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September 30, 2009

No Shame

Matthew Yglesias really has no shame whatsoever:

Congress could have voted itself higher salaries. Or better travel benefits. Or larger appropriations so the congressional cafeterias can serve better food. But or just more generous health insurance. But what they wanted here was socialized medicine—health care that’s not only financed by the state but directly provided by government employees. This kind of state-provided health care is basically universal in the UK, it accounts for an important chunk of the health care in Sweden, and it’s what we give to our veterans in the United States. But most members of congress claim regard it as a horrifying prospect. And yet in practice they appear to like it just fine.

As the Reality Based Community LOVE to remind us, we are all entitled to our own opinions but we are not entitled to our own facts. The health insurance enjoyed by Congress is NOTHING like that provided to veterans - nor, indeed, does it even vaguely resemble either bill currently before the House or Senate, let alone the universal health care offered in the U.K. But aside from those "minor" details, Yglesias is... still full of it. Congress gets:

* 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.

* 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.

If socialized medicine health care reform is so attractive, Mr. Yglesias, shouldn't you be able to sell it honestly?

Well, perhaps not.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:25 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Classic

I think I'm in love with Patterico:

I thought you folks in Big Media were proud of your record for accuracy. That’s four errors in two posts. I know that you read my post wherein I noted your error in claiming he had a “trial” — because you quoted my post. Why, then, is your error still uncorrected?

You ought not write me and demand that I correct an accurate post. Rather, you should correct your own numerous inaccuracies. And then, I would suggest that you reconsider your stunning suggestions that a 13-year-old girl and her mother are the ones truly at fault for the drugging and anal rape of a child.

For some reason, I'm reminded of a line from the movie, "White Men Can't Jump":

It's got to hurt, being this good.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:02 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Interesting Test

It was created for women (and so the questions might give guys a bit of trouble in places) but I would think the answers would be equally applicable to men or women.

My results below the fold:

YOUR LEAD ROLE
CREATOR


You begin by asking:
'What do I understand?'

You aren’t immune to the feelings and perspectives of others, but your starting point is your own insight, your own understanding.

Your best quality:
Your ability to find patterns invisible to others

Always:
Find time to be by yourself

Be careful you:
Don’t think so long, you never do anything

Your smartest career move:
Any job where you’re paid to produce new content.

YOUR SUPPORTING ROLE
PIONEER


You begin by asking:
'What’s new?'

You are, by nature, an explorer, excited by things you haven’t seen before, people you haven’t yet met. Whereas others are intimidated by the unfamiliar, you are intrigued by it.

Your best quality:
Your willingness to risk

Always:
Seek out situations where things become obsolete very quickly

Be careful you:
Don’t move on so quickly that you gain a reputation as a dilettante

Your smartest career move:
Any job where you’re paid to build something out of nothing

No wonder I get migraines. That is so me - I am definitely an odd combination of deliberate and impulsive. I found the career stuff interesting because although it's quite accurate, it surprised me a bit. I am never so happy at work as when I'm creating something.

Anyway, you can read about the test here.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:50 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Racism!!!!

You people disgust me:

In a recent Gallup survey, 89% of Republicans, 64% of independents, and 61% of Americans overall say Americans themselves -- rather than the government -- have the primary responsibility for ensuring that they have health insurance. Six in 10 Democrats say the government should be primarily responsible.

It's all in how you ask the question:

Other national polls on this topic have found a higher degree of public support for government involvement in guaranteeing healthcare coverage, but those question wordings do not provide a non-governmental alternative.

Poll questions should reflect the real world alternatives. In the real world, there are only two alternatives: health care can be an individual responsibility, or government can assume some part of that responsibility by subsidizing the cost of individual health insurance or even providing it outright to all citizens.

Asking a poll question that ignores the way things have been in this country for over 200 years is, to say the least, profoundly dishonest. Not to mention highly misleading.

Of course, if you don't like the opinions of your fellow Americans, you can always label anyone who disagrees with you a racist. Or.... not.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:04 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 29, 2009

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right

Good Lord. Is there a full moon tonight?

There is a remote, although gaining, possibility America's military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the "Obama problem." Don't dismiss it as unrealistic.

All right, moron. I won't call it unrealistic. How does batsh*t crazy strike you? But wait! Ooh! A half-hearted attempt to pretend he isn't saying something reckless and monumentally stupid:

America isn't the Third World. If a military coup does occur here it will be civilized. That it has never happened doesn't mean it wont [sic] Describing what may be afoot is not to advocate it.

[...]

Will the day come when patriotic general and flag officers sit down with the president, or with those who control him, and work out the national equivalent of a "family intervention," with some form of limited, shared responsibility?

Wow. Let me marinate - for just a moment - in the frothing idiocy.

In order to protect the Constitution, those who've sworn an oath to protect it with their lives are going to... Oooh! Oh! Let me guess! ... betray the Constitution!

Hmmm... what could possibly go wrong?

On the other hand, if you can ignore the deafening cognitive dissonance for a moment it's possible to espy a positively Keller-esque symmetry lurking in there somewhere:

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

Lest you begin to feel sorry for the Left, wade into the comments section and savor the paranoia and mouth frothing hate.

These people deserve each other. And sadly, America deserves better.

Far better. Get a grip, people.
Go take your dog for a walk. Have sex with your wife. Hell, while you're at it, have sex with the dog. But whatever you do, step away from the keyboard.

Maybe you'll find your common sense. But if you can't stop yourselves from fulminating, please do it quietly. You're embarrassing those of us who still remember a time when sanity was something we took for granted in this country.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:16 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

This is just wrong.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:19 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The White Man's Burden

I'm a 61-year-old man with three young children and a yard to rake. While I appreciate the attention from our most ex- of ex-presidents, I'm really too busy to properly accomplish all this loathing and detestation. I quit smoking so I don't even have a lighter to set crosses on fire. We don't happen to own white bed sheets and I'm five nine and--dressed in Ralph Lauren candy stripes and tripping on fitted corners--I'd feel like a fool at Klan rallies (and Tea Parties and Town Hall meetings, to the extent that there's a difference).

Then I have the task of finding people to disrespect, denigrate, and discriminate against. I know people who are black, gay, Jewish, and Hispanic. But, unfortunately, I like them. When you like a person it's difficult to treat him (or even her) with the kind of vigorous and unrestrained bigotry that Jimmy Carter expects me to engage in. I have to go looking for people (people of the proper race, creed, and ethnic origin) whom I can't stand.

- PJ O'Rourke

Posted by Cassandra at 10:00 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Question of the Day

CWCID.

For what it's worth, I've never much cared for the "all men are pigs" thing, but the first time I recall hearing it said, it was by a guy and pretty much all the other men present agreed with him.

I don't like to hear women say it (assuming they're serious, and not just poking fun at the feminine tendency to wax disgusted when men have the temerity to act male) because it sounds ungracious and slightly contemptuous. I think the majority of men both want and deserve the respect of women.

I don't like to hear men say it (assuming they're serious, and not just poking fun at certain natural tendencies a fair number of men happen to share) for the same reason I don't buy the "That's just how we're wired - deal with it" line. Men and women are different, but both men and women possess innate tendencies that - left unchecked - can be pretty obnoxious. Arguing that we can't be expected to behave any better than our worst instincts sets a depressingly low bar for human behavior. If men don't even respect themselves, why should anyone else respect them? On the other hand, I've found that when you broadcast contempt for others, they tend to lower themselves to meet your expectations.

Perhaps if people were as tolerant of others as they are of their own foibles, the "take me as I am" standard might work. But generally speaking, they're not. Both men and women tend to excuse their own petty peccadilloes while taking great umbrage at the behavior of the opposite sex. It seems bizarre to me that after thousands of years of civilization, there are still those who argue that people are incapable of self control.

How do they think we got where we are today?

Update: Heh.

via JM Heinrichs

Posted by Cassandra at 08:29 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Time Flies When You're.... Ummm.... Nevermind

"Our once dominant position in the scientific world has been shaken and our prosperity has been placed at risk," the letter states. "We have lost time critical for the development of new ways to provide energy, treat disease, reverse climate change, strengthen our security, and improve out economy."

- Letter to Barack Obama from 61 Nobel Laureates

What would we do without scientists?

Employee misconduct investigations, often involving workers accessing pornography from their government computers, grew sixfold last year inside the taxpayer-funded foundation that doles out billions of dollars of scientific research grants, according to budget documents and other records obtained by The Washington Times.

The problems at the National Science Foundation (NSF) were so pervasive they swamped the agency's inspector general and forced the internal watchdog to cut back on its primary mission of investigating grant fraud and recovering misspent tax dollars.

"To manage this dramatic increase without an increase in staff required us to significantly reduce our efforts to investigate grant fraud," the inspector general recently told Congress in a budget request. "We anticipate a significant decline in investigative recoveries and prosecutions in coming years as a direct result."

I swear to God I am not making this up:

...one senior executive spent at least 331 days looking at pornography on his government computer and chatting online with nude or partially clad women without being detected, the records show.

When finally caught, the NSF official retired. He even offered, among other explanations, a humanitarian defense, suggesting that he frequented the porn sites to provide a living to the poor overseas women. Investigators put the cost to taxpayers of the senior official's porn surfing at between $13,800 and about $58,000.

"He explained that these young women are from poor countries and need to make money to help their parents and this site helps them do that," investigators wrote in a memo.

And some folks think scientists are cold hearted.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:10 AM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

September 28, 2009

When a Great Country Doesn't Deserve the Truth

This weekend as the Editorial Staff looked down our nose out our airplane window at the vast intellectual wasteland that is flyover country, we pondered the well known truth that - at least for the truly enlightened progressive - tolerance of diversity is a practice far better honored in the breach than in the observance.

At the risk of stereotyping (which of course we would never do) it's hard to know just what to make of these frightened and irrational bitter gun-clinging racist types?

It's not as though there is any rational basis for their frankly unhinged belief system, is there? Fortunately, we can explain what we don't understand by labeling such mystifying thoughts "insane", "ignorant", or "fearful" - all without violating our own belief system! The key, really, is to put the wingnuts in their place. There used to be a nifty phrase for that... what was it? Marginalize them? Treat them as "The Other". Of course when we do it, it's perfectly fine because we hold the correct world view. If they did the same thing to us, it would be intolerant and wrongheaded.

Clarity on these matters is so important, don't you think? It's what keeps us honest.

Now that we finally have a really smart President in the Oval Office, we can stop worrying about that pesky Constitution, executive overreach, checks and balances. It's so reassuring to know that we can finally soak those darned bumper stickers off the Volvo, too. The age of Obama rendered all that "We the People" nonsense completely irrelevant:

Question Authority? Oh honey, that's so Bush administration. Now that the right party's in charge, the continuation of policies once branded as dangerous signs of a power-mad Unitary Executive can be safely ignored.

Dissent as the highest form of patriotism has been replaced by unAmerican dissent, dissent as racism, dissent as insanity, and our personal favorite, dissent as "violent speech". Ooch! Ouch! Stop beating me up with your ... your... nasty, brutish words, you big bullies!

When The Shrub was in office, Pentagon insiders who leaked truth to power were the sign of a vibrant and healthy democracy. It was vital these brave truth tellers not be silenced by heavy handed enforcement of policies they agreed to voluntarily! Such jackbooted government censorship was out of the question; after all, doesn't a great nation deserve the truth?

Of course now that Obama is President, such dangerous and despicable revelations can only mean one thing. An impending military coup!

Crack-induced imaginings of a half a million troops aside, it looks as if McChrystal ignored chain of command, pissing on President Obama's shoes and decided his report should be made public rather than submit it to his Commander in Chief and await the CiC's decision on next steps.

GOP legislators have also been clamoring for McChrystal and other military leaders report to Congress rather than the Commander in Chief as to their plans for Afghanistan (which as markfromireland pointed out, could be seen as little more than incitement to mutiny).

Now some might inconveniently recall that during the Bush administration, progressives were positively clamoring for Congress to run the war on terror. But with Obama in office, such unwarranted power sharing suddenly seems distinctly less desireable. The supreme authority of the Commander-in-Chief must not be questioned by supposedly "co-equal" branches of government and above all, the minority party mustn't be allowed to take part in the democratic process.... that is, unless they're willing to cross the aisle and vote with the majority. Elections have consequences, you know. It's kind of a might makes right thing, except we're left. But you get the drift.

During the Bush years, any sign that the troops didn't have what they needed to complete the mission was touted as Presidential incompetence. Under Obama, though, personnel and equipment shortages are never the President's fault! Come to think of it, it's downright rude for the military to wonder how supposed to win a war in 12-18 months without the troops they asked for back in March when Obama first unveiled his strategery:

"The question is not whether we're making progress. The question is whether we're making enough progress fast enough," McChrystal said.

He drew a graph showing the rate of progress he really needs. "What if our rate of progress is below that, but it's still up? So then people come visit, I come visit you, and every time I visit you, you say 'We're doing good. We're doing better. We made progress.' It doesn't matter, 'cause at the end of the day you lost. At some point you lost," he said.

...In one video conference with the Pentagon, he complained about the months it takes just to get officers assigned to his staff when he's up against a deadline from the Secretary of Defense.

"The secretary talks in terms of 12 to 18 months to show a significant change and then we eat up two or three months just on sort of getting the tools out of the tool box. That really hurts," McChrystal explained during the briefing.

He relentlessly pounded away at the Pentagon bureaucracy. "The average organization, when someone asks when you want something, they pull out a calendar. But in a good organization they look at their watch and we really got to get that way," McChrystal said.

If only we could get some of that secrecy back from the Bush years! The last thing we want is for the American people to have a frank accounting of how the war is going, how their tax dollars are being spent or how many of their sons and daughters are dying (and for what!). Which is why I'm so glad to see the Reality Based Community bravely call for suppression of this dangerous speech.

Do we really want commanders on the ground telling our government what will be needed to carry out strategies formulated by the civilian leadership? Of course we don't!

Why, that's insubordination! Sometimes, a great nation really doesn't deserve the truth.

It's good to know that the progressive community will do their damndest to make sure our national security isn't threatened by inconvenient facts.

Posted by Cassandra at 11:00 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Monday Night Tune

I went downtown to see my lady
She stood me up and I stood there waiting
But it'll be all right when the morning comes

Now I'm up in the air with the rain in my hair
I've got nowhere to go, so I can go anywhere
And it'll be all right when the morning comes

Just in passing, I'm not asking that you can be anyone but you
When you come home try to come home alone
It's so much better with two

Now I'm out in the cold and I'm getting old
Standing here waiting on you
But it'll be all right when the morning comes



Boy, does this one take me back. Album version here - better sound.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 24, 2009

Duh.

Well now here's a real shocker:

Five Washington state baristas charged customers to touch their breasts and buttocks at an espresso stand where servers wear bikinis to draw business, police said.

...The Everett Herald reports the women were charging up to $80 to strip down while fixing lattes and mochas.

During a two-month investigation, detectives also saw the women lick whipped cream off each other and pose naked for pictures at the Grab- n-Go Espresso stand in Everett, about 30 miles 950 kilometres) north of Seattle.

What could possibly have caused such completely unpredictable and unexpected behavior?

Morons....

Posted by Cassandra at 07:40 PM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

Take Your Time, Mr. President

afghan_cost.jpg

After all, they're not going anywhere:

House Armed Services ranking member Howard McKeon (R-Calif.) said Wednesday that Gates told him on a July trip to Afghanistan that Obama “wasn’t inclined to send troops over there.”

McKeon said Gates also told him that, in light of Gen. David Petraeus and McChrystal being asked to submit assessments to the president on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively, Obama had “given instructions” to them to “scrub everything, to make sure they didn’t ask for more than they needed.”

That conversation prompted McKeon to ask McChrystal if the directive sent “a chilling message” that the U.S. and NATO commander should ask for less troops than he needed. “He said, ‘No, I’m honor-bound to ask for what I need,’” McKeon said.

McKeon’s comments come at a time when Obama is facing growing criticism from Republicans for appearing to soften his stance on the need to maintain a presence in Afghanistan. Some have expressed concern that the president may be attempting to push off debate on the war until after health care reform is done, despite warnings from military leaders that time is of the essence.

The Pentagon signaled Wednesday that it would be some time before McChrystal’s troop request is passed from Gates to Obama, who wants more time to review the overall strategy for Afghanistan.

“I want to make it perfectly clear that, once [Gates] has it, he intends to hold onto it until such time as the president and his national security team are ready to consider it,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said.

Obama, a mere 36 days ago:

... I announced a new, comprehensive strategy in March ...our new strategy has a clear mission and defined goals: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies.

...As I said when I announced this strategy, there will be more difficult days ahead. The insurgency in Afghanistan didn't just happen overnight and we won't defeat it overnight. This will not be quick, nor easy. But we must never forget: This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is a — this is fundamental to the defense of our people.

36 days. I've seen gnats with longer attention spans.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:08 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Oh! The Humanity!

Andrew Sullivan, on the McChrystal report two days ago:

...The way in which this man seems to be trying to bounce the administration into a deeper longer war, and threatening to resign to exact political damage if he doesn't, is outrageous. It is one thing to recommend a new military strategy; it is another thing to enter politics. McChrystal is lucky that his recent history of presiding over some of the worst torture and abuse of the Cheney era was glossed over by the Senate in confirming him. He shouldn't push his luck.

Andrew Sullivan today, happening upon someone who actually read the McChrystal report:

George Packer, who is always worth listening to, approves of McChrystal's report on Afghanistan.

Amazing what a little knowledge will do to calm those night terrors, isn't it?

One might think, given his previous fit of arm waving, that Sullivan might give us some idea of what McChrystal actually said in the report. But no. We get a lot of blather about 'Obama's JFK moment', no day in the ObamaSphere being complete without reminding the populace of the uncanny similarities between our 44th Prez and Abraham Lincoln, the Gipper, or JFK. So what did Packer actually think of the report?

The only surprise is the impressiveness of McChrystal’s analysis. I was wrong in May when I questioned the appointment of a special-operations man to run this war. McChrystal’s report is written in plain English, it’s self-critical, and it shows more understanding of the nature of the fight in Afghanistan than most journalism and academic work. The U.S. military now believes that the Afghan government is just as much a threat to success as the Taliban. That’s a bold conclusion, one that our civilians have not been willing to reach, publicly at least. And the description of the different Taliban networks is as clarifying as it is disturbing.

So this is what the general whom Obama rushed into the field earlier this year has to tell his commander-in-chief: it will take time, it will take more resources, we will have to get smarter. Again, no surprise. The policy McChrystal is working within was set in March, by the President himself, and it called for a renewed counterinsurgency in Afghanistan in order to “dismantle,” “disrupt,” and “defeat” Al Qaeda. Obama’s strategy-review team didn’t want to go looking to get America deeper into the mess in Afghanistan—they looked at all the alternatives and decided that the narrower approaches wouldn’t work against an Al Qaeda network that’s so entrenched and interconnected with other groups in the region.

...The McChrystal report is a shining example of intelligent military thinking—of the military’s capacity for learning and self-transformation through the searing events of the past eight years. Its author or authors will have a right to feel a little bitter if it appears at the very moment when the political class has decided that it just doesn’t work.

This glowing assessment is surrounded by a lot of caveats, so I highly recommend you don't skip reading his entire post. It's not long. I find it extremely amusing that two days ago, the Lefty blogs were all in a lather over what a horrid, horrid man McChrystal is and HOW DARE HE OPPOSE OUR PRESIDENT... OMG OMG OMG, IT'S A MILITARY COUP!!!! Blah, blah, blah. What causes these folks to go ballistic over such thin gruel?

Dr. Sanity wrote something I thought very perceptive the other day. I wanted to link it but hadn't yet figured out where it fit:

One great hope for the American black community, implicitly recognized and understood by black and white Americans alike, is embodied in the smart, extremely articulate, good looking black man who has a beautiful family and the consummate political skill to gain the highest office in the land. If Barack Obama is now found to have feet of clay, or far worse, if his presidency fails, this would be a disastrous blow to the community so identified with him. For many blacks, and a great many liberal whites, the unacceptable thought, handed down from the racists of the past, is that blacks are not as smart as whites. Their accusations of "racism" toward anyone who criticizes President Obama's policies is a reaction to the worry that President Obama will prove to be an ineffective President, thereby confirming their worst (mostly unconscious) fears.

... The accusations of racism whenever the President is criticized have taken on a Shakespearean tenor: the unconscious says, "President Obama is failing to convince people of his ideas; maybe he, and by extension all blacks, are not so smart" and the conscious mind reels and replies, "No, he is the smartest, he is the One, and the only explanation for his failings is that those who oppose him do so because they are racists!"

Methinks they protest too much.

Methinks so, too. These folks really need to get a grip. Have some confidence in the man you elected.

I'm not the slightest bit concerned about Barack Obama's ability to handle criticism. Fragile flowers don't make it through presidential campaigns. The guy isn't going to fold up and blow away because a few people who didn't vote for him; who rejected the ideas he espouses long before they'd ever heard of him ... gasp! ... still reject those ideas.
Their opposition to Obama has nothing to do with his skin color, with white privilege, or any other such idiocy. If you think I'm rough on Obama, look up my old posts on John Kerry.

The difference between me and Andrew Sullivan is that I don't go into an emotional decline or get my Hanes UltraSheers all in a wad over predictable political opposition. Why? Because, as I noted during the overheated flap over Carrie Prejean, we really need to get over the idea that one refutes an idea by attacking its adherents. This is arguably the most poisonous notion in American politics. It pushes us into the twin errors of defending the indefensible and attacking the messenger, the goal of both these tactics being to either defend or attack the real target: an idea whose merits have little to do with that individual.

Regardless of whether an idea is "liberal" or "conservative", it's easy to find at least one whack job who espouses it. Pointing out the nuttiness of that one person does precisely nothing to refute the idea, though. Likewise, even if Barack Obama turns out to be another Jimmy Carter, that won't mean blacks are stupid, or incompetent, or that it's a bad idea to elect another black President. I can think of plenty of reasons Obama might fail, not the least of which is that this is the first executive position the man has ever held in his lifetime. If his Presidency is a failure, frankly the first thing I'd attribute that to would be lack of experience, not his essential Blackitude.

We really need to learn to overcome anxiety and have a little faith. The longer I'm alive, the more I begin to believe the reason the Left are always hyperventilating and accusing others of being bad, scary people who "fear monger" is because some of these folks walk around in a perpetual state of scared-to-deathness. It only takes a butterfly landing on the end of their noses to send them careening down the otter slide to Prozacville.

That's no way to live, especially when you're fortunate enough to be a citizen of the most affluent, free, powerful and secure nation on earth. Relax. Take a deep breath, people.

Everything will be fine.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:39 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Yikes

Today's monster under the bed: indirect sex partners.

Need. Coffee.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:58 AM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

The Problem with Leaks...

...as I said the other day, is that leakers - by definition - aren't trustworthy. They have, after all, betrayed the conditions of their employment simply by leaking what they promised not to.

And yet we're supposed to trust anonymous tipsters whose motivation, by virtue of their refusal to talk on the record, we can't even begin to evaluate and who can't be held accountable? Isn't it funny how leakers were all the rage during the Bush years?

Now, of course, what was once a courageous and patriotic deed is now traitorous and despicable. Whatever.

As I pointed out yesterday, one has to wonder why the Left are so quick to believe someone whose motives they suspect?

Let's get one thing straight here: General McChrystal has said NOTHING about resigning. But based on nothing more than a leak, Democrats are piling on in their unseemly haste to assassinate the character of an Army General who has the thankless task of carrying out a strategy everyone knows he lacks the resources to implement.

It seems bizarre to me how many folks want it both ways on leaks. When the leak confirms their pre-existing bias or seems to bolster the narrative, they're all for it. When it undercuts their position, the leaker is a no good, dirty law breaking traitor.

Given the barrels of ink that were devoted to Thomas Ricks' supposed bombshell of a revelation that Anbar province was "irretrievably lost" (released while the Anbar Awakening was (in reality) already in motion) you'd think we all might display a bit more suspicion of anonymous leakers.

But it's all just too much fun. As I said the other day, I wouldn't have any problem with McChrystal resigning in protest if he is denied troops. Sometimes you have to take a stand if the battle is important enough. I have a lot more respect for someone who will speak up when his job is on the line than someone who waits until he's comfy and cozy in his Barcolounger to provide honest feedback to civilian leadership.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 23, 2009

When Photographs Lie

A photograph is nothing more than a tiny sliver of stopped time, pressed onto a flat surface, utterly devoid of context or soul. An unretouched photograph is visual truth.

This is what SangerM. argues in defense of Julie Jacobson's decision to violate an embed agreement she voluntarily signed, and upon which the Marine Corps relied when deciding whether she could be trusted with embed status. Had she refused to sign the agreement, she would have had no chance to publish a graphic photo in which a fellow human bled to death from the stumps of two severed legs.

Some might see her deception as a significant factor in the determination of whether she had any right to take that photograph. Some might argue that when an organization grants media access only under limited conditions agreed upon in advance, that any photographs taken in violation of that agreement are – by definition – unauthorized, to say nothing of being obtained by fraudulent means.

But Sanger's argument seems to be that agreements between human beings don't matter. Jacobson had the "right" to publish explicit photos of a young man's agony even though her access to his wounding was conditioned upon her agreement not to photograph it:

... it was Jacobson’s right to do so, and given that she was as much a participant in that battle as the three Marines, I say her story is at least as important as theirs if honestly told. Moreover, I believe the article accompanying the photo revealed exactly why she felt it was important. She wrote:
“That’s when I realized there was a casualty and saw the injured Marine, about 10 yards from where I’d stood…for the second time in my life, I watched a Marine lose his.

This is an interesting argument from someone who just finished accusing those who disagree with him of overemotionalism. Note what Sanger finds persuasive: Jacobson’s feelings about the story:

Who can watch another person die and not be affected, or have in his or her possession something like that photograph and not feel the need to show other people what is in your mind and your memory, what you experienced? Who can spend time with soldiers and marines, and go to war with them, and not be affected when one of them is wounded or killed?

Jacobson's feelings, to hear Sanger tell it, matter greatly. We should consider them. Those of LCpl. Bernard's family? Not so much.

Interestingly, Sanger never bothers to explain the nature of Jacobson's unspecified "right" to publish a photo obtained by fraudulent means. The First Amendment states that Congress shall pass no law abridging freedom of the press. But it wasn't Congress who asked Jacobson not to publish the image, was it? It was a private citizen: LCpl. Bernard's father. The AP has no Constitutional "right" to invade my home or my hospital room under false pretenses and publish photos of my dying moments, either.

Sanger sneeringly derides military families who objected to the AP's elevation of their judgment of what is newsworthy over compassion for a grieving family. Their lack of respect for the contract their employee signed is dismissed outright. Those who object are confused; not above it all; "conflating the issues":

when a topic is both emotionally charged and distorted by the heat of righteous indignation, people on both sides of this argument have tended to conflate and confuse the issues while damning without qualification everyone who feels differently than they. Because of this, a good deal of what I’ve read has been pejorative, mean, libelous, or slanderous (in the wider sense of the word), or even worse, arrantly stupid.... Frankly, this is not nearly as simple a point of argument as it appears to be, and everyone, including the otherwise to-be-admired Secretary Gates, should have taken a deep breath before reacting so viscerally to what was nowhere near as vile a deed as they felt it was.

Fortunately for Sanger, reasonable people (meaning those who agree with him) understand that Jacobson's feelings constitute adequate justification for violating both the trust the Marines placed in her integrity and her signed embed agreement. This is a profoundly logical argument unlike, say, the objections of Bernard's parents, who naively and unreasonably believed promises are supposed to count for something. Don't you just hate emotional arguments?

Luckily for those who prefer to base their opinions on cold, hard logic there is more of this coolly detached reasoning to come. You see, in the end what justifies disregarding one's sworn word and the pain of a bereaved family is an (again) wholly unsupported assertion that ... ummm... the photograph will inspire more important feelings. These acts are justifiable because Sanger knows just how other people will "feel" when they see it. They will, of course, feel exactly the way he did when he saw it. And his…feeling… is that it would be a mistake not to allow others to experience what he felt:

Even more important, they will feel what I felt: pride, sadness, anger at the enemy, sympathy for the family of the fallen, fear for the people we know who are still there, and more than anything else, a desperate longing for less troubled times. And therein lies the reason I disagree with people who say the image should not have been published, and that doing so was wrong. It’s not that I believe it had to be published, only that it would have been a mistake not to.

See? Logic is easy when you put aside your feelings and rely on the facts! We need to see photographs that - by their very nature - provoke a visceral reaction (even if he admits a photograph lacks context). Photographs portray the "truth" and therefore must be allowed in the name of the public's right to experience profound moments of emotional truth. Echoing this argument, a NY Times photographer echoes the "photos that grab us by the guts help us comprehend truth" mantra:

I consider myself as much historian as photographer, having spent a 40-year career endeavoring to make photographs that inform, not misinform. My heroes are the likes of Joe Rosenthal, who photographed the Marines raising the flag over Iwo Jima; Eddie Adams, whose photo of a South Vietnamese police officer shooting a Viet Cong suspect changed the course of a war; and countless others who have hung their lives out to capture the facts through the lens of a camera. Their photos have provided a raw and unflinching view of the world and have contributed to a free society’s understanding of sometimes harsh reality.

There's only one problem with this argument. The Eddie Adams photo he so proudly points to as an example of "photographs that inform, not misinform" did not capture the facts. What it did do was evoke emotions so strong that they eclipsed the truth. Viewers saw a cringing victim in the instant before being brutally shot by a heartless aggressor. What the photo did not and could not convey was the "why" behind the shooting; the nuance that is far more common in real life than stark black and white depictions of the choices we make. But that didn't matter. The photo was "gripping":

... the really disturbing image is of Nguyen Ngoc Loan shooting a man. Everybody has seen this picture or the film of the incident. A cruel and angry South Vietnamese General executes what appears to be a defenseless Vietcong prisoner. Eddie Adams, The AP photographer who snapped the photo, earned a Pulitzer Prize for the picture. That picture helped galvanize the anti-war effort in the United States. Hubert Humphrey, at the time the photo was taken, was on the verge of challenging President Johnson for the Democratic nomination for president. The photo (and subsequent NBC film) helped stir sentiment to the point that Johnson announced he would not seek a second term only two months later. It is one of the most powerful icons for everything that was supposedly wrong with that war. It is precisely the sort of professional coup that a reporter who's "Dying to Tell the Story" dreams of getting.

Except Eddie Adams wishes he never took the picture.

He wished he'd never taken the photo, because the image caused America to believe a lie.

After the photo was seen around the world, the AP assigned Adams to hang out with General Loan. He discovered that Loan was a beloved hero in Vietnam, to his troops and the citizens. "He was fighting our war, not their war, our war, and every — all the blame is on this guy," Adams told NPR (in what may have been the most surprisingly courageous NPR interview I've ever heard). Adams learned that Loan fought for the construction of hospitals in South Vietnam and unlike the popular myths, demonstrated the fact that at least some South Vietnamese soldiers really did want to fight for their country and way of life.

Just moments before that photo had been taken, several of his men had been gunned down. One of his soldiers had been at home, along with the man's wife and children. The Vietcong had attacked during the holiday of Tet, which had been agreed upon as a time for a truce. As it turned out, many of the victims of the NC and North Vietnamese were defenseless. Some three thousand of them were discovered in a mass grave outside of Hue after the Americans reoccupied the area. The surprise invasion, turned out to be a military disaster for the Vietcong, but a huge strategic victory because of its effect on American resolve.

But at the time, all of this was irrelevant to people like Loan. It was an ugly, shocking assault. The execution of the prisoner was a reprisal. It was an ugly thing to be sure, but wars, civil wars especially, are profoundly ugly things.

Adams wrote in Time magazine, "The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths. What the photograph didn't say was, 'What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American soldiers?'"

The picture that Adams took, the picture that CNN thinks is such an atrocious and ignoble deed, ruined Loan's life. More to the point, it didn't expand on "our right to know." It didn't answer questions, or give us the story. It deceived. It gave no context. It confirmed the biases of the anti-war journalists, and they used it to further their agenda.

Loan fled Vietnam during the fall of Saigon for the US. He eventually moved to Burke, Virginia. He tried to open a restaurant in Northern Virginia, but when the identity of its owner became known, it closed down. Protestors circled the establishment venting their fashionable, safe, outrage.

The two men stayed in touch, and Adams tried to apologize many times.

"He was very sick, you know, he had cancer for a while," he told NPR. "And I talked to him on the phone and I wanted to try to do something, explaining everything and how the photograph destroyed his life and he just wanted to try to forget it. He said let it go. And I just didn't want him to go out this way."

General Loan died a year and a month ago. He left a wife and five kids. Most of the obituaries were, like the photograph that ruined his life, two dimensional and unforgiving. Adams sent flowers with a card that read, "I'm sorry. There are tears in my eyes."

When I saw the photo of LCpl. Bernard - not voluntarily, but because some callous soul posted it at the top of a web page I loaded without knowing the image was there - there were tears in my eyes too.

I did not feel any of the things SangerM felt. And unlike him, I'm not willing to airily dismiss the pain Lance Corporal Bernard's family feels when they see their son's life and service reduced to a flat, two dimensional image that says precisely nothing about how he lived or why he was on the field of battle that day. I'm not willing to privilege his feelings, or Julie Jacobson's, over those of a family who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

And I understand why LCpl. Bernard's father believes the image is disrespectful to his son's memory, even if Sanger finds the idea unreasonable and illogical. Justin Bernard was far more than a set of mangled legs. He was not a victim of war, but a soldier fighting for a cause he believed in deeply. But no one, now, will remember him that way. The publication of a grisly and sensationalistic photo made Joshua Bernard's injuries more important than who he was. And the feelings of a reporter who "wrestled" with what was more important - saving a human life or getting that all important footage she'd promised not to "capture" - are adjudged by some to have more relevance than simple human compassion or decency:

...for embedded photojournalist Julie Jacobson and her bosses at the Associated Press, this attack was a Kodak Moment. Jacobson captured a vivid and dramatic photograph of the scene: Bernard’s gruesome wound is shown in all its bloody detail, and his young face, sickly pale and blank with shock, is haunting. The article that Jacobson and AP reporter Alfred de Montesquiou filed stated that, as that young man was exsanguinating, the photographer “wrestled” with a “question”: Should she try to help save Joshua, or should she keep taking pictures?

We all know what her decision was. Whether it was a "decent" thing to do, I leave to wiser, or perhaps just less dispassionate, heads to decide.

Those who are actually curious about what kind of man Joshua Bernard was can read what his father has to say about him here. Or you can continue to delude yourself that a gruesome photograph of a young man slowly bleeding to death somehow conveys a deeper truth about war and the kind of men who fight it.

As for me, there are tears in my eyes. There will always be tears in my eyes when I think of Joshua Bernard. I hope that I am never ashamed to admit it.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:30 PM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

If You Tell the Truth, We Will Call You Out!

Oh snap! TPM Muckraker is really worried that Humana may not be the only insurer trying to scare seniors with lying lies make sure seniors know what the Congressional Budget Office testified about to Congress:

At 2:30, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf testifies that the Chairman's mark would reduce Medicare Advantage benefits by "almost half" of what they are under current law. Before that, he testified that by 2019, Medicare Advantage's enrollment would decline by roughly 2.7 million people.

CBO Director Elmendorf at 1:47:

"Today, in the current MA system, beneficiaries who choose Medicare Advantage receive benefits that beneficiaries in the fee for service system do not receive."

But don't try to tell seniors that health care reform will reduce their benefits by 50% or the federal government will slap a gag order on you and lefty blogs like TPM Muckraker will cheer them on. Oh, and don't you dare let Grandma call her Congresscritter, because that would be "lobbying".

Yep. The elderly have no legitimate interest in the facts - especially if those facts would reduce their existing benefits by 50%. These people are pathetic.

Luckily, some Democrats aren't afraid of the truth ... or of an informed electorate:

KARL: And even some Democratic Senators are concerned that the bill now before the Senate Finance Committee reduces spending on Medicare Advantage by $123 billion.

SENATOR BILL NELSON (D-FL): I think it would be intolerable to ask the senior citizens on Medicare who have it to give up substantial health benefits that they're enjoying under Medicare.

Update: the Washington Post reports that Medicare Advantage funds will indeed be cut!

Proposed health reform legislation would sharply reduce funding for Medicare Advantage plans, and the insurance industry has been battling to prevent that from happening. The bill unveiled last week by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, would directly cut payments to Medicare Advantage plans by an estimated $123 billion over 10 years, and it would indirectly reduce funding for those plans by another $15.6 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Apparently, CBO's testimony that Medicare Advantage benefits will decrease by 50% if the current health care reform proposal is enacted should by no means be considered "...important information about your Medicare Advantage plan".

In other words, "Shut up, stop asking questions, and fall in line."

Posted by Cassandra at 12:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Chill Wind? What Chill Wind?

I love Memeorandum. One of the best things about it is watching the way certain stories get linked by righty bloggers while others are immediately pounced upon by the left side of the Blatherosphere.

During the Bush years, America was treated to constant hand wringing over the way the Bush administration was supposedly "chilling" free speech. So pervasive and soul crushing was this heavy handed censorship that brave truth tellers like Keith Olbermann were brutally punished for daring to voice their patriotic dissent.

Oh. My bad. That never happened.

But we all remember how impassioned defenders of patriotic dissent like Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Bill Moyers, Cindy Sheehan and the entire anchor desk of MSNBC were rounded up at midnight and rendered to airless cells at Gitmo, thus discouraging the rest of us from bravely speaking truth to power, don't we?

Oops. Wrong again. That never happened either, did it?

Well certainly, now that the Obama administration is trying to suppress facts substantiated by his own Congressional Budget office, these brave defenders of free speech will erupt in righteous fury, no es verdad? Because the First Amendment applies to all Americans, right?

Dang. Wrong a third time.

I guess Americans only deserve "the facts" when the right people profit from free speech:

While H.R. 3200 would place strict price controls on Medicare Advantage plans-requiring them to pay out 85 percent of premium revenues in medical claims-Medigap policies face a far less strict 65 percent requirement. In other words, under the Democrat bill, seniors could pay as much as 20 cents more out of every premium dollar to fund “kickbacks” to AARP-sponsored Medigap plans than Medicare Advantage plans.

...A Hill source summed it up for me this way: “AARP has endorsed a huge reduction in funding of Medicare Advantage, which touches over 10 million middle-lower income seniors. If Medicare Advantage funding is reduced, and seniors are forced out of the program, they become potential buyers of the heavily-promoted and very profitable Medicare Supplement program sponsored by AARP (MediGap is 70% of AARP’s annual income). Medicare Supplement is a huge source of revenue to AARP.

Or as Patrick so trenchantly notes:

Sadly, the prevailing narrative slanders anyone who has the temerity to oppose the president. It turns out that we were misled by the left's neo-Clintonian parsing of the verb "is." Dissent is only the highest form of patriotism when the right people say so. If they disagree with dissent, or do not publicly subscribe to it, then dissent devolves into thoughtcrime.

The thing is, there's an enormous difference between simply demonizing your opponents and using the full power of the federal government to silence criticism - even if it happens to be factually accurate. One might think anyone who really believed all that blather about the dangers of government censorship would be up in arms about the Obama administration's heavy handed bullying.

One would be wrong.

Maybe all that Lefty free speech outrage was just another cynical political ploy? After all when you own the megaphone, you can just make anyone who disagrees with you disappear.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:42 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 22, 2009

McChrystal: Finally A Leader With Guts, Integrity

You have to love the fulminating hypocrisy of the Left. When Bush was in office anonymous leakers were brave patriots, proudly Leaking Truth to Power. I didn't approve of leaks or the leaky leakers who leak them to the media then.

I certainly don't approve of leakers now, even though I detest the [lack of] leadership and direction the Obama administration has brought to this war. But the fact is, McChrystal's report is out there now and those who once wanted the unvarnished truth about war even if it was obtained illegally now want to shield the President of the United States from the pressures of a job he asked for. When even your own side can't stomach your blatant doublespeak, perhaps it's time to speak truth to power:

I'm lost on President Barack Obama's Afghanistan policy—along with most of Congress and the U.S. military. Not quite eight months ago, Mr. Obama pledged to "defeat" al Qaeda in Afghanistan by transforming that country's political and economic infrastructure, training Afghan forces and adding 21,000 U.S. forces for starters. He proclaimed Afghanistan's strategic centrality to prevent Muslim extremism from taking over Pakistan—an even more vital nation because of its nuclear weapons. And a mere three weeks ago, he punctuated his commitments by proclaiming that Afghanistan is a "war of necessity," not one of choice. White House spokesmen reinforced this by promising that the president would "fully resource" the war.

Yet less than one week ago, Mr. Obama said the following about troop increases: "I'm going to take a very deliberate process in making those decisions. There is no immediate decision pending on resources, because one of the things that I'm absolutely clear about is you have to get the strategy right and then make a determination about resources." He repeated that on Sunday's talk shows.

Are we now to understand that he made all those previous declarations and decisions without a strategy he was committed to? Prior to his recent statements, it seemed clear that the president and his advisers had adopted a strategy already—the counterinsurgency one—and that Gen. Stanley McChrystal was tapped precisely because he would implement that plan. The idea, to repeat, was to deploy forces sufficient to clear territory of Taliban threats, hold that territory, and build up the sinews of the country behind that.

Nothing significant has changed to account for the shift from Mr. Obama's confident policy proclamations to his temporizing statements of recent days. The president certainly understood before last week that the situation in Afghanistan was deteriorating. And he knew when he was inaugurated and when he first uttered his colorful "war of necessity" phrase that his party, and the public generally, were increasingly opposed to the war.

Americans are now confused and caught somewhere between remembering the president's insistence on Afghanistan's importance to U.S. security and rapidly rising pressure from his party to bring the troops home.

Finally we have a commanding general who is willing to put his money where his mouth is. For the past 8 years we heard nothing but, "Why won't the White House listen to the Generals!"

"We need more boots on the ground!"

"Why hasn't the President 'sold' the war to the American people?"

"Iraq is just a distraction - the real fight is in Afghanistan!"

When juxtaposed with this administration's dereliction of duty with regard to the Afghan war, the irony of these Lefty mantras is palpable. Today's news just underscores the wisdom of that old adage, "Be careful what you wish for." The Oval Office is occupied by a man who campaigned on the promise that he would withdraw troops from Iraq and send them to win the real war - the good war - a war American can't afford to lose. Earlier this spring when Obama released his so-called plan for Afghanistan, military leadership told him they needed more troops to accomplish the mission.

No amount of retroactive rewriting of history changes the fact that the military didn't get what they needed. In March of 2009, it was widely reported that more troops were needed to "adequately resource" the fight:

In military terms the additional troops designated for Afghanistan this year are "more a down-payment than the final plan," says Biddle.

Campbell and Biddle both note that, even with the 21,000 troops Obama has promised, Gen. David McKiernan, who heads NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, will not have the manpower to defeat a raging insurgency. Until he can get more reinforcements from Iraq, McKiernan will have to adopt an "inkblot" strategy, defending small portions of the country and hoping the security blanket spreads to neighboring areas.

McKiernan is "very likely to apply classical counterinsurgency techniques that we saw in Iraq in 2007 — defend the population, deploy in small, dispersed positions, use minimal firepower," says Biddle. But even a cautious military posture will "unquestionably lead to higher casualty rates."

The historical revisionism among Obama supporters is not just unintentionally funny. It's downright contemptible. Their candidate - Barack Obama - campaigned on the promise that he would fully resource the Afghan war and deliver increased multinational support to the fight. Eight months later, none of that much ballyhoo'd international support has materialized. Britain and Canada - two of our strongest allies - have been alienated and marginalized by this administration. He has fired one general for being naive enough to believe he was expected to actually carry out the Obama administration's 'multilateral strategy'.

So much for soft power and honeyed diplo-speak. They've gotten us exactly nothing. But even this increasingly disenchanted Marine wife was unprepared for the disgusting gutter tactics of the anti-war Left. Just as they basely attacked David Petraeus when he tried to do the job he was hired to do, now they've turned on Stanley McChrystal.

Let's get one thing straight here: General McChrystal has said NOTHING about resigning. But based on nothing more than a leak, Democrats are piling on in their unseemly haste to assassinate the character of an Army General who has the thankless task of carrying out a strategy everyone knows he lacks the resources to implement. It is McChrystal's job to tell Congress and the President what is needed to implement the strategy he's been handed.

Back in March, Obama had already been told Afghanistan needed thousands more troops. His administration's response was to tell the men and women who are putting their lives on the line, "Talk to the hand." McChrystal is in a no-win position here. If he caves to Obama's bullying, he betrays tens of thousands of young men and women who are counting on him to tell the truth.

And if he tells the truth, he's accused of "blackmailing the President".

Andrew Sullivan: "He shouldn't push his luck".

He should be fired.

You have idiots wanting to apply "economic analysis" to the preservation of American lives.

This one's priceless: McChrystal is playing "management games".

These people need to take a good, long look into the empty place they call their souls. When the endless parade of retired Generals gutless wonders who were "too scared" of Darth Rumsfeld to do their duty came swarming out of a cozy retirement to say they'd known all along we needed more boots on the ground in Iraq (but they hadn't spoken up), the Left embraced them with open arms.

Where is that laudable concern now that it's Obama whose clueless and unprincipled leadership is being exposed by a brave, truth-to-powering General? Those whose scruples conveniently went AWOL until they retired - who risked precisely nothing when it mattered most - were greeted as heroes once they finally managed to locate their principles. A General who is bravely speaking up when it still matters?

He's a blackmailer. And the brave leakers who were so celebrated during the Bush years are now traitors.

Today my husband leaves to join a war his Commander in Chief still hasn't decided is worth fighting. If Obama had half the integrity Stanley McChrystal has in his little finger, he'd man up and give the troops what they need or admit he has absolutely no intention of winning this war.

It's called leadership, Mr. President. Eight months into your Presidency, we're still waiting for you to show up.

Posted by Cassandra at 11:33 AM | Comments (50) | TrackBack

Quote of the Day

... nobody told me that I couldn't make it because I was poor and black, or that I ought to hate white people today because of what some other white people did to my ancestors in some other time.

Nobody sugar-coated the facts of racial discrimination. But Professor Sterling Brown of Howard University, who wrote with eloquent bitterness about racism, nevertheless said to me when I prepared to transfer to Harvard: "Don't come back here and tell me you didn't make it 'cause white folks were mean."

He burned my bridges behind me, the way they used to do with armies going into battle, so that they had no place to retreat to, and so had to fight to win.

One of the problems with trying to help underdogs, especially with government programs, is that they and everyone else start to think of them as underdogs, focusing on their problems rather than their opportunities. Thinking of themselves as underdogs can also dissipate their energies in resentments of others, rather than spending that energy making the most of their own possibilities.



- Thomas Sowell

Posted by Cassandra at 08:47 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

September 21, 2009

When "Calling Them Out" Means Chilling Free Speech

This ought to send a chill wind up the skirts of any American who cares about the First Amendment:

The government is investigating a major insurance company for allegedly trying to scare seniors with a mailer warning they could lose important benefits under health care legislation in Congress.

The Health and Human Services Department launched its investigation of Humana after getting a complaint from Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., a senior lawmaker usually viewed as a reliable ally of the insurance industry.

"It is wholly unacceptable for insurance companies to mislead seniors regarding any subject — particularly on a subject as important to them, and to the nation, as health care reform," Baucus said Monday, disclosing the HHS investigation.

Humana Inc., headquartered in Louisville, Ky., is cooperating with the investigation and stopped the mailer earlier this month, company spokesman Tom Noland said Monday.

David Henderson wonders:

For years, various commentators have said that Friedrich Hayek, in The Road to Serfdom, and Milton Friedman, in Capitalism and Freedom, exaggerated the dangers to freedom of speech from government control. But also for years, drug companies have feared criticizing the FDA because the FDA has so much discretionary control over their economic livelihoods. Now HHS has upped the ante. Will the defenders of freedom of speech step up to defend Humana's rights, as opposed to Humana's statements. How many people will there be who disagree with what Humana said, but who defend (I don't even need "to the death"--I'll settle for a letter and postage stamp) their right to say it?

So what is the nature of Humana's "scary" and "misleading" message?

Leading health reform proposals being considered in Washington, D.C., this summer include billions in Medicare Advantage funding cuts, as well as spending reductions to original Medicare and Medicaid. While these programs need to be made more efficient, if the proposed funding cut levels become law, millions of seniors and disabled individuals could lose many of the important benefits and services that make Medicare Advantage health plans so valuable.

This "scary, misleading, and potentially illegal" opinion is shared by such insurance powerhouses as The Associated Press:

OBAMA: "Don't pay attention to those scary stories about how your benefits will be cut. ... That will never happen on my watch. I will protect Medicare."

THE FACTS: Obama and congressional Democrats want to pay for their health care plans in part by reducing Medicare payments to providers by more than $500 billion over 10 years. The cuts would largely hit hospitals and Medicare Advantage, the part of the Medicare program operated through private insurance companies.

Although wasteful spending in Medicare is widely acknowledged, many experts believe some seniors almost certainly would see reduced benefits from the cuts. That's particularly true for the 25 percent of Medicare users covered through Medicare Advantage.

The Cato Institute:

Medicare Advantage allows seniors to choose a private health plan rather than get their health coverage from the traditional Medicare program. The Left has complained Medicare Advantage costs taxpayers more than if those seniors remained in the traditional Medicare program. (I agree, though the reason is not because government is more efficient than private insurance.) The Left has long dreamt of eliminating Medicare Advantage, in part because it poses a threat to their plans for a completely government-run, single-payer health care system. Yet the Left has had to settle for attacking and attempting to eliminate the “overpayments” that Medicare Advantage plans receive. Of course, one can eliminate Medicare Advantage stealthily by reducing payments to private plans until none will participate.

During a session with George Stephanopoulus, Obama outright lies about his intentions with regard to Medicare Advantage:

STEPHANOPOULOS: But he said it's going to cause beneficiaries right now to lose what they have.

OBAMA: Look, I understand that change is hard. If what you're saying is that people who are currently signed up for Medicare advantage are going to have Medicare and the same level of benefits, but they may not be having their insurer get a 14 percent premium, that's absolutely true and will the insurers squawk? You bet.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They may drop the coverage.

OBAMA: No, these folks are going to be able to get Medicare that is just as good, provides the same benefits...

There's just one problem. That's not true:

Medicare Advantage Plans are offered by private insurance carriers (such as Kaiser or PacifiCare) and can be Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans, or Private Fee-for-Service and Specialty Plans. Generally, these plans provide all of the coverage of Original Medicare as well as extra benefits and services such as chiropractic, prescription drugs and hearing aids. Additionally, gym memberships, preventive care services, dental, vision and access to disease management programs may also be covered.

In other words, "You lie, Mr. President". The question is, how does your administration plan to silence every person or corporation who calls you on your dishonesty?

Posted by Cassandra at 06:14 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

If Individual Mandate Isn't a Tax, Is It Still Constitutional?

During the BusHitler years the oft repeated ne plus ultra of argument enders was, "We are all entitled to our own opinions, but we are not entitled to our own facts."

What a difference an election makes! So many Lefty memes are falling by the wayside these days. It's enough to make the Founding Fathers cry.

These days, once patriotic dissent is now regarded as the lowest form of domestic terrorism. Real Americans can't wait to trade essential liberties for temporary security and if your name happens to be Barack Obama, you can not only make up your own definitions, but your own facts as well!

In the most contentious exchange of President Barack Obama’s marathon of five Sunday shows, he said it is “not true” that a requirement for individuals to get health insurance under a key reform plan now being debated amounts to a tax increase.

But he could look it up — in the bill.

Page 29, sentence one of the bill introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont) says: “The consequence for not maintaining insurance would be an excise tax.”

And the rest of the bill is clear that the Finance Committee does, in fact, consider it a tax: “The excise tax would be assessed through the tax code and applied as an additional amount of Federal tax owed.”

The bill requires every American, with few exceptions, to carry health insurance. To enforce this individual mandate, the Senate Finance Committee created the excise tax as a penalty for people who don’t have insurance – and it can run as much as $3,800 a year per family.

The House bill also refers to the penalties for not carrying insurance as a tax. It calls for a “tax on individuals without acceptable health care coverage” and amends the tax code to implement it.

Yesterday whilst watching the President of these United States school the vast reich wing noise machine, the Editorial Staff could not help wondering whether it was really wise to undercut what is arguably the strongest argument for the constitutionality of the individual mandate: Congress' power to tax and spend to promote the general welfare?

The Potomac atmosphere in early 1935 was one of importunate enthusiasm--of aggressive confidence, too, with one great exception. That exception, which colored the thinking of even the lowliest contributor to policy making, was grave uncertainty as to the Supreme Court's view of the constitutionality of New Deal legislation. To be sure, the Schechter decision, which invalidated the NRA and provoked President Roosevelt to angry comments about the "horse-and-buggy Court," was not handed down until late May. Long before that, however, all of us working to prepare social insurance legislation were aware of the constitutional difficulties involved. A young lawyer saddled with more responsibility than he should have accepted (I not only accepted it, I clung to it) was unceasingly conscious of the threatening shadow cast by the Constitution or the justices or both.

... Hostile newspapers--which comprised most of the press--promptly assailed the new bill as a hodgepodge, an ill-drafted legislative monstrosity. Their criticisms on this score were uninformed. The chief complaint was that various subjects were scattered throughout the measure: thus, one chapter, or title, imposed a tax for old age insurance while the provision for old age benefits appeared in a separate title many pages distant. The critic did not know--or perhaps they did--that this awkward arrangement was deliberate. It was designed to make it easier for the Supreme Court to sustain the measure's validity--not to fool the court but to give the justices a technical peg on which to hang their hats if they so desired.

...The bill became law on August 14, 1935. And still no one could be sure that it would last. Was it constitutional? Certainly its welfare provisions, grants-in-aid to the states, were valid, but what of unemployment compensation and old age insurance? In regard to unemployment compensation I had been tiresomely insistent during the drafting of the bill in proposing a federal tax on employers which would be "forgiven" to the extent that the employers paid contributions into state unemployment compensation funds. I was insistent because there was a judicial precedent for upholding this method of persuading the states to act and because Justice Brandeis had casually mentioned that precedent to his son-in-law, a leader in the unemployment compensation movement in Wisconsin. With respect to old age insurance, the Constitution gives the Congress power to tax and spend for the general welfare. But was a particular tax on employees, who would eventually be paid benefits in amounts measured by the taxes they had paid, a proper exercise of this congressional power? Or was it an attempt to establish a compulsory retirement insurance system, and if so, was it beyond the authority of Congress? We could not know the answers to these questions until a May morning in 1937, when Justice Cardozo began to read the court's opinions upholding both phases of the Social Security Act.

Few Americans now recall that in the months leading up to the Court's review of the Social Security Act, judges had been striking down one New Deal law after another. Even fewer Americans remember FDR's response to this judicial defiance:

Enraged, Roosevelt decided to subdue the Court. His megalomania inflated by his 1936 landslide, on February 5, 1937 he abruptly asked Congress to enact a bill empowering him to appoint one additional Justice for every one who turned 70 and did not retire, for a maximum of six, thus enlarging the Supreme Court from nine Justices to up to fifteen.

A firestorm ensued. Critics rightly called Roosevelt’s proposal a plan to pack the Court. Even liberals who deplored the Court’s decisions, including many congressional Democrats, opposed it.

Its arm cruelly twisted by Roosevelt’s threat to its independence, the Supreme Court began surrendering in self-preservation.

An aging Supreme Court, intimidated by Roosevelt's threats, capitulated and refused to declare Social Security unconstitutional. But the important point here is the argument provided by Justice Cardozo in the majority ruling (which, by the way, largely relied upon the administration's case that Social Security was a valid exercise of Congress's spending power):

... There are about two pages of actual argument, that Congress may spend money to promote the general welfare; that what the general welfare is changes with the times, and that the Depression had made old-age poverty a national problem; that Congress didn’t arbitrarily decide that old-age benefits would promote the general welfare, but drew on documents and hearings; that the wisdom of old-age benefits is for Congress to decide, not the Court; and that the concept of general welfare is for Congress to decide, not the states. The first two of these, occupying about three-quarters of a page, use language resembling the brief’s. Altogether, of twelve pages, there are almost nine of description, six of them essentially lifted from the brief; about a page on miscellany; and roughly two pages of constitutional argument, of which about three-quarters of a page is largely from the brief.

Regarding whether Titles II and VIII together were an invalid old-age insurance scheme, Cardozo merely noted Davis’s argument that they dovetail so as to justify concluding that Congress would not have passed one without the other, and the government’s opposing position that Congress could spend the revenue as it willed. "We find it unnecessary to make a choice between the arguments, and so leave the question open." So the Court ducked the core issue of whether Social Security is an unconstitutional government insurance program. Why?

...The majority of the Helvering v. Davis majority, Hughes, Roberts, Van Devanter, and Sutherland, were conservatives. Most had bitterly criticized the New Deal. Can anybody really believe that they found Cardozo’s half-baked opinion, mostly lifted from the Administration’s brief, an adequate expression of their views on Social Security’s constitutionality?

McReynolds and Butler dissented – but wrote no opinions. Did they have nothing to say? Or were they afraid of Roosevelt?

If we are to believe President Obama, the individual mandate is not a tax. But if it is not a tax, whence comes Congress' power to force individuals to buy health insurance? The other commonly cited grounds for an individual mandate is the Commerce clause authority to regulate matters which substantially affect interstate commerce. Ilya Somin points out the flaws in that interpretation:

Looking at the text of the Constitution, the Commerce Clause merely grants Congress the power to regulate "Commerce ... among the several states." Choosing to purchase (or not purchase) health insurance is not interstate commerce, if only because nearly all insurance purchases are conducted within the confines of a single state. Obviously, the decision to purchase health insurance may well have an impact on interstate commerce... If the Commerce Clause really gave Congress the power to regulate any activity that merely affects interstate commerce, most of Congress' other powers listed in Article I of the Constitution would be redundant.

How smart is it to undermine one of the strongest arguments for the constitutionality of the individual mandate? It's beginning to look as though foreign policy may not be the only arena in which our President is out of his depth.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:47 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 18, 2009

" Help you I can, yes!"

Via The Manolo, this just begs for a caption:

Brack_Obama_LightSaber.jpg

Posted by Cassandra at 10:19 PM | Comments (61) | TrackBack

Amnesty for Illegals But Not for Marine Widow?

Apparently, passing health care reform is so important that President Obama is willing to extend amnesty to 12 million illegal aliens to do it:

Senators have worked on language that would prevent illegal immigrants from buying insurance through a proposed insurance exchange envisioned in the health care reform package.

But the NCLR said that could lead to situations where some members of a family would be covered and others, including children of illegal immigrants, wouldn't be.

Mr. Obama said legalizing illegal immigrants is a way to take the sting out of the entire issue.

Let me see if I've gotten this straight. Providing not only amnesty but federal benefits to 12 million folks who broke U.S. immigration laws (Hmmm... has he included them in his cost estimates for health care reform?) is eminently do-able, but we're going to deport a Marine widow and her son on a technicality?

Hotaru Ferschke just wants to raise her 8-month-old son in his grandparents' Tennessee home, surrounded by photos and memories of the father he'll never meet: a Marine who died in combat a month after marrying her from thousands of miles away.

Sgt. Michael Ferschke was killed in Iraq in 2008, leaving his widow and infant son, both Japanese citizens, in immigration limbo: A 1950s legal standard meant to curb marriage fraud means U.S. authorities do not recognize the marriage, even though the military does.

This year was supposed to be the Year of the Military Family, Mr. President. Recently, you found time to have a beer with Henry Louis Gates and Sgt. Crowley.

Sgt. Michael Ferschke gave his life for this country. Do you think you could find a spare moment for his widow and son?

Posted by Cassandra at 01:44 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

September 17, 2009

Heresy!

"We have found a witch! May we burn him?":

From FIRE comes this remarkable tale:
The abuse of campus sexual harassment policies to punish dissenting professors has hit a new low at East Georgia College (EGC). Professor Thomas Thibeault made the mistake of pointing out — at a sexual harassment training seminar — that the school's sexual harassment policy contained no protection for the falsely accused. Two days later, in a Kafkaesque irony, Thibeault was fired by the college president for sexual harassment without notice, without knowing his accuser or the charges against him, and without a hearing. . . .

Thibeault's ordeal started shortly after August 5, 2009 when, during a faculty training session regarding the college's sexual harassment policy, he presented a scenario regarding a different professor and asked, "[W]hat provision is there in the Sexual Harassment policy to protect the accused against complaints which are malicious or, in this case[,] ridiculous[?]" Vice President for Legal Affairs Mary Smith, who was conducting the session, replied that there was no such provision to protect the accused, so Thibeault responded that "the policy itself is flawed."

Two days later, Thibeault was summoned to EGC President John Bryant Black's office. . . . Black told Thibeault that he "was a divisive force in the college at a time when the college needed unity" and that Thibeault must resign by 11:30 a.m. or be fired and have his "long history of sexual harassment . . . made public."

As of today, the college has still not provided any evidence to support its sexual-harassment charge.

Of course, it could have been far worse. They could have had hard evidence against him:

Sampson's troubles began last year when a co-worker complained after seeing him reading a book titled Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan.

The book's cover features white-robed Klansmen and burning crosses against a backdrop of Notre Dame's campus. It recounts a 1924 riot between Notre Dame students and the Klan in which the students from the Catholic university prevailed.

Sampson, a 58-year-old white janitor and student majoring in communication studies, said he tried to explain that the book was a historical account.

"I have an interest in American history," Sampson said. "I was trying to educate myself."

But Sampson says his union official likened the book to bringing pornography to work, and the school's affirmative action officer in November told Sampson his conduct constituted racial harassment.

"You used extremely poor judgment by insisting on openly reading the book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject in the presence of your black co-workers," Lillian Charleston wrote in a letter to Sampson.

Whenever I see this degree of tiptoeing through the tulips, trying to redress slights that occurred largely in someone's overactive imagination, or right wrongs that occurred long before any of the participants were born, I begin to suspect there is way too much estrogen in the room. It's even funnier when you see grown men getting their Hanes UltraSheers all in a wad.

Kinda reminds me of that whole intersex fish deal. Where is the Brawny Man when we need him?

Posted by Cassandra at 02:34 PM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

*snort*

Charles Gibson.... this is your courtesy wakeup call.

Heh.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:30 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Photo of the Day

strange-people-public-transport-chicken-suits.jpgGinormous poultry. The subway during rush hour.

What could *possibly* go wrong?

Also, below the fold so I don't ruin anyone's breakfast, I turned myself into a 'toon!


























toon.jpg

Posted by Cassandra at 05:57 AM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

September 16, 2009

"It's the Commitment, Stupid"

The longer I live, the more astounded I am at how many people make life way more complicated than it needs to be:

...a study Stanley co-authored in February found that of the 1,050 married people surveyed, almost 19 percent of those who lived together before getting engaged had at some point suggested divorce, compared with 10 percent for those who waited until marriage to live together.

Those findings mimic the reports from the mid-1990s that first peaked Stanley's interest, showing that men who cohabitated before marriage were, on average, less dedicated to their relationships than those who didn't.

"It was one of those kind of findings that I wouldn't have suspected," Stanley, 53, recalls. But he immediately had a theory: "The basic idea was, 'Okay, there's a group of males there that married someone they wouldn't have married if they hadn't moved in with them.' "

The problem is one of inertia, he says. Living together, mingling finances and completely intertwining your lives makes it harder to break up than if you'd stayed at separate addresses. "Some people get trapped by that and they end up hanging around," he explains. Even if a couple doesn't eventually marry, they might prolong the relationship and "miss other opportunities with a person who's a better fit."

But not all cohabitations are created equal. Stanley's studies have shown there's almost no difference in marital satisfaction between couples who moved in together after they got engaged and those who did it after their wedding day. He attributes this to varying levels of deliberateness; engaged and married couples have committed to a future together, while some couples who cohabit before engagement are ambiguous about where their relationship is headed.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but... "Duh".

Yesterday morning I was reading the comments on a site that seems to attract far more than its reasonable share of bitter divorced men. Before I go any further with this, there are comparable sites where bitter, disenchanted women go on (and on... and on...) about what beasties the male sex are. I rarely visit them because they rarely discuss any topics I'm interested in.

At any rate, yesterday morning there was a persistent refrain weaving in and out of the comments: "She was so nice before we married... and then - for no reason at all! - she turned into a deranged harpy on crack."

While I'm quite willing to stipulate that there are bad women and men in the world, real life relationships are rarely that simple. One person may well be the instigator (especially when the marriage hits a rough patch and outside circumstances cause one partner or the other to temporarily wig out):

LET’S say you have what you believe to be a healthy marriage. You’re still friends and lovers after spending more than half of your lives together. The dreams you set out to achieve in your 20s — gazing into each other’s eyes in candlelit city bistros when you were single and skinny — have for the most part come true.

Two decades later you have the 20 acres of land, the farmhouse, the children, the dogs and horses. You’re the parents you said you would be, full of love and guidance. You’ve done it all: Disneyland, camping, Hawaii, Mexico, city living, stargazing.

Sure, you have your marital issues, but on the whole you feel so self-satisfied about how things have worked out that you would never, in your wildest nightmares, think you would hear these words from your husband one fine summer day: “I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did. I’m moving out. The kids will understand. They’ll want me to be happy.”

If there's one thing I've learned in three decades of being married, we have absolutely zero control over someone else's state of mind. But we have quite a bit of control over how we respond to them.

I think the hardest thing about being married for a long time is remembering the importance of self-restraint. We get comfortable, we fall into a rut, we begin to take each other and the relationship for granted. And then suddenly we hit a speed bump and find that gradually, imperceptibly, we have drifted apart.

When someone hurts you deeply or their behavior throws you for a loop, the natural response is to lash out; to retaliate in kind or to react without stopping to consider how your response might make things worse rather than better. We've come to think that promises are no longer relevant these days.

I think promises act like a keel on a large boat. When gale force winds strike, sometimes the promise is all you have to cling to until fair weather returns. Marriages are built on faith, and faith in a promise can sometimes tide you over when faith in your partner seems hard to come by.

That said, if my spouse suddenly announced he wasn't sure if he ever loved me, I don't think detached reasonableness would be my first response. Sometimes knowing what to do is not the same thing as being smart enough to do it.

But then again, maybe that's what the promise is for.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:44 PM | Comments (43) | TrackBack

You, Too Can Be a Conspiracy Theorist!!!

*snort*:

A long-forgotten puzzle at the heart of Washington. A murderous cult determined to protect it. A desperate race to uncover the New York Times' darkest secret....

THE HALLOWED RUNE

When celebrated Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned to the National Gallery of Art to analyze a mysterious rune—etched into the floor next to the mangled body of the head docent—he discovers evidence of the unthinkable: the resurgence of the ancient cult of the Truministas, a secret branch of the NY Times that has surfaced from the shadows to carry out its legendary vendetta against its mortal enemy, Zappos.com.

Langdon's worst fears are confirmed when a messenger from the Truministas appears at the Library of Congress to deliver a deadly ultimatum: Turn over the Constitution or one cherub will disappear from the Sistine Chapel every day. With the countdown under way, Langdon joins forces with the lithe and enigmatic daughter of the murdered docent in a desperate bid to crack the code that will reveal the cult's secret plan.

Embarking on a frantic hunt, Langdon and his companion follow a 1100-year-old trail through Washington's most venerable churches and sacred statues, pursued by a mustachioed assassin the cult has sent to thwart them. What they discover threatens to expose a conspiracy that goes all the way back to Adolph Ochs and the very founding of the New York Times.

Posted by Cassandra at 03:41 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Black Conservatives on "Racism"

The inimitable Project 21 injects some sanity into the national debate on race:

The public is outraged about the president's policies -- the spending, the budget, the deficit -- not his skin color.

President Obama was not elected only with black votes. Are those who cry 'racism' saying the American people suddenly woke up and said, 'oh, he's black so I don't like him anymore'? That makes no sense. The criticism of Obama's policies is about the policies -- the stimulus, the growth of government, cap-and-trade, the health care bills, the overspending.

It's easier for the left to play the race card than address the public's legitimate concerns, but what the left and the media are doing is damaging and dangerous.

It's damaging because when everything is racist, then nothing is. Those who cry racism without evidence will cause people to tune out in cases in which there is evidence.

It's dangerous also to send a message that racism is behind everything. What does that tell young black men and women? It tells them they will never get a fair shake and that white people who have never met them dislike them. With a message like that, its no surprise we're seeing apparently racial incidents like the widely-circulated video of a young white student being beaten up on a school bus by black students while other black students cheer. What message have those black students internalized from liberal leaders like Rangel, Johnson, Paterson, Matthews and Dowd and now former President Carter? That white people are their enemy.

If this continues -- if not already -- the left will literally have blood on its hands, and all because it was too dishonest and too cowardly to have a fair debate with the American people on policy."

Kevin Martin nails it:

People speaking out at town halls are genuinely concerned about the direction our nation is being pushed. They are frustrated because they feel they are removed from governing.

They are not racists.

What about their opposition? The White House suggested supporters "punch back twice as hard." At least one Obama follower took this literally in Missouri when Kenneth Gladney, a black man, was roughed up and reportedly called the n-word while handing out "Don't Tread on Me" flags at Representative Russ Carnahan's (D-MO) August 7 town hall meeting.

The actions. The disfranchisement. The hate speech. When all the facts are on the table, it's clear who's bringing race into all this: Obama and his team.

Another thing that is all too often noted: isn't it amazing how the media wring their hands about "violent signs"? Where is their concern when the President of the United States urges supporters of health care reform to "punch back twice as hard"?

That isn't self defense. It's aggression. I thought the Left said violence never solves anything?

Update: please consider supporting Black conservatives and moderates trying to make a difference. I just did.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:29 PM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

While We Were Grilling Hot Dogs

"PC Justin Casillas ran into incoming fire three times..."

- 1st Lieutenant Mike Bassi

Watch the rest.

Also, apropos of the UN report I posted on yesterday that said the insurgents are killing more Afghans than coalition forces do:

It's unclear to me whether the child - who the insurgents had assisting them - was killed in the explosion or not. But it looks as though he does walk away before the explosion. US forces hold their fire while the child is in the area. The insurgents have no such reservations.

We expect an awful lot of our armed forces. I'd say America is getting far more than its money's worth on the investment.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:40 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Web Site of the Day

Well that's one way to boost attendance on Sunday morning:

We are lambs before the Lord, and every Sunday we give thanks to Him with all of our body and soul. And it includes the sacrifice of our garments, for it was when Eve ate from the Tree of Life and gathered fig leaves that mankind fell into sin.

I love it: even as we contemplate the abundance of a Spirit-filled life, let us not neglect more earthy considerations:

Do not disrobe in the parking lot; use the foyer. You may carry a small bag into the church or use the clothing check system near the restrooms.

Via Rod Dreher

Posted by Cassandra at 08:19 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

September 15, 2009

Moral Courage

There are many kinds of strength. Many kinds of courage. The physical kind is just one, and not the greatest kind:

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the normal reaction to the most abnormal situation that is combat. When Jeremiah came upon his dead comrades in Fallujah, he describes a switch flipping on and then just taking care of business. Going back into that house time and time again because his fellow Marines were in trouble and the bastards who hurt them needed to pay. But when he got back home he couldn't just flip a switch and become normal again. He couldn't make his head shut up, or get to sleep, or stop thinking about the buddies he lost.He couldn't act like everything was normal, because it sure wasn't. So he did what many do, he drank too much, he self-medicated and he took it out on everyone around him. He went on an epic bender that all too often ends at the morgue.

But it didn't and so we get to redemption. The single most difficult thing for a warrior to do is admit weakness. But the only way to get any help is to accept the truth and ask for it. When Jeremiah looked around at the wreckage he had made of his life, he did just that. His will to live was stronger than his pride and he started talking to a therapist and letting the professionals help. Even more difficult was facing his friends and fellow warriors and telling them that he had PTSD. I met him not long after he had begun doing just that and was speaking in public about both Fallujah and what happened after he came back. It has been cathartic for him to do that, but he also knows that there are plenty of others out there fighting their wars over and over in their heads and that his example may spur them to seek help.

Brave man.

Posted by Cassandra at 03:00 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

"America's Few" Awesomeness

Via Some Random Marine the Blog Princess is married to:

On September 19, 2009 the United States Marine Corps will debut a new advertising campaign titled 'America's Few'.

'America's Few' is the prequel to the 'America's Marines' campaign that was launched in January 2008. America’s Marines reminded America of the purpose of service as a Marine – to defend our nation's freedom and the American way of life – by showing Marines in their Dress Blue uniform in a single line from sea to shining sea.

'America’s Few' is an authentic portrayal of what it really takes for America’s youth to answer the highest calling and earn their place in a line of Marines that stretches back over 233 years. The new campaign explains that answering the call is just the beginning; everyone who responds must start their journey on the famed yellow footprints and prove themselves in our nation’s most demanding test of mind, body, and character. Only after they successfully complete this 12 week quest will they earn the title “United States Marine.”

Watch the video, share it with friends and family, and come back on 09.19.09 for the official premiere of 'America's Few'.

Last year's video. No matter how many times I've seen this one, I still get a tiny shiver down my spine when the announcer says, "They still do."

Posted by Cassandra at 02:28 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Well Damn...

Mark my words: you radical feminists are to blame for this somehow:


Government scientists figure that one out of five male black bass in American river basins have egg cells growing inside their sexual organs, a sign of how widespread fish feminizing has become.

The findings come from the U.S. Geological Survey in its first comprehensive examination of intersex fish in America, a problem linked to women's birth control pills and other hormone treatments that seep into rivers. Sporadic reports of feminized fish have been reported for a few years.

We tried to warn you, but no! You were having none of our frantic intersex fish warnings.

DENIERS!!!!

Update: Heh... if there's one thing I can't stand, it's a link slut. Worse, in many ways, than an intersex fish.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:10 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

A Life Well Lived

I always love it when The Armorer writes.

How many of us would leave behind such a proud legacy?

Posted by Cassandra at 11:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Interesting Item from Yesterday

According to a UN report, Insurgents Kill More Afghans Than Coalition Does:

I was in the park the other day, chatting with Abdul Rahab, a retired police officer. He told me that, “More than the Taliban, I am worried about US bombings over residential areas.”

Well I wish I’d read this report from the UN before talking to him…

According to the UN, the Taliban kill far more civilians than US airstrikes do. The report sites this bombing in Logar, which killed 25 people altogether, at least a dozen of whom were children.

Insurgents also purposely target schools. According to UNICEF, insurgents have launched “direct attacks by small arms and rockets, arson, and threats,” on schools in Afghanistan.

I’m not saying that US and coalition forces don’t make horrific, deadly, wasteful mistakes. I just think that the perception of those mistakes, when compared to what insurgents do, is out of whack on the Afghan street.

Gee. What could possibly be causing such a skewed perception?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:33 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Must Read of the Day

Amen:

There was a time, within living memory, when most Americans did not have health insurance-- and it was not the end of the world, as so many in politics and the media seem to be depicting it today.

As someone who lived through that era, and who spent decades without medical insurance, I find it hard to be panicked and stampeded into bigger and worse problems because some people do not have medical insurance, including many who could afford it if they chose to.

What did we do, back during the years when most Americans had no medical insurance? I did what most people did. I depended on a "single payer"-- myself. When I didn't have the money, I paid off my medical bills in installments.

The birth of my first child was not covered by medical insurance. I paid off the bill, month by month, until the time finally came when I could tell my wife that the baby was now ours, free and clear.

In a country where everything imaginable is bought and paid for on credit, why is it suddenly a national crisis if some people cannot pay cash up front for medical treatment?

That is not the best way to do things for all people and all medical treatments, which is why most Americans today choose to have medical insurance. But millions of other people choose not to-- often young and healthy people, sometimes deadbeats who use emergency rooms and don't pay at all.

Is this ideal? No. But if every deviation from the ideal is a reason to be panicked and stampeded into putting dangerous arbitrary powers into the hands of government, then go directly to totalitarianism, do not pass "Go", do not collect $200.

And go ahead and drop your bone in the water, in hopes that you can get somebody else's bigger bone.

Like Professor Sowell, my husband and I paid for pre-natal care, the birth of our first son in a hospital, and several years of pediatric care out of our pockets.

We were well below the federal poverty line at the time. How did America survive before the federal government began defining choice as a national emergency?

Posted by Cassandra at 03:28 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 14, 2009

Donald Douglas: Moral Relativist Extraordinaire

According to Donald Douglas, it is "hysterical" and "feminist" to question the idea that the American public can't fully grasp the horror of war unless they are allowed to view identifiable photographs of wounded or dying service men and women:

One of the more hysterical responses was Cassandra's at Villainous Company. As noted, AP explicitly violated the family's requests for non-publication, etc. But where Cassandra goes off the handle is in extrapolating the Marine's photo with situations away from the battlefield:

So if we buy into the notion that we need to see the results of violent episodes to truly understand their consequences, does this mean the media will now begin showing graphic footage of rape victims who have been beaten or tortured or cut to shreds by their attackers?

Rape - and the tolerance of it - has a cost, both to the victim and to society. How can we fully understand the tragic cost of rape unless we are allowed to view their injuries and vicariously understand their pain? According to the press, we can't.

Child abuse has a cost. Therefore, if a child is sexually abused or beaten, we need to see graphic close-ups of their torn vaginas or rectums. We need to see graphic photos of that little boy whose father ate his eyes. Otherwise, it's just too easy to gloss over the horrific damages - both mental and physical - done to these innocent victims. We have a right to know.

Would this further humiliate and traumatize the victims and their families? Undoubtedly. But the public's "need to know" outweighs silly concerns about the victim or family members who may be equally traumatized.

Here we get over to Cassandra's well-know [sic] proclivity to injecting hard-left-wing feminist perspectives into the debate. What we also see are rank double-standards and more of her ignorant hypocrisy. Recall how Cassandra attacked me for my initial report on the Erin Andrews scandal, and specifically my argument that the story was newsworthy. Here's what Cassandra wrote in reply (and the block quote at the middle there is mine):

For days I went out of my way not to make this personal. I've had many conservations with Donald in the past. As he repeatedly points out, he's hardly the only one who seems unable to understand that daring to work as a sportscaster or being "newsworthy" does not constitute voluntary surrender of the right to privacy in situations where any of us ought to have a reasonable expectation of privacy:

I wouldn't photograph my neighbor in a bikini by the pool, getting out of the shower topless, or shaving her legs in the bathroom. I am linking to the post though, for the purposes of argument. The difference between the Erin Andrew link and those links right here is that the latter have absolutely zero news values.

Good thing his neighbor isn't a Gold Star mother whose son was just killed in Iraq or Afghanistan! That would be newsworthy, and according to the media public curiosity about sensationalistic stories trumps all over considerations. It would seem many folks agree.

Okay, so here we have a young Marine killed in Afghanistan and Cassandra's attacking AP's argument that publishing Bernard's picture was indeed newsworthy.

Brace yourself. Donald is about to reveal the supposed hypocrisy of my arguing exactly the same thing in two consecutive debates over the same issue. Because, you know, radical Leftist feminists are so inconsistent. Oh, and illogical.

OK, so let's unpack Donald's "logic".

My argument that we don't need graphic photographs of individually identifiable wounded Marines in order to grasp the generic fact that people's legs get blown off in war and furthermore, that [gasp!] they sometimes die is inconsistent with my prior argument that we didn't really need to see actual video of Erin Andrews' nude body in order to comprehend that a peeping tom had filmed her in the nude without her permission.

Wow. That's some compelling reasoning there.

Furthermore, my using those particular examples couldn't possibly have anything to do with pointing out the inconsistency between the media practice of protecting the privacy of rape and sexual abuse victims to avoid inflicting even more pain on the victims and their families, and the media's insistence that when the victim is a U.S. Marine, the family isn't due that same consideration. Let's face it - only a radical feminist would demand that the media extend the same compassion they customarily extend to female victims of violence to male victims of violence. Yep - only a rad feminista would argue that the exact same privacy standard ought to be applied equally, regardless of gender. Only a radical feminist would argue that releasing identifiable photographs of a victim's wounds when any reader of average intelligence could grasp the essential nature of their injury by other means (such as a verbal description that doesn't expose the victim to public scrutiny) is always wrong. Such arguments are just downright hypocritical.

Note the part of Jules' argument that Donald didn't excerpt:

...The AP has no moral leg to stand on. In this business, you make a deal, you stick with it, until some extraordinary circumstances arise that call the deal into question. The horrible combat death of Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard and the resulting photograph do not represent an extraordinary circumstance within the context of the deal. It is an expected circumstance of the sort AP had agreed to terms on.

If not being allowed to release individually indentifiable photographs of wounded or dead Marines is an "expected" circumstance of having signed an embed agreement with those terms, surely the fact that in war, soldiers are wounded and die is an "expected circumstance" of being in combat? Does anyone seriously dispute this point? Is it really "news" that men are wounded and die during wartime? Is there no less invasive method of conveying the same information?

The point I have made all along is that material which adds no new facts to the story, but is included for shock value or to titillate the audience regardless of the additional trauma it may cause victims or their families ought to be redacted out of a sense of respect for their suffering and for their privacy. This is the reason news organizations do not generally publish the names of rape victims (though victim's names absolutely DO convey additional news value: the identity of the victim). Like members of the armed services, rape victims are not public figures. But even if they were, the media don't normally find it necessary to publish graphic footage of the dying moments of public figures either, do they? Some things - dying is one, walking around naked after taking a shower in a locked hotel room is another - are not moments the general public has a legitimate interest in seeing.

Since any competent writer can easily describe the horror of war via the written word without identifying combat victims and further traumatizing their families, I have to say I disagree with Jules. I don't think shocking the public justifies the use of graphic photos of identifiable subjects. But that's a moral question; one of values.

Donald, as usual, declines to take a stand. Feminist "hystericalness" aside, I understand Jules' point and it was well argued as far as it goes. I simply disagree with Jules. Donald's studied moral neutrality, on the other hand, seems a tad too convenient.

What Donald never bothers to explain is why hurting an already grieving family and violating your your sworn word in order to "personalize" (Jacobsen's words) a news story is morally justifiable. My guess is that he can't explain it.

I can respect someone who (like Jules) does the moral math and comes up with a different answer. I have zero respect for someone who avoids the hard questions altogether.

Update: In an amusing aside, my hysterical, radical feminist rantings won second place last week from the Watcher's Council!

I'm humbled, though of course shocked and thoroughly disapproving of folks with such radical, leftist leanings :p

Seriously, I truly am honored.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:03 PM | Comments (45) | TrackBack

State Mottos Game

Yanno... the Editorial Staff have never explicitly contemplated the Maryland state motto before. But now that we have, we find it eminently mockable:

The state motto, Fatti maschii, parole femine, translates literally from the Italian as "Manly deeds, womanly words", or more generally, "Strong deeds, gentle words," which is what the Government of Maryland cites officially.[1] Maryland is the only state with a motto in Italian.

Which prompts us to ask the villainry to update your state's motto with a 21st Century equivalent. For Maryland, may we suggest:

Il mio dio, tutti comunicano il questo molto?

Posted by Cassandra at 03:20 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Trust in Media Accuracy at 20 Year Low

Sacre Bleu! Do these people not read Clark Hoyt?

543-1.gif The public’s assessment of the accuracy of news stories is now at its lowest level in more than two decades of Pew Research surveys, and Americans’ views of media bias and independence now match previous lows.

Just 29% of Americans say that news organizations generally get the facts straight, while 63% say that news stories are often inaccurate. In the initial survey in this series about the news media’s performance in 1985, 55% said news stories were accurate while 34% said they were inaccurate. That percentage had fallen sharply by the late 1990s and has remained low over the last decade.

Similarly, only about a quarter (26%) now say that news organizations are careful that their reporting is not politically biased, compared with 60% who say news organizations are politically biased. And the percentages saying that news organizations are independent of powerful people and organizations (20%) or are willing to admit their mistakes (21%) now also match all-time lows.

We do not know where these people deranged lunatics are getting such dangerous, unhinged ideas, but we are shocked... shocked, we tell you! that anyone would doubt the independence and impartiality of the American press.

Update: When playing "hide the ball" backfires.

Who knew?

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

NY TimesWatch: If An ACORN Falls In The Forest...

...and most of the MSM pretend they didn't hear it, does it still make a sound?

Here's the Saturday morning round-up on the Census Bureau story for the formerly mainstream media, checking out their home Web pages:

Washington Post, New York Times, USA Today, CBS News, CNN Sucks -- story isn't there. WashPost did run a piece about the Big Government expose' in DC.

MSNBC, to its credit, posted a link to an AP version of the story near the top of their homepage. Some of the others above have the AP story too, but they don't headline it on their homepages. This is significant because all the major news organizations have an auto-feed of wire service stories to their sites -- MSNBC just took the trouble to link it from their homepage.

Interestingly, a third ACORN video sting has now surfaced - this time in NYC. So what reason did the Associated Press give for the Census Bureau's decision to sever ties with ACORN last Friday?

Republicans had become increasingly critical of the bureau’s ties with Acorn.

Some members of the group, which conducted an extensive voter registration effort last year, were accused of submitting false registration forms with names like Mickey Mouse.

Acorn has said only a handful of employees submitted false forms and did so in a bid to increase their pay.

Perhaps this information was not available yet? No, that's not it. That same day, ABC's Jake Tapper reported a far different cause for the Census Bureau's decision:

Census Bureau spokesman Stephen Buckner said officials in the bureau, which is part of the Department of Commerce, had been concerned with news reports about ACORN for awhile and [unlike our astonishingly incurious press corps] “had been monitoring them.”

Buckner said recent videotapes posted on BigGovernment.com and broadcast on Fox News -- showing a young man and young woman pretending to be a pimp and prostitute, declaring themselves such and apparently able to secure the help of ACORN employees in Washington D.C. , and Baltimore, in obtaining housing – was “the tipping point.

Given that Tapper reported the link on Friday and even the U.K. based Telegraph has somehow got wind of the story, one might expect the Paper of Record to have at least a mention this morning.

One would be wrong.

Fresh from last week's failure to report the unfolding Van Jones controversy until the Obama administration forced their hand, the Times remains blissfully free of information about this developing story. As of the time of this posting, the Times' ACORN topic page contained nary a word about the 3 prostitution videos. The Times' ACORN news page did, however, contain a link to a real gem from Times Ombudsman Clark Hoyt, who in March dismissed House testimony alleging illegal collusion between the Obama campaign and ACORN as "The Tip That Didn't Pan Out".

This, despite the fact that Rep. John Conyers was so disturbed by said testimony that he called for an investigation into the allegations... that is, until "the powers that be" called the whole thing off:

Just three months before Rep. Conyers was convinced that looking into the affairs of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now was the right way to go.

During a March 19 hearing, he received testimony from Republican lawyer Heather Heidelbaugh about ACORN's alleged serial violations of tax, campaign finance, and myriad other laws. Heidelbaugh's testimony was based on the evidence provided by a former ACORN employee, Anita MonCrief, who explained the thoroughly corrupt inner workings of ACORN and Project Vote, its voter drive-organizing arm, to a Pennsylvania court last year.

Conyers was told about ACORN's "muscle for the money" program, its protest-for-hire services, its mob-style shakedown tactics, and how President Obama's campaign sent the group its "maxed out donor list" and asked it "to reach out to the maxed out donors and solicit donations from them for Get Out the Vote efforts to be run by ACORN."

At the time, Conyers described the allegations as "a pretty serious matter" and a fortnight later said he would "probably" order a probe. "That's our jurisdiction, the Department of Justice. That's what we handle -- voter fraud. Unless that's been taken out of my jurisdiction and I didn't know it."

On May 4 he unexpectedly pulled back, announcing that a probe of ACORN "appears unwarranted at this time."
He refused to elaborate even though earlier the same day Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, revealed that ACORN and two former senior ACORN executives had been charged with 39 felony counts related to voter registrations.

A few days later Allegheny County, Pennsylvania District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. laid voter registration fraud charges against seven ex-ACORN canvassers. Cuyahoga County, Ohio prosecutor Bill Mason is also probing ACORN after a man who was registered multiple times by ACORN was indicted by a grand jury for fraudulent voting. The Ohio charge should be especially worrisome to ACORN, which claims as a matter of policy that illegal voting does not happen.

A search of the Times' archives, however, reveals that this incident, too, never happened. Hoyt's characterization of the Times' sources as "unreliable" is even more suspect in light of Times reporter Stephanie Strom's multiple reports citing the same "unsubstantiated" source:

The aborted story that gave rise to the Obama/ACORN controversy centers around information provided by Anita MonCrief, a former ACORN employee whom Hoyt acknowledges "fed information to Stephanie Strom of The Times for several articles on troubles within the group." Apparently the information MonCrief provided was good.

We know this because Strom broke a number of important stories about ACORN and surely much of the information she used came from her trusted source Anita MonCrief. In July she reported that Dale Rathke, brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke, embezzled nearly $1 million from the group. She also reported that ACORN management covered up the embezzlement for eight years, withholding information even from ACORN's national board.

The next month Strom reported that Tides Foundation founder Drummond Pike, a comrade-in-arms of liberal philanthropist George Soros, had personally covered what remained of Wade Rathke's debt (the embezzler had agreed to a slow-as-molasses repayment plan that would have kept him in debt well into old age).

In September Strom reported on two ACORN national board members' lawsuit aimed at forcing ACORN to provide financial documents regarding the embezzlement.

She followed up the next month with a story on ACORN's efforts to sever its remaining ties with its founder. (Strom reported that Wade Rathke resigned as chief organizer of ACORN. In fact, Rathke was fired, as shown in the ACORN national board's minutes of June 20, 2008, available at page 11 of the linked PDF file.)

The same month Strom wrote about an internal memo written by ACORN's lawyer that alerted the group to potential legal problems related to its organizational structure.

But apparently MonCrief's information was suddenly no good when it might have embarrassed the Obama campaign.

How conveeeeeeeeeeeeenient.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:35 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Obama: "Do As I Say, Not As I Do"

Who writes this guy's material, anyway?

“The truth of the matter is that there has been, I think, a coarsening of our political dialogue,” Obama told Steve Kroft in an interview taped at the White House on Friday evening.

... one of the things that I’m trying to figure out is: How can we make sure that civility is interesting?”

Gee. I don't know, Mr. President ... perhaps, practice it yourself?

For months I've maintained that despite repeated provocation from our Lefty Brethren in Christ, conservatives shouldn't use their misdeeds to justify the adoption of tactics we've always said were unprincipled. There are plenty of ways to get your point across without hitting below the belt. That said, I can't help but agree - at least in part - with this quote from Glenn Reynolds a few days ago. It really stuck in my mind; so much so that I went back and looked for it today:

I’m finding it hard to get excited about this. It [Joe Wilson's "You lie!"] was a breach of decorum and civility. But someone who says “get in their face” and “punch back twice as hard” has little standing to bring that up. If you want to benefit from traditions of civility, you should respect them, and that has hardly been a hallmark of this administration, which has gone out of its way to try to demonize and shout down opponents.

Now some may think I'm condoning Wilson's outburst. That construction would be wrong, though. I think Wilson was wrong to yell out, "You lie!" and right to apologize for violating House rules he's expected to abide by. That said, I don't have a lot of sympathy for President Obama for the reasons I've laid out so often before (and which Glenn so neatly summarized). If you want others to obey the rules and observe the niceties, you have to reciprocate.

There's another point that is getting lost here. There is no doubt that Wilson's shouted "You Lie!" was effective. But why was it effective? Does anyone really believe that if cries of "Liar!" were commonplace in the House or Senate, the incident would have garnered this much attention? It's remarkable precisely because such outbursts are rare.

They're rare for good reason. Some have cited the House of Commons as an atmosphere in which the rules of decorum don't apply. This argument is false, however:

Can you call the British prime minister a liar when he is speaking in the House of Commons? As a former holder of a House of Commons press pass, I have been asked by my colleagues to rule on this important issue, brought to our attention by Joe Wilson’s outburst during the President’s health-care speech to Congress. The answer is no: While it is true that you are certainly allowed (indeed encouraged) to heckle the prime minister or any other speaker, it is strictly forbidden to call him a liar. And if you do, the Speaker of the House is entitled to object and ask you withdraw this “unparliamentary language.” Over the years, Speakers have in addition objected to other insults, among them (according to the rule book) blackguard, coward, git, guttersnipe, hooligan, rat, swine, stoolpigeon and traitor. And no one is allowed to accuse another member of being drunk, either, even though some of them sometimes are.

Like Applebaum, I've watched debate in the British House of Commons and even there this sort of outburst would be met with scorn and derision. Wilson was right to apologize. He violated House rules, and it speaks well for his character that he didn't try to pretend this isn't what he did. Rules don't exist because we're perfect. They exist because we're human; because experience teaches us that without such rules, people behave unacceptably and others are encouraged when they get away with such behavior. Rules like this don't prevent such lapses 100% of the time. But they do provide a mechanism for discouraging unacceptable behavior. They also allow for society to demonstrate disapproval if the offender refuses to show some contrition (which is not what has happened here).

The fact that a member of the House of Representatives lost his cool and said something he shouldn't have said is significant, not because it happens all the time (it doesn't) or because strong feelings are uncommon in politics (feelings ran high during both Bush terms), but because sometimes the breach of a rule has something important to teach us about why the rule is there in the first place.

As Michael Kinsley notes, Wilson has already apologized twice. The House can certainly censure him if they think a formal condemnation of the breach is needed, but fanning the flames of partisan outrage is more likely to backfire than to benefit them:

...it is against House rules for a representative to call the president a liar during an official session of the House, even if you sincerely think he is one. Or, for that matter, even if he really is one -- as all of them are, on occasion. The purpose of this rule is to attempt to enforce a level of civility in the political debate. The result, though, is just the opposite: It is simply another opportunity for a fusillade in the Umbrage Wars. No matter how important or otherwise the underlying issue may be, it seems that about three-quarters of American politics can now be distilled down to "How dare you say that!" Taking offense at someone else's possibly over-vigorous exercise of free speech, demanding an apology and so on has replaced much serious discussion about, oh, health care, the financial crisis, Iraq, Afghanistan, stuff like that. Umbrage is so much easier: You can do it in your sleep, or on talk radio.

Umbrage is itself, generally, a lie. The ostensible victim of the offensive remark (call him or her the "umbragee") is actually delighted at the opportunity, while the ostensible offense giver (call him or her the "umbragor") is sorry to have wandered into this thicket, or is made to feel sorry as the umbrage game plays itself out. The rules of the game are perverse but simple: I scream with pain until you cry "uncle."
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...all the attention is making him more popular within his own constituency, not less so. Why can't the Democrats be the class act here and just drop it? Sticks and stones, and all that.

The best reason for letting this drop is that further attention only calls attention to the fact that Obama's own behavior is hardly above reproach. After describing his opponents as shameless liars motivated not by sincerely held beliefs but by cynical partisan opportunism, the President can hardly claim to be upholding civility. Nor, now that multiple sources have demonstrated that both the claims and anecdotes used to support his sales pitch suffered from a "truth deficit", can he claim Wilson's outrage was unfounded.

Obama has a long history of ostentatiously "warning" his supporters that his opponents are [gasp!] preparing to use Obama's own tactics against him!

During the campaign, Obama loudly denounced his opponents for their inability to "get beyond divisive racial attacks" while blatantly using the very divisive tactics he claimed to oppose:

I don't know. Could you work the words "fear", "afraid", "scary", and "black" in there just a few more times, Barry? Because I'm "afraid" voters might miss the point.

You know, that you're... like, totally ... black. And the bad, scary Republicans want us to be afraid of you. Because you're so ... black. Even though you're half white. Which we're not supposed to talk about, because that would be focusing on race and you were so hoping we could get beyond that, I know. Damned Republicans. If only they'd quit bringing up the fact.

That you're black. And we should fear you.

The same pattern shows up on the health care debate. First Obama piles on the heavy handed scare tactics himself:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing. Our deficit will grow. More families will go bankrupt. More businesses will close. More Americans will lose their coverage when they are sick and need it most. And more will die as a result. We know these things to be true.

Then he warns supporters that his opponents may [egads!] engage in heavy handed scare tactics:

This is when they spread all kinds of rumors to scare and intimidate the American people. This is what they always do.

No, Mr. President, that is what you always do. And if you want it to stop, perhaps you should consider living by your own rules. Two wrongs don't make a right, you're barking up the wrong tree if you think no one has noticed that you consistently refuse to abide by the rules you want your opponents to follow.

It's called leadership. And when you're the President of the United States, you are held to a higher standard. The ball's in your court.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:30 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Photo of the Day

Elephant_1478399c.jpg

Who says you can't teach an elephant to tap dance?

The animal spotted a curious toddler holding a snack [and] clambered up onto a narrow wall on the edge of its enclosure to snatch it.

Balancing on its tiptoes the elephant teetered precariously on the four inch wide ledge.

It then reached out its long trunk out to gently grab the food from the toddler tourist who was being held up by his father.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:08 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 11, 2009

Beauty

I found this collection of photos yesterday when I was bumbling around the Internets and thought they were lovely. This is my favorite, I think:

beauty.jpg

It struck me, looking at them, that we have really lost something along the way. Not sure what it is: restraint? Subtlety? Respect? Reverence? A sense of mystery?

Anyway, enjoy. Warning: a few are mildly NSFW. I don't think there's anything in there that most people would find even mildly offensive though.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:53 PM | Comments (95) | TrackBack

From the Ashes

The Phoenix is a supernatural creature, living for 500 years. Once its life span is over, the Phoenix builds its own funeral pyre, and throws itself into the flames. As it dies, it is reborn anew, and rises from the ashes to live another 500 years. Alternatively, it lays an egg in the burning coals of the fire which hatches into a new Phoenix, and the life cycle is repeated.

The Phoenix was the symbol of the great civilization of Phoenician people who lived in the East Mediterranean around 4000 BC and invaded the whole Mediterranean area which was known as the Phoenician Sea.

- The Legend of the Phoenix

I awoke this morning to a silent house and the sound of raindrops patiently tapping the leaves outside my bedroom window. I lay nestled underneath the covers for a long time; approaching consciousness warily as though it were a sleeping dog of uncertain temper.

There is a feeling of weightlessness in the moments just before one falls asleep. It happens again just before we open our eyes in the morning. I have often wondered whether that is why I dream of flying sometimes? Lying there, eyes closed, it is almost possible to imagine the mind shaking off the dull restraints of physical existence and taking flight: unbound, unbowed, unfazed by what we think of as reality. Blessedly free, like a child contemplating an endless summer where homework is just an unpleasant memory and the dinner bell doesn't sound until the sun is low on the horizon.

I didn't want to open my eyes this morning. More than anything else I wished to remain in that twilight world where the inexorable laws of physics are momentarily suspended and anything is possible. I didn't want to acknowledge the silence that seemed to press in on me from every wall or the aching, empty place on the other side of the bed; at once a foreshadowing and a metaphor for so many other things I do not want to think about today.

Eight years down the road so many things have been written about 9/11. I suspect this partly explains why each year we grow more reluctant to drag it all back from the recesses of memory. Each anniversary finds us increasingly reluctant to paw through the memories for some new insight, some gleaming bit of sanity that will allow us to make sense of it all.

Most of us, on this day, think of loss. The loss of innocence, of safety. Of nearly 3000 souls we never had a chance to know: entire lives casually snuffed out as though they had no value. Of the sons and daughters, husbands and wives who rose up to defend all that we held so lightly before that fatal day. But most of all, of the shock of having that bouyant, almost peculiarly American sense of invincibility violently ripped away by 19 savages armed, not with assault weapons or suitcase bombs, but with box cutters.

That is all it took to penetrate our superior defenses, our 21st Century technology, our smug sense of superiority: a simple tool most of us have in our toolboxes.

Sometimes, driving along urban superhighways or over gleaming bridges with gossamer supports that arc up into the clouds, or perhaps just strolling around Manhattan as people bustle hither and yon like worker ants - each intent on tasks I can only guess at - I get the feeling we are poised on the edge of history; that this moment is fragile, precious. That this perfection we call America cannot last.

I suppose it is no great wonder, then, that on this particular morning I awoke and thought - not of 3000 lost souls, nor of the 5000-odd who followed them into the abyss - but of an ancient legend.

The Phoenix is a creature of myth and fable conjured from thoughts that dwell just below the surface; an amalgam of centuries of watching people and societies repeat the same mistakes and rediscover the same eternal truths. The story of the phoenix's glorious ascent, slow decline, fiery self-immolation and resurrection reminds us of something important: the loss, destruction, conflict, and pain we instinctively loathe and seek to avoid have a purpose. They awaken defiance and determination in our hearts. They push us out of our complacent sleep - a sleep in which we stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the faint whiff of decay emanating from the glittering facade we have built for ourselves.

On 9/11 we were shaken from our sleep; forced to admit the existence of something we should have known; that abundance, freedom and technology cannot protect us from one of the oldest destructive forces known to man: simple human malice. We carry the seeds of our destruction in our own hearts. No system of government, however lofty the ideals upon which it was based, can protect us from our own failings.

It has been interesting, in the 8 years since that awful day, to watch the parade of villains frog-marched before our eyes: Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Bush/Cheney and their neocon puppetmasters, Islamic extremism, Darth Rumsfeld, the Patriot Act, the Israel lobby.

Fear itself. And the latest scary monster under the bed, the fly in the ointment of our content, the intolerable insult to our amour propre; our sense of "fairness": inequality.

What tends to get lost in the post apocalyptic hand wringing, the mourning, the incessant rounds of accusation recrimination and counter accusation, is any recognition of the truly inspiring stories that sprang from the ashes of our smug, pre-9/11 complacency. I used to wonder why we seem so reluctant to take comfort from them. I don't wonder much anymore.

Rick Rescorla, a forgotten hero from a forgotten war. A man seemingly born of another age; cast from a mould we long ago discarded for something more edgy, more relevant in a world where crisp black and white have been so often confused that all which remains are murky shades of grey.

Mark Daily, a product of New Age Orange County moral relativism who discovered clarity gazing back from the eyes of an old Iraqi man:

...not to romanticize him overmuch, but this is the boy who would not let others be bullied in school, who stuck up for his younger siblings, who was briefly a vegetarian and Green Party member because he couldn't stand cruelty to animals or to the environment, a student who loudly defended Native American rights and who challenged a MySpace neo-Nazi in an online debate in which the swastika-displaying antagonist finally admitted that he needed to rethink things. If I give the impression of a slight nerd here I do an injustice. Everything that Mark wrote was imbued with a great spirit of humor and tough-mindedness. Here's an excerpt from his "Why I Joined" statement:

Anyone who knew me before I joined knows that I am quite aware and at times sympathetic to the arguments against the war in Iraq. If you think the only way a person could bring themselves to volunteer for this war is through sheer desperation or blind obedience then consider me the exception (though there are countless like me).… Consider that there are 19 year old soldiers from the Midwest who have never touched a college campus or a protest who have done more to uphold the universal legitimacy of representative government and individual rights by placing themselves between Iraqi voting lines and homicidal religious fanatics.

And here's something from one of his last letters home:

I was having a conversation with a Kurdish man in the city of Dahok (by myself and completely safe) discussing whether or not the insurgents could be viewed as "freedom fighters" or "misguided anti-capitalists." Shaking his head as I attempted to articulate what can only be described as pathetic apologetics, he cut me off and said "the difference between insurgents and American soldiers is that they get paid to take life—to murder, and you get paid to save lives." He looked at me in such a way that made me feel like he was looking through me, into all the moral insecurity that living in a free nation will instill in you. He "oversimplified" the issue, or at least that is what college professors would accuse him of doing.

Not a hero, strictly speaking. But heroic, nonetheless. And Welles Crowther, whose final hours were nearly overlooked in the orgy of navel gazing that followed the attack on the Twin Towers:

Surviving also was the story of a young man with a red bandanna over his mouth and nose who appeared out of the chaos, issuing crisp instructions, lending his strength, and guiding the injured to the stairway out. He spoke with command, but wore no official rescue gear. "Anyone who can walk," he said, "walk down the stairs. Anyone who can walk and help someone else, help. There are people here you cannot help anymore, so don't try to." The young man led first one small group of injured and then another down 17 flights of stairs to relative safety. For nine months, no one knew who he was. Last May, when an article in the New York Times recounted his heroics, he was identified as Welles Crowther '99.

Bill Krissoff, a father who followed in his son's footsteps.

James Layton, Petty Officer 3rd Class, United States Navy:

It’s a small incident in the grand scheme of things. Another Navy corpsman doing his job, working on the wounded, sometimes under fire, and dying in combat as thousands have before him have in the Pacific, in Korea, in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t know if it’s happened quite like that recently, shot dead while applying bandages to a wounded man. Maybe there will be a decoration, something to be presented to his parents to let them know his nation is grateful he did his duty and tended to a wounded Marine under fire, without regard for his own safety. Meanwhile, it’s a heart-rending tableau to imagine, the bandage wrappings and medical gear strewn about the bodies. I stared at the screen for a while and had to compose myself when I worked on the wire copy on deadline tonight.

There is something deeply humbling about these stories. Deeply inspiring.

And also something, I suspect, deeply disturbing. Perhaps that is why our media appear so reluctant to remind us of the greatness that slumbers in the human race; this ability to rise from the ashes of misfortune and summon the courage and the will to do what needs to be done, even at the cost of our own lives.

It is a disturbing mirror, this one. It magnifies our every flaw and makes us look slightly shabby in our own eyes. But the truth it reveals is one we should not fear to face. Though we are all equal in the eyes of God, we are not all equally brave, equally strong, equally wise or equally just. In a way, the fires of 9/11 burned away whatever was dross in these men and left only pure gold behind.

Eight years away from Ground Zero, I find myself beginning to turn from the contemplation of what was lost that day to the contemplation of what we have gained. And in that sense, I can find - even in the pain of over 8000 lives now lost to us - a glimmer of gold. Something to be thankful for. For often it is only when things look bleakest that we appreciate what we take for granted in less fraught moments.

Light.

Honor. Duty. Courage. Greatness. These are not every day words. They seem unsuited, somehow, to the quotidian demands of daily life. Still, I can't help thinking on this most solemn of days that we were given a gift. On the anniversary of 9/11 I don't want to think of the Falling Man, but of the hundred shooting stars that rose from those smoking craters. The thousands of men and women who stepped forward to ensure this outrage did not go unanswered. The thousands of ordinary Americans who, rather than take refuge in petty whining about how their President never asked them to sacrifice, stepped forward to ask, "What needs to be done? How can I help?"

From a distance it matters not so much what was done to us, but how some of us responded to it. Not so much the fire and devastation as what rose from the ashes.

The bad news is that we are not all heroes. The good news is that we have been reminded of the heroes in our midst and the greatness of which the human spirit is capable, if only we have the courage to remember it.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:02 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Looking back, September 11th 2008.

I will have a 9/11 post up shortly.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:59 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Mischief

sand.bmp

CWCID

Posted by Cassandra at 08:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 10, 2009

Whew!

Well at least he wasn't "lying":

OBAMA: Requiring insurance companies to cover preventive care like mammograms and colonoscopies "makes sense, it saves money, and it saves lives."

THE FACTS: Studies have shown that much preventive care — particularly tests like the ones Obama mentions — actually costs money instead of saving it. That's because detecting acute diseases like breast cancer in their early stages involves testing many people who would never end up developing the disease. The costs of a large number of tests, even if they're relatively cheap, will outweigh the costs of caring for the minority of people who would have ended up getting sick without the testing.

The Congressional Budget Office wrote in August: "The evidence suggests that for most preventive services, expanded utilization leads to higher, not lower, medical spending overall."

That doesn't mean preventive care doesn't make sense or save lives. It just doesn't save money.

You see, it's not lying when the President of the United States does it.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:12 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

"But We're the Media - Rules are for Little People"

Obviously these fellows don't understand who they were dealing with:

One senior Army source said: “When you look at the number of warnings this person had it makes you really wonder whether he was worth rescuing, whether it was worth the cost of a soldier’s life. In the future special forces might think twice in a similar situation.”

Another military source said: “This reporter went to this area against the advice of the Afghan police. So thanks very much Stephen Farrell, your irresponsible act has led to the death of one of our boys.”

It's that oozing sense of entitlement again.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:47 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

"He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again."



- William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 1.2

Posted by Cassandra at 05:31 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

10 Questions for your Congresscritter About Health Care Reform

Shortly after the President's address on health care last night, I received an email from Barack Obama asking me to contact my representative. The link went to this page, which I have captured a snapshot of here in case it undergoes the usual changes.

The President of the United States is asking his supporters to donate money and lobby Congress in support of his plan. Since we live in a democratic Republic, it would seem opponents of his plan have both the right and the responsibility to do some "community organizing" of our own. If we fail to speak up, we have no right to complain if we don't like whatever legislation is passed.

I have drafted a sample letter you can send your favorite Congresscritter. It includes links to help you look up your Representative and Senator. Below the fold are 10 questions we deserve the answers to before Congress passes what will very likely be the largest entitlement in American history. Both the letter and the questions should be included in your email.

Please send this around. You do not need to credit me if you decide to use the letter or questions - I'm more interested in making sure Congress hears from someone besides OFA. Edit it as you see fit, but DO let your Senator and representative hear from you. We may not have a fancy web site or a slick PR firm, but we can still be heard (and without having our email addresses harvested by the White House or the DNC, to boot). Sometimes simpler really is better.

TO: [Your Members of Congress]
LOOK UP YOUR REPRESENTATIVES
LOOK UP YOUR SENATOR

I have grave concerns about President Obama's plan for health reform. He claims those who currently have insurance will not be required to change insurers or doctors. But his proposed reforms will force private insurers to cover high risk patients and offer more services at no extra charge. Unless they want to go out of business, private insurers will have no choice but to raise premiums or reduce covered treatments.

If my premiums go up or my current benefits are reduced, the knowledge that I wasn't "forced" to change providers will be little comfort to me. The practical effect is the same: my existing coverage will be more expensive or fewer services will be covered.

How can Congress offer affordable coverage to currently uninsured patients without subsidizing premiums with taxpayer funds or adding to the deficit? Can you guarantee the tax credits Obama mentions will not exceed the taxes these individuals pay each year? If there is a gap, won't other taxpayers have to subsidize their premiums? Didn't the President promise the public option would be paid for "up front" and that taxpayers would not have to subsidize it?

Finally, how can we contemplate such a massively expensive entitlement program at a time when the national debt is higher than it has ever been? Can you honestly promise your constituents this plan will not "add one dime" to the federal deficit?

Before you vote on whatever health care reform package comes before you, you owe your constituents honest answers to the 10 questions I have outlined below.

Sincerely,

Your Signature


1. Tonight, the President promised those who are happy with their present insurance will not be required to change it:

...if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. Let me repeat this: nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.

The measures outlined in his speech and at Organizing for America may not explicitly force me or my employer to change insurers.
But the President's proposal does force my insurer to change my current plan.
If you make the terms of my current plan illegal, how can you say that "nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have"?

This is a distinction without meaning. Isn't the President misleading the American people?

2. If, as outlined at Organizing for America, Congress forces my current insurer to accept higher risk patients with expensive pre-existing conditions, remove yearly/lifetime caps on claims, reduce out of pocket expenses for patients, expand prescription coverage, and cover preventative care at no extra cost, won't my current insurer be forced to raise premiums to cover the additional risk, services, and claims this plan forces them to accept?

3. The President has repeatedly demonized insurance companies, implying they are reaping excessive profits. But my insurer is a not for profit corporation.

Many not for profit insurers are already paying out more in claims than they collect in premiums. All over America, not for profit insurers are raising their rates to cover outstanding claims. These companies already operate in precisely the way Congress says they should, yet they are losing money:

BCBSM already runs its business as Congress proposes all insurers should and should be held up as a model for health reform not villainized in the media. BCBSM is the most strongly regulated health insurer in Michigan. We are the only insurer in the state that accepts everyone for coverage regardless of their medical condition. We community rate our health care coverage for individuals -- which means we ask for the same premium regardless of the individual's health condition. We self-limit our margins -- earning just one-tenth of one percent margin over the last 20 years. We work closely with Michigan doctors and hospitals to reduce the cost and improve the quality of care. These partnerships have saved hundreds of millions of dollars and many lives in the process.

Even with our recent rate increase, Blue Cross will continue to lose money on its individual products because costs will exceed premiums collected for these individuals....

Our actual medical loss ratio on individual products in 2008 was 127 percent. That means we paid out $1.27 in claims for every $1 we collect in premiums. Compare that to commercial insurers operating in Michigan, and you'll find a much lower loss ratio, likely between 50 percent and 60 percent.

The same story is playing out in Connecticut, California, Florida, Maine, and Pennsylvania. If you force not for profit insurers to bear even higher risk and costs, won't that drive up premiums for individual purchasers of health insurance? If their current plans become unaffordable, isn't this just an indirect way of forcing these individuals onto the public option?

4. Why is there no mention on Organizing for America of the individual mandate forcing all Americans to purchase insurance? It was in the President's speech:

...under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance - just as most states require you to carry auto insurance....we cannot have large businesses and individuals who can afford coverage game the system by avoiding responsibility to themselves or their employees. Improving our health care system only works if everybody does their part.

Isn't it dishonest to leave out such a drastic change to current law? What part of the Constitution authorizes Congress to force citizens to purchase a service?

5. The President has repeatedly said he opposes forcing Americans to purchase health insurance. Will Congress levy fines on individuals who refuse to buy health insurance? If not, how will Congress enforce the individual mandate?

Americans would be fined up to $3,800 for failing to buy health insurance under a plan that circulated in Congress on Tuesday as divisions among Democrats undercut President Barack Obama's effort to regain traction on his health care overhaul.

6. How can Congress offer "tax credits" to individuals without insurance and 95% of small business owners and still claim health care reform will be deficit neutral? Don't tax credits reduce tax revenue?

If your plan decreases tax revenue, how can the President claim it "Won’t add a dime to the deficit and is paid for upfront"?

7. The President has repeatedly ridiculed the notion that some "panel" might refuse care to the elderly or disabled, yet his plan relies on the creation of "... an independent commission of doctors and medical experts to identify waste, fraud and abuse in the health care system" to reduce costs.

With 80% of health care costs going to chronic illness/end of life care, how will Congress control costs without limiting care to chronically ill/elderly patients?

THE PRESIDENT: ...the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here.

INTERVIEWER: So how do you — how do we deal with it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that there is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place. It is very difficult to imagine the country making those decisions just through the normal political channels. And that’s part of why you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance. It’s not determinative, but I think has to be able to give you some guidance.

...Obama’s example accurately represents the type of murky water we wade into when we consider the issue of health care and costs.

That said, the President of the United States who is - at least in theory - the driving force behind Obamacare is explicitly saying that we need a “group” to give guidance on what the government should and should not pay for in just such heart-wrenching situations. Sounds panel-ish to me.

Sounds "panel-ish" to me too. Does that make me a "liar"?

8. When explaining the public not for profit option plan, the President stated that private insurers:

...argue that [they] can't fairly compete with the government. And they'd be right if taxpayers were subsidizing this public insurance option. But they won't be. I have insisted that like any private insurance company, the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects.

Yet on Organizing for America, he says those who can't afford insurance and small businesses will get "tax credits" to pay for a public option plan. What will Congress do if an individual's public option tax credit exceeds the taxes he paid that year?

Won't other taxpayers be forced to subsidize these public option tax credits? If Congress does this, how can the President claim the public option won't be subsidized by taxpayer funds?

9. How will Congress offer low cost coverage to high risk patients? How can such a program pay for itself without charging premiums commensurate with [higher than normal] expected claims? To keep premiums affordable, won't Congress have to subsidize "high risk pool" premiums with taxpayer funds?

Immediately offers new, low-cost coverage through a national “high risk” pool to protect people with preexisting conditions from financial ruin until the new Exchange is created.

10. Why is it "scare tactics" for health reform opponents to voice their concerns, but not "scare tactics" for the President to engage in blatant fear mongering like this?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing. Our deficit will grow. More families will go bankrupt. More businesses will close. More Americans will lose their coverage when they are sick and need it most. And more will die as a result. We know these things to be true.

Why is it wrong for Rep. Joe Wilson to point out untrue statements, but perfectly acceptable for the President to call his opponents liars?

The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple.

Was CNN "lying" when they noticed the same thing?


Immigrants living illegally in the United States could be mandated to have health insurance under the proposed health care reform bill but would be ineligible to receive subsidies to afford such coverage, a report from the Congressional Research Service says.

The report, prepared by the nonpartisan policy research arm of Congress, provides a close reading of the treatment of noncitizens in the House bill on health care reform, HR 3200.

While the report found that federal subsidies to obtain health coverage would be restricted to U.S. citizens and legal residents, it also noted that the bill does not specify a citizenship verification system, something that critics say creates a loophole for undocumented immigrants to receive subsidies anyway.

Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-California, rejected a citizenship verification system, calling rules it called for "unworkable."

The report, released Tuesday, "undermines the claims of the president and others that illegal immigrants would not be covered under the House version of the bill," Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, told CNN.

Is everyone who questions the President's plan a liar?

Posted by Cassandra at 01:36 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

September 08, 2009

Neat

How many can you identify?

Posted by Cassandra at 03:26 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Bingo

Sowell nails it:

One plain fact should outweigh all the words of Barack Obama and all the impressive trappings of the setting in which he says them: He tried to rush Congress into passing a massive government takeover of the nation's medical care before the August recess-- for a program that would not take effect until 2013!

Whatever President Obama is, he is not stupid. If the urgency to pass the medical care legislation was to deal with a problem immediately, then why postpone the date when the legislation goes into effect for years-- more specifically, until the year after the next Presidential election?

If this is such an urgently needed program, why wait for years to put it into effect? And if the public is going to benefit from this, why not let them experience those benefits before the next Presidential election?

If it is not urgent that the legislation goes into effect immediately, then why don't we have time to go through the normal process of holding Congressional hearings on the pros and cons, accompanied by public discussions of its innumerable provisions? What sense does it make to "hurry up and wait" on something that is literally a matter of life and death?

If we do not believe that the President is stupid, then what do we believe? The only reasonable alternative seems to be that he wanted to get this massive government takeover of medical care passed into law before the public understood what was in it.

Moreover, he wanted to get re-elected in 2012 before the public experienced what its actual consequences would be.

Unfortunately, this way of doing things is all too typical of the way this administration has acted on a wide range of issues.

Consider the "stimulus" legislation. Here the administration was successful in rushing a massive spending bill through Congress in just two days-- after which it sat on the President's desk for three days, while he was away on vacation. But, like the medical care legislation, the "stimulus" legislation takes effect slowly.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that it will be September 2010 before even three-quarters of the money will be spent. Some economists expect that it will not all be spent by the end of 2010.

What was the rush to pass it, then? It was not to get that money out into the economy as fast as possible. It was to get that money-- and the power that goes with it-- into the hands of the government. Power is what politics is all about.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:04 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 07, 2009

Note to Ezra Klein: "It's the Bureaucracy, Stupid"

Via Glenn Reynolds, Ezra Klein seems to think he has schooled Bruce McQuain on the problems with the military health care system. Klein, in a rather peevish post entitled "The Smackdown that Wasn't", snarks:

Bruce McQuain writes:

Dale and I once interviewed Ezra Klein about health care on our podcast. Klein held the VA system up as a shining example of good government health care. Of course that was before the shameful condition of Walter Reed had been discovered.

Walter Reed is an army hospital, not a veteran's hospital. The two systems have nothing to do with one another. That's why the problems at Walter Reed led to the resignation of the Secretary of the Army and not the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Klein's drive-by "analysis" blithely ignores Bruce's point, which was not (as it was inaccurately summarized) that the VA and the Army hospital system are one and the same. The idea that McQ, a Vietnam vet and long-time patron of both the Army and the VA systems, thinks they're under the same management is unsupported nonsense of the first order. But hey - it's always so much easier to knock down a straw man than to refute a point that requires more than casual sniping. A careful reading of Bruce's post might have prevented Klein from making an ass of himself:

Klein held the VA system up as a shining example of good government health care. Of course that was before the shameful condition of Walter Reed had been discovered. Since then other problems (for instance, contaminated colonoscopy equipment in various locations) have been discovered.

A commenter once asked “if VA is good enough for our veterans, why isn’t it good enough for us.” My answer was “it isn’t good enough for our veterans, it is instead what they’re stuck with.”

Today brings another example of the problems this sort of medicine is bound to have. It is a bureaucratic nightmare, even at the relatively small size of VA.

In other words, the VA (a relatively small government health program which serves a small, well defined population) is not a terribly good proxy for a nationwide single payer health system that would have to provide universal health care to everyone. Bruce's point, which Klein missed entirely in his haste to commence chest thumping, is that if two much smaller government health care programs (the VA and Army medical system) are riddled with inefficiency, waste, and bureaucratic bungling, what on earth makes Klein think a system many times larger is a good idea? Since I'm piling on, there's a reason military families call TRICARE, "Try to get care". To paraphrase the last president who tried to foist national health care on the American public, "It's the Bureaucracy, Stupid".

The type of medical mistake in the article Bruce linked to is not limited to government health care. But then that wasn't the point. The point was that government oversight failed - utterly and repeatedly:

That as they say, was the tip of the iceberg. No one reported the problem because there was no peer review. And, this was one of many mistakes made by this doctor that apparently no one knew about:

Had the government responded more aggressively, it might have uncovered a rogue cancer unit at the hospital, one that operated with virtually no outside scrutiny and botched 92 of 116 cancer treatments over a span of more than six years — and then kept quiet about it, according to interviews with investigators, government officials and public records.

The team continued implants for a year even though the equipment that measured whether patients received the proper radiation dose was broken. The radiation safety committee at the Veterans Affairs hospital knew of this problem but took no action, records show.

Six years and no one had a clue. In fact, if you read the article in full, as you should, you’ll see that the discovery of this was essentially an accident.

The Internet makes people lazy. They don't bother to read posts carefully, nor do they read the supporting links in their entirety. We've all been guilty of doing that. I've done it on occasion. And when that was pointed out to me, I acknowledged it. Is Klein big enough to do that?

What Klein and many others who commented on these posts also don't consider is an inconvenient little fact that blows his suggestion that the VA is an appropriate example for how national single payer might work right out of the water. Sometimes, a picture really is worth a thousand words:

reliance on va care.gif

What does this chart tell us?

Well for one thing, no single class of VA eligible veterans receives most of their health care through the VA. In other words, the bulk of their health care needs are met outside the VA system. As you can see from the following chart, which broadly summarizes data reported here, the VA is NOT the primary health care delivery system for most vets:

percentofcare.jpg

Note that vets who have the ability to go outside the system (middle and high income vets and vets with no service related disability) go somewhere else to get care 75% of the time. Do you think there might be a reason for that? Here is the distribution of non-VA health plans by VA Priority class:

outside_insurance.jpg

This critical fact was echoed in a 2008 report on the quality of VA health care:

Nearly 80 percent of enrolled veterans have access to other health care coverage, and data from VHA indicate that most enrollees with other coverage rely on VHA for only part of their medical care. Veterans are particularly likely to turn to VHA for outpatient care and for certain services—such as mental health and substance abuse counseling—on which VHA has put particular emphasis and for which many veterans may not have private coverage. Most enrollees rely on other providers for emergency services and inpatient hospital care. Enrollees may choose one provider over another for various reasons, including travel time, out-of-pocket costs, and perceived quality of care for a particular type of service.

Also, care is not free to all comers:

VA provides treatment for service-connected conditions free of charge to all enrolled veterans. Veterans in the highest priority groups generally do not pay inpatient or outpatient copayments even for care unrelated to their service. Copayments for outpatient services for veterans in the lower priority groups are $15 for a primary care visit or $50 for a visit to a specialist. The copayment for inpatient services for the first 90 days of care during a 365-day period is $992 and $496 for each additional 90 days of care during a 365-day period. The per diem charge for inpatient services is $10. Those copayment rates may be reduced by 80 percent for veterans with income and/or net worth below HUD’s geographic index.

Copayments for medications are waived for veterans with very low income and those with SCD ratings of 50 percent or higher. Those copayments are also waived for veterans in priority groups 2 through 6 after they reach an annual cap of $960. Veterans in priority group 6 pay copayments only for services that are not related to their exposures or experience. Veterans in the lowest priority groups—7 and 8—pay copayments for all care that is not related to a service-connected condition. Even under the various circumstances in which copayments are waived, a veteran’s third-party insurer may be billed for treatment for conditions unrelated to his or her service.

Finally (and perhaps most importantly) there is the issue of wait times and customer satisfaction. On wait times, though single payer proponents just LOVE to tout the VA's patient satisfaction rates as "proof" of the high quality of VA care, studies that compare the actual quality of care received by patients to their perceived satisfaction found no correlation between the two measures:

Patients' ratings of their medical care do not substitute for evaluations of the technical quality of that care, according to a study issued today by researchers from the RAND Corporation, UCLA and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.

The study is the first to compare patients' own reports about the quality of their medical care with a comprehensive evaluation of their medical records.

Researchers studying vulnerable older patients found that while patients on average rated the quality of their medical care a 9 on a 10-point scale, comprehensive reviews of their medical records found they received recommended care just 55 percent of the time.

“Patients' ratings of health care are easy to obtain and report, but our findings suggest they do not accurately measure the technical quality of medical care,” said Dr. John T. Chang, a UCLA physician and lead author of the study. “If we want to understand the technical quality of health care, then we need to look at medical records.”

On wait times, several sources have reported that somewhere between 96 and 98 percent of vets receive a VA appointment within 30 days of their desired appointment date. But the VA's own interim report states that this data is unreliable and undercounts unsatisfactory wait times:

VA also tracks measures of access to care, particularly, waiting times for appointments or procedures. VA reported that, in 2006, 96 percent of all veterans seeking primary medical care and 95 percent of all veterans seeking specialty care were seen within 30 days of their desired dates.15 However, according to a 2005 report by the VA Inspector General (IG), the department’s data on waiting times were not accurate, and, in fact, many fewer patients were receiving appointments within the 30-day window than the figures cited by the department in its official reports.16 In September 2007, in a follow-up audit, the VA IG found that established procedures were still not being followed and that, as a result, data on waiting times could not be relied upon.

So, despite the fact that:

* Ezra Klein has exactly zero experience navigating the bureaucracy at the VA or trying to get care there;

*the VA isn't the primary health care provider for the vast majority of vets

* it isn't free of charge for many vets

* patient satisfaction and wait time data cannot be relied upon

Despite his lack of personal experience dealing with government health care and not knowing much about the VA, Ezra Klein can confidently assert that a far larger system that would be the primary provider for far more patients than the VA has ever had to treat will work just as well as the VA!

And anyone who dares suggest otherwise is just plain stupid.

Update: A reader with firsthand knowledge of this incident sent the following article from the LA Times. He/she has asked not to be identified and I'm holding on to the comment until I have explicit permission to publish it. As I noted in the comments section, the problem is the Byzantine layers of bureaucracy needed to administer such a large system:

Twice, the patient told doctors at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center that he did not want to be a guinea pig. But they went ahead anyway, keeping him on an operating table with an electrophysiology probe inserted in his heart for an extra 45 minutes to collect research data.

Another patient, a veteran so disturbed by mental illness that he was hiding bullets in his hospital room, also had his heart catheterization treatment prolonged for research purposes, though he did not give his legally required permission either.

Then there was Robert Hanson, a stocky World War II veteran who dropped dead of a heart attack in the hospital parking lot after taking an experimental heart drug. Hanson signed consent forms agreeing to be in a study of the drug, but some caregivers and his daughter insist the 71-year-old did not realize he was forgoing standard therapy to be in an experiment, with all the uncertainty and risk that implies.

These cases, involving a top cardiologist at the hospital, are among the most dramatic informed consent problems documented in recent years. Even now, nearly four years later, this conflict of morality and medicine continues to plague cardiology researchers at the nation's largest VA health care facility.

Hard to think of a more ringing endorsement for "the VA model", isn't it?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:41 AM | Comments (36) | TrackBack

Ooooooooooooooooooooo...

In all of nature, there is nothing sadder than the forlorn cry of the feral dachshund.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:06 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 04, 2009

Own It, Mr. Secretary

When you decided to allow journalists to photograph the coffins of returning service members at Dover, you broke down a barrier that should have been left intact.

Since the dawn of time, human societies have had taboos. They exist for a reason. They exist because some things simply ought to be unthinkable, and nothing short of a total ban will prevent some people from pushing the envelope.

The media have contended, over and over, that the photographing of coffins and dead bodies and wounded soldiers or Marines thrashing about in agony are necessary to help the American people understand the cost of war. Evidently, the availability of graphic war movies depicting fountains of blood and oozing gore are insufficient visual aids.

The Associated Press took all of one hour to balance the newsworthiness of graphic photos of a fellow human being's last moments against the wishes of Lance Corporal Joshua M. Bernard's grieving family. In the end, compassion and human decency gave way to the profit incentive. Of course, the AP will claim they were motivated by elevated concerns that the American public, despite being exposed to violent and graphic footage on TV, cable, and at the movie theater on a daily basis, are too stupid to comprehend that explosions often result in shredded body parts, blood, agonizing pain, and death.

If that makes no sense to you, you're not alone.

So if we buy into the notion that we need to see the results of violent episodes to truly understand their consequences, does this mean the media will now begin showing graphic footage of rape victims who have been beaten or tortured or cut to shreds by their attackers?

Rape - and the tolerance of it - has a cost, both to the victim and to society. How can we fully understand the tragic cost of rape unless we are allowed to view their injuries and vicariously understand their pain? According to the press, we can't.

Child abuse has a cost. Therefore, if a child is sexually abused or beaten, we need to see graphic close-ups of their torn vaginas or rectums. We need to see graphic photos of that little boy whose father ate his eyes. Otherwise, it's just too easy to gloss over the horrific damages - both mental and physical - done to these innocent victims. We have a right to know.

Would this further humiliate and traumatize the victims and their families? Undoubtedly. But the public's "need to know" outweighs silly concerns about the victim or family members who may be equally traumatized.

Now that I think of it, how many journalists have been killed or wounded in the war on terror? How many unauthorized photos of journalists has the Associated Press splashed all over the Internet?

Oh, but you see that is different. Journalists, unlike Marine Lance Corporals and their grieving families, are real people (not tools to be used to further your political agenda). Those of us who are shocked and grieved beyond measure by the callous and cynical exploitation of a young man who died in the service of his country will no doubt be comforted to know that the Fourth Estate, unlike public servants, need not obey the rules of common decency that govern the rest of humanity.

And we were supposed to trust these people? Give me a break.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:27 PM | Comments (64) | TrackBack

No.

By now, everyone has read about the AP embed who took a picture of a dying Marine and then it was published over the objections of both his family and Secretary Gates.

Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard was 21 years old. He had family who loved him and mourn his loss. This family who should have had their wishes honored. This family felt that the picture did not honor Joshua Bernard's memory.

I haven't seen the picture and I won't. I won't link to it either. I am sure it's up at plenty of sites and those who wish to view a young man in pain dying in Afghanistan, somebody else can be your huckleberry. It just won't be me.

There are lots of emotions swirling around in me right now about this situation. Sadness for this family. Sadness for his Marine brothers.
Disgust at what the AP views as it's journalistic responsibility. Mostly, though, it's anger.

Anger that a young man's life is being reduced by the AP to a photograph at his most vulnerable. Anger at the ghoulishness of AP editors. Anger at the argument that it shows "the cost of war".
Lord, how I loathe that phrase "the cost of war". It's a bumpersticker, at best, and shallow, superficial and politically motivated at it's most honest.

I sincerely hope that Secretary Gates takes this opportunity to ban every damned AP reporter and photographer from embedding in Afghanistan and Iraq.
They can't be trusted to behave like decent human beings and shouldn't be allowed anywhere near military units.

Others are doing a much better job of using their words than I am right now so check out Mrs. Greyhawk's roundup of reactions and links.


Posted by at 01:47 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 03, 2009

The Obama Prevarification Predictor

I liked this, from Cynthia Yockey:

My Obama Prevarication Predictor says that whenever a consensus develops opposing anything Obama favors, within 72 hours of the consensus developing he will announce he either no longer wants the thing OR that he is the personification of reason and compromise over the thing — whatever “the thing” du jour is. Currently it is the public option in Obamacare, the impenetrable and mischievous and ever-changing collection of proposals to nationalize the healthcare industry without really helping the people it purports to help.

I just noticed Healthcare Horserace is quoting Politico and announcing that Obama is willing to drop the public option. DON’T YOU BELIEVE IT. Obama uses announcements like this to get his opposition* to believe they’ve won so that they will leave the field of battle and stop paying attention. Then he does whatever he wants, usually within about 72 hours, and usually the opposite of what he said he would do.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:32 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Wallowing in the Suck

It is things like this which keep the Blog Princess awake nights.

That loud noise you just heard was the sound of all the oxygen being forcefully sucked from the room.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:17 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Great Moments in Journalism

Who among us has not celebrated these time honored rites of passage?

Daugherty said his son is very mature and would be able to handle the responsibility of owning a piece of artillery.

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

Predictable

Sometimes, it hurts to be this good:

...FOXNews.com has obtained a series of heated e-mail exchanges between the two parties that show bad blood was brewing long before Prejean and the directors butted heads over her stance on same-sex unions.

The problems between Prejean and Miss California escalated to such a level that the 22-year-old severed all ties with her state team several weeks prior to the April 19 national pageant, according a March 9 e-mail exchange in which Prejean wrote (in all caps) to Miss California co-director Keith Lewis:

I WILL NOT BE VERBALLY AND EMOTIONALLY ABUSED ANYMORE BY ANY OF YOU. I HAVE A COMPETITION TO PREPARE FOR. I WILL NO LONGER BE DEALING WITH ANYONE WHO IS GOING TO BRING ME DOWN AT THIS POINT. I WILL ONLY SURROUND MYSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO MAKE ME HAPPY. AND RIGHT NOW, THAT IS NONE OF YOU. I WILL SEE YOU ALL IN APRIL. PLEASE DO NOT CONTACT ME AT ALL FROM THIS POINT FORWARD.

“Our differences began in January," Lewis told Foxnews.com. "Carrie became a challenge. She wanted everyone to jump through hoops for her, but she wasn’t willing to cooperate. She is very good at receiving, but not at giving. We were very patient with Carrie, but she wasn’t following ... her contract.”

Hate to say "I told you so". But I told you so.

When will we face the inconvenient truth? Is everyone on the planet persecuting her, or is it just possible that the problem may lie with Ms. Prejean's behavior rather than her opinion on gay marriage?

Former Miss California USA Carrie Prejean has lost another contract. The controversial ex-beauty queen lost her endorsement contract with a clothing brand just days after she was fired from the crown.

Sledge USA decided to end their contract with the 22-year-old blonde beauty after she allegedly didn't hold up her end of their deal.

Brand manager Vered Nisim told E! News, "She did not keep her appointments at all. She refused to confirm a time and date, even though we were on a very tight schedule."

Imagine that. This company was perfectly happy to sign a clothing contract with her, defense of traditional marriage notwithstanding. Are we seriously to believe they are now punishing her for an opinion that didn't bother them previously? Note that their reasons for firing her are exactly the same as those given by the Miss USA Pageant.

Coincidence? Or just a massive conspiracy against a victim powerless to control her own behavior?

I understand the desire for a champion we can all rally behind, but a young woman with an inflated sense of entitlement and a track record of serial irresponsibility makes a poor representative for social conservatism.

None of which changes the fundamental truth that Perez Hilton is a colossal ass.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:49 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Oh... Like This Hasn't Happened to You...

After all, who among us has not had a similar experience?

"While my body was asleep, I think my soul rode on a triangular-shaped UFO and went to Venus," she explains in the tome she published last year. "It was a very beautiful place, and it was very green."

When the new Japanese first lady related her adventures to her then husband, he told her flatteringly that it was probably just a dream. But she is confident that Yukio, the man now entrusted with the task of hauling Japan out of its deepest recession, would have reacted very differently. "My current husband has a different way of thinking. He would surely say, 'Oh, that's great'," she wrote.

Our guess is that the living room sofa doesn't get a lot of use in this house.

Just sayin'.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:23 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

You Go, Girl!

Apparently, Conservative Bloggers Who Support The Gay Justice Roberts is still bringing in a fair amount of traffic.

CBWSTGJR.jpg

Humbling. And too funny.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Of Presidents, Politics, Perspective, and Pendulums

Upon the king! Let us our lives, our souls, our debts, our
careful wives, our children, and our sins lay on the king!
We must bear all. O hard condition,
Twin-born with greatness, subject to the breath
Of every fool, whose sense no more can feel
But his own wringing.

- Henry V, Act 4, Scene 10

A few months ago I took issue with what I continue to believe were overly emotional reactions to November's election. If you'll think back, at the time pundits of all political persuasions peered deeply into their crystal balls searching for telltale signs and portents lurking in yesterday's belly button fuzz. The result was a slew of hyperbolic and poorly argued assertions that, in light of current poll numbers, now seem a tad overwrought:

- Obama's stunning victory heralded the End of Conservatism! (Dem)

- RINOs are to blame for our loss! Therefore they must be purged from the party and their firstborn sons strangled in their cribs, lest they breed more of their insipid kind (Rep)

- George Bush was to blame for Obama's victory (Everyone)

- The untoward notion that conservatives might be forced to [gasp!] share power with progressives from time to time justified the abandonment of our ethical principles. The only way to regain the White House was to play dirty (way too many Republicans)

- Serves 'em right! Republicans are reaping the consequences of having played dirty for 8 years (Dem)

In an effort to temper all this apocalyptic rhetoric with a little historical perspective, I decided to take a look at the history of Presidential power sharing over the last century or so:

Our own history can provide valuable perspective on our present difficulties. Over the last half century or so, Republicans have controlled the White House by a 3-2 margin. But more importantly, over the last half century there has been only one case in which the same party held the White House three terms in a row. Why are conservatives feeding the frankly hysterical notion that a typical and not unexpected turnover of power justifies the abandonment of our principles?

power_sharing.jpg

Jim Lindgren has an interesting post up in which he points out that while there's nothing new about the urge to blame the ruling party when the balance of power shifts, election data provides a much more plausible explanation: a phenomenon he calls The Lightening Rod effect.

In the summer of 2006, when some legal scholars feared that President Bush and the Republicans were so powerful that Bush had a king-like status, Steve Calabresi and I published a comment in the Yale Law Journal that pointed out that the existing political science literature had understated the degree to which there typically was a backlash against the party of the president. We showed that the usual erosion of support extended, not just to seats in the House and Senate, but to the states.

When one adds all gubernatorial races to the analysis, as we do in Figures 1 and 2, backlash against the President’s party in state races during a President’s term is actually stronger overall than the coattail effect in the presidential election year. To be more specific, we find that four years after a party wins a presidential election, it holds on average three fewer statehouses than it had before it won the presidential election. Perversely, winning the presidency seems to lead very shortly to losing power in the states. Since 1932 there have been eight changes of party control of the White House (1933, 1953, 1961, 1969, 1977, 1981, 1993, and 2001). In every instance but one, the party that seized the White House held more governorships in the year before it took office than in the subsequent year it lost the presidential election. The only exception is that in 1980, Republicans held four fewer governorships than they held in 1992, immediately before the Republicans were voted out of the White House. Similarly, of the eleven Presidents since 1933, every one except two, Kennedy and Reagan, left office with fewer governorships than his party had before he took office, and Kennedy served less than three years. Figure 1 shows this pattern.

Dem_govs.jpg

During the Clinton administration, Clinton was criticized for losing so many seats in Congress and losing so many governorships. Yet that was more or less par for the course. And Calabresi and I were not at all surprised to see large Republican losses in the 2006 election (the normal losses had been avoided in 2002 by 9/11, much as the normal losses were avoided in 1962 by the Cuban missile crisis).

Now the process seems to be repeating today. President Obama's drop in popularity may be slightly larger than for most Democratic presidents early in their terms, but the process is a normal one. Further, while the contests for state governorships may be decided by local issues, the atmosphere is one in which the Democrats will be blamed for the perceived faults of Obama, yet this process is entirely normal.

Like the pattern of Presidential turnover, Jim's data demonstrate the importance of not giving in to understandable but counterproductive emotion. Political strategy ought to be informed by empirical evidence, not fear.

I believe his study shows something I've long suspected: that the popular support for Republicans or Democrats is counterbalanced by a healthy suspicion of handing either party too much power. When one party has held sway for too long, we instinctively try to "balance" the equation by voting in a counterweight from the other party. This is an intelligent hedge against what we all know of human nature: that unchecked power corrupts.

The consolation for the out-of-power party is that in time, the pendulum will swing back their way. I don't believe the vast majority of Americans are either intellectually consistent or rabidly ideological. Both parties encompass a wide spectrum of political beliefs, and moreover I think that the center of mass in the middle - the political uncommitted or swing votes - provides a natural adjustment to changing political conditions.

I've argued many times that ideological purists are unelectable under normal conditions. Our founding documents were less the result of intellectual uniformity than rational compromise: the ability to negotiate agreements under which neither party got everything they wanted but both parties got something they wanted.

Yes, things are a bit heated at the moment. Obama is attempting radical change to the fundamental relationship between citizens and government. That kind of change provokes both fear and anger in conservatives. But we would do well to watch what is happening in Congress and on the streets - voters of all political persuasions are beginning to push back.

In the end, I doubt either party's base (they're simply not numerous enough) has the ability to prevent or bring about radical change:

With Republicans essentially out of the health care picture for now, Blue Dog members from suburban and rural America said they could provide the ideological balance to the more urban members of the Democratic caucus, who are pushing for a sweeping plan of universal coverage that has drawn public criticism.

Perhaps we ought to place more trust in the common sense - and the power - of the much despised political middle grounders?

CWCID to Tigerhawk for the NY Times piece.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:57 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

September 02, 2009

The Apocalypse Is At Hand

I find it extremely difficult to find a single word of this that I disagree with:

As I walked out of the studio last night, though, Gwen Ifill turned to me and said, "Look, I understand you're not some fire-breathing hawk, but you're about the only person we can find in Washington to defend this war at the moment."

Woah. The only person who will defend this war? If this blogger is the only person in the nation's capital willing to defend the war, we have a big problem. I'm more used to hosting debates on Afghanistan than participating in them. I do not think it would surprise any reader of this blog, though, to note the speed with which the debate has shifted on the war in Afghanistan. What was, 12 months ago, "the good war" has now become, for paleoconservatives and progressives alike, a fool's errand. And the Obama Administration has thus far shown little energy for defending a policy and strategic goals (.pdf) they themselves arrived at just five months ago. I thought that once the president had settled on a policy and strategic aims, the rest of the administration would then go about executing that policy. That's the way it's supposed to work, right? Yet the policy debate seems to continue within the White House, with the Office of the Vice President apparently pushing for a much more limited approach than what was articulated in March by the president himself and following a lengthy policy review. No wonder, then, the uniformed military is getting nervous about the administration's support for their war. Either the White House has been too busy with health care, or they have failed to notice how quickly the debate has shifted under their feet (as with health care).

...the administration needs to go about defending and explaining their policy. Until then, it's understandable why everyone from voters in Peoria to Mullah Omar in Afghanistan (?) are confused as to what, exactly, U.S. policy is at the moment.

But then that's pretty much what I said last night, isn't it?

Not sure what it means when someone I usually disagree with comes to the same conclusion for what appear to be the same reasons.

Perhaps nothing. Still, it's profoundly unsettling. I'm not sure I'm willing to lose my husband (or anyone else's husband, or son, or wife, or daughter) in a fight no one in Washington believes is worth the candle.

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

Update: If you can explain this kind of thinking, you're a better person than I am:

It’s also worth mentioning that the administration continues to be as vague as possible about what we’re actually DOING with all those troops in Afghanistan, because as soon as they identify a specific purpose or goal they’re in a political straightjacket. This leaves even someone who WANTS to support the presence of american troops in the somewhat awkward position of being unable to say exactly what it is they support.

More and more I’m getting the impression that the Obama team is trying to leave the back door ajar throughout the process. And I am encouraged by that perception

This, from folks who demanded that Bush provide them (and by extension al Qaeda) with a blow-by-blow description of our plans.

Unbelievable. These folks seriously think it's acceptable to ask U.S. servicemen and women to die for an administration that may pull the rug out from under them at any time. Surely, though the White House has already had 7 months to study their options, surely the armed forces won't mind getting blown to bits while their elected leaders struggle to summon up the courage of their convictions?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:41 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

And Here We Thought the Left Opposed Torture...

Apparently not.

Posted by Cassandra at 03:38 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Is The White House Already Tracking Twitter Comments?

Beth has a disturbing experience.

The blog princess knows next to nothing about SSL. And she does not Tweet, nor does she harbor a heretofore unexpressed desire to Tweet. All the same, Beth's experience is interesting in light of the earlier story about the White House tracking social networking sites.

Does anyone know anything about SSL that might shed some light on this?

Posted by Cassandra at 01:46 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Curses! Foiled By Morons Again!!!!

The intrepid mr rdr points to an amusing comment by former Clintonite, Robert Reich:

Robert Reich, the labor secretary under President Bill Clinton and now a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, says on his blog that the Republican right won the health-care debate during August because they were more disciplined than the Democrats.

Obama and progressive supporters of health care were outmaneuvered in August — not because the right had any better idea for solving the health care mess but because the rights’ attack on the Democrats’ idea was far more disciplined than was the Democrats’ ability to sell it.

You've got to love the searing logic of the Left.

These are people whose explanation for everything is that anyone who dares to disagree with them is either stupid, ignorant, or so gullible that they believe even the most blatant and shameful of lies.

Which prompts us to wonder: how humiliating must it be, if you consider yourself to be one of the "smart folks", to be beaten over and over again by a bunch of stupid, ignorant whack jobs?

The litany of excuses over the years is almost too delicious to contemplate. When Democrats lost the 2000 and 2004 elections the nation was treated to a real tour de force of revisionist angst. Who were they beaten by?

George Bush: a pretzel-snorting, fiendishly stupid evil mastermind with all the searing intellectual capacity of a mildly retarded chimpanzee. And yet somehow, this hapless bumbler managed to defeat two vastly smarter opponents and hoodwink half the electorate into voting for him.

Go figure.

As if that weren't bad enough, now Barack Obama - a man with the mind of Aristotle and the mad oratorical skills of The Great Communicator - can't out-argue a mob composed of ignorant lunatics and bitter, gun clinging racists!

What is the world coming to?

Posted by Cassandra at 12:26 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Reporting the "Truth"

I haven't had much to say about the whole guns at protests brouhaha, mostly because I didn't trust media accounts and didn't have time to do independent research. But I find this telling:

... Countless newspapers and television networks -- from CBS to MSNBC -- have misreported that conservative protesters are threatening President Obama with guns at public events. It hasn't happened.

In Portsmouth, N.H., a man carrying a gun, William Kostric, joined an Aug. 11 health care protest. This was blocks away and hours before Mr. Obama's town-hall meeting in that city. Mr. Kostric was given permission to be on church property where the protest occurred and was not at the place the president visited. What most of the coverage left out was that Mr. Kostric didn't carry his gun only for the protest; he legally carries a gun with him all the time for protection.

While the media regularly used terms such as "hotheads" to mischaracterize the situation, the coverage ignored that union members who opposed the protest had attacked Mr. Kostric and a friend, kicking, pushing and spitting on them. Despite violence against him by Mr. Obama's supporters, Mr. Kostric did not draw his gun or threaten anyone.

On the CBS Evening News, Katie Couric asked, "Are we really still debating health care when a man brings a handgun to a church where the president is speaking?" Deliberately or not, she got the facts wrong. As we know, Mr. Kostric did bring a gun to the church, but the president was not there and never was scheduled to speak there. Mr. Obama spoke at a separate event at a local high school at a different time. Not letting facts get in the way of her hysterical story line, Ms. Couric linked Mr. Kostric's gun to "fear and frankly ignorance drown[ing] out the serious debate that needs to take place about an issue that affects the lives of millions of people."

In another case in Arizona, a black man staged an event with a local radio host and carried a semiautomatic rifle a few blocks away from another Obama town-hall meeting. According to the radio station, the staged event was "partially motivated to do so because of the controversy surrounding William Kostric." This occurrence was not an example of an outraged gun-toting Obama protester, but a stunt to garner attention for a shock jock. Of course, this inconvenient truth was ignored by most news outlets.

MSNBC misrepresented the facts to try to back up a bogus claim about racism being behind opposition to Mr. Obama's agenda. On Donny Deutsch's Aug. 18 show about the Arizona town-hall meeting, the producers aired a clip of the anonymous black man carrying the so-called assault rifle -- but the network edited the tape so the man's race was obscured. Truth be damned, MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer said, "There are questions whether this has a racial overtone. I mean, here you have a man of color in the presidency and white people showing up with guns strapped to their waists." Another commentator on the same show worried about the "anger about a black person being president." The supposed result: "You know we see these hate groups rising up."

Notice the rhetorical sleight of hand: as Megan McArdle points out with implacable logic, there is no evidence - none - that any of the health care protesters who brought guns to events where Obama never appeared are affiliated with 'hate groups':

Both the media and Obama supporters appear to have fabricated a Transitive Property of Truthiness out of whole cloth:


1. A few health reform protesters legally bring guns to a health care rally, and

2. Obama discussed health care at a completely different set of rallies. Therefore...

3. Republicans are violent and deranged racists who want to kill the President.

The worst thing about all of this is the mainstream media's refusal to report the "truth":

The email suggests that the media’s failure has helped the “frightening smears” of reform foes [to] seem “pretty convincing,” because “folks don’t know that they’re false.” It also quotes Obama’s recent denunciation of he-said-she-said journalism:

If somebody puts out misinformation… then the way the news report comes across is, “Today, such-and-such accused President Obama of putting forward death panels. The White House responded that that wasn’t true.” And then they go on to the next story. And what they don’t say is, “In fact, it isn’t true.”

Needless to say, this particular OFA effort has not been announced to…the media.

If only there were some way to force the press to say what the President of the United States wants them to. After all, it's "the truth", and who could be against that?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:55 AM | Comments (44) | TrackBack

ALL YOUR INTERNETS ARE BELONG TO US!

Intercepted communication from the White House:

AO (anno Obama) 0001

Communication operator: Captain! We have received a transmission! It appears to be coming from...the White House!


Captain: What?!



Communication operator: Incoming visual on the main screen.


Captain: [GASP!] It's you!!


OBAMA_BASE.jpg You seem busy, gentlemen.







OBAMA_BASE.jpg With the help of a technology vendor I can blame if word of this ever gets out, the White House has captured your Facebook. In fact, all ur Internets now belong to us! HA HA HA HA HA.







OBAMA_BASE.jpg You domestic terrorists never learn, do you? Your privacy is about to meet its doom as well.







Captain: But... ... it can't be ...! You were a Constitutional law professor! You promised to protect us from government snooping!


OBAMA_BASE.jpg We are grateful for your cooperation.







OBAMA_BASE.jpg Cherish these few remaining moments of your freedom, wingnut.







Posted by Cassandra at 08:27 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 01, 2009

Politicizing 3000 American Deaths

9/11: tragedy? Or a lobbying opportunity that's too good to waste?

As Obama is so fond of saying, "let me be clear." This rhetoric is on Barack Obama's Organizing for America website. Do I think he actually wrote the post? No. Of course not. But isn't, at some point, he accountable for what's on it? It's barackobama.com, for crying out loud. It's his perpetual campaign website: you can text "Hope" to get his updates; he's on Twitter and Facebook and MySpace and YouTube, and...well, under the "Obama Everywhere" tab, you can link up ... everywhere, according to this site.

At some point don't you think he ought to quit campaigning and actually lead? Is he running for re-election already? Why does this website still exist?

It exists so his propagandists can post highly charged rhetoric as they did today and he can basically not be held accountable; it wasn't really on WhiteHouse.gov. Can we report Organizing for America to flag@whitehouse.gov? Fishy?

The bigger point, to me, is that the memory of 9/11 is being hijacked. That's an incredibly poor verb to use for this story, but it's the most accurate.

Oh well, like Mary Jo Kopechne, no doubt the victims of 9/11 and their families won't mind too much. Sometimes the end does justify the means.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:32 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Over There! D'oh! No, Over There!.. No...That's Not It

Wunderbar. After months of letting others do the heavy lifting for him, Obama's finally going to come up with a plan - with specifics, no less! - for passing health care:

This time, the President is going to be specific [Emphasis mine]. Next week, President Obama is going to give Democrats a health care plan they can begin to sell.

To paraphrase the Church Lady, "Well now, isn't that special." It is so reassuring, after 8 years of listening to Democrats excoriate the Bush administration for insufficient planning, to watch a smart leader who has all his ducks in a row.

This is what happens when we elect a candidate whose executive experience placed him in the bottom sixth percentile of candidates who won the nomination of a major party. Instead of principled leadership we get haphazard attempts at community organizing. Unfortunately, major legislative battles are not the spontaneous result of disconnected grassroots efforts by concerned citizens. They require careful planning and most of all, they require decisive direction from the top. If you want people to follow, you must be willing to lead.

This is something Barack Obama appears either unwilling or unable to do. That's bad enough when the question is whether or not the President will be able to reform health care, but when American citizens are fighting and dying to effect a constantly changing set of foreign policy directives the spectacle of a President who leads by straddling the fence becomes downright obscene.

For years I listened to the anti-war crowd (and too many conservatives) berate George Bush for mismanaging the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Compared to Obama, Bush's leadership now appears positively Churchillian. Bush was reproached for failing to sell the war to the American people. For not asking us to sacrifice. For failing to make the case for war. On the campaign trail Obama made ample use of these complaints to argue that he would do a better job as Commander in Chief.

So it seems entirely fair to ask: what is he doing to sell the war to the American people? How often does he mention the fact that we are still embroiled in two wars? If winning in Afghanistan is vital to our national security (and Obama claims it is), if Afghanistan is truly a war of necessity, a war America can't afford to lose, why isn't Obama out there making the case for our continued commitment? If declining support for the war was Bush's fault, what should we think now that opposition to the war in Afghanistan is at an all time high? What does it say when the President can't even get the support of the people who voted for him?

Opposition to the war in Afghanistan is at an all-time high in a new national poll.

Fifty-seven percent of Americans questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Tuesday say they oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan, with 42 percent supporting the military mission. The percentage of those in opposition to the war is up 11 points since April, and is the highest ever in CNN polling since the launch of the U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan soon after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

The poll indicates that opposition to the war is coming mainly from Democrats and independents.

I suspect Obama's failure to lead has much to do with his reluctance to stir up his anti-war Democratic base. But if Americans are to be sent into harm's way, don't they deserve the full support of their Commander in Chief? Don't they deserve what Obama promised voters - that he would keep America safe? Do we really have the right to ask our military to risk their lives when their own President is ducking the fight? What is he so afraid of? Though Obama has continued George Bush's policies (including those he opposed on the campaign trail), he has faced few of the arguments used against his predecessor.

During the Bush years, we in the armed forces were constantly reminded, usually by folks with no connection to the fighting, that real sacrifices were being made.

Who knew?

That these sacrifices were voluntary was rarely acknowledged. It didn't seem to matter whether military folks supported the war or what they had to say about conditions on the ground. The anti-war crowd discounted the testimony of those who were actually in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was so much easier to dismiss our soldiers and Marines as ignorant, gullible victims too stupid to think for themselves. This is an easy thing to believe when "thinking for oneself" means "agreeing with us". By definition, anyone who finds your arguments unconvincing is obviously not thinking for himself. The arguments flew thick and fast:

1. The cost was too high. Nothing was worth the endless parade of amputated limbs or the tears of bereaved parents and wives.

2. Democracy promotion was a fool's errand. Adults know those little brown people can't handle freedom the way we civilized types in the United States do. Savages, really, the lot of them. Not like us.

3. The armed forces were broken. Overstressed. Ready to snap at a moment's notice.

4. Families were being "torn apart" by repeated deployments. They just couldn't handle any more.

5. We didn't have enough boots on the ground.

6. Iraq was unwinnable. Sending more troops - aka, the 'so-called Surge' - would only make the violence worse.

7. It was dangerous and wrong to adjust recruiting standards to reflect conditions in the labor market.

8. On the other hand, it was a really smart idea to force a draft down the throats of the military. Never mind that no one wanted to fight alongside conscripts who don't want to be there and don't have to meet the high standards made possible by an all volunteer force. Never mind the testimony of military professionals and academicians alike who reminded them of the drug problems, the crime, the rampant morale issues and unprofessionalism that were the predictable result of forcing people to do a job they hadn't volunteered for during the Vietnam era.

Quality was a tool. It only mattered so long as it could be used to damage the military and interfere with their mission.

All of which leaves this Marine wife wondering what, exactly, has changed since Barack Obama took office?

If this is a war of necessity, will the President ever get around to selling it to us? What has he asked America to sacrifice for this war of necessity? Are fewer young men and women in harm's way?

_45490161_afghanss1.gif

Has Guantanamo Bay been closed? Has Obama rolled back the fascist, Constitution shredding policies that caused George Bush's opponents to talk of impeachment and executive overreach?

No. And yet in the months since Barack Obama was elected, the flood of criticism has dwindled to a trickle. Why is that? Where are the protesters? What happened to the passionate anger of the anti-war crowd?

... many liberals continue to support Mr. Obama, or at least are hesitant about openly criticizing him.

“People do not want to take on the administration,” said Jon Soltz, chairman of VoteVets.org. “Generating the kind of money that would be required to challenge the president’s policies just isn’t going to happen.”

Tom Andrews, national director for an antiwar coalition, Win Without War, said most liberals “want this guy to succeed.”

Gone - all gone. It its place we hear vaguely worded muttering about mission creep, but no public demands to bring our supposedly over strained troops home. How did the supposedly dangerous levels of stress and strain abate so quickly? Is the Army un-broken now?

It's not as though Obama hid his intention to send more troops to Afghanistan when he was on the campaign trail. Then, as now, he reminded us that Afghanistan is the good war. The necessary war. The one we can't afford to lose but mustn't speak of winning because victory is a troubling concept best achieved by redefining Afghanistan as a not-war against not-enemies who will be not-defeated just as soon as we manage to not-kill enough of them.

And then there's George Will, whose main function in life seems to be to prove that Americans just can't get enough cognitive dissonance. Herr Will, a ardent disciple of the Jack "Redeploy Them to Okinawa" Murtha School of Unexpected Military Tactics, offers a truly brilliant suggestion: apparently, all we need do is "redeploy" our troops to a safe location where they can talk our enemies to not-death in relative safety. What could possibly go wrong?

We’re dealing with an enemy that declares a victory every time one of them successfully farts without getting a Hellfire shot up his bum. Our withdrawal from Somalia is what precipitated this war on terror - pulling our forces “off-shore” (anyone who saw a shore in Afghanistan, please tell us about it) will only embolden those stone age cretins and encourage even more attacks against our interests.

How many times during the Bush years did we suffer the slings and arrows from the Left about how we didn’t fix Afghanistan in 1988 - now twenty years later, they’re ready to follow the same strategy. And George Will is giving them the political cover to set us up for the next attack as well as rebuild support with Democrats’ far Left constituents just as they are beginning to oppose Obama.

I have to hand it to George: nothing says moral authority in the eyes of the international community more than the sight of the world's largest superpower bombing an already traumatized 3rd world nation back to the Stone Age. What's a bit of collateral damage compared to the warm, caring image projected by wealthy industrialized superpowers who wage not-war with billion dollar weapons from a safe location?

Will's defection only reinforces The Pockistan Doctrine: in politics, the "real war" - you know, the one that matters - is always the one we're not fighting at the moment.

Too bad no one told these guys about that whole not mattering thing. Sometimes there are no happy endings: only ones that are less bad than the alternative.

And sometimes, you just need to put your head down and win. Oops. My bad. Winning is one of those things, like terrorist or the war on terror, that we're not supposed to mention.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:04 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

End of Watch

Well done, good and faithful servant!

Posted by Cassandra at 08:18 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack