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January 31, 2009

Something To Be Proud Of?

What is new about the current relativism, it seems to me, is not that it contends the positioning of boundaries, for such positioning has, I think, always been contentious: It is always possible, after all, to argue that any given boundary contributes more to the misery than to the happiness of man. Rather, the current relativism contests the very need for boundaries itself, or at any rate has the effect, once it filters down from the intelligentsia into the general population, of destroying the appreciation of the need for boundaries. And if no boundaries are needed, then any attempt to impose them is without legitimacy. Only what comes from the self is legitimate.

- Anthony Daniels


I don't find this particularly surprising:

Half of the commercial breaks during NFL telecasts show at least one advertisement featuring sex, drugs or alcohol, according to a study by a nationwide nonprofit group...

...Among its findings:

_ 40 percent of games showed ads for erectile dysfunction drugs.

But at the same time, I have to wonder what is happening to our cultural standards when we continue to erode the boundaries between public and private behavior? A society can tolerate many things (up to and including some harmful behavior) so long as it goes on behind closed doors. When everything must be tolerated in broad daylight right in the middle of Main Street, things become more difficult:

"We don't object that they can advertise their products. It's OK on the Howard Stern show at 2 a.m.," he said. "But here on the West Coast, you sit down with your kids to watch a football game on Sunday at 10 a.m. and ka-boom, they hit you right between the eyes. By 10:07, your 5-year-old is asking what erectile dysfunction means."

Am I the only one who finds this sort of thing creepy?

"Viewers have come to expect our edgy internet-only versions on Super Bowl Sunday and this year's online video really pushes the envelope," said Bob Parsons, GoDaddy's CEO and founder. "In fact, the extended version of 'Baseball' almost makes me blush."

For the first time in five years of Super Bowl advertising, GoDaddy says it received approval for two different ads weeks before the game.

“Baseball” and “Shower” both feature IndyCar driver Danica Patrick. The first has her making fun of the steroid saga, while the other features Patrick showering with another women while three guys manipulate their actions online.

The teaser ads were pre-screened on GoDaddy’s website, and voted on by the public. The winner will be revealed at the start of the game.

But the most shocking, controversial Super Bowl ad that is arguably getting the most exposure without the $3 million price tag, will never actually be aired during the game. PETA's "Veggie Love", which depicts scantily clad woman licking, stroking and nearly having sex with vegetables, was banned by NBC.

When pushing the envelope comes to be viewed as a good thing (and is celebrated by conservatives to boot) I begin to wonder how long it will be before there are no standards at all - until there remains no line which cannot be crossed?


Posted by Cassandra at 07:59 AM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

January 30, 2009

A Village Somewhere Is Missing Its Idiot

*sigh*:

Many US Airways (LCC) passengers who endured a crash landing in the Hudson River 12 days ago say they appreciate the $5,000 that the airline has offered — but some say it's not enough. Joe Hart, a salesman from Charlotte who suffered a bloody nose and bruises, says he "would like to be made whole for the incident."

It's too soon after the accident to determine what emotional distress he has suffered, he says.

Of course, the healing process could be speeded up considerably via the liberal application of cold, hard cash.

Incroyable.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:23 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Press Briefings

White House.gov finally has press briefing transcripts linked from the briefing room.

You have to scroll down to the bottom of the page (lower left corner) to find the link, but they're there.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:29 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 29, 2009

Lecture 1: Liberals vs. Conservatives, The Moral Mind

I'm going to be writing about this later on but I thought it might be more productive to throw it out there for you all to watch now.

Just a brief note about this gentleman. I've been reading his work for some time now. I'm pretty impressed with him. You do have to realize the context here: he's talking to a predominantly liberal audience; he's a liberal, and he's trying to convince them to put aside their preconceived notions about conservatives and "step outside the moral matrix" for a moment. If you're tempted to take offense at any of the jokes he makes about conservatives, I suggest looking at them in that light - he's as much poking fun at liberal close-mindedness (i.e., at their view that we're all rigid, authoritarian, ignorant, snake-handling Jesus freaks - not exactly tolerant or open-minded, is it?) as he is at conservative attitudes.

Anyway, enjoy :) I do think he misses a few things but this is a fairly comprehensive view of the differences between the respective moral foundations of liberals and conservatives and it's worth your consideration.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:32 PM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Can Obama Unilaterally Overrule Acts of Congress?

When a Republican occupied the Oval Office, the answer (insofar as the media and the Democrats were concerned) was an unqualified "no". You'd have thought the idea of three co-equal branches of government operating in tension with each other under the Constitution to be something dreamed up by Karl Rove. Which rather begs the question: if the President lacked that power for the past 8 years, by what "authority" - other than that of not being George Bush - does Obama now order the military to ignore the express will of Congress?

In one of its first actions, the Obama administration instructed military prosecutors to seek 120-day suspensions of legal proceedings in the cases of 21 detainees who have been charged. There are approximately 245 prisoners held at Guantanamo.

The request was quickly granted in other cases when prosecutors told military judges that a suspension was in the "interests of justice" so that the "president and his administration [can] review the military commissions process, generally, and the cases currently pending before military commissions, specifically."

But Judge James Pohl, an Army colonel, said he found the government's reasoning "unpersuasive."

"The Commission is unaware of how conducting an arraignment would preclude any option by the administration," said Pohl in a written opinion, portions of which were read to The Post. "Congress passed the military commissions act, which remains in effect. The Commission is bound by the law as it currently exists, not as it may change in the future."

Nashiri is facing arraignment on Feb. 9, and Pohl said the proceedings would go ahead.

Well now this promises to be entertaining. Wasn't the whole argument that we needed to give these detainees Constitutional rights? And that being so, shouldn't the right to a speedy trial be foremost among those rights? Or are we simply going to hold these detainees for up to four more months without charges while the Obama administration rethinks a matter Congress has already decided?

What to do... what to do? Is this brave dissent patriotic: an expression of the highest duty of any red-blooded American - the obligation to afflict those who stride the halls of power with alternative viewpoints? Or is this obstreperous judge just a dirty, lowdown traitor who should not dare to stand up to the President? Stay tuned for full-blown manifestations of The Kerr Effect.

The good judge's history may make him difficult for the Left to demonize:

In presiding over the 2004 and 2005 courts martial of several U.S. Army guards, Pohl made headlines by declaring the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq a crime scene and forbade its demolition.

At the time, embarrassing snapshots of soldiers abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib had already leaked from an Army criminal investigation -- and politicians were calling for the razing of the prison that had also served as a torture chamber during Saddam Hussein's time.

At Guantanamo, Pohl has shown himself at the war court to be impatient with some prison camp rules that have impacted the court.

In March, he sternly informed prosecutors in the Darbi case that lawyers who defend prisoners before him should have easy access to their clients. He also declined to issue a ruling, sought by prison camp commanders, to order a tackle-and-shackle technique called "Forced Cell Extraction" on occasions when Darbi refused to come to court.

As a result, the Pentagon recently issued a formal instruction to the prison camps to force accused to the war court -- unless a judge rules otherwise.

On Monday, Pohl on several occasions let Darbi stand and argue a point at the defense table, dressed in a white prison-camp uniform. But Pohl reminded the Saudi's Yale law school defense attorney, Ramzi Kassem, that he is permitting the accused to speak at his own peril because anything he said in court could later be used at trial.

Not that they won't try. Sometimes it's just so gosh-durned hard to choose sides in these matters.

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

The IceMan Cometh

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
But after 8 years of failed Republican policies
The Science is screaming at us.
And if we have to perish twice,
I've heard enough of hate.
The road to Copenhagen
Begins with a single step
.

- Jack Frost

Sacre bleu! The Princess sprang from betwixt the marital sheets yesterday morning to find the long driveway leading to her humble abode encased in a solid inch of glistening ice. It had been shoveled clean of snow at 9 pm, but for some odd reason having nothing to do with the utter absence of orange trees in her yard, she preferred sleep to staying up all night with smudge pots lit and snow shovels at the ready.

In the morning, she dutifully donned multiple layers of clothing and trudged outdoors to chip a 2 foot path to the street. The rest of the driveway is still encased in ice today. It never did melt.

Our new President, who chose to send his daughters to an exclusive private school in DC, was quick to chide area residents for our general lack of hardiness in the face of the latest irrefutable evidence of global warming:

A winter storm has socked about half the US the past couple of days, affecting Arkansas, Kentucky, the southern plains, Michigan, New England, etc etc., in an arc from the Deep South to the extreme North.

Al Gore was in D.C. to give an address to Congress today on the dangers of global warming. I mean, climate change. Wait, he actually said “the climate crisis”, which I guess is what you use for cold weather that (A) isn’t warm, that (B) occurs in winter, so it’s not very changey, but (C) does cause some actual crisis, if temporary power outages and icy roads are a “crisis”.

Anyhoo, if we take a string and put one end on D.C., then stretch it to Arkansas, and then move that end in a northerly arc encompassing Michigan to Maine, we can conclusively demonstrate the range of the Gore Effect as a radius of well over one thousand miles. That’s a pretty impressive swath of inconvenience.

You may recall that previous Gore Effects were fairly localized. I posit a tentative theorem that the intensity of the Gore Effect rises exponentially with his size. We’re about fifty triple cheeseburgers from worldwide apocalypse.

It seems We the Little People ought to be more like Chicago... notwithstanding the fact that our climate is completely different and our traffic far worse than Chicago's:

Nonetheless, we really are just a bunch of wussies down here in the South. What we ought to be acting like, is Northerners.

In the President's opinion, a city that rarely experiences heavy snowfall (making taxing the citizenry to keep armies of snowplows and sanding trucks standing by "just in case" somewhat hard to justify) ought to behave more like a city in a climate zone where heavy snow is routine.

There's just one problem with the President's complaint.

DC public schools weren't cancelled for the day. They were on a 2 hour delay to allow school buses more time to navigate icy roads, but they opened. It was tony private schools like Sidwell Friends that didn't open at all, so if the Obama girls were inconvenienced, they were inconvenienced by their parents' decision to send them there, not by public policy.

But it's easy to complain when your children are being driven to school in an armored limo instead of walking to school on icy sidewalks or riding a school bus on unplowed back country roads, isn't it? Fortunately, enlightened folks realize Obama's remarks are nothing like the first George Bush's surprise at the cost of a gallon of milk several years ago (we all know heads of state are constantly hopping in and out of the local Piggly Wiggly for a gallon of 2 percent). Certainly no one should poke fun at them - after all, we can't read anything into completely understandable occurrences like his trying to open a window the other day. Continually digging at him for understandable human mistakes the way the media continually broadcast that photo of George Bush trying to open... what was it? an actual door?... well, that would be childish, wouldn't it?

And we have been asked to put away childish things.

The important lesson to take from all this is that after suffering through 8 years of "stupid", relief is at hand. That's right: the Smart People are finally in charge.

What a relief.

Update - via AirForce Wife: Yikes! Is Obama's carbon footprint bigger than... Bigfoot's?

The capital flew into a bit of a tizzy when, on his first full day in the White House, President Obama was photographed in the Oval Office without his suit jacket. There was, however, a logical explanation: Mr. Obama, who hates the cold, had cranked up the thermostat.

“He’s from Hawaii, O.K.?” said Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, who occupies the small but strategically located office next door to his boss. “He likes it warm. You could grow orchids in there.”

Hmmm.... so much for that 'return to an era of responsibility' stuff:

... to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders, nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

Must be another one of those Executive branch exceptions that shows the rest of us why these rules are so important.

"We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times... and then just expect that other countries are going to say "OK"... That's not leadership. That's not going to happen." - Barack Obama

With Obama continuing to brandish the Egg of Power with such finesse and nuance, how can the world fail to love us?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:35 AM | Comments (46) | TrackBack

January 28, 2009

I Love This Site: Retro Edition

For this week's edition of I Love This Product/Site, the Blog Princess wishes to discuss one of her mad addictions: online shopping. In the course of pursuing this guilty pleasure, she has developed a deep and mutually satisfying relationship with the local UPS guy. The Princess can't be the only woman on Planet Gaia who views malls with a feeling perhaps best described by the term "fear and loathing".

Nothing ruins a perfectly satisfactory Saturday morning faster than having all five senses raped by a non-stop barrage of fussy toddlers strapped to strollers, mothers obliviating on cell phones and rude twits running in the aisles or - worse! - skating out of control on those detestable shoes with the vile little pop-out wheels. Give her a nice, quiet catalog and an Internet connection anytime. She's not too proud to admit that when it comes to malls, she bears absolutely no love for her fellow man.

The subject of today's rant is a site called The Vermont Country Store: a place where one can buy all sorts of neat and practical items not easily found in regular stores. In addition to having amazing categories of things like Brands from the Past
(remember Lamb Chop, Gumby, and Monopoly with the original wooden houses?) They have incredibly practical things like these stainless steel hem clips that allow you to measure a hemline as you pin it up. I am short and always have to hem things up so I don't look like I'm wearing my grandmother's clothing, so this is of the coolest.

Remember Smith Bros. Cherry cough drops? Lemon Up shampoo? Love's Baby Soft cologne (oh Lord... don't get me started). Also they have these ice breaker mats for outdoor steps. I just bought 9.

Enfrente de Villa Cassandranita there is a large stone retaining wall interrupted by a steep series of flagstone steps. When it snows or there is freezing rain they ice up and it is nearly impossible to get them clear without risking chipping the highly attractive flagstone caps on the steps. Last night after shovelling twice, I put cotton bedsheets on the stairs so The Unit wouldn't kill himself coming down them at zero dark thirty the freezing rain wouldn't ice up my steps while I was in the arms of Morpheus. This worked fairly well but the mats would be even better as a solution. I can stack them under my kitchen deck when not in use. I don't see the need to drag frozen sheets around every time we have sleet or freezing rain. There was an inch of ice on my driveway this morning and de-icer just doesn't cut it out here.

Also, I adore classic toys. Back to Basic Toys has really nice ones to spend the Unit's hard earned money on. Now that my grandson is getting old enough to play, I'm looking for quality toys to buy him. I've been remembering the toys we had for my boys when they were small.

One great toy my parents got them was called Omagles. Best. Toy. Ever. We built everything with this construction set - carts, forts, even (once) a makeshift stall to throw water balloons at The Unit for my youngest boy's birthday party. There is nothing funnier than watching a gaggle of kindergarten-age boys lining up to throw water balloons at a United States' Marine who is egging them on. They were so delighted (and scared) I thought they'd wet their pants.

omagle_car.jpg

Well, that's it for this week. Sorry. Kind of busy today with work.

Rats! I meant to ask: what were some of your favorite toys growing up? (or favorite toys you bought your kids?)

Posted by Cassandra at 07:36 AM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

January 27, 2009

Who Should Replace Kristol at the NY Times?

Michael Calderone asks an excellent question:

With William Kristol gone from the New York Times op-ed page, that leaves David Brooks -- a fan of talking philosophy with Obama -- as the lone conservative regularly on the page. Since September 2003, when Brooks joined the op-ed page, there has typically been another conservative or libertarian columnist at the Times, such as William Safire or John Tierney.

Editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal wouldn’t comment to Politico—or his own paper—as to whether he’ll add another conservative voice to the stable of Dowd, Rich, and Krugman.

But that won't stop the speculation. Here are few possibilities:

1) David Frum: A former Bush speechwriter, Frum left his contributing editor post at the National Review to found a site devoted to the future of the GOP, NewMajority.com. Perhaps, that could be more attractive for the Times than a conservative writer recycling the same old debates. Bonus Zabar's points: The New Yorker's George Packer thinks he'd be best for the job.

2, 3) Byron York and Megan McArdle: During a talk at Columbia University, Rosenthal mentioned that he admired the work of the National Review’s Byron York and The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle. “Wooing Megan?” asked colleague Andrew Sullivan earlier. Politically, they’re quite different, with York the conservative, and the latter more on the libertarian side. However, both already make the rounds on BloggingHeadsTV, which is now on NYTimes.com.

4) Ross Douthat: While hovering around 30, The Atlantic’s Douthat might seem a bit young to be under consideration for the Times. But his rise on the right has been impressive: Douthat’s the author of “Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class” and co-author of the Brooks-touted “Grand New Party.” Of course, he's willing to trash Harvard, while also writing pro-life columns. No telling how that would go over on the Upper West Side.

5) Peggy Noonan: There probably wasn't a columnist more praised during the 2008 campaign than the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan—Brian Williams is a big fan. Not to mention, she might already share feelings about Sarah Palin with your average Dowd reader.

Dark horse) Rush Limbaugh: Yes, it’s unlikely. But NextRight’s Patrick Ruffini floated the idea earlier on Twitter, and it led to a discussion on Culture11. “We need a heartland conservative who will shock the elite's sensibilities,” Ruffini wrote. Is he saying that Brooks isn't shocking elite sensibilities?

If I may put a slight twist on Michael's question, given that whoever the Times chooses could arguably be viewed as the lone ambassador for conservatism on the pages of the Times (I don't think anyone can credibly argue that David Brooks, though he writes an interesting and often thought-provoking column, does anything to advance conservative ideas), who do you think would do the best job of explaining and defending conservatism to an audience ill-inclined to be receptive to anything that contradicts their world view?

I take for granted here that there are two goals here:

1. Introduce a credible and persuasive conservative voice to progressive readers of the Times who (if the comments section of any offering which dares to contradict the conventional wisdom are any indication) are not only unreceptive to any argument from a conservative but in many cases actively hostile to such offerings.

2. Build a real following amongst Times readers, even if they aren't completely convinced by the arguments presented, because the quality of those arguments compels them to rethink reflexively held positions.

Recently, John Hawkins posted his 2009 Conservative Blogger Awards. Embedded in the awards was a response for pundits which may be helpful in formulating your answers. I love John's lists and polls and have since 2004: they're one of the best things he does.

So, who do you think is the best candidate to replace Kristol, and why?

Here's my take on the possibilities Michael put forward, and my tentative picks:

1) David Frum: I've never been that fond of David Frum as a columnist. Not sure what he brings to the table.

2)Byron York:

Byron is easily one of the best conservative columnists around. His writing is concise and well researched and he knows how to construct an argument. He might need to throttle his technique back a bit to appeal to Times readers' justly famed 'flexible urban viewpoint' but if he can manage to make his arguments in a slightly more New Age Sensitive Male way, he'd be a first rate choice.

3)Megan McArdle: Haven't seen full length columns by Megan; only her blogging. She can write. Her thinking is generally fairly sound.

She's not going to be an ambassador for conservatism, however.

4) Ross Douthat:

Douthat is an impressive fellow. Only recently became aware of him and I like what I've seen. Smart, credible, not a rabid idealogue but understands the difference between being able to see shades of gray and jettisoning his moral compass.

I think he'd be a fine choice and what's more I think Times readers would like him - and listen to him.

5) Peggy Noonan:

Peggy is the conservative's Susan Collins without the cheap snark. She writes beautifully.

I'm not sure she does much, if anything, to advance conservative ideas. Her columns tend to be a pastiche of semi-random musings all too often colored by her emotional reaction to events of the day although there's definitely a mind and plenty of sharp insight there, too. That's fine for the op-ed pages of the WSJ, where she's among friends. On the rough and tumble pages of the Times, I don't see her doing us any good. Too David Brooksian.

I bet this is who they pick.

6. Rush Limbaugh: Two words: too polarizing. His persona and the dislike he engenders would overwhelm any argument he might make. It would always be about Rush, not the ideas.

A few choices not mentioned:

1. Daniel Henninger. Sober, thoughtful, principled without being overly partisan, Mr. Henninger was my first choice for 'favorite columnist who's not a blogger' in the Right Wing News poll.

2. Thomas Sowell would be a particularly shrewd choice because quite frankly, he's black and he's so brilliant that once he begins writing, at least some Times readers will begin to wonder why they've never heard of him. And so they should.

3. Walter Williams: another thoughtful and credible columnist. Like Sowell, he has a wonderful way of turning issues on their heads and making people see them in a different light.

4. Debra Saunders: solid reasoning, good persuasion skills.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:43 AM | Comments (47) | TrackBack

It's Not Just A Job - It's An Adventure

Posted by Cassandra at 07:31 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

January 26, 2009

Fish. Barrel. No Bullets Needed.

*sigh*

What I know, too, is that more than one Joe or Josephine here are more than willing to jump to conclusions, and then -- when pressed -- to go on to foolishly deny that there's been any leaping at all. Leapin' Lizards, indeed!

Truer words... :p And then M. Lizard, having pointed out the danger of leaping to conclusions, goes on to do just that:

... you would have had such unfortunates to have no voice whatsoever. I don't think I've ever seen you write a kind word about the lawyers for those who have been imprisoned in Guantanamo for so long -- and lord knows, many, so very many, have been imprisoned wrongly, and unconscionably, and to the everlasting shame of the United States.

But wait! There's more unfounded lizard-leaping where this came from!

You want so feverently to dislike Obama that I am sure that you will not be disappointed.

...Perhaps I misjudge you, but I suspect you'd just as soon have [the detainees] locked [up] forever, no matter the proof or non-proof against them.


So predictable...

Predictably wrong, that is:

There are many kinds of courage.

In a man's world, conquest is the crucible in which he is measured and found worthy; the road to Valhalla. Small boys eagerly gobble up tales of heroes performing feats of daring against mighty foes. Young men dream of glory, imagining themselves in countless confrontations against dastardly and despicable enemies. But in the end, virtue and valour win the day.

In such childish imaginings the lines between good and evil are drawn with brilliant clarity, each limned with its own blinding corona. It is impossible to mistake one for the other. If only real life were that simple

Wow. That's pretty harsh. But then what do you expect from a neo-con?

All of the foregoing must sound as though I disapprove of Colonel Couch's decision. I do not. I disagree vehemently, unless there is information missing from the WSJ article, with his assessment of the situation. Absent the coercion applied to Mr. Slahi to produce the list of al Qaeda names, there was no real prosecution case for the government to "ruin". Slahi had been in custody for quite some time and had never talked. He was unlikely to talk. He had almost certainly been trained to resist such mild measures as Col. Couch would approve. So it seems almost certain that, absent some kind of coercion, there would never be any case against Mohamedou Ould Slahi.

His only value was as a source of intelligence against al Qaeda.

Colonel Couch was faced with two courses of action. He could view his role as merely that of a prosecutor faced with a legal and moral decision in the instant case, or he could try to take on all the larger societal questions of whether Shahi needed to be punished and try to take the law into his own hands. Faced with two equally unpalatable courses of action: take the narrow view and risk letting a guilty man go unpunished, or take the large view and see justice done but compromise his own morals and that of his country, Couch took the more humble stance. He declined to be responsible for matters above his pay grade and did his job as he thought best. And he let the chips fall where they would. It is notable that there were no recriminations, though one doubts his career will go far.

Few of us in his place could do other than he did and still sleep at night. Laws themselves, no matter how well written, cannot guarantee against tyranny and it is foolish to try to build rigid fail safes into them, for that only brings about the opposite dangers from the ones we hoped to avoid. At best, good laws balance the twin dangers of an overbearing government and the venality of our fellow men. But in the end, justice relies on the honor of good men.

Yikes. What was I thinking?

The irony in this case is that the courage of a good man did not defeat the foe. So much for boyhood dreams. That is where we have failed men like Stuart Couch, because we send them out to fight monsters without a sword or a suit of armor and then wonder why they cannot protect us?

Posted by Cassandra at 05:58 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Coffee Snorters: Savor the Irony Edition

Via Casey at the Castle, Plaxico Burress with a public service announcement about gun safety:

So much for the Obama team's promise to end extraordinary rendition:

"What the president put forth was very wise. He said he's going to close Guantanamo, take the time to do it. You can't just go down there today and say, 'Everybody out,' and lock the door. They're going to review the cases, narrow it down and then go from there. ... It's brilliant," she said on ABC's "This Week."

Vice President Biden, speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation," said the prison must be closed because the symbolism of Guantanamo around the world has resulted in the growth of terrorist organizations, not their reduction.

"There's no question it has to be closed. And we don't think it's inconsistent to deal with our national security and our Constitution. ... That's why we have the White House counsel -- Mr. Craig is now going through this meticulously, deciding what we're going to do with each and every prisoner," he said.

Biden added that if the detainees went through the civilian court system and were somehow released, they still would not be sent out into the United States because all but one is an American citizen [Ed. note: huh???]

"If they are not a U.S. citizen or if they are not here legally, then, even if they were released by a federal judge, they would not be able to stay here in the United States. They would be sent back to their country of origin. They would not stay here," Biden said.

"They have no legal status to stay here, I don't anticipate that happening. What I anticipate happening is that those people who are in a situation where it is either the evidence is in question or it's going to be hard to make a case, we will most likely be rendering them back to their countries of origin or another country," he continued, adding that some countries have already agreed to establish prison facilities for the detainees.

So apparently, "change we can believe in" entails a return to pre-9/11 mentality on rendition?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:25 AM | Comments (46) | TrackBack

Photo of the Day

kitti.jpg

Military working dog, Kitti, awaits her root canal at the feet of her handler, Senior Airman Adam Belward, 882nd Security Forces Squadron, at an air base in Southwest Asia.

Via MaryAnn

Posted by Cassandra at 07:15 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

January 25, 2009

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

President Loophole? Obama's personal brand of American Exceptionalism (in which every rule contains a handy exception - for him) is starting to make that look like a good moniker:

Publicly at least, President Obama has made a clean break with his predecessor's controversial counterterrorism policies, but in private the new administration is leaving itself some wiggle room. A day before Obama signed executive orders closing Guantánamo Bay and banning torture, the White House's top lawyer privately indicated to Congress that the new president reserved the right to ignore his own (and any other president's) executive orders. In a closed-door appearance before the Senate intelligence committee, White House counsel Gregory Craig was asked whether the president was required by law to follow executive orders. According to people familiar with his remarks, who asked for anonymity when discussing a private meeting, Craig answered that the administration did not believe he was. The implication: in a national-security crisis, Obama could deviate from his own rules. A White House official said that Craig's remarks were being "mischaracterized."

Oh, the humanity! But with graduates of the Gitmo School of Method Acting popping up like Whack-a-Moles lately, having a few loopholes around may come in handy:

On the video, al-Shihri is seen sitting with three other men before a flag of the Islamic State of Iraq, the front for Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

"By Allah, imprisonment only increased our persistence in our principles for which we went out, did jihad for, and were imprisoned for," al-Shihri was quoted as saying.

Al-Shiri was transferred from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia in 2007, the US counter-terrorism official said.

The other men in the video are identified as Commander Abu Baseer al-Wahayshi and Abu Hureira Qasm al-Rimi (also known as Abu Hureira al-Sana'ani).

The Defense Department has said as many as 61 former Guantanamo detainees -- about 11 percent of 520 detainees transferred from the detention center and released -- are believed to have returned to the fight.

The latest case highlights the risk the new US administration faces as it moves to empty Guantanamo of its remaining 245 prisoners and close the controversial detention camp within a year.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:56 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

January 24, 2009

Revenge Is a Dish...

...best served up by The Blog Princess:

bwa_ha_ha_ha.jpg

Alert readers will note that unlike some people, the Princess took care to select a flattering photo since she has never met a male of the species who didn't possess an ego bigger than the national debt. At any rate, this is fun.

billT.jpg


Mwah!!! :) You guys look fabulous!

Update: Die, Infidels!!!!


die_infidels.jpg

Posted by Cassandra at 10:25 AM | Comments (45) | TrackBack

January 22, 2009

Bwa ha ha ha!!!

I am sorry but this is too funny:


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Couldn't resist:

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Transparent hat if you want to try yourself:

I turned myself into a casshat earlier, but since the Obama administration is closing the books on torture, you'll just have to use your imaginations.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:10 AM | Comments (42) | TrackBack

An Historical Perspective on Presidential Approval and Transfer of Power

Back in 2007, I examined presidential approval ratings during the latter half of the 20th Century to try and gain some historical perspective on the presidency of George W. Bush: a small matter which has been notably lacking in the so-called news analysis we are bombarded with on a daily basis. This constant barrage of fact-free punditry under the guise of news doesn't just distort the facts.

It actively erodes confidence and trust in our public institutions. As I noted back in 2007, we are awash in a carefully cultivated culture of contempt:

...the Bush presidency is awash in a sea of gloomy imagery. Each new day brings a new miserable failure alert: time is running out, the tide has turned, an increasingly embattled president at odds with an ever more impatient nation stubbornly refuses to admit defeat. Instead of the burning bush of prophecy we are given, inexplicably, a rapidly sinking Bush.

Of course with the benefit of hindsight, we now know the Surge was a success and defeat in Iraq was not a foregone conclusion. If we cannot yet claim complete victory, it is equally certain that the merchants of despair were utterly wrong as well. But what of the presidency of George Bush?

How should we evaluate it? The media, once again, would have us do so free of the historical context which lends perspective and understanding to otherwise isolated numbers on charts. Via The Armorer, the Editorial Staff notes the WSJ has resurrected the presidential approval ratings chart we used back in 2007 for our original analysis. He comments:

Being a war President doesn't do you very well, unless you are assasinated at the very beginning. Ending wars helps, though. Being generally upbeat and positive helps, too, looking at Eisenhower, Reagan and Clinton. In fact, being genial, generally upbeat, and not having to fight actual hot wars (or ending one, as in Korea) makes up for a lot of sins.

The Editorial Staff tend to agree, though we think it's a bit more complicated than that. We observed in 2007:

there appear to be two striking patterns or models of presidential approval: the two-term expanding peacetime model (Reagan/Clinton in rectangles) and the wartime onset model (Truman, Bush I, Bush II). The first, and Ford and Eisenhower may arguably fall into this category, is characterized by roughly equal or greater than equal increasing over declining approval ratings.

The wartime onset model (and I leave Johnson out because he inherited a war, and thus never experienced that giddy 'surge' in popularity experienced by Presidents who arrogantly rush the nation to war without the prior approval of France and Germany) is characterized by a wild upswing in approval at the onset of military operations, followed by a sharp and unrelenting decline in popular approval.

The third interesting observation is that the tenures of the wartime presidents (Truman, Johnson, Bush I, Bush II) were all characterized by "extremes" of opinion: they swung from highs unattained by peacetime presidents (over the high 70s) to lows never experienced by those who never led the nation during time of war.** It would be interesting to see what Kennedy's track record would have looked like, had he not been assassinated.

But another interesting glimpse into the erosion of presidential power was offered, presciently, during the Clinton administration:

During the past decade of post-Cold War drift, American foreign policy has been assailed by two camps of critics. The first makes ad hominem attacks: America's diplomatic failings reflect a lack of leadership from Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, or congressional Republicans. The second camp is cultural and holds that America is either too isolationist to pursue international goals in a sustained way or too riven by multiculturalism to manage a foreign policy consensus. Both camps miss the point. The central problem of American foreign policy is neither personal nor cultural; it is institutional. Executive power, checked and balanced since the early days of the republic, has been eroded dangerously, to the point where even a skilled president would be hard-pressed to push treaties through the Senate. Indeed, the decline of executive power has proceeded so far that the modern president is more nonexecutive chairperson than CEO -- even though the uncertainties of the post-Cold War world make an agenda-setting chief executive as necessary as ever.

The erosion of presidential power started with changes in the nature of the bully pulpit. After Theodore Roosevelt popularized this phrase at the turn of the last century, technological advance steadily increased the president's power to win popular backing: radio allowed F.D.R. to deliver his fireside chats; network TV let J.F.K. charm the nation. And cheap air transport gave presidents a way to appear before hitherto inaccessible audiences. Between 1945 and 1975, the number of presidential speeches increased nearly fivefold. Moreover, the power of these speeches was enhanced by another technological advance: in 1952 Eisenhower's campaign managers broke new ground when they began using polls to determine which issues most concerned Americans.

Since the 1980s, however, this process has flipped into reverse: technological advances now undermine the bully pulpit rather than amplify it. The rise of cable TV has changed television from a presidential megaphone into a presidential scourge. The three big networks -- ABC, CBS, and NBC -- which once carried all presidential press conferences live, and which reported respectfully on initiatives emanating from the White House, have been displaced by new cable channels that compete for viewers by eschewing such deference. Rather than televise the president, these cable channels churn out irreverent talk shows. The bully pulpit has been drowned out by bullying pundits

.

We decided to revisit the WSJ's presidential approval ratings analysis, but this time with a slight twist. The results appear below:

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This time, the presidents are divided into "peacetime" and "wartime" bins. The only president left out is Richard Nixon. He is an odd hybrid - as the only president to be impeached and resign from office, his approval ratings arguably depart from the normal pattern expected of either a wartime or peacetime president. [Ed. note: thanks to twolaneflash for correcting my sloppy terminology. Nixon resigned after the House Judiciary Committee approved 3 articles of impeachment against him and it became apparent the votes were present to secure a vote for his subsequent impeachment:]

On Friday, August 9, Nixon resigned the presidency and avoided the likely prospect of losing the impeachment vote in the full House and a subsequent trial in the Senate. He thus became the only U.S. President ever to resign. Vice President Gerald R. Ford succeeded him and a month later granted Nixon a full pardon for any crimes he might have committed while President.

Another anomaly: Carter is placed in with the peacetime presidents because we were never formally at war during his tenure; but arguably he could just as well have been placed with the wartime presidents as America suffered terrorist attacks abroad during his term of office that not only fit the textbook definition of acts of war, but severely eroded his popularity (and the public's patience). In many ways the hostage crisis in Iran and Carter's response to it may well have set the stage for our presesnt war on terror. Notably, the shape of his approval ratings over time is markedly similar to that of the wartime presidents. The Iranian hostage crisis lasted longer than the Gulf War:

Jimmy Carter spent his last minutes in office trying to end the 444-day Iran hostage crisis that many say cost him the presidency. He even took a telephone with him to Ronald Reagan's swearing in and was engaged in last-minute talks as the two drove up to the Capitol.

But it was the newly inaugurated President Reagan who made the announcement that afternoon - that the 52 American hostages had been released from Tehran and were coming home.

So the next time you hear W's final approval ratings being cited as evidence that he is the worst president ever, you have some basis for evaluating that claim. As the graph clearly shows, war has exacted a heavy toll on the popularity of every president who has served this nation during a military conflict. As someone who works with metrics and statistics on a daily basis, one of the first things I seek to do is avoid "apples to oranges" comparisons.

In evaluating the approval ratings of George W. Bush, it makes sense to use a relevant sample for comparison: other presidents who have served the nation during military conflicts.

Another meme popular among frustrated conservatives is that Bush is responsible for our defeat in 2008 and the resulting disarray of the Rethuglican party. Not to put too fine a point on it, but an objective examination of the historical record provides no evidence to support the notion that a third term of Republican leadership in the Oval Office was George Bush's to lose:

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Click for bigger

A few notes on this graph:

1. The data is comprised of the term lengths of the 20th century presidents, separated out by party (red for Republicans, blue for Democrats). They are in chronological order.

2. The graph is separated into two halves: pre- and post-1950.

This was done for several reasons. First, the latter half of the century is more relevant to today's voters, since few of us recall voting in elections before 1950, much less the political climate back then. There have been a few changes with the times.

Secondly, the rise of TV and mass communications accelerated greatly after 1950.

3. On both halves of the graph (pre- and post-1950) any uninterrupted stretch where one party occupied the Oval Office for MORE than two terms is noted.

The salient observation? Prior to 1950, extended one-party rule was more the norm than the exception.

Since 1950, extended one-party rule has been the exception rather than the norm. In fact, it has happened only once.

But by all means, let us blame Bush for our defeat in 2008. It is always so much easier than looking at facts that inconveniently undermine what we'd like to believe, especially when this involves that rather startling notion that we live under a two party system in which - oddly enough - the party not in power tends to feel bitter, cheated, aggrieved, disaffected and angry.

Hmmm... now how can we make that work to our advantage? :p


Posted by Cassandra at 07:15 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

January 21, 2009

Raise Your Banana And Repeat After Me....

bob.jpgOooh, snap! You didn't think the Conservative Bloggers Who Support the Gay Judge Roberts would take the recent dissing of Our Adorably Gay Chief Justice lying down, did you?

After all, did we not stand firmly behind the Big, Hairy Heartthrob of Originalism just as *soon* as his ... err... proclivities manifested themselves???

It's been a long, hard road, hasn't it? Our boy has been neglected, rejected, and disrespected by a bunch of panty-waist Senators who aren't fit to straighten the seams on his silky Hanes ultrasheers.

What's a girl to do? The path to greatness is strewn with the envy of lesser men... and we all know what kind of envy we're talking about, don't we? But even when the going got tough, the Conservative Bloggers Who Support the Gay Judge Roberts held firm.

Because you know we came out for Roberts early. When some folks thought he showed a tad bit too much interest in the Presidential China pattern, we didn’t bat an eyelash.

Of course, that gay 4 year-old of his was another matter entirely. Our tolerant enlightenment only stretches so far, you know:

The Roberts kids are no strangers to controversy. Jack Roberts, a confirmed bachelor who enjoys dancing and thinks girls are "yucky", has the I.Q. of a four year-old boy and a rap sheet a mile long. In 2003, Jack was reprimanded by a superior court judge for vandalizing the walls of a private residence with Crayola crayons. Last summer, he stole several indigenous amphibians from a natural wetland, a crime against nature for which he has yet to be held accountable. His childlike demeanor and bizarre behavior have frustrated reporters for weeks. When pressed for details on his father's opinions concerning Roe V. Wade, it's not unusual for Jack to burst into giggles and spin around in circles until he falls down.

If Jack Roberts seems to revel in media attention, then his sister, Jane, shuns it. Living a life shrouded in mystery, Jane was rumored to be dating Tom Cruise - but it's widely suspected that the girl with the pageboy haircut "plays for the other team", if you know what I mean. While John Edwards has yet to officially acknowledge her as a lesbian, Jane is rarely seen without another woman at her side. Her dowdy style of dress and lack of frequent abortions have raised more than a few eyebrows. And like brother Jack, her mental instability is a thing of record. Prone to sudden emotional outburts and crying fits over trivialities, Jane is often seen talking to small plastic replicas of human babies, and her addiction to paste has been the talk of the tabloids for years.

Yep. Lotta collateral damage out there on Capitol Hill these days. Casualties of war, my friends.

Casualties of war. That is why The CBWSTGJR stand ready to man the ramparts (Lord almighty, we hope we never get that backwards) of decency against an ever mounting tide of... of...

Well, you get the idea.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:51 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

I Thought We Were Better Than This

Is this going to be our default response for the next four years?

You did it to us. Now we're going to do it to you?

Hey, is this mean? Here's my response to that: Go f*** yourself sideways with a hot brick from a pizza oven.

First Lady Bush -- and her daughters -- were savaged, as was Sarah Palin.

Michelle Obama is not a good-looking woman, unless you like them "fierce" in the literal, rather than gay-fashion-lingo, sense. Last time I saw a mouth like that it had a hook in it was in Predator.

I don't want to be bitchy, but Michelle Obama looks like she just got a full-body bukake from 30 horny couches.

She looks like she just got raped by the cast of Joseph and the Amazing Monocolor Dreamcoat.

I'm not saying she's bulky, but is she wearing a coat, or is that the jibsail from a gay pirate ship?

I don't want to say she looks immense in that gold circus-costume, but Auric Goldfinger just had a stroke-inducing orgasm.

Oops, he had another one. And another one. Once is happenstance; twice is coincidence; the third time it's a fashion nightmare.

Chewbacca just called. He wants his wife's housecoat back.

Conservatives complained when liberals went after Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter, the Bush twins and the former First Lady. We rightly noted the families of politicians are not proper targets for vicious personal attacks.

I didn't condone that kind of behavior when it came from my political opponents and I have even less tolerance for it when it comes from conservatives. It represents a betrayal of everything I personally believe in and everything I thought conservatives stood for. We have said these things are wrong.

We have said that we believe there is such a thing as right and wrong. We have pointed out the hypocrisy in condemning actions in your opponents but condoning those same acts when they benefit your side.

Have we abandoned these principles? Do we even have any principles anymore?

And most importantly, do we possess the courage to stand up for the values we profess to believe in, even if it makes us unpopular or isn't expedient? I wonder.

If you have any doubts whatsoever about this, all you need do is imagine the look on one of the Obama girls' faces as they are confronted with the term 'bukake' or 'raped' in conjunction with their mother. They don't even need to read it themselves. Children are cruel - someone might easily tell them about it just as someone told me about this post.

Was this really necessary? Standards. They are supposed to apply to both sides.

If we've lost our integrity, we really have lost it all.


Posted by Cassandra at 08:11 AM | Comments (47) | TrackBack

Finally Putting Aside Childish Things...

...the clown parade continues apace:

There is simply no excuse for United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts bungling the presidential oath of office to such an extent that Barack Obama might need to do it again, at least in private, to ensure the legality of his inauguration.

Roberts should be impeached and removed from office for this unforgivable error.

I suppose I should not be surprised. One of the Democrats I watched the Inauguration with thought he did it on purpose. She went on at great length about it. I just let it go. What else could I do when faced with the truthiness?

Conservatives are that way, you know. People who think like that like to humiliate ourselves on national TV for no apparent reason. Sheer malice, perhaps?

They're not really human, you know.

At any rate after 8 long years, the adults are finally in charge again and we can finally put away the childish, divisive politics of the past. With this new wind of unity and cooperation sweeping across the land, it's becoming clearer than ever that all of our problems were caused by those vicious, vengeful Republicans.

Is "misfeasance" even a word? :p

Posted by Cassandra at 06:36 AM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

January 20, 2009

It Is Done

Now that my mind has somewhat recovered from all the soaring rhetoric about how there are no trade-offs to be made between our highest ideals and our security (get back to me in 18 months on that one, Barack) and how America is once again the friend of every nation, I can finally sit back with my third double Kahlua on the rocks and reflect on why W was a divider instead of a non-divisive uniter like Barack Obama.

Healing rhetoric like this:

"We ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right."

'Tis like the proverbial balm of Gilead, no? Nothing like a few strokes of those marvelously restorative racial stereotypes to sound just the right notes at a presidential inauguration. Brings folks right together.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Those old hatreds aren't going to pass any time soon if folks can't seem to grasp the simple fact that constantly nursing old grievances doesn't encourage them to heal.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:12 PM | Comments (31) | TrackBack

January 16, 2009

Rear View Window Caption Contest

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Sorry guys. Today I don't have any words.

Maybe it is a day to lighten up a bit. I will miss you, sir.

Fair winds and following seas.

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

By All Means... Let's Not Close the Book On Torture

Of course, that means we'd have to go after Al Gore and Bill Clinton for their crimes against humanity:

In 1995, the U.S. orchestrated the capture of Gama`a leader Tal`at Fu'ad Qassim, also known as Abu Talal al-Qasimi. At the time of his abduction, Qassim was living in exile in Denmark, where he had been granted political asylum. Qassim was thirty-eight at the time of his abduction in Croatia in September 1995; he had been traveling to Bosnia to write about the conflict there. The Croatian foreign ministry told his wife, Amani Faruq, that Qassim had been expelled for violating Croatian residency laws.[62]

Richard Clarke has written that the decision by the U.S. government to take Tal`at Fu'ad Qassim into custody in 1995 was stirred by a recognition within the Clinton administration of the seriousness of the threat posed by international terrorism. Clarke refers to Qassim's capture as a "disappearance."[63] Clarke also states that, unbeknownst to the U.S. government at the time, Qassim and other foreign Muslims fighting in Bosnia were part of al-Qaeda.[64]

Before his forced transfer to Egypt, Qassim was allegedly questioned aboard a U.S. navy vessel and the handover to Egypt took place in the middle of the Adriatic Sea.[65] Qassim's case is the first known rendition by the U.S. government to a third country with a record of torture.

The Qassim case marked a first of sorts for the Egyptian government as well. Its handling of the Qassim case complete disappearance, refusing to allow any access to the individual, either by his family or his lawyers would be repeated many times in the years to come. After his return, the Egyptian government refused to answer questions about his whereabouts, and denied his attorney, Muntassir al-Zayyat, access to him:

I didn't seem him. I don't think that anyone managed to see him, except for security of course. And those who carried out the execution...We heard about [his abduction] as soon as he was kidnapped. But we didn't know where he was.[66]
In what would become standard procedure for renditions to Egypt, the Egyptian government also refused to release any information on Qassim's case:
Yes, we did present an official request. We also presented a request to the prosecutor and the ministry of interior. We asked for information about his arrest, and we asked for access, but as usual we didn't receive any reply.[67]
Because Qassim had already been tried and convicted in absentia by a military tribunal in 1992, he was not retried after his return to Egypt. Instead, the death sentence that he received after that trial was apparently carried out. He is believed to have been executed by the Egyptian government.[68]

After word of his death in custody leaked out, the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights asked the Egyptian government to at least confirm his death. According to Hafez Abu Saeda, the secretary-general of EOHR:

We asked the government to tell us what happened, to answer whether or not he had been tortured to death. We had received information that he had died in custody. They never responded.[69]

Much better than Guantanamo Bay.

In July 1998, Albanian and U.S. agents made their move. In all, five alleged militants were captured, and one was killed in a shoot-out with Albanian security. The four captured militants, Ahmad Ibrahim al-Sayyid al-Naggar, Shawqi Salama Mustafa, Muhammad Hassan Mahmud Tita, and Ahmad Isma`il `Uthman, were questioned by U.S. agents and then handed over to Egypt's SSI.[72] In the same month, the CIA reportedly also rendered a fifth suspect, `Issam `Abd al-Tawab `Abd al-Alim, from the Bulgarian capital Sofia to Cairo.[73] Two of the rendered suspects, `Uthman and al-Naggar, had previously been sentenced to death in absentia by Egyptian military tribunals in March 1994 and October 1997 respectively.

Once the five men were returned to Egypt, they were all kept incommunicado, away from other Islamists then being tried. "These guys [the returnees from Albania] were kept in villas, the 'ghost' villas, we called them," said Zayyat.[74] All were held for an extended period in incommunicado detention before the trial, without access to their attorneys or to family members. "We saw them at trial," said EOHR's Hafez Abu Saeda, who defended some of the returnees. "We were not allowed to see them before that."[75]

The trial, featuring 107 defendants, sixty of whom were tried in absentia, began on February 2, 1999.In court, the five returnees showed no visible signs of torture or ill-treatment. Despite the lack of physical marks on the men once they arrived in court, their defense lawyers insisted that they had been abused. "They told us in court that they had been tortured and that their statements were coerced. But the court did nothing about this," Abu Saeda said.[76] Muntassir al-Zayyat, who also worked on the case, said that his client, Ahmad Ibrahim al-Sayyid al-Naggar, "told me that he was tortured inside one of these villas."[77]

Some of the returnees owed their very appearance in court to the discovery that they were being held in villas outside Cairo. According to al-Zayyat:

Al-Naggar was in that villa for nine months, [even] while the case was going on. Then the news leaked that he was here, and some of the other defendants bumped into him at the State Security Bureau.[78]
All five of the Albania returnees were tortured, according to the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights. Al-Naggar was blindfolded for much of his detention period. At one point during his detention, SSI officials locked him in a room with dirty water up to his knees for twenty-four hours. During his stay in SSI headquarters in Lazughli Square, al-Naggar was tortured during interrogation. His hands were tied behind his back and his feet were shackled as security agents applied electric shocks to different parts of his body. Al-Naggar told his lawyers that his confessions were torture-induced.[79] The court did not order an investigation into the allegations of torture, and sentenced al-Naggar to twenty-five years in prison.

Ahmad Isma`il `Uthman was returned from Albania a month later than the others, on August 13, 1998. According to the EOHR, during two months in incommunicado detention, he was both beaten and subjected to electroshock during interrogation by SSI agents.[80]

`Uthman and al-Naggar were executed on the morning of February 23, 2000, on the basis of their earlier convictions and death sentences by military tribunals in 1994 and 1997.[81]

The London-based Islamic Observation Center, an organization that tracks the treatment of suspected Islamist militants, reported that Shawqi Salama Mustafa was held for several weeks in a room filled with water up to his knees, and he was also subjected to electroshock during interrogation. His interrogators tied his legs together and suspended him from the ceiling several times, and also dragged him from room to room with his face to the floor. The security forces also threatened to rape him during interrogation. Mustafa received a twenty-five year sentence.[82]

`Issam `Abd al-Tawab `Abd al-Alim was held incommunicado from July 13 to September 12, 1998. During his sixty-day detention, `Abd al-Alim was allegedly beaten by his interrogators during questioning. He received a fifteen-year sentence.[83]

Muhammad Hassan Mahmud Tita spent just under two months in incommunicado detention, and finally appeared before the Prosecutor General in mid-September. He told both the prosecutor and his lawyer that he was subjected to electroshock on several parts of his body while being hung from the ceiling. Tita was sentenced to ten years in prison.[84]

In all, 80 of the 107 were convicted, and nine were sentenced to death in absentia. Among those handed death sentences in absentia were Ayman al-Zawahri, his brother Muhammad, and `Abd al-`Aziz Musa Dawud al-Gamal, who was among those transferred from Yemen in 2004 as part of the Egyptian-Yemeni swap for former Yemeni Brigadier General Ahmad Salim `Ubaid.

Yes, compared to the Egyptian system, our military tribunals have been a farce. George Bush can't even seem to produce a conviction or a trial-in-absentia, let alone a decent execution. This is clearly no way to run a kangaroo court.

The first news that Muhammad might be alive came on February 28, 2004, five years after his forced transfer to Egypt, when the London-based daily al-Sharq al-Awsat broke the story that he was still alive and being held in the Tora prison complex. The report was accompanied by a recent photograph of Muhammad.[96]

The Egyptian Minister of Interior, Habib al-`Adli, confirmed the news in a press conference on March 4, 2004. Minister al-`Adli also announced at the conference that Muhammad would be retried in front of a military tribunal.[97]

After the government acknowledged that Muhammad al-Zawahiri was in custody, it allowed members of his family to visit him in detention. The first visit took place on March 18, after repeated requests by Muhammad's family.

During these visits his family learned that Muhammad had been tortured. Mahfuz `Azzam told Human Rights Watch that Muhammad's sister, Heba, a doctor by training, noticed that Muhammad had trouble shaking hands. Heba also saw scars on his wrists, and noted that his feet were swollen. She concluded that the marks were a result of being hung from the ceiling by his wrists.

Although Muhammad could not speak freely in front of the prison guards who monitored all of his visits with his family, he asked his mother to make a formal request to the Prosecutor General for a forensics exam. He wanted one to be done as soon as possible, before the marks on his body disappeared. His mother presented the formal request to the government on August 4, 2004; the family has yet to receive any response from the government. There was also no response from the government to Muhammad's separate request to be examined by a forensics expert.

In April 2004, Mahfuz `Azzam managed to win his first and only visit with his nephew. The visit lasted only a few minutes, and the entire conversation took place in the presence of the SSI liaison officer in Tora prison. In those few minutes, Muhammad briefly conveyed to his uncle glimpses of the torture and ill-treatment that he had endured:

He stayed for four years and half in an underground detention facility run by the mukhabarat, where he did not see sunlight, and could not distinguish between day and night. The interrogation and torture went hand in hand. He lost hope in seeing the sun again.[98]
After four-and-half years, Egyptian intelligence handed Muhammad over to the SSI, which detained him for six months, either in their main headquarters in Lazughli Square in downtown Cairo, or in their new citadel-like premise in NasrCity, an eastern suburb of the capital.

Despite allowing his family some access to him, the government otherwise gave little ground on Muhammad's due process rights. Notwithstanding repeated requests from Muhammad himself, the government refused to allow him access to an attorney. It also refused to clarify his legal situation, which, given that he had been sentenced to death in 1999, was a matter of some concern. According to his lawyer, Mamduh Isma`il:

Even after the Ministry of Interior announced that they have Muhammad al-Zawahiri in custody, I went to the military judiciary committee to get information on his whereabouts. But they told me that they haven't yet been officially notified that he is in custody. This is still the case today.[99]
Muhammad's legal defense remains paralyzed by the government's refusal to set the wheels of the legal process in motion:

The security services should notify the court that they have him, and then I have sixty days to file a petition on his behalf. But I can't do that because the state security hasn't notified the court, and so they haven't contacted me, even though the newspapers are flooded with stories about him.
This is a big problem. He is in a serious legal situation. He has been sentenced to death by a military tribunal, but they have put all of the legal procedures aside.[100]
For Muhammad, the legal limbo has created a sense of uncertainty. "He wanted to know his legal status: is he going to be retried or not? Is he going to be executed?" asked Mamduh Isma`il. "But I couldn't tell him anything. We are just waiting for the state to act first, so that we can respond. But up to now, it's been a dead end."

His uncle shared the same concerns about his nephew's unclear status. In his view, no branch of the Egyptian government will do anything on the case, despite their legal obligation to do so:

If you go to the military tribunal which sentenced Muhammad and you present a complaint, and say that this sentence was based on an unconstitutional article, and should be overturned, then the military tribunal would just reject us. If you go to the Prosecutor General, you'll get the same result... If you go to the Prosecutor General and ask for a visit, he will basically say I don't know anything about this. So where should I go?[101]

As a result, Muhammad al-Zawahiri does not know if he will ever be allowed out of prison, or even whether or not the government will carry out the 1999 death sentence, still hanging over him.

For once, I agree with Dahlia Lithwick: this changes everything we know. After all, as Al Gore remarked,

'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.'" ”

Oh dear. You mean she didn't want that uncovered?

Is it possible that trials in absentia, torture by electric shock and death sentences carried out by kangaroo courts are actually more forgivably than keeping someone in a chilly room and humiliating him?

Apparently so. It just requires an infinitely flexible urban viewpoint. Or is it just an incredible amount of cynicism?

Because anything: torture, murder, violations of the so-sacred international law, are acceptable if the right people are in charge.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 15, 2009

This Is Why I Love Mike

Common sense.

Like beer, it's not just a breakfast drink anymore.

Posted by Cassandra at 03:17 PM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

And Dana Priest Was Mysteriously Unavailable For Comment....

Oh, the humanity!

"The Clinton policy in practice meant torture," Joanne Mariner, counterterrorism director for Human Rights Watch, told The Washington Times. "We haven't been able to interview the people themselves, but we have evidence that they were tortured."

Muntassir al-Zayyat, an Egyptian lawyer who represented four of the suspects seized in Albania, told The Times that "all were subjected to torture."

Two of the suspects -- Ahmed Ibrahim al-Naggar and Ahmed Ismail Uthman -- were executed in 1999, while two others -- Shawky Salama Mostafa and Mohammed Hassan Mahoud -- remain in prison, Mr. al-Zayyat said.

The men were suspected of plotting an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tirana, Albania, and coordinating actions with a cell in Egypt. Mr. al-Zayyat told Human Rights Watch that these suspects were taken to "ghost villas."

Al-Naggar, according to the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, was blindfolded for most of his nine-month detention. At one point, he was locked in a room for 24 hours with dirty water up to his knees.

During interrogation, his "hands were tied behind his back and his feet were shackled as security agents applied electric shocks to different parts of his body," the organization said.

Karim Haggag, a spokesman for the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, declined to comment.

Clinton administration officials have said that in all cases in which suspects were sent to jails in countries with poor human rights records, assurances were sought that they would not be tortured and consular visits were arranged.

"When we sent someone to a place like Saudi Arabia, with questionable practices, we got prior assurance that they would not be tortured and we got consular rights to visit them periodically to make sure they didn't," said Richard A. Clarke, counterterrorism czar under Mr. Clinton.

He cited the case of Hani el-Sayegh, a Saudi Shi'ite Muslim who was suspected of involvement in the 1996 bombing at Khobar Towers that killed 19 U.S. airmen. He was handed over to U.S. authorities by Canada in 1997 and sent to Saudi Arabia in 1999.

Other officials said that U.S. leaders knew renditions would lead to torture in some cases.

Michael Scheuer, chief of the CIA unit that tracked Osama bin Laden from 1995 to 1999, told The Times, "The Egyptians were not stupid. When we asked, they would not say they tortured our people. But everyone knew what was going on. The White House must have known."

Al Gore certainly knew:

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

And lest we forget, just as the Clinton administration used warrantless physical searches on residents of public housing until they were stopped by the ACLu, the Clinton administration rendered terror suspects to nations known to torture and even kill prisoners when we weren't even at war in violation of the same "international laws" one Al Gore has been fulminating about for the 8 years George Bush has been in office. As Michael Scheuer pointed out, we weren't even interested in interrogating these people. We just wanted to disappear them.

Which rather neatly disposes of the Democrats' supposed reverence for the Constitution, human rights, and international law, now doesn't it?

But now that the Lightworker is about to ascend the Imperial Throne, look for all this to disappear down the memory hole as we call for show trials of the evil Bush administration for things the previous administrations all did when we were not at war.


Got it. I understand now. This is the country my husband has served for nearly three decades. Excuse me while I throw up.

While I'm otherwise occupied, I invite you to compare a sample of torture victims.

Sample one: Innocent Gitmo detainees who were so mentally scarred by the awful treatment they suffered at our hands that they went on to spontaneously combust.

Sample two: American servicemen who fought under the uniform of their country and suffered broken bones, dislocated joints, and mental and physical tortures far exceeding anything that which (apparently) Judge Crawford considers "upsetting and embarrassing".

Damn it all, so do I. And yet somehow these men rose above what was done to them by a cruel and inhumane enemy:

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

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

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

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

"I experienced what I couldn't imagine human nature was capable of," Denton said. "I witnessed what my comrades could rise to. Self-discipline, compassion, a realization there is a God." He also experienced periodic compassion from the North Vietnamese. Sometimes the guards would weep as they tortured him.
One experience, he will never forget. Denton kept a cross, fashioned out of broom straws, hidden in a propaganda booklet in his cell. The cross was a gift from another prisoner. When a guard found the cross, he shredded it. Spat on it. Struck Denton in the face. Threw what was left of the cross on the floor and ground his heel into it. "It was the only thing I owned," Denton said.

Later, when Denton returned to his cell, he began to tear up the propaganda booklet. He felt a lump in the book. He opened it. "Inside there was another cross, made infinitely better than the other one my buddy had made," Denton said. When the guard tore up the cross, two Vietnamese workers saw what happened and fashioned him a new cross. "They could have been tortured for what they did," Denton said.

One wrong does not excuse another. But these things are all in the public record.

I find it little short of amazing that none of our "investigative media" think to look at what our own servicemen and women endured during Vietnam. They don't want to look at their stories because they speak of character and integrity and faith.

And they are a living testament to the power of the human spirit to overcome adversity despite almost overwhelming odds. They are a living testament to hope: something the media consider anathema.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:31 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Exploding Head Alert: Orin Kerr Proved Right

Thanks, guys.

That was timely of you:

A federal intelligence court, in a rare public opinion, is expected to issue a major ruling validating the power of the president and Congress to wiretap international phone calls and intercept e-mail messages without a court order, even when Americans’ private communications may be involved.

The court decision is expected to be disclosed as early as Thursday in an unclassified, redacted form. It was made in December by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, which has issued only two prior rulings in its 30-year history.

The decision marks the first time since the disclosure of the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program three years ago that an appellate court has addressed the constitutionality of the federal government’s wiretapping powers. In validating the government’s wide authority to collect foreign intelligence, it may offer legal credence to the Bush administration’s repeated assertions that the president has constitutional authority to act without specific court approval in ordering national security eavesdropping.

The unitary editor was unavailable for comment.

In the Times' estimation, the outing of a single "covert" agent is a dangerous national security breach requiring a special prosecutor; even when the charging statute is one the Times itself held to be unconstitutional when it was passed. The outing of entire classified anti-terror programs, on the other hand, is not only safe, but serves the public good!

"How can this be?", you may be asking yourself. The answer is simple. Bill Keller is a Very Smart Man - so smart that he can be trusted to make major national security decisions without any oversight. He has formulated the Theory of the Unitary Editor, which goes something like this. On the first day of the Constitutional Convention, the Founding Fathers created the New York Times. And they looked upon their creation, and they saw that it was good. And they clearly intended for it to have a tremendous amount of power for, as our Democrat brethren-in-Christ are always reminding us, Thomas Jefferson said it would be better to have a press and no government, didn't he? So on the second day the Framers, via the First Amendment, explicitly created a Fourth Branch of government which operates completely independently of the other three branches. Furthermore, unlike the other three branches, this fourth branch was to be able to violate laws passed by our elected representatives at any time with impunity, since the First Amendment would operate as a virtual trump or "get out of jail free" card.

Now this may alarm some of you somewhat, but you should not worry. We the Little People should simply trust that the Times would never abuse this tremendous power, because although the press are not subject to any external oversight or checks and balances, the Founders did provide for an entirely sufficient internal oversight system in the form of Executive Editors. This is where the Theory of the Unitary Editor comes in.

According to the Theory of the Unitary Editor, whenever a Times reporter is given unauthorized classified information, Bill Keller's editorial conscience allows him to unilaterally declassify national secrets, bypass Congress, and violate the law in the interest of keeping the nation safe from a popularly elected President who he fears may be unilaterally declassifying national secrets, bypassing Congress, and breaking the law.


Conveeeeenient, no es verdad? It is good to be King.

Bonus observation: Orin Kerr proved hilariously right in comments section of NYT article. If there is anything more delicious than watching a passel of Manhattan libs suddenly morph into staunch strict constructionists, I'm not sure what that might be.

The word for the day, boys and girls, is "unreasonable". As in "unreasonable search and seizure".

Posted by Cassandra at 10:45 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

NY TimesWatch: Geithner, Media Lies, and Accountability

Between being sick and being unusually busy at work I haven't been paying all that much attention to the news lately, so I've just started catching up to this business about Tim Geithner and his back taxes. While I'm not a fan of partisan witch hunts or gotcha politics, the determined media airbrushing on this one is getting a bit hard to swallow. The headline on this NYT article is just priceless:

"Geithner’s Skill May Trump Tax Issue"

His skill at what? Managing his taxes? Reading the Times, at times, requires a nearly superhuman patience. In the land of the flexible urban viewpoint, the nation can ill afford not to confirm Tim Geithner because any man smart enough to line his own pockets with the up front reimbursement paid to him each quarter by his employer is the very man we desperately need watching over the administration of billions of dollars worth of bailout funds.

*cough* OK. That wasn't terribly convincing, was it?

Let's try that one again. Any man who "didn't notice" he had to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes.... err... who "made a common mistake" that entailed ignoring his the quarterly notifications sent to him by his employer, warning him against this very mistake (not to mention pocketing quarterly reimbursement checks sent to him to indemnify him for this very expense - what in heck did he think he was being "reimbursed" for???).... is so "brilliant" that America cannot afford to dispense with his services.

*cough*

The IMF did not withhold state and federal income taxes or self-employment taxes — Social Security and Medicare — from its employees’ paychecks. But the IMF took great care to explain to those employees, in detail and frequently, what their tax responsibilities were. First, each employee was given the IMF Employee Tax Manual. Then, employees were given quarterly wage statements for the specific purpose of calculating taxes. Then, they were given year-end wage statements. And then, each IMF employee was required to file what was known as an Annual Tax Allowance Request. Geithner received all those documents.

The tax allowance has turned out to be a key part of the Geithner situation. This is how it worked. IMF employees were expected to pay their taxes out of their own money. But the IMF then gave them an extra allowance, known as a “gross-up,” to cover those tax payments. This was done in the Annual Tax Allowance Request, in which the employee filled out some basic information — marital status, dependent children, etc. — and the IMF then estimated the amount of taxes the employee would owe and gave the employee a corresponding allowance.

At the end of the tax allowance form were the words, “I hereby certify that all the information contained herein is true to the best of my knowledge and belief and that I will pay the taxes for which I have received tax allowance payments from the Fund.” Geithner signed the form. He accepted the allowance payment. He didn’t pay the tax. For several years in a row.

According to an analysis released by the Senate Finance Committee, Geithner “wrote contemporaneous checks to the IRS and the State of Maryland for estimated [income] tax payments” that jibed exactly with his IMF statements. But he didn’t write checks for the self-employment tax allowance. Then, according to the committee analysis, “he filled out, signed and submitted an annual tax allowance request worksheet with the IMF that states, ‘I wish to apply for tax allowance of U.S. Federal and State income taxes and the difference between the “self-employed” and “employed” obligation of the U.S. Social Security tax which I will pay on my Fund income.”

In a conversation today with sources on Capitol Hill who are familiar with the situation, I asked, “Was Geithner made whole for tax payments that he didn’t make?”

“Yes,” one source answered. “He was getting the money. He was being paid a tax allowance to pay him for tax payments that he should have made but had not.”

I suppose this is one of those situations where it all depends upon the meaning of the words "skill", "afford", and "mistake".

All of this information is in the public record. Now let's see how the New York Times chooses to describe the exact same series of events:

If Timothy F. Geithner were a bank, he might well be considered “too big to fail.” [Ed. note: And that phrase just conjures up all sorts of happy endings, doesn't it?]

In better economic times, Mr. Geithner’s confirmation to be President-elect Barack Obama’s Treasury secretary might be in danger after the disclosure this week that he had paid more than $48,000 in delinquent taxes and interest. But with the economy so fragile, many senators are loath to rattle financial markets by rejecting someone with Mr. Geithner’s qualifications and international respect. By late Wednesday, Republicans as well as Democrats were predicting he would survive the controversy and be confirmed next week.

Mr. Geithner has broad experience in global economics, financial regulation, currency and monetary policy. And lately, as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, he has been at the center of the government’s efforts to manage the financial chaos, sharing some criticism for its mixed record but not blame.

“These are not the times to think in small political terms,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who just returned from Afghanistan and Pakistan with Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., and briefly met with reporters on Wednesday alongside Mr. Obama. “I think he is the right guy.”

Mr. Graham thereby validated what the president-elect had just said: That Mr. Geithner, by bipartisan agreement, is “uniquely qualified.”

“Look, is this an embarrassment for him? Yes. He said so himself,” Mr. Obama said, referring to Mr. Geithner’s remarks in a private meeting with the Senate Finance Committee the day before. But Mr. Obama said Mr. Geithner had made a common mistake and corrected it.

The committee chairman, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, early Wednesday postponed Mr. Geithner’s confirmation hearing from Friday to the day after the inauguration. Senators said the delay was unrelated to the tax issue, but at least for a time it will leave Mr. Obama without a Treasury secretary.

The panel’s senior Republican, Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, declined for a second day to take a position on Mr. Geithner’s nomination. In an interview with Iowa reporters, Mr. Grassley reiterated his concern about having a Treasury secretary, with responsibility for the Internal Revenue Service, who had been delinquent on taxes. But he said Mr. Geithner had been “very sincere” in accounting for his violations.

He added: “I don’t believe there’s any doubt about his qualifications. For a partisan person like Obama, appointing a relative political independent as Geithner is, I think that that’s a plus.”

Mr. Geithner called other senators to discuss the controversy, if they wanted, as well as his views on the big issues that otherwise had been expected to dominate his confirmation hearing: an emerging $800 billion economic recovery blueprint, plans for the remaining half of a $700 billion financial bailout fund, and ideas for rewriting regulations for the nation’s financial system to avoid another collapse.

The controversy over his taxes, as it happens, goes to the one area where Mr. Geithner has the least experience, despite serving 13 years at the Treasury Department: domestic tax policy.

Allow me to make a few observations about the rather astonishing disparity in the way the National Review and the New York Times covered the Geithner "tax issue".

About seven years ago I transitioned from working at my firm's Tyson Corner, Virginia office to working at home. The move was occasioned by two things: the 9/11 attack and our subsequent PCS orders to southern California. Since my firm is not licensed to do business in California, it was the opinion of their accountant that for tax reasons, they would no longer withhold taxes from my paycheck automatically. In other words, since I was now going to have to pay California state taxes, I moved to the category of the "self-employed".

Sound familiar?

This meant that I had to pay quarterly income taxes.

Now I have never, even in my wildest dreams, contemplated being nominated for Secretary of the Treasury. A pertinent question, at this, would seem to be: just what is the standard of care for a person who We the People purport to put in charge of managing the Treasury?

Is it the standard of care of "the average Joe"? Or do we have a right to expect something better than that: a level of oversight and care consonant with someone at the top of his or her profession? In tort law, there is a comparable concept in the duty of care in negligence suits. The question asked is, "What duty of care did the defendant owe?" If he was an ordinary person, he owes only as much care as a reasonably prudent person of ordinary intelligence would exercise.

But if he is a professional and the incident involves something touching his professional expertise, we expect more of him. We expect him to exercise more care. And there is a second question: can you delegate away your responsibilities (say, to a tax accountant)? The law normally says no to that. You may choose to hire an accountant to do your taxes, but it remains your responsibility to ensure that they are paid. There are reasons for this. One important reason is that your accountant relies upon you to furnish him with the information upon which your returns will be based. Of necessity, you know more about your tax situation and personal finances than does your accountant. You retain access to your records, of which the accountant has only a subset.

I sweated bullets when I moved to California. Filing my quarterly taxes was (at least initially) a nightmare. It meant that I had to actually READ the IRS regs and determine exactly what I needed to pay. If there was any doubt, I overpaid rather than underpaid, and I got on the phone with the IRS and had many conversations with them. The first year I did pay an accountant at year end to do our yearly taxes.

I never did that again. The reason I never did it was that I concluded that I could not delegate away my husband's and my joint responsibility to PERSONALLY ensure our taxes were correctly calculated. For three years I stressed out over our quarterly taxes, which were really a nightmare since I had to estimate my yearly salary in advance, there were penalties for over or underpayment, and I receive bonuses which can amount to 20% of my final take-home pay and over which I have zero control and zero foreknowledge.

Try estimating a year's worth of pay based on that.

So I have little sympathy for a man who received quarterly reimbursement checks for taxes he was informed (by means of itemized IMF statements and notices) he was legally obligated to pay. What did he think those checks were "reimbursing" him for? What did he think the meaning of "reimbursement" was?

This is not an artist who can't be expected to understand incomprehensible financial terms like "tax allowance" or "reimbursement" or “I hereby certify ... that I will pay the taxes for which I have received tax allowance payments from the Fund.”

During a TV news broadcast last night, I also learned that Mr. Geithner's foreign housekeeper initially had valid immigration docs, then they lapsed during her final few months of employment. I don't care quite so much about that sort of thing. If he does due diligence when he hires someone I don't expect a man to constantly monitor someone else's INS paperwork. That sort of sticking a microscope into a nominee's navel jumps the shark.

During the campaign the media obsessively harped on John McCain's "failure" to "vet" Sarah Palin. So I'm really confused here: this is arguably one of the the most important positions in the Cabinet given the financial crisis, and yet the two nominees the Obama cabinet has put forth in the economic arena have both turned out to have some pretty serious skeletons in their closets. Where are the serious questions one would expect from a Fourth estate focused on holding our public servants accountable?

Missing in action. No one should be attacking the President elect or his nominees. But serious questions are not off the table. And this is a serious and deeply troubling question that goes to the core of this nominee's competence. Contrary to the misleading implication the media keep throwing out, Mr. Geithner wasn't a foreign employee . He was an American whose status was clearly covered by the tax manual provided to him by the IMF. He was given quarterly notices and quarterly tax reimbursements that should have put him on notice that he owed these payments, since the very purpose of a "reimbursement" is to indemnify you for a financial outlay. You don't get reimbursed for expenses you don't incur - at least in any world I am aware of. Somewhere along the line, that should have raised a red flag, don't you think?

He signed statements saying he would pay them. This isn't brain surgery. Admit the mistake, find another nominee and move on.

update: Sorry. I refrained from this aspect of the story earlier because I lacked enough time/information for informed commentary, but this, in my book, is a deal-breaker:

In 2006 an IRS audit noted the problem but, due to a three year statute of limitations, only insisted on a correction to Geithner's 2003 and 2004 returns. Geithner complied but did not volunteer to correct his 2001 and 2002 returns until last November, during the vetting process for his Treasury appointment. Thus, Obama's assertion that Geithner made "an innocent mistake" is not wholly accurate - the mistake may have been innocent (or a non-innocent aggressive tax interpretation) when made but stopped being innocent when Geithenr amended his 2003 and 2004 returns in 2006...

As Tom Maguire notes:

...as of 2006 he knew he had a liability for 2001 and 2002 - where was his check? Was his conscience unruffled by his non-compliance? Or does Geithner have a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy on back taxes?

This was pretty much what I suspected, and what prompted me to be as harsh as I was in my original post. This nomination needs to be spiked.

And in fact, as Glenn Reynolds notes, the hearings appear to have been postponed. I think that's French for 'don't quit your day job'.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:13 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 14, 2009

Obviously....

...the Armorer has never seen The Princess drive.

As Carrie can attest, if he had he would surely know that her mad speed management skillz would have allowed her to rudely violate the space-time continuum, thereby neatly arriving home just before she left in the first place.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:29 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

What I'm Listening To

Rivertime, by Steve Dobrogosz and Anna Christoffersson

I am humbled, from time to time, to find out who's stumbled onto VC. Steve is a regular reader and has been kind enough to send me samples of his work from time to time (which I greatly enjoy). His work encompasses both the sacred and the secular. Pretty amazing, no es verdad?

Rivertime, his latest work, is now available on iTunes

I have only been listening for a day or so. I'm already fond of this one:

This is a nice sampling of tunes from the CD:

Posted by Cassandra at 08:41 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Wednesday

Via Sean.

I know the way that I feel about you
I'm never gonna run away
I'm never gonna run away
I never knew the way when I lived without you
I'm never gonna run away
I'm never gonna run away

I came to you when no one could hear me
I'm sick and weary of being alone
Empty streets and hungry faces
The world's no place when you're on your own
A heart needs a home

Some people say that I should forget you
I'm never gonna be a fool
I'm never gonna be a fool
A better life they say if I never met you
I'm never gonna be a fool
I'm never gonna be a fool

Tongues talk fire and eyes cry rivers
Indian givers, hearts of stone
Paper ships and painted faces
The world's no place when you're on your own
A heart needs a home

Richard Thompson

Posted by Cassandra at 08:40 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 12, 2009

They Walk Amongst Us....

The Princess didn't think it was possible to surpass her reigning fave Craigslist post:

In a search of a room in DC so that you can spend Jan. 20 standing in the bitter winter cold with thousands of like-minded souls watching the historic transfer of power from one Harvard grad to another? Look no further.

Me: Heartless, greedy right-wing oppressive type looking to make a buck.

You: Obama's election was Christmas/your first kiss/May Day all wrapped into one. You dutifully wore his button -- which you have yet to remove -- contributed money to his campaign from your non-profit job and chanted "yes we can" as if it were the 11th commandment. A strange void now exists in your life and -- like an old hippie looking to recapture the spirit of Woodstock -- you are undertaking a pilgramage to Washington for one last gulp of the Kool-Aid.

Along with my bedroom you will have access to the house's many amenities including cable television (not that you watch much TV) for viewing Keith Olberman's latest unhinged rants and CNN in high-def. Wireless internet means that the Huffington Post and DailyKos are only a click away on your MacBook. American flags and other patriotic paraphernalia in the room can be removed upon request.

The house is located in the diverse neighborhood of Adams Morgan with people of many different skin pigmentations that will allow you to revel in your tolerance. Rest assured, however, that this diversity does not extend to ideology and that you are sure to march lock-step with the prevailing sentiment ensuring that your most strongly held beliefs remain unchallenged.

Easily accessible subway and bus stops will help ensure a minimal carbon footprint while fair trade coffee is never more than a few steps away at any number of independently-owned establishments. Nearby non-chain bookstores similarly mean that tomes such as Mao's Little Red Book, Chomsky's latest masterpiece or additional copies of The Audacity of Hope can be easily purchased either for yourself or as early holiday shopping.

Rather than state a price I am requesting that you bid on this fabulous opportunity to ensure profit maximization on my part so that I can better weather the Bush Recession.

This, however, comes close:

An ovary for a ball: Fair trade, no? A 27-year-old Cleveland lawyer and Barack Obama enthusiast thinks so. On Tuesday, Lisa F. posted a Craigslist ad offering her ovary—and that of a friend—in exchange for two tickets to an inaugural ball. “We’ve exhausted all my legitimate means of finding a ticket by begging our campaign staffer friends, so we thought we would try this,” says Lisa. “Also, neither of us are currently using an ovary.”

The ovaries, which range in age from 26 to 27 years, come with no strings attached. “Today, you can get an ovary from two separate, progressively minded women who are willing to part with their internal organs for a chance to wear a party dress in the same room as President Elect Obama,” Lisa wrote in a posting under Craigslist’s “for sale” section. “These women . . . will not require an explanation of your purpose. Do you wish to procreate? Use them for science? Macabre hackey sack?”

I swear upon a stack of flushed inner Korans that I am not making this up.

If she can't get tickets to the Obama-lama-thon, Lisa is also open to swapping her internal organs (and the fate of any future progeny) for other nifty experiences:

“I’m prone to melodrama, so I might have said I’d give up my ovary for a couple other things, too—meeting Harrison Ford, for example.”

Just remember: we need laws to protect people like this from being "punished" by the consequences of their own entirely voluntary and rational decisions. This, I believe, is called "sexual liberation", and in the enlightened it can become the path to some truly higher-order critical thinking:

Along with the emancipation of women, sexual liberation has become very much a part of politics around the world. To the conservatives, both these issues challenge ‘family values’.

But what if there were no families? What if we say no to reproduction?

Hmmm... what do we have here? A member of the Patriarchy advocating the intentional non-renewal of the human species?

Now *that's* change we can all believe in....

How is this to be accomplished? Will women be allowed to *voluntarily* choose not to reproduce? Because, you know, that could be problematic... kind of like impeaching the Chimp and leaving Darth Cheney at the old wheel. Wouldn't it tend to be progressyve feminists who would choose not to reproduce, leaving the Reality Based Community to be outbred by a bunch of reich-wing, snake worshipping, knuckle dragging mouth breathers?

Or are we going to force women to abjure reproduction for their own good on the theory that they're making harmful choices with all that dreadful freedom we keep giving them?

Oh well. Math never was the strong point of beautiful dreamers. And you know that for sure. Nor, apparently, is economics:

My understanding of reproduction is that it is the basis of the institutions of marriage and family, and those two provide the moorings to the structure of gender and sexual oppression.

Obviously this dude needs to participate in one of our Battle of the Sexes comment threads. He's getting a skewed idea of who the realOppressors are on the marital stage...

*rim shot*

Careful flailing about with that broad brush, buddy.

Family is the social institution that ensures unpaid reproductive and domestic labour, and is concerned with initiating a new generation into the gendered (as I analyzed here) and classed social set-up. Not only that, families prevent money the flow of money from the rich to the poor: wealth accumulates in a few hands to be squandered on and bequeathed to the next generation, and that makes families as economic units selfishly pursue their own interests and become especially prone to consumerism.

So.... if there were no families, no one would do anything unless they were paid for it! We'd all be less altruistic and more.... more... selfish??? Now there's a win-win situation.

So it makes sense to say that if the world has to change, reproduction has to go.

That would certainly change the world. In about a generation, I'd say.

Of course there is an ecological responsibility to reduce the human population, or even end it , and a lot was said about that on the blogosphere recently (here, and here), but an ecological consciousness is not how I came to my decision to remain child-free.

Our friends the squirrels will not be at all pleased to hear that.

Because reproduction is seen as a psychological need, even a biological impulse, that would supposedly override any rational concerns arising out of a sense of responsibility, ecological or otherwise, I would like to propose emotional conditioning to counter such a need or impulse to reproduce. Using my own life as a case study, I conclude that I came to a resolve not to reproduce through largely unconscious emotional reactions . I like children, but every time I fantasized of having one, I felt pangs of guilt over how for this 'impulse' of mine, someone else would have to put their body on the line.

You know... listening to too many John Mayer CDs will do that to a fellow every time.

I used the word 'felt' to indicate how there wasn't much rationalizing on my part.

Excellent word choice. Extra points for the daft... err... make that deft way you heaped on the unintentional irony.

And this feeling went way back: I was raised in an extended family setting with a lot of women....

Well now there's a shocker.

You know, this sort of thing frustrates a lot of women, too. Even many men get frustrated when their "choices" are curtailed after marrying and having children. It's called "responsibility".

A small, nasty thing that generally follows "growing up".

Life can be so unfair. It's even more so when people actually expect you to deal with the fallout of your own decisions; or worse yet not to whine when you find out that not everything worth having in life is free.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:53 AM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

January 11, 2009

Greenwald Gets Half a Clue...

...in response to this admittedly nauseating Ignatius column in today's WaPo:

Barack Obama's aides like to tell the story about his reaction to the monotonous, self-important speeches at his first session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2005. After hearing his colleagues drone on, Obama passed to a staff member a note that read: "SHOOT. ME. NOW

The impatient freshman senator is about to become president, but he hasn't lost his distaste for Washington politics as usual. And as the inauguration approaches, Obama is doing something quite remarkable: Rather than settling into the normal partisan governing stance, he is breaking with it -- moving toward the center in a way that upsets some of his liberal allies but offers the promise of broad national support.

A more astute (or simply more mature) politician might have had second thoughts about the wisdom of broadcasting how little he thinks of his former Congressional colleagues just before heading to the White House to try and build broad-based bipartisan support for the programs his fledgling administration will propose. There is, after all, something to be said for not burning your bridges. But we're talking about The Lightworker here.

David Broder's woolgathering aside, The One can hardly cannot be encompassed within the ambit of mere mortal men.

He is stardust; golden. And Ignatius, each week in the WaPo, waxes nearly orgasmic in praise of His preturnatural prowess:

As the days tick down toward inauguration, Obama remains Mr. Cool. His advisers say he makes decisions more confidently than anyone they've ever watched in politics. He's fashioning a new style of governing, as if by instinct. He's rebuilding a center that many analysts thought was impossible. He's heading into the loneliest, most difficult terrain on earth, and he's still making it look easy. But it won't be.

It's hard not to note that in another man (the one leaving the Oval Office in a mere matter of days) the same "confidence" was labeled "arrogance" and "insularity" just as Obama's dedication to physical fitness sends the media into fits of adulation not seen since their Teen Tiger Beat days...

“The sun glinted off chiseled pectorals sculpted during four weightlifting sessions each week, and a body toned by regular treadmill runs and basketball games.”

...while the same habits, in the current Commander in Chief, were quickly consigned to a bin somewhere between mental illness and dereliction of duty:

“Does the leader of the free world need to attain that level of physical achievement?” he jeered. “It’s nice for Bush that he can take an hour or two out of every day to run, bike or pump iron. Unfortunately, most of us have more demanding jobs than he does.”

...“Bush says exercise helps sharpen his thinking. But some of his critics view his exercise obsession as an indulgence that takes time away from other priorities. Among them is Cindy Sheehan, the Vacaville, Calif., mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, who until late last week was camped out down the road from Bush’s ranch seeking a meeting with him to discuss her opposition to the war. Sheehan, who left her vigil on Thursday to tend to her sick mother, has said she believes Bush should take fewer bike rides to have more time to focus on the ‘the nation’s work.’”

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Glenn of the Thousand updates is outraged to discover Barack Obama tacking to the center:

"This election isn’t about ideology. It’s about competence." That was Michael Dukakis' battle-cry more than 20 years ago in order to prove that he wasn't beholden to those dreaded leftist ideologues in his party, that he was instead devoted to pragmatic solutions, to "whatever works." Yet Beltway centrist fetishists like Ignatius and some Obama supporters genuflect to those clichés -- Competence, Not Ideology! -- as though they're some kind of revolutionary, transformative dogma that the world has never heard before and that therefore serves as an all-purpose justifying instrument for whatever Obama does.

The mere fact that these ideas aren't remotely new doesn't prove that they're wrong. Old ideas can be valid. And it may be that Obama, once he's inaugurated, will do other things differently (Andrew Sullivan and Greg Sargent, in response to my last post on this topic, both described what they think will be new about Obama's approach). It's also possible that Obama's undeniable political talent, or the shifting political mindset of the country, will mean that Obama will succeed politically more than anyone else has in implementing these approaches.

But whatever else is true, what Ignatius and others are celebrating as "remarkable" -- that a national Democratic politician is alienating "the Left" and embracing the center-right in the name of transcending ideological and partisan conflicts -- is about the least new dynamic that one can imagine. That's what the most trite Beltway mavens -- from David Broder and Mickey Kaus to Joe Klein and The New Republic -- have been demanding since forever, and it's what Democratic leaders have done for as long as one can remember.

At the risk of infuriating the party faithful (which seems to be what I do best these days), there are times when I honestly don't know what is funnier: watching the far right go into conniption fits over George W. Bush or the far left go into conniption fits over Barack Obama.

I've been saying it for as long as I can remember: complain all you want, but the vast majority of voters aren't ideologues, nor are they ideological purists. The amusing thing about all of this, of course, is that Bush actually ran on a platform of 'compassionate conservatism'. He ran as a centrist Republican who would try to work with both sides. That he failed to do so... well, that's another story. People will say what they will.

I'm not sure how anyone works with the likes of Harry Reid or the kind of people who put a man like that in power. There was never any integrity there to work with.

But the point remains, why all the angst just because your candidate is behaving (as you say) as every Democratic candidate has since the dawn of time? Take a few minutes and read Glenn's updates on Gitmo. They're well worth the price of admission.

And then ask yourself: why doesn't Glenn ever ask himself about all the other people who signed off on these decisions?

Beginning in 2002, Nancy Pelosi and other key Democrats (as well as Republicans) on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees were thoroughly, and repeatedly, briefed on the CIA's covert antiterror interrogation programs. They did nothing to stop such activities, when they weren't fully sanctioning them. If they now decide the tactics they heard about then amount to abuse, then by their own logic they themselves are complicit. Let's review the history the political class would prefer to forget.

According to our sources and media reports we've corroborated, the classified briefings began in the spring of 2002 and dealt with the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, a high-value al Qaeda operative captured in Pakistan. In succeeding months and years, more than 30 Congressional sessions were specifically devoted to the interrogation program and its methods, including waterboarding and other aggressive techniques designed to squeeze intelligence out of hardened detainees like Zubaydah.

The briefings were first available to the Chairmen and ranking Members of the Intelligence Committees. From 2003 through 2006, that gang of four included Democrats Bob Graham and John D. Rockefeller in the Senate and Jane Harman in the House, as well as Republicans Porter Goss, Peter Hoekstra, Richard Shelby and Pat Roberts. Senior staffers were sometimes present. After September 2006, when President Bush publicly acknowledged the program, the interrogation briefings were opened to the full committees.

If Congress wanted to kill this program, all it had to do was withhold funding. And if Democrats thought it was illegal or really found the CIA's activities so heinous, one of them could have made a whistle-blowing floor statement under the protection of the Constitution's speech and debate clause. They'd have broken their secrecy oaths and jeopardized national security, sure. But if they believed that Bush policies were truly criminal, didn't they have a moral obligation to do so? In any case, the inevitable media rapture over their anti-Bush defiance would have more than compensated.

Ms. Harman did send a one-page classified letter in February 2003 listing her equivocal objections to the interrogation program. She made her letter public in January 2008 after the CIA revealed that it had destroyed some interrogation videotapes. After lauding the CIA's efforts "in the current threat environment," she noted that "what was described raises profound policy questions and I am concerned about whether these have been as rigorously examined as the legal questions." Ms. Harman also vaguely wondered whether "these practices are consistent with the principles and policies of the United States," but she did not condemn them as either torture or illegal.

This wasn't the only time a politician filed an inconsequential expression of anti-antiterror protest. Mr. Rockefeller famously wrote a letter to Vice President Dick Cheney objecting to warrantless wiretapping, but then stuck it (literally) in a drawer. Like Ms. Harman, only after the program was exposed did he reveal his missive to show he'd been opposed all along, though he'd done nothing about it.

According to Mr. Goss, some Members at the time even wondered if our terror fighters were harsh enough as they tried to extract potentially live-saving information. Mr. Goss, who later served as CIA director from 2004 to 2006, told the Washington Post in 2007 that, "Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing. And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement."

Reminds me of an old song that used to play on the radio:

Knights in white satin
Never reaching the end
Letters I'd written
Never meaning to send

...Just what the truth is
I can't say anymore
.

No wonder Obama doesn't want show trials. Just think who might be caught up in that far-flung net.

Posted by Cassandra at 03:48 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Six Non-Important Things About Moi???

The ThongMaster hath tagged us with a crappy meme:

Again. With yet another farking chick quiz. Thanks a bunch, AFSis.

First, the Rules:

1. Link to the person that tagged you.
Done.

2. Post the rules on your blog.
Done.

3. Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself.
See below.

4. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.
Lessee – who better to be tagged with a chick quiz than – chicks?
Heh. See below.

5. Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website

The Princess rather likes Maggie's response:

This is ridiculous.....there is nothing non-important about me.

Now *that's* a woman after my own heart.

*sigh* All right, here goes:

1. For some insane reason, the only thing I'm aware of being at all afraid of is knives.

I am not insanely afraid of them or anything. I can handle them just fine, and look at them. It is just that every once in a while they really creep me out, as in, they make me shudder. Must be a girl thing.

2. I usually have a pretty much cast iron stomach. I can eat just about anything (and do, happily!). Except for lima beans, which are the work of Satan and his minions. Lima beans should not exist. I see no purpose for them. When I take over the Earth, they will be the first thing to be eliminated for the good of all mankind.

3. Despite my usually cast iron stomach, I've been worshipping the porcelain oracle for the past few days with the deepest imaginable fervor.

You have no idea. Sorry for the non-existent posting, but every time I lifted my head it precipitated another round of prostatrations before the Bowl of Destiny.

4. Unlike Bill, I have been known to wear thongs. The things we women do...

*sigh*

5. I don't see the point in non-alcoholic beer either. Or lite beer. If I'm going to drink a beer, I want a real one and I'll take the calorie hit, thank-you-very-much.

6. I have the cutest grandson in the entire universe. He is really adorable. And .... well, cute.

Did I mention that he is cute? Well, he is. Cute, that is. And extremely kissable.

Now to the pwnage part of this post:

In keeping with Bill's meme of tagging chix, I hereby tag:

Kate, from blatherings blog (while I was hating life, I missed her one year blogoversary),
Semper Fi Wife from SpouseBuzz
I don't know that Dark Lord Sly will be feeling up to it, but if she does feel like playing, I'd love to have her play too. But if not, that's OK too.
Mrs. G
MaryAnn
Donna B.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:36 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

January 08, 2009

Major Schadenfreude Alert

I am sorry, but this is hysterical.

I am sure there is an extremely severe punishment for people who derive sick satisfaction from this sort of pwnage.

I don't care.

Posted by Cassandra at 03:29 PM | Comments (37) | TrackBack

Harry Reid. Lying Crapweasel.

Poor David Gregory. You have to admire his spunk. Trying to get Harry Reid to acknowledge his Inner Crapweasel is a task little distinguishable in its essentials from nailing Jello to a wall:

MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you about the war in Iraq. In April of 2007, this is what you said: "I believe myself that ... this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything." Were you wrong?

[Reid, channeling his inner Noam Chomsky ..."David, David, David... deconstructing the speaker-hearer's linguistic intuition based solely upon the words 'were', 'you', and 'wrong' is an exercise in futility. Your question raises problems of phonemic and morphological analysis that cannot be adequately contextualized by any commonly understood grammatical system. Intelligent people understand this instinctively."]

SEN. REID: David, ...the surge helped, of course it helped. But in addition to that, the urging of me and other people in Congress and the country dictated a change, and that took place. So...

But David is not to be distracted by shiny things, the blighter. There's this disturbing construct called "reality" that keeps popping up like Whack-a-Mole:

MR. GREGORY: But you said the surge was not accomplishing anything. Even Barack Obama said last fall that it exceeded everyone's expectations and succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.

Reid, however, is having none of this "reality" nonsense. History is infinitely malleable and the public's memory can always be wiped clean by those willing to lie long enough and often enough. Just ask the New York Times:

SEN. REID: Listen, at that--the time that statement was made, the surge--they weren't talking about the surge.
Barack Obama said the surge of American forces in Iraq has ``succeeded beyond our wildest dreams,'' though Iraqis still haven't done enough to take responsibility for their country.

``The surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated,'' Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, said in a recorded interview broadcast tonight on Fox News's ``The O'Reilly Factor'' program.

[REID AGAIN, STILL DIGGING FURIOUSLY] Petraeus added to the surge some very, very interesting things that changed things. He said a lot -- just simply numbers of troops is not going to do the deal. What we need to do is work with the Iraqi people, which we haven't done before. That's where the Awakening Councils came about, as a result of David Petraeus' genius.
He's done--he will be written about in the history books for years to come.

Things...that changed... things. Who knew? And thank God that brilliant General Betrayus came along to save us from The Chimp, who had planned to only send in more troops? What a disaster THAT would have been!

My original statement was in keeping what David Petraeus said; that is, --the war cannot be won militarily.
Even Gen. Keane didn't expect the new strategy to work so fast. "It's a stunning turnaround, and I think people will study it for years because it's unparalleled in counterinsurgency practice," he says. "All the gains we've achieved against al Qaeda, the Sunni insurgency, the Iranians in the south are sustainable" -- a slight pause here -- "if we're smart about it and not let them regroup and get back into it."

Gen. Keane wants to make sure people understand why the surge worked. "I have a theory" about the unexpectedly fast turnaround, he says. "Whether they be Sunni, Shia or Kurd, anyone who was being touched by that war after four years was fed up with it. And I think once a solution was being provided, once they saw the Americans were truly willing to take risks and die to protect their women and children and their way of life, they decided one, to protect the Americans, and two, to turn in the enemies that were around them who were intimidating and terrorizing them; that gave them the courage to do it."

He adds that the so-called Sunni Awakening, and the effective surrender of Shia radical Moqtada Sadr and his Mahdi Army, depended upon the surge. "I'm not sure [the Sunni Awakening] would have spread to the other provinces without the U.S. [military] presence. We needed forces that we didn't previously have for the Sunnis to be able to rely on us to protect them." Sadr saw his lieutenants killed in the American push, and didn't want to share their fate.

Looking ahead, Gen. Keane still considers a robust American ground force "the secret to success" in Iraq. "It is a myth for people to assert that by pulling away from the Iraqis, by pulling away from the Iraqi political process, that somehow that becomes a catalyst to do things that they would not do because of our presence. That is fundamentally wrong. It is our presence that is helping Iraqis move forward."

In his view, the U.S. ought to focus on cementing recent gains. First comes helping the Sunnis back into the political system. The majority Shiite government hasn't yet agreed to hold provincial elections later this year, and until it does and those polls are held, the U.S. can't withdraw any more troops, he says.

Sectarian tensions remain a worry. Last month in the northeastern city of Baquba, government forces detained 1,000 Sunnis, mostly members of the Sons of Iraq, a nationwide militia funded by the U.S. and composed of many former Sunni insurgents. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki promised to vet and take a fifth of the 90,000-strong force into his security services, but as with the provincial elections, he hasn't yet delivered. "It appears that Maliki is using the guise of security to enhance his political base and to diminish his political opponents," says Gen. Keane, citing the Baquba incident. "That is a danger and that is something we should not tolerate."

Another potential threat looms from Iran. Though Tehran and its surrogates were hammered in the Maliki government's successful spring offensive on Basra, "we know they're coming back," says Gen. Keane. Iran wants a weak Iraqi central government unaligned with America. "We know that they intend to come back on the kinetic side, attack U.S. forces exclusively with less attacks, but more spectacular. I don't believe for a minute they're going to be able to resurge and be successful as long as we stay on top of it, keep our head in the game, maintain our force presence in the south."

The surge turned things around on another difficult front, Washington. "Despite the fact that President Bush did preside over a strategy that was failing for three plus years, and he has been criticized for that," says Gen. Keane, "he also deserves a significant amount of credit because all around him people were advocating a failed strategy, particularly key leaders around him, and he had the wherewithal to make a tough decision that flew certainly in the face of political opposition even in his own party."

Gen. Keane says he understands why there was resentment among the Joint Chiefs at seeing the president change course against their wishes and follow a retired general's recommendations on strategy and staffing in a war zone. But he considers his role perfectly appropriate. "In my mind, I think a president has a right to seek advice and counsel any place he chooses," he says. "I certainly wasn't forcing myself on them."

The U.S. came "within weeks or months" of defeat in Iraq in 2006, he says. The consequences of that were "unacceptable" for the region, "not to speak of an institution that I loved." And what about the military chiefs who thought the extra battalions and extended service tours would be too much of a strain on American forces? "When people talk about stress and strain on a force, the stress and strain that would come from having to live with a humiliating defeat would be quite staggering."

Shorter Harry Reid:

"Even after 19 months of declining violence, it's WAY too soon to say the Surge 'succeeded' or the war is won now. However, I was NOT wrong to say the Surge had 'failed' and the war was 'lost' in April of 2007 before we even had 1/3 of the Surge troops in place."

"Even though Barack Obama specifically stated that it was "the Surge" that had succeeded "beyond our wildest dreams", he wasn't talking about "the Surge" per se because that would make me look like a horse's ass who would tell any lie, no matter how egregious, rather than admit he was wrong."

"Which I unequivocally am."

Posted by Cassandra at 08:03 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

January 07, 2009

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Star

Inspired by our friend from the other day, the Blog Princess found herself positively itching to engage in a random act of drive-by poetry.

Alert readers (or those who love verse) may recognize the derivation:

I
After twenty lousy years,
The only thing I got
Was a freaking blue star.

II
I was of three minds,
Was it a symbol? A bit sick?
Or just a quasi-cultural attagirl?

III
The star gleamed in the windy Texas winds.
It's all part of the damned pantomime.

IV
A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a star
Are so alone.

V
I don't know what I despise more,
My ghetto pool
Or my Mormon neighbor.
The star, gleaming
Or its absence?

VI
A parade of terribles fills the window
Of barbaric glass.
The shadow of the star
Crosses it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.
I must steel myself
To return to the battlefield.

VII
O thin men of Saddam,
Could you not imagine gleaming birds, with rockets?
Did you not see how the star
Haunts the dreams
Of the women about you?
We have needs, you know.

VIII
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That that damned star will keep me
From using what I know.

IX
When the star winked out of sight,
It took all my dreams
Along with it.
I am powerless.

X
At the sight of all those
"Gold star" wives and mothers,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.
What about my invisible wounds!
What color star do I get?

XI
I rode to the Commissary
In an SUV.
There, a fear pierced me.
Would there be
A special parking place
Just for me?
Damnitall, I deserve one.

XII
The wind is blowing
Wounding me silently with its unexpected... windiness
Why didn't anyone warn me?

XIII
It was windy all afternoon.
And I realized
I'm an outsider, a 'familial appendage'.
The star sits,
silently mocking me.
No ghetto pool today.

We invite the villainry to engage their own Muses in the comments section. Go ahead. Get it all out of your system: the horrors of military life. The trauma. The pathos. Let us know how you have suffered at the hands of Uncle Sam (and darnitall, tell us how much the rest of the country *owes* you for what you have done for them).

Because, you know, it isn't a privilege to be able to serve your country, let alone some "voluntary decision" and anyone who tells you otherwise is just a poor, deluded Bushbot. It's a freaking nightmare.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:25 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

January 06, 2009

Well All-righty Then...

Personally I always saw myself as more of a sassy, full bodied red, but whatever:

You Are Sauvignon Blanc
Engaging and energetic, you have a lot to offer the world - most of it they've never seen anywhere else!
You are the type of person who carves your own path in life... and you invite everyone else to come along.
The only thing predictable about you is that you could have anything up your sleeve.
You're all about sampling all of life's experiences. Both the savory and unsavory ones.

Deep down you are: Laid back and young at heart

Your partying style: Anything goes... seriously!

Your company is enjoyed best with: Smoked meats or spicy food
What Kind of Wine Are You?

"Both the savory and unsavory ones???"

*rolling eyes in disbelief*

Who writes these things? Sheesh.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:00 PM | Comments (43) | TrackBack

One Moment More

Hold me
Even though I know you're leaving
And show me
All the reasons you would stay
It's just enough to feel your breath on mine
To warm my soul and ease my mind
You've got to hold me and show me now

Give me
Just one part of you to cling to
And keep me
Everywhere you are
It's just enough to steal my heart and run
And fade out with the falling sun

Oh, please don't go
Let me have you just one moment more
Oh, all I need
All I want is just one moment more
You've got to hold me and keep me

Tell me that someday you'll be returning
And maybe
Maybe I'll believe
It's just enough to see a shooting star
To know you're never really far
It's just enough to see a shooting star
To know you're never really gone

Oh, please don't go
Let me have you just one moment more
Oh, all I need
All I want is just one moment more

Oh, please don't go
Let me have you just one moment more
Oh, all I need
All I want is just one moment more
You've got to hold me and maybe I'll believe

So hold me
Even though I know you're leaving

I didn't want to have to write this post.

All the people we have loved can never really leave us. Though time, or miles, or even death may separate us we hold them in our hearts.

Anytime we wish, we can close our eyes and wander down the half forgotten paths of memory. And there they are. Right where we left them. Evergreen.

Ever present. It is not the same. But it is something. And so long as we love them, so long as we visit them in our minds, they will never die. And we can never really lose what they gave us.

Posted by Cassandra at 11:27 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

A Yellow Star For Self-Pity

The email dropped into my Inbox a few days ago.

The subject line made me laugh: "We're all victims and we're all getting ponies". The link inside, to the usual whiny, self-indulgent drivel I've come to expect from Obama supporters in the military, grated on my last nerve:

I never expected it to be so damn windy in Texas. I expected it to be still, dry and hot—something like Arizona, maybe. Of course, nothing is really what I expected it to be when I married Caynan.

I never expected to feel so lonely, so isolated, so out-of-place and out of sorts all the time, always in that in-between place of neither here nor there, neither this nor that. As an Army wife (excuse me, Army "spouse"), you are no longer a civilian but you are not a soldier either.

I don't know what military life was like before 9/11, but I can tell you what it is like now: and it isn't quirky and whacky and "just like civilian life but different."

Casualties of War

My ex-husband called me the other day and asked me what a "Blue Star wife" was. I explained that it was a wife whose husband was serving in combat.

Then I asked him if he knew what a Gold Star Wife was. Of course he didn't.

"That's a wife whose husband has died in combat."

"Wow," he replied, "that's, uh, kind of sick, isn't it?"

I laughed. I knew what he meant. The "gold star" comes across as a quasi-cultural "WAY TO GO!" for the surviving family member (as the term technically applies to the entire family). And let us not forget the "silver star" for the family of a servicemember wounded in a war!

There is no star for a lifetime of sacrificing one's own career and/or educational aspirations to support a servicemember. In times of peace, as well as war, the military demands that family comes second to the military. ("Army needs come first!") The household moves are frequent (every two to three years). The inability of the servicemember-parent to participate in parenting brings tremendous challenges to working in an era where two-income households are the norm for maintaining a decent standard of living. The lack of family, friends, and community makes loneliness an expectation, not just a fear.

What color star should a spouse get for years of living like this?

These designations are all "unofficial" of course. Everything pertaining to the familial appendages known as the spouse and children of the servicemember is unofficial.

As for Army spouses (like myself), we exist in this in-between world. We are no longer civilians yet we are not "soldiers" either. We are expected to live the military life without being seen, heard, prepared, paid, or recognized for our service. We are called "the silent ranks" but really, we are invisible too. The "new" Army likes to say it "recruits the soldier but retains the family" but the reality of "if the Army wanted you to have a family it would have issued you one" remains.

This is, without a doubt, the biggest load of horse hockey I've ever heard in my life. Though I'm not an Army wife (my husband is a career Marine officer) I've known several career Army officers, enlisted men and staff NCOs. I was raised in a Navy family. And my nearly fifty years of military life offers me a breadth of experience I doubt Ms. Picard can bring to her writing. I watched my mother cope with my father's deployment to Vietnam and listened to endless stories from my mother in law about my father in law's two tours in the brown water Navy during that same war.

I've read letters he wrote to my husband when he was just a boy from halfway around the world. He's dead now. He died during the 1980s. Died very young. Colon cancer. There was talk of Agent Orange. Some people wanted my mother in law to join in a class action suit against the government, as if that would bring him back; as if it would change the outcome. She wouldn't do it.

He would have rolled over in his grave.

Ms. Picard goes on (and on... and on.... and on at great length) about her suffering and misery as the wife of a Blackhawk pilot. To fully experience the mind-numbing horror of living on officer's pay, augmented by pilot's pay, augmented yet again by the many extra allowances paid to dependents whose servicemember deploys to a combat zone compounded by the unbelievable horror of an adult female forced to stand on her own two feet and care for two unaborted lumps of post-fetal tissue without [gasp!] her husband's assistance, you'll just have to steel yourself to read the heart shattering narrative for yourself.

Aw shucks. Here's a teaser for you. First comes the horror of the inconsiderate spouse who would prefer not to think of death and dismemberment in the few remaining hours before leaving for a war zone. Men can be such unfeeling jerks sometimes. Always thinking of themselves:

You cannot be a military wife without knowing how to compartmentalize your emotions. Sometimes those feelings, or those tears, sneak up on you, but you learn how to reign them in. The faster you learn how to do it, the better off you are. But other times, when you find you can't feel anything at all, you wonder: where does compartmentalization end and disassociation begin?

A few days later, we spent the day in our ghetto pool (three by fifteen feet of "fun in the sun" courtesy of Super WalMart) with Caynan. Caynan is holding me when I ask what he wants done with his remains if something happens to him… and since I went there, does he have a preference regarding particular personal items going to either boy? Caynan lets go of me as looks at me as if these are unreasonable questions.

"Why do you insist on talking about these things?" he asks. "You know how I feel about this."

I do know. He doesn't like to have these conversations. But who does? Tired of being the villain I point out the reality of situation, "You're right, it won't matter to you by then, when you think about it," I say.

I am not meaning to be cruel, but factual. Without a word, Caynan gets out of the "pool" (I use this term loosely) to get another beer. This conversation is over in his mind. Easy for him: he won't be the one stuck making these decisions if something happens when he deploys.

Next comes the torture of forced CNN watching. Because as we all know, when your Significant Other leaves he always takes the "off" button and channel changer from the remote control with him, leaving you unable to select non-stressful viewing materials during his absence:

In June, the parade of terribles begins. News from the front: soldiers being electrocuted in the showers, self-inflicted gunshot wounds, 10-year-old suicide bombers, sexual assaults on female soldiers.

But what really rankles, what hurts the most, is that if you stay inside your house; if you refuse to get involved in the command Family Readiness Group (and every command has one); if you decide you can't be bothered to reach out to your alcoholic neighbor who needs help, or your other neighbor who you think is addicted to Percocet, or to anyone else on base; if you are convinced that everyone around you is floundering and yet you are so mired in your own little world that it never even occurs to you to join one of the many groups out there who are actively involved in making things better for military spouses instead of sitting at home whining about feeling unappreciated and left out, you absolutely will end up feeling miserable, helpless, and very much alone:

... Army spouses (like myself), we exist in this in-between world. We are no longer civilians yet we are not "soldiers" either. We are expected to live the military life without being seen, heard, prepared, paid, or recognized for our service. We are called "the silent ranks" but really, we are invisible too. The "new" Army likes to say it "recruits the soldier but retains the family" but the reality of "if the Army wanted you to have a family it would have issued you one" remains.

We are outsiders living inside an institution that doesn't want to see or hear us. Civilians and law-makers lack interest in our experiences with the military as well as with the wars--yet our experiences with these are second only to those of the servicemember. There aren't any star-studded galas for our service and sacrifice or public service announcements and national dialogues about how war affects us (and/or our children).

Veterans' rights advocates talk to the "signature" wounds of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. Both are "invisible". Both are hard to diagnose. Both fundamentally alter the servicemember in ways that are complex and confusing--to the afflicted and the non-afflicted alike.

Also unseen, however, are the injuries of those who love the servicemember, whose own changes, traumas, afflictions frequently go unidentified and untreated as well. We call our returning warriors with invisible injuries the "walking wounded"; I include military spouses and children in that definition.

You don't have to wear a uniform to be wounded by these wars—but no one outside of those of us impacted seem to know this.

I am not sure how the Obama campaign finds and attracts these people, but they all seem to have one thing in common: they are all desperately unhappy; not one has anything positive to say about military life, and they all seem to think the world revolves around them. Contrary to Ms. Picard's fevered imaginings, the military and the Army do recognize the contributions of military spouses all the time. But strangely enough they seem to have this odd expection that one actually contribute something to others before one is recognized.

Just staying at home and whining about your "ghetto pool", or going about your daily life in the same manner as every other person on the planet is nothing special. People don't get awards for taking care of themselves or their own children. We don't get ponies for being adults. Sorry, but there it is. Grow up, Ms. Picard.

During my husband's 27 years in the Marine Corps, I have lived through three one year deployments and numerous shorter separations. It never once occurred to me that I should receive an award for doing this. Many other wives have had it far worse than I. Many civilians spouses endure more frequent and longer separations. Divorcees have to raise their children alone. How do they manage?

This was my choice: if I didn't want to do it, I could always have left my husband. If Ms. Picard finds the downside of military life outweighs her apparently meager resources; if the wind in Texas is just to "windy" for her and the pool is just too "ghetto", perhaps she ought to pack it in.

Or she can pick herself up by the bootstraps, stop whining, and join the community of military wives who daily volunteer to help those worse off than they are. Work at a homeless or animal shelter. Volunteer at a home for battered women. Help someone to learn to read. Adopt a fatherless, motherless or abused child on the weekends. Why doesn't Ms. Picard try helping some of those wounded warriors she was nattering on about, like this recently bereaved Gold Star mother did?

She's being outclassed by a bunch of kids. Doesn't that make her even the least bit ashamed of herself?

If she wants to feel better, she ought to stop thinking about herself and try thinking of others for once in her life. As a pilot's wife she already gets a generous paycheck. Now she is earning all sorts of extra allowances while her husband is overseas. Why not donate some of that extra pay to the less fortunate? After all, she is an Obama supporter: such generosity ought to be consistent with her stated values even if few progressives do more than give lip service to those lofty ideals.

Above all, for God's sake, stop whining lady. You have much to be thankful for. The question is, what are you doing to help others?


Posted by Cassandra at 08:24 AM | Comments (71) | TrackBack

January 03, 2009

Murderers!!!! (Next up: Secondhand Drinking)

Whatever would we do without scientists?

When they're not spending millions of our tax dollars to inform us of things we already know, they're discovering heretofore unsuspected dangers lurking in the very fibers of our clothing, just waiting to bite us all in the evolutionary ass:

Researchers have identified "third-hand smoke," an invisible evil that acts like a deadly Ghost of Cigarettes Past: Polluting the air, killing innocent babies and ottomans — even if they aren't present at the time.

As you can guess, this research is geared toward one end only: The banning of all smoking on private property — including your home.

Never one to eschew intolerant, divisive fear mongering (even as it denounces intolerant, divisive fear mongerers who use fear and... well, fear as an argument for imposing their policy preferences on others), the New York Times doth not hesitate to wield its much renowned flexible urban viewpoint like the jackhammer of the Gods... that is, if there were such a ridiculous thing as a Supreme Being (an idea all open-minded and intelligent people properly reject out of hand):

Parents who smoke often open a window or turn on a fan to clear the air of second-hand smoke, but experts now have identified another smoking-related threat to children’s health that isn’t as easy to get rid of: third-hand smoke.

That’s the term being used to describe the invisible yet toxic brew of gases and particles clinging to smokers’ hair and clothing, not to mention cushions and carpeting, that lingers long after smoke has cleared from a room. The residue includes heavy metals, carcinogens and even radioactive materials that young children can get on their hands and ingest, especially if they’re crawling or playing on the floor.

Doctors from MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston coined the term “third-hand smoke” to describe these chemicals in a new study that focused on the risks they pose to infants and children. The study was published in this month’s issue of the journal Pediatrics.

“Everyone knows that second-hand smoke is bad, but they don’t know about this,” said Dr. Jonathan P. Winickoff, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

“When their kids are out of the house, they might smoke. Or they smoke in the car. Or they strap the kid in the car seat in the back and crack the window and smoke, and they think it’s okay because the second-hand smoke isn’t getting to their kids,” Dr. Winickoff continued. “We needed a term to describe these tobacco toxins that aren’t visible.”

Third-hand smoke is what one smells when a smoker gets in an elevator after going outside for a cigarette, he said, or in a hotel room where people were smoking. “Your nose isn’t lying,” he said. “The stuff is so toxic that your brain is telling you: ’Get away.’”

Run. Run for your lives, people. You may have only moments left to live.

Indeed, the list of things which are slowly killing the human race by inches continues to mount. For instance, we once thought cleanliness was next to Godliness. Now, thanks to Science, we know that Mr. Clean is nothing better than a sociopathic monster out to kill our children:

Children from extremely clean homes may be more likely to develop asthma and hay fever than those who grow up on farms or in families that allow a bit of dirt in the house, researchers are reporting.

Dirt and manure may be beneficial because they are swarming with bacteria, which can help an infant's immune system to mature and develop tolerance -- instead of allergies -- to environmental substances like pollen and animal dander.

The new findings, published today in The New England Journal of Medicine, add to a growing collection of evidence for the ''hygiene hypothesis.'' This theory suggests that 20th century advances like indoor plumbing, antibiotics and cleaner homes may have contributed to recent increases in allergy, asthma and eczema by decreasing rates of childhood infection. Some infections early in life, the argument goes, help the immune system develop properly.

And as for saving the planet, well, that too has its dark side:

The more we learn, the more we learn we’ve really learned nothing at all, at least when compared to all the secrets that still lie hidden.

For example, there’s this absolutely fascinating article in today’s L.A. Times, which reports that some scientists think humanity’s ongoing obsession with hyper-cleanliness and its ever increasing microbiophobia (fear of germs), as evidenced by exploding sales of anti-bacterial products, may be contributing to the increases in some kinds of cancer we’ve been seeing lately.

It's enough to make the Editorial Staff go out into the garden and eat worms...

"In Africa, for example, the immune system is too busy chasing after worms to bother going after house dust mites," explained Dr Fallon.

"In a developed society, the immune system is looking for things to respond to.

"It's evolved to see worms and suddenly there are no worms there. So suddenly house mites, peanuts - whatever the allergies are - occupy the immune system and it responds and causes disease," he told the British Association's Festival of Science in Dublin.

In a study in Gabon, Africa, schoolchildren that were infected with worms had lower allergic responses to house dust mites than children with no worms.

When the children had their worms removed by drugs they then developed increased allergic responses.

When are people going to accept that there is such a thing as having the path made too smooth?

We humans are made to overcome obstacles and challenges. Muscles only grow stronger by being used. We only grow calluses on our hands by friction (and often, by getting blisters first). Our immune systems grow stronger by being attacked - the mechanism is challenge and response.

If we humans remove every hard thing from our paths, we will weaken and die as a species. This is so simple and obvious it should not require saying.

The princess has heard innumerable "experts" of late lauding the Obama administration for its willingness to listen to the scientific community. Will any of these brainiacs tell him the truth: that human beings need some hardship in order to flourish?

If they did, would he listen? I doubt it.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:27 AM | Comments (62) | TrackBack

January 01, 2009

MSM Brickbats and Bravos

We bloggers like to bash the mainstream media, and often our ire is justified by the media's persistent and deliberate refusal to hold themselves accountable to their own stated standards of professional conduct. Such behavior becomes particularly egregious when professional journalists tout the supposedly sacred trust reposed in them by the reading public to act as watchdogs over public officials. To hear them tell it, the media can brook no check whatsoever to their absolute and unquestioned power to defy lawfully appointed and convened grand juries and special prosecutors, publish classified information, selectively slander and libel private citizens without proof, so long as doing so "raises important questions". Their justification for acting without restraint is, ostensibly, that absolute and unchecked power corrupts absolutely.

And yet, they demand for themselves absolute and unchecked power over the subjects of their news stories, for they will submit to no lawful authority. Apparently, of all human beings on the planet, the media alone are incorruptible!

It's always fun (and worthwhile) to bash the media, and Patterico does a bang-up job of lambasting the LA Times for its serial reality-based reporting during 2008.

But if we do nothing but bash those in the media who screw up, we do a real disservice to those journalists who provide honest and fair reporting, and there are many more excellent reporters than we often like to admit. One of these at the LA Times is Tony Perry. I'd like to take just a moment to recognize Tony. This is the kind of news Mr. Perry chose to report recently:

Some Iraqis told him they were incredulous that the two Marines had not fled.

When Marine technicians restored a damaged security camera, the images were undeniable.

While Iraqi police fled, Haerter and Yale had never flinched and never stopped firing as the Mercedes truck -- the same model used in the Beirut bombing -- sped directly toward them.

Without their steadfastness, the truck would probably have penetrated the compound before it exploded, and 50 or more Marines and Iraqis would have been killed. The incident happened in just six seconds.

"No time to talk it over; no time to call the lieutenant; no time to think about their own lives or even the American and Iraqi lives they were protecting," Kelly said. "More than enough time, however, to do their duty. They never hesitated or tried to escape."

Kelly nominated the two for the Navy Cross, the second-highest award for combat bravery for Marines and sailors. Even by the standards expected of Marine "grunts," their bravery was exceptional, Kelly said.

The Haerter and Yale families will receive the medals early next year.

On the night after the bombing, Kelly wrote to each family that though he never knew its Marine, "I will remember him, and pray for him and for all those who mourn his loss, for the rest of my life."

Contrast that with the kind of personal courage this reporter found worthy of note:

Not long after that day at the Baghdad claims line in late 2006, Kim was on a two-week home leave. But even in the welcoming embrace of her small family, she couldn't let go of the pent-up tensions of the war zone. "I was so crazy, like a roller-coaster car that goes off its tracks and crashes," she says. "Sometimes I'd be pacing or paranoid or a little panicked. Other times, it would be just extreme depression." Kim's thoughts constantly turned to her kids. "It was incredibly emotional. I kept thinking, What if something happened to them? What if there was some emergency and they were hurt? I wouldn't be there for them," she says. "I'd be over in Iraq, just waiting to die."

The possibility of running away didn't occur to Kim at that point. But it did to her husband, Mario. He retreated to his computer, his usual hideout in times of stress. This wasn't the shy, sweet Kim he had known as a teenager; they couldn't go on like this. So Mario began researching antiwar groups and stumbled across the War Resisters Support Campaign in Canada. He sent an e-mail asking if anyone there could help. A former Vietnam War deserter named Lee Zaslofsky responded: Yes.

"The first time Mario told me, I dismissed it," Kim says. "What were we going to do in Canada?"

She remembers Mario pleading with her, "What options do we have?"

"We don't have any options," Kim snapped.

"Well, this is an option," he pressed. "It's better than none."

Kim was due to report to her base in a few days to travel back to Baghdad. With the deadline approaching, she and Mario piled the kids and everything else they could fit into the family's blue Geo Prizm, uncertain when they pulled out of the driveway whether they were heading for the base -- or for the border.

Kim was a wreck. They drove in a huge multistate circle for days, zigzagging west to east, north to south, debating and crying. "I could not make up my mind," Kim says. "And I was getting paranoid. We only used cash. Some hotels wouldn't take cash, so we'd have to find ones that did. I kept thinking that the police were going to break down our door in the middle of the night and find me." Kim thought about her life in the Army before Iraq, when she worked a simple 9-to-5 day, driving supplies from one place to another, packing up trucks, and unloading equipment from train boxcars. Now every time she heard a car door slam, she says, "it sounded like a faraway mortar."

She and Mario finally pointed the car north. On February 18, 2007, they crossed the border.

America disappeared fast in the mist of the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls. Kim was too numb, too angry, to look back. One minute she was Private Kimberly Rivera, a soldier, an Iraq War veteran, and an avowed patriot. But when she left the country that winter day, unnoticeable in the crush of honeymooners and sightseers, Kim became something else: a deserter.

And therein lies a tale.

My husband met Mr. Perry during a tour of Anbar province while he was deployed to Iraq last year. He's a good guy and he does a lot of stellar reporting about our Marines. This guy is another.

Unsung heroes, in my book. So in a time in which we bloggers stop to reflect on all the things the media got wrong during 2008, perhaps it's not such a bad idea to reflect on a few of the things the media got right.

And maybe, as we do that, it's appropriate for us to count our blessings and give thanks. America is still a good place, full of decent men and women. May it ever be so.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:44 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Happy New Year!

Posted by Cassandra at 11:25 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack