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December 31, 2008

You Go, Girl

What a hoot:

Lawyers for Washington lobbyist Vicki L. Iseman have filed a $27 million defamation lawsuit against The New York Times for a February article about Iseman and her relationship with Sen. John McCain.

The suit, filed Dec. 30 in U.S. District Court in Richmond, also names as defendants the executive editor of the Times, its Washington bureau chief and four reporters who wrote the story. The suit alleges the article falsely communicated that Iseman and McCain had an illicit “romantic” relationship in 1999 when he was chair of the Senate Commerce Committee and she was a lobbyist representing clients before Congress.

Richmond lawyer W. Coleman Allen Jr. and Rodney A. Smolla, dean of the Washington & Lee law school and a First Amendment scholar, represent Iseman.

The 36-page complaint parses the nuances of the story, which Allen said in an interview is “very cleverly constructed.” The piece “could be interpreted as implying an unprofessional relationship” between Iseman and McCain, he said.

Both Iseman and McCain denied any improper relationship, a fact that was duly reported in the Times piece.

But political observers and the public did in fact perceive the story as being about an affair, Smolla said. That fact provides a significant basis for the defamation claim, Smolla noted. The complaint cites the post-story remarks of 10 different commentators across the political spectrum; in each case, their comments about the story assume it is about an alleged affair, the lawyers note.

The Times’ own public editor, Clark Hoyt, published what Allen called a “blistering attack” on the decision to publish three days after the article appeared.

The suit claims that Iseman suffered damage to her mental, emotional and physical health. The lawyers noted that she continues to work as a lobbyist in Washington, for a firm based in Arlington. They said they anticipated developing their case on damages as the matter moves forward.

The piece was published at the height of the primary season last winter, and, the suit states, the defendants knew that it would “reverberate around the world.”

The suit continues, “In their attack on Senator McCain, the [defendants] were willing to sacrifice Ms. Iseman as acceptable collateral damage, recklessly indifferent to the avalanche of scorn, derision and ridicule Ms. Iseman would suffer.”

Smolla noted that in one defamation decision before the U.S. Supreme Court, then-Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist observed that the purpose of defamation law is to provide an aggrieved party with a remedy.

But it also has the purpose of correcting the public record and of giving the public a remedy to “an offense to the public discourse,” he said.

I think this is great.

Without having read up on the specific law or laws Iseman is suing under, John McCain would have had a tough time suing The Times for libel or defamation since he's a public figure. Generally speaking, he would have had to prove the Times either knew for certain the information was false or that they acted with reckless disregard for the truth. That's an awfully high burden of proof.

As a private citizen, Ms. Iseman (and someone of the law slinging profession may care to correct me) should have a somewhat easier time of it. For the Times to imply she had a sexual liason with a married man amounts to defamation per se: a charge that is defamatory on its face.

I hope she rams this down Keller's throat. Note their smarmy defense:

Update: The New York Times issued a statement following the filing of the suit: “We fully stand behind the article. We continue to believe it to be true and accurate, and that we will prevail. As we said at the time, it was an important piece that raised questions about a presidential contender and the perception that he had been engaged in conflicts of interest.”

I hope they have some factual evidence of the so-called affair. "Raising questions" isn't sufficient justification for a professional news gathering organization to pass on unsubstantiated gossip cloaked as news. And anyway, isn't this what the Times called "despicable smear tactics" (at least when they were huffily dismissing fact-based allegations against the President-elect and his association with Bill Ayers)?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:54 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

I Love This Product/Site

For a while now, I've been wanting to introduce a new feature. I got the idea from Andi at SpouseBUZZ.

Over the years, I've learned so much from other military wives and Andi's idea of featuring products she's found to be helpful and encouraging other military wives to do the same is a great one. I'm going to introduce a slight twist on her idea though.

I'd like to break up the weekly products with web sites I like. I am arguably the world's biggest Internet shopper. I hate malls and hate shopping, so I buy a lot of things over the 'Net. Consequently, I get a lot of neat catalogs and I'll share some of the more interesting ones (I never realized how many more catalogs I get than most people!) with you every other week. Also I'd like to explore other interesting sites. Since there will probably be some sort of theme to my choices each week (or at least I hope there will), I hope you'll all chime in with your own suggestions in the comments section. I've created a new category in the sidebar so these posts will be easier to look up in the future, or you can simply use the Search feature in the sidebar.

This week's product theme is...

[drum roll]

Natural pain relief.

Some of you will know that the Editorial Staff suffers from migraines. I had a rather interesting holiday. It was preceded by four or five days of pretty much constant pain and very little sleep. By Christmas eve I had a houseful of kids, a sensation in my left eye that can only be described as "akin to being repeatedly stabbed with an icepick", and a blinding feeling of nausea every time I turned my head too fast.

This is something that happens a few times a year, and when it happens there is nothing that helps - not medication, not sleep, nothing. Normally, I would have ended up flat on my back for two or three days. But amazingly, though I didn't feel so great, I was able to avoid going down for the count through a combination of Alleve, drinking a lot of water, and a little miracle in a bottle purchased for me by my parental units.

It's called Soothanal X2, and it is the only thing I've tried in 20 years of having these darned things that relieves the pain. It truly is amazing:

Adults and children 2 years of age and older:

Apply 2-5 drops to affected area not more than 3 to 4 times daily.
Wash hands before and after use.
Children under 2 years of age: Consult a physician.

Ingredients: Arnica Oil, Calendula Oil, Cayenne pepper, DMSO, Emu Oil, Ginger, Limonene Oil, Menthol, MSM, Olive Oil, St. John's Wort Oil, Wintergreen.

Users: For temporary relief of minor aches and pains of muscles and joints.

One caveat: Soothanal contains DMSO. If you know nothing about DMSO, you should read about it before trying Soothanal. You have to be careful with any topical analgesic containing DMSO as it is a powerful solvent that conducts other chemicals through cell walls, causing them to be absorbed faster and more thoroughly than they would otherwise be.

What this means to you (so long as you wash your hands while using an analgesic with DMSO) is that it enhances the effectiveness of any compound that contains it. But if you have some toxic substance on your hands, you are also rubbing that into your skin. This is why it is critical to wash your hands before and after contact with DMSO.

I use it all the time and have been thrilled with the results. It has allowed me to stay on my feet many times, alleviating severe and chronic pain quickly (and the relief lasts for several hours). This allows me to reduce the medications I take, which is important because I hate taking pills.

I rub just a few drops into the back of my neck or the upper part of my spine (between my shoulder blades, where I get a lot of tension) when I feel a bad headache coming on. I've also used it successfully on the Unit's back when it spazzes out. Just a few drops kills any pain he's feeling instantly.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:40 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

December 30, 2008

A Wee Thought Experiment

In Part I, I made the argument that any man who is married to a good woman and wants a happy marriage ought to accommodate her by talking with her as often as possible. (Women, however, must understand that getting the man to acknowledge she is right should not necessarily be the climactic end to every conversation, though of course it is extremely enjoyable for the female of the species.)

In Part II, I advance the argument that a husband should do so even when he is not in the mood for a bunch of pointless chit-chat. I am talking about mood, not about times of emotional distress, tiredness or illness.

Why?

Here are eight reasons why a man should not allow “needing time to hear himself think” or “not being in the mood for all this yakking” to determine whether he refuses to engage in regular, wholesome marital banter.

1. Most men, if they wait until they are in the mood before talking with their wives, will wait a month or more until they next have a complete and deeply satisfying conversation. When most women are young, and for some older women, spontaneously getting in the mood for conversations with the man they love easily occurs. But most men, for myriad reasons -- male nature, repressed childhood trauma, not feeling talkative, preoccupation with some problem, fatigue after at work, March Madness, just not being interested in what their wife has to say – feel nothing comparable to a woman’s “out of nowhere,” (and seemingly constant) desire for conversation.

Especially when they could doing something really rewarding. Like flipping through all 237 cable channels in quick succession with the remote control.

2. Why would a loving, wise man allow mood to determine whether or not he gives his wife one of the most important expressions of love he can show her? What else in life, of such significance, do we allow to be governed by mood?

What if your wife woke up one day and announced that she was not in the mood to clean the house, feed the kids, or go to work? If this happened a few times a year, any husband would feel sympathy for his hardworking wife. But what if this happened as often as many husbands tune their wives out or refuse to talk altogether? Most men would gradually stop respecting and therefore eventually stop loving such a woman.

What woman would love a man who was so governed by feelings and moods that he allowed them to determine whether he would do something as important as go to work? Why do we assume it is terribly irresponsible for a woman to refuse to care for her children, clean the house, or go to work because she is “not in the mood”, but a man has a perfect right to refuse to talk because he is not in the mood? Why?

This brings us to the next reasons.

3. The baby boom generation elevated feelings to a status higher than codes of behavior. In determining how one ought to act, feelings, not some code higher than one’s feelings, became decisive: “No shoulds, no oughts.” In the case of talking, therefore, the only right time for a husband to talk to his wife is when he feels like it. He should never “have to” talk to her. But marriage and life are filled with “shoulds.”

4. Thus, in the past generation we have witnessed the demise of the concept of obligation in personal relations. We have been nurtured in a culture of rights, not a culture of obligations. To many men, especially the best educated, the notion that a man owes his wife the emotional intimacy afforded by conversation seems like an absurd intrusion on his personal space, if not something downright immoral. They have been taught that giving in to such illogical demands will cause other men to conclude that he is “whipped.” Of course, the very fact that he can simply walk away renders the “whipped” argument absurd. A man is not “whipped” simply because he loves his wife enough to try to satisfy her need for emotional intimacy. He is simply wise enough to recognize that marriages based on mutual obligations -- as opposed to rights alone and certainly as opposed to moods -- are likely to be the best marriages.

5. Partially in response to the historical denigration of women’s worth, since the 1960s there has been a compensating overemphasis on women and their feelings. Understandably, this was followed by a backlash from men who resented the sudden change in status. As a consequence, if a woman is in the mood for talking and her husband is not, it is popular to argue that men must resist the PC urge to please their wives, lest the woman become a Feminazi and come to wear the pants in the family. As women are essentially irrational, the woman’s silly emotions should never be viewed as having the same importance as a man’s entirely logical and reasonable needs.

6. Yet another outgrowth of ’60s thinking is the notion that it is “hypocritical” or wrong in some other way to act contrary to one’s basic instincts. One should always act, post-’60s theory teaches, consistent with one’s animal nature. Therefore, many men believe that it is both pointless and somehow “unnatural” to have conversations with their wives when they are not in the mood to. Of course, most men never regard it as hypocritical (indeed, they rightly regard it as admirable) to accommodate their boss’s, co-worker’s or parent’s or friend’s needs - even when they are not in the mood to do so. They do what is right in those cases, rather than what their mood dictates. Why not apply this attitude to talking with one’s wife? Given how important communication is to most wives, isn’t the payoff -- a happier, more communicative, and loving wife and a happier home -- worth it?

7. Many contemporary men have unrealistic and rigid ideas about the need for communication: It should always be mutually desired and equally satisfying or one should not engage in it. Therefore, if a couple engages in talking when she wants it and he does not, the act becomes “empty”, “meaningless” “emasculating” and “mechanical.” Now, ideally, every time a husband and wife talk, they would equally desire it and equally enjoy it. But, given the different lingual natures of women and women, this cannot always be the case. If it is sex a man seeks -- and he has every reason to seek it -- it would help him to realize how much more exciting his wife and his marriage are likely to be if she is not regularly denied talking, even of the boring and non-essential variety.

8. In the rest of life, not just in marital talking, it is almost always a poor idea to allow feelings or mood to determine one’s behavior. Far wiser is to use behavior to shape one’s feelings. Act happy no matter what your mood and you will feel happier. Act loving and you will feel more loving. Act religious, no matter how deep your religious doubts, and you will feel more religious. Act generous even if you have a selfish nature, and you will end with a more a generous nature. With regard to virtually anything in life that is good for us, if we wait until we are in the mood to do it, we will wait too long.

The best solution to the problem of a man not being in the mood to talk is so simple that many men, after thinking about it, react with profound regret that they had not thought of it earlier in their marriage. As one bright and attractive man in his 50s ruefully said to me, “Had I known this while I was married, she would never have divorced me.”

That solution is for a husband who loves his wife -- if he doesn’t love her, mood is not the problem -- to be guided by his mind, not his mood, in deciding whether to deny his wife the emotional intimacy she needs. If his wife is a decent woman -- if she is not, nothing written here applies -- a man will be rewarded many times over outside the kitchen (and if his woman is smart, in the bedroom as well) with a happy, open, grateful, loving, and faithful wife. That is a prospect that should get any rational man into the talking mood more often.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:59 PM | Comments (78) | TrackBack

The Daily Dimwit: Cognitive Dissonance Edition

The Editorial Staff does not read the funny papers on a regular basis, but with comedic fodder like this, who needs to?

It is actually kind of brilliant, in a nefarious sort of way. This way the breakdown of society can happen on Obama's watch and the Bush Junta's hands get to stay clean:

Hmmm... let's think about that one for just a second.

Those nefarious Rethuglicans purposely wrecked the economy right before a Democrat administration comes into office *just hoping* the Democratic President would declare martial law... leaving a Democrat still firmly in charge of both the country and the military. Not since our Democratic brethren in Christ feverishly contemplated the splendors of Chimpeachment (leaving Darth Cheney firmly in charge of the Oval Office) have we seen such astonishingly nimble analytical footwork:

...it seems to be that for these folks, mass wiretapping of Americans, scooping up all their electronic correspondence, and training the military to patrol the streets here at home is all perfectly OK to this bunch -- as long as the president is Republican.

Can you spot the logical disconnect in that passage boys and girls? We knew that you could.

Who was it that called for the military to take over after Katrina? Democrats. Who objected that this was not only a dangerous precedent but blatantly illegal?

The administration. That would be a Republican administration.

Who does this Army report say will be president if the military has to take to the streets to restore order?

*sigh*

A Democrat.... making this last bit:

.. training the military to patrol the streets here at home is all perfectly OK to this bunch -- as long as the president is Republican.

...sound particularly silly. Post time: 5:10 AM, the cautionary utterances of one Oscar Wilde notwithstanding.

They never learn.

Update: the idiocy continues apace...

"Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security," writes Nathan Freier, a 20-year Army veteran and visiting professor at the college.

A copy of the 44-page report, "Known Unknowns: Unconventional 'Strategic Shocks' in Defense Strategy Development," can be downloaded here. Freier notes that his report expresses only his own views and does not represent US policy, but it's certain that his recommendations have come before at least some Defense Department officials.

Fascists. How dare the DoD read policy papers written by anyone outside the military chain of command? Especially people like... [shudder] visiting professors? Don't they know considering alternative viewpoints is *dangerous*?

The author warns potential causes for such civil unrest could include another terrorist attack, "unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters." The situation could deteriorate to the point where military intervention was required, he argues.

"Under these conditions and at their most violent extreme," he concludes, "civilian authorities, on advice of the defense establishment, would need to rapidly determine the parameters defining the legitimate use of military force inside the United States."

Oh thank God! for a moment it almost sounded as though these folks were maintaining that, in the event of a large scale civil unrest that traditional law enforcement couldn't handle, We the People don't want anyone to be able to legitimately inquire whether it's legal to ask for help from the military to stop the killing.

And Lord knows, that would just be stupid, wouldn't it?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:55 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

December 29, 2008

Getting Along With Women 101: How *Not* To Make An Argument...

It has oft occurred to the Editorial Staff that the vast majority of male/female misunderstandings can be directly attributed to each sex's tendency to project their own assumptions and mode of thought upon what in progressive circles is politely termed The Other. Since men and women think and respond differently to a whole laundry list of stimuli, this is a recipe for disaster.

That's not exactly an earthshaking revelation, especially to anyone who isn't dumber than a sackful of hammers who has managed to stay married for longer than 20 seconds. But though most of us know men and women are different, when faced with behavior we don't understand we continue to assume the opposite sex will respond as we would.

And if they don't, well then darnitall they *ought* to.

It's hard to find a more amusing example of this phenomenon than Dennis Prager's latest column and the reactions to it. Mr. Prager weighs in on a subject from which far better men than he have fled shrieking in terror:

It is an axiom of contemporary marital life that if a wife is not in the mood, she need not have sex with her husband. Here are some arguments why a woman who loves her husband might want to rethink this axiom.

... A man whose wife frequently denies him sex will first be hurt, then sad, then angry, then quiet. And most men will never tell their wives why they have become quiet and distant. They are afraid to tell their wives. They are often made to feel ashamed of their male sexual nature, and they are humiliated (indeed emasculated) by feeling that they are reduced to having to beg for sex.

When first told this about men, women generally react in one or more of five ways:

1. You have to be kidding. That certainly isn't my way of knowing if he loves me. There have to be deeper ways than sex for me to show my husband that I love him.

2. If this is true, men really are animals.

3. Not my man. He knows I love him by the kind and loving way I treat him.

4. You have it backwards. If he truly loved me, he wouldn't expect sex when I'm not in the mood.

5. I know this and that's why I rarely say no to sex.

Mr. Prager proceeds to address each of these reactions in a way that sends the Hanes UltraSheers of bloggers both male and female into wads of fury. This is a shame, because there's really nothing wrong with his basic premise.

It's just that he really didn't do a terribly good job of explaining male behavior to women in a way that women understand. As amusing and overwrought as many of the reactions to his piece were, it's not hard to see why even some conservatives bridled at passages like this:

Compared to most womens sexual nature, mens sexual nature is far closer to that of animals. So what? That is the way he is made. Blame God and nature. Telling your husband to control it is a fine idea. But he already does. Every man who is sexually faithful to his wife already engages in daily heroic self-control. He has married knowing he will have to deny his sexual natures desire for variety for the rest of his life. To ask that he also regularly deny himself sex with the one woman in the world with whom he is permitted sex is asking far too much. Deny him enough times and he may try to fill this need with another woman.

Take one red flag. Wave directly in front of bull you are supposedly trying to stun senseless with the ineffable lucidity of your arguments. Step back, watch mayhem ensue.

As it so happens, I couldn't agree more that:

1. Sex is far more important to men (both physically and emotionally) than most women realize, and
2. Given that this is so, making sure your partner is satisfied in an area of your relationship which has tremendous importance to both the way he views your marriage and the way he sees himself as a man is pretty much a no-brainer.

BUT (and this is far bigger problem than diplomatically informing your wife her new little black dress makes her caboose look like a runaway Mack truck) allow me to suggest that telling a woman her husband desires sex with her (and apparently everything else on two legs) because he's basically an animal is not exactly calculated to appeal to her reasonable side.

And then there's the small matter of informing her how heroic her spouse is because he hasn't cheated on her.... yet. Of course those raging desires are barely under control. The reversion to animaldom *could* begin at any moment.

Cue the Barry White. I don't know about you, but I'm feeling romantic already. Methinks Mr. Prager needs to work on his sales technique just_a_bit.

Exactly how should this line of 'logic' make loving and concerned wives feel about something they don't understand? If you answered, "receptive", go back to the drawing board. Congratulations! You've married a caged beast who is constantly fighting off wicked thoughts and if you don't throw him some raw meat, he'll go feral on you?

Let me stipulate the points Prager made again and again in his column because they bear repeating. First of all, he didn't order anyone to submit. He advanced an argument whereby women might care to rethink their position if they have been habitually denying sex to their husbands. He further stated that it isn't a man's automatic "right" to expect sex whenever he wants it; that a considerate and loving husband must understand there are going to be times when for whatever reason, it's better just to roll over and dream of Halle Berry (just as a considerate and loving wife should understand there are times when protracted discussions about his feeeeeeeeelings or The Relationship may be the straw that broke the camel's back):

Of course, there are times when a man must simply refrain from initiating sex out of concern for his wife's physical or emotional condition. And then there are men for whom sex rarely has anything to do with making love or whose frequency of demands are excessive. (What “excessive” means ought to be determined by the couple before the refusals begin, or continue.)

That said, the slightly clumsy way he made his arguments was more calculated to appeal to a man than a woman and it ain't men he's trying to persuade. With a slightly different spin his observations remain no less true but are more likely to gain a sympathetic and willing ear:

1. You have to be kidding. …

The most common female reaction to hearing about men's sexual nature is incredulity, often followed by denial. These are entirely understandable reactions given how profoundly different — and how seemingly more primitive — men's sexual nature is compared to women's.

Incredulity is certainly the reaction most women have when first being told that a man knows he is loved when his wife gives him her body. The idea that the man she is married to, let alone a man whose intelligence she respects, will to any serious extent measure her love of him by such a carnal yardstick strikes many women as absurd and even objectionable.

This is undoubtedly true. I'm not sure if Prager understands *why* it's true, though. I have a theory about this. Maybe it's correct, maybe not.

Unlike women, men are competitive by nature: driven to fight and win. And as Prager notes, physically (let's not forget men are far more than the sum of their desires) men do have the instinct to sow their oats far and wide. But they also have other needs - intellectual, emotional, and spiritual - in addition to the purely sexual ones. Men are more than walking glands. If they weren't, they'd never settle down with one woman, accepting all the hard work and sacrifices marriage entails. Oddly enough, men have been known to forgo sex entirely, especially when they're working on something important to them. Who knew the poor dears had brains, let alone other interests in life? If that sounds a bit snarky, it's because it's a bit insulting to be thought of as nothing more than the satisfaction of a purely "animal" instinct. It's not that women don't get the animal part - trust me, we do, and far better than Mr. Prager seems to understand. It's just that most women would like to believe we provide a little more than the simple gratification of a nearly uncontrollable animal urge virtually anyone can satisfy. He is oversimplifying something that is actually pretty sophisticated and complex - the male sex drive, and what's more that oversimplification trivializes and demeans the needs of men. If sex were all men wanted or needed, they'd just take what they wanted. But men don't do that - they balance that side of their natures with their other attributes. That's why Prager's argument is calculated to raise hackles rather than promote understanding and acceptance.

During their dating years, most men prefer females they perceive to be a bit of a challenge. Certainly some will sleep with anything, but they won't settle down with just any woman. Ideally, they want the most difficult catch who prizes them in return; hopefully exclusively. They don't want her to be too easy to win over, but nothing is more attractive to a man than a woman who only has eyes for him, especially if she's viewed by other men as a good catch. She raises his status and in her arms he feels like a winner. This is a little hard for women to understand, but it's really very little different from the way we ourselves behave. We primp and preen and do our utmost to attract the best suitor from whatever pool we're able to gather around ourselves. We tend to undervalue the easy catch and often overvalue the one that got away, but essentially it's no less of a competition. From an evolutionary standpoint, this makes for healthy babies.

What women often don't understand is how truly important it is to most guys to please the women in their lives. For a man even love has a competitive aspect: he will fight for the prize of a woman's regard (or her desire at the end of the day), and that's how you keep the spark in a long term relationship: by allowing the man to do what he does best (pursue) and the woman to do what she does best (lure or seduce, often elusively at first but in the end, yielding... with the enticing appearance of a struggle... to his advances). In a good marriage, he continues to make this effort and she rewards him exclusively for his pains. But if she rejects him, not only is he going to be frustrated physically, but he's going to feel like a failure with the one person who matters most to him.

Since I've never met a guy who likes unpleasant feelings, guess what happens next? He shuts down and distracts himself with work, sports or hobbies. And this is where it all breaks down, as I'll discuss a bit later.

2. If this is true, men really are animals.

Correct. Compared to most women's sexual nature, men's sexual nature is far closer to that of animals. So what? That is the way he is made. Blame God and nature. Telling your husband to control it is a fine idea. But he already does. Every man who is sexually faithful to his wife already engages in daily heroic self-control. He has married knowing he will have to deny his sexual nature's desire for variety for the rest of his life. To ask that he also regularly deny himself sex with the one woman in the world with whom he is permitted sex is asking far too much. Deny him enough times and he may try to fill this need with another woman. If he is too moral to ever do that, he will match your sexual withdrawal with emotional and other forms of withdrawal.

Wow. Worst. Argument. Ever to make to a woman. Question for the ages: Is the wife who doesn't respond to the passes single and married men make at married women all the time (remember, women LOVE flirting, romance and attention of any kind - hey, we're animals! It's how we're made Mr. Prager: get over it) "heroic", too? Or is she just keeping her promise?

What about the woman who continues to tenderly care for her screaming infant when she hasn't had any sleep in 2 weeks and what she'd really rather be doing is relaxing on a tropical island with Fabio? Might such a woman possibly feel put upon at the end of the day when one more demand is made on her? This is something men don't understand - women are 'always on' to those we love. Just as men can't show emotion in the workplace, women have the opposite problem: we don't get to shut down emotionally because our feelings or pride are hurt. We can't turn off our feelings or stop thinking about those we love. We aren't "wired" that way and we can't shut out the needs of others, even when we are tired, angry, or resentful. They batter at us constantly until we do something about them.

Of course men have to keep their impulses in check once they get married. And of course that's not always easy. But it's hardly "heroic" any more than the thousand sacrifices women make in order to keep their relationships smooth are heroic.

There is probably little in life that annoys women more than being told by a man that nature has "programmed us" to do anything, bear any burden, make any sacrifice (except, apparently, having sex) in order to trap men into a state that is unnatural for them but oh-so desirable for us. I know I hate being told by conservative men in particular that women either hate sex or have little need for it; that we must pretty much be forced, against our natures, into 'giving it up'.

Could our extreme lack of interest in sex be why so many women cheat on their husbands, an activity that - last time I checked - included... lots and lots of the very activity we ostensibly exist to avoid?

Yeah. Doesn't make much sense to me, either.

The truth is probably a bit more nuanced than that: something more along the lines of, "men and women are different and within the spectrum of our differences, individual men and women vary greatly in temperment, need for sex, etc." This means that if you plan to get along with an individual man or woman, it helps to try and understand not just how all men or women think in general, but how the individual you're dealing with may differ from that general description. Try this argument on for size:

Men have feelings too, even though they don't talk about them very much. The number one reason for marital infidelity is not sex but rejection: the feeling one isn't appreciated.

And men, as many women may have noticed, are not always so good at talking - especially about their feelings. From birth they are trained to keep their emotions under tight rein. But as a woman, you hold the key to his heart. A man is never so receptive and loving as he is in bed. This is the one place where the rest of the world can't see him and when you touch him, when you show him you desire him above all others, that is probably the safest and most open he will ever feel. If you wish you were closer to your husband, you need to connect with him. For better or for worse, men find it easier to be emotionally intimate within the context of a happy and loving sexual relationship. It opens up their tender, loving and protective side.

If, as a woman, you are intentionally (and this was precisely the argument advanced by many bloggers who objected to Prager's post) holding back out of some misguided "He has to do X,Y, Z first before I'll interact with him in a way that allows him to be respond to the things I need from this relationship..." mentality, let me be the first to say: "You're a fool.". Sorry, but there it is.

A happy man will do almost anything to please you, up to and including conquering the world.

3. Not my man.

Many women will argue, understandably, “My husband knows I love him. He doesn't need me to have sex with him to know that. And this is especially so when I'm too tired or just don't want sex. Anyway, my man only enjoys sex with me when I'm into it, too.”

Not a bad argument so far as it goes. Realizing that many men would rather stick their heads into a gas oven than talk about their feelings, ask a woman how she would react to this statement from a man:

“My wife knows I love her. She doesn't need me to listen to her or tell her I love her to know that. And this is especially so when I'm too tired or just don't feel like making nicey-nicey. Anyway, it wouldn't mean anything to my wife if I acted affectionate just to please her.”

If you believe that, there's a very large bridge in Arizona I'd like to sell you. Often in marriage it's precisely the gestures we make when we don't feel like it - just to please our partners - that show how much we care. Anyone can be considerate when they're in a good mood. It's when you care enough to consider your mate's needs when you're tired and cranky that you know a marriage is solid.

4. You have it backward.

Every rational and decent man knows there are times when he should not initiate sex. In a marriage of good communication, a man would either know when those times are or his wife would tell him (and she needs to — women should not expect men to read their minds. He is her man, not her mother.)

This goes to my earlier point. Just as women should not expect men to read their minds, the absolute WORST thing a man can do (and very likely the #1 reason a lot of wives don't understand their husbands) is ...

[drum roll]

Men expecting their wives to read their minds. Women are good - very good - at relationships. But we're not perfect, and in a relationship between two consenting adults I don't have a whole lot of patience for an adult who takes his - or her - ball and goes home when things don't go his or her way. You want game?

Show up. And don't sulk.

And don't expect your partner to know - or understand without a lot of explaining - how you think. Not all men are alike. Neither are all women. Though men and women share many overarching similarities to others of their sex, no one marries "all men" or "all women". Individuals can be all over the map in terms of their need for emotional or sexual fulfillment and in the end, it is your individual needs that matter. If you don't feel comfortable broaching a subject, buy her a book that expresses what you wish she understood about you. Take responsibility for your own pleasure (and your own emotional well being). And here's a huge hint: find out how *she* thinks, what's important to her. Marriage involves communication and negotiation. Maybe she has shut down in the bedroom because she's feeling emotionally rejected. Maybe she's just lost touch with that side of herself, just as many men aren't terribly in touch with their emotions. Either way, asking a physically smaller and more vulnerable woman to open herself to a man she feels - for whatever reason - doesn't care about her is not only insensitive but leaves her feeling used.

SHE CAN'T READ YOUR MIND, and if you won't talk about your feelings she assumes you don't care about her or your marriage. She interprets the whole 'shutting down' thing as a rejection, and it hurts. Hurt people generally retreat into themselves, and that's never healthy for a marriage.

5. I know this and that's why I rarely say no to my husband.

I believe I'll let James Joyce speak for me here:

And then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will yes.

The secret lies is meeting each other halfway. And if you find your spine a bit unyielding, you may wish to consider an old saying we ladies have often found instructive: That which submits, rules.

We humans are complex beings full of often contrary desires. Sometimes, though, someone has to make the first move.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:02 AM | Comments (66) | TrackBack

Funny... I Always Wanted To Fly

Your Superpower Should Be Mind Reading
You are brilliant, insightful, and intuitive.
You understand people better than they would like to be understood. Highly sensitive, you are good at putting together seemingly irrelevant details. You figure out what's going on before anyone knows that anything is going on!

Why you would be a good superhero: You don't care what people think, and you'd do whatever needed to be done

Your biggest problem as a superhero: Feeling even more isolated than you do now
What Should Your Superpower Be?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:43 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

December 28, 2008

A Deep and Abiding Faith

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

- Robert Frost

Bombing through Maryland woods on a snowy evening (at an admittedly intemperate rate of speed) the Blog Princess found herself snidely pondering the thick fog of unreality which pervades everything from politics to parenting to the economy these days. This is a time when connections seem to have been severed. Or perhaps they've simply been obscured by affluence and long complacency. Maybe we're so thoroughly insulated by our relative safety and prosperity that we no longer recognize how decisions and the consequences that flow from them are related. We don't like speaking of cause and effect; such talk smacks uncomfortably of "being judgmental" and "imposing our values on others" as though it were overly rigid values (and not the impersonal but remorseless physics of action and reaction) which cause bad results to follow from foolish decisions. Perhaps if we just keep refusing to face unpleasant consequences, they will fade away and lose their power over us. Like unacknowledged monsters under the bed, if we wish and hope hard enough maybe we can banish the real world to some dark corner of our subconscious minds for another decade or two.

After all here we are: still huddled in our larger-than-ever McMansions with our smaller-than-ever families, our two-plus cars per household (sometimes one per driver!), our multiple TV sets, VCRs, Wiis, iPods, stereos, laptops and desktop computers. Though we whine about how expensive everything is and fear losing it, we continue to enjoy riches our parents and grandparents never dreamed of. We fear losing our comfortable lifestyles and yet we seem oddly untroubled by the loss of something infinitely more precious than personal possessions easily come by and all too soon forgotten. Lost in all of this manic celebration of the now is appreciation of the eternal; of those quieter joys that satisfy the soul long after whatever shiny baubles momentarily capture our highly distractible eyes have lost their luster.

Driving down that country road, The Princess found herself thinking of a few lines written by Patrick O'Hannigan regarding the closing of a favorite coffee house:

I mentioned an Advent angle to the challenge that Mistress Roaster and her manager now face, and it is this: Stephanie calls the coffee house her church, and Carrie is a Christian whose denomination I do not know, but both are buoyed by a joyful confidence that hard things happen for a reason, and that everybody in the coffee chain from producers to consumers deserves respect.

Joyful confidence. I think that is what is most missing from our lives these days. We have been living in the moment so often and to such a great degree that I think we have lost our bearings. We are adrift on the vast ocean of the present; choking and sputtering on information as wave after wave of events batters the fragile defenses we have erected. Without history, without the traditions and duties our parents accepted (but we knowingly abandoned) we can't seem to get our feet upon solid ground.

And so, nothing makes sense anymore. We know this, in our hearts. But so long as there's a hope the dream of affluence might continue, who wants to face boring reality?

Individuals, companies or cities with heavy debt and shrinking revenues instinctively know that they must reduce spending, tighten their belts, pay down debt and live within their means. But it is axiomatic in Keynesianism that national governments can create and sustain economic activity by injecting printed money into the financial system. In their view, absent the stimuli of the New Deal and World War II, the Depression would never have ended.

On a gut level, we have a hard time with this concept. There is a vague sense of smoke and mirrors, of something being magically created out of nothing. But economics, we are told, is complicated.

It would be irresponsible in the extreme for an individual to forestall a personal recession by taking out newer, bigger loans when the old loans can't be repaid. However, this is precisely what we are planning on a national level.

I believe these ideas hold sway largely because they promise happy, pain-free solutions. They are the economic equivalent of miracle weight-loss programs that require no dieting or exercise. The theories permit economists to claim mystic wisdom, governments to pretend that they have the power to dispel hardship with the whir of a printing press, and voters to believe that they can have recovery without sacrifice.

As a follower of the Austrian School of economics I believe that market forces apply equally to people and nations. The problems we face collectively are no different from those we face individually. Belt tightening is required by all, including government.

Governments cannot create but merely redirect. When the government spends, the money has to come from somewhere. If the government doesn't have a surplus, then it must come from taxes. If taxes don't go up, then it must come from increased borrowing. If lenders won't lend, then it must come from the printing press, which is where all these bailouts are headed. But each additional dollar printed diminishes the value those already in circulation. Something cannot be effortlessly created from nothing.

Driving down that back country road to the accompaniment of a seasonally appropriate holiday tune, I couldn't help musing that the inhabitants of the delightful stretch of pavement I frequently cut across to bridge the gap between my 100% natural, crunchy granola neighborhood and the mean streets of downtown Fredneck must really despise people like The Princess.

But you see, it is Not My Fault. "Those people" ought to have had more sense than to buy homes on a relatively untravelled road with such sinuous curves - luscious, nearly naked stretches of open road that whisper seductively to the arch of the foot, caressing it into exerting a dangerous pressure that is translated almost without conscious thought to the innocent toes resting on the accelerator pedal.

No. It is not the fault of people like us. We cannot be held responsible for our actions. Clearly the road should have been better designed; Someone in Authority should have put Systems in place to prevent us from doing what we know is wrong and if they only had done their jobs, how many now-flattened squirrels would be sitting upright in the middle of the road, taunting our brand new Michelins with a flick of their arrogantly twitching tails?

All I know is that despite what has turned out to be a momentous year, I continue to have a deep and abiding faith in America. Yes, we screw up a lot.

That is because we are human. But it is also because we are free.

And what a glorious, glorious gift freedom is. We are free - free even to choose the wrong things, to make bad decisions. Free to do stupid things that hurt us more than they hurt others. And often, all too often, we do exactly that. If living with the consequences of our own fecklessness continues to be the worst thing we have to whine about, America may continue to consider herself truly fortunate. No one else is oppressing us. If we can be said to be victims, we are victims of our own freedom of choice. There are worse fates, and perhaps if the consequences of our own bad decisions continue to mount we may finally begin to see some reality - some admission that liberty is not a risk-free proposition; that free people have responsibilities to go along with all those glorious rights we hear about constantly.

Meanwhile, half a world away a developing democracy exercised its freedom too this Christmas season:

Iraq's government declared today an official holiday, and issued congratulations to Christians here on the birth of Christ. Iran, after a fashion, did the same thing.

This is a momentous thing. But no doubt the media will continue to flog the story of an Iraqi reporter - a reporter who would never had the chance to do his job without state interference during the reign of Saddam - passing up his newfound freedom of speech to bravely assault a visiting head of state. We will, no doubt, continue to be admonished by professional journalists that reporters perform an indispensable service, albeit with no recognition that they continue to fall grievously short of their own standards:

The common thread here, whether the subject is foreign, national or local, is that the writer in question is performing a valuable task for the reader -- one that no sane man would perform for free. He is assembling what in the business world is termed the "executive summary." Anyone can duplicate a long and tedious report. And anyone can highlight one passage from that report and either praise or denounce it. But it takes both talent and willpower to analyze the report in its entirety and put it in a context comprehensible to the casual reader.

This highlights the real flaw in the thinking of those who herald the era of citizen journalism. They assume newspapers are going out of business because we aren't doing what we in fact do amazingly well, which is to quickly analyze and report on complex public issues. The real reason they're under pressure is much more mundane. The Internet can carry ads more cheaply, particularly help-wanted and automotive ads.

So if you want a car or a job, go to the Internet. But don't expect that Web site to hire somebody to sit through town-council meetings and explain to you why your taxes will be going up. Soon, newspapers won't be able to do it either.

I agree with Mr. Mulshine. Journalists do perform an indispensable service and bloggers cannot and should not think we can entirely replace them. To the contrary, we depend upon professional journalists. Without them, we could not do what we do. But journalists are wrong to dismiss the contributions made by bloggers, and even more wrong when they gloss over the very real deficiencies in their reporting; deficiencies that created the competition they so fiercely resent. Bloggers found an audience because they perform the a critical oversight function over an essentially unaccountable profession. The irony is that the media use their oversight role to justify nearly everything they do, from releasing classified documents to concealing the sources of their stories, yet they find oversight of their own profession intolerable. Jules Crittenden, a professional journalist and blogger, points one the hypocrisy in this stance:

...someone needs to tell Mulshine about the important role that the blogosphere he is dismissing has played in keeping professionals honest.

It’s tireless work, done for little or no money, and there is no end to it, as the recent election shows. Where would most people have found out anything about Obama … or anything true and relevant about Palin … without the blogosphere, anyway? Who would there be to continue tirelessly pointing out what a bad joke Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize is, especially now that it’s fundamental premise is … cooling off. Meanwhile, Dan Rather is spending his days muttering to himself when he isn’t muttering to lawyers who are milking him with a multi-million lawsuit that’s going nowhere. I don’t know what Adnan Hajj is doing these days, since his Beirut Photoshop got shuttered. I don’t even want to talk about what the Iraq war coverage was like.

Glenn Reynolds notes that many bloggers, contrary to Mulshine's dismissive and dishonest snark, do in fact produce original reporting - and in a war zone to boot:

It seems that often when big-media types write about the failings of blogs, they engage in the kind of lazy inaccuracy they condemn. In an earlier column, Mulshine wrote:
Anyone can travel to a war zone and write about it. I would strongly recommend this for any of the critics of the MSM who are seeking to get out the real truth about Iraq. Go for it, guys. War coverage is great fun. One word of caution, though: Don’t lose your heads in all the excitement.
That, of course — as Mulshine should have known then, and now — is exactly what J.D. Johannes does — along with Michael Yon, Michael Totten, Bill Roggio, and others in the blogosphere. Mulshine, meanwhile, brags about having once covered the Toms River Regional Board of Education in New Jersey. That’s worthy work, of course, but if his reportage there was as poor as his work in the Wall Street Journal, then — oh, who am I kidding? “If”?

But I think bloggers also perform another very important function: because bloggers are available and accountable to our readers in real time, we have brought ordinary citizens back into politics. By engaging them in the news cycle; involving them in discussions about the latest stories and challenging them to actively question what they read and hear, we are - quite literally - revitalizing democracy:

...here again is one of the major strengths of blogs: if a story is proven false, it's a rare blogger who isn't deluged with emails and comments. Most bloggers will publish an update to correct the story immediately. I would argue that blogs are uniquely accountable to their readers in a way the MSM are not: if we are consistently wrong, our readers stop listening and find someone who can get the story straight.

The article leaves out another important advantage of blogs: posts are supported by links to the sources used to support the story. The more credible blogs use multiple sources to support a post. Readers can follow the links to learn more and evaluate the credibility of the information supplied. This is not possible with the nightly news or daily newspaper.

Strangely, the main advantage of blogs was never mentioned in the article, and it's an important one: blogs make the news cycle interactive. Blogs with comments enabled allow readers to discuss the news, argue policy and trade facts, offer links to related stories, correct false or misleading information, and offer their insights for debate and review by the Internet community.

Even non-commenting blogs let readers participate by emailing the blogger (who more often than not will respond) and by contributing stories. Most readers like to see their names on the screen and many important stories are broken, not by the investigative work of the blogger, but by an intrepid reader with a modem and a thirst for information.

By allowing readers to participate in the news cycle, break stories, investigate rumors, and share their thoughts with a vast network of other readers who care passionately about world events, blogs are revitalizing democracy. People are meeting on the web to discuss the issues instead of on the front porch or down at the corner store. But for the first time in years, they're talking. The once-disconnected and apathetic voter is getting involved in a way he or she hasn't in years, and it's exciting to see.

In a private email this week, I expressed some doubt as to whether our love affair with television and the Internet have contributed to the deep and pervading air of unreality that seems to surround us right now. I do worry when I see kids texting at the table instead of talking to their family. I think it's rude. I don't like to see people chained to their Blackberries 24/7 - I wish they'd put them down and talk to the very real people right in front of their noses; people who (most of the time) are far more important to them at the end of the day than whoever is on the other end of those pixels. I wonder whether all this technology and the affluence it brings is severing us from a right appreciation of the critical connection between our decisions and the consequences that flow from them.

I worry, when I see the media selectively flogging a highly politicized agenda for all it's worth and calling it news, that people don't take the time to cross-check facts or separate punditry from news reporting. I worry about all the stories that never make it into our living rooms. But then I look at the explosion of the Internet and I see that people do realize they're not getting the whole story. They are curious. That's encouraging.

When I look at history I can't help but have a deep and abiding faith that somehow, we will figure it all out. We human beings screw up a lot, and if we screw things up enough eventually we will encounter consequences even we can't defer or deny.

Should that day come, I suspect we'll deal with it just as our parents and grandparents did. It's comforting, in a way, to realize that even with all the shiny gadgets and geegaws we possess nowadays, getting smacked upside the head with the 2x4 of stupidity still hurts like hell. It's just that we have better tools nowadays.

Now if we can just work on that wisdom thing.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:26 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Well, my living room looks like a wrapping paper factory exploded in the middle of it, the dog has obliged us by throwing up early, there is a tireless (and apparently not sleepy) Burrito running hell for leather up and down my hallway, and in case anyone was wondering the Word of the Day is, "uh-ohhhhhhhhhh".

And on the Internets, people are still arguing about politics.

Yep. It's Christmas all right.

Merry Christmas folks. I am sorry that I haven't been writing lately. I needed some time away to think, and to tell the truth my heart has been a bit heavy lately and I don't need to blather on when I'm in that frame of mind. I want VC to be a hopeful place. We have so much to be hopeful about in this country - we are blessed with so much more than we have any right to expect.

Or at least, I am. I hope 2009 will be filled with talking elephants, toy helicopters, warm puppies and things that fill your hearts with joy. And I hope that you'll share at least a few moments of it here.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, goodwill toward men."


Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and a very magical Solstice to you all.

Posted by Cassandra at 11:01 AM | Comments (42) | TrackBack

December 22, 2008

Lullaby

I used to sing this to my babies every night. I think it's the most peaceful song I've ever heard.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:09 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 21, 2008

Wrong Question

Leonard Downie, former executive editor of the WaPo, asks a question:

The death last week of W. Mark Felt -- Bob Woodward's secret source, indelibly dubbed "Deep Throat," who played such a crucial role in this newspaper's Watergate reporting -- coincided with the appearance of Richard M. Nixon, as played by Frank Langella, on local movie screens. As I watched Langella's Nixon being interrogated about the conspiracy and coverup by Michael Sheen's David Frost in "Frost/Nixon," I relived strong memories. And Felt's death raised the inevitable question: Could the kind of reporting that Woodward and Carl Bernstein pulled off be done today, more than three decades later, in the age of the Internet?

But that's the wrong question, isn't it? With a Democrat in the Oval Office - a candidate the media singularly failed to even make a pretense of vetting, the question isn't "could" the kind of investigative reporting that uncovered Watergate be pulled off today?

It's would it even be attempted? Let's face a few inconvenient truths.

We're talking about a media that recently had the nerve to tell America, "Obama clears himself and staff in Blagojevich case", airily dismissing the entire affair as "a distraction". This is investigative journalism? How many internal White House investigations have been blithely accepted by the press during Republican administrations?

This is a media who, during the campaign, spent only 13% of their time covering the issues and displayed a decided pro-Obama bias in their overall coverage. This, you see, was acceptable because they were "excited" by his candidacy.

In the Washington Post, we are talking about a newspaper that refuses to submit to the same standards of scrutiny and accountability it routinely imposes upon others:

The Post should post its admirable ethics and standards guidelines on washingtonpost.com for all to see. You can find parts of them on the Web site of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. The Post challenges the ethics of others; the paper's policies, which are reasonable and elegantly written, should be public and easy to find. I've fought for this internally, but it hasn't happened.

But in the end, It comes down to how the story is spun ... to which stories make it through the media filter and which stories are continually kept in the public eye though saturation coverage even as other stories go unreported or receive scant attention. Perception, in the end, becomes reality and public opinion is deftly manipulated by those who filter what we see and hear on a daily basis:

We know that the Bush administration couldn't keep a secret. It seems like the New York Times or the Washington Post broke a new story about some secret program or activity by the CIA or DOD based on anonymous testimony. Deep Throat is now Old Hat. State, CIA and even DOD are riddled with people who feel it is their constitutional right to talk to the press about secret programs if they have concerns about them.

The press hammered the Bush administration with this, year in and out. There is no doubt that Bush's high negatives track to a large degree to the unrelenting negative coverage he has received throughout his presidency. They did not bring down the President, but he certainly wasn't allowed to run any conspiracies -- not even the ones a President might ought to be running.

This is an example of the confirmation bias at work: once you have decided a person is bad, you readily believe bad things about them. Indeed, it may make something seem bad that you might have thought was good if a "good person" was doing it.

Now comes a new President, and his relationship with the press is different. They chose him. Barack Obama is our President-elect because the media wanted him to be. The positive coverage he has received over the last year is unprecedented in my lifetime; Popes don't usually get this kind of coverage.

We've seen an initial taste of the problem in the FISA controversy. If you were a strong Bush-blaster, the FISA issue was the worst thing in the world. It was about an end to civil liberties, the destruction of privacy, an out-of-control President trying to build a power to spy on the American people. If you were a hardcore Bush defender, it was about a noble man trying to use carefully limited power to fulfill his duty to keep Americans safe at home. The rhetoric was hot and heavy.

Since Obama reversed himself on FISA, it has largely dropped off the radar. People who previously derided it as the worst thing ever haven't changed their mind, as far as I know. But now the President will be Obama, a deliberate and thoughtful man of decent principles, so it's not so bad. We can take some time to work it out. The rhetoric has cooled.

By the same token, people who were glad to have Bush at the helm to guard their families must now consider whether a shady Chicago-way politician with inexplicable foreign ties can be trusted with such power.

As for the media, it elected Obama. He is their guy. If you went to them and laid out a conspiracy, gave them the phone numbers to call, gave them photos of the people they needed to interview, and just asked them to go confirm it -- would they?

Frankly, I doubt it. Confirmation bias is very powerful stuff, and lives right at the foundation of our thinking. I believe they would look at the facts, say to themselves, "There's doubtless some explanation for all this," do a pro forma inquiry just so they felt they had done their duty (the results of which would likewise be colored by confirmation bias), and declare there was nothing to the story.

If that's the case, the problem isn't the lack of editors -- and the new technology may not be enough to save us. Perhaps Obama will enjoy more leeway to carry out the conspiracies that a President ought to carry out. He is likely also to enjoy the leeway to carry out the sort that a President ought not to carry out.

And if that filtering process has a decided political bias?

Hey. It's understandable. Sometimes the press get "excited". How much did we hear from Dana Priest about extraordinary renditions or electronic surveillance during the Clinton years when we were not at war and al Qaeda had not attacked us yet?

On renditions, not a single article before 2004. Imagine that.

And on electronic surveillance? What Echelon program?

U.S. Strikes Terrorist-Linked Sites In Afghanistan, Factory in Sudan
Barton Gellman;Dana Priest; The Washington Post; Aug 21, 1998; A.01;

Top Sergeant Charged in Abuse Case; Accused Says Race Is Basis of Sex Claims
Dana Priest; The Washington Post; May 8, 1997; A.01;

Where was the outrage over violations of international law? Certainly not coming from Vice President, Albert Gore:

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

- Richard Clarke

The current problems with Walter Reed hospital, the military medical system and the Veterans Administration have been festering for decades. Where was Dana Priest when I was having trouble getting the basic care I was promised for my children during the Clinton administration?

Most likely in an undisclosed location. Odd how the media's eagerness to expose government malfeasance takes a holiday during Democratic administrations.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:06 PM | Comments (59) | TrackBack

December 19, 2008

*snort*

I'd seen the song before but it's still funny. Thanks to Domestikdiva.


The Mom Song from Northland Video on Vimeo.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:24 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Best Movie Monologues

Reading this article in the New Scientist on artificial methods of aging wine (God help us all, by electrifying it) the Princess was reminded of a wonderful monologue from the movie "Sideways" in which Virginia Madsen talks about how she fell in love with wine. I wasn't able to find a clip of the monologue, but it got me thinking about how many great movie monologues there are out there (and how different people's standards seem to be - for instance I wasn't terribly impressed by this top 10 list, but it's probably more of a guy list).

So with that in mind, I thought I'd put a few of my favorite movie monologues out there:

1. Katherine Hepburn, The Lion in Winter.

2. Eulogy from Four Weddings and a Funeral. The video cuts off the first part of the eulogy, which I also liked:

Gareth used to prefer funerals to weddings. He said it was easier to get enthusiastic about a ceremony one had an outside chance of eventually being involved in. In order to prepare this speech, I rang a few people, to get a general picture of how Gareth was regarded by those who met him. Fat seems to have been a word people most connected with him. Terribly rude also rang a lot of bells. So very fat and very rude seems to have been a stranger's viewpoint. On the other hand, some of you have been kind enough to ring me and let me know that you loved him, which I know he would have been thrilled to hear. You remember his fabulous hospitality, his strange experimental cooking. The recipe for "Duck à la Banana" fortunately goes with him to his grave. Most of all, you tell me of his enormous capacity for joy. When joyful, when joyful for highly vocal drunkenness. But I hope joyful is how you will remember him. Not stuck in a box in a church. Pick your favourite of his waistcoats and remember him that way. The most splendid, replete, big-hearted, weak-hearted as it turned out, and jolly bugger most of us ever met. As for me, you may ask how I will remember him, what I thought of him. Unfortunately there I run out of words. Perhaps you will forgive me if I turn from my own feelings to the words of another splendid bugger: W.H. Auden. This is actually what I want to say: "Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bonel, Silence the pianos and with muffled drum Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come. Let the aeroplanes circle, moaning overhead Scribbling on the sky the message 'He is Dead'. Put crepe bows 'round the white necks of the public doves, Let traffic policemen wear black, cotton gloves. He was my North, my South, my East, and West. My working week and my Sunday rest, My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song; I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong. The stars are not wanted now; put out every one, Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun, Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood; For nothing now can ever come to any good."

3. Gettysburg, Jeff Daniels, Kevin Conway

4. Kenneth Branaugh, Henry V: best love scene ever:

Marry, if you would put me to verses or to dance for your sake, Kate, why, you undid me. For the one I have neither words nor measure; and for the other I have no strength in measure, yet a reasonable measure in strength.

If I could win a lady at leapfrog, or by vaulting into my saddle with my armor on my back, under the correction of bragging be it spoken, I should quickly leap into a wife. Or if I might buffet for my love, or bound my horse for her favors, I could lay on like a butcher and sit like a jackanapes, never off. But, before God, Kate, I cannot look greenly, not gasp our my eloquence, nor I have no cunning in protestation, only downright oaths which I never use till urged, nor never break for urging. If thou canst love a fellow of this temper, Kate, whose face is not worth sunburning, that never looks in his glass for love of anything he sees there, let thine eye by thy cook.

I speak to thee plain soldier. If thou canst love me for this, take me; if not, to say to thee that I shall die, is true; but for thy love, by the Lord, no; yet I love thee too. And while thou liv'st, dear Kate, take a fellow of plain and uncoined constancy, for he perforce must do thee right, because he hath not the gift to woo in other places. For these fellows of infinite tongue that can rhyme themselves into ladies' favors, they do always reason themselves out again. What! A speaker is but a prater; a rhyme is but a ballad. A good leg will fall, a straight back will stoop, a black beard will turn white, a curled pate will grow bald, a fair face will wither, a full eye will wax hollow; but a good heart, Kate, is the sun and the moon; or rather, the sun, and not the moon, for it shines bright and never changes, but keeps his course truly. If thou would have a such a one, take me; and take me, take a soldier; take a soldier, take a king. And what say'st thou then to my love? Speak, my fair, and fairly, I pray thee.

5. The Fountainhead - the defense of individualism.

6. Via Tigerhawk, Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. He knows me too well :p

7. Inspiration.

Feel free to nominate your own favorites (which links if you can find them!) in the comments section.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:04 AM | Comments (58) | TrackBack

December 18, 2008

Foolishness...

Tigerlily Knotwise of Michael Delving????

I think I like Tári Ancalimë better.

This is just wrong.

Funny. But wrong.

...speaking of which, this is everywhere this week, in case you haven't already seen it. Though I must say the elephant thing is completely uncalled for...

Posted by Cassandra at 06:37 AM | Comments (34) | TrackBack

December 16, 2008

Heh....

Army Christmas Operations Order: 12-24-08

Subject: Christmas

1. An official visit by MG Santa (NMI) Claus is expected at this headquarters 25 December 2008. The following instructions will be in effect and govern the activities of all personnel during the visit.

a. Not a creature will stir without official permission. This will include indigenous mice. Special stirring permits for necessary administrative actions will be obtained through normal channels. Mice stirring permits will be obtained through the Office of the Surgeon General, Veterinary Services.

b. Personnel will settle their brains for a long winter nap prior to 2200 hours, 24 December 2008. Uniform for the nap will be: Pajamas, cotton,light, drowsing, with kerchief, general purpose, camouflage; and Cap, camouflage w/ear flaps. Equipment will be drawn from CIF prior to 1900 hours, 24 December 2008.

c. Personnel will utilize standard field ration sugar plums for visions to dance through their heads. Artificially sweetened plums are authorized for those in their unit weight control program. Specifications for this item will be provided by the servicing dining facility.

d. Stockings, wool, cushion sole, will be hung by the chimney with care. Necessary safety precautions will be taken to avoid fire hazards caused by carelessly hung stockings. Unit safety Officers will submit stocking hanging plans to this headquarters prior to 0800 hours, 24 December 2008, ATTN: DCSLOG, for approval.

e. At the first sign of clatter from the lawn, all troops will spring from their beds to evaluate noise and cause. Immediate action will be taken to tear open the shutters and throw open the window sashes. DCSOPS Plan (Saint Nick), Reference LO No. 3, paragraph 6c, this headquarters, 2 February 2008, will be in effect to facilitate shutter tearing and sash throwing. Division chiefs will familiarize all personnel with procedures and are responsible for ensuring that no shutters are tornopen nor window sashes thrown open prior to start of official clatter.

f. Prior to 2400, 24 December 2008, all personnel will be assigned “Wondering Eye” stations. After shutters are thrown open and sashes are torn, these stations will be manned.

g. The ODCSLOG will assign one each Sleigh, miniature, M-66, and eight (8) deer, rein, tiny, for use of MG Claus’ driver who, IAW current directives and other applicable regulations, must have a valid SF 56 properly annotated by Driver Testing; be authorized rooftop parking and be able to shout “On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer and Vixen, up Comet, up Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen”.

2. MG Claus will enter quarters through standard chimneys. All units without chimneys will draw Chimney Simulator, M-6, for use during ceremonies. Chimney simulator units will be requested on Engineer Job Order Request Form submitted to the Furniture Warehouse prior to 19 December 2008, and issued on DA Form 3161, Request for Issue or Turn-in.

3. Personnel will be rehearsed on shouting “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.” This shout will be given on termination of General Claus’ visit. Uniformity of shouting is the responsibility of division chiefs.

/x// CHRISTOPHER K. RINGLE
Colonel, USA
OIC, Special Services

Distribution:
Everybody Who Still Believes


CWCID: OBH

Posted by Cassandra at 11:34 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Marines: "Not Surprising... Just Impressive"

marine_watch.jpg

Via ZZMike:

"The day started out with a 10-kilometer patrol with elements mounted and dismounted, so by the time we got to Shewan, we were pretty beat," the marksman said.

Mercure reported, "Shewan had been a thorn in the side of Task Force 2d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Afghanistan throughout the Marines' deployment here in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, because it controls an important supply route into the Bala Baluk district. Opening the route was key to continuing combat operations in the area."

"The vicious attack that left the humvee destroyed and several of the Marines pinned down in the kill zone sparked an intense eight-hour battle as the platoon desperately fought to recover their comrades. After recovering the Marines trapped in the kill zone, another platoon sergeant personally led numerous attacks on enemy fortified positions while the platoon fought house to house and trench to trench in order to clear through the enemy ambush site.

'"The biggest thing to take from that day is what Marines can accomplish when they're given the opportunity to fight,'" the sniper said. '"A small group of Marines met a numerically superior force and embarrassed them in their own backyard. The insurgents told the townspeople that they were stronger than the Americans, and that day we showed them they were wrong."'

"During the battle, the designated marksman single handedly thwarted a company-sized enemy RPG and machinegun ambush by reportedly killing 20 enemy fighters with his devastatingly accurate precision fire. He selflessly exposed himself time and again to intense enemy fire during a critical point in the eight-hour battle for Shewan in order to kill any enemy combatants who attempted to engage or maneuver on the Marines in the kill zone. What made his actions even more impressive was the fact that he didn't miss any shots, despite the enemies' rounds impacting within a foot of his fighting position."

'"I was in my own little world,"' the young corporal said. '"I wasn't even aware of a lot of the rounds impacting near my position, because I was concentrating so hard on making sure my rounds were on target."'

"After calling for close-air support, the small group of Marines pushed forward and broke the enemies' spirit as many of them dropped their weapons and fled the battlefield. At the end of the battle, the Marines had reduced an enemy stronghold, killed more than 50 insurgents and wounded several more.

'"I didn't realize how many bad guys there were until we had broken through the enemies' lines and forced them to retreat. It was roughly 250 insurgents against 30 of us,"' the corporal said. '"It was a good day for the Marine Corps. We killed a lot of bad guys, and none of our guys were seriously injured."'

Such an amazing story of heroism and victory would have been on Page One in every paper in the country during World War II. Just 30 Marines giving eight hours of hell to 250 insurgents is the kind of story that would make a good movie - if that kind of movie still could be made.

But these days, it did not even make Page 10. I couldn't find a story about it anywhere. The only mentions were on conservative blogs and military Web sites.

I saw this a while back.

I suppose it's a sign of my growing cynicism that I didn't have the heart to write about it. I should have. There's more at MaryAnn's place:

“In order to let the [British] convoy pass through safely, we [Marines] decided to take a route where we would most likely meet enemy activity and neutralize it,” said Capt. Mike Hoffman, the commanding officer of Co. I.

After successfully clearing the route with little interference from insurgents, Co. I set up a deliberate defense to maintain security along the route for the five-day operation. They picked an area on a map that best fit the mission based on terrain analysis and conducted leadership and engineer reconnaissance to ensure mission success. The defense site was on a slope overlooking a distant view of flat land and small scattered villages. The defense was set up for survivability as the Marines kept the area secure with the use of extra firepower, aggressive patrolling and a good defensive posture.

“That was probably the most impressive thing to see these guys do,” said Hoffman. “It was a great opportunity. It was something the Marine Corps hasn’t done a lot of recently in combat, just training."

"The last five days the Marines stayed out there in the elements, and they stayed as safe as they would have in any FOB, maybe safer because of the work they put into the defense. The operation was completely self sustaining.”

As the convoy pushed through without incident, several local Afghans stood outside of their homes observing.

The operation also marked the first time Co. I had operated as a company team during its deployment to Afghanistan.

“It went very smoothly and I could not be prouder of the entire team,” said Hoffman. “For something that complicated to go this well is not surprising, but it is impressive.”

That pretty much encapsulates what the Marines do every day: they take the nearly impossible and make it look easy. And most of it, we never hear about.

When you stop to think that most of these guys are still very young men: the kind who wouldn't be trusted to pour pee out of a boot back here at home, that makes it even more remarkable.


Posted by Cassandra at 08:41 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

DimWit of the Day: Billy Joel

And when they were come into the house,
they saw the young child with Mary his mother,
and fell down, and worshipped him:
and when they had opened their treasures,
they presented unto him gifts;
gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

Poor Billy Joel. He couldn't even come up with a clue to offer Baby Jesus on his birthday.

They never learn.

Cliff Hudson: Send My Love

I don't think Billy Joel has a farking clue how military folks feel about separations, or about what we do. It's never easy, but we're not victims and we don't need Billy Joel to speak up for us. He has no idea. This is a song I wrote years ago when my husband was gone for a year. That was only the first time.

In March we'll have been married for 30 years. As I said, Joel doesn't have a clue:

As I'm lying here
Alone in my bed
Thinking of you so far away

Are you lying there
Thinking of me, thinking of you
How can it be that we're apart again?
Guess you'll have to hold my heart
'Til then, I'll be lying here

Thinking of you.

The sun is high
It's time to get up.
So much to do before I can sleep
But thoughts of you run through my mind
Time after time,
I hold you close to me
But memories are all I have to hold on to
'Til I go to sleep
Still thinking of you.

You know with all the times that you've been gone
You'd think my heart would learn.
But your memory seems to linger on my mind.
And no matter how I try to sleep
The memories keep haunting me
Of the way it always makes me feel
When you hold me in your arms....

The moon is high
The kids are in bed
Blankets all tucked, prayers are all all said.
The house is quiet
Except for the sounds of you in my head
I guess I'll go to sleep, so I can dream
Of the day when you'll come back to me

I'll be lying here
Thinking of you.

As I'm lying here
Alone in my bed
Thinking of you so far away
Are you lying there
Thinking of me?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:15 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 15, 2008

Favorite Christmas Foods

OK. You can tell I have way too much to do at work.

Next topic: favorite Christmas foods. Last year the spousal unit shocked the Editorial Staff by asking us to send him a jar of that instant Russian spiced tea mix that we used to make when we were younger.

We had forgotten all about that one - hadn't made that in years but we used to make it all the time when the kids were younger.

2 c. Tang drink mix
1 c. instant tea
1 c. sugar
1 pkg. instant lemonade drink mix
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves

We would have sent him some jalapeno pepper jelly (not our recipe - we use fresh jalapenos!) but we were afraid that would break in the box and make a mess.

What are your favorite holiday treats?

Posted by Cassandra at 03:06 PM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

The Christmas Tree Thread

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree
Thy leaves are so unchanging;
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree
Thy leaves are so unchanging;
Not only green when summer's here,
But also when 'tis cold and drear.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree
Thy leaves are so unchanging.

When I was a little girl I used to love waking early in the morning before my Mom, Dad, or pesky little brother were awake. The house was eerily silent. Often there was fog outside the windows, and if I got up early enough I got to watch the sun steal over the horizon and listen to the birds as they began to wake up the rest of the world.

When I was very small - about 3 or 4 - I used to get cold; so after inspecting the house for interesting things that needed getting into, I made a beeline for the kitchen. The little grate at the bottom of the refrigerator pumped out a small stream of warm air and a comforting hum, and if I grabbed the pillow from my bed I could make a little nest for myself in front of it and doze off until my Mother arrived to fix me a warm egg for breakfast. But at Christmas, I liked to doze underneath the Christmas tree. It was the most peaceful feeling in the world. Even now that I'm all grown up, I still love to wake up first thing in the morning and turn the lights on when the house is still dark.

There is something magical about it.

I can still remember lying next to the tree in my parents house, drowsing in the half darkness as I gazed up at the twinkling lights and the tinsel (why don't we use tinsel anymore?). Counting over the ornaments, I rediscovered ones I hadn't seen since last year and picked out the reindeer on the Christmas tree skirt my Grandma had made for us (and the dog had thrown up on after he ate Grandma Rose's gingerbread cookies). He was always throwing up on something.

I think dogs get paid to throw up on things; especially large dogs. It is what they do best. One year he ate a pair of panty hose. That was disturbing on a number of levels. When not actually throwing up, they are usually either thinking about throwing up or making extremely loud, melodramatic hornking noises so you can't enjoy your beer in peace and quiet, but keep having to jump up and let them out the kitchen door in case they have the sudden urge to regurgitate the remote control you've been looking for for the past two weeks.

We spent Saturday afternoon at a local tree farm stalking the perfect Christmas tree, which turned out to look nothing like the 8 foot tall, perfectly formed paragon of treedom in The Princess' imagination. Either we are getting more efficient with age or there is an astonishing and heretofore unsuspected correlation between the distance hiked over a muddy, windy, cold field and the rapidly dropping standards expressed by a certain blog princess for acceptable Christmas greenery. All I know is that by the time we got to the top of a rather large hill, someone suddenly became very easy to please :p

It didn't hurt that I really, really wanted to go have a beer.

We put the tree up on Sunday while watching Planet of the Apes.

Villa Cassandranita has a long history of somewhat incongruous Christmas tree decorating traditions. If you're thinking Christmas cookies and carols and folks dressed up in their holiday finery.... fuggedaboutit. Most years for some odd reason, the Princess likes to blast non-traditional fare like Steppenwolf, Spirit, or Van Morrison's Moondance (sorry no video). This year it was apes and ornaments.

But the tree turned out lovely anyway. We've got so many ornaments now I can't fit them all on the darned tree, and there's no room in our tiny house to put all our decorations out anymore (or maybe it's just that I can't stand all the clutter). But I had the best time just looking at all the different ornaments and remembering where they all came from. It really struck me this year, perhaps because I didn't put a tree up at all last year since The Unit was in Iraq, that most of them have a story. I thought, while putting them up, that might make an interesting post.

Our tree also has several different themes. They represent different times in our family's history.

There are the unfinished wood ornaments. I love them. Didn't put them up this year, but I bought them in North Carolina when the boys were tiny. They were about 50 cents a piece. I think I originally intended to paint them but I decided they looked better unpainted. Several of them have tiny teethmarks on them from our beagle puppy. They filled the tree for years when we didn't have many ornaments.

Then there are the German ornaments: these are from my Mom. We took a skiing trip to Garmisch when I was in junior high and visited Oberammergau. We bought the most wonderful wooden ornaments. Over the years Mom gave me some and they bring back wonderful memories of our trip and of childhood Christmases at home with my parents.

There are silver bells and Scandanavian ornaments. From the time I was a little girl, my Aunt Sandy always put a Christmas ornament on the bow of our presents. Each year I kept it and put it on the tree. She's gone now, but every time I hang one of her ornaments, I think of her.

There are the Christmas eggs my Grandmother made: fantastically detailed miniatures in hollowed-out eggshells covered in glitter and braid. I remember staring at these as a little girl: a tiny deer gazing into a mirrored lake. The Three Kings. A pink pig. A crimson bird, complete with feathers.

And then there are the birds. My oldest boy - the police officer - the one who is so formal and gruff now, loved animals as a small boy. He knew the name of every animal and bird on the face of the earth. I remember taking him to the Smithsonian when he was only three. As we walked by the antelope display he chirped out, "There's the little Thompson's gazelle!"

And so it was. The man next to him must have jumped two feet. That was my son. When he was in kindergarten I started buying feathered birds at a craft store to put on the Christmas tree. Each year I bought each of the boys a few new ones to put on the tree. Now we must have 30 or 40 - way too many to put up. Everything from a huge peacock to tiny pheasants and hummingbirds no longer than your fingertip.

And several varieties of angels from my craft show days and the times when we didn't have money to buy Christmas presents and I made them. Battenburg lace angels with Spanish moss hair, angels made from craft paper, fabric angels.

And that doesn't even begin to cover the ornaments I could never part with - the ones my children have made over the years. The piece of bread ornament, the candy cane reindeer with the googly eyes, the sea shell ornament from California, the classroom ornaments with their pictures inside. Moments frozen in time.

Every year I buy my boys (and now their wives) two new ornaments and give them two from their growing up years. When they were in their teens I started buying them each a Christmas decoration each year. I wrote their name on the bottom and the year. Now I give them each one of those decorations for their homes each Christmas.

What are the ornament you look forward to hanging every year? Do you have tree decorating traditions?

I never thought of a Christmas tree as a living record of a family's history, but ours is. There are traces of so many people who are no longer with us, so many good times half forgotten. Once a year we carefully unwrap tiny mementoes of bygone eras and with them we regain memories of people and passages in our lives we have loved and lost. It is sad in a way. But in another way, enormously comforting to realize that we never entirely lose the ones we love so long as we take the time to remember; to unwrap those memories so carefully stored away while we're busy going about our every day lives.

Perhaps that is the real magic of Christmas.


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

December 13, 2008

It's 3 A.M. Do You Know Where Your Chief of Staff Is???

L'Audace! Le Outrage!

The Editorial Staff have never been a huge fan of Patrick Fitzgerald. During the L'Affair Plame years the intrepid special prosecutor kept us all glued to our seats with inflammatory rhetoric about the need to investigate a non-crime whose perpetrator was known from the outset. Such conduct rightly outraged conservatives; however, media outlets like the New York Times were happy to accept the tainted fruits of Mr. Fitzgerald's labors so long as the end product embarrassed the Bush White House.

But that was before hope and change came to Washington! Suddenly le worm journalistique has turned and the Times seems far more willing to air arguments it formerly rejected:

The court in which Mr. Blagojevich is charged, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, has a local rule mandating that a "lawyer shall not make an extrajudicial statement the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is likely to be disseminated by public media and, if so disseminated, would pose a serious and imminent threat to the fairness of an adjudicative proceeding." The rule goes on to say that a public statement "ordinarily is likely to have such an effect when it refers to" a criminal matter and to "the character or reputation of the accused, or any opinion as to the accused's guilt or innocence, as to the merits of the case, or as to the evidence in the case." The American Bar Association's model rules are similar, if not more restrictive.

Against this backdrop, it is hard to feel comfortable with Mr. Fitzgerald's remarks in announcing the charges that Mr. Blagojevich's conduct amounted to a "political corruption crime spree" and "would make Lincoln roll over in his grave," that "the breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering," that Mr. Blagojevich "put a 'for sale' sign on the naming of a United States senator" and that his conduct was "cynical" and "appalling" and has "taken us to a truly new low."

Any prosecutor at the center of a firestorm of publicity may find the temptation to grandstand hard to resist, but these comments are, to put it mildly, remarkably inflammatory. Mr. Fitzgerald's expressions of revulsion, use of hyperbolic rhetoric and implicit assertion of his personal belief that the charges have merit clearly run afoul of the rules. It is one thing for a prosecutor to publicly condemn a defendant's actions and assert a belief that he did what he is charged with doing after a trial and conviction, but another to do so before he is indicted by a grand jury.

Why the sudden concern for Governor Blogojevich? It just couldn't be related to the latest development in TransparencyGate ... could it?

As we noted when this issue first arose, Obama has a long history of reflexively lying to the press even when there is no real reason to.

If your Chief of Staff ends up on taped discussions with a figure under investigation for corruption (and you haven't exactly been forthcoming about his role in those discussions) it's hard to reconcile Obama's promises of transparency and change with statements like this:

What he was less certain about, he seemed to imply, was the role possibly played by others in discussions with the governor's office. Mr. Obama reiterated that he would "gather all the facts about any staff contacts that..may have taken place between the transition office and the governor's office. And we'll have those in the next few days, and we'll present them.

If Mr. Obama didn't know what his Chief of Staff was up to there is something seriously wrong with the way his staff is being run. One should not have to "gather facts" about what one's Chief of Staff has been up to. Presumably Emmanuel was acting at the behest of his boss. If Emmanuel was conducting unauthorized negotiations with Blagojevich, that suggests some rather alarming managerial deficiencies in the upcoming Obama White House, does it not? Allow us to politely suggest that Mr. Obama has been less than honest with us. Recent developments do not seem to square with his rhetoric of change:

"Our whole campaign was about changing that view of politics," Mr. Obama said. "It turns out that the American people are hungry for that. And you can get elected by playing it straight. You can get elected by doing the right thing. That's what I hope we have modeled in this campaign. And that's what I intend to model in my administration."

Not exactly change America can believe in. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having his Chief of Staff meet with Governor Blogojevich. Obama should have simply admitted the meetings up front, disclosed the extent of the discussions, and that would have been an end to the discussion. Absent some evidence of wrongdoing, there is no reason to go any further.

Instead, his first impulse was to cover his tracks. This is not a promising start: if he can't be forthcoming when the stakes are low, why should we trust him on important matters?

Fortunately for the President-elect, the lamestream media will no doubt spin his lack of transparency as "admirable message control".

Incroyable....

Posted by Cassandra at 11:25 AM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

December 12, 2008

A Teachable Moment: An Open Letter to The Onion

Dear Onion Staff:

This is an open letter regarding your recent video, How Can We Make the Iraq War More Handicap Accessible?

I am married to an active duty Marine officer who returned from a one year tour in Iraq in March. As the daughter of a career Naval officer (27 years) and proud wife to a Marine who has served his country since 1981, I support your First Amendment right to speak freely. That freedom, guaranteed by the Constitution and defended by the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard, includes the right to say unpleasant and unpopular things; to bring up controversial topics and voice opinions others may find puzzling, disgusting, offensive, or flat out wrong headed.

This is part and parcel of this great experiment we call America. In Canada there are laws against hurtful or offensive speech. Not so here in America. We Americans tolerate even hateful sentiments because we believe the best disinfectant for noxious ideas is lots of sunshine and vigorous debate. So in that spirit I'm not going to ask you to remove your video, though I confess I'm a bit confused about the object of your satire.

Instead, I have a few questions I'd like you to think about, because I believe discussion is more instructive than simply trying to shut you up or shout you down. Your video appears to lampoon the Pentagon's willingness to allow soldiers and Marines who have recovered from combat-induced wounds to resume serving their country. I looked up the word satire. It means, "a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule". Sometimes it's a lot easier to sneer than it is to examine ideas seriously. I'd like to challenge you to put aside the comic masks for a second and think about what you really said in that video, because as a military wife, I know I found the premises you advanced profoundly disturbing.

Why do you find it "laughable" for wounded soldiers who have recovered from their injuries to resume the duties for which they have been trained? If they have been ruled medically fit for duty and wish to continue serving, what would you have them do? Slink off into the sunset with their tails between their legs? Should someone else make up their minds for them - you, perhaps? Did they give up their freedom of choice when they were wounded, or just when they donned a military uniform?

If they can still perform their jobs, why shouldn't they be allowed to serve if they wish to?

Do you think the Pentagon should treat these men and women like confused and/or mildly retarded children?

Should America look a soldier or Marine who displayed the grit to recover from grievous combat wounds in the eye and say, "Sure, technically you are fit for duty. But in our expert judgment, you are no longer as serviceable as your unwounded comrades in arms. So thanks for the memories. Take a hike."

What, precisely, was the point of that clever dig about the "plan to prop up catatonic soldiers outside of storage warehouses as guards"? You see I looked up catatonic, too. It's a medical phrase with a very specific meaning normally associated with schizophrenia. Did you mean to imply only crazy people would volunteer to go back to a war zone? What does this say about military folks in general? Or have you bought into the John Kerry/NY Times narrative: you know, psychotic combat vets returning to a neighborhood near you? You have to watch "those people". Never know when they might just snap and waste innocent civilians by the boatload.

Over and over again in the video you imply barriers are being lowered to make recovered vets more "equal", that the military is only allowing them to serve out of "pity", or that allowing them to serve will cost taxpayers millions of dollars. You mention wheelchair accessible Strykers and stump guns, but in fact no such accommodations are made for vets who wish to return to duty. Do you have any idea how wrong and insulting that is? Does it bother you that not only will some people believe this nonsense, but that you're mocking men and women who have overcome tremendous challenges in order to continue defending your right to sneer at them? What makes their efforts a fit subject for your derision?

Dave-Rozelle_new.jpg Have any of you ever run a Triathalon? For that matter, are any of the writers at The Onion in as good shape as this man?

After participating in the 2004 San Diego Triathlon Challenge, Maj. Rozelle became a proud supporterof the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF). He serves as a role model and mentor in CAF’s OperationRebound program. He recently represented the Challenged Athletes Foundation at the Ford IronmanCoeur d’Alene and was recognized with the Ford Ironman Everyday Hero Award.

Afterwards, Rozelle was driven to conquer the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Kona – animportant goal he set for himself to prove that he’s not only “back in action,” but back with a purpose. In Hawaii he went over an hour faster than his qualifying time, finishing in 12:46:26.

Finally, why is the human desire to overcome adversity, to be "useful", an appropriate subject for scorn, derision, or ridicule?

I am a combat veteran who was wounded in 2005, while serving in Iraq. The severity of my wounds resulted in the partial amputation of my left hand, as well as nerve damage to my left hand, skin grafts on 20% of my body, traumatic brain injury, and multiple shrapnel scars.

One of the first questions I asked my doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was "When can I go back?"

That question is asked by most of the wounded who lay in those beds. Man and women who often have multiple limbs missing. It is to the credit of the Department of Defense that they realize that the injury does not define the person, and if they choose to continue to serve, the Military will keep them.

Of the 300 million people in our nation, less than two million serve in the Armed forces. Over 30,000 have been wounded in combat. Many have suffered horrible injuries and fought to regain the use of damaged limbs, or struggled through pain to learn to use their prosthetic quickly, so they can return to duty and continue to serve. We do this because we believe in what we are doing, and we believe in the military as a team. We follow our the Warrior ethos, which reads:

I am an American Soldier. I am a Warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and live the Army Values. I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade. I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself. I am an expert and I am a professional. I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat. I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life. I am an American Soldier.

How dare you poke fun at the Men and women who have risked so much, given so much, and continue to sacrifice every day for your security? Even if you don't believe in the mission, or even agree with the war in Iraq of Afghanistan, who are you to call them "stumpy" or make fun of their disabilities?

Do you have a problem in general with people who would rather earn their paychecks than exist on the government dole? No one goes to war hoping they'll lose an arm or a leg. But when such things happen is it not inspiring when they are able to muster the courage, strength, and resolve to rise above misfortune and overcome whatever challenges are sent their way?

Why would you want to belittle courage like that? To what end? This is what I find incomprehensible. How can people like you, belittle men like this?

SealHospitalDoor.jpg

The only answer that makes sense to me is that you do it because you don't know them personally. To you and so many like you these men and women aren't real people, but just pawns used to score political points.

We have the freedom in America to say anything we desire, but there is a difference between freedom and license. Words - ideas - are immensely powerful, and mockery can be a powerful tool as well. It is most often used to tear things down, to destroy them, put them in their place, cut them down to size: institutions, policies.

People. Is that what you intended to do with this video? Did you truly intend to say that wounded soldiers should just give up? That they aren't good enough to serve this country any more, even if they want to? Even if they have worked for months to recover and are medically fit for duty? Did you really mean to say that after everything they've done, we should treat them like unruly children who don't know what's good for them, or mentally ill misfits who should be warehoused somewhere where they can't do the rest of us any harm?

Perhaps you simply didn't stop and think before making that video.

Perhaps that is something that should change.

"The moment you give up your principles, and your values... the moment you laugh at those principles, and those values, you are dead, your culture is dead, your civilization is dead. Period."

- Oriana Fallaci

CWCID: MaryAnn

Others blogging:

Greta
Bouhammer
Laughing_Wolf

And as always, Mrs. G brings it all home. She has a great link to MaryAnn's place you shouldn't miss:

IIt's about the ten Soldiers of Operational Detachment Alpha 3336 of the 3rd SF Group who will be awarded the Silver Star today for their actions in the Shok valley of Nuristan province, Afghanistan back in April.

"You can take my leg, but you can't take my heart and you can't take my soul. I'm a Green Beret."

I think that pretty much says it all. Go check it out.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:37 AM | Comments (49) | TrackBack

December 11, 2008

Bravo to Brilliant Satire!!!

For eight long years, real Americans like Keith Olbermann have had to choke back their patriotic dissent, cowed by fear of violent, jackbooted fascists like this and their henchmen: the Chinese-toy loving minions of the richest 1%.

But no more.

The election of Barack Obama promises to do more than just heal the planet and return French distain for America to pre-2000 levels. The election of President-elect Obama (who has already garnered the highest approval ratings of any pre-President in history!!!) will heal a festering scar on our national souls: the scourge of mindless respect for our stupidly courageous armed forces and the fat, lumbering, ox babies who serve in them.

As that great wit Dick Cavett reminded us so trenchantly, "Anyone who gives his life in war is an idiot."

And indeed, who can speak more authoritatively on the topic of idiots than Mr. Cavett? Arguably, he is the go-to guy on the subject. It's just so darned refreshing to finally see someone who loves his country enough to come out and say what we're all secretly thinking:

If Josef Goebbels was correct, and patriotism is indeed "the hairy hausfrau of fascism", then reason dictates that the exact opposite must also be true of democracy. While jingoist displays of national pride edge us ever closer to a totalitarian state, liberty will only be preserved by progressive leaders who can barely conceal their disgust for America, her people, and especially her armed forces. Decorated Vietnam war hero John Kerry demonstrated this perfectly when he kicked America in the nards during his famous 1971 Winter Soldier testimony, and again in 2004 when he sailed his glorious campaign swiftboat to near victory on a "Screw Morale, I Wanna Be President!" platform.

By contrast, George Bush's peeResidency has been one jingoist photo-op after another, often with hand picked U.S. troops who don't hate his stinking guts and are therefore incapable of providing the sort of objective war commentary one finds on Arianna Huffington's website. His recent teleconference with brainwashed U.S. troops is no exception. In a televised and obviously staged event, Bush spoke with a group of "soldiers" who were upbeat and optimistic about the war in Iraq and the upcoming elections - a complete contradiction of the latest CNN poll showing that a majority of Americans think we should immediately surrender and beg the International Community for forgiveness. Heck, I doubt any of Bush's pet grunts could even read, let alone peruse the op-ed pages of the New York Times for a clue about what's really going on over there.

Yessir, it's pretty obvious who really cares about our men and women in uniform:

The last thing we should want is for any of these folks to get the idea that wounds of war are something they can recover from. No sir - let them go too far down that route and before you know it, they'll start thinking they're "like us" - you know, "normal" folks who are capable of living productive, happy, useful lives; not washed-up sociopaths whose only real use to society is to serve as fodder for Dana Priest's next Pulitzer prize-winning expose on the heretofore unexplored depths of Republican incompetence.

Of course misguided folks have already begun taking offense at this brilliant social commentary. They need to get a life.

Coming from anyone else, the implication that American soldiers are just hapless dupes might be considered patronizing, even insulting in light of the enormous bravery, willpower and determination needed to volunteer to return to a combat zone after being seriously wounded.

Fortunately, since this is the Onion we can dismiss such obviously unfounded criticisms as being the product of an insufficiently nuanced world view.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:04 PM | Comments (29) | TrackBack

Obama Says Staff Didn't "Deal With" Blago

Well that settles it. Obama says no one on his staff talked to Blogojevich, either:

President-elect Barack Obama vowed there is no connection between his incoming administration and the pay-to-play tactics Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is accused of using to fill Mr. Obama's Senate seat.

"I have never spoken to the governor on this subject. I am confident that no representatives of mine would have any part of any deals related to this seat," Mr. Obama said Thursday in his first televised remarks on the scandal. He made the remarks at a morning news conference in Chicago to announce his selection of Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader, to head up an effort to overhaul the health care system.

Mr. Obama stated that there has been no contact between his team and federal authorities investigating the Blagojevich matter. "I have not been contacted by any federal officials and we have not been interviewed by them," he said.

The explanation seems to be evolving. It's no longer, "There was no contact", but the more specific "I haven't talked to him on this subject."

As for the members of his staff, he doesn't say there has been no contact; only that he's confident no one made any deals with Blagojevich and that he's still gathering information:

As for other potential contacts between the Obama transition team and the governor's office, Mr. Obama said he has asked his staff to gather any information relating to contacts with Mr. Blagojevich. "What I want to do is gather all the facts about any staff contacts that I may have, that may have taken place between the transition office and the governor's office and we'll have those in the next few days and we'll present them," he said.

This would seem to be wise in light of a November 10th conference call:

Among the hundreds of hours of conversations involving Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich secretly recorded by the FBI since Oct. 22, one phone call is drawing particular scrutiny among politicos, journalists and others in Washington. It was a marathon conference call on Monday, Nov. 10.

The call lasted about two hours. On the phone were Mr. Blagojevich, his wife, his general counsel, an unnamed adviser, and John Harris, the governor’s chief of staff and his co-defendant in this week’s case.

But what’s drawing the most interest is who was on the line from Washington, and the sequence of political events that followed that same night and in the ensuing days regarding Barack Obama’s close friend and adviser, Valerie Jarrett.

According to the FBI, there were “various Washington, D.C., based advisers” on the call with Mr. Blagojevich & Co., although the Washington callers are not named. The FBI also said participants popped on and off the line throughout the conversation.

During the call, Mr. Blagojevich and those closest to him allegedly detailed virtually every one of their ideas for turning Mr. Obama’s open Senate seat into something valuable. Specifically, the governor asked “what he can get from the President-elect for the Senate seat,” the FBI alleged, adding later that callers talked about how to “monetize” Mr. Blagojevich’s connections.

Mr. Blagojevich also bemoaned what he called his financial struggles, although his post reportedly pays about $177,000 per year. “The immediate challenge,” the governor allegedly said, “[is] how do we take some of the financial pressure off of our family.”

Callers discussed the possibility of ambassadorships, which are made by the president. They talked about an appointment for Mr. Blagojevich as head of the Department of Health and Human Services, also made by the president. They explored the idea of getting Mr. Obama to use his clout to put the governor’s wife on corporate boards. And they discussed a deal involving the Service Employee International Union, which would be asked to install Mr. Blagojevich over one of its top political groups in exchange for the union getting to tell Mr. Obama that it was delivering the open U.S. Senate seat to his favorite candidate.

That candidate, Mr. Blagojevich believed, was Valerie Jarrett, according to sources familiar with this part of the probe.

There is no inference that Mr. Obama knew about or encouraged any of this alleged scheming, and he has explicitly denied it. But the big question today is this: Were any members of his transition team among the “Washington advisers” on the line during this marathon conference call, or did one of the participants fill them in about these wild ideas?

Mr. Obama’s people are not commenting on details about the case. But the reason that question is on so many minds today is because of what happened that very same Monday night.

At 7:56 p.m. Eastern Time, CNN reported that “two Democratic sources close to President-elect Barack Obama tell CNN that top adviser Valerie Jarrett will not be appointed to replace him in the U.S. Senate.”

For what it's worth I don't think there's anything here.

What I don't understand is previous dancing around what would seem to be a non-story (i.e., Obama's talking to the Governor at all, either about the replacement or on any topic). I'd like to think this would end the speculation.

Sadly, the way it was handled fanned the flames. But maybe that's unavoidable.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:11 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Coffee Snorters: It Is To Laugh Edition

Illinois voters fight back with humor:

CHICAGO (AP) — For sale: One Senate seat. Goes to the highest BLEEP-ing bidder. Seller's positive feedback rating: since Tuesday, just about zero.

Outraged by the arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, more than a dozen people have put the state's vacant Senate seat up for bid on eBay.

The offers popped up on the Internet auction site after Blagojevich was accused Tuesday of trying to benefit financially from his power to appoint a Senate replacement to President-elect Barack Obama.

F***ing Blago indictment threatens nation with asterisk shortage.

Even the auto bailout has its amusing side...

bigthree.jpg

CWCID: OBH

Posted by Cassandra at 08:45 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 10, 2008

Obama's "No Contact" Depends On Meaning of "No" and "Contact"....

Important update: via Tom Maguire, this tape of Gov. Blogojevich on Nov. 5th stating that, as of that date, he had not spoken with Obama about filling the Senate seat.

I think that settles the question of why the two KHQA articles were pulled, though obviously it would have been better to simply correct them in place.

A few thoughts:

1. The Governor is hardly a credible source, but on the other hand I see no real reason for him to lie about something like this. Absent some other evidence the two met or talked that day, it makes sense to assume they did not.

2. As Clarice Feldman notes, the mere association with Blago is embarrassing for Obama. Embarrassment, however, is not evidence of guilt:

It’s been known for a long time that Obama has had strong ties to Rezko (see, i.e.,) who is revealed yet again in these tapes as the governor’s bagman. If you wanted anything done in Chicago, it appears that you had to do it through payoffs for the governor to Rezko.

In his press conference, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald denied that there was anything in the criminal complaint linking Obama to the events, but Jim Lindgren at the Volokh Conspiracy finds a rather well-defined trail of crumbs back to the president-elect .

From the evening of Nov. 10 until yesterday, Blagojevich, Obama, and his transition team acted in ways that are consistent with a knowledge of Blagojevich’s bribery attempt and a rejection of that attempt. What doesn’t fit easily with the timeline is Obama’s statement yesterday.

It should be noted that it is not a crime to fail to report a bribery attempt. The federal misprision of felony statute would seem to make it a federal crime to fail to report a federal felony:

Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both. 18 USC s.4.

But case law has conclusively determined that mere non-reporting is not enough. Active concealment or the acceptance of a benefit for concealing is required.

Yet, looking at this timeline of Blagogate, it seems quite possible that someone in the Obama Camp is either lying or at least not revealing what they know. I also find it hard to believe that Obama’s closest advisors were hiding major corruption from him, especially as he was making decisions about where to place Senate candidates such as Jarrett.

We’ve all been through this drill before; countless aides and advisers hauled before the grand jury under suspicion of process crimes — that is, not disclosing the truth of the events. Lindgren notes: “Since by all accounts, the Obama camp refused Blagojevich’s bribery attempt, it would be extremely unwise to lie about it. Remember, it’s not the crime that trips you up; it’s the cover-up.”

3. Obama's careful parsing regarding his interactions with Blago has not gone unnoticed:

... this isn't just a complaint against a guy who happens to, coincidentally, also be a Chicago Democrat. Team Obama is all over the criminal complaint -- as seemingly innocent characters, perhaps even potential victims, of the Blago drama. But they're in there nonetheless, and that is highly unusual.

Incoming White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett has her own pseudonym - Senate Candidate 1. So is some unnamed individual with ties to the Obama team. Blagojevich has many epithets for the President-elect himself. There are lots of questions about what any of them knew.

Then there's the big question about how Blago was so sure -- so angry -- that Team Obama would not pay to play.

Who in the Obama Team was talking to the Governor's office?

When they found out that Blago wanted to quid pro quo Team Obama (Jarrett gets the Senate seat if Blago gets a Cabinet position, or a good-paying job with a union-affiliated organization, or his wife gets a seat on some corporate boards) what did they do?

Did a member of Team Obama drop a dime on him?

As of now, the lack of answers from Team Obama is all we have. Obama sources say the silence is for two reasons: 1) this is a criminal investigation and they want to be careful about what they're allowed to say, and 2) they want to talk to everyone, make sure they know just who spoke to whom, and then be able to give one definitive answer with no subsequent shoes dropping.

A problem with this is that President-elect Obama appeared before the cameras today for a previously-scheduled photo op with environmental guru Al Gore.

"Did you have any contact with or were you aware at all of what was happening with your Senate seat?" asked a reporter, the Wall Street's Journal Jonathan Weisman.

"I had no contact with the Governor or his office," Obama said, "and so we were, I was not aware of what was happening."

As we noted, this contradicted a comment made by Obama senior aide David Axelrod, who told Fox News Chicago about Obama, "I know he's talked to the governor" -- about the Senate seat -- "and there are a whole range of names, many of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for a lot of them."

Axelrod has since said he was "mistaken when I told an interviewer last month that the President-elect has spoken directly to Governor Blagojevich about the Senate vacancy. They did not then or at any time discuss the subject."

But there are other problems with Obama's response as well.

Slate's John Dickerson writes, Obama saying "I was not aware of what was happening" is "so vague as to be nearly meaningless" and "can mean anything you want it to. It can mean you weren't aware of anything relating to the Senate seat, or that you weren't aware the governor was trying to sell the Senate seat, or that you weren't aware the governor was under federal investigation for trying to sell the Senate seat. ..Was Obama purposefully trying to be unclear? It's hard to say. It's a little hard to believe that he didn't know anything that was happening relating to his old seat."

Then there's that other part of Obama's statement -- the one that he self-corrects, mid-sentence: "We were, I was not aware of what was happening."

He starts off speaking for the Obama Team. "We were." Then he stops himself and goes back and speaks only for himself. "I was."

He was not aware of what was happening. Not sure about anyone else.

There's nothing inherently wrong with this self-correction -- giving Mr. Obama the benefit of the doubt, he was trying to be precise and presumably at that point he wasn't sure of who in his team had talked to whom on Team Blago, if anyone.

But it does seem to indicate an unspoken acknowledgement that he doesn't know the whole story, or at least didn't at that point.

Sources close to Obama say that he found out about the arrest of Blagojevich at the same time we all did, this morning. But it would seem highly improbable that no one there knew anything.

On its website, President-elect Obama's Transition Team is making a big deal about transparency, posting memos and information about meetings with various, largely supportive organizations.

True transparency means a little more than that, one might posit. It means telling voters about matters that aren't entirely comfortable to share.

4. According to John Dickerson, on November 9th a source in the Obama camp stated that Valerie Jarratt was "Obama's choice to fill his Senate seat".

The very next day, Obama announced that he "wanted her in the White House". As Dickerson says,

What happened in between? Jarrett pulled herself out of the running for the Senate seat rather abruptly—did she know something funny was going on? Did Obama know something funny was going on?

How did anyone know what was going on if Obama wasn't talking to the Governor's office about the vacancy?

A little of that promised transparency would go a long way towards resolving these questions.


****************************************


MOM!!! Vanderleun's been playing in the memory hole again!

"I did not have interpersonal relations with that man, Governor Blagojevich." - Bloodthirsty Liberal

The story that put the lie to the No-O & Blogo Meeting was discovered yesterday. Once discovered it promptly disappeared down the memory hole at News : KHQA. Seeing that it had vanished I searched for it in Google Cache and, sure enough, there it was. For about an hour and then cached page vanished as well. A second story from the same source confirming the meeting also met the same fate.

But, fearing something like the erasure of the cached page, I made a screen shot. Here it is:

obamachachedstory-thumb.jpg

Amusingly, WHQA proceded to remove not only the Sowers article, but a Nov. 8th article which stated the meeting had, in fact, taken place before issuing this "clarification":

KHQA TV wishes to offer clarification regarding a story that appeared last month on our website ConnectTristates.com. The story, which discussed the appointment of a replacement for President Elect Obama in the U.S. Senate, became the subject of much discussion on talk radio and on blog sites Wednesday.

The story housed in our website archive was on the morning of November 5, 2008. It suggested that a meeting was scheduled later that day between President Elect Obama and Illinois Governor Blagojevich. KHQA has no knowledge that any meeting ever took place. Governor Blagojevich did appear at a news conference in Chicago on that date.

The station then wiped the Google cache... in the interests of thoroughness you understand. Via Thomas Lifson, however, it appears Gov. Blagojevich mentions meeting with Obama in a press release on his web site:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 5, 2008

Governor Blagojevich Congratulates President-elect Obama and Discusses U.S. Senate Seat
To fill President-Elect Barack Obama’s Senate seat, Governor will use deliberate process to select suitable replacement

Are we the only ones here who are beginning to see a disturbing pattern emerging?

When he was asked whether he heard inflammatory statements by Rev. Wright:

When he was challenged by CNN to admit he lied when he repeatedly claimed McCain said he would be happy if we stayed in Iraq for 100 years:

Claiming his campaign never played the race card right after they issued a press release containing four page of what they called racially insensitive remarks:

This is what happens when press roll over and play dead.

For whatever it may be worth, I don't think this proves he's done anything wrong. There is nothing more natural or normal in the world than for him to have met with Blago right after the election.

What bothers me is that Obama has clearly lied about it, and he has a pattern of telling bald-faced lies to the press.

This man has got to stop lying every time he's questioned about anything and the press have got to start displaying a little curiosity or the next four years are not going to be a success for anyone. This isn't a game.

If he met with the Governor, he should own up to it and absent any evidence to the contrary his word ought to be good enough. That his first impulse was to lie is a very bad sign.

update: More "non-contact":

no_contact.gif


Posted by Cassandra at 11:17 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

December 09, 2008

BLASPHEMERS!!!!

The ninth circle of Hell is reserved for those Damned Beyond All Hope of Redemption:

The environment also brings out what security experts call the "mama-bear instinct." A Chuck E. Cheese's can take on some of the dynamics of the animal kingdom, where beasts rush to protect their young when they sense a threat.

Stepping in when a parent perceives that a child is being threatened "is part of protective parenting," says Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University and former president of the American Psychological Association. "It is part of the species -- all species, in fact -- in the animal kingdom," he says. "We do it all of the time."

Now some towns are asking CEC to step into the ring. Amid pressure from local politicians, some Chuck E. Cheese's have stopped serving alcohol and added security guards who carry pistols.

CEC has been tightening safety rules to deter fighting in other ways. In Milwaukee, the store posted a sign outlining a dress code that prohibits what it calls "gang-style apparel." That location also implemented a code of conduct that prohibits knives, chains, screwdrivers and glass cutters. CEC is considering systemwide signs at popular games such a machine that draws digital pictures of customers to let people know there may be a time or token limit. Making the machines more expensive to use is another option, but Mr. Huston says that is "inconsistent with our value message."

Welllllllll all-righty then. Something tells me these folks might want to watch the trans-fats.

On the otter heiny, it may be safer than the zoo:

Zoo chaos as sex-crazed rhino goes on rampage

"Clearly we think (his escape) is to do with the sexual urges," he said.

"We can say what we think it is, but of course getting into a rhino's brain and understanding what level of emotion is there is quite difficult, they're not hugely intellectual."

Posted by Cassandra at 05:01 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Because The Mind Is A Terrible Thing...

I blame Sly for reminding me of this.

Posted by Cassandra at 11:39 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Hothouse Flowers

When I was first married, we lived in a small apartment in Colonial Williamsburg. By day, the spousal unit was a student at William & Mary and I kept house and cared for our firstborn son, a tiny bundle of smiles and mischief with brown eyes and strawberry blonde hair. We had very little money.

In fact, we were below the poverty line for a family of three. But somehow we got by anyway, even if sometimes in between paydays laundry got washed in the bathtub and damp clothes festooned the inside of our tiny apartment, turning it into something reminiscent of an Asian bazaar until they were finally dry enough to be hung in the closets. In those days, I constantly searched for ways to make the place look more attractive. We had little furniture beyond what our parents had given us and back in the 1970's people didn't have an abundance of extra things to spare the way they seem to now.

Two mattresses with pillows were our living room "sofa". An old empty TV console turned around backwards so you couldn't see the hole where the screen used to go made a neat end table. My Mom had given me a Danish iron and wood bookshelf that was very 1950s - it was one of my prized possessions. One of our only pieces of real furniture, and sort of stylish too. So I filled in with houseplants.

Down at the Williamsburg Pottery factory if you haunted the place, you could occasionally buy rootbound houseplants for $1.00 or $1.50. That was all I had to spend. I would dig up dirt from the woods behind our house and repot them, cutting away the old, dead roots that had wound around and around until they choked the plant almost to death. They usually didn't look terribly healthy, but I fed them water from the unit's boiled eggs. Poor man's fertilizer. They came around eventually.

But I learned to stay away from the ones that were spindly and tall but had hardly any roots. They almost always died right after you brought them home. After some concerted research at the library, I found out why: they had been overfertilized at the nursery; forced to grow leaves and stems and flowers rapidly.

But they grew so fast they never developed a good root system. So as soon as the fertilizer stopped and they were moved out of the Florida sunshine into the relative dark of someone's house, they starved to death.

Reading Robert Samuelson the other day, I thought of those plants:

The "wealth effect" refers to the tendency of people to adjust their spending as their wealth -- concentrated heavily in housing and stocks -- changes. When wealth rises, spending strengthens; when wealth falls, spending weakens. For the past quarter-century, higher stock prices and home values propelled the economy forward by inducing Americans to spend more of their incomes and to borrow more. In 1982, the personal saving rate was 11 percent of disposable income; by 2006, it was almost zero. The lowered saving rate added about $1 trillion annually to consumer spending -- more shoes, laptops, books -- out of total of about $10 trillion.

This is what I don't understand about so much of the hand-wringing over the financial crisis. By any measure you care to name, this was an unsustainable rate of spending.

People were living beyond their means.

In a little under a generation, our personal saving rate fell from 11% of disposable income to nearly zero. There was nowhere lower for it to go, and people cannot continue to live with no savings indefinitely. That is not a healthy state of affairs. What was fueling our economy was the money we withdrew from our own piggy banks.

But the piggy bank was empty.

I don't understand the talk of getting back to where we were. Where we were wasn't smart. And ultimately it couldn't last forever.

I don't understand talk about having to let people stay in "their" houses. If you haven't finished paying for something yet and you can't afford it, it isn't yours yet. You borrowed money from someone else - from your neighbors, who let the bank use their money to make loans - to buy that house. They expect it back.

With interest.

And now it seems we are reaching farther and farther into our own back pockets - rifling the sofa cushions for spare change - to bail one feckless company after another out. I understand not wanting to see people hurt in a bad economy.

What I don't understand is the premise that we can - or should - get back to where we were, as comfortable as it was. Am I losing my mind?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:46 AM | Comments (50) | TrackBack

'Oh Lord, It's Hard To Be Humble' Caption Contest

Via Vinnie the K, this is just too funny to pass up:

bush_picture.jpg

I am going to miss this man.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:45 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

December 08, 2008

Bill Keller: Deceiver in Chief

Bill Keller is outraged. Color me unimpressed:

It was skin crawling to hear him tell Mr. Gibson that the thing he will really miss when he leaves office is no longer going to see the families of slain soldiers, because they make him feel better about the war. But Mr. Bush’s comments about his decision to invade Iraq were a “mistakes were made” rewriting of history and a refusal to accept responsibility to rival that of Richard Nixon.

This, from the editor of a paper that just gave space to Bill Ayers so he could engage in what is arguably the most flagrantly dishonest and self-serving re-writing of history in recent memory:

I never killed or injured anyone. I did join the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s, and later resisted the draft and was arrested in nonviolent demonstrations. I became a full-time antiwar organizer for Students for a Democratic Society. In 1970, I co-founded the Weather Underground, an organization that was created after an accidental explosion that claimed the lives of three of our comrades in Greenwich Village. The Weather Underground went on to take responsibility for placing several small bombs in empty offices — the ones at the Pentagon and the United States Capitol were the most notorious — as an illegal and unpopular war consumed the nation.

The Weather Underground crossed lines of legality, of propriety and perhaps even of common sense. Our effectiveness can be — and still is being — debated. We did carry out symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war and racism, and the attacks on property, never on people, were meant to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the Vietnam war.

Peaceful protests had failed to stop the war. So we issued a screaming response. But it was not terrorism; we were not engaged in a campaign to kill and injure people indiscriminately, spreading fear and suffering for political ends.

Ayers is, not to put too fine a point on it, lying through his teeth.

That the readers of the Times have no idea of the truth (just read the comments) can be laid right at Bill Keller's door. The truth about Bill Ayers is ugly:

1. The Weather Underground was formed in 1969, not 1970. Ayers lies about even easily checkable facts... not that anyone at the Times is going to call him on it:

Starting his narrative in 1970 allows Ayers to omit the time when Weatherman was not trying not to harm people: for instance, the Days of Rage:
""The Days of Rage," as the 1969 protest was called, brought several hundred members of the Weatherman—many of them attired for battle with helmets and weapons—to Lincoln Park. The tear-gassed marches, window smashing, and clashes with police lasted four days, during which 290 militants were arrested and 63 people were injured. Damage to windows, cars, and other property soared to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Around this time, Ayers summed up the Weatherman philosophy as "Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home, kill your parents—that's where it's really at.""


Nor should we forget Bernardine Dohrn's comment on the Manson murders at the Flint War Council in 1969: "Dig it! First they killed those pigs and then they put a fork in their bellies. Wild!" At the same meeting, Weathermen "debated the ethics of killing white babies, so as not to bring more "oppressors" into the world, and denounced American women bearing white babies as "pig mothers."" (p. 159) And they sang songs about a lawyer, Richard Elrod, who had broken his neck during the Days of Rage: "Stay Elrod stay/ Stay in your iron lung/ Play Elrod play/ Play with your toes a while." (p. 159)

2. More of Ayers' non-terrorist activism against buildings, not people:

Early on the morning of February 21, as my family slept, three gasoline-filled firebombs exploded at our home on the northern tip of Manhattan, two at the front door and the third tucked neatly under the gas tank of the family car. (Today, of course, we’d call that a car bomb.) A neighbor heard the first two blasts and, with the remains of a snowman I had built a few days earlier, managed to douse the flames beneath the car. That was an act whose courage I fully appreciated only as an adult, an act that doubtless saved multiple lives that night.

I still recall, as though it were a dream, thinking that someone was lifting and dropping my bed as the explosions jolted me awake, and I remember my mother’s pulling me from the tangle of sheets and running to the kitchen where my father stood. Through the large windows overlooking the yard, all we could see was the bright glow of flames below. We didn’t leave our burning house for fear of who might be waiting outside. The same night, bombs were thrown at a police car in Manhattan and two military recruiting stations in Brooklyn. Sunlight, the next morning, revealed three sentences of blood-red graffiti on our sidewalk: FREE THE PANTHER 21; THE VIET CONG HAVE WON; KILL THE PIGS.

For the next 18 months, I went to school in an unmarked police car. My mother, a schoolteacher, had plainclothes detectives waiting in the faculty lounge all day. My brother saved a few bucks because he didn’t have to rent a limo for the senior prom: the NYPD did the driving. We all made the best of the odd new life that had been thrust upon us, but for years, the sound of a fire truck’s siren made my stomach knot and my heart race. In many ways, the enormity of the attempt to kill my entire family didn’t fully hit me until years later, when, a father myself, I was tucking my own nine-year-old John Murtagh into bed.

Though no one was ever caught or tried for the attempt on my family’s life, there was never any doubt who was behind it. Only a few weeks after the attack, the New York contingent of the Weathermen blew themselves up making more bombs in a Greenwich Village townhouse. The same cell had bombed my house, writes Ron Jacobs in The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground. And in late November that year, a letter to the Associated Press signed by Bernardine Dohrn, Ayers’s wife, promised more bombings.

3. The "peaceful protest" continues... In March of 1970 3 Weather Underground members blew themselves up with anti-personnel (note: not for use against buildings) weapons armed with roofing nails and enhanced with dynamite. Contrary to both the NY Times' dishonest characterization and Mr. Ayers' lies, the Weathermen had planned to harm actual human beings:

Professor Klehr also took a dim view of the often stated account that after the town house explosion, the Weathermen resolved to take no lives, and that in the string of bombings that followed, no one was seriously injured. He points out that members have said the explosives at the town house were intended for an officers' dance at Fort Dix in New Jersey and for Butler Library at Columbia University.

''The only reason they were not guilty of mass murder is mere incompetence,'' he said. ''I don't know what sort of defense that is.''

Years later, Weatherman Brian Flanagan regretted the Fort Dix and Columbia plots:

When pressed, he said he regretted both the deaths of the three Weathermen -- Ted Gold, Diana Oughton and Terry Robbins -- and the plan to bomb the dance at Fort Dix and the library at Columbia, which could have taken lives.

4. More "extreme vandalism":

On Feb. 16, 1970, my partner and I were on the 1700 block of Haight Street in San Francisco, when a bomb went off at Park Police Station, where I was assigned.

It killed my sergeant, Brian V. McDonnell, age 45. My partner and I were the first car on the scene, and the first sight that we saw, upon arrival in the parking lot of the station, was a friend of ours getting up off the ground.

His partner was still on the ground, propped up on one arm and dazed. They had been blown down by the concussion of the bomb that had been placed on the window of the station by, it is suspected, members of the Weather Underground, a radical organization affiliated with and allied with the Black Liberation Army.

McDonnell's police car, which was between the window sill, where the bomb was, and the car that my two fellow policemen were preparing to get into, took the brunt of the blast, and it saved their lives. The inside of the station looked like it had been hit by a couple of hand grenades, windows shattered, blood on the pock-marked walls and dazed cops wandering around disoriented.

The bomb was so powerful that fragments, which consisted of barbed-wire fence post staples, were found on the roof of Polytechnic High School which was located near Kezar Stadium and Frederick Street, about two blocks away. Polytechnic High School was three stories high. It has since been replaced by a housing complex.

At least one undercover FBI operative, who infiltrated the murderous Weather Underground organization, the same organization that was also involved in other bombings, including a bombing of the Pentagon, reportedly revealed that the person who planted the bomb, at Park Police Station, was Bernardine Dohrn. Dohrn is married to admitted bomber and non-repentant anarchist Bill Ayers, who has boasted of the Pentagon and other bombings and has shown no remorse for those acts.

5. But the most egregious omission in the Times' "investigative reporting" on Ayers regards the goals of the Weather Underground: the violent overthrow of the democratically elected government of the United States of America and the formation of a communist-run dictatorship of the proletariat:

We need to battle for a correct ideology and win people over. In this way we create the conditions for the development of a successful revolutionary movement and party. We need a revolutionary communist party in order to lead the struggle, give coherence and direction to the fight, seize power and build the new society. Getting from here to there is a process of coming together in a disciplined way around ideology and strategy, developing an analysis of our real conditions, mobilizing a base among the US people, building principled relationships to Third World struggle, and accumulating practice in struggle against US imperialism.

PRAIRIE FIRE is written to communist-minded revolutionaries, independent organizers and anti-imperialists; those who carry the traditions and lessons of the struggles of the last decade, those who join in the struggles of today. PRAIRIE FIRE is written to all sisters and brothers who are engaged in armed struggle against the enemy. It is written to prisoners, women's groups, collectives, study groups, workers' organizing committees, communes, GI organizers, consciousness-raising groups, veterans, community groups and revolutionaries of all kinds; to all who will read, criticize and bring its content to life in practice. It is written as an argument against those who oppose action and hold back the struggle.

PRAIRIE FIRE is based on a belief that the duty of a revolutionary is to make the revolution. This is not an abstraction. It means that revolutionaries must make a profound commitment to the future of humanity, apply our limited knowledge and experience to understand an ever-changing situation, organize the masses of people and build the fight. It means that struggle and risk and hard work and adversity will become our way of life, that the only certainty will be constant change, that the only possibilities are victory or death.

We have only begun. At this time, the unity and consolidation of anti-imperialist forces around a revolutionary program is an urgent and pressing strategic necessity. PRAIRIE FIRE is offered as a contribution to this unity of action and purpose. Now it is in your hands.


Bernardine Dohrn
Jeff Jones
Billy Ayers
Celia Sojourn

In several places throughout the book, the fact that armed revolution is the goal is made quite clear:

The only path to the final defeat of imperialism and the building of socialism is revolutionary war.

Revolutionary war will be complicated and protracted. It includes mass struggle and clandestine struggle, peaceful and violent, political and economic, cultural and military, where all forms are developed in harmony with the armed struggle.

Without mass struggle there can be no revolution.

Without armed struggle there can be no victory.

For the Times to portray Ayers and Dohrn as misguided Vietnam activists whose only goal was to end the war when, in fact, their goal was to effect the violent overthrow of a democratically elected government is shameful. For the Times to cover up the fact that as late as 2002, when Barack Obama was openly associating with William Ayers and (in fact) had his political career launched from the man's living room, Ayers openly continued to characterize himsef as an anarchist is inexcusable.

And if there is the least doubt in your mind what these people were willing to countenance, in the list of the book's dedications (among others) appears Sirhan Sirhan, who assasinated Robert F. Kennedy.

People can make up their own minds about what, if anything, this all means. The fact that readers of the Times have absolutely no idea about any of this speaks volumes.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:19 AM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Darwinian Dating and the Moral Cop Out

A gentleman named Eric wrote an interesting response to my earlier post on Darwinian Dating. I'm not sure he entirely understood the point I was making, but that's not surprising as I barely addressed the City Journal article. [Ed. note: Eric added this clarification tonight, so I may have misunderstood what he was getting at! Don't have time to look at his post again just now, but wanted to get his clarification up right away.]

Just to be clear, my post was responding to the City Journal article, not the VC blog post, so the "author" I'm referring to is Kay S. Hymowitz, not Cassandra.
However, I'd like to address his comments:
... a mutual relationship is not a juxtaposition of two independent entities, it is an interplay that builds upon itself, which means both the man and woman are more than equally responsible. Each is entirely responsible for the greater whole. Both have to give of themselves. A relationship can be unexpected in many ways, but at the core, there does have to be the same commitment and fidelity shared by both. If the commitment is there for one, but not the other, then there isn't a mutual relationship.

Perhaps I didn't express myself well. Here's what I wrote originally:

... relationships are supposed to be a two-way street, that's why. You can't love someone else until you have a strong sense of yourself. That doesn't mean being selfish and self centered; it means being secure enough in who you are that you can give freely to another human being without suspicion and pettiness, because marriage isn't always a 50-50 or even a 60-40 proposition. In hard times, you may be called upon to give 90 percent. Marriage means doing things you don't "feel" like without begrudging the giving. It means taking as much pleasure in pleasing your partner as you do in pleasing yourself.

Obviously things ought to balance out roughly over the years, but it doesn't always start out that way and people who keep hidden scorecards rarely succeed. What keeps things on an even keel is choosing someone with whom you're well matched and maintaining interests of your own to preserve some balance and keep the relationship fresh.

Perhaps I was too subtle - the foregoing passage assumed two people who were fairly evenly matched insofar as temperment and mutual affection. Note, however, that I didn't say they were exactly even. While I agree with Eric that both partners have to be committed to making the relationship work, I emphatically do not agree that their commitment must be equal.

In fact, I've seen many successful relationships where neither the love between two married people, the amount of work they put into the relationship, nor their commitment to it were equal. A lot of people won't like my saying that, but it's true.

People have different personalities. Some like being caretakers. Some are loners. Some are difficult to get along with, some enjoy pleasing others. Some have more of a dependent personality and some could happily go through life solo. For all of these reasons things will never be strictly equal in a marriage relationship and if you go into such a relationship thinking things will always be strictly fair and egalitarian, you are bucking for a massive disappointment. Life simply doesn't work that way.

What is absolutely necessary for a successful long term relationship is that, in the end, both parties get what they want, keeping in mind that they may have very different requirements. So long as the benefits continue to outweigh the negative aspects, most people will continue to march along quite happily. But every long term relationship is a bit different. In the end, there is no requirement to get along with any other person except the one with whom one is involved (I say this because even the requirement to get along with family and friends is variable). The amount of "adjusting" or compromise one is called upon to perform is very much personality driven.

I have to say that as an older person I don't have a lot of patience with this sort of thinking, though I find it eminently understandable:

Beyond that, I don't know how it works for women. I've only had the barest taste of falling in love, but enough to know that nothing else I've experienced motivates me to become a better man like falling in love with a woman. For a relationship, a man pulls down the walls protecting his heart, bares himself, and makes himself vulnerable in order to give of himself to the woman he loves. There's anguish when she doesn't join him in the commitment. Further, there's a betrayal of faith when she, rather, seemingly gives of herself to other men whose behavior falls short of his love's standard. When his essential self is rejected, he is forced to evaluate his worth. The man is ready to transform for the relationship and, therefore, highly sensitized to the woman's feedback. Rejection is very compelling feedback, so when she rejects him in favor of something else, the man's instinct is to adapt to the preferences displayed by her. Thus, the woman's choice guides the man's choice. The rest, the player and the game, follows.

Men who've been rejected by the woman they love and have adapted their behaviors are often criticized for being selfish, but it's a painful process to rebuild the walls protecting one's wounded heart. You have to do it, but every time, those walls are built thicker and tougher and shut out more light.

Why am I reminded of an old song?

As I returned across the fields I'd known I recognized the walls that I once made Had to stop in my tracks for fear Of walking on the mines I'd laid

I'm sorry, but I don't buy this.

I've read a lot of science articles that prattle on about how the female does all the selecting. I think that's only part of the truth.

I do believe that men prefer selective females: in a competitive environment, men are more attracted to choosy women. But having been on the female end of the dating game for many years, I still remember what it was like, too.

I'm always slightly astounded to read some of the bitter comments men write about the other half of humanity. They make little or no sense.

Do men really believe women hold all the cards in relationships? If so, they're not paying attention. The best thing I ever read about men and women in relationships was written by Dave Barry. It can't help but ring painfully true to anyone with even an ounce of estrogen in her bloodstream:

Let's say a guy named Fred is attracted to a woman named Martha. He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anybody else.

And then, one evening when they're driving home, a thought occurs to Martha, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud: "Do you realize that, as of tonight, we've been seeing each other for exactly six months?"

And then, there is silence in the car.

To Martha, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he's been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I'm trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn't want, or isn't sure of.

And Fred is thinking: Gosh. Six months.

And Martha is thinking: But, hey, I'm not so sure I want this kind of relationship either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I'd have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily towards, I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?

And Fred is thinking: ...so that means it was...let's see...February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer's, which means...lemme check the odometer...Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here.

If that doesn't speak volumes about the difference between men and women, nothing does. Sometime during that six months Martha's world started to revolve around Fred. Her entire frame of reference stopped being "Martha and Martha's life" and became "Do Fred and I have a future together"? During her day, Fred pops into her thoughts constantly: she wonders if he is happy, what he thinks about various things, how she can make him happy, whether they'll see each other this weekend?

Fred, on the other hand, is thinking about his car. And the last thing on his mind is whether he and Martha have a future together. In fact, if the subject comes up (unless of course, it's his idea) it will very likely freak him out. In general, he will only want to settle down with her if he gets the idea he is likely to lose her to someone else or he has decided, for whatever reason, that it's time to settle down. Either way, the decision has very little to do with her as a person.

The idea that women in general have all the power in a relationship is really rather perverse.

Men and women respond to each other's cues as well as to the expectations of society. To flip Eric's scenario on its head, a woman who maintains high standards must compete in the marketplace with women who are willing to give men everything they want. Does he seriously think such women never get their hearts broken by men who date according to the Darwinian standard? Can't he understand that such self-serving behavior only reinforces the very traits he says he doesn't want to see in women - that it would tend to produce:

...a betrayal of faith when he, rather, goes for other women whose behavior falls short of her standard. When her essential self is rejected, she is forced to evaluate her worth. Women are highly sensitized to the man's feedback. Rejection is very compelling feedback, so when he rejects her in favor of something else, the woman's instinct is to adapt to the preferences displayed by him.

I'm not terribly impressed by the argument that someone else has "forced" you to be the way you are. Character is a decision you make every day, and it speaks volumes about your values. If you disapprove of slutty or self-involved behavior from women, don't reinforce that behavior by sinking to that level yourself. Demand better and lead by example.

There are always good women out there. Giving into cynicism doesn't make the world a better place; it's just a surrender to the very values you despise. I'm not sure how that improves the situation any.

And in fact it begs the question: if you engage in this type of behavior, how are you any better than the women who hurt you? Is that really the standard you want to set for yourself - that just because you were hurt, suddenly two wrongs make a right? I don't think that's what Eric meant to say, but that's the whole premise behind Darwinian dating and it's a morally bankrupt philosophy. Putting fancy words around it doesn't make it smell any better.

The bottom line is that Eric has the cart before the horse. He says that nothing makes him want to be a better person like falling in love with a woman. But that is exactly backwards. If you wish to find someone who is worthy of your love, don't you think perhaps you ought to be a person worthy of respect and love, yourself?

As I said in my last post, it all begins with you and your values. Don't look to someone else to "make" you want to be a better person. Be a better person because that is important to you. None of us can count on finding someone else to share our lives with, but we can decide to live our lives in a manner consistent with our values. If we surrender our integrity to the expectations of others, we truly have nothing.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:22 AM | Comments (95) | TrackBack

December 06, 2008

What the GOP Needs to Win

This interesting article from Slate describes Obama's 'charisma' in terms you may not have thought about:

For researchers of emotions, creating them in the lab can be a problem. Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California-Berkeley, studies the emotions of uplift, and he has tried everything from showing subjects vistas of the Grand Canyon to reading them poetry—with little success. But just this week one of his postdocs came in with a great idea: Hook up the subjects, play Barack Obama's victory speech, and record as their autonomic nervous systems go into a swoon.

In his forthcoming book, Born To Be Good (which is not a biography of Obama), Keltner writes that he believes when we experience transcendence, it stimulates our vagus nerve, causing "a feeling of spreading, liquid warmth in the chest and a lump in the throat." For the 66 million Americans who voted for Obama, that experience was shared on Election Day, producing a collective case of an emotion that has only recently gotten research attention. It's called "elevation."

Elevation has always existed but has just moved out of the realm of philosophy and religion and been recognized as a distinct emotional state and a subject for psychological study. Psychology has long focused on what goes wrong, but in the past decade there has been an explosion of interest in "positive psychology"—what makes us feel good and why. University of Virginia moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who coined the term elevation, writes, "Powerful moments of elevation sometimes seem to push a mental 'reset button,' wiping out feelings of cynicism and replacing them with feelings of hope, love, and optimism, and a sense of moral inspiration."

Haidt quotes first-century Greek philosopher Longinus on great oratory: "The effect of elevated language upon an audience is not persuasion but transport." Such feeling was once a part of our public discourse. After hearing Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address, former slave Frederick Douglass said it was a "sacred effort." But uplifting rhetoric came to sound anachronistic, except as practiced by the occasional master like Martin Luther King Jr. or Ronald Reagan. And now Obama.

We come to elevation, Haidt writes, through observing others—their strength of character, virtue, or "moral beauty." Elevation evokes in us "a desire to become a better person, or to lead a better life." The 58 million McCain voters might say that the virtue and moral beauty displayed by Obama at his rallies was an airy promise of future virtue and moral beauty. And that the soaring feeling his voters had of having made the world a better place consisted of the act of placing their index fingers on a touch screen next to the words Barack Obama. They might be on to something. Haidt's research shows that elevation is good at provoking a desire to make a difference but not so good at motivating real action. But he says the elevation effect is powerful nonetheless. "It does appear to change people cognitively; it opens hearts and minds to new possibilities. This will be crucial for Obama."

This explains, in large part, why the issues played so little part in this past election and why Obama supporters seem so little disturbed that he has largely abandoned every single major campaign promise he made to them so far. Conservatives keep struggling to explain this contradiction using logic: if his supporters voted for him based on support for the issues, shouldn't they be upset now that he is tacking to the right (indeed, essentially hewing to the same course of action he promised to change)?

They counter that this doesn't disturb them because they "trust" him to do the right thing. This makes conservative heads everywhere explode. If he ran on one set of promises and before even being elected, has already abandoned them, how can we trust anything he says?

But if we accept Haidt's theory, Obama voters were literally transported - past the issues, past questions of character (which explains why they were outraged by the same 'guilt by association' tactics they have used time and time again against Republicans) to a place were simply voting for Obama was an affirmative step in the right direction no matter what he does.

All of which only confirms what I was saying earlier in the campaign: most voters couldn't care less about the issues. They vote for the person. What the GOP needs is a charismatic person who is able to transport voters past that whole critical thinking thing.

Of course, it would be awfully nice if we got someone who was principled and could make a compelling argument for our ideas. But that would seem to be entirely unnecessary.

How depressing.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:06 AM | Comments (49) | TrackBack

Nanny Statism

I love people who can't wait to protect me from things I have no wish to be protected from on no evidence but their own subjective wish to feel "safer":

It's slightly dicey business to compare data from Ontario with those of the provinces that didn't enact a universal-immunization policy. Researchers can't be sure that the differences in the rate of immunization actually caused the differences in influenza diagnoses, hospitalization rates, or excess deaths. In fact, during the seven-year period under study, there was improvement in flu-vaccination rates in all the provinces. As a result, influenza statistics everywhere in Canada improved—but they improved a lot more in Ontario than in the rest of Canada. Influenza-associated deaths dropped by 57 percent in the rest of Canada, but they fell by 74 percent in Ontario. Every other statistic about influenza in Canada—flu-related cases seen in emergency rooms, doctors' offices, or hospital admissions—showed exactly the same pattern: Things are significantly better in Ontario. We do need to be a bit skeptical—that difference might, indeed, be due to some other environmental, economic, or educational difference between Ontario and the rest of Canada. But this evidence is the best we have today, and it's probably good enough to serve as a basis for changes in public-health policy. The only Ontario patients who didn't get significant benefit from flu shots were the elderly. As other studies have also shown, it seems as if it's simply harder to give the elderly good protection against flu using our standard methods of immunization, and there is active ongoing research to develop new, more potent vaccines. Meanwhile, we keep giving older people the present vaccine, hoping that at least some will benefit.

Conclusion: The next question is, Can it be done? Judging by the results in Ontario, the answer seems to be "yes" but only by providing newer sites for immunization, more easily available to the public—for instance, schools, stores, airports, train stations, even election polling sites. Should we do it? People afraid of needles are going to hate me for saying this, but yes, I think so. Extrapolating from the Canadian results, I think it is very likely that a policy of universal influenza immunization will lower hospitalization and death rates and even be economically advantageous. But, of course, it's easy for me to say: As a health care provider, I've already gotten my shot this year.

It's also easier for you to say if you've never suffered an adverse reaction to a flu shot:

Guillain-Barre syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which peripheral nerves are damaged and cannot transmit signals efficiently. The disease typically progresses from the legs up the body to the trunk and may even affect the respiratory system, causing almost complete paralysis.

In Guillain-Barre syndrome, the myelin sheath protecting the nerves are damaged, so signals traveling along the nerves are not transmitted properly. Because nerves cannot transmit signals to muscles, muscles will not function properly, thus causing paralysis.

It is extraordinarily painful, having your body chew up the lining to its own nerves. I happen to be married to one of those people who never recovered from the damage caused by the flu shot. The condition is relatively rare, but that is little comfort if you are one of the 'lucky' ones. It is only due to sheer determination on his part that he is able to use the surrounding muscles in the affected area.

So no thanks: don't "protect" me against my will. Especially when you can't even get doctors to take an active interest, much less admit that something is seriously wrong without aggressive advocacy. A patient shouldn't have to wait until irreparable damage sets in to get the attending physician's attention.

We're lucky he's not in a wheelchair. And not one mention of the side effects in this entire article.

Less than impressive.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:49 AM | Comments (39) | TrackBack

December 05, 2008

A Match Made In Heaven

They say there's someone out there for everyone, and personally we believe it. There may just be an eHarmony ad in this one:

Boy: "So... white men are dying from a horrible disease... [stamping foot] Can we please focus on issues that have some actual relevance to the community?":

Donnie Northrup received hate mail and death threats after he suggested the council find a new charity to support during Orientation Week instead of participating in the same fundraiser as other universities across the country.

His motion incorrectly claimed the disease affects "only white people, and primarily men" and said students should feel their fundraising efforts "will serve their diverse communities."

Girl: "So ... men are killing themselves more these days... Exactly how does this impact meeeeeeeeeeeeee"

"I have sad feelings too, you know."

The subtitle of the article "War, debt and joblessness causing emotional distress for many young men "doesn't seem like something that should be primarly male - those are issues that are enough to make anyone depressed!

The article tries to make male suicide seem more pressing by stating that more men actually do go through with suicide than women, and calls women taking pills "halfhearted". This just reads like a continuation of the ever-present portrayal of male psychological problems (when addressed) as a "serious concern", while women are considered "silly".

Two hearts... beating as one. We can always pray that if by chance these two find each other, they don't breed.

On the other hand, given their respective world views the likelihood that natural selection will rear its ugly head offers some hope.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:50 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

The Daily DimWit: White Boy Fails Nihlism 101

The next thing you know they'll be teaching these kids some sort of twisted PC nonsense like "White men are human, too":

The student council at an Ottawa university has reversed its controversial decision to pull out of an annual fundraiser for the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Following vocal protests from students, the Carleton University Students Association voted unanimously Monday night to:

Support next year's cystic fibrosis fundraiser, called Shinerama.
Donate at least $1,000 to the organization.
Issue a formal apology.

In addition, the student councillor who crafted the controversial motion to drop the fundraiser resigned.

Donnie Northrup received hate mail and death threats after he suggested the council find a new charity to support during Orientation Week instead of participating in the same fundraiser as other universities across the country.

His motion incorrectly claimed the disease affects "only white people, and primarily men" and said students should feel their fundraising efforts "will serve their diverse communities."

One other councillor, Sean Maguire, also resigned.

"I love this university," he said, sniffling, his voice choked with emotion. "And it pains me to no end to know that we have damaged its reputation."

Ariel Kimmel, a second-year political science student at Carleton, said the student council embarrassed the whole university.

"I really hope there's lessons learned — that they do need to start representing their students better," she said.

The half vast Editorial Staff were vastly heartened to learn that cystic fibrosis afflicts non-whites and women, too. That, at the least, makes it defensible to support the effort to find a cure.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:29 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

The Internet as a Responsibility-Free Zone

What we do in life
echoes in eternity...

- Gladiator

The Lori Drew verdict poses some fascinating questions about the intersection of technology, free speech, and personal responsibility.

There are several intertwined questions here. I'm not sure the charging statute/verdict addressed them all:

1. Is it a crime to verbally harass someone you know to be in a fragile mental state (in this case, a person on anti-depressants) under an assumed identity?

2. Does it make a difference if, as a result of that verbal harassment, the victim subsequently commits suicide?

3. Is it a crime if, in order to assume the false identity under which you harass the victim, you violate the service agreement (TOS) of a commercial service provider which explicitly prohibits use of their service under assumed identities and explictly prohibits harassment and bullying?

4. Do such service providers have a right to enforce their term of service agreements against users who use their services for fraudulent and/or criminal enterprises?

5. Does society have a right/interest in prosecuting misuse of commercial term of service agreements against users who use these services for clearly fraudulent and/or criminal enterprises?

Emily Bazelon argues that prosecution of Internet cyber-bullying is a scary slippery slope that will somehow lead to the government going after mischievous web surfers whose only crime was a desire for anonymity. As one of those "mischievous types", the Editorial Staff finds itself not entirely unsympathetic to this view:

In 2003, George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr wrote a prescient law-review article arguing for the former, narrower interpretation. The legislative history for the CFAA indicates that Congress wasn't trying to prosecute any or every breach of contract. Would lawmakers really want to go after people, even potentially, for giving a fake name to register for a Web site, for example (dressed up as the bad act of giving "false and misleading information")? Nor, for that matter, does it look as if Congress intended to base prison time on the MySpace contractual provision that bars use of the site that "harasses or advocates harassment of another person" or that is "abusive, threatening, obscene, defamatory, or libelous." It's one thing for MySpace to kick someone out for acting like a troll or even for the troll's target to sue her. It's another thing entirely to throw the weight of the government behind a criminal investigation and conviction for what usually just amounts to mischief in cyber-contracts.

In the Lori Drew prosecution, the theory was that Drew was on the hook for setting up the fake profile, then using it to inflict emotional distress. Three of the four counts against Drew were for "unauthorized access" of MySpace simply because Drew violated the MySpace terms of service to which she agreed, according to Los Angeles U.S. Attorney Thomas O'Brien's dubious interpretation. The jury didn't think the prosecutors proved the emotional distress and so dismissed the fourth count. And they knocked down the other charges from felonies to misdemeanors. But they did buy the idea that Drew "intentionally" broke the law, even though all that seems to mean is that she clicked "I agree" in response to a long series of legalistic paragraphs that just about nobody really reads. It's hard to imagine even these misdemeanor convictions standing up on appeal.

Kerr joined Drew's defense team, and his post last Friday on the Volokh Conspiracy blog gets at how just how ludicrous it is to imagine every breach of a Web site's terms of service as a federal crime. (Kerr: By visiting the Volokh Conspiracy, you agree that your middle name is not Ralph and that you're "super nice." You lied? Gotcha.) Of course, prosecutors aren't really going to investigate all the criminals Kerr just created with the terms of service in his post. But this is not a road we want to take even one baby step down. As Andrew Grossman argues for the Heritage Foundation, laws that make it seem as if "everyone is a criminal" are generally a bad idea. Most of the time, they're unenforceable, and then every once in a while, they're used to scapegoat someone like Lori Drew.

What about a law written expressly to address cyber-bullying? Such a statute could presumably direct prosecutors to go after only the worst of the Internet meanies. Or, then again, maybe not. A proposed bill before Congress is far broader. It targets anyone who uses "electronic means" to transmit "in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person." The penalty is a fine or imprisonment for up to two years.

On the other hand, (and I advance this argument not having read the government's case, which I understand may be overbroad) attorney Nick Ackerman makes an interesting case for prosecuting such acts:

Lori Drew, an adult woman, lied and misrepresented herself as a young boy to harass 13-year-old Megan Meier. Drew knew Megan was emotionally fragile. Instead of openly harassing Megan, Drew used her computer to hide behind the anonymity of a social networking website.

This type of computer crime is precisely what the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was intended to address. The statute is not, as some have suggested, limited to hacking, nor does the Drew prosecution make a criminal out of everyone who lies on the Internet.

While this is the first time the statute has been used to prosecute cyberbullying, Drew's conviction was based on violating the express language of the statute — unauthorized access to the MySpace website by violating its terms of service, which are designed to protect the public.

Those terms required Drew to provide truthful registration information and to refrain from using the account to threaten or abuse others. Her willful violation of MySpace's terms in registering as a fictitious boy to harass Megan was unquestionably "without authorization."

Under the statute, website owners have the right, much like the property owner who posts a "No Trespassing" sign, to spell out, as did MySpace, what access or use is "unauthorized." The concept that Drew should not be held responsible if she did not read MySpace's terms of service is as absurd as arguing that if you default on your mortgage payments, your bank cannot foreclose on your house because you did not read your mortgage agreement.

If your irony meter spiked here, you're not the only one.

We would seem to live in a country where (as Ms. Bazelon indeed argued) no one can ever be held responsible for anything, including their own fecklessness.

I think we can all agree that reasonably competent adults of average intelligence understand that even if though they may choose not to read the terms of service on sites such as MySpace, those terms continue to exist nonetheless. We cannot simply wish them away, nor can we wish away our own fundamental dishonesty if we, having been asked to agree to something and further, having been asked if we've read it before going on, click "yes" when that is in fact not true. This is what is called, in the rude parlance of personal responsibility, a "conscious decision"; much like choosing not to familiarize yourself with the warnings in your car's owners manual and then complaining about not being warned when you do something the manual expliticly warns you NOT to do.

Ms. Drew, as it turns out, used someone else's MySpace account to harass young Megan; making the question of whether she violated the TOS agreement an interesting one. However, subsequent events leave no doubt whatsoever that she knew what she had done was wrong, nor that she tried to cover her tracks:

Krause said in the documents that Drew enjoyed describing the scheme to friends and even told her hairdresser about it, saying that Megan "may have had the hots for the fake guy."

The assistant, Ashley Grills, who is to testify for the prosecution, warned "they would get in trouble if the scheme was uncovered," according to the memorandum.

"However, defendant assured Grills that they would not and, in any event, many people created fake identities on the Internet," Krause wrote.

The prosecutor maintained that Drew was aware of Megan's vulnerabilities, knew she was on medication for depression and had even administered the medications when Megan was visiting Drew's daughter. He said Megan's mother confided in Drew that she was worried about her daughter's mental health.

When she learned of the suicide, Drew told her "co-schemers" to delete the MySpace account, Krause wrote. He also said she called another girl who had become part of the MySpace conversation and told her to "keep her mouth shut" and to "stay off the MySpace."

The other interesting aspect of this case is that Missouri prosecutors had concluded their state law was inapplicable to the case. The charges were eventually filed by a federal attorney in Los Angeles.

Normally the Editorial Staff are philosophically opposed to anything resembling the prosecution of hate speech. Words, in the end, no matter how hurtful, are just words. We alone can choose how much power they will have over us: unlike a bullet or a knife, we can erect defenses against them using no more than our minds.

We find ourselves more sympathetic to the government's argument regarding the enforcement of terms of service agreements. When a site is misused to defame or harass an innocent third party, it raises interesting property right questions. Does society have an interest in protecting the rights of site owners? Considering that they can incur significant monetary costs to run a web site (as well as the risk of lawsuits arising from the failure to police the actions of their commenters) it seems not unreasonable to assert a "trespassing" argument when users intentionally violate the terms of service to commit malicious or destructive acts.

Also, we find the idea that the Internet is some sort of "last frontier" where actors may say and do anything, no matter how harmful to real people, to be little short of ludicrous. Difficult as it may be, the law is going to have to deal with the fact that technology is becoming more and more invasive, making it easier for the Internet to be used as a weapon against innocent parties.

What say you?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:43 AM | Comments (61) | TrackBack

December 04, 2008

Gold Star Mother's Donations Stolen

Back in February, I wrote about an amazing air rescue mission in Afghanistan:

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

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

Sadly, on this particular mission the MEDEVAC crew could not bring everyone back alive. Though the crew would not leave without retrieving their bodies, six men never got a chance to see their families again:

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

The mother of one of those men, Linda Ferrara, has put her grief to good use collecting socks, sweat shirts, pajama pants, hand-made blankets, letters and other gifts to wounded soldiers at Landstuhl RAMC in Germany. But this weekend, thieves broke into the mobile home where she stored the donations. Now all her hard work has gone for nothing:

Ferrara went to the RV Sunday and found empty boxes scattered outside.

Inside, she discovered nearly all the collected items were missing and "thank you" letters to wounded soldiers were torn to shreds.

Ferrara, along with other West Point Parent Club members, had been collecting the items since her son, Army Capt. Matthew Ferrara, and five others were killed in an ambush on Nov. 10, 2007.

She estimates that at least $6,000 worth of clothes were taken along with the priceless patriotic fleece blankets she and other volunteers spent hours sewing.

Compton sheriff's deputies took a report and fingerprints, she said, adding that she believes the thieves will try to sell the stolen goods.

Ferrara also says her insurance company would not cover the loss since she planned to give the items away and they technically didn't belong to her.

Anyone who is interested in donating items for wounded soldiers can email Linda Ferrara or visit the West Point Parent Club of Orange County web site.

Ferrara says the organization can accept cash donations or brand new items because the Military hospital does not allow used goods.

For some reason, the video of that MEDEVAC mission has always haunted me:

I could never get what Linda said out of my mind:

Some people don't think that we have to fight just yet,
that we can wait and the crazies will go away
and not harm our little tribe.
They are already harming our little tribe.
All of humanity is our tribe
.

- Linda Ferrara

Please show her she wasn't wrong about that.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:18 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Blogoversary

It is hard to believe, but it has been 4 years since VC started up.

I know I've wiped out most of my old posts. Sorry about that - must be the Celtic blood. I've been leaving things all my life. It's hard to believe I've stayed with this for so long, even if there have been a few bumps and twists along the road.

scan2.jpg I tried to find the old picture of me I had up at Jet Noise. It's kind of funny - in that one I was obviously several years younger and I still had the short hair. Couldn't find a copy quickly. But I did find something even funnier - dumb photo of me in high school from that stupid 70s post I did years ago. My Dem friend in NYC (Yo!) will get a kick out of it. She will remember the ultimate horror of the Princess in high school... heh.

I swore I wouldn't get emotional about this, but I've already blown that resolution (Watch it, Bill....[tapping foot]). I would just like to thank you guys for coming along for the ride.

I have a love-hate relationship with blogging.

One thing I'm absolutely not conflicted about is you all. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for you guys. Several times I've left, and several times I've come back and it has never been about the writing. I can write anywhere. I've always come back here because this is home.

This is where my family is.

Anyway, thanks. Sometimes, even for me, there are no words.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:18 PM | Comments (40) | TrackBack

Perspective, Risk, and the Financial "Crisis"

I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean- to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it.

- Dorothea Lange, on the making of "Migrant Mother", the eponymous image of Depression-era desperation


03054r.jpg

The family depicted in this photo had just sold their tent in order to buy food. Seventy three years later, Katherine MacIntosh (only four years old when her mother was photographed) remembers what it was like back then:

"...People was starving in that camp. There was no food," she says. "We were ashamed of it. We didn't want no one to know who we were."

The photograph helped define the Great Depression, yet McIntosh says her mom didn't let it define her, although the picture "was always talked about in our family."

"It always stayed with her. She always wanted a better life, you know."

Her mother, she says, was a "very strong lady" who liked to have a good time and listen to music, especially the yodeler named Montana Slim. She laughs when she recalls her brothers bringing home a skinny greyhound pooch. "Mom, Montana Slim is outside," they said.

Thompson rushed outside. The boys chuckled. They had named the dog after her favorite musician.

"She was the backbone of our family," McIntosh says of her mom. "We never had a lot, but she always made sure we had something. She didn't eat sometimes, but she made sure us children ate. That's one thing she did do."

Her memories of her youth are filled with about 50 percent good times, 50 percent hard times.

It was nearly impossible to get an education. Children worked the fields with their parents. As soon as they'd get settled at a school, it was time to pick up and move again.

Her mom would put newborns in cotton sacks and pull them along as she picked cotton. The older kids would stay in front, so mom could keep a close eye on them. "We would pick the cotton and pile it up in front of her, and she'd come along and pick it up and put it in her sack," McIntosh says.

They lived in tents or in a car. Local kids would tease them, telling them to clean up and bathe. "They'd tell you, 'Go home and take a bath.' You couldn't very well take a bath when you're out in a car [with] nowhere to go."

She adds, "We'd go home and cry."

McIntosh now cleans homes in the Modesto, California, area. She's proud of the living she's been able to make -- that she has a roof over her head and has been able to maintain a job all these years. She says her obsession to keep things clean started in her youth when her chore was to keep the family tent clean. There were two white sheets that she cleaned each day.

"Even today, when it comes to cleaning, I make sure things are clean. I can't stand dirty things," she says with a laugh.

With the nation sinking into tough economic times and analysts saying the current economic crisis is the worst since the Great Depression, McIntosh says if there's a lesson to be learned from her experience it is to save your money and don't overextend yourself."

In those days people waited in line for everything: soup, bread, the promise of a job.

Now a deep, pervasive fear fills the land again... a fear of doing without. The long lines are back as once again Americans reach deep within their souls to find that elemental grit, that scrappy resourcefulness that lifted a ragtag collection of British colonies to world superpower status.

Oh yeah. We've still got "it". Or do we?

The greatest danger in the current economic crisis is that the United States will lose its historic appetite for risk. The mood now is that risk-taking got us into this mess. Risk, though, is the quintessential American trait that built the nation -- from the Battle of Bunker Hill to the rise of the microchip. If we let risk give way to a new ethos of commercial reserve and regulatory restriction, the upward arc of the U.S. ascendancy will flatten. Maybe it already has.

By "we" I mean the policy makers in Washington who will write the new rules of finance, our stunned bankers and businessmen, and the average Joes of Main Street who with reason have lost confidence. If all lose faith at once in the American idea of risk, refinding it when the recession ends may prove difficult.

This is the moment for Americans to rediscover the "frontier thesis" of Frederick Jackson Turner. In a seminal paper delivered in 1893 to the American Historical Association, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History," Turner argued that the U.S. found its identity as it pushed away from the Eastern seaboard and crossed a series of frontier "fall lines": the Allegheny Mountains, the Mississippi, the Missouri, the plains, the Rocky Mountains and California.

Every American absorbs the frontier experience from reading biographies of great Americans or from movies. Frederick Turner, however, made it clear that with this effort to transform the wilderness the Americans broke decisively with what he called, believe it or not, "old Europe." "Here is a new product," Turner wrote, "that is American."

"From the conditions of frontier life," Turner believed, "came [American] intellectual traits of profound importance . . . coarseness and strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness; that practical, inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients; that masterful grasp of material things, lacking in the artistic but powerful to effect great ends; that restless, nervous energy, that dominant individualism, working for good and for evil." These, he said, are "the traits of the frontier."

Turner's ideas on the frontier lie at the center of many political fights today over domestic and foreign policy. It is hard to overstate how abhorrent Turner's frontier thesis became to the American left, especially its new historians. His paper has been called "notorious and troubling" and a "myth." Their problem with Turner's view of the Americans' tendency to "incessant expansion" needs no elaboration. His critics have called him a racist.

This is unfair. Turner himself later described the political tensions in the new 20th century between Morgan's banks, Harriman's railroads -- "wealth beyond their power to enjoy" -- and the new forces of reform.

If indeed the Democrats' intellectuals want to disown Turner, the conservative movement could profit from adapting what he admired on the frontier. Everyone's ancestors made the frontier, but if it's just a Republican thing now, so be it.

Turner's purpose wasn't to idealize America but to try to understand the wellsprings of its remarkable and self-evident success. He found it, persuasively, in the lessons learned settling a continent.

For our purposes, amid economic meltdown and fiasco, the telling phrase in his list of shaping frontier traits is "that dominant individualism, working for good and for evil."

These days, whether the topic is foreign policy, economics, education, or even parenting the signs of a widespread loss of confidence in the spirit of American enterprise are everywhere. Everyone, it seems, needs help. We have become a nation of whiners, scared of our own shadows, desperate for someone to rescue us from the terrifying consequences of every day life - the same consequences our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents face with far fewer resources than we possess -- and far less complaining.

From the pages of every newspaper come admonishing reminders that the realists are back in town; the adults are back in charge. No more leaps of faith, no grand strategies, no more bold foreign policy initiatives with their concommitant risk of failure (not that either Iraq or Afghanistan has failed yet, unless one listens to the Senate Majority Leader's premature pronouncements uttered last Spring before our Surge troops were even in place). But no matter, neither his patriotism nor his judgment can be questioned.

So long as we are willing to completely disregard our own history, it will remain pitifully easy to manipulate us with frankly silly and afactual analogies that don't stand up to reasonable scrutiny.

But this country wasn't built by men (that's right, I said "men" - get over it) who shrank from the possibility of failure or stuck their hands out every time a reversal of fortune dealt them an unlucky hand. It isn't excessive risk-taking but excessive fear of risk that is causing today's angst-fests, and the answer isn't to retrench until America becomes a shadow of her former self but to tighten our belts and rediscover our appetite for hard work and the excitement that comes from knowing we still have the ability to succeed.

Or fail. Our parents understood that adversity hones the character. Our current set of leaders seem determined to convince us that it is somehow the proper function of the federal government to eliminate all adversity from our daily lives.

You tell me where that type of public policy leads? Hint: it's right up there with moral hazard.

Isn't that how we got here in the first place?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:20 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Coffee Snorters: "Isn't That Just Like a Man?" Edition

Damned wig snatchers... they're everywhere these days, I tell you.

This is why a woman should always, always, *always* get the man's last name before jumping into the sack with him. Ironclad rule.

Violate it, and the next thing you know, the lousy b**tard is snatching the hair right off the top of your head for no apparent reason...

Completely unforeseeable, that.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:12 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

December 03, 2008

Reverie.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:28 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Because Wednesdays Bite

Is it Friday yet?

I didn't think so.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:30 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

December 02, 2008

Captain Rob Yllescas

Yesterday, while you and I went about the mundane business of every day living, a good man - a warrior - finally put down his burdens and walked into the light.

For his good lady that final parting cannot yet seem quite real. It never does at first, especially when there have been so many goodbyes over the years. Captain Rob Yllescas, 31, spent the first 18 years of his life in Guatemala. His father Otto still lives there. His mother, Barbara Yllescas-Brodsky, now lives in Treynor, Iowa. Rob graduated from the University of Nebraska. He met and married Dena in her home town of Osceola. Their marriage produced two lovely daughters, Julia and Eva:

"He was my hero and my daughters' hero," said Dena... "They absolutely adored him, and they didn't care that he was a soldier or not. He was their daddy."

But Rob is not the only hero in the Yllescas family. Dena's tremendous strength and resolve inspired everyone who followed his fight to recover from grievous injuries suffered October 28th while in command of B Troop, 6/4 Cavalry in Nuristan province. This film was taken in late October of this year. In it, 6/4 soldiers on patrol discuss their work in Afghanistan. As Dena explains in this video, Captain Yllescas was wounded while performing a job he believed in deeply:

"He felt very strongly about why he was there, and that he was making a difference."

On Veterans' Day, the President visited Rob and Dena in the hospital:

“It was bittersweet because my husband and I have wanted to meet him for long,” Yllescas’ wife Dena said.

President Bush awarded the Purple Heart at Yllescas’ bed side. Unfortunately, the captain was unconscious from his injuries and could not experience the moment.

His wife said that the moment affected the president.

“He was tearing up and he was hugging me and he told me he was sorry and that he would meet Rob when he was awake,” Yllescas said.

The Ranger had to have his legs amputated due to his injuries. Doctors also had to wire his jaw shut and put a bolt in his lead.

“He was so close dying so many times. My husband is very stubborn and I really appreciate that trait right now. By all accounts he should not be alive,” Dena Yllescas said.

Rob fought back against his injuries, but in the end they proved too severe for him. On December 1st, after more than a month of fierce battling to hold onto the life they had built together, Dena was forced to say that final goodbye every soldier's wife fears:

Well, today Rob went to be with the Lord. Last night his ICP's went really high and they took him for another CT scan. The scan results were devastating. So, we decided to let him go Home. He went very painlessly and quickly. I don't know when his funeral will be but it will be in Nebraska in my hometown. I will let you all know the details when I get them. Thank so all so much for the thousands of prayers you sent for my husband. We now have an angel looking over us.

I don't know what is harder to bear: the tension and strife of battle or the empty silence that falls over the field when the last trumpet has sounded its final retreat; when the silent mists creep slowly over each hill and dale, tenderly brushing each slumbering face, each pale cheek with a gentle kiss?

That is a romanticized notion, I know. And yet it is never the outward seeming that we love; that is just dross, an impurity to be burned away by the heat of violence until what lies beneath - the pure gold - is revealed. That is why bonds forged in wartime seem more true.

Because when it counts, everything nonessential is stripped away and men must depend upon each other for their very survival. People rarely waste time arguing about philosophy or the existential meaning of life when there is a knife at their throats:

Late March, 2003. I’m travelling within Germany on business and get into a taxi. I notice by his accent the driver isn’t a German national. Because there’s kind of a bond between ex-pats, we start talking. I ask him where he’s from.

“Iraq. What about you?”

“I’m an American.”

The anti-war sentiment in Germany is high during this time, so we start slowly. But soon the words come tumbling out as he tells me his story.

He spent many years in Saddam’s Army and fought in the never-ending and bloody war with Iran. But when the order came to invade Kuwait, he’d had enough. He left the country and made his way to Germany, hoping to send for his wife and two children once he was settled.

His wife and children were “disappeared”.

He becomes increasingly emotional, gesturing and saying if he could only find Saddam, he’d kill him with his bare hands.

I ask him about his children; their names, how old they’d be now. He tells me.

Then, suddenly, he pulls the taxi over, puts his head on the steering wheel, and starts sobbing uncontrollably.

“Nobody cared”, he says with tears running down his face. “Nobody cared about us – except George Bush and America."

Rob cared too, so much so that he risked his life repeatedly to free people he had no obligation to; people many in the sophisticated set believe are 'not ready for freedom'.

I often wonder what would have become of this great experiment we call the United States of America, had the French and the Dutch refused their help to a tiny nation formed from fledgling colonies who rebelled against Great Britain. What would have become of us had they concluded we were "not ready for freedom"? For over two hundred years America has been a beacon of liberty and opportunity to a world in which, for many, those commodities remain tragically out of reach.

In the coming days, Dena Yllescas will have time to ponder the life of her husband. She may even ask herself, "Was it all worth it?" Her children may ask her that question, one day.

This is a question that, despite my strong support for what we are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, I never stop asking myself. In a free society it is right and proper to question ourselves from time to time. But to allow doubts and uncertainties to cloud our vision or paralyze us into inaction is not an act of discernment. War will never be easy. It will always be tragic, it will never be clean in the way academicians seem to want it to be and the cost will always seem far too high. What I keep coming back to is that America is a nation whose freedoms were conceived amid conflict and bitter dissent; strained to their utmost in the fires of battle, and tested time and time again in places near and far. Their names are now a part of history: Valley Forge, Chosin, Tarawa, Inchon, Belleau Woods, Falluja.

Nuristan province. Law and our civil rights, for all our too precious moral insecurities, are worth little without someone willing to secure them at the risk of losing life and limb. We decide, in the end, where the frontiers of liberty and security intersect and that decision cannot ever be cost free. In a borderless world those frontiers are becoming increasingly harder to detect and defend. And yet defend them we must if we are to preserve our way of life: this experiment called America. The cost we pay for daring to be free is our own lifeblood: that of our own sons, daughters, husbands, wives. It is a price that will always be too high. And it is a price that we will never get used to paying: one we should never get used to paying.

But which of our precious freedoms would we willingly yield, now, to be relieved of that debt? Which of them is not worth the price paid in blood all those many years ago?

Patrick Henry once said, famously, "Give me liberty, or give me death". We like to quote those words now. They have a nice ring to them, but how many of us are willing, when push comes to shove, to back them up with the appropriate action? Too many of us, it seems, would cavil and whine and say, "But is it worth it?"

We have a Republic, as the Founders once said, if we can keep it. Thanks to men like Rob Yllescas, we have kept it so far. May it ever be so. And may light eternal shine upon him, and may each of us strive to be worthy of the great sacrifices made daily in our names.

We owe much.


Is Rome worth one good man's life?
We believed it once. Make us believe it again.

He was a soldier of Rome.
Honor him.

- Lucilla, Gladiator

Posted by Cassandra at 08:41 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

December 01, 2008

Obama: Changing the Tone in Washington

So far, Fox News is O for 5 on getting a single question answered at an Obama press conference:

As we've been documenting, Fox News hasn't gotten a question in during President-elect Barack Obama's five press conferences since the election.

Today was another. Questions instead went to such outlets as ABC, New York Times, CBS, Reuters and the Associated Press.

>UPDATE: Questions went to Liz Sidoti (AP), Caren Bohan (Reuters), Jake Tapper (ABC), Peter Baker (NYT), John McCormick (Tribune), Tribune, Dean Reynolds (CBS).

Comment of the day (in response to the charge that Obama is within his rights to ban Fax as some form of petty retaliation for Sean Hannity, who is not even a news anchor):

... is that fair? One voice on the network (a commentator, at that), results in a full ban of the network?

Should Republicans ban MSNBC because of Olbermann or Maddow? Heck, should they ban all of NBC? Should they ban the NYTimes and other new organizations that have said negative things against the party or candidate?

The real issue here is media censorship, and media objectivity. If this administration (or any administration) decides that they'll only talk to groups that say what they want them to say, then have in fact imposed a gag order on all objective reporting. IMO, that's a dangerous thing.

If the media are afraid to report, for fear that they will get banned from participating and thusly cost their parent company money... we (further) lose journalism, in favor of straight propaganda.

To which the predictable "free speech" reply ensued:

...ridding the world of faux news would do the opposite..a win for "journalism" and a fail for "straight progaganda"

The First Amendment and freedom of the press: great concepts... so long as they are only used to protect speech progressives happen to agree with.

It's going to be a fun four years, folks. One quasi-conservative news network out of how many? And it's already being blacklisted by the future President of the United States.

Impressive. Really impressive. Thank God we have a Constitutional lawyer in charge. I feel my rights are safer already.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:08 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Happy Monday

Not exactly coffee snorters, but a few items to get your week off to a good start:

A different kind of love story. Even the Oink Cadre will like this one. I promise.

No wonder Alec Baldwin keeps threatening to flee to France...:

One of Europe’s most famous nudist colonies has become the subject of an unusual investigation by French detectives after the destruction of three nightclubs in fires blamed on naturist “hardliners”.

The normally peaceful Cap d’Agde, a magnet for nudists in the south of France, has been plunged into anxiety. Investigators suspect “fundamentalist” naturists of harbouring a grudge against the échangistes, or swingers, who are drawn to the town by the promise of sex.

...Tensions have arisen between the naturists, who believe that nudity is a healthy choice of lifestyle and nothing to do with sex, and the échangistes, who are attracted to nudist camps by the prospect of multiple partners.

“What goes on in certain places is not naturism,” said Guy Delfour, former head of the French federation of naturism. “Nudity is just one element of naturism. There are other values to recognise, such as the protection of nature.”

Some in Cap d’Agde attribute the fires to fundamentalist “mullahs of chaste nudity”, as one magazine called them, who have often harangued holiday-makers venturing onto nudist beaches in bathing costumes. Others denied that naturists could have been involved.

“We don’t want to put the échangiste places out of business,” said Gilles Beaumont, a naturist and regular at Cap d’Agde. “It’s true that we don’t like being mixed up with the swingers. But we respect other people and their right to behave as they please.”

You just can't make this stuff up.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on Planet Gaia:

Japan's workers are being urged to switch off their laptops, go home early and use what little energy they have left on procreation, in the country's latest attempt to avert demographic disaster...

A recent survey of married couples under 50 found that more than a third had not had sex in the previous month.

Many couples said they didn't have the energy for sex, while others said they found it boring.

No big mystery there. They've probably been reading the New York Times:

I COULD chalk it up to getting older, the fact that sex interests me these days about as much as playing checkers. But the fact is I’ve never much liked sex, even though it has, on occasion, captivated me. Says my proverbial therapist: “Sex threatens you, Lauren. You feel overcome.”

Another distinctly less sexy possibility is that I have never much liked sex because, when all is said and done, there’s not much to like. I mean, really: What is the big deal? Especially when it’s with the same person, over and over again; from an evolutionary standpoint, that simply couldn’t be right. I, for one, have always become bored of sex within the first six months of meeting a man, the act paling for me just as the sun pales at the approach of winter, and as predictably, too.

I met and fell in love with my husband for his beautifully colored hair, his gentle ways, his humor. We were together many years, and so sex faded. Then we decided to marry.

And to think some folks would have considered this a Bad Sign... Go figure!

Predictably, almost as soon as the engagement ring slid onto my finger, I fell in love with someone else. I fell madly, insanely, obsessively in love with a conservative Christian man who believed that I, as a Jew, was going to hell. We fought long and hard about that, and then had sex. This is so stupid, it pains me to write about it.
.. .but I will anyway, notwithstanding the fact that doing so will hurt and humiliate my husband.
Suppose there was someone out there with whom I could have passionate sex the rest of my life? So I continued with my conservative Christian, and we had fantastic, obsessive sex while the whole time I waited to see when (or if) this affair would run out of fuel. I prayed that it would, so I could marry the man I loved.
Ummm...did I mention he was really great in the sack, even though I hate sex? *Much* better than my fiance, in fact... err... not that I have fidelity issues or anything.


Actually, I never had intercourse with this man, though we did just about everything else. He did not believe in sex before marriage. Therefore, when my fiancé asked me if I was “having sex” with someone (why was I coming home at 3 a.m.?), I could answer “no.”

...or honesty issues...

But then the inevitable happened. Sex with this man turned tepid, then revolting. While the revolting part was particular to this crazy relationship, the tepid part was wholly within my experience and proved, for me, that there is no God of monogamous passion. Thus freed from the tethers of this affair, I returned to the gentle arms of my pagan husband. We are going on our 10th anniversary. He wants hot sex. I turned tepid long, long ago.

...or intimacy issues...

A University of Chicago study published in 1999 found that 40 percent of women suffer from some form of sexual dysfunction, usually low libido. There are treatments for this sort of thing: Viagra or a prescription for testosterone. But the real issue for me is that I’m not sure I have a dysfunction. On the one hand, I am miserable about our lack of a sex life because it makes my husband miserable and cold and withdrawn, and it is so unhappy, living this way. “Have sex with someone else,” I tell him.

“The problem with that,” my husband says, “is falling in love. If you have sex with someone else, you just might fall in love with them.”

“I’d kill you,” I say.

Of course I wouldn’t. But I just might kill myself.

Or hostility issues. The stunner (though it's hardly a suprise after the foregoing) comes next:

I have no answers for how one exists with almost no sex drive. A gulf of loneliness enters the marriage; the rift it creates is terribly painful. My sincerest hope is that once we make it through these very stressful years, assuming we come out the other end, my husband and I will be able to reconnect.

Until then, I could get treatment, but I’ve had so much treatment — for cancer, for depression — that in this one small area of my life, can I claim, if not health, then at least the absence of pathology?

Let me get this straight:

You're miserable. He's miserable. You claim to "love" him. Your therapist has already told you that you're threatened by sex - a diagnosis that seems scarily accurate based on the stories you tell: apparently you can only get aroused when you don't care about someone - it's the intimacy that accompanies sex which scares and infuriates you. You think it's physical, but you reject something as simple as taking a pill because you'd rather be miserable and make your husband miserable so long as you can tell yourself that miserable is "normal".

Though I can feel a certain amount of compassion for someone in your circumstance (there is nothing funny about feeling no desire for your spouse) what you describe isn't love. You aren't even trying, and you aren't taking your husband's feelings into account at all. What kind of woman writes an article in a national newspaper to inform the country she feels zero desire for her husband, or that she has told him to go out and cheat on her? How is this guy supposed to face his friends, his co-workers, his neighbors? Precisely what effect did you expect this to have on your marriage?

What an awful, hurtful, unforgiveable thing to do. But then, it's all about you, isn't it?

People are becoming so self-absorbed; just like these young men:

... some people would wager that the Darwinian answer to dating chaos is our future normal. “I have lived in many places, countries, and cultures,” Douglas Gurney from Montgomery, Alabama, writes. “This is a worldwide phenomenon. The behavior of men is simply a response (which is actually a quite logical one) to the changing behavior of women. Simply put, men are a breeding experiment run by women. You reap what you sow—and when a man can sow all he wants and leave the reaping to others, well, why not?”

Why not? Because relationships are supposed to be a two-way street, that's why. You can't love someone else until you have a strong sense of yourself. That doesn't mean being selfish and self centered; it means being secure enough in who you are that you can give freely to another human being without suspicion and pettiness, because marriage isn't always a 50-50 or even a 60-40 proposition. In hard times, you may be called upon to give 90 percent. Marriage means doing things you don't "feel" like without begrudging the giving. It means taking as much pleasure in pleasing your partner as you do in pleasing yourself.

Obviously things ought to balance out roughly over the years, but it doesn't always start out that way and people who keep hidden scorecards rarely succeed. What keeps things on an even keel is choosing someone with whom you're well matched and maintaining interests of your own to preserve some balance and keep the relationship fresh.

It's hard work at times, but it's just not rocket science. Why is it that we seem to be losing a grip on the fundamentals?

I think it's just plain selfishness. We're losing the fundamental notion that anyone - anywhere - should ever submerge any part of his individual interests to anything larger than himself. Without that ability to cooperate, no society or institution can long survive.


Posted by Cassandra at 07:10 AM | Comments (66) | TrackBack

Are We There Yet?

On second thought, let's not go there.
'Tis a silly place.

- Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Taking a short hiatus from the never ending roller coaster ride known as Microsoft Excel, the Blog Princess just felt a post-racial thrill run up her leg, courtesy of Glenn Reynolds. Naughty man:

SO MUCH FOR post-racial America, I guess. “The number two man at NBC News believes Barack Obama’s skin color gives him more legitimacy around the world than possibly any American leader in history.”

UPDATE: Reader Thomas Prewitt writes: “I find it curious that no one at NBC ever said that our black female Secretary of State has more legitimacy around the world than possibly any Secretary of State in history.” Yeah, go figure.

Tigerhawk adds his thoughts:

Sheppard thinks that it is racist of the executive, Mark Whitaker, to say this:
Imagine that. Because Obama is black, before he even steps into the White House and accomplishes one darned thing he already has more legitimacy around the world than possibly every American president that came before him.

Isn't that racist? Isn't suggesting that someone is better or more "legitimate" solely because of the color of his or her skin a tremendously offensive concept?

Sheppard is, I think, unfair to Whitaker. The quoted passage might as easily be an assessment of what is -- that most of the world is racist and will therefore ascribe greater legitimacy to Barack Obama because of his race -- as what ought. Nothing in the quoted passage suggests that it is good that the world is this way. Acknowledging racism is not racism.

Although Tigerhawk and I are apparently both "thinkers", I'm not sure I agree.

Why should it be wrong for reasonable people to dislike the notion that their country suddenly becomes 'more legitimate' when led by a President of color? Especially one who has done precisely nothing to earn America increased standing?

This is hardly the first time American foreign policy has displayed a diverse face. We have, to date, been represented by two Black Secretaries of State (though Colin Powell, darling of the progressive set, was the least travelled Secretary in modern history, largely phoning it in during his tenure).

Helpful, that. Condi Rice, on the other hand, was not only Black but female. Should not such a diverse cabinet pick have scored us double brownie points in the moral legitimacy department, if Tigerhawk's racism theory were correct?

Somehow, I doubt that was the case; mostly because Secretary Rice never made her race an issue. Lamentably, Ms. Rice failed to brandish her skin color like a sword in the vitals of the ungodly. Certainly she has thought deeply about the subject: when asked to comment on the lingering effects of racism in America, the Secretary expresses herself eloquently.

NBC's Whitaker is probably right to think that in some quarters, Obama's skin color alone will buy him "legitimacy points". His remark reminded me of Shelby Steele's trenchant post-election observations:

“… no white candidate in America could have won an election based on those policies. It had to be a Black. It had to be somebody who could bring to bear on this old-fashioned, socialistic point of view, the moral authority of race; the moral authority of being Black. That’s… that’s the insidious and interesting thing to me.

No white man could… John Edwards could never win an election based on policies like that. I’m going to raise taxes? You’re running and you win …based on a program…[of raising people’s taxes]?

The price America’s paying for it’s racial history is this reversion; …. I’ve had friends - liberal friends - say that, “Well, it took me a little while, but I said ‘Well OK, maybe I should pay more taxes’” …. If I’m going to get a black man in the White House, I’ll do it…I’ll do it… I’ll pay the price.” … that same racial moral authority is going to be his greatest weapon as a President. Who’s going to want to stand in his way and block all of these beneficent things that he wants to do … this redistribution of the wealth to people who’ve been locked out? It’s always going to work for him.

Because whites are still motivated by race, the dummies!

The question is (just as with affirmative action, a deliberately imposed policy of unfair racial discrimination aimed at "fixing" unfair racial discrimination that may or may not already exist) how long does this go on? When, if ever, do we begin trying to move beyond racially discriminatory policies and endemic racism wherever they exist and simply try to get along with each other as human beings?

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 it's 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.

I guess I've seen enough of exploiting racism. I don't think it's a tactic America needs to engage in even if it benefits us. We're better than that. When I look at decades of intentional government programs aimed at eradicating poverty and fixing racism and I see 70% illegitimacy rates for black children that didn't exist before such programs began, I wonder what the justification for these programs can possibly be? When I look at 40 years of education programs aimed at "fixing" uneven black literacy and educational outcomes and see that these outcomes persist, I have to ask myself, "Is government intervention the solution?"

Or is it the problem?

And when 90% of blacks continue to vote for these programs I have to wonder why they aren't asking these questions too? I have to wonder why they aren't looking at the data and at their own history, at a time when they were far more oppressed and yet their children learned to read and write in schools which weren't federally funded, at a time when there were black businesses even during Jim Crow, and I have to ask myself why they continue to buy into a mantra of government dependency?

Because clearly Black history bespeaks a legacy of industry, thrift, and resiliency in the face of adversity. Unfortunately, this is rarely the history that is taught during Black history month:

"Because they had been led to believe that the Freedmen's Bank was a government institution, they lost a tremendous amount of confidence in the whole federal apparatus in Washington. Even after the memories faded, they turned to the creation of private banks in attempt to 'seek for themselves.'" This ambitious effort turned out to be one of the most constructive phases of black Americans' history.

Butler continues, "The history of this effort-as with the history of banking in America-was filled with triumphs and failures, but it was this banking industry which provided the seed money for business enterprises in the period following the Civil War." Citing Abram Harris's 1936 study of the black banking tradition, Butler claims, "From 1888 to 1934, no less than 134 banks were founded and organized by Afro-Americans. Under this classification are private banks doing a general banking business and banks operating under state or national charters. It does not include credit unions, industrial loan associations, or building and loan societies," of which there were many.

It was this banking tradition that made possible the impressive growth of black businesses in the United States. Between 1867 and 1917, the number of black businesses increased from 4,000 to 50,000. This could not have occurred without the sources of capital provided through banks and similar lending institutions. In 1907, Booker T. Washington wrote, "Nearly every colored community of any size has a building and loan association, and these organizations have been of the very highest value in teaching the people habits of saving and enabling small wage earners to purchase homes. It is said that one-half of the homes owned by colored people in Virginia were built by the aid of building and loan associations."

In William Kenneth Boyd's 1927 study of Durham, North Carolina, he writes, "The increase in wealth, the rise of institutions for public welfare, and the spirit of cooperation have not been confined to one race. The progress of whites has been accompanied by corresponding progress among the Negroes."

As I mentioned the other day, we all want to see our country and our world prosper.

We often disagree as to the best means of making that happen. Respect (or moral legitimacy, for that matter) ought not to depend upon the color of one's skin, but rather upon the moral authority of our arguments and the rightness of our actions. I see nothing wrong with Noel's argument. If his point was that automatically granting more legitimacy to Obama based solely on the color of his skin is a racist attitude, I think he's absolutely correct. Supposedly the point of electing Obama was that his ascension to the Oval Office was a sign that we were finally ready to move beyond such tortured gyrations.

I think we have a long, long way to go.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:49 AM | Comments (35) | TrackBack