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May 31, 2008

I See White People: Obama's Politics of Oppression

Glenn Reynolds links to this account of a recent sermon at Obama's church, Trinity United:

Pfleger, described by Moss as "a friend of Trinity . . . a brother beloved . . . a preacher par excellence . . . a prophetic, powerful pulpiteer . . . our friend . . . our brother," delivers a hateful rant against Hillary Clinton:

When Hillary was crying [gesturing tears, uproarious laughter from audience]--and people said that was put-on--I really don't believe it was put-on.

I really believe that she just always thought "This is mine" [laughter, hoots]. "I'm Bill's wife. I'm white. And this is mine. And I jus' gotta get up. And step into the plate." And then out of nowhere came, "Hey, I'm Barack Obama." And she said: "Oh, damn! Where did you come from!?!?!" [Crowd going nuts, Pfleger screaming]. "I'm white! I'm entitled! There's a black man stealing my show." [Sobs.] She wasn't the only one crying! There was a whole lotta white people cryin'!

Who is Michael Pfleger? As we noted last month, he is a strong supporter of Louis Farrakhan and has been described as a "spiritual adviser" to Obama. He also publicly threatened the life of a Chicago businessman and, according to one report, "is known for climbing ladders to deface liquor billboards."

In his Trinity United oration, Pfleger asserted that white people have a moral obligation to surrender their assets, which, he suggested, properly belong to blacks (the video clip begins in midsentence):

--honest enough to address the one who says, "Well, don't hold me responsible [gesticulating] for what my ancestors did." But you have enjoyed the benefits of what your ancestors did and unless you are ready to give up the benefits [voice rising], throw away your 401 fund, throw away your trust fund, throw away all the money you put into the company you walked into because yo' daddy and yo' granddaddy and yo' greatgranddaddy--[screaming at the top of his lungs]--unless you're willing to give up the benefits, then you must be responsible for what was done in your generation 'cuz you are the beneficiary of this insurance policy!

Pleger's divisive rant reminded me forcibly of a comment by Barack Obama that received remarkably little attention. The occasion was the aftermath of Rev. Wright's attack on his former protege:

Q. ...the strain of theology that he preached, black liberation theology, you explained something about the anger, that feeds some of the sentiments in the church, in Philadelphia.

How important a strain is liberation theology in the black church? And why did you choose to attend a church that preached that?

OBAMA: ...you know, what I do think can happen, and I didn't see this as a member of the church but I saw it yesterday, is when you start focusing so much on the plight of the historically oppressed, that you lose sight of what we have in common; that it overrides everything else; that we're not concerned about the struggles of others because we're looking at things only through a particular lens. Then it doesn't describe properly what I believe, in the power of faith, to overcome but also to bring people together.

Isn't it interesting that Obama, who is half white, "didn't see" that this kind of rhetoric is deeply divisive and hurtful to whites; that it is ultimately counterproductive; that it contradicts everything he purports to stand for; that it is, in fact, racist, until he himself was attacked by his former mentor?

Sometimes things look different when you're on the outside, looking in. Less comfortable, somehow.

Posted by Cassandra at 11:34 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

The McCain/Armitage Connection: On Nurturing Vipers

Once upon a time there was a serpent who was badly injured in a fight with another animal. It managed to slither away to safety but would have surely died if a benevolent man had not seen it suffering by the side of the road. The goodly man carefully wrapped the snake up and took it to his house, where he bestowed the kindest and gentlest care on the snake until it was healed and could return to the wild. Just as the man was releasing the serpent back into the grass, the ungrateful snake turned and bit him on the hand.

"What did you do that for?" cried the man, who knew that the bite of this particular snake was usually fatal. "Didn't I take care of you when no one else would?"

The snake shrugged (no small feat for a snake!) and replied to the benevolent--and now doomed-- man, "What did you expect? You knew I was a snake when you picked me up."

- CWCID: Dr. Sanity

As the Scott McClellan debacle continues to implode, John McCain may wish to reconsider the wisdom of clasping vipers to his bosom:

The worry about Mr. McCain is centered among a group of foreign policy realists who have long been close to him and who lost out to the hawks in the intense ideological battles of the first term of the current White House. The group includes former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage and Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser to the first President Bush.

Notably, it was Richard Armitage who was the leaker of Valerie Plame's so-called "secret identity". It was Armitage who, knowing full well he had been the leaker, allowed the White House to become embroiled in the Plame scandal after his boss George Bush called for anyone with knowledge of the affair to step forward. In this he was aided and abetted by one Colin Powell.

But that is not the last of his offenses. Armitage had previously shown himself to be a less than reliable member of the administration. Clarice Feldman explains:

Washington offers numerous opportunities for high officials bent on undermining the Will of Congress, as well as the Chief Executive and his explicit, lawful directives. Richard Armitage, as we now know, ignored an express Presidential Directive in the Plame investigation when he failed to notify the White House that he was the source of the leak to Bob Novak.

But that was not the first time Mr. Armitage has disregarded the President's explicit orders.

Rumors abounded for years that he and Secretary of State Colin Powell regularly undermined the Administration and its plans in countless other ways respecting Iraq. Most of those claims are not capable of proof because they consisted of anonymous information supplied to reporters and others. But one case breaks that mold: the killing of Liberty TV.

Legislation was passed funding Liberty TV, a channel to be aimed at Iraqi and other Arab audiences. The President signed the budget authorizing it to start spending the Treasury's funds. The political branches of government had spoken. Yet Liberty TV never saw the light of day.

I have offered the Department of State an opportunity to explain why the appropriated funds for this program were never spent and have received no reply. Relying on a GAO report, documents, contemporary news accounts and interviews, I have reconstructed what happened.

Feldman's investigation into the affair reveals shocking behavior on the part of Armitage:

On January 18, 2002, Richard Armitage was working to cut off all funds to finance Liberty TV. In a meeting with representatives from the Near East Affairs Office (NEA) of the State Department (Mr. Krajeski and Ms. Lempert and Portz), the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the State Department, NEA's Deputy Director announced they were cutting off all funds to the INC.

The only basis for concern on the record was a minor audit issue (about $14,000 spent to rent an office in a residential apartment not permitted under the grant) which was quickly resolved. (The accounting rules of these grants are fairly arcane, and it is far from unusual for grantees to have some audit issues at the outset. In any event, the INC quickly resolved this single issue, adopted a sound accounting program and was fully compliant after the initial utterly minor problem.)

The Inspector General's Berman expressed shock at the suggestion.

'During the interim period after the report is issued—we don't do this to other grantees (cut off funding until all recommendations are completed).' He also observed that 'other grantees take years to make implementations and the funding continues.'

More, he told the Near East Affairs, He 'didn't think' that politically the funding could be cut.

Ms Ropella of the OIG added that the INC response showed they were making a 'good faith effort' at compliance with the audit requirements.

Nevertheless, Krajeski said that the Deputy Secretary (Armitage) 'makes all decisions' and that 'he'd make the final decision.' Though he acknowledged that 'Congress loves Liberty TV' and that 'the newspaper (produced by the INC) is pretty good'.

So desirous was NEA of getting the OIG to do the dirty work of cutting off the Liberty TV funding, Lempert resurrected an accusation by an INC rival which had been reported to the Department in 2001, fully investigated and found baseless. OIG reported in due course that this allegation had been found baseless and detailed the thoroughness of the investigative process which had established that conclusion.

By April 5, 2002, the Department of State's Near East Office (Dave Pierce, Tom Krajeski and Yael Lempert and Anna Mary Portz) made it clear in a meeting with OIG that Richard Armitage bore animus to Ahmed Chalabi and the INC and his representatives at the meeting announced

'If the OIG recommended to discontinue funding, then Armitage would discontinue it.'

This was in effect a directive to OIG to falsely state that the INC had failed to abide by the Department's audit rules. The GAO wrote,

'Although several accounting and internal control weaknesses were identified, OIG officials said that they found no evidence concerning the prior accusations of fraud. An INCSF representative acknowledged that it had financial management and accountability weaknesses in the early stages of the agreements. However, the representative believed that INCSF made significant improvements in late 2001 and early 2002 to correct the weaknesses and to respond to the OIG audit.'

Two more meetings on this topic occurred in May with representatives of the NEA and OIG.

In the May 17 meeting NEA's Lempert asked the OIG for assistance with 'NEA's desire to 'shut down the INC''

In a follow—up meeting on May 21, Ms. Lempert described action Armitage had taken with respect to cutting INC's funding. He was angry that INC would not reveal the names of those involved in the INC's Intelligence Collection Program. Chalabi refused to do that because in the past when he had, these sources were killed. The amendments to the grant with Armitage imposed, placed the INC Liberty TV operation on a month—to—month basis, making it impossible to plan, hire, or obtain equipment as it was attempting to establish itself.

In sum, by imposing intolerable funding restraints, Armitage condemned Liberty TV to failure.

Ms Lempert never faced Congressional scrutiny for her attempt to induce the OIG to falsely allege auditing irregularities and thwart the will of Congress that the program be funded. She was shifted to Baghdad to work on the reconstruction, and was promoted to the staff of Under Secretary of State Marc Grossman, a critical witness against Scooter Libby in the pending Plame case.

Her boss Krajeski was named US Ambassador to Yemen.

But it gets even better. Several Senators personally intervened after the invasion of Iraq to try and reinstate Congressionally-mandated funding for Liberty TV (let's keep in mind that Richard Armitage had now single-handedly thwarted the will of Congress):

Members of the Senate tried repeatedly without success to overturn Armitage's actions and get Liberty TV up and running.

On March 27, 2003, Senators Brownback, Santorum, Kyl, McCain and Coleman wrote to the President emphasizing how urgent was the full funding of the INC. The Senators reported:

Despite several assurances from the highest levels of the State Department that this issue would be resolved, including the most recent appearance of Secretary Powell before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee just weeks ago, TV Liberty—the main vehicle for broadcasting into Iraq, remains off the air due to lack of funds.

So Secretary Powell either aided and abetted Armitage as he did in concealing Armitage's role in the Plame leak (which was going on during this same time frame) or he proved unable to control his direct subordinate. Either way, the funding for Liberty TV was not reinstated:

The Senators received word that the President had directed Armitage to release the funds, but he did not release them all, and the restrictions he placed on the INC effectively put the INC on such a short leash that it was impossible to carry out Liberty TV's operations.

Many readers have wondered why I have such a low opinion of Colin Powell. He continues to be revered in the media.

A man who covertly undermines his direct superior while refusing to resign his position, in my book, has surrendered any claim to integrity or professionalism. Richard Armitage is worse.

The question is, why would John McCain seek this man's advice on anything?

Posted by Cassandra at 10:52 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

It's Bathing Suit Season! Caption Contest


This is KJ's fault. We refuse to accept responsibility for any residual psychic trauma resulting from having viewed this image. That said, have at it.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:42 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

May 30, 2008

Attention, Crimethtopperth

That ain't no mathk... Key quote:

"You see these two guys wearing, basically, panties over their heads to disguise themselves," said Police Spokeswoman Susan Medina. "But the bottom line is: this is a serious crime."

What we want to know is, where in the helk was BillT?

We just want to reiterate:

"Yes their methods were unorthodox. Panties over your head--very strange. But what they did was very serious..."

Posted by Cassandra at 03:27 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

May 29, 2008

Women Voters As A Destabilizing Social Force

Interesting theory from John Lott: has the increasing presence of female voters in the electorate acted as a destabilizing influence on society? My phrasing is much stronger than his, but I believe this is the logical implication of his thesis:

Can women's suffrage in the late 19th and early 20th centuries help explain the growth of government?

While the timing of the two events is suggestive, other changes during this time could have played a role. For example, some argue that Americans became more supportive of bigger government due to the success of widespread economic regulations imposed during World War I.

A good way to analyze the direct effect of women's suffrage on the growth of government is to study how each of the 48 state governments expanded after women obtained the right to vote.

Women's suffrage was first granted in western states with relatively few women — Wyoming (1869), Utah (1870), Colorado (1893) and Idaho (1896). Women could vote in 29 states before women's suffrage was achieved nationwide in 1920 with the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

If women's right to vote increased government, our analysis should show a few definite indicators. First, suffrage would have a bigger impact on government spending and taxes in states with a greater percentage of women. And secondly, the size of government in western states should steadily expand as women comprise an increasing share of their population.

Even after accounting for a range of other factors — such as industrialization, urbanization, education and income — the impact of granting of women's suffrage on per capita state government expenditures and revenue was startling.

Per capita state government spending after accounting for inflation had been flat or falling during the 10 years before women began voting. But state governments started expanding the first year after women voted and continued growing until within 11 years real per capita spending had more than doubled. The increase in government spending and revenue started immediately after women started voting.

Yet, as suggestive as these facts are, we must still consider whether suffrage itself caused the growth in government, or did the government expand due to some political or social change that accompanied women's right to vote?

Fortunately, there was a unique aspect of suffrage that allows us to answer this question: Of the 19 states that had not passed women's suffrage before the approval of the 19th Amendment, nine approved the amendment, while the other 12 had suffrage imposed on them.

If some unknown factor caused both a desire for larger government and women's suffrage, then government should have only grown in states that voluntarily adopted suffrage. This, however, is not the case: After approving women's suffrage, a similar growth in government was seen in both groups of states.

Women's suffrage also explains much of the federal government's growth from the 1920s to the 1960s. In the 45 years after the adoption of suffrage, as women's voting rates gradually increased until finally reaching the same level as men's, the size of state and federal governments expanded as women became an increasingly important part of the electorate.

But the battle between the sexes does not end there. During the early 1970s, just as women's share of the voting population was leveling off, something else was changing: The American family began to break down, with rising divorce rates and increasing numbers of out-of-wedlock births.

Over the course of women's lives, their political views on average vary more than those of men. Young single women start out being much more liberal than their male counterparts and are about 50 percent more likely to vote Democratic. As previously noted, these women also support a higher, more progressive income tax as well as more educational and welfare spending.

But for married women this gap is only one-third as large. And married women with children become more conservative still. Women with children who are divorced, however, are suddenly about 75 percent more likely to vote for Democrats than single men. So as divorce rates have increased, due in large part to changing divorce laws, voters have become more liberal.

Women's suffrage ushered in a sea change in American politics that affected policies aside from taxes and the size of government. For example, states that granted suffrage were much more likely to pass Prohibition, for the temperance movement was largely dominated by middle-class women. Although the "gender gap" is commonly thought to have arisen only in the 1960s, female voting dramatically changed American politics from the very beginning.

Question: Lott mentions that the American family began to "fall apart" just as the numbers of female voters began to level off. He notably fails to mention another sea change that took place in the American electorate at just about that time: the influx of illegal immigrants.

What, if any, effect could this have had on the ever expanding role of the federal government?

Also, he conflates two types of political influence I don't think are rightly conflated: allowing women to vote and the willingness of Americans to vote for a female President. Those are vastly different propositions: one can be entirely willing to allow women to vote while being unwilling to see a woman in the Oval Office. What do you think of Lott's thesis?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:52 AM | Comments (51) | TrackBack

Obama as Robin Hood: Why Soaking the Rich Doesn't Work

For months now, Barack Obama has been campaigning as a latter-day Robin Hood. He touts a vision of an America in which he will take from the evil rich and give liberally (pun fully intended) to the worthy poor:

John McCain has served his country with honor, and I respect that service. But for two decades, he has supported policies that have shifted the burden on to working people. And his only answer to the problems created by George Bush’s policies is to give them another four years to fail. Just look at where he stands and you’ll see that a vote for John McCain is a vote for George Bush’s third term.

Four more years of George Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans who don’t need them and didn’t ask for them.

Four more years of a health care plan that works for the healthy and the wealthy while tens of millions go without care, and families struggle with rising costs.

...Four more years of a White House that is run by the kind of lobbyists who run John McCain’s campaign, while Washington tells the American people – “you’re on your own.”

... We can’t continue an economic program that rewards Wall Street at the expense of Main Street because then we all end up hurting. It’s time to end a failed approach that tries to build prosperity from the top down, and renew our common prosperity from the bottom up.

Instead of a tax code that rewards wealth and not work, we’ll provide an income tax cut of up to $1,000 for a working family, and eliminate income taxes altogether for any retiree making less than $50,000 per year.

Instead of more inaction on health care, we’ll finally bring this country together, stand up to the drug companies and insurance companies, and make health care affordable and accessible for every single American.

Instead of putting a secure retirement at risk, we’ll safeguard Social Security, we’ll protect pensions instead of CEO bonuses, and we’ll help all Americans save more so they can have a retirement that is dignified and secure.

But what would Obama's hopeful change really look like? Steve Moore got out his calculator to find out:

Obama would like voters to believe that he's the second coming of JFK. But with his unbelievable spending and new-government-agency proposals he's looking more and more like Jimmy Carter. His is a "Grow the Government Bureaucracy Plan," and it's totally at odds with investment and business.

corporate.gifObama says he wants U.S. corporations to stop "shipping jobs overseas" and bring their cash back home. But if he really wanted U.S. companies to keep more of their profits in the states he'd be calling for a reduction in the corporate tax rate. Why isn't he demanding an end to the double-taxation of corporate earnings? It's simple: He wants higher taxes, too.

The Wall Street Journal's Steve Moore has done the math on Obama's tax plan. He says it will add up to a 39.6 percent personal income tax, a 52.2 percent combined income and payroll tax, a 28 percent capital-gains tax, a 39.6 percent dividends tax, and a 55 percent estate tax.

Not only is Obama the big-spending candidate, he's also the very-high-tax candidate. And what he wants to tax is capital.

Doesn't Obama understand the vital role of capital formation in creating businesses and jobs? Doesn't he understand that without capital, businesses can't expand their operations and hire more workers?

Moore is spot on. Obama's 'big money' rhetoric may be popular with disgruntled voters, but it doesn't survive a collision with the facts. Let's look at what has actually happened to tax revenues in the wake of the evil Bush administration's reduction on corporate income tax. As the chart above shows, tax receipts as a percentage of GDP increased - yet Obama can't wait to close off those horrid "loopholes" that are allowing the economy to grow and corporations to invest and hire more workers.

soak_rich.gif But the worst thing about Barack Obama's vision for change is that, like most of the Reality Based Community's plans for changing the world, it isn't based on anything even remotely resembling reality. Unfortunately for this latter-day Robin Hood, contrary to popular opinion decades worth of data show little correlation between changes in the tax rate and tax revenues. What does appear to increase tax revenues is stimulating the economy, and you don't do that by taking money out of the hands of those who have the greatest ability to produce wealth and giving it to those who are the least efficient at doing so:

The data show that the tax yield (revenues divided by GDP) has been independent of marginal tax rates from 1950 to 2007 (see chart above), but tax revenue is directly proportional to GDP. So if we want to increase tax revenue, we need to increase GDP.

What happens if we instead raise tax rates? Economists of all persuasions accept that a tax rate hike will reduce GDP, in which case Hauser's Law says it will also lower tax revenue. That's a highly inconvenient truth for redistributive tax policy, and it flies in the face of deeply felt beliefs about social justice. It would surely be unpopular today with those presidential candidates who plan to raise tax rates on the rich – if they knew about it.

Sadly for the Barack Obamas of this world, reality can sometimes spoil a perfectly good campaign promise. The question then becomes, are they willing to look at the hard data on income redistribution, even if it flies in the face of their cherished theories?

Will increasing tax rates on the rich increase revenues, as Barack Obama hopes, or hold back the economy, as John McCain fears? Or both?

Mr. Hauser uncovered the means to answer these questions definitively. On this page in 1993, he stated that "No matter what the tax rates have been, in postwar America tax revenues have remained at about 19.5% of GDP." What a pity that his discovery has not been more widely disseminated.

The chart nearby, updating the evidence to 2007, confirms Hauser's Law. The federal tax "yield" (revenues divided by GDP) has remained close to 19.5%, even as the top tax bracket was brought down from 91% to the present 35%. This is what scientists call an "independence theorem," and it cuts the Gordian Knot of tax policy debate.

The truth is out there. The question is whether Barack Obama is interested (and brave enough) to find it.

CWCID: OBH for the Carpe Diem link. Oddly enough, I'd seen the same chart along with a bunch of others this morning on the Heritage.org site, but reading that post really got me thinking!

Posted by Cassandra at 08:10 AM | Comments (29) | TrackBack

Widethpread Mithogyny Alert

Is this anything like a "wide stance" alert?

Enquiring minds want to know. Well then again, perhaps not. Key quote:

The campaign plays off regional superstitions that contact with women's panties can sap a man's power. Activists claim the fear is shared by the leaders of the country's military regime.

"If you don't believe me, you can bring this to the Yangon airport - you will be shot dead," said activist Thet Thet Tun as she clutched a pair of white undies. "So we use this against them."

... Tun, who fled the country seven years ago, described a society suffocating under state control and widespread misogyny.

"Our daily clothes are separated from a man's clothes, our towels are separated from their towels," she said. "That's what everyone still believes."

Oddly enough, here at Villa Caththandranita we have not noticed that thinging a thad, thad thong theems to thap the energy of the male of the thpecieth. In fact, it theems to have the oppothit effect.

Go figure.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:56 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

May 28, 2008

A Failure of Imagination

OMFG!!! Is Scott McClellan just the best White House secretary EVER, or *what*? Get a load of this:

"The President, he, President Bush, too, had been deceived and therefore became unwittingly involved in deceiving me.

OMG, OMG, OMG!!! Finally, the proof of what we have been telling America all along! That scummy little lying bastard lied to us without knowing that he lied!!!

Jimminy Christmas, what a day! Can you say Chimpeachment, boys and girls? I knew that you could.

Of course, the pathetic 28 percenters will be working overtime to discredit poor Scott

I'm confused about Scott McClellan's book. Without having read it, I think a couple of observations are nonetheless fair. What does it tell us when a White House insider gets outside and says that all those other people he used to work with are incompetent liars. If, as McClellan claims, the president made a "propaganda campaign" of the Iraq war, why didn't Scotty say something at the time? Why wait until he's out of the job to do the honorable thing? What kind of person continues to speak for (and cover up) a dishonest campaign for war when he knows the truth to be something else? What kind of person later says, hey, know what? That whole time I was working for the president? I thought he was a dishonest dolt, but I did it anyway . . . because...? Wait, because you were collecting material for a book? I'll tell you what kind of person does that: Someone who is either dishonest or dishonorable — or both. If the president lied, then Scott lied with him. And now we're supposed to run around grabbing books off shelves and organizing parades for this brave, forthright man who, though he always knew better, played right along?

Those 'cons. Always taking everything so bloody literally. Like it, umm.... totally, matters whether McClellan actually saw any of that stuff he talks about in his book:

DICK GREGORY: .... You go through the chapters of the book, they include things like: "The Permanent Campaign" "Deniability" "Triumph and Illusion" "Revelation and Humiliation" "Out of Touch." Just searing titles from somebody who was on the inside.

Now I just want to read something that just, I just received this morning from a former senior adviser to the White House who says, "This book has left many of Scott's closest friends puzzled and shocked. He draws broad and definitive conclusions from events in meetings that he, himself, admits he didn't even attend. He never expressed any reservations while serving. To do so in a highly publicized book is what makes people lose faith in those who work in Washington." ...

VIEIRA: ... you know McClellan well. Are you surprised that he would write such a critical book?

GREGORY: Absolutely surprised. There was never any indication that Scott McClellan, either publicly or privately, held these kinds of views about what was happening at the time on the war, on Katrina, on the leak case - which was his most difficult hour in the White House. He never expressed anything like this. This has always been a very tight-lipped White House. And he was, he was right in the center of that. He was, in many quarters, seen as a kind of a robotic press secretary. Not always the most effective, which is why he, he was removed at the time he was, when they brought in Tony Snow. But I do know that he was personally stunned by this issue with the leak case. He felt betrayed internally at the White House. He was very concerned about his credibility being tarnished and he knew, as it was happening at the time, he says it took two years before he really found out that his statements were, as they used to say in the Watergate days, inoperative. And that really left him with a very bitter taste in his mouth.

Yessir. We can only imagine what was going on in old Scotty's mind. But we're going to dwell on it.

For months. And months.

Of course, when another White House press secretary wrote a book that didn't trash his boss, the press were completely uninterested. Must not have fit the narrative.

So much for providing that all-important "balance".

Posted by Cassandra at 05:09 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack


McCain to hecklers:

This is how we do free speech.

Bloody fascist... :)

Posted by Cassandra at 09:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Do Liberals View Blacks as Mascots?

Thomas Sowell is devastating on the subject of why so many of the "reality based community's" policies fail to achieve their purported ends:

The problem with being a mascot is that you are a symbol of someone else’s significance or virtue. The actual well-being of a mascot is not the point.

Liberals all across the country have not hesitated to destroy black neighborhoods in the name of “urban renewal,” often replacing working-class neighborhoods with upscale homes and pricey businesses — neither of which the former residents can afford.

In academia, lower admissions standards for black students is about having them as a visible presence, even if mismatching them with the particular college or university produces high dropout rates.

The black students who don’t make it are replaced by others, and when many of them don’t make it, there are still more others.

The point is to have black faces on campus, as mascots symbolizing what great people there are running the college or university.

Many, if not most, of the black students who do not make it at big-name, high-pressure institutions are perfectly qualified to succeed at the normal range of colleges and universities.

Most white students would also punch out if admitted to schools for which they don’t have the same qualifications as the other students. But nobody needs white mascots.

Various empirical studies have indicated that blacks succeed best at institutions where there is little or no difference between their qualifications and the qualifications of the other students around them.

This is not rocket science, but it is amazing how much effort and cleverness have gone into denying the obvious.

A study by Professor Richard Sander of the UCLA law school suggests that there may be fewer black lawyers as a result of “affirmative action” admissions to law schools that are a mismatch for the individuals admitted.

Leaping to the defense of black criminals is another common practice among liberals who need black mascots. Most of the crimes committed by black criminals are committed against other blacks. But, again, the actual well-being of mascots is not the point.

Politicians who use blacks as mascots do not hesitate to throw blacks to the wolves for the benefit of the teachers’ unions, the green zealots whose restrictions make housing unaffordable, or people who keep low-price stores like Wal-Mart out of their cities.

Using human beings as mascots is not idealism. It is self-aggrandizement that is ugly in both its concept and its consequences.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:36 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

The Inside Scoop on "Solitary Confinement" at Gitmo

Well, well, well... as Scott McClellen reveals how the President cleverly used propaganda to manipulate public opinion to his advantage (thank God we learned of this sinister plot in time to foil it!) we finally learn about the true conditions inside Guantanamo Bay.

You know... the inhumane and unconscionable solitary confinement that has driven prisoners like Salim Ahmed Hamdan incurably insane?

Next month, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni who was once a driver for Osama bin Laden, could become the first detainee to be tried for war crimes in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. By now, he should be busily working on his defense.

But his lawyers say he cannot. They say Hamdan, already the subject of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, has essentially been driven insane by solitary confinement in a tiny cell where he spends at least 22 hours a day, goes to the bathroom and eats all his meals. His defense team says he is suicidal, hears voices, has flashbacks, talks to himself and says the restrictions of Guantánamo "boil his mind."

"He will shout at us," said his military defense lawyer, Lieutenant Commander Brian Mizer. "He will bang his fists on the table."

His lawyers have asked a military judge to stop his case until Hamdan is placed in less restrictive conditions at Guantánamo, saying he cannot get a fair trial if he cannot focus on defending himself. The judge is to hear arguments as soon as Monday on whether he has the power to consider the claim.

Critics have long asserted that Guantánamo's climate-controlled isolation is a breeding ground for insanity. But turning that into a legal claim marks a new stage for the military commissions at Guantánamo. As military prosecutors push to get trials under way, they are being met with challenges not just to the charges, but to Guantánamo itself.

Conditions are more isolating than many death rows and maximum-security prisons in the United States, said Jules Lobel, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh who is an expert on U.S. prison conditions.

As various experts on the subject of torture have told us, no one survives this kind of inhumane treatment with all their marbles intact.

Thank God for experts and professional journalists. Without their dedication to impartial and accurate Accountability Journalism, we poor deluded sheep might never get the straight scoop!

Q Sir, if you take — when I — again, I was down for the Hamdan hearing, the defense attorneys for Hamdan, the people out of Perkins Coie were saying that after he won in — at the Supreme Court, he was put back in solitary confinement for punitive reasons. Could you address that?

ADM. BUZBY: Sure. We don't have any solitary confinement down here in Guantanamo. So that's pretty easy.

Q Okay.

ADM. BUZBY: What we have is single cells. I mean, there's one person to a cell. All the cells are all right next to each other. So I guess — I suppose it's what you call solitary confinement. We — you know, it's the same sort of confinement — solitary, to me, is when you're separated totally from the whole population in a cell, and that's it. And we don't have that here.

Everyone is in their own cell, but they are all together in a group. So —

Q That's like having a single apartment in a fraternity house.

ADM. BUZBY: Pretty much. Single room.

Q So he can knock on the walls, talk to people next door,

basically. I mean, they —

ADM. BUZBY: He can talk all day long, and they do. They talk
between cells, they talk between tiers, they talk between camps. It's not quiet over there, let me tell you.

Q Far different than what I'd understood, so that's good to hear.

ADM. BUZBY: Absolutely.

And thank God for folks like Keith Olbermann and Peggy Noonan who continue to bravely unmask the monsters and sissies in our midst. Thanks to them, we need not pay the slightest attention to what these people actually said.

Instead, we can cheerfully blame them for answering questions posed by...

...professional journalists. I must say that I am continually impressed by the motives of these brave truth tellers. America is truly well served, is she not?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:23 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Can you blame Scott McClellan for being pissed off?


*&^%$#@ interloper...

Posted by Cassandra at 08:12 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Stroke Symptoms

My grandfather died after suffering a series of strokes.

He was a chemist. I was still a little girl when he passed away, but I vividly remember how heartbreaking it was to watch this highly intelligent man struggle to do the simplest things. Even talking, or doing something as easy as bringing a spoon up to his mouth took incredible concentration. I remember watching him and feeling so helpless because he needed to do things himself and there was no way to make it easier.

My Dad told me the other day that stroke treatment has improved so much these days that doctors are able to do amazing things if they can get to patients in time. He heard about a local case where the victim was brought in right away with a massive debilitating stroke that had caused a total loss of speech and mobility to one side of the body. The doctor was able to inject the patient with an anticoagulant that dissolved the blood clot instantaneously. The effect was nearly miraculous: right before their eyes, the sagging half of the patient's body lifted and he regained the ability to speak.

The key was that his daughter recognized the early signs of a stroke and called an ambulance right away. She was able to get her father to the emergency room within 20 minutes. So I thought I'd pass this along to you all.

Many people suffer from migraines (as I do) and one thing that isn't commonly known is that migraine sufferers are at an increased risk for strokes later in life. So keep this in your back pocket. You never know - it might come in handy some day for you, or someone in your family:

A neurologist says that if he can get to a stroke victim within 3 hours he can totally reverse the effects of a stroke... totally . He said the trick was getting a stroke recognized, diagnosed, and then getting the patient medically cared for within 3 hours, which is tough.


Thank God for the sense to remember the '3' steps, STR . Read and Learn!

Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer severe brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke.

Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:

S * Ask the individual to SMILE.

T * Ask the person to TALK and SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE (Coherently)
(i.e. It is sunny out today)

R * Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS.

If he or she has trouble with ANY ONE of these tasks, call 999/911 immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

New Sign of a Stroke -------- Stick out Your Tongue

NOTE: Another 'sign' of a stroke is this: Ask the person to 'stick' out his tongue.. If the tongue is 'crooked', if it goes to one side or the other , that is also an indication of a stroke.

A cardiologist says if everyone who gets this e-mail sends it to 10 people; you can bet that at least one life will be saved.

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

May 27, 2008

The Mote In Our Own Eye

Many moons ago on a Constitutional law exam far distant in time and space, the blog princess argued herself into a position that surprised her greatly. In short she found herself agreeing, at least in part, with the reasoning behind a landmark decision, the practical results of which she found (and continues to find) personally distasteful. This was most distressing, but try as she might, she could not in good conscience reason her way to a more acceptable conclusion. Being of a somewhat snarkastic bent, she couldn't pass up the obligatory self-deprecating remark.

When her graded exam was returned, in the margin next to that answer was written, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." At the time, she thought her law prof was poking a little gentle fun at her.

The passing years have given that remark a rather different connotation, however. Age, and a thousand small reminders that we aren't as smart as we'd like to think, are powerful advocates against a doctrinaire approach to life's little tribulations.

I couldn't help thinking of that exam when reading Peggy Noonan's latest column. Long suffering time readers of VC will no doubt recall that the princess is no great fan of Ms. Noonan. I was, once. In fact, I rather wanted to be her.

But my problem with all too many of her columns is repeated in this one. Ms. Noonan is quite perceptive. She has a gift, and a way with words. But she is also frequently quite vicious, and to my way of thinking at least, has a disturbing way of attacking people without backing up her charges. In this case, the charge is against Hillary Clinton. Ms. Clinton, you see, (at least according to Ms. Noonan) is a "sissy":

Hillary Clinton complained again this week that sexism has been a major dynamic in her unsuccessful bid for political dominance. She is quoted by the Washington Post's Lois Romano decrying the "sexist" treatment she received during the campaign, and the "incredible vitriol that has been engendered" by those who are "nothing but misogynists." The New York Times reported she told sympathetic bloggers in a conference call that she is saddened by the "mean-spiritedness and terrible insults" that have been thrown "at you, for supporting me, and at women in general."

Where to begin? One wants to be sympathetic to Mrs. Clinton at this point, if for no other reason than to show one's range. But her last weeks have been, and her next weeks will likely be, one long exercise in summoning further denunciations. It is something new in politics, the How Else Can I Offend You Tour. And I suppose it is aimed not at voters -- you don't persuade anyone by complaining in this way, you only reinforce what your supporters already think -- but at history, at the way history will tell the story of the reasons for her loss.

So, to address the charge that sexism did her in:

It is insulting, because it asserts that those who supported someone else this year were driven by low prejudice and mindless bias.

It is manipulative, because it asserts that if you want to be understood, both within the community and in the larger brotherhood of man, to be wholly without bias and prejudice, you must support Mrs. Clinton.

It is not true. Tough hill-country men voted for her, men so backward they'd give the lady a chair in the union hall. Tough Catholic men in the outer suburbs voted for her, men so backward they'd call a woman a lady. And all of them so naturally courteous that they'd realize, in offering the chair or addressing the lady, that they might have given offense, and awkwardly joke at themselves to take away the sting. These are great men. And Hillary got her share, more than her share, of their votes. She should be a guy and say thanks. [Ed. note: how, precisely, did Noonan determine that Clinton had been awarded "more than her share" of the male vote? Inquiring minds want to know.]

It is prissy. Mrs. Clinton's supporters are now complaining about the Hillary nutcrackers sold at every airport shop. Boo hoo. If Golda Meir, a woman of not only proclaimed but actual toughness, heard about Golda nutcrackers, she would have bought them by the case and given them away as party favors.

It is sissy. It is blame-gaming, whining, a way of not taking responsibility, of not seeing your flaws and addressing them. You want to say "Girl, butch up, you are playing in the leagues, they get bruised in the leagues, they break each other's bones, they like to hit you low and hear the crack, it's like that for the boys and for the girls."

And because the charge of sexism is all of the above, it is, ultimately, undermining of the position of women. Or rather it would be if its source were not someone broadly understood by friend and foe alike to be willing to say anything to gain advantage.

First of all, Ms. Noonan commits what amounts to journalistic malpractice almost right off the bat with two statements. If Noonan's willingness to attribute the complaints of Hillary's supporters to the candidate herself didn't give you pause, you can segue straight to the first of them, here:

Great women, all different, but great in terms of size, of impact on the world and of struggles overcome. Struggle was not something they read about in a book. They did not use guilt to win election -- it comes up zero if you Google "Thatcher" and "You're just picking on me because I'm a woman." Instead they used the appeals men used: stronger leadership, better ideas, a superior philosophy.

Noonan's argument is not just disingenuous. It is, frankly, appalling in its blatant disregard for what was actually said during the interview she refers to. Had Ms. Noonan bothered to listen to the interview, she would have heard Clinton responding to direct and pointed questions posed by Ms. Romano rather than volunteering complaints of sexism. This places Noonan's opening anecdotes in rather a different context, doesn't it, unless, of course, one is determined to reach a predetermined conclusion.

What if Golda Meir, Indhira Gandhi, or Margaret Thatcher had been specifically interviewed about their experiences with sexism in political life? It would seem the only way to avoid being called nasty names (at least by the likes of Ms. Noonan) would have been for them to lie. Hardly the example I'd want my daughter to follow, but your mileage may vary.

One wonders, given her opening anecdotes, how Ms. Noonan ever found out Ms. Gandhi had been called "Dumb Doll"? Who breached this impenetrable sisterhood of silence she would have us believe existed, pre-Hillary, when sexism (and Noonan admits there was sexism) was dutifully met with saintly silence?

The second misstatement of fact is that Ms. Clinton has alleged that she is losing the election because of sexism. Where in the interview did she hear this charge made? I was unable to find the quote and Noonan offers no corroboration. In fact, Clinton expresses confidence that she can and will win; that voters will vote for her because (wait for it) she is the better candidate.

It's right on the tape Ms. Noonan didn't have time to listen to while she was calling Hillary Clinton a "sissy".

And as to the charge of sexism on the part of the media, watch this tape and tell me that these ads are directed at Ms. Clinton's policies, or even her personality:

How is implying that a United States Senator will pull the nuclear trigger once a month when she has her menstrual period (yes, it's pretty unpleasant, isn't it, when you say it out loud) not incredibly offensive sexist rhetoric? More importantly, why is it off limits for Ms. Clinton to note that this is offensive to women generally?

What about calling her a whore? How, precisely, does this address her policies or her fitness for office? Has Ms. Clinton been arrested for prostitution or any other sexual misconduct? The truth is that had comparable remarks been made regarding Barack Obama, Ms. Noonan and every other pundit (whether liberal or conservative) would be screaming 'racist' from the hilltops.

And yet when the same type of attack is consistently leveled against Clinton on no basis other than her gender, they not only remain silent, but have the temerity to call her a sissy if she (in response to a direct question from a journalist who did call attention to this treatment, mind you) is honest enough to call it exactly what it is: offensive, sexist, and unworthy of being included in a Presidential race.

I have seen a lot of disappointing things in my lifetime, many of them in my own party. One of them is the treatment of Hillary Clinton, a women I will openly admit I don't like much. But one thing Hillary Clinton is not is a sissy.

She has hung tough in this race despite repeated abuse and calls from her own party to bow out. This is as close a race as I've seen. So close, in fact, that even if she did claim sexism lost her the race, I think Peggy Noonan or anyone else would have an extremely hard time proving her wrong:

Hillary Clinton is now complaining that her candidacy has been harmed by sexism. Interviewed earlier this week by the Washington Post, Sen. Clinton said the polls show that "more people would be reluctant to vote for a woman [than] to vote for an African American." This gender bias, she grumbled, "rarely gets reported on."

So a woman who holds degrees from Wellesley and Yale – who has earned millions in the private sector, won two terms in the U.S. Senate, and gathered many more votes than John Edwards, Bill Richardson and several other middle-aged white guys in their respective bids for the 2008 Democratic nomination – feels cheated because she's a woman.

Seems doubtful. But hey, I'm a guy and perhaps hopelessly insensitive. So let's give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that her campaign has indeed suffered because of sexism.

This fact (if it be a fact) reveals a hitherto unknown, ugly truth about the Democratic Party. The alleged bastion of modern liberalism, toleration and diversity is full of (to use Mrs. Clinton's own phrase) "people who are nothing but misogynists." Large numbers of Democratic voters are sexists. Who knew?

But here's another revelation. If Mrs. Clinton is correct that she is more likely than Barack Obama to defeat John McCain in November, that implies Republicans and independents are less sexist than Democrats.

The truth of the matter is that the media have repeatedly trumpeted the mantra that anyone who doesn't vote for Obama is a racist. And yet the very idea (despite repeated polls indicating there is more resistance to a female than a black candidate) that those who don't vote for Hillary are sexist is hogwash. The supposed "proof" that there is no sexism is that some people do vote for her.

The logic, she is compelling, no? Peggy Noonan and Donald Boudreaux could teach a course on it: in a population composed of a spectrum of voters (some of whom may harbor sexist attitudes and some who may not) the very fact that some people - even men, praise the Lord! - have voted for Hillary Clinton constitutes conclusive proof that there is no sexism. Yep. Well nigh irrefutable. Of course, no one can prove there is sexism either. But their arguments begin to sound much like the reaction to Hillary's tears earlier in the election season: more of a double standard that exists, but is seldom talked about.

The fact is that male politicians have been crying for ages. One may well doubt the sincerity of Ms. Clinton's tears. One may even deplore crying by political figures. But to claim it is not done for American leaders to cry is ludicrous.

Recently during a conversation with a man I respect, I was shocked to hear the words, "in the past few years your feminist sentiments have been coming to the fore..." from him. What shocked me about this is that it has often seemed to me that men are overly quick to label the exact same behavior in a woman that they find perfectly acceptable, normal, and even desirable in a man as "feminist". Not to put too fine a point on it, a man expects other men to have self respect, to stand up for their own rights assertively, and not to back down when someone tries to put them in their place. He also naturally expects a man to resent it if anyone tries to infringe on his freedom or his rights. And yet, if a woman does these things, she is considered "feminist", with all the pejorative connotations that word carries with it (the prime example being that she must somehow be angry or dislike men rather than perhaps she simply respects herself too much to accept behavior they themselves would not put up with for one second.) As Grim has often remarked, (and I agree) men and women think differently. Yet we want many of the same things out of life, though not always for the same reasons.

I was heartened that Grim, unlike Peggy Noonan, was able to see the sexism in way Hillary Clinton has been treated:

What we're seeing from the Obama campaign is in fact sexism -- the use of negative female stereotypes, either in place of or to augment actual arguments. Had Sen. Clinton succeeded to the Democratic nomination, I don't doubt we would have seen it increasingly from Republicans as well.

I think there is a lot of reflexive chest beating among female conservative bloggers and pundits. Sometimes we get so caught up in our own dogma that we won't recognize the truth when it is staring us right in the face. The truth is, it's not easy for a female conservative to cry, "sexism". Most of us would rather stick our finger in a light socket.

But as my long ago law professor once said, a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. I think Peggy Noonan is right thus far: in the end, if you succeed at something extremely difficult, 9 times out of 10 it is some combination of luck, ability, hard work, but mostly refusal to give up. The problem with government programs aimed at leveling the playing ground or redressing so-called historical injustices is not just that they fail to accomplish their intended objectives (How can government force those people who are prejudiced to accept you or your work? How can government redress wrongs done to people who are dead?) is that they are distractions from the fundamental truth that regardless of who you are, hard work and determination are the only things that will get you ahead in life.

Everything else - even where you started from, relative to someone else, or what perceived handicaps you face on your way - is just a distraction. Those are givens and they won't change. Some people are short, some are stupid, some are slower than others. You may be female or black or foreign in an atmosphere where that matters, or one of the many, many more where it does not. The thing is, there is not much anyone can do about intangibles like race, gender, or other personal qualities that help or hinder us along the way.

On an individual level, the best course is to take stock what you have and work with it until you cross the finish line. On a broader level, I can't help wondering if calling people sissies when they take notice of unacceptable behavior is the standard conservatives want to hang their hats on? Republicans used to believe standards and ethics were important. Perhaps that's not true anymore.

Ms. Noonan? Anyone?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:53 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

May 26, 2008

Remember Me and Not My Fate

Semper Fi wife remembers the fallen of 1st LAR.

More about Jason Cook and Natchez "Little Fawn" Washalanta here. This is a post that is dear to my heart. Sometimes certain things haunt you and you do not know why.

It is fitting that we remember them, today. Rest in peace.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Living With Ghosts

“Success has a thousand parents, but failure is an orphan”. The line kept tugging on the shirtsleeves of my mind the other day as I reviewed the history of Memorial Day. In many ways it could have been written expressly about this most contrary of American celebrations, for Memorial Day has become a strange and contradictory rite.

Originally known as Decoration Day, as first conceived it was something of a solemn occasion: a day set aside for the remembrance of our Civil War dead. The ritual set on those long ago Decoration Days was the adornment of veterans’ gravestones with flowers. General John A. Logan formalized this tradition by issuing General Order #11 on May 5th, 1868. In the beginning, Columbus, Miss.; Macon, Ga.; Richmond, Va.; Boalsburg, Pa.; and Carbondale, Ill., argued amongst themselves over which was the true birthplace of Decoration Day. Using the uniquely impeccable logic which persists to this day, Congress resolved this dispute by awarding the coveted prize to Waterloo, N.Y.

By World War I, Decoration Day became Memorial Day – a day for honoring not just Civil War dead but veterans who had perished in all wars fought on our behalf. To understand how we got from there to the point where Memorial Day is more about a three day weekend, the emergence of white shoes and the smell of mesquite chips on Dad’s gas grill requires another look at that quotation at the beginning of this piece.

The War Between the States, like the current conflict upon which we stand engaged, was not a popular war. It deeply divided this nation, deeply divided even the Union, which endured bitter conscription riots and an assassinated President. Unlike the reconciliation that came afterwards, unlike the first Decoration Day observances in the newly conquered Confederacy where Southern belles decked the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers with freshly cut flowers, no one rushed to take the credit for war and the death, horror, and destruction that came with it. So it is perhaps not surprising that the more affluent and comfortable we have become, the farther we have gotten from the shared grief and exhaustion that followed those earlier wars, the more reluctant we become to be reminded of something so unpleasant as death.

And yet there are good reasons why we should remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf, though they may make us momentarily uncomfortable. Jules Crittenden writes, in “On Dying and Continuing to be Alive” of the horrible cost of living with ghosts:

“We Are Soldiers Still” will include the story of John Eade, which was still untold when Moore and Galloway wrote the first book.* Eade’s story makes a good Memorial Day story, because it is as much about honoring the dead and how they died as it is about surviving. Eade told me once he spent decades entirely apart from his military life, not having any contact with other Ia Drang vets or taking part in 7th Cav reunions. “You have to realize, all my friends were dead,” Eade said in his usual matter of fact way. It was a stunning commentary on what happened to Eade’s youth, and it hit like a blow, a little insight into what living on must be like.

War does strange and terrible things to people; and not just to those who fight in it, but to those who are left behind: to those who wait, and watch, and hope. War is a crucible. Into it we go, whether we will or no. What will emerge once war has performed its dark alchemy is something no one can foresee. Some emerge broken, some numb. Some detach to protect themselves. Some become passionately engaged. For some, war burns all the impurities away until only the true gold is left:

No sleep for 48 hours. Grimy, unshaven, filthy uniform. Canteens loose, dogtags hanging out, pocket unbuttoned, helmet strap hanging.

No insignia of rank, sleeves up.

Dirty fingernails.

His bayonet is fixed; trigger finger alert and ready for action.
Lt. Rick Rescorla, Platoon Leader, B Co 2/7 Cav in Bayonet Attack on the morning of 16 Nov 1965(1)

This is not a posed shot; this is a man moving forward into combat. Eyes forward. Ready.

On that day,
The PAVN Commander knows that he had severely weakened and damaged the defenders in the Charlie Co sector the previous morning. What he does not know is that a fresh company - B Co 2nd Bn 7th Cav, had taken over the position after that engagement. That company, unmolested the previous afternoon, had cut fields of fire, dug new foxholes, fired in artillery concentrations, carefully emplaced it's machine guns and piled up ammunition(1).

Rescorla directed his men to dig foxholes and establish a defense perimeter. Exploring the hilly terrain beyond the perimeter, he came under enemy fire. After nightfall, he and his men endured waves of assault. To keep morale up, Rescorla led the men in military cheers and Cornish songs throughout the night(2).

Rescorla knew war. His men did not, yet. To steady them, to break their concentration away from the fear that may grip a man when he realizes there are hundreds of men very close by who want to kill him, Rescorla sang. Mostly he sang dirty songs that would make a sailor blush. Interspersed with the lyrics was the voice of command: "Fix bayonets - on liiiiine?reaaaa-dy - forward." It was a voice straight from Waterloo, from the Somme, implacable, impeccable, impossible to disobey. His men forgot their fear, concentrated on his orders and marched forward as he led them straight into the pages of history.(3)
The PAVN assaults four separate times beginning at 4:22 AM. The last is at 6:27 AM. They are stopped cold, losing over 200 dead. B Co has 6 wounded. At 9:55 AM, a sweep outward is made which results in more enemy dead and the position secured(1).

The next morning, Rescorla took a patrol through the battlefield, searching for American dead and wounded. As he looked over a giant anthill, he encountered an enemy machine-gun nest. The startled North Vietnamese fired on him, and Rescorla hurled a grenade into the nest. There were no survivors(2).

Rescorla and Bravo company were evacuated by helicopter. The rest of the battalion marched to a nearby landing zone. On the way, they were ambushed, and Bravo company was again called in for relief. Only two helicopters made it through enemy fire. As the one carrying Rescorla descended, the pilot was wounded, and he started to lift up. Rescorla and his men jumped the remaining ten feet, bullets flying at them, and made it into the beleaguered camp. As Lieutenant Larry Gwin later recalled the scene, "I saw Rick Rescorla come swaggering into our lines with a smile on his face, an M-79 on his shoulder, his M-16 in one hand, saying, 'Good, good, good! I hope they hit us with everything they got tonight - we'll wipe them up.' His spirit was catching. The enemy must have thought an entire battalion was coming to help us, because of all our screaming and yelling."(2)
"My God, it was like Little Big Horn," recalls Pat Payne, a reconnaissance platoon leader. "We were all cowering in the bottom of our foxholes, expecting to get overrun. Rescorla gave us courage to face the coming dawn. He looked me in the eye and said, 'When the sun comes up, we're gonna kick some ass.' "

Rick Rescorla may seem like an odd story for a Memorial Day post. You see, he didn’t die in VietNam. He didn’t die in any war. And then again, in a very real sense, to me he exemplifies the reason why Memorial Day is so important.

One gets the sense that Rescorla was already a remarkable man before he went to war. But reading the account of his final hours, one hears the echoes of his long-dead comrades, the far off reverberations of a thought that has occupied the minds of countless soldiers since the dawn of time: we are, in the inevitable course of events, all marked to die.

About that, we have no choice. The question is, how many of us will die well? Dick Cavett once said that no one "gives" his life for his country in war. It is ripped away from him.

It is by remembering stories like Rick Rescorla's that we see the falseness of that statement. Death is inevitable. But living with ghosts reminds us that we may still choose the manner of our death; and more importantly, that we owe a debt greater than we can ever repay to men long gone and mostly forgotten.

We owed them more.

.. we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:54 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

May 25, 2008

Blogging Update

Again, sorry for the lack of posts.

I've been pretty busy the last few days and spent most of today on the road. I'm writing this from a little bed and breakfast up the the Pennsylvania/New York border. Who knew they had wireless? I was afraid I was going to have to post my Memorial Day thoughts via my phone (which would *not* have been fun :)

I promise to have something up for tomorrow. Didn't get in until tonight and then we had to meet up with some people. Thanks for your patience. May is a hectic month.

In the mean time, here's a little something to get you in the mood for tomorrow via Domestikdiva.

And via Heirborn Ranger, this Memorial Day checklist:

Go look in on your children still asleep
within their bed.
Remind yourself they're safe and warm
because of some long dead.

Go for a walk through cemeteries
lined with little flags.
Take time to ponder homebound heroes
flown in body bags.

Go stand between those granite stones
engraved with names and dates.
Imagine all who died defending
our United States.

Go on and kneel beside a marker
offering a prayer
with gratitude for those who gave their lives
defeating terror.

Go home and count your blessings
from the hands of those now gone.
Then vow to the Almighty that their
mem'ry will live on.


Update: I am so behind on my email that I didn't notice a certain Colorado Cat had sent me this first - when I get REALLY behind, I often read from the bottom up (don't ask me to make sense... I am womyn!). At any rate, thanks :)

Posted by Cassandra at 09:08 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Metro Harassment Update

I apologize for the lack of posts. I've been too busy to post anything.

Via Grim, a not unexpected update on that Metro harassment item I posted the other day. Interestingly enough, I never heard anything back from the calls I placed the other day, despite the fact that they took my number and assured me they'd get back to me with a response. That doesn't exactly encourage one to take the time to check up on these stories:

Pajamas Media contacted the Federal Transit Administration Wednesday, and Velvet Snow, spokeswoman for the FTA, stated categorically that the agency never issued such a memo.

Lt. Col. George Wright of Army Public Affairs noted that a similar email was circulated internally by the Army Material Command at nearby Fort Belvoir, VA. When asked to provide information about specific incidents of verbal abuse, Army LTC Lee M. Packnett stated that “none of the messages sent included definitive information about incidents that occurred. They were sent for soldiers to be aware of and to be vigilant in their travels to and from work via the Metro rail system.”

Then there’s the problem surrounding the number of incidents that occurred. Washington D.C. Metro officials could only point to the existence of a single episode as the probable trigger of the memo.

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) spokesperson Angela Gates stated that there was precisely one reported verbal assault against a female soldier on the Yellow Line recently. A female soldier was verbally harassed, left the train, was followed, re-boarded the train, and reported the incident to MTA Police once she arrived home. Gates was unable to confirm that the verbal abuse was related to anti-war sentiment, and no other reports have been filed with the MTA to substantiate insinuations of multiple incidents.

There is no pattern of verbal abuse against uniformed Department of Defense personnel in the DC Metro system. The memo sent to Department of Defense security managers was authored at a high level, and exaggerated the number of verbal assaults from one confirmed event into an apparent outbreak, while attempting to shift authorship to another federal agency.

At any rate, while it's heartening that it didn't turn out to be true, it's a bit disturbing (though probably not surprising) to see a memo containing false information and overblown security recommendations sent out. I struggled with the decision over whether to link to the items, but my gut feeling was that either way, it was something that merited attention.

It certainly got it :p

One more way in which the Internet performs a useful audit function.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:45 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 22, 2008


Congratulations, Chief Petty Officer Eberhart.

In a world where too many people take the easy way out, you stand tall. As a proud Navy junior, I only wish I could shake your hand in person and thank you for your service.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:12 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Served 'Em Right!

...and we'll bet they never try *that* again:

Road workers in a small New Zealand town got their wish granted when a woman stripped saying she was fed up with their wolf-whistles.

The Israeli tourist was about to use an ATM in the main street of Kerikeri, in the far north of the country, when the men whistled, the New Zealand Press Association reported.

She calmly stripped off, used the cash machine, before getting dressed and walking away.

The woman told police she didn't take too kindly to the whistling from the men repairing the road.

"She said she had thought 'bugger them, I'll show them what I've got'," Police Sergeant Peter Masters told NZPA.

Perhaps Obama is onto something after all.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:23 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

NYTimes Watch: Olbermann Rules Edition

Oh come on, Ed. The Times isn't violating it's own ethics policy!

It's just applying those emergency rules:

It is when the debate becomes artificially one-sided that the public is misled by shysters like Keith Olbermann, who openly admits he is doing what he knows to be wrong, but excuses himself by telling the public he is acting under "emergency rules"

[W]hat I've done on the air in the last 4 1/2 years, and particularly in the last year and a half since the special comments began, is really journalism. It's saying here's what you're being told. Here's the identifiable objective fact to the situation. This statement from the government may be a lie...

...[After being asked how he differentiates his ad hominem attacks from those on the other side] Well, they're better written. The first-- no, I hate to-- I-- it's the most vulnerable point because it bothers me, too. It do-- it's the one criticism that I think is absolutely fair. We're doing the same thing. It is-- it becomes a nation of screechers. It's never a good thing. But emergency rules do apply. ...

...it is emergency circumstances as Walter Cronkite saw it. I mean, here-- objective Uncle Walter, most trusted man in America. When I have an opinion on the most important political issue of the day, I'm gonna sink a president and maybe throw the election to the other guy right now.

If you were a professional journalist, you'd understand when it's OK to ignore your own code of ethics in the quest for really first rate accountability journalism.

Which is to say, whenever we say it is.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:37 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Obama, Kennedy, and the Disturbing Matter of a Dog

One item that has received much play in the media is George Bush's recent speech to the Israeli Knesset in which he made statements Barack Obama found convenient to seize upon as an "unprecedented personal attack":

"Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided. We have an obligation to call this what it is - the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."

It's hard to decide what is more amusing: the oily retorts of Obama's would-be defenders (So Hitler's demands were "not unreasonable"? Viewed in that light, we could strike a deal with Satan himself without calling it appeasement) or the almost Kama Sutra-esque manipulations of history and semantics demonstrated by the Democratic forerunner himself. Caroline Glick illustrates how Obama has twisted both history and meaning to convince voters he won't be an appeaser. The first dishonest deconstruction is that of history. Notice that at no time do Barack's fingers leave his hands:

Obama recalls that US presidents have often conducted negotiations with their country's enemies and done so to the US's advantage. And this is true enough. President John F. Kennedy essentially appeased the Soviet Union during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis when he offered to remove US nuclear warheads from Turkey in exchange for the removal of Soviet nuclear missiles from Cuba.

But there are many differences between what Kennedy did and what Obama is proposing. Kennedy's offer to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was made secretly. And the terms of the deal stipulated that if its existence was revealed, the US offer would be cancelled. More importantly, Khrushchev was open to a deal and was ready to give up the Cuban nuclear program. And - most importantly of all - Kennedy deployed military forces and went to the brink of war to make the alternatives to negotiation credible.

Obama has repeatedly stated that unlike Kennedy, if he is elected president, he will not openly threaten war while being open to private talks. Instead, Obama intends to surrender the war option while conducting direct, public negotiations with the mullahs. So from the very beginning, he wants to undermine US credibility while giving Ahmadinejad and his murderous ilk the legitimacy that Kennedy refused to give Khrushchev.

Far from exerting force to strengthen his diplomatic position, Obama has pledged to withdraw US forces from Iraq where they are fighting Iranian proxies, cut military spending and shrink the size of the US nuclear arsenal.

As if this weren't bad enough, the Krushchev/Kennedy analogy is, itself highly misleading. Contrary to Obama's hype, their talks were far from the success Obama would have us believe they were:

Kennedy’s one presidential meeting with Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet premier, suggests that there are legitimate reasons to fear negotiating with one’s adversaries. Although Kennedy was keenly aware of some of the risks of such meetings — his Harvard thesis was titled “Appeasement at Munich” — he embarked on a summit meeting with Khrushchev in Vienna in June 1961, a move that would be recorded as one of the more self-destructive American actions of the cold war, and one that contributed to the most dangerous crisis of the nuclear age.

Senior American statesmen like George Kennan advised Kennedy not to rush into a high-level meeting, arguing that Khrushchev had engaged in anti-American propaganda and that the issues at hand could as well be addressed by lower-level diplomats. Kennedy’s own secretary of state, Dean Rusk, had argued much the same in a Foreign Affairs article the previous year: “Is it wise to gamble so heavily? Are not these two men who should be kept apart until others have found a sure meeting ground of accommodation between them?”

But Kennedy went ahead, and for two days he was pummeled by the Soviet leader. Despite his eloquence, Kennedy was no match as a sparring partner, and offered only token resistance as Khrushchev lectured him on the hypocrisy of American foreign policy, cautioned America against supporting “old, moribund, reactionary regimes” and asserted that the United States, which had valiantly risen against the British, now stood “against other peoples following its suit.” Khrushchev used the opportunity of a face-to-face meeting to warn Kennedy that his country could not be intimidated and that it was “very unwise” for the United States to surround the Soviet Union with military bases.

Kennedy’s aides convinced the press at the time that behind closed doors the president was performing well, but American diplomats in attendance, including the ambassador to the Soviet Union, later said they were shocked that Kennedy had taken so much abuse. Paul Nitze, the assistant secretary of defense, said the meeting was “just a disaster.” Khrushchev’s aide, after the first day, said the American president seemed “very inexperienced, even immature.” Khrushchev agreed, noting that the youthful Kennedy was “too intelligent and too weak.” The Soviet leader left Vienna elated — and with a very low opinion of the leader of the free world.

Kennedy’s assessment of his own performance was no less severe. Only a few minutes after parting with Khrushchev, Kennedy, a World War II veteran, told James Reston of The New York Times that the summit meeting had been the “roughest thing in my life.” Kennedy went on: “He just beat the hell out of me. I’ve got a terrible problem if he thinks I’m inexperienced and have no guts. Until we remove those ideas we won’t get anywhere with him.”

A little more than two months later, Khrushchev gave the go-ahead to begin erecting what would become the Berlin Wall. Kennedy had resigned himself to it, telling his aides in private that “a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.” The following spring, Khrushchev made plans to “throw a hedgehog at Uncle Sam’s pants”: nuclear missiles in Cuba. And while there were many factors that led to the missile crisis, it is no exaggeration to say that the impression Khrushchev formed at Vienna — of Kennedy as ineffective — was among them.

If Barack Obama wants to follow in Kennedy’s footsteps, he should heed the lesson that Kennedy learned in his first year in office: sometimes there is good reason to fear to negotiate.

But history is not the only thing distorted by Barack Obama in his dishonest rebuttal to George Bush. Like another charismatic Democrat who once had the temerity to argue the meaning of the word "is", Barack Obama not only counts on ignorant voters to forget their modern history, but to be ignorant of the meaning of commonly understood words like "appeasement" and "negotiation". One cannot negotiate unless one is willing to give something up in return for something of value. This begs the question: what would Barack Obama be willing to give Iran? And more importantly, what are they willing to give us in return? It appears that Iran has already answered that question:

SINCE THE definition of appeasement is to reward others for their bad behavior, and since the US has refused for 29 years to reward the Iranians for their bad behavior by having presidential summits with Iranian leaders, Obama's pledge represents a massive act of appeasement. And since it is Iran's illicit nuclear weapons program that would bring a President Barack Obama to the table, his policy would invite nuclear blackmail by other countries by signaling to them that the US rewards nuclear proliferators.

But even if Obama and his supporters were right and negotiating with the ayatollahs was not by its nature an act of appeasement, the question remains whether it would be possible to reach a deal with them that would not endanger US interests or US allies a la Neville Chamberlain at Munich.

Since the EU-3 began negotiating with the Iranians four years ago, the Iranians have made clear at every opportunity that while they welcome negotiations, they will never give up their nuclear program. Over the weekend, Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei again repeated that there is no deal that anyone can offer Iran that would move the regime to give up its nuclear aspirations and nascent arsenal. So there is no deal to be had.

So much for negotiations. One wonders, in any event, how successful a man who cannot even win an argument with his wife over a dog will be at the negotiation table with a far more ruthless adversary?

Michelle Obama actually overruled her husband while on "GMA" when they were asked whether their two daughters had yet to get the dog they were promised.

She said they had agreed to get the dog a year from now, while her husband said they will have "a year to test whether they are sufficiently responsible..."

But Michelle Obama cut him off, sayingy, "They are responsible."

He tried again by saying "Whether they are going to be responsible in the middle of winter to go walk that dog."

"We're getting a dog," his wife said flatly.

"When it's cold outside," Obama persisted.

His wife looked into the camera and said to their kids, "You guys are getting a dog."

When the presidential candidate again asked who would be walking the dog, the potential first lady replied, "You will. You will all be walking the dog."

"OK. All right," Obama conceded.

His negotiation skills are something Barack Obama may not wish to call attention to during the race for the Presidency.

Update: Karl Rove has more along the same lines:

Reagan knew he must not squander the prestige of the American presidency and the authority of the United States by meaningless meetings that serve only as propaganda victories for our adversaries. Mr. Obama seems to believe charisma and smooth talk can fundamentally alter the behavior of Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba.

But what might work on the primary campaign trail doesn't work nearly as well in Tehran. What, for example, does Mr. Obama think he can offer the Iranians to get them to become a less pernicious and destabilizing force? One of Iran's top foreign policy goals is a precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. This happens to be Mr. Obama's top foreign policy goal, too. Why should Iran or other rogue states alter their behavior if Mr. Obama gives them what they want, without preconditions?

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama said in Florida that in a meeting with the Iranians he'd make it clear their behavior is unacceptable. That message has been delivered clearly by Republican and Democratic administrations in public and private diplomacy over the past 16 years. Is he so naïve to think he has a unique ability to make this even clearer?

If Mr. Obama believes he can change the behavior of these nations by meeting without preconditions, he owes it to the voters to explain, in specific terms, what he can say that will lead these states to abandon their hostility. He also needs to explain why unconditional, unilateral meetings with Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or North Korea's Kim Jong Il will not deeply unsettle our allies.

If Mr. Obama fails to do so, voters may come to believe that he is asking them to accept that he has a "Secret Plan," and that he is hopelessly out of his depth on national security.

via Memeorandum

Posted by Cassandra at 08:12 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Milspouses: A Virtual Family Readiness Group

Mrs. G has a great post up about milspouse bloggers. Back in March when The Unit returned from a one year deployment to Iraq, I linked to a great post by Homefront Six. I loved her analogy about military wives piecing together our own "quilts" to keep ourselves cozy and supported. To me, that conveys just the right message. We are not helpless victims, nor are we children who need psychiatric help or government subsidies to make it through deployments. We were fully competent adults before we met our spouses and - mirabile dictu! - given half the chance, we find ways to overcome the challenges of long separations. Certainly, few of us do this successfully all by ourselves. Women (and most, though not all these days, milspouses are women) are social animals. But as HF6 notes, there are many ways to skin a cat:

Ideally, every spouse dealing with a deployment will have a wonderful FRG supporting them. Ideally. But that doesn't always happen. And sometimes, the FRG cannot meet all of the needs that a family may have during a deployment. It may just not be possible. The FRG cannot be all things to all people. Such is life.

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.

All jokes aside, one of the best ways for military spouses to throw themselves a lifeline is through blogging. Military wives can be astonishingly inventive in a pinch. One friend, Andi Hurley, started SpouseBUZZ as a virtual support group for military spouses, be they male or female. And just to prove the old adage that it never pays to hang back thinking, "Oh, I'll never fit in...", one brave blogging SpouseBUZZer, Maintenance Toad, is unrepentantly male ! The Princess has met the man and he more than holds his own in an often estrogen-laced environment, adding a bracing dash of pepper to an already lively and fun group of writers.

And virtual support groups aren't just for milspouses, either.

Milparents have options on the Internet too. Inspired by the success of SpouseBUZZ, intrepid milspouse blogger Liberal Army Wife (or LAW, as she's more commonly known) teamed up with several other milbloggers to start The Parent Zone. As Carrie can attest, in many ways having a child deployed to a combat zone is more difficult than dealing with separation from your spouse. The Parent Zone offers parents of deployed military the opportunity to meet and talk with other parents, exchange information, ask questions, and most importantly share their experiences. Often this is the difference between feeling panicky and alone and being able to put temporary feelings of discomfort into their proper perspective. Talking with someone who is going through (or who has already been through) a deployment helps lighten the load.

I know! Midway through last year our dishwasher suddenly broke down. Imagine my surprise when, during an email conversation with Mrs. G, I learned that she knows all about fixing dishwashers! She was able to give me the gauge on possible causes and I never even had to call a repairman. Having your dishwasher break down might not sound like a big deal, but there are times during a deployment when it seems as though everything that can go wrong, happens at once.

That was one of those times. I had ants pouring into my house for no apparent reason (and I couldn't seem to get rid of the little buggers - I HATE ANTS!), my dishwasher broke, my telephone started making this odd buzzing noise and I was having daily migraines that made it almost impossible for me to sleep at night or think clearly. Sometimes, just having someone to talk to about a problem makes your whole world seem brighter.

I'm a big believe in helping people find their own solutions to life's challenges. I've never seen what good it does to encourage government to step into our lives with more intrusive programs. It seems better to me to encourage people to get creative and take advantage of all the amazing options that exist in today's world (and it's hard to deny that today's military spouses have far more options than we did 25 years ago when there was no Internet, no family readiness groups, when many if not most families only had one car - I know that I used to have to wake my babies up at 4:30 and drive my husband in to work if I wanted to have the use of a vehicle during the day). Today's milspouses are so much less isolated. There is cable TV, and most communities they live in have plentiful stores, libraries, and amusements. There are also volunteer opportunities in both the military and civilian communities for those with too much time on their hands.

At a party I attended recently, I met a woman who works as a docent for the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. That's just one example of a great way to fill the empty hours (and meet people and learn something!) during a long deployment. There is no reason to sit at home and feel lonely or depressed these days simply because your husband or wife is deployed. So pick up that newspaper or get online and check out the amazing opportunities that are out there. Check out SpouseBUZZ, The Parents Zone, or one of the fine blogs over at Milblogs.

Because for a milspouse, home doesn't have to be a place you long for. If you choose to, you can carry it in your heart everywhere you go:

...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.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:22 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

May 21, 2008

NY TimesWatch: People Are Starving!!!!...errr...Not

Courtesy of the always-interesting TimesWatch, the NY Sun has caught the Times on one of its inimitable hand-wringing exercises which, on closer inspection, turn out to be sourced in something less than the literal truth. Who knew?

The latest scoop from the New York Times is of a "food crisis" it says has struck the residents of the Ingersoll Houses, a project in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, where the Times uncovered a "lack of easily available fresh food." The "local supermarket," quoth the Times, has been razed. A resident of the housing project is quoted as saying, supermarket-wise, "we have nothing around here now." "The dearth of nearby supermarkets is most severe in minority and poor neighborhoods already beset by obesity," the Times article reports.

At the Times Web site, a "multimedia presentation" accompanying the news article is headlined "Thousands of Shoppers, No Store," and quotes a man it identifies as Darrell Dembo, a resident of the Ingersoll Houses, speaking of an elderly neighbor for whom grocery shopping is a four- or five-hour expedition. So, curious about this apparent failure of capitalism, where supply has not risen to meet demand, an editor of The New York Sun set out yesterday afternoon for the Ingersoll Houses.

And the rest, as they say, is history:

If this were just a classic, New York Times-style, "Planet Destroyed; Poor, Minorities Hardest Hit," story, we wouldn't make much of it. The Times's scoop is that the city's policymakers — led by Mayor Bloomberg and his planning commissioner, Amanda Burden — are fretting about, as Ms. Burden puts it in the Times, a "health crisis in the city" and claiming, "Stimulating the investment of supermarket owners in these communities is essential to the future of the city." Another city political figure is quoted in the story as threatening to bar a private property owner from leasing to anything but a supermarket.

Well, there may in fact be a shortage of fresh fruits and vegetables at some parts of New York City, but reporting finds there is not one in the Ingersoll Houses. What happened in Fort Greene is that the city and state and federal governments lavished subsidies on a nearby Target and Pathmark that put an un-subsidized supermarket nearby out of business, while the above-cited raft of government programs failed to solve the fruit and vegetable crisis. So the city is preparing to abridge the rights of property owners to lease their property to the highest bidder and instead to mandate leasing to supermarkets. Are Mr. Bloomberg and Ms. Burden themselves to ride through the city deciding the sites of supermarkets by fiat?

Where is their comprehension that the free market and the natural dynamism of capitalism are the most remarkable methods ever devised for feeding individuals? Without a whole lot of government intervention, in the past few years a Fairway has opened near a vast housing project in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and Whole Foods has opened in Manhattan near housing projects on the Lower East Side and near Columbus Circle. Rather than invent a crisis of obesity caused by a lack of supermarkets, Mr. Bloomberg and Ms. Burden could benefit by walking around the city. Somehow people have a way of finding what to eat without a whole lot of meddling by the politicians.

Thank God this story was covered by a professional trained in the latest techniques of investigative journalism, rather than one of those rabble bloggers who shoot from the lip first and ask questions never. Perhaps the Times reporters have become too used to those comfy desk chairs to venture out into the dangerous streets of Ingersoll where (Lord knows) conditions are far too dangerous to risk a professional journalist. Are they relying (as they do in Baghdad) on the unverified second-hand reports of indigenous local stringers?

What are readers of the Times paying for anyway? Inquiring minds want to know.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:10 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Iraq Has Become Vietnam!

In the comments to previous posts, I've been assured that the thinly veiled contempt displayed by several of our Congressional overlords and pundits like Dick Cavett for our armed forces was some sort of aberration. While I've been heartened by your expressions of support, stories like this only convince me that I have been right to maintain that recent open attacks on the military are bringing some very nasty stuff out of the woodwork: (via Glenn Reynolds, who has more on this.)

Dept of Transportation Federal Transit Administration sends:

Recently, there have been local incidents in which military personnel have been verbally assaulted while commuting on the Metro. Uniformed members have been approached by individuals expressing themselves as anti-government, shouting anti-war sentiments, and using racial slurs against minorities.

In one instance, a member was followed onto the platform by an individual who continued to berate her as she exited the
metro station. Thus far, these incidents have occurred in the vicinity of the Reagan National Airport and Eisenhower Ave metro stations on the yellow line, however, military members should be vigilant and aware of their surroundings at all times while in mass transit.

...Here are a few friendly reminders of personal protective measures that can help you to stay safe:

- If possible, do not commute in uniform (military members)

-Do not display DoD building passes, "hot cards", or personal identification in open view outside of the workplace

-Do not discuss specifics about your occupation to outside solicitors

-Always try to remain in well lit, well populated train cars if traveling via metro

-Be vigilant at all times!

So now soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines traveling to work in our nation's capital are supposed to hide the fact that they have volunteered defend this country as though it were something shameful in order to avoid being attacked by the very people whose freedoms they guarantee? What's next? Gold stars? It would seem that the Leftosphere has gotten its wish: at long last Iraq has become Vietnam:

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.”

We've come full circle. Of course it always helps when the mainstream media show a strange disinclination to cover behavior that contradicts the preferred narrative.

I've said this before, but I'll say it again: most people are sheep and attitudes are contagious. Tom Harkin and his ilk have a lot to answer for.

UPDATE: When I originally posted this, the contact information in the linked post had been redacted:

For this and any other suspicious activity, NGB personnel are also asked to notify the Pentagon Command Center at (***)***-****, and the NGB Antiterrorism/Force Protection Officer, MSgt *********, at (***)***-**** or (***)***-**** (after duty hours).

Now, they have been restored to Mr. Yon's post.

I am a little leary of this since I was unable to find any reference to this either on the FTA website or elsewhere on the 'Net. This doesn't mean it's not valid, but I have a call in to the Federal Transit Administration asking them to verify that they put out an advisory to this effect (though clearly the one in the linked post did not come directly from them). I'm also doing some other checking.

I'll keep you all posted.

Update: Per this post, this whole incident was blown out of proportion:

Bob Owens, known as "Confederate Yankee" in the blogosphere, has run down the source of the memo advising soldiers not to wear their uniforms while commuting. He says there is only one confirmed incident of harrassment of soldiers on the Metro.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:42 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

May 20, 2008

Operation Fresh Air I - 2008

Lisa in DC has a fantastic recap of Operation Fresh Air I, complete with photos (which I didn't get a chance to take - thanks!):

I think we could all agree that too much time inside... is just too much. For me, even exercising in a gym is punishment. I'll bundle up in layers, but please, just let me go outside for a walk, okay?

So perhaps, more than others, I was excited when I read about Operation Fresh Air last year.

Some military wives (mostly of the Marine variety, I believe!) in the DC area conceived of Operation Fresh Air, an opportunity for those recovering and rehabilitating at our DC-area military hospitals to spend a day fishing at a Virginia State park. I don't fish much, but how cool is that?

The events, OFA I and OFA II, were very popular with those who had a yen to get outside, and this year was no different. Despite a sprinkle (okay, shower) or two, the guys that came to fish yesterday never left the dock. Folks had to carry food out to the pier so they'd eat! I joked that Chicken Parmasean sandwiches might have been a bit better than chicken parm over spaghetti, but it was still yummy and the fisher-guys adapted. Just as some of them do for other things. They are such an inspiration, and it's such a pleasure to be able to help in any small way with an event that they clearly enjoy so much.

Someone caught an eel, which was suitably gross for the young boys. Check.

Someone flew a kite along the pier. Check.

Someone caught a fish 10 minutes before it was time to climb back on the bus. Check. Check.

Several little someones giggled and played and spent time with dad and mom, fishing, playing on the beach, munching on tasty fixings, and just generally chilling out.

Please note, for those who made donations through Soldiers' Angels for OFA last year, there were funds left over so yesterday's main course was your gift.


Lisa did a great job of covering OFA I and II in 2007. Since that time, we've been busy little bees. Carrie, Cyndi, MaryAnn from Soldiers Angels Germany and I are starting a non-profit organization called Honor Their Service. Our goal is to improve the lives of wounded vets and their families and to make sure that all military veterans know their service and sacrifices have not been forgotten. Part of that mission includes outings like Operation Fresh Air, but we plan to expand our activities to meet other needs in the military community. We're just getting started now, so we're very excited about the future.

Many thanks to Lisa and Soldiers Angels and to the Friends of Leesylvania State Park. We believe there is great potential in getting military and military-friendly charities to work together. We can do so much more together than any of us can accomplish alone. I hope to talk more about this in the coming months. For now, I just feel incredibly privileged to be able to work with such energetic and caring ladies.

Update: we got a link from The Donovan! Thanks!

Posted by Cassandra at 07:37 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

A Candle Against the Darkness

Friend and fellow Cotillionite, Jane Novak in the NY Times:

Jane Novak, a 46-year-old stay-at-home mother of two in New Jersey, has never been to Yemen. She speaks no Arabic, and freely admits that until a few years ago, she knew nothing about that strife-torn south Arabian country.

And yet Ms. Novak has become so well known in Yemen that newspaper editors say they sell more copies if her photograph — blond and smiling — is on the cover. Her blog, an outspoken news bulletin on Yemeni affairs, is banned there. The government’s allies routinely vilify her in print as an American agent, a Shiite monarchist, a member of Al Qaeda, or “the Zionist Novak.”

The worst of her many offenses is her dogged campaign on behalf of a Yemeni journalist, Abdul Karim al-Khaiwani, who incurred his government’s wrath by writing about a bloody rebellion in the far north of the country. He is on trial on sedition charges that could bring the death penalty, with a verdict expected Wednesday.

Ms. Novak, working from a laptop in her Monmouth County living room “while the kids are at school,” has started an Internet petition to free Mr. Khaiwani. She has enlisted Yemeni politicians, journalists, human rights activists and others around the globe. Her blog goes well beyond the Khaiwani case and has become a crucial outlet for opposition journalists and political figures, who feed her tips on Yemeni political intrigue by e-mail or text message.

She says her campaign is a matter of basic principle. “This is a country that lets Al Qaeda people go free, and they’re putting a journalist on trial for doing his job?” she said. “It’s just completely crazy.”

But Ms. Novak does admit to a personal interest in the case. She and Mr. Khaiwani have become close friends, though they have never met, and neither speaks the other’s language. One of the charges against him is receiving a cellphone text message from her, as part of an alleged plot (which he denies) to aid the Houthi rebels in northern Yemen.

“The penalty for this crime is usually death,” Mr. Khaiwani said during an interview at his home in the Yemeni capital, Sana, in January. A lanky 42-year-old with large, piercing eyes and a dark sense of humor, he has already been jailed four times by the authorities in connection with his journalism. Last year he was kidnapped and beaten by men he says were plainclothes police officers.

Mr. Khaiwani added, with a broad smile: “If you add to this my relationship with Jane Novak, it means the death penalty for sure.”

And best of all, it's all twue!!! I am so proud of my friend, the Dread Zionist Novak. Go read the whole thing. Because your mother would want you to.

Previous post about Jane.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 19, 2008


You appreciate the finer things in life. You have a split personality - wild or conservative, depending on your mood. Wherever you go, you like to travel first class. Luxury, style, and fun - who could ask for more?

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

What a hoot. Thanks to DL Sly for the link. I needed a good laugh!

Posted by Cassandra at 09:00 PM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

The Comic Stylings of John McCain

I've always loved this one:

McCain's a fairly funny guy. He was the guest of honor a few years ago at the Marine Corps ball in DC and he brought the house down. This is a pretty good example of his comic patter:

This, however, is new to me. Too funny.

Enjoy :)

Posted by Cassandra at 08:20 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

We Are America

What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.

...It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it.

As odd as it may seem, these apparently contradictory quotations were written by the same man. But then Robert E. Lee, who led the Army of Northern Virginia, was far more subtle than the legend which survived him. His memory has oft been associated with a cause he would have found repugnant: that of slavery. And though he was not free of some of the attitudes common to men of his generation, one has only to read his writings to divine his thoughts on the subject:

So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that Slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interest of the South. So fully am I satisfied of this that I would have cheerfully lost all that I have lost by the war, and have suffered all that I have suffered to have this object attained.

General Robert E. Lee, May 1, 1870

Lee was a fascinating and complex man. His accomplishments were not limited to the battlefield. After the war he became president of Washington College, later to become Washington and Lee University. Under his leadership the small school flourished. Not content with overseeing Washington College, Lee also fostered the development of several schools for young black men and expelled many of his white students for attacks on freed blacks. Lee also urged reconciliation with the North: a course of action not always popular in the post-war South and one that only someone revered as highly as he could have pushed forward. Until his death, Lee remained as energetic at making peace as he had been at waging war.

Funny; these hardly seem the actions of a man who has a "hard time thinking beyond the military":

Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s family background as the son and grandson of admirals has given him a worldview shaped by the military, “and he has a hard time thinking beyond that,” Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Ia., said Friday.

“I think he’s trapped in that,” Harkin said in a conference call with Iowa reporters. “Everything is looked at from his life experiences, from always having been in the military, and I think that can be pretty dangerous.”

Harkin said that “it’s one thing to have been drafted and served, but another thing when you come from generations of military people and that’s just how you’re steeped, how you’ve learned, how you’ve grown up."

As Grim remarks (and I commented some weeks ago) it seems strange how quickly the some of our leaders turned from voicing support for the military to thinly veiled expressions of suspicion and contempt:

It is interesting how he views the families that have sent generations of their sons -- and, now, daughters -- to fight for America as particularly dishonorable and dangerous. It is one thing if you were drafted, and had no choice, but to choose to fight for America... and generation after generation...

What's even more interesting is the manner in which military service is prostituted by these politicians. On the one hand as Senator Harkin is quick to note, there is nothing inherently wrong with military service:

He said that "I just want to be very clear there's nothing wrong with a career in the military" and that he has friends who are generals and admirals who have served the country well.

"But now McCain is running for a higher office. He's running for commander in chief, and our Constitution says that should be a civilian," Harkin said. "And in some ways, I think it would be nice if that commander in chief had some military background, but I don't know if they need a whole lot."

In the world according to Harkin, donning a uniform to defend your country is a bit of a mixed bag: avoid it entirely and one risks being called a coward (well, at least if one belongs to the wrong political party). Follow in your parents' footsteps, though, and you render yourself unfit to represent your fellow citizens. It is a puzzlement.

Thankfully, We the Little People can look to the good Senator's own record for helpful guidelines on adroitly navigating the Scylla and Charybdis of "too little" or "too much" military service:

1. First of all, always observe Harkin's Law: If you must serve, for God's sake don't volunteer:

“it’s one thing to have been drafted and served, but another thing when you come from generations of military people and that’s just how you’re steeped, how you’ve learned, how you’ve grown up.”

2. While you're at it, don't forget Arkin's Law:

Military, former military, and their families who support the war clearly do so for partisan motives, from ignorance, or because they have been pressured or duped by the administration.

Military, former military, and their families who oppose the war are motivated by courage, a deep sense of personal honor, and a desire to educate the American people.

3. It's easy to tell candidates with "acceptable" military service from those with "unacceptable" military service: war is so horrifying that real, authentic war heroes all have some form of PTSD-induced memory loss:

In 1979, Mr. Harkin, then a congressman, participated in a round-table discussion arranged by the Congressional Vietnam Veterans' Caucus. "I spent five years as a Navy pilot, starting in November of 1962," Mr. Harkin said at that meeting, in words that were later quoted in a book, Changing of the Guard, by Washington Post political writer David Broder. "One year was in Vietnam. I was flying F-4s and F-8s on combat air patrols and photo-reconnaissance support missions. I did no bombing."

That clearly is not an accurate picture of his Navy service. Though Mr. Harkin stresses he is proud of his Navy record--"I put my ass on the line day after day"--he concedes now he never flew combat air patrols in Vietnam.

He was stationed at the U.S. Naval Air Station at Atsugi, Japan. Damaged aircraft were flown into Atsugi for repairs or sometimes flown out of Atsugi to the Philippines for more substantial work. Mr. Harkin says he and three other Navy pilots flew these ferry flights. And, when the planes had been repaired, he and his fellow pilots took them up on test flights. "I had always wanted to be a test pilot," he says. "It was damned demanding work."

Clearly, war can cause extreme mental confusion that persists for decades:

Now a new official statement from the campaign undercuts Brinkley. It offers a minimal (thus harder to impeach) claim: that Kerry "on one occasion crossed into Cambodia," on an unspecified date. But at least two of the shipmates who are supporting Kerry's campaign (and one who is not) deny their boat ever crossed the border, and their testimony on this score is corroborated by Kerry's own journal, kept while on duty. One passage reproduced in Brinkley's book says: "The banks of the [Rach Giang Thanh River] whistled by as we churned out mile after mile at full speed. On my left were occasional open fields that allowed us a clear view into Cambodia. At some points, the border was only fifty yards away and it then would meander out to several hundred or even as much as a thousand yards away, always making one wonder what lay on the other side." His curiosity was never satisfied, because this entry was from Kerry's final mission.

If you ever see people pretending to be so-called "decorated war heroes" and their "claims" actually check out, you can be sure they are big phonies. If they had ever really suffered the so-called "tortures" in their inflated tales, they'd all be incurably insane like the detainees in Guantanamo Bay:

When Denton recalls his trials in Vietnam, his eyes are often closed. For two and a half years, he spent 17 to 18 hours a day in irons. Alone, in a coffin-sized cell, he had to remain on a 47-inch-by-47-inch square during the day. It was just long enough to walk two paces. At night, he slept on a stone slab. "It wasn't the Hilton," Denton said. There were no windows. Just a 10-watt bulb, roaches and spiders the size of tarantulas. "Jesus was with me all the time," said Denton, who is a devout Catholic. His proudest moment was conquering his claustrophobia. Denton said during that time, he was in an "extremely intellectual and spiritual state." He said it is amazing what the mind can accomplish, if given the opportunity.

He once derived the formula for centrifugal force in his head, something he couldn’t do with pencil and paper at the U.S. Naval Academy. Although the other captives had designated Denton "president of the optimist club," there were times he prayed to die. He didn't want to -- couldn't -- endure another minute of despair. Once, when Denton refused to tell guards how the Americans communicated with each other, he was tortured for 10 days and nights. By the 10th night, he couldn't think anymore. He couldn’t pray anymore.

Denton surrendered. Not to the guards, but to God. "It was a total surrender," he said. "If there was anymore to do, you will do it," he told God. "That instant, I felt zero pain," he said. "I felt the greatest comfort and reassurance in life that I haven’t felt since."

When Denton talks to groups around the country, he tells them that patriotism can motivate men to perform for their country, but only prayer can provide the strength for the kind of performance required in prison camps. Denton also found strength in his fellow captives. The Americans were forbidden to communicate with each other. But that didn’t stop them. They communicated in Morse code and other number-based codes they devised and transmitted through blinks, coughs, sneezes, taps on the wall and even sweeps of a broom.

"I experienced what I couldn't imagine human nature was capable of," Denton said. "I witnessed what my comrades could rise to. Self-discipline, compassion, a realization there is a God."

4. Public servants who aren't "trapped by the dangerous legacy of their military life experiences" are open to alternative interpretations of modern historical events (Ed Driscoll, via Glenn Reynolds). This is how we know they can be trusted to tell us the truthiness:

Yesterday was an interesting day. I spent it in a park in northern Virginia.

The weather was not ideal. When I showed up at half past ten it was cold and blustery. The wind was coming in off the water briskly and the rain was just starting up. Underneath the shaded pavilion in the woods, volunteers were setting out mounds of food on blue and white tablecloths. In the center of each table were red, white and blue centerpieces: a labor of love.

I wondered: who is going to show up in this kind of weather? I wasn't alone. My friend was worried too, with good reason. She had poured her heart and soul into this gathering. Behind her, good hearted people bustled about like worker bees, putting out tables and chairs, making everything just so, putting music on to brighten the scene. The staff at Leesylvania State Park helpfully fetched coffee and hot water for cocoa. It was chilly, but the mood was warm.

And then the bus showed up. And as we stood watching or ran over to greet it, they slowly disembarked. Most looked perfectly unremarkable, no different than you or I. Families showing up for a day in the park.

One was in a wheelchair. One - a lovely young woman - appeared to be sporting Cheetahs on both legs. What followed for the next four or five hours was little different than scores of other picnics I've attended over the years. I think even Tom Harkin would have been comfortable there. None of us knew each other beforehand. It didn't matter.

Some of us no doubt had seen things that changed their view of the world, perhaps forever. But those things are a part of this world. They did not bring them into being: violence, the capacity for human cruelty and the desire of some men to control the destiny of others did not originate with the armed forces, nor would these things suddenly come to an end if men like Tom Harkin were successful in purging his pristine Congress of such untoward influences. I am not a terribly outgoing person, but I had fun yesterday. For the most part, I felt comfortable; at home. Children were running and laughing as they do everywhere, an older gentleman celebrated his 81st birthday, and the only shadow fell unnoticed and unremarked by many when a few balloon animals fell to the ground and popped with a loud, "BANG!"

A soldier wryly joked, "I need to get out of here" as he exited the pavilion for a few moments. Even in the presence of war, such grace. A few faces grew suddenly quiet. But the mood passed quickly. I hope the incident passed as quickly from his mind as the waves that were skipping over the surface of the water.

I don't understand Harkin's remarks; what he hopes to gain by them. Or perhaps I am afraid that I do. What I do understand is that we in the military are no different in most respects than the rest of America. We are your sons and daughters, your wives, husbands, cousins, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters.

We are your family.

There is, perhaps, one respect in which the military are different, and it is an important one. It is not a difference which need divide us, though these days when it seems to. Or perhaps it is made to for reasons that serve political ends.

The military are sheepdogs. They stand ready to defend something we Americans have come to consider our birthright: freedom.

The truth is that many Americans - too many - trust those who keep us safe far less than those who prey on us. After all, we can always ignore the ones who prey on us. They remain in the shadows most of the time, hidden from our sight.

The sheepdogs live among us.

They are different from us, and this makes us profoundly nervous.

We don't like the fact that they follow a stricter set of rules than we do. That they starch and iron their uniforms. That they carry guns. That they follow commands, have ranks, and stand at attention, salute, and call each other 'sir'. It's all so un-egalitarian. We don't really understand how they can submit to this. They must be mindless dupes, brainwashed automatons who can only follow orders and never had an original or rebellious thought in their lives.

We don't like the fact that they cut their hair a certain way, and keep their weight down, and PT once a day. All this regimentation seems somehow unnatural to us. We can't help suspecting that, given half a chance, they'd like to impose this lifestyle by force on the rest of America.

What the watchers, the suspicious ones, the media and Hollywood elite who glutinously feast on the benefits of freedom but are mysteriously nowhere to be found when the bill comes due, fail to realize is that the pony-tailed guy next door, the one with the slight beer belly, who doesn't talk much but seems like a regular guy, was once one of the sheepdogs and would be again if his country needed him. What foolish sheep don't realize is that those rules, that hidebound code of conduct that irks them so much is the best guarantee they have that the sheepdogs won't turn suddenly and savage them. That is why they submit to it, gladly, though at times it galls them too. They understand the reason it exists.

It exists to protect things worth defending. And in the end, the defining difference between the sheepdog and the sheep he protects is that the sheepdog is willing to defend those things, with his life if need be, so that they do not pass away.

So the next time you hear a lot of overheated pontification about how our precious freedoms are being eroded by the Bush administration, the Patriot Act, or the war in Iraq, ask yourself this question: precisely what is the speaker willing to give up to guarantee those freedoms for future generations? Which of his precious rights will he give up in service to a greater good? Which of his luxuries?

I can almost guarantee you the answer will be: not one damn thing.

Ask yourself a second question: what has the speaker risked by saying what he or she just said? Again, the answer is clear: despite all the blather, absolutely nothing.

For the past eight years, we have been told over and over by various Democrats that the Bush administration is engaging in "fear mongering". We have been told that they are using "divisive rhetoric" to mislead voters with the "politics of fear".

Well what exactly have Tom Harkin and his ilk been doing, if not precisely that? And if their allegations are true: if we're living in a police state where dissent is actively being crushed, where is the evidence of this harsh repression? What has their brave truth-telling cost the dissenters? Where did the real danger lie - if (in truth) as Keith Olbermann and his cohort are not selling America a bill of goods? If in truth the "real danger" is not al Qaeda but the Bush administration, where are the walking wounded of the dissenting Left?

I looked around yesterday and I saw men and women who willingly stood up to fanatics - men who choose to strap bombs to innocent women and the retarded and send them into marketplaces to kill civilians. I saw the price they have paid for their determination to oppose these ruthless killers. This tells me that these people - al Qaeda - do represent a danger to the democratic way of life. They represent a danger to innocent civilians. And we have their own word for their intentions regarding us. They have repeatedly stated their intentions to continue attacking us until we are destroyed. And yet the critics of this administration inexplicably seem to believe that opposing their stated intent to attack us is the problem?

Does this make sense? Several of them have stated that our own government is more of a danger to freedom than the terrorists. Have they presented evidence to back up this claim?

Who has John McCain killed lately? Is he dangerous? It seems to me that men who publicly deny (as both John Kerry and Tom Harkin have done) that millions of people were brutally murdered after the fall of Saigon are dangerous, for they are denying what is indisputably a historical fact. And now Tom Harkin tells us that John McCain is "dangerous"? John McCain was tortured for years in a North Vietnamese prison. Far from warping his mind, the experience seems to have served as an aid to his memory, as it has for these gentlemen. No doubt Senator Harkin feels they, too, have "too much" military service to be entirely reliable. Our so-called investigative media call them "Swift Boaters". So much for the facts, which are both out there and independently verifiable (if all but impossible to find in the popular media).

The truth about war, as the Army CID investigation of John Kerry's by-now famous Winter Soldier allegations showed, is easy to demagogue but hard to correct once a really big lie has become firmly entrenched in the public consciousness. Will America ever learn to trust the men and women who defend our freedoms? Or will we continue to fall for the demonstrably untrue statements of hucksters like Tom Harkin and John Kerry? Whom will you trust, if push comes to shove?

I wonder. But then my world view has undoubtedly been warped by too many ancestors who believed this country worth defending. May it ever be so.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:19 AM | Comments (38) | TrackBack

May 17, 2008

Coffee Snorters: It's A Miracle! Edition

Can Somebody Explain to Me ...

... how Obama sat in Wright's church for 20 years and managed never to hear anything, but hears 20 seconds of a Bush speech that doesn't mention him and perceives a shameful personal attack?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:00 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

May 16, 2008

Well Alrighty Then

This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I'll never look into your eyes...again


This is how the world ends:

In what sounds like a really low-budget horror film, voracious swarming ants that apparently arrived in Texas aboard a cargo ship are invading homes and yards across the Houston area, shorting out electrical boxes and messing up computers.

The hairy, reddish-brown creatures are known as "crazy rasberry ants" - crazy, because they wander erratically instead of marching in regimented lines, and "rasberry" after Tom Rasberry, an exterminator who did battle against them early on.

"They're itty-bitty things about the size of fleas, and they're just running everywhere," said Patsy Morphew of Pearland, who is constantly sweeping them off her patio and scooping them out of her pool by the cupful. "There's just thousands and thousands of them. If you've seen a car racing, that's how they are. They're going fast, fast, fast. They're crazy."

...Exterminators say calls from frustrated homeowners and businesses are increasing because the ants - which are starting to emerge by the billions with the onset of the warm, humid season - appear to be resistant to over-the-counter ant killers.

"The population built up so high that typical ant controls simply did no good," said Jason Meyers, an A&M doctoral student who is writing his dissertation on the one-eighth-inch-long ant.

It's not enough just to kill the queen. Experts say each colony has multiple queens that have to be taken out.

At the same time, the ants aren't taking the bait usually left out in traps, according to exterminators, who want the Environmental Protection Agency to loosen restrictions on the use of more powerful pesticides.

And when you do kill these ants, the survivors turn it to their advantage: They pile up the dead, sometimes using them as a bridge to cross safely over surfaces treated with pesticide.

"It looked like someone had come along and poured coffee granules all around the perimeter of the rooms," said Lisa Calhoun, who paid exterminators $1,200 to treat an infestation of her parents' home in the Houston suburb of Pearland.

The Texas Department of Agriculture is working with A&M researchers and the EPA on how to stop the ants.

"This one seems to be like lava flowing and filling an entire area, getting bigger and bigger," said Ron Harrison, director of training for the big pest-control company Orkin Inc.

And the really criminal thing about this is that if all our ace exterminators weren't off fighting al Qaeda in Iraq, we could move them to Houston to conduct negotiations meet this existential threat to our national security.

America sure could use some real leadership right about now.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:32 AM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

May 14, 2008

This Deeply Unpopular War

It's dawn again outside my little home in the woods somewhere in western Maryland. How many posts, over the years, have begun with those lines?

Hard to say. Time was when those words signaled an impending storm. They were an almost infallible sign that some tinder had ignited the passion that drove me to bouts of 4 a.m. keyboard bashing in furious denunciation of something-or-other: defeatism, dishonesty, the venom of those who champion reason and tolerance by practicing their opposites.

As I sip my coffee and stare into space sunlight steals silently through gaps in the trees, turning the Japanese maple outside my office window into a flaming torch. Oblivious to the pyrotechnics inches above his twitching tail, a squirrel industriously dives in and out of my painted ferns. No doubt he hopes to retrieve one of the thousands of acorns embedded in what is left of last year's mulch. Evidence of his previous diving expeditions lies scattered along the top of the stone wall.

I have so little passion left. I'm running on fumes now; five years of war have left me feeling strangely drained. Now all that's left, it seems, is determination. That, and anger over the unrelenting drumbeat of negativity surrounding what the media love to call "this deeply unpopular war":

Amid talk among the mainstream media of a sinking economy in which the elderly must live in vans and others cannot afford to drive 35 miles to church on Sundays, the Associated Press did note a drop in unemployment from 2006 to 2007. But even that news was buried in a story about the military and was used to explain trouble had in meeting recruiting goals.

On May 13, an AP story by writer Anne Flaherty used this drop in unemployment to explain that the military is having difficulty recruiting young people. But just a day before, the Associated Press reported that every branch of the military met its recruiting goals for the month of April, some branches even surpassed them. As Warner Todd Huston noted, AP’s Pauline Jelinek reasoned that the military was successful in its recruitment efforts because “other job possibilities” are limited.

Shoring up flagging opposition for "this deeply unpopular war" becomes problematic when the media can't even get their own narrative straight Are we having trouble meeting our recruiting goals because jobs are currently more plentiful? Or have we met our recruiting goals only because jobs are now harder to find in the civilian sector? The truth is out there. Unfortunately the Associated Press couldn't find it if it were hidden in a bushel basket full of strictly impartial anti-war rhetoric.

legblog5_3.jpgBut then context is so important, don't you think? For instance, without the vital news analysis provided by neutral journalists, who among us would know that though they may pretend otherwise, our brave troops are tortured by doubt?

In a war that Falcon no longer really understood, Shahad became his mission. So when she asked for legs, that became his mission, too.

..So Falcon, who admits he wasn't sure about the Iraq war, wasn't sure he was making a difference, decided he'd get Shahad her legs.

Did we mention that a man who has seen sights which would haunt most human beings sometimes has doubts about whether the horrors of war can ever result in anything good? Because we sure would hate for you to be distracted from the most important point of this story, which is that war is a soul-searing and ultimately pointless exercise:

“This was what I needed,” Falcon said of his encounter with Shahad. Until then, he had wondered about his mission in Iraq. “Doing this right now, I’ll do as many tours as I need,” he said.

At any rate, let's try to stay on message here. The worst thing about war is the irreparable mental anguish it causes:

Several years into a pair of wars, the Department of Veterans Affairs is struggling to cope with a task for which it was tragically unready: the care of soldiers who left Afghanistan and Iraq with an extra burden of brain injury and psychic anguish. The last thing they need is the toxic blend of secrecy, arrogance and heedlessness that helped to send many of them into harm’s way.

...A study by the Rand Corporation last month found that nearly one in five service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, or about 300,000, have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression. About 19 percent reported having a possible traumatic brain injury from these bomb-afflicted wars.

And that doesn't even begin to address the horror of all those innocent detainees driven hopelessly insane by the cruel and inhumane conditions at Guantanamo Bay.

As we all know, solitary confinement is a well-known form of torture sufficient to drive most human beings completely out of their minds:

Occasionally John would get called up to the "Big House." That's what the prisoners named the building where I was taken the night I arrived in the camp. Sometimes he had news that was not on the speakers in the camp. In September 1968 John had gone through a particularly bad session at the Big House where they had broken his left arm again by bending it beyond its limited mobility. After almost four days of beatings and torture John had signed a "crime confession." In the years to follow in Hanoi I found that most prisoners had been tortured to the extent that many had signed "crime confessions, letters requesting amnesty, or early release, and letters to their buddies not to fly in this cruel and senseless war."


During one of these shakedowns they found Mike's flag. We all knew what would happen. That night they came for Mike. Night interrogations were always the worst. they opened the cell door, and pulled him out. We could hear the beginning of the torture before they even had him into the torture cell. They "bent" him most of the night. About daylight they pushed what was left of him back through the cell door. He was badly broken, even his voice was gone.

Within two weeks, Mike had scrounged another piece of cloth and began making another flag --- you see, Mike was that kind of American. I related this story on the floor of the Senate to illustrate the power of a symbol, the power of the U.S. Flag.

...and utterly insane:

When Denton recalls his trials in Vietnam, his eyes are often closed. For two and a half years, he spent 17 to 18 hours a day in irons. Alone, in a coffin-sized cell, he had to remain on a 47-inch-by-47-inch square during the day. It was just long enough to walk two paces. At night, he slept on a stone slab. "It wasn't the Hilton," Denton said. There were no windows. Just a 10-watt bulb, roaches and spiders the size of tarantulas. "Jesus was with me all the time," said Denton, who is a devout Catholic. His proudest moment was conquering his claustrophobia. Denton said during that time, he was in an "extremely intellectual and spiritual state." He said it is amazing what the mind can accomplish, if given the opportunity.

He once derived the formula for centrifugal force in his head, something he couldn’t do with pencil and paper at the U.S. Naval Academy. Although the other captives had designated Denton "president of the optimist club," there were times he prayed to die. He didn't want to -- couldn't -- endure another minute of despair. Once, when Denton refused to tell guards how the Americans communicated with each other, he was tortured for 10 days and nights. By the 10th night, he couldn't think anymore. He couldn’t pray anymore.

Denton surrendered. Not to the guards, but to God. "It was a total surrender," he said. "If there was anymore to do, you will do it," he told God. "That instant, I felt zero pain," he said. "I felt the greatest comfort and reassurance in life that I haven’t felt since."

When Denton talks to groups around the country, he tells them that patriotism can motivate men to perform for their country, but only prayer can provide the strength for the kind of performance required in prison camps. Denton also found strength in his fellow captives. The Americans were forbidden to communicate with each other. But that didn’t stop them. They communicated in Morse code and other number-based codes they devised and transmitted through blinks, coughs, sneezes, taps on the wall and even sweeps of a broom.

"I experienced what I couldn't imagine human nature was capable of," Denton said. "I witnessed what my comrades could rise to. Self-discipline, compassion, a realization there is a God."

The evidence that torture drives prisoners of war incurably mad is incontrovertible. Hell: sometimes the mental damage runs so deep they stoop to Swift-boating highly-decorated combat veterans! Fortunately, the mainstream media aren't about to let a bunch of poseurs smear a genuine war hero.

The thing is, the media would be happy to report good news in Iraq and Afghanistan if they could find some. The trouble is, they can't hear it above the sound of exploding Iraqi journalists. The American ones these days are safely ensconced, for the most part, behind their desks:


This is not their fault, one suspects. As Jules Crittenden, a former embed, has often remarked, many reporters would be over there in a heartbeat if their bureaus would send them and professionals like Tony Perry of the LA Times continue to provide great coverage (even from within Iraq) when they are allowed to.

But none of this changes the fact that as the violence in Iraq has abated, so - largely - has the media's interest in covering the war:

Through the first half of 2007, about half the stories from Iraq examined in a PEJ study were about the continuing drumbeat of daily violence. From July through October, that number fell to a little more than one-third. In November, stories filed from Iraq began to take greater notice of the surge's success in reducing violence, even as the volume of coverage tapered off, evidence perhaps of the old adage that no news is good news. (So far in 2008, events on the ground in Iraq are accounting for only 2% of the newshole, although any sustained uptick in violence there could once again lead to an increase in coverage.)

With the violence down, some have criticized journalists for not producing other stories that would paint a richer portrait of life, and perhaps progress, in Iraq. The results of a PEJ survey last year of 111 journalists who have worked in Iraq reveal the extent to which basic security concerns limited the scope of their reporting. A full 57% of those journalists reported having local staff in Iraq murdered or kidnapped in the past year. And 87% said that at least half of Baghdad itself was too dangerous for a Western journalist to move around in. Unable to venture far, journalists identified the lives of Iraqi civilians and that country's economic and political situation as among the most under covered stories of the war.

But in a reporting situation where the vast majority of news stories are collected second-hand, the media persistently refuse to report good news provided by military news sources or, when they do pass along such news, surround it with quotes intended to show that such unreliable reports (unlike the myriad anonymous news reports provided secondhand - and consequently never independently verified - by their Iraqi stringers) must be taken with a very large grain of salt:

'Guantanamo man' in Iraq attack
Baghdad clashes 'kill 17 gunmen'

After all, there are journalistic standard to be upheld.

1_21_042608_WoundedWarrior01.jpgIs it any wonder that, as the chart above suggests, as media coverage of the war declines, so does public pessimism about our progress in Iraq? Without that relentless drumbeat of negativity beating constantly in the background, without the thousand subtle digs intended to feed public doubt about whether this war can ever succeed, to make us wonder whether human beings are strong enough to overcome adversity, whether the horrors of war permanently warp the human spirit, whether healing is possible in an unforgiving world, is there hope that the right side will emerge victorious in this battle for hearts and minds?

How can our side ever win the information war when a corrupt administration seems determined to force disinterested public servants like Bill Keller to share the megaphone?

Somehow the NYT contends that Major General (Ret) Robert Scales is an administration cheerleader incapable of independent thought?! In what alternate reality is that true? Generals Montgomery Meigs and Barry McCaffrey? For Christ’s sake, those are three of the most vocal and respected critics of the military conduct of operations that America has seen these past five years (though it should be noted that at least McCaffrey was initially in favor of the invasion). And yet the NYT wants to paint them as tools of the administration? Seriously? Folks, at least two of those generals have been invited panelists to speak before the House and Senate Armed Services Committees about the problems with the war. Invited by the Democrats mind you, not the Republicans. Seriously, somebody at the NYT headquarters needs to consider instituting a random drug testing program over there because the intellectual loops one has to tie oneself into to come to their thesis are worthy of Jayson Blair’s style of “reporting.”

Any hope that there might critical thinking vanishes in a cotton-candy poof of intellectual smoke when one realizes that the Times is seriously contending that we readers should believe that these retired generals and other officers were swayed by, well, see it yourself: "In interviews, participants described a powerfully seductive environment — the uniformed escorts to Mr. Rumsfeld's private conference room, the best government china laid out, the embossed name cards, the blizzard of PowerPoints, the solicitations of advice and counsel..."

Wait a second…you mean that the “participants” called it “powerfully seductive”? No, look closer, that word “described” means something. It means that they said no such thing and that the reporter is interpreting the scene for us plebians because, you know, we’re not qualified on that count.

Ignorant folk might be tempted to see this sort of thing as intellectually dishonest. But as Keith Olbermann so trenchantly reminded us, when the stakes become high enough, abstract principles like journalistic ethics are the first thing to go out the window.

After all, winning "this deeply unpopular war" is of the utmost importance. In the end, it's really just a question of whose set of emergency rules will carry the day. Of course, it always helps when you own the microphone.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:16 AM | Comments (93) | TrackBack

May 13, 2008

Never Say That This Blog Is Not Educational...

Where else are you going to find helpful hints like this?

Posted by Cassandra at 01:23 PM | Comments (43) | TrackBack

The "Back Door Draft"

McQ has a great post up about what is so often called the "back door draft". He clears up a lot of misconceptions:

You've read the stories about "former" soldiers who thought their obligations were complete but had been called back to active duty?

Almost to a man they claim they were sure their obligation was complete and further claim the military was unlawfully calling them back.

Eh, not really.

I had the opportunity to talk with MG Sean Byrne who commands the US Army Human Resources Command about the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). The IRR is a pool of former active duty soldiers who are serving out the rest of their contractual obligation to the military. What most people don't seem to understand, obviously to include some service members, is that the 2 to 4 years you serve on active duty are only a part of the 8 year obligation you sign up for at that time. It is in the contract signed by every enlistee.

One of the common misconceptions is that when they receive that DD 214 at the end of their active service, they are done. The belief that the receipt of that form, which is a release from active duty, ends their obligation, is false. It only separates the soldier from active duty, but does not discharge them from their reserve obligation.

In fact, when they process through the separation transfer point, each soldier signs his DD 214 which specifically states he or she is subject to recall to active duty if the need arises (block 6). The form also tells them exactly how much time they have left (block 18).

How big of a problem has this been in reality? As we all know, newspaper stories only report the plane that crashes and not the thousands of planes that land safely daily.

The present pool of IRR soldiers stands at 72,000. The number recalled to active duty at this moment is 6,500. The number of stories that you've read about? Maybe 50.

We asked MG Byrne if there isn't a better way of ensuring that soldiers are more aware of this obligation to insure that there are fewer such stories.

I think these comments provide the best answer to that question:

My active duty enlistment was supposed to end in June 1992, but I was still deployed for Operation Desert Storm and I was placed under the Air Force’s stop loss policy. I went back to my base in Italy three months later and was outprocessed in 2 days (through New Jersey if I remember correctly).

I wasn’t the only one kept in because of stop loss, and everyone seemed well aware of the rules.

Furthermore, looking at my DD Form 214, it has a big black box around 6. RESERVE OBLIG. TERM. DATE with a year, month, and day. Then it has (among other things) under 18. Remarks: "Extension of service was at the request and for the convenience of the government.—Subject to recall to active duty and/or annual screening."

I don’t know how much the form has changed during the past 16 years, but I suspect it’s pretty much the same.


In 1987, I enlisted and it was made very clear to me that I had an 8 year total obligation. In July 1990, I left active duty aware that I had 5 years of an 8 year obligation left. Considering this was before we got to reap the "peace dividend" and still had 18 divisions, I never thought I’d be called back in. In 1991 I was called back to active duty, for Desert Storm, not in my plans, but I knew it wasa possibility. I have no sympathy for any of these guys, the havd a bad case of selective listening. Most of these guys have already been told by countless squad leaders, 1SG’s and CO’s that with a war on, their skills were needed, and they were offered some very generous reenlistment incentives. They chose to play the odds, and lost. They got the job training, GI Bill, and a clearance from Uncle Sam, now they’re paying off the rest of the bill.

And best of all...

People who claim they don't know they have IRR time are like people who seem to remember what the adjustable means in adjustable rate mortgage and then scream when they can't afford payments when they could barely qualify for the house under some of the lowest interest rates in history (comparitively speaking). They are people who just throw their hands up like a 3 year old when they realize it affects them and says " I dont know"

Yep. If you fail to pay your attention bill, eventually you're going to find yourself sitting in the dark. As Gomer Pyle used to say, "Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!"

Posted by Cassandra at 08:09 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Yesterday, MikeD left a comment on the college rape post that I wanted to respond to more fully for a number of reasons other than my usual impulse to be excessively tiresome:

Now, to be fair... while I understand the young men's motivation (I was once a raging pile of hormones myself), someone should really pull these guys aside and have a talk with THEM about self respect.

I think this is something that frequently gets overlooked. We're used to warning the young ladies about the predatory male, and the good news is that some (e.g. Katelyn) are also recognizing that they bear some responsibility for their actions too (didn't we just have a long conversation about women being fully capable of taking care of themselves recently?). But other than pointing fingers at the young men and shouting "RAPIST! J'accuse!" they seem to get a pass on their own behavior.

Basically, all I am saying is that there's some middle ground between being a slavering bestial monster bent on deflowering helpless maidens and being an incompetent fool who is mentally disabled by testosterone flowing through his bloodstream. These guys are NOT idiots. Nor are they monsters. If you lay out to them that sexual conquest is not a game, and that if they don't respect themselves how is anyone else going to (and let's not forget the "would you really want some other dude treating your sister/daughter like that" logic... cause guys hate that), then I suspect the world might be improved.

I'm no Pollyanna... I know what college dorm life is like. I also know that it took me till the ripe old age of 24 to get my head out of my fourth point of contact. But dammit, let's have more respect for guys (and for them to have more respect for themselves) and grant that hormones do not cause men to become Neanderthals.

These are the points I tried, as a mother, to drive home to my young sons. It's not always easy for a woman to talk to teen-aged boys about sex. For one thing, your street cred isn't all that impressive. You can't exactly tell them "When I was your age..." stories since you lack the comparable road gear. In addition, boys are often a bit uneasy when Mom brings up a subject they're intensely curious about, but is also intimately connected with their impending voyage into that great unknown we call the wonderful world of adulthood. Let's face it: who wants to tell his friends, "Yeah, I learned all about birth control from... [not Playboy or Penthouse or a camping trip with Dad in the Adirondack, but... wait for it!] my Mom!" But when Dad is gone most of the time, someone has to do it if you don't find the idea of being the youngest Grandma on the planet even mildly attractive, so you find a way.

What I tried to teach my sons is that there is nothing wrong with sex. It's wonderful and enjoyable, but it isn't the be-all and end-all of life. Adult men and women should have enough respect for themselves that they remain in control of their emotions and impulses: a healthy sense of balance is what distinguishes a mature adult from a child. This is what annoyed me so about some of the arguments on the Military exchanges post. It is almost comically demeaning to seriously contend that the ability to procure skin mags from the local PX is an essential force multiplier, without which we might as well run up the white flag. This obscures the real issue: there are far stronger arguments to be made for not unnecessarily infringing upon the rights of service members.

But the reason I wrote about that issue, and the reasons I continue to bring this (and tangential issues) up here at VC are twofold:

1. It continues to bother me when I see conservatives ostensibly defending freedom of expression by reflexively flinging ad hominems at anyone who dares to raise a point they happen to disagree with. Any time this happens, I'm going to get my back up. I have often urged women to be more assertive about voicing their opinions on the 'Net, but there are valid reasons why many women are reluctant to do so.

One reason is that when certain subjects are raised, some of the very men who would be the first to maintain that women are mean spirited and overly emotional proceed to defend their positions with.... [wait for it] mean spirited personal attacks and essentially emotional arguments. This doesn't mean that women are good and men are bad. It means that both men and women are fallible, and when it's our own ox that's being gored, each sex tends to react with something less than our usual equanimity. The thing is, if your best argument against porn is that "normal men don't enjoy that sort of thing" or that men who do are rapists in training, you've left the realm of the rational.

But if your best argument against women who object to porn is that women "shouldn't object to/feel threatened by it" or that women who do, do so because they are "ugly, fat, and don't like sex" or are "joyless scolds who like to control men", you're not exactly looking like the poster child for reasoned discourse, are you?

2. Grim and I have probably gone at least 50 rounds on this subject, and we seem to have come at last to an understanding (I think) that I have no desire whatsoever to ban pornography. Never have. Never will. What disturbs me is the mainstreaming of porn into everyday culture. The reason this concerns me, frankly, is well illustrated by stories like this:

Time was, when a girl had a crush on a boy, she sent him a note in class.

Today, as at least one local school district has learned, she might use her cell phone to take a naked picture of herself and send the photo to him.

The Pioneer Central School District over the past two months has discovered three cases of teenage girls — ages 13 to 16 — electronically sending nude photos to male classmates.

“All of the situations we’re dealing with, the images are of a girl in a provocative and seductive position, and in the nude,” Pioneer Superintendent Jeffrey Bowen told The Buffalo News.

What I have argued against, repeatedly, is not the existence of porn but the easy access to porn. Pornography has been around for centuries. It will continue to be around as long as human beings enjoy sex. No one is ever going to "get rid" of porn. It's that simple. What you hope to do - what I hope to do - is keep it out of the hands of children who are not nearly old enough to possess the judgment to handle it yet.

When I see young girls having plastic surgery to make themselves look more like porn stars, that really bothers me.

When I see 15 year old girls sending nude photos and movies of themselves over cell phones and email, that bothers me. And the most disturbing thing of all is passages like this:

In the third and most recent case, a female high school student at some point sent a naked photo of herself as a text message to her boyfriend, a fellow high school student.

“That picture then was forwarded somehow from that phone to another phone and was distributed from there,” Schultz said.

...The teens initially didn’t realize the consequences of what they were doing, Bowen said, but now they do and they are upset.

Most of us talk to our children about unprotected sex.

How many of us talk to our children about unprotected email? A single careless email can be forwarded in an instant half-way around the world without your knowledge or consent.
If your child is foolish enough to attach an indiscrete photo, it could end up on the Internet, where it could be found by future employers and colleges, ruining any chance he or she might have of finding employment. In one careless moment, your child's reputation could be utterly ruined.

And the real kicker here is that our don't come up with these ideas on their own. Their behavior reflects the world they see and hear every day: they mimic the values we create and defend.

Think about that for a moment: Monkey see, monkey do. As Mike so perceptively noted, men hate being told, "Would you really want some other dude treating your sister/daughter like that?" And yet it often seems to me that even conservatives, increasingly, just wish away the conflict between their professed values and their own behavior. The truth is that children pay far more attention to what we do than what we say, and they notice far more than we give them credit for.

The problem, as I see it, is not that porn exists at all. It has always existed. The problem is that it has become so mainstream that people's appetites are sated. When you can dial up the most hardcore entertainment right on your home TV set, when even lingerie ads and prime time television shows have become semi-pornographic, nothing is tantalizing or forbidden. And our children are getting that message loud and clear: nothing is off limits anymore. Nothing is unthinkable. Because adults (and many conservatives) ridicule what we used to call modesty or restraint, there is no barrier to keep them from doing things that can and do harm them.

Sex occurs primarily in the mind, and in order to feel that forbidden thrill it's only human nature to push the boundaries farther and farther out. Where once the mere sight of a woman's uncovered ankles was unbearably enticing, now we see nearly naked women on billboards; consequently it takes something truly shocking (how about a 15 year old sporting that freshly f*cked look?) to get our collective juices flowing. But what effect, when adults refuse to rein themselves in, does this have on our children?

Easy. Fifteen year olds are mailing videos of themselves engaging in sex acts over the cell phones their parents gave them so they could 'keep in touch'.

The kids are in touch all right. Nice work.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:26 AM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

May 12, 2008

Coffee Snorters: College Daze Edition

Proof that not all college kids are brain dead:

Equally maddening must be the reaction that sometimes greets performers in Sex Signals, an improvisational show on date rape whose venues include Harvard, Yale, and schools throughout the Midwest. “Sometimes we get women who are advocates for men,” the show’s founders told a Chicago public radio station this October, barely concealing their disbelief. “They blame the victim and try to find out what the victim did so they won’t do it.” Such worrisome self-help efforts could shut down the campus rape industry.

“Promiscuity” is a word that you will never see in the pages of a campus rape center publication; it is equally repugnant to the sexual liberationist strand of feminism and to the Catherine Mac-Kinnonite “all-sex-is-rape” strand. But it’s an idea that won’t go away among the student Lumpenproletariat. Students refer to “sororistutes”—those wild and crazy Greek women so often featured in Girls Gone Wild videos. And they persist in seeing a connection between promiscuity and the alleged campus rape epidemic. A Rutgers University freshman says that he knows women who claim to have been sexually assaulted, but adds: “They don’t have the best reputation. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that kind of stuff.”

Rape consultant David Lisak faced a similar problem this November: an auditorium of Rutgers students who kept treating women as moral agents. He might have sensed the trouble ahead when in response to a photo array of what Lisak calls “undetected rapists,” a girl asked: “Why are there only white men? Am I blind?” It went downhill from there. Lisak did his best to send a tremor of fear through the audience with the news that “rape happens with terrifying frequency. I’m not talking of someone who comes onto campus but students, Rutgers students, who prowl for victims in bars, parties, wherever alcohol is being consumed.” He then played a dramatized interview with a student “rapist” at a fraternity that had deliberately set aside a room for raping girls during parties, according to Lisak. The students weren’t buying it. “I don’t understand why these parties don’t become infamous among girls,” wondered one. Another asked: “Are you saying that the frat brothers decided that this room would be used for committing sexual assault, or was it just: ‘Maybe I’ll get lucky, and if I do, I’ll go there’?” And then someone asked the most dangerous question of all: “Shouldn’t the victim have had a little bit of education beforehand? We all know the dangers of parties. The victim had miscalculations on her part; alcohol can lead to things.”

In a column this November in the University of Virginia’s student newspaper, third-year student Katelyn Kiley gave the real scoop on frat parties: They’re filled with boys hoping to have sex. She did not call these boys “rapists.” She did not demonize their sex drive. She merely offered some practical wisdom to the “scantily clad” freshman girls trooping off to Virginia’s fraternity row: “That frat boy really is just trying to get into your pants.” Most disturbingly, she advised the girls to exercise sexual control: “So dance with that good-looking guy. If he offers, you can even go up to his room to get a mixed drink. . . . Flirt. But it’s probably a good idea to keep your clothes on, and at the end of the night, to go home to your own bed. Interestingly enough, that’s how you get them to keep asking you back.”

You can read thousands of pages of rape crisis center hysteria without coming across such bracing common sense. Amazingly, Kiley hasn’t received any of the millions of dollars that feminists in the federal government have showered on campuses to prevent what they call rape.

Clearly our education system is failing these young women. One weeps...

Posted by Cassandra at 08:12 AM | Comments (53) | TrackBack

"Postracial Candidate" Caught Deliberately Manipulating Race...


Does the Obama campaign want to downplay their support among the black community? Judith Klinghoffer points to the story from the Financial Times where a reporter notices this manipulation of visuals during Obama's visit to Charlotte.

About three-quarters of the 9,000 people who turned up to see Barack Obama at a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Friday evening were black. Yet, the section of seating directly behind where he spoke was filled overwhelmingly by whites.

Admittedly, one report doth not a pattern make. But how about two in a row:

While the crowd was indeed diverse, some students at the event questioned the practices of Mrs. Obama’s event coordinators, who handpicked the crowd sitting behind Mrs. Obama. The Tartan’s correspondents observed one event coordinator say to another, “Get me more white people, we need more white people.” To an Asian girl sitting in the back row, one coordinator said, “We’re moving you, sorry. It’s going to look so pretty, though.”

“I didn’t know they would say, ‘We need a white person here,’ ” said attendee and senior psychology major Shayna Watson, who sat in the crowd behind Mrs. Obama. “I understood they would want a show of diversity, but to pick up people and to reseat them, I didn’t know it would be so outright.”

How about making it a trifecta?

Reporters in the hall saw Obama campaign workers usher photogenic white families toward the platform as they entered. The scene they composed was an effective, calculated rebuttal of the Clintons' effort to portray Obama as a black candidate whose victory depended on race -- a way of killing "this possible racial narrative before it could be born," as Gal Beckerman wrote in a perceptive dispatch on the Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk blog ( http://www.cjr.org).

Such manipulation has become so commonplace that few other journalists bothered to mention the Carolina campaign tableau in their coverage, even though Beckerman estimated that 85 percent of the crowd was African American.

The problem with 'killing this potential narrative" is that, as Daniel Henniger notes, it happens to be true:

Barack Obama, the first "postracial candidate," is heading to the Democratic nomination almost entirely because of his near-universal support from black voters in the Democratic primaries. In both states Tuesday, his share of that vote was 90% or more. If one resets the black vote to the norm of earlier elections, Hillary Clinton is the nominee.

An enormous amount of media attention has been devoted to Hillary Clinton's recent observation that her campaign has managed to secure the support of a majority of working class white Democrats. For voicing an observation which is not only demonstrably true but has been aired by countless television news anchors, Senator Clinton has been accused of waging a "divisive" campaign with "disturbing racial undertones". She has also been accused of subtly discourging whites from voting for Barack Obama.

The more pernicious interpretation of the 'discouragement' argument is that Ms. Clinton's remark subtly encourages racism. To appreciate the full irony of this ludicrous charge, consider these facts:

In the last two Democratic primaries, approximately 60% of white voters have pulled the lever for Senator Clinton.

Approximately 90% - a virtual shut-out - voted for Barack Obama.

Let's stop and think about that for a second. What does that mean? Well, for one thing, it means that statistically speaking, if you took a hypothetical Democratic voter and you knew nothing about that voter other than the color of his or her skin, you could predict his or her vote correctly 90% of the time if that voter were black.

If the voter were white, your chances drop to about half the time.

And yet, to hear the mainstream media tell it, Obama is the candidate who will help us finally transcend race and his support in the black community has nothing to do with race. Oh, and by the way: those 40% of white Democrats who aren't voting for Obama?

Racists, every last one. It's the only possible explanation for their refusal to vote for him. In the Washington Post, Eugene Robinson energetically fans the flames of racial discontent. First Robinson claims she's playing the race card:

From the beginning, Hillary Clinton has campaigned as if the Democratic nomination were hers by divine right. That's why she is falling short -- and that's why she should be persuaded to quit now, rather than later, before her majestic sense of entitlement splits the party along racial lines.

If that sounds harsh, look at the argument she made Wednesday, in an interview with USA Today, as to why she should be the nominee instead of Barack Obama. She cited an Associated Press article "that found how Senator Obama's support . . . among working, hardworking Americans, white Americans, is weakening again. I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on."

As a statement of fact, that's debatable at best. As a rationale for why Democratic Party superdelegates should pick her over Obama, it's a slap in the face to the party's most loyal constituency -- African Americans -- and a repudiation of principles the party claims to stand for. Here's what she's really saying to party leaders: There's no way that white people are going to vote for the black guy. Come November, you'll be sorry.

How silly of me. I thought the Democratic Party believed in a colorblind America.

Funny. When did achieving a 'colorblind America' depend on the near-monolithic support (90%) of black voters and the racial gerrymandering of the crowds behind Barack Obama to give the illusion that he's not a "black candidate"?

Several months ago, in a deep state of Romney-induced funk, I wondered what most people look for in a Presidential candidate? The answer, it seems, is fairly simple: it all comes down to someone we instinctively like and trust. My problems with Barack Obama go far deeper than my disagreement with his politics. Even setting aside the political calculations needed to win the Oval Office, I find that I simply cannot trust the man.

Several weeks ago, Grim took me to task for accusing Obama of subtle race baiting with the remark about his grandmother reacting like a 'typical white woman'. I did not use the term lightly, and it was not meant to be inflammatory. I see Barack Obama as a man who is half black and half white, but who (perhaps more importantly) was raised by a white family.

This is important, I think. Grim and I have consistently differed in our reactions to the Wright/Obama brouhaha. He was initially impressed by Obama's willingness to stick by his mentor and later revolted by his willingness to abandon Wright:

The first time Obama spoke about his preacher of twenty years' standing, I said that I was impressed by one thing: that he did not disavow the man. That took courage, and showed a certain decency of character. The worst and most damning thing about Obama's more recent statements is that they show the Reverend Mr. Wright was right about him: he is doing "what politicians do."

My own viewpoint is diametrically opposed. I tend to see both reactions as calculated. Obama intentionally distanced himself from Wright as soon as he declared his candidacy, refusing to allow him to deliver the invocation. From that time on, the two men were on a collision course, with Wright behaving more outlandishly as time went on.

And yet, Obama would not distance himself from his pastor. Why not?

Simple: he did not wish to endanger that 90% black vote. Obama has been less than honest about many things: about whether he was aware of Wright's controversial preaching (first denying, then admitting he was aware of it, then denying it again); about how mainstream black liberation theology is in the black church tradition (he claims here that Wright's preaching is out of the mainstream):

His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church.

Yet as James Taranto noted several months ago, when asked, black pastors themselves saw nothing out of the ordinary in Wright's remarks:

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."

...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.

It's awfully hard to have an honest dialog on race with a candidate who engages in nothing but doublespeak:

MCCAIN CAMPAIGN: "We have all become familiar with Senator Obama's new brand of politics. First, you demand civility from your opponent, then you attack him, distort his record and send out surrogates to question his integrity. It is called hypocrisy, and it is the oldest kind of politics there is. . . . We understand why Senator Obama doesn't want to engage in a debate over leadership and judgment with John McCain, but the American people demand that debate take place."

Background here. Obama wants to run a training-wheels campaign while demanding that his opponents walk a tightrope. Well, hell, who wouldn't want that?

Funny. It's beginning to sound like Obama's 'change' is just more of the same old snake oil we've been sold for years. Only the packaging is different. And that's if you can believe that the charismatic young black candidate who promises to unite America along racial lines, isn't really black and isn't cleverly manipulating America's racial fault lines behind the scenes.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:55 AM | Comments (81) | TrackBack

May 09, 2008

Ummm... OK....

What kind of poison is your personality?


Nothing drives a man wild like a little contact dermatitis! You don't really want to kill anyone, you just want to make them wish they'd died. Found in the Poison Ivy plant , when you touch someone, the itch can last forever.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz

Quizzes and Personality Tests

Posted by Cassandra at 05:32 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

What the....

Via Glenn Reynolds, have these women lost their minds?

Dr. Helen,

My wife has recently informed me that husbands are now expected to give their wives “push presents.” Quite frankly, the idea and the term disgust me. She is not pregnant, nor is she materialistic, shallow, or prone to feeling entitled to anything. To the contrary, she is an exceptional woman, and I don’t believe she was motivated to tell me this out of materialism. Thus, I found this somewhat out of character for her. I tried to convey my disgust to her, but she just did not seem to understand what I found so offensive about the idea.

I had never heard of this, but it is not only offensive but demeaning. Why don't you just put a fish in her mouth when she's done pushing and have done with it?

Have I been living underneath a rock? That said, this seems like the right response:

What a woman is saying when she expects a gift is that sex — and by extension, child-bearing — must be compensated by a man. This exchange boils down to legal prostitution (nothing wrong with prostitution in my book, but call a spade a spade). The problem here lies in the fact that wives who want this type of exchange often think of themselves as above being a prostitute, but indeed, they are not — they are just dishonest prostitutes who are pretending to be something else. And what about the act of paying for children? A diamond in exchange for a child? Isn’t this a little sick? And if this kind of exchange is okay for women, why not for men?

Perhaps husbands should start expecting “pro-presents” when they get a promotion — wives should be expected to get hubby a new car or perhaps some kind of fun technology he has been wanting, that new big screen TV, perhaps? If the wife has no money, surely there are other things she could do to show how much she cares that her husband is moving up the career ladder. I’ll let the guys fill in the blank here.

If women find the above suggestions insulting, then think how men might feel when women expect gifts from them for having their children. Something that is precious, amazing and part of the human experience has now been turned into a business transaction.

What was it I said yesterday? Something about doing things for the other person because you enjoy the doing, not because you secretly expect something in return?

It seems to me that is part of being an adult, whether you're a man or a woman.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:20 AM | Comments (29) | TrackBack

Desperately Seeking Barney

We are sure you have all been wondering where the Blog Princess disappeared to the other day? Well, finally it can be revealed.

barney1.jpgIt is a riveting tale, full of sound, fury, desperate yearnings and Giant Princess-Eating Spiders From Hell. In the wee hours of the morning, your hostess donned her game face and tripped off through the Beltway traffic to quench her mad, unrequited passion for the First Pooch.

On her way in, the Princess tried her best to look suspicious and up to something. After all we've heard from the likes of Keith Olbermann about draconian security measures and innocent civilians being whisked off to Gitmo to have the frilly panties of fascism pulled over their frantically protesting heads to the undulating strains of Christina Aguilera CDs, it seemed not unlikely that with the right behavior, she ought be able to get herself pulled aside and frisked by one of those good-looking young Secret Service agents at the gate. But to her chagrin, the big bullies had the temerity to call her "Ma'am" and politely wave her through the line.

Whatever. The nerve of some people... and with all the taxes she paid, too.

In previous visits to the Big House, the Princess had a close encounter with the Commander in Chief of the war on terriers. We exchanged barks down a long hallway, but she was unable to convince him to abandon his watch. Perhaps this time would be different? Perhaps this was to be her lucky day?

The sun was shining on the South Lawn, illuminating gaily decorated picnic tables bedecked with red and white tablecloths. As she loaded her plate with a luscious array of fresh fruit and a to-die-for cheese empanada, her eyes scanned the crowd search for a glimpse of that rakish, devil-may-care fellow who made her heart beat faster. But he was nowhere to be seen.

After a brief petite dejeuner, the Princess, Carrie, Cyndi and a new friend the Princess met on her way into the fete (Gloria) strolled over to greet a few friends. There was HF6, munching away on goodies.

About 6 feet behind her stood Secretary Gates. Her back was to the Secretary of Defense.

Pau was Hawaii casual. Perhaps Blue Hawaii casual. "Yeah.... whatever. We do this sort of thing all the time. The SecDef and I... yanno...we're peeps. If I pay too much attention to him, he'll probably want to TALK to me... [yawn]. Men..."

The SecDef was quite good looking in person. Much better than the way he looks on TV. He also struck the Princess as being extremely patient and gracious. He gave a short introductory speech, and then the President arrived with the guests of honor.

Still no Barney. Grrr.

As the Princess sat quietly listening to the President's speech, she espied an enormous, woman-eating spider crawling up the back of the person at the table directly in front of her. Frantically she looked around for one of those worthless Secret Service agents.

But isn't that just like a man? Never around when you want one, always sticking their noses into your business when the MasterCard bill shows up. Taking matters into her own hand, she leapt to her feet and wrestled the Giant, Woman-eating Spider to the ground, it's 8 legs thrashing violently. Dusting her hands off, she quietly returned to her seat as though saving perfect strangers from ginormous arachnids were nothing out of the ordinary.

Still no Barney.

Moments later, she felt a nudge. HF6 whispered in her ear:


It was true. The Giant Princess-Eating Spider From Hell was on a collision course with my left toe, making a beeline (OK fine - a spiderline) straight across the lawn towards my foot. And_not_a_Secret_Service_Agent_in_sight, thank you very much.

And still no Barney.

That's it. Barney and I are through. The Princess cannot keep desperately hanging around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue like some deranged groupie, wrestling with oversized insects in the hopes of one day being noticed by a diminutive pooch.

She has her pride, you know. And there is always Barneycam.


Posted by Cassandra at 06:38 AM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

May 08, 2008

Thursday Night Jam




Posted by Cassandra at 07:12 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

More Hiatt

For Don:

Well I never went to college, babe
I did not have the luck
Rolled out of Indiana in the back of a pickup truck
With no education higher
Than the street of my hometown
I went lookin' for a fire
Just to burn it all down

You've got a real fine love
You've got a real fine love
One I am unworthy of
You've got a real fine love, baby

I thought I had a line on something
Maybe no one else could say
And they couldn't find it in their hearts
To just get out of my way
Then out of nowhere, and from nothing
You came into my life
I'd seen an angel or two before
But I'd never asked one to be my wife

Well you can sprinkle all your teardrops
Across the evening sky
But you cannot hide the twinkle
Of starlight in your eye
Well I left my map way back there, baby
I don't know where we are
But I'm gonna pull my pony up
And hitch my wagon to your star

Well now the babies are all sleeping
And the twilight's givin' in
She looks like you, he looks like her
And we all look like him
Well maybe it's just the little thing
The way I feel tonight
A little joy
A little peace

Posted by Cassandra at 08:55 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

The Song Ain't Still The Same, Game

In my inbox:

Some of the artists of the 1960s are revising their hits with new lyrics to accommodate aging baby boomers.

Herman's Hermits --- Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Walker

Ringo Starr --- I Get By With a Little Help from Depends

The Bee Gees --- How Can You Mend a Broken Hip?

Bobby Darin --- Splish, Splash, I Was Havin' a Flash

Roberta Flack--- The First Time Ever I Forgot Your Face

Johnny Nash --- I Can't See Clearly Now

Paul Simon--- Fifty Ways to Lose Your Liver

The Commodores --- Once, Twice, Three Times to the Bathroom

Marvin Gaye --- Heard It through the Grape Nuts

Procol Harem--- A Whiter Shade of Hair

Leo Sayer --- You Make Me Feel Like Napping

The Temptations --- Papa's Got a Kidney Stone

Abba--- Denture Queen

Tony Orlando --- Knock 3 Times on The Ceiling If You Hear Me Fall

Helen Reddy --- I Am Woman, Hear Me Snore

Leslie Gore--- It's My Procedure, and I'll Cry If I Want To

Willie Nelson --- On the Commode Again

Now this sounds like a game to the Princess. She came up with a few of my own to start you off:

Papa's Got A Brand New Dose of Viagra - James Brown

I Knew A Place...once - Petula Clark

All Day (And Several Times At Night) - The Kinks

Have at it, peoples. To help you out, here's a great link to old song titles.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:41 AM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Finding Your Inner "Real Woman"

I can put the wash on the line
Feed the kids, get dressed
And be at work by five to nine

I can bring home the bacon
Fry it up in the pan
And never, never, never
Let you forget you're a man...

'Cause I'm a wooooooman

"Darling, a true lady takes off her dignity with her clothes and does her whorish best. At other times you can be as modest and dignified as your persona requires."

- Notebooks of Lazarus Long

What is a real woman? Via Tigerhawk, the question seems to be generating some interesting commentary:

...there’s really not a lot of mystery about what everyone agrees a “real” man is. We all know “real” men are:

Mentally, emotionally, and intellectually strong, even if not physically (crippled and elderly men can still be “real” men). Hardworking, honorable, honest, dutiful, protective of family and country. Brave, courageous, rational, reasonable, kindhearted, and respectful. Knowledgeable about how to survive in rough times and how to solve problems. And so on.

What I started wanting to know when I was about 16 was just how in the hell any of those things were (or should be) exclusive to men. I realized even then that in fact, they are not. All adults should have every one of those personality and character traits as a matter of course.

So then I started wondering why anyone bothered with the phrase “real man” at all. Don’t they just mean “real adult”? As a young girl, shouldn’t I strive to be exactly the kind of person I kept hearing a “real man” would be? I thought so, and I still do. Maybe that’s why you never hear me whining about how my butt looks in these jeans or crying that no one pays enough attention to me. Who gives a crap? I don’t need any reassurances about silly shit because apparently, I am a “real man”, secure in my own “manliness”. Even though I’m a woman.

Now, what the fuck? Why can’t I just say I’m a “real woman”? Because no one ever talks about that. Except in the context of how “real women” have curves and “real women” don’t look like Heidi Klum. Of course, of course it always comes back to looks and sex when you’re talking about women. Google it. The first result you get on “be a real woman” is a site that says stuff like:

A woman shouldn’t solve man’s problems. This prerogative is male. A man is the one supposed to take care of a woman.

A real woman can’t ever be had over the barrel. She is always well-dressed with her hair and make-up done. Be ready that anything can happen all of a sudden. You’ll say it is hard to look nice all the time – for a real woman it’s a habit.

A real woman always has a couple of really good and expensive dresses in her wardrobe. They play the role of a parade costume for cases when it’s necessary to make an impression.

A real woman can let herself twist men round her little finger. She may stay mysteriously silent, complain that she’s bored, act stupid or start a passionate scientific argument. Nobody can make a woman answer a question if she doesn’t want to, and nobody can force her explain the reasons for doing/not doing this or that. Acting so capricious and unbalanced is a simple way to get a man attached to a woman. Don’t hesitate to make a man spend as much money on you as he can afford – he will never leave an object of capital investments.

A woman knows her worth, but makes everyone believe she’s priceless…She knows how to make men dance to her tune and she really enjoys it.

Christ with a cigarette.

The other results you get from the search “be a real woman” are almost completely equally pointless or niche-like, nothing general about all women and what it takes to be a “real” one. There’s stuff about being a good chaste Christian woman, stuff about “real beauty”, and stuff about sex changes. By the end of the FIRST PAGE of results, the search phrase is not even found. But Google “be a real man.” It goes on and on, page after page, about honor and strength and hard work and discipline and how to fix shit around the house.

Once again I feel the most appropriate question to ask at this juncture is what the fuck?

You know what I think? I think women have utterly FAILED each other. It has almost nothing to do with men, at all. Men have this shit worked out, they have a code by which they judge each other, and it’s a good code for the most part. There’s no mystery among men about how to behave in order to be taken seriously and have a life you can look back on when you’re old and feel pride.

What do women do? We sit around and we either bitch about men or we bitch about other women. Men don’t do what we want them to do, and other women are competition for all those men we don’t even want because they don’t obey us, so we’re never happy.

What we don’t do, or at least I don’t see it very often and believe me, I’ve looked, is establish our own code for judging others based on qualities that really matter, like men have.

Oh dear. I'm about to say some things that are going to make a whole lot of people very, very angry.

Again. Yee ha.

First of all, I agree with Rachel to a limited extent. But I also take issue with part of her argument. She blames the difference in standards squarely on women, claiming that men have defined their own standard for themselves and that women have, unlike men, singularly failed to do likewise:

I think women have utterly FAILED each other. It has almost nothing to do with men, at all. Men have this shit worked out, they have a code by which they judge each other, and it’s a good code for the most part. There’s no mystery among men about how to behave in order to be taken seriously and have a life you can look back on when you’re old and feel pride.

But is this really the case? I don't think it's that simple at all.

Neither men nor women exist in a vacuum. We react to rewards and disincentives, to signals we receive in response to our actions as we interact with other human beings. These are all cues we use to adjust our behavior and bring it into line with what society expects of us. To the extent that some of us are adept enough to figure out how to give other people what they want (i.e., to trade what pleases others for what we want in life), we are "successful". We get hired, date, marry, breed offspring. And it's not a simple equation either. Mere physical attractiveness isn't the only thing that matters. We've all seen people who aren't all that good looking, but who charm their way through life by virtue of their vitality or their ability to win the affection of others. But at the end of the day, I have always suspected that what really drives all of this is biology.

So the "real man" qualities Rachel quoted:

Hardworking, honorable, honest, dutiful, protective of family and country. Brave, courageous, rational, reasonable, kindhearted, and respectful. Knowledgeable about how to survive in rough times and how to solve problems. And so on.

... they make a man a good husband, provider, and father, no? They insure the survival of the species and in the final analysis that's the most important duty of any human being. Left to themselves, most guys would just as soon lie around on the sofa drinking brewskis and watching Monday night football. No man in his right mind voluntarily scrapes his face at 6 am or spends Saturday mornings perusing 400 count sateen sheets at Bed Bath and Bored Beyond Belief. But thankfully for us female types, the prime directive directs our inner Neanderthals to make sure there are more little human beings to carry on the important task of sullying Gaia's pristine ozone layer with our noxious carbon emissions. And because men are, when one gets right down to it, such visual creatures, we ladies are valued (though it pains this writer to say it) more often than not for maintaining a pleasing outward aspect; along with the ability to appear helpless and in need of a strong pair of manly biceps:
A woman shouldn’t solve man’s problems. This prerogative is male. A man is the one supposed to take care of a woman.

Because - according to the biological imperative - men love the chase and despise anything won too easily we learn (sorrowfully, because duplicity is not our nature) to cultivate at least the appearance of being hard to get:

A real woman can let herself twist men round her little finger. She may stay mysteriously silent, complain that she’s bored, act stupid or start a passionate scientific argument. Nobody can make a woman answer a question if she doesn’t want to, and nobody can force her explain the reasons for doing/not doing this or that. Acting so capricious and unbalanced is a simple way to get a man attached to a woman. Don’t hesitate to make a man spend as much money on you as he can afford – he will never leave an object of capital investments.

I laughed when I read that. It conjured up my many "conversations" with Grim about how women only wear make-up or dress for each other. Sorry, but what a load of bunk. Let me say that again, just in case someone missed it: what a load of utter bullshit.

Oopsie. Did I say a bad word? Open an issue of Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler, Maxim... guys, I can stop any time now. Are any of those women NOT WEARING MAKEUP?

Let me put this to you another way. HOW MANY OF THOSE WOMEN, IN PROPORTION TO... SAY, THE POPULATION OF WOMEN WALKING AROUND INSIDE YOUR AVERAGE GROCERY STORE (where we go to stare at each others clothes, hair, makeup, and enormous breasts, HAVE HAD THEIR BREASTS SURGICALLY AUGMENTED?

I rest my case.

Yeah. Women alter our appearance in often painful ways "for other women". Bullshit. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.


We do these things for the oldest reason in the book: to attract men. Just as men learn to be "sensitive" for the oldest reason in the book: because women prefer mates who look like good husband material. We want a guy who will, at least occasionally, appear to listening raptly when we yammer on about our feeeeeeeeelings.

I think there is a 'real woman' standard.

I just think that it's harder to describe that the male one, because being a woman is not as straightforward as being a man. Women have many roles in life and unlike the way men deal with the work/home disconnect, with women everything in life is wrapped into one big ball. You can't separate the different pieces of our lives - we don't compartmentalize. Most of us don't go to work and "turn off" Mom/sister/wife/friend/lover mode from 9 to 5. There is no 'off' button to help us detach ourselves. We are constantly performing a mental juggling act: the regression equations are competing with Aunt Edna's tumor and little Joey's forgotten homework and our sister's failing marriage and the argument we had last night with our spouse. We can't help it. It bites, sometimes.

Carrie and I were talking last week about the problem of training young military wives to be more self-sufficient on long deployments. I observed that the Marine Corps does such a great job with training Marines. They obviously know a great deal about leadership, and yet they apply none of this knowledge when it comes to helping young women deal with family separation. It's puzzling: it's as though the Marine Corps views wives as somehow not fully human. But we respond the same way men do to inspiration and leadership. We are not children who need to be taken by the hand by the Nanny State and given Free BabySitting and Mental Health Counseling.

I will never forget the first year I was married. I was nineteen on my wedding day.

As a young bride with a newborn baby, I struggled to adjust to living far from home, family and friends. I had recently quit college and my job to stay home with the baby. Our parents (on both sides) helped us, but still we had very little money and only one car, which went off to school with my husband every day. It was as if I had been pulled up by the roots and abruptly left on the sidewalk somewhere like a forlorn little seedling someone forgot to plant. My husband was busy. He was taking a full course load and had a job, plus he played rugby and was in a fraternity. This did not leave a lot of time to massage my fragile ego: he had been thrust into a man's responsibilities at a tender age. Even then, I realized how lucky I was to have him. He is one in a million.

Back then, there was no calling people long distance. That cost too much money. There was no Internet or email. And we couldn't afford a television set. I laugh now when I read about young military wives struggling with loneliness and 'paycheck-to-paycheck' living. We had no health insurance. We had to pay the hospital a $700 non-refundable deposit just for the 'privilege' of not being turned away when I went into labor.

Been there. Done that. As I recall, there was no T-shirt.

I also recall not being all that miserable most of the time, even with four months of fairly bad undiagnosed postpartum depression that I got through just fine because I was too dumb and to know what was wrong with me. I just thought I was a big sissy until I quit nursing and the daily crying jags disappeared like magic.

The thing is, when I was first married I started off all wrong and it was my own damned fault.

I am a straightforward person. When I love, I love with my whole heart. And I do love my husband, so I threw my whole being into my new marriage. Every day he went off to school and I stayed home with the baby. And I was bored out of my mind, and a Bored Princess is a Very Bad Thing. I had been to an Ivy League school once. He was attending a very good college in Virginia. There had never been any doubt I am his intellectual equal, but now there was a bit of a disparity in our stations: he was in college and I was a homemaker. So I read voraciously and tried to make our little apartment welcoming when he came home. I took the baby for long walks and picked wildflowers to put on the table. I made elaborate meal plans and tried recipes (how many ways can you cook Armor chipped beef? Dear God help me, I can tell you). And the harder I tried, it seemed, the more strained things became between us.

Did I mention earlier that men like the chase? That they never respect that which is won too easily?

It's true, you know. It took me a long time to figure out what had gone wrong. It takes me an even longer time to lose my temper. A year and a half, to be exact. But on those extremely rare occasions when I finally do, the fireworks are generally worth the price of admission.

I threw a glass of Sambucca at him. Fortunately, I throw like a girl. I missed.

Did you know Sambucca eats holes in drywall? Or was that the glass?

Anyway, it made for one of those 'funny stories' that aren't funny at the time and I learned an important lesson about myself. It was that if you do something for another person, you must only do it because you enjoy the doing. Never because you secretly expect something in return. I see women do that a lot: we 'trade'. And men react by withdrawing because it makes them feel guilty. They know they are being set up, and they rightly resent being manipulated. Relationships have to be roughly equal. They won't survive long if one party or the other feels indebted.

Women, though, will often throw themselves into friendships, marriages, jobs without considering the personal cost. We are little builders. In an article I read recently, the author uttered a thought I've often had myself: we women often forget that it's awfully hard to help others if we forget to put the oxygen mask on our own faces first. This may well be the mother in us, and not all women are like this. In fact, we don't uniformly behave this way throughout our lives. As my children have grown up and my marriage has matured, I have found myself behaving less like a traditional female and more like a man (though I'll never be exactly like my husband).

And he has, in his turn, become far more thoughtful and considerate than the already remarkable young man I married all those years ago. This is the best thing about marriage; we take on the best parts of our partners, growing and changing over the years to resemble each other. The truly strange thing is that as traditional marriage declines in popularity, I believe societal pressure is beginning to effect the same strange transformation on men and women that matrimony once did. Women are becoming slightly more aggressive and outspoken and men are becoming more considerate and thoughtful. As long as it is not taken to an extreme and neither sex is made to feel ashamed of the essential qualities of femininity or masculinity, I do not think this is a bad thing.

As Rachel observed so insightfully, the "real" man or woman is, after all, a good adult. But I also think women have, for all the bashing they endure in the blogosphere (and it has become something of a spectator sport to bash women of late online) a bit harder job because, in general, we do more things in life. The real woman is expected to perform all the tasks a real man is expected to do. She is already expected to be hardworking, honorable, honest, dutiful, protective of family and country. Brave, courageous, rational, reasonable, kindhearted, and respectful. Knowledgeable about how to survive in rough times and how to solve problems.

You know this woman. After all, she raised you.

She is your mother, and she taught you everything you know about life. And after she raised you, or even while she raised you, she may well have held down a job outside the home, too.

The real problem is that in today's society, it is no longer fashionable to admire virtue, and so we neither recognize nor respect a real woman when we see one, unless she is cast in a male mold. Because women are expected (and rewarded) for doing everything men do each day and for doing these things well, but at the same time we are rewarded by mother nature for pretending to be fragile, feminine, and somewhat clueless, women are the Rodney Dangerfields of the world -- forever doomed to be loved, but to get no real respect.

What a shame. We don't even respect ourselves for all the very real reasons for which women deserve respect. Women are not men. They will never be men. But we have our own virtues that are worthy of admiration in their own right.

And until we learn to love and value ourselves, no one else will ever respect us.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:12 AM | Comments (181) | TrackBack

May 07, 2008

Must Read Post of the Day

If you do nothing else today, please read this.

We bloggers like to think we're important. All too often though, we just end up listening to the sound of our own bloviation. How many times do any of us do anything which has a lasting impact, that truly changes the world we live in?

How many of us can say we have ever saved a human life?

The United States is a spoiled and complacent nation. We tend to see liberty as our birthright, whining like spoiled children when we are expected to do what free men all over the world understand is the duty and responsibility of each generation: to defend our rights, lest our children grow up to know a world in which every word is uttered under the shadow of fear. We lap up the deranged ravings of journalists like Keith Olbermann when they froth at the mouth about how our civil liberties have been eroded under the evil Bush administration. But we in this country have no idea what having our "civil liberties eroded" really feels like:

While the USS Cole bombers are all free in Yemen, my friend the Yemeni journalist Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani will be sentenced May 21 in a bogus trial and likely will get the death penalty or a long prison term. He is charged with insulting the president and demoralizing the military with an article about the Sa’ada war. He is an internationally renowned journalist and one of Yemen’s most prominent and outspoken democracy advocates

...Since he was released [from prison] in 2005, Al-Khaiwani has been beaten, kidnapped, censored and imprisoned. His paper was cloned, his website blocked and his children threatened.

Al-Khaiwani was badly beaten during his arrest in June 2007. His daughter, six year old Ebba, was slapped by police so hard that she fell unconscious. After Al-Khaiwani’s arrest and release on bail, he was kidnapped and badly beaten again. The US State Department issued a statement from DC noting his abduction pointed to, “disturbing trend of intimidation and harassment of Yemen’s journalist community.”

Al-Khaiwani was charged on July 4 with aiding the rebel movement by publishing war news. As you may know, the war in Sa’ada has been called a state sponsored genocide with strong parallels to the Sudan. I published photos of the damage in Sa’ada caused by indiscriminate (or deliberate) government bombing. I interviewed rebel spokesman Yahya al-Houthi, and posted it. (This website is now banned in Yemen.) By the standard of “demoralizing the military”, I’d also be subject to the death penalty if I was in Yemen. So would half of the bloggers here in the US.

As al-Khawiani’s sentencing approaches on May 21, fear is growing in Yemen and internationally that a guilty verdict in his case will open the door for a brutal crackdown on Yemen’s already endangered journalistic community.

Here in America, journalists can and do insult the President:

Why are you wasting my time with Colbert, I hear you ask. Because he is representative of what too often passes for political courage, not to mention wit, in this country. His defenders -- and they are all over the blogosphere -- will tell you he spoke truth to power. This is a tired phrase, as we all know, but when it was fresh and meaningful it suggested repercussions, consequences -- maybe even death in some countries. When you spoke truth to power you took the distinct chance that power would smite you, toss you into a dungeon or -- if you're at work -- take away your office.

But in this country, anyone can insult the president of the United States. Colbert just did it, and he will not suffer any consequence at all. He knew that going in. He also knew that Bush would have to sit there and pretend to laugh at Colbert's lame and insulting jokes. Bush himself plays off his reputation as a dunce and his penchant for mangling English. Self-mockery can be funny. Mockery that is insulting is not. The sort of stuff that would get you punched in a bar can be said on a dais with impunity. This is why Colbert was more than rude. He was a bully.

They can, and all too often do, disparage and demoralize the military:

Challenge the good General on his testimony. Challenge him on the facts if you wish. But check the ad hominems at the door. Just because he wears the uniform of the day doesn't give you carte blanche to take cheap potshots at medals that commemorate battles where better men than you will ever be have fought and died for ideals they believed were worth fighting for, even if you do not.

How about a little respect? I don't see the good General treating his questioners with contempt. From where I sit, Mr. Cavett, you are beating up on the military precisely because you know they cannot - by law - fight back. How about a little decency, which used to be called ordinary politeness in the civilian world.

We listen to an almost endless amount of blather from American journalists about how they are 'speaking truth to power'. The truth is that they risk nothing and suffer no consequences for their so-called truth telling. It requires absolutely no courage to insult and demoralize those you know will not strike back at you.

Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani (unlike Keith Olbermann or any of his compadres else here in the U.S.) is a man who truly has been speaking truth to a brutally repressive dictatorship. He has paid dearly for his defense of journalistic freedom. In 2005, Jane mobilized the blogosphere in his defense.

In response to the uproar she created, the Yemeni government spared al-Khaiwani's life:

This is the guy I made the online petition for in March 2005 and the bloggers all helped and he got amnesty. Since then he and I have become good friends. He loves democracy as much as I do. And he’s paid the price for it.

Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani is a vivid reminder that liberty comes with a steep price tag: free men must be willing to risk their lives to defend their rights. Let the Yemeni government know that the world is watching, and that the United States of America does not condone the sadistic and brutal repression of Yemen's free press.

If for no other reason, do it to annoy Keith Olbermann. And pass the link on to everyone you know.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:56 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

May 06, 2008

Wake Up Call

Now I'm in my car
Oooooh, I got the radio down
Now I'm yellin' at the kids in the back
'Cause they're banging like Charlie Watts

You think you've come so far
In this one horse town
Then she's laughing that crazy laugh
'Cause you haven't left the parkin' lot

Time is short and here's the damn thing about it
You're gonna die, gonna die for sure
And you can learn to live with love or without it
But there ain't no cure

It's just a slow turning
From the inside out
A slow turning
But you come about

A slow turning, baby
But you learn to sway
A slow turning
Not fade away
Not fade away

Turn it up.

Posted by Cassandra at 03:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 05, 2008

OMG!!! They're So Meeeeeeeean!!!!

Teh Patriarchy is at it again, damn their guts and livers! When we first read this horrifying story, we didn't know whether to run from the room, black out, or throw up. Thankfully, we remembered the sterling example of one Nancy Hopkins, MIT professor of biology and proved our irrefutable equality with men by forcing them to walk on verbal eggshells in our presence, lest they bring on a sudden attack of those gender-specific vapors which should in no way indicate inferiority (much less cause one to treat us any differently -- unless of course we want you to!).

In a tale fit to freeze the very marrow of your bones, not only the administration of Dartmouth College, but those 18-22 year old intellectual bully-boys have inexplicably managed to make a fully-equal and intellectually capable female professional look like a complete idiot:

Often it seems as though American higher education exists only to provide gag material for the outside world. The latest spectacle is an Ivy League professor threatening to sue her students because, she claims, their "anti-intellectualism" violated her civil rights.

Priya Venkatesan taught English at Dartmouth College. She maintains that some of her students were so unreceptive of "French narrative theory" that it amounted to a hostile working environment. She is also readying lawsuits against her superiors, who she says papered over the harassment, as well as a confessional exposé, which she promises will "name names."

The trauma was so intense that in March Ms. Venkatesan quit Dartmouth and decamped for Northwestern. She declined to comment for this piece, pointing instead to the multiple interviews she conducted with the campus press.

Ms. Venkatesan lectured in freshman composition, intended to introduce undergraduates to the rigors of expository argument. "My students were very bully-ish, very aggressive, and very disrespectful," she told Tyler Brace of the Dartmouth Review. "They'd argue with your ideas." This caused "subversiveness," a principle English professors usually favor.

Quelle horreur! Can one imagine anything more unprecedented or alarming to a progressive eco-feminist than a classroom full of American college students arguing about ideas? Unless, perhaps, it is the prospect of a classroom full of young people Questioning Authority?

Clearly the dominant patriarchal hegemony is rife with rigid, authoritarians threatened by anyone who challenges their ideas... by which we mean Ms.Venkatesan, who not only cancelled a week's worth of classes in a fit of pique, but sent the following unintentionally hilarious email to her students:

Yesterday evening, to the students of her winter class, Ms. Venkatesan dispatched this message:

Date: Sat, 26 Apr 2008 20:56:35 -0400 (EDT)
From: Priya.Venkatesan@Dartmouth.EDU
To: “WRIT.005.17.18-WI08”:;, Priya.Venkatesan@Dartmouth.EDU
Subject: WRIT.005.17.18-WI08: Possible lawsuit

Dear former class members of Science, Technology and Society:

I tried to send an email through my server but got undelivered messages. I regret to inform you that I am pursuing a lawsuit in which I am accusing some of you (whom [sic] shall go unmentioned in this email) of violating Title VII of anti-federal [sic] discrimination laws.

The feeling that I am getting from the outside world is that Dartmouth is considered a bigoted place, so this may not be news and I may be successful in this lawsuit.

I am also writing a book detailing my experiences as your instructor, which will “name names” so to speak. I have all of your evaluations and these will be reproduced in the book.

Have a nice day.


But it gets better (oh yes - you knew it would). Ms. Venkatesan sent a similarly illiterate email to a smaller group of students against whom (she said) she was planning to file suit specifically. Joe Malchow responds with withering commentary:

At least seven members of the Class of 2011 received this grave epistle, indicating that they are to be named as defendants in a legal outing under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination by employers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The students, of course, are entirely safe; as they do not employ the writing instructor, it can only be said that their evaluations of her performance—de rigueur, frank, and ostensibly anonymous—did not flatter, and that she is upset. But of course the students could not have discriminated against her.

Ms. Venkatesan also informs Dartblog that she is “pursuing a legal suit against members/former members of the Dartmouth community,” those being Christopher H. Lowrey of the medical school and his four-person research team. “Another faculty member,” Ms. Venkatesan tells us, “that figures prominently in my list of grievances…is Thomas H. Cormen, Ph. D., Director of the Writing Program (now the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric) and Professor of Computer Science.”

This column solicited a thought or two from Priya Venkatesan, and was rewarded with the following:

The students I am naming in this suit were mostly from Winter 08 term with a few from Fall. Essentially, I am pursuing litigation to see if I have a legal claim, that is, if the inappropriate and unprofessional behavior I was subjected to as a Research Associate and Lecturer at Dartmouth constitutes discrimination and harrassment [sic] on the basis of ethnicity, race and gender. This includes not just students, but a few faculty members that I worked with. At this stage, I am making a detailed list of names in a chronology of what people said and did while I was at Dartmouth in a very factual manner and approaching a New Hampshire attorney who specializes in professional malpractice with the chronology and he will make the determination if I have grounds for litigation.

A redaction of errata seems a suitable place to begin. A class action suit? This involves a population of plaintiffs similarly aggrieved; Ms. Venkatesan is contemplating legal action against a population of defendants similarly, in her mind, guilty. Classes bring suit; they do not answer it. Thus it is not a class action, but a series of civil complaints against students and employees of the College and, perhaps, the College corporate.

Title VII does not include language about harassment—only about discrimination. Courts have occasionally elected to find harassment illegal under the code, but only, like discrimination, employer-perpetrated harassment. Since students are not Ms. Venkatesan’s employers, they cannot be named as defendants in a Title VII case.

Finally, there is the bit about “pursuing litigation to see if I have a legal claim.” This is not an advisable course of action. In fact, legal experts consulted by this page suggest that litigating to explore the possible existence of a legal claim is the precise opposite of how the modern judicial system operates.

The big bully. He is undoubtedly motivated by a desire to crush her strong, womanly essence. And isn't that just_like_a_man?

In a final update, our Derring Doyenne displays more of the singular steadfastness of purpose and mental acuity that have made her a veritable poster girl for the eco-feminist movement.

All of which just goes to prove what we often remark: Charlotte Allen was right. Some women seem determined to play into the worst stereotypes about females. In fact, we just made that a category.


Update: The Editorial Staff swears we did not make this up to make Ms. Venkatesan look smarter:

HEH. The biter, bit. "It seems that white feminists and Leftists are a big bunch of racists, too. . . . White Privilege was to blame… No wonder Amanda Marcotte thinks Free Will is overrated."

And doesn't this echo (eerily) our earlier Obama post?

You're not racist because of the content of your character, you're racist because of the color of your skin!

Posted by Cassandra at 08:00 AM | Comments (47) | TrackBack

Dishonestly Reinventing Obama

Is there no end to the dishonesty and race mongering surrounding Barack Obama's candidacy for President? Not long ago, the would-be 'candidate for change' called for an honest dialog on race: one where both sides actually listened to each other, where each side made a good faith effort to examine each other's words rationally and dispassionately, even if what was said provoked discomfort or anger:

...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...

...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...

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.

The problem with Obama's so-called honest dialog on race is that one side - Mr. Obama's - insists on playing the game with a stacked deck of cards. Barack Obama has deliberately courted comparisons with another seminal black leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. If this is the standard Mr. Obama wishes to be measured against, he might care to pay close attention to the most famous of King's speeches.

In that speech Dr. King mentions the word "justice" no less than ten times. This is interesting, because our conception of justice has changed rather radically since 1968. Justice has, from the 15th century, traditionally been depicted blindfolded. This is no accident. The blindfold is meant to remind us that the administration of justice should be meted out impartially, taking into account neither the socioeconomic status nor the identity of the litigants. In other words, a just outcome should encompass neither fear nor favor. As King so eloquently put it, his dream was not of an America where whites and blacks gave in to their feelings about race relations, nor one where Americans viewed every transaction through the highly subjective prism of race. King dreamed of an America where a single unifying standard - integrity - would one day come to guide our dealings with each other:

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

So how did Dr. King's dream of a race-neutral America become so badly twisted? When did our conception of justice begin to include the notion that it is just to hold some citizens less accountable because of the color of their skin? When did the dream change from equal treatment to preferential treatment?

Michelle Obama: Barack has hit boiling point

Barack Obama is struggling to contain his anger and frustration over the constant barrage of questions about his character and judgment, his wife has revealed.

"Barack has been characterised as many things that have nothing to do with who he is."

Ooooh. That's certainly never happened to a political candidate before. All this scrutiny... dear Lord, you'd think the man was running for President of the United States or something.

So Barack Obama can't take a little of what he views as unjust criticism before the race is even half-way done? He's dangerously near the boiling point. One wonders what George Bush thinks about this after eight years of unrelenting criticism?

If only a major newspaper or two would give Mr. Obama a fair shake! How dare they ask questions about a candidate for the Presidency?

Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt admits the obvious - the Times early coverage of the most recent installment of the Jeremiah Wright story was a joke:

While The Times was aggressive with its coverage on the Web, it was slow to fully engage the Wright story in print and angered some readers by putting opinion about it on the front page — a review by the television critic of his appearances on PBS, at an N.A.A.C.P. convention and at the National Press Club — before ever reporting in any depth what he actually said, how it squared with reality and what it might mean as Democrats ponder Obama as their potential nominee.

Carol Hebb of Narberth, Pa., spoke for many when she wrote that she found the newspaper’s initial coverage “very strange.” If editors did not think Wright’s remarks were newsworthy enough to be on the front page, she asked, why did they put the review by Alessandra Stanley there? “I was very surprised that her piece was not accompanied by a ‘factual’ article reporting the content of Mr. Wright’s comments more completely and perhaps adding some meaningful context.”


Peter Weltner of San Francisco wrote that he wished The Times had examined what he said were falsehoods in Wright’s remarks — like the claim that blacks and whites learn with different parts of their brains — instead of “merely guessing why Mr. Wright said it.”

I’m with Hebb and Weltner. For a newspaper that showed great enterprise on the subject last year — breaking the story that Obama had disinvited Wright to deliver the invocation at the announcement of his presidential campaign, and publishing a deep examination of their relationship before most Americans had heard of Wright — it was a performance strangely lacking in energy at a potential turning point in the election.

Poor Barack! Isn't anyone willing to embrace embrace his healing politics of hope?

Conduct a thought experiment: Imagine that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor to presidential candidate Barack Obama and preacher with controversial views, was not an outspoken black man but a white woman who penned her controversial ideas in a scholarly journal. If Wright's views were the only thing that mattered, his race, sex and public style ought to make no difference. Assuming she held the same views and shared a lengthy history with the presidential candidate, a white female scholar ought to damage Obama's popularity in the same way the pastor has done recently.

Actually, let's make it a real parallel, because in order for the comparison to be valid, there has to be some parallelism. You can't change the facts so the candidate and advisor are of different races and the advisor makes her remarks privately (thus raising legitimate doubt the candidate would have known of her views) and then ask, "Would people still be asking the same questions?" The scenarios represent two different fact patterns. An honest comparison is one in which the facts run exactly parallel, but only race is reversed:

Conduct a thought experiment: Imagine that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor to presidential candidate Barack Obama and preacher with controversial views, was not an outspoken black man but a white woman who penned her controversial racist ideas about blacks... and not in a scholarly journal, but imagine she voiced them repeatedly, and publicly. Now imagine that Barack Obama were a white candidate. This is the exact parallel to the Obama-Wright situation: a political candidate of one race, whose spiritual advisor - not a political contributor, not someone at whose college the candidate gave a speech one time - of the same race, publicly and repeatedly voiced racist views, in the candidate's hearing, without his leaving or objecting.

If Wright's views were the only thing that mattered, his race, sex and public style ought to make no difference. Assuming she held the same views and shared a lengthy history with the presidential candidate, a white female scholar ought to damage Obama's popularity in the same way the pastor has done recently.

Actually, we have an historical parallel, though the association was not direct, intimate, or long-lived as it was in Obama's case: George Bush and the Bob Jones brouhaha. In the wake of then-Governor Bush's speech at that university, he was tarred as a racist simply for giving a speech at a school which had an objectionable rule not of his making.

Applying the reasoning of Obama's supporters, Bob Jones University "did not speak for then-governor Bush". After all, he said so. Assuming race does not matter and all candidates should be treated equally and fairly without respect to skin color, this argument alone should have been sufficient to end all inquiry and media attention into the matter.

Of course, it was not:

Reeling from criticism that he failed to condemn the school's ban on interracial dating and school leaders who have expressed anti-Catholic views, Bush sent a letter of apology, released Sunday, to Cardinal John O'Connor, Archbishop of New York. O'Connor is a nationally recognized Roman Catholic leader.

"I should have been more clear in disassociating myself from anti-Catholic sentiments and racial prejudice," Bush's letter read. "It was a missed opportunity, causing needless offense, which I deeply regret."

George Bush apologized. Bob Jones ended the offensive policy and admitted that they were wrong. Rev. Jeremiah Wright has done neither. Initially Barack Obama refused to distance himself from his spiritual advisor and said he was (contrary to media accounts that he had already distanced himself from Wright due to his controversial views) unaware of his toxic sentiments on race and America. And now Mr. Obama is "angry" ... that he has been found out, and that some people refuse to forget what he would like conveniently forgotten.

Obama has been "subjected" to precisely the same treatment then-governor George Bush was eight years ago, but on far stronger grounds. A twenty year-long association with a man one claims as a 'spiritual guide' provides ample grounds for questioning whether two people share the same philosophy. Merely stopping to make a campaign speech at a university hardly carries the same weight, and yet it was assumed that Bob Jones University "spoke" for Bush. The onus was on him to denounce the university, the burden of proof on him to show he did not share their odious views on race. That Obama would demand to be treated differently shows an arrogance that is literally breathtaking.

That his supporters are so blatently throwing the race card shows this country has a long, long way to go towards establishing that "honest dialog" Mr. Obama mentioned.

It was not his opponents who tarnished Barack Obama. Oh no: he took care of that matter all by himself.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:01 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

May 02, 2008

Pathos Alert!!!!!

30knut-inline-190.jpgLong suffering Long time readers of VC may remember that many moons ago, the Editorial Staff brought you the story of Knut, the adorable baby polar bear.

Well, the stories of Knut's increasingly embarrassing encounters with bootleg sex tapes, anorexic Czech supermodels, designer drugs, and bad techno music continue to spin out of control, largely thanks to the environmental depredations of an uncaring Bush administration and its inexplicable refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocols. Naturlich, the NY Times laps up every last delicious detail:

Knut the polar bear cub abandoned by his mother was a sensation one year ago, a ball of adorable white fluff that seduced the nation and the world beyond, even landing on the cover of Vanity Fair with Leonardo DiCaprio. But lately, he has been Germany’s problem cub more than its darling.

As the bear has grown from a virtual living stuffed animal into a 350-pound adolescent, newspapers here have taken issue with everything from Knut’s weight to his sexuality, with one paper asking if the bear is gay. But the most enduring question is the one posed by animal-protection groups from the very beginning: how being hand-raised by humans would affect him when he grew up.

When Knut was nuzzling his handler, Thomas Dörflein, to the delight of an adoring public, the objections of outside experts were brushed aside. His antics weren’t bad for business either, bringing in an estimated $8 million in extra revenues for the Berlin Zoo last year.

But times change, cubs grow up and those experts may have been on to something after all. “With Knut, it’s clear that he has imprinted on humans, and when neither his keeper nor visitors are there he cries out,” said Thomas Pietsch, a biologist and expert on wild animals for the animal-welfare group Four Paws in Germany. Peter H. Arras, a zoologist and animal-protection advocate put it more succinctly: “He’s a psychopath addicted to human attention.”

That attention has fallen off significantly. Knut is now too large and too strong to play with Mr. Dörflein. And the largest crowds of spectators have moved south. In the Bavarian city of Nuremberg, a new young cub named Flocke, or Snowflake, claimed the crown of cuteness when she was introduced to the public earlier this month. A third cub in Stuttgart, named Wilbär, is being brought up the old-fashioned way, by his mother.

But the country’s newer star attractions did refocus attention on Knut’s well-being. Andre Schüle, a veterinarian at the Berlin Zoo, dismissed concerns about Knut’s health, physical or mental. “I am very, very pleased about his development,” said Mr. Schüle. Knut is a healthy polar bear, but as a natural result of aging, “the cuteness factor is falling,” Mr. Schüle said.

On a recent sunny afternoon, the number of spectators fluctuated between a dozen and just a pair. The fading star lay with his head on his paws, his fur stained a yellowish brown from rolling around in sand and dirt.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. What is left for our little liebchen but serial appearances on VH1's After the Music, the inevitable round of plastic surgery that precedes the failed comeback attempt and finally, in that most pathetic of admissions that it's finally over, the Nutrisystem endorsement?

We weep.

Poor Knut must share the fate of the MidWestern Corked bat, his beautiful and natural life ruthlessly snuffed out by rampant specieism.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:22 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Important "Ass of Life"-related Update

Bottom story of the day: true love triumphs in the end.

Because VC readers just cannot get enough of Ass of Life-related news.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:21 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 01, 2008

It's Kentucky Derby Time!

Around Villa Cassandranita, it's a family tradition to play the horses and do mint juleps on Kentucky Derby day. So to get in the mood, the blog princess proposes a little game we shamelessly stole from the Style Invitational.

Below the fold are the 100 names of the horses eligible for the Triple Crown. The object: mate any two (even though they are both male - hey: we're an Enlightened Kind of Blog) and come up with a clever name for their progeny.


Hot Chili + Fierce Wind = Silent but Deadly

The lucky winner, as always, will received a thoroughly sloshed stuffed marmoset by parcel post.

A.P. Answer

Aaron's Rod

Access Code




Attempted Humor

Behind at the Bar

Big Brown

Big Truck

Blackberry Road




Cape Time

Casual Conquest

Check It Twice

Chris Got Even


Close to the Vest

Coast Guard

Colonel John

Cool Coal Man

Court Vision

Daddy Rabbit

Denis of Cork

El Gato Malo

Elysium Fields


Excess Capital


Fast Talking

Fierce Wind

Full Charge

Georgie Boy

Go Speed Racer


He's Sum Charmer

Hello From Heaven

Hey Byrn

Hot Chili

I've Heard It All

In My Footsteps

In Orbit



Make the Point



Mask and Wig

Massive Drama


Mr. Harry

New Believer

No Jeopardy


Old Ninety Eight

On the Rocks

Pillar of Salt







Revenge Is Sweet

Sacred Icon

Saul to Paul

Sea of Pleasure

Signature Move

Smokin Stogies

Square Deal

Standing High

Storming Off



Texas Wildcatter

Tiz Now Tiz Then


Took the Time

Top It

Total Bull

Tulips Dandy

U S Treasury


Unique Tale




War Pass

Whistle Stop

White Shoes

Wicked Style

Wise Answer

Wonder Mon

Yankee Bravo

You Better Believe

Your Round

Z Humor


Posted by Cassandra at 12:46 PM | Comments (28) | TrackBack


The Armorer has a great parody up on the Cost of War:

"WWI... Led into war by Democrat Woodrow Wilson

"6 years"

"564 Billion spent"

"Over 116,000 dead"

Um, but that led to...

WWII... led into war by Democrat Franklin Roosevelt

"67 years... and counting."

"4.6 Trillion spent."

"Over 405,000 dead"

Korea... led into war by Democrat Harry S. Truman

"58 years... and counting."

"391 Billion spent"

"Over 36,000 dead."

Vietnam war... led into war by Democrat John F. Kennedy.

"9 years, and we walked away from an ally."

"840 Billion spent."

"Over 58,000 dead."

Gulf War I... led into war by Republican George H. W. Bush

"12 years"

"9 Billion spent (after Allied reimbursements)"

"Over 300 dead."

Gulf War II... Led into war by Republican George W. Bush

"5 Years"

"500 Billion Spent"

"Over 4,000 dead"

"Democrats: 73 years. 6.4 Trillion Dollars spent. 615,000 dead."
"Republicans: 17 years. 509 Billion Dollars spent. 4,300 dead"

"Based on this performance, are Democrats the right choice for America?"

Go now. Read the whole thing - there's more. And do feed his ego while you're over there. This was really quite brilliant.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:21 AM | Comments (39) | TrackBack

Yes Andrew, It Was Always About You...

You are a Child of the Universe.
No less than the trees and the stars
You have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you
No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Yesterday, as the Editorial Staff drove in to work we happened to catch the DJ on the classic rock station we listened to years ago yammering on about Barack Obama. Since we were simultaneously digging through our makeup bag, trying to figure out how to enter a contact into our shiny new phone, and reviewing the material we were supposed to be briefing in our head (oh yes, we're THAT annoying driver, so you can just put away the loaded gun right now. We have an excellent record -- if you don't count the dead bodies buried in the woods out back), we thought it unwise to attempt changing the radio station as well.

A wise woman knows her limits.

The DJ was waxing grandiloquent on the subject of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. "Was anyone *really* going to change their vote on account of his intemperate remarks", he wondered? "Puh-leaz!" The guy just couldn't seem to buy a clue: he started building up speed like a choo-choo train puffing down a steep mountainside with no brakes. He was The Little Engine that Could See No Evil. The excuses started pouring out of his smokestack like little puffs of expediency:

"Hey - Obama had to join a big church to help peeeeeeeeeople! Because unlike Shrillary, he caaaaaaaaares!"

"How do we even know he went to church every Sunday? Maybe he just happened to miss every single time Wright said something hateful or racist for 20 years."

"How do we even know they were that close?" (Just because a man marries you, just because you choose to call him your 'spiritual adviser' - I mean really - what does that really mean? Why would anyone assume you pay the slightest attention to his IDEAS?

"How do we even know religion is "that important" to Obama anyway? Why is everyone making such a big deal over this?" (Indeed. Who amongst us unbelievers doesn't have their own personal spiritual adviser?)

Of course our DJ friend has plenty of company. The erstwhile leader of the Can'tWePleaseJustMoveOn party chimed in yesterday:

WITT: Okay. He said it. A 20-year relationship. Reverend wright married him. He is the one who baptized a god parent. How personally painful is this for him?

KERRY: Can I say something to you? Obviously it is painful and he said it. You folks need to let go of this. Television needs to stop dwelling on something that is in the past. I thought Barack Obama yesterday gave America his second big presidential moment of this campaign. The first when he spoke out about the issue of race. The second yesterday, when he made it clear, every one of the statements of the minister are just unacceptable. They're not the person that he knew before. Now let's move on to how we'll put people to work. How are you going to give people health care? How are you going to create jobs in america? What Barack Obama is offering in this gas price issue is real leadership. I mean, do we want people who sort of put their fingers in the wind and throw out an idea for the short term that is sort of politically pleasing, or do you want a here who stands up and says, no, what we need is to really lower gas prices by having a real energy policy, an intelligent policy that puts in place the incentives for renewable fuels and alternative fuels. That's what Barack Obama is doing. And it is you guys have to focus on the thing that really matter to the American electorate. The other thing is just worn out, old history now.

You've got to love the DNC's sense of "history". Rev. Wright says something today?

That's ancient history. Move along. Nothing to see here.

The NY Times raises 8 year old rumors about John McCain, and that's breaking news. But not (just to clarify matters) Swift Boating.

The Editorial Staff got a kick out of reading the dissenting opinions to Crawford v. Marion this morning. We used to try to read most of the major SCOTUS opinions. Somehow, we got out of the habit. It's something every American ought to try and do. At any rate, we found it amusing that Justice Breyer mentioned the Carter Commission:

Like JUSTICE STEVENS, I give weight to the fact that a national commission, chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker, studied the issue and recommended that States should require voter photo IDs. See Report of the Commission on Federal Election Reform, Building Confidence in U. S. Elections §2.5 (Sept. 2005) (Carter-Baker Report), App. 136–144.
Because the record does not discredit the Carter-Baker Report or suggest that Indiana is exceptional, I see nothing to prevent Indiana’s Legislature (or a federal court considering the constitutionality of the statute) from taking account of the legislatively relevant facts the report sets forth and paying attention to its expert conclusions. Thus, I share the general view of the lead opinion insofar as it holds that the Constitution does not automatically forbid Indiana from enacting a photo ID requirement.

Were I also to believe, as JUSTICE STEVENS believes, that the burden imposed by the Indiana statute on eligible voters who lack photo IDs is indeterminate “on the basis of the record that has been made in this litigation,” ante, at 18, or were I to believe, as JUSTICE SCALIA believes, that the burden the statute imposes is “minimal” or “justified,” ante, at 1 (opinion concurring in judgment), then I too
would reject the petitioners’ facial attack, primarily for the reasons set forth in Part II of the lead opinion, see ante, at 7–13. I cannot agree, however, with JUSTICE STEVENS’ or JUSTICE SCALIA’s assessment of the burdens imposed by the statute. The Carter-Baker Commission conditioned its recommendation upon the States’ willingness to ensure that the requisite photo IDs “be easily available and issued free of charge” and that the requirement be “phased in” over two federal election cycles, to ease the transition. Carter-Baker Report, at App. 139, 140. And as described Cite as: 553 U. S. ____ (2008) 3 BREYER, J., dissenting in Part II of JUSTICE SOUTER’s dissenting opinion, see ante, at 3–16, Indiana’s law fails to satisfy these aspects of the Commission’s recommendation. For one thing, an Indiana nondriver, most likely to be poor, elderly, or disabled, will find it difficult and expensive to travel to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, particularly if he or she resides in one of the many Indiana counties lacking a public transportation system. See ante, at 6–7 (SOUTER, J., dissenting) (noting that out of Indiana’s 92 counties, 21 have no public transportation system at all and 32 others restrict public transportation to regional county service). For another, many of these individuals may be uncertain about how to obtain the underlying documentation, usually a passport or a birth certificate, upon which the statute insists. And some may find the costs associated with these documents unduly burdensome (up to $12 for a copy of a birth certificate; up to $100 for a passport). By way of comparison, this Court previously found unconstitutionally burdensome a poll tax of $1.50 (less than $10 today, inflation-adjusted). See Harper v. Virginia Bd. of Elections, 383 U. S. 663, 664 n. 1, 666 (1966); ante, at 30 (SOUTER, J., dissenting). Further, Indiana’s exception for voters who cannot afford this cost imposes its own burden: a postelection trip to the county clerk or county election board to sign an indigency affidavit after each election. See ante, at 8–10 (same).

We'd like, at this point, to remind the assembled readership that the Iraqi people managed to get to the polls despite the threat of suicide bombers, gunfire, and IEDs. We are talking about the right to vote. This is a lifetime privilege. It's a bit scary when something that important isn't worth a one-time trip to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. And as we know, it is inconceivable that either party might find it in their interest to help unregistered indigent voters get to the BMV and secure IDs.

Because, you know, that's never happened before. Dear God we are a spoiled and idiotic nation.

We have become a nation of children, whining about how everything impacts us instead of thinking about what we can contribute to make the world a better place. Via Tigerhawk, there's this breathtakingly self-centered diatribe from a Gen Y-er that Andrew Sullivan finds just riveting:

I'll just put that out there. If Obama is done in by this whole Wright thing I am done with politics. I can't invest myself in something that is so sure to disappoint me time and time and time again. If the Democratic party decides that it can not risk nominating a great and decent African American man because his pastor is a scary African American man, it does not deserve power because it will have caved to what is worst about America. Racists on both sides of the divide will rejoice at having taking down the biggest threat to their belief system since Martin Luther King....and young people like myself will burrow deeper into to the holes we were in before Barack Obama dug us out.

Is this what follows the Greatest Generation - a generation of overgrown children who cynically parse every social transaction, calculating what's in it for them?

These are the people who look at collateral damage of war - damage that has existed since the dawn of time and will always exist - and rend their clothing and cry out about how awful it all is. But when the time comes to contribute something, the refrain is always the same: "But.... I was never asked to sacrifice!!!!" And yes, they wholeheartedly support the troops but no, they don't want to contribute to Soldiers Angels or Project Valour IT, those "wingnut charities", because they're not ideologically pure enough.


You see a need, it clearly bothers you, and yet you aren't going to lift a finger to help your countrymen until you are asked? What kind of human being are you?

Oh yeah. One whose patriotism must not be questioned because they are "living in a hole". It must be the same hole Barack Obama has been living in for 20 years:


So, was Obama sincere? Did he spent 20 years as an intimate of Wright and a parishioner of his church without ever having an inkling that the guy is a wacko hatemonger?

If so, can you think of anything more terrifying than sending such a naïf to the White House while there's a war on?

Pardon me, but I don't want a President who spent 20 years of his life ignoring reality. I don't want a President who spends his time hiding his head in the sand.

I want a President who isn't afraid to face unpleasant things, even if they are frightening, even if that means he has to stand alone against most of the rest of the world, and even if they make him unpopular with his own countrymen.

Abraham Lincoln was immensely unpopular with his own countrymen in the 1860s.

History, however, took a different view.

CWCID: bthun for the Shrub video :), SCOTUSblog for the Crawford v. Marion link. Took me a while to find the originating post.

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