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September 29, 2012

"Don't You Dare Obey This Law"

Because if you do, we'll make it very unpleasant for you.

Thus speaks the branch of government whose job it is to enforce the law:

The Obama administration issued new guidance intended for defense contractors Friday afternoon, reiterating the administration’s position that the companies should not be issuing layoff notices over sequestration.

The Labor Department issued guidance in July saying it would be “inappropriate” for contractors to issue notices of potential layoffs tied to sequestration cuts. But a few contractors, most notably Lockheed Martin, said they still were considering whether to issue the notices — which would be sent out just days before the November election.

But the Friday guidance from the Office of Management and Budget raised the stakes in the dispute, telling contractors that they would be compensated for legal costs if layoffs occur due to contract cancellations under sequestration — but only if the contractors follow the Labor guidance.

The guidance said that if plant closings or mass layoffs occur under sequestration, then “employee compensation costs for [Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification] WARN act liability as determined by a court” would be paid for covered by the contracting federal agency.

Senate Republicans, who accused the White House of trying to hide job losses after the first guidance, said Friday that the new OMB statement “puts politics ahead of American workers.”

“The Obama Administration is cynically trying to skirt the WARN Act to keep the American people in the dark about this looming national security and fiscal crisis,” Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said in a statement. “The president should insist that companies act in accordance with the clearly stated law and move forward with the layoff notices.”

Does anyone sense a recurring theme here?

...the new guidance would appear to address one of the chief concerns from the companies — that they could be liable to compensate employees who were laid off if the companies don’t issue the notices.

The GOP senators complained, however, that this tactic would push the cost of the layoffs onto taxpayers.

The systemic transfer of risk from the private to the public sector is something that should profoundly disturb both Democrats and Republicans. When this is coupled with a government that uses veiled threats to pressure American firms to flout the law, that concern should become outrage.

This is a big deal. So why isn't it on the front page of every major newspaper in America?

Posted by Cassandra at 01:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Washington Post Ombudsman: "Does Our News Coverage Tilt Left"?

Patrick Pexton, the ombudsman at the Washington Post, takes a critical look at the Post's news coverage:

One aspect of The Post that particularly irks conservatives is the columnists who appear in print and online in news positions (as opposed to those on the editorial and op-ed pages and the online Opinions section). With the exception of Dan Balz and Chris Cillizza, who cover politics in a nonpartisan way, the news columnists almost to a person write from left of center.

Ezra Klein of Wonkblog comes out of the Democratic left, fills in for Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz on MSNBC and sometimes appears in the printed Post on the front page.

Steven Pearlstein, who covers business and also appears occasionally on the front page; Walter Pincus on national security; Lisa Miller of the On Faith blog; Melinda Henneberger of She the People; Valerie Strauss, the education blogger; plus the three main local columnists — Robert McCartney, Petula Dvorak and Courtland Milloy — all generally write from a progressive perspective, readers say. (So does Dana Milbank, who works for the Opinions section but writes a column that appears on Page A2 twice a week.)

Is it any wonder that if you’re a conservative looking for unbiased news — and they do; they don’t want only Sean Hannity’s interpretation of the news — that you might feel unwelcome, or dissed or slighted, by the printed Post or the online version? And might you distrust the news when it’s wrapped in so much liberal commentary?

We would be happier about Mr. Pexton's attempt to do the right thing if we thought for one moment the editors of the Washington Post would take it to heart. Sadly, history is littered with the unmarked graves of ombudsmen who noted (and even documented) anti-conservative bias at papers like the NY Times and the Washington Post. Daniel Okrent's 2004 challenge to the NY Times generated a lot of discussion, but had no lasting effect on the paper. During the 2008 election, Clark Hoyt took the Times to task for its slanted - and largely fact-free - coverage of Rev. Wright's racially inflammatory (and factually challenged) rhetoric:

While The Times was aggressive with its coverage on the Web, it was slow to fully engage the Wright story in print and angered some readers by putting opinion about it on the front page — a review by the television critic of his appearances on PBS, at an N.A.A.C.P. convention and at the National Press Club — before ever reporting in any depth what he actually said, how it squared with reality and what it might mean as Democrats ponder Obama as their potential nominee.

Carol Hebb of Narberth, Pa., spoke for many when she wrote that she found the newspaper’s initial coverage “very strange.” If editors did not think Wright’s remarks were newsworthy enough to be on the front page, she asked, why did they put the review by Alessandra Stanley there? “I was very surprised that her piece was not accompanied by a ‘factual’ article reporting the content of Mr. Wright’s comments more completely and perhaps adding some meaningful context.”

In 2008, Deborah Howell of the Washington Post took a more scientific approach to measuring bias. The Post's response, while outwardly contrite, does not seem to have changed anything:

As Ed Thiede, assistant managing editor of the WaPo's news desk remarked, the data is:

... "eye-opening. We should be more cognizant." Du Cille and Thiede were both surprised at the numbers. Du Cille said, "The disparity in the numbers is indeed hard to reconcile. As photojournalists, we always strive to be fair. We have tried to be balanced, but it seems that in a large operation such as ours, we need to monitor the use of political images even more closely."

Here we are, four years later on the cusp of another election and once again we see an ombudsman at a major newspaper pointing out prominence given to slanted coverage used to frame the news. Will anything come of it? We doubt it. These episodic tail chasing exercises seem designed to allow the media to pat themselves on the back and check the box labeled "critical scrutiny" without actually doing anything about the problem they purport to have identified. Still, we can't help but admire Mr. Pexton. Over the last 3 decades, our little household has mostly been a loyal subscriber to the Post. We subscribed even when we didn't have time to read the paper copy because we believe in newspapers and don't want to see the industry die.

And we have cancelled our subscription at least three times in the last 3 decades in disgust with their election coverage, which is so slanted as to be comical (if it weren't so infuriating, that is).

I continue to hope someone at the Post will read posts like this, along with the letters they receive on a daily basis, and take Samuel L. Jackson's advice. The newspaper industry is in real trouble, and families like ours who have loyally supported it even when we had no use for the product (we've donated our papers many, many times) because we think the press performs a vital function deserve better.

Mr. Pexton is right: conservative readers don't expect Sean Hannity-esque coverage. We don't WANT that, because we know the difference between news and opinion. We just want a paper that will cover the big stories and get them right. We want facts, delivered by a media that thinks enough of our intelligence to feed them to us straight without airbrushing out the disturbing parts. We want a media that covers John Edwards the same way it covers Sarah Palin.

We want a paper that will subject public servants to the kind of scrutiny they boast about so often, and do so even-handedly, without regard to whether there's a (D) or an (R) next to a politician's name.

We want more Kirsten Powers and Chris Cizilla (on both sides, though that would require the media to actually cultivate the kind of diversity they claim to support) because although we may disagree with them on occasion, we also trust their intellectual honesty.

What we want is eloquently summed up by Mr. Pexton:

The Post should first be about news without slant. If The Post wants to wrap its news in commentary, fine, but shouldn’t some of those voices then be conservative?

One final note: when a great paper stoops to cheap shots at Fox News (which isn't perfect by any means, but isn't nearly as biased as the papers criticizing it would have us believe), that paper looks insecure and unprofessional.

Cover the news, cover it well, and cover it fairly - without fear or favor - and let the chips fall where they may. Is that really too much to ask?

Posted by Cassandra at 11:57 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 28, 2012

Interesting Reads

This caught the half-vasty eyeballs of the Editorial Staff:

Coyotes living in cities don't ever stray from their mates, and stay with each other till death do them part, according to a new study.

The finding sheds light on why the North American cousin of the dog and wolf, which is originally native to deserts and plains, is thriving today in urban areas.

Scientists with Ohio State University who genetically sampled 236 coyotes in the Chicago area over a six-year period found no evidence of polygamy -- of the animals having more than one mate -- nor of one mate ever leaving another while the other was still alive.
This was even though the coyotes exist in high population densities and have plenty of food to eat, which are conditions that often lead other dog family members, such as some fox species, to stray from their normal monogamy.

To cat around, as it were.

...The loyalty of coyotes to their mates may be a key to their success in urban areas, according to Gehrt.

Not only does a female coyote have the natural ability to produce large litters of young during times of abundance, such as when living in food-rich cities, she has a faithful partner to help raise them all.

"If the female were to try to raise those large litters by herself, she wouldn't be able to do it," said Gehrt, who holds appointments with the university's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and Ohio State University Extension. "But the male spends just as much time helping to raise those pups as the female does."
Unlike the males of polygamous species, a male coyote "knows that every one of those pups is his offspring" and has a clear genetic stake in helping them survive, Gehrt said.

Hmmm... could monogamy, far from being an artificial, mellow-harshing attempt to strangle the beautiful and natural desire to father as many offspring as possible (even if they starve), be a naturally occurring evolutionary adaptation that delivers significant survival advantages on a species?

Naaaaaaaaah. The other theory's more fun.


This was one of the most thought provoking reads we've seen in ages.

Yes, Virginia, the 47% really are a problem:

Aside from the revenue impact of not having 58 million Americans pay income taxes, economists worry about the social and political effects of having so many people disconnected from the cost of government—a phenomenon known as fiscal illusion.[1] The concern is that when people perceive the cost of government to be cheaper than it really is, they will demand ever more government benefits because they either don’t feel the cost directly or believe that others will be paying those costs. Indeed, when one takes into account those who do not file, about half of all households pay no federal income tax, making the situation particularly worrisome in a majority-rule democracy.

Despite these extensive concerns, there has been surprisingly little investigation of any possible linkage between the growth of nonpayers and the growth of government spending or government benefits. After tracking this trend for more than a decade, Tax Foundation economists set out to explore the fiscal consequences of the growing number of Americans being taken off the income tax rolls.

A review of the data suggests these concerns are not unfounded. Our analysis finds that in the post-WWII era, there is a very strong connection between nonpayers and federal government transfer payments. Transfer payments are programs that give direct assistance to people such as unemployment insurance, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps.

In fact, our model suggests that a 1 percentage point increase in the share of tax filers who are nonpayers (from 40 percent to 41 percent, for example) is associated with a $10.6 billion per year increase in transfer payments. Since the number of nonpayers has increased by 20 percentage points over the last two decades, our model indicates that in 2010 alone, over $213 billion in transfer payments are associated with this two decade increase in nonpayers.

No wonder progressives are so angry. We suspect this is one time they won't want to have Science/Data informing public policy. Wrong answers, doncha know?

More inconvenient truths:

Those who talk glibly about redistribution often act as if people are just inert objects that can be placed here and there, like pieces on a chess board, to carry out some grand design.

But if human beings have their own responses to government policies, then we cannot blithely assume that government policies will have the effect intended.

The history of the 20th century is full of examples of countries that set out to redistribute wealth and ended up redistributing poverty. The communist nations were a classic example, but by no means the only example.

America, the fearful:

Sixteen days after the death of four Americans in an attack on a United States diplomatic mission here, fears about the near-total lack of security have kept F.B.I. agents from visiting the scene of the killings and forced them to try to piece together the complicated crime from Tripoli, more than 400 miles away.

Investigators are so worried about the tenuous security, people involved in the investigation say, that they have been unwilling to risk taking some potential Libyan witnesses into the American Embassy in Tripoli. Instead, the investigators have resorted to the awkward solution of questioning some witnesses in cars outside the embassy, which is operating under emergency staffing and was evacuated of even more diplomats on Thursday because of a heightened security alert.

“It’s a cavalcade of obstacles right now,” said a senior American law enforcement official who is receiving regular updates on the Benghazi investigation and who described the crime scene, which has been trampled on, looted and burned, as so badly “degraded” that even once F.B.I. agents do eventually gain access “it’ll be very difficult to see what evidence can be attributed to the bad guys.”

Either Libya needs to guarantee the security of this site, allow us to do so, or we need to close our embassy there and break off diplomatic relations with them. Projecting weakness... nay, impotence is not a good tactic in that part of the world.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:57 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Selective Attention, Generalizing, and the Conventional "Wisdom"

Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so much that isn’t so.

- Ronald Reagan, A Time for Choosing, October 27, 1964

A stuffed marmoset by parcel post to the lucky reader who can identify the takeaway from this list. Hint: be bold, peoples.

Califano, Joseph A. Cannon, Jr. , Bishop James Cogswell, Dr. Henry D. Dodge, Earl Hacker, George Hunt, Mary Jacobson, Michael Johnson, William E. Lewis, Diocletian Nation, Carrie Sewall, Dr. Thomas Shuler, Rev. Robert P. Sunday, Billy Volstead, Andrew John Wheeler, Wayne Anderson, William H. Barr, Daisey Douglas Brehm, Marie C. Brown, Martha McClellan Bubar, Ben Cary, Samuel Fenton Cherrington, Ernest Colvin, David Leigh Daniel, William Davis, Edith Smith Delevan, Edward C. Evans, Hiram. Faris, Herman P. Fisher, Rolland Fisk, Clinton B. Hamblen, Carl Stuart Hammond, John Brown Holtwick, Enoch A. Johnson, Hale Levering, Joshua Merrick, Carolyn

Bonus question: what do the folks on this list have in common? Oh, and spd? You're disqualified :p

Answer below the fold.

What do they have in common? They're all major figures (leaders) of the temperance movement that eventually led to Prohibition. The list isn't complete - the full roster goes on for quite some time. Which explains quite a bit about an interesting conversation (to the blog princess, at least) that went on in the comments over at Grim's place yesterday. As a charter member of the Illustrious Oink Cadre, Grim was indulging in the time honored practice of yanking the Princess's chain:

... if you haven't seen the movie, the thing that reminded me of it was the way that the women in the movie would do the most aggressive things; and when called on it would reply in a perfectly civilized tone as if what they were about was obvious and ordinary. For example, they didn't approve of drinking, so they set out to destroy an entire wagon train of whiskey so that the rightful owners couldn't drink it.

That's pretty much the dynamic at work here. 'I do have a right to spraypaint this poster, actually. I'm merely engaged in my right of free expression. Naturally you can't have a problem with that. Now get out of the way before I have to call the police.' She sounds so proper saying it, for a moment you have to doubt whether she isn't in the right after all.

That's how Prohibition happened, mind you. You've got to watch these folks. :)

Now obviously this is a joke, but it also got the Princess thinking because she's heard this particular nugget over and over again. So she thought about it a bit, and did a little Googling. And she learned something she didn't know (or perhaps just hadn't ever bothered to think about):

Grim... allow me to point out the order of operations here:

Prohibition was the 18th Amendment.

Women's suffrage was the 19th (IOW, it came after).

The vast majority of voters were male at the time Prohibition was passed.

If there is one enduring constant in the world, it is the tendency of men to blame women (sometimes humorously, more often not).

As for "women will remake the world", they will do no such thing... unless men roll over and play dead, or give up as so many are doing these days. "Women" are not some monolithic constituency any more than men are. In the story you allude to here, one woman did something wrong.

And another woman stood up for what was right and tried to stop her despite the well known aversion most women have to physical altercations.

Here's another little known fact about Prohibition:

The repeal movement was started by a wealthy Republican, Pauline Sabin, who said that prohibition should be repealed because it made the US a nation of hypocrites and undermined its respect for the rule of law. *Her* fellow Republicans were put in office by the "drys" and, even though they eagerly partook in consumption of alcoholic beverages at her parties, in public they presented themselves as opposing the repeal of prohibition, lest they be thrown out of office by the dry voting blocks. This hypocrisy and the fact that women led the prohibition movement convinced her to start the organization that eventually led to the repeal of prohibition.[12][13]

When her fellow Republicans would not support her efforts, she went to the Democrats, who changed from drys led by conservative Democrats and Catholics to supporting repeal led by liberal politicians such as La Guardia and Franklin Roosevelt. She, and they, emphasized that repeal would generate enormous sums of much needed tax revenue, and weaken the base of organized crime. The Repeal of Prohibition in the United States was accomplished with the passage of the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution on December 5, 1933. By its terms, states were allowed to set their own laws for the control of alcohol. The organized Prohibition movement was dead nationwide, but survived for a while in a few southern and border states.

Funny how that never seems to get mentioned.

We're willing to bet the vast majority of you have never heard of Pauline Sabin. You can read more about her here:

In May 1929 in Chicago, Pauline Sabin founded the Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform with two dozen of her society friends as its nucleus. Its leadership was dominated by wives of American industry leaders. Their high social status attracted press coverage and made the movement fashionable. For housewives throughout middle America, joining the WONPR was an opportunity to mingle with high society. In less than two years, membership grew to almost 1.5 million.

As head of the WONPR, she countered the arguments of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). She later recalled that she decided to fight Prohibition while sitting in a congressional office where the president of the WCTU asserted: "I represent the women of America!" Repeal would protect families from the crime, corruption, and furtive drinking that prohibition had created. Repeal would return decisions about alcohol to families. The WONPR stole tactics and members as well as arguments from the WCTU. Its members looked for allies in both major parties and minimized internal dissension. While becoming the largest female repeal organization, [Ed. note: Good God! You mean there were more female repeal organiations? Why were we not informed of this?] the WONPR attracted many former prohibitionists who had become disillusioned with it. It attracted adherents even in prohibition strongholds in the South.

In later statements, she elaborated further on her objections to prohibition. With settlement workers reporting increasing drunkenness, she worried, "The young see the law broken at home and upon the street. Can we expect them to be lawful?" Mrs. Sabin complained to the House Judiciary Committee: "In pre-prohibition days, mothers had little fear in regard to the saloon as far as their children were concerned. A saloon-keeper's license was revoked if he were caught selling liquor to minors. Today in any speakeasy in the United States you can find boys and girls in their teens drinking liquor, and this situation has become so acute that the mothers of the country feel something must be done to protect their children."

She later promoted the anti-New Deal American Liberty League.

There's a lot in here to think about, and quite a bit that challenges our own world view. For one thing, Pauline Sabin, an Evil, Wealthy Rethug, couldn't get the party of small government and individual responsibility to back the repeal movement. She had to work with the party of FDR. History, if we look at it straight on, has an odd way of unsettling our preconceived notions about how the world works.

The next time you hear someone arguing that women shouldn't have been "given" the vote because women are to blame for mistakes like Prohibition, you can point out that a woman was also at the forefront of the repeal movement. Even back then, women weren't a monolithic constituency who think and vote alike. Which has always been the conservative critique of the disturbing fact that over 90% of blacks vote Dem.

Or you could point out that the 18th Amendment to the Constitution was passed by the states before the 19th Amendment, at a time when the vast majority of voters were male.

Or you could point out that the majority of temperance movement leaders were men.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:27 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Pictorial: A Tale of Two Surges

Bush's Surge in Iraq:


Obama's Afghanistan Surge:

Kinda says it all.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:02 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 27, 2012

Profiles in Courage

I guess Obama really did bring Teh Change:

Iran's president called Israel a nuclear-armed "fake regime" shielded by the United States, prompting Israel's U.N. ambassador to walk out of a high-level U.N. meeting Monday promoting the rule of law.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also accused the U.S. and others of misusing freedom of speech and failing to speak out against the defamation of people's beliefs and "divine prophets," an apparent reference to the recently circulated amateur video made in the U.S. which attacks Islam and denigrates the Prophet Muhammad.

The Iranian leader, who has called for Israel's destruction, used his speech to denounce Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory and U.S. vetoes in the U.N. Security Council to back its ally. He urged all nations to "hold occupiers accountable and make efforts to return the occupied territories to their rightful owners."

...The U.S. delegation did not walk out of Monday's meeting, as it has in the past when Iran attacked Israel directly.

We're sure the U.S. delegation didn't clear that decision with the White House ahead of time. I mean, who could predict that Ahmadinejad would say such things?

Maybe CBS News? They certainly seem to have better intel.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:03 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

While the Watchdog Press Slumbered....

... the horrible violations of American civil rights they obsessed over during The Evil Bush Years increased by 60%:

Justice Department documents released today by the ACLU reveal that federal law enforcement agencies are increasingly monitoring Americans’ electronic communications, and doing so without warrants, sufficient oversight, or meaningful accountability.

The documents, handed over by the government only after months of litigation, are the attorney general’s 2010 and 2011 reports on the use of “pen register” and “trap and trace” surveillance powers. The reports show a dramatic increase in the use of these surveillance tools, which are used to gather information about telephone, email, and other Internet communications. The revelations underscore the importance of regulating and overseeing the government’s surveillance power. (Our original Freedom of Information Act request and our legal complaint are online.)

Pen register and trap and trace devices are powerfully invasive surveillance tools that were, twenty years ago, physical devices that attached to telephone lines in order to covertly record the incoming and outgoing numbers dialed. Today, no special equipment is required to record this information, as interception capabilities are built into phone companies’ call-routing hardware.

Pen register and trap and trace devices now generally refer to the surveillance of information about—rather than the contents of—communications. Pen registers capture outgoing data, while trap and trace devices capture incoming data. This still includes the phone numbers of incoming and outgoing telephone calls and the time, date, and length of those calls. But the government now also uses this authority to intercept the “to” and “from” addresses of email messages, records about instant message conversations, non-content data associated with social networking identities, and at least some information about the websites that you visit (it isn't entirely clear where the government draws the line between the content of a communication and information about a communication when it comes to the addresses of websites).

The reports that we received document an enormous increase in the Justice Department’s use of pen register and trap and trace surveillance. As the chart below shows, between 2009 and 2011 the combined number of original orders for pen registers and trap and trace devices used to spy on phones increased by 60%, from 23,535 in 2009 to 37,616 in 2011.

When asked, "Where in the hell was the press on this one?", Bill Keller, the Unitary Editor who once believed so strongly in the media's watchdog function that he was willing to break the law and endanger a classified anti-terrorism program to protect the public from their duly elected leaders, was unavailable for comment.

It turns out that Big Brother really was watching you. It's just that there's a (D) next to his name.

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

Meanwhile, other major national security stories the Times doesn't think the public has any need to know about:

Within 24 hours of the 9-11 anniversary attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, U.S. intelligence agencies had strong indications al Qaeda–affiliated operatives were behind the attack, and had even pinpointed the location of one of those attackers. Three separate U.S. intelligence officials who spoke to The Daily Beast said the early information was enough to show that the attack was planned and the work of al Qaeda affiliates operating in Eastern Libya.

There are two possibilities here. Possibility #1:

The intelligence community knew almost immediately that this was a terrorist attack, but withheld that information from their boss, the President of the United States... whose spokesman, as recently as September 20th, apparently had less information about the attack than CBS News:
[Jay Carney]...we have no information at this point that suggests that this was a significantly preplanned attack, but this was the result of opportunism, taking advantage of and exploiting what was happening as a result of reaction to the video that was found to be offensive.”
CBS News:
“Witnesses tell CBS News that there was never an anti-American protest outside of the consulate. Instead they say it came under planned attack. That is in direct contradiction to the administration’s
account.”

— Margaret Brennan CBS News correspondent, CBS News report aired Sept. 20

If possibility #1 turns out to be accurate, someone needs to tell "the most sophisticated consumer of intel on the planet" that he needs to read those PDBs a little more carefully. Of course there's always possibility #2:

The White House knew this was almost certainly a terrorist attack within 24 hours, but proceeded to tell the public a completely different story.

For the next two weeks.

Update: Full marks to the WaPo's Glenn Kessler for showing the curiosity the NYTimes couldn't quite muster.

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

Quote of the Day

A TV award show that fails to nominate Justified, or Sons of Anarchy, or their respective actors and actresses, is really quite meaningless. Even more meaningless than it would be were they nominated. Which they should be. If Emmy voters had any brains. Or taste.

This is why we have always studiously ignored award shows. And TV in general, at least before the advent of HD on Demand. Don't care what other people think of shows we like, really.

The Editorial Staff are insensitive like that. Never watched Sons of Anarchy but both the acting and dialogue in Justified were awfully good.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:33 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Unclear on the Concept....

... of free speech:

The First Amendment forbids Congress (and the states by incorporation) from making laws that abridge freedom of speech whether that speech is transmitted orally, in writing, or via media (posters, movies, the Internet, etc.).

The First Amendment does not guarantee you the right to express yourself anywhere, at any place or time. You may not, for instance, come onto my property without my permission and harangue me in my kitchen because your freedom of speech then conflicts with other rights guaranteed by our federal Constitution and by the laws of the state or local municipality in which I live and pay taxes. You may not stand in the street with a bullhorn at midnight and harangue the neighbors with your opinions with the volume cranked up to eleven because freedom of speech is not some kind of Constitutional trump card that supercedes all other rights. It is one of many rights protected by our system of government.

It's important to note that the First Amendment is not enforceable against other citizens, but rather against the government. It is government which is prohibited from passing laws that restrict speech in an unreasonable manner. The Constitution does not obligate private citizens to listen to your speech or to facilitate or subsidize it in any way.

The First Amendment does not guarantee you the right to shout down a speaker at an assembly because if you do so, you are asserting free speech right superior to that of the speaker (who, unlike you, has been invited to speak by the group) and the audience, who are there expressly to hear his speech (not yours).

It does not give you the right to deface a poster paid for by other citizens who possess the same free speech rights you do. If you do so anyway, you are committing a form of theft: in essence, stealing resources created and owned by someone else and appropriating them for your own use without compensating the rightful owners. You have the right to purchase space for your own poster, though not to force the rightful owners to accept your business, but not to destroy or steal resources that do not belong to you.

So many of our rights, when it comes right down to it, depend upon property rights. And public support for property rights is precisely what the Obama administration is doing its level best to erode, more by continual sly suggestion and innuendo than anything else. It's not really "your" money (though you and no one else earned it), so long as someone else, somewhere has less than you do or needs it more. If you have managed to earn more than others, this is evidence that the system is rigged.

Fortunately, government exists to set these fundamental inequities right. By force, if necessary.

As the wise and percipicacious secretary general of the United Nations recently reminded us, the rights of the many outweigh the rights of the few. Or the one:

Freedom of expression should be and must be guaranteed and protected, when they are used for common justice, common purpose. When some people use this freedom of expression to provoke or humiliate some others’ values and beliefs, then this cannot be protected in such a way.

And who will decide what serves the common justice and purpose? Why, government of course.

One world. One planet. One common purpose. Put that way, it's all so very simple. Almost inevitable, really.

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

September 26, 2012

File Under "Your Confirmation Bias is Showing"

Author’s note: Jonathan Swift did not really want Irish people to sell their children for food in 1729; George Orwell did not really want the clocks to strike thirteen in 1984; Paul Ryan, I am sure, calls Mitt Romney something more dignified than “Stench” and Microsoft did not invent PowerPoint as a means to euthanize cattle. At least I am pretty sure Microsoft didn’t.

- Roger Simon

Last night the Editorial Staff could not sleep. About 4 am, the coffee pot started up and we began taking small breaks from editing technical papers, pausing to surf Memeorandum and other frequent haunts. This is how Memeorandum looked at 4:35 this morning as we were snorting our first cup of coffee:

memeo.png

We read Roger Simon's piece at Politico and nearly inhaled 4 ounces of dark roasted Java. "Love it! He's mocking the credulous morons who just spent two days crowing over how Mitt Romney is so dumb he doesn't realize plane cabins are pressurized!", we thought to ourselves, mostly because at 4 am anyone with the sense God gave a grapefruit is firmly wrapped in the arms of Morpheus instead of reading Politico. Or maybe he was mocking thick headed conservatives like myself? Either way, it seemed self evidently self-evident even in my sleep deprived state that somebody was being mocked:

The Los Angeles Times story that relayed Romney's airplane remark to the world was based off a pool report written by the New York Times's Ashley Parker. When we asked Parker this morning whether it seemed as if Romney made the mark in jest, she left no doubt. "Romney was joking," she e-mailed. Parker told us that while the pool report didn't explicitly indicate that Romney was joking, it was self-evident that he was. "The pool report provided the full transcript of his comments on Ann's plane scare," she said, "and it was clear from the context that he was not being serious."

The Blaze hears the same thing from William Everitt, who attended the Saturday night Beverly Hills fund-raiser where the remark happened:

"Basically he was retelling the story and when he said ‘I don’t know why they don’t have roll down windows on airplanes,’ he looked at the audience and everyone laughed,” Everitt told TheBlaze. “It was a clearly delivered joke … There were 1,000 people there that will tell you the same thing.”

I guess you had to be there :p

The thing is, these folks really are eminently mockable. It was funny, even at 4 am after a sleepless night full of mind numbing editing and formatting and number checking. And then I made the mistake of reading Joe Gandelman's reaction:

Are we now witnessing the second Vice President on a Republican ticket in four years “go rogue”? Is Paul Ryan fed up with what some see as his Romneyization by the Romney camp? Is he following 2008 Vice Presidential nominee’s advice to “go rogue”? Or both? Yes, expect Camp Romney and Camp Ryan to try and paper over this report. But the Politico’s Roger Simon is a trustworthy, experienced reporter. And his report is getting a lot of buzz:

...Have we ever heard of a winning Presidential ticket in American politics that had a Vice Presidential candidate have an attitude like this about his running mate? Talk about a total lack of deference (or respect).

How does it feel, I wonder, to live in a bubble so impenetrable that phrases like "a state where people are polite even to soybeans" and "PowerPoint was released by Microsoft in 1990 as a way to euthanize cattle" elicit not a laugh, but a sneer?

Where passages like this bounce right off the pompous superiority that protects us against things that are so patently - in the words of one young lady who mistakenly relied on the intelligence of her readers (or perhaps just some misguided sense of decency) - "self-evident" that they do not - or should not - need to be stated explicitly?

Conducting a PowerPoint presentation is a lot like smoking a cigar. Only the person doing it likes it. The people around him want to hit him with a chair"

How can you not laugh? Anyone who has ever sat through Death by PowerPoint has to get it. After reading Gandelman's post, and one like it at Gawker, suddenly I wasn't laughing anymore.

I was just disgusted beyond words. I have seen too many wild rumors and tasteless jokes and lurid stories about Barack Obama that "just happen" to confirm my low opinion of the man over the past few years, but I have passed on them because they seemed just too close to my darkest thoughts. Thoughts everyone has, because we're all human. Thoughts I'm not proud of.

But these people are so sure of themselves; of their insular, inbred world view. These are the folks who amused themselves during the Bush years by calling him a moron, by saying he was intellectually incurious and close minded (despite plentiful evidence to the contrary from critics who - having met the man - were surprised to learn he had not only studied their criticisms but instructed his staff to do so as well):

George W. Bush, whatever else one might say about him, has been a most remarkable President: Historians will be debating his legacy for decades to come. If past patterns hold, their conclusions will not necessarily correspond to the views of current critics. Consider how little is now remembered, for example, of President Clinton’s impeachment, only the second in American history. Or how President Reagan’s reputation has shifted from that of a movie-star lightweight to that of a grand strategic heavyweight. Or how Eisenhower was once believed to be incapable of constructing an intelligible sentence. Or how Truman was down to a 26 percent approval rating at the time he left office but is now seen as having presided over a golden age in grand strategy—even a kind of genesis, Dean Acheson suggested, when he titled his memoir Present at the Creation.

Presidential revisionism tends to begin with small surprises. How, for instance, could a Missouri politician like Truman who never went to college get along so well with a Yale-educated dandy like Acheson? How could Eisenhower, who spoke so poorly, write so well? How could Reagan, the prototypical hawk, want to abolish nuclear weapons? Answering such questions caused historians to challenge conventional wisdom about these Presidents, revealing the extent to which stereotypes had misled their contemporaries.

So what might shift contemporary impressions of President Bush? I can only speak for myself here, but something I did not expect was the discovery that he reads more history and talks with more historians than any of his predecessors since at least John F. Kennedy. The President has surprised me more than once with comments on my own books soon after they’ve appeared, and I’m hardly the only historian who has had this experience. I’ve found myself improvising excuses to him, in Oval Office seminars, as to why I hadn’t read the latest book on Lincoln, or on—as Bush refers to him—the “first George W.” I’ve even assigned books to Yale students on his recommendation, with excellent results.

Life, if you are truly open to new thoughts, new experiences, is full of surprises like this. Your first, or second, or even third impression of someone turns out to be entirely wrong. It turns out that you're not nearly as smart as you thought you were. You have the marvelous opportunity to say, "I was wrong", and the gift of seeing the world through new eyes. This morning I was depressed. One would have thought that having been punk'd once this week, these folks might have learned something, taken stock, gained some tiny measure of humility.

Felt slightly ashamed of themselves, perhaps. Resolved to think for a moment before shooting off their mouths.

The thing is, they're not. They feel betrayed, you see. Two of their own placed too much trust in their readers' good sense. Two humiliating reminders in as many days probably won't even make a dent in that giant bubble they're living in. They'll just close ranks and find someone else to blame for their own refusal to think.

Hatred means never having to say those three little words. I was wrong.

I'm sorry.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:37 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

September 25, 2012

A Compelling Reason to Vote for Romney

If your own sense of self preservation's not enough, we beg you: do it for The Children:

Madonna offered a profanity-laced endorsement of President Obama at her concert Monday night, which involved the singer stripping down to her underwear to reveal the president's name written on her body.

“You all better vote for f---ing Obama okay,” she told the crowd at Washington's Verizon center.

Later in the show, Madonna took off her shirt and pulled down her pants to show she had “OBAMA” written in all capital letters across her lower back.

“When Obama is in the White House for a second term I'll take it all off,” she said to cheers and whistles from the audience.

If Naomi Wilson's talking hoo-ha makes a campaign commercial, we're moving to Phrance.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:35 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

OMG CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS????

...and then they clubbed a baby seal to death with an undercooked lasagna noodle and a leather bound copy of the Constitution.

Al dente, baybee...
Serious stories like these change elections, people. Don't forget you heard it here first.

Update: OK, sure... fine. We see how you are, making serious points that make us think.

Oh yes, we see.

Posted by Cassandra at 03:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Numbers Game

The 1%. The 99%. 47% of taxpayers pay no federal income tax. Mitt Romney's effective tax rate is 14.1%. And close to 70% of Americans now get more out of the tax system than they pay into it:

The wealthiest 5 percent of Americans already account for 59 percent of federal income taxes. Nearly half of our citizens pay no federal income taxes at all—yet two-thirds of us believe that everybody should at least pay something, even if just to remind ourselves that government isn’t free. The Tax Foundation reports that the percentage of Americans who are net takers from the tax system is nearing 70 percent.

If our system is not yet “fair,” what will make it so? If the top 5 percent paid 75 percent of the total? Or 95 percent? If they could, would it be ideal for the top 1 percent to carry all the rest of us so we could finally have a tax code that is “fair and balanced”?

They key is to focus on a single number, preferably taken completely out of context. This makes it possible to write an entire article called "What I want you to you need to know about Romney's 2011 tax return" without once mentioning that Mitt Romney pays a higher tax rate than the vast majority of Americans:

Ask most Americans how much they pay in taxes, and they'll probably refer to their tax bracket, a series of rates that ranges from 10% to 35%. By that measure, Mitt Romney's tax rate sounds outrageously low.

But when the Republican presidential candidate revealed earlier this week that he pays about 15% in taxes, he was referring to his effective tax rate, not his tax bracket. And by that measure, he's paying a higher tax rate than the majority of taxpayers.

...The average effective federal tax rate for American taxpayers is 11%, according to an analysis of 2009 IRS data by the Tax Foundation, a non-profit research organization. For individuals with adjusted gross income of $50,000 or less, the average effective tax rate is less than 5%, according to the Tax Foundation.

This is basic stuff: knowing the difference between the highest tax rate paid on a small fraction of earned income over a certain threshold and the overall (effective) tax rate and the rate at which capital gains - which are different than earned income are taxed.

If the press can't even get something this simple right...


They say 3 percent of the people
use 5 to 6 percent of their brain
97 percent use 3 percent
and the rest goes down the drain
I'll never know which one I am
but I'll bet you my last dime
99 percent think with 3 percent
100 percent of the time

65 percent of all the world's statistics
are made up right there on the spot
82.4 percent of people believe 'em
whether they're accurate statistics or not

I don't know what you believe
but I do know there's no doubt
I need another double shot of something 90 proof
I got too much to think about

Too much to think about
Too much to figure out
Stuck between hope and doubt
It's too much to think about

They say 74 percent of everything you learned in college
is a bunch of bullsh** you'll never need
83.4 percent of everything you got
you bought to satisfy your greed
Because 91 percent of the world's population
links possessions to success
Even though 88 percent of the wealthiest 1 percent
of the population drinks to an alarming excess
More money, more stress

It's too much to think about
Too much to figure out
Stuck between hope and doubt
It's too much to think about

74 percent of all statisticians truly hate their f**kin' job
The average bank robber lives within, say
about 20 miles of the bank that he robs
There's this little bank not far from here
I've been watching for a while
Lately all I can think about's
how bad I wanna go out in style

The Blog Princess once worked a snippet of these lyrics into a conference presentation. It was one of the proudest achievements of her professional life.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:32 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Devotion

Love is a funny thing. It isn't logical, or even practical much of the time. It doesn't have to make sense, and when it sneaks up on you, what choice do you have but to open your heart and let it in?

Tarra and Bella have been close for years -- but no one really knew how close they were until recently. A few months ago Bella suffered a spinal cord injury. She couldn't move her legs, couldn't even wag her tail. For three weeks the dog lay motionless up in the sanctuary office.

And for three weeks the elephant held vigil: 2,700 acres to roam free, and Tarra just stood in the corner, beside a gate, right outside that sanctuary office.

"She just stood outside the balcony - just stood there and waited," says Buckley. "She was concerned about her friend."

Then one day, sanctuary co-founder Scott Blais carried Bella onto the balcony so she and Tarra could at least see each other.

"Bella's tail started wagging. And we had no choice but bring Bella down to see Tarra," Blais says.

They visited like that every day until Tarra could walk. Today, their love -- and trust -- is stronger than ever. Bella even lets Tarra pet her tummy - with the bottom of her enormous foot.

They harbor no fears, no secrets, no prejudices. Just two living creatures who somehow managed to look past their immense differences.

An elephant's faithful
One hundred percent.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:41 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

September 20, 2012

The Real Slim Shady Barack Obama

Courtesy of the Washington Examiner:

Writing in his 1995 autobiography, "Dreams from My Father," Obama said he became "a civil rights lawyer" because "to lend meaning to a community's suffering and take part in its healing -- that required something more."

There was indeed "something more" to Obama's legal career, but it wasn't civil rights litigation at the Chicago law firm of Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland, where he was employed for a decade.

.... In March 1994, a year before "Dreams" was published, Obama was the lead defense attorney on an obscure case in Cook County Court that has heretofore escaped examination by the national media.

In this case, Obama defended a Chicago slumlord and powerful political ally who was charged with a long list of offenses against poor residents. The defendant was the Woodlawn Preservation & Investment Corp., controlled by Bishop Arthur Brazier, a South Side Chicago preacher and political operator.

...Brazier was closely allied with Obama and his firm, not least because Davis was on WPIC's Board of Directors.

...Brazier's WPIC had failed for nearly a month to supply heat and running water for the complex's 15 crumbling apartments. On Jan. 18, 1994, the day the heat went off, Chicago's official high temperature was 11 below zero, the day after it was 19 below.

Even worse, the residents were then ordered to leave the WPIC complex in the winter chill without the due process they would have been afforded by an eviction procedure.

In court documents reviewed by The Washington Examiner, Daniel W. Weil, commissioner of Chicago's Buildings Department, slammed WPIC for multiple municipal code violations, including "failure to maintain adequate heat," failure "to provide every family unit with approved heating facilities," and "failure to provide adequate" supplies of either hot or cold running water.

Things were so bad that the city's outraged corporation counsel declared that "the levying of a fine is not an adequate remedy" and asked the court for a permanent injunction against WPIC, appointment of a receiver and imposition of a lien on WPIC to pay for repairs, attorneys' fees and court costs.

But Obama did his work so well that in the end, on March 3, 1994, the court simply fined WPIC $50. Only then did Obama tell the court of the forcible removal of tenants in the bitter cold.

Isn't it amazing that we're only now finding out about this? Where have the press been? These are folks so avid to dig up dirt on Mitt Romney that they don't hesitate for a moment to dig through 900 pages of "leaked" (euphemism for "stolen") financial documents from Bain Capital. Confronted with video of Obama saying he believes in income redistribution, MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell refuses to cover it because it's "not authenticated" (never mind that the Obama campaign has acknowledged it's him). You see, it's incomplete. It might have been edited. If that's the standard, why did they cover the Romney tapes, which in addition to being incomplete were also very likely illegally obtained?

It's not as though this kind of information isn't out there. In February of 2010, I wrote about the false hype surrounding Obama's resume:

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.

And of those 10 cases, the media somehow "missed" the one where he got a slumlord off with a $50 fine. They must not have been looking terribly hard. But hey - wasn't Obama the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review? And he was a ConLaw professor for over a decade! Surely these are real accomplishments?

One thing he did not do while at the review was publish his own work. The absence of a paper trail is a pattern throughout his academic and to some extent his political career.

The pattern of leaving no intellectual footprints pre-dates Harvard. He has claimed he lost his senior thesis from Columbia University, where he majored in political science. The thesis was on Soviet nuclear disarmament. The depth of knowledge on display in Barry Obama's undergraduate thesis is of particular interest because he was wrong about a crucial Kennedy-Khrushchev conference, and about the diplomatic history between America and the Soviets.

... Although he was president of the Harvard Law Review as a student, in which capacity he no doubt wrote some unsigned notes, a search of the HeinOnline database of law journals turns up exactly nothing credited to Obama in any law review anywhere at any time. This is yet more indication that his status as "lecturer" at Chicago was not a regular faculty appointment, since regular full-time faculty are expected to produce scholarship. Notwithstanding an apparent eleven-year teaching career in constitutional law at a top-flight law school, not one single article, published talk, book review, or comment of any kind, appears anywhere in the professional legal literature, under Barack Obama's name.

OK let's Move On to his much vaunted legislative experience:

When asked about his legislative record, Obama rattles off several bills he sponsored as an Illinois lawmaker. He expanded children's health insurance; made the state Earned Income Tax Credit refundable for low-income families; required public bodies to tape closed-door meetings to make government more transparent; and required police to videotape interrogations of homicide suspects.

And the list goes on.

It's a lengthy record filled with core liberal issues. But what's interesting, and almost never discussed, is that he built his entire legislative record in Illinois in a single year.

How can that be? As it turns out, Obama owes it all to a would be Kingmaker: Emil Jones Jr. Jones was a three decade veteran lawmaker, and he knew a good thing when he saw it:

"He said, 'Cliff, I'm gonna make me a U.S. Senator.'"

"Oh, you are? Who might that be?"

"Barack Obama."

Jones appointed Obama sponsor of virtually every high-profile piece of legislation, angering many rank-and-file state legislators who had more seniority than Obama and had spent years championing the bills.

"I took all the beatings and insults and endured all the racist comments over the years from nasty Republican committee chairmen," State Senator Rickey Hendon, the original sponsor of landmark racial profiling and videotaped confession legislation yanked away by Jones and given to Obama, complained to me at the time. "Barack didn't have to endure any of it, yet, in the end, he got all the credit.

"I don't consider it bill jacking," Hendon told me. "But no one wants to carry the ball 99 yards all the way to the one-yard line, and then give it to the halfback who gets all the credit and the stats in the record book."

During his seventh and final year in the state Senate, Obama's stats soared. He sponsored a whopping 26 bills passed into law — including many he now cites in his presidential campaign when attacked as inexperienced.

It was a stunning achievement that started him on the path of national politics — and he couldn't have done it without Jones.

I'm guessing we won't see much about this in the Washington Post or the NY Times, because the fact that much of Obama's resume is a fiction is not nearly as important as Mitt Romney's private remarks at a fundraiser.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:29 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

September 19, 2012

Coffee Snorters: OMG WE'RE ALL DOOMED!!! Edition

Taranto, on the Latest Grim Milestone in a Very Grim Campaign:

...if you believe the mainstream media, Romney has lost the election again. That's the third time in as many weeks, notwithstanding that the election won't actually happen until 47 days after the day after tomorrow. Last week it was his statement criticizing the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, and we forget what it was the week before.

Ace is the place with the helpful pollster man:

... high Republican affiliation -- even a tie, or even being slightly behind the Democrats -- results in Republican wins.

When it's close, the Democrats tend to lose.

What does this mean for November? It means a lot.
The Democrats won 2 election in this period 2006 & 2008 with a 6.9 advantage in 2006 & a 7.6 advantage in 2008.

There is no example of the Democrats winning since 2004 with an advantage less that 6.9.

The GOP won two elections in this period 2004 with a -1.6 disadvantage & 2010 with a 1.3 advantage. This means the GOP has proven it can win with not only a small lead but with an actual disadvantage. Additionally with an advantage of only 1.3 they pulled off the biggest house swing in my lifetime...

The Editorial Staff wouldn't bet the farm on it, but the post is certainly food for thought. We couldn't help noticing the past few weeks that the Obama Fellating Media have been trumpeting "OBAMA LEADS BY!!!!" headlines for weeks, usually followed by +8, +6, etc.

Gallup has a slightly different take.

The question everyone's asking: "What do undecided/independent voters think?" We listened to this CSPAN interview with a focus group of Virginia undecideds the other day during our lengthy commute home from hell work. It's long, but we highly recommend it, having been quite impressed with the intelligence of these folks, who are so often bashed by "real conservatives". With one exception, they weren't people who haven't thought about the issues, or who have no values. They were thoughtful and articulate... and interesting.

Speaking of smart and thought provoking fare, Tigerhawk has two must read posts up:

His plan for fixing the economy.

What he wishes progressives understood about business, and business people.

Both well worth your time.

You just can't make this stuff u: the myth of property ownership. What the State giveth, the State can take away.

Yet another major news story Mitt Romney has prevented the press from covering:

A review of transcripts by The Daily Caller indicate that no questions have been asked by the reporters who cover the president about Sebelius during official White House briefings or gaggles since Sept. 12, when the U.S. Office of Special Counsel said in a report that the cabinet secretary violated the Hatch Act earlier this year.

It’s still up to President Obama whether Sebelius should keep her job or face some sort of punishment after being found in violation of the Hatch Act.

They say that Mitt Romney is a baaaad mothuh. He singlehandedly controls the media. With his mind....

The Nanny State terrorizes military family:

In her complaint, Cooper says she lives on a "quiet, suburban cul de sac" and "often allows her 6- and 9-year-old children to ride their scooters on the street while she watches from a chair in the driveway or through the large windows on the front of her house."

"On the day of her arrest, Cooper's children were playing on their scooters in the cul de sac when her neighbor, defendant Shelley Fuller, called the City of La Porte Police Department to report that Cooper had 'abandoned' her children," the complaint states.

Cooper says she told the responding La Porte policeman that she had been home the whole time.

"Unknown Officer went across the street to talk with defendant Fuller. It was at this point that Fuller reported, for the first time, that she had struck one of Cooper's children with her vehicle as they played in the street," the complaint states. "Unknown Officer returned to Cooper's home, and after another conversation with Unknown Officer, Cooper was placed under arrest for the felony offenses of child endangerment and child abandonment.

"Never at any point were any of Cooper's children hit by a car as they played in the street. Moreover, Cooper was observing her children the entire time they were outside on the date of her arrest and thus could not plausibly have abandoned them. Despite the fact that Fuller alleged she had hit one of the children with her vehicle, no medical response was called for or needed as it was obvious that neither child had been hit by a car or was hurt in any way. Interestingly, Fuller was never confronted about her lie regarding striking the child with the car. Instead, Cooper, the victim of an angry neighbor, was arrested and charged with a crime in a public and embarrassing manner."

Cooper says her children witnessed her arrest and pleaded with the officer not to take her to jail, an experience made worse by the fact that their father was away in Austin on military duty.

"Cooper agreed to cooperate with Unknown Officer and asked Unknown Officer if he could cuff her hands in the front, as she has a history of neck, back, and shoulder problems and her arms cannot be place behind her back without extreme pain," Cooper says in the complaint. "Unknown Officer ignored her request, and handcuffed her hands incredibly tightly behind her back, so tight in fact that the handcuffs cut into the skin on her wrists."

Cooper says the arrest re-aggravated her health problems, and she might need back surgery.

"Cooper spent 18 hours in custody. Cooper spent over $7,000 in court and legal fees before the unsubstantiated felony charges against her were dismissed," the complaint states. "The incident also led to an investigation by Child Protective Services, requiring Cooper to take her children to the CPS office in Houston.

"Her children were separated from her and interrogated by child abuse investigators. CPS found no cause for concern regarding the well being of Cooper's children and dropped the investigation."

"Completely unfounded and preposterous":

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice says the assassination of her colleague, Ambassador Chris Stevens, in Benghazi, Libya, was a “spontaneous” event.

“The best information and the best assessment we have today,” she said, “is that this was not a pre-planned, pre-meditated attack. What happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo as a consequence of the video. People gathered outside the embassy and then it grew very violent. And those with extremist ties joined the fray and came with heavy weapons, which unfortunately are quite common in post-revolutionary Libya, and that then spun out of control.”

Libya’s President Mohammed el-Megarif begs to differ.

“The idea that this criminal and cowardly act was a spontaneous protest that just spun out of control is completely unfounded and preposterous,” he said.

....I don't know what the administration is trying to pull here, but there's no way this will hold up to scrutiny.

We don't think there's any serious danger that the White House will be subjected to scrutiny by the press. Like Ms. Sebelius' inability to obey federal laws, this is all just an irrelevant distraction from more important issues.

Mood music to read the news by

As Grim observed yesterday, you've got to hand it to the NSA. They may be watching our every move, but at least they're not releasing the videos to David Corn.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:48 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

September 18, 2012

"SECRET!!!" Romney Tapes as a Litmus Test

So...

David Corn of The Nation, a progressive who presumably believes in the importance of civil liberties and individual rights, is (according to Memeorandum, which is lit up like a Christmas tree with OMG!!! SUPER-SECRET VIDEOS OF MITT ROMNEY SUNBATHING WITHOUT HIS BIKINI TOP!!!11!) having all sorts of fun posting SECRETLY(!) taped videos of a man who, one assumes, was unaware he was being taped and did not consent to their release. Grim, citing a post at NRO, makes a shrewd point:

Every candidate — hell, everybody — simply must assume henceforth that their every word and email, thanks to technology and the Bush administration’s overwrought defensive reaction to 9/11, is being monitored, taped and weaponized, if need be.

As far as "everybody" goes, maybe; but if the NSA is really recording everything you say, they're being remarkably circumspect about it. Elements within the CIA seemed to love to play politics with leaks to the press during the Bush administration, and occasionally even in this administration (for the agency's own benefit, rather than against the President). The NSA may have access to tons of our secrets, but if so they seem to be responsible stewards.

Aye chihuahua, it never ends. Today's spectacular act of Self Beclownment as Performance Art features writers at the National Review blaming blatantly illegal tactics on a Republican president...because as we all know, it was positively unheard of for Democrats to illegally tape Republicans before the Bu$Hitler regime tore up the Constitution and fed it to Barney the White House Terrier:

Florida Couple Are Charged In Taping of Gingrich Call By JERRY GRAY Published: April 24, 1997

The Justice Department today filed charges against a Florida couple who said they had intercepted and recorded a conference call last December among Speaker Newt Gingrich and other Republican leaders.

The Federal authorities in Jacksonville, Fla., announced this afternoon that the couple, John and Alice Martin, had been charged with an infraction, violating the Communications Privacy Act by using a radio scanner to intercept the radio portion of the conversation. It is the mildest criminal charge the couple could face in the case and carries a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine.

The Government said the Martins had agreed to plead guilty to the charges, and said the couple would cooperate with a continuing investigation into how a recording of the conversation wound up in the hands of a New York Times reporter.

...a NY Times reporter who of course had no idea it was illegal to tap private conversations! For eight years we listened to the Times and progressives fulminate about the horror of our government listening in on our private conversations.

Turns out it wasn't the government we should have been worried about. It was ardent progressives who - apparently - are willing to violate every standard they profess to hold dear if that will help them win an election. And the journalists who enable this kind of illegal and shameless behavior. What's next? A NY Times spread of Kate Middleton's breasts?

The truly sad, if amusing, aspect of this incident is that it's a great litmus test for folks on both sides of the aisle. For conservatives, it's a chance to walk the walk instead of just talking the talk. If you've been wishing Romney would champion your beliefs, now's not the time to go all wobbly just because you're seeing the kind of pushback your more ideologically suspect bretheren predicted a long time ago.

And for liberals, it's an opportunity to show that privacy, individual rights, and respect for the rule of law are ideals worth defending in their own right, regardless of whose party is in power (not weapons to be used for partisan advantage when it's convenient and quickly forgotten when the transgressor has a D next to his or her name).

On May 17, Mitt Romney spoke bluntly at a fundraiser at the home of a private equity executive in Boca Raton. Someone recorded him speaking, and that unexploded digital ordnance lay around the 2012 campaign until Monday, when it erupted under Romney's campaign. Its emergence offers a glimpse at the workings of the contemporary media: Chaotically driven by an anonymous leaker; empowered by ubiquitous recording devices; and competing not just with other media outlets, but with the source him or herself.

... One [tape] was deceptively edited to make Romney appear to be saying he'd been born with a silver spoon.

Ah, what's a little deceptive editing among friends? Or a personal vendetta or two?

"I'm proud of my role in being able to track him down," James Carter, 35, said about the source who took the video. "I'm a partisan Democrat. My motivation is to help Democrats get elected. If there is anything I can find in any race [Ed. Note: even it it was illegally obtained, apparently!], I try to do that."

But Carter also confirmed there is a personal side to the backstory of the campaign video: he was especially motivated, he said, because of Romney's frequent attacks on the presidency of his grandfather, including the GOP candidate's comparisons to the "weak" foreign policy of Carter and Barack Obama.

"It gets under my skin -- mostly the weakness on the foreign policy stuff," Carter said. "I just think it's ridiculous. I don’t like criticism of my family."

The press have much to be proud of this election season. First, 900 pages of "leaked" (euphemism of the week), business sensitive documents from Bain Capital, seized upon avidly by the press regardless of the suspect provenance. Now illegal recordings.

I'd like to think someone - anyone - in the media might possibly speak out against these blatantly illegal and unethical tactics. Kirsten Powers would be the best bet here.

If only there were some public servant whose job it was to enforce the law....

Update: More election-winning illegality!

A college professor has been placed on leave after she allegedly forced her class to sign a pledge to vote for President Obama in the 2012 elections.

The pledge was printed off of GottaVote.org, a website funded by the Obama campaign.

Loyalty pledges? Really???
*snort*

Posted by Cassandra at 03:32 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Horror!!!!

easybake.jpg

You patriarchal hegemonists have much to atone for.

Posted by Cassandra at 03:00 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Quote of the Day

Nailed it in one:

There's a pattern emerging to Mitt Romney's worst gaffes: his biggest political missteps come whenever he repeats something the conservative opinion complex has already repeated endlessly. Instead of being the candidate that conservative bloggers feared as a moderate, he's been exactly the candidate they wanted. And he's losing.

Too funny. Except for the whole, "How's that workin' out for ya" thingy. So far the biggest complaint we've heard about Romney is that he supposedly won't stand up for real conservative ideas.

Which apparently are stupid and arrogant. The blog princess will be in the bar. It's got to be past 5 o'clock somewhere.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:05 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Why Romney is Right About "The 47%"

There he goes again. You know: Mitt Romney, a man whose devotion to his country is so great that he bravely took a bullet to distract our intrepid journalistic class from the Obama administration's serial inattention to national security and foreign policy issues:

SCARBOROUGH:... it's a fair critique...all you guys in the media were talking about Mitt Romney, you should have talked about the warnings with the embassy, etc., etc. And yes perhaps we should have. But you know who didn't allow us to do that?

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Mitt Romney.

SCARBOROUGH: Mitt Romney. ... Romney got in the way of the media looking at the president...

This is a man so ruthless and powerful (yet strangely wimpy and indecisive) that he can do things no president before him has done. He can - singlehandedly, without convincing Congress! - prevent women from obtaining contraceptives. Using secret, time altering technology financed by his ill-gotten gains, he can take the country back to the days when barefoot Oppressed Womynfolk were chained to tiny pink EasyBake ovens and forced to bake cupcakes for The Unevolved, Penis-Having Half of Humynity:

It was bad enough when Mitt Romney only wanted to turn the clock back to the Stone Age when women were routinely impregnated against their will and forced to procreate for Teh Patriarchy. Yes, that was bad enough, but not as terrifying as the latest troubling revelation about this Deeply Scary Candidate.

Apparently, he can unilaterally overturn Supreme Court decisions, repeal acts of Congress, kill women, and cancel our insurance policies.

With his mind....

This is a man who regularly unleashes the Mighty Condor Grip of Death on hapless persuns of cholor. But no longer - the proverbial jig is up. In a searing expose of This Deeply Scary Candidate's utter contempt for the 99%, The Nation's David Corn lays bare this damning quote:

During a private fundraiser earlier this year, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a small group of wealthy contributors what he truly thinks of all the voters who support President Barack Obama. He dismissed these Americans as freeloaders who pay no taxes, who don't assume responsibility for their lives, and who think government should take care of them.

Romney can't deny that's exactly what he said, because it is self evidently self evident that people who believe income redistribution is a legitimate function of government are OBVIOUSLY freeloaders who don't want to assume responsibility for their lives. It's coded language that only racists and 1 percenters can detect. David Corn says so! Oh wait... that was Mr. Corn's helpful translation of a message only America-hating haters can hear. This is what Romney actually said. Pardon our confusion:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.

This is a particularly horrible thing to say, because it completely contradicts the brilliant arguments made by the Obama administration for raising income taxes for the top income quintile (a whopping 90% of whom are married couple families) and cutting them for people who already pay no income tax (presumably on the theory that "nothing" is far too much)! The Obama administration's continual suggestions that income inequality is a problem gloss over the critically important reasons top earning households are literally stealing money from the 99% prospering:

1. 90% are married.
2. 76% are dual income couples (in other words, the median number of wage earners per household >= 2).
3. The majority are dual income households precisely because women are "allowed" to work.

Hmmm.... staying in school, getting and staying married, enlightened gender roles, women earning good salaries... clearly these developments are terribly unfair and must be stopped before they can kill someone with an alternative lifestyle. Let's face it: when only the husband works, the family will often be in a lower tax bracket. They might even qualify for federal income redistribution! But once wifey starts earning (particularly if she manages to crack that glass ceiling and achieve pay equity with men), her earnings are taxed at a higher rate than her husband's. By the very folks who are always yammering on about gender equity and fairness!

If it's wrong and inaccurate to claim that families in the lower income quintiles are dependent on negative income tax rates and income transfers - if they don't really need this money - then what is the argument for not taxing them at the same rates they paid under Bill Clinton?

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post’s Wonkblog posted a blog post this week titled “Democrats don’t want to go back to Clinton-era rates” which pointed out that middle income and low income taxpayers had a substantially higher burden under Clinton. Klein is right: returning to those Clinton era rates would substantially increase the taxes paid by most of the bottom 80% of income earners and substantially decrease the number of nonpayers of the federal income tax. As such, many of the advocates of a return to Clinton era rates inadvertently make an economic case for higher taxes on middle and lower income taxpayers.

wlf_clinton_bush.png

Obama - at least to hear him tell it - is a big fan of the Clinton-era tax rates. In fact, that's how he describes his own tax policies!

... keep in mind, we're talking about folks like me going back to the tax rates that existed under Bill Clinton. If you remember, that was when we created 23 million new jobs, we went from deficits to surplus, and folks at the top did well, too -- because when middle-class families have money in their pockets, they go out and buy that new car, or that new appliance, or that new computer for their kids, or they go out to a restaurant, or, heaven forbid, they take a vacation once in a while. And that money goes back into the economy, and businesses do well because they've got more customers.

If, as the president assures us, the Clinton-era tax rates were directly responsible for the economic bubble boom of the 1990s, then wouldn't we need to return to ALL the Clinton-era rates in order for his plan to work?

Including higher tax rates for the lower and middle classes?

Were Congress to propose a return to all the Clinton era rates, how would the president justify opposing tax hikes for the middle and lower classes? After all, the idea that these households "need" or "depend" on the federal government to help them is clearly not just deeply offensive, but factually inaccurate. Not to mention, deeply insulting and contemptuous.

Right? It would appear that once again, Herr Romney is going to be crucified in the media for agreeing with the president, who believes that the lower and middle classes both "need" and "depend upon" government - and furthermore, that they are entitled to assistance from the federal government. We're all in this together.

That is, after all, the foundational philosophy behind Obama's policies. The justification for these policies - that American households both need and depend on government in order to prosper - can't be clearly stated, less we wound their pride. But the truth is, if you truly believe that income redistribution is a legitimate exercise of government power, you're never going to vote for a man who opposes income redistribution. No argument - except one that changes your mind on the question - will persuade you to vote for a man who does not share your beliefs.

And apparently, acknowledging that incontrovertible truth is deeply, deeply insulting to the intelligence of progressives. Who knew?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:36 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

September 17, 2012

Well Bless His Heart....

In Pakistan, a moment of unintended humor amid the chaos:

One of the participants of the rally, Abdullah Ismail, passed away after he was taken to Mayo Hospital. Witnesses said he had complained of feeling unwell from the smoke from US flags burnt at the rally.

Other prodigious feats of unintentional self parody:

We’ve got a Democratic president who’s been strongest on national security, he’s completely taken the national security and foreign policy argument away from the other side. He reinforced in Afghanistan, he got us responsibly out of Iraq, we took Osama bin Laden, he’s been firm, he’s been visionary, he’s been tough, he’s decisive. So, I know what the Republican narrative wants to be, but when you get below the rhetoric there are no facts to support these charges. In fact, we worked anti-missile defense, Poland’s happy, other nations in Europe seem to be happy, we’ve got the strongest relationship with Israel that we’ve ever had, very good relations there, so I just don’t find much ground in these comments.

Oh, and in case you're wondering why our intrepid journalistic class are not all over the Libyan security debacle, you'll be glad to know that the press have identified the problem:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Talk about the conservative critique--and I think it's a fair critique, the conservative critique: that all you guys in the media were talking about Mitt Romney, you should have talked about the warnings with the embassy, etc., etc. And yes perhaps we should have. But you know who didn't allow us to do that?

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Mitt Romney.

SCARBOROUGH: Mitt Romney. If Mitt Romney had kept his mouth shut, if he had not acted like a rank amateur, if he had not embarrassed himself--and by the way internally the campaign understands they screwed up, he's moved on, they know that. So no conservative can say "oh, the mainstream media, blah, blah." They know how badly they screwed up, and they were having the fight internally before he even went out and did it. But Romney got in the way of the media looking at the president, going, wha-, wha-, what happened here? How did this happen? Now, those questions are going to be asked in the coming weeks. But they weren't asked in the first 24 hours because Romney was holding this horrific, irresponsible, press conference.

How many days has it been now? How many days does it take for the press to do their jobs?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:58 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

And It's Mondaaaaaaaaaay!

Posted by Cassandra at 07:39 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

September 15, 2012

Saturday Time Waster

How well do you understand the different ways men and women communicate?

Men and women communicate differently, but what is fact and what is just perception? Can you discern the overgeneralizations?

Handy-dandy quiz here. The Editorial Staff missed two questions.

Posted by Cassandra at 11:47 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

September 14, 2012

Yeah, I Really Do Think...

Remember the Bu$Hitler years, when everyone was hyperventilating about how George Bush's reckless and arrogant cowboy foreign policy would cause the Arab Street to go up in flames ?

Incroyable.

If this is what Smart Power looks like, I do believe I'm ready to try Dumb Power again.

**********

Update: Help is on the way...

Posted by Cassandra at 02:15 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Food for Thought

It's a good thing to have all the props pulled out from under us occasionally. It gives us some sense of what is rock under our feet, and what is sand.

--Madeleine L'Engle

Posted by Cassandra at 07:43 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 13, 2012

Imperial Hubris

Marc Thiessen on Obama's disdain for national security briefers:

It is apparently a point of pride in the White House that Obama’s PDB is “not briefed to him.” In the eyes of this administration, it is a virtue that the president does not meet every day with senior intelligence officials. This president, you see, does not need briefers. He can forgo his daily intelligence meeting because he is, in Vietor’s words, “among the most sophisticated consumers of intelligence on the planet.”

Truly sophisticated consumers of intelligence don’t see it as a sign of weakness to “be briefed” by the experts. Most of us, if we subscribed to a daily report on, say, astrophysics, would probably need some help interpreting it. But when it comes to intelligence, Obama is apparently so brilliant he can absorb the most complicated topics by himself in his study. He does not need to sit down for up to an hour a day with top intelligence officials, or hold more than 100 “deep dives” in which he invites CIA analysts into the Oval Office and gives them direct access to the commander in chief to discuss their areas of expertise. Such meetings are crutches this president does not need. Written briefings, questions and comments are enough. Obama has more important things to do — such as attend Las Vegas fundraisers.

No doubt the intelligence community has adapted to its diminished access to the commander in chief and is finding a way to get the president the intelligence he needs. Members of the community have endured a lot these past 3 1/2 years — accusations of torture from the Oval Office; more than 100 criminal investigations from the Obama Justice Department that resulted in zero — zero — criminal charges being filed; a president who is quick to claim credit for killing Osama bin Laden while denying credit to the CIA interrogators who made the mission possible. They’ll survive not being invited more frequently into the Oval Office.

But the hubris of a president who believes he does not need to meet regularly with them is astounding. When President John F. Kennedy gathered every living American Nobel laureate for dinner at the White House in 1962, he declared it “the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” Apparently, in this administration’s view, Kennedy had it wrong — the most extraordinary collection of talent and knowledge ever gathered in the White House is when Barack Obama reads his daily intelligence brief alone.

Imagine, if you will, the reaction had such a sentiment been expressed by the former occupant of the Oval Office or his spokesmen.
President Bush, who was continually accused of arrogance, rarely if ever missed a briefing. Obama, who seems to be judged on a curve, misses them more often than not...

...which, for this president at least, is not a sign of indifference or disengagement, but of his essential brilliance.

President Bush, continually accused of being intellectually incurious and close-minded, turns out to have had the incredible foresight to pretend to be a voracious reader of history with small "c" catholic tastes decades before he was in the public eye:

In Midland all those years ago, the normal distance between prominent source and reporter didn’t apply, and W. invited me out to a Mexican restaurant with Laura and their four-year-old twin daughters, who got in trouble for throwing chips, were threatened with a spanking, and went home without dessert. He also invited me to his house, where I found books by John Fowles, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, and Gore Vidal lying about, as well as biographies of Willa Cather and Queen Victoria. A few years later, I might even have thought they had been purposely left there for the eyes of a reporter, but not on that unstaged evening.

...and The Big Fake is still at it now that he's out of the spotlight:

He certainly enjoys reading and talking about books. And his friends know it. On his desk is a stack of books that have come as gifts: All Things Are Possible Through Prayer; Basho: The Complete Haiku; Children of Jihad; and Theodore Roosevelt’s Letters to His Children. To the pile, I add my own gift, Cleopatra by Pulitzer Prize–winning author Stacy Schiff. Right now, Bush is reading Ron Chernow’s Washington: A Life, a biography of the first president. “Chernow’s a great historian,” Bush says excitedly. “I think one of the great history books I read was on Alexander Hamilton by Chernow. But I also read House of Morgan, Titan, and now I’m reading Washington.”

He mentions David Halberstam’s The Coldest Winter, a book about the Korean War that he read before a visit last year to Korea, to give a speech to evangelicals. “I stand up in front of 65,000 Christians to give a speech in South Korea … ,” he says, “and I’m thinking about the bloody [battles] fought in the Korean War.” Halberstam’s book—coupled with earlier readings of David McCullough’s Truman and Robert Beisner’s Dean Acheson, a biography of Truman’s secretary of state presented to him by Bush’s own secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice—gave the event deeper resonance. The decisions of the unpopular President Harry S Truman, he realized, made it possible for a former U. S. president to speak before freely worshipping Koreans 60 years later. “So history, in this case, gave me a better understanding of the moment, and … put it all into context—the wonder of the moment.”

I tick off a partial list of people Bush has read books about in recent years in addition to Washington, Truman, and Acheson: Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Carnegie, Mark Twain, Huey Long, Lyndon Johnson, Theodore Roosevelt, Andrew Mellon, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ulysses S. Grant, John Quincy Adams, Genghis Khan.

“Genghis Khan?” I ask incredulously.

“I didn’t know much about him. I was fascinated by him. I guess I’ve always been fascinated by larger-than-life figures. That’s why I’m looking forward to reading Cleopatra. I know nothing about her. … But you can sit there and be absorbed by TV, let the news of the moment consume you. You can just do nothing. I choose to read as a form of relaxation. … Laura used to say, ‘Reading is taking a journey,’ and she’s right.”

You've got to admit it - that degree of preparation is remarkable in a man who had to be told to chew his pretzels before swallowing. Yes, indeedy.

Meanwhile, Bush's successor, widely lauded as an intellectually distinguished UberMench is not ashamed to admit that his tastes run more to murder novels and fiction.

Thoughout all of this, one thing remains crystal clear.

A leader must be humble and listen to others. He must create dialogue with his opponents and seek advice from his advisors, lest he seem arrogant and insensitive. Unless, of course, he's way smarter than anyone else in the room. In that case, insulating himself from the so-called experts is a sign of superior intelligence.

A leader's choice of reading materials provides deep insights into his intellectual depth and curiosity. Unless, it turns out that he reads murder novels, in which case it's an irrelevant distraction from substantive issues.

Finally, a leader must stay informed about both domestic and world events. Unless there are more important things to do... like attending fundraisers in Las Vegas. Or filling out his March Madness bracket. Or posting beer recipes on the White House blog.

Priorities, people.


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

Ill Advised Foreign Policy Gaffes, Double Standard Edition

How inconveeeeeeeeeeeenient!

Remember that time when a major-party presidential nominee went on television immediately after the deaths of several Americans abroad to attack the policies of the current administration and his opponent? Remember how the media repeatedly demanded to know whether he regretted the timing of that criticism, and whether he was ashamed at not providing a united political front in the face of tragedy?

Yeah, neither do I … and neither does Andrew Kaczynski at BuzzFeed. This CNN interview took place in July 2008, immediately after the deaths of nine US troops in Afghanistan...

Speaking of ill advised public comments by a presidential candidate on a delicate foreign policy situation:

The White House expressed unhappiness about Iraqi leaders' apparent public backing for Obama's troop-withdrawal plans and suggested the Iraqis may be trying to use the U.S. presidential election as leverage for negotiations on the United States' presence and future obligations in the country.

“We don't think that talking about specific negotiating tactics or your negotiating position in the press is the best way to negotiate a deal,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said after al-Maliki was quoted in a magazine article supporting Obama's proposed 16-month troop withdrawal timeline.

Apparently, it's actually a good thing when some presidential candidates publicly politicize ongoing negotiations with foreign countries:

It's not just Amir Taheri pushing the Logan Act story. Before he ever went to Iraq, Obama's bragging about his meddling in U.S. foreign policy made the pages of the NY Times:

Among the issues being discussed with the two presidential candidates is the long-term security accord between Iraq and the United States. [Ed.note, because this will become important later: this is the strategic framework agreement referred to later in the post] While the Bush administration would like to see an agreement reached before the summer’s political conventions, Mr. Obama said today that he opposed such a timetable.

So it seems The One had already commenced unsanctioned telephone negotiations with Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari back in June. His goal was to prevent the White House from successfully concluding negotiations for a long term security agreement with Iraq. Bizarrely, Obama not only admitted what he was doing, but bragged about it repeatedly over the next few weeks:

“My concern is that the Bush administration, in a weakened state politically, ends up trying to rush an agreement that in some ways might be binding to the next administration, whether it’s my administration or Senator McCain’s administration,” Mr. Obama said. “The foreign minister agreed that the next administration should not be bound by an agreement that’s currently made.”

Now *that's* real audacity - using your own illegal acts as the pretext for undermining your own government's foreign policy!

And if the press really, really like you, once you're president you can brag about having ended the war in Iraq and brought the troops home! Nevermind the fact that the whole time you were telling Americans you intended to bring the troops home, you were actually doing your damnedest to persuade the Iraqis to extend the withdrawal deadline...
...and failing:

As recently as August, Maliki's office was discussing allowing 8,000 to 20,000 U.S. troops to remain until next year, Iraqi Ambassador Samir Sumaida'ie said in an interview with The Cable. He told us that there was widespread support in Iraq for such an extension, but the Obama administration was demanding that immunity for U.S. troops be endorsed by the Iraqi Council of Representatives, which was never really possible.

Administration sources and Hill staffers also tell The Cable that the demand that the troop immunity go through the Council of Representatives was a decision made by the State Department lawyers and there were other options available to the administration, such as putting the remaining troops on the embassy's diplomatic rolls, which would automatically give them immunity.

"An obvious fix for troop immunity is to put them all on the diplomatic list; that's done by notification to the Iraqi foreign ministry," said one former senior Hill staffer. "If State says that this requires a treaty or a specific agreement by the Iraqi parliament as opposed to a statement by the Iraqi foreign ministry, it has its head up its ass."

The main Iraqi opposition party Iraqiya, led by former U.S. ally and former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, decided to tie that vote to two non-related issues. It said they would not vote for the troop extension unless Maliki agreed give them control of a high-level policy council and let them choose the minister of defense from their ranks. Maliki wasn't about to do either.

"It was clear from the beginning that Maliki wasn't going to make a move without the support of the other parties behind him," Sullivan explained, adding that the Obama administration focused on Maliki and neglected other actors, such as Allawi. "There was a misunderstanding of how negotiations were unfolding in Iraq. The negotiations got started in earnest far too late."

"The actions don't match the words here," said Sullivan. "It's in the administration's interest to make this look not like they failed to reach an agreement and that they fulfilled a campaign promise. But it was very clear that Panetta and [former Defense Secretary Robert] Gates wanted an agreement."

If only this country had a professional journalistic class whose mission it was to keep the public informed and hold public servants accountable....

Posted by Cassandra at 08:58 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

For Obama, The Buck Always Stops Somewhere Else

... as President of the United States, one of the things I’ve learned, and we just talked about was anything that happens on my watch is my responsibility. That’s what people expect. Harry Truman said the buck stops with me...”

Barack Obama, July 2012

But that was so six or seven weeks ago. With the vantage of hindsight, the man who sanctimoniously assured us that real leaders take responsibility for what happens on their watch would like to make a slight course correction. What just happened on his watch should in no way be laid at the door of his administration! It's clear that the responsible parties are out of control, low level underlings:

The Obama administration is disavowing a statement from its own Cairo embassy that seemed to apologize for anti-Muslim activity in the United States.

"The statement by Embassy Cairo was not cleared by Washington and does not reflect the views of the United States government," an administration official told POLITICO.

The important takeaway here is that, faced with an explosive situation in an already unstable country, embassy staff did not... we repeat, DID NOT think it necessary to consult their boss for guidance:

A State Department official, authorized only to speak on background, said there was absolutely no coordination with the White House. The Cairo statement was sent to the Near East desk at the State Department and was rejected.The State Department insists the official in Cairo did not wait and posted the message online.

The State Department has refused to say whether the individual will be subject to discipline.

Please pay no attention to the man in the ginormous white house where the buck used to (as recently as the end of July) stop. Yes, he's technically in charge of the country. And the State Department is technically part of the Executive branch. But Obama can't be held responsible, you see. It's not his fault that embassy staff in a turbulent nation with troubled relations with the West can't be trusted to obey direct orders. Or that - apparently - they had not been instructed to consult with the White House on matters of this delicacy. Or that Libyan diplomatic staff were working in an insecure environment:

A senior administration official Wednesday called the Benghazi consulate “an interim facility,” which the State Department began using “before the fall of Qadhafi.” It was staffed Tuesday by Libyan and State Department security officers. The consulate came under fire from heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades at about 10 p.m. local time on Tuesday. By the time the attack ended several hours later, four Americans were dead and three others had been injured.

The Benghazi consulate had “lock-and-key” security, not the same level of defenses as a formal embassy, an intelligence source told POLITICO. That means it had no bulletproof glass, reinforced doors or other features common to embassies. The intelligence source contrasted it with the American embassy in Cairo, Egypt – “a permanent facility, which is a lot easier to defend.” The Cairo embassy also was attacked Tuesday.

Really, who could have predicted an attack by angry mobs in that part of the world on the anniversary of 9/11? And what reasonable person would expect American diplomatic personnel to have a crystal clear understanding of this administration's policies and positions....

...which, it turns out, include vigorously condeming intentional efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others:

And same for all of you who mock young earthers, or devout Scientologists, or believers in miracles — and all who say that, for instance, racist or sexist religious beliefs are contemptible — and maybe even all those who, even politely, contend that rival religions’ views are wrong and will deny salvation to the holders of those views:
The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.

So says the Secretary of State, in quite categorical terms. After all, in all the examples given above, you would presumably be intentionally denigrating the religious beliefs of others: saying that they are immoral and foolish. The U.S. government deplores your speech. It’s not just that the government doesn’t endorse the speech, not just that it deplores a limited and narrow category of blasphemous acts (e.g., burning a Koran, treading on a crucifix, and the like), but rather that it deplores any attempt to denigrate religious beliefs. Religious beliefs, which are routinely used by billions as a guide to private action and a guide to lawmaking, are supposed to be somehow immune from the denigration that is a commonplace and necessary part of debate about ideological beliefs generally.

Let's be clear: this administration is second to no other in its commitment to upholding our First Amendment right to free speech. Heavy handed official denunciations of same notwithstanding. And the administration is also firmly committed to holding leaders accountable for whatever happens on that leader's watch. Applying this principle, it's clear at whose feet the blame for this debacle should be laid: Mitt Romney.

We know you are all heartened to learn that the White House has learned from its early inability to coordinate their message. When results really matter, this administration's message discipline is rock solid.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:46 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 12, 2012

Caution on Libya News

Reports are flying about that the U.S. Ambassador who was killed by a Libyan mob was then dragged through the streets.

Obviously, this is extremely disturbing and - in the context of past incidents of this nature suffered by Americans in that part of the world - potentially inflammatory news.

...your most disgraceful case was in Somalia; where- after vigorous propaganda about the power of the USA and its post cold war leadership of the new world order- you moved tens of thousands of international force, including twenty eight thousands American solders into Somalia. However, when tens of your solders were killed in minor battles and one American Pilot was dragged in the streets of Mogadishu you left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you. Clinton appeared in front of the whole world threatening and promising revenge, but these threats were merely a preparation for withdrawal.

You have been disgraced by Allah and you withdrew; the extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear. It was a pleasure for the "heart" of every Muslim and a remedy to the "chests" of believing nations to see you defeated in the three Islamic cities of Beirut, Aden and Mogadishu.

- Osama Bin Laden

There's just one problem: we don't know if it's true, yet. The first reports are already being walked back:

UPDATE2: AFP is reporting that this is a photo of the US Ambassador being HELPED by Libyans, not being dragged through the streets as we previously reported:

graphic.jpg

Given that I don’t speak Arabic and the fact that Hillary Clinton said they were carrying him to the hospital in her statement a few moments ago, I accept this to be the case instead.

The truth is that we don't know exactly what happened yet. We don't know if he was dragged through the streets by some, helped by others. Which don't know which report is accurate, and it's entirely possible that - as is the case with so many early reports -neither one is accurate.

And yes, it's incredibly tiresome of me not to jump on the outrage bandwagon, but it seems to me that as horrifying as this series of events undoubtedly is, we don't help it by jumping to conclusions on limited information.

I am outraged at the attack: that it occurred in the first place, and at the lily livered response of the US Embassy in Cairo. I started to write about this, this morning but in the end I concluded that we just don't know enough of the context yet. So I won't have much to say about it until we know more, and I can be sure I'm commenting from knowledge rather than rumor.

Thanks to the Right Scoop for their commitment to accuracy. And please pray for the souls of those killed in this horrific debacle and for their families as well.

I can't imagine how they are feeling right now. I pray to God that I never will.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:21 PM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

Zing!!!

There's nothing we enjoy more than a deftly worded bit of equal opportunity snark:

The past several weeks have made one thing crystal-clear: Our country faces unmitigated disaster if the Other Side wins.

No reasonably intelligent person can deny this. All you have to do is look at the way the Other Side has been running its campaign. Instead of focusing on the big issues that are important to the American People, it has fired a relentlessly negative barrage of distortions, misrepresentations, and flat-out lies.

Just look at the Other Side’s latest commercial, which take a perfectly reasonable statement by the candidate for My Side completely out of context to make it seem as if he is saying something nefarious. This just shows you how desperate the Other Side is and how willing it is to mislead the American People.

The Other Side also has been hammering away at My Side to release certain documents that have nothing to do with anything, and making all sorts of outrageous accusations about what might be in them. Meanwhile, the Other Side has stonewalled perfectly reasonable requests to release its own documents that would expose some very embarrassing details if anybody ever found out what was in them. This just shows you what a bunch of hypocrites they are.

Naturally, the media won’t report any of this. Major newspapers and cable networks jump all over anything they think will make My Side look bad. Yet they completely ignore critically important and incredibly relevant information that would be devastating to the Other Side if it could ever be verified.

Slices like an effing hammer, it does.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:56 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

"It's Not Just Wrong. It's Dangerous!"

And therefore, contra our usual professions of tolerance and respect for diversity and the First Amendment, it must be ruthlessly crushed before it kills again. Because let's face it: we're not just talking about dissent anymore. We're talking about a public health hazard. Compare and contrast:

Perpetuating a culture where gay teenagers -- who are already commonly battling notions of inferiority and self-hatred -- can be openly and decidedly told they aren't welcome among a preeminent organization that purports to represent and define a standard of behavioral ideals, is dangerous. It's a decided step back in rejecting the culture of gay bullying. We will see more depression, and more suicide. We'll see more discrimination of every sort, and more hatred.

- James Hamblin, The Atlantic

And a new Obama campaign ad:

“Mitt Romney's position on women's health, it's dangerous,” a woman says in the ad.

The narrator then says Romney and running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, “allow employers to deny coverage for cancer screenings and birth control,” and says both have backed legislation that would outlaw abortions in cases of rape and incest.

“We can't afford to let him take away our choices, to take away basic healthcare,” the woman in the ad continues. “I don’t think that women’s health issues have faced a crises like this in decades.

Let's stop for a moment, put aside the hyperventilating hyperbole, and lay out the arguments being made here. With respect to the BSA, if a private, non-federally funded organization anywhere in the United States is allowed to set its own membership standards - and allowed to exclude people based on these standards - and the application of those membership standards makes the excluded person feel bad, they have created a "public health hazard". Once this occurs, as Herr Hamblin santimoniously notes, we're no longer talking about freedom of association or free speech. Nossir, we're talking about an Existential Threat to Public Safety:

Boy Scouts is an organization that was and is so close to being great. Remember when they had to put Old Yeller down because he got rabies? It's not like he was a bad dog, but he got a brain infection and he tried to eat Travis.

The policy is embarrassing and archaic, sure. And it's in opposition to the core tenets of scouting, yes. But the real value in speaking against it is that it's dangerous. When a group as massive (2.7 million youth members) and respected as the Boy Scouts makes a move like this, it stands to exacerbate a public health hazard in such a way that we can't just agree to disagree.

Now surely Mr. Hamblin isn't slyly comparing the Boy Scouts of America to a rabid animal that must be destroyed, lest it chew our collective faces off. If that were the case, open minded pundits like William Saletan would surely take him to task.

Likewise, an ad put out by the Obama campaign that falsely conflates actual access to preventative health care, birth control, or abortion with forcing one's fellow citizens to provide reproductive health care services free of charge (to women, but not to men, that is) isn't dishonest. And suggesting that if Mitt Romney is elected, women everywhere will start dropping like flies isn't exactly the kind of fear mongering the Bush administration was so often accused of with regard to terrorists who (unlike the Romney campaign) have openly and repeatedly vowed to destroy Western civilization.

It just seems that way.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:17 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

September 11, 2012

"They Hate Us For Our Freedoms"

Meaning, courtesy of the online urban dictionary:

They hate us for our Freedom

A Line used by President Bush and every single Neo-Con out there, to make the case that it wasn't our meddling around in Mid-East affairs that caused Muslim-Extremist to hate us, but that our "Freedoms" somehow managed to piss them off.

Osama Bin Laden said it was our involvement in the Middle East that turned him against America, but President Bush said it was because, They hate us for our Freedom.

Difficult to square such cluelessnes with today's news:

Egyptian protesters scaled the walls of the U.S. embassy on Tuesday, tore down the American flag and burned it during a protest over what they said was a film being produced in the United States that insulted Prophet Mohammad.

Yes, you read correctly: a film produced in the United States provoked a violent reaction half a world away:

"This movie must be banned immediately and an apology should be made," said 19-year-old Ismail Mahmoud, a member of the so-called "ultras" soccer supporters who played a big role in the uprising that brought down Hosni Mubarak last year.

He called on President Mohamed Mursi, Egypt's first civilian president and an Islamist, to take action, without giving details of the film that angered him or other protesters.

And it produced this response from U.S. spokestwits:

The U.S. embassy had put out a statement earlier on Tuesday condemning "misguided individuals" who hurt the religious feelings of Muslims or followers of other religions.

"We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others," the U.S. embassy said in its statement.

...Protests have become a common feature in Egypt since the uprising that ousted long-time U.S.-ally Mubarak. When U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited in July, after Mursi was sworn in, her motorcade was pelted with tomatoes.

Some demonstrators shouted slogans against her and some slogans were against Islamists, reflecting perceptions of some opponents of Islamists who have swept Egypt's presidency and a parliamentary vote that Washington helped Islamists to power.

In Mubarak's era, protests were usually swiftly halted by an often brutally efficient police force.

One slogan scrawled on the walls of the embassy, which is near Tahrir Square where Egyptians revolted against Mubarak, said: "If your freedom of speech has no limits, may you accept our freedom of action."

So much for Smart Power. Today I am remembering a far different reaction to thuggish intimidation and intolerance:

Americans are asking ``Why do they hate us?''

They hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.

They want to overthrow existing governments in many Muslim countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. They want to drive Israel out of the Middle East. They want to drive Christians and Jews out of vast regions of Asia and Africa.

These terrorists kill not merely to end lives, but to disrupt and end a way of life. With every atrocity, they hope that America grows fearful, retreating from the world and forsaking our friends. They stand against us because we stand in their way.

We're not deceived by their pretenses to piety.

We have seen their kind before. They're the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions, by abandoning every value except the will to power, they follow in the path of fascism, Nazism and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way to where it ends in history's unmarked grave of discarded lies.

What a difference an election makes.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:06 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

On September 11th, 2012, We Have Learned Nothing

Two items in the news today demonstrate just how far we haven't come since that brilliant September morning in 2001. To mark the 11th anniversary of 9/11, the NY Times is still gladly providing a microphone for the Blame Bush crowd and a platform for the "They ignored the warnings!" school of retroactive risk management (because it's so much easier to predict the future once it has already happened):

The direct warnings to Mr. Bush about the possibility of a Qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001. By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.

And in startling juxtaposition to "Why didn't we act?" mantra, we have a president who can't even be bothered to listen to the presidential daily briefings Bush is blamed for not acting upon:

The Government Accountability Institute, a new conservative investigative research organization, examined President Obama’s schedule from the day he took office until mid-June 2012, to see how often he attended his Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) — the meeting at which he is briefed on the most critical intelligence threats to the country. During his first 1,225 days in office, Obama attended his PDB just 536 times — or 43.8 percent of the time. During 2011 and the first half of 2012, his attendance became even less frequent — falling to just over 38 percent. By contrast, Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush almost never missed his daily intelligence meeting. I asked National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor about the findings, and whether there were any instances where the president attended the intelligence meeting that were not on his public schedule. Vietor did not dispute the numbers, but said the fact that the president, during a time of war, does not attend his daily intelligence meeting on a daily basis is “not particularly interesting or useful.” He says that the president reads his PDB every day, and he disagreed with the suggestion that there is any difference whatsoever between simply reading the briefing book and having an interactive discussion of its contents with top national security and intelligence officials where the president can probe assumptions and ask questions.

...Yet Vietor also directed me to a Post story written this year in which Obama officials discuss the importance of the intelligence meeting and extol how brilliantly the president runs it. “Obama reads the PDB ahead of time and comes to the morning meeting with questions. Intelligence briefers are there to answer those questions, expand on a point or raise a new issue,” The Post reported. “One regular participant in the roughly 500 Oval Office sessions during Obama’s presidency said the meetings show a president consistently participating in an exploration of foreign policy and intelligence issues.”

Between 43 and 38% of the time, that is.

Obama's brilliantly economical management of his PDBs reminds us of one William Jefferson Clinton, whose attention to national security briefings was similarly parsimonious:

Lopez: This amazes me every time I hear it: You write, “When a small plane accidentally crashed into the White House lawn in 1994, West Wing staffers joked that it was [Jim] Woolsey trying to see the president…” How could the CIA director have that bad a relationship with his president? And this, after the first WTC attack. Did no one in the West Wing get it?

Miniter: Never once in his two-year tenure did CIA director James Woolsey ever have a one-on-one meeting with Clinton. Even semiprivate meetings were rare. They only happened twice. Woolsey told me: “It wasn’t that I had a bad relationship with the president. It just didn’t exist.”

...Another Clinton intelligence failure involved a refusal to help the CIA hire more Arabic language translators. In 1993, Woolsey learned that the agency was able to translate only 10 percent of its Arabic intercepts and badly wanted more translators. But Sen. Dennis DeConcini refused to approve the funds unless Clinton phoned him and said it was a presidential priority. Despite entreaties, Clinton never phoned the Democratic senator and the CIA didn’t get those translators for years.

Lopez: In sum, how many times did Bill Clinton lose bin Laden?

If you read nothing else today, read this damning summary.

After 8 years of listening to the Reality Based Community lecture us about how those who are willing to give up their precious freedoms for a little temporary security, deserve neither. I often wonder what their reaction would have been, pre-9/11, had the Bush administration, armed with nothing more than superfluous warnings (because anyone familiar with the events of the 1990s already had ample evidence that Al Quaeda intended to keep attacking American interests) of some unspecified future attack, had clamped down on our civil liberties in the hopes of preventing an event that hadn't happened yet?

Despite the certain knowledge of a spectacular, multi-pronged attack that took 3000 American lives, the Left spent the years after 9/11 accusing the Bush administration of fear mongering and bad faith for doing what they now blame them for not doing before that attack had even occurred.

It is not surprising that many Americans do not support the war on terror. We have not had another catastrophic attack on American soil since 9/11, and with each passing day the memory of that horror fades. We are confronted, day in and day out, with a constant stream of negative news reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan. The blogosphere manages to smuggle some good news through the Iron Curtain, but many Americans still aren't tuned into Radio Free Iraq. And above all, we are perilously ignorant of our own history: of the dear cost our forefathers paid to earn the relative peace and affluence we enjoy today.

And so we take them for granted. We assume this is the way it has always been, and the way it will always be. Like electricity, freedom and security should be there at our command, at the touch of a finger. Like petulant children, we whine when it comes time to pay the light bill.

No, terror is not the greatest of those things which threaten our way of life. It has the power to injure, but not to destroy. It is ignorance which imperils us, which blinds us to what we know is right, which tips the scales when we try to evaluate our options, which leads us to believe we can go on like this forever, enjoying the freedoms earned by forgotten generations, and somehow pass the torch to a new generation without lifting our eyes from our flickering TV sets.

Tell me a happy story, Daddy. Make the bad men disappear. I don't want to think any more.

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

Update: Apparently it's not just Presidential Daily Briefings Obama has no time for:

... the president also appears to be placing other priorities ahead of the economy and unemployment: from April 2011 through July 24, 2012, the president hasn't received a single daily economic briefing.
Something is missing. If you look at Barack Obama's calendar for 26th of April, 2011 you will see on his schedule at 10 AM "The President receives the Economic Daily Briefing," after that nothing. According to the daily schedule released by the White House, Barack Obama hasn't received his "daily" economic briefing for the past 15 months (The White House, Accessed 7/23/12).

Somehow, however, the president has managed to work in 104 rounds of golf and hundreds of games of pickup basketball.

It's all about priorities, people:

fundraisers chart.jpg

After all, there are only so many hours in the day:

On Tuesday alone, Obama appeared at six separate fundraising events in quick succession.

At 11:46 a.m., he walked across the South Lawn of the White House, carrying an umbrella, and boarded his helicopter, Marine One, headed for the Baltimore suburb of Owings Mills, where his motorcade would deliver him to the lavish home of a local real-estate developer to begin speaking at 1:23 p.m.: "Well, it is wonderful to be with all of you. Let me begin by thanking our hosts..." Each of the approximately 100 guests had given $10,000 to a combination of the president's campaign and the Democratic Party.

It was raining steadily. By 2:30, Obama had been deposited at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Baltimore's inner harbor, where he conversed privately with a group of 15 supporters who had each given $40,000. At 3:30, he was at a plain podium -- no bunting, no signs with slogans -- in front of four American flags in a drab hotel ballroom of 500 people who'd paid $250 apiece. "Well, it is good to be in Baltimore, home of what may end up being rivals with the White Sox, the Orioles..."

Before leaving Baltimore, the president would place a call to the governor of Colorado to check in on the wildfires raging there. Then to the airport, then to Philadelphia, where the president met with a group of high-school science graduates for 15 minutes before heading into his first of three fundraisers there, a private, high-dollar event, shortly after 6. Obama's Philadelphia events were at the Franklin Institute, an architecturally majestic science museum with a grand statue of Benjamin Franklin in the lobby rotunda, and before he took the stage for his 7:30 fundraiser, he wandered upstairs to check out the Dead Sea scrolls. "Well, it is good to be back in Philadelphia..."

Obama finished speaking at the final fundraiser of the day, held in a planetarium, at 8:43 p.m. and was delivered back to the White House at 10:16. The only event on his official schedule for the day, aside from the six fundraisers, was receiving the daily presidential briefing in the morning. He had netted about $3.6 million for the day.

You know, if he can keep up that rate, he could quite possibly pay off the federal deficit. Priorities.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:38 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

War and Remembrance

For those who died in the Twin Towers:

Life is always too short, and there is never enough of the things we want from it. But it is always so worth the living, and always worth the celebration. And so, tomorrow night, I will borrow a scene from my favorite novel. When the moonlight hits the balcony on my patio, there will be two glasses of Sangiovese, full to the brim, placed on the edge.

And they will remain there all night. Sweet dreams, bellisima.

Di giorno ti penso...di notte ti sogno.

And those who responded:

... the thing I understand, though I didn't know Wash, is that he was there when it counted. It was important to him to be there. Whatever he thought in the still hours of the night when the stars slip out one by one to stand watch with lonely men half a world away, he wasn't a child or a fool or, as those links I didn't click on stridently averred, someone who died for George Bush. He was a man, a warrior, someone who took pride in what he did. Someone who, even though he joined the Marines to fight, did his job well and without complaint.

These stories shall the good man teach his son;
And that day shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But they in it shall be remember'd;

Amen.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:42 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 10, 2012

AMBER ALERT!!!

My video display driver stopped working, but it has recovered.

The feeling of relief is difficult to describe on a family friendly blog.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:18 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 07, 2012

Random Acts of Journalistic Integrity

Today's nominee for Best Reality-Based News Reporting goes to Anderson Cooper. Yesterday, the Blog Princess started to post this hilarious video of Anderson banging his head into DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz adamant refusal to admit she had misquoted the LA Times:

Unfortunately, work intervened and the Princess to bail out. Cooper's determination is really quite admirable: the man.just.wouldn't.give.up. In a fresh episode of the Debbie Wasserman Schultz Chronicles, our hero wades back into the fray:

After the ugly scene that played out on the floor of the Democratic National Convention Wednesday, during which the Democratic Party amended their platform to reinstate “God” and mention that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, CNN’s Anderson Cooper went to DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz for her reaction to the entire ordeal. But after she spoke, Cooper determined she was living in an “alternate universe.”

CNN’s Brianna Keilar asked Wasserman Schultz on the convention floor how she felt as one of “the most prominent Jewish lawmakers” when she learned that any mention of Jerusalem being the capital of Israel was struck from the Democratic platform.

Wasserman Schultz said a “technical oversight” led to the omission, adding that the platform was amended to reflect President Obama’s personal views and the views of the Democratic party. Conveniently, the DNC chair said a “technical oversight” also led to all references to“God” being left out of the platform.

...But that wasn’t what sent Cooper into a tizzy. Even though video of the platform amendment vote shows a chaotic scene, many people booing and hollering in protest, Wasserman Schultz argued that “there wasn’t any discord” during the vote.

After watching the interview from the CNN studio, the always fair Cooper said: “I mean, that’s an alternate universe.”

Cooper reminded his audience that it was Wasserman Schultz who attacked Mitt Romney’s campaign because “it is the candidate who sets the platform, who designs and writes the platform. It wasn’t true when she was saying it two weeks ago — but now isn’t it fair if she claimed that about the Republican platform to claim that about the Democratic platform?”

“From a reality standpoint, you can defend it, as the head of the DNC, but to say flat out there was no discord is just not true,” Cooper added.

These close encounters with reality would be amusing enough in their own right. Laid alongside the DNC mantra that Romney/Ryan are lying liars whose contempt for the electorate is so great that they think they can get away with telling whoppers, they are downright hysterical.

And Anderson Cooper deserves respect for his dogged attempts to get the facts out. Somehow we doubt his natural sympathies lie with the Romney/Ryan ticket. By the standards most journalists employ, honor would have been served had he simply called her out once and then let the matter drop. Persisting as he did is particularly praiseworthy, and we're delighted to highlight an instance where a journalist takes obvious pride doing the job the way it should be done, consequences be damned.

Full marks.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:16 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Republican Girlz Gone Wild

In my Inbox, from a Dem co-worker.

He'd better start running now... :p

Posted by Cassandra at 10:01 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 06, 2012

DNC Happy to Exclude Female Dissenters In Its Ranks

Grim notes the surreal (and extreme) positions of both parties with respect to abortion:

The Republican platform on abortion calls for a total ban in all circumstances, even when the mother would otherwise die (and the child with her). The only way it could be purer would be to call for punishing abortionists as murderers.

The Democratic platform, by contrast, goes so far as to call for free abortions ("regardless of ability to pay") in all circumstances whatsoever, presumably right up to the moment of birth. Not only shall we permit any woman who wishes to kill a perfectly healthy child that is two minutes from birth, we shall require Catholics and Mormons and Muslims to help pay for it. Everyone will contribute to this national sacrament: we will all be accomplices, we will all provide material support for it. It's not clear that any greater purity is possible; I suppose we could endorse infanticide after birth.

... There is no wide public support for either set of propositions. The actual politicians who are running rarely adhere to these pure positions themselves, and might well not vote for a bill brought before them that attempted to enact these rules. The voters would probably punish anyone who actually attempted to enact either set of rules.

The DNC's abortion plank is particularly amusing in light of the Obama campaign's current messaging on "honoring women's voices" and how women don't support candidates who espouse "extreme" positions:

"The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right." So reads the 2012 Democratic National Committee platform.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi likes to attack "the extremism of the Republicans." But in that plank, the Democrats have shown themselves to be out of touch with not only the American people -- 72 percent of whom oppose public funding to pay for abortions, according to a Quinnipiac poll -- but also Democratic voters themselves.

As we noted the other day, for all their talk of inclusiveness, the Democrats only honor "women's voices" when they dutifully follow the party approved talking points. Dissenters - even female ones with talking ladyparts that inform their public policy preferences! - are, contra the usual progressive twaddle about dissent being necessary to a vibrantly inclusive democratic process, simply ignored. They might as well be completely invisible:

If anyone is trying to silence women's voices, it's Albright (who seems to be unaware that the pro-life movement is full of real, live women). Failing to acknowledge this fact amounts to ignoring these women; acting as though they don't matter. This is something we thought only The Patriarchy was guilty of. Apparently, we were wrong: as far as the DNC is concerned, dissenting female voices might as well not exist. They can be safely disregarded; marginalized.

We've all heard quite a bit over the past few years about the importance of The Base. But what does it say about both parties that The Base has managed to cow both parties into positions that are completely and totally inconsistent with not only the majority of voters, but with the majority of their own party members? What are we to think when, as one female Democrat points out so eloquently below, the base pushes the party into an official position that is deeply and fundamentally at odds with its own professed values?

A 2011 Gallup poll found that a minority of Democrats -- 38 percent -- believe that abortion should be legal under any and all circumstances. That puts the majority of Democrats on the wrong side of what the administration likes to call "the war on women.

Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, doesn't get why her party continues to marginalize her point of view. "This is what the Democratic Party historically has fought for -- the vulnerable, the needy and the unborn," she told me.
Politically, it doesn't make sense. The party needs anti-abortion Democrats to leverage a majority of the House.

Deeply, deeply weird stuff.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:53 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

September 04, 2012

Women Voters as Single Issue Sheep

Madeleine Albright appears to be confused about the way representative government works. You see, in a democratic republic, rational adults can (and often do) examine the same issues and come to entirely different - and diverse - conclusions! Progressive dogma generally treats diversity with the kind of veneration generally reserved for sacred relics, the innate legitimacy of which cannot be questioned. We are continually urged to be more inclusive - to ensure that everything from government to corporate leadership embrace minorities and women (who are not actually a minority) because of the unique perspectives they bring to the table.

Unlike men, who have argued about everything under the sun since the dawn of time, the presumption seems to be that the uterus-having half of humanity (while being fully equal to/interchangeable with men in every way) ought to be different from men in one crucial respect: our biology should dictate our political positions. For while it would be primitive and uncivilized for men to think with their fifth appendages, the mere possession of a uterus and other, more evolved ladyparts (some of which have written entire books about themselves!) bestows upon women a mystical, magical kinship that suppresses critical inquiry and unites us into a sort of hive mind, not unlike The Borg collective. In case that seemed like a non sequitur, you read correctly. Unlike men, women show true liberation when we all think alike:

"I'm not sure I'm going to state this exactly right," she said, sitting amidst a sea of convention-related activity and daytime wine drinkers in the Westin hotel lobby in downtown Charlotte. "But I think there are some who believe they are actually protecting women, you know, and that it is better for women to be taken care of. I think women want to take care of themselves, and I think having a voice in how that is done is very important. And frankly, I don’t understand -- I mean, I'm obviously a card-carrying Democrat -- but I can't understand why any woman would want to vote for Mitt Romney, except maybe Mrs. Romney."

Albright then revised her pool of rationally thinking female Romney supporters to include his five daughters-in-law, an obvious but hardly generous expansion. Even with the rhetorical flair, however, Albright's comments reflect a genuine disturbance that many Democrats -- women and men -- feel about the tone of the discussion of women's issues during the course of the campaign.

The Romney women appear to be excepted from Ms. Albright's expectation that the fairer sex think (and vote) as one. For reasons not explained (undoubtedly because women already understand them and men never will, no matter how patiently we explain), it is profoundly irrational for women to vote for conservatives, but entirely rational for us to vote for our spouses or relatives by marriage. Tribalism trumps principle or self interest every time.

But wait! There's more to Ms. Albright's unique philosophical stylings! Women shouldn't vote for Republicans because of that icky fellow with the weird ideas about contraception. You know, the one who was pretty much uniformly denounced by his fellow conservatives a few weeks ago?

The former secretary of State, who has been an outspoken advocate for women in the workplace, said she found the assertion by Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) that a rape victim can shut down her body to avoid pregnancy to be "one of the more outrageous" comments she's witnessed in her 75 years.

So let's get this straight: a party that defended a man who flouted the sexual harassment laws progressive women fought for is not outrageous enough to cause women to doubt the party's commitment to so-called women's issues. That was only an outrageous action. Outrageous comments are a much more serious matter...as is believing in the value of human life, or even acknowledging that abortion rights impact anyone but pregnant women.

"It was appalling and disgusting," she said. "But if I may say so, the things that he said in one form or another are in the Republican platform. So [while Republicans are] saying he is a nutcase and they have to move away from him, they did not move away from their platform."

Her reference was to language in the GOP platform that outlaws abortion even in cases of rape or incest. It's a policy that Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), has embraced throughout his career, before distancing himself in the wake of Akin's remarks. Romney has always supported such exceptions. Even so, Albright argued, he had "become captive to a party that does in fact think that women should not have voices."

This is just nonsense - no one, not even the uber-outrageous Todd Akin - has suggested that women should not have a voice in public policy. We already have the vote, and no one is trying to keep us from speaking out in public, from trying to influence the platform of either party, or from advocating for our position on matters that impact our lives. If anyone is trying to silence women's voices, it's Albright (who seems to be unaware that the pro-life movement is full of real, live women). Failing to acknowledge this fact amounts to ignoring these women; acting as though they don't matter. This is something we thought only The Patriarchy was guilty of. Apparently, we were wrong: as far as the DNC is concerned, dissenting female voices might as well not exist. They can be safely disregarded; marginalized.

Unlike Ms. Albright, I would never dream of lumping all women into the same category. I know why I have voted Republican for most of my adult life, and why the GOP's platform on abortion doesn't bother me one bit:

1. Neither the President nor any elected official has the power to unilaterally overrule Roe vs. Wade, though even if they did, this would not prevent me from voting conservative.

In a democratic republic, people are allowed to disagree and they are allowed to try to persuade their fellow citizens to support their preferred policy positions. Debate and dissent is not a threat to anyone's rights - it's the foundation of our rights under the Constitution.

Like it or not, Roe is the law of the land. It can only be reversed by the Supreme Court. So Democratic ads that frighten women with scary talk of what Romney or Ryan would do once in office are a particularly dishonest form of fear mongering. Misleading women about basic facts to get them to vote the way you want doesn't strike me as respectful of women's intelligence or agency.

Assuming that women are just as capable as men of debating or defending their own values, on the other hand, is the very definition of respectful, equal treatment. It's what feminism claims to want, but often opposes in practice.

Women aren't weak, pathetic creatures who need to be shielded from scary debates and distressing facts. We're are not threatened by debate or disagreement because we know we can hold our own. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, many of us neither want nor need the federal government to promise us free contraceptives.

A movement that claims to believe men and women should be treated equally under the law has no business giving women preferential treatment under the law. Men have an interest in birth control too. They have an interest in preventing STDs and AIDS. And yet ObamaCare does not provide free contraception for men.

Why is that? And how can a truly progressive party support such outrageously gender-biased treatment under federal law? That's a question Ms. Albright probably won't be asking anytime soon.

But she should.

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

Update: Somewhere in America, a Republican has supported a law we don't like!!!11! Oh, the humanity! Inexplicably, despite our support for the legality of limited abortion, we are not terrified.

Apparently, these folks need to brush up on their SCOTUS decisions.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:58 AM | Comments (33) | TrackBack

September 03, 2012

Brilliant

The Experts on Coded Racism explain what only racists are supposed to be able to hear:

After GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s rousing and effective convention acceptance speech last night, I found myself snapping my fingers as the GOP convention’s band in Tampa played that old hit, “Living in America.” Suddenly, it dawned on me: Team Romney might be transmitting racial messages.

I consulted my copy of the definitive reference on this topic, A Black Man’s Guide to Whitey’s Racial Code, by Jesse Jackson and Kanye West (Sharpton Books, 2010). I flipped past the highly apologetic introduction by Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.). Just as I suspected, page 178 confirmed that “Living in America” was a Billboard Top 4 song by the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. This, as Jackson and West teach us, is a subtle message designed to remind Caucasians that President Obama has brown skin. Also, the song was written by Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight. It doesn’t get any darker than midnight.

Marveling at the high art of this inter-ethnic information transfer, I checked Romney’s speech itself for additional clandestine, Caucasian communications.

...I also decided to review vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s soaring and inspirational acceptance speech. It proved to be a veritable NSA of racial code.

In his exquisitely written speech’s most eloquent line, Ryan remarked that the Obama presidency is “like a ship trying to sail on yesterday’s wind.” One of America’s dirty little secrets is that sailing is a predominantly white pastime. Ryan deftly informed America’s majority-white yachtsmen that Obama is black. Surely some were unaware of this fact.

...at the end of his speech, Ryan kissed his blond-haired, blue-eyed wife. This was a covert signal to white Americans: Unlike Barack Obama’s better half, Paul Ryan’s wife is white, not black. As a black man, it took me and my Jesse Jackson/Kanye West guide all night and most of the morning to decipher Romney and Ryan’s racial code. I truly envy my white readers who immediately could interpret the siren song of these dog whistles.

Now if we could just get a definitive ruling on the color of golf?

Two or three weeks ago, Bill Maher said about President Obama, “In many ways — especially for progressives — he is too white for them. He plays golf, he’s too cozy with bankers.” So, golf is white, in the “progressive” mind (or at least in Maher’s).

But then comes Lawrence O’Donnell to say, No, golf is black — and if you’re associating Obama with golf, you’re associating him with blackness.

Maybe fact checkers would help?

Posted by Cassandra at 11:54 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Is Ideology the Chicken? Or the Egg?

Michael Oakeshott on ideology as an abstraction of reality:

Oakeshott also spoke of the “ideological style” in politics. This style is dissatisfied with the unplanned, undesigned order which has come to be through a combination of chance and choice over a long period of time and which is understood through the familiarity those who participate in it acquire. Such order will be misunderstood if judged according to an independently premeditated model of what it “ought to look like.” Oakeshott argues that this ideological vision can never in fact be independent; it is constructed by abstraction from actual experience, offering what appears to be a coherent design only because it sets aside all the complexities with which, if it is “put into practice,” it will inevitably have to deal and which will immediately begin to reveal its inappropriateness:
If, however, we consider more closely the character of a political ideology we find at once that….So far from a political ideology being the quasi-divine parent of political activity, it turns out to be its earthly stepchild. Instead of an independently premeditated scheme of ends to be pursued, it is a system of ideas abstracted from the manner in which people have been accustomed to go about the business of attending to the arrangements of their societies….political activity comes first and a political ideology follows after…(“Political Education,” RIP, 51)

Posted by Cassandra at 11:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Knowledge Problem

It has been a dark and somewhat gloomy weekend in our little corner of western Maryland. For days, thick clouds have covered up the sun and the air is hushed and heavy with pent up energy. There are storms to the north, west, and south of us, but here you can almost feel the emptiness when you venture out of doors: everything is silent, waiting for something to rush in and fill the void.

Fall is coming. It's my favorite season, not the least because of the stark contrast between crisp, dry Indian summer days and ones like this, where an ancient sadness seems to fill the air. It feels like anticipatory grief, that odd mourning that precedes long deployments; a natural bracing for the death of summer and cold, barren landscape that will soon replace the view outside my office window - at least until Spring sends the chipmunks out of their toasty tunnels to forage for whatever it is chipmunks like to munch on April mornings.

The garden was gorgeous a few weeks ago - full of pink and purple yarrow and riots of black-eyed Susans and the deep, rich purple spikes of the butterfly bushes I planted at the beginning of August, teeming with brilliant butterflies and industious bumblebees. I imagine it would light up again for me, if only the sun would come out, but under this thick, overcast sky everything looks slightly moth-eaten and past its prime.

It feels so different, writing here. I loved our little house in the woods: glimpsing the lake, glistening and cool and green between the trees, and watching fat squirrels and ribbon snakes darting along in the shade under the stone wall. Our new house is filled with sunlight. I don't love it as fiercely as I did our old place but I am happier here, I think. And my husband is home. At the end of each day he walks through the front door and folds me into his arms and we decide what to have for dinner. There's a predictability to that, to the little rituals of married life, that has been missing for so many years.


I stayed away from my computer this weekend and dreaded returning to it on Monday. The toxicity gets to me sometimes - the charges and countercharges, the accusations of lying, of bad faith, of racism. Somehow we're supposed to revel in it all, to be unaffected by the nastiness.

I'm not sure we should be, though. It's hard enough to wade though the philosophical arguments without the added burden of inferring malign motives to people we'll never really know, usually on no evidence. The idea that we are getting a clear picture from openly partisan campaign ads or blog posts or op-eds is nothing short of delusional. Still, we have to make up our minds and to do that, we have to separate the infinitesimally tiny grains of wheat from the mounds of chaff. How do we do that?

Over the last few election cycles, fact checkers have multiplied like unmatched socks in the laundry room. They're everywhere we turn, but far from clarifying the confusion, they seem to be making it worse:

... this year the MSM will righteously strike back against “Post-Truth Politics” through rigorous fact-checking, followed by a manly, non-balanced, yet authoritative calling out of transgressors for the liars that they are. James Fallows and Jay Rosen, among others, have heralded this great new day. One problem, of course, is the ease–rather, the constant temptation–of presenting debatable policy issues as right/wrong fact issues, a problem emphasized by dissenter Ben Smith yesterday. Another is the way what Smith calls “the new pseudo science of fact-checks” opens up a giant sluice for the introduction of concealed bias, especially when “facts” are fed to the fact-checkers by the competing campaigns.

But a simpler problem is that the MSM’s fact-checkers often don’t know what they’re talking about. For example, the oft-cited CNN-”fact check” of Romney’s welfare ad makes a big deal of HHS secretary Sebelius’ pledge that she will only grant waivers to states that “commit that their proposals will move at least 20% more people from welfare to work.” CNN swallows this 20% Rule whole in the course of declaring Romney’s objection “wrong”:

The waivers gave “those states some flexibility in how they manage their welfare rolls as long as it produced 20% increases in the number of people getting work.”

Why, it looks as if Obama wants to make the work provisions tougher! Fact-check.org cites the same 20% rule.

I was initially skeptical of Sebelius’ 20% pledge, since a) it measures the 20% against “the state’s past performance,” not what the state’s performance would be if it actually tried to comply with the welfare law’s requirements as written, and b) Sebelius pulled it out of thin air only after it became clear that the new waiver rule could be a political problem for the president. She could just as easily drop it in the future.

But Robert Rector, a welfare reform zealot who nevertheless does know what he’s talking about, has now published a longer analysis of the 20% rule. Turns out it’s not as big a scam as I’d thought it was. It’s a much bigger scam. For one thing, anything states do to increase the number of people on welfare will automatically increase the “exit” rate–what the 20% rule measures–since the more people going on welfare, the more people leave welfare for jobs in the natural course of things, without the state’s welfare bureaucrats doing anything at all. Raise caseloads by 20% and Sebelius’ standard will probably be met. (Maybe raise caseloads 30% just to be sure.) So what looks like a tough get-to-work incentive is actually a paleoliberal “first-get-on-welfare” incentive.

The blog princess deals with the knowledge problem a lot in her day job. Software - especially the kind of software we build - is fraught with complexity issues. We're trying to take extremely complicated tasks and make them simpler; to make hard decisions, easier. Is that even possible? Perhaps, but I'm a skeptic. Or we try to make hard decisions more accessible to people who haven't taken the time or effort to try to understand the nature of the problem they're trying to solve.

This is the problem with fact checkers: they can't possibly be knowledgable about complex political questions, but they have to be in order to do their jobs. So they take short cuts. They look for evidence that confirms their hypotheses and when they find it, they stop looking - and learning - about this issue. They don't have the time or energy to master the subject they're supposedly educating us about.

But the knowledge problem doesn't just affect fact checkers. It's true to an even greater extent of voters.

We turn to them because we don't have time to understand the myriad issues thrown out during election season in all their complexity. Arguably, no one person really can (though this doens't stop morons on both sides of the aisle from expecting just that of the candidates).

I understand those who are suspicious of "the establishment"; who think that reading a few newspaper articles, op-eds, or blog posts somehow bestows a deep understanding of thorny issues on which there is frequently no consensus, even among experts who have studied them for decades. I understand them because I share their suspicion: it's only human nature to suspect the powerful of abusing their power.

But I suspect the grassrootilicious element in both parties even more, because I know for certain that the vast majority of them don't really understand half the issues they get so passionate about. That little observation won't endear me to most readers, I know. But I include myself in that vast tarpit of political ignorance.

The thing is, I have a healthy suspicion of my own understanding. And I don't understand the mindset that gives credence to what - to me - seems like a incredibly ludicrous idea: that Everyman is better able to make decisions on complex issues than those who are immersed in those issues 24/7. That we should trust people who know nothing (or close to nothing) more than those who have made it their business to know a lot. That the grassrooty element is somehow above the venality and human weaknesses exhibited by Teh Establishment: bias, emotion, passion, greed, laziness.

I don't buy it - not for a single moment. It's a fantasy.

I'm not arguing for blind trust of those in power. What I'm arguing for is equal opportunity skepticism...and perhaps just a little humility. We don't like uncertainty. We like our lines clear cut, and we like to know who to root for (and against). That's what this election is about - aligning the cheering sections with their respective champions. Making us feel an illusory sureness unmatched by reality.

But uncertainty is perhaps the most accurate representation of our actual knowledge that exists, uncomfortable as it may be. We take a risk every time we vote for men or the policies they claim to support. The truth is that even the best policy will be implemented by flawed human beings and no one is smart enough to guarantee success.

And so we're back to character and integrity and the vivid contrast between public and private behavior, ad campaigns and actual performance records. I think we've chosen about as well as we call this election season: not a perfect human being and almost certaintly not a wholly unselfish one. I'm not sure such a thing even exists, or that if it did that kind of person could win an election.

That used to be enough for us. I don't know what it says that we keep looking for something more: a hero who is far more accomplished and honest and intelligent than Everyman, who somehow manages not to make us feel inferior. Who convinces us that he's just like us (though of course he's not). That he shares all our values - disparate as they may be. That he understands (and has personally experienced!) every unique tribulation the human condition has ever suffered, because we all know that the fear of death is not as scary as the fear of losing a job. It's not enough to have experienced fear, or grief, or loss. We want someone who has experienced these emotions for the same reasons.

It's not reasonable, but then most of us - the electorate - are not entirely reasonable. And yet this is how most of us make decisions, isn't it? The facts take a back seat to our feelings.

Is this a good thing? Discuss amongst your ownselves.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:22 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack