over the line).

So, what was the point of that post? Did I think I would change anything?

On a macro scale, no not really. I certainly didn't expect Ace or Rusty to do anything. I fully believe that, regardless of what I may say or do, people make up their own minds about what my subjective motivation is. I also think (and this is from reading repeated comments which totally disregarded what I said over and over again in my post and comments) a lot of men seem to have it in their heads that women are - by nature - 'controlling'. This seems to be some sort of innate bias that exists independently of any objective evidence to the contrary; as several commenters who came over here to engage remarked, they will simply discount anything I say or do that conflicts with what they've already decided: I want them to do what they think I want.

There is really nothing I can say or do to change this impression. And I see no reason to try. If men want to view women as overemotional and/or controlling even when they (in fact) remain calm and unemotional when they're told they're being emotional and don't (in fact) do anything to try to control men, that is their right :p

A final question. If you do think that addressing Ace's question on my own site (I did this); pointing out that certain behavior is (I did this too) normally considered offensive by objective societal standards; or even (I did not do this, though several people seem to think I did) calling for people to stop doing what they're doing amounts to an attempt to:

(a) coerce a grown man into changing the policy on his site against his will, or

(b) shame grown men into behaving contrary to their desires on sites that aren't my own

Isn't that completely illogical? Isn't my supposed complaint that they don't "care" about what women think in the first place?

So why on earth would they suddenly start "caring" about what I think now? People are going to think what they think, and act accordingly. I cannot control what they think.

I can, and do, like to throw ideas out for discussion. People can take whatever they like on board and act accordingly. None of that is within my control.

So much for my 'agenda' :p

Posted by Cassandra at 07:34 AM | Comments (63) | TrackBack

March 08, 2008

What's Wrong With This Picture?

More and more, I'm happy my son didn't end up working for Montgomery County:

"You can't have one set of laws for police officers and another one for the rest of the world," Andrews said.

In recent weeks, officers have twice been photographed speeding past a camera and extending a middle finger, an act that police supervisors interpreted as a gesture of defiance. "There is no excuse for that kind of behavior," said Andrews, who was briefed on the incidents.

During the last eight months of 2007, the department's cameras recorded 224 instances in which county police vehicles were nabbed traveling more than 10 mph over the speed limit, the department disclosed this week in response to an inquiry from The Washington Post.

Of those citations, 76 were dismissed after supervisors determined that officers were responding to calls or had other valid reasons to exceed the speed limit. Nearly two-thirds of the remaining 148 fines have not been paid, including an unspecified number that remain under investigation, said Lt. Paul Starks, a police spokesman. He said the number of citations issued to police employees this year is not yet available.

Officer Mark Zifcak, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35, did not respond to an e-mail and two phone messages this week seeking comment. In a notice posted on its Web site, the union advises that "members should not pay or set court dates for speed camera citations that are issued to the employer."

Manger is demanding that officers pay the fines, a request that has met stiff opposition from union leaders and has been ignored by some sergeants who were asked to investigate whether officers nabbed by the cameras had a valid reason to speed.

"We are not above the law," Manger said in an interview. "It is imperative that the police department hold itself to the same standards that we're holding the public to."

Officials at the county's fire department, sheriff's office and four municipal police departments said employees who have been caught speeding in government vehicles have paid the fines.

"The only time we don't make them pay the fine is if they're on an emergency call," Sheriff Raymond M. Kight said. "We haven't had any resistance at all."

What a load of horse hockey.

I received a camera ticket in the mail from (you guessed it) Montgomery Country recently.

I didn't go to court and challenge the ticket. I just paid it. I was speeding. My husband and I were pulled over while he was home on 2 weeks leave for something utterly ridiculous. He didn't mention that he was in the military or that our son was a cop. He got a ticket.

I went to court and challenged that one because it made no sense: he had honestly done nothing wrong. After the charge was dismissed, the officer came after me and asked why we hadn't let him know our son was a cop, or that my husband was an Iraq vet. I said we didn't think either fact was relevant to the situation.

I still think that. The law is the law - there can't be one set of rules for cops (and their families) and another for everyone else.

This isn't rocket science.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:37 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Incroyable

When Baby becomes the ultimate designer accessory: Mom and Dad have plenty of time and energy for their careers, but not enough to miss precious shuteye on account of those pesky night feedings, or to potty train Junior.

Why not just buy a rag doll? Or a pet?

Or better yet, admit you don't have the time or the energy to be real parents to that human being you just brought into the world?

Posted by Cassandra at 12:25 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Poking The Hornet's Nest

First of all, I'm not a big fan of gender wars. Nonetheless, I feel a strong need to uphold the honor of the fairer sex and so, as an olive branch (and to show that I fully understand the male need to indulge in a bit of harmless fantasizing whilst wallowing in oodles of abundant feminine pulchritude - no half-starved starlets here!) I offer to Ace, Rusty, and yes, Vinnie this eminently shaggable bit of eye candy:

helenthomasonatreadmill6md.jpg

Yeah. I'd hit it :p

Serious commentary coming up soon after the fold. It's been a long week guys.

It all started with this post:

What is it with some male bloggers?—"Too fat, too thin. Too out-of-shape. Too fat. Too buff. Too old. Too young." (Oops! That last one never happens. Just trying to see if you're paying attention.)

...I like Ace and his crew. I even like Rusty and (most of) his crew (at least, when they aren't waxing anti-gay). But, WTF? Maybe their fans should be required to post pictures next to their comments—these fine gourmands of female flesh. I'm sure they are all prime beef. Uh-huh.

....why is it necessary to slam women who are making the best of this whole getting-older thing?

That morning, I checked out the posts in question. In most cases it wasn't so much the posts as the comments that were objectionable; at least to me. The debate raged on throughout the day - I won't bore you with the details. But that night, Ace weighed in with an interesting question that I do want to address, because I think it gets to the heart of the disconnect between the way men and women see much of what happens on the Internet:

Are you telling me that it is de facto out of bounds for man to comment on a woman's looks, ever, even if the looks being commented on are purely a choice of the woman's?

I mean here, we are not even talking about women being fat-- we are talking about Madonna and Sarah Jessica Parker weightlifting and dieting to the point of having bulging muscles and (in Madonna's case) a bodyfat percentage that actually seems to be in the negative 20's.

I write about Michael Moore being morbidly obese all the time. Never a word. Now I do a post on another celebrity for jacking her biceps up bigger than Mark Maguire and the red flag gets thrown? By what standard? That it's her "choice"? Why is fair to skewer men in this admittedly juvenile and mean spirited fashion but when it's a woman it's suddenly far, far out of bounds?

If I'm missing the nuance please explain it to me. Apparently I'm in dutch with you fellers and I don't want to be. But I want to know precisely what standard -- applicable to either sex -- I violated or I'd like to know if you yourselves are indulging yourselves in an unfair double-standard.

Not at all trying to bait, just trying to figure out precisely what the hell is going on here?

To be fair, let me say that I understand his confusion to a certain extent. Most women I talked to that day didn't really have any problem with his post. It was the comments that upset them. A lot of things were raised during the debate that I think were interesting, but didn't really cut to the heart of the problem the way Jane's comment did. I thought her remark was unusually perceptive, in that it avoided the usual minefields while neatly summing up the real issue here. I'll let you read it, and then add my comments:

It's a fact of human nature that both men and women speak in a more raunchy way when they are in a gender segregated group. I think the point here is to maintain a level of respect for the mixed gender nature of the internet.

Sarah's [Connor] muscles are an appropriate topic, and negative comments about her resulting appearance are also appropriate. Rating her screwability is tacky. It's locker-room. And it makes many women feel somewhat insulted or trivialized, not because it's a question of comparison with any movie star but a lack of recognition of our existence as females in the comments and as readers.

If male blog proprietors honestly don't care about insulting their female readers, then it becomes a guy only blog after time. And we all miss out. I understand commenters are not under the control of anybody, but an informal or formal sense of limits exist on every blog. It's about decency and respect for us as ladies. Yes as ladies, not women.

To me, this is the heart of the issue. As I said, I can't speak for others.

Almost every day, I see men react like scalded cats at the notion that women are trying to "control" them on the Internet. Let's examine this for a moment.

What is really missing here is any recognition that the Internet is essentially a public social medium. What you do and say on the Internet is not private. It is really little different than standing on a street corner in town with people you don't know walking by, or standing in a crowded hallway at work or at a Metro station.

Now a question: how many of you would stand in any of these venues with a Hustler magazine open, staring at nude photos of some celebrity and making crude sexual remarks like "Yeah, the body's OK but she'd better cover up that horse face. Maybe she could turn around so I could do her from behind."

Is there any social milieu you are aware of where this is considered acceptable behavior for grown men? If so, I am not aware of it. And yet, women are confronted with this sort of thing every single day on the Internet. And if we dare to object, we are told "Stop being emotional and controlling. Men are pigs. They like to look at women's bodies and they will never change. If you weren't ugly and fat, you wouldn't be so threatened by the way we are."

Wow.

There are sites (and blogs) on the Internet which are almost exclusively devoted to this sort of thing. As a woman, if I see a site like that, I know exactly what is going on there and I don't go there because I know the atmosphere there is neither welcoming nor conducive to my participation. Frankly there is no purpose to my presence there.

And that's fine - they are free to carry on without me. I'm not going to conduct a campaign to get them ejected from the Internet, nor will I try to shame them into stopping. I just ignore them, much as I would step around a wad of gum on the sidewalk or make sure not to see a Michael Moore's latest movie. I'm not interested, but I don't try to stop it either.

However, a site like The Jawa Report or Ace o' Spades discusses lots of topics that I happen, as a woman, to be interested in. The war on terror, for instance. And politics. So they're a mixed bag. Ace just won some big award at CPAC. Not sure what it was - I don't pay much attention to those things. And I like Ace. I like his writing on those occasions when he is serious. He has written some incredibly perceptive things that I've enjoyed greatly. He is one of a very few bloggers on my RSS feed for that reason.

But I'll be honest. I avoid his site, because I've tried participating in a few discussions and the commenters often make me angry and uncomfortable, which is saying a lot because I'm more confident and assertive than probably 98% of women I've encountered either in real life or in the virtual world. I don't give a rat's ass about traffic or whether other bloggers link to me - that's why I don't have trackbacks - if they like what I write, great. If not, they're free to blast me or ignore me. Either way, I don't back down from confrontations I think are important, as I think this post ought to demonstrate.

I would like to think I'm a thoughtful person and I believe I have a lot to offer in a serious discussion. But life is just way too short to subject myself to unnecessary aggravation. As Jane said so eloquently, if male bloggers choose, for whatever reason, to either cultivate or allow that kind of climate to develop on their sites, it will have the effect of driving women away. Personally, I view that as their choice. They've decided I (and women like me) are not the sort of persons whose respect is important to them. And that's OK. Choice is good :p I'm all about choice.

But the real point I'd like to throw out for your consideration is this: I don't think women are being oversensitive here. In real life, remarks about a person's appearance, whether it's Michael Moore's obesity, the size of Madonna's breasts or whether Ace or Rusty's commenter (as distinguished from Ace and Rusty, who did not say any of these things) think various celebrities are bangable, push the envelope of social acceptability. In short, they're considered rude. But the faceless nature of the Internet encourages us to do things we would never dream of doing in real life.

And then we are surprised when some people get offended by acts or statements which would be considered unequivocally offensive, had they been encountered in real life; by things I'm fairly certain none of these commenters would dream of saying if they were face to face with live human beings in a real conversation. Except that blogging IS a conversation.

With real, live human beings. And none of the age-old social conventions, taboos, emotions, differences between the genders changed just because you're on the Internet instead of standing on the street corner. And telling a woman she is pathetically insecure, or controlling, or that she's engaging in a double standard, because she objects to something that would offend and embarrass her in real life, doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it?

I don't think women have the expectation that no one is ever going to say anything crass. We don't dry up and blow away like fragile wildflowers just because someone makes a crude remark, and we certainly understand that busy site owners can't catch every comment. But when it's not just one comment but several, when a thread goes on and on and not one person objects, a very clear message is being sent: "This is OK." And it's not just the site owner. It's the other readers. I think the general tone is set from the top, and if that is done, the readers themselves will help to enforce it. I've seen that happen here at VC because I insist on civility during heated debates, and when Salon or Slate or other liberal sites have linked here, their commenters have uniformly been surprised at the reception they've received, even when they've initially been quite rude and provocative. As a result, we've had some good discussions. This is not to say we're perfect; we're not. But it does show that setting a clear expectation and reinforcing it DOES work. I believe that with all my heart and four years of blogging reinforces that belief.

So I think male bloggers, and particularly conservative male bloggers, have some thinking to do. It's harder to police the comments on a large site. I know this. It's one of the reasons I've quit several times when VC got to 2000 visits a day. I knock it back to something more reasonable, because it is more difficult to make this the kind of place I want it to be if it gets too much traffic. And for me, too much attention kills everything I love about blogging, which is the interaction with my readers. The world is full of crappy tradeoffs like that, but what are you going to do? As a blogger, you decide what your values are. Do you want lots of traffic? Do you want to accomplish other things? Are you just in it to have fun? Hopefully your blogging reflects your goals and your values.

The Internet presents us with some interesting moral dilemmas. I am going to be brutally honest here. Email and comments are too easy. You type into a little box and hit "Send" and in an instant, some random synaptic misfire of yours can travel halfway across the world. It's true, there is a bit of a 'buffer' to virtual interaction between the genders, because we don't see each other face to face. I like that in some ways because it 'preserves the decencies'. But it can also tempt us into forgetting we are speaking and acting in an essentially public forum.

And we are. If you don't care who's watching, or how your words may affect others, by all means carry on. If what you're doing is consistent with your values I think you have nothing to change.

But if you think about this, and conclude that (in real life) adults generally don't find this sort of thing socially acceptable in mixed company, I think you have to ask yourself: why is that? And I also think you have to ask the next logical question: is this such a valuable activity that it's worth offending so many people? I know that every day I wave off I can't tell you how many posts because I know they would offend liberal readers. Or men. I censor what I write out of a general feeling that there is no reason to say absolutely everything on my mind. This is not to say I never cross the line or make mistakes. I've done that more times than I'm proud of.

But the notion that just because we're on the Internet there should be no limits, or that we can throw out all social conventions, is not one I believe conservatives want to hang their hats on.

Just a thought, guys. Feel free to let me know what you think, tactfully and thoughtfully.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:00 AM | Comments (85) | TrackBack

Photo of the Day

February1108.3.small.jpg

Somewhere in my collection of photos there is one of my youngest son at the age of 3. It is Thanksgiving at my parents' house, and he is all dandied up in a natty looking tweed suit and tie. His hair is neatly parted and combed, and he is standing in the center of the kitchen floor holding a very large cucumber.

He has exactly the same look on his face as this border collie. Twenty two years later we still tease him about 'the cucumber look'.

CWCID

Posted by Cassandra at 08:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 07, 2008

Something Beautiful

Via Lex

rays.jpg

Posted by Cassandra at 01:13 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The War On Our Armed Forces?

About a year ago I told my husband, newly posted to Baghdad, that I was glad he was no longer in the United States.

Back then, I sensed the beginnings of a disturbing shift in public opinion. It began in the Spring of 2007 with Harry Reid's repeated statements that we were losing the war, and his insinuations that Generals Petraeus and Pace were untrustworthy and dishonest. At the time I found these statements both dishonorable and alarming. It's one thing to disagree with someone politically.

It's quite another for the Senate Majority leader to publicly ascribe, during wartime and on no evidence, venal motives to a military officer who has done nothing more than to attempt to carry out his Congressionally mandated responsibilities as commander of Multinational Forces Iraq. Since that time, we've seen a rise in verbal and physical attacks on military personnel, both in here in American and overseas. In Great Britain wounded soldiers have even been openly mocked in public. I don't think this is a coincidence. When our public servants revile our armed forces, those who oppose the very existence of an all-volunteer military are encouraged to lash out against it.

Jules Crittenden finds this story a sad commentary on the once-proud British Empire, but in a nation where - in an astonishing defiance of the Constitutional rights they claim to be protecting - the Berkeley City Council grants Code Pink exclusive license to physically harass and bar entry to patrons of a Marine Recruiting station, should we really be surprised? And while we're on the subject, how many of you knew that Berkeley recruiting station was an OSO - in other words - an OFFICER recruiting station?

That's right. They don't recruit children, they are only interested in college graduates. Theoretically at least, it ought to be pretty difficult to deceive affluent, well educated college graduates with a Berkeley, CA zip code into believing they won't have to go to war if they sign on the dotted line. Not easy to confiscate all those copies of Saving Private Ryan and Full Metal Jacket. Who knew Marines go to war, especially during wartime? But just in case any college-educated morons do choose to exercise their Constitutional right to listen to that lying recruiting pitch, Code Pink stands ready to commit physical assault (IOW, engage in violence) to prevent them from hearing Constitutionally protected speech.

And though "violence never solves anything", it certainly proves efficacious for standing up for your First Amendment Rights stopping your fellow American citizens from exercising perfectly legal choices you happen to disapprove of. But though some seem to have forgotten why it is necessary to have a military, others remember:

Michael Lyons discusses the differences between his military experience and his son's. As he tells it, he was drafted but his son, "there being no draft", joined the Marines without any help or encouragement from him. He is, Mr. Lyons says, truly a volunteer. To Michael Lyons, his military uniform was just clothes. But when his son dons his Marine uniform, it becomes part of his persona. And yet the anti-war Left wants to strip away personal choice and force military conscription on an unwilling populace.

Part of what I have always believed makes this country great is that there are men and women who believe so deeply in the values we stand for that they are willing to give their lives, if need be, to defend them. No one is forced. The come forth willingly in such numbers that we need no draft. That is a great thing.

Sadly, there are people who are deeply ashamed of America. Some of them are running for President. They offer a competing vision of what values should make Americans proud:

“The person who made me proudest of all,” Obama wrote, “was Roy. Actually, now we call him Abongo, his Luo name, for two years ago he decided to reassert his African heritage. He converted to Islam, and has sworn off pork and tobacco and alcohol.”

Meanwhile, Obama remained sharply critical of what he called “the religious absolutism of the Christian right.”

In “Audacity,” the senator wrote that such believers insist “not only that Christianity is America’s dominant faith, but that a particular, fundamentalist brand of that faith should drive public policy, overriding any alternative source of understanding, whether the writings of liberal theologians, the findings of the National Academy of Sciences, or the words of Thomas Jefferson.”

Obama's understanding of history and Constitutional law seem to be a bit flawed. The letters of Thomas Jefferson have no effective force in American jurisprudence and as for religious absolutism, Christianity drove the abolition movement which freed American blacks from slavery.

And as for his brother's African Muslim roots, Mr. Obama might do well to consider the role Islam played (and continues to play to this day) in the African slave trade. Or does he find that an inconvenient truth?

The fact is that whether people like Barack Obama like it or not, the rule of law cannot exist without an enforcement arm. When so-called 'peace activists' begin violating the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens in the name of freedom, alarms should begin sounding in the heads of reasonable Americans. When public servants order law abiding soldiers not to wear their uniforms for fear of inciting attacks, or call off scheduled drills to avoid "scaring" the citizenry, something is deeply wrong. And we know where this all started.

There is a difference between freedom and license and law means nothing if we are not protected from the depredations of our fellow citizens. This is a lesson Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi would do well to consider before the set in motion an ugly reprise of the ugliness that tore this nation apart during Vietnam.

Hundreds of Vietnam-era veterans have publicly claimed in recent decades that they were spat on by citizens or anti-war protesters because of their military status, either before they went to Vietnam, when they were on leave, or after their returned from overseas. Yet several journalists and at least one scholar, sociologist Jerry Lembcke of Holy Cross, think that such things never happened, that they are an “urban legend.” Lembcke claims: “Stories of spat-upon Vietnam veterans are bogus.”

...Contrary to Lembcke’s claims, I quite easily found many accounts published in the 1967-1972 period claiming spitting on servicemen.

After the Vietnam war, a nation stood by and watched as its defenders were shamed and spat upon. During the 2004** election it sat silent once more as a Presidential candidate who had defamed those same defenders on the Senate floor in 1973 once more impugned the honor of some of America's most decorated war heroes. Will history repeat itself? And if it is not to do so, who will stop it this time?

** Many thanks to Dan for catching my mistake! I originally typed '2000'.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:39 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Coffee Snorters, Beatbox Edition

Get down with your bad self, y'all...

And it's healthy, too:

Shaunah Gordon is covered in coleslaw after being pinned by coleslaw wrestling champion Angela Kosobud, during the double elimination event at a coleslaw wrestling contest...

The coleslaw wrestling took place at Sopotnick's Cabbage Patch in Samsula, Florida on Wednesday. Somehow, you just knew this was going to be in Florida, didn't you?

Oh. Like you people come here to read my posts?

This was so preventable. Why was did no one think about the easy access to oak by-products?:

A man has been cited for misdemeanor animal taunting for allegedly tossing acorns at a rhinoceros at the San Francisco Zoo, police said Friday.

Police said they were summoned to the zoo at 3:30 p.m. Thursday after a patron reported to officials that Zuluaga was picking acorns off a branch and tossing them at the black rhino, a male named Mashaki. Zuluaga was with another man, who was not cited.

The animal appeared unfazed, police Sgt. Steve Mannina said.

Zuluaga told authorities that he had been trying to get the rhino's attention, said Lora LaMarca, spokeswoman for the zoo. "He tried whistling at (the animal), then grabbed a branch and took acorns off it," she said.

The person who saw Zuluaga had reported the incident by calling a hot line number on one of the recently posted signs, LaMarca said.

Before the Christmas Day tiger attack, it was unusual for citations to be issued for animal taunting, LaMarca said. Typically, offenders were simply escorted out of the zoo, she said.

"Of course, we are at a far higher level now," she said.

As for Zuluaga, she said, "He's an adult. He should know better."

Exactly. But has anyone looked at the correlation between the burgeoning problem of unregulated oak groves and unprovoked rhino attacks? I thought not.

Guess the party:

Bazan has retained much of his support in the region despite his conviction on theft charges in 2006.

While he was under criminal indictment in 2004, he won re-election by more than 1,000 votes over his closest competitor.

His conviction on those charges didn't sway voters this year for Bazan, who is popular for his policies of patrolling the streets around area schools and providing free escort services for funerals.

On Tuesday, he got more than 63 percent of the total vote in a race in which nearly 5,900 votes were cast in unofficial returns. He got almost 2,000 votes over Leal.

After a jury found him guilty of getting personal use of a car his deputies seized, a state licensing board revoked Bazan's peace officer's license in 2006. Bazan, who is appealing that conviction, has kept his post despite efforts by Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra to remove him.

Last year, the Texas attorney general issued a legal opinion that suggested constables do not necessarily need a law enforcement license to hold their office.

Hmmm... must be the acorns:

Posted by Cassandra at 07:20 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 06, 2008

How Dumb Can WaPo Readers Get?

Well, to all appearances the bar is set pretty low. Over the past few days erudite readers of my hometown paper have fallen all over themselves protesting the fact that Charlotte Allen was "allowed" to insult their intelligence with this travesty of a column in Sunday's Outlook section.

They may have a point. Surely it didn't take a rocket scientist to predict that readers who consider this an appropriate response to an opinion piece might be a bit defensive on the subject of IQ:

Hey, did you hear about that time some dumb, past-her-prime, femme-hating lady penned the worst single opinion piece in the history of the Washington Post? Yeah, we thought you had. I've already had a couple of riveting things to say about it elsewhere. And, recommended: Jezebelles Moe and Megan give it the point-by-point takedown it deserves.

Obviously, compounding the stupidity of the original piece is the lame walk-back attempt made by Outlook editor John Pomfret this morning, who defended the piece on the grounds that it was a "tongue-in-cheek" attempt at humor. That would be a decent enough excuse if Charlotte Allen was some sort of noted humorist, but so far as I have been able to ascertain, she's only notable for misogyny.

Still, this "tongue-in-cheek" style that Pomfret describes sure is intriguing, and sounds like an enjoyable milieu in which to write. So if I were to attest to the fact that Outlook Editor John Pomfret was a dumb son-of-a-whore who lacks the common sense that God gave a wet bag of grapefruit husks, and whose lack of evident competence at his job points to the sad truth that his upward career trajectory has been earned mainly on the strength at how willing he was to blow his bosses with the eagerness and aggressive enthusiasm of a rabid raccoon ferreting through a dumpster for tiny scraps of spoiled food and thus is in no way deserving of a post of responsibility at a major daily newspaper, I would certainly hope that Mr. Pomfret takes it in the "tongue-in-cheek" spirit of this wretched Charlotte Allen piece that he continues to champion.

Hope I've "packaged" this piece with sufficient clarity, asshole.

I suppose we may be thankful the author did not insult our intelligence by engaging in hyperbole or ad hominem attacks.

Seriously, I've read Allen's original column three or four times now and for the life of me I still can't understand what all the fuss is about. If one absolutely, in the face of all that is reasonable, insists on taking it as some sort of scholarly treatise on female intelligence rather than a lighthearted poke at the foibles of the fairer sex, I suppose it's possible to work up a really righteous wad of indignation.

But what then? Do various commentators really mean to suggest that it's now off limits in the United States of America to voice opinions they disagree with in a publicly owned newspaper? Since when did the Taliban move here?

Or, perhaps, is it their intent that a vocal minority of readers ought to be able to shout down unpopular opinions? For instance, if the editors of the Post get enough hate mail, should they shush up writers who pen anything controversial? Great, because I really detest liberal writers and I'm sick of having my blood pressure go through the roof when I see them in the Post. Now I know how to ensure the Post only prints what I want it to print: my friends and I will just engineer hate mail campaigns every time we see something we dislike and intimidate the Post into refusing to publish anything that might inflame the huddled masses. How is this any different than what went on over in Denmark with the Mohammed cartoons?

Oh. You mean intimidation is acceptable when it's used to suppress ideas you disagree with? Got it.

If women wanted to prove Ms. Allen's point, they could hardly do better than to behave exactly as they have this week: i.e., erupt like a bunch of overemotional harpies on a PMS jag. And pardon me, but it doesn't help to have Ed Morrissey fanning the flames:

Allen also does something else in this essay that deserves condemnation, albeit slightly more subtly. She denigrates those who choose to stay home and make motherhood and family their primary ambition. Instead of recognizing it as a valid choice for strong, independent women, Allen makes it sounds as if women are suited for nothing else. That shortchanges women whose capabilities allow them a wide range of choices but whose priorities unselfishly focus on the people closest to them.

Pardon me. Ms. Allen did nothing of the sort. Mr. Morrissey should work on his reading comprehension skills. How do Ms. Allen's words "denigrate those who stay at home"?

I don't understand why more women don't relax, enjoy the innate abilities most of us possess (as well as the ones fewer of us possess) and revel in the things most important to life at which nearly all of us excel: tenderness toward children and men and the weak and the ability to make a house a home.

I was a stay at home wife and mother for 18 years. I don't know about you; perhaps it's those superior female verbal skills of mine, but being told my own sex excels at "the things most important to life" sounds more like an accolade than an insult to these all untutored ears. Your mileage, of course, may vary. One must look awfully hard to find disparagement, but Ed manages to reach for the rose and find the thorn. But he's hardly alone in the humor-impaired crowd screaming "off with her head"! Lisa Schiffren perceives rank sexism in Allen's send-up of ditzy chicks who faint at Obama rallies:

The rationale for the piece appears to be the admittedly quite disturbing phenomenon of adult women literally swooning at Obama rallies. Allen makes the same analogy that has occurred to me: These women look like the teenage girls at Beatles concerts, fainting and wetting their seats, circa 1964. Disturbing, to be sure. But that was a mass phenomenon in a repressed age. The Obama business is considerably more limited in scope. Anyway, what does this prove about women's intelligence? It proves, for sure, that certain kinds of generally sexualized "fan" behavior have become acceptable, and leached from the popular culture to the political culture, which, post-Bill Clinton, is no surprise at all. More specifically, it suggests that some "fans" (and this applies equally to men and women), don't really know in which realm "Obama the phenom" belongs. And thirdly — yes, it's just plain embarassing behavior. You'd think the Obama campaign would want to squelch it, since he isn't really angling to get on the Ed Sullivan show, and it trivializes his appeal.

Let's walk through the "logic" of Lisa's argument, such as it is:

1. The "women" who swooned over the Beatles were really only girls.

2. Plus, that was in a "repressed age" where such pent up feelings naturally might become overwhelming, especially to an immature and unsophisticated person; hence the fainting.

3. The women who swoon over Obama are full grown adults.

4. We no longer live in a repressed age.

5. Therefore, these full-grown, unrepressed women are fainting because....

Yeah. And while we're at it, how dare Charlotte Allen imply fainting is a sex-linked characteristic!

Does a certain type of man swoon and faint in the same way? I don't know.

Well gosh, Lisa. Maybe someone in the media can tell you. Have you asked?

Exactly how many men have fainted at Obama rallies? Could it be that Ms. Allen's criticisms contain more than a grain of Inconvenient Truth? Could it be, possibly, that this is precisely why you (and apparently others) find them so upsetting?

I don't know about you, Lisa, but as a woman in a technical field I've spent years fighting the perception that women ARE ditzy, overemotional, and prone to making ill-informed decisions. So I really don't appreciate it when I see other women playing into those stereotypes.

On the other hand, it doesn't bother me one bit when a women points out that women who DO play into those stereotypes are acting like jackasses because that shows that not all of us approve of that sort of behavior. And I don't think much of people who apologize for that sort of behavior.

The phrase "the soft bigotry of low expectations" comes to mind. You may have heard it bandied about. Sorry, but I expect more from women in general. If you find that harsh, I'm afraid you'll have to dislike me too.

I'm not sure this particular column was Charlotte Allen's best work, but it certainly isn't worth the snit fit it seems to have provoked among humor impaired folks who ought to know better. Both men and women as general classes of people have their funny quirks. Not all of us behave in these ways, but when we lose our ability to laugh at the funny (and often painful) sides of both personal and political life, we are in danger of losing a part of our souls.

Grow up. And more importantly, lighten up. It was just a column, hardly the sort of thing that imperils the Republic. If we're going to begin censoring lighthearted commentary about the differences between the sexes out of some misguided feeling that women are too fragile to handle a little criticism, then we aren't ready to compete with men in the boardroom, the battlefield, or the classroom and this childish outcry, far from than strengthening confidence in our rightful place in American life, both undermines and erodes it.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:59 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

March 05, 2008

What The Lamestream Media Taught Me About Deployment

Well sports fans, this is it. The Princesses' year long Sojourn in Heck is officially finito. Kaput. So over.

As rosy finger'd dawn (the slut!) traipsed across the western Maryland sky this morning, yours truly sprang from betwixt the marital sheets and shuffled down the hall to rustle up a steaming mug of liquid stamina. But this time a quietly amused smile could be observed upon her lips. The year ended much as it began; more a droll procession of minor inconveniences than the tidal wave of tragedy so often depicted in countless lurid news stories as we Desperate Military Wives heroically Take Yet Another One for the DeciderTM**. Now that it's all over, I have to say I'm not sure I could have survived this year without the comic relief invaluable guidance provided by the mainstream media. It was sort of like being given your own personal copy of What to Expect When You're Neglected by a Reckless and Uncaring Bush Administration.

But that's military life, isn't it? The ups and downs are accepted with equanimity, if not without the occasional grumble or two. But the media quickly seize on that grumbling and blow it out of all proportion to whatever trivial nuisance caused it in the first place, because to them we're all damaged souls teetering on the edge of a complete mental meltdown. This is fortunate, however; because if we can somehow manage to get professional psychiatric help (preferably in a remote residential facility with secure locks on all the doors and windows) before our psychotic PTSD-addled spouses return, they won't be able to murder us in our sleep!

Life is full of fluffy, comforting thoughts like these.

The thing is, the myriad natural shocks to which all flesh is heir aren't that much easier to deal with when your S.O. is stateside. Though it's great to have someone with which to share the joys of the connubial estate, military men work long hours whether they're deployed or at home. Honestly, when was the last time your paladin-in-shining-armor left work and raced hell-for-leather to your side simply because the plumber was a rude pig or the cat threw up in the toe of your brand-new Manolo Blahnik pumps?

Yeah, I thought so. But don't tell that to Dana Priest. It plays all hell with that compelling narrative.

One of Al Gore's aptly-named inconvenient truths is that daily mishaps may drive us nearly to distraction when they occur but - if we can only avoid the dreaded Sense of Humor Failure - they make for some durned entertaining dinner conversation, no es verdad? And isn't that what life is all about; finding that golden thread of joy running through the quotidian muck we call living?

Thankfully, enlightened readers of the NYT and WaPo know better than to let themselves be distracted by that kind of Pollyanna-ish rhetoric. That's exactly how the Men in Tinfoil Hats want us to think. Happiness and self-sufficiency are Prozac for the addled masses; give in to their seductive power and you'll soon find yourself liking the way you feel with that smile on your face; slipping down the otter slide to Hell towards nasty encounters with logic, and facts.

And we all know where *that* sort of thing leads. Before you know it, you could end up voting Republican. Or something far worse, if indeed there is such a thing, which one rather doubts.

Far better to cultivate that healthy sense of grievance which can only be properly addressed by free government babysitting, sensational press coverage chock full of Anecdotal Evidence of Misery, the inevitable Congressional inquiry and yet another spanking new DoD entitlement program targeted at "our brave warriors and their families" by The 110th Congress: strengthening military families by making more room at the federal trough.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Fourth Estate, this time around the Princess knew to watch The Unit like a hawk for signs of trouble. If the articles she'd read this year were any indication, neither she nor the spousal unit had Suffered Nearly Enough to suit the lamestream media. Indeed, our very lack of dysfunction - in and of itself - was a Suspicious Sign. It clearly signaled co-option by Darth Rummy into support for an illegal, immoral war for oil. Any time a majority of the American people no longer support the brutal armed occupation of Irak, any time the American people have not been asked to Sacrifice, any time the burden falls on too few (no matter that they gladly volunteered, and continue to volunteer, for the job), our foolish, misguided continuing support must be considered coerced by those who are obviously better informed than we (having read numerous articles by professional reporters who can be trusted to give us the real story, though naturally Iraq remains far too dangerous for them to get out and do any firsthand reporting).

Fortunately, their anonymous sources are preferable to the biased reports of people whose names we do know; people who are actually on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan day in and day out. But what do they know? They're obviously too close to the subject to deliver a reliable and informed assessment.

All snark aside, I do have some serious reflections on this year. They will appear shortly, after the jump.


** for the sarcasm impaired, this is a joke. Try not to choke on that pretzel.

Back when I was in high school, it occurred to me during English class that getting things right the first time may not be the most important thing in the world. It would be nice if we always knew the answers, always performed brilliantly the first time out of the box. But often I ended up learning far more (and thinking more deeply) after listening to other students elaborate an incorrect idea than I did by listening to the supposedly smart kids explain the right one. Often I came away much wiser, and with a deeper understanding of a subject, after having made several mistakes along the way that I did when something came to me easily and I breezed through it the first time (which was far more typical for me).

This idea fascinated me for the longest time. Which was better? Quick results after a flawless first time execution or a less impressive, bumbling (but nonetheless eventually successful) first performance followed by a far deeper understanding that I could put to good use in the future?

I ended up thinking maybe it wasn't such a bad thing to struggle a bit; to fall down a few times before you got to the finish line, to take a bit longer or risk looking foolish. Maybe it wasn't all about crossing that line quickly and elegantly but partly about how you got there too; what you learned along the way that mattered?

All of which is not to say that results don't matter. They do.

But so does process, and depth of understanding, and experience.

The thing is, the media seem to get the military wrong with frightening regularity. As someone who grew up Navy, I experienced more frequent moves than I have in the Marines. My Dad was at sea for much of the time I was a young girl. So when I read the ridiculously over-hyped descriptions of families "torn apart" by frequent deployments, I have to laugh. I grew up with that. There were no 'family services'. No counselors. We had friends, neighbors, church. We had each other. We made do. My mother and mother in law dealt with it all with grace, strength, and the kind of steel I have only tried to emulate in my time in the Corps. They weren't perfect, but they were equal to the task, and more than equal.

Like Sarah, I have found deployments to be as much about opportunity as deprivation:

When a deployment is announced, we spouses put ourselves in a certain mindframe. I am sure there are many ways of dealing with the news, but my personal way is to start to focus on the things I will do while he's gone. I mentally plan a trip home to see my parents. I plan to ask for more hours at my job. I invite other friends to come visit me, since I will be all alone in the house. I start to begin conversations with my husband with, "When you're gone,..." In every way, I get myself ready for the big life changes.

And when the deployment gets called off, it throws me for a loop.

Twice in the past year and a half, my husband has been told he's deploying in two months and then been brought back from the brink at the last minute. And while I'm certainly grateful that he's been home safe with me all this time, it's still unnerving to get yourself mentally prepared for a deployment that ends up not happening.

Even though it's good news, I sometimes have a hard time letting go of the mental plans I've made. I've come up with all these fun activities to keep my mind busy, and I still want to do the fun activities. Even harder is the process of un-steeling myself emotionally. I get a month fixed in my head -- he's leaving in August -- and that's what I set my heart and mind on. August, August, August...and as it gets closer, I get more prepared for him to leave.

Sarah concludes:

...as happy as you are to hear your spouse won't be leaving in August, it's hard to undo the mental changes you've gone through.

It's hard, this mental off-and-on.

I agree. Last September I wrote:

I get so annoyed at the pitying articles in the Washington Post and the New York Times about the heartbreak of deployment, the agony of separation, about families "torn apart" by the prospect of yet another tour of duty in the sandbox. As I go about my daily routine, I don't feel heartbroken, agonized, or "torn apart". I never have. And if you ask me how I'm dealing with being all alone in this empty house, I'll tell you, "fine". And I'll smile.

I don't recognize those families I read about in the paper.

It's not that I'm in denial, or that I don't realize there are dysfunctional relationships and people in the military. I do. It's not even that I've never felt moments of self pity, loneliness, or sorrow. Of course I have. But I don't recognize the kind of self absorption that allows a person to make their own problems someone else's. I don't. And I can't. Military life isn't really any harder than civilian life. Civilian wives get divorced every day and then they have to raise their children alone. But they cope. They have to.

And like Sarah, and Carrie, and Sly, and Pau, I take my comfort where I can find it:

We are a resourceful bunch, us military spouses. We bloom where we are planted. We make lemonade out of lemons. We kick deployment gremlin butt. We do it all. But we don't do it alone. We can't (loathe though I am to admit that).

So we quilt.

We piece together our support and make a "quilt", if you will, that surrounds us and keeps us warm. Some pieces can come from our neighbors and those that live around us. Some pieces can be found in church. Or at the gym. Or at a play group. Or at work. It's colorful. It's unique. The panels may change based on the circumstances under which it's needed.

And what do you do when you can't find a piece for that quilt? A certain fabric or thread? The same thing you don when you can't find anything in the stores near you...you call friends and family in other towns, other states, and other countries. Those long distance connections can often provide us with the pieces to the quilt that we lack. And when we can't find that piece that we need any other way? Where do we turn?

Yep. eBay.

The thing is, I was so lucky this year. I got to do so many things I would never have had the opportunity to do had my husband stayed home.

I missed him terribly at times.

But in some ways, his absence was a gift that gave me the opportunity to go back in time and rediscover the person I was before we married. In solitude and sometimes even loneliness, I was forced back on my own resources. That's a good thing.

I traveled to several cities I've never seen before.

I met quite a few other bloggers for the first time, many of whom I've known for years. That's an experience I'll always treasure.

I went to the White House, barked at Barney and met George Bush; not just once but several times.

I was on TV twice! How often do you get to do that in life?

I spoke at several conferences.

I found out what I look like as a blonde and a redhead.

I learned that what happens on Dyke Street, stays on Dyke Street.

I learned to beware the Blue Hawaiian.

I went to my high school reunion after 30 years and saw myself through other people's eyes: people who don't know me as someone's wife or someone's mother; people who only remember the girl I used to be, not the woman I've become. That was strange, and interesting, and at times a bit unsettling.

I married off a son and acquired a Burrito.

And the takeaway in all of this is that moving, deployments, absences from those we love are just temporary inconveniences set in our paths. If we focus on them and the hardships they create rather than on the opportunities they offer us to understand things about ourselves, we miss out on the real wonder of life. Because life isn't meant to be a flat, boring road - it's more like a roller coaster, and even the jaw-dropping moments have something to teach us:

Cause when push comes to shove
You taste what you're made of
You might bend 'til you break
'Cause it's all you can take
On your knees you look up
Decide you've had enough
You get mad, you get strong
Wipe your hands, shake it off

Then you stand

Every time you get up and get back in the race

One more small piece of you starts to fall into place

And it's all good. As I wrote a few months ago after the only really dark time I had this year:

...for a military wife home can never be a place, really, or a time. Times change, and even the people we meet are often far less constant than they appear to be. But somehow, friends are a gleaming thread running through the hopelessly tangled skein of our lives. Pull on it, and everything suddenly slips into place effortlessly; all the snarled knots come untied. They know, without our having to tell them, certain things about us. We share, not everything – because no two people share everything – but the important things. A friend will be there to celebrate quietly with you those moments that mean something to you. And that can make all the difference, for then you carry home inside of you wherever you may roam.

Because home, you see, is the people you care about. A home is love.

And nothing, no one, no circumstance, can take that away from you. We carry it inside of us.

That is what is important.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:37 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

March 04, 2008

The Morning Stupidity Report

Dear sweet Christ, this shouldn't even require saying, but since it apparently does for some people, here goes:

One YouTube video of a Marine moron who, for some reason I feel absolutely no desire to discuss (much less understand) felt compelled to beclown himself and the United States of America by tossing what appears to be a small puppy over a cliff; however wrong/bad, horrifying and inhumane it may seem, is never going to amount to an act significant enough to encompass the entire war on terror.

A still, small voice inside my head tells me the events of the past seven years just *might* be a bit more complicated than that.

Unless, of course, you stopped thinking a long time ago and wish to see everything reduced to a gut-wrenching, emotional sound byte moment. And even if that is so, isn't it an insult to both the Iraqi and Afghan people and the nearly 4,000 US troops who have given their lives to reduce this war to the level of puppy-bouncing?

Just a thought, for those inclined to thinking as opposed to emoting.

On the otter heiny, this video may be the answer to the question Charlotte Allen asked this weekend in the WaPo.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:14 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

March 03, 2008

Hi Guys

Sorry for the lack of posting and general lameness.

Lot going on right now. I will be back tomorrow, I promise. Just really busy.

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