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November 29, 2008

Two Irreconcilable World Views

Well, Thanksgiving is finally over.

The turkey has been stripped clean as a whistle. Like a beached shipwreck the bones sit in a large stockpot in my brand new refrigerator downstairs waiting to be made into vegetable soup. Containers of leftover food are stacked neatly on the shelves suggesting seasonal delights to imperil the waistline and make the mouth water: turkey enchiladas, potato pancakes, morning coffee with real whipped cream on top.

On the other hand, the surest antidote to holiday overeating is a quick trip through the daily fishwrap. More and more these days I find myself sickened by what I read in the newspapers and hear on the lips of people all around me.

Often, it is not so much the actual words themselves as the thoughts behind them. I cannot imagine myself ever saying such things, no matter how much I disagreed - or disagree - with a policy or policy maker. For nearly the first time in my life I cannot put myself inside the minds of people who act and speak this way, though I have tried time and time again. They seem so unreasonable; so intemperate.

And yet to hear them tell it, it is not they but I who am unreasonable.

Stupid, in fact. Criminal. Immoral. It is not a question, for them, of well meaning but fallible human beings wrestling with difficult issues and coming to opposing conclusions; for their world view admits of no correct conclusion but the one they themselves hold. They are the smart ones, the moral ones, the ones with a monopoly on righteousness.

The other side? "Those people" are crazy, moronic, deluded.

They do not shrink from using any of those words, even in public and even in company where they know they will be overheard by those they deride. I made a promise to myself not to talk about politics on Thanksgiving. It seemed to me a time for celebration of what we share as Americans, not for reminders of what divides us.

And if we are going to insist on talking about it, I suppose I could wish for more thoughtful discourse. I don't understand the triumphalism; the namecalling, the refusal to admit there are often two sides to compelling moral debates (why else do they continue to be debated?); the inability to understand that reasonable people of good will can and do disagree but all of us, in the end, must follow the dictates of conscience. Our own conscience; not someone else's.

We all - all of us - like to think we have reasoned our way to the right moral and philosophical conclusions. Most Americans would like to believe, and do, that our world view is the right one and that those who disagree on important moral questions are mistaken, do not understand, lack the facts to evaluate matters properly or perhaps have simply failed to think things through.

It is undoubtedly true, though it is also undoubtedly unacceptable to say so these days, that many if not most Americans don't think deeply about major policy issues. Study after study has shown the average American adult to be dangerously ill informed about the critical issues facing this nation. We don't even understand how our own government works, nor do we have even the most rudimentary appreciation for how our legal system and Constitution interact to balance the competing interests of individual liberty and societal well being. Not that this ignorance prevents us from forming opinions, mind you.

Or voting. But one might think that in a world where both information and knowledge are easier to come by than at any time in human history, the awareness - either through factual ignorance and/or the inability to place things in context - of our inability to assimilate the flood of data constantly being fed at us through a firehose might spark, not arbitrary denunciations of everything we disagree with or don't fully understand, but perhaps some tiny scrap of humility?

Some recognition that - as we've gone about our daily lives in relative peace and prosperity for the past eight years leaving other people to worry about the hard decisions - that not only do we not have all the answers, but that perhaps we shouldn't assume no one wrestled with the questions while we were at the mall?

* Thanks to DL Sly for alerting me to the rather incomprehensible sentence in the middle of this post. I knew it was awkward at the time, but was in a terrible hurry this morning and barely had time to finish the post before leaving for the day.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:44 AM | Comments (45) | TrackBack

November 28, 2008

The Dimming of the Day

Night has a quiet beauty all its own.


TOO solemn for day, too sweet for night,
Come not in darkness, come not in light;
But come in some twilight interim,
When the gloom is soft, and the light is dim.

- William Sidney Walker


SHE walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that 's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

- George Gordon Byron, Lord Byron



i opened my door
and the night air rushed in
crisp, and cool

and the scent of woodsmoke
and fallen leaves
and possibilities was everywhere

and for a moment
i saw myself walking
down the hill and into the moonlight
like i used to do

when i was younger


EDITH, the silent stars are coldly gleaming,
The night wind moans, the leafless trees are still.
Edith, there is a life beyond this seeming,
So sleeps the ice-clad lake beneath thy hill.

So silent beats the pulse of thy pure heart,
So shines the thought of thy unquestioned eyes.
O life! why wert thou helpless in thy art?
O loveliness! why seem’st thou but surprise?

Edith, the streamlets laugh to leap again;
There is a spring to which life’s pulses fly;
And hopes that are not all the sport of pain,
Like lustres in the veil of that gray eye.

They say the thankless stars have answering vision,
That courage sings from out the frost-bound ways;
Edith, I grant that olden time’s decision,—
Thy beauty paints with gold the icy rays.

As in the summer’s heat her promise lies,
As in the autumn’s seed his vintage hides,
Thus might I shape my moral from those eyes,
Glass of thy soul, where innocence abides.

Edith, thy nature breathes of answered praying;
If thou dost live, then not my grief is vain;
Beyond the nerves of woe, beyond delaying,
Thy sweetness stills to rest the winter’s pain.

- William Ellery Channing

Posted by Cassandra at 06:03 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

November 25, 2008

Classy Dames

Conservative chicks are hot. Don't they all look fantastic?

Posted by Cassandra at 11:13 AM | Comments (148) | TrackBack

Obama's "Change": What Is Really Changing?

Here we go in a flung festoon,
Halfway up to the jealous moon!
Don’t you envy our pranceful bands?
Don’t you wish you had extra hands?
Wouldn’t you like if your tails were—so—
Curved in the shape of a Cupid’s bow?
Now you’re angry, but never mind,
Brother, thy tail hangs down behind!

Here we sit in a branchy row,
Thinking of beautiful things we know;
Dreaming of deeds that we mean to do,
All complete, in a minute or two—
Something noble and grand and good,
Won by merely wishing we could.

Now we’re going to ...never mind,
Brother, thy tail hangs down behind!

- Road Song of the Bandar Log

Had I been asked, before reading Gail Collins' incandescently asshatted op-ed the other day, whether it was indeed the most idiotic column ever published in the New York Times I'd have been hard pressed to demur. O me of little faith. Never again will I doubt the power of the human spirit to dispel uncertainty with a well chosen word or two. Or better yet, two hundred...

I have a confession and a suggestion. The confession: I go into restaurants these days, look around at the tables often still crowded with young people, and I have this urge to go from table to table and say: “You don’t know me, but I have to tell you that you shouldn’t be here. You should be saving your money. You should be home eating tuna fish. This financial crisis is so far from over. We are just at the end of the beginning. Please, wrap up that steak in a doggy bag and go home.”

Now you know why I don’t get invited out for dinner much these days. If I had my druthers right now we would convene a special session of Congress, amend the Constitution and move up the inauguration from Jan. 20 to Thanksgiving Day. Forget the inaugural balls; we can’t afford them. Forget the grandstands; we don’t need them. Just get me a Supreme Court justice and a Bible, and let’s swear in Barack Obama right now — by choice — with the same haste we did — by necessity — with L.B.J. in the back of Air Force One.

Unfortunately, it would take too long for a majority of states to ratify such an amendment. What we can do now, though, said the Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein, co-author of “The Broken Branch,” is “ask President Bush to appoint Tim Geithner, Barack Obama’s proposed Treasury secretary, immediately.” Make him a Bush appointment and let him take over next week. This is not a knock on Hank Paulson. It’s simply that we can’t afford two months of transition where the markets don’t know who is in charge or where we’re going. At the same time, Congress should remain in permanent session to pass any needed legislation.

This is the real “Code Red.” As one banker remarked to me: “We finally found the W.M.D.” They were buried in our own backyard — subprime mortgages and all the derivatives attached to them.

Yet, it is obvious that President Bush can’t mobilize the tools to defuse them — a massive stimulus program to improve infrastructure and create jobs, a broad-based homeowner initiative to limit foreclosures and stabilize housing prices, and therefore mortgage assets, more capital for bank balance sheets and, most importantly, a huge injection of optimism and confidence that we can and will pull out of this with a new economic team at the helm.

The last point is something only a new President Obama can inject. What ails us right now is as much a loss of confidence — in our financial system and our leadership — as anything else. I have no illusions that Obama’s arrival on the scene will be a magic wand, but it would help.

Right now there is something deeply dysfunctional, bordering on scandalously irresponsible, in the fractious way our political elite are behaving — with business as usual in the most unusual economic moment of our lifetimes. They don’t seem to understand: Our financial system is imperiled.

Gail Collins and Thom Friedman. These are not serious people. Let's walk through the logic of this situation:

1. We just elected the least experienced and least well vetted President perhaps in modern history. Even the media are now admitting they competely dropped the ball.

2. Since the media couldn't be bothered to examine Obama's record until weeks after the election, voters were forced to evaluate his campaign promises using nothing more than some indefinable supernatural sixth sense, which perhaps explains the essential vagueness of "Yes, we can". This rather novel method of vetting leaders, in addition to the obvious virtue of never having been tried before (very likely with good reason), breathed new life into the term "faith-based" candidate.

3. Those unwise enough to pay attention to what Obama promised on the campaign trail (Obama pledged, variously, to redistribute 'more fairly' unneeded income from selfish top wage earners to that deserving 40-50% of wage earners who currently pay no taxes; also to resurrect FDR's economic bill of rights) were accused of engaging in nasty and divisive character attacks or harboring paranoid delusions of Socialism.

Who knew that repeating a candidate's actual words (and taking him seriously, much less assuming he isn't lying through his teeth) was vicious, divisive behavior? An attack, by desperate paranoid types? Got it.

4. Now that Obama has been elected, the Netroots are outraged by Obama's 180 degree reversal of the campaign promises we apparently weren't supposed to take seriously. Silly Netroots. Instead of being viewed as evidence that conservatives were justified in their concerns about Obama (much less evidence of Obama's duplicity or of the press's utter failure to question him during the campaign), the new narrative is that "Obama's staunchest supporters were fools to trust him":

Barack Obama isn't even President yet, and he's already angering some of his most devoted followers on the party's left wing. This is the mark of what could be a very successful presidency.

"With its congressional majority, the Democratic Party has refused to seriously try to end the war, to stop the bailout and to stop the trampling of civil liberties, just to name a few off the top of my head," wrote David Sirota on the popular liberal blog OpenLeft, decrying the serial betrayals of Obama and the congressional Democratic majority. The Democratic Party, he wrote, has "faced no real retribution" for its manifold heresies, something that Sirota believes he and his band of angry bloggers must change. "We better understand why this happened," he fumed.

Allow me to provide an answer. You don't matter.

5. So let's have a recap here:

We have Barack Obama, a candidate who ran on a "Change is coming" mantra, who relentlessly pounded John McCain and the Bush administration with the tagline: "Eight years of failed Republican policies"....

One wonders whether those eight years include policies like these?

Would "failed Republican policies" include the 2005 reform bill the NY Times called the most sweeping reform of the banking industry since the savings and loan crisis? The one that was blocked by the Democrats?

6. Does "failed policies" include the Bush tax cuts it now looks as though Mr. Obama will allow to stand?

In light of the downturn, Mr. Obama is also said to be reconsidering a key campaign pledge: his proposal to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. According to several people familiar with the discussions, he might instead let those tax cuts expire as scheduled in 2011, effectively delaying any tax increase while he gives his stimulus plan a chance to work.

7. Do "failed policies" include "staying the course" set by Secretary Paulson?

Geithner has worked closely with Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. to devise responses to the most critical events of the market turmoil, including the bailouts of the investment bank Bear Stearns and the insurance giant American International Group…

Under Geithner, the Treasury would not be expected to alter its approach to the financial crisis — or how to spend the $700 billion in emergency rescue funding approved by Congress last month, though skepticism is building among lawmakers about whether Paulson has devised the right remedy to the problems.

8.Or following a "seriously weakened administration's" lead on Iraq policy instead of withdrawing the troops at the rate of 1-2 brigades a month with the end goal of having them all out by 16 months, as he promised?

A continuation of the Bush tax cuts, a contination of the Paulson bailout under Tim Geithner (after Paulson, the man most responsible for designing the bailout), a continuation of the Bush troop withdrawal schedule, no big hurry to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell ... in all the most important respects, it's hard to see much daylight between Obama's "Change" and George Bush's "failed policies".

Does this guy have an original idea in his head?

And just what are we to make of Obama's claims that our current troubles are the result of "8 years of failed Republican policies"? If that is so, why on earth aren't we changing course, and why do Collins and Friedman want usher in what is essentially only more of the same ahead of schedule?

These are not serious people.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:57 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Here and There

And here I thought it was the Thanksgiving fairy...

Today women (and yes, it's women) across America begin a week of hectic chaos that only the holidays can bring. Like me they are looking forward to visiting relatives and only have a few things to attend to.

Make a menu, not only for Thanksgiving day, but for breakfasts and lunches while visitors stick around for the weekend. Go the grocery store where hundreds like yourself check off 2 notebook pages of items. The grocery store never has enough checkers. Why should they? Are you just going to leave? Not likely. So while standing in line you catch up on what Brad and Angelina are doing with their brood, while your head is filled with what else you have to do.

Go home unload the groceries, clean the house, change the sheets (get out the good ones), wash clothes and the tablecloth you haven't used in a year, run buy some candles for the centerpiece, make sure the bathrooms have towels that match, run buy wine and beer, wash the dust off your good china and crystal, and don't forget.....you have to make dinner tonight, you know.

How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm, once they've seen gay Paree? Beth's got a brand new blog!

SemperFi Wife and LAW from the ParentsZone are going to be at Arlington National Cemetery on December 13th for the Annual Wreath Laying ceremony. I've written about this before - if you're a DC area resident, it's very much worth your time. Do check it out.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:50 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

November 24, 2008

50 Sexiest Movies

Well, the Princess must not watch a lot of sexy movies because she's only seen 5 or so of the top 25.

On the otter heiny, she couldn't help but agree with most of the commenters. Where the heck was the Thomas Crown Affair? We owned the original, but the remake is even better.

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

Obamas' School Choice: Profiles in Expediency

Unsurprisingly, the Chosen One has "chosen" tony Sidwell Friends School for daughters Sasha and Malia. No doubt this is one more issue on which the press will give him a pass.

It's hard to find a more blatant example of sheer hypocrisy than this one. Like most wealthy Democratic politicians, Obama has consistently opposed school choice ... for other people's children:

Vice President-elect Joe Biden's grandchildren attend Sidwell -- as did Chelsea Clinton -- where tuition is close to $30,000 a year. The Obama girls have been students at the private University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where tuition runs above $21,000. "A number of great schools were considered," said Katie McCormick Lelyveld, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Obama. "In the end, the Obamas selected the school that was the best fit for what their daughters need right now."

Note the word "selected," as in made a choice. The Obamas are fortunate to have the means to send their daughters to private school, and no one begrudges them that choice given that Washington's public schools are among the worst in America.

Most D.C. parents would also love to be able to choose a better school for their child, but they lack the financial means to do so. The Washington Opportunity Scholarship Program each year offers up to $7,500 to some 1,900 kids to attend private schools, but Democrats in Congress want to kill it. Average family income for kids in the voucher program is about $22,000.

Mr. Obama says he opposes such vouchers, because "although it might benefit some kids at the top, what you're going to do is leave a lot of kids at the bottom." The example of his own children refutes that: The current system offers plenty of choice to kids "at the top" while abandoning those at the bottom.

Admirers of The One will be happy to know, however, that Mr. Obama was briefly able to overcome his deep moral aversion to the idea of vouchers ... during the campaign, when it might win him a few votes. Glenn Reynolds reports:

UPDATE: Reader Louis Abelman says that Obama supports vouchers. I hope he’s right, and that Cato is wrong, but I note that the story Abelman sends is rather equivocal:

Senator Obama said this week that he is open to supporting private school vouchers if research shows they work.

“I will not allow my predispositions to stand in the way of making sure that our kids can learn,” Mr. Obama, who has previously said he opposes vouchers, said in a meeting with the editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “We’re losing several generations of kids, and something has to be done.”

Education analysts said Mr. Obama’s statement is the closest they have ever seen a Democratic presidential candidate come to embracing the idea of vouchers. . . .

When Mr. Obama filled out questionnaires for both national teachers unions last year, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, he told the unions that he did not support vouchers. But on Wednesday Mr. Obama opened his remarks to the Journal-Sentinel’s question on vouchers by saying he had to admit that he has been a “skeptic” of vouchers. . . . Told a current longitudinal study is ongoing, Mr. Obama said he would respond to its findings with an open mind.

Indeed, the story says this doesn’t make him a voucher “supporter.” So we’ll see . . . .

Glenn was right to be skeptical. Before the Ohio primary, teachers there pressed Obama to clarify his voucher remarks. His response was downright Kerry-esque:

It seems Barack Obama was opposed to vouchers before he was open to them before he opposed them again.

You may recall that Obama told the big teachers unions that he opposed vouchers on a questionnaire back in the fall but then told the Milwaulkee Journal Sentinel he would consider changing his position if vouchers in that city were proven to work to raise student achievement.

That prompted the Ohio Federation of Teachers, in advance of next week’s high stakes primary, to demand an explanation of where Obama stands. Obama replied that he is still solidly opposed to vouchers, Education Week reports.

Senator Obama's remarks are even more laughable when examined in their entirety:

Senator Obama said this week that he is open to supporting private school vouchers if research shows they work.

"I will not allow my predispositions to stand in the way of making sure that our kids can learn," Mr. Obama, who has previously said he opposes vouchers, said in a meeting with the editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

... He said he was astonished to learn that a voucher program in Milwaukee had never been tested in a longitudinal study to find out whether it had helped children or not. "If there was any argument for vouchers it was, all right, let's see if this experiment works, and then if it does, whatever my preconceptions, my attitude is you do what works for the kids," Mr. Obama said.

First of all, are we to believe Mr. Obama has made up his mind on vouchers absent evidence? And secondly, since he has consistently chosen private over public education for his own daughters, where is the doubt that "children can learn" in private schools coming from? If Senator Obama requires a longitudinal study showing that children can learn in private schools before he will "allow" your child to attend one, shouldn't his children be attending public schools too?

For eight years now, we have listened to the media lampoon a plain spoken and largely verbally maladroit president. Now it would appear we have elected the remedy to that supposed ill: a polished speaker who, like John Foregainst Kerry, possesses the rhetorical sleight of hand to paint a world in which up is down, wrong is right, and it becomes entirely possible to be for and against a proposition at the same time without losing your moral bearings:

'There are those trying to say somehow that Democrats should be admitting they were wrong'' in opposing the gulf war resolution, Kerry noted in one Senate floor speech. But he added, ''There is not a right or wrong here. There was a correctness in the president's judgment about timing. But that does not mean there was an incorrectness in the judgment other people made about timing.''

How conveeeeeeeeeeenient. Whether you consider this an improvement depends upon whether you enjoy having the wool pulled over your eyes.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:26 AM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

November 23, 2008

Too Funny

You Are a Ring Finger
You are romantic, expressive, and hopeful. You see the best in everything.
You are very artistic, and you see the world as your canvas. You are also drawn to the written word.
Inventive and unique, you are often away in your own inner world.

You get along well with: The Pinky

Stay away from: The Index Finger
What Finger Are You?

Thanks to a certain Colorado Feline

Posted by Cassandra at 07:37 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

November 22, 2008

Embracing the Black Vote

The GOP needs to listen to this lady:

According to one senior aide, McCain had been polling close to 20 percent of the black vote before the primaries ended. But then his "Forgotten America" tour, which started soon after, never seemed to go anywhere. I knew of only one high-level black adviser or spokesperson on his full-time paid campaign staff. The GOP convention was embarrassingly devoid of people of color -- among more than 2,000 delegates, only 36 were black.

The problem, former Maryland lieutenant governor Michael Steele told the Washington Times last week, is that party officials "don't give a damn." To them, he said, "outreach means let's throw a cocktail party, find some black folks and Hispanics and women, wrap our arms around them -- 'See, look at us.' And then we go back to the same old, same old."

"The party has simply not understood the importance of having highly visible black Republican operatives, elected officials and political spokespersons working for it on an ongoing basis," adds an African American who worked for the Republican National Committee during the administration of the first President Bush. "It's not our message as much as it is our messengers that are killing us."

It didn't have to be this way. Only a few years ago, then-RNC chairman Ken Mehlman was aggressively reaching out to the black community. At the NAACP convention in 2005, he apologized for the party's past embrace of racial polarization to gain political advantage. "We were wrong," he said. But Mehlman's efforts, like those of George H.W. Bush and President Gerald R. Ford in the 1970s and, ironically, Lee Atwater in 1989, have never really been followed up on in a way that has successfully made inroads and attracted black voters to the GOP fold.

I'm a Republican because I believe in a republican form of government, in individual liberty, the rule of law and civic virtue. Though I was raised in a staunchly Democratic household in a heavily ethnic suburb in southern New Jersey, I realized in college that my personal values were closer to those of the GOP than the Democrats. I joined the Republican Party in 1988, attracted by George H.W. Bush's message of a "kinder, gentler" America and Jack Kemp's mantra of economic development and urban enterprise zones, which seemed a natural fit for the black community.

That drew in other African Americans as well. "What the GOP of the '80s and '90s stood for was growth, opportunity and prosperity," one black Republican businessman from Virginia told me. "This is what attracted me to the party." But more recently that message, he said, "has gotten swallowed up by a social conservative agenda that seems obsessed with religion, guns and abortion."

I can vouch that being a moderate black Republican isn't easy. My black GOP colleagues and I endure endless ridicule and questioning from other African Americans, including close friends and family members who wonder how we can belong to a political party that is so overwhelmingly white, male, Southern, conservative and seemingly closed to ethnic minorities.

...After losing our votes this time around, the question is whether the GOP will learn from its failings or continue to compound them. Rumor and e-mail has it that some black conservatives are angry with black Republicans such as Gen. Colin Powell who publicly backed Obama and have issued calls to "throw out" those who did so. But instead of doling out retribution, the party would be better off reflecting on its failings vis-a-vis African Americans, and on the transformation of Abraham Lincoln's Grand Old Party from one that freed the slaves, stood with the suffragists in the early 20th century and helped pass both the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts when Southern Democrats would not yield to a party that now appeals to the old Confederacy and a few mountain states out West.

How can the GOP bring black voters back into the fold? Asked that question on National Public Radio in October, Steele, now a candidate for the RNC chairmanship, offered a simple formula:

"Talk to them. Actually engage the black community where they are. Stop thinking you're going to get by by having a handshake and a photo-op, and actually go and listen to black folks in the issues and the concerns they have and . . . make them important to the [party's] overall strategy."

Reeves, who's now national director of state and local development for the RNC, has a similar view. The party, he said, has to "identify, elevate and support blacks who currently work within the party at the local level long before Election Day. We must embrace the talent that the party has now, those who have earned their stripes."

This is exactly what I said the other day. And I'm not black.

It's so obvious. If I can see it, why can't they?

Posted by Cassandra at 04:22 PM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

Sarah Palin's Grisly Celebration of Death

Well that's it. Cancel Thanksgiving.

I will never eat another living thing thanks to Sarah Palin.

For years I looked forward to Thanksgiving as a joyous celebration of white AmeriKKKa's ritualistic gang rape of gentle and peaceful indigenous peoples. But thanks to Sarah Palin, my innocent enjoyment has been ruined for all time. How can I sit down to a table full of homicidal maniacs, knowing the true nature of this festival of death?

Sarah Palin pardoned a turkey at an abbatoir today to celebrate Thanksgiving, a full week beforehand. After pardoning the turkey, Palin partook in her favorite post-election hobby — answering questions from the media — while a turkey butcher worked in the background SLAUGHTERING A TURKEY IN A DEATH GRINDER, while smiling, a la Fargo. It is hilarious. Equally hilarious are the MSNBC captions in this clip, such as, “Gov. Palin Not Realizing Incongruity Of Her Words Versus Her Backdrop.”

Had I realized, lo! these many years, that Governor Palin was personally grinding up helpless live turkeys (feathers, feet and all!) and then somehow reassembling them behind the scenes into the bland, Butterball frozen corpses in plastic bodybags we so casually toss into the grocery cart each November, I would NEVER have participated in this wholesale avian genocide. My God... how many of our poor feathered friends been slaughtered while still alive over the years???

Who knew of this outrage? And when did they know it? Why weren't we told?

And most importantly, how dare this... this.... slut remind us of what we so patently don't want to think about? She is obviously a moron.

Incompetent. A fool. And tacky besides. Ye Gods, to think that all this time, we have been eating animals! Live animals that some ... monster had to murder in cold blood before their tender, juicy carcasses magically showed up in neat little shrink wrapped packages down at the local Piggly Wiggly. The very thought is disgusting to decent, intelligent, civilized people.

Or at least to the folks at MSNBC.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:24 AM | Comments (38) | TrackBack

November 21, 2008

A Few Good Reads

Patrick, in Am Spec:

The preeminent position of legalized abortion in any catalog of national blemishes cannot be denied. In James M. Kushiner's angry summary, "Roe v. Wade, like Dred Scott, and slavery, is a contradicting of the constitution of the organism in which it thrives." Kushiner is right and Kmiec is wrong, which is why I question the practicality of federalist solutions to the rift in conservatism.

Bookworm proposes a neo-libertarian approach to rebuilding the Republican brand, with local governments doing a lot more, national government doing a lot less, and social issues quarantined because they play out on at least fifty small stages rather than on one large one.

Another favorite blogger put the challenge similarly: "Conservatives would do well to frame the debate in a way that both educates the public and focuses on what Congress and the President actually do," she wrote, in the apparent hope that with the federal government "out of the business of legislating personal and sexual morality," conservatives can argue questions about abortion and gay marriage as "freedom issues" while holding fast against the kind of one-size-fits-all thinking that looks to the Supreme Court for social policy.

But emphasis on smaller government will not by itself resolve the tension between militant and conciliatory wings of the conservative movement, not with abortion enshrined as the status quo in too many precincts and a self-consciously progressive administration coming to power. Another commentator has it more nearly right, I think, in ignoring intramural differences to spotlight people who are not socially conservative themselves, but trust the rest of us to keep the home fires burning.

We live in an "ambiguously Christian Babylon" (the phrase comes from Fr. Richard John Neuhaus), so trying to stifle or reframe abortion talk amounts to a dereliction of duty. It was not pro-life activism that took abortion to the Supreme Court, or convinced a majority of the justices to look more to King Herod than to Pontius Pilate for precedent in deciding Roe v. Wade.

Apart from its moral weight, the pro-life point of view also serves as a useful proxy for other conservative positions, winning allies of the kind who say things like "Look, if I were playing the Wishing Game, I might suggest that conservative judges give a pass to Roe v. Wade (just to not upset the political applecart) while ruling conservatively on every other issue. But I'm not playing the Wishing Game. In reality, judges who favor Roe v. Wade favor just about every other example of liberal judicial legislating, and judges who are against Roe v. Wade are against every other example of liberal judicial legislating."

There is more than a hint of truth in that observation. It should also be noted that if reframing arguments is a prerequisite for conservative victory in subsequent elections, then reframing ought to proceed on our own terms rather than those of the progressive Left. We could start by arguing that the protection of human life at its most vulnerable is never a matter of "legislating morality," because the state has no business mandating good behavior, but compelling reasons to curb suicidal behavior.

Anyone who needs a refresher on the difference between incentives and disincentives might look to the Bill of Rights, where imperatives ("shall make no law," "shall not be infringed," "shall not be construed to deny or disparage") function more like guardrails than like harnesses. Surely Sarah from Alaska is not the only conservative who understands that.

I understand all of this. I wonder if Patrick (and others) understand our points? None of this matters if you can't get your man elected or can't get your nominees past the filibuster. In the end, it becomes a numbers game and tilting at windmills may win you the admiration of your ideological adherents but it doesn't reverse precedents.

There is something to be said for not allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good. The great evil of Roe is that it prevented a national conversation which should have been held. What many prolifers don't seem to understand is that some of us are trying to ensure that that conversation takes place. They might be surprised what happens, should that ever come to pass. I have faith in my fellow Americans.

As do, oddly enough, the French in Afghanstan. As Jules Crittenden relates, they like us... they really like us! Sacre bleu!

Here we discover America as it is often depicted : their values are taken to their paroxysm, often amplified by promiscuity and the loneliness of this outpost in the middle of that Afghan valley. Honor, motherland - everything here reminds of that : the American flag floating in the wind above the outpost, just like the one on the post parcels. Even if recruits often originate from the hearth of American cities and gang territory, no one here has any goal other than to hold high and proud the star spangled banner. Each man knows he can count on the support of a whole people who provides them through the mail all that an American could miss in such a remote front-line location : books, chewing gums, razorblades, Gatorade, toothpaste etc. in such way that every man is aware of how much the American people backs him in his difficult mission. And that is a first shock to our preconceptions : the American soldier is no individualist. The team, the group, the combat team are the focus of all his attention.

And they are impressive warriors! We have not come across bad ones, as strange at it may seem to you when you know how critical French people can be. Even if some of them are a bit on the heavy side, all of them provide us everyday with lessons in infantry know-how. Beyond the wearing of a combat kit that never seem to discomfort them (helmet strap, helmet, combat goggles, rifles etc.) the long hours of watch at the outpost never seem to annoy them in the slightest. On the one square meter wooden tower above the perimeter wall they stand the five consecutive hours in full battle rattle and night vision goggles on top, their sight unmoving in the directions of likely danger. No distractions, no pauses, they are like statues nights and days. At night, all movements are performed in the dark - only a handful of subdued red lights indicate the occasional presence of a soldier on the move. Same with the vehicles whose lights are covered - everything happens in pitch dark even filling the fuel tanks with the Japy pump.

And combat ? If you have seen Rambo you have seen it all - always coming to the rescue when one of our teams gets in trouble, and always in the shortest delay. That is one of their tricks : they switch from T-shirt and sandals to combat ready in three minutes. Arriving in contact with the enemy, the way they fight is simple and disconcerting : they just charge ! They disembark and assault in stride, they bomb first and ask questions later - which cuts any pussyfooting short.

We seldom hear any harsh word, and from 5 AM onwards the camp chores are performed in beautiful order and always with excellent spirit. A passing American helicopter stops near a stranded vehicle just to check that everything is alright; an American combat team will rush to support ours before even knowing how dangerous the mission is - from what we have been given to witness, the American soldier is a beautiful and worthy heir to those who liberated France and Europe.

Read his whole post. C'est magnifique!

Finalement, Tigerhawk is blogging about sex again. "Thinker", my ass.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:54 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

It's Snowing!


Posted by Cassandra at 10:38 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Ignorance is Bliss, Isn't It?

Eric Bogosian, writer, actor, host of the National Book Awards ceremony, takes a political tone in his remarks: “As far I know, Barack Obama is a reader,”... “hopefully we will have a president who reads history and hopefully is not condemned to repeat it.” Perhaps if Eric got his nose out of the NY Times and The Nation now and then, he'd realize that our current President is quite well read, thank you very much:

Bush is famous for reading history books. He and Karl Rove supposedly had a book-reading contest, and Bush read 99 books in one year.

Reading contemporary historians be quite enlightening. Mr. Bogosian ought to try it, sometime. Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis has this to say on the subject of Presidents, history, and reading:

George W. Bush, whatever else one might say about him, has been a most remarkable President: Historians will be debating his legacy for decades to come. If past patterns hold, their conclusions will not necessarily correspond to the views of current critics. Consider how little is now remembered, for example, of President Clinton’s impeachment, only the second in American history. Or how President Reagan’s reputation has shifted from that of a movie-star lightweight to that of a grand strategic heavyweight. Or how Eisenhower was once believed to be incapable of constructing an intelligible sentence. Or how Truman was down to a 26 percent approval rating at the time he left office but is now seen as having presided over a golden age in grand strategy—even a kind of genesis, Dean Acheson suggested, when he titled his memoir Present at the Creation.

Presidential revisionism tends to begin with small surprises. How, for instance, could a Missouri politician like Truman who never went to college get along so well with a Yale-educated dandy like Acheson? How could Eisenhower, who spoke so poorly, write so well? How could Reagan, the prototypical hawk, want to abolish nuclear weapons? Answering such questions caused historians to challenge conventional wisdom about these Presidents, revealing the extent to which stereotypes had misled their contemporaries.

So what might shift contemporary impressions of President Bush? I can only speak for myself here, but something I did not expect was the discovery that he reads more history and talks with more historians than any of his predecessors since at least John F. Kennedy. The President has surprised me more than once with comments on my own books soon after they’ve appeared, and I’m hardly the only historian who has had this experience. I’ve found myself improvising excuses to him, in Oval Office seminars, as to why I hadn’t read the latest book on Lincoln, or on—as Bush refers to him—the “first George W.” I’ve even assigned books to Yale students on his recommendation, with excellent results.

So much for the opinions of actors. If there is one thing I won't miss come January, it's the constant litany of ill informed and petty commentary from small minded pundits whose eagerness to criticize what they clearly don't understand only highlights their own poverty of spirit:

The Sunday before the American election, the Observer in London published an assessment of President Bush’s legacy by several well-known American writers. One of them, Tobias Wolff, wrote: “When I see someone being rude to a waiter, or blocking the road in a Ford Expedition, or yakking loudly on a cell phone in a crowded elevator, I naturally assume they voted for George W. Bush.”

Wow. That's quite a leap, from disagreement with a politician to painting every single one of his supporters with the same broad brush, liberally dipped in venom. But setting aside the ridiculousness of blaming Bush's supporters for his supposed failings as a President, the implication of rudeness has no basis in reality.

None, whatsoever. Despite countless times during the past eight years when the President's opponents have been disprespectful, openly insulting, and rude to him, it's hard to think of a single instance in which George W. Bush has descended to their level. In the face of the most vile and childish provocations, he has displayed an almost inhuman self control.

A few days before the election I opened the New York Times and was shocked to see a series of vignettes about the President. This one brought tears to my eyes:

One spring morning last year, I happened to be strolling through the Congressional cemetery east of Capitol Hill with the White House press secretary Dana Perino as she walked her dog. Ms. Perino was candidly describing the challenges of her job, which were only mounting as George W. Bush’s approval rating continued to drop. Then she looked directly at me and said, “But it’s all worth it, because I so believe in the president.”

It would have been easy for me to dismiss Ms. Perino as a bright and likable but ultimately Kool-Aid-stricken peddler of talking points, were it not for two things. First, my interviews with current and former Bush staffers constantly veered off into similar testimonials. Their belief in Mr. Bush transcended ideology: as much as anything else, they just loved the guy. They loved how he treated the elevator man with the same courtesy as a foreign leader; how he often picked up the phone to congratulate the bride of a junior staffer; how he never pointed fingers, harbored grudges, snubbed, publicly belittled or boasted. Above all, they loved how they never had to worry which George W. Bush would show up to the Oval Office. It was fitting that he worked at a desk carved from a British warship, the H.M.S. Resolute — clarity of purpose being the admirable flip side to his at times infuriating certitude.

A few days later, this assessment was echoed by a different source:

... he was classy, magnanimous, a gentlemen, ripped for being out of touch, he chose just the right touch, a man who critics say only mangled his words, conjured just the right ones. I'm not talking about John McCain yesterday. I'm talking about president bush today. McCain gave a very classy speech. The president made a very classy gesture, offering only good words for the man who repudiated his run at the white house, but going one better, inviting Barack and Michelle Obama to the white house to see the place, talk about the place, and the pressures of the place, in private. These were not empty words. The president put a transition team in place months ago so that a smooth transfer of power could take place. President bush didn't have the same offer when he came into office. Lots of hurtful words since then. He wasn't even running this year, but it seemed everyone, including his own party's nominee was running against him all year. If he minded, he really didn't show it. I remember talking to the president on the White House south lawn about it. "Does it all bug you?" I asked him. "Nah," he said, shrugging his shoulders and adding simply, "I understand." A man of the people and the nation seemingly at war with him, some for good reason, and others apparently lacking any reason. He did nothing personally, always handled himself with dignity, not by what he said but precisely what he did not. I have read that the president is as kind to the elevator operator at White House as he is to a visiting [head of] state to the White House. Every time I see him, he sticks around and personally shakes the hand of each member of my crew. That is each member of my crew for one of our interviews, every single one of them, every single picture. Now, I know [these are] little things, but to me these are big things, that speak of a man far bigger than the petty things I see in the press or I hear in a harsh campaign. That ended today with a quiet gesture today, from a president who would be in his right to wag a certain finger, but instead simply [offered] something else: his hand. Not a popular thing to say, is it? But it was, it is, and he's a good fellow.

That is my President, the man I have loved and supported since I first began writing back in 2004. I will miss him greatly when he goes back to Crawford. I believe in him because he had the courage to believe in freedom, and to back up his words with courageous and principled actions.

I believe in him because he has always supported our military families, and has done so quietly, without fanfare, and without credit for all the long years we've been at war. He has taken a lot of heat for us. When military leaders have made mistakes (and they have, as is entirely normal) as Commander in Chief he has taken the blame. This President is a man who understands what it means to lead. He leads from the front.

And that means his shoulders have had to be wide enough to bear up under a world of blame. He never throws anyone else under the bus. The buck always stops with him. In a world where no one is ever accountable, where people are continually reinventing themselves to meet every shift in the political winds, I find his constancy and forthrightness comforting.

He may not be perfect; who among us can lay claim to that virtue? Great men often have outsized flaws to go with their outsized strengths. But George Bush, in his essentials, will be looked upon kindly by history... even if some people continue to believe he was reading a book to a goat on 9/11.

You see, I believe in him too, Dana. And I always will. Godspeed, Mr. President.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:07 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

November 20, 2008

Yeah. Whatevah...

There is nothing worse than a snarky web page.

Posted by Cassandra at 03:29 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Fin de Siecle Contest

This was kind of hurried because I've been on con calls since about 7 this morning.

I thought a game might be kind of fun. Every year when the Bulwer-Lytton contest results come out, we have traditionally done a story around them. The most epic of these storytelling exercises was over at Jet Noise: Brett Barboursville and the Case of the Hairy Egyptian. It inspired spd and MathMom to heights of... well, I'll let you all read for yourselves :p

Anyway, this year since so many things appear to be coming to an end, I thought it might be fun to give it a twist and write ending lines for either the Bush administration or the war. So here's a bad ending line to get you all started:

As George W. Bush ("The Shrub", that retarded yet fiendishly clever Chimperor-in-Chief who had twice managed to defeat two vastly smarter opponents) handed the Oval Office keys to his wildly popular successor, he pretended not to notice the brilliant sunbeam that had finally broken through the dark clouds hanging over Washington, DC to anoint Obama's gleaming forehead, the annoying unicorns and butterflies chasing Barney all over the Rose Garden, or the perfect rainbow suspended over the Capitol Building like the promise of a New Deal for the American People; but as he slunk away surreptitiously draining the final ounce of baby's blood from the purloined skull of an endangered arctic timber wolf and contemplated the barren years ahead bereft of the dubious joys of sparring with Helen Thomas or the DC press corps, he found he couldn't quite repress one last... "Bring it on".

Have at it, sheeples. I know you can do better than that!

Posted by Cassandra at 08:29 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

November 19, 2008

The Persistence of Memory

Troyer-2.jpgFrom underneath the trees
We watch the sky
Confusing stars for satellites
I never dreamed that you'd be mine
But here we are
We're here tonight

Singing Amen
I, I'm alive
Singing Amen
I, I'm alive...

November 19, 2005.

Lance Corporal Tyler J. Troyer of 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C. died of wounds sustained from small-arms fire while he was conducting combat operations against enemy forces near Karmah, Iraq.

How do you say goodbye to a friend? To a lover? To a son, a brother, a nephew, someone you grew up with?

Someone you always thought would be there?

The email dropped into my Inbox at precisely 8:54 last night. It doesn't matter who it was from. What matters is that he was remembered:

If you have a minute tomorrow, please think of Michael and Terri Troyer. Her son, LCpl Tyler Troyer was killed on 11/19/2005 in Al Karmah. Sniper bullet. He grew up with my **** and served with ****. I'm going to run out to their house at lunch for a few minutes but couldn't get out of a late afternoon meeting for the hot dog roast at his grave site. I'll drink a beer in his memory tomorrow night though, and I never drink beer in the wintertime except on November 19.

I remember when emails like that felt like hailstones, battering their way past the carefully constructed barriers I erected to get me through the work day without crying. In 2005, even when I had quit VC - mostly quit writing - they demanded a response. And they got one. They always got one.

Even if there was no one to read it.

They were the reason I could never quite manage to take this site down last November. I couldn't bear to wipe out the memorials.

I didn't know Tyler. In reading about his life, what comes across most vividly is how much he was loved:

A Marine who was fatally shot in the head while on patrol in Iraq was remembered in this working-class community for his blazing fastball, his sense of humor and his devotion to family.

More than 300 people gathered at the Linn County Expo Center on Wednesday to say goodbye to Lance Cpl. Tyler Troyer, 21, of Tangent, who died on Nov. 19.

The crowd wore buttons with a picture of Troyer, who was a star left-hander for the West Albany High School baseball team before joining the Marines.

More than a dozen family members and friends told stories of the mischievous boy who sometimes got into trouble as a youngster. They also praised him as being the glue that connected a family split by divorce.

“Tyler was an example of a person with a destiny in his life,” Galen Troyer, the Marine’s uncle, said from a stage adorned with hundreds of flowers. “He had goals and knew what he wanted to do. Tyler cared about people, and he made a difference.”

Troyer’s father, David Troyer, remembered the day when his son told him he needed his signature so he could sign up for the Marines because he wasn’t yet 18.

“I was a bit nervous,” David Troyer recalled. “But I could see it in his eyes that this was something he really wanted to do. I saw a real change in him.”

Photographs of Troyer sat on easels in the hallway and auditorium of the Expo Center. On one, the young man was pictured with the woman he planned to marry, Megan Oswald.

A newspaper announcement of their engagement was centered at the top of the frame. Below were photos of the pair embracing in front of the White House and sitting beneath a freshly decorated Christmas tree in their apartment. Another easel showed photos of Troyer’s military life and his stint in Iraq. He played soccer with young Iraqis and joined in group pictures with his fellow Marines.

Terri Thorpe, Troyer’s mother, was last to speak. She talked about her the fears she had with a son at war and she remembered the 21 years she had with him.

“He will always continue to be in our hearts,” she said.

A note on one of his memorial pages from his mother Terri says, ”I just wish that for every other person out there who is over there on duty, there would be people asking, ‘Tell me about him’”.

Three years after the day that bullet found him, he is still remembered. Tyler is memorialized on the Internet and by a group of people who never even knew him. They will raise a glass in his honor tonight and light a candle in his memory. I hope some of you here at VC will do that too.

Tyler is also remembered by his fellow Marines. I got another email late tonight. If Terri is out there, she should know that Tyler's buddies spoke of him today. He has not been forgotten, and I suspect he never will be as long as there is a Marine alive who served with him. They carry his memory inside of them, keeping him forever young. They get quiet, this time of year.

This is something that binds these men together. It is good they returned to keep the memories alive. Someone should.

Someone has to, or it was all for nothing.

And as we lie beneath the stars
We realize how small we are
If they could love like you and me
Imagine what the world could be?

If everyone cared and nobody cried
If everyone loved and nobody lied
If everyone shared and swallowed their pride
Then we'd see the day when nobody died
When nobody died...

I can't wait for that day to come. Meanwhile, I thank God for the sacrifices of men and women who are far better and braver than I will ever be.

Look what you did, Tyler. You - all of you - the ones who came back and the ones who didn't make it: you changed the world.

You made history. Against all hope, against all odds. Who would have thought it was possible? It's in their hands now.

Victory. It's been a such long time coming. On a brilliant September morning more than seven years ago, death came hurtling from the sky. And in an instant the world as we knew it changed forever.

Was it worth it? Was it worth losing you?

When we stand in the valley of historical events, it's hard to say. A Sergeant Major my husband once worked with gave him a gift engraved with a quotation from his hero, General Robert E. Lee. Now there is a man who saw a lot of heartache. Anyway, it always made a lot of sense to me. A soldier does his best. The outcome, he leaves to history:

Duty is the sublimest word in the English language.
You should do your duty in all things. You can never do more. You should never wish to do less.

All I know is that this nation owes you a debt that we can never repay. God bless you, Lance Corporal Troyer. And thank you, for whatever than may be worth.

Sleep well, son.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:48 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Creepy Christmas Gift Thread

So far, this takes the cake (you have to watch the promo to get the full effect).

Although this may be a close second. But feel free to make suggestions in the comments section.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:55 PM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Wake Me When This Is Over


Just when you thought there was no problem so trivial that pandering Washington politicians couldn't come along and try to make it worse:

Barack Obama has revealed his first major policy initiative: college football reform. In Obama's first televised interview since winning the presidency, he explained what's wrong with the current system, in which computers help determine the two teams that play for the national championship. "I think any sensible person would say that if you've got a bunch of teams who play throughout the season, and many of them have one loss or two losses—there's no clear decisive winner—that we should be creating a playoff system," Obama said. "I don't know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this. So, I'm gonna throw my weight around a little bit. I think it's the right thing to do."

If ever there were a venue that was overdue for federal government intervention, it has got to be college football.

Because Lord knows the federal government has such a stellar track record with solving other intractable problems. Gnat, meet sledgehammer.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:05 AM | Comments (44) | TrackBack

Department of Flogging Deceased Equine Flesh

Some sensible talk on the auto bailout:

IF General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed.

Without that bailout, Detroit will need to drastically restructure itself. With it, the automakers will stay the course — the suicidal course of declining market shares, insurmountable labor and retiree burdens, technology atrophy, product inferiority and never-ending job losses. Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check.

I have several prescriptions for Detroit’s automakers.

First, their huge disadvantage in costs relative to foreign brands must be eliminated. That means new labor agreements to align pay and benefits to match those of workers at competitors like BMW, Honda, Nissan and Toyota. Furthermore, retiree benefits must be reduced so that the total burden per auto for domestic makers is not higher than that of foreign producers.

That extra burden is estimated to be more than $2,000 per car. Think what that means: Ford, for example, needs to cut $2,000 worth of features and quality out of its Taurus to compete with Toyota’s Avalon. Of course the Avalon feels like a better product — it has $2,000 more put into it. Considering this disadvantage, Detroit has done a remarkable job of designing and engineering its cars. But if this cost penalty persists, any bailout will only delay the inevitable.

Second, management as is must go. New faces should be recruited from unrelated industries — from companies widely respected for excellence in marketing, innovation, creativity and labor relations.

The new management must work with labor leaders to see that the enmity between labor and management comes to an end. This division is a holdover from the early years of the last century, when unions brought workers job security and better wages and benefits. But as Walter Reuther, the former head of the United Automobile Workers, said to my father, “Getting more and more pay for less and less work is a dead-end street.”

You don’t have to look far for industries with unions that went down that road. Companies in the 21st century cannot perpetuate the destructive labor relations of the 20th. This will mean a new direction for the U.A.W., profit sharing or stock grants to all employees and a change in Big Three management culture.

The need for collaboration will mean accepting sanity in salaries and perks. At American Motors, my dad cut his pay and that of his executive team, he bought stock in the company, and he went out to factories to talk to workers directly. Get rid of the planes, the executive dining rooms — all the symbols that breed resentment among the hundreds of thousands who will also be sacrificing to keep the companies afloat.

Investments must be made for the future. No more focus on quarterly earnings or the kind of short-term stock appreciation that means quick riches for executives with options. Manage with an eye on cash flow, balance sheets and long-term appreciation. Invest in truly competitive products and innovative technologies — especially fuel-saving designs — that may not arrive for years. Starving research and development is like eating the seed corn.

Just as important to the future of American carmakers is the sales force. When sales are down, you don’t want to lose the only people who can get them to grow. So don’t fire the best dealers, and don’t crush them with new financial or performance demands they can’t meet.

The test of whether a leader can run large organizations is whether he or she has successfully run large organizations in the past.

No sane company hires a CEO sight unseen with an unexamined or nonexistent performance record...except, of course, the American taxpayer.

It's like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder
How I keep from goin' under...

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

Beyond the Shadow of A Freaking Penunbra...

Thomas Sowell has discovered the glorious glimmerings of a new right:

Among the many new "rights" being conjured out of thin air, a new one seems to be a "right" to win.

Americans have long had the right to put their candidates and their ideas to a vote. Now there seems to be a sense that your rights have been trampled on if you don't win.

Hillary Clinton's supporters were not merely disappointed, but outraged, when she lost the Democrats' nomination to Barack Obama. Some took it as a sign that, while racial barriers had come down, the "glass ceiling" holding down women was still in place.

Apparently, if you don't win, somebody has put up a barrier or a ceiling. The more obvious explanation of the nomination outcome was that Obama ran a better campaign than Hillary. There is not the slightest reason to doubt that she would have been the nominee if the votes in the primaries had come out her way.

As the election approached, pundits warned that, if Obama lost, there would be riots in the ghetto. We will never know. But since when does any candidate have a right to win any office, much less the White House?

In case you haven't noticed the omnipresent and ever increasing references to Franklin Delano Roosevelt of late, this is the source of this mystifying multiplication of rights. As the Princess pointed out many moons ago, it was no accident when The One conjured up the ghost of FDR during his campaign. The continual and overblown comparisons between our current financial contretemps and The Great Depression are no coincidence either.

If the Editorial Staff here at VC were more paranoid, we'd be inclined to call Obama's wisecrack about Nan Reagan and seances a Freudian slip. These days, one can hardly turn over a rock without being confronted with the shrieking ghost of FDR blathering on about how we need a second economic bill of rights:

* A job with a living wage
* Freedom from unfair competition and monopolies
* Homeownership
* Medical care
* Education
* Recreation

Apparently the old bean forgot the part about shattering glass ceilings and the right to self-esteem. Freaking sexist.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:16 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

November 18, 2008

Oops! We Did It Again!

You've got to love the LA Times - now that the election's over, they're hot on Barack Obama's trail:

In his books, speeches and campaign commercials, Sen. Barack Obama has harked back to his days as a civil-rights attorney.

It is fundamental to his autobiography and was displayed on his campaign Web site and woven into his appeals for votes. In one of his television ads leading up to the South Carolina primary, Obama recalled "working as a civil-rights attorney to make sure that everybody's vote counted."

Senior attorneys at the small firm where he worked say he was a strong writer and researcher, but was involved in relatively few cases before entering politics.

Gee whiz. At this rate they might get around to having a look at his legislative record by the time he gets out of office. But wait! There's more!

"This is a central part of his life and story," says David Axelrod, who served as Obama's chief campaign strategist. "He could have written his ticket at any law firm in the country. . . . . He decided instead that he wanted to be a civil-rights attorney, and he signed up with a small firm that had a reputation for doing this kind of work."

30: The approximate number of legal cases Obama was involved in:

4: The number of years Obama was a full-time lawyer

70%: The amount of time Obama spent on voting rights, civil rights and employment, generally as a junior associate. (The rest of his time was spent on matters related to real-estate transactions, filing incorporation papers and defending clients against minor lawsuits.)

3,723: The number of billable hours Obama accrued while working at Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Gallard

Hmmm... let's see. Just as a rough tally, 3723/4 years equals about 930 billable hours a year.

That seems a bit light, doesn't it? Of course there were two autobiographies to write. The life of a public figure can be so demanding.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:10 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Part II of Redrawing the Conservative Roadmap: the GOP's Image Problem

Before beginning Part II, a short recap of Part I should help focus the discussion. Last week, I proposed John Hawkins' "GOP brand promise" as an organizing set of principles:

* Limited government.
* Fiscal responsibility.
* Low taxes.
* Traditional values.
* Law and order.
* Clean government.
* Personal responsibility.
* A strong national defense.
* Patriotism.

The first post in this series argued for a broadening of the "traditional values" part of the conservative platform. The theory was that conservatives can no longer afford to ignore the changing social mores and demographics of the American electorate:

1. ... conservatives would do well to frame the debate in a way that both educates the public and focuses on what Congress and the President actually do. We waste enormous amounts of time on distracting debates over subjects the President... has little or no actual influence over while neglecting important issues he does have control and influence over.

2. ...item #1 provides at least a partial answer to many of our "social issue" woes. As a moderate, though I both understand and support the strong convictions of social conservatives, I firmly believe the federal government ought to stay the hell out of the business of legislating personal and sexual morality. We need to start making the case that nearly all of these issues are ones which have traditionally been resolved at the state and local level. We need to frame this as a "freedom" issue: when the federal government imposes a one-size-fits-all moral code upon 50 very different states, we LOSE the freedom to decide and debate amongst ourselves how we want to live.

This is a freedom the Founders very much wanted us to have. ..a true conservative doesn't care about legislating these issues at the federal level, but can and will oppose any effort to thwart participatory democratic decision-making and debate at the state and local level.

3. ...conservatives need to frame the choice facing voters as being between a Party of Opportunity and Freedom which maximizes individual dignity, responsibility, and choice and minimizes government interference in the lives of citizens; and a Party of Pessimism and Control which maximizes dependency on government, waste and inefficiency and minimizes productivity, opportunity, and accountability.

Conservatives seem to have trouble framing our policy positions in a way that makes them attractive to the broad coalition of voters needed to win a national election. Simply put, the GOP has an image problem.

What's worse, elements of the party (i.e., the base) are in complete denial about this. I don't like it any better than you do when David Brooks delivers toffee nosed lectures from his perch atop Mount Pinot Noir. Nonetheless, he and others like him make valid points about how conservatives are perceived by the rest of the electorate and we ignore them at our peril. When you lose elections, getting advice from folks who think exactly the way you do probably isn't the smartest tactic.

It's the folks who don't think like you do who understand how you're perceived, and if your idea of how to win the next election lies in repeating the same losing message over and over (but this time, with 15% more gusto!) you just might be a bit tone deaf.
Being a conservative isn't exactly a popular position to be in these days and people are sheep. When my twenty-something daughter in law isn't able to admit her party affiliation at work, something needs to change.

In the end, it doesn't matter whether these impressions are justified or not. We live in the real world, not the world as we wish it was. Rightly or wrongly, large numbers of liberals, moderates and young people honestly see Republicans as heartless, gay hating racists who secretly can't wait to force a thousand years of jackbooted theocracy on their unsuspecting neighbors and they're in no hurry to be disabused of these notions. If you doubt this for one second, take a midday stroll through the NY Times, Salon or Slate and savor the heartfelt respect for alternative political modalities. Perhaps my favorite graf:

Our kids are raised on a steady diet of tolerance, but, given the chance, they signal allegiance by turning on whomever they can pin as a bad guy. They don't get many chances at that, really. There just aren't a lot of enemies in their lives. Railing against McCain supporters functions as a safe outlet for hostility and even hatred. For my sons Eli and Simon and most of their friends, die-hard Republicans are an abstract concept. They know people who differ from them by race and ethnicity and religion, and they get that it's not OK to judge by those categories. On their soccer team are kids who are working-class rather than well-off, and I think they also understand that class isn't a flag to rally around either. They may have met a libertarian or two, but they've never talked politics with a serious conservative.

That America inexplicably survived 8 years of the anti-Christ George Bush without seeing homosexuals, atheists, and drivers of Volvo station wagons frog marched through the streets in sackcloth and ashes is a point well and truly lost on most of these folks, and it will continue to be lost on them until conservatives learn that it's not enough to walk the walk.

We need to learn to talk the talk, too. We need to make it socially acceptable to be a conservative again.

There's a reason George Bush's compassionate conservatism resonated with voters. There's a reason Bush was elected in 2000 (and again in 2004) and it wasn't just the war or national security. There was no war in 2000. Bush was able to do one thing successfully whether or not the "base" likes it, or him: for moderates, at least initially, Bush put a human face on conservatism while projecting a credible conservative message. The problem, for many conservatives, is that this human face came with too high a price tag.

Happily, there are other ways to address the GOP's image problem. To win the crossover vote, conservatives need a three pronged approach - education, outreach, and better communication - designed to address our image problem in the following areas.

1. RACE: After this election, this first item may well be more important than ever. Shortly after November 4th Spike Lee characterized the Republican Party as "totally white". Leaving aside the rather obvious question of why it is racist for fewer than half of white voters to vote for a candidate of their own race but not racist for 96% of blacks to vote for Obama (or the corresponding point that blacks are not the only non-white component of the U.S. population -- and that about 1/3 of these folks voted Republican); we are still left with an enormous untapped portion of the American electorate that could be won over. We need to do a better job of talking to them. More and more often, elections are won and lost on the margins; by shifting small sections of various demographic groups to one side or the other.

What George Bush did very well during both his campaigns was to reach out to the Hispanic community without compromising his principles. The tactic paid off - he won over a sizable portion of the Hispanic vote. He did the same thing with the black vote. The single worst mistake the GOP makes with blacks is in talking down to them. We make it easy for the DNC to make us look like narrow-minded racists when in fact, the GOP has a better record on race than the Democrats. But when the media leans left, we can't depend on them to expose the untruths that are told every election season.

We need to do a better job of outreach and education, starting with a focused message on race and the GOP that frames conservative ideas in a positive, uplifting and respectful fashion. Here's a concise framework for discussion:

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 - how many Americans realize a larger proportion of Republicans voted for it than Democrats (82% vs 63%)?

In fact, Republicans have a better record on civil rights, period:

A higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats have voted for every major civil rights milestone — from the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery to the post-Civil War civil rights laws to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As Casey Stengel used to say, you could look it up.

We also have a better record on diversity. Much better, in fact.

We need to trust the young black conservatives in our ranks and realize that they may not always march in lockstep. But that's OK.

And finally, we fail to emphasize that blacks, women, and other minorities are being sold a narrative of failure and oppression by the DNC. This false, deeply dishonest and disrespectful narrative would make many blacks angry if we stopped being afraid of a little straight talk. Instead of blaming poor blacks for not succeeding, perhaps we should be looking at how the black community was able to build successful businesses, healthy families, and accountablee schools in a time before government protected them from the evils of white racism? Perhaps we need to ask why all these expensive government initiatives have failed to end black poverty and illegitimacy?

One of the many negative consequences of the emphasis on failure and loss is that most blacks are cut off from a knowledge of the thousands of black men who viewed business enterprise and land ownership as critical to progress, and actively pursued success in capitalist enterprise.

For example, almost a century ago, Henry Allen Boyd, son of a slave, with little formal education, founded one business after another in Nashville, Tennessee, and assisted his fellow blacks to do the same. He was revered as the solid rock of Nashville's black community.

Just about 70 years ago, John Whitelaw Lewis countered Washington, DC's restrictive Jim Crow laws by building an elegant hotel for blacks. Designed by a black architect and built entirely by black tradesmen, it became the center of social life for black professionals and business people. (See Issues &Views, Spring 1992)

About a decade before Lewis, New York realtor Philip Payton and a partnership of black businessmen prevented the eviction of black tenants from two buildings in Harlem by buying the buildings outright. They met racism head-on with economic clout and were praised for their "novel method of resisting race prejudice." (See Issues &Views, Spring 1992, and here.)

It's hardly more than 60 years after Charles Spaulding and his cousin Asa presided over the country's largest black-owned business, Durham's North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company--with Asa's intelligence and perseverance helping the company survive even the Great Depression.

In the 1870s, Robert Reed Church, born a slave, used his brains and savvy to become a businessman prosperous enough to counter racist laws in Memphis by building a splendid park on Beale Street for the black community. Here, blacks enjoyed summer festivities, held graduation exercises and hosted an annual Thanksgiving dinner for the poor--all paid for with black dollars.

George Downing, an industrious entrepreneur in the 1840s, not only established catering businesses in several eastern resorts, he built the luxurious Sea Girt Hotel in Newport, Rhode Island. His was one of the most popular establishments in town.

There is also an impressive list of black men who, long before Emancipation, used their ingenuity to counter racism and to meet racial insult with economic initiatives. What did they all have in common? They were pragmatists, men who realistically assessed their options in the world around them, learned the economic principles that drove society, and set out to master them. They did not get sidetracked or bogged down in ideological swamplands, since such digression would not have created jobs for themselves or their children, or produce the capital with which to subvert bigotry.

These men were not aberrations by any means, but were representative of a spirit that once seized blacks, where personal success was tied to a commitment to carry on the "progress of the race." They were part of a tide that had begun to roll long before slavery ended and which endured right into the 20th century.

These stories are inspiring. If blacks were able to overcome hardship, poverty and deprivation then, doesn't that tell us something about the power of the human spirit? History contains important lessons for us, and the message here is that the victimization mantra being peddled by the Democrats not only fails to fix the problems it is intended to address, it makes them worse. Talk about a failed policy:

Read through the megazillion words on class, income mobility, and poverty in the recent New York Times series “Class Matters” and you still won’t grasp two of the most basic truths on the subject: 1. entrenched, multigenerational poverty is largely black; and 2. it is intricately intertwined with the collapse of the nuclear family in the inner city.

By now, these facts shouldn’t be hard to grasp. Almost 70 percent of black children are born to single mothers. Those mothers are far more likely than married mothers to be poor, even after a post-welfare-reform decline in child poverty. They are also more likely to pass that poverty on to their children. Sophisticates often try to dodge the implications of this bleak reality by shrugging that single motherhood is an inescapable fact of modern life, affecting everyone from the bobo Murphy Browns to the ghetto “baby mamas.” Not so; it is a largely low-income—and disproportionately black—phenomenon. The vast majority of higher-income women wait to have their children until they are married. The truth is that we are now a two-family nation, separate and unequal—one thriving and intact, and the other struggling, broken, and far too often African-American.

So why does the Times, like so many who rail against inequality, fall silent on the relation between poverty and single-parent families? To answer that question—and to continue the confrontation with facts that Americans still prefer not to mention in polite company—you have to go back exactly 40 years. That was when a resounding cry of outrage echoed throughout Washington and the civil rights movement in reaction to Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s Department of Labor report warning that the ghetto family was in disarray. Entitled “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” the prophetic report prompted civil rights leaders, academics, politicians, and pundits to make a momentous—and, as time has shown, tragically wrong—decision about how to frame the national discussion about poverty.

The Democrats have had over 40 years to fix a situation they clearly consider the "white man's burden". Isn't that a bit patronizing?

Why don't we call them out on that sort of rhetoric? I think a focused message of respect and equality would go a long way here. Groups like Project 21 and black conservative bloggers (there are some excellent ones) can help. Why don't we ask them? Why aren't we making use of the talent we have in our midst? We need to stop being afraid of race. Conservatives have a better record on real civil rights issues - why are we afraid to engage? Pandering is not the way to win over the black vote. Respect is the way, and respect begins with speaking the truth. Fiscal conservatism is better for all families: black as well as white. Human beings all make decisions in the same way. Black families are rational actors - they respond to incentives in the same way we do. Pandering only comes across as a lack of respect, and refusal to talk to them doesn't work either.

2. SOCIAL ISSUES: On social issues, a big tent party ought to be big enough to encompass both religious and non-religious social conservatives and more moderate voters. The key here is that third rail issues like gay marriage and abortion aren't issues the President has much control over. They only make conservatives look narrow minded when we go to the mat over them. The bottom line is that these are essentially state law issues anyway. A more palatable conservative party line would be to advocate the appointment of Constitutionally faithful judges and push for local control over issues relating to marriage and sexual morality. This strategy is more in line with how the Founders intended our government to operate. It has the added advantage of allowing us to frame our side of the debate as a bottoms up, democratic "freedom" approach vs. a rigid, top down, one size fits all approach imposed by unelected judges.

It allows us to co-opt the Democratic message machine and turn it back on them. What Republicans so often fail to understand is that the way an idea is delivered is often just as important as the actual content. Too often, we deliver our ideas in a way that is perceived as negative. I think there is some truth to the Democratic narrative that we tend to work on a fear-based narrative. The flip side of that though - the side we have inexcusably failed to grasp and use - is that the Democrats use even more of a fear-based narrative than we do. Fear of failure. Fear of our own public servants (how often are they painted as being worse than al Qaeda? How often do Democrats undermine public trust and confidence in elections, in our institutions?) How often does the Democratic party's party line depend upon the belief that ordinary citizens are powerless - that we are being preyed upon by evil and sinister forces beyond our control? That we can't succeed without government intervention? If that isn't fear mongering, what is?

Turn this narrative around, though, and there is a positive way to say almost everything. It's the difference between pushing people from behind and leading them from the front: all too often, conservatives fail to lead: to "sell" our ideas in a positive way that inspires and uplifts. This is what Ronald Reagan was so good at: he conveyed pride, hope, and a positive vision of America that spoke to the higher aspirations of voters instead of the lowest common denominator, to their hopes and dreams rather than to their fears and anxieties.

Admittedly it's a bit of a challenge with conservative ideas because they're inherently pragmatic, but success is inspiring. Empowering people and freeing them to succeed is inspiring. Conservatives believe in the qualities that make America great. What we need to do is talk about our ideas in a way that doesn't sound like we're running the other guy down, that says, "Join us - we're going to the top of the mountain!", not "You're either with us or you hate this country."

Peggy Noonan, though I haven't been too thrilled with her of late, had the right idea with her image of the joyful warrior. It's just that too often we tear down where we should be building up, or we allow ourselves to be portrayed as being "against" when we need to be perceived as being "for".

3. THE ECONOMY: On fiscal conservatism and lower taxes, the one area I firmly believe we mustn't compromise, we need to sell a positive vision of the happier, successful and more productive America which results when free, hard working, creative people are allowed to keep the fruits of their productive labor. We need to educate people about the real world consequences of raising corporate or capital gains taxes, but in a positive way that shows how we benefit from conservative fiscal policy.

We need to talk about the ethics of personal responsibility. I think one of our biggest problems in convincing voters of the merit of conservative policy positions is that America is an extraordinarily free and affluent country. Voters hear us preach this sort of doomsday message: "If you let the other guys into office, they'll usher in an era of socialism and the abandonment of morals". But then they look around and see that government is already 2/3 down the road to socialism and our popular culture has already abandoned the kind of traditional morals the GOP champions, and it's their friends and neighbors and children who are doing these horrible things and moreover, Armegeddon isn't here yet. The very success of the free market makes it hard for us to show what's wrong with socialism.

And so voters conclude that we're wrong on any number of levels.

The focus ought to be on framing our fiscal policies in such a way that they appeal to the broadest cross section of the electorate. Obviously where that is most challenging is with low income voters, where we must compete with the "goody bag" strategy of the DNC.

I submit that a common sense, "straight talk" approach would work best with low income voters. We need to start appealing to their intelligence and common sense without a lot of hokey gimmicks and pandering. The best argument (IMO) that John McCain got off in the debates was the one on corporate taxes. He argued that the US already pays the 2nd highest corporate income taxes in the world. No corporation voluntarily does business where costs are high. If you raise the cost of hiring workers and doing business, corporations will flee to a lower-cost, more business friendly environment. Thus, raising corporate taxes costs US workers jobs.

There is a similar argument for raising the minimum wage - it has the unintended effect of harming the very people it intends to help: unskilled workers. The minimum wage is paid only to unskilled workers. Those with skills can command a higher wage.

If you raise the cost of hiring unskilled workers, companies will hire fewer workers and allow them to work fewer hours. This is only common sense: their pool of available wages doesn't increase just because the government raised the minimum wage.

Conservatives need to do a better job of educating the public about the real world, unintended consequences of liberal social engineering. Here again, common sense arguments work best:

No rational person believes that if you confiscate more of a worker's income, he will be more productive (or even continue to produce the same amount as he did before). And yet this is the theory behind raising income taxes - that the highest income, most productive workers will work just as hard and be just as productive as they were before!

But this is contrary to all common sense. No sane person trudges off to work every day to bring about "increased income equality" for his neighbor. If you worked harder than anyone else in your office all week and on payday, instead of a paycheck your boss handed you only half your usual paycheck along with a piece of paper that said, "Congratulations! Your pay has been cut in half, but thanks to your efforts every worker in this office now makes exactly the same amount as you do!", would you show up to work the next morning and work just as hard as you did before?

No rational person believes that raising the cost of opening a business will encourage more business owners to start new businesses and hire more workers.

So why do we want to raise the corporate tax rate?

No rational person believes that reducing the rate of return on savings and investment will encourage people to save more or invest in businesses.

So why do we want to raise the capital gains tax?

Again, "fairness" isn't a good enough reason to do stupid things that don't achieve the desired end. All of this, really, is just common sense and yet somehow when politicians start talking about abstract and fuzzy concepts like "income inequality" and "fairness", people forget everything they know about human behavior and common sense flies right out the window. What we need to do is to remind them of what they already know. The American people are smarter than we give them credit for.

And that is the right way to sell our message.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:14 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

November 17, 2008

Browser Woes

I just got rid of Firefox.

I've used it for ages, but this weekend was the last straw. After one of those special "automagic updates", I could no longer get it to launch. That's not impressive.

But even before that it was freezing up all the time and crashing (several times helpfully losing several hours of work - often entire posts - in the process) and on that right brain/left brain quiz I did a few days ago it wasn't compiling the scores correctly. I took the quiz in Firefox and came out 18 left brain, which I knew was incorrect because several of my answers were clearly right brain answers.

I re-took it in IE and came out 9 right/9 left, dominant left brain. It's just not worth the trouble when you have to go out of your way to make an application work.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:38 PM | Comments (35) | TrackBack

The Dancing Soldier

Laughing Wolf gave me a great idea this morning. I laughed myself silly reading the comments on his post - can't you just feel the interservice lovin'?

Heh. They're just jealous:

I've been in the Navy 33 years. Trust me, they act this way before we pull away from the pier.

In the Army we always suspected that the only reason there were jarheads on ships was so the squids had someone to dance with.

LW's post reminded me of some of the finer moments of Marine Corps Dance artistry, such as this classic:

Late one night deep in the heart of the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, Iraq. Three young soldiers desperately try to teach one rhythmically challenged trooper to dance. You will laugh, you will cry and then you will ask for these two and half minutes of your life back. You will never get them back, none of us will.

And another of my personal favorites: embrace the suckitude.

Not a Marine, but so much fun I had to include it anyway.

Why friends don't let friends join the Air Force...

Why Marines are the best:

A sailor shows 'em how it's done at the Marine Corps ball.

Speaking of interservice rivalry, Project Valour IT is still going on and the Marine team is getting our collective butts kicked. Now if you care to peruse the Marine team, a scummier collection of rogues and blackguards, 'twould be hard to imagine:

A Swift Kick & A Band-Aid
Hell In A Basket
Flight Pundit
Villainous Company
From the Halls to the Shores
Stix Blog ver. 3.0
Quality Weenie
Thor's Hall
Soldiers' Angels Germany
Grim's Hall
Drunken Wisdom
RedNeck Ramblings
Fuzzilicious Thinking
Grendel's Dragon
Manatee's Military Moms
Flak Central
Something... and Half of Something
Cassy Fiano
Howling at the Moon

Head on over and make a donation. A few dollars set aside to say "thanks" to those who have sacrificed so much on our behalf can make a very bleak recovery period far easier to bear. Here's what this worthy project has been providing for wounded warriors:

Project Valour-IT, in memory of SFC William V. Ziegenfuss, helps provide voice-controlled/adaptive laptop computers and other technology to support Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines recovering from hand wounds and other severe injuries. Technology supplied includes:
- Voice-controlled Laptops - Operated by speaking into a microphone or using other adaptive technologies, they allow the wounded to maintain connections with the rest of the world during recovery.

- Wii Video Game Systems - Whole-body game systems increase motivation and speed recovery when used under the guidance of physical therapists in therapy sessions.

- Personal GPS - Handheld GPS devices build self-confidence and independence by compensating for short-term memory loss and organizational challenges related to TBI and severe PTSD.

Please support Valour IT, and please support the Marine team.

And whatever you do, don't forget to dance :)

Posted by Cassandra at 05:49 PM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

Thanksgiving Dinner and Other Bloggy Fare

Sorry for the paucity of bloggitunal fare of late. Between work and projects around Villa Cassandranita, the Princess has been busier than a one-armed paper hanging little bee. The past two weekends have been consumed with travel and attending Marine Corps balls in various cities.

If you've never been to a Marine ball, they're quite an experience. Sadly, they tend to become less fun as you get older; there is less of what the Ball is supposed to be about (celebrating the birthday of the Corps with the Marine family) and more schmoozing with people one barely knows. However, I always love to drink in the gorgeous ball gowns, hair, nails, shoes, etc. And I love getting dressed up myself. It's fun to feel like a real (and not just a blog) princess for a few hours.

There is something about a ball gown that does that to a lady, and the sight of a Marine officer in mess dress is something to gladden the eye.

On the home front I've been planning Thanksgiving dinner. This year we have a big crowd coming - at last count, 25 people. Getting all those folks seated in our small house in the woods will be something of a challenge, but I'm thrilled to have the Unit home from Iraq and to be surrounded by friends and family. We are truly blessed. I spent yesterday surrounded by recipe books and casserole dishes. Which leads me to the question of the day:

What are you having for Thanksgiving? Any favorite recipes, entertaining hints, or family traditions you'd like to share? Do you prefer a casual table or do you like to do Thanksgiving up with silver, china, and all the trimmings? Or do you mix casual and formal pieces? Do you eat early or late?

What about centerpieces? This is my project for this week, since I'll probably need 3 tables even with my big banquet table. Feel free to ensmarten us in the comments section.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:51 AM | Comments (41) | TrackBack

November 15, 2008

Right Brain vs. Left Brain

Which side do you use the most?

Interesting test.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:49 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Why We Love Men

When they get bored, they do things like this.

CWCID: Heirborn Ranger

Posted by Cassandra at 08:14 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

November 14, 2008

Something Different Contest Results

Yeah, I know. I thought I'd shock you all senseless. Plus I'm psyched because my Thanksgiving dishes showed up early. All 5 boxes of them....
And the weiners are:

#1 with a bullet: BillT: "You thought ACORNs became *oak trees*? Bwa-hahahahah-haaaaa!"

And bringing up the rear: Bill Clinton and Sally Struthers (he can come out of the closet if he wants to :p)

You know, when it's green and has teeth, not even I would touch it with a 10 foot pole.

- Bill Clinton

Every day, tens of Americans wake up with the overwhelming desire to put on giant balloon costumes. Won't you please help them. For just the cost of a massively overblown and mismanaged government program a day you too can help provide the psychotropic medication these people so desperately need.

Only you can help make other people donate to this worthy cause this election day by voting for Barack Obama. Please, don't let these unfortunate souls continue to be the basis for internet caption contests. Do it today!

- Sally Struthers

Congrats to the Weiners and thanks to everyone who played! I tell ya, it was almost worth judging one of these things to get Sly offin' my back.

Heh :)

Posted by Cassandra at 04:52 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Getting Past Race? Good Luck With That

Back in March I mused that America still has miles to go in our long and troubled journey towards racial reconciliation:

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

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

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

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

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

The following months were marked by deeply troubling and repeated accusations of racism. White Americans were told that if we voted against a first-time candidate who ranked in the bottom 6th percentile of men who have won the nomination of a major political party, there could be no other explanation than our own racism:

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...Interestingly:

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

These accusations seemed, to this author at least, deeply ironic when one stops to consider that both John McCain and Joseph Biden were more experienced than Barack Obama. Both men ran for president several times, were defeated, and yet came back to enter the contest again and yet American voters were told that if a relative unknown with far less experience than these men were defeated, the "only possible reason" for his defeat was racism?

David Bositis, senior political analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, pointed out that the 18 percent share of whites that voted for Senator John Kerry in 2004 was almost cut in half for Mr. Obama.

“There’s no other explanation than race,” he said.

The mind boggles. Indeed, one begins to wonder whether there exists in the tortured minds of progressives one single phenomenon which doesn't fill them with a crushing sense of angst, coupled with a fierce yearning for a taxpayer funded, big government solution to magically cure all those too, too tragic ills all flesh is heir to?

Because, you know, that War on Poverty is going so well. Forty-odd years after Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty in America we have a 70% black illegitimacy rate and God only knows many black children still living in poverty? Where's the exit strategy on this one?

Electing Barack Obama president was a glorious Jackie Robinson moment for the United States of America. Obama didn't just win; he became the first Democrat since Jimmy Carter to win a popular-vote majority. He won a larger proportion of white votes than any previous nonincumbent Democratic presidential candidate since Carter. Ta-Nehisi Coates, writing in the Washington Post's Outlook section, was moved to conclude that Obama's victory vindicated Martin Luther King's "belief in white people," a belief Coates once scoffed at as a sign of "weakness and cowardice, a lack of faith in his own."

As a white person, I accept with gratitude Coates' warm feelings. But I fear they may be a tad premature. While it's certainly true that enough white people voted for Obama to put him in the Oval Office, the blunt fact remains that a majority of white people did not. Although Obama beat John McCain in the popular vote by an impressive seven-point margin, McCain beat Obama among white voters by an even more impressive 12-point margin. Obama got 53 percent of the broad electorate to vote for him but only 43 percent of the white electorate. When I say "white electorate," I don't mean the white working class, or white Southerners, or any other subgroup whose capacity for racial tolerance has long been held suspect. I mean all white voters.

If only Noah could impose not just racial, but ideological conformity upon the American electorate. What a wonderful world that would be!

Because as we all know, the truth has a liberal bias. Noah is honest enough to admit the truth here:

More whites voted for Obama than for the very white John Kerry or Al Gore. That doesn't sound like racist behavior. It's Democrats who most whites dislike, not black people.

Unfortunately, shortly thereafter his Hanes UltraSheers go positively bunchy on him:

It's no puzzler why Johnson was the last Democrat to win a majority of the white vote. He signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act into law, observing as he signed the former that "we have lost the South for a generation." (Actually, it's been two generations, and nobody would be surprised to see three.) What Johnson didn't allow himself to think was, "We have lost the white vote for a generation."

It is always so amusing to listen to people wax fulsome on the subject of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As Ronald Reagan once quipped, the problem is that they know so much that isn't so. Here are the actual voting statistics on the final version. Note that 80% of Republicans voted "for" the Civil Rights Act while only 63% of Democrats supported it:

Democratic Party: 153-91 (63%-37%) Republican Party: 136-35 (80%-20%)

Whereupon, to hear the story as subsequently related by the DNC, the South rose up in righteous wroth and deserted the party which opposed the Civil Rights Act; illogically (those RACISTS!!!!) flocking like lemmings to the party which overwhelmingly voted for it. And of course none of this had anything to do with economic forces or the rejection of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society by a deeply conservative region of the country. Nossir, I'm afraid the only answer is that Rethugs are a bunch of racists. Please do not confuse me with any more facts.

They burn.

So determined in Herr Noah to find deeply entrenched racism among whites (he openly admits he couldn't care less whether it runs rampant among blacks because apparently they don't matter) that he treats us to Part II of his excellent adventure through the land of confirmation bias, in which we learn the power of choosing an hypothesis susceptible to self-fulfillment. Natch, when one considers the refusal of white voters to blindly vote for white Democrats irrespective of their political or economic philosophy to be prima facie evidence of racism, life becomes a breeze:

Let me repeat what I wrote in the earlier column: I don't consider any given white person's vote against Obama, or against Democrats in general, to be racially motivated. Within any individual state, all sorts of political and sociological factors may influence a white person's vote apart from race. But when the Democrats go nearly a half-century without winning a majority of white votes in any presidential election, it's necessary to ask why, even after we've passed the remarkable milestone of electing our first black president.

Let's help Noah buy a clue. To recycle a mantra from a previous election in which Republicans were defeated, maybe - just maybe - "It's your policies, stupid":

If one totaled black earnings, and consider blacks a separate nation, he would have found that in 2005 black Americans earned $644 billion, making them the world's 16th richest nation. That's just behind Australia but ahead of Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. Black Americans have been chief executives of some of the world's largest and richest cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Gen. Colin Powell, appointed Joint Chief of Staff in October 1989, headed the world's mightiest military and later became U.S. Secretary of State, and was succeeded by Condoleezza Rice, another black. A few black Americans are among the world's richest people and many are some of the world's most famous personalities. These gains, over many difficult hurdles, speak well not only of the intestinal fortitude of a people but of a nation in which these gains were possible. They could not have been achieved anywhere else.

Acknowledgement of these achievements is not to deny that a large segment of the black community faces enormous problems. But as I have argued, most of today's problems have little or nothing to do with racial discrimination. That's not to say that every vestige of racial discrimination has been eliminated but as my colleague Dr. John McWhorter said in "End of Racism?" Forbes (11/5/08), "There are also rust and mosquitoes, and there always will be. Life goes on." The fact that the nation elected a black president hopefully might turn our attention away from the false notion that discrimination explains the problems of a large segment of the black community to the real problems that have absolutely nothing to do with discrimination.

The illegitimacy rate among blacks stands at about 70 percent. Less than 40 percent of black children are raised in two-parent households. Those are major problems but they have nothing to do with racial discrimination. During the early 1900s, illegitimacy was a tiny fraction of today's rate and black families were just as stable as white families. Fraudulent education is another problem, where the average black high school senior can read, write and compute no better than a white seventh-grader. It can hardly be blamed on discrimination. Black schools receive the same funding as white schools and most of the teachers and staffs are black and the schools are often in cities where the mayor and the city council are mostly black. Crime is a major problem. Blacks commit about 50 percent of all homicides and 95 percent of their victims are blacks.

Tragically, many black politicians and a civil rights industry have a vested interest in portraying the poor socioeconomic outcomes for many blacks as problems rooted in racial discrimination. One of the reasons they are able to get away with such deception is because there are so many guilt-ridden white people. Led by guilt, college administrators, employers and others in leadership positions, in the name of diversity, buy into nonsense such as lowering standards, racial preferences and acceptance of behavior standards they wouldn't accept from whites. Maybe the election of a black president will help white people over their guilt feelings so they can stop acting like fools in their relationships with black people.

Maybe whites who reject the Democratic party aren't racist, but just fed up with a party that promotes victimization and personal irresponsibiity, that uses class warfare to divide Americans and encourage them to think the American dream is a zero sum game.

Maybe is not that we don't care about black poverty and illegitimacy, but that we reject big government initiatives we believe have been deeply destructive and harmful to black families; that would be harmful to ANY family, of ANY race simply because human beings respond in predictable ways to incentives and if you reward irresponsibility and blur the consequences for poor personal decision making, in the aggregate more people will be irresponsible and make poor choices.

Maybe, just maybe, we're applying exactly the same standards we apply to our own family members and our own children. That's not prejudice. In point of fact, it's respect.

If we want to get past race, we need to treat people the same regardless of race. Now that's a transformative platform for change.

Why not give it a try?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:58 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Annoying Reichies

John Hawkins has done his annual "Most Irritating Folks in the Vast Reich Wing Conspiracy" poll once again. I should have gotten him my answers but since I was gone all weekend, by the time I saw his email I was just too swamped. It's a shame because I usually enjoy this one quite a bit.

Let's face it, we have more than our share of dimwits. At any rate, enjoy and feel free to provide your own top 10 in the comments section.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:39 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

I Give, And I Give, and I Give....

...and yet you people are never satisfied.


In the Princess' Inbox:

"Viggo Mortensen?"


Never let it be said that we didn't resist temptation. In our defense, let it be noted that we held out for 5 days:

Foreplay may be overrated according to a survey based on 2,300 women, which found that it has little or no significance when it comes to the likelihood of having an orgasm.

The duration of intercourse – 16.2 minutes on average – is the clincher, according to the research. The findings suggest that sex therapists, who emphasise the value of foreplay, may have that been getting it wrong.

This was obviously written by a man trying to get back into the living room before the 3rd quarter starts. Be that as it may, it's not hard (heh.... she said... oh, nevermind) to imagine how the discussion drifted off track and onto the subject (which the Princess for the longest time ignored in the noble and high minded fashion she desperately wants the readership to believe her capable of) of dreamy movie stars.

Be that as it may, we found this a bit odd:

The researchers point out that 16.2 minutes is considerably longer than reported in American studies, where intercourse was found to last on average seven minutes.

They added: "It could be that this reflects, a greater appreciation of intercourse and sensuality by Europeans than by Americans."

What the??? bizarre. Here's another one for the grist mill. How often should you have sex for optimum health? (and don't you just *love* these things? No matter what you answer, you'll probably end up feeling bad about yourself.)

Whatever. At any rate, Viggo Mortensen was the last straw. Some things simply will not stand.

Or so we've been told.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:10 AM | Comments (45) | TrackBack

November 13, 2008

The Palin Thing

I haven't had much to say about Sarah Palin for several reasons.

Primarily, I found the focus on her a time wasting and disproportionate distraction from far more important election issues. She wasn't the candidate for the presidency, though the Obama campaign and the media sought to inflate her role because it served their interest. If the role of the VP had truly been as central as they claimed, Joe Biden should have received far more coverage than he did.

The annoying thing about all the media fuss over Palin is that had John McCain been elected, Palin would quickly have receded into the background as Vice Presidents always do. That said, the stunning carelessness and dishonesty with which she was covered is notable. Today's news is a case in point:

It was among the juicier post-election recriminations: Fox News Channel quoted an unnamed McCain campaign figure as saying that Sarah Palin did not know that Africa was a continent.

Who would say such a thing? On Monday the answer popped up on a blog and popped out of the mouth of David Shuster, an MSNBC anchor. “Turns out it was Martin Eisenstadt, a McCain policy adviser, who has come forward today to identify himself as the source of the leaks,” Mr. Shuster said.

Trouble is, Martin Eisenstadt doesn’t exist. His blog does, but it’s a put-on. The think tank where he is a senior fellow — the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy — is just a Web site. The TV clips of him on YouTube are fakes.

And the claim of credit for the Africa anecdote is just the latest ruse by Eisenstadt, who turns out to be a very elaborate hoax that has been going on for months. MSNBC, which quickly corrected the mistake, has plenty of company in being taken in by an Eisenstadt hoax, including The New Republic and The Los Angeles Times.

Is this supposed to be an excuse? These are professional journalists we're talking about. As I noted yesterday, they seem to apply one standard when covering Republicans and another when covering subjects for whom they wish to provide political cover.

A study by the Culture and Media Institute revealed a shocking pattern to media coverage of Palin:

ABC, NBC and CBS news shows are covering Palin intensively, and they are running 18 negative stories for every positive one.
Network coverage of Palin has moved beyond criticism to outright ridicule. Strikingly, all three networks have repeatedly aired clips of Palin being parodied by a comedy show, NBC’s Saturday Night Live, leading to concerns that many Americans are confusing the real Palin with SNL’s figure of fun. When have comic impressions of a political figure ever qualified as hard news?

CMI reviewed network news coverage of Palin for the two weeks beginning September 29 and ending October 12, the period before and after the October 2 vice-presidential debate. We found that ABC, NBC and CBS have been stridently critical of Palin. Before the debate, the networks characterized her as a dunce whose shortcomings were dividing the GOP. After Palin laid to rest concerns about her competence by performing well in the debate, the network narrative changed: Palin became a demon, victimizing Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama with unfair criticism

Such bizarrely biased coverage is even more striking when analyzed statistically:

ABC was hardest on Palin, with 9 negative stories (60%), 6 neutral (40%) and no positive stories.

NBC ran 15 negative stories (54%), 13 neutral (46%) and no positive stories. CBS ran 14 negative stories (54%), 10 neutral (38%) and 2 positive (8%)

The Pew Center for Excellence looked at coverage of the candidates and (like the Washington Post) found a "gaping hole" in coverage of the vice presidential race - the media focused extensively on Palin while virtually ignoring Joe Biden, despite his repeated campaign trail gaffes. If being "a heartbeat away from the presidency" was truly such an important campaign issue, what can explain such imbalanced coverage?

What explains the many times the media outright manufactured stories out of thin air, such as the time CNN's Drew Roberts confronted Governor Palin with an insulting and deceptively edited quote from Byron York at the National Review:

Griffin: "The National Review Online has reported that Sarah Palin is either incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt, backward, etc".

Palin: "Who wrote that? I'd like to talk to that person"

Griffin: "I don't have who wrote it."

Amazing. So we are to believe you intentionally confronted the VP nominee with a quote that was deliberately edited to say the exact opposite of what the author originally intended it to convey. And yet, during this process, you didn't take the time to note which "conservative" at the National Review it came from?
The actual quote, from Byron York at The National Review:

"Watching press coverage of the Republican candidate for vice president, it’s sometimes hard to decide whether Sarah Palin is incompetent, unqualified, corrupt, backward, or — or, well, all of the above. Palin, the governor of Alaska, has faced more criticism than any vice-presidential candidate since 1988, when Democrats and the press tore into Dan Quayle. In fact, Palin may have it even worse than Quayle, since she’s taking flak not only from Democrats and the press but from some conservative opinion leaders as well…."

Griffin's dishonest rephrasing of the York quote, in addition to being calculated to embarrass and unnerve Palin on air, was flat out dishonest. It is notable that CNN never did issue a correction despite repeated requests.

Is it any wonder that critics of Governor Palin continue to repeat oft-debunked items like the frankly silly Bush doctrine or rape kit stories?

The truly frightening thing is that people vote based on the information they hear and see on the news and in their newspapers. And all too often, the news they hear and see isn't "vetted" by the professional journalists we rely upon to inform us.

I resent being forced into defending a politician I don't have particularly strong feelings for one away or another. But when even Camille Paglia (that right-wing extremist!) is moved to her defense, it's a pretty fair bet something was disturbingly wrong with the shallow, vapid and gushing election coverage we were handed:

Pursuing the truth about Ayers, I recently rented the 2002 documentary "The Weather Underground," from Netflix. It was riveting. Although the film seems to waver between ominous exposé and blatant whitewash, the full extent of the group's bombing campaign is dramatically demonstrated. It's not for everyone: The film uses gratuitous cutaways of horrifying carnage, from the Vietnam War to the Manson murders (such as Sharon Tate's smiling corpse, bathed in blood). But the news footage of the Greenwich Village townhouse destroyed in 1970 by bomb-making gone wrong in the basement still has enormous impact. Standing in the chaotic street, actor Dustin Hoffman, who lived next door, seems like Everyman at the apocalypse.

Ayers comes off in the film as a vapid, slightly dopey, chronic juvenile with stunted powers of ethical reasoning. The real revelation is his wife, Bernardine Dohrn (who evidently worked at the same large Chicago law firm as Michelle Obama in the mid-1990s). Of course I had heard of Dohrn -- hers was one of the most notorious names of our baby-boom generation -- and I knew her black-and-white police mug shot. But I had never seen footage of her speaking or interacting with others. Well, it's pretty obvious who wears the pants in that family!

The mystery of Bernardine Dohrn: How could such a personable, attractive, well-educated young woman end up saying such things at a 1969 political rally as this (omitted in the film) about the Manson murders: "Dig it. First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a fork into a victim's stomach. Wild!" And how could Dohrn have so ruthlessly pursued a decade-long crusade of hatred and terrorism against innocent American citizens and both private and public property?

"The Weather Underground" never searches for answers, but it does show Dohrn, then and now, as a poised, articulate woman of extremely high intelligence and surprising inwardness. The audio extra of her reading the collective's first public communiqué ("Revolutionary violence is the only way") is chilling. But the tumultuous footage of her 1980 surrender to federal authorities is a knockout. Mesmerized, I ran the clip six or seven times of her seated at a lawyer's table while reading her still defiant statement. The sober scene -- with Dohrn hyper-alert in a handsome turtleneck and tweedy jacket -- was tailor-made for Jane Fonda in her "Klute" period, androgynous shag. Only illegalities by federal investigators prevented Dohrn from being put away on ice for a long, long time.

Given that Obama had served on a Chicago board with Ayers and approved funding of a leftist educational project sponsored by Ayers, one might think that the unrepentant Ayers-Dohrn couple might be of some interest to the national media. But no, reporters have been too busy playing mini-badminton with every random spitball about Sarah Palin, who has been subjected to an atrocious and at times delusional level of defamation merely because she has the temerity to hold pro-life views.

How dare Palin not embrace abortion as the ultimate civilized ideal of modern culture? How tacky that she speaks in a vivacious regional accent indistinguishable from that of Western Canada! How risible that she graduated from the University of Idaho and not one of those plush, pampered commodes of received opinion whose graduates, in their rush to believe the worst about her, have demonstrated that, when it comes to sifting evidence, they don't know their asses from their elbows.

Liberal Democrats are going to wake up from their sadomasochistic, anti-Palin orgy with a very big hangover. The evil genie released during this sorry episode will not so easily go back into its bottle. A shocking level of irrational emotionalism and at times infantile rage was exposed at the heart of current Democratic ideology -- contradicting Democratic core principles of compassion, tolerance and independent thought. One would have to look back to the Eisenhower 1950s for parallels to this grotesque lock-step parade of bourgeois provincialism, shallow groupthink and blind prejudice.

I like Sarah Palin, and I've heartily enjoyed her arrival on the national stage. As a career classroom teacher, I can see how smart she is -- and quite frankly, I think the people who don't see it are the stupid ones, wrapped in the fuzzy mummy-gauze of their own worn-out partisan dogma. So she doesn't speak the King's English -- big whoop! There is a powerful clarity of consciousness in her eyes. She uses language with the jumps, breaks and rippling momentum of a be-bop saxophonist. I stand on what I said (as a staunch pro-choice advocate) in my last two columns -- that Palin as a pro-life wife, mother and ambitious professional represents the next big shift in feminism. Pro-life women will save feminism by expanding it, particularly into the more traditional Third World.

As for the Democrats who sneered and howled that Palin was unprepared to be a vice-presidential nominee -- what navel-gazing hypocrisy! What protests were raised in the party or mainstream media when John Edwards, with vastly less political experience than Palin, got John Kerry's nod for veep four years ago? And Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, for whom I lobbied to be Obama's pick and who was on everyone's short list for months, has a record indistinguishable from Palin's. Whatever knowledge deficit Palin has about the federal bureaucracy or international affairs (outside the normal purview of governors) will hopefully be remedied during the next eight years of the Obama presidencies.

Pursuing the truth... what a concept. Why is it only now the country seems to be waking from a long sleep? Yes, we can think for ourselves.

And maybe we'll even learn to stop hating each other in the process. Right now, I'm not hopeful.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:19 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

That Unbridgeable Divide

I do think that America’s a country now, it is two Americas. There’s the progressive European nation that a lot of us live in or would like to live in and it’s being strangled by the Sarah Palins of the world. It can’t quite be born because this other stupid redneck nation won’t allow it.

- Bill Maher

On the Redrawing the Conservative Roadmap post, Elise cited the Bill Maher quote above during a temperate and distressingly coherent reply to 'socialist libtard'. By his lights, her insistence on civility brands her yet another apologist for lawlessness, if not outright stupidity:

What a curious perspective on the world. If I understand Greenwald correctly, I deserve condemnation for taking arguments seriously: in his words, I "reasonably debat[ed] these actions as though they were legitimate, as though support for those policies was worthy of serious and respectful consideration." In other words, I was an apologist for lawless and radical Bush policies even when writing posts that rejected them. By rejecting positions through reason rather than invective, I legitimated the positions I rejected.

I think Greenwald has it exactly backwards, though. If you actually want to persuade folks who haven't made up their mind already on ideological grounds — that is, the crowd that is open to persuasion --invective won't cut it. You need real arguments, and you need credibility, and you can get that only by taking arguments seriously and evaluating them on the merits free of insults and abuse. You don't need to express "outrage" to make the point; in fact, outrage only takes away from it. My approach doesn't sell a lot of books, I realize, but I think it does get to the bottom of things.

More and more these days, I find myself becoming dismayed at the harshness and smug, reflexive insularity of our political discourse. If it weren't so casually malicious, it might be easier to accept the New York Times' stunning bigotry:

Fear of the politician with the unusual name and look did not end with last Tuesday’s vote in this rural red swatch where buck heads and rifles hang on the wall. This corner of the Deep South still resonates with negative feelings about the race of President-elect Barack Obama.

Yessir, the tree of the Confederacy sure bears some strange fruit, doesn't it? It's a good thing those fear mongering fear mongers who vote the politics of fear, hate and racial division are about to be ensmartened by those who practice the politics of unity, healing, and hope!

And then there are the voices of sweet reason in my own party:

There are really only four things I have a strong aversion to: unloaded guns, dull knives, banjos, and Republicans in Name Only (RINOs).

...As the Republican Party begins to retool, rebuild and return to the "less government is best government" conservatism that makes America work, the first thing the GOP needs to do is to lock the RINOs out of the discussion. Heavily armed with an abundance of conservative attitude, my hunting buddies and I will provide security to ensure RINOs are kept downwind from the discussion. If allowed to participate, RINOs will continue to rot the Republican Party from within and diminish it in the eyes of the public. Enough is enough.

Impressive. In fact, that's first class leftist thinking there. If your ideas can't stand on their own two feet, simply eliminate the competition.

Somehow the Editorial Staff is reminded of an old song from our youth: clowns to the left, jokers to the right. And here we are, stuck in the middle. Perhaps it is some kind of mental illness, not to swerve so far to either side that one views any disagreement as a defect of character or intelligence.

If so, throw me into the abyss, because I'd rather jump off that cliff than stand on either side with people who are allowing themselves to forget that we all have to live together under the same system of laws and under a two party system in which both parties share power at the end of the day.

That whole democracy thing doesn't work too well when you go through life believing the other side are possessed by Satan. Or ignorant, backwoods racists.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:23 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 12, 2008



Confession time. The Princess' family are sailors. But years ago when the Unit and I went to the Annapolis boat show, the boat that caught our eye was actually a catamaran. The princess suspects it was the prospect of bikini-clad women at the front that made the 'cat so attractive to a certain Marine who shall remain nameless. Also, perhaps, happy memories of our trip to Jamaica. But then, too, we are just too busy to spend all day messing about with a sailboat.

We enjoy it, but by the time we drive all the way out to the Marina, get the boat ready to sail and get underway, half the day is gone. When both husband and wife work all week (and when you get up at 4 am) that's a significant disincentive. Frankly, I'd go for a power boat too.

Aesthetically it's not as pleasing. There's no doubt about that. There's nothing as lovely as sailing when there's a brisk wind (sorry, I can't be bothered with puttering about when it's calm). But if you don't live on the water, you just want to get out there and start enjoying yourself.

In the mean time, at least we here at VC are not guilt of boatism. Enjoy :)

Posted by Cassandra at 06:51 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Topic of the Day

Viggo Mortensen is a metrosexual.

Discuss amongst yourselves. The Editorial Staff, naturally, has an opinion.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:17 PM | Comments (35) | TrackBack

So Much for "Journalistic Ethics"

Tim Graham points out yet another example of media hypocrisy:

One way to discern journalistic ethics is to ask journalists if they would apply the same standard of scrutiny to themselves as they apply to national politicians. Would that be fair? For example, the media was flagrantly attracted by anonymous McCain aides spinning ridiculous fairy tales about Palin as a "diva" and a "whack job," going "rogue" and disobeying the campaign bosses. She was a vicious, paper-throwing princess, a geographically challenged idiot who thought Africa was a country, and some sort of Desperate Housewives character who answered knocks on her hotel door wearing nothing but a towel.

...Let’s remember Katie Couric, and the harsh unauthorized biography written about her by Ed Klein that came out in August 2007. She was a seriously vicious diva in between those covers. Klein used anonymous sources to make claims like Couric was so calculating that cynics at NBC took bets on how long it would take her to exploit her husband Jay Monahan's death. "Some said 72 hours; others just 24 hours," he wrote. He asserted Couric had an affair during her time at CNN in the 1980s with a married man who could advance her career. ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC all predictably passed on that one. They don’t always skip out when Kitty Kelley manufactures trash against the Reagans or the Bushes, but they passed when the target is a journalist.

It's not hard to find other examples of "Do as I say, not as I do" in the journalistic community. The media studiously ignored reports that John Edwards was cheating on his wife for months on end, yet didn't scruple for a second before going public with even more thinly-sourced rumors that John McCain might have had an improper relationship with Vicki Iseman. What standard was at work there?

For months during the presidential campaign, pundits and correspondents alike labeled any attempt to ask questions regarding Barack Obama's associations with the Reverend Wright, Tony Rezko, or Rashid Khalidi as "guilt by association". To hear them tell it, such tactics were despicable and dishonorable; the telltale signs of a campaign willing to stoop to base means in order to win.

And yet the media have never found guilt by association a morally objectionable tactic when used against conservatives. In fact, the press have found guilt by association so useful that they continue employing the desperate, despicable tactics that moved them to sputtering fits of outrage when they were used against Barack Obama.

Apparently, casual or one-time contact by a Republican (such as making a single speech) is far more incriminating than associations which extend over several years and involve the transfer of large sums of money or the cultivation of political influence.

And then there's the matter of the media's role in holding public figures accountable (or what the Associated Press likes to call "Accountability Journalism"). Seen through the lens of party affiliation, "accountability" plays out in some interesting ways:

"You know what?" MSNBC's Chris Matthews said last week. "I want to do everything I can to make this thing work, this new presidency work." Asked by morning host Joe Scarborough whether that was his job, Matthews said: "Yeah, that's my job, because this country needs a successful presidency more than anything right now."

Funny -- it's hard to recall many journalists saying they wanted to make Ronald Reagan's or George W. Bush's presidency work.

If not asking hard questions is what journalists do when they want to "help" a presidency succeed, it would appear that what the media thought this country needed most during the last 8 years was an unsuccessful presidency.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:29 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Project Valour IT

marineflag.jpgVia Grim, Project Valour IT has begun its annual fund raising drive:

You've probably noticed that the annual Project VALOUR-IT fundraiser is on. Doc Russia tapped us for the Marine Corps team. If you want to donate, and mark it USMC, we'd appreciate it.

Though it is still early and we have not yet had our second cup of coffee, the Editorial Staff have already joined the Marine team and made a donation.

Go thou and do likewise.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:45 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

November 10, 2008

Redrawing the Conservative Roadmap: Part I

Sorry it's taken me a while to get back to this. One of the projects we discussed shortly after the election was a wide ranging set of discussions on reframing what I'm going to call the conservative roadmap for 2010/2012. Alert readers may note I intentionally didn't call it the Republican roadmap for two reasons:

1. At this point, I've grown so disgusted with the Republican party that I'm inclined to change my registration back to Independent. My reasons are beyond the scope of this post, but they have nothing to do with the well known outrage of the "base". If anything, disgust with the base has played a major part in driving voters like me away from the party (though I've consistently voted Republican since the early 1980s). If "the base" wants to lose an affluent group of voters who stuck with the GOP through thick and thin and have given the party both their verbal and financial support, they're doing a bang up job. Many of my family and friends feel the same way I do.

More on this later.

2. For diverse reasons several readers have also expressed anger and disgust with the party, but I'd like to include them in this discussion. "Republican roadmap" implies a specificity that is unneeded and can only serve to discourage participation.

What we're shooting for here is a set of principles pitched to appeal to a broad cross-section of voters. Broad appeal is important, because the last three elections were won by chipping away at the margins; attracting small groups of voters in targeted groups (women, blacks, Hispanics, Democrats, Independents, Republicans). Obviously state elections matter too. But accomplishing the broader objective ought to lay a good foundation for state campaigns, though each state race will involve issues of local interest.

Even this point, however, may be up for debate. Contrary to the fond imagination of the GOP base, when registered Republicans aren't numerous enough to win a national election on their own, not even extra strength red Koolaid should lead the base to think a subset of registered Republicans can afford to ignore what the rest of the country thinks. Only the very stupid or the very stubborn argue with numbers.

Whether they like it or not, there's a reason the American people consistently elect perceived centrists:

A rational person does not expect any large organization to be entirely uniform in its political beliefs. The Republican Party is no exception. One reasonably expects the beliefs of its members to be distributed along a spectrum ranging from far right-wing to verging on the liberal: in other words, to be normally distributed. But unfortunately for the elite few who like to think of themselves as Bush's "base", the mass of voters who elected George Bush last November was not a "real" Republicans-only club. It also numbers in its ranks (God forbid!) the dreaded RINO, Democrats, Independents, and Livid Terriers. So one must broaden out the ideological spectrum a bit wider. The bell curve representing the voters to whom George Bush is beholden becomes broader, rather than narrower.

Note: when I wrote the RINO post, the intent of the bell curve analogy was not to imply that the beliefs of registered Republicans would be normally distributed along a bell curve representing the full left-right spectrum of political ideology. I thought that was an obvious point, and unfortunately one of the drawbacks in blogging in the hour or so before work is that you don't have time to go into as much detail as you might like to. I think the graphic I would have liked to construct (if I'd had time) would have looked more like two overlapping bell curves - Democrats on the left, Republicans on the right, the center tails overlapping to some degree where conservative Democrats and RINO/moderate Republicans intersect. So just to head off any comments on the old post, the 'bell curve' analogy is intended to represent the ideological spectrum of registered Republicans rather than the full spectrum - though I suppose Ron Paul's candidacy may have cast some doubt on that notion.

Sadly, the easiest way to broaden the appeal of the Republican ticket has been pandering: simply promise every voter a big old bag of goodies. This tactic is more successful during hard times than when the economy is booming. But pandering is antithetical to the small government, lower tax, free market message conservatives have traditionally championed. What's more, it's a vicious cycle: as each candidate ponies up a bigger and better goody bag to win votes, conservatives end up competing half-heartedly at a game they can't win without surrendering their political souls.

Clearly, we need a better way. Let's begin with the social agenda and a few broad questions:

1. John Hawkins, among others, has been flogging the idea that conservatives (and the GOP in particular) can't win an election by rebuilding the party around moderates. Now while I agree with his general conclusion (there is no set of moderate principles to build around), I strongly disagree with many of his stated reasons.

I posted the political compass as an exercise in exploring how diverse our political leanings are - that was more important than where anyone in particular came out. Oddly, John provides no evidence for asserting that moderates are ill informed, fickle, and base their decisions on anecdotal evidence but there's not a whole lot of daylight between that sort of thinking and the kind of nonsense Judith Warner spouts on the pages of the Times. Essentially it amounts to "If you share my views, you can only have reasoned your way there. If we disagree, it can only be because you're an unprincipled ignoranus." (misspelling fully intended) You've got to love a magnanimous victor, positively a-tingle with the desire to put aside those awful partisan divisions and usher in four years of enlightened and transcendently inclusive Obamaliciousness:

An era of unbridled deregulation [Ed. note: like Sarbanes-Oxley], wealth-enhancing perks for the already well-off, and miserly indifference to the poor and middle class; of the recasting of greed as goodness, the equation of bellicose provincialism with patriotism, the reframing of bigotry as small-town decency.

In short, it was the start of our current era. The Reagan Revolution was the formative political experience of my generation’s lifetime, like the Great Depression, the Second World War or Vietnam for those before us. And in its intellectual and moral paucity, in its eventual hegemony, these years shut down, for some of us, the ability to fully imagine another way.

Because, you know, those people didn't just disagree with us loving, tolerant, and diverse folk. They were intellectually and morally impoverished. You betcha!

John's last point illustrates the dangers of becoming mired in your own world view:

Last but not least, it's worth noting that there is no "moderate" political party in the United States. When the American people go to the ballot box, we have a center-right nation choosing between the Republican Party and radical, left-wing socialists.

This is exactly the kind of scorched earth rhetoric that annoys and turns swing voters off. I can guarantee you the average American doesn't see Republicans and "radical left-wing socialists" on the ballot on Election Day. He sees Republicans and Democrats and if the two elections didn't provide the glimmerings of a clue that more voters pulled the lever for the Democrats, not "left-wing socialists", we can all look forward to losing again in 2010.

As Mindles H. Dreck so astutely points out, for both the Left and the Reich, elections are a balancing act:

One of the more difficult aspects of voting is predicting the following balance:

* turn out your party's whackos to win,

* ignore your wackos to govern wisely and not alienate swing voters

Moreover, as suggested by the linked Greg Mankiw post, one of the biggest problems faced by Republicans is the tension between their 'social values' message and a rapidly changing demographic which views conservatives (rightly or wrongly) as intolerant and 'mean':

In this election, the young left the Republican party in droves.

Why? I am not enough of a political scientist to be sure, but recent conversations I have had with some Harvard undergrads have led me to a conjecture: It was largely noneconomic issues. These particular students told me they preferred the lower tax, more limited government, freer trade views of McCain, but they were voting for Obama on the basis of foreign policy and especially social issues like abortion. The choice of a social conservative like Palin as veep really turned them off McCain.

So what does the Republican Party need to do to get the youth vote back? If these Harvard students are typical (and perhaps they are not, as Harvard students are hardly a random sample), the party needs to scale back its social conservatism. Put simply, it needs to become a party for moderate and mainstream libertarians. The actual Libertarian Party is far too extreme in its views to attract these students. And it is too much of a strange fringe group. These students are, after all, part of the establishment. But a reformed Republican Party could, I think, win them back.

Can the Republican Party move in this direction without losing much of its base? I have no idea, but for the GOP, that seems to be the challenge ahead.

This leaves us with a disturbing question: how do conservatives square the concerns of voters who view (for instance) abortion as murder with those who are pro-choice and view attempts by the party to impose a rigid pro-life agenda as a turn-off?

How do conservatives deal with questions like gay marriage and other issues related to homosexuality when an increasing number of young people have gay friends (and when an increasing number of gays themselves are conservative?).

How do we deal with the immigration issue when Americans have such schizophrenic and illogical attitudes on the subject (in the abstract many Americans oppose illegal immigration, yet they view attempts to enforce existing laws as inhumane and "uncaring").

As a starting point for discussion, John Hawkins provides the following summation of the "GOP Brand Promise":

There has been a lot of talk over the last few years about the GOP "brand," but few people have gone into any sort of depth on the subject. So, let's take a little time to think about the GOP and branding.

What Is The GOP Brand Promise?

First off, what is the "GOP Brand Promise?" Of course, there is certainly a lot of debate about this subject, but I'd suggest that it can be broken down into some very basic categories...

* Limited government.
* Fiscal responsibility.
* Low taxes
* Traditional values.
* Law and order.
* Clean government.
* Personal responsibility.
* A strong national defense.
* Patriotism.

I like those categories as a basis for our discussion.

Furthermore, I'd like to throw out some general talking points:

1. I think the presidential debates really suffer from almost impardonable ignorance on several scores, and conservatives would do well to frame the debate in a way that both educates the public and focuses on what Congress and the President actually do. We waste enormous amounts of time on distracting debates over subjects the President, for instance, has little or no actual influence over while neglecting important issues he does have control and influence over.

2. I think item #1 provides at least a partial answer to many of our "social issue" woes. As a moderate, though I both understand and support the strong convictions of social conservatives, I firmly believe the federal government ought to stay the hell out of the business of legislating personal and sexual morality. We need to start making the case that nearly all of these issues are ones which have traditionally been resolved at the state and local level. We need to frame this as a "freedom" issue: when the federal government imposes a one-size-fits-all moral code upon 50 very different states, we LOSE the freedom to decide and debate amongst ourselves how we want to live.

This is a freedom the Founders very much wanted us to have. Why do we allow liberals to brand us intolerant? The right answer is that a true conservative doesn't care about legislating these issues at the federal level, but can and will oppose any effort to thwart participatory democratic decision-making and debate at the state and local level.

Personally, what attracted me to the GOP in the first place was the idea that it was an ideological "big tent". Though my personal values tend towards the conservative side, my political values are definitely socially liberal. I don't want the government telling me or anyone else what to do in the bedroom. You'd probably be surprised how many Republicans - even those with traditional values - get turned off when the RNC starts to sound like the nanny state. Many of us, and most definitely the younger generation, draw a bright line between our personal moral standards and the amount of interference we're willing to accept from Congress (of all the ridiculous institutions to lecture Americans on "morals").

3. There may be better words for this but in broad, overarching terms conservatives need to frame the choice facing voters as being between a Party of Opportunity and Freedom which maximizes individual dignity, responsibility, and choice and minimizes government interference in the lives of citizens, and a Party of Pessimism and Control which maximizes dependency on government, waste and inefficiency and minimizes productivity, opportunity, and accountability.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:44 AM | Comments (234) | TrackBack

November 08, 2008

Political Compass

I know I've posted this political compass test before, but Dark Lord Sly sent it to me a few days ago. Since I've been noodling about for a good way to begin our discussion about revamping the conservative platform for 2012, it struck me as an excellent place to start.

My results are below the fold. Originally I'd planned to begin the discussion with economics, but after doing some reading I think perhaps we may want to address a more fundamental divide within the Republican party. That's what this exercise is intended to tease out.


Posted by Cassandra at 06:21 AM | Comments (34) | TrackBack

November 07, 2008

A Soldier's Face

Looking into their eyes and reading the comments, what struck me most was the way people seem to project their own feelings about the war onto these men, almost as though they were painting on a blank canvas. It was as though they themselves had ceased to matter.

So many strong emotions: fear, anger, hatred, protectiveness, exhaustion, pain, pride, sympathy, grief, tenderness ....

Love. Looking into those eyes, that is what I saw, over and over.

That is what I see on the pillow next to mine each morning, and the last thing I want to see before the light finally fades away in my last hour on earth.

lying there
I feel the night air coming in
through the open window

imagine it pushed back in waves
by the heat
coming off your skin

so self-contained -

content for the moment, until
you turn and smile
into the darkness

and I drop like a stone into the deep water
and am lost forever

Posted by Cassandra at 07:56 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

November 06, 2008

Serious Social Issue We Had Not Considered...

...until now. As if the continual worry about Andrew Sullivan's mental health weren't enough (now that Sarah Palin's uterus is safely tucked away back in Wasilla, where it can no longer undermine the security of the Republic) what will Green Glennwald do once The Shrub stops eviscerating the Bill of Rights and returns to drinking the blood of freshly sacrificed African American infants from the skull of an endangered tufted owl?

Oh. Stupid question:

In response to my post last night poking fun at both sides of the aisle for their (forthcoming) switch in arguments, Glenn Greenwald writes, with my emphasis added:

George Washington University Law Professor Orin Kerr — a leading apologist for many (though not all) of the lawless and radical Bush policies of the last eight years — last night smugly predicted that Democrats who spent the last eight years opposing executive power expansions and an oversight-free Presidency will now reverse positions, while Republicans who have been vehement advocates of a strong executive and opposed to meaningful Congressional oversight will do the same.

I suppose if you're going to be labeled an "apologist," it's nice to be a "leading" one. No point in being a following apologist, after all. But does anyone know what "lawless and radical" policies I apparently served as an apologist for? I am genuinely curious.

It's going to be an entertaining four years, folks.

But on the bright side, The One's smart economic policeh is already working miracles, and he hasn't even taken office yet!

Looking ahead to the possibility of an Obama administration, some baseball agents already are thinking about trying to beat a possible tax increase for their well-paid clients.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has proposed increasing the top federal income tax rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent, where it was under the Clinton administration. If signing bonuses are paid before Jan. 1, they likely would be taxed at the current rate and would not be subject to any tax increase.

As we noted before the election, rational actors (that's people to the folks at home) adjust their decisions in response to incentives.

With entirely foreseeable consequences.
Via OBH.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:35 AM | Comments (36) | TrackBack

Coffee Snorters: Guy Noir Edition

North Philly, May 4, 2001. Officer Sean Devlin, Narcotics Strike Force, was working the morning shift. Undercover surveillance. The neighborhood? Tough as a three dollar steak. Devlin knew. Five years on the beat, nine months with the Strike Force. He’d made fifteen, twenty drug busts in the neighborhood.

Devlin spotted him: a lone man on the corner. Another approached. Quick exchange of words. Cash handed over; small objects handed back. Each man then quickly on his own way. Devlin knew the guy wasn’t buying bus tokens. He radioed a description and Officer Stein picked up the buyer. Sure enough: three bags of crack in the guy’s pocket. Head downtown and book him. Just another day at the office.

- The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS, with whom JUSTICE KENNEDY joins, dissenting from denial of certiorari.

Who knew it was so much fun to be a Supreme Court Justice?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:17 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

A Case of Indecent Exposure

The Supreme Court is currently debating whether We the People are deprived of an irreplaceable First Amendment right when the f-word is stricken from broadcast TV shows aired between the hours of 6 and 10 pm. Traditionally the FCC has regulated the use of profanity and nudity during prime time to allow families to watch TV without being involuntarily confronted with age inappropriate fare. A rare example of indecency enforcement occurred in February when the FCC fined Fox TV for airing a risque reality TV show. The government has been slow to prosecute claims of indecency, going after only the most egregious offenders in markets where viewers lodged vociferous complaints. Typically, enforcement is both difficult and expensive:

In yesterday's order, the FCC turned down a Fox claim that said the April 7, 2003, show -- which featured digitally obscured nudity and whipped-cream-covered strippers -- was not indecent.

...The "Married by America" ruling is the second issued by the FCC in the past month that took years to complete. The FCC proposed the fine against Fox in October 2004, and Fox responded that December, meaning it took the agency more than three years to reach yesterday's decision.

In late January, the FCC proposed a total of $1.43 million in fines against 52 ABC-owned and -affiliated stations for airing a Feb. 25, 2003, episode of "NYPD Blue" that featured full female dorsal nudity and the side of one bare breast.

It took nearly five years from broadcast to FCC decision, but less than a month for the FCC to turn down ABC's response and order a reduced payment of $1.24 million against 45 stations, again omitting markets that had not complained about the program. ABC paid the fines but is appealing the FCC's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York.

The government maintains that though free expression is an important Constitutional right, the home should be a refuge and parents should not be forced to take extreme measures to protect children from adult oriented fare which violates community standards. This makes sense if you think about it, though such rationales face steep resistance in a world where any principled argument is inevitably branded intolerant. But is it truly intolerant to assert there may be some minimal standard of speech and behavior; and if that standard is violated reasonable people have a right to be offended?

If certain behavior isn't accepted among adults at the office, in the classroom, or on the street; why must parents be forced to take special measures to protect children in their own homes? Clearly there is some consensus (and has been for quite some time) that this behavior offends the sensibilities of enough reasonable adults that society has deemed it off limits? Is there no permissible limit on an individual's absolute and unfettered "right" to offend?

If this standard is relaxed or eliminated entirely, what prevents human nature from pushing the boundaries (which has been the result every time an impediment of this sort has been removed):

In FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, this Court upheld the Constitutionality of the FCC’s authority to regulate indecent broadcasts. At issue in Pacifica was the midday radio broadcast of George Carlin’s monologue “Filthy Words.” Responding to a listener complaint, the Commission determined that the broadcast violated Section 1464. In reaching that conclusion, it applied a “concept of ‘indecent’ [that] is intimately connected with the exposure of children to language that describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory activities and organs, at times of the day when there is a reasonable risk that children may be in the audience.”

As the Court observed, “[t]he Commission’s decision rested entirely on a nuisance rationale under which context is all-important,” and that “requires consideration of a host of variables.” In rejecting a constitutional challenge to the Commission’s enforcement of Section 1464, the Court explained “of all forms of communication, it is broadcasting that has received the most limited First Amendment
protection.” That is in part because “the broadcast media have established a uniquely pervasive presence in the lives of all Americans”
in that “material presented over the airwaves confronts the citizen, not only in public, but also in the privacy
of the home, where the individual’s right to be left alone plainly outweighs the First Amendment rights of an intruder.” In addition, the Court emphasized, “broadcasting is uniquely accessible to children, even those too young to read,” and the broadcast of indecent language can “enlarge[] a child’s vocabulary in an instant.”
The Court concluded that “the government’s interest in the well-being of its youth and in supporting parents’ claim to authority in their own household justified the regulation of otherwise protected expression.” The Court rejected the contention that “one may avoid further offense by turning off the radio when he hears indecent
language,” comparing it to “saying that the remedy for an assault is to run away after the first blow.”

The respondents' riposte is nothing if not circular. In their less than compelling argument, the f-word is rendered inoffensive by the context in which it is used. Its status - that of a mere modifier concatenated to the end of two consecutive "really's" - strips it of its original sexual connotation. If one accepts the respondents' argument, the word "f**king" appears to have neither any literal meaning, nor to serve any purpose, whatsoever. It is the semantic equivalent of "quite",; as in:

"That's really, really f**king brilliant."

But if the word has no meaning other than to serve as a mild intensifier, this begs an interesting question. What speech right is infringed upon by requiring broadcasters to monitor and bleep it out? That which has no meaning, conveys no thought or idea. What speech is being prevented? Examine Bono's sentence without the supposedly inoffensive and consequently redundant intensifier. Is it fundamentally altered with the purportedly essential modifier removed?

"That's really, really brilliant."

The other examples cited in FCC vs. Fox are hardly more compelling as exemplars of vital and expressive speech:

Cher, on receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award:

I’ve had unbelievable support in my life and I’ve
worked really hard. I’ve had great people to work
with. Oh, yeah, you know what? I’ve also had critics
for the last 40 years saying that I was on my way out
every year. Right. So f**k ‘em. I still have a job
and they don’t.

Nicole Ritchie (notably, immediately after being warned to watch her language on a live broadcast):

Paris Hilton: It feels so good to be standing here tonight. Nicole Richie: Yeah, instead of standing in mud and [audio blocked].

Why do they even call it “The Simple
Life?” Have you ever tried to get cow s**t out of
a Prada purse? It’s not so f**king simple.

Again, we return to the tension between individual rights and the social contract. We all voluntarily surrender some rights in order to secure other rights or benefits which, as individuals, we would find it too arduous to guarantee: a defense of our borders, police, schools, a coherent and uniform legal system, roads and the like. To hear some big L libertarians talk, the world would be a far groovier place if we abolished government entirely and went all free market. This is sort of like going commando on that classy first date you're trying so hard to impress - it feels so liberating until she asks you up for a nightcap and you realize there just might be a few contingencies you failed to anticipate.

Perhaps some precious and indefinable right is lost when parents are able to turn on their televisions after dinner without wondering when Cher will start blithely dropping f-bombs on the kids right there in the Great Room or some dimwitted naturist with regrettable implants and a Dayglo nipple ring will begin cavorting about in a vat of non-dairy creamer (thus prompting questions about social policy we may prefer to defer until a more congenial moment in time).

If so, the Times will have to define it for me. Because although few of these things offend me on a personal level (I swear like a sailor) I don't understand why someone else's right to completely unrestrained and gratuitous crudity at all times outweighs the reasonable expectation that citizens living in a diverse society should exercise a reasonable level of restraint under limited circumstances?

We routinely exercise this type of restraint on the streets, in our workplaces, in stores and in classrooms all over America. If we do not, our fellow Americans are rightly offended and often we may even be arrested for disturbing the peace. The Times chooses to mislead in its portrayal of the FCC's handling of the case, as it so often does. Originally the FCC decided Bono's single use of the f-word was not offensive.

It was only after the repeated complaints of the public it serves - We the People - that the FCC responded by revisiting its decision. Journalists often complain that government should be more responsive to the public. This is a case where government did exactly that; slowly and with care and deliberation, and is being pilloried for doing so.

Policy questions are never easy. Balancing tests never are. But to claim "important speech rights" are being endangered when in the case at hand, the word being disputed is claimed to be inoffensive precisely because it has no meaning borders on the ludicrous. Either the word conveys meaning or it does not. The Times and other defenders of profanity will have to make up their minds.

Or more accurately, they will not because as always they will distort and talk around the issues; assuming that few will bother to read up on the facts of the instant case.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:39 AM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

November 05, 2008

Sorry, Guys :)

I've been working on something so I haven't had much spare time lately.

Sean had a good idea:

Cass, how about a new contest/topic to fill the post-vote ennui?

I suggest basing it on discussion of the new literature emerging from the US' current wars; you knew that in this age where it is easy to find an outlet for one's voice that there would be a significant body of literature appearing, and there is.

I just finished "HOGS in the Shadows," a fascinating series of "war stories" from Marine Corp Scout Snipers in Iraq. ("HOGS" refers to "Hunter of Gunmen", i.e., a sniper). It's very matter-of-fact with little in the way of much moral agonizing, more about the day to day lives of these remarkable soldiers.

I bet your readership is very well read on contemporary wartime literature and I'd like to see some recommendations. Is there a new "Naked and the Dead" out there? A John Keegan or Stephen Ambrose? An Ernie Pyle we should know about (or a Gomer Pyle, for that matter)? I think you could include straight-up political stuff as well as combat reportage...

Whaddya think?

I'm going to make it more general than that:

1. What are you reading right now?

2. Do you like it? Why or why not?

3. I'm thinking of ideas for the post-election period. I'm REALLY sick of politics. You have no idea how sick I am of politics.

I just don't think I can write about this stuff much more. I did it because I thought it was important. And I'll write about it now and then. But politics has never really been my thing. I have always written more about the war, economics, about law or foreign policy. Obviously about sex/relationships and how people think. There are a few other subjects I'm interested in that I'd like to explore. Otherwise, I really don't have a whole lot to say.

But my time is getting more limited so I need to structure this more and I want to vary it a lot more because I'm bored. Happy to entertain ideas. This is your place too.

Also, if there are any people who want to volunteer to judge contests (but don't normally play) I'd love to have a few volunteers. You have to remain anonymous. Email me if you're interested.

I would love to have more games and contests, but judging them is a huge stumbling block for me. So there is that.

Over to you.

Posted by Cassandra at 03:01 PM | Comments (37) | TrackBack

Ruth Marcus - Smart Lady

...and someone you should be reading, if you're not already:

President-elect Obama needs to think about how to handle the marshmallows.

In the classic psychology experiment on delayed gratification, researchers gave 4-year-olds a marshmallow, then promised a second if the children could refrain for 20 minutes from eating the first.

Some did, some didn't. Years later, the 4-year-olds with greater impulse control were better adjusted, more dependable and had higher SAT scores.

We're about to conduct a rerun of that test -- with Democrats substituting for 4-year-olds.

Obama will have to contend with the hydraulic force of pent-up Democratic demands for action. After eight years without the White House, and two years in which a Democratic majority in Congress found itself stymied in delivering on its promises, the leftward precincts of his party are not inclined toward either compromise or patience. There is some basis for their urgency: A new president has a small window to launch major initiatives if he hopes to see them enacted.

Yet the experience of President Bill Clinton's rocky early months -- remember gays in the military? the BTU tax? -- suggests the steep political price of governing in a way that is, or seems, skewed to the left. This risk is particularly acute for Obama, whose opponents have painted him as a leftist extremist. The good news is that his advisers seem exquisitely aware of this trap and determined not to fall into it.

I'm not so sure I agree with her here, though:

Clinton's 43 percent plurality made him look weak in the eyes of Congress; Obama's victory puts him in a stronger position to resist demands from Capitol Hill. Unlike the last two Democratic presidents who came to town disdaining the ways of Washington, Obama, for all his change rhetoric, is surrounded by people who understand how to navigate the tensions between a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress.

Arguably, Congressional Democrats can argue that Obama's commanding victory amounts to a mandate for sweeping change and given that he himself ran on precisely such a platform, he'll have a hard time making the contrary case now unless he's willing to watch his approval ratings plummet during his first term in office.

Obama is about to learn the hard truth about being President. Unlike a seat in the Senate, that desk in the Oval Office offers zero political cover: the spotlight will be on him 24/7 and pitting himself against his own party isn't likely to win him many allies.

And as Jack Shafer has already noted, the press will be waiting to pounce:

To Deakin's list of relations-with-the-press critiques that a president inevitably faces we can add these either-ors that Obama will have to endure from the press: Is he moving too fast on the economy or too slow? Is he too deferential to Congress or too pushy? Is he coddling Iran or baiting it? Why isn't he making good on his Iraq pledge—why is he throwing the Iraq victory away? Why is he repeating Bill Clinton's mistakes? Why can't he govern from the center like Bill Clinton? Isn't it time he made good on his domestic campaign promises? What makes him think the current economy can take the shock of universal health care? He's as secrecy-obsessed as George W. Bush! He's more combative with Congress than Bush was! You call that a liberal appointment to the Supreme Court?!

Obama will abandon the habit of walking on water he picked up during the past two years because you can't build a moat around the White House the way you can a presidential campaign. His administration may stay on message and never leak, but it won't be the only circus in town. Few Cabinet secretaries, members of Congress, federal bureaucrats, federal grantees, soldiers and sailors, or others drawing a salary from the U.S. Treasury get the love or respect from the president that they think they're owed. They'll leak because it will be in their interest to leak, and the press will feast. When they leak, he'll do what every president has done. He'll flip out.

As one of my sales guy friends said to me on the phone the other day, "Tell me again... why would anyone want this job???"

Good question.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:43 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Congratulations, #44


A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt's invitation of Booker T. Washington to visit -- to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African American to the presidency of the United States. Let there be no reason now -- (cheers, applause) -- let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth. (Cheers, applause.)

Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country. I applaud him for it, and offer in my sincere sympathy that his beloved grandmother did not live to see this day, though our faith assures us she is at rest in the presence of her creator and so very proud of the good man she helped raise.

Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain. These are difficult times for our country, and I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.

I urge all Americans -- (applause) -- I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together, to find the necessary compromises, to bridge our differences, and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.

- John McCain's concession speech

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

We are, and always will be, the United States of America.

- Barack Obama, 44th President of these United States

I am, and have always been, a hopeful person.

I opposed the candidacy of Senator Obama vigorously, because I believe his policies are wrong for this country. I deeply oppose his stance on the war on terror.

But I also have a deep and abiding faith in this country, and in her people. We are a great nation, more than capable of transcending painful political divisions which drive us apart; of overcoming hatred and suspicion; of building consensus and cooperation where there has been only distrust and despair. This nation was, after all, an experiment no one believed would work: an experiment called democracy.

This experiment was forged in the fires of dissent and revolution, tested against bitter trials of civil war and proved its mettle when Europe was twice ravaged by armies intent on genocide and the wholesale eradication of classical liberalism. Despite the well founded fears of many on this post election morning, I have no fears for America's future; for we are the same people we have always been: a free people.

Have faith. Support the rule of law and be gladdened that in the eyes of many of our countrymen and women, an ancient wound has been salved. If there is one good to come from this day, it is that no man nor woman will be able to say with justice that in these United States there is a color barrier at the door of the highest office in the land. All are welcome. All may pass.

And that is progress by any measure you care to name.

It remains for us now to find a way to reconcile our political differences, for despite the rhetoric of hope and change our differences are stark and will not give way to the fuzzy talk that wins votes. This will require grace and magnanimity from the victors as well as restraint and willingness to forget old grudges from the losers in this contest. We need not forebear to criticize, but we should never undermine policy once Mr. Obama takes his oath in January.

And above all, let us respect the dignity of the office of the President. He has earned it by dint of the campaign he ran, as well as by virtue of the thousands of votes cast for him. It is well that there will be no unseemly haggling over the vote counts, as happened in 2000 and 2004. This has been a long contest and with two wars going on and an economic turndown to deal with, our energies will be best directed to the conversation about the America we want to leave for our children and grandchildren.

The good news is that we all still have a voice in that America. Let's roll our sleeves up and make it a better place.

Others chiming in:


Posted by Cassandra at 08:21 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

The Triumph of Hope over Experience: Post Election Predictions

I went to sleep last night in Red America, surrounded by the fading echoes of the Reagan Revolution and the Bush Doctrine.

This morning I woke to a land that has changed beyond recognition. And yet it is still the America I love; for the essence of America is that it is forever changing, forever in flux, always on the move between a past deeply rooted in tradition and a future fixed on our highest aspirations. A few post-election observations:

1. The media abhors a vacuum. Barack Obama oversold expectations for his Presidency. To get elected, he promised voters everything up to and including a new car, a pot of gold, and a pony. Unsurprisingly, a largely sympathetic media heartily sick of 8 years of George Bush were not inclined to ruin his chances at the ballot box. But with Obama safely in the Oval Office, look for a bored press corps to clutch at the shreds of their lost journalistic integrity:

Obama the candidate thrived on the strategic ambiguity that made liberals think he was liberal, moderates think he was moderate, and conservatives think he was tolerable. But after the election, ambiguity must be replaced with action, and action is controversial—that is, the stuff of news.

...Being commander in chief of the armed forces is never good enough. Presidents always want to be the nation's editor-in-chief, too. Once they assume that title, total press war is just around the corner.

2. Look for a second surge in Iraq .... a surge in violence:

BAGHDAD — Fifteen people were killed and dozens wounded by bombings in Baghdad on Tuesday, according to the police and hospital officials, part of an uptick in violence after a relatively quiet few weeks here.

Mr. Obama should never have broadcasted his intent to withdraw troops so publicly this summer, nor undermined the pending Status of Forces and Strategic Framework Agreements. These lapses in judgment are likely to cost American troops dearly during the coming months.

3. On the positive side, it will be harder to argue (as William Ayers' new book does) that the American political and economic landscape is controlled by white supremacists.

4. Increasingly, the power of ordinary people to publicize moments like this:

And this:

...are going to make it impossible for even the most determined partisans to continue peddling bald faced lies. At some point, even if one dislikes the evidence of one's own eyes, it becomes impossible not to face the fact that none of us - black, white, brown, yellow - of whatever race, creed, religion or political persuasion, is above the law and no one ought to be excused for doing what is wrong. It is time for Keith Olbermann's "emergency rules" to take a powder; for America to take a good, long look in the mirror.

All people fall along a bell curve. Some are decent and law abiding. Some are not. Some work hard and prosper. Some make excuses and blame their failures on others. These things are not a function of race or ethnicity. If they were, I could look at a person's skin color and sum up (with no more effort than that) his character, intelligence, and prospects for success in life. Thomas Sowell, a man who possesses one of the most lucid minds in America, would not be possible.

Many of the evils which beset this country have been excused in the name of race and class grievances. Perhaps with this election, there is a chance for some honest dialogue about things we have not been allowed to discuss in the name of political correctness. Perhaps we are finally strong enough to face all of the truth: even the parts which are painful.

Why else do we have a free press?

5. Look for at least part of the Right fringe to jump the shark, just as the Leftroots did during the Bush years.

There will be all sorts of conspiracy theories. The world is ending. Conservatism is dead. Obama is going to fill the Cabinet with Soviet-style apparatchiks or Black Panthers.

Sorry. While I'm not thrilled about an Obama presidency, I'm not ready to pronounce conservatism dead simply because (once again) the presidency turned over after two terms of Republican rule. Looking back at the last 100 years, it's not exactly unusual for the American people to want a change of party after two terms of the same party in the Oval Office - this was fairly predictable and may, in fact, have been the single biggest factor in John McCain's defeat.

If you're upset about it, don't whine. Get involved. John Hawkins has ideas here and here.

6. Early voting is here to stay, and I may surprise some of you (and myself!) by saying I think it's a good thing.

Arguably the best thing about this election, regardless of how one feels about the outcome, is the absolutely phenomenal job the Obama campaign did of turning out young people and first time voters. Now it's time for a national conversation (and perhaps another look at the Carter study on securing election integrity) on how we go about making our elections more efficient, accurate, and accountable.

If the Republican Party has a brain in its collective (D'oh! There's that commie word again!) head, it will take a long, hard (Oooohhh... she said hard... heh) look at Obama's community organizing techniques and how he applied them to get out the vote, because when I was in St. Louis this summer I couldn't take two steps without being accosted by an Obama worker literally begging me to register.

They just plain outflanked us, just as George Bush did to the Democrats in 2000 and 2004. Sometimes, the truth hurts but big boys and girls realize the instructive value of pain and learn from it.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:26 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

November 04, 2008

Andrew Sullivan Suicide Watch

You've got to hand it to the guy. He doesn't phone it in. Every day, rain or shine, he shows up and continues to set the standard for unremitting malice and pointless displays of vulgarity in an Atlantic Online blogger.

Face it: some people just have the gift:

We have been given no actual records of the last pregnancy, or any reccords [sic] at all, although we are told by the elusive Dr. Catherine Baldwin-Johnson that labor was at 35 weeks - not as premature as previously believed (if you research the average weight of full term DS babies, you find, by the way, that Trig was not underweight).

Andrew, in addition to being an expert on so many other women's issues, just happens to be one of the nation's leading authorities on neo-natal medicine in his spare time. Or is it obstetrics? His impressive command of medical terminology sometimes leaves us stunned into temporary insensibility. The "average" weight of a full term normal infant is... what? 7 and a half pounds? The "average" weight of a 35 week infant is 5.25 pounds.

Both my children (full term, delivered at 39-40 weeks) were over 10 and a half pounds, though I gained the "average" amount of weight: 26 pounds. According to "Andrew Math", I must have carried my sons for well over 50 weeks.

Of course we all know this is impossible. The only logical explanation is that some other family member must have been the actual mother. Since I don't have a daughter, it may have been my younger brother. Or perhaps it was my pet beagle - she was sporting kind of a puppy belly around that time, if the family photos can be relied upon.

Puppy chow my ass.

Perhaps he can get my private medical records released. After all, the public has a right to know. But lest you be one of those Undecided Voters out there still puzzling over critical issues swing voters tend to agonize over (such as whether it's possible for a teenaged girl to be pregnant for over two years, dating from a family photo clearly dated 2006 to the birth of a child delivered in 2008) have no fear.

Andrew is on the case!!!! And he's not going to give up until he "vets" this "dangerously unqualified" nominee by going through over her ob/gyn records with a fine-toothed comb. With any luck, he'll get the VaginaCam going before the polls close down, but he's not making any promises:

There is no time for any reporters to ask any questions, of course, or any time for the questions raised by the pregnancy to be aired in the press. I doubt Baldwin-Johnson will respond to further queries.

Yeah, me too. I know that whenever I see a married woman with a Down's Syndrome baby, the first completely natural and normal question to pop into my mind is, "Damnitall, who really fathered that kid? I DEMAND TO SEE THE MEDICAL RECORDS!" And for those of you who may be tempted to start spouting some namby-pamby blather about "privacy" or a "woman's right to control her own reproductive destiny", you can just forget that naive nonsense. Rights are only rights when they fulfill the correct ends, and anyway it serves the Palin family right for parading their so-called "family values" in front of enlightened, tolerant Blue Staters: the only folks truly capable of keeping complex Constitutional rights like freedom of speech out of the hands of ignorant fools who are insufficiently evolved to use them properly. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Stay classy, Andrew. And you've got to love this:

We need documentation to verify the last pregnancy:

Why, Andrew? What, specifically related to the job description of the Vice President of the United States, is there to "verify"? Please do explain. We're all ears.

I take it that, since you seem so keen on delving into the gynecological history of a married woman, this means that if a gay man should ever be nominated for the Vice Presidency, we have your good leave to go dumpster diving through his sexual history on the slightest pretext, up to and including the strong possibility that some whack job on the Right (every party has one) will have the bad taste to spread a nasty but completely unsubstantiated rumor about his private life?

Glad to have that settled.

... the amniocentesis results with Sarah Palin's name on them, for example, would be readily available and easy to disseminate...

And the point of this would be to establish what information that we don't already know?

... and would help raise awareness of Down Syndrome.

...for all the folks who read Andrew's site, but remain tragically uninformed of Trig's medical condition.

What I want to know is, what is Sully going to write about if John McCain loses the election today? I worry.

I really do.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:36 AM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

The Official VC Election Day Exit Poll

Forget the networks. They always get it wrong.

For unabashedly partisan and in your face Election Day snark delivered without those rigorous layers of editorial fact checking and control that distinguish professional journalists from the blog mob, you people know where to come:

Vote as your conscience directs but whatever else you do today, please vote. It is your civic duty and one of the great privileges of living in a free and prosperous nation.

However much our political process may wear upon our jangled nerves, it is notable that in America we settle our differences, at the worst, with harsh words rather than with bullets, with knives, or with our fists. This is the hallmark of a civilized nation; for as that playground rhyme we learned as children reminds us, words may bruise our egos and ruffle a few feathers but they leave no lasting physical damage. Words cannot truly harm us unless we choose to nurse a grievance long after the contest is concluded.

This has been a hard fought election. I know I made several of you angry yesterday. I will no doubt continue to do so, for that is my nature. The sole reason VC exists is to explore and discuss ideas. One does not do that timidly. If it's any comfort, I don't always like where my own thoughts lead me. There have been many times when I knew another tack would have been more popular. But I have never lacked trust in you all and as always, the comments section is open and you are free to disagree with me.

Strong emotions and beliefs are something I understand.

However, I also believe there comes a time when we must try to set them aside and find some middle ground - some space where we can create consensus. Obviously there are some moral issues which allow of no compromise. But in a nation as diverse as ours, compromise and cooperation form the foundation of all law, all progress, all commerce. People have to find ways to allow each other mutual profit from their interactions, and as Don so wisely observed in the comments section yesterday the demographics of this nation are changing more rapidly than we can understand or adapt to. We cannot hold back time, and so we must roll with these changes; otherwise our differences will pull us apart and we will no longer be able to say with any truth, "Out of many, One". The question is, how do we do this in a principled fashion?

Every day on the Internet, on my own site, I hear conservatives maintain that the individual is more important than the community. Quite frankly, I believe part of the disease which currently afflicts this country, the rot, lies within conservatism. We have lost the essential notion that there is a vital and constant tension between individual rights and duty to our community. But none of us - not a one - can long expect to prosper without the contributions of our forebears, our neighbors, our families, the infrastructure built by generations long past. None of us should expect our children to prosper, should we fail to leave this infrastructure stronger and healthier than it was when it was passed to us, for the challenges it must withstand in tomorrow's world are far sterner than the ones it withstood in our parents' day.

And yet we carelessly undermine the very traditions which gave us the life we enjoy today, selfishly putting our own pleasure before the welfare of our children. In the same breath, we extol the military for being the last institution worthy of trust while betraying every value which makes the military worthy of that trust: self restraint, willingness to sacrifice for the common good, respect for the law and for lawful authority. We delight in boastful displays of contempt and defiance, often before we have all the facts, seemingly unaware that our words persist and may mislead long after the transient news story which prompted them has been fully explored and (quite often) it has been revealed on page D22 that there was rather more to the story than was originally reported.

But by that time, the outrage has died down and it's on to a new brouhaha. Only the sour taste of contempt lingers.

Are these rational courses of action for conservatives? How, then, are we different from our opponents?

We have seen 8 years of deep division and an all too often poisonous rancor which have eaten away at the foundations of our political discourse.

We have seen people criminalize policy differences. We have seen people look at extremely difficult moral, legal and ethical questions on which legal experts and ethicists admit there exists more than one legitimate position; and yet they insist (not suggest, or debate, but insist) that only their side be admitted into the realm of permissible discourse. Anyone who disagrees is dubbed a moron, a criminal, a thug, somehow inhuman.

The question before us lies plain as day, and it is one of character. How will we behave during the next four years, no matter who wins? Because no matter who wins this election today, we will be sorely tested.

I come here every day because I have a deep, abiding faith in America.

That faith is vindicated, and more than vindicated, by each of you. You represent the best this country has to offer. Every day we discuss difficult topics - sex, religion, politics. Sometimes, we get visitors from lefty sites. I am proud that they have almost invariably been treated well and they have stayed around; not to scream insults, but to engage in conversation. We may get a little excited at times, but in the end we remain friends.

And that, my dear friends, is a testament to your forbearance and great courtesy. Or to whatever brand of beer you all are drinking these days.

Either way, it's all good.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:43 AM | Comments (56) | TrackBack

November 03, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Don't blame me. It's *Vanderleun's* photo:


Now all it needs is an Election Day caption.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:36 PM | Comments (49) | TrackBack

NYTimesWatch: Accountability Journalism Edition

Via the always entertaining Howard Bashman, a virtuoso display of the multiple layers of rigorous editorial fact checking which make professional journalism far superior to those rabble bloggers:

The New York Times today contains a "For the Record" correction that states:

"An article in some editions on Wednesday about Fordham University's plan to give an ethics prize to Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer misspelled the surname of another Supreme Court justice who received the award in 2001. She is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, not Ginsberg. The Times has misspelled her name at least two dozen times since 1980; this is the first correction the paper has published."

Posted by Cassandra at 07:18 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

What Kind of President Would Obama Be?

We know the battle ahead will be long, but always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change. We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics…they will only grow louder and more dissonant ……….. We’ve been asked to pause for a reality check. We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.

The Princess slipped daintily from the arms of Morpheus in the wee hours of this morning fairly a-tingle with anticipation to see Senator Obama's latest standing in the polls. She lives for this sort of thing, doncha know; it being unthinkable these days to wait upon such tawdry means as actual vote counts to decide who will become the next President of these United States of the World.

Surely there's an exit poll out there? Somewhere? Anywhere?

I find myself a tad alarmed at what I am reading these days in the blatherosphere. I'm still hopeful for the election, though admittedly things don't look good. The press and the pollsters have done their level best to throw cold water on the prospect of a McCain victory, but then they both predicted a Kerry victory in 2004. Both were wrong.

What's more important than who becomes President on November 4th is the question of how we as Americans will react. I'm not referring to the frankly overblown talk about blood running in the streets. I leave such perfervid prognostications to Erica Jong and her vibrator.

I'm talking about what happens afterwards. It's an important question, because though I fully intend to pull the lever for John McCain tomorrow, I've had a few reservations about his candidacy. I have absolutely no doubt McCain would make a better President. But I think David Broder neatly described the biggest thing holding his campaign back.

John McCain, though he may well have deeply held beliefs, is a man uncomfortable with grand visions: the very antithesis of the ideologue. After 8 years of George W. Bush, this country may well be suffering from vision fatigue, but you can't defeat hope and change with talk of earmarks; nor does offering a negative portrait of the other guy inspire voters to climb on your bandwagon. When times get tough, a leader needs to offer people something to root for. Something positive:

Like Jimmy Carter, the only Naval Academy graduate to reach the Oval Office, McCain had an engineer's approach to policymaking. He had no large principles that he could apply to specific problems; each fresh question set off a search for a "practical" solution.

... McCain was handed a terrible political environment by the outgoing Bush administration -- a legacy of war, debt and scandal that would have defeated any of the other aspirants for the nomination. But because McCain could not create a coherent philosophy or vision of his own, he allowed Obama and the Democrats to convince voters of a falsehood: that electing McCain would in effect reward Bush with a third term.

A similar ambivalence clouded his relationship with the Republican Party. Neither rebel nor defender of the party's doctrines, he won its nomination because of smart tactics and lucky circumstances in three primaries -- New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida -- without ever establishing himself as its legitimate spokesman.

Obama, on the other hand, is quite sure of what he believes. He may have been wise enough to cloak the specific details of his vision in the comfortingly fuzzy language of hope and change, but I rather doubt that anything other than a coherent set of principles animates him, once you penetrate the fog. The trouble is, those core principles are dead wrong for this country.

This was the true significance of the string of troubling associations the media labored long and hard to cover up: they all shared a common world view, and it's one most Americans would not find at all congenial. The real question, as Stuart Taylor notes, is whether he will summon the courage and political will, should he gain the Oval Office, to enact the shared policy positions of the mentors Barack Obama voluntarily sought out:

When John McCain and many other Republicans ask, "Who is the real Barack Obama?" there is an implication that maybe he is somehow sinister or extremist.

I don't believe that. But I do think that there are two very different Obamas. Both are extraordinarily intelligent, serene under pressure, and driven by an admirable social conscience -- albeit as willing to deploy deception as the next politician. But while the first Obama would be a well-meaning failure, the second could become a great president.

An ultraliberal in moderate garb? The first Obama has sometimes seemed eager to engineer what he called "redistribution of wealth" in a 2001 radio interview, along with the more conventional protectionism, job preferences, and other liberal Democratic dogmas featured in his campaign. I worry that he might go beyond judiciously regulating our free enterprise system's all-too-apparent excesses and stifle it under the dead hand of government bureaucracy and lawsuits.

This redistributionist Obama has stayed in the background since he set his sights on the presidency years ago, except when he told Joe the Plumber that his tax plan would help "spread the wealth." This Obama seems largely invisible to many supporters. But he may retain some attachment to the radical-leftist sensibility in which -- as his impressive 1995 autobiography, Dreams From My Father, explains with reflective detachment -- he was marinated as a youth and young man.

Obama spent much of his teenage years searching for his black identity. He was mentored for a time by the poet Frank Marshall Davis, a black-power activist who had once been a member of the Communist Party, and who was (according to Obama's book) "living in the same Sixties time warp" as Obama's mother, a decidedly liberal free spirit.

In college, lest he be "mistaken for a sellout," Obama "chose my friends carefully," according to his book: "The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets." After college, his social conscience steered him to become a community organizer and "organize black folks" in Chicago, from 1985 to 1988.

It was then that Obama met the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who as head of Trinity United Church of Christ did many good things but had a now-famous penchant for America-hating, white-bashing, conspiracy-theorizing, Farrakhan-honoring rants. A central theme of the first Wright sermon that Obama attended -- the one titled "the audacity of hope" -- was that "white folks' greed runs a world in need."

After graduating near the top of his Harvard Law School class in 1991, Obama could easily have landed a prestigious Supreme Court clerkship and gone on to a big law firm where partners make well over a $1 million a year. Instead, he followed his social conscience and political ambition back to Chicago, joining a small law firm.

Obama became more than casually acquainted with Bill Ayers, the Weather Underground bomber with whom he served on the boards of two Chicago philanthropic groups. In 1995, Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn -- the same Dohrn who in a blood-curdling 1969 speech had cited the Charles Manson gang of murderers as role models for the Weather Underground -- co-hosted a political fundraiser for Obama at their home. By then, the still-unrepentant Ayers had become a respected member of an academic establishment in which far-left views are fashionable.

I dwell on these much-debated associations not because I think that Obama sympathizes with what he has called Ayers's "detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8" or identifies with Wright's wild ravings. But I do think that Obama has understated (at best) his involvement with Wright and Ayers. And I wonder about the worldview of a man who was so comfortable with such far-left extremists and whose wife, Michelle, asserted earlier this year that America is "just downright mean" and "guided by fear" and that most Americans' lives have "gotten progressively worse since I was a little girl."

Obama's voting record as an Illinois and then U.S. senator is not extremist or radical. But it is not a bit bipartisan, either. He has hardly ever broken with his party, and he famously had the most liberal record of any senator in 2007 (although not in 2006 or 2005), according to National Journal's vote ratings.

This Obama has endorsed a long list of liberal restrictions on free enterprise that could end up hurting the people they are supposed to help, along with the rest of us: statist remedies for our broken educational system; encouraging unionization by substituting peer pressure and an undemocratic card-check process for secret ballots; raising the wages of women or lowering those of men who have dissimilar jobs that are declared by bureaucrats to be of comparable worth; renegotiating NAFTA; and more.

I wonder how far Obama wants to go down the road suggested by his lament in that 2001 radio interview that the civil-rights movement had failed to engineer "redistribution of wealth" and "economic justice." Would he be content with the moderately redistributive, Clintonesque increase in taxes on high-earning Americans that he proposes now? Or would he end up pushing for confiscatory taxes that could stifle entrepreneurship and job creation?

And would Obama's declared desire to appoint judges and justices driven mainly by "empathy" for "the powerless," rather than by fidelity to the law, lead to judicially invented constitutional rights to welfare, to ever-more-rigid preferences based on race and gender, and to other novel judicial overrides of democratic governance?

Taylor goes on, in the second half of a thoughtful essay, to show us another Obama: the pragmatic power seeker who bends to pressure and has demonstrated a willingness to reject extremist positions if there is sufficient public outcry.

This is a good point, and one conservatives would do well to heed. It is a point this author has made before regarding the Republican base. Any President, once he is elected, represents not just his base but all the people. So, too (at least if they wish to retain their seats) do members of Congress. One of the most disappointing problems faced by the current President was the lack of reliable support in Congress.

If Obama wants to change America, he would not be the first President to try. He would also not be the first President to fail for lack of support in Congress. Bill Clinton rode into office in the 1990s with what he thought was a mandate and great plans for instituting national health care and overturning the ban on gays in the military. Both initiatives failed.

If Barack Obama has a character flaw, it is his unwillingness to go to the mat; whether it be for a long-time mentor or the redistributionist ideas he champions, and then backs away from in the same breath:

On the stump this week, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has pushed back against Sen. John McCain's description of his tax policies.

"The reason that we want to do this, change our tax code, is not because I have anything against the rich," Obama said in Sarasota, Fla., yesterday. "I love rich people! I want all of you to be rich. Go for it. That’s the American dream, that’s the American way, that’s terrific.

"The point is, though, that -- and it’s not just charity, it’s not just that I want to help the middle class and working people who are trying to get in the middle class -- it’s that when we actually make sure that everybody’s got a shot – when young people can all go to college, when everybody’s got decent health care, when everybody’s got a little more money at the end of the month – then guess what? Everybody starts spending that money, they decide maybe I can afford a new car, maybe I can afford a computer for my child. They can buy the products and services that businesses are selling and everybody is better off. All boats rise. That’s what happened in the 1990s, that’s what we need to restore. And that’s what I’m gonna do as president of the United States of America.

In the very next breath, Obama assures voters, "That's not socialism."

Conservatives see that as evidence that he's trying to deceive voters, and they have a point. It is socialism if you take money from those who have lawfully earned to make sure that people who have done nothing to earn the money to buy a computer, a new car, or the chance to go to college have those things. We trade our labor for money to buy those things, and it is unjust to reward people who do no labor with the earnings of those who do choose to work. This is the problem with forced redistribution of income beyond that needed to ensure a subsistence.

But they miss something, too. Deception implies the deceiver fears disapproval or exposure.

And this gets me to a question a Democrat friend of mine asked last week: what will Republicans do if Obama is elected? Will they stop attacking him and get behind their new President?

My answer to her was simple. I hope that we will use our power wisely, for we do have power. I hope we will not squander it in foolish and childish attacks which make it easy for us to be labeled racist, or obstructionist, or simply malicious. For we have a real opportunity here.

If we are smart, and if Barack Obama is elected on November 4th, and if the worst of our fears are realized, there could hardly be a better opportunity for conservatives to launch a national conversation about our ideas. There could hardly be a better opportunity for us to make a logical, coherent, principled case for why conservative, free market economics are better for this country than the plans Obama has presented so far.

There could hardly be a better opportunity for us to tell our fellow Americans why we believe people are more productive when they are allowed to keep the fruits of their own labor; to demonstrate empirically how, when taxes are raised on corporations and businesses, that they DO migrate to more friendly environments where the costs of doing business are lower; to ask our fellow Americans why, if Democrats truly believe it is selfish not to want to help the less fortunate, they don't do the right thing voluntarily?

It may well be that conservatives have a very trying period ahead of us. But hard times may be viewed as a burden, or as a challenge which makes us stronger and brings forth our best qualities. At the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, brand new Marine recruits undergo a unique experience called The Crucible:

"We have two missions in the Marine Corps -- to win battles and make Marines," said Col. Bob Hayes, assistant deputy chief of staff for operations and training at the recruit depot here. "The Crucible is one piece of that effort."

The Crucible emphasizes trainee teamwork under stress. "Recruits get eight hours of sleep during the entire 54 hour exercise," said Sgt. Roger Summers, a Delta Company drill instructor in the 1st Recruit Training Battalion at Parris Island. "They get two-and-a-half MREs and they are responsible for rationing out the food to themselves. Then we put them through tough physical activities like road marches and night infiltration courses. They march about 40 miles in those 54 hours."

It isn't long before the recruits are tired and hungry, Summers said, but as they keep going they realize they can call on reserves they never knew they had.

"Some of these recruits do things they never thought they could do," he said. "Some of them come from middle-class homes where everything has been handed to them. Others come from poorer homes where nothing was ever expected of them. If they finish the Crucible, they have accomplished something."

A recruit delivers a killing blow while running the bayonet course at Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot, S.C. The recruit was in the middle of the Crucible, the 54-hour-long climax of Marine basic training.

One recruit put it best. "I am going to finish this," he said. "And when I do, it will be the most positive thing I have done in my life."

There is a reason the Marines are the most respected and feared fighting force in the world. Their excellence is not born of ease and comfort: it is honed in the fires of pain and exhaustion; of stress and fear and sweat. Each Marine is broken down until he is no longer the person he was when he stepped off that bus and reformed; a better, more disciplined person. Like steel in a forge, they emerge harder and stronger: the impurities in their character burned away by the intense heat of repeated trials. They learn, too, that they are stronger as members of a community than they are as individuals.

That is a lesson most conservatives could benefit from, and it is one that perhaps only adversity is capable of teaching. I suppose what I am saying is this:

No matter what happens tomorrow, we have a country to care for. She is still ours to have and to hold, and no matter who is elected our President represents all of us. We have a right to be heard and we should speak up respectfully and responsibly.

And no matter who is in the White House, we owe both the President and Vice President the full respect and dignity due the office. I hope the rancor of this election will be forgotten and we can attempt to do the right thing and work to enact bipartisan compromise as the Founders of this country intended. Without honest effort, government founders. We cannot control what others do, but we can always control our own actions: to act with magnanimity and compassion if we should win and with restraint and dignity if we should lose.

It has to start somewhere. As Grim so rightly notes, character and integrity are not always easy.

They are not the qualities we are born with. They are what we aspire to: our true natures, revealed. Let us be proud, then; for by our actions we will be known.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:57 AM | Comments (40) | TrackBack

November 02, 2008

The Media's Selective Concern for "Privacy", the Poor

...is so touching. Savor the hypocrisy:

The Department of Homeland Security is investigating whether its privacy policy was violated after a news organization reported that an aunt of Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama is an illegal immigrant from Kenya, officials said yesterday.

The woman, Zeituni Onyango, 56, lives in a public housing complex in Boston and is the half sister of Obama's late father, who spent most of his life in Kenya before dying in a car accident in 1982.

The Associated Press reported late Friday that Onyango was denied asylum by an immigration judge and that she was instructed to leave the United States in 2004. The AP cited two unnamed sources, identifying one as a federal law enforcement official.

Federal privacy law restricts U.S. immigration agencies from disclosing information about citizens and permanent residents, and DHS policy similarly limits disclosures about the status of legal and illegal immigrants. Asylum-seekers are granted greater protection, because of the sensitive nature of their claims and the risks of retaliation.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the matter has been referred to the agency's Office of Professional Responsibility and its parent department's inspector general.

"They are looking into whether there was a violation of policy in publicly disclosing individual case information," ICE spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said. "We can't comment on individual cases."

Let's get this straight:

1. 2001: Obama's aunt applies for a Social Security card. At this time she is legally present and authorized to work.

2. 2002: she applies for public housing in Boston.

3. 2003: she is approved for public housing as an eligible non-citizen.

4. 2004: a federal judge rules she is was not legally entitled to remain in the United States. An order is issued for her deportation.

5. 2005: she attended Senator Obama's swearing in ceremony. Apparently neither Senator nor Mrs. Obama thinks to ask this frail, elderly woman where she is living or if she has enough to eat.

6. 2006: the last time the Obama campaign admits to hearing from Ms. Onyango.

7. 2008: the Times of London reports Ms. Onyango, living illegally in the United States 4 years after her deportation order on a small stipend for 6 hours of work as a resident housing advocate, somehow finds a way to donate (illegally) $265 to the Obama campaign:

Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show Onyango gave Obama's campaign a total of $265, including several contributions of $5 and $25. The latest recorded contribution, of $5, was on Sept. 19. Only U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, known as green cardholders, can legally contribute to federal presidential campaigns.

So what does The Post find noteworthy about all of this, given the Mr. Obama's campaign rhetoric about the duty of the more fortunate to help the less fortunate?

The Disclosure About Obama's Aunt May Have Violated Privacy Policy

OK. We'll buy that. The Post thinks it's very important to protect the privacy of private citizens from unauthorized snooping by unauthorized parties with partisan political motivations....

Which prompts a few queries of the Washington Post's archives. The number of WaPo stories on those suspicious Joe Wurzelburger background checks in Ohio? Zip. Nada. Nothing. Not a one. The Post's outpouring of concern for Joe's privacy is downright touching.

What really rankles is that all of this is over a "leak" (and aren't we supposed to think that leaks which enhance the public's "right to know" are a good thing?) involving an illegal alien who violated not only a federal deportation order, but campaign finance laws.

But apparently we have once again strayed from the all-important narrative: those evil Republicans are out to victimize a harmless old lady who was only minding her own business by "outing" her. The press, who by the way, assisted in "outing" by printing the "leak" (and haven't some bloggers been taking them to task all along for BREAKING THE LAW WHEN THEY PRINT INFORMATION THEY ARE NOT LEGALLY ENTITLED TO POSSESS? Who really violated Ms. Onyango's privacy here?).

Answer: a leak is only "good" if (like Thomas Ricks' brave, truth-telling leak of that classified DoD memo which helpfully informed America that Anbar province was "irretrievably lost") it serves to undermine the government.

So as far as the Fourth Estate is concerned, your right to know depends entirely upon how it might affect the coming election. Leaks or invasions of personal privacy that aid their cause will either receive scant coverage or will be ignored entirely on the basis that they're "not newsworthy". Comparable stories which may sway undecided voters in a direction they deem advantageous will be highlighted, citing high-minded notions of journalistic concern for "privacy", freedom of speech and first amendment rights.

If any of this seems... oh, I don't know, corrupt or hypocritical to you, please do not be concerned. Should the folks at the Washington Post decide there's anything for the citizenry to be concerned about (say, after November 4th) you can be sure they'll let us know.

And come November 4th, the selfish rich will finally be forced to take care of the deserving poor. You know. People like Obama's auntie.

Because damnitall, America just isn't doing enough.

“They promise to return after completing school. They say they’ll send for the family once they get settled. At first they write once a week. Then it’s just a month. Then they stop writing completely. No one sees them again.”

- Obama family member in Kenya

Posted by Cassandra at 09:35 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack