« July 2009 | Main | September 2009 »

August 31, 2009

Epiphany

At 4 a.m. this morning, the office of the half vast Editorial Staff was still as neat as a pin. Unnatural. Spooky, even. Fresh vacuum marks still showed in the carpet and my desk was momentarily clear of the usual signs of terminal procrastination.

No good can come from this.

In between completing various tasks at work, I spent the day checking off items on AF Wife's predeployment checklist:

Today I read a story on the main page of military.com that made my heart clench and my stomach hurt - it was all about what happens when a service-member doesn't make their wishes, should the worst happen, perfectly clear.

One month ago Roger Hager was killed in action. In that month his mother has had to deal with the horrible emotional side effects - emotions I can't even begin to process or imagine - and also with the details of what must be done when our loved one comes home to us through Dover. Among those details was something that Hager probably never thought would be an issue - his personal effects. And according to the article there isn't much; an X Box and a cell phone and a few other things, as well as items of an emotional nature like letters.

The Unit has a whole collection of charming sayings gleaned from a lifetime of being around Marines. "You know the drill" is one.

I do know the drill. It's not as though I haven't done this several times before. It doesn't matter - I still hate it. Normally I put everything but the essential tasks off for as long as I can. This time, I'm trying to be more systematic about it. Trying to preserve the illusion of control.

We had The Talk over the weekend. Can't say I came away from it with any new information but still, some things needed to be said. I needed him to tell me what his wishes are if he's incapacitated. Emergency measures and the like.

Find the will, the durable power of attorney and the medical POA. Make sure I have passwords to his online accounts. These things will make it easier for me to clean out his bank account, morph myself into a brunette Pamela Anderson and eventually realize my lifelong ambition of embarrassing the living crap out of my progeny.

Take him off the auto policy, notify the credit card company that he'll be overseas so they don't do something boneheaded like deny a charge while he's half-way around the world. Check the expiration dates on his debit and credit card.

Make appointment for financial counseling. Order him some sunscreen.

Finally put the Tahitian pearl pendant and earrings he bought me last time he was deployed on the jewelry policy. Funny, I never did get around to that last time.

Find his night vision goggles. Somewhere in between looking for the goggles and looking for his last will and testament I have an epiphany. Suddenly, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt why he's going to Afghanistan.

The bastard doesn't want to clean out the basement.
Can't say I blame him.

Every time I do this, I feel like I'm disassembling the life we've built together - severing hundreds of gossamer ties between us: the invisible strands that bind us to one another. I fully realize how idiotic that sounds.

Knowing doesn't help. The thing is, I'll feel better when it's done. More in control.

And I will feel that way. But there's a different kind of avoidance in getting everything done up front, in writing about this at all. Not my usual glib, seat-of-the-pants, everything will be fine response to things I have no control over.

Winter is coming. I can smell the chill in the night air.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:17 PM | Comments (33) | TrackBack

Gee

Just in time for Christmas.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:38 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

WaPo Asks: Is That a Recovery in Your Pants?

...or are you just happy to see me?

You have to love lamestream journalists. Let's face it - without the evenhanded analysis and perspective the media provide, the American public might get the wrong impression about the economy:

Is there a double standard in how the struggling economy is being portrayed during the Obama presidency vs. the Bush administration?

While the 1% contraction in the economy reported on Friday was seen as a "hopeful sign" by the Times, "crystallizing expectations of a turnaround," actual economic growth of 1.9% during the Bush years was just another "arrow" seen pointing to a recession.

Saturday's lead story by Catherine Rampell and Jack Healy focused on the Gross Domestic Product figure issued by the Commerce Department, showing a 1% contraction in the U.S. economy in the second quarter of 2009. The Times portrayed it in positive terms: "In Hopeful Sign, Output Declines At Slower Pace ...

A slower rate of decline.... now that's real progress! But wait! There's more spin sunshine where that came from!

In fact, Friday's figures mark the first time in years the economy has contracted for four straight quarters. But the Times buried that findings in the 21st of 25 paragraphs: "The economy withered during each of the last four quarters, its longest string of declines in at least 60 years"

As everyone knows, nothing says "prosperity is just around the corner" like the longest string of declining GDPs in 60 years! On the bright side, if a slower decline in GDP is cause for celebration, an actual increase must mean it's time to break out the Dom Perignon and engage in a little retail therapy ....right?

You know, stimulate the economy.

Silly reader. This is why feats of journalism should be left to the professionals:

By contrast, one year ago, the Bush administration released GDP figures showing the economy had grown 1.9% in the second quarter of 2008, a substantial increase from 0.9% in the first quarter of 2008.

Did the Times celebrate that uptick in growth during a Republican administration? Hardly. The headline over Peter Goodman's August 1, 2008 story: "More Arrows Seen Pointing to a Recession."

utrau_index.gif Not to be outdone by the Papir of Record, the WaPo finds a ray of hope lurking in the National Underwear Drawer. Now before we go on, let's stop and make sure we understand the dynamics of the Underwear Index.

1. Because underwear are a necessity, men generally buy new boxers or briefs every year.

2. But when times get hard, the average underwear shopper saves money by deferring the purchase of new u-trau.

3. This causes a decline in the total number of tighty whities sold in America. We'd make a joke about income elasticity here, but we can't duck fast enough.

At this point, alert readers may be scratching their heads and muttering, "OK... but according to the chart, the Underwear Index appears to be going down...

Heh. She said... oh, never mind.

Fear not, gentle readers! This is indeed what normal people might think, but you would be stupid and wrong to draw such an outlandish conclusion. Luckily for us, the Post is about to stun its readership senseless with a virtuoso display of positively Timesian analytical prestidigitation:

The growth in sales of men's underwear began to slow last year as the recession took hold, according to Mintel, another research firm. This year, Mintel expects sales to fall 2.3 percent, the first drop since the company started collecting data in 2003.

But the men's underwear index -- or, conveniently, MUI -- may also have a silver lining. Mintel predicts that next year, men's underwear sales will fall by 0.5 percent, and as with many economic indicators, a slowing of a decline can be welcomed as a step in the right direction.

Well there you go! When underwear sales begin to decline more slowly, can blue skies be far away? This just goes to show that no matter what those pesky economic indicators may say, when a Democrat is in the White House better times are always just around the corner.

Just ask the media.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:48 AM | Comments (29) | TrackBack

August 29, 2009

Debate Question of the Day

A while back there was an interesting article about some kid who stages nude photo shoots on subways. Leaving aside for a moment the question of whether this is "Art" or merely pushing the societal envelope, I found one of his statements fascinating:

"People see a naked woman and they smile," he said to the paper. "They see a penis and they freak out."

Hyman is fully aware of the illegality of his guerrilla style photos, but stands by his art.

"It's art because I'm photographing it," Hyman argues. "They are simply studies in the human body."

He has a point. One of the things the Blog Princess has always complained about when watching movies with The Spousal Unit is the really odd way men are never shown naked in movies - even in bedroom scenes where the camera lingers over the female. So nudity (or even sexual content) is not the issue. The couple are clearly having sex and for whatever reason, the director feels it makes sense to show the woman's body in great detail but not the man's. The most you'll ever see in a movie is a shot of the man from behind.

This phenomenon is not peculiar to America:

While naked breasts, bottoms and spread-eagled legs are splashed across men's magazines with impunity, it seems that Britons are more reserved when it comes to seeing the male form in all its, ahem, glory. This shocking discrepancy has been highlighted by women's magazine Filament, which is campaigning to break what supporters are calling "the final taboo" in British publishing: printing pictures of erect penises. But who, or what, is stopping them?

A foray into the subject reveals that the answer is as well hidden from the public as the aforementioned throbbing members. Before women start brandishing placards, railing against government censorship and fighting for their right to see erect members whenever they damn well please, it seems that this is nothing to do with Whitehall. According to the Home Office, the only legislation magazine publishers are bound by is the Obscene Publications Act of 1959, which forbids them from including anything which may "deprave or corrupt" the reader, and which makes no mention of penises, erect or otherwise.

Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom says there is no ban on showing erections on TV. "There's no outright prohibition of it," says Ofcom's Ed Taylor "But if it was shown it would have to be justified by the context".

Meanwhile, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is even more laissez-faire. Rumours that censors sit around clutching an atlas – lest any penis shown in a British film fail the legendary "Mull of Kintyre" test, under which the penis should not exceed the angle equal to that made by the Mull of Kintyre on maps of Scotland – are not true. "It never existed, it was an urban myth," said Sue Clarke of the BBFC "There are no rules against showing erections in '18' films."

I find this even more bizarre in light of p0rn creep - the relentless bleeding over of p0rnographic content into advertising, TV, movies, all facets of popular culture. Last time I checked, most p0rn films feature both men and women. So why is this filtering over of overtly sexual content limited to women's bodies?

Often, it is argued that women's bodies are beautiful and men's are not. But this isn't true. I can testify from my own experience that I find a well shaped man very attractive and enjoy looking.

I don't look, for the most part, because I have found that looking gets my mind going in directions a married woman's mind doesn't need to go. If I indulge the natural desire to look, I find that I think about other men in every day life in a far more sexual way, regardless of whether there is a sexual component to our interaction. I even look at men on the street differently. So my not-looking has nothing to do with not wanting to look, but rather with my opinion that I don't need to make it harder for myself to be faithful to my husband.

I've also noticed that male bloggers who regularly post photos of nude or nearly nude women, when challenged to throw a little red meat to the ladies, invariably post photos where the men are shirtless. Or even worse, they'll choose a photo of a middle aged gentleman with... how shall we say this delicately... a ton of excess avoir dupoir or a gigantic beer belly. But they never post a photo of a genuinely attractive, well muscled young man (the visual equivalent of posting photos of surgically enhanced young women). Moreover, having deliberately posted a photo that doesn't compare at all with the ones they post of women, men frequently they express discomfort or the thread is taken over by women and the guys suddenly fall silent. I find this discomfort odd in light of the fact that these men see nothing socially inappropriate or discomfiting about posting photos of women.

Interesting experiment (you've been warned in advance): try inserting the phrase "naked man" into the Google image search.

Now try the same thing with "naked woman". It's not as though there are no photos of young, well muscled and attractive naked or nearly naked men on the Internet. Clearly there are, because I've been sent such photos by other women (you know, the ones who don't like looking at men and hate sex). I generally don't look at such photos, but in the 6 years I've been on the Internet they've been around. So why doesn't even Google show them when you search specifically on that subject?

What is going on here? Why is it acceptable to post photos of women, but not men? Feel free to opine in the comments section.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:47 AM | Comments (58) | TrackBack

August 28, 2009

STOP NOSING ME!!!!

I feel so violated.

All my life, I've been lied to: apparently, an old dog can learn new tricks.

My mini wiener dog has taken to nosing me (placing his cold, wet little nose on my bare shins) when he wants something. It is very effective.

I have to go now. He is nosing me again. I think he wants to go outside.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:37 PM | Comments (40) | TrackBack

Daddy's Poem

Her hair was up in a pony tail,
Her favorite dress tied with a bow

Today was Daddy's Day at school,
And she couldn't wait to go.

But her mommy tried to tell her,
That she probably should stay home.

Why the kids might not understand,
If she went to school alone.
But she was not afraid;
She knew just what to say.

What to tell her classmates
Of why he wasn't there today.
But still her mother worried,
For her to face this day alone.

And that was why once again,
She tried to keep her daughter home..

But the little girl went to school
Eager to tell them all.
About a Dad she never sees
A Dad who never calls.

There were Daddies along the back wall,
For everyone to meet.

Children squirming impatiently,
Anxious in their seats

One by one the teacher called
A student from the class.
To introduce their daddy,
As seconds slowly passed.

At last the teacher called her name,
Every child turned to stare.
Each of them was searching,
For a man who wasn't there.

"Where's her Daddy at?'
She heard a boy call out.

'She probably doesn't have one,'
Another student dared to shout.

And from somewhere near the back,
She heard a Daddy say,
'Looks like another deadbeat Dad,
Too busy to waste his day.'

The words did not offend her,
As she smiled up at her Mom.

And looked back at her teacher,
Who told her to go on.

And with hands behind her back,
Slowly she began to speak.
And out from the mouth of a child,
Came words incredibly unique.

'My Daddy couldn't be here,
Because he lives so far away.
But I know he wishes he could be,
Since this is such a special day.

And though you cannot meet him,
I wanted you to know.

All about my Daddy,
And how much he loves me so.

He loved to tell me stories
He taught me to ride my bike..
He surprised me with pink roses,
And taught me to fly a kite..

We used to share fudge sundaes,
And ice cream in a cone.

And though you cannot see him.
I'm not standing here alone.

'Cause my Daddy's always with me,
Even though we are apart

I know because he told me,
He'll forever be in my heart'

With that, her little hand reached up,
And lay across her chest.

Feeling her own heartbeat,
Beneath her favorite dress.

And from somewhere in the crowd of Dads,
Her mother stood in tears.
Proudly watching her daughter,
Who was wise beyond her years.

For she stood up for the love
Of a man not in her life.
Doing what was best for her,
Doing what was right.

And when she dropped her hand back down,
Staring straight into the crowd.

She finished with a voice so soft,
But its message clear and loud.

'I love my Daddy very much,
he's my shining star.

And if he could, he'd be here,
But heaven's just too far.

You see he is a soldier
And died just this past year

When a roadside bomb hit his convoy
And taught brave men to fear..

But sometimes when I close my eyes,
it's like he never went away...'
And then she closed her eyes,
And saw him there that day.

And to her mother's amazement,
She witnessed with surprise.
A room full of Daddies and children,
All starting to close their eyes.

Who knows what they saw before them,
Who knows what they felt inside.

Perhaps for merely a second,
They saw him at her side.

'I know you're with me Daddy,'
To the silence she called out.
And what happened next made believers,
Of those once filled with doubt.

Not one in that room could explain it,
For each of their eyes had been closed.

But there on the desk beside her,
Was a fragrant long-stemmed pink rose.

And a child was blessed, if only for a moment,
By the love of her shining star.
And given the gift of believing,
That heaven is never too far.

Thanks to David M.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:33 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

August 27, 2009

Help the CDC Sell Circumcisions!

In line with our recent string of bizarrely Johnson-themed posts (scary, what an upcoming deployment does to the female mind...), we had an amusing thought with regard to the CDC's campaign to separate American men from their foreskins.

Opening sally:

"KEEP YOUR LAWS OFF MY ROD!"

What???

You expected something substantive from me? It's nearly Friday.
Don't be a weiner. Do your wurst.

Update: Oh for Pete's sake, people. Get your minds out of the gutter :p

weiner.jpg

Posted by Cassandra at 12:35 PM | Comments (40) | TrackBack

Getting to Singapore

Will Wilkinson's hilarious take on the liberal penchant for looking abroad for inspiration when the exact same ideas have been examined and rejected here at home got me thinking:

... wait, it gets better! In the next section, “Savings and the Wealth of Nations,” they jump right into singing Singapore’s praises for having “adopted the strategy of saving their way out of poverty.” They go on to explain the Central Provident Fund in glowing terms. Now, the CPF is a system of mandatory savings including mandatory retirement savings. What is that a heckuva lot like? Why, the Bush administration’s plan to “privatize” Social Security! Just one page after dumping on the idea, A&S now love it!

However, they conveniently manage to describe Singapore’s mandatory savings program without mentioning that it finances the retirement and health-care system. Reading A&S, you might think Singapore just forces people to save money and that’s the end of it, though they do hint that it’s funding something. Of Singapore’s unmentioned social insurance system financed by its mentioned system of mandatory personal savings accounts they say:

The system has not been “pay-as-you-go,” and the sums collected have really been invested. Largely because of the CPF, the gross national savings rate has been in the vicinity of 50% for decades.

Not only has this been just terrific for Singapore’s savings rate and rate of economic growth, A&S claim its stunning example has totally transformed China!

[Lee Kuan Yew's] high-saving economy became a model for China, which has copied Singapore’s savings achievement and have been achieving significant economic growth fore decades.
So you might think that it wouldn’t have been a disaster had the U.S. followed Singapore’s example and replaced its “pay-as-you-go” tax and transfer retirement pension system with a system of mandatory personal accounts actually invested in the market. But, no. They hide the dots so the reader can’t connect them. They really do seem to go out of their way to prevent the reader from grasping that the Social Security reform proposal they deride was a mandatory savings program and that the mandatory savings program they praise finances retirement security.

Singapore... exotic, lush landscapes... beautiful, sloe eyed women... why, just attaching the luscious "Singapore" to an idea is the rhetorical equivalent of extra strength Viagra! Suddenly, even outdated, boring pedagogical techniques like repetition and drill spring to life... well, sort of:

The Singapore texts and methods were so effective in College Gardens that the scores of students there on the math computation portion of the standardized Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills (CTBS) rose from the 50th and 60th percentiles to the low 90s in the first 4 years they were used.

I later learned that an evaluation of the pilot program conducted by MCPS found that in the schools where Singapore Math (SM) was being used as a pilot program, students typically outperformed their peers in other district schools. Yet despite these positive results, three of the four pilot schools dropped out of the program after fewer than four years. Why, I wondered. If the county’s own evaluation found benefits from Singapore Math, why not continue using it? In view of America’s disappointing rankings in math and Singapore’s record of success, why wasn’t the Singapore Math program given a serious and extended try?

I think we can all guess where this is going. Can you say, "coriolis effect', boys and girls?

Unlike many American math textbooks, such as Math Thematics, published by Houghton Mifflin, which are thick, multicolored, and multicultural, Singapore’s books are thin and contain only mathematics. There are no graphics (other than occasional cartoons pertaining to the lesson at hand), no spreadsheet problems, and no problems asking students to use a calculator to find the mean number of dogs in a U.S. household. With SM, students are required to show their mathematical work, not explain in essays how they did the problems or how they felt about them. While a single lesson in a U.S. textbook might span two pages and take one class period to go through, a lesson in a Singapore textbook might use five to ten pages and take several days to complete. The Singapore texts contain no narrative explanation of how a procedure or concept works; instead, there are problems and questions accompanied by pictures that provide hints about what is going on. According to the AIR report, the Singapore program “provides rich problem sets that give students many and varied opportunities to apply the concepts they have learned.”

The Road to Singapore, it seems, is broad and paved with good intentions. The trick, it seems, lies in actually getting there:

Ironically, neither Hope nor Crosby reach Singapore in the film. Instead, the fictional island of "Kaigoon" is the primary location.

Perhaps if we placed as much emphasis on substance as we do on hype, we might actually get somewhere.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:29 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

"Unreasonable Fears"?

The limits of your imagination are not the limits of reality. Every government programme that libertarians have argued against has been defended at its inception with exactly this argument.

Let me take three major legal innovations, one of them general, two specific to marriage.

The first, the general one, is well known to most hard-core libertarians, but let me reprise it anyway. When the income tax was initially being debated, there was a suggestion to put in a mandatory cap; I believe the level was 10 percent.

Don't be ridiculous, the Senator's colleagues told him. Americans would never allow an income tax rate as high as ten percent. They would revolt! It is an outrage to even suggest it!

Many actually fought the cap on the grounds that it would encourage taxes to grow too high, towards the cap. The American people, they asserted, could be well counted on to keep income taxes in the range of a few percentage points.

Oops.

Now, I'm not a tax-crazy libertarian; I don't expect you to be horrified that we have income taxes higher than ten percent, as I'm not. But the point is that the Senators were completely right--at that time. However, the existance of the income tax allowed for a slow creep that eroded the American resistance to income taxation. External changes--from the Great Depression, to the technical ability to manage withholding rather than lump payments, also facilitated the rise, but they could not have without a cultural sea change in feelings about taxation. That "ridiculous" cap would have done a much, much better job holding down tax rates than the culture these Senators erroneously relied upon. Changing the law can, and does, change the culture of the thing regulated.

Another example is welfare. To sketch a brief history of welfare, it emerged in the nineteenth century as "Widows and orphans pensions", which were paid by the state to destitute families whose breadwinner had passed away. They were often not available to blacks; they were never available to unwed mothers. Though public services expanded in the first half of the twentieth century, that mentality was very much the same: public services were about supporting unfortunate families, not unwed mothers. Unwed mothers could not, in most cases, obtain welfare; they were not allowed in public housing (which was supposed to be--and was--a way station for young, struggling families on the way to homeownership, not a permanent abode); they were otherwise discriminated against by social services. The help you could expect from society was a home for wayward girls, in which you would give birth and then put the baby up for adoption.

The description of public housing in the fifties is shocking to anyone who's spent any time in modern public housing. Big item on the agenda at the tenant's meeting: housewives, don't shake your dustcloths out of the windows--other wives don't want your dirt in their apartment! Men, if you wear heavy work boots, please don't walk on the lawns until you can change into lighter shoes, as it damages the grass! (Descriptions taken from the invaluable book, The Inheritance, about the transition of the white working class from Democrat to Republican.) Needless to say, if those same housing projects could today find a majority of tenants who reliably dusted, or worked, they would be thrilled.

Public housing was, in short, a place full of functioning families.

Now, in the late fifties, a debate began over whether to extend benefits to the unmarried. It was unfair to stigmatise unwed mothers. Why shouldn't they be able to avail themselves of the benefits available to other citizens? The brutal societal prejudice against illegitimacy was old fashioned, bigoted, irrational.

But if you give unmarried mothers money, said the critics, you will get more unmarried mothers.

Ridiculous, said the proponents of the change. Being an unmarried mother is a brutal, thankless task. What kind of idiot would have a baby out of wedlock just because the state was willing to give her paltry welfare benefits?

People do all sorts of idiotic things, said the critics. If you pay for something, you usually get more of it.

C'mon said the activists. That's just silly. I just can't imagine anyone deciding to get pregnant out of wedlock simply because there are welfare benefits available.

Oooops.

Of course, change didn't happen overnight. But the marginal cases did have children out of wedlock, which made it more acceptable for the next marginal case to do so. Meanwhile, women who wanted to get married essentially found themselves in competition for young men with women who were willing to have sex, and bear children, without forcing the men to take any responsibility. This is a pretty attractive proposition for most young men. So despite the fact that the sixties brought us the biggest advance in birth control ever, illegitimacy exploded. In the early 1960s, a black illegitimacy rate of roughly 25 percent caused Daniel Patrick Moynihan to write a tract warning of a crisis in "the negro family" (a tract for which he was eviscerated by many of those selfsame activists.)

By 1990, that rate was over 70 percent. This, despite the fact that the inner city, where the illegitimacy problem was biggest, only accounts for a fraction of the black population.

But in that inner city, marriage had been destroyed. It had literally ceased to exist in any meaningful way. Possibly one of the most moving moments in Jason de Parle's absolutely wonderful book, American Dream, which follows three welfare mothers through welfare reform, is when he reveals that none of these three women, all in their late thirties, had ever been to a wedding.

Marriage matters. It is better for the kids; it is better for the adults raising those kids; and it is better for the childless people in the communities where those kids and adults live. Marriage reduces poverty, improves kids outcomes in all measurable ways, makes men live longer and both spouses happier. Marriage, it turns out, is an incredibly important institution. It also turns out to be a lot more fragile than we thought back then. It looked, to those extremely smart and well-meaning welfare reformers, practically unshakeable; the idea that it could be undone by something as simple as enabling women to have children without husbands, seemed ludicrous. Its cultural underpinnings were far too firm. Why would a woman choose such a hard road? It seemed self-evident that the only unwed mothers claiming benefits would be the ones pushed there by terrible circumstance.

This argument is compelling and logical. I would never become an unwed welfare mother, even if benefits were a great deal higher than they are now. It seems crazy to even suggest that one would bear a child out of wedlock for $567 a month. Indeed, to this day, I find the reformist side much more persuasive than the conservative side, except for one thing, which is that the conservatives turned out to be right. In fact, they turned out to be even more right than they suspected; they were predicting upticks in illegitimacy that were much more modest than what actually occurred--they expected marriage rates to suffer, not collapse.
How did people go so badly wrong? Well, to start with, they fell into the basic fallacy that economists are so well acquainted with: they thought about themselves instead of the marginal case. For another, they completely failed to realise that each additional illegitimate birth would, in effect, slightly destigmatise the next one. They assigned men very little agency, failing to predict that women willing to forgo marriage would essentially become unwelcome competition for women who weren't, and that as the numbers changed, that competition might push the marriage market towards unwelcome outcomes. They failed to forsee the confounding effect that the birth control pill would have on sexual mores.

But I think the core problems are two. The first is that they looked only at individuals, and took instititutions as a given. That is, they looked at all the cultural pressure to marry, and assumed that that would be a countervailing force powerful enough to overcome the new financial incentives for out-of-wedlock births. They failed to see the institution as dynamic. It wasn't a simple matter of two forces: cultural pressure to marry, financial freedom not to, arrayed against eachother; those forces had a complex interplay, and when you changed one, you changed the other.

The second is that they didn't assign any cultural reason for, or value to, the stigma on illegitimacy. They saw it as an outmoded vestige of a repressive Victorial values system, based on an unnatural fear of sexuality. But the stigma attached to unwed motherhood has quite logical, and important, foundations: having a child without a husband is bad for children, and bad for mothers, and thus bad for the rest of us. So our culture made it very costly for the mother to do. Lower the cost, and you raise the incidence. As an economist would say, incentives matter.

... all the reformers saw was the terrible pain--and it was terrible--inflicted on unwed mothers. They saw the terrible unfairness--and it was terribly unfair--of punishing the mother, and not the father. They saw the inherent injustice--and need I add, it was indeed unjust--of treating American citizens differently because of their marital status.

But as G.K. Chesterton points out, people who don't see the use of a social institution are the last people who should be allowed to reform it:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."

This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion.


- Jane Galt

In a way consequences, whether positive or negative, are a form of prices. They operate as signals that encourage or discourage various courses of action.

Price controls lie at the heart of much of progressive public policy. In the name of fairness or equality, progressives want to place artificial limits on the natural costs (or prices) associated with individual decisions. Usually this is done by forcing one class of people to subsidize - or even wipe out - costs actually incurred by a second class of people through their decisions. Progressives view the end state - a more equal outcome - as more "fair". But conservatives view the end state - a shifting of natural costs from one class of citizens who wish to engage in certain behaviors while avoiding their natural consequences to a second class of citizens who did nothing to incur those costs, as "unfair".

If the activity which incurred the cost is one society has an interest in encouraging (marriage, for instance), this kind of cost shifting may make sense. But where is the rational argument for encouraging actions that not only create negative consequences for the individuals involved, but result in increased costs for their fellow citizens? The fly in the ointment is that artificial price controls address only one consequence of a particular action - the primary or surface cost (or price). Because second order negative costs exist, and because they are typically are unaffected by price controls, unintended consequences abound:


Prices are not just arbitrary numbers plucked out of the air or numbers dependent on whether sellers are "greedy" or not. In the competition of the marketplace, prices are signals that convey underlying realities about relative scarcities and relative costs of production.

Those underlying realities are not changed in the slightest by price controls. You might as well try to deal with someone's fever by putting the thermometer in cold water to lower the reading.

Municipal transit used to be privately owned in many cities, until local politicians' control of fares kept those fares too low to buy and maintain buses and trolleys, and replace them as they wore out. The costs of doing these things were not reduced in the slightest by refusing to let the fares cover those costs.

All that happened was that municipal transit services deteriorated and taxpayers ended up paying through the nose as city governments took over from transit companies that they had driven out of business -- and government usually did a worse job.

Something similar has happened in rental housing markets, where rent control laws have kept the rents too low to build and maintain rental housing. Whether in Europe or America, rent-controlled housing is almost invariably older housing and more deteriorated housing.

Costs don't go away because you refuse to pay them, any more than gravity goes away if you refuse to acknowledge it. You usually pay more in different ways, through taxes as well as prices, and by deterioration in quality when political processes replace economic process.

But the lure of the free lunch goes on.

This is a point Elise makes obliquely, here:

Danielle Allen’s “Opponents Are Prejudging Health Reform’s Side Effects” explains why worries about “death panels” and rationing cannot be assuaged by quoting chapter and verse of the legislation. Do read the whole thing but I was particularly struck by these two lines about the thinking of those who oppose Obamacare:
The issue, rather, is that they recognize that the stated goals and structure of a policy may not fully capture its full range of outcomes in practice. [snip]

In asking lawmakers to consider not merely the goals of their policies but also the experiential meaning of concrete realities that those policies may bring, they have a point.

It is hard to understand why the idea that what happens in the real world isn’t always what we intended is so valid a concern in medicine but so ludicrous a concern in politics. If anything, we should expect there to be far, far less discrepancy between the predicted and actual outcomes in medicine than in politics.

In a country where marriage is the single best predictor of wealth and financial stability, how "unreasonable" or "extremist" is it to fear the unintended consequences of well intended public policy intiatives?

Black marriage in the U.S. is in crisis. During the last several decades the rates of marriage in the Black community have declined while the rates of divorce, separation, cohabitation, out-of-wedlock births, and children residing in female-headed households have increased. Between 1950 and 1996, the percentage of Black families headed by married couples declined from 78 percent to 34 percent.[1] Between 1940 and 1990, the percentage of Black children living with both parents dropped from 75.8 percent to 33.2 percent, largely because of increases in never-married Black mothers.[2] During this period African American couples reported more spousal abuse and singles and couples reported less connection to relatives.[3] Most striking, Blacks who do marry (and stay married) are increasingly indicating less marital satisfaction, but researchers do not know why.

Even though increasing numbers of African Americans have not married or have been unable to achieve healthy and lasting marriages, most African Americans still value and desire marriage. One survey reports 77 percent of Black adults ages 19-35 said they wished to get married.[4] In a 2006 Gallup Poll, Blacks were more likely than Whites to say that marriage is very important; yet, anecdotal evidence suggests that young Blacks may be losing hope that a good marriage is attainable.[5]

Posted by Cassandra at 07:12 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Thursday Morning Music

Something to make you laugh:


Metallica - Enter Sandman on Kazoo - Witzig - MyVideo

... and something to make you say, "Damn...":


Posted by Cassandra at 06:50 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 26, 2009

Blaming Feminism?

translation.gif

Before the Blog Princess sticks her adorable little head into the nearest buzzsaw again, please pay careful attention to the following cautions and disclaimers:

1. Yes, I understand that a rape accusation does not constitute proof that all men are beasts or even that the accused is a guilty beast. The truth is, we don't really know what happened here.

Before attempting to counter arguments I have absolutely no intention of making, you may care to check out my many posts on false rape accusations. There are two here and here to get you started:

Lonely? Bored? Searching for something that's not just a job, but an adventure?

Ostensibly in search of equality, but secretly wishing to be protected by the dominant patriarchal hegemony?

Dreaming of being swept off your feet by a tall, handsome, ravishing stranger in exotic places ... (like the squad bay or the flight deck at Balad?)

Afraid you'll never find your true sexual soulmate - someone who intuitively understands when no really means yes, yes means no, and the fact that you're both four and a half sheets to the wind means he is still legally responsible for his decisions but you're not?

Join the US military, where men are men ... and women are terrified! Because as so many of our Congresscritters have told us, they support our troops: every childlike, stupid, psychotic, womyn-raping one of them. They're America's finest, durnitall.

2. I understand that the male of the species often finds the female of the species "confusing", to say the least. Trust me, guys - the feeling is mutual.

3. I agree with probably 90% of what Stacy has to say in this post. Here is where I get off the bus:

This is why you find a lot of guys who are resentful toward the entire notion of "date rape." Having swept away all the norms and rules of traditional society, the sexual revolution and feminism have created a world in which the rules appear to be contingent, improvised and whimsical.

However, whereas the old rules were widely recognized and thus easily enforced by informal means -- slap his face, "unhand me, you cad!" and then ostracize the creep henceforth -- the new rules seem routinely to require federal lawsuits and grand jury inquisitions to sort them out. We've abandoned rules enforceable by individual action in favor of rules requiring enforcement by trial lawyers.

You can read this young woman's complaint here, and Mr. Copperfield's response here.

Now that you're up to speed, allow me to make a few points:

The notion that inviting a person of the opposite sex to one's private island - or accepting such an invitation - is unwise cuts both ways. He isn't exactly gentle with Copperfield either, and it is hardly unreasonable to argue (as Stacy does) that accepting such an invitation carries with it a reasonably foreseeable risk: the guy may hit on you or expect you to hop into the sack with him.

A reasonable young woman ought to have foreseen there was a fairly good chance Mr. Copperfield might make unwanted advances. I am not sure, however, that the average young woman would - or even should - have foreseen this:

Defendant Copperfield found her and told her she was coming with him. He walked her to a beach that was accessed through his private quarters and ordered her to get naked. She told him she wanted to leave and refused to remove her clothing. He grabbed her, pushed her into the water, and held her head under the water. She thought she might drown. He then told her, "This is an example of what you will get if you tell anyone."

If true, this is not "date rape". It's not even close. There is exactly zero ambiguity here: if you have to physically threaten or manhandle a woman before she'll have sex with you, it's probably not consensual sex. At that point we are well past the point of male/female miscommunication.

"Hmmm... let's see. Does 'no' mean 'no', or does she just want me to rough her up a bit first?". Maybe hold her head underwater?

So, if we assume this young woman really was sexually assaulted (and I remind you that this is not by any means proven yet), what would we expect her to do next? Something like this, perhaps?

When she returned to Seattle, the complaint says, she went “directly” to the sexual trauma centre at Harborview Hospital and filed a complaint with the Seattle Police Department. The Seattle cops called in the FBI because the alleged rapes took place outside the U.S., and the Seattle Times says the U.S. Attorney’s office is deciding whether to file criminal charges against Copperfield.

What I don't get is precisely how feminism is to blame for any of this? I'll buy off on the notion that life was simpler back in the good old days when women understood that all men were ravening beasts who couldn't be expected to obey the law. Radical feminists heartily agree with that old-timey assessment of men as ravening beasts ... but with an important caveat: they foolishly expect these "animals" to obey the law. I think men are not ravening beasts, but human beings. And I believe they ought to be expected to obey the law.

So, that said: was it feminism that led this young woman to accept an invitation that carried with it the offer of gainful employment in her chosen field? Was it feminism that forced Mr. Copperfield to invite a single woman to his house on a private island? Was it, perhaps, feminism that caused her to rudely reject Mr. Copperfield's delicately phrased invitation to "get naked" and submit to his advances or have her head shoved under water?

Or was it something else entirely? Human nature? A decayed sense of propriety?

I'll agree that her judgment wasn't the best. But if a man gets drunk, stumbles into an alley or into a bar and is beaten or robbed, do we shrug our shoulders and say, "Well dang, he asked for it"? Do we ruefully hark back to the good old days when the whole distressing incident could have been handled quietly?

...whereas the old rules were widely recognized and thus easily enforced by informal means -- slap his face, "unhand me, you cad!" and then ostracize the creep henceforth -- the new rules seem routinely to require federal lawsuits and grand jury inquisitions to sort them out. We've abandoned rules enforceable by individual action in favor of rules requiring enforcement by trial lawyers.

Sorry. I'm not buying it. Rape (if that is what occurred here) is a crime. It's not something we deal with - or that civilized societies have ever dealt with - by ostracizing the rapist. Since the dawn of time, women have been trusting and even gullible. Feminism didn't change that, and it doesn't excuse taking advantage - violently, if this young lady can be believed, of the weakness, foolishness, or gullibility of another.

Now Stacy may have been being flip here, but I have a serious point to make. Anyone who has read me for any length of time realizes that I have little use for radical feminism. I was a stay at home Mom for 18 years. I put off my college education for 12 years so I could concentrate on providing stability and a home for my husband and two boys.

Conservatives get really riled when they're accused of being sexists, and yet in 6 years on the 'Net I've lost track of the times I've seen male bloggers and their male readers respond to an argument they don't like from a woman with, "She's a feminist/fat/ugly/frigid/hates men". Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying Stacy said any of those things.

But they're silly arguments. Calling someone ugly or a feminist does absolutely nothing to refute whatever argument provoked the onslaught. We've discussed many times here at VC the ways in which feminism, to some degree, and the erosion of traditional morals have made the world a more confusing and in my opinion a worse place to live.

But blaming this on feminism contains a great, gaping hole so big you can drive a Mack truck through it and never worry about touching the sides:

Do men have no responsibility?

Adult men cannot use feminism as a one size fits all excuse for behaviors that were frowned upon (if not criminal) long before feminism reared its head. For as long as I've been alive, rape has been a crime. Feminism did not change that.

And oh by the way, while we're admitting that it's not too smart for a woman to accept an invitation to a private island from a man she's not married to, how smart is it for an older wealthy, unmarried, famous man to invite a young woman to his private island?

There was a word for that, pre-feminism. Fornication. And it was not approved of. Yes, people did it. But society didn't condone that kind of behavior. How smart is it for a man like that to leave himself open to extortion attempts (if that, indeed, is what happened?) or worse, to an accusation of rape? There was another risk associated with such behavior: you risked damaging your reputation. That's a word we don't often hear nowadays.

The morals and rules many of us grew up with were designed to cut both ways: to protect both men and women from harm. And people routinely broke those rules back in the day, with predictable results. Not even feminism has been able to change human nature.

Stacy gives some excellent advice at the end of his post. Let me close by reiterating what I said at the beginning: I agree with about 90% of what he said. The points I don't agree with are (1) that this is a date rape scenario, (2) that a grand jury investigation or a lawsuit are improper remedies for rape, and (3) that this is necessarily the fault of feminism.

If you go back and read my posts on rape and date rape, you'll see that in every single instance I've called for women to take responsibility for their decisions. But that, too, is a sword that cuts both ways. If women have to be responsible, so do men. There is little that offends me more in life than the suggestion that men are helpless animals who can't control themselves. Such a belief is insulting and demeaning to men and I don't buy it.

The bottom line here is that this was not a date scenario. The young woman was told the visit was for the purpose of exploring future employment opportunities, not for personal pleasure, or to be exposed to know Mr. Copperfield's 'finer qualities'. Like it or not, showing poor judgment or an insufficient regard for your personal safety doesn't constitute consent to be raped, beaten, robbed, or to become the victim of any other crime. It may make you sadder and wiser, but it doesn't change the fact that a crime just occurred and society has an interest in punishing such crimes.

It's not too much to ask any citizen - male or female - not to commit violent crimes. Like it or not, the entry of women into the workplace means we now go places and do things that place us in situations where we're alone with men. Trust me - every time I go on a business trip, my spousal unit warns me to be careful, and he's no doubt right to do so. But unless we want to chain women to their Easy Bake ovens again, that isn't going to change. The right answer is not to argue that men are hard wired to rape women, but to require both men and women to exercise a little situational awareness and a whole lot of self control.

And if they break the law, they should pay the price.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:58 PM | Comments (38) | TrackBack

Quote of the Day

Apropos of my previous post, via Megan McArdle:

Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one's first feeling, 'Thank God, even they aren't quite so bad as that,' or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything -- God and our friends and ourselves included -- as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.

Which is, sadly, starting to sound all to much like our current political environment.

The entire post is eminently worth reading - I enjoyed it immensely. Now go thou and do likewise.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:13 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Giant "Ass" in Assume

Word of the Day: "smash-troturfing". The longer I spend on the Internet, the more I'm beginning to believe blogging is little more than an exercise in applied confirmation bias. The term actively close-minded comes to mind:

People who are less confident in their beliefs are more reluctant than others to seek out opposing perspectives, researchers said today.

The findings, which are based on a review of more than 90 studies, shed light on the debate over whether people intentionally steer clear of views conflicting with their own, or whether they are just exposed more often to ideas that conform to their own.

The former seems to be the case.

Case in point: check out the comments on this post. Or this one. What does it say about a person when just seeing comments they disagree with is intolerable?

Campesino says:

This comment has been voted down. Click to read.

Aieeee!!! Opinions... they burn! If only there were some way to "vote down" the Associated Press. Just think! We could all hunker down in our respective foxholes and never have to see a single idea we disagree with!

Here's an inconvenient thought: stupidity is stupidity. It knows no political party. Both sides have more than their fair share of blowhards, fools, and bullies.

To admit that there are idiots on both sides is not the same as drawing a moral equivalence between the philosophical underpinnings of the Left and the Right. But contrary to the absolute dreck too many bloggers these days are peddling, it's quite possible to be a responsible, intelligent, hard working and patriotic person and still vote for the other party. I know: about half my family vote Republican and the other half vote Democrat.

They are all good people. I love them all. I respect them all. They are all smart and all well-read. Their children are well mannered and kind.

And they are not The Enemy.

Here's a news flash: if the only way you can bolster confidence in the moral and intellectual superiority of your own side is to cherry pick outrageous examples from the other side and hold them up as typical behavior, you're part of the problem.

The proliferation of progressive leaning pundits who think they've proved America is about to be taken over by violent right leaning zealots on the strength of - count them! - TWO! data points makes me wonder if the national water supply has been checked for lead lately? Here's a galatic hint: if you draw a straight line through two data points, your R2 will be 1! A perfect correlation! (and we all know that in statistics, correlation proves causation, don't we?)

Of course if you have to completely ignore a third data point to "prove" your point, some wingnuts people may question your methodology, to say nothing of your objectivity. Fortunately, these Deniers can be dismissed. If they were decent folk, they'd agree with you unquestioningly. Don't they realize that whole "Question Authority" thing was only meant to operate when the other side is in power?

If you're one of those tolerant progressives who loves to spout inflammatory nonsense about right wing terrorists, or who calls fellow Americans who oppose health care reform "Birthers" or "tea baggers", you're part of the problem. Likewise, if you're comforted by the stunning insight that anyone who voted for Obama is either a moron or an amoral zealot out to destroy America, you're part of the problem. If you're one of those who avidly seizes on every Righty/Lefty misstep, every instance of incivility, every insult... but only to justify doing exactly the same things to those who have so offended you, you are the problem.

Because you're just like "them". You've willingly become what you hate.

I'm not one bit uncertain about my values. Admitting the other side occasionally has a point isn't weakness. Strong, confident people aren't afraid of a little opposition.

There was a time when we understood that. I wonder whether that time will ever come again?

Posted by Cassandra at 12:11 PM | Comments (38) | TrackBack

August 25, 2009

Quote of the Day

... conservatism is, first, “an attitude to social and political change that looks for support to the ideas, beliefs, and habits of the past and puts more faith in the lessons of history than in the abstractions of political philosophy.” Second, it involves “a suspicion of democracy and equality.” This can be divided into a concern that the formal equality of men before God and law not be confused with equality in all things, particularly virtue, and that too much government power not be placed directly in the people’s hands. Third, conservatism reflects “the view that civilization is fragile and easily disrupted” and therefore it teaches that “the survival of the republic presupposes the virtue of citizens” and calls for “a highly educated elite as guardians of civilization.”

Within this unity, considerable diversity of opinion has flourished. Conservatives, Allitt emphasizes, have differed in their “attitude to the proper role of government” and can be found on “both sides of great conflicts.” For example, while Alexander Hamilton, as first secretary of the treasury, sought to increase the size and scope of government’s responsibility for the economy, conservatives, by the time of the New Deal, opposed a larger federal role in the economy. In the run-up to the Civil War, northern statesman Daniel Webster strove to conserve the Union and southern conservative John C. Calhoun strove to conserve the southern way of life. Since the founding, many American conservatives have viewed democracy as destabilizing because it gave too much power to ordinary people; more recently conservatives have seen ordinary people’s common sense and decency as a bulwark against elite ideas about radical change.

This definition very neatly summarizes my conception of the origins and philosophical underpinnings of conservatism.

Debate question of the day: do the GOP, or conservative pundits and bloggers, or really any mainstream modern conservatives, come anywhere close to this definition? I don't think so, and that assessment drives my growing frustration with the modern conservative movement. I think one could argue that conservatism has become completely untethered from its philosophical roots and this explains why modern conservatives do such a poor job of articulating conservative principles: they no longer have the slightest idea what those principles are or why they matter.

I will be writing more about this, but it's a big subject and I want to lay the groundwork for future discussions.

Posted by Cassandra at 11:29 AM | Comments (41) | TrackBack

Miracles

Never give up hope. The world is still a place where miracles are possible.

Thanks to Betsy Newmark for making my day.

Posted by Cassandra at 11:24 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

August 24, 2009

Selling "The Good War"

"...we must never forget. This is not a war of choice," he told the VFW crowd. "This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again."

- Barack Obama

Afghanistan - where the rubber meets the road. From three weeks ago:

General Stanley McChrystal was brought in as the Nato commander in Afghanistan after the unprecedented dismissal of his predecessor, General David McKiernan, who had successfully pressured the Administration to deploy 21,000 extra troops in the current Afghan “surge”.

General McChrystal was appointed in the belief that he would bring more unconventional thinking to the Afghan battlefield — in particular, that he would not ask for more troops, preferring to stick with a “lighter footprint” model of counter-insurgency operations.

But advisers who worked with him on a 60-day strategic review of Afghan operations, the first drafts of which emerged this week, say that General McChrystal concluded that more US troops would be needed to support a vast parallel surge in the number of Afghan security forces fighting the Taleban.

Apparently listening to the Generals is a far less attractive option when said Generals begin spouting inconvenient opinions. One week later:

After appointing Gen. Stanley McChrystal the new commander in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates gave him two months to write an analysis of the situation there in yet another review of U.S. strategy. But after rumors leaked out that McChrystal would ask for another increase in U.S. troops, it appears that Gates decided he would not wait for McChrystal's finished report. On Aug. 2, he summoned McChrystal and his deputy, Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, to a hastily arranged meeting in Belgium which also included Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, NATO commander Admiral James Stavridis, McChrystal's direct boss Gen. David Petraeus, and under secretary of defense for policy Michele Flournoy. On Aug. 5, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell briefed reporters on the results of the unusual Sunday meeting. According to Morrell, Gates instructed McChrystal to consider a few additional, and unspecified, issues in his report. Gates also instructed McChrystal to take more time, likely postponing the delivery of the report into September.

Finally, Morrell explained that McChrystal's report will not include any discussion or request for additional "resources" (meaning U.S. troops and money) for Afghanistan. If McChrystal wants to make such a request, Morrell said, he will do so separately and at a later time.

What accounts for Gates's preemptive meeting with McChrystal? It is possible that Gates (or someone else in the administration) feared that McChrystal's report would take on a life of its own, perhaps compelling Gates and President Barack Obama into decisions they would prefer not to make. If true, the meeting in Belgium was an attempt to minimize the report's impact by redefining its purpose, reducing its prominence, and controlling the timing of its release. We will see in September whether Gates accomplished these goals.

Yet regardless of how he manages McChrystal, the general's implicit message will be the need for more U.S. troops in Afghanistan, either in direct combat to suppress the Taliban or serving as trainers and advisors to an expanding Afghan army.

During the campaign Barack Obama flogged the notion that Afghanistan is the war we should have been fighting all along - Iraq was just a distraction. We heard this mantra in various forms from the anti-war crowd for eight years. Packaged in with the "distraction meme" were continual condemnations of President Bush for "failing to sell the war to the American people" and "not asking us to sacrifice".

So, now that we're fighting the right war, where are the calls to sell it? Where are the complaints that we're not being asked to sacrifice? The Democrats elected a candidate who promised to adequately resource the fight in Afghanistan. You know: the good war. The war of necessity.

So, now that we're finally focused on the right conflict, how's that whole "selling the war" thing going, Mr. President? From what this Marine wife can see, not too well:

Can't we just finish the reconstruction work we promised them from our 2001 invasion and go home?

Here's a bolt from the blue. If you don't get all the troops you originally asked for, the need for more troops doesn't magically "go away"... unless of course you rewrite history to pretend there was no relationship between the need for Afghan troops and the fact that we still don't have enough American and NATO troops to accomplish the Obama administration's stated goals:

OK then. More troops aren't getting the job done because we're not getting any support from the Afghan government. So we're going to ask for more troops.

...steadily increasing U.S. troop strength has had virtually no effect in the past; that the Taliban is getting continually stronger; that the central government is corrupt and incompetent; and that even under the best circumstances the Afghan army can't be brought up to speed in less than five years. At the same time, U.S. commanders say they understand that they have only 12-18 months to turn things around.

Someone needs to explain to me how that's going to happen. Anything even remotely plausible will do for a start. Because I sure don't see it.

Oh well. Math has never been a strong point for the anti-war Left. It sure didn't take long for the "real war" to become an unwinnable quagmire:

is Obama marching into a quagmire in Afghanistan like LBJ marched into one in Vietnam? Well it's looking more and more like it all the time. Where have we heard this before?

Sadly, for the Reality Based Community the theoretical war we're not fighting at the moment is always so much more attractive than wars that might require... oh, I don't know, actual fighting. New President, same unpalatable choices. Same old realities on the ground. Yesterday the Spousal Unit and I made the rounds of the local hardware emporiums in search of a new washer and dryer. At Home Depot the gentleman in the appliance center, upon learning my husband will soon be deploying to Afghanistan, launched into the predictable tirade against George Bush and Dick Cheney (complete with theatrical eye rolling, mouth frothing and righteous indignation). Why, oh why can't we fight the real war without putting any of our boys in harm's way?

At which point yours truly couldn't help thinking of The New Yorker, of all things. The spouse restrained himself masterfully but we both thought to ourselves, "Well if you weren't happy with Bush you must just love the way things are going now, my friend."

Our friend in the hardware store, you see, believes that if America is going to go to war, we need to fight to win. No matter what it takes! Because nothing says "total war" like the words, "I'm not sure victory is the goal in Afghanistan." It turns out that being on the right track to not-victory and total war involves announcing approximately every three seconds that we can't get out of Iraq fast enough. Never mind the fact that the violence has gotten worse. Never mind that thousands of Americans lost their lives (not to mention various body parts) to bring about progress the Obama administration seems determined to scuttle.

I didn't spend an entire year apart from my husband to watch us abandon the Iraqis and hand Iraq back over to the terrorists. Oh. Excuse me - to the brave freedom fighters who keep bravely blowing up innocent civilians in hopes of igniting a sectarian war. Ever notice how the media don't call them freedom fighters now that Obama's in office?

In my darker moments, I take comfort in the knowledge that *now* we're going to concentrate on the good war. I say "concentrate" because "winning" is a word we're not allowed to use. Much like the terms "enemy" and "terrorism", these words imply there might be unpleasant consequences attached to keeping those troublesome promises. No doubt real people aren't being "killed" over there either, though the man caused disaster rate seems to be going through the roof. When Admiral Mullen admits we're in trouble, you know the Obvious Train has is finally pulling into the station.

Aiieeee!!! Reality has begun to harsh our collective fantasy war mellow! Time for a conventional wisdom shift! Suddenly, "stay the course" is dusted off and back in vogue:

Following the Afghan presidential election, there will be new pressure on Obama to resolve some of the issues he fudged in his Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy last spring. The White House leaned in two directions in that document -- toward a limited counterterrorism mission against al-Qaeda but using ambitious and costly nation-building tactics to achieve the goal.

Waffling won't be possible much longer. The U.S. military commanders in Kabul want a commitment for more troops and additional resources next year. But Vice President Biden is leading a growing camp of skeptics within the administration who argue that it's time to scale back the mission, not expand it. Meanwhile, the latest Post-ABC News poll shows growing public opposition to a wider war.

It's easy to describe the ideal outcome in Afghanistan -- a military buildup that rocks the Taliban enough that it will be prepared to negotiate a deal allowing U.S. troops to begin withdrawing next year. And that's the essence of the U.S. strategy. But to make it work, the enemy must be convinced that the president is politically strong enough to stay the course, despite domestic opposition.

Sound familiar? That, of course, was the dilemma that President Bush faced in Iraq. Now that Obama is commander in chief, he faces a similar challenge. A few months ago, when he was at the height of his popularity, Obama made it all look easy. Now, we get the political reality check -- and Leadership 101.

I've got news for you, Mr. Ignatius. Obama isn't leading on health care and he actually gives a damn about that. What are the chances he will stick his neck out to give the Marines in Helmand Province a fighting chance?

I'd say slim to none.

For six years I've watched our losses mount. Like most military folks, I didn't like it but I accepted that if we mean to fight and win a war, people will die. I accepted the possibility that my husband would die.

There is only one thing that makes this acceptance possible: the belief that we're serious about winning and that, in the end (even if it takes a few decades) the world will be a better place because of the sacrifices we're making today. Having democratic governments in place in Germany and Japan has indisputably made the world a better, safer place. Our own Civil War, horrific as it was, made the world a better place. A lot of good men died in those wars to give us the peace and freedom we enjoy today.

But I'm not willing to lose my husband in a war we have no intention of winning. Either lead, follow the advice of your Generals, or get the hell out of their way Mr. Obama.

You can't win a war of necessity by sitting on the fence. The choice is yours.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:42 AM | Comments (35) | TrackBack

August 22, 2009

The Liberal Addiction to Federal Encroachment on our Freedoms

... apparently, everything is commerce now. Even insurance:

Rivkin and Casey think that a federal requirement that uninsured individuals must purchase health insurance can't be within Congress's commerce power because when ordinary individuals don't purchase health insurance, their mere failure to do so has no effects (economic or otherwise) on interstate commerce.

...Got it? When people don't buy things, by definition it doesn't affect commerce! (For example, during recessions people stop buying things and everyone knows that has no economic effects.)

Ergo... what? Do we really want to cede the federal government Commerce Clause power to force us to buy things on the grounds that our failure to purchase items "effects" interstate commerce?

Good God. I may not be an attorney but even I see the problems inherent in such an extraConstitutional power grab. I refer you to Justice Thomas' dissent in Gonzalez v. Raich. Few things in life were most amusing than watching progressive heads explode at a truly principled application of judicial philosophy which contradicted their view of what a conservative "ought" to think:


Under the Commerce Clause, Congress may regulate interstate commerce, not activities that substantially affect interstate commerce–any more than Congress may regulate activities that do not fall within, but that affect, the subjects of its other Article I powers. Whatever additional latitude the Necessary and Proper Clause affords… the question is whether Congress’ legislation is essential to the regulation of interstate commerce itself–not whether the legislation extends only to economic activities that substantially affect interstate commerce.

…The majority’s rewriting of the Commerce Clause seems to be rooted in the belief that, unless the Commerce Clause covers the entire web of human activity, Congress will be left powerless to regulate the national economy effectively. The interconnectedness of economic activity is not a modern phenomenon unfamiliar to the Framers. Moreover, the Framers understood what the majority does not appear to fully appreciate: There is a danger to concentrating too much, as well as too little, power in the Federal Government. This Court has carefully avoided stripping Congress of its ability to regulate interstate commerce, but it has casually allowed the Federal Government to strip States of their ability to regulate intrastate commerce–not to mention a host of local activities, like mere drug possession, that are not commercial.

One searches the Court’s opinion in vain for any hint of what aspect of American life is reserved to the States. Yet this Court knows that “ ‘[t]he Constitution created a Federal Government of limited powers.’ That is why today’s decision will add no measure of stability to our Commerce Clause jurisprudence: This Court is willing neither to enforce limits on federal power, nor to declare the Tenth Amendment a dead letter. If stability is possible, it is only by discarding the stand-alone substantial effects test and revisiting our definition of “Commerce among the several States.” Congress may regulate interstate commerce–not things that affect it, even when summed together, unless truly “necessary and proper” to regulating interstate commerce.

Sometimes it really is that simple.

Note: Thanks to Drew's comment, I deleted my note regarding 'effects vs. affects'. Apparently I need to either learn to read more carefully (you would think the 's' would have caught my attention) or pass up the attempts to be a smart ass.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:55 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

The Moral Obligation to Provide Health Care

Dave Schuler poses an interesting question:

As I’ve said before, I don’t believe that there’s a right to healthcare nor have I seen a coherent argument made that it is, merely a claim. However, bear with me.

Is is possible to make a coherent argument that government-provided healthcare is a moral obligation but that our obligation doesn’t extend to people in Zambia? I don’t think it is but I’m willing to listen to the arguments.

A few observations. The most obvious thing that comes to mind here is that if Barack Obama thinks moral obligations are so important that the federal government should impose them by force, does that mean he thinks the federal government should force him to take care of his siblings? After all, that's arguably a pretty basic moral obligation. It's pretty unfair that he was raised by white grandparents and given the opportunity to attend an elite private school in Hawaii.

If equality of income and opportunity are the moral imperatives of the 21st Century in America, why didn't he put his money where his mouth is and extend a helping hand to his own family?

In his defense, Obama is hardly alone in wanting the government to step in and shoulder his moral obligations:

Arthur Brooks, the author of "Who Really Cares," says that "when you look at the data, it turns out the conservatives give about 30 percent more." He adds, "And incidentally, conservative-headed families make slightly less money."

And he says the differences in giving goes beyond money, pointing out that conservatives are 18 percent more likely to donate blood. He says this difference is not about politics, but about the different way conservatives and liberals view government.

"You find that people who believe it's the government's job to make incomes more equal, are far less likely to give their money away," Brooks says. In fact, people who disagree with the statement, "The government has a basic responsibility to take care of the people who can't take care of themselves," are 27 percent more likely to give to charity.

But more importantly, precisely what is the moral obligation to provide universal health care?

Interestingly, Obama never got around to that part.

He has a habit of making grand, sweeping statements that conveniently manage to avoid the kind of pesky details that might subject his imperial pronouncements to critical review. It would be interesting to hear Obama spell out the precise nature of the moral obligation to provide health care: where does it begin? How far does it extend? If we all share a moral obligation to make sure every American has equal benefits, why should some people pay more for that benefit than others? On what moral basis do we (as Obama has assured us) exclude illegal immigrants from this benefit?

Like Dave, I'm willing to entertain the argument for a shared moral obligation to provide universal health care. I'm just not sure it exists. But if it does, surely the President of the United States ought to be able to make that case, shouldn't he?

Posted by Cassandra at 01:50 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

A Symposium on Liberty and Limited Government

After all the fulmination we heard over the last 8 years about Executive overreach and the importance of respecting the Constitution, it seems supremely ironic to see two "Constitutional scholars" blithely preparing to eviscerate the founding document of our Republic with the enthusiastic assistance of public servants elected by the 50 states:

President Obama has called for a serious and reasoned debate about his plans to overhaul the health-care system. Any such debate must include the question of whether it is constitutional for the federal government to adopt and implement the president's proposals. Consider one element known as the "individual mandate," which would require every American to have health insurance, if not through an employer then by individual purchase. This requirement would particularly affect young adults, who often choose to save the expense and go without coverage. Without the young to subsidize the old, a comprehensive national health system will not work. But can Congress require every American to buy health insurance?

In short, no. The Constitution assigns only limited, enumerated powers to Congress and none, including the power to regulate interstate commerce or to impose taxes, would support a federal mandate requiring anyone who is otherwise without health insurance to buy it.

....[these] constitutional impediments can be avoided if Congress is willing to raise corporate and/or income taxes enough to fund fully a new national health system. Absent this politically dangerous -- and therefore unlikely -- scenario, advocates of universal health coverage must accept that Congress's power, like that of the other branches, has limits. These limits apply regardless of how important the issue may be, and neither Congress nor the president can take constitutional short cuts. The genius of our system is that, no matter how convinced our elected officials may be that certain measures are in the public interest, their goals can be accomplished only in accord with the powers and processes the Constitution mandates, processes that inevitably make them accountable to the American people.

Perhaps America would have been better served by a President who majored in history:

The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government - lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.
—Patrick Henry

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!
—Benjamin Franklin

The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.
—Benjamin Franklin

A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.
—Thomas Jefferson

Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.
—Noah Webster

No one can read our Constitution without concluding that the people who wrote it wanted their government severely limited; the words 'no' and 'not' employed in restraint of government power occur 24 times in the first seven articles of the Constitution and 22 more times in the Bill of Rights.
—Edmund A. Opitz

Our constitutions purport to be established by 'the people,' and, in theory, 'all the people' consent to such government as the constitutions authorize. But this consent of 'the people' exists only in theory. It has no existence in fact. Government is in reality established by the few; and these few assume the consent of all the rest, without any such consent being actually given.
—Lysander Spooner

I think the members of our Congress have no understanding of the Constitution. And as a result, they-- don't understand their critical role in the governance of the country.
- John Nichols

A centralised democracy may be as tyrannical as an absolute monarch; and if the vigour of the nation is to continue unimpaired, each individual, each family, each district, must preserve as far as possible its independence, its self-completeness, its powers and its privilege to manage its own affairs and think its own thoughts.
—James Anthony Froude

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air --however slight--lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.
—Justice William O. Douglas

We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.
—Abraham Lincoln

This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.
—Abraham Lincoln

If you want total security, go to prison. There you're fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking is freedom.
—Dwight D. Eisenhower

The federal government has taken too much tax money from the people, too much authority from the states, and too much liberty with the Constitution.
—Ronald Reagan

Nations crumble from within when the citizenry asks of government those things which the citizenry might better provide for itself. ... [I] hope we have once again reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.
—Ronald Reagan

When was the last time you heard someone say, “Go ahead, it’s a free country.”?
—Unknown

Posted by Cassandra at 12:33 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 21, 2009

Been There, Done That....

...got the T-shirt.

A few of us were commiserating offline about deployments. A certain Army wife who shall remain nameless suggested we get t-shirts made. But what to put on the t-shirt?

We need a catchy slogan. If we get a really good one, perhaps the Princess will have some printed up to give out in lieu of the usual stuffed marmosett.

Do your wurst, folks. You know you want to :)

Posted by Cassandra at 02:10 PM | Comments (53) | TrackBack

BWA HA HA HA HA!!!!

Too funny.

h/t, Nicki F.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:26 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Paging Dr. Freud.... Dr. Freud...

Your slip is showing:

Here is an actual correction from Page A4 of today's print edition:
FOR THE RECORD

TV listings: The Prime-Time TV grid in Thursday's Calendar section mistakenly listed MTV's "Jackass" show on the MSNBC cable schedule at 7 and 10 p.m. where instead MSNBC's "Countdown With Keith Olbermann" should have been listed.

The Editorial Staff swear upon a stack of Bibles that we are not making this up.

Seriously.

Welcome Tigerhawk readers :)
You may find this of interest: A Symposium on Liberty and Limited Government.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:19 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

"Semper Gumby"

All right, sweethearts, what are you waiting for? Breakfast in bed? Another glorious day in the Corps! A day in the Marine Corps is like a day on the farm. Every meal's a banquet! Every paycheck a fortune! Every formation a parade! I LOVE the Corps!

- Aliens

A few days ago I related the daring manner in which The Love of My Life broke the news of an impending deployment:

You have to love a man who chooses his moment carefully... though I do believe that announcing (at 4:30 in the morning, no less) to a woman who hasn't had her first cup of coffee yet that his presence is urgently required in Afghanistan may be pushing the envelope. Brave men have died for less...

...though usually not while standing in the shower dripping with manly soap suds.

Over the course of a lifetime married folk develop endearing little routines, the strict observance of which prevents us from killing each other. Chief among these at Villa Cassandranita is: "Thou shalt not attempt to engage Thy Significant Other in conversation before 5 a.m." 5 a.m. being when the spouse departs for the five sided funny farm. By mutual agreement, unwary transgressors against this sacred dictum may be violated at will.

Of course even the most perfect rule requires a few common sense exceptions.

Allowances are made for innocuous phrases like, "Good morning, babe", "Did you sleep well?", "You were snoring again last night.", "Damn it all, I was *not* snoring!", "Yeah... you just go on believing that, babe...", and "Might I include a few cookies to go with the Spousal Sandwich?". When in doubt a simple rule of thumb applies. If formulating a response is likely to provoke dangerous activity in the prefrontal lobe, let it go.

It was with this rule firmly in mind that The Princess blearily stumbled into the marital bathroom in search of a hairbrush. As I entered the room, the shower stopped and the curtain was thrown back with a manly flourish to reveal The Spousal Unit standing in the full, lush glory of nature like unto Michaelangelo's David (only glistening with manly water droplets). Can there be a finer sight in all of God's creation?

I think not. I reached for his towel and handed it to him. Silently.

And then the unthinkable happened. That's right: he spoke. In my shock at this unwarranted intrusion upon my morning routine, I wondered for what would be the first of many times whether my esteemed spouse had been perhaps spending too much time in his nothing box? His words affected my vulnerable prefrontal cortex in much the same manner as 5 pounds of pre-menstrual water retention does the ambient temperature in the marital abode. At this point, I would love to tell Elise that the Star Stangled Banner began playing in my mind, uplifting my patriotic heart with a transformative wave of selfless love for God and country.

But that would be a lie. I stood numbly ... contemplating my spouse and the shattered remains of what - prior to that moment - had been an eminently satisfactory morning. And the first thought to enter my pea sized brain was,

"You know, you have no clothes on."

In my own defense I did not give voice to this penetrating insight, even though it ranks fairly high in the list of Allowable Utterances. As I stood rooted to the bathroom tiles, my prefrontal cortex buzzing with an alarming amount of activity, I heard (as from a great distance) the following words tumble out of my mouth:

"OK. So when do you leave?"

That is decidedly not on the list of Allowable Utterances. For some reason I will never understand, I then thought of the movie "Arthur". When our two freckle faced progeny were growing up, phrases from "Arthur" liberally peppered the familial lexicon. A well timed snippet of snark was the perfect interjection when some testosterone fueled instance of The Will to Power conflicted with my own natural and beautiful parental desire to lay waste to my childen's social lives. Specifically, I thought of this scene:

ARTHUR: "Do you know what I'm going to do?"
HOBSON: "No. I don't."
ARTHUR: "I'm going to take a bath."
HOBSON: "I'll alert the media."

ARTHUR: "Hobson... would you like to run my bath?"
HOBSON: [DRAMATIC PAUSE] "It's what I *live* for..."

"Perhaps you'd like me to wash your dick for you, you little sh*t."

I don't like conflict. It makes me unhappy. When my boys were testing me, those bolded phrases made the difference between erupting into a white hot fountain of matriarchal rage and being able to shrug my shoulders and say to myself, "Boys. Can't live with 'em and if you kill them some jackass always finds their little bodies..."

The truth is that I'm not sure there's a right way to deal with deployments:

The ugly truth is--I needed to fall apart before he left so I could be unwavering once he was gone. I needed to scream and cry and be angry before he ever got on that plane, so I could handle all our business once he was headed overseas. The idea that I could just blithely shrug my shoulders, say "Oh, well! See you in a year! Love ya! Bye!" is ludicrous. Maybe some people do it. God bless 'em. I'm not one of those folks. I needed to mourn the loss of yet another year of our family being intact before I could be the kind of mom who makes things feel almost normal.

I needed to think the horrible thoughts about what happens if he hurts himself just enough that he can't work his civilian job anymore all the way up to, what happens if people show up at my door in their Class A's? I needed to say it out loud and I needed also to hear myself say that I didn't know why I should believe we would be fortunate enough to miss out on that kind of crap sandwich. I needed to say out loud that I had absolutely no say in any of this. It wasn't my choice. I didn't enlist. I'm here against my will. I needed to make it known that if any of this horribleness did come to call, I tried to warn people. I tried to tell ya and yet, ya went ahead and raised your damn hand anyhow...because that's how you roll.

At this point I should probably mention that the joyous news of my impending celibacy came during a week when I needed to be 50 miles away by 8 a.m. every day and my Ukrainian friend was visiting from Seattle. All of which meant that I spent the next 3 days living inside my own head. I couldn't cry, or talk to anyone about it until we told his mother, or talk to him in the hour or so we have between dinner and bedtime. There just wasn't time and even if there had been time I was never far from tears. I couldn't trust myself.

But eventually I did cry a few times, locked away in my office where the dog can't nose me with his ice cold proboscis every 20 seconds to see if I'm OK. That supper dish doesn't magically fill itself, you know.

I felt very, very angry at times. And extremely put upon. I thought to myself more than once, "You know, just once I'd like to come to you and say, 'Yanno hon, there's something I really feel I need to do and it involves me leaving you in the warm embrace of the Energizer Bunny for a year.'" I didn't yell or scream or carry on. But that's not because I have better self control than Guard Wife. It's because our personalities are different: she knows what she needs to do in order to be strong and she copes.

So do I. We just do it differently. I think furiously, make a few plans, and stuff all those feelings down so far they don't have a snowball's chance in hell of seeing the light of day. And I know they'll come pouring out when it's all over and it's safe to acknowledge them.

We do what is needed. All of us.

I thought a lot about whether I should write about this deployment or not. Frankly, Guard Wife's essay convinced me it might help someone else going through the same thing for the first time. I admire her for having the courage to say what so many of us don't - that military wives are not superhuman heroines. We're very human, with all the foibles that state entails. Certainly it would be easier to sit back and bask in the warm glow of all that sympathy and even admiration.

This will be my fourth long deployment among scores of shorter ones. I made it through the others and even managed to enjoy the trip sometimes. And I think I'm a stronger person for being thrown (even against my will) back on my own resources for a time.

I think that's something we tend to forget - that most of the crap we deal with during deployments is crap we'd have to deal with anyway if we weren't blessed with partners who willingly shoulder some of the load when they're home. But the truth is, I can't think of too many things I've had to deal with that I wouldn't have had to deal with all the time if I were single. And that's without considering the whole celibacy thing, which would righteously suck.

In the end, this may be the prize hidden in the crap sandwich. Deployments are a wake up call - a reminder that things could always be so much worse.

They're a reminder that the cup of life - the one we so often think of as half empty - is actually brimming to overflowing. We just needed to look at it from a different angle.

I'm really going to miss not talking to him in the morning. But soon enough, I can not talk to him all I want. Life is good.

Thanks to Dave M for the Guard Wife link.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:32 AM | Comments (75) | TrackBack

August 20, 2009

VILE BLASPHEMERS!!!!

Woe be unto you, Blasphemers and Idolotors! Filthy deniers of the public option: know that The Obamessiah shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew. And He shall pursue thee until thou perishishest...umm...eth...err...perishethest!

Verily do I call heaven and earth to witness against thee! The caterpillar shall munch upon thy many gardens and vineyards, devour thy fig and olive trees, masticate upon thy 401K accounts and preferred provider plans. For Lo! The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish rich and the tyranny of the evil monger. Blessed is He, who in the name of social justice and income equality, guards the Stupid from the lies of the Iniquitous, for He is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children.

And I shall strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger. And thou shalt know My name when I do lay My Vengeance upon thee:

In a conference call with liberal and progressive religious leaders Wednesday afternoon, President Obama railed against those who were “bearing false witness” in the debate over health care reform.

“I know there’s been a lot of misinformation in this debate, and there are some folks out there who are, frankly, bearing false witness, but I want everyone to know what health insurance reform is all about,” the president said.

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor,” is, of course, one of the Ten Commandments. (It’s the 9th Commandment in all religions except for the Catholic and Lutheran traditions, in which it’s the 8th.)”

Whoa. For a moment I thought we were watching The Shrub try to force religion on us again.

My bad.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:24 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

The Impetus of History

Democracy, advancing through the ages:

Sacre bleu! Was The Shrub right after all?

Though advanced as a new doctrine, the regime-change prescription follows well-established precedent. It was the impetus behind the religious wars of the 17th century, the wars of the French Revolution in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Holy Alliance, the Trotskyite version of Communism, and the contemporary Muslim jihad. Realists judge policy by the ability to persevere in the pursuit of an objective in stages, each of which is imperfect by absolute standards but would not be attempted in the absence of absolute values.

American exceptionalism, viewing itself as a shining city on the hill, has always insisted on representing universal values beyond the traditional dictates of national interest.

In a world of jihad, terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, President Bush in his second inaugural address put forward a challenge at once going beyond the interests of any one country and that different societies could embrace without prejudice to their own interests.

He elaborated that the United States seeks progress toward freedom, not its ultimate achievement in a defined time, and that it recognizes the historical evolution that must be the foundation of any successful process. On this basis, realists and idealists should go forward together.

Or as John Lewis Gaddis so trenchantly remarked:

... to put it in terms my friend and neighbor Paul Kennedy – a former bookie’s runner – would be familiar with: if you had to place a bet on which form of government will expand its reach over the next four years – or, if you prefer, the next forty – where would you put your money: on the growth of tyranny, or on its further decline?

The test of a good grand strategy is to align itself with trends already underway, so that you minimize, as much as possible, what Clausewitz called “friction.” My bet is that we’ll encounter more friction from now on if we support tyrants than if we resist them. So it does seem to me that the Bush administration has placed its bet in the right place.

And then there's where we seem to be headed now.

A majority of Americans now see the war in Afghanistan as not worth fighting, and just a quarter say more U.S. troops should be sent to the country, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Most have confidence in the ability of the United States to meet its primary goals of defeating the Taliban, facilitating economic development, and molding an honest and effective Afghan government, but few say Thursday's elections there are likely to produce such a government.

Cue the inevitable chorus of anti-war zealots screeching that the President has failed to rally the American people and make the case for our continued involvement.

Oh. My bad. For a moment there I forgot who was in the Oval Office.

Funny... Afghanistan was supposed the be the "Good War" - the one that mattered.

How soon we forget.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:55 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 19, 2009

It's Not Just a Job... It's an Adventure

OK, so I've been trying to figure out how to bring this up.

One of the things military spouses figure out pretty quickly is that life is full of speedbumps. Recently the Blog Princess was reminded of the truth in that old maxim.

You have to love a man who chooses his moment carefully... though I do believe that announcing (at 4:30 in the morning, no less) to a woman who hasn't had her first cup of coffee yet that his presence is urgently required in Afghanistan may be pushing the envelope. Brave men have died for less...

...though not while standing in the shower, dripping with manly soap suds. Trust is a beautiful thing, n'est pas?

So - moving right along, the question of the day is: what to do with this unexpected opportunity?

That's what I try to do when I run into a speedbump. Look at it as a challenge or an opportunity rather than dwelling on the downside. I already have a few ideas:

1. Take a belly dancing class. This is something I've always wanted to do. Last time he was deployed, I traveled to meet a friend in Pennsylvania and we went to a belly dancing exhibition at a local nightspot. The best dancer (in my not so humble opinion) did this amazing routine to - of all things - a death metal song. It was the most sensuous thing I've ever seen. Oddly enough, heavy metal is a perfect match for the rhythms of belly dancing.

Also, it is just weird enough to pique my interest.

2. Travel. This is what I did a lot of, last time. There are places I still have not seen and having too much time on your hands is as good an excuse as any to light out for places unknown. Like eastern Europe, the Ukraine, Sedona AZ, Spain...

3. I already got my hair cut last week. This is something I'd been wanting to do for a long time. It's really cute - sort of a mid length retro hairstyle. I've never cared much what was in style: usually I prefer classic looks. And it's hard to get more classy than retro do's. They're feminine and alluring, and even better, they're different from what everyone else is doing, which is so 'me'.

I didn't want to go back to short hair, but wearing my hair up was starting to make me feel like The Aged P. However, I have also thought that this year might be a good time for a mid-life makeover. You know, clothes, makeup, etc. The old closet could stand an overhaul.

4. Start running again. In my late 30s I used to run for an hour every day. I truly loathe running - it violates every lazy instinct I possess.

But I love being in shape.

5. Go back to school?

Feel free to add your suggestions in the comment section!

Posted by Cassandra at 05:42 PM | Comments (61) | TrackBack

OMG

This is hilarious:

The Ancient Art of Penis Reading


A Guide for Women

"IF A MAN'S EYES ARE THE MIRROR OF HIS SOUL, THEN HIS PENIS IS THE PERISCOPE."

Dang. That's sidebar worthy.

For as long as the human race has existed, we have searched for clues to self-awareness, and the human body itself is often the key to unlocking the mysteries of the soul. Only to those who possess the knowledge and understanding, will the body reveal its secrets.

Teachers of the Indian practice of Tantra have long understood the mystical link between body and spirit, between sexuality and spirituality. The shamans of tribal cultures around the world understand that the physical form holds truths that can reveal a person's true nature. And today, the old arts of palmistry, phrenology and the interpretation of moles are well-known.

But to really know the man, it's necessary to understand the thousand-year-old art of Penis Reading.

Get you hence, all you members (heh... she said... oh, nevermind) of the Oink Cadre and other penis-having individuals and determine your penis type forthwith.

VC. It's educational.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:02 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Quote of the Day

One reason the town hall protesters are called Astroturf is that they have ties to groups with corporate financing like FreedomWorks, run by Dick Armey, the former House majority leader. But the Obama administration has been doing its own stage managing. At a town hall in Virginia last month, the president took questions from members of organizations with close ties to the administration, including the Service Employees International Union and Organizing for America, which is a part of the Democratic National Committee. The Web site of another liberal group, Health Care for America Now, instructs counter-protesters to “bring enough people to drown” out the Tea Partiers.

Is this Astroturf?

Here’s a rule: Organizing isn’t cheating. Doing everything in your power to get your people to show up is basic politics. If they believe what they’re saying, no matter who helped organize them, they’re citizens and activists. The language at the town halls may get ugly and rough. But it’s not Astroturf.

- Ryan Sager

Posted by Cassandra at 03:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

No Good Can Come From This....

Dear Cass,

The two nodes of the Moon -- the north and the south node -- play a very important part in astrology. The nodes are not planetary bodies, but mathematical points that take into account the relationship between the Sun, Moon, and Earth at the time of our birth. In the zodiac, they are always directly opposite each other and together they form the nodal axis.

The lunar nodes point to our personal karmic imbalance. The astrological theory behind the nodes of the Moon suggests that we all come into this world with some underdeveloped and overdeveloped aspects of our character. The north node represents qualities that we need to develop to find inner balance, while the south node points to personal character traits that are easy for us to fall back on. They represent life lessons that we consciously need to learn for increased happiness, fulfillment and personal success.

The nodal axis changes signs approximately every 19 months. Since December 18, 2007, the north node has been transiting through Aquarius with the south node in the opposite sign, Leo. On August 20 and 21, the nodal axis moves backward through the zodiac, and the north node moves from Aquarius into Capricorn, while the south node moves from Leo to Cancer.

Important advice for this transit: Get serious. Be brave! Work toward your goals. Instead of looking to others to take care of you, which is the south node in Cancer, north node in Capricorn means it's time to be an adult, step up, accept responsibility for both good and bad.

Yikes. The multiverse can be such a buzz kill sometimes.

Posted by Cassandra at 03:36 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Song of the Day

Dedicated to my man, Josh Marshall.

Heh :)

Posted by Cassandra at 03:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Are Right Wingers Prone to Terrorism?

Glenn Reynolds has a great roundup of responses to that asinine post from Josh Marshall regarding the well known propensity of Teh Evil Mongering Right to engage in violent acts of terrorism. He comments:

If you’re looking for lefty violence, what about Lee Harvey Oswald, who by any objective measure was far-left? As for the legal carrying of guns, Marshall has — in a rare turn of events — gotten himself out of sync with the White House message. I’m sure he’ll rectify that posthaste.

As it so happens, the half vast Editorial Staff here at VC took a look at actual domestic terrorism data recently:

I realize that in certain circles it is considered the height of tolerant, enlightened sophistication to wallow in the astonishing parallels between mere political disagreement and paranoid schizophrenia. But surely even the irony impaired ought to be able to grasp the frothing idiocy behind playing Pin the Ideology on the Deranged Psychopath? ... Dare I suggest that bursting into a public building and wasting innocent bystanders is perhaps not the act of a rational soul with a coherent world view?

... all this posthumorous registering of dead whack jobs to the other party to score political points ...got me wondering: who were most of the terrorists and terrorist conspirators over the last 10 years?

The answers are pretty interesting:

Last night, egged on by Marshall's steadfastly non-divisive, non-fear mongering divisive fear mongering, the Editorial Staff opted to take a more comprehensive look at terrorist attacks over the last 50 years. Aided by our trusty staff of itinerant Eskimo typists, we went back to 1960 and categorized terrorist attacks and failed attacks. The first thing we found (quelle surprise!) is that it's not always easy to neatly categorize the motivations of murderous whack jobs.

Since, unlike Josh Marshall, we didn't engage in this little exercise to confirm our pre-existing fear and loathing of the Left, this wasn't exactly a shocker. A few observations before presenting our results:

Terrorism data is both incomplete and heavily dependent on the bins one puts an attack into. For instance, how do you categorize a righty terrorist who kills from some twisted notion that he's protecting the unborn by murdering abortionists? Is he still a right winger if it turns out he also violently opposes mainstream Republican doctrine? Come to think of it, is it really surprising that if you're crazy enough to kill folks for the crime of disagreeing with you, there just might be a few screws loose in the old brain housing group? Likewise, Lefties are supposed to hate war and eschew violence. Isn't there a conflict, then, in dubbing someone who uses organized violence to protest organized violence, "Left Wing"?

Hey - no one ever said these folks make sense. That's why they call them criminals. My criteria were simple - if the perpetrator had ties to a group associated with the Left (like the Weathermen), he was dubbed Left Wing. If he had ties to Right Wing militia, he was dubbed Right Wing. It should be understood (by all those except perhaps Josh Marshall) that there is no evidence that either the Republican nor Democrat party formally endorses terrorism. But then the day is young and we've yet to hear from Howard Dean.

That said, here is the breakdown of major domestic terrorist incidents over the past 50 years:

terrorists_2.jpg

Note a few things about this chart that surprised me:

1. There were more - far more - terrorist acts committed by Black Militants than by White Supremacists. Where is Contessa Brewer when you need her?

2. There were far more terrorist acts committed by individuals or groups with left wing ties than ones with right wing ties.

Does this mean there's some dark component to Leftist ideology that predisposes progressives to acts of violence or proves that Right Winguts are nothing more than a bunch of loony terrorists in waiting? At the risk of disappointing the Josh Marshalls on both sides of the political aisle, I don't think the data support either conclusion.

For one thing, even if you lump White Supremacists, Right Wingers and Religious nuts (among whom were some who appeared to be Hindus) into the Right Wing bin, the Lefties still outnumber the Righties. On the other hand, in many cases terrorists appeared to be motivated by more than one animating set of ideas. Arguably, Anarchists could be lumped in with Left Wingers. The FBI placed them there but I didn't do so because I'm not sure it's valid to equate wanting no government with wanting a more powerful and intrusive Left leaning government. Likewise, the FBI lumps Black Militants in with Left Wingers, but it seemed to me that the more apt comparison was White Supremacists vs. Black Militants. Chances are that if a group freely chooses to put the word "Black" in their name, race has a fair amount to do with their agenda. So even though the FBI calls them leftist, I call them racially motivated.

The vast majority of Lefties were either anti-war or radical leftists trying to usher in a thousand years of Communist utopia by way of inciting a revolution amongst the proletariat.

For another, the mix of terrorist groups changed every decade. But I don't think the nature of progressive ideology (to say nothing of human nature) changed every decade. In the 60s and 70s, black militants, the anti-war movement, and a few Zionists predominated. In the 80s, religious motivations, right wing extremists, and foreign terrorism (freedom fighters and the like) pulled ahead.

In the 90s, right wing militias, Islamists, and Anarchists held sway.

After 2000, Islamists took first place followed by equal numbers of right wingers and left wingers.

3. Jewish terrorists! Oy vey!!!

And just for balance, this pie chart from the Clinton-era FBI may be of some interest, especially as it covers the very same decade (the 1990s) Marshall cherry picked to "prove" we conservatives are just a bunch of murdering terrorists.
ClintonFBI.jpg

Note an amusing passage from the Clinton-era report:

The loosely affiliated group of international extremists who bombed the World Trade Center in February 1993 was not acting on behalf of any nation that sponsors anti-Western terrorism. Nor was the group a formal terrorist organization with an identifi- able organizational structure, known base of opera- tion, or well-established means of fund-raising. Rather, the group was made up of individuals repre- senting several different nationalities who came together for the express purpose of carrying out a ter- rorist attack. Likewise, the April 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was perpetrated by domestic extremists with only tangential ties to the militia movement. Despite the lack of an established organizational structure and support base, however, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Lynn Nichols were able to plan, finance, and carry out the most deadly act of terror- ism ever to occur in the United States. Loosely affiliated extremists–either domestic or interna- tional in nature–may pose the most urgent terrorist threat in the United States at this time. They do not, how- ever, represent the only threat. In fact, the increasing challenge posed by unaf- filiated or loosely affiliated extremists is a relatively recent development in the long struggle against terrorism.

...From the 1960s to the 1980s,
leftist-oriented extremist groups posed the most serious
domestic terrorist threat to the United States. In
the 1980s, however, the fortunes of the leftist movement
declined dramatically as law enforcement dismantled
the infrastructure of many of these groups,

and as the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe
deprived the movement of its ideological foundation
and patronage.

...As the threat from left-wing groups receded
during the latter part of the 1980s, the overall level
of terrorism in the United States began to decline
significantly. However, a shift in the domestic terrorism
threat from a leftist orientation to a right-wing
focus had already begun to take place. This shift
ultimately occurred in two waves that would have
far-reaching consequences during the late 1980s and
again in the 1990s.

The FBI report goes on to identify a "Third Wave" of terrorism: single issue terrorism:

Today, right-wing terrorists–most notably loosely affiliated extremists–continue to represent a formidable challenge to law enforcement agencies around the country, even as animal rights and environmental extremism takes on a higher profile and elicits greater interest and concern among law enforcement.

Is it possible to predict the next wave? Not
likely. But a study of the past reveals some potentially
helpful patterns. Violent domestic extremism in
the United States has been closely linked to contemporary
political/social concerns. In each of the three
identifiable waves, violent extremism has represented
a small, radicalized component of broad-based, largely
peaceful movements sharing similar concerns. With
regard to left- and right-wing terrorism, aggressive
prosecution of group leaders, violent offenders, and
those plotting attacks contributed significantly to
limiting the overall threat posed by groups with these
orientations.

While central focusing events help to crystalize
extremist movements, the rise in animal rights/
environmental extremism during the past several
years shows that such incidents are not necessarily
critical to the development of an extremist reaction
to governmental/corporate policies or actions. A radical
commitment to a particular cause may be sufficient.
However, a defining event may serve to attract
new adherents to a cause and may also change the
direction or targeting patterns among extremists...


What do we take from this? A few thoughts:

1. Neither left wing nor right wing ideology seems definitively linked to terrorism. Instead, the motivations of domestic terrorists and the mix of groups sponsoring them appear to fluctuate with changing political conditions and the attention paid to them by law enforcement. When you stop and think about the goals of terrorism, this shouldn't be surprising. Terrorists, by definition, go outside the political process to gain by violence and fear what they cannot by building consensus through legitimate political processes, so as power shifts, so will the subset of the populace that feels disenfranchised for whatever reason.

2. There's a lesson here: any time sweeping changes take place and certain viewpoints are demonized or excluded from the debate, some minority of the populace begin to feel powerless. That feeling of powerlessness has far more to do with the violent extremism and the origins of terrorism than whether one votes Democrat or Republican.

3. That said, there isn't any convincing evidence that any one group is more likely to resort to violent extremism than another. It's more than a bit ironic that the same Lefties who got their noses thoroughly out of joint when their anti-war and anti-Bush protests weren't acted upon now seem determined to criminalize "patriotic dissent" from the other side of the aisle. Last time I checked, the Left were against thought crime, but perhaps that too has changed.

4. As much as conservatives may not care for the thought, it's not entirely unreasonable for liberals to fear violent reactions from some subset of disaffected conservatives. Barack Obama seeks to alter the fundamental relationship between government and the private sector and he's been openly gloating that he can ram his proposed reforms through without the support of a large sector of the populace. But these are huge changes that shouldn't be entered into lightly, quickly, or without plenty of debate.

Those on the progressive side of the aisle who argued that Bush should have submitted to the will of the people as evidenced by the latest poll results are on shaky ground when they brandish the "we won" mantra. That said, if Congress can muster the votes, conservatives are going to have a hard time arguing the result is illegitimate when they made the opposite argument with regard to funding the war in Iraq (a war, I might add, that the Left appears to have dropped its vehement opposition to now that Teh Won is in office). So much for ideological purity.

That said, thoughtless demonization of the Josh Marshall variety is more likely to inflame already frayed sensibilities than to prevent the violence he claims to fear. As I mentioned in my previous post, it's a comforting illusion to think that all the nut jobs in America conveniently cluster on one side or the other of the political aisle. A little more light and a lot less heat will help us navigate some admittedly difficult times.

Oh, and Mr. Marshall: while you're at it, why not take a long hard look in the mirror? Intolerance and bigotry wear many faces. Thanks to you, today they wear a liberal face. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Hopefully your fellow progressives have more sense.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:50 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

"OMG He Had a Gun!" (and nothing happened)

Today's must read essay:

From New Hampshire to Arizona, Americans openly carrying firearms have been seen outside Presidential appearances. The most remarkable thing about this is that some find this behavior to be remarkable.

American citizens are the sovereigns in our system of government. Indeed, We the People created the government which, at least in theory, only does what we tell it to do in the Constitution. Sovereigns are expected to be armed.

The Second Amendment was added to our Constitution to insure that the individual right to keep and bear arms not be infringed. Infringement would impair the proper functioning of the militia, which had been America’s homeland security system all through colonial times and well into our republican era.

The armed attendees made it clear that they were exercising their right to keep and bear arms. Zero tolerance of firearms has become so extreme that even a picture of a gun can get a student kicked out of school. The presence of armed citizens helps correct the notion that guns are inherently dangerous.

Americans are increasingly deciding to go about openly carrying firearms even when they might legally carry concealed. Some would like to say that this constitutes disturbing the peace. It is a strange view that accepts as normal a police officer openly carrying a firearm, but finds it alarming when a sovereign citizen – the cop’s boss – does the same.

In addition to the educational value of going about openly armed, the presence of such citizens has another positive impact. Real homeland security is being maintained. The Secret Service is tasked with protecting the President and other select individuals – and nobody else.

For those who object to openly armed citizens being present near presidential events, do they have any concern for the well being of those who do not benefit from Secret Service protection?

As the saying goes, "read the whole thing".

In today's hyperpartisan atmosphere, there seems to be an increasing tendency to criminalize policy disagreements and actions which are perfectly legal. This happens on both sides of the political aisle, and it's a shame because it represents the elevation of fear and emotion over reason and civil discourse. America has always been a nation of strong individuals with deeply held convictions. We agree to certain restraints upon our liberty out of a well founded regard for the balance between freedom and security. I got an email from a co-worker of the progressive persuasion this morning. At the bottom of the email was this quote:

"Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men, for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all."

- John Maynard Keynes

The quote struck me as a perfect example of the moral blindness that afflicts both liberals and conservatives when we start believing our own side represents all that is righteous and good with the world, while the other side are a bunch of amoral, cretinous ignoranuses out to destroy life as we know it.

I have always believed some ideas and some political systems are more likely to foster virtuous actions than others. But I have also always been aware that, whether one is liberal or conservative, no ideological system guarantees its adherents will live up to the ideals it sets forth. We are all - regardless of political persuasion - subject to the flaws inherent in human nature. A 2003 column by Jack Shafer illustrates how human frailty often clouds our political vision:

The best way to gain the momentary advantage in a debate is to call your opponent a liar, his every statement a falsehood, and his gist pure propaganda. Your sucker-punched foe will gasp, the audience will move to the edge of their seats, and the flustered moderator will struggle to regain control of the conversation. It makes for great theater and will suppress the fact that you were losing the debate for a couple of minutes.

Setting aside for a moment Mr. Shafer's own rather glaring bias (calling one's opponents liars is hardly a practice that began with conservatives - I'm fairly certain even cavemen resorted to insults when their arguments failed), he makes a good point. Stooping to the ad hominem rarely makes the point it's intended to. It's a form of rhetorical cheating: if you can't offer convincing evidence to support your point, try attacking your opponent.

Because as we all right thinking people know, every single person who believes what we do is a perfect, spotless exemplar of moral rectitude. All that's needed to disprove that the sun rose every morning this week is to find an imperfect person who agrees with that statement.

Getting back to that quote: calling capitalists "the nastiest of men" is a prime example of painting with the broad brush. Thinking others have no more right than you to appropriate the rewards of your own willingness to take risk, your own ingenuity, or your own effort is hardly the nastiest of motives. I invite those who disagree to hand over their paychecks to someone who did nothing to earn your pay, but believes he has a right to it anyway.

But then an equally silly position is often advocated by some conservatives: that capitalism is such a wondrous system that it trumps historical experience. In what other realm of human behavior do conservatives argue no regulation is needed to reign in the more destructive aspects of human nature? Do we believe free men and women never murder, steal, or rape those weaker than themselves? Do we believe the strong and unprincipled never prey upon the weak?

Of course not. Then why would we believe destructive or fraudulent behavior - human characteristics that manifest themselves across all spectrums of our daily lives - will never manifest itself in a free market system?

It speaks volumes when the only way the media can manufacture outrage against American citizens who have committed no crime is to distort the facts:

On Tuesday, MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer fretted over health care reform protesters legally carrying guns: "A man at a pro-health care reform rally...wore a semiautomatic assault rifle on his shoulder and a pistol on his hip....there are questions about whether this has racial overtones....white people showing up with guns." Brewer failed to mention the man she described was black. Following Brewer’s report, which occurred on the Morning Meeting program, host Dylan Ratigan and MSNBC pop culture analyst Toure discussed the supposed racism involved in the protests. Toure argued: "...there is tremendous anger in this country about government, the way government seems to be taking over the country, anger about a black person being president....we see these hate groups rising up and this is definitely part of that." Ratigan agreed: "...then they get the variable of a black president on top of all these other things and that’s the move – the cherry on top, if you will, to the accumulated frustration for folks."

Not only did Brewer, Ratigan, and Toure fail to point out the fact that the gun-toting protester that sparked the discussion was black, but the video footage shown of that protester was so edited, that it was impossible to see that he was black.

Sometimes, we want to win so badly that we're willing to sacrifice anything - including our most deeply held principles. But a decent regard for those principles demands that we apply them fairly. Dishonestly playing to our worst prejudices about those who disagree with us says far more about our own character than it does about those we oppose:

On Sunday's Meet the Press, David Gregory's voiceover at the time of their Obama-with-Mustache visual is "but the rhetoric has become extreme." The voiceover lands on the word "extreme" when the Obama-with-Mustache poster appears, and they too then immediately cut to video and audio of Limbaugh.

How's that for subtle? But there's a problem with this media narrative.

For written at the poster's bottom is the web address "LaRouchePAC.com," the political action committee website for Communist and perpetual Presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche.

No right-winger he. And neither he nor his acolytes are likely ones to be "stoked by the provocative megaphone of Rush Limbaugh." In fact (from Wikipedia):

In 1979, LaRouche formed a Political Action Committee called the National Democratic Policy Committee (NDPC). LaRouche has run for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States seven times, beginning in 1980.


It is a sad, sad day in the life of this nation when those who condemn divisive and extreme rhetoric and deplore fear mongering engage in precisely those tactics, all the while wringing their hands over how all this overheated rhetoric may stir up some deranged whack job:

Bill Clinton tried to pin the devastating 1995 Oklahoma City bombing on Rush Limbaugh and his medium, which the president denounced as "hate-talk radio." Its denizens, the president said, are "purveyors of hate and division" who "leave the impression, by their very words, that violence is acceptable." Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle chimed in that when Limbaugh and his imitators verbally blast those in public life, some of their listeners "aren't satisfied just to listen"thereby insinuating a clear connection between rhetoric critical of public officials and violence.

Democrats are stressing that very theme again this summer, but this time with a twist: They are using similar language – language, in fact, that is often identical, and sometimes even more incendiary, than their opponents – all while complaining that such words create a combustible environment.

As tempting as it often seems to number ourselves amoung "the sane", the truth is that the vast majority of our fellow Americans are law abiding citizens. Yes, most Republicans. And most Democrats. Those who think the right way to tamp down extremist hyperbole and fear mongering is to fling heaping helpings of both about may want to consider just how their own extremist hyperbole contributes to the very hysteria and paranoia they claim to oppose?

No reasonable person - regardless of his or her position on the desireability of nationalized health care - wants to see the President of the United States gunned down. Sadly, a deep distrust in the fundamental decency of our fellow citizens, fanned by inflammatory rhetoric from both sides, is making it difficult to conduct a civil debate. Too many of us have been guilty of painting with the broad brush - stoking our fears by seizing on the worst examples of behavior on both sides in a misguided attempt to portray those we disagree with as "dangerous extremists". But protesters against President Obama are no more "terrorists", no more "unAmerican", than the waves of anti-war protesters who threatened to kill George Bush, who depicted him as a Nazi, who called decent men like my husband murderers and criminals.

Heated debate often results in overheated rhetoric and name calling. But this is a phenomenon that knows no political party. It's a human failing, not a political one.

And the fact that the balance of power has shifted is no justification for glossing over the distressing truth that those on both sides of the political aisle have been guilty of hateful, intolerant speech and inflammatory accusations. Democracy is often noisy and violent in its rhetoric and when things get heated, sometimes tempers boil over. People on both sides of the aisle say things they shouldn't. Paranoid things. Sentiments one would hope that cooler heads would disavow.

But words and images are not actions, and even threats are not deeds. If we want civil debate, we must learn to debate civilly; with restraint and above all with awareness that true freedom implies the freedom to disagree.

Even when we're certain all the "right" is on our side.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:47 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

You Could Have Heard a Pin Drop

At a time when our president and other politicians tend to apologize for our country`s prior actions, here`s a refresher on how some former patriots handled negative comments about our country...

JFK'S Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, was in France in the early 60's when DeGaulle decided to pull out of NATO. DeGaulle said he wanted all US military out of France as soon as possible.

Rusk responded "does that include those who are buried here?

DeGaulle did not respond.

You could have heard a pin drop

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When in England, at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of empire building by George Bush.

He answered by saying, 'Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return.'

You could have heard a pin drop.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There was a conference in France where a number of international
engineers were taking part, including both French and Americans. During a break, one of the French engineers came back into the room saying 'Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He has sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims. What does he intended to do, bomb them?'

A Boeing engineer stood up and replied quietly: 'Our carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people; they are nuclear powered and can supply emergency electrical power to shore facilities; they have three cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a day, they can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each day, and they carry half a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and from their flight deck. We have eleven such
ships; how many does France have?'

You could have heard a pin drop.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference that included Admirals from the U.S. , English, Canadian, Australian and French Navies. At a cocktail reception, he found himself standing with a large group of Officers that included personnel from most of those countries. Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped their drinks but a French admiral suddenly complained that, whereas Europeans learn many languages, Americans learn only English. He then asked, 'Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French?'

Without hesitating, the American Admiral replied, 'Maybe it's because the Brit's, Canadians, Aussie's and Americans arranged it so you wouldn't have to speak German.'

You could have heard a pin drop.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

AND THIS STORY FITS RIGHT IN WITH THE ABOVE...

Robert Whiting, an elderly gentleman of 83, arrived in Paris by plane.. At French Customs, he took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry on.

"You have been to France before, monsieur?" the customs officer asked
sarcastically.

Mr. Whiting admitted that he had been to France previously.

"Then you should know enough to have your passport ready."

The American said, 'The last time I was here, I didn't have to show it."

"Impossible. Americans always have to show your passports on arrival in France !"

The American senior gave the Frenchman a long hard look. Then he quietly explained, ''Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944 to help liberate this country, I couldn't find a single Frenchmen to show a passport to."

You could have heard a pin drop.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:29 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

What It Means To Be A Conservative

This is a reprise of a deleted post I wrote three years ago. The original essay is here (for those who are interested in the discussion or in the supporting links). In an essay to be posted later this morning, I'll be referring back to it, so I thought it might be useful to bring it back from the dead.

In response to something Charlottesvillian posted on What It Means To Be A Liberal, my off the cuff ideas on what it means (at least to me) to be a Conservative:

1. Conservatives believe that while many matters are open to debate, there are also some eternal truths. We do not believe right and wrong are flexible concepts, wholly dependent on one's frame of reference.

Like Liberals, Conservatives are skeptical of censorship and celebrate free and open debate. Moreover, we understand that in a society where people use threats or intimidation to force their views on others, enforcing the rules is needed or our rights become meaningless.

One cannot "fairly and open-mindedly consider the truths of others" if speakers are shouted down or forced off the stage, no matter how distasteful their ideas may be. The way to defeat inferior ideas is with better ideas, not with brickbats or heavy-handed threats of government censorship.

2. Conservatives believe we have an obligation to live together peaceably and tolerate each other's differences, but we have no duty to subsidize, support, or lend our approval to choices we find wrong or destructive. Responsible adults understand we must all make our own way in life. While we have no right to interfere with the lives of our neighbors, they have no right to reach into our pockets and ask us to pay for the consequences of lifestyle choices we find difficult to understand or approve of.

We do not ask them to change what they are doing. We only ask that they not expect us to fund lifestyles we don't agree with. Live and let live. This, to us, is the true meaning of tolerance.

3. Like Liberals, Conservatives believe individuals ought to participate in public debate. However we are not inclined to force them, or round them up like cattle come Election Day. We believe voting is an individual responsibility, and we have seen what happens when liberals load first-time voters who don't understand how to fill out a ballot, or know the names of the candidates or what they stand for, onto buses on election day to swell the ranks of Democrat voters.

These people are not stupid, but they are not prepared to vote and the nation is not well served by sending an uninformed electorate to the polls. The nation is also not well served when the parties exacerbate racial tensions at election time.

4. Conservatives see government as a social contract in which individuals freely and intelligently barter some small part of their freedoms for mutual protection from the more rapacious elements of human society. This is a factor which Liberals often forget, preferring to take the benefits of government protection while giving up none of their freedom. This is an unworkable proposition. With their inherent suspicion of all authority liberals cede too much power to the press, setting up a completely unelected and unaccountable fourth branch of government which openly defies the law with complete impunity, releasing classified information at will, blowing federal terrorism investigations, interfering with law enforcement, and defying grand juries. Liberals are fond of talking about reproductive freedom and choice, but their rhetoric conveniently ignores the fact that men have exactly zero reproductive choice:

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.


5. Conservatives believe that justice ought to be blind. There should not be different laws for whites, blacks, Latinos, females, gays, or other demographics. We are not blind to the fact that humans can and do discriminate, but we do not believe the law should, in addition to the thousand injustices and inequalities which exist in nature, impose additional unfairness via our justice system.

How does a human system weigh unfairness? How do we compensate individuals for the hardships imposed by skin color? Gender? Nationality? What if there are offsetting factors? What then? Does that rich black kid who ends up at Harvard get the same compensation as a poor black kid from the inner city? How about the poor disadvantaged white boy from West Virginia with the alcoholic parents? Does he get nothing, just because his skin is the wrong color? Isn't that institutionalized racism? Or is it just Liberal values in action? Equal protection is often what liberals call a "code word" for making exceptions in treatment based on race or gender. Enforce the laws strictly, across the board, regardless of gender or skin color. Period.

6. Conservatives believe people have a fundamental duty to help themselves and they will be stronger and better if they develop the habit of self-reliance rather than dependence on government. We don't believe people are helped by programs that sap personal industry and initiative and undermine family bonds, as Daniel Moynihan warned in the 1960s. Rather, we prefer to see the private sector handle charitable giving, perhaps with tax incentives to encourage donation. This is a more ethical alternative to forcibly appropriating the paychecks of the more productive members of society to support less productive members, regardless of the wishes of the former.

7. Most conservatives don't wish to see entanglement of church and state either. The difference between liberals and conservatives here is that conservatives understand the purpose of Establishment Clause was to protect the free exercise of religion, not to drive all mention of God from public life. Even non-churchgoing conservatives like me are offended by the ACLU's open persecution of Christians and Christian symbology. Not every historic cross on a county or city seal amounts to state sponsorhip of religion and the miscasting of abortion as a religious debate is beyond dishonest. There are atheist liberals who oppose abortion and religious conservatives who are pro-choice. The Left's near-obsession with, and paranoia about, religion is as good a proof as any that the Party of Tolerance and Diversity, isn't.

8. Conservatives understand that our individual liberties are bound up in many of those larger societal rights liberals love to decry. Try exercising your so-called "individual" rights (your sexual freedom, perhaps?) once the city you live in has eminent domained your home right out from under your feet, a lovely court decision for which you may thank the liberal half of SCOTUS and its stunning disregard for the original, and quite plain, meaning of the Public Use clause. There is such a thing as competing interests, like the tension between freedom and security. Liberals like to argue, because we already have security, that personal freedom should somehow be unlimited. But without the former we will not long possess the latter. They are inextricably intertwined.

Our fellow humans prey on the helpless and on children and liberals (in addition to championing some very valuable causes) have also championed some pretty worthless causes like the freedom to view child pornography (which is illegal) and the freedom of ten year old girls to get abortions without their parents finding out. Personally I am not convinced a ten year old girl really needs the freedom to have sex with pedophiles. She is not a "woman" yet, so it is neither a "woman's right to choose" nor a "woman's sexual privacy" that is at issue. But apparently this shocking opinion makes me some sort of snake handling Jesus freak, though I don't attend church and am something of a libertarian.

Not all individual freedoms are worth protecting.

9. In response to the liberal statement of belief below, conservatives believe government must protect us also. What we believe, however, is that liberals often assert the rights of individuals over the collective right of society to be secure, often to a degree that is unreasonable. A good example is the NSA wiretapping brouhaha. Most Americans when polled don't object to having the NSA monitor and sample from a large number of calls. They understand the risks and they don't wholly trust the government, but they also understand the risks of inaction, and on balance they trust our own government more than they do the terrorists. Liberals, on the other hand, have allowed their dislike of this administration to lead them to make statements like "the administration is more of a danger to our freedoms than the terrorists".

The bottom line is that they may well believe that, but they don't have the right to allow their subjective doubts and fears to imperil the rest of us, and unless and until Congress is willing to call a halt to the NSA program (and so far it is not) they need to stop with the conspiracy theories. The truth is that democracy is functioning exactly as it should. They are simply outnumbered and their side didn't win the argument. Get over it.

Liberals believe government must protect the safety and security of the people, for without such protection liberalism is impossible. This, of course, is less a tenet of liberalism than a reply to those who attack liberalism. The accusation that liberals are unwilling to protect the nation from internal and external dangers is false. Because liberals respect competing values, such as procedural fairness and individual dignity, they weigh more carefully particular exercises of government power (such as the use of secret evidence, hearsay and torture), but they are no less willing to use government authority in other forms (such as expanded police forces and international diplomacy) to protect the nation and its citizens.
10. Conservatives believe there is an inherent tension between the rights of the accused and the safety of law abiding citizens. Therefore government must intelligently balance the rights of accused criminals against the rights of crime victims and ordinary citizens to be secure in their homes and on the streets. There is no liberty without security. On the extreme end of the scale, when we have liberal judges defining pedophilia as a disease and letting defendants off because they're "sorry" (there's an inconvenient truth for you), something is wrong. This is about as fair to your average liberal as tarring all conservatives with the excesses of the religious right, but it is liberal philosophy carried to the illogical extreme: individual rights trumping societal rights. Yet liberals can and do tar conservatives with that broad brush - all the time.

It's time to deep-six the overbroad generalizations. This, like most posts of its kind, is probably full of them. But it was a quick, off the cuff response on my lunch hour.

Feel free to let me have it in the comments section :)

Posted by Cassandra at 07:22 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 18, 2009

Getting Noticed

What a young lady:

After decades of raunch, where girls fell out of clubs and dresses in a bid to Get Noticed, it's all about to get a whole lot more, well, wholesome.

Now, it's about the intelligent, the home-loving and the fresh-faced.

Leader of the pack is Harry Potter actress Emma Watson.

With her pretty face and non-aggressive demeanour, she comes across as an exemplary role model.

She is bright (off to Brown University in the U.S.), beautiful (good skin, good hair, good genes) and highly sought after by directors and designers.

And what does she talk about in interviews? How much she loves her family!

It's the new wholesomeness - and it's very IN.

Do me a favor: if you know something bad about her, leave me my illusions. I'd almost lost hope that there were any young women out there who don't feel it necessary to take their clothes off for the camera, gyrate around stripper poles, or make sex tapes with their boyfriends.

Perhaps there is some hope for my sex after all.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:30 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

August 17, 2009

Blogging

I apologize for the dearth of blogging lately.

I spent the weekend pretty much passed out again, and the next few weeks are going to be somewhat difficult. I will try to get something up whenever I can, but there are some things I need to take care of and they take precedence over blogging.

Posted by Cassandra at 03:14 PM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

Double Entendre Contest

Something Fausta sent gave me an idea for a contest:

The boss of a Madison Avenue advertising agency called a spontaneous staff meeting in the middle of a particularly stressful week. (This is one pretty sharp boss!) When everyone gathered, the boss, who understood the benefits of having fun, told the burnt out staff the purpose of the meeting was to have a quick contest. The theme: Viagra advertising slogans. The only rule was they had to use past ad slogans, originally written for other products that captured the essence of Viagra. Slight variations were acceptable. About 7 minutes later, they turned in their suggestions and created a Top 10 List. With all the laughter and camaraderie, the rest of the week went very well for everyone! The top 10 were:

10. Viagra, Whaazzzz up!

9. Viagra, The quicker pecker picker upper.

8. Viagra, like a rock !

7. Viagra, When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.

6. Viagra , Be all that you can be.

5. Viagra, Reach out and touch someone.

4. Viagra, Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman.

3. Viagra, Home of the whopper!

2. Viagra, We bring good things to Life!

And the unanimous number one slogan:



1. This is your peepee. This is your peepee on drugs

Go ahead, people. Do your wurst in the comments section.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:08 AM | Comments (80) | TrackBack

August 14, 2009

Barack Obama Caused My Existentialist Funk

"We need a president who sees government not as a tool to enrich well-connected friends and high-priced lobbyists, but as the defender of fairness and opportunity for every American," the candidate said in his June speech. "That's the kind of president I intend to be."

- Barack Obama

Long 'ere gentle Aurora painted the sky with still-blushing fingers, the Blog Princess sprang from betwixt the Marital Sheets clad in little more than a wispy nightie and a firm resolve to stand with Governor Tim Kaine against The Enemies of Reform.

You know... Them. The ones who are not Us. The ruthless, gun-loving, conniving, divisive lying Chinese toy loving minions of the richest one percent psychopaths who are plotting to assassinate the first Black President will stop at nothing to prevent authentic Americans from building an unscripted grassroots consensus around the Bad, Scary Consequences we'll suffer if we allow those fear mongering, divisive bastards to strangle health care reform in its infancy.

As I read the news each day I find myself increasingly troubled by the hostile, angry tone of the Deniers. It's so hard to put aside the petty politics of the past 8 years when Those People cling to scare tactics and dismissive, divisive rhetoric. That's why it's up to decent folk like Us who believe in robust debate to protect loyal Americans from social saboteurs and their dangerous ideas.

I don't want to be a racist. Despite being a typical white person, I acknowledge the shameful way I've unwittingly exploited my unearned race, gender and class privileges. But the election of Barack Obama has injected troubling doubts into what (if I were a superstitious ignoranus) I would call my "soul".

Like any thinking individual, I accept without question that Questioning Authority is the only path to what (if I were a superstitious ignoranus) I would call "The Truth". Which leads me to a troubling paradox: now that Barack Obama is President of the world's largest superpower, doesn't he represent exactly the kind of Authority I'm supposed to question? But if I question him, won't I become one of Them?


Remember Obama the Fantasy Construct? The pacifist feminist lightworking Savior who lives in people’s heads? He’s still here!

Of course he’s never gone away, but as the gulf between Real Obama and Fantasy Obama approaches Grand Canyon proportions, it’s amusing to watch people scramble to hang on to the dream. Amusing, that is, in a double Xanax, Mexican Mudslide, Fuckitol kind of way.

I keep reading “faith based” musings from Democrats and liberals who assume that Obama has some greater purpose that he isn’t telling us yet. ...

It sort of reminds me of Saint Paul telling us that we see through a glass darkly but soon all will be made clear. Surely, the judgment day is coming when Obama will return and smite his enemies and usher in an era of liberal paradise. We cannot know the day or the hour. But it’s coming. We mere mortals shouldn’t question his ways of Obama. Um, this is creepy. I even see Paul Krugman almost slipping into this mindset. But the signs do not point to an Armageddon followed by 1000 years of New Deal-Great Society 2.0. Can we just put away the glazed out expressions and deal with reality here? Obama is not a god and we don’t have to make burnt offerings and read the smoke to figure out what he wants. There is no such thing as 11 dimensional chess. He’s just not a very strong or progressive president and he’s not going to save the day. Period.


Quelle dommage! Is nothing sacred in post-racial America? Have all our sacred oxen been gored? How can we heap scorn on the existence of universal truth if we all surrender our belief systems? I once believed. I believed this was the land of opportunity - a place if only you believe, anything is possible:

I’ve decided that I am now a primary-care physician. Apparently, all you have to do is believe.

I will be answering all your medical questions from here on out. Let’s start with this one, which I made up and then sent to me, so it would be all official:

Dear Dr. Attila:

I understand that you have a primary practice that is not run by the government. How do you go about harvesting people’s tonsils and feet, and what do you do with the tonsils and feet once you have lopped them off?

If you have extras, may I have a few? I’d like to serve them up with fava beans and a nice chianti.

—Peckish in Virginia

Damn it, spd! Et tu?

I want to believe that health care reform will solve the mortgage crisis and repeal the law of supply and demand. I know - in my heart of hearts - that these seemingly unrelated things all tie together somehow, even if I'm too thick headed to understand how. I want to believe I am entitled to the fruit of other peoples' labor.

I'm an American, durnitall! And though I rightly reject unegalitarian and outdated theories like American Exceptionalism, I can't help but believe we're smarter than countries like England or Canada. After all, we're Americans!

I want to believe in experts who are smarter than I am. I want to believe that if Congress spends more money than we take in, we can cut costs and get the federal deficit under control.

I want to believe in something larger than myself. Something I can refuse to question without succumbing to dogma and intellectualist doublespeak. I want to embrace my inner intellectual Ti.

Help me, Obama. Save me from moralistic idealogues and evil doers.

You're my only hope.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:34 AM | Comments (56) | TrackBack

August 13, 2009

Oooh. Tim Kaine Is Looking Out For Me.

*sigh*

Why do those darned wingnuts insist on fomenting partisan discord at a time when all real Americans who care about what's good for this nation should be pulling together as one?

Special interests who profit from the status quo are spreading brazen lies that stir up anger, and Republican leaders are chiming in with over-the-top rhetoric that detracts from the public debate.

Why can't those people be civil? You know, like we are?

Town hall protesters are “evil-mongers,” says Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) — Reid coined the term in a speech to an energy conference in Las Vegas this week and repeated it in an interview with Politics Daily.

Oh well, some folks never learn. Even when you do your best to show them the right path.

I have to say that I agree with Governor Kaine:

It's a perfect example of "the old politics of fear and division" that President Obama talked about during his campaign. But there is too much at stake, too many Americans facing rising health care costs and shrinking paychecks, for us to let the politics of yesterday prevail.

The last thing opponents of reform want is a positive, civil debate. They know they'll lose on the merits, so they're turning to lies and division. It's up to us to expose each distortion for what it is: a lie, plain and simple. If we do that, we'll better our politics -- and bring badly-needed reform.

I swear that if this nonsense did not already exist in such plentiful supply, I'd have to make it up.

Remember, folks: the goal is to have a positive, civil debate. I'll be in the bar. Just after I alert the irony police.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:16 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Matt Yglesias: Evil Monger!!!!

Apparently, Google is not Matt Yglesias' friend:

It’s too bad that repeated, endless, flagrant dishonesty doesn’t do much of anything to damage a politician’s ability to be taken seriously as a sober-minded centrist deal-maker, or Chuck Grassley would be in a world of pain:

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy would be refused treatment for his brain tumor in England — at least according to one of the allegations lobbed at Britain’s state-funded health-care service recently by critics of President Obama’s proposed health-care reforms. Such claims have irked British health officials, who say they are misleading, exaggerated and sometimes just plain wrong. [...]

Yep. Lies. All lies. Why, the very idea is ludicrous. Completely unfounded. But hey! Who needs facts when engaging in character assassination works so well!

As for the Temodar Kennedy is taking, the drug has been approved for use in the U.S. since 2000, but Britain’s National Institute for Comparative Effectiveness ruled that the drug wasn’t worth the money and denied coverage for it for seven years.

Even today, only a handful of people with brain tumors can get Temodar, and Brits who want to pay for the drug out of their own pocket are forced to pay for all their cancer care — about $30,000 a month, according to Goldberg. He notes:

“Barack Obama and other Democrats have been pushing a Senate bill to set up a similar U.S. ‘review board’ for Medicare and any future government healthcare plan.”

Goldberg also points out that in Canada, the wait for an MRI — after a referral is granted — is 10 weeks, and the government healthcare system refuses to pay for treatments that are often covered in the U.S.

Oooh... but can we really trust a reich wing rag? Yes, yes we can, when the Brits are reporting that lifesaving drugs available in other countries aren't available in the UK:

One of the world’s leading drug companies is threatening to withdraw some of its new cancer treatments from the process by which they are approved for use in the National Health Service.

Cancer patients in Britain will consequently be denied more effective drugs that are available to sufferers in other countries.

Roche, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, has already refused to supply economic data on its drug Avastin for treatment of lung and breast cancer to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), the authority that evaluates the cost-effectiveness of medicines for the NHS. This means Avastin will not be available on the NHS for those diseases.

And then there's the whole issue of how companies react in the real world to bureaucratic red tape that costs them money:

Roche said last week it will consider withdrawing from other evaluations rather than submit products only for them to be rejected by Nice as too expensive.

The statement is the latest twist in the growing row over decisions by Nice. Earlier this month Nice caused an outcry in a preliminary decision when it rejected the use of Avastin (also known as bevacizumab), Sutent (sunitinib), Nexavar (sorafenib) and Torisel (temsirolimus) as too expensive to treat kidney cancer.

Not to mention those pesky British cancer survival rates:

The alternative to these drugs for many patients is death,” said Jonathan Waxman, professor of oncology at Imperial College, London. “Nice is making terrible mistakes.”

The survival rates for cancer in Britain are already among the lowest in Europe — on a par with Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic, according to data published last year. However, cancer charities acknowledge there has been significant improvement in rates since the government made the issue a priority with its NHS Cancer Plan, first launched in 2000.

But surely patients in the UK who demonstrate a "clinical need" wouldn't be denied life extending drugs!

we were told Temozolomide was a breakthrough drug but we were then told it was not available at British hospitals, only in certain clinical trials. We conferred with our private insurers and they have agreed to pay £400 a shot for the drugs. It will work out at £10,000 for a course of treatment which is due to start in March."

Professor Roy Rampling, a UK expert in brain tumours, said drugs like Temozolomide were "the biggest breakthrough in treating brain tumours in 30 years", and are "standard care in many other developed countries".

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) initially rejected them but said no final decision had been made. A preliminary recommendation from the Nice appraisal committee concluded that the treatments should not be widely used for the treatment of the aggressive form of brain cancer known as high-grade glioma, with which Mr Dargavel has been diagnosed.

Hmmm. Doesn't Ted Kennedy have a glioma? Why yes, yes he does! Oh well, at least patients can still go outside the system and pay for life saving drugs themselves...

A Grandmother whose free NHS treatment was withdrawn because she paid privately for anti-cancer drugs has died.

Yesterday Linda O'Boyle's husband condemned the policy behind the decision and said it had made his dying wife's last months even more stressful.

Mrs O'Boyle, 64, had been receiving state-funded treatment - including chemotherapy - for colon cancer.

But when she took cetuximab, a drug which promised to extend her life but is not available on the NHS, her health trust made her start paying for her care.

Not. Gosh - don't you just hate lying liars who lie about British health care? Infuriating, isn't it?

But at least he's not engaging in flagrant dishonesty.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:46 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Searching for "The Real War"

Has anyone else noticed that wherever we happen to be fighting at the moment is never defined as the "real war"?

... everyone on the panel kept acknowledging that Pakistan is really the more important half of this equation and yet all the talk had been about Afghanistan. So she got her panelists to briefly address Pakistan. But then with that done the discussion shifted again, as if by force of gravity, back to Afghanistan.

That’s reflected my general experience of how these discussions go, and I think it’s a real problem. It’s genuinely true that the situation in Pakistan matters more and that the Afghanistan situation is worrying primarily because if its possible implications for Pakistan. That means we really do need to be talking about Pakistan.

My colleague Parag Khanna and I agree - and we said the same thing a few weeks ago. Now we took some grief on some of our specific Pakistan suggestions: some of them deserved. But the larger point stands; the real fight is in Pakistan not Afghanistan and that's where US energy needs to be focused and not just militarily, but also economically and diplomatically.

Must be that whole action bias thing, rearing its ugly head. War seems so much more interesting when you don't have the slightest intention of actually fighting.

Update: If only there were a fight that mattered somewhere. Someone??? Anyone???

despite the recent spate of American deaths, the Taliban kidnapping of a soldier in the Northeast and the many local opportunities for danger, the 3/ll Marines remain calm.

“I’m confident the Marines have my back,” says Sgt. Scott Whittington, a combat correspondent who routinely ventures outside the wire to capture images of Marines in different war zones. Like many of his fellow Marines, Whittington has combat experience in Iraq and a calm confidence that comes with having been in similar situations.

But Afghanistan is no Iraq.

Bernal is the first line of defense on a barebones base where many Marines are sleeping in hand-dug pits to avoid being wounded by indirect fire. He puts his trust in his unit, and in its mission, which is to secure and hold strategic ground. "I have total faith in our commander," he says.

“One hundred percent accountability is key,” Captain Chad Altheiser, commanding officer of Battery “I,” told FOXNews.com. He has never been to Afghanistan, but he has completed two tours in Iraq. The experience shows.

“We keep security tight here at the camp,” says Altheiser, whose focus on personal safety is only partly explained by the fact that he is expecting a newborn son within days.

Throughout Afghanistan, troops have been killed in action, but that hasn’t been a major concern. News doesn't reach Fiddler's Green 24/7, and because of a lack of Internet and phones, most of the 3/11 Marines are using pen and paper to send letters to loved ones back home.

“No media out here, not sure what’s really going on out there,” Corporal Tyler Ledbetter told FOXNews.com.

Ledbetter, who is three months into a 7-month tour in Afghanistan, refused to comment on the possibility of abduction, but was quick to explain why the rising death toll did not faze him.

“We’re the best trained fighting force in the world,” he said.

Go, 3/11. The Unit and I were privileged to be part of the 3/11 family for 3 years. Good people.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:39 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Busted! Extreme Transparency Edition!

"Transparency will be the touchstone of my administration"

- Barack Obama

And the feel good comedy smash of the summer continues:

Critics on Capitol Hill and online responded with outrage at the reports that Obama had gone behind their backs and sold the reform movement short. Furthermore, the deal seemed to be a betrayal of several promises made by then-Sen. Obama during the presidential campaign, among them that he would use the power of government to drive down the costs of drugs to Medicare and that negotiations would be conducted in the open.

And over the past several days, both the White House and PhRMA have offered a series of sometimes conflicting accounts of what happened in an attempt to walk back the story.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Patterico's covering the media's ongoing efforts to inform the public cover up a bit of health care chicanery:

The reporter who wrote the Houston Chronicle story apparently knew that Mayer was an Obama delegate, but didn’t include that detail in her story. Commenter mike in houston says that he wrote reporter Cindy Horswell and received the following response:

This is the name and occupation that she gave when she spoke at the public meeting. She also told me that she was an Obama state delegate and been notified of the meeting by email and did not live in Lee’s district. I have since been trying to see if she misrepresented herself. There is someone by the same name who lists herself as a graduate student and sociologist intern at a Houston council on drugs and alcohol…but that person no longer works there. And do not know if this is the sme person. She may also be a visiting doctor from another state…..Am interested in any information that anyone might have. Best regards, Cindy Horswell

Sorry, Ms. Horswell, she’s not a visiting doctor from another state. And you should have told us she was an Obama delegate.

UPDATE x2: Just to be clear, Mayer specifically represented herself as a “pediatric primary care physician” to the Houston Chronicle, which didn’t bother to check it out, and gave her comments extra weight as a supposed “physician”.

Thank Gaia we're finally hearing unscripted, grassroots questions from real Americans just like you and me. I'd sure hate to think those awful Rethugs were trying to stifle genuine debate again:

In an op-ed published Monday by USA Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cali.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Mary.) wrote:
Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.

As NewsBusters reported Monday, a liberal advocacy group called Health Care for America Now published a playbook last Tuesday with the following instructions for its members to counter "the 'tea-bagger' protesters and right-wing activists" showing up at town hall meetings from coast to coast:

Their side will be smaller but noisier. You must bring enough people to drown them out

Oops. Our bad.

Wrong party.

The Editorial Staff thank our lucky stars that we can rely on unbiased journalists to alert us to dangerous trends, like when potentially violent right wing whack jobs fan the flames of partisan hatred and distrust.

Oops. Our bad.

Wrong party.

Still, the actions of private citizens are one thing. Allowing our own government to chill free speech would be simply intolerable.

Former Clinton appointee, Assistant United States Attorney Andrew McCarthy, suggested that the participation of prosecutors and law enforcement officials in Obama’s “Truth Squad” may be in violation of the federal Hatch Act (Title 5 of the U.S. Code), which prohibits executive officials from using their positions to interfere with federal elections. Of Obama’s strong-armed tactics, McCarthy said that: “The chill wind was bracing. The Taliban could not better rig matters. The Prophet of Change is only to be admired, not questioned.”

These examples just scratch the surface of the Obama campaign’s systematic attack on the First Amendment and participatory democracy. Behind a veil of Hope, Change, and a new type of politics, Obama and his legal team, led by General Counsel Robert F. Bauer, have unleashed Gestapo tactics to threaten, intimidate, and bully their political opponents.

That kind of community organizing would be fraudulent and wrong. Unthinkable, really:

The most recent example of Obama-Planned onslaught was seen Sunday, when many established bloggers’ and message board users’ names and their links (including my own) were nearly simultaneously forged in messages on forums and blogs all over the net. The messages, falsely bearing our names, stated that we have had a “change of heart” and now “support Barack Obama”.

It's a good thing the Obama administration and the mainstream media have joined forces to protect the public from evil mongerers and moralistic idealogues.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:00 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

August 12, 2009

Riding Shotgun

This is a repost of something I wrote several years ago. It's about being in the grip of strong emotions. If you've never heard the song, it's one of my all time favorites. To listen to Shawn Colvin's version, go here and look at the top right corner of the page.

I love you so much and it's so bizarre
A mystery that goes on and on and on
This is the best thing and the very most hard
When we don't get along

After countless appeals we keep
spinning our wheels
On this mountain of new fallen snow
So I let go the catch
And we are over the edge
You have left me nowhere to go

I'm riding shotgun down the avalanche
Tumbling and falling down the avalanche...


Somehow I always imagined this part of my life as a tranquil time. Instead, my emotions are no more well behaved than my hair. I've been trying to grow it out, but it annoys me when I'm working. So I tried putting it up in what I imagined as a sleek, sophisticated chignon. But my riotous curls possess no natural dignity. Even hair spray doesn't keep little wisps from escaping and curling up all over the place when it rains. Now it seems all the wayward emotions I kept so tightly throttled while raising my sons are escaping too, annoying me with their unruly nature. The carefully cultivated patina of calm reasonableness is still there, but it doesn't seem grounded in anything very solid. Just under the surface lies treacherous ground. I never know when I might be seized by an avalanche of unpredictable and unwelcome feelings I can't let show.

I remember being sixteen - wanting desperately to be a writer. Fighting against the urge to give in to what I viewed as the irrationality of the creative side of my nature. The more I wrote, especially poetry, the more wild I became. I still have things I wrote that year - some of my best work: filled with passion and longing and sometimes despair, and often a brittle joy that lit up my world like a thousand Roman candles. It seemed an unstable basis on which to build a life: so insubstantial and self-centered. I wanted something more... permanent. I didn't see anything good coming from staying on that road.

At a party this weekend I met a rather odd gentleman. He related how his Mother went loopy on him at 50 - got into extreme skiing (everything was black diamond) and spent summers rollerblading to stay in shape and getting picked up by the local gendarmes for skating illegally. He did not approve, or understand. Didn't sound like there was a husband in the picture. I'm never sure what people expect older women to do for kicks - the mind boggles.

I had to laugh. Last weekend, my parents and brother were regaling my niece and nephew (God I hate it when they do this) with the old stories about what a little monster I was as a child. My brother helpfully included several I'd forgotten, like the time, in second grade, when I started up my Dad's Rambler and had it halfway down the street before I goofed up with the clutch and stalled it out, then flooded the engine... Can you say "busted", boys and girls?

What happened? When did I become so cautious?

I wonder how much of what people think of as 'hormones' is really just decades worth of thoughts and feelings we never made time for because we were too busy working? Or - perish the thought - because admitting them would have meant acknowledging discontent with the choices we're afforded? Or more accurately, the limited range we decided to accept?

I get so angry and impatient with myself these days for not being who I used to be. Then I wonder if that's who I ever really was, or just an accomodation I made because I had an important job to do, and that was the only way I could do it to my own satisfaction? When our first son was born, his namesake made us a wall hanging. This song was on the outside, though of course he didn't put this verse on it. But I've always loved the song, and this is the verse that so haunted me when I was first married:

Well, I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I'm getting older, too
Well I'm getting older too...
Funny, I don't feel old at all. When I'm behind the wheel of my car going way too fast down some country road, I could be eleven years old again: barreling downhill at breakneck speed, doing a pirouette on the seat of my crashed-up old bike with the wind rushing through my hair and the sun on my face.

Look Mom! No hands!

Posted by Cassandra at 03:52 PM | Comments (43) | TrackBack

Is Obama Girls Ad Out of Line?

I got an interesting question from a reader: what do you think about the ad questioning why Obama's daughters get a better lunch than public school students do?

The posters went up last week, 14 in Union Station. On each of the large displays, a thought bubble rises up from a picture of a beautiful 8-year-old: "President Obama's daughters get healthy school lunches. Why don't I?"

A Washington nonprofit that advocates nutrition-policy reform paid $20,000 to get its message across and carefully maneuvered Metro's tangle of regulations to display its posters. Metro gave it a go -- but the White House did not, according to the group. Within 24 hours of the signs' appearance, the White House asked the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine to take down the ads, which feature Jasmine Messiah, a vegetarian who attends a Miami-Dade County public school that, she says, offers no vegetarian or vegan lunch options.

The Physicians Committee has declined to take down the posters.

PCRM President Neal Barnard, a nutrition researcher, says he received a phone call regarding the posters Aug. 4 (a day after they went up) from Associate Counsel Karen Dunn and Deputy Associate Counsel Ian Bassin.

"They're very nice people. I like them a lot," Barnard says. "But they called and said: Please take those down, you can't mention the kids and so forth. . . . They felt that mentioning the president's children was off-limits. They said [they're] not going to allow the use of their daughters as leverage."

The fact that the poster mentions the president's children has been the main point of contention, though neither the children's names nor their images appear. That reaction doesn't come as a complete surprise; when Ty Inc. marketed dolls in January named Sweet Sasha and Marvelous Malia, the first lady made her objections clear, and the toy company stopped using the girls' names. The First Lady's Office declined to comment for this story.


Generally I'm against dragging the families of politicians into political debates. The reason I'm against it is that whatever ire we feel against career politicians tends to be inappropriately deflected onto their families (who don't work for us, aren't responsible for their parents' decisions, and shouldn't have to deal with the fallout of partisan disagreements). That said, I don't really have a problem with the Obama girls ad for the following reasons:

1. The girls' names and photos weren't used in the poster. The mention of them is indirect and (when you consider the context) has less to do with them than it does with the conflict between the policies Obama wants others to abide by and his own decisions. According to him, income inequality is unfair because wealthier Americans have things poorer families can't afford. Yet he sees no conflict between his ability to send his kids to elite private schools and his opposition to charter schools that would make the same benefits to less affluent black families.

2. The ad isn't suggesting Obama's daughters are accountable, or should "pay" for their father's policy decisions. This is nothing like the City Council member who distributed fliers calling for the Bush girls to be sexually assaulted:

Prior to the forum, Avila had attracted the attention of law enforcement. In September he allegedly circulated a flier supporting the assassination of President Bush and the sexual assault of Bush's daughters. He also brought a hatchet to a city Planning Commission meeting in late July. He was not arrested in either incident.

And it's nothing like having an idiot movie star suggest that the Bush twins be drafted and sent off to war. No one is trying to "punish" children for the political opinions of their parents here, nor (as in the draft scenario) is anyone suggesting the politican do an about face and support a policy he opposes just so his children will be forced to "pay" for their father's policy positions.

3. There is nothing disrespectful or malicious about the mention of the Obama daughters.

No one is suggesting they be placed in harm's way or hurt, nor that they be deprived of anything. In fact, what this group is suggesting is right in line with Obama's supposed political philosophy: if Obama's daughters can have nutricious school lunches, shouldn't poorer kids get them too? If their suggestion were to be implemented, Obama's daughters would be no worse off. In fact, "fairness" would be enhanced and "inequality" would be lessened. It's not out of line to ask a politician who continually exhorts America to be "less selfish" so less fortunate citizens can have more opportunities to support a law that is 100% in line with his professed values.

Especially when it wouldn't affect his daughters' welfare one iota.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Heh...

Anna's comment prompted me to find the lunch menu for Sidwell Friends:

Tomato Basil Soup
Market Pasta Salad
Salad du jour
Organic spinach salad
Philly Cheesesteaks
Roasted Local Veggie Melts
Organic Baked French Fries
Steamed Organic Broccoli
Organic Pears

Yeah. I think it's probably better than typical public school fare.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:34 AM | Comments (40) | TrackBack

Favorite People on the Right

John Hawkins has completed another one of his great blogger polls. I didn't have time to respond (even though the question was a great one) but wanted to make sure you all saw it:

...bloggers were allowed to make anywhere from 1-10 unranked selections and were allowed to choose anybody on the Right or generally perceived to be on the right that they liked: Republican, Conservative, Libertarian, politician, preacher, blogger, columnist, radio host, you name it!

Here's my list, in no particular order. I linked a few names readers might not be so familiar with. My list is pundit heavy since generally I'm most interested in ideas.


Walter Williams
Clarence Thomas
Condi Rice
George Bush
Charles Krauthammer
Grim (not sure he'd describe himself as "right of center", but that's probably where I'd place him on the political spectrum). He challenges my beliefs from a firm moral, ethical, and intellectual base of thought.
Charles Krauthammer
Debra Saunders
Robert J. Samuelson
Charlotte Allen - don't always agree with her, but she makes me think and has the courage to challenge the conventional wisdom.
The Armorer of Argghhh. A guy with a big, big heart and a huge pulsing brain he occasionally gives us glimpses of.
Andi Hurley. Don't even know where to begin with this lady. If they could bottle her, no one would need vitamins.

I'm sure I left out someone important - did this in a bit of a rush. But wanted to throw my choices out there in hopes of eliciting your picks.

Have at it, peoples.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:09 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

August 11, 2009

Quote of the Day

Despite an abundance of public remarks, Obama's actual strategy to achieve health-care reform still remains largely cloaked in secrecy. While the media's focus has been on the unseemly public wrangling in Congress, the White House has been doing two things: 1) Trying to influence legislators behind closed doors and 2) Making deals with industry leaders behind closed doors.

And disturbingly, the crucial endgame will apparently be played behind closed doors, as well. In a conference call with bloggers last month, Obama anticipated that the bills that eventually emerge from the House and Senate will, even then, still leave the most controversial issues basically undecided.

"Eighty percent of those two bills will overlap. There's going to be 20 percent that will be different in terms of how it will be funded, its approach to the public plan, its pay-or-play provisions," he said. But those are precisely the issues that all the arguments have basically been about for months now.

"Conference is where these differences will get ironed out," Obama said. But conference is the last great smoke-filled room of our deliberative democracy. After the House and Senate have ostensibly debated everything in public, their representatives in conference committee get to make all the really big decisions in secret.

- Dan Froomkin

Incroyable.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:24 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

The Obama Waste Patrol

Suddenly the term "Chief Performance Officer" takes on a whole new meaning:

Long a punching-bag for critics of wasteful government spending, the National Endowment for the Arts continues to live up to its reputation by throwing hard-earned tax dollars after frivolous and not-infrequently obscene projects. A group of 52 congressmen, all Republicans, recently wrote the agency to question the latest example of NEA spending foolery. Take, for example, CounterPULSE, which received $25,000 in stimulus funds, and which may be best known for its "Perverts Put Out," a "long-running pansexual performance series." The group urges guests, "Join your fellow pervs for some explicit, twisted fun."

Do the Obamas have a cat? Because we hear they can be immensely helpful.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:44 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

"I Live With My Cat..."

"...but he doesn't pay the bills."

Hands down, my favorite excuse for not paying your credit card bill. Second only to "I took 2 $2500.00 cash advances to play the slots at Vegas, but since I lost all of the money, I don't think I should have to pay the 2% transaction fee."

From the same woman, naturlich. There are days when we wonder whether there is any intelligent life on earth? Stories like this don't exactly fill us with an infectious sense of bonhomie:

You gotta love banks. They bring the American economy to its knees peddling crap mortgages, only to be bailed-out en masse by the taxpayers, and now they're making a killing by charging customers ridiculous overdraft fees.

Hmmmm. Let's think about this one for a moment:

1. Patrons who can't be bothered to ensure there is money in their account before proceeding to spend it.

2. Think it's "too hard" to sign up for an automatic overdraft account, just in case they forget to pay the attention bill.

3. Apparently, can't be bothered to read the disclosure statements banks constantly send out.

Yep. Those nasty banks are pretty unreasonable. What are the odds that someone who's broke, proceeds to spend money that doesn't belong to him and then squeals like a stuck pig when the bank charges him (generally called 'interest') for borrowing other people's money without asking first might just default on such a loan?

Yeah, we know. Stranger things have happened:

Keyboard CatKeith Griffin was charged Wednesday with 10 counts of possession of child porn after over 1,000 illegal images were found on his computer, and he claims it's all the work of his kitty.

Keith Griffin The 48-year-old Jensen Beach, Fla., man told cops he would leave his computer on and the cat would jump on the keyboard and just like that, the images would appear.

Cops weren't buying Griffin's tale, and busted him in his home. He's being held in Martin County Jail on $250,000 bail

Of course some folks might have said that letting your cat use the computer in the first place was a big clue.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:21 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

August 10, 2009

Democracy for Sale

“I'm having a very good crisis. It is, in a way, the culminating point of my life’s work,”

- George Soros, commenting on how he profited from the recent financial crisis.

Yes, that George Soros. The pampered darling of the American Left:

George Soros has been blamed for the destruction of the Thai economy in 1997. One Thai activist said, “We regard George Soros as a kind of Dracula. He sucks the blood from the people.” The Chinese call him “the crocodile,” because his economic and ideological efforts in China were so insatiate, and because his financial speculation created millions of dollars in profits as it ravished the Thai and Malaysian economies. Soros once made a billion dollars in one day by speculating (a word he abhors) on the British pound. Accused of taking “money from every British taxpayer when he speculated against sterling,” he said, “When you speculate in the financial markets you are free of most of the moral concerns that confront an ordinary businessman. I did not have to concern myself with moral issues in the financial markets.”

Apparently, the strong desire of the American people for government run health care is so ... umm... overwhelming that we can't get it passed without millions of dollars of money from big corporations....

Which, of course, is far less of a threat to democracy than a bunch of blue haired geezers voicing inconvenient opinions.

Astroturfing. It's only wrong when they do it.

Health Care for America Now (HCAN) is a national grassroots campaign of more than 1,000 organizations in 46 states representing 30 million people dedicated to winning quality, affordable health care we all can count on in 2009.

Update: You've got love the progressive mindset. Force never solves anything... unless you use it to confiscate what doesn't belong to you to pay for what you can't afford.

Christ. I need a drink.

Posted by Cassandra at 03:07 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

A Few Words From Nan Pelosi on Health Care

6a00d83451b46269e20120a4dc775f970b-800wi.jpg Good morning, you lying, racist bastards.

Today I would like to talk to you about the single largest problem facing America. No, it's not the illegal and immoral occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Now that America finally has a leader we can trust, 'broken Armies' and unconstitutional acts of unprovoked aggression seem *so* 5 minutes ago.

And it's not the economy either. Or even unemployment that is rapidly approaching double digits. Thankfully, the ominous GDP growth of the BusHitler years has been corrected. Nowadays, our healthy economic decline assures us that America is moving in the right direction. With unemployment levels rivalling those of the French, we can - for the first time - stand in proud solidarity with more enlightened nations. There is much we can learn from the international community. Why, just look at their compassionate and effective solutions for soaring unemployment and Elder Care!

Let's face it, people: real Americans (you know, the smart, patriotic ones who agree with us) have always wanted to be more like the EU. Certainly, if not for the tiresome constraints of representative government, Congress could have passed health care reform at any time during the last 100 years. All we needed to do was present the American people with a plan that improved on their current health care options. But ensmartening voters proved unexpectedly difficult. Their inexplicable refusal to accept that spending more money reduces costs was a real head scratcher.

Fortunately, we have found a solution to this annoying "democracy" business.

We'll just redefine "We the People" to include only real Americans. You can tell real Americans because they don't dress too well. They stay out of affairs which are none of their concern, like poking their noses into the way we spend their tax dollars.

Now that Democrats are in the majority, we can afford to ignore both the facts and what - under the previous administration - we would have called patriotic dissent. We can even afford to ignore what we said just a few years ago! Elections have consequences, you know.

When Republicans controlled both the House and Senate, we called the majority vote system anti-democratic. We talked a lot about "inclusiveness" and respecting the rights of the minority party. Now, of course, we know better. The will of the people (otherwise known as "a mandate") must not be opposed by a bunch of petty, partisan losers. When we were the minority party, we justified our failure to present alternatives to Republican bills by claiming that the system was "rigged". After all, any system in which each state receives 2 votes regardless of the number of voters can't possibly be legitimate, can it? Certainly not if we disagree with it.

Now of course, we're in the driver's seat and things look quite different. Isn't it amazing how a gaping flaw in our government was miraculously remedied by the election of a black man to the Oval Office? Social justice is like that, though: the historic nature of Obama's victory means we can ram health care reform through Congress without a single Republican vote.... without reading it, even. And best of all, it's perfectly legal when we do it!

Such priceless political opportunism must not be wasted.

But before we foist an unread bill of historic proportions on the American people, we must conduct a inclusive and robust debate in which only our side is heard. The failure of every single previous attempt to nationalize health care proves the need to exclude unAmerican liars from our national dialogue.

Of course, when I say the facts be heard, I mean "our facts must be heard". And no one can hear our facts when there's too much free speech going on. Too much information confuses people.

Health care is complex; far too complex for ordinary citizens understand. If we can't even be bothered to read this bill, what makes folks think they have a snowball's chance in hell of understanding juicy phrases like 'the notorious Medicare Part D "doughnut hole"'?

Mmmmm.... doughnuts.

This month, despite disruptions from organized agitators who think the Constitution protects political speech, members of Congress will bravely venture forth and listen to anyone who agrees with our plan. So long as we control the debate, we are confident our principles of affordable, quality health care will not be challenged.

With "real" Americans strongly supporting health insurance reform, with Congress reaching consensus on a plan, and with a president who ran and won on unspecified promises of change on our side, we can afford to ignore the views of radical, right wing extremists:

While opinions on health-care reform break sharply along partisan lines, with most Democrats in favor and most Republicans opposed, independent voters strongly oppose the health-care reform measures pending in Congress by a whopping 70 percent to 27 percent, according to a recent Pew Research poll.

So don't let anyone try to tell you the Democratic Party is not in favor of debate.

We welcome your comments... so long you're not a Republican (they got us into this mess) or an Independent (a bunch of idiots duped by clever demagoguery). Real Americans understand the need for health care reform.

After all, that's the definition of a real American, isn't it? Those who agree with us.


Posted by Cassandra at 08:28 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

August 09, 2009

Have you ever had one of those weeks when you feel like you've been through a Vegamatic?

Posted by Cassandra at 04:21 PM | Comments (31) | TrackBack

August 08, 2009

Identity Politics

The classical liberal ideas of individualism, individual rights, property rights, “negative liberties,” and limited government date back hundreds, even thousands, of years. They find their roots in the Greek and Hebrew conceptions of the higher law, the Scholastic thinkers, the Levellers’ ideas of self-ownership and natural rights, the political theory of John Locke, the economic analysis of Adam Smith, and the political institutions of the American Founding. To suggest that the case for freedom and limited government — or the application of that theory to contemporary proposals for the expansion of government — must be attributable to racism is uncharitable, ahistorical, thoughtless, and indeed contemptible.

It cannot be the case that every parody of a president who happens to be black is racist. And it is not good for democracy to try to counter every opposing argument with such a blood libel. The good news for advocates of limited government is that our opponents are displaying a striking lack of confidence in the actual arguments for their proposals. If they thought they could win a debate on nationalizing health care, or running trillion-dollar deficits, they wouldn’t need to reach for such smears.

- David Boaz

Probably the saddest thing about this post is that the folks who prompted it will never know it was directed at them. I'm not sure they're even capable of recognizing who they are and the poisonous standard they're advocating.

And predictably, some very wonderful and thoughtful readers whose comments I've enjoyed greatly over the years will wonder if it was prompted by something they said. So before I start, let me say that nothing that happened at VC is behind this. I'm writing it to keep my head from exploding, and to avoid burning some bridges that probably should not be burned. Think of it as therapy.

Identity politics isn't just a tactic of the Left. They are the ones who openly champion it, but I see the same behavior from some on the right and more since last November than at any time I can recall in the past. That's what happens when you convince yourself you're under attack: you circle the wagons and convince yourself that anyone outside your defensive crouch is the enemy.

The irony, at times, is almost too much:

Us Versus Them is a game the Republicans have been playing for a long, long time, since the dawn of civil rights and class warfare, but one thing hasn't changed: "Them" are always the bad guys, trying to destroy "our" way of life, "our" country, "our" values. It's the Five D's: Declare, Divide, Demonize, Dehumanize, Destroy.

•Declare the criteria you don't like about Group X that makes them different.
•Divide the people into Us Versus Them.
•Demonize the other group as the Enemy.
•Dehumanize them by classifying their actions as something horrific.
•Destroy them with the people cheering you on.

It's been the heart of the GOP for a very long time. The tactic is wildly effective, especially when you can accuse the other side of engaging in the exact same behavior as part of Demonize and Dehumanize (and it makes it difficult when fighting back not to fall into the trap of engaging in that behavior yourself, especially in a format like a blog where you have the podium all the time.)

And yet, given the constant assaults on groups that disagree with them, you have to start assigning these behaviors to some people in the GOP anyway, if only to recognize what is going on so that you can deal with it. Part of the problem is that fighting back inevitably leads to the "staring at the abyss" moment where the abyss stares back, and you risk becoming what you have fought against. It's by no means limited to the GOP. I've seen people go over that edge, and it's not pretty. I've gotten close myself.

Still, it's something to think about, if only to recognize when the GOP is doing it.

Funny. Having recognized that "us vs. them" is a universally human failing, some folks might have flashed on the most important reason for thinking about it: to recognize when you're doing it.

This, in a nutshell, is why I've argued for the past few months for fidelity to conservative principles. If your dividing line between right and wrong conveniently shifts according to whether someone else is "one of you" or "one of them", you have no defense against "Them". The rule of law can't protect you and all it takes to render you alone and defenseless is a determination that you're not one of Us.

It's not just race. It's politics, or what job someone does, or any one of a million factors we tick off to inflate our sense of self worth, be part of the group, reassure ourselves that we're the only ones who "get it". The other side, of course, are crazy, immoral, lazy, shiftless and stupid and anything done to them can be excused by the notion that they're not really worthy of simple human decency. You can impute the worst possible motives to them on no evidence but the desire to confirm your own biases.

The thing is, none of us will ever really know what another person thinks or what his motivations are. We haven't walked a mile in his shoes and we have no idea what makes him get out of bed in the morning.

We don't know what his dreams, his hopes, or his fears are.

If the only way you can defend your ideals is to convince yourself everyone who doesn't agree with you or doesn't belong to whatever insular subgroup of the human race you number yourself among is stupid or crazy, this ought to be a giant clue that you haven't thought out your position well enough to defend it on the merits.

It's a big old world and everyone has their role to play in the enormous learning curve of history. Odds are that as smart as we all think we are, you don't really have a grasp on the big picture from wherever you stand at the moment.

So the next time you begin to feel like you're one of God's anointed, try stepping outside your own skin for a moment. A little humility would go a long, long way to making this imperfect world - filled with imperfect people - a far better place to live.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:43 AM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

August 07, 2009

Racism, Political Thuggery Explained

Dangerous, racist rhetoric:

Hutchinson is challenging the group or individual that put up the poster to have the courage and decency to publicly identify themselves.

"Depicting the president as demonic and a socialist goes beyond political spoofery," says Hutchinson, "it is mean-spirited and dangerous."

Concerned citizens, working together to bring about hope and change:

At a town meeting held by a Democrat congressman, a rowdy group of organized and angry thugs showed up to make a point about ObamaCare, and then beat up a man. Race was involved, too: the victim was black — attacked by a man yelling racial slurs.

It’s every Democrat talking point you’ve read about in the last day or two, come to life in an ugly fashion.

With one twist. The black victim was a conservative, and the assailants may well have been union thugs:

Kenneth Gladney, a 38-year-old conservative activist from St. Louis, said he was attacked by some of those arrested as he handed out yellow flags with “Don’t tread on me” printed on them. He spoke to the Post-Dispatch from the emergency room of the St. John’s Mercy Medical Center, where he said he was waiting to be treated for injuries to his knee, back, elbow, shoulder and face that he suffered in the attack. Gladney, who is black, said one of his attackers, also a black man, used a racial slur against him before the attack started.

Angry, violent extremists crush political speech:

Watch the senior citizen “hooligans” and “civic vigilantes” in Dallas question a condescending AARP representative about Obamacare. Dues-paying members are speaking up about the organization’s sellout of its members — and the AARP brass is not happy.

Concerned citizens organize inclusive community campaign for hope and change:

In this video you see one Carnahan supporter allowed into the meeting at Bernard Middle School through a side door. There were 1,000 tea party taxpayers stranded outside the main door. When two SEIU members attempted to get in the same side door marked "handicapped" the crowd went nuts and blocked them at the door. Did you notice how nonchalant the SIEU members were about getting inside the door? Like they knew right where to go.

Class dismissed.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:43 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

August 06, 2009

Where is Cass????

Our abject apologies. The Editorial Staff have been much occupied with the tedious but necessary business of earning a living this week. Consequently, there has been little time for stunning hapless readers senseless with our inane ramblings :)

On the bright side, our federal government has demonstrated an admirable solicitude for your welfare:

Thanks to Kat.

Update: Something to keep you folks busy as the Editorial Staff go out in search of distressful bread. Supply your own slogan.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:45 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

August 05, 2009

revolting.jpg

Sometimes, it's not so good to be king.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:11 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

August 04, 2009

Birthers... Plus!!!! Trig Palin's Real Mother, Revealed

The Editorial Staff are pained to admit that we really have not been following the Amazing Palin Impending Heartbreak Brouhaha. Mostly, this is because we would be hard-pressed to describe how deeply, emphatically, passionately we refuse to notice people who have no lives of their own. Who, to fill some sick void where their souls ought to be, occupy their waking hours (and rape the attention of all and sundry) by conducting marital health checks upon a woman who isn't holding public office at present and (in a non-election year, no less) won't be running for anything anytime soon.

Can you say, "Pathetic losers", boys and girls? We knew that you could:

I'm no fan of the former governor of Alaska, but as a life-long feminist I can't ignore the endless stream of sexism directed at her.

Friday on MSNBC, guest host Donny Deutsch asked, "If Palin wasn't hot, would we be talking about her?" His two female guests -- one Republican and one Democrat -- were united in their disagreement with this assertion.

But Deutsch was adamant: "The only reason we are so fascinated, the American public has never seen a woman that looks like this in power. That's where the fascination starts."

Where was this insightful analysis when the vapid JFK-wannabe John Edwards and his silky hair ended up as the Dems choice for VP in 2004? Or was everyone too dazzled by his completely undistinguished one term as a senator?

In reality, being a "hot" female politician is more likely to result in accusations that you're a bimbo than public acceptance. If Palin didn't have other qualities -- like charisma and an ability to connect with the average American -- she'd never have risen as far as she has.

If all it took to become a rising political star were great cheekbones and nice legs, Victoria's Secret models would be on every presidential ticket.

There is something profoundly juvenile about adult men in the media grouping powerful women by crude stereotypes like "bitch" or "hot chick."

Gee. Ya think? But thanks to Miss Attila, relief is at hand. What a hoot to watch the People's Insatiable Appetite for Things that are Really None of their Damned Business recoil upon one of its most passionate adherents:

The blog appears to have routinely displayed content such as describing then Governor and VP candidate Sarah Palin as wearing "f*** me pumps",or debating the acceptability of such concepts as referring to former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice as a "c**t". That misogynistic and vile descriptor was often used by some commenters at Gryphen's blog in addressing Palin, as well.

Based upon one report from an Immoral Minority reader, it's been claimed that Griffin's comments are moderated and potentially approved. Also, initial research suggests much of the more disturbing content there has never been deleted, or removed. He did denounce the word "c**t" as an "unfortunate pejorative" when directed at Rice, though seeming to do nothing to clean up said remarks in any way.

In what appears to be a fairly consistent sexual theme, Griffin makes remarks such as, "if sex is not naughty then it is almost not worth doing", claim that he is "promoting self-pleasure", and instructing that, "Your penis will respond more readily if you take it out and put it through its paces more often".

It appears that someone who wanted to spend a large amount of time researching Griffiin's site for what many would consider as inappropriate content for children, the search could go on for quite some time.

So much for being outed. If you insist on acting like a jackass while "hiding" at the top of your lungs in plain sight in a positively Olbermanesque fashion, odds are that sooner or later some little Eichmann will pull the frilly panties of fascistm over your head. Sadly, it's likely to be the very same little tykes we grown-ups ask to reprogram our VCRs because they're so much more tech savvy than we are.

And another thing: threats rarely make effective rebuttals.

If you people insist upon wading through the murky depths of bizarre conspiracy theories and as-yet-undisclosed scandals, far better fare awaits your delectation:

this one is all mine - Obama is triplets. I mean, really, think about it. It explains so much. Even his most slavish admirer noted that:
... [Obama’s] a surprisingly uneven campaigner.

A soaring rhetorical flourish one day is undercut by a lackluster debate performance the next.


People remarked on this phenomenon throughout the campaign and eventually settled on the explanation that he was lost without his teleprompter. Maybe so. But it would make just as much sense to theorize there were two Barack Obamas campaigning. Not only would that explain why his performance was so uneven but it would also explain so much more.

It would explain why he didn’t know what the Reverend Wright had said and how he could be unaware of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn’s past history despite living in Chicago all those years. It would explain why he seems to genuinely adore his wife and daughters yet used misogyny so well in his campaign against Hillary Clinton. It would even explain those slips like “spreading the wealth” and the whole bitter-cling thing. Sometimes we were seeing the Barack Obama we knew about: Hawaii, Indonesia, Columbia, Harvard, community organizer, Constitutional law professor, devoted husband and father, rising politician. Sometimes we were seeing a second Obama who had grown up somewhere else - maybe Kansas - and didn’t have that history.

Fine, you say, I’ll buy twins. But why triplets?

To which we can only reply: "Why not?" If Sarah Palin's teen daughter can cram two pregnancies into a timespan normally reserved for a single birth and normal postpartum recovery, then Obama in triplicate is just another thing ne'er dreamt of in our humble philosophies.

But since we're all sharing secrets today, the Editorial Staff has a real whopper to impart to the huddled masses yearning for closure on the issue of Trig Palin's matrilineal descent. At last, courtesy of the irrepressible BillT, the photographic truth can be revealed:

trigs_real_mom.jpg

Explains a lot, don't it? The tear soaked demands, the hormonal rants, the sudden cravings for copies of other people's personal records ...

Yep. Hiding in plain sight all the time. Andrew, you scalliwag!

Posted by Cassandra at 03:16 PM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

No Facebook for You!!!

Heh:

The Marine Corps on Monday issued an administrative directive saying it was banning the use of Marine network for accessing such sites as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. The order doesn't affect Marines' private use of such networks on personal computers outside of their jobs.

Cue up the howls of enfuriated outragy-ness. "AIEEEEE!!! THE BIG MEANIES WON'T LET ME FRIEND TOTAL STRANGERS DURING WORKING HOURS!!!!"

If this story didn't exist we would have no recourse but to make it up.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:28 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

More Guns Don't Necessarily Lead to Higher Rates of Gun Related Crime

Chart p0rn of the day, via Grim, who comments:

...it could be that concealed carry rates have no appreciable effect on gun deaths, as counterintuitive as that would be for both the gun rights and gun control crowds.

populationfirearmsdeathsgraphthumb.jpg

In looking at this chart, the Editorial Staff snidely thought to ourselves that the more guns = more gun-related crime meme rests on the assumption that all gun owners (whether they obtain firearms legally or otherwise) are equally disposed to commit crimes.

Doesn't make much sense, does it?

In addition to looking at the supply of guns, I thought it might be interesting to look at what has happened to the supply of criminals over time. Though this tidbit is interesting, I'd prefer to see normalized incarceration data:

the nationwide prison population swelled by about 80 percent from 1990 to 2000, increasing by as much as 86,000 a year. By contrast, from 2007 to 2008, that population increased by 25,000, a 2 percent rise.

Thanks to the magic of Google, here's a time series graph of the incarceration rate over the same time period used in the firearms chart:

incrt.gif

What happens if we visually extend the rate of increase over the first decade?

incrt.jpg

Admittedly this is just a rough visual extrapolation, but what strikes me is that the decade which exhibited the steepest increase in the incarceration rate (1990-1999) just happens to be the same decade that firearm related deaths, per capita firearm related deaths, and per gun firearm related deaths all experienced the swiftest rate of decline.

How conveeeeeeeeeeeenient. Of course, none of this is dispositive. After all, correlation does not prove causation. But it sure is suggestive as all getout.

Which leads me to ask: if you buy into the notion that putting more guns on the street causes more gun-related crime, on what rational basis do you discount the idea that leaving more criminals on the street inevitably leads to more gun-related crime?

'Tater guns don't kill people. Potatoes kill people.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:18 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

August 03, 2009

"The Judgment to Lead"

Remember that campaign slogan? Obama's total lack of experience was to be disregarded.

Unlike the clueless Shrub, *Obama* possessed "the judgment to lead". Except that he's not really leading, is he?

Even when Weisberg believes Bush was right and Obama was wrong, it’s still Bush’s fault. Obama would have done the right thing if only Bush had done the wrong thing!

Now, in fairness to Weisberg, he does intend this as a criticism of Obama: “Politicians, like generals, suffer from a tendency to fight the last war.” And his argument doesn’t stand up all that well under scrutiny: Bush, after all, engaged in plenty of pointless diplomacy with Iran and North Korea, and Obama has fallen far short of delivering on his campaign promises regarding Iraq and detainee policy.

But let’s entertain Weisberg’s argument that Obama’s indifference to democracy and insouciance in the face of Iranian brutality are the product of a reflexive anti-Bushism. Isn’t this a much more damning indictment than Weisberg realizes?

After all, Bush was is supposed to have been the worst president in history, and a moron to boot. (It was Weisberg who invented the “Bushism of the Day,” though he has largely left the field to us since the Democrats came to town and started saying silly things.) By contrast, a year ago Weisberg was worrying “that Obama may be too handsome, brilliant, and cool to be elected.”

Handsome and cool the president may be, but how brilliant is it to forgo thinking for oneself and instead simply follow the lead, albeit in reverse, of a man who (it is claimed) is manifestly inferior? Unthinking opposition to the president was far too common on the left during Bush’s term, and it is far too common on the right today. But it is easier to excuse unthinking opposition from the opposition than from men who are called upon to lead.

Jacob Weisberg might want to bone up on his psychology:

A few years ago, an Emory psychologist scanned the brains of self-described partisans. Partisans were able to notice the hypocritical statements of the opposing candidate but not the inconsistencies of their preferred candidate. Ideology, it was determined, showed effects similar to drug addiction.

Never attribute to cruel fate what can easily be attributed to simple incompetence.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:02 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

How Do You Know "Soft Power" is Working?

Oddly enough, "When your allies blatantly thumb their noses at you" wasn't the first answer that sprang to mind:

In another assertion of Iraq's growing sovereignty, Iraqi forces Tuesday took control of a compound outside Baghdad that houses members of an Iranian opposition group long protected by the U.S. military.

The attack occurred without prior notification of U.S. authorities and took place while Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was in Baghdad.

The compound, known as Camp Ashraf, is home to about 3,500 members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). The group, responsible for acts of violence against Iran, against Iraqi Shi'ites in 1991 and against Americans in Iran in the 1970s, is on the U.S. State Department terrorism list. But U.S. officials have protected Ashraf residents since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 for fear that they would be tortured or executed if forcibly repatriated.

...Kenneth Katzman, a Middle East expert for the Congressional Research Service, called the attack on the camp "especially troubling for the Obama administration because it occurred while Defense Secretary Gates is in Iraq, and the United States considers the Ashraf residents protected persons under the Geneva Convention. It suggests that, as the Iraqi government is increasingly independent of the United States, it might use this freedom of action to act against perceived domestic opponents or on behalf of outside benefactors. In this case, the attack would appear to be at the behest of Iran, which has accused [the MEK] of involvement in the recent internal unrest in Iran."

Funny. Speaking softly doesn't seem to work terribly well without that big stick:

The immediate challenges are North Korea and Iran, governments that the American left claimed were "evil" only because Mr. Bush had declared them so. Perhaps Mr. Obama believed this too, though five months later he has learned otherwise. North Korea has rejected his every overture and is now defying the U.N. to press its nuclear and proliferation ambitions. As for Iran, the mullahs are attempting to crush a popular uprising after a stolen election while also showing disdain for Mr. Obama's diplomatic entreaties.

The question is whether Mr. Obama will now adapt his policies to meet challenges he clearly didn't expect. Jimmy Carter took office with similar illusions about the Soviet Union, promising to cure our "inordinate fear of Communism." Our enemies pushed back at what they perceived to be U.S. weakness, and Mr. Carter and his NSC adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski never recovered.

Where foreign policy is concerned, Obama seems determined to convince the world that he's George Bush. Only without the courage of his convictions.

Posted by Cassandra at 11:31 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Quote of the Day: Principled Change

“On the one hand, Marines display a stalwart resistance to change in those bedrock values that form the very foundation of what it means to be Marine,” he said. “On the other hand, Marines demonstrate a ready embrace of innovation that allows them to adapt to the environments in which they operate and to the enemies they face.”

- General David Petraeus

Now that's change you can depend upon:

... timeless, unchanging truths that describe the Marine Corps include an unflinching devotion to one’s fellow Marines, a ready embrace of hardship and a universal emphasis on the skills and the spirit of the rifleman, he said.

Petraeus said these underlying principles are illustrated in the story of Marine Corps Cpl. Jason Dunham. In 2004, the 22-year-old Marine was killed in action in Karabilah, Iraq, when he used his body to cover a grenade and shield his fellow Marines from the ensuing blast.

Dunham became the 295th Marine to receive the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration, which is bestowed for gallantry in action. The Navy will christen a ship named in the fallen Marine’s honor -- the USS Jason Dunham -- next week during a ceremony at Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine.

Petraeus said the Marines’ actions in Anbar province illustrate their ability to adapt their strategy to meet unique challenges.

In 2006, Anbar province was one of Iraq’s most contentious regions. It was a society that had collapsed under the weight of an endemic insurgency with an infrastructure dilapidated by years of infighting and neglect. But amid the surge of U.S. forces in 2007, al-Qaida operatives overplayed their hands in Anbar, alienating local residents. Meanwhile, the influx of U.S. Marines helped to tamp down violence and create political breathing room, which in turn allowed the forging of key alliances between local tribal sheiks and coalition operators.

“As a result, sheiks started coming forward to coalition forces to discuss an alliance to throw off al-Qaida,” Petraeus said. “And this was the opening we needed.” ...

“It is not an exaggeration to say that the Anbar Awakening helped alter the course of events in Iraq,” Petraeus said. “And I believe that generations from now, historians will continue to view it as a great example of the principled application of long-standing counterinsurgency principles.”


Posted by Cassandra at 08:07 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

That Oozing Sense of Entitlement Again

Just when you begin to think the world has gone stark raving bonkers, along comes a perfectly rational explanation:

When most people consider the hoity-toity, palm-treed paradise of Stanford, naked bread-baking and organic gardening don’t exactly come to mind. After two years of suffocating dorm life, I relinquished the luxuries of sanity and meat to live in Synergy, the Stanford commune famous for midnight flour fights and for making all of its food from local, sustainable scratch — sometimes in the nude. The self-proclaimed “mother of alternative lifestyles,” this on-campus house of some 60 upperclassmen was created in the ’70s for students interested in grass-roots environmentalism.

My initiation had come at Beltane, the pagan fertility festival held every spring on the lawn, complete with a 30-foot wooden maypole and musical performances. How the ancient practice of Celtic druids driving their cattle through fire morphed into “sacrificing” Stanford’s naked virgins still baffles me. The ceremony began with a crowd of more than 100, roughly half of whom were naked, throwing beet juice at one another and frolicking in circles around three virgins (self-elected, unverified, any gender), whom they tightly crisscrossed in ribbons around the maypole. The virgins then broke through the ribbons and ran free, symbolizing their liberating deflowering.

Too insecure and cold to part with my underwear, I enthusiastically distributed body paint and rainbow-colored condoms. Hours later, a purply gang of 15 or so paraded upstairs and crammed themselves into two showers, leaving behind a pink, nutritious trail.

“Is there any soap?”

“We don’t need soap! We have each ­other!”

And to think we once believed that "Yes, Yes We Can" was the definitive rebuttal to the stale politics of cynicism. Lest the assembled villainry accuse us of prevarification, the Editorial Staff swear to God that we are not making this up. On the contrary, there's more of this madness:

... of all the bizarreness I’ve ever witnessed, none has come to parallel the morning I walked downstairs to the kitchen and discovered a housemate leaning down to the counter and carefully cooing and negotiating with a thick, neat line of ants. He was expressing his beautiful human need to not want to accidentally eat them with his vegan cheese.

This was the culmination of 30-plus e-mail messages debating whether it was ethical to kill the ants overtaking our kitchen. The issue was brought to consensus, and we agreed to explore non-life-ending solutions, since death by pesticide was fist-blocked by a small contingent. Clearly, the only answer was to connect with the ants on a karmic level and express our utmost respect for them in whispered song.

Call me a conservative Neanderthal but if either of my progeny had spouted this kind of cretinous blather he'd quickly have found himself on the receiving end of my beautiful and natural need to plant my foot squarely upon his ass.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:07 AM | Comments (39) | TrackBack

Pardon My Confusion....

... but what, precisely, is so surprising about this?

“You can make big money trading with the government,” said an executive at one leading investment management firm. “The government is a huge buyer and seller and Wall Street has all the pricing power.”

A former official of the US Treasury and the Fed said the situation had reached the point that “everyone games them. Their transparency hurts them. Everyone picks their pocket.”

Isn't the Obama administration all about stimulating the economy via massive tax-funded wealth transfers? You know you've entered the Twilight Zone when Barney Frank starts making sense:

Barney Frank, chairman of the House financial services committee, said the potential profiteering may be part of the price for stabilising the financial system.

“You can’t rescue the credit system without benefiting some of the people in it.”

If only the federal government could figure out how to kill off that pesky profit incentive and steal everything from everybody. Equality sounds so yummilicious... in theory.

In practice, it would seem to be far less attractive:

...many Americans think Congress is out of touch. How, they wonder, can lawmakers empathize with the underinsured or those lacking insurance when they receive a benefits package -- heavily subsidized by taxpayers -- that most of us can only envy?

Among the advantages: a choice of 10 healthcare plans that provide access to a national network of doctors, as well as several HMOs that serve each member's home state. By contrast, 85% of private companies offering health coverage provide their employees one type of plan -- take it or leave it.
Lawmakers also get special treatment at Washington's federal medical facilities and, for a few hundred dollars a month, access to their own pharmacy and doctors, nurses and medical technicians standing by in an office conveniently located between the House and Senate chambers.

In all, taxpayers spent about $15 billion last year to insure 8.5 million federal workers and their dependents, including postal service employees, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

Generous plans are available in private industry. But the federal coverage far surpasses that enjoyed by 70 million Americans who are underinsured and at financial risk in the event of a major health crisis -- not to mention the estimated 46 million who have no medical insurance.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:52 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack