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June 30, 2008

Oh, Snap!!!

Oooooooh girl, now you know that's got to hurt:

While Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has vowed to make pay equity for women a top priority if elected president, an analysis of his Senate staff shows that women are outnumbered and out-paid by men.

That is in contrast to Republican presidential candidate John McCain's Senate office, where women, for the most part, out-rank and are paid more than men.

....On average, women working in Obama's Senate office were paid at least $6,000 below the average man working for the Illinois senator. That's according to data calculated from the Report of the Secretary of the Senate, which covered the six-month period ending Sept. 30, 2007. Of the five people in Obama's Senate office who were paid $100,000 or more on an annual basis, only one -- Obama's administrative manager -- was a woman.

The average pay for the 33 men on Obama's staff (who earned more than $23,000, the lowest annual salary paid for non-intern employees) was $59,207. The average pay for the 31 women on Obama's staff who earned more than $23,000 per year was $48,729.91. (The average pay for all 36 male employees on Obama's staff was $55,962; and the average pay for all 31 female employees was $48,729. The report indicated that Obama had only one paid intern during the period, who was a male.)

McCain, an Arizona senator, employed a total of 69 people during the reporting period ending in the fall of 2007, but 23 of them were interns. Of his non-intern employees, 30 were women and 16 were men. After excluding interns, the average pay for the 30 women on McCain's staff was $59,104.51. The 16 non-intern males in McCain's office, by comparison, were paid an average of $56,628.83.

The Obama campaign did not respond to written questions submitted on the matter Thursday by Cybercast News Service.

You know, this must be like that whole charity thing. Senator Obama wants tough laws that will force powerful people like him to do the 'right' thing.

Uh-huh. You know what I'm talkin' about.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:28 PM | Comments (33) | TrackBack

Relevant Service

Based on what I'm seeing here:

It's not "nice" to ask the question, but it's actually a pretty good question. Yes, we all know that John McCain was captured and tortured in Vietnam (McCain won't let you forget). A lot of people don't know, however, that McCain made a propaganda video for the enemy while he was in captivity. Putting that bit of disloyalty aside, what exactly is McCain's military experience that prepares him for being commander in chief? It's not like McCain rose to the level of general or something. He's a vet. We get it. But simply being a vet, as laudable as it is, doesn't really tell you much about someone's qualifications for being commander in chief. If McCain is going to play the "I was tortured" card every five minutes as a justification for electing him president, then he shouldn't throw a hissy fit any time any one asks to know more about his military experience. Getting shot down, tortured, and then doing propaganda for the enemy is not command experience. Again, it's not nice to say say, but we're not running for class president here. We deserve real answers, not emotional outbursts designed to quell the questions.

... and here:

West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller in April cut a bit closer, suggesting that McCain's days as a fighter pilot were themselves a critique of his character.

"What happened when they [the missiles] get to the ground?" he asked. "He doesn't know. You have to care about the lives of people. McCain never gets into those issues."

Rockefeller promptly, abjectly apologized, praising McCain's "honorable and noble service to our country" and deploring his own "inaccurate and wrong analogy." His apology reflected a conventional political wisdom that McCain's heroism is too well established, and a climate of respect for soldiers too strong, for attacks on his service to do anything but backfire.

...and here:

Of all the "ex-generals" floating around out there, perhaps the most odious is Wesley Clark. Today he decided it was his place to demean John McCain's military service on Face the Nation:

Gen. Wesley Clark, acting as a surrogate for Barack Obama’s campaign, invoked John McCain’s military service against him in one of the more personal attacks on the Republican presidential nominee this election cycle.

Clark said that McCain lacked the executive experience necessary to be president, calling him “untested and untried” on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” And in saying so, he took a few swipes at McCain’s military service.

“He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded — that wasn't a wartime squadron,” Clark said.

That's just foolishness. A squadron command doesn't become "executive experience" only if the squadron is in a combat situation. It is either an executive experience or it's not executive experience whether at war or during peace.

Does commanding NATO not count as executive experience if NATO isn't at war? And btw, does getting fired from his NATO command negate Clark's claim to executive experience?

I'm beginning to believe that the only way to rack up "relevant military service" is to deploy to a combat zone for a year, miraculously rack up 3 Purple Hearts without ever getting an injury more serious than a paper cut, invoke a little-used regulation to get yourself sent back to a Washington, DC aide's job, and then testify before the Senate that your comrades in arms committed war crimes on a daily basis with your full knowledge (since you were, in fact, a commander and it was your testimony that these war crimes occurred "on a day-to-day basis with full knowledge of officers at all levels of command").

...the only qualified candidate for the presidency is...

[drum roll]

John Kerry, 2008.

It's not too late to bring The Strong Strength of Strongness back to America.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:27 AM | Comments (31) | TrackBack

Freedom of Speech

I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.

- Hamlet, scene II

For every drawback that comes with long deployments there is a corresponding silver lining. Sometimes one has to be willing to turn over a rock or two to see it, though. One unintended side effect of packing the spousal unit off for an all expense-paid vacation at Camp Sandy Trau in Iraq was that it prompted me to begin taking road trips on weekends.

I enjoy traveling. As a child I loved to go exploring; to take off through woods and fields, going as far as my little legs or my bicycle would take me. When my boys were small I thought nothing of piling into the car and driving 12 or even 24 hours to visit my parents and in-laws. I drove halfway across the country to meet my husband once. But until last year I never did much traveling all by myself, never went anywhere just because I felt like it. The idea was intoxicating.

Freedom, or perhaps more accurately the perception of freedom, is a strange thing. When I left college, married, and became a mother in fairly short order my freedom of action narrowed suddenly and dramatically. At first I found the limitations hard to bear gracefully at times, though of course I said nothing. Each Spring the world grew green and vibrant again, and each Spring I grew distracted and restless as I went about my daily routine.

Once or twice I even dreamed of abandoning the life I had chosen: the life I loved with all my heart. I was reminded of this last October when I attended my first high school reunion in thirty years. That's a long time to go without seeing anyone who knew you "way back when", who hasn't seen you since you were young and didn't have a care in the world. It was an interesting and I suppose characteristic experience. As I prepared to leave I thought of all the times I'd read about women preparing for months on end for their high school reunions: cutting and coloring their hair, going on diets, getting their makeup and nails done, planning their outfits carefully.

Well, that wasn't me. I never prepare ahead. I don't even pack in any organized fashion - it ruins the sense of adventure. I like to throw my things into a suitcase on the spur of the moment and go. That's exactly what I did; crammed a pair of blue jeans, my favorite high heeled boots, a camisole, cropped blazer and a few t-shirts into a small bag, called the dog sitter, and bombed down 95 with the CD player blaring. Once there, I checked into a posh hotel, drove from one waterfront to another and stepped from my car straight into my past.

I don't know what I expected. I wasn't prepared to see myself through other people's eyes:

"Oh my God, you look exactly the same as you did in high school!" (Is this the Official Greeting of high school reunions?)

But there was also this:

"I can't believe you married a Marine. I just can't picture you staying home with your kids all those years. You were always so WILD."

I'm not sure when I began to contemplate turning this into a drinking game: every time someone says the word "wild" in reference to your checkered past, chug one brewski.

Can you say 'confirmation bias', boys and girls? I knew that you could. I thought it was funny the first time I heard it. By the end of the evening I found myself thinking: "You never knew me." Isn't it funny how people only see what's on the outside? I may have been a little wild a long time ago when nothing I did mattered, when I wasn't responsible for anyone else.

And it may have taken me a long time to reconcile myself to being a stay at home wife and mother. But it's also true that even as young as I was then, I never once doubted I was on the right path. As young as I was then, I never failed to understand there is a price to be paid for everything that truly matters in life. That is just the nature of the world we live in. Choices imply trade-offs.

I always understood that no matter which path I took in life I would have to give up something of value. Perhaps that's why I don't understand statements like this:

Bottom line - I am sorry that the Field level O is a jerk, and sorrier that LT G is in trouble for airing dirty laundry on his blog. Reality is that those serving don't really have freedom of speech, and here's the proof.

I understand the good impulses that prompted it, just as I understand John's protective instincts. They both come from a good place. But what bothers me about so much of the outrage over DoD regulation of Milblogging is that ironically, military bloggers enjoy far more freedom of speech when it comes to blogging than most civilian employees.

The fact of the matter is that civilians have been fired for blogging even on their own time and even when their blogs are anonymous, entirely personal in nature and don't mention their employers. Employees who believe the First Amendment gives them the legal right to voice their personal opinions without fear of termination should think again:

Cliff Palefsky, a San Francisco employment lawyer, says there's a false sense that employers can't punish their workers for voicing personal opinions -- on their blogs or anywhere else. "People mistakenly believe that the First Amendment protects them in the workplace, which is generally not the case," he said.

There are a handful of exceptions. Several states, including California, specifically protect workers from retaliation for their political views. Other states have broader protections covering "off-the-job" activities, said Palefsky.

Even those safety nets have limits when it comes to bad-mouthing the boss. "If you're going to be talking about your employer, it's hard to call that 'off-the-job' conduct," said Palefsky.

Military bloggers know this. What rational basis do they have, then, for expecting to be treated differently from their civilian counterparts, especially when one adds OPSEC and public policy concerns to the existing concerns of civilian employers?

What basis do they have?

It's an interesting argument. In fact, it's an argument we've heard before. You can't stop us from publishing, no matter what the rules say. What? You say that ordinary citizens are required to comply with this set of rules? Well, we are special. We should not have to comply with that set of rules because America depends upon us to supply them with critically needed information. You can't shut us down.

The end justifies the means. Where, oh where have we heard this argument before? Oh yes. Bill Keller. The New York Times.

"Just trust us".

And then there's the issue of the act which generated the post. I'm more than willing to concede that if everything is exactly as it was presented, it is a bit disturbing, though even there I have questions. But perhaps this entirely hypothetical scenario will illustrate my disquiet with some of the conclusions which have been drawn from Lt. G's post:

You are the regimental commander.

It has come to your ears - never mind how - that one of your field grade officers has threatened retaliation against a young Lieutenant.T The only "evidence" is a blog post. In the post, the Lieutenant accuses - in a roundabout way - his senior of threatening him with some unspecified and petty harassment as a consequence of the Lt.'s having refused a lateral transfer. The post is disdainful, contemptuous, and openly defiant of the officer.

You note, a few posts later, that the Lt. has been ordered to cease posting. Apparently he went on leave and posted the account of his falling out with his senior officer without clearing the offending post, something he knows well he is required to do. Given the tone, you are not surprised.

His photo is on the site, so there is no mistaking who he is. Anyone in the command would be able to trace it back, and therefore likely also identify the senior officer.

QUESTION: Based on nothing more than the contents of the post, do you call in the senior officer and tear him a new one?

Your call.

It's too dark
to put the keys
in my ignition,
And the mornin' sun is yet
to climb my hood ornament.
But before too long I might
see those flashing red lights
Look out, mama,
'cause I'm comin' home tonight.

Think I'll
roll another number
for the road,
I feel able to get under any load.
Though my feet
aren't on the ground,
I been standin' on the sound
Of some open-hearted people
goin' down.

- Neil Young

Posted by Cassandra at 03:34 AM | Comments (34) | TrackBack

June 27, 2008

Elucidating the Obvious

One of the things I have tried to do, over the many years I've been writing, is not to post in anger.

There are times when that is not easy, especially when I feel as strongly as I do about what I have to say today. Pent up emotions tend to increase rather than decrease in intensity, and each time an opportunity to respond is declined only makes the next time more difficult. Over the years there have been quite a few times when I have reluctantly decided not to weigh in at all on stories that interested me. I have done so primarily when I didn't think I could distance myself sufficiently from the subject to give it what (according to my own standards, if not in always in the judgment of others) amounted to fair treatment.

Let me begin by noting that in an era where so many time-honored traditions have fallen by the wayside, the military has consistently remained the most respected institution in American life. But why is this so? What is the military doing differently from other civilian institutions? Why do the American people still respect and trust the military when they have lost confidence in Congress, the Courts, and the media?

I would argue that the answer is really quite simple: the military, unlike these other institutions, has a clear-cut set of rules, they follow these rules, and when someone breaks the rules it is seen that they are held accountable for having done so. The fact that this is so, and that most members of the military cooperate to actively uphold and support this system, is what instills public trust and confidence in the military as an institution.

Another thing which instills trust and confidence is attitude: when the military is asked to do a job, they do not undertake the task with the mindset of "let us determine the minimum we can get away with doing and do that". On the contrary: they exceed expectations. They aim, not to get by, but to excel. And when it is a matter of integrity their attitude is not, "You're going to have to force me to obey the rules and show me subsection 5(c)(1) paragraph 2(b) or I'll sue you for intentional infliction of emotional distress", but "I'll get right on it."

Even when, sometimes, they are privately not that thrilled about rules and regulations.

Except, somehow, when it comes to military blogging. Then, mysteriously, all bets seem to be off and even military officers are suddenly insulting other military officers for enforcing existing regulations (which last time I checked was THEIR JOB, not a discretionary activity) and fomenting hate and discontent.

After much thought, I am not going to mince words here. I have watched this go on for far too long and it needs to stop. I cannot understand why no one is speaking up, but if no one else will say anything, I will.

It does not matter, really, whether you agree with the DoD regulations on blogging. Your personal opinion on military regulations is undoubtedly interesting to your mother, but essentially irrelevant to the performance of your job.

Discuss it, if you wish, on your own time. But the fact of the matter is that as long as the regulation is in force, it must be obeyed and if you do otherwise than to urge any military person to comply with a military regulation, you are behaving in a highly unprofessional manner. If you are doing this on your blog, especially using distainful and/or profane language, and you cannot understand why DoD is less than thrilled about Milbloggers, you are encouraging insubordination.

Is this really the kind of behavior military people should be proud of?

Is this the kind of behavior you want the civilian community to see us engaging in?

And most importantly, if you happen to be an officer or a staff NCO, is this the kind of behavior you want junior enlisted personnel (who are far from stupid, but ARE young and hopefully look to you for leadership and guidance) to emulate? My God, I hope not. Because I find it disappointing as hell.

I have no wish to pile onto Lt. G, but even he admits his initial post was rash.

He admits that he broke the rules.

The guy is an officer, for Christ's sake. He is paid to provide a leadership example.

And yet, many of you are defending an example of an officer who knowingly broke the rules, openly displayed contempt for his senior officers, and then, when the rule he broke was enforced, didn't have the good grace to take his lumps silently but rubbed their noses in it PUBLICLY.

If I had been the field grade in question, the easiest and least embarrassing course of action for me personally would have been to counsel the young man quietly and deal with the post LATER. However, allowing an officer to deliberately defy regulations and deliberately do what he did is not really an option a responsible senior ought to contemplate. I could not, in good conscience, ignore his actions no matter how irritating and public the repercussions.

Even if they caused someone to call me a "weak leader" for simply doing the job Uncle Sam paid me to do.

I suppose my question is, when are Milbloggers going to stop going off like a Roman Candle every single time a military blogging REGULATION is enforced? This was not the end of the world.

All I see here is a junior officer who broke the rules and (surprise, surprise!) was dealt with accordingly. I won't even address the issue of people not always getting to stay in their present job or the remote possibility that there were reasons the Lieutenant was not aware of for the proposed transfer. At any rate, he wasn't thrown in the brig. All that happened is that he was asked not to post for a while.

Be still, my beating heart. Somehow, I suspect the world will continue to spin on its axis.

What disturbs me more than anything else is to see military people putting out the kind of arguments they mock mercilessly when they come from the Leftosphere. I don't like hearing people suggest we pressure DoD into backing down on regulations, that we set up ghost sites so Milbloggers can post when they've been ordered not to (nice going - -what other orders would you like them to flout while you're at it?), or disparaging other military personnel on slight or no evidence.

The military is not, and never has been, a democracy and unless you want to see it turned into a debating society where discipline issues are debated and adjudicated via shouting matches in the blogosphere, might I suggest this is really not a path we want to go down? There is a way to handle disputes. It's called going through the chain of command. If you have a problem with someone, tackle it head on. Take it up with the actual people involved. Don't gun your frustrations out on the Internet where Dana Priest and the entire rest of the world can feast on your momentary bile.

I would have thought this was so obvious that it didn't need saying, especially during wartime when God knows we have enough problems without creating unnecessary ones, but apparently I was mistaken.

Posted by Cassandra at 03:07 PM | Comments (83) | TrackBack


The Recipe For Moi
3 parts Brilliance
2 parts Fearlessness
1 part Drive

Splash of Friendship

Finish off with a squeeze of lime juice
What's the Recipe for Your Personality?

These things always slay me.

Also, after reading Semper Fi Wife's post I decided to take the quick Meyer's Brigg's again just to see what I came out. I was kind of surprised that I came out the same thing I always do. Not sure why I expected anything different. Anyway, then I found this. What a hoot:

Your Love Type: INTP
The Thinker

In love, you are honest and serious about commitment.
For you, sex is something you think about and desire a lot of the time.

Overall, you are pure in your affection and feelings.
However, you tend to be suspicious and distrusting at times.

Best matches: ENTJ and ESTJ
What's Your Love Type?

On the MBriggs, my strongest attribute was Intuition. That makes a lot of sense. During recent years I've tended to trust my gut feelings less and less because I've been consciously trying to develop my more rational side. All in all, I can't say it's been a great success. Perhaps this explains why:

In experiments with laboratory animals reported this spring, Caltech neuroscientist Richard Anderson and his colleagues explored how the effort to plan a movement forces cells throughout the brain to work together, organizing a choice below the threshold of awareness. Tuning in on the electrical dialogue between working neurons, they pinpointed the cells of what they called a "free choice" brain circuit that in milliseconds synchronized scattered synapses to settle on a course of action.

"It suggests we are looking at this actual decision being made," Dr. Anderson said. "It is pretty fast."

And when those networks momentarily malfunction, people do make mistakes. Working independently, psychologist Tom Eichele at Norway's University of Bergen monitored brain activity in people performing routine tasks and discovered neural static -- waves of disruptive signals -- preceded an error by up to 30 seconds. "Thirty seconds is a long time," Dr. Eichele said.

Such experiments suggest that our best reasons for some choices we make are understood only by our cells. The findings lend credence to researchers who argue that many important decisions may be best made by going with our gut -- not by thinking about them too much.

Dutch researchers led by psychologist Ap Dijksterhuis at the University of Amsterdam recently found that people struggling to make relatively complicated consumer choices -- which car to buy, apartment to rent or vacation to take -- appeared to make sounder decisions when they were distracted and unable to focus consciously on the problem.

Moreover, the more factors to be considered in a decision, the more likely the unconscious brain handled it all better, they reported in the peer-reviewed journal Science in 2006. "The idea that conscious deliberation before making a decision is always good is simply one of those illusions consciousness creates for us," Dr. Dijksterhuis said.

Does this make our self-awareness just a second thought?

All this work to deconstruct the mental machinery of choice may be the best evidence of conscious free will. By measuring the brain's physical processes, the mind seeks to know itself through its reflection in the mirror of science.

"We are trying to understand who we are," said Antonio Damasio, director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California, "by studying the organ that allows you to understand who you are."

Hmmm. Could there be some inherent bias in that process?

Surely there is a study out there on that, too.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:00 PM | Comments (34) | TrackBack

Those Who Can't, Teach....

...math, apparently:

Elementary-school teachers are poorly prepared by education schools to teach math, finds a study being released Thursday by the National Council on Teacher Quality.

... Teacher candidates know their multiplication tables, but "they don't come to us knowing why multiplication works the way it does," said Denise Mewborn, who heads the University of Georgia department of math and science education.

The university was cited in the report for having an "exemplary program," while nine others met basic requirements. The rest offered too little math coursework or coursework that was considered weak, according to the report.

The University of Georgia requires teacher candidates to take courses to help them understand concepts underlying elementary-school math, as well as math courses not designed for teachers.

The report found significant differences in the number and kind of courses required by each education program.

Education schools also are not being selective enough, the report stated. Most require applicants to take an admissions test, usually around their sophomore year of college. But the test, which typically includes reading, writing and math sections, is far too easy, according to the report.

"Almost anyone can get in. Compared to the admissions standards found in other countries, American education schools set exceedingly low expectations for the mathematics knowledge that aspiring teachers must demonstrate," said the report.

U.S. children often fall in the middle or bottom of the pack when compared to other students on international math tests.

Jane West, vice president of government relations for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, said her organization had not received a copy of the report Wednesday. The National Council on Teacher Quality plans to release it publicly at a news conference Thursday.

The report also criticized the tests education students take when they complete their coursework, which are generally relied on by states in granting teacher licenses. In many cases, the prospective teachers are judged on an overall score only, meaning they could do badly on the math portion but still pass if they do well in the other areas.

I know I've written about this before, but I used to tutor graduate students in the education program in California in Math. They nearly universally had trouble passing the CBEST, a fairly basic test of mathematical skills any undergrad ought to be able to pass with ease.

There is something to be said, even at the elementary level, for having a degree in the area you plan to teach in. My children attended private school for most of their school years and the best math and science teachers they had almost invariably had math or science rather than education degrees. It's not impossible to be a good teacher with an education degree: I've known some fine educators who fit this description.

But I have to wonder at the lack of formal requirements in academia, of all profession, for academic credentials in a teacher's subject area. It just seems odd; especially coupled with the reluctance to accept any empirical review of the teacher's knowledge of their subject area.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:49 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Kids These Days

Yes, the princess will eventually write something serious again.

And no, it probably won't be this morning. Such are the aftereffects of too many hours spent staring at boring software data:

Officially, the incident has been filed as a common assault, but such a description doesn't begin to cover the events which led to Cambridge University student Nadia Witkowski being given a police caution.

The scene of the crime was Trinity Old Field, overlooking the famous Backs, where students including Miss Witkowski, 23, gathered to celebrate the end of their final exams on what is traditionally known as "Suicide Sunday".

As befits one of the world's great crucibles of learning, the organisers of the Blazers and Bikinis party had laid on a jelly-wrestling competition in a 6ft paddling pool, with a £250 first prize up for grabs.

..."She went mad and punched a girl dressed as a butterfly standing at the edge of the crowd. Blood gushed from her nose. Then she grabbed a bottle of Lambrini and tried to escape.

"Security would not let her out of the grounds with alcohol so she punched one guard and butted another. They had to restrain her. She was still in her white bikini, all covered in jelly."

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Maybe she should have studied math.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:24 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 26, 2008

Thursday Afternoon Work Break

What I'm listening to right now.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:04 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Oh, Justice Kennedy....

Quote of the Day:

"I Got Yer Evolving Standard Right Here, Buddy":

Gov. Jindal made it absolutely clear that signing this bill today was about more than just sending a no-tolerance message across his state: "I want to send the message loud and clear – to the Supreme Court of the United States and beyond – make no mistake about it, if anyone wants to molest children and commit sexual assaults on kids they should not do so here in Louisiana. Here, we will do everything in our power to protect our children and we will not rest until justice is won and we have fully punished those who harm them.”


On the heels of today's SCOTUS decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana barring the death penalty for sex offenders, Gov. Bobby Jindal released a statement calling the ruling an "affront to the people of Louisiana" - and what's more, vowing to do whatever possible to amend the state’s laws in order to maintain the death penalty for child rape.

But that's not all he did.

Today, Gov. Jindal signed the "Sex Offender Chemical Castration Bill," authorizing the castration of convicted sex offenders. They get a choice: physical or chemical. Oh, and they don't just get castrated and leave - they still have to serve out their sentence.

I believe the term "Gates of Hell" applies. Read it all.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:45 AM | Comments (51) | TrackBack

It's Enough To Bring A Tear To Our Eyes

Because the plebiscite is the most sacred responsibility of every free society:

...voter turnout in Japan, which averaged 70% to 90% about 30 years ago, has fallen to between 10% and 30% in recent years. With voter apathy and a general aversion to politics worsening each year, the government has taken a variety of measures to encourage participation in the election process. Taking matters into their own hands, Triumph decided to focus attention on the problem by unveiling the Voter Turnout Lift-UP! Bra along with their fall/winter collection on May 9.

The Japanese: with them, it is always about duty.

Via Dave Barry

Posted by Cassandra at 08:31 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Sacre bleu!

Whilst idly munching the remains of a leftover croissant this morning, the Editorial Staff happened to glance into the bottom of our nearly empty coffee cup. Much to our surprise, there amongst the French pressed grounds swirling snarkily back up at us, we espied a new penumbral right!

But is this not the wonderful thing about a Living, Breathing Constitution? Contrary to the staid, stale prescriptions of heartless conservatives, a Living Text is free to change; free to respond to the real, human beings it is meant to serve. It protects the powerless, breathes life and compassion into the law:

"We need somebody who's got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it's like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that's the criteria by which I'm going to be selecting my judges."

It protects the downtrodden. This may be the defining difference between liberal and conservative views of law. A just process is not so important as ensuring equality of outcome. And of course, law should protect those who have no voice. And above all, the law must have empathy. Let's not forget that.

Except when it doesn't seem to do any of these things terribly well:

"I have said repeatedly that I think that the death penalty should be applied in very narrow circumstances for the most egregious of crimes," Obama said at a news conference. "I think that the rape of a small child, 6 or 8 years old, is a heinous crime and if a state makes a decision that under narrow, limited, well-defined circumstances the death penalty is at least potentially applicable, that that does not violate our Constitution."

Oh dear, Senator. The majority (whose numbers Senator Obama, if he is elected, wishes to increase) beg to disagree with you. Their logic is compelling, n'est pas? They cite, as precedent, a previous case (Coker v. Georgia) involving a serial rapist (alert readers may care to note that in the jaded judicial judgment of Court sophisticates, a 16 year old rape victim was deemed both "adult" and "unharmed" by her assailant, prompting this furious dissent by Justice Rehnquist, well-known unfeeling conservative and enemy of women everywhere:

A rapist not only violates a victim's privacy and personal integrity, but inevitably causes serious psychological, as well as physical, harm in the process. The long-range effect upon the victim's life and health is likely to be irreparable; it is impossible to measure the harm which results. Volumes have been written by victims, physicians, and psychiatric specialists on the lasting injury suffered by rape victims. Rape is not a mere physical attack -- it is destructive of the human personality. The remainder of the victim's life may be gravely affected, and this, in turn, may have a serious detrimental effect upon her husband and any children she may have. I therefore wholly agree with MR. JUSTICE WHITE's conclusion as far as it goes -- that, "[s]hort of homicide, [rape] is the ultimate violation of self.'" Victims may recover from the physical damage of knife or bullet wounds, or a beating with fists or a club, but recovery from such a gross assault on the human personality is not healed by medicine or surgery. To speak blandly, as the plurality does, of rape victims who are "unharmed," or to classify the human outrage of rape, as does MR. JUSTICE POWELL, in terms of "excessively brutal," versus "moderately brutal," takes too little account of the profound suffering the crime imposes upon the victims and their loved ones.

But (yawn!) the suffering of rape victims is insignificant when balanced against the crushing weight of statistics:

In reaching our conclusion we find significant the number of executions that would be allowed under respondent’s approach. The crime of child rape, considering its reported incidents, occurs more often than first-degree murder. Approximately 5,702 incidents of vaginal, anal, or oral rape of a child under the age of 12 were reported nationwide in 2005; this is almost twice the total incidents of intentional murder for victims of all ages (3,405) reported during the same period.

Hmmm. Rape is a serious crime. Especially so when a 300 pound man rapes an 8 year old child. And even more so when twice the number of child rapes occur, as first degree murders. So depressing.

But be that as it may, the Court cannot bear to think of all those dreary executions. Or perhaps it's the workload. And if that isn't enough, there's the question of evolving standards.

You see, ever since the Court struck down capital punishment statutes for rape in Coker, they've noticed a funny trend: states seem strangely reluctant to impose the death penalty for rape! This, mes amis, is what's called an evolving standard of decency, and it springs up like Venus from a clam shell, fully formed and (mirabile dictu!) without the slightest interference from the Berobed Nine Five!

Never mind that in his Coker dissent, Justice Rehnquist had already noted the Court's recent 8th Amendment jurisprudence was discouraging state legislatures from passing criminal statutes imposing the death sentence in such cases:

...it is myopic to base sweeping constitutional principles upon the narrow experience of the past five years. Considerable uncertainty was introduced into this area of the law by this Court's Furman decision. A large number of States found their death penalty statutes invalidated; legislatures were left in serious doubt by the expressions vacillating between discretionary and mandatory death penalties, as to whether this Court would sustain any statute imposing death as a criminal sanction. [Footnote 3/9] Failure of more States to enact statutes imposing death for rape of an adult woman may thus reflect hasty legislative compromise occasioned by time pressures following Furman, a desire to wait on the experience of those States which did enact such statutes, or simply an accurate forecast of today's holding

In any case, when considered in light of the experience since the turn of this century, where more than one-third of American jurisdictions have consistently provided the death penalty for rape, the plurality's focus on the experience of the immediate past must be viewed as truly disingenuous. Having in mind the swift changes in positions of some Members of this Court in the short span of five years, can it rationally be considered a relevant indicator of what our society deems "cruel and unusual" to look solely to what legislatures have refrained from doing under conditions of great uncertainty arising from our less than lucid holdings on the Eighth Amendment? Far more representative of societal mores of the 20th century is the accepted practice in a substantial number of jurisdictions preceding the Furman decision. "[The] problem . . . is the suddenness of the Court's perception of progress in the human attitude since decisions of only a short while ago." Furman v. Georgia,(BLACKMUN, J., dissenting).

... The Court has repeatedly pointed to the reserve strength of our federal system, which allows state legislatures, within broad limits, to experiment with laws, both criminal and civil, in the effort to achieve socially desirable results. Various provisions of the Constitution, including the Eighth Amendment and the Due Process Clause, of course, place substantive limitations on the type of experimentation a State may undertake. However, as the plurality admits, the crime of rape is second perhaps only to murder in its gravity. It follows then that Georgia did not approach such substantive constraints by enacting the statute here in question.

The beauty of being Justice Kennedy is that one can find all the necessary justification for one's judicial pronouncements at the bottom of a coffee cup, in the hallowed precincts of The Hague, or perhaps in the crumbs of yesterday's croissant.

If only we could believe the 8 year old victim in this case was "unharmed". But I suspect our standards of decency will have to evolve considerably before most of us will be able to face that conclusion without feeling heartily sick to our stomachs.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:04 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

June 25, 2008

Dating Rules = "Meddling"???

Whatever would we do without "researchers"? Funded by our hard-earned federal tax dollars, these brave truth tellers labor hard in the Stygian fields of academe to bring us important breaking news of which we might otherwise be unaware.

For instance who among us, if not for scientists willing to conduct experiments under field conditions few would willingly submit to, would have guessed the mere sight of bikini-clad women makes men (who, we are constantly informed by our readership, are so much more logical and rational than women, being ruled by their higher cerebral functions, go all twitterpated?

Yes, if not for the near-irrefutable evidence of modern "science", we too would not have believed it! Yet it would appear that sometimes even men appear to behave in a manner perhaps best described as hormone driven. Who would have thought this was possible?

Certainly not the Editorial Staff. For the past few decades or so, we have been far too busy pushing our outdated morality on our unsuspecting progeny:

Researchers have known for a while that closeness to parents is linked to less risky sexual behavior by teenagers.

Now, they're turning their microscopes on the dating rules parents set, with some surprising results: The limits you place on your teenager's dating may say more about your own love life than your teen's needs. Also, parents' satisfaction with their own life roles shapes the kind of rules they set.

Ah! As we suspected: parenting really is all about us, after all. It was never about our sons' welfare at all:

Parents who are involved in stable romantic relationships with spouses or partners tend more than other parents to set rules limiting teen dating behavior, such as curfews, minimum ages for dating, limits on places teens can go and explicit rules against sexual activity, says a new study of 169 parents and 102 teens by Stephanie Madsen, an associate professor of psychology at Maryland's McDaniel College. While the reason isn't clear, the author suggests these parents may hold more conservative beliefs in general; many of the rules involved sexuality.

Ironically, in what other researchers have called the "Romeo and Juliet" effect, such rules may tend to drive teenage lovers closer; teens of these parents reported closer, more positive relationships.

Parents who are unhappy, dissatisfied or insecure in love, however, go beyond limits and try to dictate or control how their teens treat their dates, the study found. These parents try to influence their kids to value certain things and act in specific ways. Parents would tell teens to open doors for dates, "act like a gentleman" (or a lady), or resist letting a date "walk all over" them. The goal may be to launch their teens on a romantic path happier than their own, Dr. Madsen says. But kids often regard this advice as intrusive, and again, it tended to have the opposite effect. The teens affected weren't particularly content with their dating relationships.

The research rings true to me. As a single working parent of two, my love life is near the bottom of my list of priorities. Like the parents in the study, I find myself prescribing behaviors to my teenage son, like "be a gentleman" -- advice he listens to respectfully. But, I suspect, he keeps his own counsel.

Raising boys with a military father who is gone much of the time is an interesting exercise. A woman knows little of what it is like to be a teen-aged boy, and yet a mother must be able (if her husband is gone) to talk to her sons of dating, of how to treat a girl, even - sometimes - about sex. If you don't take on these subjects, you yield the field without so much as a whimper to a world that doesn't share the values you want to pass on to your children.

I am suspicious of "researchers" who advise parents not to "push" their values on their children. Of course children will keep their own counsel. That is an inevitable part of growing up; of the separation process which begins when your kids journey towards adulthood. Little by little, they draw apart from you. They spend more and more time in their rooms; they stop confiding in you; they resist attempts to steer them in the direction you want them to go. This is all normal, natural, and - though as parents we find it alarming and often painful - healthy.

It is just the first step towards leaving the nest, and if we love them, we must let them go:

Love takes many forms. Love is having the faith and the courage to let go when your children need to strike out on their own. Love means trusting in their judgment (and your own long stewardship); it means recognizing that they are no longer babies, but young adults. It means releasing them gently, lovingly, gracefully; though every fiber screams they aren’t ready yet – that they aren’t listening to you, that they will screw things up if you don’t keep a hand on the old tiller. It means not saying “I told you so”, when you did. Again. And again. It means biting your lip, and your tongue, a lot. It means giving them the space to grow, as you did once. Love means standing a bit apart when they come home, though you long to crowd them with questions as you did when they were small; waiting for them to come to you. Loving it when they finally do.

Even though it took years. Boys are a slow crop.

And yet a wise parent does not let go all at once. It is not meddling to maintain an even tension on the rope which binds a child to home and hearth, paying it out at a rate that allows a child to make and learn from his own mistakes but hopefully avoid the life altering ones.

It's funny: I set few, if any actual "rules" in regard to dating. In fact, like my husband and I, my boys were interested in the opposite sex very early in life and I did little to discourage this: my view was that there is no specific age at which kids are "ready" to date. I did, however, spend an awful lot of time talking to my sons about dating, and I supervised their activities carefully during the early years.

Later on I took the view that, remembering my own youthful forays into the wacky world of dating, there was little likelihood I would have any actual control over their actions as most teens (rightly or not) view dating as an intensely private sphere in which parents are truly not welcome. But the fact that I had no control didn't mean that I had no influence:

A better way for parents to expend their energy, Dr. Madsen says, is to emphasize constant, warm oversight over just setting rules.

As a parent, I saw nothing wrong with giving my sons the benefit of my experiences. The difference, to me, was that I openly admitted to both of them that as teens who were converging on adulthood, the choice would always remain theirs. I stressed that they were still minors and that while they lived under my roof, certain things were expected of them. I also stressed the broad concepts of right and wrong which I thought it important for men and women to live by, and the consequences for them and their partners if they weren't careful and responsible.

The thing I find most interesting is this: my husband's and my family are somewhat unusual in that both of our parents met and began dating in high school. Their parents did the same. In fact, my kids' great-grandparents eloped when they were only 18.

My husband and I met and began dating in high school (though barely - we didn't begin dating until just before our senior prom).

And my sons married women they met and dated either in high school or the first year of college. That's a fairly unusual track record, and yet we placed absolutely no pressure on them in regard to dating.

Meddling? Or just pushing our values on them?

Or is it something else? Maybe we're just weird.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:38 AM | Comments (35) | TrackBack

Moooooving Right Along

The Marine Corps and the Iraqi government are teaming up to ensure a brighter future for the fledgling country... one cow at a time:

The purpose of the local government is to meet the needs of the people. One of the ways the local government here is doing this is by building a dairy farm.

“The farm will consist of four buildings which will house about seventy cows per buildings,” said Army Lt. Col. Allen R. Gifford, 49, from Osseo, Wis., who is the embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team liaison officer with the American Embassy in Baghdad. “The facility will also be able to process other dairy products such as cheese and yogurt.”

The project idea came from the local government in Anah and so far has been funded by the government of Iraq rather than Coalition forces.

“It is a good example of the local government taking it upon themselves to provide for their citizens, said Gunnery Sgt. Gary M. Gonzalez, 39, from Alhambra, Calif., who is the assistant team leader with Detachment 1, Civil Affairs Team 5, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5.

The locals are so enthusiastic about the new jobs and revenue the proposed dairy farm will bring that they are already 80% done with the structures. The farm is expected to open shortly.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:19 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

June 24, 2008

What Does Cass Think???

Cass thinks this is breathtakingly stupid:

...new laws could see wolf-whistling builders placed on the sex offenders register. The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill will create a new offence of "communicating indecently", punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

The legislation is intended to punish sexual harassment by text, emails and letters, but ministers also aim to include sexually explicit comments to strangers. It is expected that the law would only apply to persistent offenders.

And I'll tell you what's even more cretinous: when some idiot decides to "fix" a problem that may not even exist.

"It has come to the attention of the college that some female students have been making comments to, or whistling at, the builders both whilst on site and as they walk around the campus.

"Although we are sure no offence is meant, this constitutes harassment and is wholly unacceptable.

"We have asked the contractors' representative to pass on all instances of harassment to the college and we will take appropriate action which may include disciplinary action."

A spokeswoman for the contractors, Galliford Try, said: "We have no registered complaints on this issue. However we do not condone inappropriate behaviour from any parties on our sites."

While applying the law equally across the board has a certain blindly symmetrical appeal, applying a stupid law in the absence of both malicious intent and any genuine damage to the "victims" (even if only perceived) only doubles the stupidity. The only conceivable benefit might be that society may finally realize how utterly stupid some sexual harassment laws truly are. Frankly, in today's uber-liberated culture where just about everything seems to be kosher, I can think of only one punishment that truly fits this heinous crime.

Naughty, naughty girls. 'Twould serve them right.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:25 PM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

Sacre Bleu!!!

Via MathMom, the Editorial Staff learned (to our vast amusement) that our humble site is included in this map of the political blatherosphere.


Frankly, we are mildly shocked ... and not at all certain that there has not been a tragic mistake of some sort. However, our position on the map does make sense, given our linking policy.

At any rate, check out the map. We found the Fish Eye view interesting.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:27 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Funniest Political Quotes

Extreme Mortman has this list of the top ten funniest quotes for 2008. We couldn't help noting that Obama's "heal the oceans" quote made the list. Speaking of funny Obama quotes, the other day KJ sent around this amusing quote, purportedly from the Obamessiah himself:

"My friends, we live in the greatest nation in the history of the world. I hope you'll join with me as we try to change it." -- Barack Obama

To KJ's credit, he was skeptical of the authenticity of the quote though we all thought it was pretty funny. Turns out, Obama never said it. It was a Mark Steyn spoof:

Along with all the predictable moans and groans of disapprobation, I actually found one Obama supporter attempting to defend the statement. Trouble is, Obama said no such thing.

It's a spoof, originally posted on Mark Steyn's blog on NationalReview.com. What's more, Obama wasn't even its intended target -- John McCain was.

Hopefully we never get so caught up in the idiocy that we stop caring about the truth. Let's face it: neither of the candidates needs our help in generating risible soundbytes. And during those times when they fail to entertain us, their followers can be relied upon to step up to the plate. Back in February, Sue Sarandon piped up with this gem:

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

Neither can we, Sue. In fact, we're still waiting. Hillary got in a few digs of her own, too:

“I could stand up here and say, ‘Let’s just get everybody together, let’s get unified, the sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing, and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect.”

–Hillary Clinton mocking Barack Obama

Feel free to nominate your own quotes in the comments section.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:04 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Funniest Political Quotes

Extreme Mortman has this list of the top ten funniest quotes for 2008

Back in February, Sue Sarandon piped up with this gem:

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

Neither can we, Sue. We're still waiting...

“I could stand up here and say, ‘Let’s just get everybody together, let’s get unified, the sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing, and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect.” –Hillary Clinton mocking Barack Obama

Speaking of funny quotes, the other day KJ sent around this quote, purportedly from Barack Obama:

"My friends, we live in the greatest nation in the history of the world. I hope you'll join with me as we try to change it." -- Barack Obama

To his credit, he was skeptical of the authenticity of the quote though we all thought it was pretty funny. Turns out, Obama never said it. It was a spoof:

Along with all the predictable moans and groans of disapprobation, I actually found one Obama supporter attempting to defend the statement. Trouble is, Obama said no such thing.

It's a spoof, originally posted on Mark Steyn's blog on NationalReview.com. What's more, Obama wasn't even its intended target -- John McCain was. To quote Mr. Steyn's January 28, 2008 posting:

Three weeks ago, after New Hampshire, when Hill and McCain and the gang were all bragging about being "agents of change," a (non-U.S.) correspondent of mine emailed me his all-purpose stump speech for this primary season:

My friends, we live in the greatest nation in the history of the world. I hope you'll join with me as we try to change it.

Hopefully we never get so caught up in this madness that we stop caring about the truth. Let's face it: if we're just patient enough, both candidates will eventually say something snort-worthy all by themselves.

Feel free to nominate your own quotes in the comments section.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 23, 2008


So.... this baby seal walked into a club...

Posted by Cassandra at 04:36 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Oh No... No We Can't

The Editorial Staff apologizes for the lame blogging, but we are hiding out in an undisclosed location, desperately trying to recover from the shock of this weekend's bombshell revelation.

Sadly, no sooner had we left than Attila tore down the drapes and made some sort of toga-like thingy out of them. Gotta keep an eye on those California girls. Always starting something.


Damned hard to demonize and oppresse the downtrodden masses when they insist on keeping this sort of thing secret, you know.

Heh... it's turned into a Coalition of the Shocked:

Sister Toldjah
Nice Deb

I'm sure I'm missing someone. Oh well, they'll let me know.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:22 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 21, 2008

No Mas, Senator

I couldn't sleep again last night.

After work I got all dolled up in this season's favorite skirt and went out for dinner. The skirt is very 1950s. It's (conceal your shock) an Audrey Hepburn-esque ballerina style affair: shell pink with exquisite pink and black ribbon embroidery gathered all around the hem.

Had a nice evening: great filet mignon, local bar, mildly quirky bottle of French wine we ordered mostly to see if we could utter the words, "Château Neuf de Pap" with a straight face. (oh, like you don't do that sort of thing all the time?)

Came home. Went to sleep, eventually. Woke up to find the post-racial candidate playing the race card like it was the world's tiniest violin:

Barack Obama told supporters that Republicans will “try to make you afraid of me” in remarks he made Friday at a Florida fundraiser.

"The choice is clear. Most of all we can choose between hope and fear. It is going to be very difficult for Republicans to run on their stewardship of the economy or their outstanding foreign policy.

“We know what kind of campaign they’re going to run,” said the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. “They’re going to try to make you afraid. They’re going to try to make you afraid of me. ‘He’s young and inexperienced and he’s got a funny name. And did I mention he’s black?’"

In similar comments at a Chicago fundraiser last Thursday, Obama told supporters that Republicans would try to portray both him and his wife Michelle as "scary."

"They’re going to try to make me into a scary guy,” he said last week. “They’re even trying to make Michelle into a scary person. Right?" And so that drumbeat – 'we’re not sure if he’s patriotic or not; we’re not sure if he is too black.'

"I don’t know, before I wasn’t black enough," said Obama. "'Now he might be too black. We don’t know whether he’s going to socialize – well, who knows what.'"

I don't know. Could you work the words "fear", "afraid", "scary", and "black" in there just a few more times, Barry? Because I'm "afraid" voters might miss the point.

You know, that you're... like, totally ... black. And the bad, scary Republicans want us to be afraid of you. Because you're so ... black. Even though you're half white. Which we're not supposed to talk about, because that would be focusing on race and you were so hoping we could get beyond that, I know. Damned Republicans. If only they'd quit bringing up the fact.

That you're black. And we should fear you.

Odd tactic, for a man liberals keep saying is so likable and non-threatening he may well be our first woman president. The looming menace must express itself in a disarmingly feminine, non-threatening way.

Which is why the Republicans have to keep reminding everyone of your essential Blackitude and scariliciousness. It's subtle, man. Under the radar, sub rosa, float like a butterfly sting like a bee .... BAM!!! That's what makes you dangerous. You're a dangerous black man, with an Ivy League education. You use words like numchuks.


For an ostensibly post-racial candidate raised by a white mother white grandparents (mind you, this is the half of the parental equation these are the only people in Barack Obama's life who actually cared enough to stick around and make sure he was fed, clothed, and received an education) Obama sure spends a lot of time talking about being black. It's almost as though he were trying to convince himself - or us - of his street creds. I don't get it.

Oh well. Congratulations Senator. You just joined Cynthia McKinney on my list of people whose arrogant sense of entitlement only serves to deepen the painful divisions this country is already struggling with.

Here's your card:


Obama: healing racial and partisan divides by accusing his opponents before they attack him!

Posted by Cassandra at 06:03 AM | Comments (54) | TrackBack

June 20, 2008


Via Patrick, Meyers-Briggs prayers. I admit it - they nailed me, either way.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:24 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Sharing the Hate...

What is Worst in Life? Getting tagged with a crappy meme....


The princess has been putting off the odious task of sharing the hate with seven unfortunates as threatened promised earlier this week. But no longer.

Behold the inexorable voice of doom:

1. Homefront Six
2. Lex
3. Jimmy
4. Dave at the Thunder Run
5. Semper Fi Wife at SpouseBUZZ
6. This is a threefer! (Hey, I'm a womyn, I make my own rules!) The Armorer, BillT, and SWWBO
7. Because he's a prince of a guy, Ry already tagged himself (thanks!)

I always enjoy Ry's take on things. He is one of the most genuinely thoughtful people I've encountered over the years. He and I don't always agree, but I've always found him to be a man of integrity who is passionate in his own beliefs and intellectually engaging without being in the slightest bit hostile to, or threatened by, ideas he doesn't agree with. That's a rare quality in a man or woman, and one I prize highly.

At any rate, meme rules here. No doubt I'll get around to letting people know they've been tagged eventually since I know not everyone reads VC daily :p

Posted by Cassandra at 07:50 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Coffee Snorters: Hot Monkey Love Edition

Your federal tax dollars at work: after years of intense study, scientists have finally proved that female chimps like to hoot and holler in the sack... but only if they know other females can't hear them.

Now there's a real shocker.

Man's best friend: you feed him, you give him treats, but will he be there for you in the clinch?

Bridgeport police say they arrested a city man after he ordered his pet to attack two officers. Lucky for them that 9-foot-long pythons aren't very obedient.

Officers were called to Rodriguez's apartment on a report that he was threatening his girlfriend with the pet reptile.

Viadero says that when the building superintendent opened the apartment door for the officers, Rodriguez allegedly threatened them with the snake and told it to "Get them!"

Only the blindingly fast reactions of law enforcement averted certain disaster.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:01 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

June 19, 2008

Democratic Fear Mongering

Americans have been paying lower consumer prices than the rest of the world for decades. But since we've been able to trust the federal government to handle so many other things they do more efficiently than the private sector, let's hand the free market system over to Congress. After all, what's the worst that can happen?

Link: sevenload.com

One can't help but think this proposal would have sounded less grating in the original French.

h/t: bthun

Posted by Cassandra at 05:07 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Since I'm Feeling Feisty Today....

...perhaps someone can explain something that has been bothering me.

In the comments to one of my Boumediene posts, Rick observed:

Since Congress exercised its Constitutional power to limit what SCOTUS considers, I would simply announce that SCOTUS overstepped its bounds and violated the Constitution by not deferring to legislative superiority on this question. Therefore, he, Bush, would continue with the present arrangement until or unless Congress sent new legislation changing the current procedures.

Sure, that would be a Constitutional crisis, but SCOTUS precipitated the crisis. It would do them good to hear a "no". I didn't see where Justice Kennedy even addressed this. Souter attempted to provide a lame reference, but he was not at all persuasive. He simply claimed SCOTUS was paying attention to a different part of the Constitution.

This excessive genuflection to the Black Nine has been bothering me quite a bit, too. Just why everyone should be inclined to perform the Thousand Prostrations simply because yet another imperial edict, informed by the kind of toffee nosed legal opinion that results from strolling down the Champs Elysees at midnight with a badly rolled Gauloise and a pocketful of anomie ,has once again been handed down from on high continues to elude me.

Does Congress not understand the implications of this decision? Without even giving the DTA a chance, SCOTUS simply blew it off. Let's not forget Chief Justice Roberts' summation. Not content with failure to defer to the Executive during wartime - they overrode the Legislative branch too. And the irony is that this will bring no immediate improvement in status for the detainees:

...who has won? Not the detainees. The Court’s analysis leaves them with only the prospect of further litigation to determine the content of their new habeas right, followed by further litigation to resolve their particular cases, followed by further litigation before the D. C. Circuit—where they could have started had they invoked the DTA procedure.

Not Congress, whose attempt to “determine— through democratic means—how best” to balance the security of the American people with the detainees’ liberty interests [citing Justice Breyer’s concurrence in the 2006 Hamdan case] has been unceremoniously brushed aside.

What I don't understand is, if the DTA itself could be construed as invoking Congress' Constitutionally-mandated jurisdiction stripping power over SCOTUS, (and according to at least one member of that Court, it can) what in the blue blazes is keeping Congress from simply passing a resolution saying they don't intend to be bound by the majority decision?

That would be a powerful smackdown to an increasingly imperial court. Of course, it would also provide the President with the backing he needs.... to follow the law Congress passed.


Posted by Cassandra at 02:56 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Curses! Fooled Again!

Is it just me, or do Barack Obama and John McCain sound disturbingly alike when it comes to domestic issues? During a recent meeting of the Half Vast Editorial Staff, it was generally agreed upon that we are really beginning to resent being talked down to by these two as though we were a bunch of whiny two year olds ready to throw our votes to whoever promises us the biggest lollipop.

The dynamic duo continually assure us that "Yes. Yes they can" somehow get the big money out of politics (now that's a tactic no one's ever tried before). Of course, the reality doesn't always match up to the soaring rhetoric of hopeful change:

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, announced this morning that he will not enter into the public financing system, despite a previous pledge to do so.

"We've made the decision not to participate in the public financing system for the general election," Obama says in the video, blaming it on the need to combat Republicans, saying "we face opponents who’ve become masters at gaming this broken system. John McCain’s campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs. And we’ve already seen that he’s not going to stop the smears and attacks from his allies running so-called 527 groups, who will spend millions and millions of dollars in unlimited donations."

Obama, 2007:

"In February 2007, I proposed a novel way to preserve the strength of the public financing system in the 2008 election. My plan requires both major party candidates to agree on a fundraising truce, return excess money from donors, and stay within the public financing system for the general election. My proposal followed announcements by some presidential candidates that they would forgo public financing so they could raise unlimited funds in the general election. The Federal Election Commission ruled the proposal legal, and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has already pledged to accept this fundraising pledge. If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election."

Obama, 2008:

"Instead of forcing us to rely on millions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs, you’ve fueled this campaign with donations of $5, $10, $20, whatever you can afford. And because you did, we’ve built a grassroots movement of over 1.5 million Americans. ...You’ve already changed the way campaigns are funded because you know that’s the only way we can truly change how Washington works."

Obama said, "I’m asking you to try to do something that’s never been done before. Declare our independence from a broken system, and run the type of campaign that reflects the grassroots values that have already changed our politics and brought us this far."

Hmmmmm. Let's see if I have this straight. Obama wants to bring about a fundamental change in the way Washington works.

By breaking campaign promises...

That doesn't sound like a terribly positive change to me. Come to think of it, it doesn't sound like much of a change at all.

Update: This post got somewhat sidetracked earlier. What bothers me about these two is the way they both keep pandering to the worst instincts of the electorate, and doing so in a way that is insulting to boot. Case one is the way they both keep spouting populist nonsense about how if they're elected, they'll stop Wicked Corporations from making Evil Profits: (that ought to fix the economy right up)

In Raleigh, N.C., last week, Sen. Obama promised, "I'll make oil companies like Exxon pay a tax on their windfall profits, and we'll use the money to help families pay for their skyrocketing energy costs and other bills."

Set aside for a minute that Jimmy Carter passed a "windfall profits tax" to devastating effect, putting American oil companies at a competitive disadvantage to foreign competitors, virtually ending domestic energy exploration, and making the U.S. more dependent on foreign sources of oil and gas.

Instead ask this: Why should we stop with oil companies? They make about 8.3 cents in gross profit per dollar of sales. Why doesn't Mr. Obama slap a windfall profits tax on sectors of the economy that have fatter margins? Electronics make 14.5 cents per dollar and computer equipment makers take in 13.7 cents per dollar, according to the Census Bureau. Microsoft's margin is 27.5 cents per dollar of sales. Call out Mr. Obama's Windfall Profits Police!

It's not the profit margin, but the total number of dollars earned that is the problem, Mr. Obama might say. But if that were the case, why isn't he targeting other industries? Oil and gas companies made $86.5 billion in profits last year. At the same time, the financial services industry took in $498.5 billion in profits, the retail industry walked away with $137.5 billion, and information technology companies made off with $103.4 billion. What kind of special outrage does Mr. Obama have for these companies?

Sen. McCain doesn't support the windfall profits tax, but he can be as hostile to profits as Mr. Obama. "[W]e should look at any incentives that we are giving," Mr. McCain said in May, even as he talked up a gas tax "holiday" that would give drivers incentives to burn more gasoline.

This past Thursday, Mr. McCain came close to advocating a form of industrial policy, saying, "I'm very angry, frankly, at the oil companies not only because of the obscene profits they've made, but their failure to invest in alternate energy."

But oil and gas companies report that they have invested heavily in alternative energy. Out of the $46 billion spent researching alternative energy in North America from 2000 to 2005, $12 billion came from oil and gas companies, making the industry one of the nation's largest backers of wind and solar power, biofuels, lithium-ion batteries and fuel-cell technology.

Such investments, however, are not as important as money spent on technologies that help find and extract more oil. Because oil companies invested in innovation and technology, they are now tapping reserves that were formerly thought to be unrecoverable. Maybe we are all better off when oil companies invest in what they know, not what they don't.

And do we really want the government deciding how profits should be invested? If so, should Microsoft be forced to invest in Linux-based software or McDonald's in weight-loss research?

Apparently Republican John McCain isn't so far from liberal Barack Obama when the specter of American entrepreneurs figuring out how to make their businesses (you know, the ones which employ people like you and I; the ones which, if they fail to make a profit, won't pay dividends on the stocks we own?) generate a healthy return on investment rears its ugly head. Fools. Did they think this country was founded on capitalist principles?

Hoo boy.

And then there's the little matter of participatory government. We can count on both McCain and Obama to rid the nation of the scourge of interfering busybodies citizens who insist upon inserting themselves into the important business of self-government:

Kimberley Strassel addresses what has been bothering me about both candidates - their rhetoric to act as if lobbying was by its very nature a dirty and corrupt profession and thus they forswear having lobbyists involved in their campaigns. The campaigns and their supporters now trade accusations as they comb through the backgrounds of everyone working on the campaigns who might have had a job as a lobbyist.

The folly of campaign finance was thinking that it was wise or possible to outlaw free speech in the form of campaign contributions. The folly of lobbyist restrictions is thinking it is wise or possible to outlaw free association, in the form of men and women who are employed to petition government, many of whom also (unsurprisingly) take a passionate interest in politics. Start down the path of weeding out every "conflict" and you'll be weeding from now until November.

There's a particularly big risk for Mr. McCain here. One of his biggest attributes is his reputation as a reformer. His record should say it all, yet he has now set a new standard on which to be judged. And the irony is that those doing the judging will be the 527s and other big-dollar funds that gained new power thanks to McCain-Feingold.

The truly delicious aspect of these pie in the sky promises is that even Obama's most ardent supporters are beginning to whisper "No. No you can't" behind his back.

Judging from today's news, their suspicions appear to be justified.

There is just something unseemly about two Presidential candidates whose basis of appeal to the electorate seems to be the premise that if they're elected, they'll stop those nasty Americans from acting so darned..... American. Because the last thing we want in this country is corporations turning a healthy profit and citizens who are able to participate in, and influence, legislation.

If someone has committed a crime, prosecute him. But I'm unclear on the purpose of this rather bizarre rhetoric, unless it is to encourage ignorance and discontent and distract attention from the fact that none of this nonsense is what we hire a President to do.

Now where is that lollipop?

Posted by Cassandra at 12:33 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Post of the Day

Reader Lela has started her own blog. Recently she asked her daughter to guest post. The result was this delightful entry on what it means to be a woman in the military:

“Describe your military experience, please. What does it mean to be a woman in the military?” Blah. Blah. Blah….

I really hate it when people ask me things like that. “What does it mean to be a woman in the military?” What does it mean to be a man in the military? What does it mean to have brown eyes and be in the military? What does it mean to be short and in the military?

These are characteristics, not definitions. When I look back on my military service, I don’t want to think of myself as a “female warrior” or a “lady pilot”. I’m a pilot. I happen to be a woman, but I also happen to have brown eyes and a tattoo. Those aren’t germane to this discussion, why should my gender be?

And, of course, I know the answer.

The answer is that it’s germane because we as a society have made it germane. It’s almost like a type of voyeurism. We want to know about everyone’s dirty little secrets and experiences. It’s like it gives us a thrill to hear that someone has faced discrimination. For many of us, I suspect, it lets us feel vindicated. Holier than thou, perhaps, as if we’d never, ever contemplate judging someone on the basis of their gender, or race, or appearance, or whatever.

I also suspect that for most of us, that’s what we in the business call “Bullsh**”. (Feel free to edit, Mom. Just leave in my parenthetical. smile.). If those things truly didn’t matter, then we wouldn’t have to ask questions like “so what does it mean to be a woman in the military?”.

See? Catch-22, like so much else. smile. But now that I’ve talked you in circles, let me answer the question I hate.

Go read her answer. What she has to say may surprise you.

The lady takes no prisoners. I don't believe I could have said it half as well.

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

Obama: Not Naive, Merely Clueless

Sometimes, the comedy just writes itself:

An advisor, Daniel Kurtzer, to Barack Obama says that Obama didn’t realize what he was saying to AIPAC when he used the term ”undivided” in reference to Jerusalem. According to Kurtzer, Obama had “a picture in his mind of Jerusalem before 1967 with barbed wires and minefields and demilitarized zones.” Kurtzer says that only after the speech did Obama realize it was a “code word” to use the phrase, “but it does not indicate any kind of naivete about foreign affairs.”

Merde! Let us see if this mare's nest is any less incomprehensible when deconstructed from the original Phrench. Obama, a man who seeks to command the world's largest superpower:

- took a position more radical than that of any American president in recent decades
- without making sure he had "a current picture of Jerusalem"
- or realizing 'undivided' was a code word that carried a special meaning to his audience

But all of this is OK, because it turns out he didn't know what he was saying anyway.

Oh. And he's not naive about foreign policy.

But then who expects a world leader to keep himself informed on these matters? It's not as though trivialities like situational awareness or nuance play a significant role in international diplomacy: should one put a foot wrong, there is always the time-honored excuse, "Ah! But you who fail to understand. My boss didn't know what he was talking about."

So credibility enhancing, that line. We shall have to keep it in mind for future use.

Code words. They seem to be everywhere, these days. Who knew, for example, that "arrest" was a code word?

It must be. Either that, or Obama (who, as he likes to remind us is not just a lawyer but a professor of Constitutional law) had a different picture in his mind of what the terms "arrest" and "in prison" mean when he said this:

And, you know, let's take the example of Guantanamo. What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks -- for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated.

Oh, really?

...where is the 1993 World Trade Center bomb-builder? Is he in a U.S prison, as Obama claims? Not even close.

Abdul Rahman Yasin conducted the first attempted chemical weapons attack on U.S. soil by terrorists with the 1993 World Trade Center bomb. The bomb that detonated in the WTC garage in 1993 was built by Yasin to create smoke filled with sodium cyanide, which he hoped would rise through elevator shafts, ventilation ducts, and stairwells to suffocate 50,000 people.

Yasin fled the United States after the bombing to Iraq, and lived as Saddam Hussein's guest in Baghdad until the invasion. He is still free, and wanted by the FBI.

Interestingly enough for Obama's "case", it turns out that he is partially correct.

Some of the 1993 co-conspirators were eventually convicted and jailed, though in the case of Ramzi Yousef, not before he had committed other acts of terrorism. But the bomb maker - an Iraqi - and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed Ali Fadden, who financed and advised Yousef and went on to mastermind 9/11, escaped justice. And a closer look at the details of at least one of the "arrests" is chilling, especially in light of the Supreme Court's recent decision to grant constitutional rights to foreign detainees in the war on terror.

One of the 1993 co-conspirators - Ahmed Ajaj - was actually in U.S. custody at the time of the '93 WTC attack. Despite this, (and owing to the liberal "rights" afforded to prisoners in the American justice system) he was able not only to maintain contact with, but to actively participate in plans for the upcoming attack on the World Trade Center:

Incarcerated from September 2, 1992, Ajaj remained in contact with Yousef and other co-conspirators and continued to be involved in the World Trade Center bombing plot. Ajaj never contacted Yousef directly. Calls were patched through "Big 5 Hamburgers" in Dallas, rendering law enforcement detection more difficult. The calls were not translated until long after the WTC bombing. (LATimes 11/14/2001)

Beginning on December 4, 1992 (and later on December 29, 1992) Yousef placed a series of calls to Ajaj's lawyer in New York and to Ajaj's friend in Texas. Later that same day, a call from Ajaj was transferred to Yousef, permitting the two to speak directly. In the conversation, Ajaj immediately brought up the terrorist kit informing Yousef that the Court had ordered the Government to return Ajaj's belongings. When Yousef asked if he could take possession of Ajaj's things, Ajaj readily agreed at first, but then said that it was not a good idea for Yousef personally to obtain the materials from the Government because it might jeopardize Yousef's "business," which, Ajaj said, would be "a pity!"

Ajaj was released from prison March 1, 1993 - three days after after WTC bombing. He was rearrested in connection with the attack March 9, 1993, and his asylum request was denied on April 24, 1993. In jail at the time of the WTC bombing, Ajaj was convicted of having played a role "in the early stages of the conspiracy" and convicted of 9 counts, sentenced to 115 years, fined $250,000, and ordered to pay $250 million dollars in restitution. (Terrorism Knowledge Base)

Ajaj did not give up on his political asylum claim. He petitioned for a new attorney and an exclusion hearing - held to determine whether someone is admissible in the U.S. - in Houston, where he had filed his original political asylum claim. Ajaj's request was denied April 24, 1993, on grounds that a passport holder from a visa waiver country who uses a fraudulent passport (Ajaj had used a bogus Swedish passport) is not entitled to such a hearing. Not satisfied with that outcome Ajaj asked to file a new political asylum claim and was given ten days by an immigration judge to do so. Thus, Ajaj was able to file a political asylum claim after his arrest for involvement in the WTC bombing.

In the late 1990s Ajaj was diagnosed with lung cancer. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons moved him to a medical facility, where he had surgery to remove the cancerous lung and received radiation treatment. He has filed scores of grievances and several lawsuits against the U.S. prison system, alleging everything from interference with his mail to denial of access to lawyers, and violations of his Eighth Amendment rights. (Abbott, Rocky Mountain News 3/26/2005)

Ajaj was the only remaining plaintiff in a lawsuit by federal prisoners alleging harm from secondhand smoke seeping through the air filtration system at SuperMax.

So tricky, this law business. But in any event, it is good of Senator Obama to remind us of the good old days of the Clinton administration, when terrorist attacks were dealt with by legal and humane means: firmly but effectively through the existing criminal justice system.


Alternatively, it is possible that, as happened earlier this year with the Kennedy/Khruschev talks, the history of U.S. presidents negotiating with despots, or our military options regarding Pakistan, Obama simply had no idea what he was talking about.

There does seem to be a definite pattern of extreme cluelessness followed by denial. But I suppose if it's change the country wants....

Posted by Cassandra at 06:32 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

June 18, 2008

Isn't It Ironic?

Yeah, I really do think.

Pardon my confusion. Many moons ago the upstart blog rabble were told in no uncertain terms that we are by no means to give ourselves airs by comparing ourselves to professional journalists:

Journalism requires journalists, who are at least fitfully confronting the digital age. The bloggers, for their part, produce minimal reportage. Instead, they ride along with the MSM like remora fish on the bellies of sharks, picking at the scraps.

We are, for instance, to be distinguished from the folks who do this sort of thing for a living because we do no original research, relying instead upon information supplied by investigative reporters and their sources. The argument, as I take it, is that even though (unlike, say, newspapers - who are a for-profit venture) we make no money from blogging, it would be "unfair" for us to "profit" by appropriating - even with credit and a link to the source - work done by professional journalists without paying them for their efforts.

Fine. So although professional journalists do not wish to recognize bloggers as fellow professionals, and although we are not paid for the work we do, we are supposed to pay them when we quote their work and link to it online?

Where the group had previously invoked the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and sent cease-and-desist orders to at least one blogger, seeking the removal of excerpted content (in some cases as few as 17 words in length), now the press service has attached an "Excerpt for Web Use" charge for passages as short as five words in length.

The pricing scale for excerpting AP content begins at $12.50 for 5-25 words and goes as high as $100 for 251 words and up. Nonprofit organizations and educational institutions enjoy a discounted rate.

Oooh, cherie! That last is downright princely in its generosity. Do I detect the faintest whiff of desperation? But the best is yet to come. Though bloggers are nevaire to arrogate unto themselves the privileges of le class journalistique, the reverse is (quelle surprise!) not true! Bloggers may not be journalists, but journalists have declared themselves free to be bloggers! What's theirs is not ours, but what's ours is most definitely theirs, and for free, too:

So the AP has been threatening bloggers who quote their stories:

Last week, The A.P. took an unusually strict position against quotation of its work, sending a letter to the Drudge Retort asking it to remove seven items that contained quotations from A.P. articles ranging from 39 to 79 words.

Even after an AP spokesman acknowledged that the organization’s tactics were “heavy-handed,” they still didn’t really back off:

Still, Mr. Kennedy said that the organization has not withdrawn its request that Drudge Retort remove the seven items. And he said that he still believes that it is more appropriate for blogs to use short summaries of A.P. articles rather than direct quotations, even short ones.

“Cutting and pasting a lot of content into a blog is not what we want to see,” he said. “It is more consistent with the spirit of the Internet to link to content so people can read the whole thing in context.”

Now, in a slightly ironic twist, the AP is taking content from a blog site. Namely, mine.

In a news item about the e-mail from Judge Kozinski’s wife that I posted on this site, an AP article lifted numerous passages.

I counted 154 words quoted from my post. That’s almost twice the number of words contained in the most extensive quotation in the Drudge Retort.

Sacre bleu! Hypocrisy from the Associated Press? We are shocked to the very marrow of our bones! Orin Kerr opines:

Glenn Reynolds, Michelle Malkin, and Patterico have noted the apparent irony that the Associated Press quoted 154 words from one of Patterico's blog posts soon after threatening bloggers for quoting fewer words than that from Associated Press stories.

I am no copyright lawyer — don't try this at home, kids — but I'm not sure I get the inconsistency. The 154 words that the AP quoted weren't words written by Patterico: They were words from Mrs. Kozinski that she then submitted for publication to Patterico. I am no copyright lawyer — note repeated caveat — but I would think that Patterico had an implicit license to publish Mrs. Kozinski's message but did not himself get the copyright in it. If that's right, copying from Patterico's blog didn't violate Patterico's copyright. But then as I said, I am no copyright lawyer.

The Princess is not a lawyer either, but I'm not sure one needs to be a lawyer to understand this. I believe Mr. Kerr has missed the point precisely because he is thinking as a lawyer rather than as a journalist.

What the AP (a for-profit venture) did, essentially, was to appropriate wholesale, without a link and without compensation, the work product of Patterico. Now you might say, "That quote consisted of her words only - therefore it's not, strictly speaking, his work."

This is where I would argue you are wrong, because it was his post on the subject that drew her email in the first place, and his ... dare I say it? longstanding professional reputation as a blogger who fact checks the LA Times which has prompted many such sources to contact him. Unknown bloggers rarely if ever draw such attention. The interesting - and, if you happen to be the AP - unpalatable - wrinkle here is that Ms. Tiffany went to a blogger and not to the dead tree media to "get the word out". That alone represents a rather startling power shift in how information is disseminated to the American public.

But for Patterico - one of the despised blog rabble - the AP would not have Ms. Tiffany's words at all, and they had to go to a blogger to get the scoop.

As Glenn Reynolds rightly observes, the AP is trying to levy a standard on bloggers that it is unwilling to live by, itself.

Good luck with that.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:29 AM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

June 17, 2008

The Meme of Seven

Sacre bleu!

What on earth did the Editorial Staff do to Dave Schuler? Whatever we did, it must have been une crime unimaginable, for he has tagged us with a crappy meme!

The rules are

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
5. Present an image of martial discord from whatever period or situation you’d like.

Before we begin, we have a confession of the most amusing to make. We, too, read "marital discord" for "martial". There is a Freudian slip in there somewhere, however, we shall not go there for the present :p

Because I never follow rules exactly (I can never follow a recipe exactly as written - I almost invariably throw in a little twist of my own) I'm not going to show an image of martial discord - of battle - per se, but of the moment before battle, and of the faces of the men who are going into battle.

A few weeks ago I spent the weekend with Carrie and DL Sly. One of the neater things we did was visit the Marine Corps Museum at Quantico, Virginia. This is something I've wanted to do since it opened.

LCpl Wright.0.jpg I found it incredibly difficult to walk through the exhibits. I still can't even think of it without tearing up for some reason. It's odd. Carrie and I have spoken many times of how much 9/11 changed both of us. That is one way in which I have changed. I was not a terribly sentimental person before 9/11. I had little patience for sappiness.

I have more, now. Still don't like it much, but I understand where it comes from. I think it's good that we commemorate these things.

I have to say another thing which is difficult for me.

After walking through the Vietnam exhibit, I was struck by a thought that has bedeviled me many a time. I came out of there very shaken.

As I left, I thought to myself, not for the first time but more forcefully than many other times at which the same thought has crossed my mind, that walking through that exhibit made it easier for me to understand some of the really visceral opposition to the war. Not necessarily agree with it. But understand it. I understood thinking, "My God, nothing is worth this". These are hard and painful choices and to a certain extent, whichever side of the question you come down, you will have to discount somebody's suffering. I am not sure that discount is the right word. Perhaps it is sufficient all the same. It will have to do.

I also came away humbled by the spirit and faith of the men who have taken that silent walk through history. That may be why I select this watercolor.

moonlight.jpg There is a phrase from Shakespeare that floated into my mind when I first saw this work: "... in patient stillness". It is from a scene in Henry V. The French are preparing for the battle of Agincourt. They are nervous, champing at the bit, and begin to idly boast of what the coming battle will bring. The prince beings to brag of the wondrous virtues of his horse:

What a long night this is!
I will not trade my horse for any
that walks on four legs.
He leaps from the ground
as if his insides were light as hairs.
He's a flying horse, a Pegasus,
breathing fire out of his nostrils.

When I sit astride him,
I soar, I am a hawk.
He trots on air.
The earth sings when he touches it.
He is pure air and fire.
The duller elements of earth and water
have no part in him,
except in the moment of patient stillness
when his rider mounts him.

That is the way I imagined this night-time patrol: as a moment of weary, perhaps patient stillness.

An oasis of calm amid the chaotic storm of war.

Dear Lord. Only I could turn a post about a crappy meme into a boring soliloquy on war. Images above are the work of Michael D. Fay, combat artist. You can check out more of Michael's work here. Seven dubious but riveting details about my oh-so-boring life upcoming momentarily.... also eventually there will be a highly embarrassing post about MaryAnn :p


Obscure facts about moi:

1. When I little, I climbed everything in sight. When I was about two I decided to climb the family Christmas tree. Unsurprisingly, when I got near the top, it fell down. When my Mom came home, my Grandma was comforting a sobbing little Princess.

2. I was born with shallow hip sockets and so as a toddler, I had to wear these stupid orthopedic shoes with a rigid metal bar in between them. They didn't slow me down one bit. My Mom says I still managed to climb things with them on. Sometimes at night I'd get them tangled up in the sheets and I'd get stuck, and I got very scared. Every once in a very great while, even now, I'll wake up at night with the covers over my head and my heart racing :p

3. I can't tie a knot in a cherry stem when it is inside my mouth. I have never understood why people do this in bars, but I think it is messed up.

Of course if I could do it, I would brag about it.

4. I am left eyed, but ambidextrous. Or at least this is what my test scores say I am in theory: it probably explains why I write, bat, and golf with my left but use scissors do a few other things with my right hand. I can't write with my right hand and I'm too lazy to learn.

5. I reverse things a lot. I'm hopeless at figuring out how 3 dimensional things fit inside other things - this is an ability most men have that many women don't, and one I love to have men around for, because it makes me feel stupid all the time. There is actually a name for it: structural visualization. I suck at it: 11th percentile. Interestingly enough, it is passed through the female though. So guys, if you have it, you got it from your Mom.

6. On the otter heiny, I'm quite good at deducing things, often from startlingly little information. In fact, sometimes I'm not even sure how I figure things out. I just know them, which can be a bit scary. As I've gotten older I've had to work at not letting my rational mind get in the way of my intuition (which is often faster and more accurate than the 'logical' side of my brain that I worked to hard to develop later in life). You need many kinds of thinking to be a well rounded person, but as I finally figured out it's kind of dumb not to go with your core competencies. Just make sure you always have a back up plan.

7. I think too much. But then you knew that, didn't you?

I will share the hate with seven unfortunates shortly.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:26 AM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

Who Would You Be?

What a great question: Grim is looking at characters in literature:

Bond, James Bond.

If you could be a character from literature, why not this one? (H/t: Arts & Letters Daily)

What, after all, is a man's deepest wish? Freud talked about "honor, power, riches, fame, and the love of women" — and Bond certainly encompasses all those. Still, that libidinal litany can be boiled down to a single desire, half hidden in the shadowy reaches of the male psyche and more clearly delineated in world mythology: As Joseph Campbell would say, men long to be heroes. No doubt about it. And yet I think the masculine ego also hungers for something a bit more noirish, if you will. At least some of the time, guys want to be thought of as … dangerous. While it's gratifying to be called a hard-working professional or a good provider, those admirable traits don't make our hearts beat quicker. By contrast, to overhear oneself described as "a man not to be trifled with" — that's quite another matter.

There is nothing quite like it, to be sure.

Though, I might choose Indiana Jones, given all options. I do envy his capacity to speak every ancient language he encounters. I can pretty much do the rest of the stuff, but I mostly "get along" with languages. I can handle written German, Modern and Middle English, French, Spanish, and can work in Dutch and Italian (Latin, Old Norse, and Old English), but I can't really speak any of them except Modern English.

That's funny. I can totally see Grim as Indiana Jones. However, that does bring up the amusing matter of a certain *whip*. And where is Mistress Mandy this morning anyway? Moving right along....

Valeria3.jpgGrim's post got the Princess thinking, which is always a bit dangerous. If you could be any character in literature, which one would you most like to be? Most of us, at one time or another, have probably either fantasized about or have recognized a bit of ourselves in a favorite fictional character.

So let loose in the comments section! Tell us which fictional character you either think you most resemble, or which you'd secretly like to be -- and why!

The one who came immediately to my mind as a secret fantasy was Valeria (warning: mildly NSFW, some rather 'colorful' comicbook art, but this page had the best description so I chose to overlook it :p Click at your own risk) from Conan the Barbarian.

Her philosophy is pretty much defined by my favorite line from the movie, a line she repeats several times: "Do you want to live forever?"


The only other characters I like are both too obscure to mention. So.... who would you be?

Posted by Cassandra at 06:44 AM | Comments (37) | TrackBack

June 16, 2008

Humility. Endurance. Leadership.

Imagine a city council where the two previous two chairmen have been assassinated....

Despite these threats, despite the IEDs and the suicide bombers, these men and women still show up to work, are still committed to a new Iraq. And that, my friends, is the value of endurance.

I see the impossible become reality every day in Iraq.

Go see the rest. You won't be sorry.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:48 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The End of the Nation-State?


"Upon reading the opinion in Boumediene v Bush, one must conclude that the majority knew where they wanted to go and simply had to figure out how to get there. "

Some time ago I wrote of the dangers of an increasingly imperial (and imperious) Supreme Court:

...they apparently believe the least accountable and only unelected branch should have more power than those selected by the People. But this is an interpretation not supported by both Hamilton and Madison, who clearly intended the Judiciary to be the weakest of the three branches:

But it is not possible to give to each department an equal power of self-defense. In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates. The remedy for this inconveniency is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions and their common dependence on the society will admit. It may even be necessary to guard against dangerous encroachments by still further precautions. As the weight of the legislative authority requires that it should be thus divided, the weakness of the executive may require, on the other hand, that it should be fortified.

- James Madison, Federalist 51

Arguments like O'Connor's and Ginsburg's rely on the ignorance of the average American, but more alarmingly they represent the growing tendency of the Court to view itself as a law unto itself and of various factions to use the Court to circumvent the will of our democratically elected representatives.

In recent years the Court has displayed a disturbing willingness to 'reason' itself into any number of ends-justify-the-means decisions which defy both logic and its own precedent. Justin Ku explains why Boumediene ought to disturb even the Court's liberal admirers, who notably were heard during the Roberts confirmation hearings to fairly genuflect whenever the word "precedent" (oft used as a euphemism for not overturning Roe v. Wade) was uttered. But in truth, if the Court has abandoned even its own sacred precedent is a womyn's sacred "right to choose" safe anymore? If women are betting on the Court's consistency, they might wish to think again:

Does it matter if the Court departs substantially from past precedent? Not to the many commentators (on this blog and elsewhere) who have hailed the decision. But even if one is happy with the result, one has to be worried about a judicial methodology that veers rather dramatically from precedent without admitting that it is doing so. Not only does this further undermine the legitimacy of the Court, but it makes it hard for future decisionmakers to know what is or is not legal? The Bush Administration and Congress can rightly complain that the Court has moved, and continues to move, the goalposts here.

It was totally reasonable for lawyers prior to Hamdan to believe that military commissions were statutorily authorized, the Geneva Conventions were not self-executing, and prior to Boumediene that the writ of habeas corpus and U.S. constitutional rights do not extend outside the territory of the United States to enemy aliens. Indeed, it would have been irresponsible for an attorney advising the President NOT to point out that the legal authority existed.

What now? The unacknowledged departure from precedent represented by Hamdan and Boumediene leave us in uncharted territory. A future decisionmaker has got to assume, and attorneys will have to advise him or her, that the writ of habeas corpus almost certainly extends to wherever the U.S. holds de facto control and where practical considerations do not forego extending the writ (the Green Zone in Iraq and Bagram, Afghanistan come to mind). Further, such attorneys should also advise that enemy combatants there enjoy the protection of at least the Fifth Amendment Due Process rights identified in Hamdi and probably others as well. Nor can congressional action limit or constrain the exercise of these rights in any meaningful way. The entire process of detaining enemy combatants is going to be crafted via a series of federal district court and appellate court decisions attempting to apply the murky judicial methodology the Court provided today (and which is probably going to change tomorrow). If I were in OLC, I would certainly recommend that the President and Congress assume they are totally bound by the Constitution overseas, unless or until the Court tells me otherwise.

Those who, like John Kerry, are tempted to think this is a good thing may wish to read Victoria Toensing's Senate testimony on the difficulties faced in bringing a criminal action against foreign combatants:

A federal trial in the United States may preclude reliable evidence of guilt. When the evidence against a defendant is collected outside the United States (the usual situation for international terrorism investigations) serious problems arise for using it in a domestic trial. The American criminal justice system excludes evidence of guilt if law enforcement does not comply with certain procedures, a complicated system of rules not taught to the Rangers and Marines who could be locked in hand-to-hand combat with the putative defendants. For sure, the intricate procedures of the American criminal justice system are not taught to the anti-Taliban fighters who may capture prisoners. Nor to the foreign intelligence agencies and police forces who will also collect evidence. At just what point is a soldier required to reach into his flak jacket and pull out a Miranda rights card? There are numerous evidentiary and procedural requirements of federal trials that demonstrate the folly of anyone thinking such trials should be used in wartime for belligerents. Below is a sampling of the legal questions facing the prosecutor: " Does the Speedy Trial Act start running when the combatant is captured?

" Should the Miranda rights be given in Arabic? Which dialect?
" If the belligerent wants a lawyer and cannot afford one should she be sent at taxpayer expense to Kabul to confer with her client?

" Does the requirement that an arrested person must appear before a federal magistrate within several days to enter a plea apply?

" What happens when all the evidence showing guilt is not admitted because it was collected by a foreign police force using procedures not in compliance with United States Constitutional standards?

" What happens when all the evidence showing guilt is not turned over to the United States because a foreign intelligence agency does not want to reveal sources and methods?

" For evidence to be used against the defendant, how does the prosecution establish chain of custody, an impossible procedure on the battlefield?

Not for nothing did Justice Thomas, in Hamdi, write a stinging dissent which spelled out in clear and ringing language the dangers of an arrogant Court which presumed to usurp powers for which it possessed neither the aptitude nor the knowledge:

The Executive Branch, acting pursuant to the powers vested in the President by the Constitution and with explicit congressional approval, has determined that Yaser Hamdi is an enemy combatant and should be detained. This detention falls squarely within the Federal Government’s war powers, and we lack the expertise and capacity to second-guess that decision. As such, petitioners’ habeas challenge should fail, and there is no reason to remand the case. The plurality reaches a contrary conclusion by failing adequately to consider basic principles of the constitutional structure as it relates to national security and foreign affairs and by using the balancing scheme of Mathews v. Eldridge. I do not think that the Federal Government’s war powers can be balanced away by this Court. Arguably, Congress could provide for additional procedural protections, but until it does, we have no right to insist upon them. But even if I were to agree with the general approach the plurality takes, I could not accept the particulars. The plurality utterly fails to account for the Government’s compelling interests and for our own institutional inability to weigh competing concerns correctly. I respectfully dissent.

...Congress, to be sure, has a substantial and essential role in both foreign affairs and national security. But it is crucial to recognize that judicial interference in these domains destroys the purpose of vesting primary responsibility in a unitary Executive. I cannot improve on Justice Jackson’s words, speaking for the Court:

The President, both as Commander-in-Chief and as the Nation’s organ for foreign affairs, has available intelligence services whose reports are not and ought not to be published to the world. It would be intolerable that courts, without the relevant information, should review and perhaps nullify actions of the Executive taken on information properly held secret. Nor can courts sit in camera in order to be taken into executive confidences. But even if courts could require full disclosure, the very nature of executive decisions as to foreign policy is political, not judicial. Such decisions are wholly confided by our Constitution to the political departments of the government, Executive and Legislative. They are delicate, complex, and involve large elements of prophecy. They are and should be undertaken only by those directly responsible to the people whose welfare they advance or imperil. They are decisions of a kind for which the Judiciary has neither aptitude, facilities nor responsibility and which has long been held to belong in the domain of political power not subject to judicial intrusion or inquiry.”.

...again for the same reasons, where “the President acts pursuant to an express or implied authorization from Congress, he exercises not only his powers but also those delegated by Congress[, and i]n such a case the executive action ‘would be supported by the strongest of presumptions and the widest latitude of judicial interpre-tation, and the burden of persuasion would rest heavily upon any who might attack it.’” Dames & Moore, supra, at 668 (quoting Youngstown, supra, at 637 (Jackson, J., concurring)). That is why the Court has explained, in a case analogous to this one, that “the detention[,] ordered by the President in the declared exercise of his powers as Commander in Chief of the Army in time of war and of grave public danger[, is] not to be set aside by the courts without the clear conviction that [it is] in conflict with the Constitution or laws of Congress constitutionally enacted.” Ex parte Quirin, 317 U. S. 1, 25 (1942). See also Ex parte Milligan, 4 Wall. 2, 133 (1866) (Chase, C. J., concurring in judgment) (stating that a sentence imposed by a military commission “must not be set aside except upon the clearest conviction that it cannot be reconciled with the Consti-tution and the constitutional legislation of Congress”). This deference extends to the President’s determination of all the factual predicates necessary to conclude that a given action is appropriate.

Thomas' words now seem almost prescient. In a separate post, Deborah Pearlstein observes:

Though the opinion in Munaf and Omar should give us all some pause, I'm still thinking that yesterday's Boumediene opinion comes as close as I've seen the court come to sounding the death knell for broad judicial deference to the executive on matters of national security.

I'm inclined to agree. Instead of an elected Commander in Chief as outlined under our Constitution, we now have a committee of nine unelected jurists who wish to prosecute war by bringing in international law, ignoring their own precedent and the text of the Constitution as the urge strikes them:

The overlap between this case and the lobster case is that both of them have to do with a blurring of the line between US and foreign law. The US courts here are undertaking to enforce Honduran law -- which they understand imperfectly at best, and whether or not the regulations were actually in force at the time. They are going hog wild looking for ways to make crimes out of ordinary behavior.

The SCOTUS case is a case where people are being treated as if American citizens' rights applied to everyone, everywhere. This is not so, has never been so, and really ought not to be so. American citizenship carries with it rights but also duties, and a debt to the nation that supports those rights. If you want those rights, you should take the lawful steps necessary to apply for immigration.

You shouldn't get them for waging war against us. If you do so honorably, you are entitled to POW protections under the Geneva Conventions. If you do so dishonorably, you are not even entitled to that.

As the Court continues to render citizenship and sovereignty increasingly irrelevant, one wonders what will be left to defend and more importantly, whether we will be left any means of defending it?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:23 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Important Polar Bear Annoyance Alert

This morning, the Editorial Staff sprang with alacrity from betwixt freshly laundered, organic bamboo sheets eager to learn the latest doings of that lovable denizen of the ice floes, Knut the Adorable Baby Polar Bear. Last time we heard from our little Liebchen, all was most decidedly not well in paradise:

...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...

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.

...“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.”

Mein Gott im Himmell! one day the arrogant Bu$Hitler will rue his crimes against the Multiverse. Dennis Kucinich has sworn it!

Sadly, the viciously specie-ist and human centric policies of the current occupants of the Oval Office continue unabated. Is there no end to the tortures visited upon our unsuspecting fur-brothers? Of all the horrors in an increasingly irritating world, no one could have imagined a fate so cruel, so exquisitely agonizing that it would reduce the strongest among us to a quivering mass of jelly. We are, of course, speaking of the nightmare of Suri Cruise:


After wooing the world with books, magazine covers, and irresistibly cute photos, Knut the polar bear is now being offered a movie deal. The 245lb “symbol of climate change” is currently going through contract negotiations with Hollywood producer Ash R. Shah. The Berlin Zoo is acting on behalf of the bear and sources close to the deal say something in the realm of $5 million is being thrown around for the rights to the animal’s story. From the article,

“The zoo has confirmed local media reports that it is in talks with a Hollywood producer. ‘We are delighted about the interest from Hollywood. It’s unclear when we will sign the contracts. Some details have yet to be sorted out,’ zoo director Bernhard Blaszkiewitz told Bild am Sonntag newspaper. The film will also address the fate of Knut’s brethren living in the wild as global warming threatens their Arctic habitats, Berlin newspapers say.”

Even more bizarre, Shah is pushing hard to have 18-month-old Suri Cruise (daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes) be the voice of Knut. We’re placing bets that Suri Cruise would lend her talents to the cuddly 50lb version and not the 245lb present day mega-bear. Said Shah,

“With (Knut’s) friendly character, he’s serves as an ambassador for the Earth’s problems — climate change and the melting polar ice caps. A movie about Knut would affect people all over the world. Suri could speak the English voice of Knut.”

Dear God in heaven, this is an abomination. Have these people no souls? But it doesn't stop there. Not content with torturing poor Knut, the Bush administration is apparently hell bent on wiping polar bears from the very face of the earth! Amazingly, the Associated Press has the scoop. It's all there in black and white:

Companies get OK to annoy polar bears

Hard to believe, isn't it? Read it for yourselves. It's staring you right in the face:

Less than a month after declaring polar bears a threatened species because of global warming, the Bush administration is giving oil companies permission to annoy and potentially harm them in the pursuit of oil and natural gas.

The Fish and Wildlife Service issued regulations this week providing legal protection to seven oil companies planning to search for oil and gas in the Chukchi Sea off the northwestern coast of Alaska if "small numbers" of polar bears or Pacific walruses are incidentally harmed by their activities over the next five years.

Environmentalists said the new regulations give oil companies a blank check to harass the polar bear.

Amazing, isn't it? Of course, you know they'll try to deny that's what they're doing:

However, the Fish and Wildlife Service said oil and gas exploration will have a negligible effect on the bears' population.

"The oil and gas industry in operating under the kind of rules they have operated under for 15 years has not been a threat to the species," H. Dale Hall, the Fish and Wildlife Service's director, told The Associated Press on Friday. "It was the ice melting and the habitat going away that was a threat to the species over everything else."

The agency made no secret that oil and gas operations would continue in polar bear territory when it announced May 14 that melting sea ice threatened the creature's survival. But Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne assured the public that the bear population would not be harmed.

"Polar bears are already protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which has more stringent protections for polar bears than the Endangered Species Act does," Kempthorne said.

Can the Marine Mammal Protection Act shield poor Knut from the evil clutches of Suri Cruise? You tell me.

Pray that Dennis Kucinich acts in time. We need a miracle here, people.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:50 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

June 14, 2008

"A Cross between Erin Brockovich and Lawrence of Arabia"


Jane, on NPR, continues the fight to free Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani. Mr. al-Khaiwani, a Yemeni journalist, was charged with sedition and sentenced to 6 years hard labor for daring to speak truth to the government of Yemen.

What a lady. Please, if you have a blog, consider writing about this. Keep up the pressure - it is not too late to free Mr. Khaiwani if the government of Yemen realizes the world's attention is focused upon them and we won't go away.

This is a man's life we're talking about, and it matters. Freedom of speech matters. These aren't just words.

Rights are not rights because they are written down on some dusty parchment archived in a marble building that tourists visit. They become real - life is continually breathed into them - when flesh and blood human beings stand up and demand that they be respected; when they refuse to back down in the face of tyranny. Mr. Khaiwani has put his life on the line to defend the kind of freedom we here in the United States take for granted.

Let us show him - and the government of Yemen - how a free nation defends the rights of democratic people. This is what we are trying to do in Iraq, and in Afghanistan. The lesson is an important one, worth the awful sacrifices our men and women in uniform make on a daily basis. Let us show the Yemenis they are not wrong, or foolish, to resist despotism.

Hope, sometimes, is a fragile ember. It can be all too easily extinguished by threats and the shadow of fear.

It should not be allowed to die out.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:39 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Not Fade Away

This regiment was formed last summer in Maine. There were a thousand of us then. There are less than three hundred of us now. All of us volunteered to fight for the union, just as you did. Some came mainly because we were bored at home -- thought this looked like it might be fun. Some came because we were ashamed not to. Many of us came because it was the right thing to do. And all of us have seen men die.

This is a different kind of army. If you look back through history, you will see men fighting for pay, for women, for some other kind of loot. They fight for land, power, because a king leads them or -- or just because they like killing. But we are here for something new. This has not happened much in the history of the world. We are an army out to set other men free.

America should be free ground -- all of it. Not divided by a line between slave state and free -- all the way, from here to the Pacific Ocean. No man has to bow. No man born to royalty. Here, we judge you by what you do, not by who your father was. Here, you can be something. Here, is the place to build a home.

But it's not the land. There's always more land.

It's the idea that we all have value -- you and me.

What we're fighting for, in the end, we're fighting for each other.

The language of old soldiers.

It bridges time and space, the yawning chasm of seemingly irreconcilable cultures and ancient grudges whose forgotten origins lie buried beneath unmarked and untended graves. It unites men simply because in the end, they are men.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:15 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

June 13, 2008

We're All Americans, Now

For some reason Scalia's dissent seems to be the one making the news. Scalia has a gift for dashing off memorable quips, but I thought Chief Justice Roberts' dissent gave a clearer picture of what was wrong with the majority opinion in Boumediene v. Bush. It begins on page 82. I excerpt it here, but it should be read in full:

The Court’s opinion makes plain that certiorari to review these cases should never have been granted. As two Members of today’s majority once recognized, “traditional rules governing our decision of constitutional questions and our practice of requiring the exhaustion of available remedies . . . make it appropriate to deny these petitions.” Just so. Given the posture in which these cases came to us, the Court should have declined to intervene until the D. C. Circuit had assessed the nature and validity of the congressionally mandated proceedings in a given detainee’s case. The political branches created a two-part, collateral review procedure for testing the legality of the prisoners’ Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) followed by review in the D. C. Circuit.

As part of that review, Congress authorized the D. C. Circuit to decide whether the CSRT proceedings are consistent with “the Constitution and laws of the United States.” No petitioner, however, has invoked the D. C. Circuit review the statute specifies. As a consequence, that court has had no occasion to decide whether the CSRT hearings, followed by review in the Court of Appeals, vindicate whatever constitutional and statutory rights petitioners may possess.

Remarkably, this Court does not require petitioners to exhaust their remedies under the statute; it does not wait to see whether those remedies will prove sufficient to protect petitioners’ rights. Instead, it not only denies the D. C. Circuit the opportunity to assess the statute’s remedies, it refuses to do so itself: the majority expressly declines to decide whether the CSRT procedures, coupled with Article III review, satisfy due process.

It is grossly premature to pronounce on the detainees’ right to habeas without first assessing whether the remedies the DTA system provides vindicate whatever rights petitioners may claim. The plurality in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, explained that the Constitution guaranteed an American citizen challenging his detention as an enemy combatant the right to “notice of the factual basis for his classification, and a fair opportunity to rebut the Government’s factual assertions before a neutral decision maker.” The plurality specifically stated that constitutionally adequate collateral process could be provided “by an appropriately authorized and properly constituted military tribunal,” given the “uncommon military conflict.” This point is directly pertinent here, for surely the Due Process Clause does not afford non-citizens in such circumstances greater protection than citizens are due.

If the CSRT procedures meet the minimal due process requirements outlined in Hamdi, and if an Article III court is available to ensure that these procedures are followed in future cases, there is no need to reach the Suspension Clause question. Detainees will have received all the process the Constitution could possibly require, whether that process is called “habeas” or something else. The question of the writ’s reach need not be addressed.

This is why the Court should have required petitioners to exhaust their remedies under the statute. As we explained in Gusik v. Schilder, “If an available procedure has not been employed to rectify the alleged error” petitioners complain of, “any interference by [a] federal court may be wholly needless. The procedure established to police the errors of the tribunal whose judgment is challenged may be adequate for the occasion.” Because the majority refuses to assess whether the CSRTs comport with the Constitution, it ends up razing a system of collateral review that it admits may in fact satisfy the Due Process Clause and be “structurally sound.” But if the collateral review procedures Congress has provided—CSRT review coupled with Article III scrutiny — are sound, interference by a federal habeas court may be entirely unnecessary.

The only way to know is to require petitioners to use the alternative procedures Congress designed. Mandating that the petitioners exhaust their statutory remedies “is in no sense a suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. It is merely a deferment of resort to the writ until other corrective procedures are shown to be futile.” So too here, it is not necessary to consider the availability of the writ until the statutory remedies have been shown to be inadequate to protect the detainees’ rights. (“An application for a writ of habeas corpus . . . shall not be granted unless it appears that . . . the applicant has exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State”). Respect for the judgments of Congress — whose Members take the same oath we do to uphold the Constitution — requires no less.

In the absence of any assessment of the DTA’s remedies, the question whether detainees are entitled to habeas is an entirely speculative one. Our precedents have long counseled us to avoid deciding such hypothetical questions of constitutional law. (“If there is one doctrine more deeply rooted than any other in the process of constitutional adjudication, it is that we ought not to pass on questions of constitutionality . . . unless such[questions are] unavoidable”); see also Ashwander v. TVA, (Constitutional
questions should not be decided unless “ ‘absolutely
necessary to a decision of the case’” (quoting Burton v. United States, This is a “fundamental rule of judicial restraint.”

The Court acknowledges that “the ordinary course” would be not to decide the constitutionality of the DTA at this stage, but abandons that “ordinary course” in light of the “gravity” of the constitutional issues presented and the prospect of additional delay. It is, however, precisely when the issues presented are grave that adherence
to the ordinary course is most important. A principle applied only when unimportant is not much of a principle at all, and charges of judicial activism are most effectively rebutted when courts can fairly argue they are following normal practices.

I could well be wrong, but when I read this decision, I felt a chill run through me. Most opinions I've read seem to say it won't have that much of a practical impact. I'm not sure I agree. I think this is one of those decisions whose impact may initially be slight but which will reverberate for decades, picking up momentum as it goes. I think it may well fundamentally change the meaning of what it means to be an American. The key to this, in my non-lawyer's opinion, lies in Chief Justice Robert's statement here:

The plurality in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, explained that the Constitution guaranteed an American citizen challenging his detention as an enemy combatant the right to “notice of the factual basis for his classification, and a fair opportunity to rebut the Government’s factual assertions before a neutral decision maker.” The plurality specifically stated that constitutionally adequate collateral process could be provided “by an appropriately authorized and properly constituted military tribunal,” given the “uncommon military conflict.” This point is directly pertinent here, for surely the Due Process Clause does not afford non-citizens in such circumstances greater protection than citizens are due.

What SCOTUS has done here, if I understand it (and I may not) is stunning.

They have done two things:

1. They have arrogantly bypassed the legislature without even ruling on the adequacy of the statute passed by Congress or requiring the plaintiffs to resort to it; and

2. They have given non-U.S. citizens greater rights under the U.S. Constitution than what they decided U.S. citizens have under Hamdi. And what was the justification for this?

Not law, not precedent, but an end-justifies the means argument. In other words, they manufactured a legal argument to satisfy a predetermined outcome because they were impatient. Essentially, they gave in to fear. I suppose when you are the highest court in the land you don't have to worry about being overturned.

Grim has a rather odd video up at his place about the proclivity of many Americans to mate only with those who share their political sensibilities. I found it amusing. Many moons ago when I first dated and married the spousal unit, he was fairly conservative.

I, on the other hand, was pretty much a flaming liberal.

I stayed that way for years before (if you listen to the tolerant left, whose respect for diversity and openness to alternate modalities is a hallmark of their superior mental health) my life experiences led me to slowly succumb to the twisted psychosis that is conservatism. But in my more liberal days I was impatient. I wanted government to step in and help people who were hurting. This was because I still believed government intervention would have a beneficial effect. It was my experiences as an adult that changed my mind about the efficacy of social programs.

It wasn't so much that I stopped caring. It was more that once I became an adult, I saw why such efforts so often backfire; how so many social engineering experiments not only fail to achieve their goals but end up creating unintended second-order problems that are far worse than the ones they set out to remedy.

I don't think I truly became a conservative, though, until 9/11. It was the backlash that did it to me; listening to the constant jabbering about fear-mongering from folks like Zbigniew Brzezinski. This is an almost surreal experience: it's a bit like standing in a hall of mirrors, having Zbigniew Brzezinski tell you we have absolutely nothing to fear from the terrorists who have (at least twice that I am aware of) tried to kill us, but that we should be very, very afraid of the bad, corrupt, evil and wrong/bad (did I remember to say they are bad?) men in the White House who keep fear mongering and trying to scare us.

Because the only thing we as Americans have to fear, is fear itself.

And Fear is Bad.

As we constantly eschew the politics of fear, we should be remember to be very, very afraid. But not of the terrorists, mind you.

No, we should be afraid of Fear Mongers. You know, people who tell us to be afraid of the Wrong People. So unpleasant, fear. Harshes the mellow.

By fear mongers, of course, I mean bad men like George Dubya Bush who hasn't, last time I checked, actually carted off any American citizens in the middle of the night other than Jose Padilla, about whom we've all read approximately 90,000 gazillion frothing-at-the-mouth articles (kind of hard to argue that was a "secret abduction", isn't it?). Question of the day: how many pending lawsuits are there in which American citizens asking where their unnamed husbands/wives/brothers/sisters/etc. disappeared to?

Isn't this what a habeas corpus suit is for? Even if such a suit were denied, if the NY Times and the WaPo can leak classified documents about vulnerabilities in Marine body armor, the SWIFT terrorist tracking program, the NSA wiretapping program, and how Anbar province was "irretrievably lost" to al Qaeda (thank God for that news flash!) with zero repercussions from the Fear Mongers, surely such horribly wronged plaintiffs could manage to get word to brave truth-to-powerers like Bill Keller, don't ya think?

Because I do.

Yet we hear all the time from Zbigniew, Tim Robbins, Sobbing Sue Saradone and countless others non-fear-mongers who seek to reassure us that we have nothing to fear from the Bad Men Who Are Trying To Destroy Amerikkka about our vanishing habeas rights, and how this is the End of the Republic As We Know It.

But we should not be afraid. Of anything except the fear that we aren't supposed to be afraid of. Because if we are afraid, we're being manipulated by Evil Men. Or something like that. Whatever.

The truth of the matter is that Guantanamo bay is a mess. But it's a mess because we are doing what we are doing out in the open, where everyone can see it in the light of day. What the critics like to gloss over is that the Clinton administration both supported and committed extraordinary renditions before we were at war:

Snatches, or more properly "extraordinary renditions," were operations to apprehend terrorists abroad, usually without the knowledge of and almost always without public acknowledgement of the host government.... The first time I proposed a snatch, in 1993, the White House Counsel, Lloyd Cutler, demanded a meeting with the President to explain how it violated international law. Clinton had seemed to be siding with Cutler until Al Gore belatedly joined the meeting, having just flown overnight from South Africa. Clinton recapped the arguments on both sides for Gore: Lloyd says this. Dick says that. Gore laughed and said, "That's a no-brainer. Of course it's a violation of international law, that's why it's a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass."

The odd thing is, Al Gore didn't give two figs for international law or the human rights of terrorists, back then. He only began to care when George W. Bush was installed in the Oval Office and we were attacked on September 11th, and the main reason he is able to use our rendition and detention policies against the Bush White House is that, unlike the Clinton/Gore White House, the Bush White House has at least attempted to follow U.S., not foreign law in the treatment of detainees. As Alanis Morrisette might say, isn't it ironic? The result was not only a more effective and humane program, but one that drew the wrath of the much vaunted "international community". Funny, isn't it?

The Rendition Program was initiated because President Clinton, and Messrs. Lake, Berger, and Clarke requested that the CIA begin to attack and dismantle AQ. These men made it clear that they did not want to bring those captured to the U.S. and hold them in U.S. custody.

1.) President Clinton and his national security team directed the CIA to take each captured al-Qaeda leader to the country which had an outstanding legal process for him. This was a hard-and-fast rule which greatly restricted CIA’s ability to confront al-Qaeda because we could only focus on al-Qaeda leaders who were wanted somewhere. As a result many al-Qaeda fighters we knew were dangerous to America could not be captured.

2.) CIA warned the president and the National Security Council that the U.S. State Department had and would identify the countries to which the captured fighters were being delivered as human rights abusers.

3.) In response, President Clinton et. al asked if CIA could get each receiving country to guarantee that it would treat the person according to its own laws. This was no problem and we did so.

--I have read and been told that Mr. Clinton, Mr. Burger, and Mr. Clarke have said since 9/11 that they insisted that each receiving country treat the rendered person it received according to U.S. legal standards. To the best of my memory that is a lie.

...Under President Bush, the rendered al-Qaeda fighters held in U.S. custody have been treated according to guidelines that were crafted by U.S. government lawyers, approved by the Executive Branch, and briefed to and permitted by at least the four senior members of the two congressional intelligence oversight committees.

By bringing the detainees to Gitmo, the Bush administration did the exact opposite of what it has been accused of - it let more sunlight into the rendition process than had ever existed under Clinton-Gore. Congress granted more rights to rendered detainees with the DTA - rights they certainly would never have been granted under Clinton-Gore.

The Supreme Court has now completed the process. For all intents and purposes they have American Constitutional rights and access to the federal courts. SCOTUS bypassed the legislature entirely. If this is not judicial activism, I do not know what is.

It is often tempting to engineer a result we want to see made real, but in doing so, we do violence to the law and to the very fabric of our republic. The ends do not, and cannot, justify the means.

Not if we mean to remain a nation of laws, and not of men.

Under Bill Clinton's watch, we were attacked in 1993. He chose to go after al Qaeda, but in a manner which was both less effective and less respectful of international law and the human rights of the men who were apprehended and detained under the rendition program that began under his tenure. The real irony here is that George Bush tightened up the legal protections for detainees AND made the program more effective, and in return he has been reviled by the international community.

This is not exactly a positive incentive for providing transparency into executive branch dealings during time of war. That's a sobering thought for those who believe in the power of unintended consequences to shape future events.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:35 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

June 12, 2008

Scots, Wha Ha'

For Grim, who has the good sense to write about Scots:

In celebration of this weekend's upcoming Scottish Highland Games in Blairsville, Georgia, let's talk a bit about Scottish history. A good starting point is this review of historian Trever-Roper, perhaps the most hostile to the mythology of Scotland.

The myths that bothered him were alike in this way: each made Scotland seem less a part of European civilization than it really had been. You can see the result in Braveheart, a movie actually filmed in Ireland, whose extras were provided by the Irish Army Reserves. William Wallace is depicted in a kilt, which he certainly would not have worn. The article above suggests the kilt was invented in the 19th century, but that is not quite right. What we call the military kilt was, that is, the skirt that is a separate garment. The Great Kilt, which is a huge bolt of cloth belted around the body, is ancient in origins; but it was the dress of the poor, who literally belted their bedclothes around themselves for warmth in the daytime. William Wallace was a knight.

Braveheart also has William Wallace wear woad, which was too late -- the Picts did that, in Roman times. Trevor-Roper, who survived long enough to have seen it, must have been beside himself.

The Scots were noted as having a unique character, however, in the Middle Ages. That character is different from how we imagine it today.

No kidding.

I'm a Wallace. It happens to be my middle name, actually.

But the point about kilts notwithstanding, I thought you all might enjoy this.

CWCID: The spousal unit.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:42 PM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

June 11, 2008

Oh Baby, Oh Baby, Oh Baby...

Not too shabby...

...for a chicken on a beach ball. The White House sends:

Office of the Press Secretary

(Rome, Italy)


For Immediate Release June 11, 2008


President George W. Bush today announced recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Nation’s highest civil award. Established by Executive Order 11085 in 1963, the Medal may be awarded by the President “to any person who has made an especially meritorious contribution to (1) the security or national interests of the United States, or (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” President Bush will honor these recipients at a White House ceremony on Thursday, June 19, 2008.

Benjamin S. Carson, Sr., M.D., has worked throughout his career to improve the lives of those suffering from neurological disorders. His groundbreaking contributions to medicine and his inspiring efforts to help America’s youth fulfill their potential have strengthened our Nation.

Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., has dedicated his life to expanding the horizons of human knowledge. His efforts to advance our understanding and treatment of HIV/AIDS have brought hope and healing to millions around the world.

Tom Lantos was a champion of human rights. The only Holocaust survivor to serve in the Congress, he devoted himself to securing liberty for oppressed people around the world and became a powerful witness for the importance of freedom.

General Peter Pace, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.), is one of our Nation’s most accomplished and respected military officers. His selfless service and visionary leadership have helped keep our Nation safe.

Donna Edna Shalala is one of our Nation’s most distinguished educators and public officials. She has worked tirelessly to ensure that all Americans can enjoy lives of hope, promise, and dignity.

Laurence H. Silberman has devoted his life to promoting, enforcing, and defending the rule of law. He has been a stalwart guardian of the Constitution, and his work to strengthen our national security institutions has made Americans safer.

Well done, sir.

And congratulations to all the honorees. But perhaps the Editorial Staff will be forgiven for showing particular pleasure in seeing General Pace's name on the list.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:04 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Stop Penetrating Me With Your Bombs!!!!

The Editorial Staff has been doing some reading of late, mostly about noble souls who ensmarten the world around them on a daily basis. One of those worthy folks is Professor Joseph Massad.

This Massad fellow seems to be an extremely brainy character. It must be all that book-larnin' one picks up in Ivy League schools, where (we hear tell) they have real books and all. And unlike some people we could name, the More Highly Evolved Among Us don't just sit around all day reading to their pet goats. They use their edumacation to spread peace, love, and understanding and minimize divisiveness, hate and suspicion between people of differing belief systems.

You know. Kind of like a pan-Islamic Keith Olbermann. But we digress....

Professor Massad... believes the Iraq war stemmed from the sexual prowess of the American male ("In such a strategy, Iraqis are posited by American super-masculine fighter-bomber pilots as women and feminised men to be penetrated by the missiles and bombs ejected from American warplanes."); he condones terrorism against Israel ("This can be done by the continuing resistance of Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Territories to all the civil and military institutions that uphold Jewish supremacy"); and lastly, he attempted to exile a student from his class who had the gall to disagree with him.

... In Desiring Arabs, Massad asserts that the West "produces homosexuals as well as gays and lesbians, where they do not exist." But for colonialism, Massad contends, there would be no gay people in the Middle East for the tyrannical governments of Egypt and Iran to persecute. Although Massad says he opposes hanging gay people, he shifts the blame from the hooded executioners to the United States.

Helen Thomas on a treadmill! Not since the Odious Shrub murdered Andrea Dworkin has the half vast editorial staff been so angry. Truly, the arguments of this Massad chap are well nigh irrefutable. To anyone who has done his homework, the spread of homosexuality to the Middle East is clearly attributable to the pernicious effects of the Bill O'Reilly show and American pop tart culture.

But what particularly shocks the conscience is the way the Bush White House cynically used gay Internet porn and black market DVDs (such as the eponymous "Brokeback Mountain") as a so-called "secret propaganda weapon" to infect the previously pristine Persian culture with decadent 'Western values'. We can thank brave truth tellers like Oval Office insider Scott McClellan, who will be testifying before Congress later this month, for revealing how the Bushies have been waging this kind of insidious cultural warfare campaign since the early 12th Century:

As there are different biological, historical and psychosocial origins among many Middle-Eastern Muslim cultures, homosexual practices were widespread and public. Persian (fars) poets, such as Attar (d. 1220), Rumi (d. 1273), Sa’di (d. 1291), Hafez (d. 1389), and Jami (d. 1492), and also the Kurdish Poet Shik Raza wrote poems replete with homoerotic allusions. Recent work in queer studies suggests that while the visibility of such relationships has been much reduced, their frequency has not. The two most commonly documented forms were commercial sex with transgender males or males enacting transgender roles exemplified by the köçeks and the bacchás, and Sufi spiritual practices in which the practitioner crossed over from the idealised chaste form of the practice to one in which the desire is consummated.

For example in old Persia homosexuality and homoerotic expressions were tolerated in numerous public places, from monasteries and seminaries to taverns, military camps, bathhouses, and coffee houses. In the early Safavid era (1501-1723), male houses of prostitution (amrad khane) were legally recognized and paid taxes. A rich tradition of art and literature sprang up, constructing Middle Eastern homosexuality in ways analogous to the ancient tradition of male love in which Ganymede, cup-bearer to the gods, symbolised the ideal boyfriend. Muslim — often Sufi — poets in medieval Arab lands and in Persia wrote odes to the beautiful Christian wine boys who, they claimed, served them in the taverns and shared their beds at night. In many areas the practice survived into modern times (as documented by Richard Francis Burton, André Gide, and others).

What is even more disgusting is reading that, in contrast to the previous Gulf War, our brave, murdering troops are being sent into battle without desperately needed combat equipment:

During the US invasion of Vietnam, the atrocities committed against the Vietnamese were not limited to the killing of millions of civilians and the maiming of millions more, the destruction of agricultural land and harvests, outright massacres and napalming of whole villages, and the subsequent economic embargo imposed on the destroyed country after the war, there were also important torture mechanisms that the US military reserved, not only for male resistors, but also for female "Viet Cong" fighters. Their torture included rape, otherwise known as "searching" them with the penises of US soldiers, as they could be hiding weapons inside their sexual organs (See Arlene Eisen- Bergman 1975 book Women of Vietnam ).

The mixture of sex and violence in an American (or European) imperial setting characterised by racism and absolute power is more uniform than the American or British media may think. Just a bit over a decade ago, during the first Gulf war of 1990/91, American fighter-bomber pilots would spend hours watching pornographic films to get themselves in the right mood for the massive bombing they carried out in Iraq (see The Washington Post, January 26, 1991). This, of course, is one example of many in which sex figures prominently in imperial ventures.

Exactly. This is just one more reminder of how the military represents everything that is dark, twisted, and destructive in human nature... except when we need them to protect us (and then they are a bright, shining exemplar of everything good and noble in American life. We get so confused sometimes.) In truth, American society can thank the Twin Towers of academia and professional journalism for reminding us every day how they bravely risk their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to safeguard the freedoms we hold so dear against those who hate our way of life.... and by that of course we mean our elected leaders, not al Qaeda.

CWCID: MaryAnn, over whose head we shall be pulling the Frilly Panties of Fascism later, for the Massad link. Oh yes.... it will be fun. Heh.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:35 AM | Comments (29) | TrackBack

You Just *Maht * Be a Racist!!!

As rosy-finger'd dawn crept across the sky over her western Maryland home, the blog princess ventured a delicately lacquered toe from betwixt the marital sheets, her diminutive form fairly tingling with audacious hope. Now that Amerikkka had finally overcome the vestiges of 200 years of unconscious racism and put a black man into the presidential race, she could finally be proud of her country. The long nights of angst ridden nail biting were over.

Well, almost:

"Will Americans vote for a black man?" I've been asked this question by foreigners of various origins a dozen -- or maybe three dozen -- times since the U.S. presidential campaign began for real in January. Now we have the answer: Yes, Americans will vote for a black man. Which means that it is time to turn this rather offensive question around: Will foreigners accept a black American president?

I realize that this, too, may seem like a rather offensive question, particularly if one believes everything that one reads in newspapers. Germany, to take one random example, is at the moment experiencing something like its own version of Obamamania. The media appear to see the Democratic candidate as what a Der Spiegel journalist calls "a cross between John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr."; the German foreign minister has been heard chanting "Yes, we can!"; and Obama T-shirts can be spotted in the hipper quarters of Berlin. This sort of enthusiasm isn't unique to Germany: British, French and even Polish newspapers splashed Obama and his candidacy on their front pages this past week, most accompanied by laudatory articles that solemnly proclaimed, "America has changed."

If only that were true. In cultural backwaters and intellectual dead ends like the South, one finds that Hate and intolerance reign supreme:

A Confession: This kind of thing is really starting to bother me.

Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul.

The unusual thing is, true Lightworkers almost never appear on such a brutal, spiritually demeaning stage as national politics. This is why Obama is so rare.

"Coweringly religious"? Also this kind of thing:

...I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal...

Holy crap, people. Get hold of yourselves.

Dang. You know of all the reasons to elect a president, "helping me evolve" from a vaguely unicellular life form onto a higher spiritual plane ... perhaps one in which I no longer have the urge to sneak over and make mad, passionate whoopie in my neighbor's Ojibwa crystal garden during the full moon never made the list before. But personal growth has always been a hobby of mine. The thing is, I can't help noticing that the last presidential candidate who spoke in even vaguely "spiritual" terms was accused of trying to usher in a thousand years of jackbooted theocracy. Now Brother Obama is promising to heal the oceans and partner with the faith community and there is nary a whimper of protest from the Reality Based Community. Wherever it is you want to go, he'll take you there. Just don't ask too many questions, criticize him, or question his qualifications - for any reason at all, even one that is objectively recognized as a valid objection, because if you do, you'll instantly be branded a racist:

Listen carefully, too, when foreigners start worrying about Obama's lack of foreign policy experience. Though this is a legitimate concern, I occasionally catch a racist undertone in this kind of conversation. "How could a black man possibly understand European/Middle Eastern/South Asian politics?" is what my interlocutors sometimes in fact seem to be saying.

The correct response, of course, is that plenty of white men don't understand European/Middle Eastern/South Asian politics, either. But not everyone, everywhere, is going to understand that. Foreign coverage of U.S. politics always reveals a lot about foreign countries, but never more so than in this election season.

Obviously it is racist to wonder whether Barack Obama has enough experience - or even the right experience - to handle the demanding duties of running the world's largest superpower. In deciding that such questions are racist, we are not allowed to look at the facts.

We are not allowed, for instance, to compare Obama's experience to that of other men who have won the nomination of their party in presidential elections:

Since the Civil War, 49 men have won a major-party presidential nomination. Only three of these nominees were less qualified, by traditional measures of leadership and experience, than Obama.

That puts Barack Obama at or around the 6th percentile of presidential candidates chosen by a major party in the last century and a half, experience-wise. But we are not allowed to notice this, because it would be racist to elevate experience over skin color.


None of those men was able to win the White House.

But we are not allowed to notice this, because it would be racist to elevate statistical evidence of voter preferences over skin color.

Americans have only elected 6 U.S. Presidents who had no previous executive experience. Notably, since the Civil War, we have only elected one: John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

But we are not allowed to notice this. You see, that would be racist.

One might be justified in asking, is executive experience a good predictor of presidential performance? Let's find out:

Based on the historical rankings of all the U.S. Presidents (the Wall Street Journal 2005 study) compared to their levels of experience prior to taking the high office, the evidence indicates that experience in general isn't in itself an indicator of how successful our Presidents have been in office. However, there is evidence that that the type of experience is extremely important. By dividing our Presidents into groups based on the types of experience they had prior to coming to office, here are some statistical observations:

* Presidents who possessed previous experience as a Government Chief Executive at the state or local level have above-average historical ratings.

* Presidents who did not possess previous experience as a Government Chief Executive at the state or local level have below-average historical ratings.

Click for bigger

But since Amerikka has a long history of deeply entrenched racism, the very notion that we can trust history is, in itself, deeply racist. So that's right out.

In the end, it is the duty of every American to root out the vestiges of skin color hatred. So,

while the following are clearly examples of issue-based rhetoric...


... which attack the candidate's arguments


... rather than veering off into small-minded personal attacks


... or even worse, crude sexual stereotypes


... or demeaning put-downs intended to minimize a candidate's accomplishments:


... we can all be thankful that, at least in regard to the way Hillary Clinton was treated, there was no sexism in this campaign. Because the last thing we need in a presidential race is a double standard:

The Democratic presidential contest was jolted Tuesday by accusations surrounding race and sex, set off by remarks from Geraldine A. Ferraro that Senator Barack Obama had received preferential treatment because he is a black man.

Fortunately, thanks to the herculean efforts of the lamestream media, We the People know that when Hillary Clinton is repeatedly depicted as a deranged Glenn Close clone who might just deploy the tactical nukes when she gets her period, this is most emphatically *not* to be construed as sexist.

But any implication that Barack Obama, who, by any objective or empirical yardstick one cares to name, is the least experienced candidate nominated in modern history, is...., well, the least experienced candidate to be nominated in modern history is obviously racism. In fact, even implying that other people are racist is racist! And if you're female, appearing to notice racism will even get you called a whore! (but that, of course, is not sexist because as we all know, the sexually liberated and tolerant Left are never sexist):

Fred Hiatt’s Concubine Speaks. You Listen.

After all, it's the easiest smear! To paraphrase Glenn Reynolds in advance, "I told you if Barack Obama was elected, the country would be filled with racists.... and I was right!"

Posted by Cassandra at 05:34 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

June 10, 2008

Let The Healing Begin!!!

Oh Lord, give me an end to partisanship....

But not yet.:

Boys, just don’t say "Nazi" ever again in your life.

There’s no place for the reference in this culture. Not about the Republican tactics, not about the Democratic tactics, not about Guantanamo Bay.

The Republicans are not the SS, and the Democrats are not the Gestapo, and Gitmo is not Buchenwald.

Apologize profoundly and profusely, burst into tears if you will, but the analogies are wrong, offensive, and deeply hurtful. And I speak as a European of protestant descent.

More over, this particular moment in our history is no time to pour more ice into the crevices of our national political discourse. We have enough of the makings of fighting in the streets, enough of the rancor that preceded the caning of Senator Sumner on the floor of the Senate in 1856, without people throwing the devils of the 20th Century into the mix.

In fact, it would be a really good idea, for the sake of the country, and to steer out of this skid of Party First and Country Second that now pervades both sides, if the three distinguished gentlemen resigned, or at least announced they would not run again. Because apologies or not, they are at best, carrying the disease of branding other American leaders - no matter how wrong-headed some of those "others" might seem to you - with the same kind of vitriol that enabled the rise of the Nazis in Germany.

Stop it, stop it now, stop it for good.

Oh yeah. Stop it. Stop it now. Stop it for good.

Sometimes the comedy just writes itself.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:24 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 09, 2008

"Soooo Honey, How was *your* day at work?"....

Great Moments in First Responder History:

Naked Man Rescued From Porta-Potty

Rescue crews had to cut apart a portable toilet to rescue a man who got stuck naked inside the potty.

We'll let the half-vast readership read about the details. Key quote:

Deputy fire commissioner Chris Miller told WPMT-TV, "I've been on the job in one form or fashion for 21 years, and this is the first port-a-potty rescue I've ever had."

Police charged Hunter with public drunkenness and creating a health code violation, but they have no idea why he was in the toilet with his clothes off.

*crickets chirping*

Posted by Cassandra at 07:52 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Bush Lied: The Devil In the Details

Fred Hiatt looks below the surface spin of the recently released Rockefeller report and finds that... (sacre bleu!) the Senator from W. Virginia has been less than honest with the American people:

... dive into Rockefeller's report, in search of where exactly President Bush lied about what his intelligence agencies were telling him about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, and you may be surprised by what you find.

On Iraq's nuclear weapons program? The president's statements "were generally substantiated by intelligence community estimates."

On biological weapons, production capability and those infamous mobile laboratories? The president's statements "were substantiated by intelligence information."

On chemical weapons, then? "Substantiated by intelligence information."

On weapons of mass destruction overall (a separate section of the intelligence committee report)? "Generally substantiated by intelligence information." Delivery vehicles such as ballistic missiles? "Generally substantiated by available intelligence." Unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to deliver WMDs? "Generally substantiated by intelligence information."

As you read through the report, you begin to think maybe you've mistakenly picked up the minority dissent. But, no, this is the Rockefeller indictment. So, you think, the smoking gun must appear in the section on Bush's claims about Saddam Hussein's alleged ties to terrorism.

But statements regarding Iraq's support for terrorist groups other than al-Qaeda "were substantiated by intelligence information." Statements that Iraq provided safe haven for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other terrorists with ties to al-Qaeda "were substantiated by the intelligence assessments," and statements regarding Iraq's contacts with al-Qaeda "were substantiated by intelligence information." The report is left to complain about "implications" and statements that "left the impression" that those contacts led to substantive Iraqi cooperation.

In the report's final section, the committee takes issue with Bush's statements about Saddam Hussein's intentions and what the future might have held. But was that really a question of misrepresenting intelligence, or was it a question of judgment that politicians are expected to make?

After all, it was not Bush, but Rockefeller, who said in October 2002: "There has been some debate over how 'imminent' a threat Iraq poses. I do believe Iraq poses an imminent threat. I also believe after September 11, that question is increasingly outdated. . . . To insist on further evidence could put some of our fellow Americans at risk. Can we afford to take that chance? I do not think we can."

Rockefeller was reminded of that statement by the committee's vice chairman, Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.), who with three other Republican senators filed a minority dissent that includes many other such statements from Democratic senators who had access to the intelligence reports that Bush read. The dissenters assert that they were cut out of the report's preparation, allowing for a great deal of skewing and partisanship, but that even so, "the reports essentially validate what we have been saying all along: that policymakers' statements were substantiated by the intelligence."

If you're holding your breath for this earth-shattering development to appear on the 11 o'clock update to the evening news... don't. The wave of the future is talented infotainment anchors like MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, who specialize in over the top dramatics

"Is Keith Olbermann the Future of Journalism?" the American Journalism Review asked last year. The piece quoted Chicago media critic Phil Rosenthal saying Olbermann "flows from funny to poignant in connecting the seemingly random dots of a day's events, important and trivial, steadfastly clinging to basic tenets about what is and what isn't news without being bound to traditional approaches." He's right about Olbermann loosening the vise of tradition, which can be a good thing. And Olbermann doesn't just flow funny, at times he hemorrhages funny. But poignancy? Connecting random dots? "Steadfastly clinging to basic tenets about what is and what isn't news"?

Get a grip. The man's a big ham.

If only his over the top antics were the most serious problem with Olbermann. It's one thing to lighten up the evening news with a little banter. It's another thing entirely when your news coverage becomes so one-sided that you become the in-house network of Barack Obama:

"There's a huge difference between rooting for one side in a Democratic primary, and another one to take sides in a general election and go out and openly root for a candidate. You can't do that," said the insider. "You think Russert is going to put up with that? Election night coverage in November with Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann?

"The key is his willingness to quit," says our source about Olbermann. "And he means it. He has convinced management of that. They are convinced that he will walk. He behaves like a man who has nothing left to lose. He is not central to MSNBC, he is the center of the MSNBC ratings strategy. We hang the entire schedule on him."

But drama makes for good ratings, and one thing Olbermann is good at, it's generating drama. And if it's a slow news day, you can always make up paranoid conspiracy theories:

Early on in the MSNBC coverage last night, Andrea Mitchell mentioned that in the venue of Hillary's speech, as it was in the basement of Baruch College in an auditorium of sorts, there was no cell or blackberry coverage. Olbermann ran with it and came up with this theory:

And one is almost forced to ask whether they picked this particular venue with no TV monitors and cell phone or blackberry service so that nobody there would know that 54 minutes ago, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois had become the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party.

Yeah, that's probably what happened.

I suppose next you'll be trying to convince us of some cockamamie story like there were connections between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

Oops. My bad. That was Senator Rockafeller, wasn't it? No wonder the American people don't trust the media to be impartial:

Ideologically, political liberals give the least pessimistic assessment of reporters, but even 50% of those on the political left see bias. Thirty-three percent (33%) of liberals believe most reporters try to be objective. Moderates, by a 65% to 17% margin, see reporters as advocates, not scribes. Among political conservatives, only 7% see reporters as objective while 83% believe they are biased.

Given these results, it’s not surprising that 76% of voters believe the media has too much power and influence over elections. Just 3% believe the Fourth Estate has too little influence while 16% say the balance is about right.

Of course you have to wonder a bit at an electorate that willingly tunes in to an anchor who openly brags about being willing to throw elections.

Only in Amerikkka. What a country: it's enough to bring a tear to Michelle Obama's eye.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:11 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

June 06, 2008

Over Red Coffee Cans and Cigarettes

Patrick O'Hannigan remembers:

As a teenager in Hawaii, I spent memorable weekends sitting across a kitchen counter from an old woman who exhaled plumes of smoke over my head. She was Helen to her friends and Tutu to her grandchildren. She would open a louvered window for the sake of our lungs, but could not abide the idea that standing next to it was the only socially acceptable way to enjoy a cigarette.

When Tutu tired of crossword puzzles, or wanted to postpone a four-block walk to the Ala Moana Shopping Center for another can of Folger’s Coffee and the latest paperback mystery by Harry Kemelman, she would kvetch about politics, or fix me with a blue-eyed look, run a hand through blonde hair going gray, and tell stories.

Her ethnic background was Swedish and Celtic, which in disreputable circles might pigeonhole her as a typical white person. She left the Bronx for life in the tropics at the invitation of her eldest son when he became a rookie with the Honolulu Police Department.

Like other people in her old neighborhood, she had marinated in the Italian and Jewish cultures that mingled with her own. Tutu had the family recipe for all-day pasta sauce, knew a good matzo ball when she tasted one, and sometimes lamented the lack of delicatessens in Hawaii. Her side of the family was proof positive that the working-class boroughs of New York blended influences almost as seamlessly as the Honolulu suburbs where I grew up. The way she told it, you could drink New York tap water too, although you were unlikely to smell Plumeria blossoms on the breezes there.

Tutu died four years ago, but knowing about those Hawaiian weekends, you may not be surprised to learn that it was she who sprang to mind when one paragraph from a speech of almost 2,500 words made news earlier this month because President Bush denounced the appeasement of tyrants while he was in Israel addressing the Knesset.

As they say, read the whole thing. I loved this post.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:41 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 05, 2008

Getting Beyond the Real Men/Real Women Paradigm

This thread, via Glenn Reynolds, got the Princess thinking furiously about the relative advantages and disadvantages of being a man vs. being a woman:

Both genders face huge and distinct disadvantages. I'd be hard-pressed to say whether it's more unfortunate to be a man or a woman.

As a thought-experiment, you could imagine -- apologies to John Rawls and his veil of ignorance -- that you haven't been born yet and you get to choose which gender you want to live your life as. You get to be fully informed about what the world is like, but all you know about your future life is that you'll be a human being growing up in the United States. (Significantly, you don't know your race or sexual orientation.) Which gender would you choose to be? I think some people would choose to be a man, and others would choose to be a woman, and it's far from obvious what the wiser choice would be.

I want to focus on the male-disadvantages side of this question, which I find more interesting because it's not talked about as much.

I'm well aware that the person who suggests, at least in certain kinds of elite circles, that maybe there are some not-so-great things about being a man is likely not be heard. Civil discussion will end. You aren't allowed to talk about, or think about, the idea that while gender roles, norms, traditions, stereotypes, etc. have certainly been bad for women ... they might also be bad for men too.

It's odd: I would have thought that if that's true, then it would actually strengthen the case for feminism. If everyone is burdened by antiquated gender rules, isn't that twice as bad as if half the population were burdened?

I think that's a bit of an oversimplification. "Antiquated gender rules", as they are so often referred to, developed over time as the most efficient means of ensuring stable families and guaranteeing the survival of homo sapiens. Our relative affluence and political stability have allowed us to change the rules, or so we like to think. Unfortunately for us, we have yet to figure out how to repeal the law of cause and effect:

Most countries in the Western world have stopped breeding. For a civilization obsessed with sex, this is remarkable. Maintaining a steady population requires a birth rate of 2.1. In Western Europe, the birth rate currently stands at 1.5, or 30 percent below replacement. In 30 years there will be 70 to 80 million fewer Europeans than there are today. The current birth rate in Germany is 1.3. Italy and Spain are even lower at 1.2. At that rate, the working age population declines by 30 percent in 20 years, which has a huge impact on the economy.

When you don't have young workers to replace the older ones, you have to import them. The European countries are currently importing Moslems. Today, the Moslems comprise 10 percent of France and Germany, and the percentage is rising rapidly because they have higher birthrates. However, the Moslem populations are not being integrated into the cultures of their host countries, which is a political catastrophe. One reason Germany and France don't support the Iraq war is they fear their Moslem populations will explode on them. By 2020, more than half of all births in the Netherlands will be non-European.

The huge design flaw in the post-modern secular state is that you need a traditional religious society birth rate to sustain it. The Europeans simply don't wish to have children, so they are dying.

In Japan, the birthrate is 1.3. As a result, Japan will lose up to 60 million people over the next 30 years. Because Japan has a very different society than Europe, they refuse to import workers. Instead, they are just shutting down. Japan has already closed 2000 schools, and is closing them down at the rate of 300 per year. Japan is also aging very rapidly. By 2020, one out of every five Japanese will be at least 70 years old. Nobody has any idea about how to run an economy with those demographics.

Europe and Japan, which comprise two of the world's major economic engines, aren't merely in recession, they're shutting down. This will have a huge impact on the world economy, and it is already beginning to happen. Why are the birthrates so low? There is a direct correlation between abandonment of traditional religious society and a drop in birth rate, and Christianity in Europe is becoming irrelevant. The second reason is economic. When the birth rate drops below replacement, the population ages. With fewer working people to support more retired people, it puts a crushing tax burden on the smaller group of working age people. As a result, young people delay marriage and having a family. Once this trend starts, the downward spiral only gets worse. These countries have abandoned all the traditions they formerly held in regards to having families and raising children.

The U.S. birth rate is 2.0, just below replacement. We have an increase in population because of immigration. When broken down by ethnicity, the Anglo birth rate is 1.6 (same as France) while the Hispanic birth rate is 2.7. In the U.S., the baby boomers are starting to retire in massive numbers. This will push the "elder dependency" ratio from 19 to 38 over the next 10 to 15 years. This is not as bad as Europe, but still represents the same kind of trend.

Western civilization seems to have forgotten what every primitive society understands, you need kids to have a healthy society. Children are huge consumers. Then they grow up to become taxpayers. That's how a society works, but the post-modern secular state seems to have forgotten that. If U.S. birth rates of the past 20 to 30 years had been the same as post-World War II, there would be no Social Security or Medicare problems.

The world's most effective birth control device is money. As society creates a middle class and women move into the workforce, birth rates drop. Having large families is incompatible with middle class living. The quickest way to drop the birth rate is through rapid economic development.

It's odd; I think that the discourse on gender is heavily influenced by political orientation. The Left, taken as a whole, seems repulsed by traditional masculinity. A series of posts by Ezra Klein brought this into particularly stark relief. His analysis of Obama's candidacy is revealing:

Webb represents something of almost transcendent importance to some post-Bush liberals: The opportunity to out-tough the GOP. A candidate who's not only a liberal, but in no way a sissy. He is the daywalker, combining a progressive's positions with a southern militarist's affectations.

But this is not a sustainable approach to politics. Democrats can't out-tough the GOP. It's possible that James Webb can do it. But he's sui generis; a Democrat who can win at politics when played under Republican rules. Democrats love those candidates, because they think of presidential elections as an away game, and they're endlessly hunting for the candidate who plays best under those conditions.

But Democrats can't win at politics when played under Republican rules. Progressivism can't prosper when politics is played under Republican rules. It needs to make its own rules.

Barack Obama's effort to do exactly that has been, by far, the most exciting element of his campaign...

...though [Obama] has been confident and even aggressive in all of this, he has not been "tough." He has not pretended to go shooting, or driven on to Jay Leno's show on Harley. He's essentially been making his own rules.

It's crystal clear, given the choice between the 'hypermasculine' Webb and the 'exciting' but 'un-tough' Obama, which Klein prefers, even given his admission that Democrats have repeatedly lost contests against the GOP. Remembering their impotent fury over the girlie man taunt Klein's choice of words seems even more piquantly ironic here:

...this isn't a commentary on Webb. But the argument for his elevation to the national ticket -- which is to say, to become one of the faces of the party -- is about the electoral benefit of a hyper masculine, effortlessly tough, culturally conservative (seeming) candidate who can win back those Reagan Democrats and white males. As I wrote the other day, I don't think the Democratic Party should be orienting itself towards reknitting that particular coalition.

Apparently Jim Webb is not to be welcomed in the best progressive knitting circles. But Klein goes on to say something even more delicious in a subsequent post. Is it a Freudian slip, or just a moment of stunning intellectual honesty?

Earlier, I asked for a better term than "soft power".... Reading through all this, though, I'm not sure the term can be saved. The problem isn't just the "soft" part, it's the "power."

Grim comments:

I don't think we're going to do well against the evils of the world with that attitude.

But then that seems to be what the battle of the sexes comes down to, in the end: the maintenance of power. The Left hates the very idea of it and is seen as weak and femininized. The Right wants to preserve it and is seen as controlling and masculine. The fight, like many domestic battles, gets pretty nasty at times. And just as the Left can't seem to get past bashing men every chance they get, the Right seems to be on a never ending tear against women. Everything, it seems, is the fault of feminists. Even the most paradoxical and nonsensical arguments are laid at our door, even when men engage in (ostensibly) laudable activities for the distaff side, it is all our fault, our fault, our most grievous fault. Mea, mea culpa:

Do you guys think that by women entering the workforce, that women have had the same effect on the man's role as say welfare has?

I mean, a generation ago, a man wouldn't look down on his woman for not working outside the home. Taking care of the house; cooking, cleaning, caring for the children and basically being the center of the home was what a woman did. It was enough. No one would consider her to be slacking. In this generation, women suffer a vague, and sometimes, explicit, unease about doing that job. She is viewed as not pulling her weight because she's just a housewife.

And it's not just women judging women. Men, too, want their women to work to take the pressure off. A man is simply not interested in carrying all the financial weight and why should he have to? Women are equal now. Equal means doing the same thing--working and living like a man. Feminism means, and it's men that I've seen to be the biggest feminists, being a good man and bring home the bacon, frying it up in a pan and doing it again and again.

But it seems like an unintended consequence has been resentment. Women have excelled in the workplace. They can take care of themselves. They do leave their babies to work. Meanwhile, some men (not all, of course) have gone the other way. They no longer work as hard because they just don't have to. On the one hand, they don't have the financial pressure of their father's generation, but they also don't have the self-respect, work-ethic and noble purpose of their father's generation either.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. The clue train just went off the tracks, big time. I fully agree that, speaking in broad terms, men and women have different psychological needs.

I understand that men tend to value their role as providers and breadwinners; that they have a deep need to be admired, respected, and needed; that most men are more driven to compete and win than most women. I understand that most women are more comfortable in our role as nurturers, teachers and facilitators; that we have a deep need for communication and intimacy; that we are more driven to form bonds and build alliances. We prefer to foster cooperation rather than competition. These are, properly understood, complementary rather than clashing traits; both have value in society. This is why marriages work: in a good marriage both parties grow and learn from each other over time, absorbing and assimilating each other's strengths and compensating for each other's weaknesses. Marriage is a partnership.

Hopefully it is a partnership of equals. As Shakespeare said, 'Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments'. Perhaps that is why I am so dismayed by the responses to Melissa's post. I don't understand the whole "real man/real woman" paradigm. Why would any sane person allow anyone else to tell them what a real man or real woman is supposed to look like?

Melissa seems to want "real men" to "butch up" (dear sweet Christ, what an idea):

I'm sick of men condemning women to superficiality when many women just want a strong, decent, hard-working man who is very good at what he does professionally and can man up personally. Some women limit themselves because they make good money and feel they need a man to make more than they do in order to respect him. That can be short-sighted. A confident man won't give a shit how much the woman makes. He won't feel small because she is successful. He will know who he is and what he's made of.

There are rich men and men of modest means who embody what it means to be a real man. And there are rich men and men of modest means who are insecure, wimpy, over-compensating assholes. In my experience money has had little to do with it.

Cassy Fiano, likewise, has had it up to here with "limp" men:

I've written before about how men need to freakin' MAN UP. My most notable post on this issue was my The Shortage of Real Men post.

It can't be said enough -- if there are any real men left out there, they need to come out of hiding. It's frustrating as hell, even as a woman, to see men becoming more and more pussified each year (yeah, I'm stealing Kim's phrase).

The run-down housewife and over-worked husband myth needs to cease. If a woman wants to work outside the home, then that's great. A real man would encourage her to, if that's what she chose to do. But a real man would also accept her role as housewife if that was what she wanted -- even if it meant taking on extra financial responsibility. A man's job is to provide for and protect his family, and no, it isn't because a woman is incapable of doing so. It's because that is his primary responsibility. It's one of the reasons real men like guns -- because they understand that having a gun is a crucial part of the "protect your family at any cost" mantra encoded into real-man DNA.

As I've said before, I think you see an overwhelming number of real men flocking to military or law enforcement lifestyles. And there's a reason -- the values I listed above are instrinsic to being a real man, and also to succeeding in the military. And, as I've said before, this is a large part of why so many women pine over having a military man for their own. There's a reason women swoon over An Officer and a Gentleman. Being in the military (or law enforcement) means you're signing up for so much more than just a job -- it's a lifestyle, a mindset.

Women, although feminists like to deny it, want and need men who can be a real man. This means they want and need a living, breathing embodiment of values like honor, courage, and integrity. They want someone who will be strong even in the toughest of situations. They need someone they can feel safe and protected with. And you know what? They aren't going to find those things in an emasculated, feminized, sissy-boy who still clings to his mommy's apron and whines about carrying his family's financial burden.

If you're that kind of man, there are only two words you need to hear: MAN UP. Don't whine that you have to pay for every date you take your wife or girlfriend on. Don't bitch that your hair got messed up or your clothes got dirty from doing some manly activity -- or worse, refuse to get involved for those reasons. If your shower and bathroom cabinet is lined and stocked with more haircare and body treatment products than your girlfriend or wife owns, reevaluate your male-ness. Real men have more important things to worry about.

Unfortunately, it seems too many men are willing to let feminists emasculate them. Too many men aren't willing to stand up for themselves, lest they be attacked by the PC Police. Real men have thick skin, and are more worried about doing what's right than what is popular, so who gives a crap what feminists like Amanda Marcotte & Co. have to say? I think all men know, deep down, what their priorities should be, and the values that they need to hold dear. But everything that real men stand for has been under attack for 20+ years, and men have seemingly given up.

Dr. Helen has a different take, but I don't really agree with her either:

I have a question for you, Dr. Melissa. "Why should men--in your words--butch up?" Certainly women don't seem to value manliness as they once did.

I have a different take on things. Say that a man works hard, and "acts like a man," rarely complaining and doing "man things." What is his reward? In your mind, it is self-worth. This is nonsense. Self-worth comes from working hard and being rewarded. Today, that man is regarded as a "chump." If a man works hard to get ahead, he puts it all at risk by having a family, in a society that says that his working means that he is now responsible for everything in a way that a woman will never be--if that man gets divorced. If he has kids, he is now responsible for their standard of living no matter what. No matter if he gets sick, no matter if his ex-wife is a spendthrift, no matter if his pay goes down, no matter what. The state puts him into indentured servitude to a family that no longer wants him as a member or wants him for four weekends a month. His life is toast, unless...he never "butches up" as you suggest. Your strategy can end in early death and a lifetime of servitude. "Soft and aimless" often ends with freedom. Which would you choose?

I find it interesting that all three of these women describe a universe in which men essentially have their maleness determined by the actions of women.

In Dr. Melissa's world, men are so demoralized by the ravages of feminism that they've lost their male 'mojo', somehow devolving from the wonderfully rewarding world of male work to the ignoble demi-existence of "women's work". Ironically, they resent the little woman for wanting to stay home. Men should not do this, because staying home is hard work for women but somehow lazy, demeaning, and dishonorable for men.

Uh-huh. Got it.

Cassy Fiano extols the virtues of macho, manly-men who like guns, eschew male grooming products, pay for dates and earn the lion's share of the take-home pay. There's just one problem with this handy-dandy formula: it seems like a rather simplistic and formulaic prescription for a phenomenon that is, in reality complex and poorly understood. People love to describe men as little better than Neanderthals, content with sex, food, and a never ending diet of Nintendo and cable porn. That these virtual knuckle-draggers somehow managed, despite their intellectual limitations, to design the world we live in today escapes those who continue to advance this paradoxical notion. In truth, masculinity is a complex equation, not a one-size-fits-all straightjacket and men come in an almost limitless number of permutations. The idea that there is some magical "real man" who is disappearing is something I find laughable. What do exist are people of greater and lesser willpower who sometimes allow their destiny to be shaped by social forces. This has always been the case throughout history and will no doubt continue to be the case long after I have shuffled off this mortal coil

Personally, I could give a rat's ass about many of the things Cassy Fiano talks about. I've been married to a Marine for nearly 30 years. We don't have a gun in the house and never have had. My husband does happen to keep himself in excellent shape. He has a very nice body that fits the definition of manliness by any yardstick one cares to name. If you like muscles, he's your huckleberry.

And yet in many ways, he sounds little like her definition of a "real man". He doesn't care about guns one way or another. He doesn't care much about cars either, or about many other traditionally male geegaws. He's the smartest man I know. He is also very quiet; there is no bluster about him. He is not a show off. I've known other men in my life whom I consider to be very masculine. I can't tell you why. Some are tall and thin. Some hate sports and guns. Some get choked up easily. Many have incredibly tender hearts. I consider this far and away their best quality, and it doesn't impinge on their masculinity in the least. In fact, when they let you see this side of them, it only makes me respect them more. Their willingness to be a bit vulnerable doesn't make them soft: one can tell that they are tough as steel inside. One can sense that in a pinch, they would die rather than let you down.

And it was my husband who, weeks ago, provided the answer to Dr. Helen's question. What kind of man is too stupid to look around him and see what would happen to the human race if every man refused to grow up, get a job, find a decent, responsible woman, and have children.

An selfish idiot, that's who. Certainly one for whom my husband had nothing but contempt. Going back to the piece cited at the beginning of this post, if only uneducated, irresponsible people have children, what implications does this have for the continuation of civilized society? The first duty of any human is to continue the species. This is not brain surgery.

In short, I don't believe in the whole "real man/real woman" paradigm.

I've seen successful marriages work along a whole spectrum of male/female role sharing. I don't believe either traditional conservatives or traditional liberals have it right on this score. Get the hell out of private marriages and let people work this out on their own.

The key is simple: mutual respect and support. If those two elements are present, everything else will fall into place. Despite my reluctance to reduce manliness or womanliness to a simplistic formula, if pressed, I found this comment consorted well with my overall notion of what I (personally) find manly and womanly:

On what a real man is... A real man is one who feels a sense of responsibility to care for, provide or protect something or someone, and then offers his strength (even when it is almost run out) to make their world a better place. Hence, the fight. It can be physical, it can be financial, it can be emotional, but masculinity is strength applied to the good of others. for contrast, I say femininity is gentleness applied for the good of others. It's simple enough, and it doesn't tie you down to guns and tattoos.

On a note about why women don't deserve it...
"Today's woman wants to be treated like a princess, yet she refuses to treat her man like a king."

You'll notice two things about this definition:

First, it is quite vague. A man is strong, but how he exercises that strength is a function of his unique personality. A woman's essence is more that she is gentle and loving, but again, she chooses the application. But also men and women, if they are wise, respect each other.

A while back on the 'real woman' post, Grim asked for a standard by which men could replace chivalry when dealing with women. I have always believed, and continue to believe, that respect is that standard. Using distainful language like "butch up", or man up, or limp men bothers me because it is, by its nature, disrespectful to men in the same way the rhetoric directed at Hillary Clinton has been disrespectful to women. I think it is sexist. Telling men what a "real man" is like seems beside the point, because I'm not sure an adult ought to care what anyone else thinks a real man or real woman is. An adult decides for him- or herself what kind of man or woman he or she wants to become.

And then he or she goes out and becomes that person. It's a voyage we all have to make, but sometimes, it really is that simple.

So..... that said, if you had it to do all over again, would you rather be born a man?

Or a woman? And why?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:08 AM | Comments (313) | TrackBack

June 04, 2008

Back From the Dead

Ay, caramba.

swan corner bath.jpgThe Princess, she is muy cansado. Yesterday consisted of roughly 21 hours spent staring helplessly into the Yawning Maw of Third Party Service Provider Hell.

The Blog Princess has never before had her patience raped, but the last 24 hours proved there is a first time for everything.

Fortunately there is a sovereign cure for every ill known to tech wenches. Simply find a large container, fill it with steaming hot water and nice smelling substances (nothing too perfumed or musky - it should smell like a spring garden or a fresh sea breeze), throw in a lemon verbena bath candle, a natural bristled back brush and a pretty little jar of Mediterranean sea salts (why do women of a 'certain age' suddenly go gaga and start buying Mediterranean sea salts? Whatever... they smell nice and make your skin feel heavenly) and you have the closest thing paradise on this good green earth.

At five a.m. this morning the Princess felt like putting her fist through the nearest wall, but as her shoulders sank beneath the warmly scented water, she felt all the tension seep out of her body. There is nothing like lying in the tub staring up at the trees to hit the 'reset' button of life. So what if you've had all of two hours of sleep? Grab a cup of coffee, scrub every inch of your skin until it is pink and glowing and suddenly, your problems shrink down to manageable size and the world seems like a friendly place again. Wash your hair and smooth on that conditioner that summons up memories of that unforgettable evening in the sand dunes, years ago.

Oh yeah. It's all good.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:29 AM | Comments (60) | TrackBack

June 02, 2008

Garrison Keillor... Still a Colossal Asshat

Why is it some people are never all that keen on taking their own advice? If only Garrison Keillor had honored the fallen in the manner he seems determined to impose on others - with a moment of silence:

A patriotic bike rally is sort of like a patriotic toilet-papering or patriotic graffiti--the patriotism somehow gets lost in the sheer irritation of the thing. Somehow a person associates Memorial Day with long moments of silence when you summon up mental images of men huddled together on amphibious assault vehicles and pilots revving up B-24s and infantrymen crouched behind piles of rubble steeling themselves for the next push.

You don't quite see the connection between that and these fat men with ponytails on Harleys.

But instead, he chose to bray like a jackass about those fat men in ponytails. You know, the kind of poseurs who need to be airlifted to Baghdad so they can show their support of the troops in a more tangible way:

The group ...organizes to help veterans through its “Help on the Homefront” program. “That’s for people who have come back [from military service] and need something,” says Cullen. “It might help to get a [wheelchair] ramp on their house or financial assistance because their benefits are hung up somewhere or something like that. We take all the money we take in donations and all of it goes to helping these soldiers and veterans.”

Last fall, the group escorted an elderly veteran in a nursing home as he visited a World War II museum.

The group also escorts soldiers to the airport and meets returning soldiers with their moving display of red, white and blue.

“Last fall, the troops came down to the armory at Hornell,” says Cullen. “We met them down by Painted Post and gave their bus an escort about 50 miles back to their home base. We had a group of motorcycles, their buses, and then a large group of motorcycles. We don’t hold them up. As soon as they get there, we just go.”

‘I can be there’

When Debbie Johnson joined in March 2006, there were only 6,000 Patriot Guard Riders. Now they number 140,000 nationally, with 2,000 members in New York State.

Johnson says she is far from the only Patriot Guard Riders member who knows in her heart what it’s like to walk behind the flag-draped coffin of a child, parent, spouse or sibling.

“There are other families [in the group] who have lost sons from this area,” says Johnson, “and nobody else knows it.

“When I stand there with the group, I can be there for another family,” she says. “I can absolutely understand what they’re going through. You look at each other, and you know what the other person is feeling. You don’t even have to say anything. It gives me an opportunity to just say thank you.”

Despite her own grief, Johnson, who is now a ride captain, briefly feels better when she is with her fellow Patriot Guard Riders.

“I don’t know that healing is the word for it,” she says, “but it gives me a moment to not think of myself.”

During motorcycle season, Cullen, one of the most dedicated members of the group, travels to “everything within 100 miles,” he says.

“David is awesome,” says Johnson. “There are those like David who log thousands of hours and thousands of miles doing this, but there are others who show up once in a while. We’re still people who work, who have families.”

Cullen is often asked why he dedicates so much time to the Patriot Guard Riders. “And I always say, ‘A better question is, why aren’t there more people doing this?’ ”

Yes, if the vulgar rabble cycling around the Mall that day really cared about honoring our troops, they'd celebrate the holiday as Garrison Keillor did when he was finally! able to escape the depressing reminders of actual war, fighting, and death:

... the parade of bikes had to stop for us, and on we went to show our patriotism by looking at exhibits at the Smithsonian or, in my case, hiking around the National Gallery, which, after you've watched a few thousand Harleys pass, seems like an outpost of civilization.

There stood Renoir's ballerina in pale blue chiffon and Monet's children in the garden of sunflowers. And Mary Cassatt's The Boating Party, which I stood and stared at for a long time. A lady in a white bonnet sits in a green sailboat, holding a contented baby in pink, as a man rows the boat toward a distant shore. The man wears a navy blue shirt, he is preoccupied with his rowing, and the lady looks wan and mildly anxious, as well a mother should be. The baby is looking dreamily over the gunwales. Is the man a hired hand or is he the husband and father?

A work of art can lift you up from the mishmash of life, the weight of the unintelligible world... vulgarity squats on you like an enormous toad and won't get off. You stroll down past the World War II Memorial, which looks like something ordered out of a catalog, a bland insult to the memory of all who served, and thousands of motorcycles roar by disturbing the Sabbath, and it depresses you for hours.

One can't help but feel his pain. Who wants to be reminded of war and death on Memorial Day? Far better to forget all that ugliness! All those reminders of America's shameful attempts at global hegemony! How dare those vulgar twits interrupt your peaceful enjoyment of ballerinas and sailboats by reminding you of depressing dead people! If they were serious about honoring the fallen, they'd raise some money and do some real good.

Or... something.

Real patriots like Garrison Keillor, you see, don't honor the fallen through pointless attempts to comfort bereaved military families. They don't try to ensure America doesn't leave our prisoners of war or missing in action behind. Real patriots know the true measure of an American patriot lies in his ability to conjure up heretofore unsuspected penumbral rights from the declining mores of European Union nations, a few stray crumbs of Camembert and the leftovers of an unassuming little Fume Blanc while savoring the philosophical and aesthetic grace notes to be found in works like Serrano's Piss Christ.

Which is even more enjoyable if one can do so in peace and quiet, free of the odious presence of the noisy rabble who make such activities possible.

America would be a far better place if we could have an unbiased and unrestrained press that understood who was off limits, an end to racial discrimination (except in those cases where it is desireable), and freedom for all (except, of course, the annoying).

Oh well. Perhaps in an Obama administration.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:00 PM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

Publisher Helps Scott McClellen Recover Repressed Memories of Abuse

Matt Sheffield has confirmed what we all suspected:

Reading through McClellan's original book proposal, obtained by Politico.com, it is clear that before his editor Peter Osnos took the book on a sharp leftward turn, McClellan wanted to turn the tables on foes in the press gallery including far-left columnist Helen Thomas and NBC correspondent David Gregory.
... There have been a number of books written about him, including many more recent ones that portray him in a very negative light.

This book is going to take a much different look at our Nation’s 43rd President. While being supportive of the President, I want to give readers a candid look into who George W. Bush is, what he believes, why he believes it so strongly, and what drives him.

I want to give readers a sense of what Bush is like outside of the public view -- in meetings with world leaders, Members of Congress, his Cabinet, key constituents, families of the fallen, wounded soldiers, and key staff.

It will be an insider’s account of his behind-the-scenes persona, including his decision-making style, his personal discipline, his composure under fire, and his sense of humor.

And, I will directly address myths that have been associated with him, some deliberately perpetuated by activist liberals and some created by the media, and look at the reality behind those myths. [...]


Scott McClellan was tortured by the Bush administration. Apparently the abuse was so severe he had suppressed all memories of the horrific experiences he suffered at the hands of Bush and Co:

....McClellan and Peter Osnos, the founder of PublicAffairs, the small company that published "What Happened," rebutted suggestions from some Bush defenders, including former press secretary Ari Fleischer, that McClellan may have had a ghostwriter or undergone heavy-handed editing. Fleischer and others have repeatedly said that the book does not "sound like" McClellan, who is known as genial and soft-spoken.

McClellan said that he started focusing on writing the book about a year ago and that the work was especially intense over the past several months as the publishing date approached.

Osnos said McClellan just needed editorial guidance to tell the story he wanted to tell all along.

"First we had to ascertain what kind of book he wanted to write,"
said Osnos, a former Washington Post reporter and editor. "We are journalists, independent-minded publishers. We weren't interested in a book that was just a defense of the Bush administration. It had to pass our test of independence, integrity and candor."...

Thank God we now have a plausible explanation for the discrepancy between Scott's proposal and the book which eventually "evolved". Just think what wonders Osner might be able to perform with other Oval Office alums!

Posted by Cassandra at 12:52 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Obama, Manliness, and the Notion of Black Privilege

So. Obama has finally parted company with Trinity United, leaving puzzled onlookers with more questions than answers:

SO WHY -- AFTER FAILING TO DO SO WHEN IT WOULD HAVE DONE HIM THE MOST GOOD -- did Obama decide to quit the Trinity Church now?

I tend to think Grim has the right of it. This isn't so much a case of political expediency as it is just one more example of how well Barack Obama represents the Democratic Party's utter rejection of traditional masculinity. The man won't fight for anything, even his God-given right to not denounce statements he considers destructive and divisive:

“I’m not denouncing the church and I’m not interested in people who want me to denounce the church,” he said, adding that the new pastor at Trinity and “the church have been suffering from the attention my campaign has focused on them.”

Okay. This man wants to be Chief Executive of the world's largest superpower, and what he is apparently telling us is that after 20 years of attending a church where destructive and divisive (to use his own words) statements were uttered with regularity, he has just gotten around to noticing a few things:

1. ...what ...I didn't see this as a member of the church but I saw ... yesterday, is when you start focusing so much on the plight of the historically oppressed, ... you lose sight of what we have in common; ... it overrides everything else; ... we're not concerned about the struggles of others because we're looking at things only through a particular lens.

2. When you become famous, and especially when you run for the highest political office in the land, the media will display great interest in all aspects of your life. If you attend an ostensibly tax-exempt house of worship whose celebrants repeatedly make pointedly political statements from the pulpit, chances are the media are going to find their utterances newsworthy.

3. When these political statements occur in the church of a candidate for the presidency, and if those statements are made about his opponent, they are going to be considered twice as newsworthy.

What Barack Obama appears not to have noticed (at least judging by his public statements) is that if a preacher makes political statements in church about race that, had they been made by a white person about a black person, would be considered by any reasonably objective person to be racist, you have a veritable trifecta of newsworthiness. Where he repeatedly keeps missing the clue bus is here: American society has changed to the point where pretty much every white person I know would not feel comfortable staying in the room, were a white preacher to make comparable statements about blacks. People would deal with it in their own way.

There might be complaints. There might be calls for his resignation. Some might just leave the church quietly after the service. What I cannot under any circumstances imagine is a white audience hooting and hollering in open approval of such "destructive and divisive" rhetoric because it was rooted in the "white church" tradition. I cannot imagine the media giving a white politician a pass if he either defended or refused to denounce such words.

I cannot imagine the media maintaining that it was acceptable to passively listen to such rhetoric without objecting because it "did not reflect his beliefs".

I do not believe things were always this way in this country. Things changed because this kind of talk was no longer tolerated. Because it was denounced, just as those who uttered such sentiments were denounced by those who found them 'destructive and divisive'. That is the only reason people who continue to feel that way to this day do not say those things. They know better. They know that if they say things like that in public decent people will shun them, because it is no longer acceptable in America to attach pejorative labels to people you do not know based on no other attribute but the color of their skin.

Unless, of course, you attend Barack Obama's church, in which case it is understood the four hundred years of wrongs make this sort of thing Wright.

So what does it say when a man who wants to be President says (on the one hand) that such words are destructive, when he admits that they divide us as a people, and then goes on to say that he has no interest in denouncing them nor those who utter them?

For Barack Obama to say it saddens him that overtly political statements made in a church which enjoys tax exempt status during a Presidential campaign should receive so much attention betrays a stunning disregard for the role of a vigorous and non-partisan media as well as the laws of the country he will, as President, be called upon to enforce. It also displays a rather stunning lack of foresight.

What on earth did he expect to happen once he began his campaign? Did he seriously think that he would be exempted from the scrutiny other candidates have had to endure? Ironically, Obama got into hot water for Wright and Pfleger's inflammatory remarks about white entitlement; yet he seems to be suffering from a pronounced case of black entitlement: a sense of untouchability attributable to our national squeamishness about race. His professed hope that Trinity United will soon be "left alone" to continue their admittedly divisive and counterproductive rhetoric (which, as he says, runs counter to all his professed beliefs, though he will not denounce it!) reminds one of a similar story in the news: (via Phi Beta Cons)

Morehouse, flagship of HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) and Dr. King's alma mater, graduated its first white valedictorian this year, Joshua Packwood. Homey, and he is officially that now, is a Rhodes Scholar who turned down an Ivy League scholarship for Atlanta and earned a perfect 4.0.

I first became aware of the seemingly strange presence of whites at HBCUs about a decade ago but have yet to get a chance to dig into it. Turns out that there are some that, due to demographic changes over the century and a half since most were founded, are now white enough to bring their very designation into question: "there are institutions that are classified as HBCUs with White enrollments above 80% of the student population (e.g., Bluefield State University, West Virginia 88.8% and West Virginia State University 83.2%)". Ten percent of the HBCU population, over all, is now white.

It's fascinating and confusing with serious danger for knees, including my own, to start jerking furiously. It's all I can do not to wail, "Can't we please have something that's just ours? Please?" But I know that's the wrong attitude. Still, I hope they stop making all those Drum Line movies.

Some, of course, don't want whites at HBCUs and must break out in hives when they pass their school's minority affairs office which helps whites navigate their majority black college world. The lawsuits which allowed the white students in in the first place have not quite been forgotten yet either. White students are lured with scholarships and by the $10K annual tuition savings, on average, between HBCUs and other state schools, which some find troubling. And shouldn't the scholarships be going to poor minority kids instead of to high achieving whites who help raise the school's stats? OK, all right. HBCUs have to think of both.

Is it just me, or does the world get weirder everyday? Still, this does present a rare opportunity for blacks to experience the loss of one of the few tiny areas of privilege we had.

"Can't we please have something that's just ours? Please?"

That seems to be the argument Barack Obama made for Trinity United.

I know it's divisive. I know it's wrong. And yes, it contradicts everything I keep telling you my campaign is about. But it's "ours". Can't you please just go away and leave us alone, stop shining that media spotlight on us and our divisive rhetoric?

Funny. I imagine the KKK felt that way, all those years ago. Could this have been what Martin Luther King had in mind when he talked of a color blind society? You know, that whole "content_of_your_character, not_the_color_of_your_skin" bag?

Some things, as Grim says so eloquently in his post, were worth fighting for then. They are still worth fighting for today. But Barack Obama seems always to be on the wrong side. Or more disturbingly, he refuses to take sides, and that is inexcusable in a leader.

More importantly, it may well be dangerous:

Jim Webb is hardly the only Democrat who can 'win' an election on the grounds of having traditional masculine virtues. The problem is not that "Democrats" can't do this; it is that the progressive movement is opposed to traditional masculine virtue. They don't want warriors, even reluctant ones; they want people who will "negotiate with dictators," and are excited to see someone who will stand up for their right to do so. They want Obama, a man who has "not been 'tough.'." They don't want a character who is "a liberal, but in no way a sissy."

That is a supporter's words, notice. It is not the first time an Obama supporter has described his candidate in such terms, "...as a skinny, athletic, gentle-seeming, virtually metrosexual man, he nearly splits the difference on gender as well."

The Democrats seem to produce this type of candidate in abundance: the type of man who speaks loudly but carries a soft stick. Who, like Jim Webb or John Kerry, waves his son's shoes or his war medals around with professed martial ardor, but who constantly tells us war is something to be avoided at all costs. He should look tough, but not actually be tough. That looks great on the campaign trail, but how well will it work in the real world?

...ideas about courage and cowardice can exist in a protected class, whether Quakers or Senators, without causing harm -- they may even improve us as a society in some ways.

If they step outside of that class, however, they will quickly find that their ideas on second nature clash sharply with the first nature of man, and the nature of the world. If the Quaker becomes the Marshal, and sets aside the rifle in favor of a kind heart and a language of hope, he will be fine as long as he only meets with other Quakers; or with Quirt Evans, the young man ready for reform in the face of beauty.

But there are other kinds of men in the world, too. You cannot wish them away. Klein's preferred second nature may be fine for him, as his streets are guarded by United States Marines. It may be fine for a Senator. It may have things to offer the greater society that are of value. But it cannot defend society. Society cannot stand on it, nor survive protected by it.

A President must be of the Marshal class. That is not a preference that can be reframed; it is an absolute requirement arising from the nature of the world. It may be that a good politician can smooth voters' fears enough to cause them to set aside that requirement, and elect the Quaker to office. If they do, however, there will be evil consequences.

There is no changing that. You can talk all you want, but there are men who do not talk. It is the President's job, first among all his duties, to be the answer to them.

It's hard to see how anyone who believes in change can hope to effect it if he is not willing to stand and fight for what he believes in. Talking vaguely about hope is not enough in a world where some people are willing to die to make their visions come true.

** Thanks to Paul for catching my typo on the Grim link!

Posted by Cassandra at 07:34 AM | Comments (53) | TrackBack

Coffee Snorters: Hazards of 'Professional Journalism' Edition

NRO's Kevin Williamson asks the questions inquiring minds want to know:

"What's More Dangerous Than Being a War Correspondent?"

Funny you should ask...

A Fox News employee who says she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after being bitten by bedbugs at work filed a lawsuit on Thursday against the owner of the Manhattan office tower where she worked.

Jane Clark, 37, a 12-year veteran of Fox News, a unit of News Corp, said she complained to human resources after being bitten three times between October 2007 and April 2008. She said she was ridiculed and the office was not treated for months.

We swear to God that we are not making this up.

Clark, who says she's been diagnosed with PTSD and can no longer work, has filed a separate workers compensation claim with News Corp, and the company is paying her medical bills and lost wages. A News Corp spokeswoman declined to comment because News Corp was not named in the lawsuit.

"They made a lot of mistakes," Clark said through tears at a news conference at the office of her lawyer, Alan Schnurman, who said he has brought numerous bedbug cases.

Never say that This Blog is not Educational. If the readership ever needs a really good Bedbug Lawyer, you now know where to find one.

"I didn't want my baby to get bitten. I was terrified of bringing it home," Clark said.

She said she believed a colleague who used her workstation on weekends, and who no longer works for Fox News, brought the infestation to the office. Clark's home was never infested.

Clark says she suffers nightmares and keeps a flashlight at her bedside so she can check for bugs during the night.

"It's their obligation to the working public to provide a safe environment," Schnurman said.

Exactly. It's cases like this that highlight the dangers of professional journalism and help to expose poseurs like this young lady, who should be ashamed of herself. Come back when you've served some time on the front lines of the Bug Wars, Missy.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:00 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack