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February 22, 2010

Hiatus

Hi guys.

I've been mulling this over for several months now and I need to take a break from blogging (as in a total break). I've been trying to figure out a way not to quit, but nothing I've tried so far has worked terribly well.

I'm going to take the next two weeks off. I'll be back on Monday, March 8th and at that time I'm going to give this one more go. Please don't think I'm not grateful for the pleasure of your company each day. I just don't have anything to offer right now - lately it has seemed as though I'm trying to pour water out of an empty boot.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:37 AM | Comments (72) | TrackBack

February 19, 2010

The Condor Grip of Death

They say that Mitt Romney is a baaaaaaaaad mothah...
Shut yo mouf!
You bein' bad!

Sky Blu says Romney drew first blood. Well, he said Romney grabbed him after angrily telling him to move his seat up.

"He grabs my shoulder .. and I just react BOOM get off me!" Blu told the video camera. "He put a condor grip on me. What am I supposed to do?"

"That's like a Vulcan grip,"
offered his bandmate Redfoo.

"Like a Vulcan grip," Blu concurred. "I'm not your prey. I'm not a salmon going upstream. You're not going to grip me up."

Blu, clad in his underwear while telling the story in a hotel room, went on to say that during the maelstrom Romney's wife screamed, he (Blu) threw in a few cuss words and that the cops didn't buy his version of the incident.

"The man assaulted me. I was protecting myself," he said.

You know, my man Mitt always did strike me as a seething hunk of testosterone just waiting to go off on someone with the Condor Grip of Death.

If politics gets any more surreal, I'm going to have to pre-medicate before I open a newspaper.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:31 PM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Judging Obama: the Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

Is there anything Barack Obama isn't qualified to do? Not according to his supporters. As I pointed out during the campaign, America's post racial President is routinely exempted from the standards used to judge other men. His nomination and electoral victory were historic in more ways than one:

Since the Civil War, 49 men have won a major-party presidential nomination. Only three of these nominees were less qualified, by traditional measures of leadership and experience, than Obama.

That puts Barack Obama at or around the 6th percentile of presidential candidates chosen by a major party in the last century and a half, experience-wise. But we are not allowed to notice this, because it would be racist to elevate experience over skin color.

Interestingly:

None of those men was able to win the White House.

Not content with having elected one of the least qualified Presidents in modern history, Jeffrey Rosen thinks Obama deserves a position on the Supreme Court, too! Unsurprisingly (at least to those who watched the presidential campaign coverage in stunned outrage), Obama's chief qualification for this elite position appears to be ... drum roll... his temperment:

He's too detached and cerebral. Too deferential to Congress. Too willing to compromise. And he's too much of a law professor and not enough of a commander in chief, as Sarah Palin recently admonished.

These are some of the qualities for which the president, rightly or wrongly, is criticized. They are also the qualities that make him well suited for another steady job on the federal payroll: Barack Obama, Supreme Court justice.

Think about it. Though Obama has struggled to find his footing in the White House, his education, temperament and experience make him ideally suited to lead the liberal wing of the court, especially at a time when a narrow conservative majority seems increasingly intent on challenging progressive economic reforms for the first time since the New Deal. Obama is clearly eager to take on the four truly conservative justices -- Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas -- as his State of the Union smackdown suggests. But as president, he's constrained by that pesky separation of powers. So what better way to engage the fight than to join the bench?

Rosen's argument - that Obama's failings as President uniquely qualify him for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land - ought to be damning. Is there any other profession in which failure at something else would be advanced as a compelling argument for hiring a job applicant? But the rules that apply to others seem to be suspended when Obama's name comes up. Read Rosen's entire essay. Notice anything missing? References, perhaps, to actual legal experience? Rosen is smart to gloss over the pesky question of experience because, as it turns out, Obama did precious little of note during his brief stint as an attorney:

"He was doing the work that any first-year or second-year associate would do," Miner said. "In litigation he was doing basic research and writing memos. ... In the first couple years he would play a very minor role. He wouldn't know (much) so he would take the lead from whoever was supervising his work."

...Obama did not work long as a full-time attorney.

The law firm says he logged 3,723 billable hours during his tenure from 1993 to 2004, most of it during the four years between 1993 and 1996.

In 1995, the year his first book came out, Obama started his successful run for the Illinois state senate and stopped working full time once he took office in 1997.

Hmmm... let's see. Just as a rough tally, 3723/4 years equals about 930 billable hours a year.

For comparison purposes, the ABA's Model Law Firm Policy Regarding Billable Hours prescribes an average of 1900 billable hours per year. Over a four year period, a typical associate would rack up about 7,600 billable hours. Obama billed about half of that. But since we're applying a different standard to Obama, let's give him another chance.

Perhaps the type of work he did is somehow remarkable? A few excerpts from a Chicago Sun Times piece about Obama's legal career quickly dispel that notion too:

"He wrote lots of substantial memos, but he didn't try any cases," said Judson Miner, a partner in the firm who was Obama's boss.

A search of all the cases in Cook County Circuit Court in which Obama made an appearance since he graduated from Harvard in 1991 shows: Zero.

His practice was confined mainly to federal court in Chicago, where he made formal appearances in only five district court cases and another five in cases before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals -- a total of 10 cases in his legal career. He was on the winning side of just about all those cases. Miner said there were 30 cases to which Obama contributed in some way.

Contrast Rosen's tough, detailed review of a far more experienced nominee. The widely dissed Harriet Miers also had far more experience than Barack Obama.

Although their legal resumes eclipse Obama's in both breadth and depth of experience, both Sotomayor and Miers faced significant debate about their qualifications. In what rational universe would Barack Obama, whose legal resume is perilously thin by any objective standard, be considered a serious candidate for the highest court in the land?

Oh, wait. This is a man who was elected President of the world's largest superpower without a single shred of executive experience to his name. Why am I not surprised?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:02 AM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

February 18, 2010

Heh :)

Another Progressive Heroine Brought Down by The Man.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:53 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

February 17, 2010

Signs and Portents

The art of political divination never fails to amuse me. Isn't it funny how when Bush was president, declining approval ratings were a "sign" that Bush was leading the country down the primrose path to a stern finger wagging from countries like France and Germany? Of course now that trust in Obama is declining both at home and abroad, it can't possibly have anything to do with his policies. There must be some other mysterious force at work.

Somewhere between January of 2008 and January of 2009, America suddenly became ungovernable!

The smarter elements in Washington DC are starting to pick up on the fact that it’s not tactical errors on the part of the president that make it hard to get things done, it’s the fact that the country has become ungovernable.

No, wait! The real problem is gridlock!

When the GOP lost control of the House and Senate, the annual budget deficit was $161 billion. President Obama's budget for next year --with no stimulus and no TARP-- calls for $1.6 trillion in red ink.

Thus in three years of democratic control the deficit has swell from 161 billion to 1,600 billion.

That's the opposite of gridlock --that is one party rule by the party of massive spending and unlimited pork.

OK, so that's not it either. Lets blame fear and racism:

Times are tough, the future is confusing, the threat from those who would dismantle our way of life is real (as if we weren't to some extent doing it for them). And the president is black. But you can't come out and say that's why you are scared.

Just as an aside: For a bunch of folks who produce a new study approximately every 24 seconds that "proves" conservatives are fearful, progressives sure do seem to spend an awful lot of time complaining about feeling afraid. But that's a topic for another post - back to our regularly scheduled excuse-fest.

Confused by all these conflicting excuses? Fear not - Andrew Sullivan has discovered the real reason trust in government is eroding and it's not Obama's poor performance racism, fear, or stubborn, bitter gun clingers (or at least it's not any of those things today). It's... [ding! ding! ding!]... the economy, stupid!

John Sides blames the economy for Americans not trusting the government and produces the above graph. Drezner has a theory why this is under-reported:

I suspect it gets less attention because its a structural factor that is largely beyond the control of politicians. It's also boring. It's like a diet guru simply saying "eat less and exercise more" when asked what the trendy explanation is for how to lose weight.

And because it would rob the media of their idiotic sports coverage of politics - which is actually an abdication of responsibility rather than professionalism.

Quick translation: when Bush was president, drawing attention to his declining approval ratings was a bold exercise in truth telling. Now that Obama is president, it's a frivolous distraction just plain bad manners.

I'm not sure I follow the reasoning here:

1.Prosperity (read higher disposable income) is the overriding factor influencing trust in government.

2. But the media don't talk about this because we already know politicians don't have much control over the economy.

3. Ergo, when the economy tanks we are blaming politicians for something we all instinctively realize government has little/no control over?

What's being ignored in all this Obama-exculpating "analysis" is that Obama has promised over and over again to do what we supposedly know politicians can't do: make government the new engine of American prosperity. If you were honestly expecting him to deliver, the results aren't exactly trust inspiring.

And if you never believed him in the first place...

Posted by Cassandra at 01:08 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The Accretion of Small Things

Interesting poll on marital satisfaction:

Married Americans expressed few regrets about their choice of spouse and overwhelmingly said they would do it all again, according to a new CBS News poll.

Nine out of ten (90%) married Americans would marry their spouse again, a percentage which has barely changed since 1995 (when it was 93%).

However, men were more likely to say they would marry their spouse again than their wives: 95% of men would marry their wives again, compared to 85% of women who said they would re-marry their husbands.

The total percentage of those who would marry their spouse again was also influenced by income: 95% of those earning more than $50,000 a year vs. 83% of those making less.

When asked to pick what is most important in a successful relationship, about half picked "Respect" (49%), followed by "Trust" (37%), and a "Sense of humor" (10%). "Sex" was picked by 2%. "Money" recorded 0%.

I found these last results interesting given that money and sex are two issues usually cited when a marriage goes bad. On the other hand I've always thought that a marriage built on a solid foundation of respect and affection is better able to withstand even major stressors:

...there's a mathematical ratio that can predict whether love lasts: 5 to 1. Five positive interactions to every one negative, like a critical comment, said Parker-Pope:

"A pat on the shoulder or a squeeze of the hand or a 'Honey, you look pretty today' or 'Gosh, I'm proud of you' or 'I like you in that suit.' Those little moments are highly protective of a marriage, and good marriages have them at least on a 5-to-1 basis.

The older I get, the more value I see in the steady accretion of small actions. It's like building up a savings account for a rainy day. I just wish I were more consistent from day to day.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:44 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Government Meddling Backfires Again

The best minds are not in government. If any were, business would hire them away.

- Ronald Reagan

I've been reading Thomas Sowell's new book Intellectuals and Society. One of the recurring themes in the book is the tendency of well intentioned "experts" to substitute normative ethics (i.e., "How SHOULD people act?") for rational observation (i.e., "How DO people act in the real world?") when formulating public policy. The result, predictably enough, is generally the exact opposite of what they intended. Elise offers up an amusing - if you don't happen to be a female of childbearing age - example of this phenomenon in action.

The story takes place in Colorado and involves one Peggy Robertson and her individual health insurance policy. Ms. Robertson had already had one child by c-section. C-sections are expensive. They often involve prolonged hospital stays and if you've had one most doctors will recommend a Caesarian for subsequent deliveries.

Given these facts, it is hardly surprising to learn that most insurers consider a previous c-section to be a pre-existing condition. Generally a female applicant who has already had one c-section will be charged a higher premium or coverage of subsequent c-sections will be excluded for some time after issuance of a new policy. In economic terms this policy makes perfect sense: it correctly allocates both risk and cost to the party receiving benefits under the policy. She is then free to factor the cost into her family planning decisions.

The state of Colorado, however, decided it was "unfair" for insurers to take the anticipated cost of insuring such women into account when pricing their health insurance policies. I'll give you three guesses what happened after the state of Colorado stepped in to "help" women like Peggy:

... the real source of Ms. Robertson’s denial is not Golden Rule; Golden Rule would have been happy to write her an individual health insurance policy. The real source is the Colorado Division of Insurance which has got to be in the running for stupidest insurance regulator in the country. The CDI forbad Colorado insurance companies to exclude Caesarean sections from coverage: if an insurance company takes on a new customer, the insurance company must cover Caesarean sections beginning immediately. However, it obviously never even occurred to the CDI that this would mean insurance companies would simply start refusing to take on women who had had Caesarean sections. Not only did such an outcome never even cross the minds of the rule-makers at the CDI, it apparently also never occurred to them to actually ask insurance companies, “What would happen if we forbad you to exclude Caesarean sections from coverage for new policyholders?” I’m pretty sure that anyone who worked for an insurance company would have foreseen quite clearly that their company would simply stop writing policies for such women.

Was Peggy Robertson really better off with no insurance policy at all rather than coverage that pays for most conditions but puts the ability to space deliveries closely at a premium? I don't think so.

In Intellectuals and Society, Sowell relates another example of well intentioned meddling which results in consumers having fewer choices. It's one that might surprise you - payday loans:

...the high rates of interest charged on personal loans to the poor are enough to set off orgies of denunciation and demands for government intervention to put an end to "exploitative" and "unconscionable" interest rates. Here verbal virtuosity is often used by stating interest rates in annual percentage terms, when in fact loans made in low income neighborhoods are often made for a matter of weeks or even days to meet some exigency of the moment. The sums of money lent are usually a few hundred dollars, lent for a few weeks, with interest charges of about $15 per $100 lent. That words out to annual interest rates in the hundreds - ...statistics that produce sensations in the media and in politics.

As Sowell points out, after Oregon prohibited interest charges in excess of 36% APR (an annual rate that makes little sense when applied to small, short term loans) nearly 75% of payday lenders closed their doors entirely. A more carefully written law might have considered the compounding function of interest in calculating the perceived "harm". Oregon could have limited the most egregious abuses by prohibiting long-term loans at exorbitant interest rates but allowing lenders to continue offering small, shorter term loans.

Sowell reminds us that government meddling often results in fewer options for the intended beneficiaries of well intentioned but arrogant public policies:

As for low income borrowers, supposedly the reason for the concern of the moral elites, denying the borrower the $100 needed to meet some exigency must be weighed against the $15 paid to meet that exigency. Why that trade-off decision should be forcibly removed by law from the person most knowledgeable about the situation, as well as most affected by it, and transferred to third parties far removed in specific knowledge and general circumstances, is a question that is seldom answered or even asked. With intellectuals who consider themselves knowledgeable as well as compassionate, it would seldom occur to them to regard themselves as interfering with things of which they are very ignorant - and doing so at costs imposed on people far less fortunate than themselves.

When individual decision making power is concentrated in the hands of "experts" who can't possibly factor in a multitude of individual preferences and circumstances, the result is rarely a net improvement. Or as Reagan once said:

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'

Posted by Cassandra at 08:50 AM | Comments (38) | TrackBack

February 16, 2010

Where's Cass?

You may well ask, but The Blog Princess ain't tellin'. Let's just say she is hiding out in an undisclosed location until the Joe Biden Motorcade of Death is brought to heel:

Vice President Biden's motorcade has been involved in three accidents, one of them fatal, in the last three months -- but the Secret Service says it views the close string of collisions as "separate" and notes that Secret Service personnel were driving in only one of them.

The latest mishap occurred Sunday in Vancouver. Figure skating legend Peggy Fleming and former bobsled champion Vonetta Flowers, who were riding in the vice president's motorcade, suffered minor injuries when the van they were riding in apparently was rear-ended en route to a hockey game. Biden was in a different vehicle at the time.

Yeah. Sure he was. It was bad enough when he was only murdering the English language.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:11 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

February 13, 2010

Blogging

Sorry guys. Migraine took me down to parade rest for a few days. Am just barely vertical so I don't think I'll be able to write today.

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

February 11, 2010

A Little Mood Music...

...for my next post.

Yeah. I know. Odd combination.

But each is relevant in its own way.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:25 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Feel Good Video of the Day

Work it!

CWCID: My lovely and talented daughter in law!

Posted by Cassandra at 02:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 10, 2010

To everyone who has sent me that Salon essay, thanks. I can't write about it tonight. It cuts a bit too close to home for me.

And anyway, John did a magnificent job.

Will try tomorrow.

Update: I am going to take a few whacks at this but it will not be until this afternoon. Need to finish what I'm working on, but I can do it during my "lunch" hour.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:56 PM | Comments (108) | TrackBack

Reading is Fundamental

It helps one avoid prodigious acts of self beclownment like this:

Stop Panicking, Liberals writes Cassandra at Villainous Company in response to Sullivan...

My post is here. Note that nowhere in the post - nowhere - do I refer to "liberals" or "panic". Nor do I imply that "liberals" are "panicking".

What I do say is that if you want to make the spurious claim that someone "waterboarded" a child, it is generally helpful to know what waterboarding actually consists of and even more helpful if the facts in the story support this claim... which they don't:

Tabor spoke to a Yelm police officer and said that he and his girlfriend had “held her down on the counter and submerged her head into the water three or four times until the water came around her forehead and jawline.” He said that she was face-up when her head was in the water. He added that they gave this punishment for the 4-year-old “refusing to say her letters.”

Now I may not be the brightest light bulb in the old knife drawer, so perhaps someone at the Atlantic can explain to me how one simulates drowning when every orifice capable of admitting water to the lungs is out of the water? Think about it for a second. I'll wait.

Of course none of this matters if the question is, "Is this man accused of abusing his child by handling her so roughly that she was covered in bruises, and also of intentionally exploiting a phobia?" It does matter - very much - if you insist upon calling her abuse "waterboarding" because the whole purpose of waterboarding is to reproduce the actual physical sensation of drowning. And I've never yet heard of a person who drowned without having water enter their nose and/or mouth. It's just not possible, even for the wordsmiths at the Atlantic.

Unless, of course, we want to redefine drowning too. But writers who are untroubled by making things up out of whole cloth are unlikely to be troubled by something as trivial as making up entirely new meanings for words.

Pathetic.

Posted by Cassandra at 11:39 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Robert Frost's Bratty Little Sister

Whose job is this? I think I know.
My aching back is screaming, though;
As abs not flexed for many a year
Are tortured by the mounting snow.

The frozen tundra's almost clear
As through the drifting flakes I peer
I'm tempted to postpone the rest
To step inside, and have a beer.

My mighty shovel does its best
To carve neat swaths at my behest
But buried decks and frozen stairs
Begin to seem a hopeless quest.

The snow is lovely, silent, deep.
It drifts in mountains, chill and steep
My weiner dog's ass deep in snow
I wish he'd hurry up and go.
I wish he'd hurry up and go.

Update: OK. I blame Don for this. Not perfect but I was in a hurry:

To the tune of The Immigrant's Song:

AIEEEEEE! AIEEEEE!
Trapped in the land of the ice and snow,
Where the Hell’s the sun? Global warming blows!
Torture. Of. The. Damned…. shovel stuck to my hand,
Fist aloft, I scream in pain: “AlGore, I am coming!

Shoveling on with knees both bent,
How long before I reach the driveway’s end?

AIEEEEEE! AIEEEEE!
Trapped in this drift made of ice and snow,
This is no damned fun! I can’t feel my toes…..
How tall these mounds of white! My neighbors can’t ignore
The pristine path, the de-iced stoop. Oh yes. I’m your Wintry Overlord.

On I sweep with flashing spade!
But I can feel my spirits start to fade.

So now you'd better stop and rest your aching sinews,
Your feeble effort won’t suffice.
Give up. You are losing.


Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song by Viking Kittens

Matooch | MySpace Video

Posted by Cassandra at 10:12 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

The Silken Tent

She is as in a field a silken tent
At midday when the sunny summer breeze
Has dried the dew and all its ropes relent,
So that in guys it gently sways at ease,
And its supporting central cedar pole,
That is its pinnacle to heavenward
And signifies the sureness of the soul,
Seems to owe naught to any single cord,
But strictly held by none, is loosely bound
By countless silken ties of love and thought
To everything on earth the compass round,
And only by one’s going slightly taut
In the capriciousness of summer air
Is of the slightest bondage made aware.

- Robert Frost

Posted by Cassandra at 07:38 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 09, 2010

A Moment of Silence

Please join me this morning at 9:15 EST for a moment of silence to honor and remember the sacrifices of Sgt. David Smith, LCPL Jeremy Kane and HM2 Xin Qi as well as showing solidarity with and support for their families and friends as they cope with their losses.

Sgt. David Smith will be interred at Arlington this afternoon at 3:00 pm.

Posted by at 07:49 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 08, 2010

Huh????

Not to pick on Glenn, because he didn't make up the title of this linked post, but it made me think of that line our parents used to repeat whenever someone hurt my brother's or my feelings on the playground:

No one can make you feel bad without your permission.

It was good advice, too, because it happens to be true. I watched all five of the ads, and I'm confused. I'm not seeing the "women emasculating men" aspect at all:

Ad #1: Men striding about a vacant field in their underwear. Not a woman in sight.

But perhaps one is lurking just out of camera range hoping to lure yet another big brute into the tall grass where she'll physically overpower him, snatch his trou, and send him off to warble "I wear no pants" with other similarly pantless fellows? It's the SuperBowl. Anything is possible.

Ad #2: Again, not a woman in sight. Undoubtedly they're off screen again, tinfoil-penetrating mind control rays shooting from their nipples as the narrator somberly drones on and on...

"I have no mind or will of my own, but I'll get her back by .... umm.... driving a reeeeeeally loud car."

Ad #3: "I was on my way out the door to do something fun but as every intelligent person knows, no real man can resist Lite beer."

*whistling*

Ad #4: Charming. Man and wife drive down a dark road and are waylaid by sinister thugs. Man bravely sacrifices the little woman and runs like hell.

Ad #5: Man looks back on the journey to adulthood, marriage, fatherhood and briefly thinks of slitting his wrists concludes there is nothing inherently unmasculine about having well moisturized skin.

A well stuffed marmoset to the astute reader who can identify the common theme here.

Posted by Cassandra at 11:21 PM | Comments (48) | TrackBack

Food for Thought

Elise dissects the back story behind that poor, nameless breast cancer victim Obama was touting recently. The whole sad story is ably summed up in one devastating paragraph:

... under Obamacare Ms. Shouse would have made the same choice she actually made: choosing to risk her life to expand her business. Or she would have been denied the chance to make that choice and would have good health insurance but no expanded business. Not even Obamacare could have afforded Ms. Shouse the opportunity to do what she wanted without paying for it one way or the other.

This is the heart of my objections to Obama's governing philosophy. Over and over again he and his wife Michelle have argued that it's unfair for us to be burdened with choices about how to spend our own money. But for some unfathomable reason it's never unfair to shift the costs of our bad choices to others.

No wonder he can't seem to stop blaming Bush.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

DADT Discharges and Readiness

DADTdischarges.jpg

I thought (because I genuinely had no idea what the answer was) it might be interesting to look at the impact of DADT discharges on troop strength. The chart above shows annual DADT discharges as a percent of the total force strength for the corresponding year.

Note that in no year did DADT discharges reach even one-tenth of one percent of the active forces. The last two bars are interesting.

The first of the last 2 bars (TOTAL since DADT) asks the question: "What if we fired the total number of service members discharged since 1994 all in one year (2009)?". This wildly exaggerates the effect of DADT since the 2009 force is considerably smaller than it was in 1994 and we're lumping 14 years worth of discharges into one year, but that's OK.

If all the losses since 1994 were combined into a single year, they still don't come to even 1% of the total force structure. The second bar simulates the effect of firing every service member let go for homosexuality over the past 30 years on 2009 troop strength. So what's the damage? A little over 2%. Keep in mind non-deployability rates due to pregnancy in the armed forces:

pregancy.jpg

This begs an interesting question:

If the military has decided it can easily tolerate having anywhere from 5-26% of our forces in a non-deployable status due to pregnancy, why are losses of under 1/10th of one percent unsupportable?


Data compiled from:

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (1980–1996)

Defense Department (1997–2007)

Active Duty Total Force Report, Defense Manpower Data Center

Posted by Cassandra at 01:36 PM | Comments (48) | TrackBack

Unbelievable

What in the holy hell is wrong with people?

Posted by Cassandra at 09:21 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

They Walk Among Us

Is there a full moon, or is there just an unannounced Blue Light special on stupid today? The Daily Mail (now *there's* a reputable source for you) goes public with a shocking story of... of... a parent abusing a small child.

Wow. Now there's something we've never heard before!

A soldier waterboarded his four-year-old daughter because she was unable to recite her alphabet.

Joshua Tabor admitted to police he had used the CIA torture technique because he was so angry.

As his daughter 'squirmed' to get away, Tabor said he submerged her face three or four times until the water was lapping around her forehead and jawline.

Tabor, 27, who had won custody of his daughter only four weeks earlier, admitted choosing the punishment because the girl was terrified of water.

Stipulated: this guy is sick - AND if it turns out he really did it - he should never be allowed near his daughter again. The more interesting question is: what does this disturbing incident tell us about The Lingering Evil That Survives The BushReich?

I know! Let's ask Andrew Sullivan!

Horrifying. No doubt Marc Thiessen will object that since she wasn't strapped to an actual board and only dunked three or four times, rather than 183, and her father wasn't in the CIA, she wasn't really "waterboarded" as the professionals do it. But do you notice how a foreign newspaper uses plain English to describe torturing victims by use of near-drowning: the "CIA torture technique."

Translation, if we arbitrarily redefine the definition of waterboarding, we can wax horrified over how CIA mind control rays are causing whack job parents to abuse their helpless children (something that never happened before George Bush made torture a household word). All it requires is a little flexibility with the facts! Never mind that:

1. She wasn't strapped to an actual board with her head lower than the rest of her body.

2. Her face wasn't covered with cloth or cellophane.

3. Water wasn't poured over her face, the expected result of which is that - unlike what happens when one's face is submerged in water - the gagging reflex is triggered.

Let's focus on the takeaway here. Other than the fact that what was done to this little girl has NONE of the distinguishing characteristics of waterboarding, a foreign newspaper called it waterboarding! Which, as we all know, trumps anything so pedestrian as facts that contradict the desired narrative. And if you refuse to call it waterboarding, you support the torture of 4 year old girls who refuse to recite the alphabet!

george-bush-eats-a-kitten.jpg But wait! There's more of this cogent analysis!

No US paper has yet to report the story. Why am I not surprised?

No U.S. paper? How does Andrew know that? How is it that British journalists were the first to learn of an incident that occurred in Tacoma, Washington, a place where - apparently - large bands of bored foreign correspondents roam in packs hoping for a juicy story that will allow them to editorialize about psychotic vets and the ravages of jackbooted American imperialism.

And don't even get me started on "crib notes" and "cheat sheets" that don't contain any answers. Truly, journalism is re-defining the English language.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:17 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

February 07, 2010

Men, Beer, Perverse Incentives....

Dangerous combination:

CWCID: McQ.

Interesting question of the day: Can you imagine a funny commercial that showed half nekkid women of a similar attractiveness level to the men in this video? Yeah. Me neither.

Just confirms my longstanding observation that most of the time men are shown in a state of undress, the selection criteria are... how shall I say this delicately ... skewed in the other direction? Too funny.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:57 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

February 06, 2010

Liveblogging the Sneaux, Part Deux

8:30. Holy crap. Robert Frost was right. Need more coffee.

I never realized this before, but my Mazda CX7 looks like a buffalo:

Buffalo in Storm.jpg

8: 35. Scoop up the Dorkhound, carry him outside to do his business. He is not amused.

8:47. Back outside to begin shoveling a path up the stairs and out to the street.

10:39. Shoveled a NARROW path from my front door, up the stairs, down the driveway to the buffalo at the end of my driveway. Was met at the front of my buffalo car by my neighbor, who came to my rescue with his snow blower. He cleared out a wide swath big enough for me to get my car out to the road.

I tried to get him to go back inside where it is warm, but he would have none of it. He said it was the least he could do since my husband was deployed.

Men rock. I can't even think about it without feeling my eyes fill up with tears. A few pix from early this morning:

beaten_path.jpg
The path from my front door.

bath_window.jpg
The woods from my bathroom window.

12:33. Incroyable. It's still coming down like gangbusters.

Al Gore can kiss my rosy pink tuckus.

office window.jpg
Noon, taken from my office window.

For reference purposes, what lies under the snow in the foreground is the path that runs along the front of my house. The snow is about 6" beneath the window sill right now.

2:08. Still coming down, but seems slower. Just completed the 2nd shoveling run and am really feeling my age.

snowplough.jpg
Why men rock, the sequel.

And yes, I am a Goddess:

path_2.jpg

In a sane world I would be naked on a beach with an obscenely large drink in my hand.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:57 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

February 05, 2010

What I'm Listening To

Posted by Cassandra at 04:11 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Snow Open Thread

Sorry I've been AWOL this week.

I am just way too busy to write, right now. What are your plans for the snowstorm?

Posted by Cassandra at 12:48 PM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

February 04, 2010

Colin Powell on DADT: Then and Now

If there's anything more certain than the sun rising every morning, it's that Colin Powell will be trotted out by the Left when they need a Voice of Moral Authority from the Ranks:

“In the almost 17 years since the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed,” General Powell said in a statement issued by his office. He added: “I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen.”

There's just one problem with Powell's well timed change of heart. "Attitudes and circumstances" may well have changed in the last 17 years but human nature has not. So before we turn Powell into the standard bearer for repealing DADT, it makes sense to examine the objections cited by the nation's most trusted retired officer two decades ago.

And when we do it seems fair to ask, "How has any of this changed?":

[In testimony before Congress on gays in the military], I said, “I think it would be prejudicial to good order and discipline to try to integrate gays and lesbians in the current military structure.” Congresswoman Pat Schroeder quoted a 1942 government report and claimed that the same arguments used then against racial integration in the military were being used against gays today.

She had her logic wrong. I responded, “Skin color is a benign, nonbehavioral characteristic. Sexual orientation is perhaps the most profound of human behavioral characteristics. Comparison of the two is a convenient but invalid argument."

His words bear repeating. They also deserve an honest attempt to grapple with an inconvenient truth he wasn't afraid to speak when the tide of public opinion supported him. Unlike skin color, human sexuality - whether female or male, heterosexual or homosexual - is a fundamental and extremely powerful driver of human behavior. To elide past this basic truth requires an almost willful act of blindness.

My own opinions about both women and gays openly serving in the military have undergone a radical shift during the last thirty years. I began by seeing no reason why both women and gays shouldn't be able to serve anywhere they wished to. What changed my mind over the years, contrary to the bigoted assertions of close minded individuals who refuse to entertain ideas that challenge their world view, was not misogyny or fear of Teh Gay.

It was over 30 years of observing real human behavior. What changed my mind were repeated demonstrations of a basic fact: in real life (which is a very different realm from the utopian, best case scenarios of would be reformers), people don't always behave well. And though most people are good, decent, and responsible it takes only a small number who behave otherwise to cause significant problems for the rest of us.

We saw this principle in action in September of 2009.

What is so bizarre to me about the arguments of those who don't even want to discuss the real life consequences of having gays serve openly in the armed forces is that they insist that considering anything but the best case scenario is de facto bigotry. But their fear fueled name calling doesn't stand up to close inspection. There are rational objections to allowing gays to serve openly and they aren't based on the assumption that homosexuals behave differently than heterosexuals. They are based on the assumption that gays are no different from you and me. How is that bigotry?

There is a good reason men and women aren't bunked together; why they don't shower, change clothes, or relieve themselves in the same rooms. Civilian jobs have no easy equivalent to military life. Even in peacetime, junior enlisted troops live in close quarters with little or no privacy. Most are single, and for many the military is the first time they have lived away from home.

The military is like a giant pyramid. At the top are officers and staff NCOs - older, more likely to be married, more experienced and presumably more able to exercise self restraint. But the vast majority of the armed forces are young, single men and women. Integrating women into the armed forces has vastly increased the number of rape accusations, allegations of sexual harassment and incidents of fraternization and adultery.

Any company or battalion commander could tell you that disciplinary issues related to sex have a significant impact on unit morale and readiness. And this occurs even though men and women do not share the same quarters.

Which raises an interesting question. If we take the non-bigoted approach and assume that homosexuals have the same drives heterosexuals do; if we assume they are no more likely to act on these drives but no less likely either; if we assume they are, in fact, just like us; is it not reasonable to predict a similar increase in rape accusations and allegations of sexual harassment, fraternization and adultery?

Again, these assumptions are not based on demonization of gays, nor upon the assumption that they are any less moral or dedicated than heterosexuals. They are based on the assumption that, in the aggregate, gays are every bit as moral and dedicated as heteros but that the same human temptations and weaknesses which cause discipline problems when men and women share close quarters will manifest themselves when men and women who are sexually attracted to their own sex are billeted together.

This is not fear. It is not homophobia. And it is certainly not hatred or bigotry. It is common sense.

And the common sense conclusion is only exacerbated by the fact that - unlike racial integration (which did not billet potential sexual partners together) and unlike the integration of women into the military (which likewise did not billet potential sexual partners together), allowing gays to serve openly presumes a best case scenario: that we can billet people who are sexually attracted to each other together and expect that they will somehow rise above human tendencies we all share regardless of our sexual orientation.

It's important for us to have a national conversation about Don't Ask, Don't Tell but it should not be a one sided conversation where anyone who dares to mention the obvious is shouted down or accused of being a bigot. There are legitimate competing interests here and they should all be considered.

There is the interest of gays who have served this nation honorably and with valor and who would like to do so without having to hide one of the most fundamental human characteristics: who they love or want to have sex with. But there is also the interest of military leaders who are regularly asked to do the improbable and rarely if ever have the luxury of operating under perfect conditions using only soldiers who possess superhuman restraint.

War is not a best case scenario - it is the very worst of worst cases. It strikes me as somewhat absurd that the same people who argue that war reduces men and women to animals - that it brings out the very worst in human nature - are happy to forget these misgivings when it suits their purpose.

The truth is that war appeals to both sides of those who fight: to both the better and worse angels of human nature. In combat people can and do rise above their instincts, often amazing us with acts of true heroism, devotion to duty, and self sacrifice. But war can also bring out the worst in people: the selfish and self absorbed side. That is one reason the military has far more - and far stricter - rules than the general population. In wartime, people falsely accuse others. They file frivolous grievances to get out of assignments they consider onerous or dangerous. They do seemingly irrational things like lying, getting pregnant, injuring themselves, or faking mental illness in hopes of being discharged or sent home.

Comparisons to civilian life that fail to consider the real world conditions under which the military operates are a poor basis for making policy. Arguments that assume people will never do things experience shows us they have done in the past and will do again are just as unhelpful. What, in our experience of the real world, supports the belief that homosexuals are any more willing or able than heterosexuals to resist drives we all share? This question becomes even more important when the restraint that would be asked of gays if DADT is repealed is not the SAME restraint currently expected from heterosexuals, but in fact a far greater degree of restraint (and in the face of considerably greater temptation) than heterosexuals are ever asked to resist.

If our experience tells us that too many heteros fail that test under far less demanding circumstances, under what utilitarian or equitable principle do we justify a policy that demands far more from gays than we do from ourselves (or, for that matter, than they do from themselves in civilian life)?

This is a conversation we need to have as a nation, but it should be an honest and open debate rather than one ruled by fear, name calling and hyperbole. Above all, it is a conversation in which we should look just as hard at how we got where we are as at where we want to go:

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

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

Now, of course, this can turn into a sort of precautionary principle that prevents reform from ever happening. That would be bad; all sorts of things need changing all the time, because society and our environment change. But as a matter of principle, it is probably a bad idea to let someone go mucking around with social arrangements, such as the way we treat unwed parenthood, if their idea about that institution is that "it just growed". You don't have to be a rock-ribbed conservative to recognise that there is something of an evolutionary process in society: institutional features are not necessarily the best possible arrangement, but they have been selected for a certain amount of fitness.

It might also be, of course, that the feature is what evolutionary biologists call a spandrel. It's a term taken from architecture; spandrels are the pretty little spaces between vaulted arches. They are not designed for; they are a useless, but pretty, side effect of the physical properties of arches. In evolutionary biology, spandrel is some feature which is not selected for, but appears as a byproduct of other traits that are selected for. Belly buttons are a neat place to put piercings, but they're not there because of that; they're a byproduct of mammalian reproduction.

However, and architect will be happy to tell you that if you try to rip out the spandrel, you might easily bring down the building.

The vast majority of Americans have never served in the military. Even fewer have served in combat. Basing enormous policy changes upon overly optimistic (not to mention fundamentally dishonest) assumptions is a recipe for disaster. Instead, such sweeping changes should be conditioned upon a full and fair assessment of both the benefits and costs of change. That can't happen in an atmosphere where certain viewpoints are privileged and others stifled and marginalized.

I am not sure any of us knows with certainty what the repercussions of repealing DADT would be. What I do know is that if this is such a no brainer, we should not fear opposing viewpoints.

There are real questions that remain unanswered by proponents of repealing DADT. We should make sure those questions get a fair hearing. And we should also strive to conduct ourselves in a manner that neither demonizes nor beatifies the participants: that avoids hyperbole and inflammatory rhetoric.

We need to get this right, and shutting down debate is no way to usher in "change we can believe in"... much less live with.

Update: Welcome, American Thinker readers!

Posted by Cassandra at 08:09 AM | Comments (89) | TrackBack

February 03, 2010

Disturbing News of the Day

Kind of gives "Look, but don't touch" a whole new meaning:

Agents for Britain's MI5 intelligence service have discovered that Muslim doctors trained at some of Britain's leading teaching hospitals have returned to their own countries to fit surgical implants filled with explosives, according to a report from Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin.

Women suicide bombers recruited by al-Qaida are known to have had the explosives inserted in their breasts under techniques similar to breast enhancing surgery. The lethal explosives – usually PETN (pentaerythritol Tetrabitrate) – are inserted during the operation inside the plastic shapes. The breast is then sewn up.

CWCID: The Armorer

Posted by Cassandra at 01:07 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Quote of the Day

The larger lesson of the recent crisis is sobering. Modern, advanced democracies strive to deliver as much prosperity as possible to as many people as possible for as long as possible. They are in the business of creating perpetual booms. The cruel contradiction is that this promise itself may become a source of instability, because the more it is attained, the more people begin acting in ways that ultimately invite its destruction.

... The quest for ever-more and ever-better prosperity subverts itself. It might be better to tolerate more frequent, milder recessions and financial setbacks than to strive for a sustained prosperity that, though superficially more appealing, is unattainable and ends in a devastating bust. That's a central implication of the crisis, but it poses hard political and economic questions that haven't yet been asked, let alone answered.

- Robert Samuelson

Posted by Cassandra at 08:28 AM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

February 01, 2010

Great Moments in Journalism

For sheer dramatic impact, it is hard to beat lines like this:

Fire department officials said an out-of-control inflatable gorilla was blamed for a rooftop blaze at a Houston shopping center ...

Although the Fire Chief's name was a stroke of good luck.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:26 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack