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April 29, 2009

"The Peasants Are Revolting" Caption Contest

Incroyable:

Asked about fiscal discipline and entitlements reform, Obama seemed to be repressing a smile as he jabbed critics of his spending plans.

"Those of you who are watching certain news channels on which I'm not very popular, and "you see folks waving tea bags around, Obama said, “let me just remind them that I am happy to have a serious conversation about how we are going to cut our health care costs down over the long term, how we are going to stabilize Social Security.”

“But,” Obama continued, “let's not play games and pretend that the reason [for the deficit] is because of the Recovery Act."

manna from heaven.jpg Because if there's one thing our new Commander in Thief can't abide, it's game-playing. Translation for the irony impaired:

"Pipe down, Peasants. I won."

And at any rate, the Congressional Budget Office has clearly shown us that nothing about the Recovery Act could possibly cause the slightest concern to any reasonable human being. Why, the projected increases to the federal deficit resulting from the Recovery Act alone are just trivial:

* $185 billion over the remaining months of fiscal year 2009

* $399 billion in 2010

* $134 billion in 2011

But as some wag once remarked, a picture is worth a thousand shell games. The federal deficit in 2000 constant dollars, from 1900 to 2010:

constant2000dollars.jpg


The deficit will increase by $787 billion over the 2009-2019 period.

Here is the deficit as a % of GDP for the same period. Considering the queues of po' folk lined up outside soup kitchens everywhere positively a-quiver at the thought of cramming their mouths with distressful bread, it's clear that emergency measures were warranted. Frankly, we're just thankful to be rescued from the wasteful spending and failed policies we inherited from that "other guy":

percentofGDP.jpg

Yep. The sheer misery quotient makes it downright understandable for the feds to go all Grapes of Wrath on our collective tuckii. Really, we ought to just thank our lucky stars we have someone smart who can explain this mess to us in language we can understand.

And now that you've calmed us down, we realize that shameless partisan griping is just unconscionable.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:45 PM | Comments (35) | TrackBack

Best Post I've Read In A *Very* Long Time

Here.

I will have some serious thoughts later on after I get done with work. But John gets it - or at least most of it.

I am sick, sick, sick (not to mention furious) over this Specter thing but then I've criticized Specter for years for his tepid support of his own party. I don't agree that he left the party because of asshats who think ridding the party of what they call "RINOs" will magically give Rethugs the votes they need to win elections and battles in Congress. The guy left because he perceived (correctly) that right now Republicans are extremely unpopular. His defection was more about pragmatism than principle.

Still, I feel utterly betrayed by this whack job because he's using legitimate gripes voiced by moderates to cover his sorry, expedient ass. I'm not sure whether his Saudi Sweep from "the country needs me to remain Republican" to "I'm a loyal Democrat" is best explained by insanity or substance abuse?

Not that I'm ticked off at Specter or anything :p

Update: this is almost unbearably cool:

spectre.jpg

Note: the following directions refer to the interactive display in the linked article, not to my static jpeg.

Red dots are Republican senators, blue dots are Democrats, and Specter is purple. The two independents, who caucus with Democrats, are light blue.

Any two senators are connected if they have voted the same way on 65 percent of the votes in 2009—an admittedly handpicked threshold number that best displays the connections and divisions.

Mouse over a dot to see a senator's name. All those to whom he is connected—that is, those he has voted with at least 65 percent of the time—will be highlighted in yellow.

There are nearly 2,400 connections among the senators, so at first the graphic will look chaotic and bounce around a bit. Eventually, like the Senate itself, it will resolve to an equilibrium that shows two distinct camps.

Check it out.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:37 AM | Comments (39) | TrackBack

April 28, 2009

Blue

Here.

I can identify :p

Posted by Cassandra at 05:35 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The Criminal Element...

....lurking in our ranks. The Editorial Staff cannot say we are surprised.

We suspect, however, that a certain hot jailer may have been responsible for his willingness to be taken into custody. Not so sure about this hardened criminal (scroll down to the second photo).

This is probably a good time to talk about old friends. For as long as the Princess has been blathering, Mr. and Mrs. G have been out there diligently keeping the Milblogs community informed with a seemingly boundless supply of wit, good humor, passion, and above all competence. I will never forget the day I first heard Greyhawk had gone off and formed his own "blog".

I thought he was insane. If Mudville is insanity, however, we should all be so crazy. I've been a huge fan ever since.

I haven't talked about the 2009 Milblogs Conference.

Carrie and I were there last weekend. I was sort of flying under the radar (not hard to do when you run a small site). If you don't know it already, the Milblogs Conference is a joint venture of Military.com, one Andi Hurley: Milspouse Extraordinaire, and various civic-minded corporate entities. Andi is the woman every military wife wants to be when she grows up. I live in perpetual fear I'll awake one morning to find she has taken Capitol Hill in a bloodless coup and converted our Congressional Overlords into her willing slaves.

All this I could bear, except that ... dagnabbit...she's Army. Some things just ain't right.

At any rate, some thank yous are in order. At the Best Milblogs Conference evah, Mrs. G put on the Best Fundraiser Evah: Jail and Bail. Our little non-profit, Honor Their Service, took in the princely sum of $905.00 from Jail and Bail alone! To everyone who helped make this event a success: Greyhawk and Mrs. G, Homefront Six, Fbl, Boston Maggie (resident torturer) and WifeUnit, Sherri and Andi (if I've missed anyone, please let me know!) - we can only say thanks from the bottom of our hearts.

We have great plans for putting the money to good use. In other news, USAA and BAE Systems, both huge supporters of the military community, were kind enough to donate generously. Corporations get a lot of undeserved bad press, but these folks have really stepped up to the plate to support wounded and ill vets and their families.

To everyone who helped with Jail and Bail or worked to make the Milblogs Conference a huge success, thank you. I got to meet too many folks to mention here, including my super secret blog hero.

Truly, a good time was had by all. Outstanding work, Andi.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:57 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

The Caine Mutiny

As I've commented many times, economics is the study of human behavior. And it's not exactly earthshaking to find that people don't go to work every day to provide a heaping helping of "social justice" to people they've never met.

They work to provide a better life for themselves and those they care for:

"The Government has taken tax up to 50 per cent, and if it goes to 51 I will be back in America," he said at the weekend. "We've got 3.5 million layabouts on benefits, and I'm 76, getting up at 6am to go to work to keep them. Let's get everybody back to work so we can save a couple of billion and cut tax, not keep sticking it up."

Unsurprisingly, they also feel this strange sense of "entitlement": it's almost as though they think they should be allowed to keep what they earn.

As the saying goes, "read the whole thing". And then try and tell me this wasn't entirely predictable.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:08 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Memory and Accountability

Nancy Pelosi wants to uphold the rule of law and ensure those who authorized "torture" are held accountable. Fantastic. I say we begin with her:

Maybe, for instance, the speaker doesn't remember that in September 2002, as ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, she was one of four members of Congress who were briefed by the CIA about the interrogation methods the agency was using on leading detainees. "For more than an hour," the Washington Post reported in 2007, "the bipartisan group . . . was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

"Among the techniques described," the story continued, "was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder."

Or maybe the speaker never heard what some of her Democratic colleagues were saying about legal niceties getting in the way of an effective counterterrorism strategy.

"Unfortunately, we are not living in times in which lawyers can say no to an operation just to play it safe," said Democrat Bob Graham, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence during the 2002 confirmation hearing of Scott Muller to be the CIA's general counsel. "We need excellent, aggressive lawyers who give sound, accurate legal advice, not lawyers who say no to an otherwise legal opinion just because it is easier to put on the brakes."

Or maybe the speaker forgot that after 9/11, the operative question among Americans, including various media paladins, wasn't whether the Bush administration had gone overboard. On the contrary:

"I asked the president whether he and the country had done enough for the war on terror," writes Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward in his book "Bush at War." "The possibility of another major attack still loomed. . . . Was it not possible that he had undermobilized given the threat and the devastation of September 11?" (My emphases.)

Or maybe the speaker missed what former CIA Director (and Bill Clinton appointee) George Tenet writes in his memoir, "At the Center of the Storm," about the CIA interrogation of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed:

"I believe none of these successes [in foiling terrorist plots] would have happened if we had had to treat KSM like a white-collar criminal -- read him his Miranda rights and get him a lawyer who surely would have insisted his client simply shut up. In his initial interrogation by CIA officers, KSM was defiant. 'I'll talk to you guys,' he said, 'after I get to New York and see my lawyer.' Apparently he thought he would be immediately shipped to the United States and indicted in the Southern District of New York. Had that happened, I am confident that we would have obtained none of the information he had in his head about imminent threats to the American people."

Mr. Tenet continues: "From our interrogation of KSM and other senior al Qaeda members . . . we learned many things -- not just tactical information leading to the next capture. For example, more than 20 plots had been put in motion by al Qaeda against U.S. infrastructure targets, including communications nodes, nuclear power plants, dams, bridges and tunnels."

Maybe, too, the speaker no longer recalls what she knew, and when, about the Bush administration's other much-reviled counterterrorist program, the warrantless wiretaps.

"Within weeks of the program's inception," writes Mr. Tenet, "senior congressional leaders were called to the White House and briefed on it. . . . At one point in 2004 there was even a discussion with the congressional leadership in the White House Situation Room with regard to whether new legislation should be introduced to amend the FISA statute, to put the program on a broader legal foundation. The view that day on the part of members of Congress was that this could not be done without jeopardizing the program."

Isn't it amazing how our view of things changes in hindsight. Or does it only change once the press finally begin to pay attention?

And wasn't it the press who claimed the only way to avoid repeating our mistakes was to learn from them?

Many CIA officers, including Deputy Director for Operations Pavitt, have criticized policymakers for not giving the CIA authorities to conduct effective operations against Bin Ladin. This issue manifests itself in a debate about the scope of the covert actions in Afghanistan authorized by President Clinton. NSC staff and CIA officials differ starkly here.

Senior NSC staff members told us they believed the president’s intent was clear: he wanted Bin Ladin dead. On successive occasions, President Clinton issued authorities instructing the CIA to use its proxies to capture or assault Bin Ladin and his lieutenants in operations in which they might be killed. The instructions, except in one defined contingency, were to capture Bin Ladin if possible.
Senior legal advisers in the Clinton administration agreed that, under the law of armed conflict, killing a person who posed an imminent threat to the United States was an act of self-defense, not an assassination. As former National Security Adviser Berger explained, if we wanted to kill Bin Ladin with cruise missiles, why would we not want to kill him with covert action? Clarke’s recollection is the same.

But if the policymakers believed their intent was clear, every CIA official interviewed on this topic by the Commission, from DCI Tenet to the official who actually briefed the agents in the field, told us they heard a different message. What the United States would let the military do is quite different, Tenet said, from the rules that govern covert action by the CIA. CIA senior managers, operators, and lawyers uniformly said that they read the relevant authorities signed by President Clinton as instructing them to try to capture Bin Ladin, except in the defined contingency. They believed that the only acceptable context for killing Bin Ladin was a credible capture operation.

“We always talked about how much easier it would have been to kill him,” a former chief of the UBL Station said. Working-level CIA officers said they were frustrated by what they saw as the policy restraints of having to instruct their assets to mount a capture operation. When Northern Alliance leader Massoud was briefed on the carefully worded instructions for him, the briefer recalls that Massoud laughed and said, “You Americans are crazy. You guys never change.”

Truer words have never been spoken. We never learn, no matter how many classified documents are leaked to the media:

We knew that, like almost everything else in Washington, the program would eventually be leaked and our Agency and its people would be inaccurately portrayed in the worst possible light."

Those words were written by former CIA director George Tenet. Two years ago, in his book "At the Center of the Storm," Tenet predicted the controversy that has now engulfed Washington. The new revelations regarding the agency's enhanced interrogation techniques has captured the nation's attention with the Obama administration's release of the Bush Justice Department's secret memos on interrogation.

Near the end of the Korean War, I was an interrogator in the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Corps, trained to extract information from the targets of our investigations by developing relationships with them. I was taught that using force resulted in questionable intelligence.

But decades later, I was in Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, and I saw the anxiety that overtook the city after the loss of 3,000 lives in the destruction of the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon. Friends and colleagues spoke openly of their fears of another attack and purchased gas masks and duct tape to secure their homes. Imagine the atmosphere in the White House, where, one month earlier, the president had received a CIA briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." FBI Director Robert Mueller, new on the job, told Post reporters and editors at a luncheon several weeks after the attacks that there may be as many as 100 al-Qaeda cells inside this country.

In October 2001, I wrote that torture talk was in the air, as was the possibility of sending suspects to countries where such interrogation tactics are used. The FBI typically shies away from harsh interrogations because the results cannot be used in court. But the CIA, which was under fire at the time for having failed to prevent the attacks, was under no such constraint.

Now, more than seven years after al-Qaeda's assault on the United States, memories of the fear and pandemonium in Washington have faded, replaced by heated debates over torture, prosecutions and truth commissions. Tenet could write with confidence that the inevitable disclosure of the CIA's program would generate such reactions in Congress and among the public because it has happened to the CIA many times before -- each with devastating effects on the agency.

Will this time be different? Maybe. President Obama went out of his way last week to reassure CIA personnel that he opposes prosecution of agency officers who carried out the techniques within the four corners of the legal opinions. But Congress and human rights groups are pushing for investigations that will inevitably shine the spotlight on CIA leaders and operatives who ran the programs, along with the White House and Justice Department officials who authorized them.

Note the author of this article. It's enough to make baby Jesus cry.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:31 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

April 27, 2009

That Dark Place

The deepest foundation on which morality is built is the phenomenon of empathy, the understanding that what hurts me would feel the same way to you. And human ego notwithstanding, it's a quality other species share.

Morality Quiz

I can still remember the worst dream I ever had, though I had it well over 20 years ago.

Needwood-05.jpg In my dream I was walking through the tall grass on the shores of Lake Needwood near my parents' house. I have no idea what I was doing there but then dreams don't have to make sense, do they? Perhaps it was because I spent a fair amount of time there as a teen.

The afternoon sunlight washed the tops of the autumn grass with gold as I waded silently through an endless sea of waving strands. It sounds tranquil, idyllic.

And for the first few moments it was. I was happy. At peace.

But then suddenly, without warning, an icy bolt of pure adrenaline shot through me. My son - a tiny angel whose upturned nose was just beginning to show the barest dusting of freckles - where was he? He was only three years old... when had I last seen him? I began to run through the grass, but night was coming and suddenly I knew with a sick certainty that he needed me. And I couldn't find him.

Mothers have an odd connection with their children. I think it must stem from the physical bond we share during the first year of life. We carry them everywhere, wrapped in a cocoon of warmth and safety. Snuggled deeply inside us, they recognize and react to our voices when we speak. And for the first time in our lives we know another human being is totally, utterly dependent upon us. We feel their tiniest movements. When they are startled or agitated, we know without having to be told.

Loud noises can frighten the unborn even in the womb. I remember gently placing my hand over my swollen belly and speaking softly to both my sons when some sudden noise startled them and they began to kick like tiny frogs.

"Shhhhhhh. It's all right. I am here. You're safe."

But in my dream he wasn't safe. I don't know how I knew this, but the feeling went so deep I never doubted it for an instant. I knew it in the same way I always woke just before my children did in the middle of the night, even though they never woke at the same time two nights in a row. A gossamer thread connected us. It passed through closed doors. It transcended space, crossed time. It didn't make sense.

It just was.

Night fell, and I could see searchlights winking like fireflies along the shore in the gathering gloom. Someone had my son. He was still alive because I could sense his presence.

But someone - I didn't know who - was doing terrible things to him. Unspeakable things. I knew, without having to be told, that he was in agony and I was powerless to help him - unable to stop his screams.

I think the reason I still remember that dream after all these years is that it was the first time I truly understood the phrase "she died of a broken heart". Some things you can't truly comprehend until you experience them for the first time.

When I finally woke, I thought I was having a heart attack. There was a crushing weight in my chest - it felt as though an invisible fist had reached right through my rib cage and was squeezing my heart. I can't describe the sensation. It didn't matter a bit when my rational mind said, "It was only a dream." I heard and understood. But then the pain came and reason - reality - ceased to matter.

I've remembered that feeling often in the last few weeks and the thought has occurred to me: what would I have done, in my dream, to protect my son? What would I have done if those searchlights had descended upon someone who knew where my child was being kept? What would I do if I'd found someone who knew who my son's tormentor was, who could lead the police to him and stop the awful pain?

I wonder how many of the parents, lovers and friends of those who died on 9/11 have had similar dreams? Dreams that, unlike my long ago nightmare, they couldn't wake up from? I'm not alone in asking this question:

In surprisingly good English, the captive quietly answers: 'Yes, all thanks to God, I do know when the mujaheddin will, with God's permission, detonate a nuclear weapon in the United States, and I also know how many and in which cities." Startled, the CIA interrogators quickly demand more detail. Smiling his trademark shy smile, the captive says nothing. Reporting the interrogation's results to the White House, the CIA director can only shrug when the president asks: "What can we do to make Osama bin Laden talk?"

I've heard - and read - the disclaimers. The rationalizations seeking to justify something the speaker can't possibly know:

"It's just a hypothetical, and a ridiculous one at that."

"There they go, fear mongering again."

Except that it's not far fetched anymore. Since the day 19 men armed with nothing more than boxcutters flew planes into two buildings and a field in Pennsylvania, nothing seems far fetched anymore except to those determined to avoid hard choices. Who would have believed it took so little to make us vulnerable? If the 9/11 scenario had been laid out ahead of time, can you imagine the ridicule? The accusations of fear mongering? Who would have believed 19 men could snuff out 3000 lives in an instant?

Certainly not these people. Certainly not the ones who brandish the enviable surety of 20/20 hindsight with such self-righteous delight, secure in the knowledge that their consequence-free pronouncements will never be second guessed.

I'd love to believe that I am a moral person; that I have a well thought out code of ethics I'd never violate under any circumstances - no, not even to save a small child from torture and a painful death. Not even to save my own son. I've often said that two wrongs don't make a right. I've said this repeatedly. I've said that principles mean nothing if we're willing to jettison them at the first sign of trouble.

But then there is that dream. Would I knowingly inflict pain on a unwilling informant, if by so doing I could end the pain of an innocent child?

Empathy is an odd emotion. For me at least, it's not a one way street. I can easily imagine the terror of being nearly drowned. I can just as easily imagine the screams of a small Iraqi child or his grandfather when their limbs are blown off by a suicide bomber. I can imagine these things just as easily as I can feel the devastating guilt, the aching loneliness of the wife who had a nasty argument with her husband just before he headed off to work on a brilliant September morning in 2001 without hearing her whispered, "I'm sorry....so sorry. I love you so much."

"I didn't mean what I said last night."

Perhaps it is because I can empathize - not just with one side, but with all sides in this awful mess - that I can't pretend there wasn't a choice to be made. And I can't duck that hard question: what would I do, if it were my job to keep others safe? Would I be strong enough to stick by my principles?

And if I did, would I be strong enough to live with the guilt if that was the wrong choice and others suffered a worse fate through my inaction?

The absolutists - on both sides - are willfully ducking the question; refusing to recognize the hard choices made by those who watch over us as we go about our daily routines. And the truth of the matter is, we only know so much about what transpired because the watchers recorded what happened. They left a record of their decisions; their reasoning, of the facts and the law as they understood them then (not with the brilliant clarity of hindsight, but in the moment).

We would like certainty. We would like to remove ourselves to higher ground and look back on what was done to protect us with civilized distaste. We can do that because we are, in fact, safe.

Hunted people avoid higher ground. It's the most dangerous place to be. It's exposed, and when the bullets are flying the safest thing to do is to duck, and hide, and do nothing.

But the question remains: what would you do?

For you, this is only a hypothetical question. When you turn off the evening news and pause before the door of your child's bedroom to listen to his soft breathing in gathering darkness, try to remember that.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:37 PM | Comments (48) | TrackBack

Because I Can...

yip_book.jpg

Yeah. I'm a spaz.

But it makes me laugh every time I look at it.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:28 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The ACLU...

nekkid.jpg ...they're looking out for your rights:

The ACLU will host a public forum Tuesday called "Naked in Boulder." The forum will discuss whether nude offenders should be treated as "pranksters and protesters, or criminals and sex offenders."

Thank God someone is willing to take on this important work.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:29 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Obama's Unrealistic Assumptions About Health Care Costs

The One has a close encounter with the real world:

Some of the proposed solutions, while advancing one of President Obama’s goals, could frustrate others. Increasing the supply of doctors, for example, would increase access to care but could make it more difficult to rein in costs.

The need for more doctors comes up at almost every Congressional hearing and White House forum on health care. “We’re not producing enough primary care physicians,” Mr. Obama said at one forum. “The costs of medical education are so high that people feel that they’ve got to specialize.” New doctors typically owe more than $140,000 in loans when they graduate.

Lawmakers from both parties say the shortage of health care professionals is already having serious consequences. “We don’t have enough doctors in primary care or in any specialty,” said Representative Shelley Berkley, Democrat of Nevada.

Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, said, “The work force shortage is reaching crisis proportions.”

Even people with insurance have problems finding doctors.

Miriam Harmatz, a lawyer in Miami, said: “My longtime primary care doctor left the practice of medicine five years ago because she could not make ends meet. The same thing happened a year later. Since then, many of the doctors I tried to see would not take my insurance because the payments were so low.”

And the Obama solution to the critical shortage of doctors is... what? To increase demand and allow government to set prices based, not on a rate that attracts people to enter the field, but on what they can afford to pay now that we're guaranteeing reimbursement of medical expenses to a much larger group of people?

How long will it be until the quality of medical care declines unacceptably and Congress and this administration pass a Patient Bill of Rights that drives up the costs of providing medical even further? You can't ignore forces on the supply side of the equation simply because you "care" about the demand side of the equation.

This is the problem with so many progressive policy prescriptions: because they are grounded entirely in normative ethics - they think government should make laws that reflect how the world ought to be rather than how the world actually works - they completely ignore the way human beings in the real world respond to tradeoffs. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that if you make a law which assumes people will react one way (in fact, one that requires people to act this way to produce the intended results) but people actually react in the opposite manner, there will be unintended and undesireable consequences.

Why are medical costs in the U.S. so high? Well, for one thing, we receive more - and more advanced - medical services than other industrialized nations:

What really drives health spending, the study finds, is that Americans receive more costly medical services than do other peoples, and they pay more for them. On a population-adjusted basis, the number of CT scans in 2005 was 72 percent higher in the United States than in Germany; U.S. reimbursement rates were four times higher. Knee replacements were 90 percent more frequent than the average in other wealthy countries. In 2005, there were 750,000 knee and hip replacements, up 70 percent in five years, reports the journal Health Affairs.

Given than there is already a critical shortage of doctors, does the Obama administration really believe that if we pay doctors less, more Americans will be incented to undergo years of difficult study and take on massive debt? Really?

Who acts like this in the real world?

Nationalized health insurance means a massive influx of new patients (none of whom will have to pay for their own care, a situation which nearly always results in overuse of a resource) into an already overtaxed system.

As our own history shows, reducing out of pocket costs for health care raises rather than lowers health care costs:

Economist Amy Finkelstein of MIT has estimated that roughly half the real increase in per capita health spending from 1950 to 1990 reflected the spread of comprehensive health insurance. In 2006, consumers' out-of-pocket spending represented 13 percent of total health spending, down from about half in 1960. Unfortunately, this semi-automatic system may now frustrate other national goals by displacing other spending and spawning ineffective or unneeded care.

On paper, there are various ways to control health spending: stricter regulation of prices and the availability of care; "market mechanisms" to push consumers toward more efficient or skimpier care. All have foundered, because they cannot be used aggressively. The reason is politics. There is no major constituency for controlling spending. Because most patients don't pay medical bills directly, they have little interest in using less care or shopping for lower-priced services. Providers (doctors, hospitals, drug companies) have no interest in limiting care. What others call "health costs" are their incomes -- wages, salaries, profits.

Another obstacle to controlling health care costs is that we are victims of our own success. In this sense, health care is like poverty: as average well-being increases, we experience "expectation inflation":

Two years ago, another group of researchers, led by Harvard economist David M. Cutler, looked at the money spent on health care from 1960 to 2000 and asked the crucial question: What did it get us? Their answer: Plenty -- but improvements are costing more all the time.

Their study found that over those 40 years, the life expectancy of people of all ages had increased. Not surprisingly, investments in the health of children were more cost-effective than investments in 60-year-olds. What's more interesting is that extending life cost more as the 20th century progressed, even taking inflation into account. In the 1970s, it took $46,870 to add a year to the life expectancy of 65-year-olds. By the 1990s, it cost $145,000.

As we become healthier, it takes more effort to extend our lives than it did in a time when we were less healthy (and dying prematurely). Fifty years ago, American medicine picked the low-hanging fruit of life-extension as clean water, vaccines, antibiotics, insulin and other cheap innovations became available to everyone. Now, we're going after the higher and more expensive stuff.

Take implantable cardioverter-defibrillators, or ICDs. These "ambulances in the chest" shock hearts out of the fatal rhythms that are a major hazard for people who survive large heart attacks. Vice President Cheney has one wired into his heart.

Three years ago, a team of researchers calculated that putting an ICD into a heart-attack survivor added one to three years to the person's life expectancy. The cost? Between $30,000 and $70,000 for every year of life gained. In the world of "cost-effectiveness analysis," that's judged to be worth it, the convention being that a treatment that buys an extra year of life for $50,000 or less is "affordable."

Medicare estimates that about 500,000 Americans now qualify for an ICD on medical grounds. Undreamed of when our parents and grandparents were having heart attacks, these devices are keeping or will keep thousands alive. So who's going to give one up in the interest of slowing the growth of health care spending? Not I. And I suspect not you, either.

Mandatory national health insurance is not a recipe for controlling costs. When you reduce the out of pocket costs of obtaining medical services, people have little or no incentive to limit their consumption. After all, expensive tests and invasive procedures don't cost them anything. Physicians have no incentive to limit recommendations for such measures and considering the risk of being sued for malpractice if they miss something, considerable incentive to cover themselves by recommending more tests than are warranted.

Costs provide an important means of helping consumers assess the value of various alternatives. Eliminating or passing on individual costs to other taxpayers won't control health care costs in the aggregate because it provides no reason for individuals to forego any medical procedure, even it it's completely unnecessary.

Our own history has shown that as more medical services become available and the out of pocket costs of these services decreases, people consume more. As Samuelson notes, there are ways to control rising health care costs, but they all involve passing the costs of health care back down to consumers:

We need mass constituencies that favor cost control. But our consistent policy has been to conceal the burden of health spending by burying it in untaxed corporate fringe benefits or government budgets.

We could change this. We could charge the elderly more for Medicare. We could tax employer-provided health insurance as ordinary income. We could create a dedicated federal tax to cover government health costs -- if health spending increased more than revenue, the tax would automatically rise. People would quickly feel the costs of our present system. Of course, that would be unpopular, because it would compel Americans to face a discomforting issue -- how important is health care compared with other priorities?

This, of course, is precisely what Barack Obama maintains we shouldn't have to do: decide for ourselves how important health care is to each of us. And centuries of experience with human nature provide little reason to think that people who don't have to face the consequences of their own actions will manage resources responsibly.

What makes this situation any different?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:39 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Little Things

Many moons ago when the blog princess was newly married, we lived in a small apartment complex in Williamsburg, Virginia. We didn't have much in the way of furniture. The decor could perhaps be best described as Early Yard Sale with a dash of Pier One thrown in to make it truly bewildering. The living room sofa was two foam mattresses with some lovely peach-colored fitted sheets and an assortment of batik throw pillows, and our only end table a repurposed TV cabinet, turned around backwards so the hole where the TV screen had once been was hidden from view.

I worked hard, though, to try and make the place look homey. I had a wonderful exotic looking floral tablecloth that I kept on our round table in the breakfast nook. It matched our dishes (that was probably the only thing we owned that did match). Since we didn't have many pictures, I carefully ironed and hung an assortment of linen tea towels with printed botanical images on the wall.

We only had one car, which the spousal unit invariably took with him to class and work, after he was done with his classes for the day. That meant our tiny son and I walked everywhere; to the grocery store, the library (3 miles one way!) or the laundromat.

But my favorite walks were the ones I took in the afternoons at the end of each week. On Fridays, I liked to have fresh flowers on the table. Since buying them was out of the question, I would take the baby out for long walks along the back roads where wildflowers lined the pavement on both sides: asters, Queen Anne's lace, chicory, Lady's Slippers in springtime. They never lasted long, but I can't think of too many things that made me more satisfied than looking at my table and seeing a vase full of wildflowers.

A scientific experiment measured the effect that receiving various gifts had on the recipient. Unsurprisingly (at least to me) flowers gave the most joy:

While the women smiled when receiving nearly all of the gifts, significantly more authentic Duchenne smiles were observed in women receiving flowers than the other gifts. While 100 percent of those receiving flowers smiled, only 90 percent of those receiving fruit and 77 percent of candle-receivers smiled authentically when seeing their gifts. Three days later, the women were interviewed on the telephone again, and only the flower-receivers scored significantly higher on the mood questionnaire than they had in the first interview.

Whether they arrive grasped in the chubby fist of a small boy or wrapped in gauze with a big satin bow, flowers gladden the heart of any woman.

It's scientific.


Posted by Cassandra at 07:23 AM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

April 24, 2009

Ladies, Who's Looking Out For You???

"Never dare me...."

That's something I say all the time. Be that as it may, you'll never see the Princess in a bathing suit.

Something for which you may all be profoundly thankful.


Posted by Cassandra at 08:37 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

April 23, 2009

I Feel Safer

Heh.

The administration's new guidance on interrogation of man-caused disaster facilitators.

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

When Congress Runs Banks

The saddest lines from the NY Times account of David Kellerman's suicide:

Mr. Kellermann’s boss and other top executives were ousted when the Treasury secretary seized Freddie Mac and its sibling company, Fannie Mae; others left on their own and were not replaced. Soon President Obama told the companies they were responsible for carrying out some of his programs to revive the economy, in addition to keeping the housing market afloat by buying and selling hundreds of thousands of mortgages a month.

Mr. Kellermann, 41, began working nonstop, sometimes returning home only to change clothes, colleagues say. He was losing weight and telling friends that it seemed impossible to appease everyone — regulators, lawmakers, investors and other executives — given their competing demands. Someone was always angry with him, he told one friend. And no matter how many hours everyone worked, it seemed as if the economy and homeowners were still slipping farther into the abyss.

Then early this month, Mr. Kellermann and other executives at Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae became the focus of intense scrutiny when lawmakers learned they would receive bonuses totaling $210 million. Mr. Kellermann was set to receive $850,000 over 16 months. Reporters and camera crews showed up at his home in Vienna, an affluent Virginia suburb of Washington. Fearing that someone might attack his house, his wife or their 5-year-old daughter, he asked the company for a security detail.

Early on Wednesday, Mr. Kellermann went to the basement of his brick home and hanged himself, according to people familiar with the situation who were not authorized to speak.

But here is where it really gets good:

Last month the company’s chief executive, David M. Moffett, resigned in part, he said, because federal regulators were using Freddie Mac to carry out economic policy at the expense of nursing the publicly held company back to financial health. The company has not had a president since 2007.

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which together own or back more than half of the home mortgages in the country, have been hobbled by skyrocketing loan defaults and have received a total of $60 billion in federal aid since they were taken over last fall.

Mr. Kellermann was also working in a poisonous political atmosphere. In addition to taking criticism over the bonuses, he was recently involved in tense conversations with the company’s federal regulator over its routine financial disclosures, according to people close to those discussions who also spoke on condition of anonymity. Freddie Mac executives wanted to emphasize to investors that they believed the company was being run to benefit the government, rather than shareholders. The company’s regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Authority, had pushed to play down that language. Freddie Mac reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission that changes it had made in practices to help the government “have increased our expenses or caused us to forgo revenue opportunities.”

Let's just recall for a moment what Barney Frank and Chuck Schumer had to say about Republicans who tried to warn of the impending financial crisis in 2003:

I am glad to consider the legislation, but I do not think we are facing any kind of a crisis. That is, in my view, the two government sponsored enterprises we are talking about here, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are not in a crisis. We have recently had an accounting problem with Freddie Mac that has led to people being dismissed, as appears to be appropriate. I do not think at this point there is a problem with a threat to the Treasury.

I must say we have an interesting example of self-fulfilling prophecy. Some of the critics of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac say that the problem is that the Federal Government is obligated to bail out people who might lose money in connection with them. I do not believe that we have any such obligation. And as I said, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy by some people.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have played a very useful role in helping make housing more affordable, both in general through leveraging the mortgage market, and in particular, they have a mission that this Congress has given them in return for some of the arrangements which are of some benefit to them to focus on affordable housing, and that is what I am concerned about here. I believe that we, as the Federal Government, have probably done too little rather than too much to push them to meet the goals of affordable housing and to set reasonable goals. I worry frankly that there is a tension here.

The more people, in my judgment, exaggerate a threat of safety and soundness, the more people conjure up the possibility of serious financial losses to the Treasury, which I do not see. I think we see entities that are fundamentally sound financially and withstand some of the disastrous scenarios. And even if there were a problem, the Federal Government doesn't bail them out. But the more pressure there is there, then the less I think we see in terms of affordable housing.

In that brief statement, the Editorial Staff counted the following:

Times M. Frank stated "there is no crisis": 4
Times M. Frank stated "there is no threat to the Treasury": 1
Times M. Frank averred the government has no obligation to investors in GSEs: 4
Times M. Frank stated his overriding concern that GSEs provide "affordable housing": 4

M. Frank was joined in these sentiments by his colleague, Monsieur Schumer (D, Affordable Housing), who took vigorous exception to both the administration's attempts to regulate GSEs and to Chairman Greenspan's warnings:

As Congress began again to work on legislation to strengthen oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two of the nation's largest mortgage finance companies, Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve's chairman, urged lawmakers today to impose sharp limits on the $1.5 trillion holdings of the companies. Appearing before the Senate Banking Committee, Mr. Greenspan said the enormous portfolios of the companies - nearly a quarter of the home mortgage market - posed significant risks to the nation's financial system should either of the companies face extensive problems.

"We at the Federal Reserve remain concerned about the growth and magnitude of the mortgage portfolios of the government-sponsored enterprises, which concentrate interest rate risk and prepayment risk at these two institutions and makes our financial system dependent on their ability to manage these risks," Mr. Greenspan said. "To fend off possible future systemic difficulties, which we assess as likely if G.S.E. expansion continues unabated, preventive actions are required sooner rather than later."

Most of the assets in the portfolios are mortgage-backed securities that the companies find more profitable to hold than to sell in the secondary markets. Mr. Greenspan said those holdings did nothing to further the mission of the companies of providing market liquidity and lowering mortgage interest rates but was solely a method of increasing earnings.

In previous years, lawmakers have failed to approve legislation imposing stronger oversight of the companies and changing the way they do business. The two companies have been formidable lobbying forces and been able to block attempts made by lawmakers, often with the support of rival mortgage companies, to restrict them.

But some lawmakers say this year presents the best opportunity in a long time to adopt legislation as the two companies because both companies have struggled through accounting scandals.

Mr. Greenspan's testimony went beyond previous statements in which he has urged tighter scrutiny of the two companies. His approach towards the companies of heavier scrutiny and regulation stands in strong contrast to his overall deregulatory approach in other areas, like hedge funds, and that distinction was noted today by a handful of senators who questioned the need to force Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to reduce their portfolios.

In several pointed lines of questioning, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, criticized Mr. Greenspan's recommendation and called it both inconsistent with his other views on regulation and potentially damaging to the housing markets. Without identifying anyone in particular, he also suggested that some people who have advanced tougher regulation of the two housing finance companies are really pushing a broader agenda to eliminate the companies and their mission of providing affordable housing

But that was then. This is now:

Congress refused to act when the danger was outlined. They refused to repeal laws that forced banks to take on unacceptable risk in the name of "affordable housing". These organizations were presented with a Catch 22 scenario in which they were simultaneously tasked with making unprofitable and risky loans and delivering good returns on investments made by their stockholders.

To top it all off, after creating the problem Congress then proceeded to embark upon a witch hunt that blamed the very officers forced by Congress to take these stupid risks.

Is it any wonder this man felt trapped? And at every step along the way, our President, who supported Congress' "affordable housing" measures and who received more than any other candidate from these banks poured gasoline on the flames.

And yet, somehow, the CIA is supposed to be reassured by his promises that they won't be prosecuted for doing a difficult and dangerous job? Why on earth should they believe him? He has already gone back on his word once.

After all, just a few days ago he said he wasn't in favor of prosecuting government lawyers for doing their jobs. That promise only lasted until it became uncomfortable for Mr. Obama to hold to his stated intentions.

Does this man have a single principled bone in his body? Is this the New Transparency we were promised?

Both the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal are reporting that Freddie Mac's Chief Financial Officer, David Kellermann, who was found dead Wednesday in an apparent suicide, was involved in recent months in a heated dispute with Freddie's regulator over how to reflect costs of President Obama's anti-foreclosure program.

The Post said Kellermann and other Freddie officials "tussled" with the Federal Housing Finance Agency early last month as the company prepared to file a quarterly report with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Top executives, including Kellermann, were insistent that Freddie Mac inform shareholders of the cost to the company of helping carry out the Obama administration's housing recovery plan, the two newspapers reported. The Post, citing several unnamed sources, said the regulators "urged the company not to do so." An unnamed FHFA official who spoke to the Post disputed that, "saying the regulator did not oppose disclosure but how the information was portrayed in the filing."

In the end, FHFA reportedly retreated and Freddie formally disclosed that the Obama anti-foreclosure plan could force the firm, which is in a federal government conservatorship, to take a pre-tax charge of $30 billion.

Thirty billion here. Thirty billion there.

After a while, it starts to add up to real money.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:51 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

April 22, 2009

This world will never be what I expected
And if I don't belong who would have guessed it
I will not leave alone everything that I own
To make you feel like it's not too late
It's never too late

Even if I say it'll be alright
Still I hear you say you want to end your life
Now and again we try to just stay alive
Maybe we'll turn it around cause it's not too late
It's never too late

No one will ever see this side reflected
And if there's something wrong
Who would have guessed it and I have left alone
Everything that I own to make you feel like
It's not too late It's never too late

Even if I say it'll be alright
Still I hear you say you want to end your life
Now and again we try to just stay alive
Maybe we'll turn it around cause it's not too late
It's never too late

The world we knew won't come back
The time we've lost can't get back
The life we had won't be ours again

This world will never be what I expected
And if I don't belong...

Even if I say it'll be alright
Still I hear you say you want to end your life
Now and again we try to just stay alive
Maybe we'll turn it around cause it's not too late
It's never too late

Posted by Cassandra at 09:59 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

April 21, 2009

This Is The Moment...

Never mind making big enough payments to reduce the loan balance. Never mind making drastic cuts to expenditures.

We've had this debate before. The stale policies of bygone years have been consigned to the dustbin of history. What we need is fresh thinking. The answer is really very simple, you see: no need for onerous payments or spending cuts. We can just apologize for the mistakes of the Bush administration and establish a better dialog. You know, set a tone?

“None of these things alone are going to make a difference,” the president said. “But cumulatively, they would make an extraordinary difference because they start setting a tone. And so what we're going to do is line by line, page by page, $100 million there, $100 million here, pretty soon, even in Washington, it adds up to real money.”

And all you "insane" folk out there who insist on applying antiquated devices like calculators to the national balance sheet? You people need to get a grip:

Less than a week after the nationwide “tea party” protests against high taxes and government spending, President Barack Obama on Monday directed his cabinet secretaries to slice $100 million out of their departmental budgets--an amount equal to 0.007 percent of the deficit spending Obama plans to undertake in 2010.

.007 percent. One cent on the dollar would be .01. Isn't .007 percent equivalent to .00007, or .007 cents on the dollar? At this rate (at least if we set the right tone) that nasty old deficit will be paid off in no time! And the best news of all, is, we'll have plenty left over to bail out the rest of the planet!

President Barack Obama asked Congress in letters released to back an expansion of an IMF emergency fund by 500 billion dollars in a move set to widen its reach to big emerging markets.

Obama also asked Congressional leaders to approve a US contribution to the fund of 100 billion dollars, as part of the plan to swell International Monetary Fund reserves agreed at this month's Group of 20 summit in London.

I think next month when my bills come due, I'm going to pay .007 cents on the dollar. If my creditors don't like it, let them establish a dialog with me.

Because there is no problem that can't be solved by a little fresh thinking and a whole lot of fancy talk.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:59 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Our Education President: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Juan Williams is on fire:

The reckless dismantling of the D.C. voucher program does not speak well of the promise by Obama to be the “Education President.”

This is critical to our nation’s future in terms of workforce preparation to compete in a global economy but also to fulfill the idea of racial equality by providing a real equal opportunity for all young people who are willing to work hard to succeed.

In a politically calculated dance step the Obama team first indicated that they wanted the Opportunity Scholarship Program to continue for students lucky enough to have won one of the vouchers. The five-year school voucher program is scheduled to expire after the school year ending in June 2010. Secretary Duncan said in early March that it didn’t make sense “to take kids out of a school where they’re happy and safe and satisfied and learning…those kids need to stay in their school.”

And all along the administration indicated that pending evidence that this voucher program or any other produces better test scores for students they were willing to fight for it. The president has said that when it comes to better schools he is open to supporting “what works for kids.” That looked like a level playing field on which to evaluate the program and even possibly expanding the program.

But last week Secretary Duncan announced that he will not allow any new students to enter the D.C. voucher program. In fact, he had to take back the government’s offer of scholarships to 200 students who had won a lottery to get into the program starting next year. His rationale is that if the program does not win new funding from Congress then those students might have to go back to public school in a year.

He does not want to give the students a chance for a year in a better school? That does not make sense if the students and their families want that life-line of hope. It does not make sense if there is a real chance that the program might win new funding as parents, educators and politicians rally to undo the “bigotry of low expectations” and open doors of opportunity — wherever they exist — for more low-income students.

And now Secretary Duncan has applied a sly, political check-mate for the D.C. voucher plan.

With no living, breathing students profiting from the program to give it a face and stand and defend it the Congress has little political pressure to put new money into the program. The political pressure will be coming exclusively from the teacher’s unions who oppose the vouchers, just as they oppose No Child Left Behind and charter schools and every other effort at reforming public schools that continue to fail the nation’s most vulnerable young people, low income blacks and Hispanics.

I guess all the talk about erasing inequality wasn't so important, after all. But then it's easy to dismiss parents' concerns when you can afford to send your daughters to Sidwell Friends.

Tuition for 2008-2009
Lower School $28,442
Middle and Upper Schools $29,442

Tuition includes a daily hot lunch, curriculum fees, and Lower School textbooks.

Additional annual fees are:

Lower School Parents Association Fee $50
Middle School Parents Association Fee $55
Upper School Parents Association Fee $75
Middle School Textbooks $250-$300
Upper School Textbooks $500-$600
Bus Transportation (Optional)
Daily trips between Washington, DC and Bethesda, MD campuses $695/$995 Lower School Aftercare (Optional)
1 to 5 days per week $1,485 to $5,250
Middle School Aftercare (Optional) $650 per trimester

Piece of cake, really.

Update: This is just stunning:

ANEW SURVEY shows that 38 percent of members of Congress have sent their children to private school. About 20 percent themselves attended private school, nearly twice the rate of the general public. Nothing wrong with those numbers; no one should be faulted for personal decisions made in the best interests of loved ones. Wouldn't it be nice, though, if Congress extended similar consideration to low-income D.C. parents desperate

...The gap between what Congress practices and what it preaches was best illustrated by the Heritage Foundation's analysis of a recent vote to preserve the program. The measure was defeated by the Senate 58 to 39; it would have passed if senators who exercised school choice for their own children had voted in favor. Alas, the survey doesn't name names, save for singling out Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), architect of the language that threatens the program, for sending his children to private school and attending private school himself.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:31 PM | Comments (33) | TrackBack

BLASHPHEMER!!!!

Everybody knows torture doesn't work:

In releasing highly classified documents on the CIA interrogation program last week, President Obama declared that the techniques used to question captured terrorists "did not make us safer." This is patently false. The proof is in the memos Obama made public -- in sections that have gone virtually unreported in the media.

But here's where it gets really interesting:

...just as the memo begins to describe previously undisclosed details of what enhanced interrogations achieved, the page is almost entirely blacked out. The Obama administration released pages of unredacted classified information on the techniques used to question captured terrorist leaders but pulled out its black marker when it came to the details of what those interrogations achieved.

Ah... I love the smell of selective transparency in the morning... don't you?

... if I wanted to only measure the outcome of Obama's piracy policy then we might conclude that the policy was a good one since Captain Phillips was released.

However, Uncle Jimbo points out the logical fallacy:

I now have multiple confirmations saying that the initial set of rules that Obama put on the Navy forbid any active attempts to rescue the hostage and only after they requested he reinstate their authority to act if the hostage was in imminent danger did he do so. Thank goodness those rules were changed, but from what I gather the new set of rules only affected the outcome only inasmuch as the commander on the ground interpreted them very loosely. They were only to shoot if the hostage was in imminent danger.

Which, if I'm to understand this correctly, means that the SEAL snipers were under the same rules of engagement that existed prior to Obama's initial reaction to forbid them from using force.

Anyway, none of this matters. Telling voters that it supposedly "matters" whether enhanced terroration techniques made us safer makes no more sense that thinking that if voters had known how many of the enemy we were killing (compared to the casualties we were taking), they might not have believed all the Democrat's lies about how Iraq was a lost cause:

Thank God we have The One to explain these things to us. Just knowing the Obama administration will only tell me what it thinks I need to know makes me feel safer already.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:52 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

The Federal Deficit for Dummies: Inumeracy Edition

yip_deficit.jpg White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs condescends to explain the relative size of Obama's proposed spending cuts to the federal deficit:

LOVEN: "Ohhhhhhhhhh..... look."

TAPPER: "What what WHATWHATWHAT WHAT WHAT???"

LOVEN: "Hmmmmmm..... DEFICIT".

TAPPER: "OHHHHH!!! DE-FI-CIT. Yep yep yep yep yep. Uh-huh uh-huh."

LOVEN: "Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Deficit not.... funny. Nope nope nope. Deficit...GI-NOR-MOUS."

TAPPER: "Yep yep yep yepyep. HU-MONG-GOUS."

yipyip1.jpg TOGETHER: "Yep yep yep yep yep. Uh-huh uh-huh."

LOVEN (spying movement at the front of the White House briefing room): "Ohhhhhhhhhh......"

TAPPER: "What what whatwhatwhat what what???"

LOVEN: "Press Secretary"
LOVEN: "Helllloooo. Why spending cuts so.... small?

Deficit... GINORMOUS... yep yep yep. "Spending cuts...... miniscule. Yep yep yep...tiny.

TAPPER: Yep yep yep. Small. Cuts... not add up.

gibbs.jpg GIBBS (flabbergasted): "You two numbskulls aren't from around here, are you? I don't know what planet you bozos came from, but where I grew up $100 million is a lot of money....

Only in Washington, D.C. is $100 million not a lot of money. Jeez, what a stupid question. $100 million is a lot of money, I'm telling you! It is. At least it is where I'm from. It is where I grew up. And I think it is for hundreds of millions of Americans.

Can you two even count? Because I love to watch it add up: 1 million, 2 million, 3 million.... after a while it's easy to forget you're playing with other people's money.

Hundreds of millions, by the way, is a LOT of people. More than two. It's a really BIG number.

You two nitwits DO understand the concept of "big", don't you? It's not too complicated for you? You're outnumbered, which means your so-called "opinions" don't count. Hundreds of millions is big enough that I feel perfectly justified in heaping scorn on your ignorant and ill-informed question.... losers."

Next? Someone? Anyone??? Jeez. Throw me a bone here, people....

LOVEN: Ummmmmm....whatever.

Point is... cuts not big part of deficit..

TAPPER: NOPE NOPENOPENOPENOPE. Few weeks ago, you call $8 billion dollars... $8 billion in earmarks ... small....$100 million ..."a lot"... but $8 billion .... small?

LOVEN: Yep yepyepyepyepyep. Uh-huh.

GIBBS: Jennifer, you ignorant slut.

It all adds up. Just as the president said...If you think we're going to get rid of $1.3 trillion deficit by eliminating one thing, I'd be -- and the administration would be - innumerably happy for you geniuses to let us know what that is.

You morons. [deep breath]

All right. OK. Let's walk through this slowly so that even you two can understand.

The president has laid out LOTS of cuts. Some are LARGE. Some are small. A million here, two million there. Sooner or later it's like dealing with real money.

But we are cutting back. For instance, we've installed super saver flourescent light bulbs in every room of the White House. And President Obama is making personal sacrifices. The next time he wants a pizza, the President will have one of his people call Domino's.

We have COUPONS, you know: 4 personal pan pizzas for $19.95 and if you order for two or more, you get a 2 liter bottle of Coke Zero thrown in for free!

No more sending jets to halfway St. across the country just because he has the munchies. Nossir, the President is leading the way. He recognizes the need for sacrifice.

And we've set up a special White House Task Force. Did you know that using DiGiorno instead of carry out, you can save mega bucks! As any economist will tell you, every bit helps you know.

REPORTERS: Ohhhhhhhhhhh. [looking at each other] OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

GIBBS: Jennifer, you can believe the president when he promises to cut the deficit in half in four years because he quadripled it in just three months. This is math - complicated stuff, you know. It's scientific. And we're certain we can count on the efforts of good folks like Chris Matthews, who will remain solidly in the tank for this administration.

But frankly, I have to say that you two are not helping. It's not exactly rocket science we're talking here:

- The president is making cuts. LOTS AND LOTS OF CUTS.
- Some of those cuts are - now stay with me, because this is complicated - LARGE.
- Some of cuts will be ... small.
- But they all add up. Just don't ask me how.

And don't give me that "Waaah!!!! The deficit is ginormous! We're heaping debt on our grandchildren! We're headed down the path to socialism!" rubbish. That's a lot of hysterical nonsense, and frankly it makes you sound a bit unhinged. What do you care, anyway? It's not "your" debt. Your taxes are going down. You aren't personally affected.

It will be future generations - those greedy, selfish little buggers who are mooching off you even as we speak - always borrowing the car and leaving you with an empty tank and going over on their cell phone minutes - who will pull us out of this hole we've dug for them. Serves 'em right, the little b**tards.

TAPPER: Noise. Secretary make.... noise.

LOVEN: 3.69 trillion... $100 million... Not add up, no matter what planet you from.







deficit.bmp


yip_book.jpg TAPPER: Not make sense. Need book. Book book book book.

Earth book.

REPORTERS, TOGETHER: Ohhhhhhhhhh. Ohhhhhhhh!!!

Joke.

LOVEN: Make joke. $3.69 trillion... small. $100 million... large. Ha! Joke joke joke joke jokejokejoke. Funny, funny funny.

TOGETHER: happy happy happy happy boing boing boing boing ....


crushing_head.jpg GIBBS: Jennifer, right now I am crushing your head. Do you understand that?

What that means is that my awesome Nonsequitur-Fu just turned both your cerebral cortexes into a mass of quivering jelly.

TAPPER and LOVEN: Yep yep yep yepyep. Uh-huh uh-huh uh-huh.






Posted by Cassandra at 06:09 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

April 20, 2009

13

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-Robert A. Heinlein

I was reminded of that quote, for some reason, whilst watching this:

Not because of the number of jobs TH has held. There is a difference between traversing a company's corporate structure and performing the same job year after year. More because it occurred to me that technology, in many ways, tends to operate against specialization and comparative advantage.

Due to labor saving devices like computers, white collar professionals often act as their own secretaries as opposed to the older way of doing things where every worker had his or her role. Professionals didn't use to type their own letters. They dictated them to someone who specialized in the efficent production of documents.

Technology has facilitated movement in the job market. With many functions now being performed by software, possession of specialized skills are a less important requirement for many positions.

Oh, and thirteen is the number of jobs I held before the age of 38. I'm almost certainly leaving out a few.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:22 AM | Comments (34) | TrackBack

April 18, 2009

Preposterous!

The nerve of these folks - shielding some wingnut just so he can criticize the President of the United States without disclosing his identity!

... the right of scared Bush officials to participate in public debates without being identified is hardly some noble journalistic value -- former Bush officials have not exactly been shy about attacking Obama. Indeed, the very same day that Allen published his Drudge-attracting screed, Michael Mukasey and Michael Hayden published an Op-Ed in The Wall St. Journal voicing exactly the same stale accusations about how Obama had helped the Terrorists, and the day before, Hayden was on MSNBC spitting out the same attacks. Obviously, there are all sorts of ways to include criticisms of Obama's decision in a story without granting protective anonymity to an allegedly frightened Bush official.

The anonymous attack Allen printed added nothing to the world other than yet another Politico-based Drudge headline -- but it did allow a former top government official to make all sorts of factually dubious and sensationalistic claims without any accountability at all. That's why anonymity, when used so recklessly and for such shallow ends, is so poisonous.

Anonymity is dangerous. I mean, can you imagine if that kind of thing spread to the Internet? And anyway, it's not as though this so-called "source" were performing a valuable public service ... like, say, illegally releasing diagrams showing snipers how they can defeat Marine body armor! How dare he presume to criticize the leader of the free world?

Sure, the New York Times published gazillions of anonymous criticisms of George Bush from acting government servants speaking on condition of anonymity because disclosing sensitive information to the media violated the terms of their employment contracts. But that was completely different because we agreed with them. Reasonable folks knew these truth telling patriots could be trusted - after all, they were willing to bravely go on record (in an anonymous fashion) even though they had previously promised not to do that very thing! What better proof of someone's credibility can there be than the demonstrated willingness to go back on your word?

Allowing these patriots to release sensitive information for worldwide publication was eminently sensible -- and motivated only by the very highest ethical principles! There should be no secrets between us and al Qaida: we are all safer when the terrorists know our plans.

But expressing an opinion critical of Barack Obama presents a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States, and is probably racist too.

Update: SHAME. SHAME ON YOU, MIKE ALLEN!

Update II: Feel the awesome force of my Tweet Outrage!

Update III: Here, I excoriate thee upon Facebook! Oh, and I de-friended you.

Update IV: Andrew Sullivan doesn't like you, either. So there! What further proof is needed that you should be locked up in an airless cell in Bagram?

Update MCVII: I knew it! Glenn Reynolds, deranged torture apologist, wants to waterboard Nancy Pelosi!!!!

Conservatives are all sick, perverted criminals - every last one of them. I don't need to prove it; their actions speak for themselves. We have consensus on our side, and every time we bravely call them names rather than engaging their twisted world view, we demonstrate our commitment to tolerance and diversity; our transcendent moral superiority.

America is listening, I tell you.

Update 10,493: (panting) This is why we need a federal Shield law, I tell you. So journalists can have even less accountability than they presently do.

Of course, only journalists who tell the truth should be allowed to break the law. After all, free speech has limits. I think we all know what kind of dissent is dangerous and should never see the light of day.

Oh yes... I think we know. You can always tell a true progressive because unlike the hate-filled minions of hate, we in the Reality Based Community rely on facts and logic to make our case for us.

And that is why we'll always be better than them.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:20 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Fist Bump of Death Caption Contest

obamachavez.jpg

"Must. stay. strong. If Chavez thinks he's getting the fist bump on the first date, he's got another thing coming. Hmmm.... his hands are so soft. I'll have to ask if he uses something special?"

Posted by Cassandra at 10:19 AM | Comments (31) | TrackBack

April 17, 2009

As I *Suspected*...

J'accuse!!!

h/t Unkawill

Posted by Cassandra at 06:46 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Damn Straight

Taking the fight to the enemy:

Fight by fight, the infantryman’s war in Afghanistan is often waged on the Taliban’s terms. Insurgents ambush convoys and patrols from high ridges or long ranges and slip away as the Americans, weighed down by equipment, return fire and call for air and artillery support. Last week a patrol from the First Infantry Division reversed the routine.

An American platoon surprised an armed Taliban column on a forested ridgeline at night, and killed at least 13 insurgents, and perhaps many more, with rifles, machine guns, Claymore mines, hand grenades and a knife.

The one-sided fight, fought on the slopes of the same mountain where a Navy Seal patrol was surrounded in 2005 and a helicopter with reinforcements was shot down, does not change the war. It was one of hundreds of firefights that have occurred in the Korangal Valley, an isolated region where local insurgents and the Americans have been locked in a bitter stalemate for more than three years.

But as accounts of the fight have spread, the ambush, on Good Friday, has become an emotional rallying point for soldiers in Kunar Province, who have seen it as a both a validation of their equipment and training and a welcome bit of score-settling in an area that in recent years has claimed more American lives than any other.

The patrol, 30 soldiers from the First Battalion, 26th Infantry, had left this outpost before noon on April 10, and spent much of the day climbing a ridge on the opposite side of the Korangal River, according to interviews with more than half the participants.

Once the soldiers reached the ridge’s crest, almost 6,000 feet above sea level on the side of a peak called Sautalu Sar, they found fresh footprints on the trails, and parapets of rock from where Taliban fighters often fire rifles and rocket-propelled grenades down onto this outpost.

The platoon leader, Second Lt. Justin Smith, selected a spot where trails intersected, and the platoon dug shallow fighting holes before dark. Claymore antipersonnel mines were set among the trees nearby.

At sunset, Lieutenant Smith called for a period of absolute silence, which lasted into darkness. Then he ordered three scouts to sit in a listening post about 100 yards away, 10 feet off the trail.

The scouts set in. Less than a half-minute later, a column of Taliban fighters appeared, walking briskly their way.

Sgt. Zachary R. Reese, a sniper, whispered into his radio. “We have eight enemy personnel coming down on our position really fast,” he said. He could say no more; the Taliban fighters were a few feet away.

More appeared. Then more still. The sergeant counted 26 gunmen pass by.

The patrol, Second Platoon of Company B, was in a place where no Americans had spent a night for years, and it seemed that the Afghans did not expect danger.

The soldiers waited. The rules of the ambush were long ago drilled into them: no one can move, and no one can fire until the patrol leader gives the order. Then everyone must fire at once.

The third Taliban fighter in the column switched on a flashlight, the soldiers said, and quickly switched it off. About 50 yards separated the two sides, but Lieutenant Smith did not want to start shooting too soon, he said, “because if too many lived then we’d be up there fighting them all night.”

He let the Taliban column continue on. The soldiers trained their weapons’ infrared lasers, which are visible only with night-vision equipment, on the fighters as they drew closer. The lasers mark the path a bullet will fly.

The lead fighter had almost reached the platoon when Pvt. First Class Troy Pacini-Harvey, 19, his laser trained on the lead man’s forehead, moved his rifle’s selector lever from safe to semi-automatic. It made a barely audible click. The Taliban fighter froze. He was six feet away.

Lieutenant Smith was new to the platoon. This was his fourth patrol. He was in a situation that every infantry lieutenant trains for, but almost no infantry lieutenant ever sees. “Fire,” he said, softly into the radio. “Fire. Fire. Fire.”

As accounts of the fight have spread, the ambush, on Good Friday, has become an emotional rallying point for soldiers in Kunar Province.

The soldiers spoke to an Afghan man while on patrol.
The platoon’s frontage exploded with noise and flashes of light as soldiers fired. Bullets struck all of the lead Taliban fighters, the soldiers said. The first Afghans fell where they were hit, not managing to fire a single shot.

Five Taliban fighters bolted to the soldiers’ left, unwittingly running squarely into the path of machine-gun bullets and the Claymore mines. For a moment, the soldiers heard rustling in the brush. They detonated their Claymores and threw hand grenades. The rustling stopped.

Two other Taliban fighters had dashed to the right, toward an almost sheer drop. One ran so wildly in the blackness that his momentum carried him off the cliff, several soldiers said.

Another stopped at the edge. Pvt. First Class Brad Larson, 19, had followed the man with his laser. “I took him out,” he said.

Yes you did, son.

You did indeed. Well done.

Posted by Cassandra at 03:17 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Where No Man Has Gone Before

Lt. Colonel Greg Gadson, testing the power knee:

He's Walter Reed's bionic man, a wounded warrior who walks on a pair of new battery-powered prosthetic legs outfitted with some of the most high-tech gizmos around.

No, Army Lt. Col. Greg Gadson can't move like he did when he was a linebacker on West Point's football team or a battalion commander in Iraq. But even after just a few days on his new legs, which have embedded sensors that gauge his weight and speed and can help correct missteps, he's been able to walk a mile under his own power.

He is quicker with his new legs, more nimble. When he stumbles, the legs have helped right him. And at a demonstration yesterday at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, he proclaimed that they are the closest yet to "the feeling of a normal leg" since he lost both of his in Iraq almost two years ago.

"It was like you were driving a school bus and someone put you in a sports car," he said. "I can definitely see myself doing things I wouldn't do -- like shopping."

It's radically different from any prosthetic available today," said Mike Corcoran, a certified prosthetist who has worked with Gadson through his rehabilitation.

Corcoran can wirelessly "log in" to Gadson's knees and tell, in real time, whether his gait is symmetrical, how long his strides are and whether he's walking up or down hill. With that information, Corcoran can adjust settings, giving Gadson a better fit and smoother ride. The legs even have an odometer in them, "so I know what he's done over the weekend. If I tell him to walk four miles and then see that he hasn't, he's busted," Corcoran said.

Somehow, I doubt that's going to be an issue with Colonel Gadson. Just a feeling.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:35 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Teach Your Children Well

In my Inbox this morning:

The phone didn't ring by 3:00, and I knew Brody was out of school at 2:30. I tried to call him, but there was no answer. I tried Gayle's cell phone, no answer. The suspense was killing me. Just a few moments later, the phone rang.

"Grandma, I missed it by one word."

Grandma groans. "Oh, Brody, I'm so sorry."

"Just kiddin'. I did it." I could see his impish grin.

Relief! We had spent the past two days, and an hour before school this morning working on the last part of this project.

I'm just so doggone proud of my grandson, I could pop a button.

Today in school, Brody recited the Gettysburg Address and an abbreviated portion of the Declaration of Independence as the final two items to pass off to earn The Great American Challenge from his teacher. Today was the last opportunity he would have. It was do or die.

Before the school year even began last summer, Brody's teacher visited him and each of the rest of her students to get to know them and to present them with the first item of this challenge: before the first day of school, she expected them to memorize all 50 states and their capitals, correctly spelled, in alphabetical order, and be able to locate them on a map. On our road trip to Michigan, we drilled and drilled, and by the time we got home a few weeks later, he was well on the way to knowing them.

The first week of school, his teacher presented the class with the rest of the Challenge. They would have until April 15 to memorize the additional six items and recite to the class:

1) Star Spangled Banner
2) Preamble to the Constitution
3) all 44 Presidents, in order
4) Pledge of Allegiance (written, with 100% spelling and punctuation)
5) Gettysburg Address (up to 8 assists)
6) An abbreviated version of the Declaration of Independence (up to 8 assists)

Brody mentioned to me this morning that Ms. Louw had told the class that only two or three students each year meet the challenge. He only knew of one other classmate that was close, a boy who had already tried twice to pass off the presidents as his last challenge, and today would be his third and last attempt. (Yes, he finally did it too!)

Brody had passed off all but these last two items, and then last week realized with spring break, he would have to memorize and recite them both today, since Monday was the only day their class took time for this project. Between a heavy homework load, and a demanding soccer schedule, Saturday was the first opportunity he had to buckle down to study them. I offered to help. He gratefully accepted. He spent hours reading, reciting, re-reading, and writing. I bribed him with chocolate chip cookies that I promised would nourish his overworked brain. We laughed together. He teased me. I told him more than he wanted to know about the Gettysburg Address and the Declaration. He listened patiently with glassy eyes while other things were probably rolling around in his mind. But he listened. And he worked so hard.

And today, he did it.

The other day I was talking with some friends and their 7 year old came into the room, pleased as punch, with a giant piece of posterboard with a hole for his face and a NY Yankees uniform carefully drawn beneath the face hole. I began to joke with him:

"Since when did you become a Yankees fan? We don't allow that around here..."

He flashed a grin and said, "I'm not a Yankees fan - I just did a report on Roger Maris at school". He then proceeded to cite an impressive list of statistics I hadn't expected to hear from a 7 year old.

As I talked with him, I remembered reports I'd done as a child. It's amazing how, to this day, I maintain an interest in some of the subjects of those reports even though few of them were about anything I'd normally be interested in. Which leads me to this thought:

Do you remember the projects you did in school? Which were the most memorable, and why?

Did any of them have an effect on your life?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:38 AM | Comments (34) | TrackBack

Perfect Valor

Got a note from Richard S. Lowry the other day. He has been working on a documentary about the war, and it's being released in May:

Every American needs to see Perfect Valor. This film captures the sacrifices of those who have served our nation. From the young man who joined the Marines to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps to the Navy Chaplain whose faith was shaken by what he saw; Perfect Valor brings the impact of the war in Iraq to the screen.

“I was impressed. It was realistic, moving, and yet told the story of the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform as well as their families. I think it's a story that needs to be told and the professionalism of your product should make it very appealing.”

Lieutenant General Richard F. Natonski USMC



The world premiere of Perfect Valor will be the Saturday night feature at the GI Film Festival at 7 P.M. on May 16th, 2009, in the Carnegie Institute of Science Building, 1530 P Street NW Washington, DC, 20005.

“It's going to make a wonderful Saturday night primetime feature. Should be among the hottest tickets in town.” Brandon Millett, President – GI Film Festival

If you're in the DC area, you may want to check it out. Armed Forces Weekend takes place May 13-17 in the District and the GI Film Festival offers a veritable cornucopia of military-themed movies.

Richard, who has posted here at VC several times, is a talented author who won the Military Writers' Society of America Silver Medal for Marines in the Garden of Eden:

It is rare indeed that you will read a book about war that is so absorbing and entertaining; yet, it is as analytical and probing as any great history book can be. Richard S. Lowry has written the definitive accounting of the battles in and around An Nasiriyah. That includes what happened to Private Jessica Lynch and her fellow soldiers of the 507th Maintenance Company -their capture and misfortune and her eventual rescue from the hospital days later. In his book "Marines in the Garden of Eden", the whole story of this operation unfolds for you beginning well before the actual combat starts. He brings to life the men and women in the various units from the privates to the generals; he lets you know them as people. His writing style is unique in the best of ways. He weaves in all the little details of what was going on by several groups involved in those early days of the war. He simultaneously chronicles the actions taken by each unit so that it gives you almost a god-like view point of the war. You could never experience it like this-even if you were actually there in all the action! His depictions of the battles are crisp and full of energy and give you that eye-witness feeling. This is good reporting and good story telling. This book will be read by military historians for many long decades. It is well documented, well structure, and easy to read. It is also a great book just to kick back and read on the old sofa. This book receives the MWSA's TOP BOOK RATING of FIVE STARS! It is destined to become a classic book on the war in Iraq.

Knowing how fantastic his writing is, I can't wait to the Perfect Valor. Plus, Richard happens to be one of the few online friends I've actually met in person. He is every bit as interesting and gracious in real life as he is online.

Do check it out.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:23 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 16, 2009

*snort*

Sometimes, it pays to stuff:

Police say a wad of cash stuffed in a woman's bra saved her life during a shootout in northeastern Brazil. Salvador city police spokesman Vicente de Paula said 58-year-old Ivonete Pereira de Oliveira was a passenger on the bus that two gunmen held up on Saturday.

He said an armed off-duty policeman on the bus opened fire. In the ensuing gunbattle a bullet struck the left side of Oliveira's chest.

De Paula said Tuesday that the 150 reals (about $70) worth of bills that Oliveira hid inside her bra slowed the bullet enough to prevent it from entering her heart and killing her instantly.


Posted by Cassandra at 02:46 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Rule of Law

The man who makes everything that leads to happiness depends upon himself, and not upon other men, has adopted the very best plan for living happily. This is the man of moderation, the man of manly character and of wisdom.

- Plato

Years ago on the occasion of our 25th wedding anniversary, my husband took me to Europe. For two weeks we walked the streets of London, Paris, and Rome drinking in the seemingly endless panoply of magnificent testaments to human acheivement arrayed before us.

But it was a lovely Spring day in Paris that destroyed me.

In the morning we rose and walked several miles from our hotel to a tiny church depicted in our guidebook. I didn't expect much from the expedition. For days we had hiked all over the capitals of Europe; this was just one more in a procession of churches we had visited. In a way it was a pilgramage of sorts. Tucked into the pocket of my blue jeans were two St. Barbara medals. After we gawped at stained glass windows and flying buttresses, after we climbed yet another winding set of stone steps, after we read about the organ or how many years of painstaking work it had taken to produce the tapestries, only then would I look for a quiet place to kneel and light a candle against the darkness.

And from my pocket would come the medals. One in memory of a man who had taken his own life. And one for my nephew Tommy, who was fighting like mad to cling to life.

I wasn't expecting much. I was tired of jostling crowds, of being cold, of standing in line, of tramping up and down city streets. And then, unexpectedly, I stepped into a miracle: a riot of color and light. And it took my breath away.

I cannot describe it. I shall never be able to describe it adequately. It was as though I'd been transported into the enormous prism that sat on the windowsill of my bedroom when I was a little girl; the one that tossed out dancing rainbows that vanished and reappeared as the sun continued its stately march across the summer sky. As my eyes lingered on each lovingly painted detail, on meticulously planned mosaics and the gracefully carved and gilded figures of the Apostles, I found myself fighting back tears; helpless against a sudden stab of desolation which only heightened the joy and wonder in my soul.

How much work - how many lonely hours, nay centuries of backbreaking labor - had it taken to produce this tiny jewel? How many artists lived out their lives between the moment the first stone was laid upon cold ground and the last brushstroke sounded a final grace note that would reverberate for ages, no less sweet to modern ears than it was when first sounded? What kind of men had the courage - the audacity - to dream such things were possible in the 13th Century?

These were not men who needed only to flip a switch to bathe themselves in abundant light; they could not step aboard a flying metal chariot and traverse the globe in a matter of hours. They were men who fought back the gathering dark with a flickering candle flame; whose only recourse against tidal waves of disease and death was a whispered prayer, released upon the breeze.

And yet they produced miracles. Across the centuries the souls of men long dead reached out to me, asking "What will you leave to mark your brief stay upon this earth? What will you leave your children, to lift up their hearts and give them hope?"

And I had no answer to give them.

But if anyone had asked me, lo! those many years ago, what modern men have created to rival those long ago masterpieces I might have answered, "Well, for one thing, there is the rule of law".

In those days I was a housewife and mother whose hours were consumed with vital questions of which bedding plants were hardiest in the Southern sun and which values I should impart to my small sons. I existed in a halcyon world where time stretched out before me like a meandering path across an unexplored meadow. We didn't have much in the way of worldly possessions, then. But we were comfortable and the world seemed full of opportunity.

Nothing was guaranteed, mind you. Even small purchases required hours of careful planning and often the sacrifice of some other hoped-for trinket. But if we wanted something badly enough, we could have it eventually. All that was required, was the willingness to work:

The year was 1930, a down one like this one. But for Moss Hart, it was the time for his particularly American moment of triumph. He had grown up poor in the outer boroughs of New York City—“the grim smell of actual want always at the end of my nose,” he said—and he’d vowed that if he ever made it big he would never again ride the rattling trains of the city’s dingy subway system. Now he was 25, and his first play, Once in a Lifetime, had just opened to raves on Broadway. And so, with three newspapers under his arm and a wee-hours celebration of a successful opening night behind him, he hailed a cab and took a long, leisurely sunrise ride back to the apartment in Brooklyn where he still lived with his parents and brother.

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge into one of the several drab tenement neighborhoods that preceded his own, Hart later recalled, “I stared through the taxi window at a pinch-faced 10-year-old hurrying down the steps on some morning errand before school, and I thought of myself hurrying down the street on so many gray mornings out of a doorway and a house much the same as this one.… It was possible in this wonderful city for that nameless little boy—for any of its millions—to have a decent chance to scale the walls and achieve what they wished. Wealth, rank, or an imposing name counted for nothing. The only credential the city asked was the boldness to dream.”

...These are tough times for the American Dream. As the safe routines of our lives have come undone, so has our characteristic optimism—not only our belief that the future is full of limitless possibility, but our faith that things will eventually return to normal, whatever “normal” was before the recession hit. There is even worry that the dream may be over—that we currently living Americans are the unfortunate ones who shall bear witness to that deflating moment in history when the promise of this country began to wither. This is the “sapping of confidence” that President Obama alluded to in his inaugural address, the “nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.”

But let’s face it: If Moss Hart, like so many others, was able to rally from the depths of the Great Depression, then surely the viability of the American Dream isn’t in question. What needs to change is our expectation of what the dream promises—and our understanding of what that vague and promiscuously used term, “the American Dream,” is really supposed to mean.

That world no longer exists.

A world in which individuals expected their government not to impede their efforts to be successful has been replaced by one in which individuals expect government to deliver an equal measure of success - to everyone - regardless of effort. A world in which justice used to mean every man or women received what they earned has been replaced by one in which it is considered "unjust" for one man to receive less than another. The notion that income must be earned has been replaced by the idea that income should be distributed equally, regardless of effort.

Anything less would be "unfair". But the most pernicious idea of all is that our temporary comfort supercedes the rule of law; that contracts may be set aside, private property may be subsumed by the State, and the freedom of individuals to make decisions (wise or unwise) regarding their own affairs must be subordinated to the judgment of the crowd, for their "greater good". In our never ending search for security, we allowed our affairs to become so intertwined that the mistakes of one man threaten the welfare of all.

So sayeth Barack Obama. But his world view, seductive though it may be, is fatally flawed:

Two premises about human beings are at the heart of the social democratic agenda: What I will label “the equality premise” and “the New Man premise.”

The equality premise says that, in a fair society, different groups of people—men and women, blacks and whites, straights and gays, the children of poor people and the children of rich people—will naturally have the same distributions of outcomes in life—the same mean income, the same mean educational attainment, the same proportions who become janitors and CEOs. When that doesn’t happen, it is because of bad human behavior and an unfair society. For the last 40 years, this premise has justified thousands of pages of government regulations and legislation that has reached into everything from the paperwork required to fire someone to the funding of high school wrestling teams. Everything that we associate with the phrase “politically correct” eventually comes back to the equality premise. Every form of affirmative action derives from it. Much of the Democratic Party’s proposed domestic legislation assumes that it is true.

Within a decade, no one will try to defend the equality premise. All sorts of groups will be known to differ in qualities that affect what professions they choose, how much money they make, and how they live their lives in all sorts of ways. Gender differences will be first, because the growth in knowledge about the ways that men and women are different is growing by far the most rapidly. I’m betting that the Harvard faculty of the year 2020 will look back on the Larry Summers affair in the same way that they think about the Scopes trial—the enlightened versus the benighted—and will have achieved complete amnesia about their own formerly benighted opinions.

There is no reason to fear this new knowledge. Differences among groups will cut in many different directions, and everybody will be able to weight the differences so that their group’s advantages turn out to be the most important to them. Liberals will not be obliged to give up their concerns about systemic unfairnesses. But groups of people will turn out to be different from each other, on average, and those differences will also produce group differences in outcomes in life, on average, that everyone knows are not the product of discrimination and inadequate government regulation.

And a void will have developed in the moral universe of the Left. If social policy cannot be built on the premise that group differences must be eliminated, what can it be built upon? It can be built upon the restoration of the premise that used to be part of the warp and woof of American idealism: people must be treated as individuals. The success of social policy is to be measured not by equality of outcomes for groups, but by open, abundant opportunity for individuals. It is to be measured by the freedom of individuals, acting upon their personal abilities, aspirations, and values, to seek the kind of life that best suits them.

Left unspoken in all of this is that the freedom to pursue our individual interests necessarily includes the freedom to fail.

Often miserably. But a government that views individual failures as an economic injustice - as signs the "system", rather than the individual, has failed - incents all the wrong behavior. It rewards immoral and inefficient decisions and punishes industry and virtue. Instinctively, we know this. And yet conservatives seem oddly unable to articulate this home truth because we have allowed ourselves to become ashamed of that which should make us proud: we have allowed ourselves to feel guilty for successfully competing with our fellow men.

We have allowed an ethic of rights to be replaced by an ethic of care. The problem inherent in this should be obvious, but it is not: rights are blind. The notion of rights applies - or ought to apply - to everyone regardless of skin color, intelligence, gender, religion or ethnicity. We make laws, not because laws can perfect human nature, but because human nature is imperfect. Laws - and the rights they protect - act to restrain the all too human impulse to favor our own against the outsider; to treat one person differently than another; to selectively reward and punish or to do to others what we would consider intolerable if done to us:

Jennifer Rudinger, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in North Carolina, said the protesters engaged in "de facto censorship."

Rudinger said Tancredo had a right to express his views about immigration as much as students at N.C. State had the right to paint racist remarks about President Barack Obama on a campus tunnel.

"Censorship is not the answer to hate speech. Hate speech is protected by the Constitution," Rudinger said.

Perhaps the most disturbing result of this election has been the way an historic but hardly unprecedented clash of values has caused people on both sides of the political spectrum to jettison every principle they have held dear; to allow fear and anger to transform them into what they hate. For as long as I can remember, both the Left and the Right have considered themselves morally superior to their opponents.

This is hardly surprising: if your actions conform to your ideals, you should believe you are acting "better" than those whose values differ from yours. But suddenly the Left, who raged against supposedly disrespectful characterizations of their disagreement with the Bush administration, see nothing wrong with calling conservatives "insane". Name calling is not an argument. It refutes nothing and asserts only that the speaker has been reduced to inarticulate and inchoate rage.

The Left, whose constant fear mongering about the loss of our civil rights oxymoronically filled the airwaves for the past 8 years, now gleefully assert that conservatives don't deserve the same civil rights they demand for themselves. Apparently if you disagree with an idea, it's OK to shout it down; to cut off debate if you find it unpleasant. The irony here is palpable. These are the same folks who argued that dissent is the lifeblood of a democratic society, and yet they don't scruple to suppress dissent they disagree with.

They assert that all truth is subjective. There is no right and wrong, but merely perspectives and lifestyle choices filtered through our life experiences. But certain perspectives are more equal than others. The conservative perspective, for instance, must not be tolerated because they don't share it. That this uniquely subjective world view could all too easily be used against them seems not to matter. Freedom is not an unalloyed good - only they deserve to be free.

And if they must use tactics they have deplored for the past 8 years to score points, so be it:

Protesting government spending is meaningless unless you say what you'd cut.

If you favor no bailouts, then say so. If you want to see the banking system collapse, then say so. If you think the recession demands no fiscal stimulus, then say so. If you favor big cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, social security and defense, then say so. I keep waiting for Reynolds to tell us what these protests are for; and he can only spin what they they are against.

All protests against spending that do not tell us how to reduce it are fatuous pieces of theater, not constructive acts of politics. And until the right is able to make a constructive and specific argument about how they intend to reduce spending and debt and borrowing, they deserve to be dismissed as performance artists in a desperate search for coherence in an age that has left them bewilderingly behind.

This is nonsense on stilts. The Right have advocated cuts in entitlement spending and a scaling back of the federal government for years. As I noted yesterday, George Bush was attacked just as vigorously by his own party for increasing the deficit as he was by the Left for going to war with Iraq. Defending your principles by resorting to outright lies and silly demands that your opponents make defending them easier for you begins to look like desperation. There is no requirement for your opponents to reduce multiple and complex issues to a single, easily attackable position simply because you lack the intellectual firepower to deal with their actual complaints.

But the Right is not much better. Suddenly, the very tactics that raised howls of outrage when the Left employed them against us have been dusted off and prettied up to make them palatable. Ugly personal attacks against the wives and families of liberal politicians are excused and even applauded. We rush to defend those who cynically seize on any pretext to score political points:

... by the way, the Somali merchant marine organizers have hijacked four more ships today, four more ships have been hijacked.

It was three earlier today. They've hijacked an additional one now for a total of four today. ... of course, we predicted this yesterday. While bestowing upon Obama all the brilliance and credit he deserved for a brilliant operation, we were very much concerned here that this kind of action against three young teenagers, black Muslim teenagers on the high seas could anger the pirates, merchant marine organizers even more and heighten and increase hijack activity. The left itself warned us of this in Iraq, they said all we're doing is creating more terrorists. So apparently we've created more hijackings on the high seas, in the Gulf of Aden by teenaged black Muslims, the merchant marine organizers.

We criminalize policy differences and seek to prevent our own government agencies from doing their jobs:

The irony here has gone from funny to tragic. The last gasp of rationalization the conservative flame throwers have for their anger is the DHS report was vague (and as we learned, [it] was made vague by other Feds asking that certain groups not be named for valid reasons). Through this rational[e] the right is now throwing vague and unsubstantiated charges (in fact, the evidence proves they are completely wrong), claiming DHS vagueness is a license for them to be vague when they smear.

I understand the angst and ire caused by the title of that report.

But I read it yesterday, along with a similar report from 2001 detailing the threat from left-wing extremists. I read that, for instance, that this report unfairly smeared veterans.

I've been affiliated with the military all my life. I grew up in a career Navy family and married a career Marine from another career Navy family. Both my Grandfathers served in the Army. My uncle was a Marine and my husband's uncle was in the Army in Vietnam. My brother in law is career Navy. So I'm hardly insensitive to the constant attempts of the press to demonize vets.

But the fact of the matter is, although the number of vets who join extremist groups is no larger than that in the general population, those few who do join such groups are not just highly sought after, but are generally awarded prominent positions due to their military training and expertise with weapons. Vets who join extremist groups are prized because they lend an air of legitimacy to a shady enterprise. Their influence is far disproportionate to their numbers in such groups and DHS is right to examine the phenomenon.

As I remarked in a private conversation on this matter yesterday, crowds - especially angry ones - don't do nuance well and it's not helpful when conservatives intentionally use shoddy and embarrassing work to discredit analysis that is, in and of itself, not at all objectionable. Even the military is concerned about that small element of veterans who tend to extremism. Only a fool pretends it doesn't exist, and only a fool pretends an extremist with combat experience and specialized weapons or explosives training isn't more dangerous than your garden variety extremist-off-the-street. The same kind of analysis was produced by Bush-era law enforcement agencies. Did conservatives go hermitile then?

Of course they didn't.

What the DHS was doing is called profiling: a well known law enforcement practice conservatives used to defend - when it was used against Islamists or young black men, both with good reason. The logical fallacy involved with criticisms of profiling is the careless - and wrong - equivalence that saying terrorists tend to fit a certain profile equates to calling all people who fit that profile, terrorists. We made fun of that sort of thinking a few years ago. What has changed?

The hypocrisy of condemning proactive research and profiling now - in the complete absence of any evidence that they have been abused - with a bunch of PC nonsense only proves that it isn't only the Left who are perfectly willing to jettison their principles when their sacred oxen are gored.

Conservatives would be better off using this golden opportunity to remind the American public of the little publicized abuses of surveillance during the Clinton administration, its misuse of the FBI, or of Obama's use of law enforcement and mob tactics to silence its critics during the last election. These tactics use proven evidence of past misconduct to encourage heightened vigilance rather than criminalizing imagined policy abuses which may never occur.

Rules of conduct and ethical standards aren't just for the Left - if we claim to uphold them, we must uphold them all the way, regardless of who is held to account. We can't selectively cherry pick standards that prove "useful" while maintaining any degree of credibility.

And that is what lost us the last election: the loss of trust in conservative ideas. We don't rebuild that trust by violating our own principles in the name of expediency. Everyone likes to win.

We're going to have to decide whether it profits us to win the next election if, in so doing, we lose our souls.

I disagree - vehemently - with the direction this administration is taking at home and abroad. But undermining respect for legitimate authority and impeding the administration of essential government functions doesn't strike me as the kind of enduring legacy I want to leave my children and grandchildren. We used to be a nation of laws and standards - imperfectly realized perhaps, but what we do not aim for, we have little chance of achieving.

Believing in something greater than ourselves has fallen out of fashion, these days. Again and again in my travels, I have glimpsed greatness in the achievements of our forefathers that I hold little hope of seeing from my own generation. But if all we can do is to maintain what they left us, at least we can maintain it honestly; with integrity and faithfulness to the principles which make possible our peaceful and prosperous existence.

Like it or not, we are the keepers of the fragile, flickering flame that holds back the darkness. That flame is respect for the rule of law. What a shame it would be if we allowed it to go out.

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

Coffee Snorters: Lord of the Dance Edition

Dear Lord...

h/t: J.M. Heinrichs

Posted by Cassandra at 06:04 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 15, 2009

The Obligatory Tea Party Post

Merde.

The blog princess can no longer live with the guilt of being the only conservative site on the 'Net not to wax fulminatious on the subject of Tea Parties.

Consider this her one and only mea culpa.

Watching this whole tea party thing, the Princess can't help but feel slightly bemused by the astounding feats of rhetorical excess to be seen on both sides of the political aisle. She likes her vodka as much as the next person, but sometimes a Martini is just a Martini:



To be continued...

OK.

That was scary. Way too reminiscent of the small but prestigous Virginia prep school I graduated from (but only after spending my entire Junior year trying to get kicked out). Failure can be so humiliating.

Seriously, it has become something of a cliche to note the way both parties seem to have exchanged principles of late. Suddenly, conservatives are marching in the streets, speaking truth to power. And Liberals, the former guardian angels of patriotic dissent? Liberals are outraged... outraged, I tell you! that anyone would dare to question Barack Obama's absolute authoriteh.

Of course, questioning authority was all the rage during the Bush years. In fact, dissent was widely considered the hallmark of the true patriot in the leftosphere.

But that was Then.

This is Now. Inexplicably, the ascension of the Candidate of Change to the Oval Office transmogrified the vibrant expression of dissent once deemed the very lifeblood of a free and democratic society into a pathological disease (and who among us wouldn't rather be called a sociopath than a non-patriot?)

Are you better off than you were 4 years ago? If you dare to question that premise, you're obviously insane. Or selfish.

Dissent, these days, is no longer an unalloyed good in lefty circles. The free exercise of political speech must be evaluated by the standards they propose. Dissent they agree with? Good. Dissent they disagree with? Insanity. Degenerative mental illness, Progressive strictures against demonizing the other and hampering diversity notwithstanding. If you're confused, you're not alone.

Predictably, Andrew Sullivan is indulging his inner diva again:

...it seems odd to describe this as anything but a first stab at creating opposition to the Obama administration's spending plans, manned by people who made no serious objections to George W. Bush's. The tea-parties are as post-partisan as Reynolds, one of the most relentlessly partisan bloggers on the web. When you see them holding up effigies of Bush, who was, unlike Obama, supposed to be the fiscal conservative, let me know.

Creating opposition? Good God. These people have always opposed Obama. Hell, they opposed Bush, and he was a Republican. Sorry, but this is spectacularly dishonest.

I can say that, because for four years I defended George Bush against other conservatives who felt betrayed when he fulfilled promised he'd made over and over on the campaign trail.

I can understand disagreement. That's legitimate. The betrayal meme was utter unreconstructed hogwash. With George Bush, you always knew exactly where he was coming from. Though I don't agree with these folks, I can be honest enough to admit that in this instance, they're being intellectually consistent. To call it hypocrisy when Republicans who criticized George Bush for deficit spending are unhappy with a President they didn't vote for who has, in few short months, already outspent his predecessor is not only factually inaccurate, but downright dishonest.

wapoobamabudget1.jpg

Posted by Cassandra at 05:36 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Mind over Matter

Fascinating:

Langer did a study like this with a group of elderly men some years ago, retrofitting an isolated old New England hotel so that every visible sign said it was 20 years earlier. The men—in their late 70s and early 80s—were told not to reminisce about the past, but to actually act as if they had traveled back in time. The idea was to see if changing the men's mindset about their own age might lead to actual changes in health and fitness.

Langer's findings were stunning: After just one week, the men in the experimental group (compared with controls of the same age) had more joint flexibility, increased dexterity and less arthritis in their hands. Their mental acuity had risen measurably, and they had improved gait and posture. Outsiders who were shown the men's photographs judged them to be significantly younger than the controls. In other words, the aging process had in some measure been reversed.

I know this sounds a bit woo-wooey, but stay with me. Langer and her Harvard colleagues have been running similarly inventive experiments for decades, and the accumulated weight of the evidence is convincing. Her theory, argued in her new book, "Counterclockwise," is that we are all victims of our own stereotypes about aging and health. We mindlessly accept negative cultural cues about disease and old age, and these cues shape our self-concepts and our behavior. If we can shake loose from the negative clichés that dominate our thinking about health, we can "mindfully" open ourselves to possibilities for more productive lives even into old age.

Consider another of Langer's mindfulness studies, this one using an ordinary optometrist's eye chart. That's the chart with the huge E on top, and descending lines of smaller and smaller letters that eventually become unreadable. Langer and her colleagues wondered: what if we reversed it? The regular chart creates the expectation that at some point you will be unable to read. Would turning the chart upside down reverse that expectation, so that people would expect the letters to become readable? That's exactly what they found. The subjects still couldn't read the tiniest letters, but when they were expecting the letters to get more legible, they were able to read smaller letters than they could have normally. Their expectation—their mindset—improved their actual vision.

Hmmmm... now where have we heard this before?

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UNC: "There's No Debate"...

...allowed by those who hate:

... video shows what was happening inside the classroom with Tancredo. The former congressman once ran for president on a platform firmly against illegal immigration. He was invited to UNC to deliver a speech opposing in-state tuition benefits to illegal immigrants. Protesters interrupted his speech, stretching out a banner in front of him that read, "No one is illegal." Tancredo grabbed the banner and confronted one of the people holding it.

Then there was the sound of glass shattering. A window was broken by more opponents outside. As the situation escalated, Tancredo left.
Those who went to hear him speak were clearly upset. ""Obviously there wasn't a point," one attendee said. "He wasn't going to be allowed to speak."

UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp responded to Tuesday night's events and said, "We're very sorry that former Congressman Tancredo wasn't able to speak. We pride ourselves on being a place where all points of view can be expressed and heard, so I'm disappointed that didn't happen tonight. I think our public safety officer appropriately handled a difficult situation."

Tancredo himself emailed a statement to Eyewitness News on Tuesday.
"There is no freedom of speech on hundreds of university campuses today for people who dare to dissent from the radical political agenda of the socialist left and the open borders agitators," he wrote.

Tancredo said he wouldn't be deterred by the incident and plans to speak at more colleges in the coming weeks.

A compelling demonstration of the superiority of the "ethic of care" over the rule of law.

Civil rights? Who needs them when you've got caring?

Update: This would be funny, if it weren't so sad:

Lopez said she had mixed emotions about how the event ended.

"We were more interested in an intellectual conversation instead of a shouting match," she said. "Ironically, the people that are trying to get our voices heard silenced us."

Also:

Welcome to our new "normal" America. A place where Latin American styled "Turbas", will soon be common place on our soil. Learn its meaning, for Turbas is soon to enter our popular lexicon.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:45 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

I Feel Stupid... and Contagious

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

- Barack Obama

Perhaps Obama is our first woman president, after all:

Obama is a female candidate for president in the same way that Bill Clinton was the first black president.

It was Toni Morrison who first had the insight. In a 1998 essay in the New Yorker, the Nobel Prize-winning author described Bill Clinton as "the first black president," commenting on his saxophone playing and his displaying "almost every trope of blackness."

Obama doesn't play the sax. But he is pushing against conventional—and political party nominating convention—wisdom in five important ways, with approaches that are usually thought of as qualities and values that women bring to organizational life: a commitment to inclusiveness in problem solving, deep optimism, modesty about knowing all the answers, the courage to deliver uncomfortable news, not taking on all the work alone, and a willingness to air dirty linen. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is taking a more traditional (and male?) authoritarian approach.

Certainly his criteria for selecting judges betray a refreshingly non-traditional approach:

Debate has raged for decades about whether there is something unique about women's jurisprudence. A 1986 study of O'Connor's opinions published by Prof. Suzanna Sherry, now at Vanderbilt University, saw evidence of a "feminine jurisprudence … quite unlike any other contemporary jurisprudence." The argument is often built on the groundbreaking work of psychologist Carol Gilligan, whose 1982 book, "In a Different Voice," claimed that female moral reasoning differs from that of males. Men, the theory goes, prefer their law with rigid rules, clear lines and neutral principles; women prefer to look at the totality of the circumstances and favor what Gilligan calls an "ethic of care" over an "ethic of rights."

Sacre bleu! This is brilliance! What rational human being prefers so-called 'rights' to 'an ethic of care'? And who among us hasn't secretly longed for tangible demonstrations of affection from their nearest Article III jurist?

But wait! It gets even better!

So, for example, feminists argue that O'Connor's preference for flexible standards regarding abortion (or for nonbelievers in cases about religion) reflect a softer, more "relational" approach to the law, while Justice Antonin Scalia's emphasis on unchanging rules and crisp legal principles is, fundamentally, a guy thing.

Empirical studies on gender and judging so far have been inconclusive. But in an award-winning 2008 paper titled "Untangling the Causal Effects of Sex on Judging," Washington University's Christina L. Boyd and Andrew D. Martin and Northwestern School of Law's Lee Epstein suggest that women judges really are different. Surveying sex-discrimination suits resolved by panels of judges in federal circuit courts between 1995 and 2002, they examined whether male and female judges rule alike, and whether the presence of a woman on a panel affects the behavior of her male colleagues. Here's what they found: male judges were 10 percent more likely to rule against alleged sex-discrimination victims, and male judges were "significantly more likely" to rule in their favor if a woman judge was on the panel.

Because Epstein, Boyd and Martin were only studying sex-discrimination cases, it's unclear whether their data would hold true in cases where gender was beside the point. Still, its intriguing that male judges rule differently when they're sharing the bench with a woman: it suggests female moral reasoning—if such a thing exists—might be contagious.

There are times when the Editorial Staff has to wonder what is funnier? Is it feminist assertions that in a professional setting, women are interchangeable with men because we "Are too!" just as rational, logical, disciplined, and strong as our male counterparts? Or their oxymoronic claims that discrimination robs society of the uniquely female contributions women bring to the table while they're doing their jobs in exactly the same way men do (except for that whole "being guided by entirely subjective feelings rather than law and logic" thing, doncha know").

As much as it pains us to agree with Dahlia Lithwick, judging by the disparate treatment afforded this justice versus this justice, she may have a point about that 'contagion' thing:

The questions from students were read to Justice Thomas, and the first one seemed to throw him off. “Since the Civil War, what has changed the way Americans view the Constitution the most and why?” an unidentified student asked.

Justice Thomas gave a rambling response, touching on the Fourteenth Amendment, the rights of freed slaves, the application of parts of the Bill of Rights to the states and Justice John Marshall Harlan’s dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson, the 1896 Supreme Court decision that endorsed the doctrine of “separate but equal.”

“I’m sure there are other things that have happened,” he said, wrapping up his answer. “So I would have to say just off the top of my head the Fourteenth Amendment. And I bet you someone’s going to hear that and say, well, no, it’s the dormant commerce clause or something.”

That was a curious aside. Few Americans could name the dormant commerce clause, and it has no obvious connection to how popular views of the Constitution changed after the Civil War.

You have to love the Times. If the facts don't happen to conform to their enlightened world view, a bit of creative writing is usually sufficient to smear a bit of Vaseline on the camera lens of history.

A female justice who, in a breathtaking display of feminine jurisprudence, asserts that judicial review provides an essential curb to the murderous instincts of representative government?

"What happened in Europe was the Holocaust," she said, "and people came to see that popularly elected representatives could not always be trusted to preserve the system's most basic values."

Who could have a problem with such eminently sensible and restrained views?

A male justice implying the dormant Commerce clause made possible the virtual obliteration of the federalist system originally outlined in the Constitution?

Preposterous. And totally unreasonable, to boot:

... I contend that Raich represents a major - possibly even terminal - setback for efforts to impose meaningful judicial constraints on Congress' Commerce Clause powers.

Raich undermines judicial enforcement of federalism in three interlocking ways: by adopting an essentially limitless definition of economic activity thereby ensuring that virtually any activity can be aggregated to produce the "substantial effect [on] interstate commerce" required to legitimate congressional regulation under United States v. Lopez and United States v. Morrison; by making it easier for Congress to impose controls on even non-economic activity by claiming that it is part of a broader regulatory scheme; and finally, by restoring the so-called rational basis test, holding that "[w]e need not determine whether [defendants'] activities, taken in the aggregate, substantially affect interstate commerce in fact, but only whether a rational basis exists for so concluding."

... The text of the Constitution does not support the nearly unlimited congressional power endorsed in Raich. Such unlimited power also undercuts some of the major structural advantages of federalism, including diversity, the ability to "vote with your feet," and interstate competition for residents.

Clearly, Thomas is making this Commerce clause nonsense up out of whole cloth. What a maroon:

If the Federal Government can regulate growing a half-dozen cannabis plants for personal consumption (not because it is interstate commerce, but because it is inextricably bound up with interstate commerce), then Congress' Article I powers -- as expanded by the Necessary and Proper Clause -- have no meaningful limits. Whether Congress aims at the possession of drugs, guns, or any number of other items, it may continue to "appropria[te] state police powers under the guise of regulating commerce.

... If the majority is to be taken seriously, the Federal Government may now regulate quilting bees, clothes drives, and potluck suppers throughout the 50 States. This makes a mockery of Madison's assurance to the people of New York that the "powers delegated" to the Federal Government are "few and defined", while those of the States are "numerous and indefinite."

Thank Gaia for the coolly dispassionate analysis of Adam Liptak and Dahlia Lithwick. One shudders to think how a nation bereft of their sage commentary might fall for the seductive wiles of power mad conservative jurists who believe the Constitution reserves to the People certain inalienable rights which even our Camembert-slinging European overlords cannot rip untimely from their bitter, gun-clinging hands.

Justice Thomas' blatantly irrational prose makes us long to dip our toes for just an instant in the cool waters of feminine jurisprudence!

Ah. That's better.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:55 AM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

April 14, 2009

Never be afraid to believe in yourself.

Via Boq.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:13 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Did Obama 'Astroturf' Military Welcome in Iraq?

You be the judge:

“Cheered wildly by U.S. troops,” begins Jennifer Democratic Operative Loven’s AP report on Obama’s surprise visit to Iraq on Tuesday.

Quite a contrast to the silent treatment Marines gave Obama at his Camp LeJeune speech in late February. Just how did Obama manage to fix that little problem?

According to a sergeant in Iraq :

We were pre-screened, asked by officials “Who voted for Obama?”, and then those who raised their hands were shuffled to the front of the receiving line. They even handed out digital cameras and asked them to hold them up. [Via Macsmind.]

Question of the day: regardless of whether or not any of this is true, will reporters jump all over the story the way they did with the false "Bush staged Q&A" a few years ago?

My guess is.... no. Some day, I'd just love to have the standard for "newsworthiness" explained to me.

Then again, maybe I can ask John Edwards.

Via BOQ

Posted by Cassandra at 08:51 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Men vs. Women: Those Little Things You Do

Interesting article: do the little things you do without thinking making your spouse feel bad?

25 ways to make a woman anxious

• Ignore her
• Tell her what to do
• Be short with your answers
• Tune out her feelings
• Stonewall or give her the cold shoulder
• Take her for granted
• Limit or criticize her spending
• Tell her stop worrying
• Tell her she's making too much of it
• Tell her to get over it
• Tell her she talks too much
• Complain about her weight
• Criticize her family
• Withdraw or shut down
• Yell or get angry
• Pout or sulk
• Threaten to quit your job
• Flirt with other women
• Don't know her dreams
• Tell her she's just like her mother
• Complain about her girlfriends
• Give her the cold shoulder
• Dismiss her ideas
• Sound like you're trapped in the marriage
• Buy a sports car

25 ways to stimulate shame in a man

• Exclude him from important decisions
• Correct what he says
• Question his judgment
• Give unsolicited advice
• Dismiss his opinion
• Imply inadequacy
• Make unrealistic demands of his time and energy
• Overreact
• Ignore his desires
• Focus on what you didn't get, rather than what you got
• Withhold praise
• Use a harsh tone
• Be abrupt - spring things on him
• Undermine his wishes
• Condescend
• Criticize his personality
• Disrespect his work
• Show little or no interest in his interests
• Criticize his family
• Interpret, psychoanalyze, or diagnose him
• Make comparisons to other men
• Focus on your unhappiness
• Put friends before him
• Value others' needs over his
• Rob him of the opportunity to help

I was surprised by how different the lists were. But also, the thought struck me that when it comes to men and women, trying to treat others as you wish to be treated backfires more often than not.

I've written before about how differently men and women interpret the same things. But I'm not sure I ever fully realized how often, in trying to show that we care, we do something that is interpreted in exactly the opposite manner.

That strikes me as almost unbearably sad, somehow.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:21 AM | Comments (43) | TrackBack

April 13, 2009

A Teachable Moment

Rebecca Chapman teaches a daily economics lesson to her fourth-graders at a public elementary school near Houston. She assigns them jobs -- pencil guard, errand runner, class sheriff. She lets them run small businesses -- cubby cleaning, baked goods -- and make purchases with fake money. She even taxes the profits.

On March 25, the lesson was a little different. She turned that day to the issue that had captivated and infuriated Americans: the millions in retention bonuses paid to employees at AIG Financial Products, the unit whose risky deals had wrecked giant insurer American International Group.

Chapman stood before her students and stoked the populism in their young souls. Pretend you are taxpayers, she said. Now, think about AIG paying bonuses even after the government had committed $180 billion to bailing it out.

"Can you believe it?" she asked.

The children hissed and moaned, sounding much like the elected officials and talking heads who had been eager to out-outrage one another.

"I got them all riled up," said Chapman, 29.

Then she turned the tables.

"What if you were an AIG employee?" she asked. Imagine if you had not been involved in the deals that ruined the company but were left to clean up the mess. What if you had to pay back money you felt you had earned? What if your family had received death threats?

One boy raised his hand.

"Can we write them and let them know that it's going to be okay?" asked the boy...

Question of the day: Do you think we could get any of these kids to run for Congress? It might do wonders for the collective IQ of that institution.

AIG.jpg

Posted by Cassandra at 07:41 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

The Things We Defend

The selective outrage displayed by these posturing First Amendment warriors (be sure to watch the video - it's priceless) seems a bit ironic in light of this:

... not content to merely draw national headlines as a porn haven, the University’s Senate – which took a “couple of years” to study the issue – voted 42 to 14 to abolish the invocation from the school’s commencement ceremony. The 175-member senate includes staff, faculty and students. Way to abstain, those who fear going on record.

Senate Chair Kenneth Holum told the Washington Post that the decision was made because many students on the ‘large and diverse’ Maryland campus “felt excluded and marginalized” by having the prayer.

After all, only the ignorant fear free speech, right?

After years of international scorn, the United States can claim the high ground by supporting the right of all to speak openly about religion.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:55 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 11, 2009

Pay No Attention to this Ruling!

One of the more moronic admonishments to proceed from a court in recent history, though admittedly the bar has been set pretty high:

In its Monday ruling, the appeal court warned the case should not be seen as an open invitation for children to take legal action every time they're grounded.

Good luck with that.

h/t: JB

Posted by Cassandra at 04:20 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Responsibility

Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.

- George Bernard Shaw

One of the annoying things about believing in free will and individual responsibility is the difficulty of finding somebody to blame your problems on. And when you do find somebody, it’s remarkable how often his picture turns up on your driver’s license.

- P.J. O'Rourke

One of the more bizarre things I've seen recently is number of conservatives jumping on the men's reproductive rights bandwagon:

Amy Alkon and I discuss women who accidentally get pregnant on purpose and whether men have any rights in this situation at all in this week's segment on PJTV.

I understand the heartburn many folks have with abortion. Setting aside the not inconsiderable question of why ensuring the continuity of whatever lifestyle you feel entitled to this week is considered sufficient grounds for taking a human life leaves substantial grounds for opposing abortion:

As we are constantly reminded, the abortion debate is all about something called reproductive choice. Of what does this reproductive choice consist? If a man and a woman, married or unmarried, conceive a child together, both are on the hook financially to support that child until he or she is grown. But there are rules. If the woman decides to rid herself of a fetus that she does not want (but the man does) she may kill it and this is perfectly legal. If the man decides to rid herself of a fetus that he does not want (but the woman does) - perhaps by slipping her an abortifact that does not otherwise harm her - this is murder, and he will go to jail.

Thus, two utterly contradictory things occur at the moment of conception:

Legally, from the point of view of a woman: the fetus is a lump of tissue which may be excised at will if she subsequently regrets having conceived a child. It imposes no obligation or legal duty unless she chooses to accept it.

Legally, from the point of view of the man: the fetus is a human being which must be allowed to live, even if he subsequently regrets having conceived a child. It imposes an absolute and irrevocable legal duty, regardless of his wishes in the matter.

In other words, if you have a y chromosome you have no reproductive choice. Except, of course, to pay at least a half-share of whatever "choices" your sexual partner may make, whether you are married or single - it makes no difference.

I believed these words when I wrote them. They are part of the truth. But they are not the whole truth.

I don't understand conservatives who seem to maintain that the entire responsibility for preventing unwanted pregnancies rests with the woman. Since I'm not buying the proposition that women have a right to consequence-free unprotected sex, it is hardly surprising that I don't believe in a male right to consequence-free unprotected sex either.

I don't understand ostensible conservatives who think society should be more concerned with protecting some nebulous male right to risk-free sex (boy, there's a winning public policy stance) than in ensuring the unintended victims of adult sexual irresponsibility are adequately cared for. Yet that is precisely what the "it's not fair!" contingent seem to want. Like couples locked in a bitter divorce battle, they are perfectly willing to visit the sins of the parents upon their innocent children if, by so doing, they can "punish" whoever they consider to be the guilty party. The problem here is that both parents are guilty of failing to prevent the pregnancy. No matter. Inexplicably and in defiance of hundreds of years of conservative ideology, suddenly conservatives have found a new cause celebre: protecting grown men from the consequences of their own irresponsibility and poor judgment!

Nor do I buy the "...but it's not faaaaaaaaair!" argument.

When has the world ever been fair? When are both conservatives and liberals going to wake up and realize that there are more important things in life than the pursuit of selfish pleasure?

Men and women have an equal duty to prevent unwanted pregnancies. This duty cannot be delegated and I have zero sympathy for people who don't want children, fail to take reasonable precautions, and then blame someone else when they get run over by the clue bus. Reality doesn't care about your life plans or subjective desires. If you don't want something to happen, make sure you're protected. Everything else is just whining.

It's hardly a surprise that both men and women lie about sex.

Men lie and say they love women when their real agenda is to obtain sex without that messy "caring" thing. Women are dishonest when they fail to admit their real agenda - which more often than not is to secure a committed relationship - to their casual sex partners. Any man or woman who has unprotected sex with someone they are not married to should have to face the consequences of their actions, and your partner's failure to act responsibly does not grant you carte blanche to be irresponsible too.

The fact is, if you're unmarried and chose to have unprotected sex, you're a fool to trust the responsibility of birth control to the other party. What possible incentive does your partner have to protect your interests at the expense of their own? This is, after all, why men tend to prefer uncomplicated and uncommitted sex: they neither trust nor love the women they have sex with.

And yet these men seem to feel (thinking is the wrong word for this kind of arrant nonsense) they have the "right" to expect someone they don't know well, don't trust, and don't love to protect them from a risk human beings have known about for centuries? It's no great mystery where babies come from, and whining when you are confronted with the entirely predictable consequences of your own fecklessness is not the hallmark of a reasonable or responsible adult.

Repeat after me three times, slowly: There is no "right" to risk-free or consequence-free unprotected sex.

And while I'm on the subject, abortion doesn't allow a woman to completely avoid the consequences of failing to prevent pregnancy. It may be more palatable than having to raise a child to adulthood for some, but there are risks and costs associated with having an abortion. Abortion isn't an escape from the consequences of unprotected sex.

It's a consequence of unprotected sex that can have life-long and life threatening repercussions, many of which are unforeseen at the time. That some women remain unscarred by those consequences isn't any more "unfair" than the fact that far too many men engage in unprotected sex and then walk away from the children they father without a backward glance. In any event, maintaining that you should be allowed to do something irresponsible and wrong because others have done irresponsible and wrong things is pretty childish.

We are each responsible for our own actions, and anyone who would make an innocent child pay for their own lack of responsibility - be they male or female - is wrong, wrong, wrong. It's a sign of the moral degeneracy of our society that conservatives have joined the chorus of whiners demanding to be freed from the onerous responsibility of behaving like adults.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:49 AM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

April 10, 2009

The Voice of an Angel

Normally I am not that big on country music.

But I will never forget the first time I heard this song.

This one either.

Another great duet:

Posted by Cassandra at 04:10 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 09, 2009

I Hate Thursdays

Memories...

I Think TARP disbursements are really a huge problem
I Think bailouts are too much on my mind
I Think rich people have got a lot to do with why the world sucks
But what can you do?

Like a black rain, beating down on me
Like a Chomsky line, which won't let go of my brain
Like Alan Greenspan's ass, it is in my head
Blame it on Wall Street
Blame it on Wall Street
Blame it on Wall Street

I Think credit default swaps are gonna drive us all crazy
And securitized mortgages make me feel like a child
I Think greedy investment bankers will eventually be the downfall of civilization
But what can you do? I said what can you do?

Like a black rain, beating down on me
Like a Chomsky line, which won't let go of my brain
Like Alan Greenspan's unwaxed chest, it is in my head
Blame it on Wall Street
Blame it on Wall Street
Blame it on Wall Street

Like a black rain, beating down on me
Like Alan Greenspan's smile, cruel and cold
Like Chomsky's ass, it is in my head
Blame it on Wall Street
Blame it on Wall Street
Blame it on Wall Street

Posted by Cassandra at 03:28 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Lame Blogging Alert

On behalf of the Editorial Staff, we wish to apologize for the lame blogfare from you-know-who.

It's not easy driving 80 mph, talking on the phone, and applying mascara all at the same time, but we imagine this is why the Powers That Be gave the blog princess knees.

Be patient with her. Lord knows we are.

Sincerely,

Half Vast Staff of Itinerant Eskimo Typists

Posted by Cassandra at 11:58 AM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

April 08, 2009

Erasing Inequality Caption Contest

disparity.jpg

This amused me.

You have to admit it's kind of a comical picture. If you're a newcomer to VC, you may not be familiar with my tiresome rules. Please stay away from anything that is mean on a personal level. Political jabs are OK - I just don't want to see some of the ugly stuff Laura Bush was subjected to.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:18 PM | Comments (53) | TrackBack

Dang

Don't you just hate it when this happens?

Where in the helk are the 111th Congress when you need them?

Update: No wonder we can't find them. They're playing hide the sausage.

I am so going to the Bad Place for that one.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:01 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

April 07, 2009

Things I Wish I'd Known When I Was 18

John Hawkins' list of 50 Things Every 18 Year-old Should Know got me thinking about things I've learned since I was just a sweet young thing. I don't know that any of these are particularly surprising or insightful, but they represent a few of the more noticeable times when life has smacked me upside the head with a clue bat:

1. Never subordinate your personal values to those of the crowd; there is no surer way to erode your self-respect.

"We're hard wired that way/everyone does it/it feels good/It's not wrong so long as I don't hurt anyone else" are excuses, not rational arguments. Unless you think sheep are magnificent and admirable creatures, don't let others drown out that little voice inside your head.

2. Avoid attention rapists. People have a perverse compulsion to watch train wrecks. That doesn't make doing so a wise use of your time or emotional energy. If someone consistently makes you feel bad or wastes your time, walk away.

3. If you wish you were a smarter, braver, more confident, kinder, or happier person, align your behavior with your goals. Human nature gets it backwards: often, function follows outward form. This is a fancy way of saying that actions are more important than feelings.

You're not a slave to every transient mood - the quickest way to change the way you feel is to change the way you act.

4. The way you carry yourself instructs the world in the way you see yourself and how you expect to be treated. Stand up straight. Square your shoulders and look others in the eye even when you're scared or unsure of yourself. Smile, even when you don't feel particularly happy. Most people are far too wrapped up in themselves to look below a happy, confident exterior.

5. Love - real love - always requires some degree of commitment. That's a big decision; one no person can make for another. Love can't be obtained through persuasion, guilt, force, bribery, seduction, or trickery.

In order to be worth anything, love must be the gift of a willing heart. People will decide to love you - or not - for their own reasons, most of which you will never know. Be thankful for that.

6. You can't "give" someone else self-esteem by praising them. The obverse of this rule is that no one can make you feel bad about yourself unless you give them permission.

Throughout your life, people will see you through a lens shaped by their own values, personalities, and experiences. You have absolutely no control over their perceptions. The important question is not, "What do they think of me?", but "What do I think of myself?"

7. Never make major decisions while in the grip of strong emotion.

8. Pay as you go. This applies to everyday life as much as it does to your finances.

When you don't pay your way in life financial and emotional debts begin to mount and you'll begin each day, not with a fresh slate but carrying yesterday's backlog of guilt, resentment, and anxiety. If you truly value your friends, romantic relationships, reputation, career or credit rating, don't allow deficits to build up until they become overwhelming.

Fix it now.

9. Beware the Psychic Vampire. This person will suck every last ounce of joy from your soul, leaving only a drained husk. You are not responsible for making other people happy or solving their problems.

This is not to say you shouldn't help others, but lending a sympathetic ear or helping someone out of a jam doesn't make you responsible for their decisions. Do these things because you want to, not because someone else "needs" you to. Happiness is a responsibility that can't be delegated.

10. Believe in something greater than yourself, then act upon that belief.

Once you have a few years under your belt you'll start to wonder why you're here and what you'll leave behind after you die. If there is anything more human than the search for meaning, I don't know what it is. Animals spend their lives eating, drinking, having sex, avoiding pain. People examine the world and their role in it.

"What do you believe?" If you don't have an intelligent answer to that question, what makes you any different from an animal?

Posted by Cassandra at 04:40 AM | Comments (62) | TrackBack

April 05, 2009

Photo of the Day

lone-fall-tree.jpg

More here.

Posted by Cassandra at 11:44 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Caption Contest Results

In an effort to eradicate the ever growing list of caption contests the Princess has not gotten around to judging, she presents this omnibus post. Part of the reason she hates judging contests is that it takes *&^^ forever to format results posts the way she likes them to be formatted.

For that reason, this post won't be done the usual way. It just takes too long to look up and embed all the photos, so you'll just have to click on the links to see the original post.

So, with no further ado, the results:

Littlest Angel? Caption Contest:

1. rodney dill: The years have not been kind to Janet Reno

2. Deb: "Just call me angel of the morning (ANGEL) just touch my cheek before you leave me, baby."

3. spr rdr (whoever that is :p): It slowly dawned on Moose that perhaps St. Peter had misunderstood his comment about wanting to join "Hell's Angels."

Signs of Hope Caption Contest

1. Rodney Dill: Neither is a freeway, but the left road is a Tollway.

2. obloodyhell: You know your candidacy is in trouble when even the state highway departments start editorializing...

Cult Of Obama Caption Contest

1. Frodo: This is my church, here is the steeple open it up and I give hope to the people.

2. MathMom: Obama stifles a grin as he listens to advice from his Dad in Heaven, thinking, "Doesn't He know that I am the Obamessiah? I don't have to take this."

3. annlee: Al Gore would've killed for this much alphaness.

It's Bathing Suit Season! Caption Contest

1. Steve Gobie: I'll never again book a flight and a room with Barney Franks for Carnaval in Rio... Never... Ever.

2. Monsieur Del A-cately En-Loafers: Tha therapisth thaid to thing thith thong all day every day, but I don't think itth helping...

3. Artfldgr: And here is a man that needs no introduction, the democratic nominee for 2012!!!! Let's hear a great round of applause.
Gum ball anyone?


The Obama Salute Caption Contest

1. John of Argghhh: "I'm a zero, he's a zero, wouldn't you like to be a zero too?!?"

2. Mr. Oink: This is your brain on hope.

3. Pile On: McCain: "As you can see from my opponents hand gesture not only is he the antichrist he is wrong on offshore drilling!"

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

1. Ted Nugent: What! A BLUE tie! I told ya he was never a true conservative!

2. DL Sly "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and dog-gone it people like me!"

3. Tony: "Hey!!! That guy looks just like me!"

Rear View Window Caption Contest

1. spd rdr: Good morning, ladies, gentlemen, and tasty newspersons.... (go read the rest)

2. ziobuck: As outgoing FIRST DOG, I want to thank you ladies and gentlemen for not judging me by the color of my fur, or by the nature of my breed, but by my cute personality and the wag of my tail. I'm glad you've understood my bark was worse than my bite, and pray my successor will also refuse to rollover for the media like my master and I.

3. Obloodyhell: "I am in charge here!"

Posted by Cassandra at 09:51 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

April 04, 2009

I Give Up

Here is the list of the 20 largest militaries in the world today:

People's Republic of China
United States of America
India
Russia
Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Republic of Korea
Pakistan
Iran
Egypt
Vietnam
Turkey
Myanmar
Colombia
Brazil
Indonesia
Thailand
Syria
Republic of China (Taiwan)
Germany
Italy

How many stable democracies do you see on that list? How many that are friendly to the United States?

Now, how many flagrant violators of both human and civil rights are there? This is the context in which Robert Gates wants to slash military spending:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is expected to announce on Monday the restructuring of several dozen major defense programs as part of the Obama administration's bid to shift military spending from preparations for large-scale war against traditional rivals to the counterinsurgency programs that Gates and others consider likely to dominate U.S. conflicts in coming decades.

..."He is strategically reshaping the budget," said Gates's spokesman, Geoff Morrell, who declined to provide details. The secretary is "subjecting every program to harsh scrutiny, especially those which have been over budget and/or behind schedule. . . . The end result, we hope, is a budget that more accurately reflects the strategic priorities of the president."

I've been in the software business for a long time now. Most large scale defense systems are software-intensive, and in over a decade I've rarely seen a large and complex software project that delivered on time and on budget. Scope creep alone accounts for many of these problems, but DoD does a particularly poor job on requirements definition. There are structural and institutional reasons for that, but the bottom line is that is reality.

It is axiomatic within military circles that we're always fighting the last war and never ready for the current one. During the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, we were resource constrained in both people and weapons. So it is frankly astonishing to me that the Secretary of Defense would blithely assume the only future conflicts we need to be prepared for are counterinsurgencies, or that he thinks it's good strategy to hamstring the military for decades simply to ensure current spending aligns with this administration's priorities.

Have we already forgotten the MRAP debacle? For months, we couldn't produce MRAPs fast enough, and then by the time politicians were done overreacting, we had too many of them:

Marine commanders in Iraq are asking the Pentagon to slow down deployment of IED-resistant vehicles in order to give them more time to figure out how best to employ the heavily-armored trucks, a top Corps official Wednesday.

Congress and the Pentagon have devoted billions to a crash program to field so-called Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles that are said to protect troops from deadly roadside bombs more effectively than up-armored Humvees. But the vehicles are more than four times heavier than an armored Humvee and may require different tactics for their use.

"I would say 'relax,' we don't know how we're going to use them, nobody does," said Brig. Gen. select Larry Nicholson, deputy commander of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command based in Quantico, Va. "And anyone who says ... 'this is exactly how many we need and this is exactly how we're going to use them' is not being truthful."

The defense industry can't design and manufacture large scale defense systems on a dime, yet with the lion's share of the defense budget going to personnel costs, it is precisely our future defense capability we're mortgaging:

Peril lies ahead, Franks cautioned, noting that the so-called peace dividend when military outlays slumped in the 1990s left the United States with a huge amount of catch-up spending in the current decade. "Remember some of the mistakes we made," which ought not to be repeated, he said. Democratic President Clinton and a Republican-led Congress were "complicit in reducing the military by one-third," Eaglen recalled.

After years of soaring defense outlays that roughly doubled since 2001, the outlook for defense programs is bleak, and no one should be fooled by estimates that President Obama may go for a total defense budget of $535 billion to $545 billion in the next fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2010, a hold-steady pace, experts warned.

There likely will be billions of dollars of cuts in weapons acquisitions programs, not just in fiscal 2010, but even more in 2011 and later years, the experts predicted.

...The biggest, easiest target to hit is aircraft procurement programs, Goure said, for the same reason that Jesse James robbed banks: that's where the money is.

Even large cuts in vehicle or shipbuilding programs wouldn't produce the amount of savings that can be pulled out of aircraft programs, he said.

But if aging aircraft aren't replaced, in a Catch-22, that only will result in huge and rising costs for the military to maintain creaky old planes that aren't being replaced, he said.

Eaglen, too, sees tactical fighters and other fixed-wing aircraft headed for huge cuts, along with missiles. Navy shipbuilding may suffer cuts as well, but they won't amount to nearly as much in dollar terms. Rotary-wing aircraft procurement programs, however, might see a gain, she said. In a tension between providing for today's armed forces, and providing for the personnel in uniform of tomorrow, today's force wins every time, she said. That means replacing worn-out platforms over buying new equipment, buying items to replace those destroyed in wars over acquiring next-generation systems, and the like.

Franks, likewise, sees a move to cut the Army Future Combat Systems (FCS), a sweeping $160 billion program led by The Boeing Co. [BA] and SAIC to provide new vehicles, aircraft, communications and more for a 21st century land force to replace war-torn assets.

FCS, he said, is "easy to attack," adding that perhaps the huge program, second-largest among Pentagon procurement efforts, should be broken into more affordable multiple components.

A time when the federal government has taken on unprecedented levels of risk is no time to unilaterally disarm. We keep hearing about how many folks would be put out of work if the auto industry went under. How many jobs are tied to the defense industry? Is there some vital difference between "stimulating" the auto industry to save jobs and stimulating the defense industry?

Unanimous among Washington policymakers and defense officials is the notion that the U.S. military is the best-trained and best-led in the world. What assessments of America's military often overlook, however, is that the bulk of platforms and weapons systems that equip today's forces are decades old and in need of replacement. Due to the funding decisions of the last 15 years, the current U.S. military force is too small and too old relative to the requirements of the National Military Strategy. Without at least maintaining today's levels of procurement spending, the U.S. will be unable to modernize its forces to the degree necessary to preserve its security within the necessary margin of safety.

Because longer-term economic growth is a priority for a robust defense budget, smarter defense spending is needed in Washington to maintain the basic military building blocks that form the foundation of strategic planning. The federal government should operate within an environment of finite resources, a requirement to which the defense budget is not immune. There is no blank check that would allow defense officials to avoid prioritizing budget needs. As responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars, senior defense officials and Members of Congress must acknowledge that reforming the weapons acquisition process and military pay system are required. However, as Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) highlighted in a conference call this week, any potential savings realized as a result of procurement reform should be reinvested within the defense budget.

We've already seen the tragic consequences of squandering the peace dividend in the 1990s.

rethinking_the_surplus.gif

In addition to that old saw about the perils of fighting the last war, policy makers might care to consider another old chestnut: Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

Truly, we never learn.

Posted by Cassandra at 11:49 AM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

Dude...Where's My Country?

Congress seems determined to dispense with our freedoms. And to think these are the folks who called Bush a fascist:

Steve Aquino at Mother Jones asks, "Should President Obama have the power to shut down domestic Internet traffic during a state of emergency? Senators John Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) think so." I've highlighted what I think are the interesting passages in the article.
On Wednesday they introduced a bill to establish the Office of the National Cybersecurity Advisor--an arm of the executive branch that would have vast power to monitor and control Internet traffic to protect against threats to critical cyber infrastructure. That broad power is rattling some civil libertarians. The Cybersecurity Act of 2009 (PDF) gives the president the ability to "declare a cybersecurity emergency" and shut down or limit Internet traffic in any "critical" information network "in the interest of national security." The bill does not define a critical information network or a cybersecurity emergency. That definition would be left to the president.

The bill does not only add to the power of the president. It also grants the Secretary of Commerce "access to all relevant data concerning [critical] networks without regard to any provision of law, regulation, rule, or policy restricting such access." This means he or she can monitor or access any data on private or public networks without regard to privacy laws.

The Mother Jones article quotes a number of sources who argue that the proposed bill significantly undermines the Constitution and makes a mockery of existing privacy laws. But I think the main problem with the proposed legislation is that the operational justification for it has not been made. There are two parts to this proposal. The first is the ability to shut down the network in whole or in part due to a "cybersecurity emergency" and the second is the implied power to wiretap without a warrant in certain circumstances, where such circumstances are defined by the President.

I'm rapidly losing count of the number of mornings when I wake up and wonder if I've been teleported to the EU.

I am not necessarily opposed to the vigorous exertion of Executive power in a national emergency. When President Bush was in office I argued - repeatedly - that the NSA wiretapping program and SWIFT terrorist tracking program were not only not violative of the 4th Amendment, but were prudent exercises of the president's Article II authority. People seem to forget that we have three distinct branches of government, each with a different role to play in governing this nation. Clarence Thomas, the most reliably conservative justice on the Supreme Court, spoke compellingly on proper deference to the Executive branch in his dissent to Hamdan v. Rumsfeld:

As I explained in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the structural advantages attendant to the Executive Branch--namely, the decisiveness, " 'activity, secrecy, and dispatch' " that flow from the Executive's " 'unity,' (quoting The Federalist No. 70, p. 472) --led the Founders to conclude that the "President ha[s] primary responsibility--along with the necessary power--to protect the national security and to conduct the Nation's foreign relations." Consistent with this conclusion, the Constitution vests in the President "[t]he executive Power," (Art. II, §1), provides that he "shall be Commander in Chief" of the Armed Forces, (§2), and places in him the power to recognize foreign governments, (§3). This Court has observed that these provisions confer upon the President broad constitutional authority to protect the Nation's security in the manner he deems fit.

... In such circumstances, as previously noted, our duty to defer to the Executive's military and foreign policy judgment is at its zenith; it does not countenance the kind of second-guessing the Court repeatedly engages in today. Military and foreign policy judgments "'are and should be undertaken only by those directly responsible to the people whose welfare they advance or imperil. They are decisions of a kind for which the Judiciary has neither aptitude, facilities nor responsibility and which has long been held to belong in the domain of political power not subject to judicial intrusion or inquiry.'

Having argued that George Bush possessed the authority to take necessary steps to protect national security for the past 8 years, I can hardly double back on that position now. In any event, I wouldn't even if I could; not being a huge fan of the Kerr Effect:

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".

It's true that I don't trust Barack Obama farther than I can throw him, but he was duly elected President of the United States and to contend that our personal likes and dislikes should be dispositive in the exercise of Executive power is a fool's errand. What bothers me most about this story is that this isn't the President claiming he has the right to do his job should a national emergency arise. It's Congress, blithely legislating away our Constitutional rights.

The remedy for intolerable exercise of Executive power is written right into the Constitution: impeachment. In the mean time, Congress has no business providing advance cover for a phenomenon which makes us all acutely uncomfortable (the undeniable truth that in times of national emergency, Presidents can and do "stretch" the Constitution a bit).

As Richard Fernandez so succintly put it,

This has the potential for abuse written all over it. Democrats should ask themselves whether they want any future President to have this power. Because the political system may live to regret passing an act with such blanket authority. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but as Rick Blaine once said, "soon and for the rest of your life."

What I want to know is, where are all the patriots who assiduously maintained - evidence to the contrary notwithstanding - that Barney the White House terrier had shredded the 1st and 4th Amendments and turned America into a police state? We haven't been attacked since 2001. In a state of emergency, I don't want the President of the United States to stop and justify his decisions. If we're attacked, I don't care whether the President is a Democrat or a Republican: I want him to act to protect our security first. He can worry about explaining it all to us when the emergency is over.

But I'll be damned if I want Congress waving away our Constitutional rights and granting the President blanket authority in advance. That way lies madness.

This administration seems hell bent on protecting us from all the wrong things, but unless we plan on devolving into a Banana republic, the rule of law is all we have. Both sides need to start respecting it.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:42 AM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

April 03, 2009

In Honor of....

Our own Blog Princess. Whom, after laboring laboriously throughout the night, actually judged not one, ladies and gentlemen, but all unjudged caption contests. (I think this was solely to remove a source of harassment for yours truly.......oh, and because I judged mine in light-speed fashion -- as compared to *some*, that is.)
0>;~}
So, without further ado:

Because surely such an event was divinely inspired.....and it's Wookie time.

Posted by at 06:13 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

By the Beard of the Prophet!!!!

May the Fleas of a Thousand Camels infest the armpits of impudent Infidels such as this worthless fellow. May their stomachs roast in Hell for a million years and their limp digital spitballs turn to raindrops!

I repeat myself: When are American conservatives going to start chanting that tedious old lefty war cry, "Not in our name!"?

Probably not until the Obamas present the Ahmadinejads with the Persian-looking "American Girl" doll.

Come to think of it, that would be so funny it might actually make up for insulting the Brits.

Bah!!! The noxious babblings of wingnuts are a stench in the Nostrils of Allah! For has it not been Written that they who allow their females to speak without permission shall find their ears filled with Endless Jabbering?!!!! And why is this female not at home serving her husband and sons, as is proper?

I hope all the lefties who tore into Bush over his Saudi prostration will express equal disgust with President HopeAndChange’s literal bowing and scraping to King Abdullah. When JWF sent a link to the photo with Obama bent down like a serf (further than either he or Michelle dipped for Queen Elizabeth, by the way), I tried to give the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he dropped a contact lens or penny?

Why has this Jezebel not been beaten upon the soles of her feet thrice daily for her impudence? It is an outrage! No matter - The Merciful Prophet (pbuh) shall strike down these vile utterations with the flaming sword of the Religion of Peace!

...See Miss Manners on the protocol. Americans do not bow to foreign monarchs because that act signified the monarch's power over his subjects.

Verily I say unto you: when the Glorious Caliphate stretches from one end of the earth to the other, the Lying Lies of Lying Liars who Lie shall be more exposed than an 'educational filmstrip'!

I loved this email from a very angry woman re this post:

Your story about Obama's gift to the Queen is sheer lies – and all the right wing pigs are e-mailing it all over the world…guess that makes you happy

You are disgusting.

Update: Here's another. I assume some left-wing blogger is sending readers my way:

More right wing false drivel.

How do you live this one down? And to think I used to be a solid Republican. Thanks to this stuff I am now an independent.

You need to check out the facts before you put this stuff in print. It puts the GOP in the same light as their last fearless leader.

Thousand Prostrations.bmp

I say to you - it is a glorious sight to see the leader of the so-called "Free World" performing the Thousand Prostrations at the feet of Allah's Righteous. And may the sternly wagging finger of international opprobrium smite all those who dare to snark at him!

Posted by at 07:16 AM | Comments (38) | TrackBack

Dover Policy Released

Via David M., the Dover policy was released yesterday. The press release contained a few amusing remarks:

Media with family consent to cover dignified transfer operations at Dover will be required to conduct themselves in a respectful, quiet manner so as not to disturb the solemnity of the occasion, Whitman said. That concern, he added, also requires filming and photography using only ambient light and sound.

"So, if it's 2 o'clock in the morning, you get lighting that is 2 o'clock in the morning-type lighting; if it is raining, it's raining," Whitman said. "We are not changing the dignified transfer process to accommodate media. What we are doing is accommodating the media to cover the existing dignified transfer process."

Media with family approval to cover Dover dignified transfers would be placed in an area behind the families, Whitman said, noting that the families aren't to be filmed or interviewed as they observe transfer operations. Families that agree to be interviewed by media after the transfer operations could do so, Whitman said, but only in a specified area away from the tarmac.

The proof of this policy will be in the implementation. The notion that the DT process won't be changed to accommodate media demands is risible considering that it was pressure from the press that caused the change in policy in the first place. If I had more confidence in this administration to hold the line, I might be more sanguine about this policy working smoothly.

Like McQ and Major C, I can't get past the tremendous burden this policy shift places on families at an extrememly painful and vulnerable moment. Supporters of the change blithely insist this decision will be "just like any other decision" the primary next of kin must make in the hours immediate after notification.

They reason from the best possible scenario: one where husband and wife have calmly discussed matters like this before deployment and are in agreement as to what should be done.

Having been through a good number of deployments over nearly three decades, I can tell you they're smoking crack. For military families, no pre-deployment plan survives contact with reality.

The Unit was very good about securing a power of attorney for me each time he left (for all the good that does, which isn't much. Most parties won't accept a general power of attorney these days for any material transaction). Before he went to Iraq he had a new will drawn up. Our children are grown now, and our assets have multiplied over the years. The simple will we've had in place for years wasn't really applicable anymore.

We even discussed what was to be done in the event he was wounded and - for whatever reason - was in a coma or suffered irreversible brain damage. That was painful enough; we didn't agree on what should be done but I agreed to abide by his wishes. How could I not?

But we never discussed where he would be buried.

We never discussed funeral arrangements.

I think many people assume ample time before deployment for planning and discussion, but many servicemembers keep their spouses in the dark about what arrangements they've made. The days and weeks before a major deployment can be a tense time for families, and not all couples deal with this tension well. Years ago when the Unit was a Lieutenant, I regularly got calls from wives whose husbands hadn't made arrangements to pay the truck payment. These ladies had no idea anything was wrong until someone showed up to repossess the family's only means of transportation. Things get forgotten. Balls are dropped.

Sometimes deployments occur with little or no advance notice.

In our case, the decision on whether or not he would go was up in the air literally until the last minute. During the last few days he worked from 4 a.m. until 10 p.m. on the turnover for his replacement. I barely saw him, and when I did he was exhausted. And we were both walking on eggshells. The last thing either one of us wanted was the usual pre-deployment waterworks and I was determined not to place extra demands on him when he had so much on his mind.

And things rarely go the way we plan. In my dreams, we'd spend a nice evening together before he left: a few steaks, a nice bottle of wine, candlelight and ... well, you know the drill. The reality was that the night before he deployed he got home from work at 11 p.m. His gear was mostly packed, but much of it was spread out over our living room floor, a million piles small and large, each with a neat list of what needed to go in each bag. He literally hadn't been home long enough to finish packing. And as if that weren't enough, a major snowstorm was forecast for the next morning.

So instead of candlelight and roses or even coming home, packing, and getting into bed at a decent hour, we had to pile into the car and drive for an hour to the Dulles Marriott so he wouldn't miss his 9 am flight. Fun, fun, fun.

There was no time for the kind of leisurely discussions people seem to think ought to happen. But it was a good thing we stayed at a hotel the night before. By 8 am the roads were covered in snow and visibility was near zero. I drove home that morning through a blizzard - I'd planned to be back in my own house after dropping him at the airport, but had to pull off the road halfway and spend most of the day with my parents until the roads were passable. Poor Sausage must have thought I'd abandoned him, but he's a Marine Beast so he sucked it up.

Given all the possible ways this policy change could have been implemented, I think we got the best we could expect. But I'm still worried. I keep hearing my mother in law immediately after she lost the love of her life. Each decision set off a new bout of worry: would it have been what her husband wanted? Was she doing the right thing? I hope they get the servicemember preference policy in place quickly.

That is where the decision should rest: with the servicemember. I've been there when a spouse was first told her husband was dead. Twice, actually.

It's not a calm moment - not a time for potentially contentious decisions whose consequences may not become apparent until it's too late. In one case the family began arguing (though fortunately in a supportive way) over the arrangements almost as soon as they'd heard the bad news.

And the oddest thing of all about this is that unless I misunderstand how it is to be implemented, the press won't even get what they really hunger for: that money shot of a cargo plane loaded to the gills with flag draped coffins. If DoD allows the press to photograph the inside of the plane, they're allowing access to all the coffins inside regardless of the wishes of individual families. On the other hand, if the press are to be allowed on the tarmac, how will they prevent them from taking these photos? Hopefully this has been considered, but if it has been taken into account I can't help thinking: we are putting families through this nonsense for what? To give the press something they could always have had - photos of single flag draped coffins?

Will DoD hold the line if the press aren't satisfied with this limited access, or will they throw grieving families under the bus at the first sign of trouble?

Though I'm thankful this policy seems to be carefully thought out, I hope the Department of Defense will stand firm in its stated intention to put military families first.

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

Sneaky Beasts

Heh...

toad.jpg

Found via this, from Eric

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

April 01, 2009

Scaliiiiiiiiiiiito!!!!!!!

Well this is a shocker, I must say:

Your result for Which Supreme Court Justice Are You Test...

You are Justice Samuel Alito

You agreed with Alito 86% of the time.

Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr. (born April 1, 1950) is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Appointed by President George W. Bush, Alito is generally considered a fairly conservative jurist with a libertarian streak (especially on First Amendment issues). Educated at Princeton University and Yale Law School, Alito served as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey and a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit prior to joining the Supreme Court. He is the 110th justice.

Justice Alito delivered his first written opinion on May 1, 2006 in the case Holmes v. South Carolina, a case involving the right of criminal defendants to present evidence that a third-party committed the crime. (Since the beginning of the Rehnquist Court, new justices have been given unanimous opinions to write as their first majority court opinion, often done as a courtesy "breaking in" of new justices, so that every justice has at least one unanimous, uncontroversial opinion under his/her belt with which to battle critics). Alito wrote for a unanimous court in ordering a new trial for Bobby Lee Holmes due to South Carolina's rule that barred such evidence based on the strength of the prosecution's case, rather than on the relevance and strength of the defense evidence itself.

In his first term, Alito voted fairly conservatively. For example, in the three reargued cases (Garcetti v. Ceballos, Hudson v. Michigan and Kansas v. Marsh), Alito created a 5-4 majority by voting with four other conservative Justices — Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas. He further voted with the conservative wing of the court on Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon and Rapanos v. United States. Alito was also a dissenter in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, alongside Justices Scalia and Thomas.While Alito's voting record is conservative, he does not always join the most conservative Justices on the Court. On February 1, 2006, in Alito's first decision sitting on the Supreme Court, he voted with the majority (6-3) to refuse Missouri's request to vacate the stay of execution issued by the Eighth Circuit for death-row inmate Michael Taylor; Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia and Thomas were in favor of vacating the stay. Missouri had twice asked the justices to lift the stay and permit the execution.

On the abortion issue, it appears that Alito believes some restrictions on the procedure are constitutionally permitted, but has not signaled a willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade. In 2003, Congress passed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which led to a lawsuit in the case of Gonzales v. Carhart. The Court had previously ruled in Stenberg v. Carhart that a state's ban on partial birth abortion was unconstitutional because such a ban did not have an exception in the case of a threat to the health of the mother. The membership of the Court changed after Stenberg, with John Roberts and Samuel Alito replacing William Rehnquist (a dissenter in Roe) and Sandra Day O'Connor (a supporter of Roe) respectively. Further, the ban at issue in Gonzales v. Carhart was a federal statute, rather than a state statute as in the Stenberg case. On April 18, 2007, the Supreme Court handed down a decision upholding the constitutionality of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the five-justice majority that Congress was within its power to generally ban the procedure, although the Court left the door open for as-applied challenges. Kennedy's opinion implied but did not absolutely reach the question whether the Court's prior decisions in Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and Stenberg v. Carhart were valid, and instead the Court said that the challenged statute is consistent with those prior decisions whether or not those prior decisions were valid. Alito joined fully in the majority as did Chief Justice Roberts. Justice Thomas filed a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Scalia

Moreover, despite having been at one time nicknamed "Scalito," Alito's views have differed from those of Scalia (and Thomas), as in the Michael Taylor case cited above and various other cases of the 2005 term. Scalia, a fierce critic of reliance on legislative history in statutory interpretation, was the only member of the Court in Zedner v. United States not to join a section of Alito's opinion that discussed the legislative history of the statute in question. In two higher-profile cases, involving the constitutionality of political gerrymandering and campaign finance reform (LULAC v. Perry and Randall v. Sorrell), Alito adopted narrow positions, declining to join the bolder positions advanced by either philosophical side of the Court. According to a scotusblog.com analysis of 2005 term decisions, Alito and Scalia concurred in the result of 86% of decisions (in which both participated), and concurred in full in only 75%. (By scotusblog.com's reckoning, this is less agreement than between Scalia and Kennedy, O'Connor and Souter, or Stevens and Ginsburg.) On the recent abortion ruling, Alito simply joined Anthony Kennedy's opinion rather than join Scalia in Thomas's stronger assertion.In the 2007 landmark free speech case Morse v. Frederick, Alito joined Roberts' majority decision that speech advocating drug use can be banned in public schools, but also warned that the ruling must be circumscribed that it does not interfere with political speech, such as the discussion of the medical marijuana debate.Alito's majority opinion in the 2008 worker protection case Gomez-Perez v. Potter cleared the way for federal workers who experience retaliation after filing age discrimination complaints to sue for damages. He sided with the liberal block of the court, inferring protection against retaliation in the federal-sector provision of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act despite the lack of an explicit provision concerning retaliation.

Take Which Supreme Court Justice Are You Test at HelloQuizzy

95/100 You scored 86% on Alito, higher than 95% of your peers.

93/100 You scored 73% on Scalia, higher than 93% of your peers.

92/100 You scored 74% on Thomas, higher than 92% of your peers.

92/100 You scored 80% on Roberts, higher than 92% of your peers.

3/100 You scored 44% on Kennedy, higher than 3% of your peers.

5/100 You scored 32% on Stevens, higher than 5% of your peers.

3/100 You scored 24% on Souter, higher than 3% of your peers.

0/100 You scored 13% on Breyer, higher than 0% of your peers.

7/100 You scored 29% on Ginsburg, higher than 7% of your peers.

Unlike, say, this amusing little tidbit:

Justice Department lawyers concluded in an unpublished opinion earlier this year that the historic D.C. voting rights bill pending in Congress is unconstitutional, according to sources briefed on the issue. But Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who supports the measure, ordered up a second opinion from other lawyers in his department and determined that the legislation would pass muster.

When the going gets tough, the tough go opinion-shopping.

Update:

Your result for What Do Others See You As Test...

31 to 40 Points

You've scored 38 Points!

Others see you as sensible, cautious, careful & practical. They see you as clever, gifted, or talented, but modest. Not a person who makes friends too quickly or easily, but someone who's extremely loyal to friends you do make and who expect the same loyalty in return. Those who really get to know you, realize it takes a lot to shake your trust in your friends, but equally that it takes you a long time to get over if that trust is ever broken.

Take What Do Others See You As Test at HelloQuizzy

Posted by Cassandra at 05:09 PM | Comments (45) | TrackBack

More Randy Musings... Heh

Interesting discussion over at Grim's on the "Money Speech" I posted the other day. He argues, if I understand what he is saying (and I may not) that men work for love, not money:

Rand is wrong precisely here:

"But money demands of you the highest virtues, if you wish to make it or to keep it. Men who have no courage, pride or self-esteem, men who have no moral sense of their right to their money and are not willing to defend it as they defend their life..."

Money does demand virtue, and perhaps even the highest virtues: but not these. What it demands are self-sacrifice, so that you are willing to work fifteen hours a day to support a family if you must; honor in keeping promises, so that no matter how hard the job, if you give your word men know will achieve it; and being willing to bear the weight of others, so that people come to be willing to trust their weight to you.

A man who does that consistently will never lack for money long. Courage is a virtue, certainly; pride is quite often a sin; and at this point in our society's history, 'self esteem' is absolutely a sin.

These higher virtues of self-sacrifice are the true root of wealth. Those are just what Rand warns against in her work, but they are the real thing. There is plenty of money in the world: those who have it are only too eager to find good stewards, trustworthy employees, and hard workers to help them with their enterprises. When you have enough of your own, you may be the one looking for good stewards and trustworthy men. Think what you would want in an employee, and you will know how to ensure that you have work.

What is more, with those same qualities a man can find love to go with his money. Pride and 'self-esteem' will not alone bring love to him. These things will.

Then you have a reason to want money. A man without love will throw it away as fast as his hands lay on it, seeking pleasure and having no care for it. A man without love might prefer the gun to the dollar, honestly. But the man with love will want stability and safety for the people he loves, and he will work to build it. In working faithfully, he will gain the name for honor and honesty that will ensure his success. He will leave an example to his children, and a place for them.

If he fights, he will fight for those reasons. It will not be because you come to take his money. It will be because you seek to undermine his ability to defend what he loves against the storms of the world. In that cause, you will find in him a terrible foe.

I agree with Grim's assertion that men (and women, for I know this to be so of my own experience) work harder when they have loved ones to protect. Indeed, for a woman with children, this is very much the case.

Children invade all facets of a mother's life; little if anything of her former self or individuality are left to her when she has a houseful of little ones constantly demanding care, attention, feeding. I can remember being utterly absorbed in caring for my two small sons. As many women do, I began to lose myself in caring for them. It was a battle I fought constantly.

At one point, I realized - shortly after my husband had completed his Masters' degree and I still had only a high school diploma - that my intellectual contribution to the marriage had been pretty much reduced to telling him what Oscar the Grouch said on Sesame Street that morning; or to compelling vigniettes of my epic contests of will with a small red-headed toddler intent on whatever nefarious scheme currently occupied his pea-sized cranium.

When I was in high school, my English teacher - heck, all of my teachers - despaired of ever getting me to live up to my supposed potential. Unencumbered by responsibilities, life seemed to me to be an endless opportunity for mischief, fun, and partying.

And yet even before I married and gave birth to my oldest son, the bloom began to wear off the 'partying' rose. By the end of my 18th year I began looking at my surroundings with a different eye. While I saw no purpose in studying 10 hours a day with no clear object in sight, I understood on some deeper level that I was wasting my time and my parents' money drinking beer at a tony Ivy League school.

So I left and began the laborious process of figuring out what I wanted out of life. I needed a purpose in order to work, but I began to see the value of work.

A few years later, at the ripe old age of 24, I was a mother with two small boys and a brand new brick house. It was then that I first read Atlas Shrugged and understood the force that impelled me to work late into the night in my garage stripping, sanding and painstakingly refinishing or painting cast off pieces of furniture. I understood why I spent hours at theh library reading up on how reupholster sofas and chairs; how to sew slipcovers, curtains, pillows. I understood why I'd always kept a coffee can in my laundry room for the coupon and discount money I saved on each trip to the grocery store. Though I had no formal job, that money was mine. I earned it by dint of careful planning, and I hoarded it until the small pile of bills grew large enough to fund my next home improvement project.

What impelled me, as much as the love I felt for my husband and children, was the drive for self-respect and achievement. I had a vision of where I wanted my little family to be, and it didn't include being embarrassed to have strangers see my house. I wanted to feel that I was contributing, too. I wanted to be proud of myself. And so, though it would have been far easier to use disposable diapers or buy frozen dinners, I used cloth and cooked from scratch. What my husband brought home every two weeks, I managed to our mutual benefit.

So while I believe love is certainly a powerful motivator, I also think a certain kind of person would be driven to work hard no matter what their marital status was. This may be more true for women than men. I don't know.

The point is, though I have always required some "reason" to work particularly hard, I also have an innate drive that prompts me to want to learn new things, solve problems and overcome challenges. For me at least, the drive comes first. The love I bear my family certainly serves to impel me faster and further than I might go on my own.

But I find it hard to believe that either the Unit or I, were God so unkind as to part us, would behave much differently than we do at present. The difference is one of degree more than essence.

What say you?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:21 AM | Comments (74) | TrackBack