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October 31, 2012

Interesting Fact of the Day

Here:

It may be hard to believe, but cheerleading produces a larger number of catastrophic injuries — concussions, skull fractures, cervical spine injuries, paralysis and death — than any other sport, male or female. Kids get hurt in gymnastics, softball, soccer and basketball, but there are twice as many severe casualties in cheerleading as in all the other female sports combined.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:44 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

What In The Heck Is Going On Around Here?

This kind of thing bears watching, IYKWIMAITYD:

Anna Clark, 35, says that a red fox stole her handbag. Or maybe "borrowed" is the correct term, since the little critter apparently brought it back.

Anna's husband, 38-year-old Jeremy Clark, told The Argus yesterday that the couple was standing in their driveway in West Sussex, England, when the fox appeared and snatched up the bag in his mouth.

Jeremy said he yelled at the fox to drop the bag, but the fox didn't listen, taking off into the bushes instead.

A few minutes later, Jeremy claims, the fox returned, reportedly looking guilty, and placed the bag back at Anna's feet before scurrying off once more.

...No charges were filed.

This isn't the first fox to flirt with the wrong side of the law. In August, a fox, along with his accomplice, a pig, reportedly helped a kangaroo escape from a zoo in Germany.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:14 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

October 30, 2012

MacArthur Park Caption Contest

"....and I'll never have that recipe agaaaaaaaaaain!"

Update: replaced photo with the one I couldn't find earlier.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:43 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Moving the Goalposts Caption Contest Winners

After much hype and several broken promises (how appropriate), the long awaited Moving the Goalposts Caption Contest winners are...

[drum roll]

1st place:
Grim: "Oh, look, a softball!"

2nd place:
George Pal: ...and then I saw this giant chalupa in the sky... it was singing... singing "blame it on the boss with ova"

3rd place:
spd rdr: "Of course you can't see it. It's a divine teleprompter!"

Since there were so many good entries, we decided to pick a few honorable mentions:

Fire Marshall Bill: Move that halon nozzle a little closer, these slacks aren't flame retardant ya know...

Yu-Ain Gonnano: Alright Economy, just fall down, I'll catch you!

htom: As God is my witness, I thought Obama would be able to balance the budget.


Posted by Cassandra at 12:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Stay Classy, Joe

The Vice President of the United States consoles Chris Woods, father of slain Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods who died in the attack on our consulate in Benghazi:

Mr Woods last week told Glenn Beck that he was disappointed by his meeting with senior officials at the event marking the return of the dead men's bodies.

He said that Biden had acted inappropriately, asking the Woods family in a 'loud and boisterous' tone, 'Did your son always have balls the size of cue balls?' Mr Woods asked, 'Are these the words of someone who is sorry?'

Actually, we'd have to say, "Yes - Biden is about as sorry as it gets."

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

The Obama/Panetta Doctrine: Delay, Deny, CYA

“(The) basic principle is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on; without having some real-time information about what’s taking place,” Panetta told Pentagon reporters. “And as a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area, Gen. Ham, Gen. Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.”

- SecDef Leon Panetta


For days, the Blog Princess has been trying to find words to describe what she thinks of the preceding excuse for a policy statement. But after some reflection, someone else has said it better:

If you need a reminder to buy bottled water and tape the widows before a hurricane, Obama is your man. If you’re running a machine gun, soon to be covered in your own blood, on the roof of a building under fire in Libya at 3 a.m., if you’ve called three times over a period of almost seven hours for air cover that is within a couple of hours away (or, as we might learn, in the armed drone directly above) — well, you’re on your own. The president will get back to you.

Nearly two months after this attack, the CIA, White House, and Pentagon have all denied refusing to send help to beseiged Americans in Benghazi. It's enough to make one wonder who was in charge?

The CIA is denying. The Pentagon is denying. And now the White House is denying that anyone refused to send help to our embattled CIA and State Department personnel engaged in a seven hour running firefight with more than 150 jihadists.

It just doesn’t get any lamer than this:

The White House on Saturday flatly denied that President Barack Obama withheld requests for help from the besieged American compound in Benghazi, Libya, as it came under on attack by suspected terrorists on September 11th.

“Neither the president nor anyone in the White House denied any requests for assistance in Benghazi,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told Yahoo News by email.

What is the administration saying here? On the one hand we have Secretary Panetta saying he won't send troops in without real time information on the ground and on the other, they seem to be calling those on the scene liars:

Former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods was part of a small team who was at the CIA annex about a mile from the U.S. consulate where Ambassador Chris Stevens and his team came under attack. When he and others heard the shots fired, they informed their higher-ups at the annex to tell them what they were hearing and requested permission to go to the consulate and help out. They were told to "stand down," according to sources familiar with the exchange. Soon after, they were again told to "stand down."

Stop and think for a moment about Panetta's statement. If having surveillance drones on the scene and cables and emails coming out of the area isn't "real time information", what is?

Incredibly, the NY Times describes warnings of impending violence in Benghazi "plentiful but unspecific". But it doesn't get more specific than this:

There was no doubt, however, that there were many in Benghazi who knew the compound’s location. On June 6, a bomb was planted near the American Mission’s outer wall, blowing out a 12-foot-wide hole. No one was injured.

On June 11, the lead vehicle of the British ambassador’s convoy was hit by an armor-piercing rocket-propelled grenade, wounding a British medic and driver. The British envoy left Benghazi the next day, and the British post in the city was closed on June 17.

About the same time, the Red Cross in the city pulled out after it was attacked a second time. “When that occurred, it was apparent to me that we were the last flag flying in Benghazi; we were the last thing on their target list to remove,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, the head of the military security team in Tripoli.

Two prior attacks in the past five months on the compound, the British and the Red Cross leaving after being attacked. What more was the White House looking for?

An engraved invitation with the date and time of the next attack?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:56 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Inconvenient Truth of the Day

Unexpectedly(!), several studies of the relationship between national investments in higher education and economic growth find... no relationship whatsoever:

We're guessing hiring lots of teachers doesn't help, either:

If raising education really is so fantastic for countries, why can't we find nation-level evidence of that? We can easily find evidence that switching to faster money growth usually predicts higher inflation, that switching to more market-oriented institutions predicts faster economic growth. The correlations show up just fine there--so why is data-torturing required when countries switch to pro-education policies?

And if defenders of increased education want to claim that "We just need to do it right next time" then defenders of sound social science need to retort: "Then I'm sure you'll understand if we absolutely insist on solid, experimentally sound evidence, along with proof of scalability, before we sign off on a nationwide program that will cost a couple of percent of GDP."

Speaking of evidence:

Mexico has spent heavily on higher education in the last decade, particularly for schools of engineering. Somehow, somebody down there decided the way to build a prosperous economy was to train lots of engineers, who would then attract and create engineering jobs. Sadly, they got the directional arrow wrong— leading to a boondoggle of immense proportions.

Most prosperous countries started out educating people for job openings, not the other way around. Many of the new engineers are woefully underemployed, or unemployed entirely. The government is footing the bill, and it must have cost a bundle to a country that isn’t exactly flush. Central planners everywhere are scratching their heads wondering why, since their attempts to mandate production quotas have never worked anywhere, they didn’t work this time around, either.

Of course, the same sort of thinking is going on in this country. Last year, Virginia put into law a mandate to produce 100,000 more graduates, and North Carolina is considering something comparable.

This would be funnier if it weren't so predictable.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:38 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 29, 2012

Hunkering Alert

Sorry for the dearth of posts. We are hunkering down for the storm.

Making a chicken stew and some spaghetti sauce in case we lose power later.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:44 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

October 26, 2012

Oooh! Do Me, Barack!

Because we care, we present the unintentionally amusing campaign ad of the Day. It's hard to be outraged about this, especially given the relative dearth of the plentiful comic relief we enjoyed during the 2008 campaign.

The ad is actually pretty funny, albeit not in the way its creator intended:

The real question is, "Do you really want your first time to be with a man who throws like this?"

Highly doubtful. In light of this startling new theme, feel free to suggest new slogans for the Obama campaign in the comments section, haters.

If you come up with a good one, we may even deign to judge that caption contest.

CWCID for the photo: Doug Powers over at Michelle Malkin's.

Posted by Cassandra at 03:57 AM | Comments (31) | TrackBack

October 25, 2012

Run Along Now, Children

Barack is too grown up for all this childish talk about reason, productive achievement, individual rights, and laissez-faire capitalism:

Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we'd pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we're only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we're considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity – that that's a pretty narrow vision. It's not one that, I think, describes what's best in America. Unfortunately, it does seem as if sometimes that vision of a "you're on your own" society has consumed a big chunk of the Republican Party.

You have been schooled, Selfist* Knuckle Draggers. Learn from it, as my man Barack has.

*no, this isn't a typo

Posted by Cassandra at 07:42 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Rudy Giuliani on the Two Prior Benghazi Attacks

On the way home from work last night, the Blog Princess listened to Rudy Giuliani's remarks to the Chamber of Commerce on CSPAN. His comments on the Benghazi debacle were spot on:

Our consulate in Benghazi was attacked twice before, in April and June of 2012 that exact consulate was attacked by Islamic extremist terrorists. The second time it was attacked, they blew a hole in the wall and according to the eye witnesses, it was big enough for a truck to go through.

Now I want to know if the President knew that? I want to know if the President knew that on September 12th, 2012? I can't conceive that he didn't know it. If he didn't know it, we are really in a disaster.

If somehow the consulate in Benghazi could be attacked twice, once with a big hole in the wall, and the National Security Advisor during the security briefings he's supposed to get every day didn't tell him, then we have a serious problem. What is the answer? Did he know about it?

If he didn't know about it, explain two things to me. Why wasn't there further security for the consulate? Why were we there in the first place? The British pulled their consulate out. They pulled the consulate out after the first attack. The British government wasn't afraid of the embarrassment that might happen because maybe Libya wasn't as successful as the Obama administration was trying to pretend it was. They were more concerned about the safety and lives of their personnel.

We have the two attacks. We didn't give the consulate any more security. According to State Department employees we rejected requests for more security and we actually reduced the security!

Now when the attack takes place on September 11, you're the President of the United States and there have been two prior terrorist attacks on that consulate. How long does it take you to figure out that this was not a protest over a Mohammed movie but was actually an attack by the same Islamist extremists that tried to attack it before?

I say it takes you about one minute to figure it out. I figured it out about three minutes after I was told about it.

..When I was told about it, my first reaction was: September 11? An attack? Benghazi? Got to be a planned terrorist attack. Instead, we're treated to two or three weeks of nonsense about the Mohammed movie and how this crazy man who did this stupid movie caused this.

I can't -- there's something really wrong here.

If in fact the President knew about those two prior attacks, it can't be possible he would allow the administration to peddle that drivel for two weeks when you know that this consulate was a target of Islamic extremist terrorists TWICE before and there was a third time.

And before this election gets decided, someone should get that answer from the President. I was kind of disappointed during the debate because we didn't find that out. But hopefully before the election is over, we will.

For the life of me, I can't understand why the media isn't all over the fact that this same consulate was attacked two other times in less than 6 months. That's not a minor detail: it's a bombshell.

In the five months leading up to this year’s 9/11 anniversary, there were two bombings on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and increasing threats to and attacks on the Libyan nationals hired to provide security at the U.S. missions in Tripoli and Benghazi.

... The letter also discloses for the first time a bombing at the U.S. consulate that occurred on April 6, 2012. It says that on that day, two former security guards for the consulate in Benghazi threw homemade improvised explosives over the consulate fence. That incident resulted in no casualties. The Wall Street Journal first reported last month that on June 6 militants detonated an explosive at the perimeter gate of the consulate, blowing a hole through the barrier. The letter to Clinton quotes one source who described the crater as “big enough for forty men to go through.”

I know I've made this point several times already, but if you're the President and you know our consulate has already been attacked not once, but TWICE in the past few months, how on earth can you not take an active interest how this situation is being managed?

Not to do so is criminal negligence, and it has cost four American lives.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:05 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

October 24, 2012

Specious Argument of the Day

Here:

In 1916, the US controlled roughly 11% of the world’s naval power. This is an impressive number that ranks the US third in naval strength behind the UK (34%) and Germany (19%), and just ahead of France (10%). What about the US navy in 2011? In 2011, the US controlled roughly 50% of the world’s naval power putting it in a comfortable lead in naval power ahead of Russia (11%).

The US Navy has decreased in absolute size as Governor Romney argues (although this decline has been ongoing since the end of Cold War). U.S. warships are more powerful now than in the past, as President Obama implied. However, neither the number of warships nor the power of our ships is what is most important for understanding military and political influence. It is relative military power that matters most.

The authors get it half right. It's not the size of our Navy relative to other navies that matters, but the size/capabilities of our Navy relative to their mission.

It's worth noting here that the scope of the mission is fluid - in an instant it can change, and ships can't be ordered up and built all that quickly. There are also quality of life considerations that arguably didn't apply in 1916. Modern military families can't imagine having a father or mother gone for years at a time, as was sometimes the case in WWI and WWII.

Any calculation of whether our modern Navy is "big enough" is necessarily dependent upon our values. What things do we want the Navy to be able to do? How much are we willing to spend on those tasks? What is our risk tolerance? This is a crucial question because military might is (at least to some extent) a function of redundancy. In war - and in peace - equipment grows old and breaks.

How much of our fleet is battle-ready?

I have no quarrel with the notion that this isn't simply a question of numbers or even of composition. But the idea that our "share of naval power" is a meaningful metric is simplistic nonsense. If our goal is to be able to project power effectively over a given area (whatever that may be), our allies' capabilities have to matter. If they unilaterally disarm, that reduces the number of ships we can call upon in a crisis.

It's probably fair to say that Barack Obama's idea of mission scope and Mitt Romney's are very different. This matters, because the whole question of "big enough" depends on "what do you want the Navy to do"? By their respective values, our current Navy probably seems too big to Obama and too small to Romney.

As a final aside, during the 2008 campaign, Obama promised to bring the troops home on a 16 month schedule that was wildly unrealistic and - as it turned out - unachievable in light of both logistical and security concerns:

Pulling nearly all U.S. troops and equipment out of Iraq in 16 months is "physically impossible," says a top officer involved in briefing the President-elect on U.S. operations in Iraq. That schedule would create a bottleneck of equipment and troops in the south of Iraq and Kuwait where brigades repair, clean and load vehicles and weapons for the trip home, said the official. Others say the U.S. could conceivably pull out on that time scale, although that would require leaving more equipment behind. A more important concern for officers is that the security gains in Iraq would be put at risk if troops were withdrawn before the Iraqi security forces are in a position to protect their own communities and borders.

In the end, Obama's much touted 16 month withdrawal grew to 18 months, and even then was achieved only by redefining the remaining brigades from "combat" to "advise and assist" and leaving a larger remain behind element than planned:

As we reported in July 2008, Obama’s 16 month withdrawal plan was not realistic. To save face, President Obama redesignated the 7 remaining combat brigades still in Iraq after his artificial 16 month deadline as “Advise and Assist Brigades,” and declared his scheduled end to the war in Iraq on August 31, 2011

This is what happens when we fail to consider our actual capabilities against our goals and build in contingency for the hundreds of things that will go wrong when an abstract plan meets concrete realities.

Those interested in exploring both the size and composition of our current Navy will enjoy these interactive charts.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:09 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

They Came in Peace

Regimes planted by bayonets do not take root... Our military strength is a prerequisite to peace, but let it be clear we maintain this strength in the hope it will never be used, for the ultimate determinant in the struggle that's now going on in the world will not be bombs and rockets but a test of wills and ideas, a trial of spiritual resolve, the values we hold, the beliefs we cherish, the ideals to which we are dedicated.

- Ronald Reagan

Today is the 29th anniversary of the bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.

In 1983 the blog princess was 24 and the spousal unit was a young 1st Lieutenant stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. We had just moved there with our two small sons, aged 4 and 1.

We bought our first home there; a three bedroom brick ranch affair in Brynn Marr. Marine life was still relatively new to two Navy juniors. I was busy planning activities with other Marine wives, terraforming our yard, sewing curtains and pillows and slipcovers and refinishing furniture in between long walks with two little boys and an incorrigible but loving beagle puppy. The spousal unit was working his way through the normal series of jobs in an artillery battalion. Life was slow paced - punctuated by field exercises and dinings in and out.

News of the Beirut bombing exploded like... well, a bomb into our peaceful existence. Suddenly, field exercises weren't just training for some distant war that might never come.

In an instant, the abstract became terrifyingly real. But the truth is that time has fogged my memories of that long ago era. The armor of youth and inexperience insulated me from true grief or fear; with the invincibility of inexperience, I still believed in my heart of hearts that no harm would ever befall those I had come to love in this strange family affectionately known as Uncle Sam's Misguided Children.

That knowledge was yet to come, repeated over and over again at Marine Balls where candles were lit, tears shed or stifled, and eyes averted from the empty place set at the table we shared.

I do, however, remember these words from our President:

“If there is to be blame, it properly rests here in this office, with this president,” Reagan said….

“Let me finally say that I have soberly consider the commission’s word about accountability and responsibility of authorities up and down the chain of command ….

“I do not believe, therefore, that the local commanders on the ground — men who have suffered quite enough — should be punished for not fully comprehending the nature of today’s terrorist threat. If there is to be blame it properly rests here in this office and with this president. And I accept the responsibility for the bad as well as the good.”

I didn't read newspapers much then. I was far too busy keeping house and taking care of our little family. So I never delved too deeply into the whys and wherefores of what happened in Beirut. In 2002, the Presidential Oral History Program at the University of Virginia interviewed then-SecDef Casper Weinburger about the tragedy. It's a sobering read, and a reminder of the heavy burden born by Presidents and of how terrifyingly easy it is to let our vigilance slip for a moment.

Oddly, what I remember most about the tragedy was how it brought a community together to mourn and remember the dead and comfort their families. The friction between civilian and military, familiar from a lifetime spent moving from one military town to another, vanished and the very atmosphere in Jacksonville changed. For a moment - perhaps forever - we became, all of us, family.

What I remember most is the sight of Bradford pear trees in bloom along Lejeune Boulevard and a stone marker with these words inscribed upon it:

LET PEACE TAKE ROOT.

War seems to generate a lot of abstract and fluffy quotes about how all it takes for peace to blossom is for people to refuse to fight. It's a lovely thought, but so long as men are free to choose war - so long as they are free - those who prefer violence to compromise and cooperation still have a vote.

Santayana was right: only the dead have seen the end of the war.

On this day, may we remember the men who protect the freedoms we enjoy. And their families, who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:14 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

October 23, 2012

Missing the Forest for the Horses and Bayonets

Over at Blackfive, Grim writes:

Aircraft carriers and boomer submarines are both good examples of just why a larger Navy is necessary. US power projection is indeed built around these ships, but both kinds of ships require significant support from other ships. If boomer subs lack cover from attack subs, they are in peril. If you send an aircraft carrier into danger without adequate destroyer cover you will lose it. This is why every carrier strike group includes not just the power-projecting carrier and guided missile cruisers, but destroyers and anti-aircraft warships.

That doesn't even touch the number of pure support vessels that are afloat to keep the warships tended. Nor does it treat other means of power projection built around Navy vessels, such as the Marine Corps' 'Gator Freighters.'

... It's one thing to say that you want a smaller, less capable American navy for some reason -- or that you are willing to accept a reduced American capacity to project power around the world. It's another thing to suggest that these ships are examples of why we don't need a large Navy. In fact, the model of power projection built around these ships is exactly why we need a large Navy. The ships are evidence for the opposite of the President's argument.

In other news, Obama's reflexive urge to deflect responsibility for his own decisions may backfire:

The Pentagon cuts were supposed to be more painful for defense hawks in the Republican Party and force them to agree to a deal that raises taxes by closing loopholes. Democrats have floated ending tax breaks for oil companies and imposing a minimum tax on millionaires as part of a sequester replacement deal.

The GOP aide said that this tactical mistake would cost Obama votes in Virginia, a swing-state with many military service members and defense industry workers.

“Ads are being run on the issue. Obama says it won't happen and his aides immediately say, ‘Wait a sec ...’ ” the aide said.

“It’s interesting that he’s taken the sequester off the table — even though he’s the one that put it there,” said a Senate aide.

Wielding all that Smart Power is hard.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:32 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Ships, Horses, Bayonets...and a Clueless Commander in Chief

Update: "Horses/bayonets" quip fact checked and found wanting.

What leapt out at me during last night's debate was how stunningly dishonest, uninformed, and disengaged a Commander in Chief we have. Two comments in particular cast the President's disastrous disinterest into bold relief. The first was on sequestration:

... the biggest gaffe—or deliberate evasion—of the evening was made by Mr. Obama when he denied paternity for the sequester defense cuts now set for 2013 and said they "will not happen." Mr. Obama's aides rushed out after the debate to say he meant to say the cuts "should not happen."

But the truth is that Mr. Obama has been using the fear of huge defense cuts as a political strategy to force Republicans to accept a tax increase. As Bob Woodward describes in his recent book, Mr. Obama and the White House helped to devise the defense sequester strategy—no matter the actual risk to defense.

"No matter the actual risk": if that phrase doesn't neatly encapsulate Obama's decision making process as commander in chief, I don't know what does. He acts as though there were no connection between his decisions and events on the ground. Sequestration is unpopular, therefore he simply declares that "it won't happen", leaving his aides scrambling to reframe their boss's bizarrely contrafactual assertions:

But in the real world, the truth matters and the truth is that sequestration cuts would drastically affect not only future procurement but current readiness and op tempo, risking both the lives of our armed forces and their ability to protect American interests abroad:

"Last month I visited the Central Command region had the opportunity to visit both of our aircraft carriers, our minesweepers, our patrol craft, and other ships in the region. I talked to over 10,000 of our forward deployed Sailors," said Ferguson. "At every forum, Sailors - from the most junior to our operational commanders - expressed concern regarding what sequestration will mean to our Navy and their service. The uncertainty of our fiscal future is increasingly on the minds of our force."

...[Vice Chief of Naval Operations] Ferguson pointed out that sequestration implementation would potentially impact mission accomplishment for the Navy.

"With existing forces, we are already seeing longer deployments. Carriers are operating at about 8 months, ballistic missile defense ships (operating at) 9 months, with very rapid turnaround to go back on deployment. We would not be able to sustain that going forward under sequestration. You would see less presence forward, and you would see less ability to surge," said Ferguson.

To the long list of things our Commander in Chief apparently does not know about the military he commands, add the fact that (contrary to his sneering jibes) bayonets are still an integral part of every Marine's basic training. British troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan still use the bayonet to good effect:

Just last month a British soldier was honored for a bayonet charge on the Taliban that he led in 2011. This charge was reminiscent of another British bayonet charge in Basra, Iraq, in 2004. In 2011, Col. Muammar Gaddafi was also reportedly killed by a bayonet stab to the rear.”

A Commander in Chief should know that. But this is a man who thinks wars can be fought by unmanned aerial drones like the ones that watched impotently from the sky as over 30 Americans were attacked in Benghazi:

CBS News has been told that, hours after the attack began, an unmanned Predator drone was sent over the U.S. mission in Benghazi, and that the drone and other reconnaissance aircraft apparently observed the final hours of the protracted battle.

... The Pentagon says it did move a team of special operators from central Europe to the large Naval Air Station in Sigonella, Italy, but gave no other details. Sigonella is just an hour's flight from Libya. Other nearby bases include Aviano and Souda Bay. Military sources tell CBS News that resources at the three bases include fighter jets and Specter AC-130 gunships, which the sources say can be extremely effective in flying in and buzzing a crowd to disperse it.

Rick Nelson, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former Navy pilot who worked in counter-terrorism, says such missions can be very risky. "A lot can go well, right, as we saw with the bin Laden raid. It was a very successful event," he says. "But also, when there are high risk activities like this. a lot can go wrong, as we saw with the Iranian hostage rescue decades ago."

Add to the controversy the fact that the last two Americans didn't die until more than six hours into the attack, and the question of U.S. military help becomes very important.

It's entirely possible that the military could not have arrived in time to save Ambassador Stevens or the three other Americans who lost their lives in the Benghazi attack. But they could have secured our consulate and driven home the message that the United States will not passively sit and watch as our Ambassador is murdered and our consulate and sensitive documents looted.

What kind of message is sent when the President of the United States responds serious questions about military readiness with ignorant and dismissive quips about ships being as antiquated as horses and bayonets?

What kind of message is sent when the press are not only able to gain access to our consulate, but retrieve sensitive documents left lying around but the President of the United States can't manage to get his investigators into the country?

What kind of message is sent by a President whose first instinct was to blame a movie no one has actually seen for the Benghazi attack - who, years after the disastrous attack on our troops at Fort Hood, is still hesitant to label it a terrorist attack?

It is hard to believe this is still in dispute:
Nearly three years after the shooting rampage at Fort Hood, many of those affected are urging the U.S. government to declare it a terrorist attack, saying wounded soldiers and victims' relatives otherwise won't receive the same benefits as those in a combat zone.

This was ruled a "workplace dispute". Really? A guy running through an area yelling "Allu Akbar" who we find out was radicalized by a Muslim Imam who preached jihad against the US? Sounds like the administration's description of the Benghazi incident. "Spontaneous protests that got out of hand". Yeah, Ft. Hood was as much an "act of terrorism" as was Benghazi (as it is now recognized).

This is a president who likes to think of his leadership style as cooly cerebral and dispassionate. Like an unmanned predator drone, he hovers over world events from a safe distance, taking it all in.

And doing absolutely nothing.

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

UPDATE: Commenter Joseph W. makes a point wrt the Hasan attack:

One thing I don't blame the President for is keeping quiet about the subject of a court-martial, such as MAJ Hasan's. Doing so would give the defense an "unlawful command influence" issue from hell to keep raising on appeal for years to come, to try to invalidate the conviction. There's no need for it.

I hope that President Romney, if such he becomes, is also careful in what he says, if anything, about MAJ Hasan's rampage. If he gets a death sentence from a court-martial, the President will be the man to approve that personally. At which point actions will speak louder than words.

In the comments, I asked him how a simple statement from the President acknowledging the connection to radical Islamism could be construed as unlawful command influence. He responds here:

It's a tangled area of military law. Have you ever heard of U.S. v. Brice? It was a USMC case back in the 80's -- a Marine got tried for selling dope. After the first day of trial, everyone on base had to attend a lecture by the Commandant of the Corps on drugs.

At the next session, the judge admonished the panel members (i.e., the jury) not to let the speech influence their votes, all the members swore up and down that they wouldn't be influenced by it -- and yet the Court of Military Appeals (which is now the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces) ultimately overturned the conviction. They did so without even examining what the Commandant actually said - because of the "confluence of the subject and timing as they affect the minds -- however subtly and imperceptibly -- of the triers of fact..."

Hasan can't plead guilty, because that's not allowed in military death penalty cases. So for the President even to say "MAJ Hasan killed these people" would be problematic -- it would be someone in the members' chain of command, right at the top of it, expressing an opinion about the facts. Saying, "MAJ Hasan did this because of radical Islam" or even "Somebody, God knows who, did this, but it was someone of a radical Islamist stripe..." (like this MAJ Hasan fellow) runs into exactly the same problem.

Given the way death penalty appeals drag on, it would be unwise to add yet another for the appeals - especially not an issue that might actually have some traction. So, frustrating as it might be, Obama is doing well to hold his tongue on the subject. It seems weird, because the facts in this case are so clear-cut, but it actually does make sense.

As the blog princess is not a lawyer (nor does she pretend to be one in cyberspace), this seems like a reasonable point. I will say, however, that Obama certainly wasn't worried about the appearance of unlawful command influence in this case:

On Thursday, April 21, 2011 in San Francisco, a group of Bradley Manning supporters raised their concerns directly to the president in song at a fundraiser. Logan Price, from the Bradley Manning Support Network, was able to question President Obama directly afterwards. During the discussion the president declared that Bradley Manning “broke the law.” The video can be viewed below.

Below is a full transcript of the discussion, previously unreleased. The statement about Manning’s guilt could interfere with a fair trial.

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor later told POLITICO.com that, “The president was emphasizing that, in general, the unauthorized release of classified information is not a lawful act…He was not expressing a view as to the guilt or innocence of Pfc. Manning specifically.”

“I approached the President to speak with him about Pfc. Manning’s case.” Says Logan Price, in response. “There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we were speaking exclusively about Manning. It was not a conversation based on hypothetical assertions, nor did the president say anything that qualified it as such. Any witnesses to the conversation, and there were many, could affirm this.”

MSNBC coverage:

Obama responded that what Manning allegedly did was "irresponsible, risked the lives of service members and did a lot of damage." But when Price persisted Obama shot back, "He broke the law."

A military legal expert says the president himself crossed a legal line with that statement.

This supports Joseph's point about the general advisability of commenting on pending trials, but while he never argued that Obama is keeping quiet on the Hasan case to avoid the appearance of undue influence, I want to raise the question. The date on this article is 4/26/2011. If Obama was aware enough of the possibility of unlawful command influence years ago to refrain from comment after the Hasan attack, why would he say something much worse (going to far as to affirm guilt before a trial) in the Manning case?

The MSNBC article raises a plausible explanation:

Despite the president's Harvard Law degree, Fidell believes it's quite possible Obama was totally unaware of the uniform code's prohibition against "command influence," and in the spontaneous exchange with Price, simply "let down his guard."

Posted by Cassandra at 07:30 AM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

October 22, 2012

The Psychology of Livid Terriers

Matt Ridley on the psychology of libertarians:

The study collated the results of 16 personality surveys and experiments completed by nearly 12,000 self-identified libertarians who visited YourMorals.org. The researchers compared the libertarians to tens of thousands of self-identified liberals and conservatives. It was hardly surprising that the team found that libertarians strongly value liberty, especially the "negative liberty" of freedom from interference by others. Given the philosophy of their heroes, from John Locke and John Stuart Mill to Ayn Rand and Ron Paul, it also comes as no surprise that libertarians are also individualistic, stressing the right and the need for people to stand on their own two feet, rather than the duty of others, or government, to care for people.

Perhaps more intriguingly, when libertarians reacted to moral dilemmas and in other tests, they displayed less emotion, less empathy and less disgust than either conservatives or liberals. They appeared to use "cold" calculation to reach utilitarian conclusions about whether (for instance) to save lives by sacrificing fewer lives. They reached correct, rather than intuitive, answers to math and logic problems, and they enjoyed "effortful and thoughtful cognitive tasks" more than others do.

The researchers found that libertarians had the most "masculine" psychological profile, while liberals had the most feminine, and these results held up even when they examined each gender separately, which "may explain why libertarianism appeals to men more than women."

All Americans value liberty, but libertarians seem to value it more. For social conservatives, liberty is often a means to the end of rolling back the welfare state, with its lax morals and redistributive taxation, so liberty can be infringed in the bedroom. For liberals, liberty is a way to extend rights to groups perceived to be oppressed, so liberty can be infringed in the boardroom. But for libertarians, liberty is an end in itself, trumping all other moral values.

Discuss amongst your ownselves, knuckle draggers.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:27 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

The Epistemology of Campaign Attack Ads

Interesting study that looks at how we process political arguments - which tactics make us more receptive to other views and which only make us dig in our heels:

... attack ads work, in large part, because we don’t understand them. Statements take advantage of a fact about human psychology called the “illusion of explanatory depth,” an idea developed by the Yale psychologist Frank Keil and his students. We typically feel that we understand how complex systems work even when our true understanding is superficial. And it is not until we are asked to explain how such a system works — whether it’s what’s involved in a trade deal with China or how a toilet flushes — that we realize how little we actually know.

In our own research we have found this pattern when people are asked to explain how political policies work. In a forthcoming article in Psychological Science, written with Todd Rogers of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership and Craig Fox of U.C.L.A.’s Anderson School of Management, we report on experiments showing that people often believe they understand what is meant by well-worn political terms like the “flat tax,” “sanctions on Iran” or “cap and trade” — even when they don’t.

That’s not much of a shocker, of course. The real surprise is what happens after these same individuals are asked to explain how these policy ideas work: they become more moderate in their political views — either in support of such policies or against them. In fact, not only do their attitudes change, but so does their behavior. In one of our experiments, for example, after attempting to explain how various policy ideas would actually work, people became less likely to donate to organizations that supported the positions they had initially favored.

Interestingly, asking people to justify their position — rather than asking them to explain the mechanisms by which a policy would work — doesn’t tend to soften their political views. When we asked participants to state the reasons they were for or against a policy position, their initial attitudes held firm. (Other researchers have found much the same thing: merely discussing an issue often makes people more extreme, not less.)

Why, then, does having to explain an opinion often end up changing it? The answer may have to do with a kind of revelatory trigger mechanism: asking people to “unpack” complex systems — getting them to articulate how something might work in real life — forces them to confront their lack of understanding.

The challenge in an election season that largely takes place in the form of 30-second advertisements and fire-up-the-base rallies is that rarely is anybody — candidate or voter — asked to explain his or her positions. American political discourse, in short, is not discourse at all.

The Editorial Staff suspect this explains why we enjoy blogging - in the course of the back-and-forth of discussions, we're challenged to explain why we believe what we believe.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:11 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Tale of Two Pensions

Remember the pension exchange during the second debate? Mitt Romney pointed out that Obama's pension fund invested in Chinese firms and had in offshore trusts in the Cayman Islands. Turns out Romney was right:

The former Republican governor of Massachusetts acknowledged that a blind trust that manages his assets has investments in China. But Romney said he was not alone.

“Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?” Romney asked not once, but three times. Obama finally replied: “I don't look at my pension. It's not as big as yours, so it doesn't take as long.”

That got a big laugh from the audience, the tension was defused, and many viewers of Tuesday night’s face-off might not have caught Romney’s next point: “Look at your pension. You also have investments in Chinese companies. You also have investments outside the United States. You also have investments through a Cayman's trust.”

As Politics Now reported Wednesday, Obama’s financial disclosure form shows he has an investment of between $50,001 and $100,000 in the Illinois state retirement system, dating from his years as a state legislator. The system has funds invested overseas, as is typical for such retirement systems. The Illinois system also has committed $30 million to a private equity fund based in the Cayman Islands.

The Obama campaign had previously attacked Romney for investments in the Cayman Islands, saying they were a tax dodge.

That's not the only thing Romney was right about, though:

President Obama's pension is larger than Romney's -- and the other big difference? Taxpayers aren't subsidizing Romney's retirement. We will, however, have the dubious pleasure of funding Obama's.

The whole episode encapsulates the disgraceful narrative of Obama's 2012 campaign: Applauded by the "unbiasaed" press, Obama launches an attack based on envy and resentment that's ultimately wrong on the facts . . . wherein it turns out that Obama, supposed "man of the people," is actually going to enjoy a $6 million pension provided courtesy of the American taxpayer. Romney, the "rich" guy we're all supposed to hate, may have a very comfortable retirement -- but all the money he spends will be what he himself earned in the private sector, as he didn't even accept a government salary when he served as governor of Massachusetts.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 20, 2012

Ryan vs. Biden Cage Match

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

Fairness

This would be more apt if the caption substituted "condoms" for "beer".

Question for the ages: if even Planned Parenthood puts the cost of birth control pills at $150-600 a year and the cost of condoms at $150 a year, how is it fair for ObamaCare to offer free birth control to women, but not men?

Isn't that sex-based discrimination?

When you consider that, unlike the Pill, condoms protect both men and women against STDs or AIDS, the case becomes even more compelling.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:09 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Efficacy of "Smart Power"

One of the loopier phrases coined by progressives is "smart power". At its essence, it seeks to counter violent aggression with the consensus-based woolgathering of the European Union. A post written back in August of 2011 seems eerily prescient in light of our non-response to the 9/11 attack in Benghazi, Libya:

The term was coined by Harvard’s Joe Nye, who used to it describe an ideal policy blend combining “hard power” with “soft power” (another, more memorable Nye coinage).

...In the case of Secretary of State Clinton she seems to be making it an excuse for inaction. How else to interpret her claim that the administration policies in Libya and Syria exemplify, you guessed it, “smart power”. The AP reports:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton defended the U.S. response to crises in Libya and Syria on Tuesday, saying the Obama administration is projecting “smart power” by refusing to act alone or with brute force to stop autocratic repression in the two countries….

“It is not going to be any news if the United States says Assad needs to go,” she said. “Okay, fine, what’s next? If other people say it, if Turkey says it, if (Saudi) King Abdullah says it, there is no way the Assad regime can ignore it.”

“I think this is smart power, where it is not just brute force, it is not just unilateralism,” she said. “It is being smart enough to say you know what we want a bunch of people signing out of the same hymn book and we want them singing a song of universal freedom, human rights, democracy, everything that we have stood for and pioneered over 235 years.”

A little over a year later, we see how our enemies tremble at the merest hint of "smart power":

Witnesses and the authorities have called Ahmed Abu Khattala one of the ringleaders of the Sept. 11 attack on the American diplomatic mission here. But just days after President Obama reasserted his vow to bring those responsible to justice, Mr. Abu Khattala spent two leisurely hours on Thursday evening at a crowded luxury hotel, sipping a strawberry frappe on a patio and scoffing at the threats coming from the American and Libyan governments.

Libya’s fledgling national army is a “national chicken,” Mr. Abu Khattala said, using an Arabic rhyme. Asked who should take responsibility for apprehending the mission’s attackers, he smirked at the idea that the weak Libyan government could possibly do it. And he accused the leaders of the United States of “playing with the emotions of the American people” and “using the consulate attack just to gather votes for their elections.”

Mr. Abu Khattala’s defiance — no authority has even questioned him about the attack, he said, and he has no plans to go into hiding — offered insight into the shadowy landscape of the self-formed militias that have come to constitute the only source of social order in Libya since the fall of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

It also offers insights into how adversaries whose grasp of the uses of power is based more on the practical than the theoretical view the efficacy of "smart power".

They scoff. Whilst sipping a strawberry frappe.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:03 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 19, 2012

Desperation and Double Standards

Via Memeorandum, the Editorial Staff couldn't help noticing a developing meme:

Recently, several CEOs have issued missives to their workers saying that, if President Obama wins reelection, their jobs might be in danger. One CEO wrote in an email, “The economy doesn’t currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration.” Another wrote, “If we fail as a nation to make the right choice on November 6th, and we lose our independence as a company, I don’t want to hear any complaints regarding the fallout that will most likely come…I am asking you to give us one more chance to stay independent by voting in a new President.”

In audio uncovered by In These Times’ Mike Elk, Mitt Romney himself got in on the action, telling a group of business owners, “I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections.”

Unsurprisingly, ThinkProgressive left out a pretty important part of the Romney quote - one where he makes it clear he believes employers should share their thinking about public policy issues that affect the business regardless of whether they support Romney or Obama:

"And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama, or whatever your political view, I hope—I hope you pass those along to your employees," he continued at the tail end of a call during which he attacked the president as anti-business. "Nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe is best for the business, because I think that will figure into their election decision, their voting decision and of course doing that with your family and your kids as well."

Slate has a similarly overwrought post that concludes:

While the practice of an employer offering voting advice to an employee appears to be perfectly legal (as Romney points out), it's nonetheless a somewhat controversial practice that never goes over well with liberals who see lines like "in the best interest of ... their job" as akin to "vote for my guy or else."

Neither author explains why it makes sense for an employee to feel threatened by being encouraged to do something their employer has absolutely NO way to check up on. Last time we checked, voting is a solitary activity: even the nosiest employer will never know how individual employees vote unless the employee volunteers this information.

As there is no way for employers to know how their employees vote, the looming threat being peddled here seems illusory at best. But there's a more important issue here, and it's one of consistency. Our Slate author acknowledges that Romney's suggestion is "perfectly legal", but worries about the intimidation aspect. So shouldn't the same ethical issues apply when the act in question is one Congress has explicitly made illegal?

It matters, because recently not just one, but several Obama administratration officials have done precisely what Messers Voorhees and Garofalo find so troubling:

1. Case 1: FAA officials called a mandatory meeting in which employees were told their jobs would be at risk if they did not vote Democrat:

... Mr. Hickey may have violated any number of laws on the books protecting individuals from intimidation, interference, or coercion concerning their right to vote. It is the obligation of the election crimes division of the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate those matters. Furthermore, Mr. Hickey may have violated several Prohibited Personnel Practices (5 U.S.C §2302) including discrimination against employees based on political affiliation, as well as potential whistleblower retaliation.

John Hickey, deputy associate administrator for Aviation Safety, and Raymond Towles, deputy director of flight standards field operations for the FAA, allegedly violated the Hatch Act in a mandatory meeting with FAA employees in Seattle on May 23.

According to emails between FAA employees the day after the meeting, Hickey and Towles told the employees that their jobs could be affected by Republican victories this November and encouraged them to vote for Democratic candidates.

Apparently intimidation isn't a big concern when it benefits the right candidate.

2. Case 2: Employees at the Social Security Administration and General Services Administrations illegally campaigned for President Obama during work hours on the taxpayer's dime.

Not that this sends any kind of message, mind you.

3. The Office of Special Counsel determined that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius violated the Hatch Act by campaigning for President Obama while in an official capacity and on the taxpayer's dime.

If they find a "perfectly legal" suggestion that employers inform their employees about how each candidate's policies might affect the employer's business to be "intimidating" (even when the suggestion applied to employers who support Obama as well as Romney), one might expect our intrepid authors to be really upset about employers who engage in blatantly illegal campaigning for a specific candidate on the taxpayer's dime!

But you would be wrong. A search of both sites for references to the Obama administration's numerous (and recent) Hatch Act violations yielded nothing. We're not sure why illegal behavior by Obama officials made on the taxpayer dime gets a pass while legal suggestions made to private employers generate so much angst, but we're pretty sure there's a big double standard at work here.

Kind of like the binder brouhaha, where we womynfolk are supposed to be upset that Gov. Romney listened to women's groups and ended up with a cabinet that included nearly 50% women. Infuriating, isn't it?

And how dare Romney adopt the same position as feminist pioneers Betty Friedan and the National Organization for Women on the need for flexible work hours for women with families! The sexist trogolodyte.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:14 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 17, 2012

Binders vs. Cardboard Cutouts of Women

Your choice, ladies:

Why did the phrase resonate? Because it was tone deaf, condescending and out of touch with the actual economic issues that women are so bothered about. The phrase objectified and dehumanized women. It played right into the perception that so many women have feared about a Romney administration – that a president Romney would be sexist and set women back.

Let me get this straight: as a working woman, wife, and mother, I'm supposed to be terribly offended that a state governor would look at an all-male slate of candidates for positions in his administration and ask, "Couldn't you find any qualified women?"...

...and to make things worse, the big jerk proceeded to hire some of the women in that binder! Can you believe that? What a sexist pig!

Meanwhile, in other news, the candidate whose speech writer posted a photo of himself and another WH staffer groping a cardboard cutout of Hillary Clinton is widely presumed to understand and sympathize with women.

Because if there's one thing adult working women want, it's to be reduced to sexualized playthings to be groped by obnoxious 20-something frat boys with an oozing sense of entitlement. What we want, is a President whose female employees openly complain about the hostile working environment he allows to continue, long after being publicly put on notice that there's a problem:

When one of President Obama's debate coaches, Anita Dunn, worked at the White House, this is what she reportedly had to say about her experience there:

This place would be in court for a hostile workplace. ... Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women.”

In the same piece, former economic adviser Christina Romer is reported as saying, "I felt like a piece of meat."

“‘I felt like a piece of meat,’ Christina Romer, former head of the Council of Economic Advisers, said of one meeting in which Suskind writes she was ‘boxed out’ by Summers,” reported the Post.

Time magazine called Obama's White House a "Boys' Club."

...the problem has been obvious almost since Obama took office. And while the explanations so far have blamed members of the mostly-departed boys club–Robert Gibbs, Rahm Emanuel–Obama himself is responsible for a work atmosphere that marginalizes and ignores women," wrote Time.

And Obama's own staff is mostly made up of males, who, as the Washington Free Beacon reported, get paid more than their female counterparts.

Hmmm.... shouldn't a candidate who continually flogs pay disparities as prima facie evidence of discrimination pay women and men the same salaries?

Given the choice between an employer who actually walks the walk vs. one who talks a big game in public but tolerates grossly disrespectful/discriminatory treatment of women in a work environment he controls, I know which one I'd choose.

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

Update. spd nails it (and isn't that just like The Patriarchy?):

Hmmm.. It appears that Governor Romney didn't put all those women into binders after all! In fact, those women were put into binders by *gasp* other women! And then these "other women" (all of whom, I might add, are themselves organized into folders labeled "women's groups" that are then hole-punched and placed into a larger binder labeled "coalition") sent the binders to Romney!

See for yourself:

BOSTON — A coalition of Massachusetts women’s groups says GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney did, in fact, receive binders with the names of potential female candidates for high-level positions when he was governor.

Sooooooo.... Romney lied... again. It's plain that only other women can put women into binders, which means I'm totally out of luck trying to fix my female overcrowding situation at home. Thanks a lot Mitt!

Posted by Cassandra at 11:30 AM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

Questioning the (Debate) Timing

This seems particularly amusing given Obama's favorite talking point.

You know, about how he wants America to be a place where everyone plays by the same set of rules:

According to the CNN debate clock, President Obama spoke at greater length than Mitt Romney during both debates, as did Vice President Biden during his debate with Paul Ryan. In the first debate, Obama spoke for 3 minutes, 14 seconds more than Romney – which means he got 8 percent more talking time than Romney. In last night’s debate, Obama spoke for 4 minutes and 18 seconds longer than Romney, giving him 11 percent more talking time. Obama talked for 52 percent of the time when either man had the floor, while Romney talked for 47 percent.

It would seem that debate clocks (or is it moderators?) have a liberal bias :p

Update: More asymmetrical journalism:

CROWLEY INTERRUPTS ROMNEY 28 TIMES, OBAMA JUST 9

For a bunch of people who are all about reducing inequality, this seems rather problematic.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:54 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

"Orderly" Tots

This story tickled the Editorial Staff:

Two day care teachers have been fired after four 2-year-olds were found wandering down a Bethesda street Tuesday.

..."They were walking lined up, they were very orderly. If I didn't have kids of my own I probably wouldn't have noticed they were by themselves," says the man.

He and his 7-year-old "herded up the children and started walking them back toward Lynbrook."

Like little ducklings, they were.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:48 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Thought for the Day

Blaming others makes us less adaptable:

A study conducted by Harvard Medical School psychiatrist George Valliant showed that people who “projected,” or blamed others for their misfortunes, were much less able to adjust to the changing events in their lives… In another study, conducted by psychiatrist Leslie Phillips at Worcester State Hospital, it was found that the more people fell into the pattern of blaming others for their problems, the worse off they became in dealing with their life in general.

Explains a lot, doesn't it?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:07 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

October 16, 2012

Debate

Not quite 20 minutes into the debate and the President has called his opponent a liar 5 times. Oops! Six.

Impressive.

9:20: Romney. "The test of whether a policy is working is the price you pay at the pump".

9:22: Obama: Gas was under $2 a gallon when I got elected. Why was that? B/c the economy was getting ready to tank.

Gas is twice that now. When prices double, that means the econony is improving! Obamanomics: it's like magic!

9:32: So far, Crowley isn't doing a bad job.

10:08: Illegal immigrants started Google and Intel.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:19 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

You Go, Girlfriend!

Not since the confirmation hearings of Justice Roberts have we felt so lighthearted about politics:

President Obama said Tuesday he is feeling “fabulous” about the prospects of the second presidential debate — a far cry from before the first debate, when he described preparations as “a drag.”

Don't worry, Barack. You're in good company.


Posted by Cassandra at 03:20 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

If Romney Had Said This, He'd Be A Lying Liar (Who Lies!)

Fortunately, since it was only the Vice President of the United States, the media will be along any second now to tell us what Joe really meant to say:

Despite statements by Vice President Joe Biden, the State Department is about to begin formal negotiations over the extension of U.S. troops past 2014, a top State Department official said Tuesday.

Last week, U.S. and Afghan negotiators met in Kabul to talk about the Bilateral Security Agreement that will govern the extension of U.S. troops past 2014, when President Barack Obama said the combat mission in Afghanistan will end and the U.S. will complete the transition of the entire country to Afghan government control.

Also last week, Biden told Americans during his Oct. 11 debate with Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan that U.S. troops were leaving Afghanistan by 2014.

"We are leaving in 2014, period, and in the process, we're going to be saving over the next 10 years another $800 billion," Biden said. "We've been in this war for over a decade. The primary objective is almost completed. Now all we're doing is putting the Kabul government in a position to be able to maintain their own security. It's their responsibility, not America's."

Well alright-y, then. Glad we got that cleared up. But that wasn't the only untrue assertion made by Vice President. Peter Feaver explains:

The Obama administration has a civil-military problem and, I have reason to believe, they know it. Significant portions of the military believe the administration abandoned them on Iraq, sent them unsupported into battle in Afghanistan hampered by a politically driven timeline, and is jeopardizing national security with unsustainably deep cuts in military spending.

If Obama wins a second term, he and his national security team will have a lot of remedial work to do to repair relations with the military.

I think Vice President Biden made that job even more difficult with his remarkable comments in each of those areas in the VP debate.

On Iraq, Biden criticized Romney-Ryan for recommending that we have a 30,000 stay-behind force in Iraq. When Ryan pointed out that the Obama administration had actually been trying to negotiate a stay-behind force, Biden just smiled mockingly at him, as if Ryan were talking nonsense.

But Ryan was not talking nonsense. The official position of the Obama administration until late in 2011 was that they were seeking a Status of Forces Agreement (SoFA) to permit a stay-behind force in Iraq. The exact size was in doubt, but the 30,000 figure was what the military wanted and the White House supported the concept, if not the exact number. The Obama administration wanted this for the very same reason the Bush administration wanted it: It was the best way to solidify the gains of the Iraq surge and to build a stable partnership with Iraq.

Biden knows all of this because he was leading the effort to negotiate the SOFA. Was Biden's mocking smile saying something else, perhaps that Obama was never seriously committed to negotiating a successful SOFA? Was Obama's decision to delegate this task to Biden a sign of how committed Obama was to it? Or how uncommitted he was? Was Biden's guarantee that he would get the SOFA just idle bragging from someone assigned a trivial task?

The U.S. military leadership believed they accomplished something significant in the Iraq surge, and they believed that the Obama administration wanted to get them a SOFA that would help secure those accomplishments. Did Biden tell them otherwise in the debate last night? Or did Biden, as Ryan pointedly asked, simply fail at his SOFA assignment, in which case the mocking laughter is beyond inappropriate?

On Afghanistan, Biden's comments were even more troubling. Let's set aside the extraordinary "mission accomplished" boast, a remarkable thing to say when American men and women continue to risk their lives under very dire circumstances in theater. Biden got away with it, and neither Ryan nor the hapless Martha Raddatz called him out on it.

Where things really got dicey was when, in response to the charge that the Afghan surge withdrawal timeline was driven by political considerations, Biden tried to hide behind the military. Raddatz pressed him on the complaints she is hearing -- we all are hearing -- but Biden dismissed it as nonsense. He pretended that the withdrawal timeline was proposed by the Joint Chiefs rather than imposed by the White House.

That is not true. The Joint Chiefs and the Afghan combatant commander did go along with the White House order, but they proposed a slower, conditions-based timeline and they certainly did not want it announced at the outset.

Not to worry, however. We can rely on our friends at the NY Times to warn us of the really pressing dangers. Like the strong possibility that, if sElected, Mitt Romney will parse the Constitution and discover a heretofore undetected penumbral Article One power that allows womyn-hating Republican presidents to single-handedly reverse Supreme Court decisions. And then he'll snatch your birth control pills and outlaw woman-on-top sex.

Al Qaeda? Don't be silly - recent events in Benghazi notwithstanding, that's just fear-mongering:

As part of their ongoing effort to pump up their candidate, David Kirkpatrick of the Times informs us that Al Qaeda is now a story used to scare the gullible. And the partisans, of course.

Did we mention that Mitt Romney wants to chain women to tiny pink EasyBake ovens and force them to bake cupcakes for The Patriarchy? There are serious issues facing the nation.

Try to focus, people.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:50 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Hillary Leads From the Front

Looks like Secretary of State has taken the President's campaign rhetoric to heart:

... 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

Contrast the man who, during his inaugural speech, blithely asserted that there is no conflict between our safety and our ideals with the "lawyerly" unitary executive who brags of personally approving the execution - without trial or even judicial review of any kind - of suspected terrorists:

This was the enemy, served up in the latest chart from the intelligence agencies: 15 Qaeda suspects in Yemen with Western ties. The mug shots and brief biographies resembled a high school yearbook layout. Several were Americans. Two were teenagers, including a girl who looked even younger than her 17 years.

...“How old are these people?” he asked, according to two officials present. “If they are starting to use children,” he said of Al Qaeda, “we are moving into a whole different phase.”

It was not a theoretical question: Mr. Obama has placed himself at the helm of a top secret “nominations” process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical. He had vowed to align the fight against Al Qaeda with American values; the chart, introducing people whose deaths he might soon be asked to order, underscored just what a moral and legal conundrum this could be.

What a difference an election makes! In an instant, egregious human rights violations shrink before our eyes into "moral and legal conundrums". How quickly the President's supporters, who appear to include the NY Times, jettison the passionate civil liberties arguments they used against George W. Bush.

It's different, this time - "freedom fighters" become "suspected terrorists" who don't have any rights worth protecting from a "lawyerly" President who claims the right to unilaterally decide who will be executed without trial and who won't. This Unitary Executive is not a threat to our civil liberties. The NY Times can relax the vigilance that led them to break the law and publish details of classified anti-terrorist operations.

Rest assured that this President accepts full responsibility for everything that happens on his watch.

Except, of course, when he doesn't.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:57 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

October 15, 2012

Unexpectedly! Women Don't Actually Vote With Their Ladyparts

Who knew? Oh yeah, the guy who supposedly doesn't understand women at all:

Mitt Romney leads President Obama by four percentage points among likely voters in the nation's top battlegrounds, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, and he has growing enthusiasm among women to thank.

As the presidential campaign heads into its final weeks, the survey of voters in 12 crucial swing states finds female voters much more engaged in the election and increasingly concerned about the deficit and debt issues that favor Romney. The Republican nominee now ties the president among women who are likely voters, 48%-48%, while he leads by 12 points among men.

Too funny. We don't know who's going to be more upset about this - the Obama Campaign or the jackwagons on both sides who think the only thing uniting uterus-having folk is a perverse desire to replace our husbands and our children's fathers with a cradle-to-grave Nanny State.

*Whatever*

Posted by Cassandra at 06:35 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Moving the Goalposts Caption Contest


Do your worst, haters :)

Posted by Cassandra at 07:27 AM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

An Administration In Denial

"This President has demonstrated his commitment to diplomatic security through his budget priorities."

- WH Spokesman Jay Carney

After being lobbed The World's Biggest Softball by Carney, apparently no one in the room thought to bring up what may well be the defining achievement of the Obama Presidency. For the entire time he's been President, the United States government hasn't had a budget:

President Barack Obama and his administration seem to view budgeting as just one more political maneuver. His efforts have been so completely unserious that the President's 2012 budget was rejected by a vote of 97-0 in the Senate. And three weeks ago, when Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-South Carolina, sponsored a budget proposal based on Obama's 2013 budget plan, it lost in the House by a vote of 414-0.

That's right, not a single member of Congress cast a vote in favor of Obama's last two budgets. That is a stunning repudiation of his leadership. What it really represents is a total abdication of leadership.

How does a President get away with hiding behind a budget that doesn't even exist? Such shameless prevarication can only work when no one will challenge you.

Speaking of which... Via Memeorandum, Jennifer Rubin posts a list of questions that should not be asked under any circumstances.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:54 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

A Likely Obama Voter Speaks

"The government put the deer crossings there. They can direct the deer population anywhere they want to by moving that deer crossing sign."

...Right... and all these car accidents you had involved a deer after you'd seen a deer crossing sign.

Exactly. I mean, I try to watch out for the deer, but going 60-65, how am I supposed to, you know... you can't brake really quick...

It's the keen understanding of cause and effect that always gives them away.

CWCID

Posted by Cassandra at 06:32 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

October 12, 2012

It's 3 a.m. Do You Know What Your Cabinet Is Doing?

If the Benghazi attack had occurred in a country that we hadn't just supplied with over 1 BILLION dollars of US military aid (during The Worst Recession Since the Great Depression, no less!), that would be one thing. But considering that the American taxpayer just made a pretty pricey investment in Libya, isn't a rapidly deteriorating security situation the sort of thing the State Department should be passing on to their bosses in the White House?

Vice President Joseph Biden speaks only for himself and President Barack Obama, and neither man was aware that U.S. officials in Libya had asked the State Department for more security before the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, a top White House official told The Cable.

Biden has come under fire for saying at Thursday night's debate, "We weren't told they wanted more security. We did not know they wanted more security there."

The Cable asked Deputy National Security Advisor for Communications Ben Rhodes whether Biden was speaking for the entire Obama administration, including the State Department, which acknowledged receiving multiple requests for more Libya security in the months before the attacks. Rhodes said that Biden speaks only for himself and the president and neither of them knew about the requests at the time.

The comments are devastating:

How in the world do you go on national television and say you don't know what's going on in your very own administration? To say that you had no idea that more security was needed within a nation that was militarily and politically unstable is completely reprehensable! Ray Charles could have seen that without being told! If you ever thought you deserved another four years you just shot yourself in the foot with that admission.

And then there's this gem:

OK, let me get this straight: Obama and Biden still do not know that Ambassador Stevens made multiple requests for additional security that were not only denied, but State told Stevens to stop asking. So Obama is still not aware of the actions of the State Department that enacts his foreign policy and reports to him. And the rest of us have been aware of this for 2+ weeks through statements by diplomats in Libya and the Congressional investigation. I always thought the president and VP were more aware of security matters than the American people. Do we actually know more than the president??

It strains even the most robust sense of credulity to expect voters to believe that Obama personally approves kill orders on suspected terrorists and closely supervised the Bin Laden kill, but mysteriously hasn't a clue what's going in Libya. Whatever happened to this guy?

... 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

Telling the American people that a Cabinet-level department of the Executive branch isn't keeping you informed about important national security issues doesn't strike me as a particularly wise tactic. Especially after it just came out that the President thinks it's a waste of time to talk to the folks that supply him with his daily intel brief.

Five hundred million squandered on Solyndra, 400 million squandered on Abound Solar, over a billion spent for a deteriorating security situation in a country the President apparently isn't terribly concerned about...

After a while that starts to look like carelessness.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:35 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

The "D" After Obama/Biden Stands for "Disdain"

The first two debates have been illuminating.

In debate 1, an overconfident and underprepared Barack Obama had his lunch eaten by underdog challenger Mitt Romney. Given the chance to debate important issues seriously, Obama's demeanor made it plain that he thought the entire process was a waste of his valuable time. His body language telegraphed disengagement and disinterest. Rather than looking Romney in the eye while he was speaking, the President looked down at the lecturn with a little smile on his face. Distancing himself. Passively waiting for an end to all this tiresome discussion. You could almost hear his fingers drumming.

Even the President's supporters were unsettled by Obama's lack of seriousness and focus:

...Obama's inner circle was dismayed at the 'disaster' ...the central problem was that the President was so disdainful of Romney that he didn't believe he needed to engage with him.

'President Obama made it clear he wanted to be doing anything else - anything - but debate prep,' the Democrat said. 'He kept breaking off whenever he got the opportunity and never really focused on the event.

But what followed was even more unnerving. Faced with a decisive smackdown, what does Team Obama choose as a substantive response? Big Bird.

Their every statement reeks of contempt for their opponents and disdain for voters, who deserve more from their leaders. More engagement. More concern. More involvement.

On to Debate 2, where VP Joe Biden proceeded to double down on his boss's oddly inappropriate performance:

Biden interrupted 82 times during the entire debate,” the RNC’s Joe Pounder tweeted after the debate. CNN’s Gloria Berger said that she would have liked Biden to show less “condescension” and “eye-rolling.”

Even Chris Wallace — who thought that Biden won the debate — said that Biden “was openly contemptuous and disrespectful” of Ryan.

But what bothered me most wasn't Biden's obvious disdain for Paul Ryan. How does a Vice President get away with smiling and laughing during a discussion of Iran's nuclear aspirations and Benghazi debacle? Four Americans murdered and the White House response is that this wouldn't even be newsworthy if it weren't for the Romney/Ryan campaign bringing it up.

Stunningly clueless and dismissive.

Given the chance to correct his boss's disastrous lack of seriousness, our Vice President laughs and smirks. Over, and over, and over again. It's Al Gore's sigh, writ large: one of those unintentionally revealing gestures that come to define a candidate:


And then, suddenly, it's over:

Closing statements. Biden doesn’t look directly into the camera or thank Ryan for the spirited debate. Ryan does both.

I suspect that moments like this, the gestalt of the debates - surface impressions, body language, facial gestures and verbal tics - are what will resonate the most with viewers. And so far, the message Team "D" is projecting is that are having trouble taking any of this seriously. It's all just so beneath them.

That's not a winning image.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:07 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

October 11, 2012

Child Support & Custody Stats

This is a small part of an old post from last March about child support/custody disputes. The old post is here. It's a long post filled with links, charts, and references so I've pulled out what I see as the relevant points to the "Sexual Rights" discussion:

In a prior post, the Blog Princess addressed what she called The Myth of Easy Divorce:
A frequent tactic of the simple/single cause supporter is to truncate long term historical trends, notably beginning with an unrepresentative period for marriages and divorces in the US: the 1950s. I'm not sure whether this is deliberate or simply lazy but there's no denying that the practice conveniently airbrushes away over a century of steadily and rapidly rising divorce rates.

The myth of easy divorce is usually accompanied by another popular myth: that alimony and child support create powerful incentives for women to leave their marriages. Once again, the facts don't bear this theory out. Over time, the proportion of divorces in which the woman initiated divorce proceedings has been remarkably stable - it varies between 60-70 percent.

ON ANTI-MALE CUSTODY BIAS

Some lawyers believe the gender gap in custody awards reflects a preference for the status quo, rather than bias against fathers. “Family law is a case-by-case, judge-by-judge affair,” says Joel Bigatel, a family lawyer in Narberth, Pa. “If there’s a bias in awarding custody, it’s in favor of primary caretakers. If dad is the working parent, and mom is the stay-at-home, she generally has a leg up.”

Working fathers have the best shot at being named primary caretakers if they have flexible schedules, or if the mother is also working and the children are already in day care or school, says Bigatel.

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

Perception: Child support laws are biased against men.

Fact: Higher earning spouses (usually men) pay more but the standard itself is gender neutral.
33 states use the gender neutral income shares standard. For example, wife makes 40% of total income, husband makes 60% of total income, CS is 18% of the total or 18000 for a total income of 100K. Wife's share would be .4(18,000), husband's share would be .6(18,000). If either parent's income goes up, so does their share of child maintenance costs.

17 states apply a fixed percentage to the non-custodial parent's income. Using the preceding example, noncustodial Mom's share would be .4(18,000) or noncustodial Dad's share would be .6(18,000). If custodial parent's income goes up, that does not affect noncustodial parent's duty to pay, since it is based upon his/her income alone.

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

Perception: It's common for ex-wives to get alimony.

Study (note, since there are no stats cited here, I'm not referring to it as a "fact"):

In the area of alimony, the Committee found that very few women receive alimony awards, while even fewer women receive awards that are adequate. While many alimony awards undervalue the contributions of the homemaker to the family, they also overvalue the earning potential of homemakers who have long been out of the labor market. Further, only a minority of the alimony awards ordered ever get collected. This has a grave impact on those most dependent on alimony, particularly older homemakers who no longer receive child support and who have decreased earning potential because of years spent on childrearing. These women must rely on their own resources to bring contempt action in cases of nonpayment, and they receive little help from the courts.

We began our investigation of child custody aware of a common perception that there is a bias in favor of women in these decisions. Our research contradicted this perception. Although mothers more frequently get primary physical custody of children following divorce, this practice does not reflect bias but rather the agreement of the parties and the fact that, in most families, mothers have been the primary [*748] caretakers of children. Fathers who actively seek custody obtain either primary or joint physical custody over 70% of the time. Reports indicate, however, that in some cases perceptions of gender bias may discourage fathers from seeking custody and stereotypes about fathers may sometimes affect case outcomes. In general, our evidence suggests that the courts hold higher standards for mothers than fathers in custody determinations

.

A second study yielded some interesting stats on pre- and post-divorce income:

incometoneeds.png

Women's income declined regardless of their work status:

income_work.png


Why did I originally write this post? I did so because I see the same arguments being made over and over without a shred of evidence to back them up. Before I did the research, I used to believe - whole-heartedly - that no fault divorce caused the decline of marriage.

And then one day I went looking for proof of what I already believed and the facts convinced me that I was wrong (or at least that there wasn't any evidence to support my belief and quite a bit of evidence that undermined it). No one has ever been able to explain to me why divorce rates began to skyrocket long before no fault , then declined once it was implemented in all 50 states.

The facts have to matter here. As always, I will happily entertain other studies or evidence but I don't think it's helpful to base opinions on sensational anecdotes, heartrending stories, or vague feelings that something "isn't fair". I happen to suspect there is actually some bias against awarding custody to fathers. But I also think that, given the fact that the vast majority of primary caretakers are mothers, there's some reason for that bias.

I also believe that the law itself should be (and in fact is) gender neutral in this regard.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

So Much for Economic Patriotism

Having bilked both American taxpayers and their creditors of over a half billion dollars (!), Solyndra would like the IRS to give them one of those pesky corporate tax breaks the President is always complaining about:

The Internal Revenue Service urged a bankruptcy judge to reject solar panel maker Solyndra LLC’s bankruptcy plan Wednesday, saying it amounts to little more than an avenue for owners of an empty corporate shell to avoid paying taxes.

“The undeniable conclusion is that tax benefits drive this plan,” attorneys for the IRS wrote in a bankruptcy pleading.
Arguing that the bankruptcy court ought not confirm a plan “whose principal purpose is tax avoidance,” attorneys said in filings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware that the tax breaks would be worth more money than funds set aside for creditors.

Taxpayers are on the hook for more than a half-billion dollars after the company filed for bankruptcy last year, just two years after winning a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy.
What’s more, government attorneys said that as far back as 2010, Solyndra owners had “planned meticulously” to be able to use Solyndra’s net operating losses to offset future tax liabilities.

“The only reason for the shell corporation to exist post-confirmation is to enable its owners to exploit these tax attributes, which would be lost in liquidation,” the IRS argued in court papers.


Maybe instead of raising taxes, the administration should try collecting the taxes already owed by corporations that received stimulus funds:

Thousands of companies that collected more than $24 billion in stimulus money from the federal government owe hundreds of millions of dollars in back taxes, a federal investigation has found.

At least 3,700 contractors and nonprofit groups that took in stimulus funds are tax deadbeats, the Government Accountability Office said in a report conducted for the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations ahead of a Tuesday hearing.

In all, the companies owed at least $757 million at the end of fiscal 2009, the GAO found.

The number of companies and the total dollar amount owed may be even greater, since the GAO probe examined only three-quarters of the 80,000 groups that received stimulus funds. In all, $275 billion in stimulus money is intended to go to grants and contracts. Of that, $200 billion had been paid out by late March.

“It is a matter of basic fairness that those who take government money should be required to pay their taxes like everyone else,” said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the subcommittee’s ranking member. “That such a huge amount of the stimulus money went to known tax cheats should be a wake-up call for Congress.”

It would seem that under Obama, we're not all playing by the same set of rules after all. Who knew?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:08 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Attention Men: Your "Sexual Rights" Are Being Eroded

Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.

A woman is not property, and husbands who think otherwise are living in a dreamworld.

- Robert Heinlein

In the brave new world the Blog Princess dreams of betimes, it will someday be a truth universally acknowledged that adult men have far too much self regard to write creepy posts about their sexual rights. But perhaps this is too ambitious a vision, even for dewy-eyed admirers of both the estate of matrimony and the other half of humanity? Could it be that the key to happy marriages lies in understanding that a woman who demands expensive trips or jewelry in return for marital services rendered is commoditizing acts that should be loving and voluntary, while a man who demands sex twice a week in return for marital services rendered is doing no such thing? Even if, say, he leads off by calculating the market value of intercourse with a prostitute vs. his wife before asserting a uniquely self serving vision of the marriage contract that replaces, "for better, for worse" and "'til death do us part" with "until you do something that gives me an excuse to cheat"?

...if a woman is unwilling to commit to having sex on some sort of regular basis, then how on Earth can any man be reasonably expected to commit to never having sex with anyone else?

...men's reasonable marital expectations have been debased, but are we really supposed to believe that marriage, with all of its responsibilities, sexual and otherwise, now provides absolutely no sexual rights to the husband?

Inexplicably, my sentimental recollections of my wedding day in 1979 do not include a vow to provide sexual services at regularly specified intervals, much less the right to expensive jewelry or fancy vacations. Such bartering, like the weird expectation that a man is owed sex if he pays for dinner, formed no part of my youthful dreams of finding a man worth spending the rest of my life with. Even more strangely, after more than three decades of wedded bliss (during which, far from having to be bribed into having sex, I looked forward to it) this author would have sworn that people who think a marriage license entitles them to demand anything from their spouse don't really understand what marriage is all about.

I would have thought that both men and women have the right to decide what they will tolerate in a relationship, but that none of us has the right to demand obedience in such a personal matter. We all have needs. As a woman, I absolutely need to know that my husband loves and at least tries to understand me. I need to love and understand him. Without that sense of closeness - of shared intimacy - marriage would be utterly worthless to me.

But my personal desires don't give me the right to demand that my husband open himself up to me whenever I'm feeling needy. I don't have a right to insist that he talk about his feelings or our relationship at specified intervals because he doesn't "owe" me physical or emotional intimacy. Certainly, I can ask for what I need from our marriage. And if I am wise, I will make sure that over time he gets as much from our partnership as I do. I ought to find out what he needs from the relationship (not what I think he should want or need) and give it to him voluntarily, because I love him and trust that my actions will be reciprocated.

But at the end of the day, the decision is his.

And that's as it should be. Why would any mature man or woman think they have the right to demand of another what they are not willing to give freely? Curious as to the nature of these one sided "sexual rights", I made the mistake of clicking on the linked essay and learned that once upon a time, men were entitled to a beautiful, young, non-college educated virgin with no career! They traded their earnings and material goods for the exclusive right to have sex with a young hottie. Now *that's* a value proposition you can punch right into your pocket calculator!

Sadly, today's men are all too often forced (by their penises!) into misguided liasons with women who fall a few items short of their fantasy shopping lists. Now if we were talking about women with fantasy shopping lists, the problem with this formulation would be obvious. Romance novels, you see, create unrealistic expectations that no real man can - or should! - have to satisfy. Are men not human beings who have their own dreams and aspirations - who do not exist merely to satisfy some warped female fantasy?

Of course the converse - that women might be human beings with dreams and aspirations of their own who do not exist merely to fulfill male fantasies - is just crazy talk. The fact that some misguided individuals think otherwise only proves that traditional marriage is debased beyond all recognition or repair.

If only we could get back to the good old days, when young men who delay marriage until they've graduated college and established themselves in a career while sleeping with women they have no intention of marrying are considered to be moral, upright, and desireable husbands. And young women who do precisely the same thing are immoral sluts.

It's these traditional values that we need to get back to - you know, the ones we learned from our parents and grandparents. I'll never forget my parents telling me to hold out for a guy with a big wallet who slept around until he was 30 or so. If the Bible teaches us anything, it's that biological urges trump the confining strictures of morality and civilization every time. So whenever I'm trying to decide upon the right course of action, I like to fall back on a fantasy world where I can act as I please while holding others to a completely different standard.

Yep - the best morality is relative morality, and don't let anyone tell you differently.

We permit all things to ourselves, and that which we call sin in others, is experiment for us. It is an instance of our faith in ourselves, that men never speak of crime as lightly as they think: or, every man thinks a latitude safe for himself, which is nowise to be indulged to another.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Posted by Cassandra at 06:01 AM | Comments (58) | TrackBack

October 10, 2012

12 Steps to Raising Strong Sons

Mindful of the impermanence of the Internet, the blog princess is in the process of collecting up various essays she has written over the years. This one was originally written for Rightnetwork.

When I was young, masculinity was a one-size-fits-all affair. Men defended the weak, brought home the bacon and kept the world running smoothly while maintaining a stiff upper lip and a heroic reserve. Women had their own carefully prescribed role to play. We were caretakers, teachers, tenders of home and hearth. If men built the world, women connected it. As volunteers, bakers of cupcakes and holiday feasts, keepers of time honored rituals and faithful recorders of birthdays, anniversaries and the names of maiden aunties; women bound families and communities together. Our world offered fewer choices than the world of men, but in some ways it was indescribably richer.

The days of rigid gender roles are gone, but so (for the most part) are the restraining influences of morality, social convention, and taste. Today’s world has little use and even less respect for manly strength and character. Too often we confuse maleness with manliness, defining masculinity down to an uninspiring collection of barely controlled biological urges.

This is a grave mistake, for a world with diminishing standards and few enforceable rules needs men more than ever.

What is the essence of masculinity and how can we cultivate and honor it in our sons? Harvey Mansfield once defined manliness as “a quality that causes individuals to stand for something”. If men have a salient quality, surely it is strength of body, mind, spirit and character. Is it still possible to raise strong, adaptable sons in a society that views manhood as a debased currency? The good news is that with a bit of tweaking, the old standards still work:

1. Challenge your son to find and develop his own strengths. In an era of expanding choices, masculinity should not be a straitjacket. Not all boys love to fight, make noise, or play football - they need freedom to discover their abilities and the discipline to develop them. Confidence flows from achievement, not empty praise. Whether your son excels on the baseball field or in the computer lab, challenge him to become good at something.

2. Don’t make excuses for bad behavior. Being male is not a handicap. Boys shouldn’t be expected to behave like girls, but they should be expected to behave well.

3. Teach responsibility by delegating responsibility. Children whose parents do everything for them rarely develop the habits and discipline needed for independence and success. Masculine forcefulness is an admirable quality. Channel your son’s natural urge to take command of situations and people by putting him in charge of small jobs he can master with reasonable effort.

4. Sometimes, reality is the best teacher. Boys are usually far more impressed by actions than words. If you find yourself repeating the same warnings, stop talking and let him experience the consequences of his decisions. You can’t protect him from every danger. Let him take a few risks – that’s how boys learn.

5. Give him unconditional love, but not unconditional approval. Boys need love, but they also need firm limits. Insist that he treat others with respect and consideration.

6. Boys need heroes. Books are full of them. Teach him to love great books and they will inspire him to be a better person.

7. Speaking of heroes, give him time alone with his father. As boys mature, it’s normal for them to pull away from their mothers a bit. Wanting time with Dad is a sign that your son is beginning to see himself as a man – and an adult.

8. Teach him how to love. A mother’s relationship with her son prepares him for the relationship he’ll one day have with his wife. Older boys may need less mothering, but you can help him in other ways. Teach him how to talk to (and more importantly, handle conflict with) women as people.

9. Respect the father of your children. A boy raised in a home where men are honored is more likely to become a man worth honoring.

10. Look beneath the surface. Despite outward appearances, boys can be infuriatingly indirect. Many can’t – or won’t - admit they need attention or want to talk. One of my sons loved to provoke me when something was on his mind. Years later, his wife tells me he still does that. Now that’s a smart woman!

11. Teach him to believe in something, defend something, serve something. Don’t neglect his moral education. The noblest expression of manhood occurs when strength and courage serve some larger purpose.

12. Hold on… but loosely. No matter how old he gets your son will always need caring, engaged parents. But he also needs space to take risks, make mistakes and most importantly, chart his own course.

If men are driven to stand for something, it follows that the world will be a better or worse place depending on what they strive for. Help your sons find worthy goals and then step back and watch them move mountains.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:24 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

If You're Not Depressed Yet, You're Not Paying Attention

Snarky thing that we are, we would not have thought it possible to overestimate the ignorance of the average citizen:

...multiple choice surveys showed that only about 32% of the public knew that Paul Ryan was a member of the House of Representatives. These polls were taken before he was nominated for the vice presidency but after he had been a major figure in American politics for several years. Other multiple choice questions reveal massive ignorance about the distribution of federal spending. Back in 2009, a multiple-choice survey found that only 24% knew that “cap and trade” is an environmental program, even though it had just passed the House of Representatives (I cite the data in this article). And there’s many other examples where those came from.

Moreover, if open-ended survey items overstate ignorance, multiple-choice questions often understate it, because ignorant people will sometimes get the right answer by guessing. In an age of standardized testing, many people are used to the idea that they should guess on a survey question if they don’t know the right answer. And some prefer that option to admitting ignorance. If there are 4 options on a multiple-choice question, random guessing gives you a 25% chance of getting the right answer, and your odds go up if there are only 2 or 3 options.

We were reminded of this blast from the past:

Why is Bill Clinton still president? It seemed rather unlikely that he would last more than a week or two when the news of his affair with a White House intern surfaced. His survival exemplifies a crucial and almost certainly insurmountable problem with modern democracy, one with vast implications for the ration-ality of public policy: the problem of public ignorance.

The key to understanding President Clinton’s survival is to keep in mind his conversations with political consultant Dick Morris when the scandal broke. At first Clinton proposed an apology to the American people, and Morris took an overnight poll to see how it would be received. The poll showed that although a substantial minority of those surveyed condemned the affair, most did not think it warranted resignation or removal from office. But the majority of those surveyed demanded the president’s voluntary or involuntary removal if he had committed perjury or obstructed justice.

In the end, of course, the public did not support Clinton’s removal, despite credible evidence of perjury and obstruction of justice.

Whoever said, "The mind is a terrible thing" wasn't kidding.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:32 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Are Your Pets Plotting Your Demise?

If you are owned by a cat, it's a distinct possibility:

We saw this late last night whilst ordering a book for our Kindle. We're not saying that cats are Evil...

We're just sayin'.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:26 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

October 09, 2012

File Under, "I Can *Too* Judge Caption Contests!"

As promised, the winners of The Shadow Knows Caption Contest:

First Prize goes to that International Man of Mystery, Don Brouhaha!

If the Media sees the President's shadow at the first debate, we get four more weeks of propaganda!

The Double Entendre award goes to Eric Hines for:

"A shadow of itself after these four years."

And lastly for not leastly, a stuffed marmoset by parcel post to Purple Raider:

John Hancock 1, Barack Obama, zero.
Nicely played, everyone :) And try not to faint from the shock of this unprecedented event.

Posted by Cassandra at 03:12 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Et Tu, Big Bird???

Via Memeorandum, The Hits Just Keep On Comin':

Sesame Workshop is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and we do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns. We have approved no campaign ads, and as is our general practice, have requested that the ad be taken down.

And this is going to leave a mark, too:

Mitt Romney won the first presidential debate by a whopping 52-point margin according to Gallup - the most resounding margin since the polling giant began tracking debates 20 years ago.

The stunning judgement on the debate came as a bombshell Pew national poll put Romney four points ahead of President Barack Obama by 49 to 45 points - a huge swing of 12 points from mid-September, when Pew found Obama leading by 51 to 43 points.

In Gallup debate results published today, three times more people thought Romney did a better job than Obama in last week's so-called Duel in Denver presidential debate.

And this. What's that old saying about Pride going before a fall:

When President Barack Obama stepped off the stage in Denver last week the 60 million Americans watching the debate against Mitt Romney already knew it had been a disaster for him.

But what nobody knew, until now, was that Obama believed he had actually won.

... a Democrat close to the Obama campaign today reveals that the President also did not take his debate preparation seriously, ignored the advice of senior aides and ignored one-liners that had been prepared to wound Romney.

Hubris: Obama's central problem was that he was so disdainful of Romney that the President, seen here at a campaign event in San Francisco on Mondau night, didn't believe he needed to engage with him.

Remember all the fulmination about how George Bush lived in a bubble where he was never confronted with anyone who disagreed with or disapproved of him? That turned out not to be true... of Bush, that is.

Ouch.

***********

Update: Via Ed Driscoll:

“I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”

We hear he's also one of the most sophisticated consumers of intelligence on the planet.

Too funny.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:58 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

An Election About Feelings

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

- Brutus, Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3

What a very odd election this is. Just a few weeks ago, the sudden tide that now lifts Mitt Romney's boat was ebbing fast.

According to the polls, Barack Obama held a commanding lead in every swing state. Peggy Noonan was in full on hyperventilation mode. The Republican campaign was a "rolling calamity" led by an utter "incompetent" (and that was putting it kindly, said Ms. Noonan). Debates, we were knowingly assured, "never change anything" and the press were already spiking the football on the front pages of every major newspaper.

Who could have forseen that a wimpy, awkward loser who barely - we were assured by righty pundits - made it out of the primaries alive would land a knockout punch on the glass jaw of the greatest communicator since The Gipper? Certainly not the wise souls who, mere weeks ago, snottily asked "Whose idea was it to nominate this guy, anyway?".

Translation: "Why, oh why can't We, The Cognitive Elite bypass the electorate?" Things would be so much simpler that way. If a candidate could win a presidential election by consensus and public acclaimation, Barack Obama would already be settling in for another four years and we superfluous peasants could go back to doing what we do best: waiting to be told what we really think and feel by our More Evolved brethren in Christ.

But it didn't happen that way. In the space of a few short hours the conventional wisdom on both sides was thoroughly and convincingly trounced by rude reality. That should worry us, a bit. It should worry us a lot, because public opinion should not change so swiftly and dramatically; at least on such flimsy grounds.

It should disturb us because of what it implies about us: the pesky electorate. It implies that we are guided by emotion, not reason; that our opinions and convictions are not grounded in anything substantial. That we are no longer understand the rules that produced the world we live in:

Imagine a kindergarten with 100 students, lavishly supplied with books, crayons and toys. Yet you gasp: one avaricious little boy is jealously guarding a mountain of toys for himself. A handful of other children are quietly playing with a few toys each, while 90 of the children are looking on forlornly — empty-handed.

The one greedy boy has hoarded more toys than all those 90 children put together!

“What’s going on?” you ask. “Let’s learn to share! One child shouldn’t hog everything for himself!”

The greedy little boy looks at you, indignant. “Do you believe in redistribution?” he asks suspiciously, his lips curling in contempt. “I don’t want to share. This is America!”

And then he summons his private security firm and has you dragged off the premises. Well, maybe not, but you get the point.

Now it may shock the assembled villainry, but we actually agree with Mr. Kristof here: that greedly little boy should be made to share his pile of toys. He should be made to share them, because they never belonged to him in the first place. You see, the missing piece in Mr. Kristof's deeply dishonest hypothetical is the notion of property rights.

The toys in his scenario would not belong to the little rich boy. They would belong to the school. They would have been purchased by the school for use by all students.

We're fairly confident that Mr. Kristof is familiar with the concept of property rights. They are, after all, what make it possible for him to keep the salary he earns writing for the NY Times. They are what make it possible for him to "own" (though how he can do so in good conscience when so many live in so much humbler dwellings) his big, fancy house and the cars he drives. We're also fairly confident that, if he were asked tomorrow to give up half of everything he owns in the name of "fairness", his answer would be not just "no", but "hell, no":

Warning! Never suggest a grand gesture to an idealistic teenager. Hannah seized upon the idea of selling the luxurious family home and donating half the proceeds to charity, while using the other half to buy a more modest replacement home.

Eventually, that’s what the family did. The project — crazy, impetuous and utterly inspiring — is chronicled in a book by father and daughter scheduled to be published next month: “The Power of Half.” It’s a book that, frankly, I’d be nervous about leaving around where my own teenage kids might find it. An impressionable child reads this, and the next thing you know your whole family is out on the street.

No, he'd never do such a thing himself, but he sure likes the sound of it. He likes writing about altruism and fairness - after all, there's a certain selfish pleasure to selflessness.

In the abstract, that is.

How important is fairness, really, to folks like Nick Kristof? One suspects their commitment to fairness stops where it begins to impact their self interest. Would Kristof, a Harvard grad, be willing to send his children to a lesser-known school and donate the saved tuition dollars to one or more needy student? Would he donate his not-inconsiderable salary to charity and live simply, as befits the enlightened (for whom personal property only erodes the natural spirit of communal benevolence we are born with)?

One of the very first lessons small children are taught is not that everything belongs to them, but that they have to respect other people's property rights. "MINE!" is one of the first words toddlers learn, and they use it (often at great volume). But not everything *is* theirs: as they grow up, they will attend birthday parties at which other children will be given gifts and they will get nothing.

They will have little brothers and sisters, with whom they will need to learn to share parental attention and family resources, and they will have to learn that no one has the right to take the property of another without giving something of value in return. If they are lucky, they will also learn the value of respect and reciprocity:

Ever seen two children quarreling over a toy? Such squabbles had been commonplace in Katherine Hussman Klemp’s household. But in the Sesame Street Parent’s Guide she tells how she created peace in her family of eight children by assigning property rights to toys.

As a young mother, Klemp often brought home games and toys from garage sales. “I rarely matched a particular item with a particular child,” she says. “Upon reflection, I could see how the fuzziness of ownership easily led to arguments. If everything belonged to everyone, then each child felt he had a right to use anything.”

To solve the problem, Klemp introduced two simple rules: First, never bring anything into the house without assigning clear ownership to one child. The owner has ultimate authority over the use of the property. Second, the owner is not required to share. Before the rules were in place, Klemp recalls, “I suspected that much of the drama often centered less on who got the item in dispute and more on whom Mom would side with.” Now, property rights, not parents, settle the arguments.

Instead of teaching selfishness, the introduction of property rights actually promoted sharing. The children were secure in their ownership and knew they could always get their toys back. Adds Klemp, “‘Sharing’ raised their self-esteem to see themselves as generous persons.”

Not only do her children value their own property rights, but also they extend that respect to the property of others. “Rarely do our children use each other’s things without asking first, and they respect a ‘No’ when they get one. Best of all, when someone who has every right to say ‘No’ to a request says ‘Yes,’ the borrower sees the gift for what it is and says ‘Thanks’ more often than not,” says Klemp.

Reciprocity and respect for the rights of others cannot thrive under a system that forcibly takes from one person and gives to another. And they cannot thrive under a system of government that depends on people to act in ways that manifestly contradict reality.

We are losing sight of the fundamental insights our world was built upon, and so we look to strong men to guarantee our security. As much as I'd like to believe that dramatic swing in the polls was based on the cogent clarity of conservative ideas, I can't quite manage it. It was based on the perception of weakness (a weakness formerly imputed to the Republican nominee) and strength.

We no longer entirely trust to the rule of law to protect us because men like Nick Kristof are doing everything in their power to erode respect for and understanding of the law. In its stead, they want us to rely on feelings.

And that is a recipe for decline and disaster.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:43 AM | Comments (39) | TrackBack

Picking Winners and Losers...

These days, everyone's getting in on the action!

It's no secret that academia is largely made up of liberal Democrats. But the University of Wisconsin made it painfully obvious when President Obama came to speak at a campaign rally on campus Thursday.
"My reaction to President Obama's visit has gone from unease, to mild irritation, to serious concern," political science Professor Kenneth Mayer wrote in an email to university administrators. "In a very real sense, we are forcing them (students) to become participants in the campaign and express their support for the campaign."

How?

In order to get a ticket for the speech, students were forced to go to Mr. Obama's campaign website and pledge their support for the president—in the process giving the Obama campaign a gold mine of contact information in a key swing state. The university even provided direct links to the website—free advertising to 40,000 students in one of Mr. Obama's most important demographics.

The thing is, it's never too early to begin teaching children about their civic duty:!

Florida Republicans are outraged after a school district allowed a pro-Obama organization to conduct student voter registration drives and deliver speeches to classes – but denied the Romney campaign similar opportunities.

Pasco County Schools confirmed to Fox News that volunteers from Organizing For America were given access to as many as a half dozen high school and middle school campuses.

“They did register students to vote,” spokesman John Mann told Fox News. “We don’t know how many children were registered – (but) we have an ongoing investigation.”

According to email correspondence obtained by Fox News, volunteers tried to infiltrate at least three other school campuses – but on-campus officials rebuffed those efforts.

In addition to voter registration, a former teacher was allowed to deliver Obama speeches to a number of senior high school students.
“She got into six classrooms and gave pro-Obama speeches – like way off to the left,” said James Mathieu, general counsel for the Pasco County Republican Party. “That got out to parents and parents complained.”

No wonder Obama wants to hire more teachers :p

Posted by Cassandra at 05:56 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 05, 2012

Liar, Liar

"You lie!"

The classiest way to respond to anyone you disagree with.

- Urban Dictionary

Remember when, "You Lie!" was an outrageous and disrespectful breach of protocol? Or was it shocking vestige of Jim Crow-era racism? Perhaps the best way to describe it was, "beyond the pale - bad manners" that eventually resulted in a reprimand from the House of Representatives. It took only a few years for "beyond the pale" to become business as usual. For reasons the Editorial Staff can only guess at, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused Mitt Romney of lying and not paying his taxes for a decade (never mind statements from his accountants and a former IRS commissioner to the contrary), no apology was offered and there was no censure for Reid's profoundly uncivil and dishonest attack. Perhaps the difference is that Joe Wilson had the courage to challenge Barack Obama to his face, while Reid's "You Lie!" outburst was uttered at a safe remove. Whatever the process, one thing seems clear: accusing one's political opponents of lying is no longer beyond the pale. And if you can utter a few outright falsehoods of your own in the process, so much the better:

President Obama made fun of Mitt Romney's debate call to cut off federal dollars for PBS at a rally in Madison, Wisconsin on Thursday.

"When he was asked what he would do to actually cut spending and reduce the deficit, he said he'd eliminate public television funding," Obama said. "But I just want to make sure got this straight. He'll get rid of regulations on Wall Street -- but he's going to crack down on Sesame Street."

Two problems with Obama's latest close encounter with the facts:

1. In the very same debate where he promised to cut PBS funding, Romney ardently defended regulation:

MR. LEHRER: All right. So, to finish quickly, briefly, on the economy, what is your view about the level of federal regulation of the economy right now? Is there too much, and in your case, Mr. President, is there — should there be more? Beginning with you — this is not a new two-minute segment — to start, and we'll go for a few minutes and then we're going to go to health care. OK?

MR. ROMNEY: Regulation is essential. You can't have a free market work if you don't have regulation. As a business person, I had to have — I needed to know the regulations. I needed them there. You couldn't have people opening up banks in their — in their garage and making loans. I mean, you have to have regulations so that you can have an economy work. Every free economy has good regulation..

2. According to the Executive VP for Sesame Workshop, neither Sesame Street nor Big Bird are dependent upon public funding:

Sherrie Westin, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Sesame Workshop, told CNN on Thursday morning that regardless of who is in the White House, the show will remain.

”Sesame Workshop receives very, very little funding from PBS,” she said. “So, we are able to raise our funding through philanthropic, through our licensed product, which goes back into the educational programming, through corporate underwriting and sponsorship. So quite frankly, you can debate whether or not there should be funding of public broadcasting. But when they always try to tout out Big Bird, and say we’re going to kill Big Bird — that is actually misleading, because Sesame Street will be here.”

But never mind those pesky facts. Never let it be said that this President isn't willing to fight for anything :p

Posted by Cassandra at 11:52 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

October 04, 2012

Obama: He Really *Is* Everywhere

Remember "Obama Everywhere"? No, not this Obama Everywhere.

We're referring to the White House's frankly creepy social media campaign, in which we're invited to follow the President's every utterance on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace (MySpace???), LinkedIn, YouTube, and anywhere else he's posting. For a small fee, you can even access the President on your mobile phone.

Where *does* the Leader of the Free World find the time? Must be a sophisticated consumption thang.

Turns out it wasn't just a gimmick. Obama really *is* everywhere:

See that gigantic Twitter widget in the right third of the Washington Post‘s main web page? That’s the Obama campaign’s Truth Team 2012 Twitter widget, purchased as an online ad. You’d need a magnifying glass to see the “Advertisement” disclaimer at the top, which is less than an eighth of an inch high in gray type on a gray background. Here in the newsroom, it took a few minutes to realize the thing was an ad.

But it gets better. Just last night, the Post put up its own piece on how the Obama campaign is taking over the web page of the Columbus Dispatch:

Residents of Columbus, Ohio, might be forgiven if they thought their local newspaper had been commandeered Tuesday by President Obama’s reelection campaign.

A major portion of the Web site for the Columbus Dispatch was taken over by advertising for Obama, whose campaign is pushing supporters to the polls as voters in the crucial swing state begin casting early ballots. By early evening, Obama for America campaign ads still flanked both sides of the newspaper’s landing page, with more ads across the top and bottom and a large display ad that took up much of the remaining screen when expanded.

Scrolling down led the user to a regular Dispatch news story on… the start of early voting.

You would think a self respecting group of independent journalists newspaper might see a slight conflict of interest or two there.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:31 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

“Dear Adolph, thank you for your generous donation….”

According to the Washington Examiner, the President may be in for another October surprise:

President Obama reelection campaign, rattled by his Wednesday night debate performance, could be in for even worse news. According to knowlegable sources, a national magazine and a national web site are preparing a blockbuster donor scandal story.

Sources told Secrets that the Obama campaign has been trying to block the story. But a key source said it plans to publish the story Friday or, more likely, Monday.

According to the sources, a taxpayer watchdog group conducted a nine-month investigation into presidential and congressional fundraising and has uncovered thousands of cases of credit card solicitations and donations to Obama and Capitol Hill, allegedly from unsecure accounts, and many from overseas. That might be a violation of federal election laws.

The Obama campaign has received hundreds of millions in small dollar donations, many via credit card donations through their website. On Thursday, the campaign announced a record September donor haul of $150 million.

I tell ya, it's like deja vu all over again.

Update: via Eric Hines, the folks at Powerline are all over the story. In the spirit of redistribution and egalitarianism that has come to characterize the Age of Obama, we shamelessly swiped the revised title of this post from them. Why should they be allowed to selfishly hoard all the good lines?

Lying Liars. They just keep on lying. That's what they do. That's ALL they do....

Posted by Cassandra at 08:26 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Shadow Knows Caption Contest

Due to repeated requested from DL Sly, let's see if we can get these to take off again. We promise to judge the results:

Posted by Cassandra at 12:27 PM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

More Romney "Unexpectedly!"

Veteran pollster Frank Lunz:

Undecided voters in focus group swing sharply toward Romney; Frank Luntz: ‘I’ve never seen anything like this’; CBS post-debate poll shows big win for Romney

Though the Editorial Staff are very much enjoying the public spanking meted out last night to pundits on the left who have relentlessly trashed Romney and pundits on the right who have... well, relentlessly trashed their own guy (when they weren't publicly wetting their pants in fear of the next soon-to-be-forgotten tempest in a teacup), we have to say that we really don't understand why any of this should be in the least unexpected.

Romney's whole life is a list of unexpected outcomes. Privileged youngest son of a self made man gives away his inheritance and goes on to amass a fortune worth over 200 million dollars. Sons of famous men - especially youngest sons - don't usually equal, much less exceed, their father's achievements.

Republicans aren't usually elected governor of liberal states. When is the last time we saw a Republican earn so much respect and loyalty from those who have worked with him - even his political opponents - that one of them went on national TV to testify to his character and integrity?

Righty pundits spend way too much time worrying about Mitt's supposed lack of conservatism. The man's life demonstrates that in everything he does, Romney has conservative instincts and values. That he's not ideological about it doesn't bother us one bit.

The single biggest challenge facing this nation over the next decade or so will be uniting a nation, half of which sees nothing wrong with big government and deficit spending, and the other half of which wants to shrink government and pay down the debt. An ideologue will never be able to do that because ideologues on both sides can't help betraying their deep seated belief that anyone who disagrees with them is stupid or evil.

Condescension and contempt made poor ambassadors. Reagan's most powerful weapon was that he understood Democrats, having been one himself for many years. Romney, like most people and like Reagan, has become more conservative over time. His conservatism isn't the shallow kind, born of zealotry or disillusionment, but the deep, long lasting kind grounded in life experience.

We've never believed that it's reasonable to expect one man to singlehandedly reverse over 75 years of steady growth in the scope and power of the federal government. What we do see in Mitt Romney is a man who will do what can be done and will, as he has over and over again in his life, exceed expectations. We see an adult who is wise enough not to pretend he has control over the specifics of plans and policies that will be subject to public debate and compromise by a Congress whose composition is yet unknown. And we see a man who is honest enough to be profoundly - and visibly - uncomfortable with the obscene falseness of the campaign trail.

But get him on policy, on the facts, on where he wants to take this country, and he is decisive, calm, and very much in command of himself.

So, while nothing in life is ever certain, we're hopeful. When it came to the war on terriers, George Bush had an overwhelming array of forces against him and yet - because he focused and refused to give in - he prevailed in the end. We sense that kind of focus and determination in Romney. It's not to be found in his words, but in his life.

And that's what really matters.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:24 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

"Unexpectedly!", Romney Wins Debate

If one word could be said to sum up last night's debate, it would be a meme popularized by Glenn Reynolds to describe those moments when reality rudely punctures the media spin filter:

"Unexpectedly!"

For the first time, American voters had a chance to compare the two candidates side by side. Mitt Romney was allowed to speak to the American people directly, without the heavy handed (not to mention oxymoronic) narrative of an incompetent, insincere wannabe who veers wildly between two extremes: pathetic approval-seeking suckupitude and testosterone laced alpha bullying behaviors.

Barack Obama was given a similar opportunity to speak directly to the American people, and despite the best efforts of mediator Jim Lehrer to cue the President when he lost track of his own talking points ("LEHRER: But -- but Mr. President, you're saying in order to -- to get the job done, it's got to be balanced. You've got to have...), the side by side did not play to Obama's strengths.

Best line of the night went to Romney:

"Look, I've got five boys. I'm used to people saying something that's not always true, but just keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I'll believe it."

That's exactly how Romney came across - the calm, firm adult dealing with an evasive, somewhat shamefaced kid. Is there any parent of teen boys who doesn't instantly recognize the body language on the right? It's submissive: the uneasy little smiles. The refusal to make eye contact. "La la la la. I'm in my own little world... I can't heeeeeeear yoooouuuuuu!"

Devastating. Even more deadly was the recurring image of the President of the United States repeatedly looking to moderator Jim Lehrer to do what the press have done for Obama since day one - run interference, block for him, tell us what he really meant to say, save him from himself:

...what Mitt did was to expose the president as the Primo Carnera of his day, the mob-owned heavyweight champ who won a series of fixed fights — until he finally found himself in the ring against an opponent who didn’t fear him, and who was more than happy to whale on him, especially once Romney figured out that Obama couldn’t hurt him. Meanwhile, Obama kept looking over at Mitt with a “I can’t believe you know all this stuff” look on his face, while periodically casting beseeching glances at moderator Jim Lehrer, hoping to be saved by a bell that never came.

Last night finally stripped the Vaseline off the lens, and viewed without the distorting filter, things certainly looked a lot different, didn't they?

Posted by Cassandra at 06:49 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

October 03, 2012

Debate Prep

A little something to get y'all in the mood for tonight's debate:

Vote for your favorite Obama verbal tic in the comments section:

Statistics gathered by the Global Language Monitor reveal that Obama has said ["Make no mistake"] 2,924 times since he was sworn into office more than two years ago.

Other signature Obama sayings include: "Win the future" (1,861 times), “Here’s the deal” (1,450 times), and “Let me be clear,” (1,066 times). In a nod to the tough financial times he has faced, the president’s fifth most popular motto is “It will not be easy” (1,059 times).

Posted by Cassandra at 06:59 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

In Libya, Press Doing Job Deemed "Too Dangerous" For Obama Administration

Lord knows we've been critical of the press in the past, but you've got to hand it to these folks - they're doing the job neither the Obama administration nor the FBI seem capable of handling:

At least one document found amid the clutter indicates that Americans at the mission were discussing the possibility of an attack in early September, just two days before the assault took place. The document is a memorandum dated Sept. 9 from the U.S. mission’s security office to the 17th February Martyrs Brigade, the Libyan-government-sanctioned militia that was guarding the compound, making plans for a “quick reaction force,” or QRF, that would provide security.

“In the event of an attack on the U.S. Mission,” the document states, “QRF will request additional support from the 17th February Martyrs Brigade.”

Other the documents detail — with names, photographs, phone numbers and other personal information — the Libyans contracted to provide security for the mission from a British-based private firm, Blue Mountain. Some of those Libyans say they now fear for their lives, and the State Department has said it shares concerns about their safety.

So let's get this straight: the Libyan embassy asked the Obama administration for more security and was denied. The FBI asked the Obama administration for a military security detail to provide perimeter security so they could investigate... and were denied.

The State Department fears for the safety of the Libyans we hired to provide security because we failed to protect sensitive documents containing their personal information before 9/11 (despite previous attacks and multiple warnings). Three weeks after the attack, that data is "only loosely secured" and visitors have "easy access to delicate details about American operations in Libya".

This administration seems bound and determined to turn James Mattis' famous maxim on its head. Under Obama, there's no better enemy, no worse friend than the United States.

We can't be trusted, and they certainly can't depend on us to protect even our own interests. Never mind theirs.

Who would want such a faithless, incompetent ally?

Posted by Cassandra at 05:56 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Waivers, False Choices, Dishonest Rhetoric

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers -- (applause) -- our Founding Fathers, faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man -- a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience sake.

Barack Obama, Inaugural Address

How does one square the assertion that any conflict between our ideals and our security is a "false choice" with this?

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE

SUBJECT: Determination with Respect to the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008

Pursuant to section 404 of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (CSPA) (title IV, Public Law 110-457), I hereby determine that it is in the national interest of the United States to waive the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to Libya, South Sudan, and Yemen; and further determine that it is in the national interest of the United States to waive in part the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to allow for continued provision of International Military Education and Training funds and nonlethal Excess Defense Articles, and the issuance of licenses for direct commercial sales of U.S. origin defense articles; and I hereby waive such provisions accordingly.

Is it, or is it not the purpose of this law to prevent the United States from providing military aid to nations that use children as soldiers?

The ideal here seems straightforward. Waiving enforcement of such a law seems to suggest that there was indeed a conflict between our ideals and our national security interests.

As does not closing Gitmo. But apparently, the term "false choices" only applies to the previous occupant of the White House.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:50 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

October 02, 2012

BenghaziGate Blows Up, By The Numbers

Whilst the Editorial Staff was intently peering at boring spreadsheets, BenghaziGate hit the proverbial fan. Let's run it down:

1. White House talking points based on cherry picked intel? Sacre bleu! The arrogant cowboy Bush President Obama has much to answer for!

Lake reports that there was a briefing from the CIA blaming the attack on the video. However, the intelligence was based on one intelligence intercept and ignored all the other intelligence that we had about the attack.
The intelligence that helped inform those talking points—and what the U.S. public would ultimately be told—came in part from an intercept of a phone call between one of the alleged attackers and a middle manager from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the group’s north African affiliate, according to U.S. officials familiar with the intercept. In the call, the alleged attacker said the locals went forward with the attack only after watching the riots that same day at the U.S. embassy in Cairo.

However, the intercept was one of several monitored communications during and after the attacks between members of a local militia called Ansar al-Sharia and AQIM, which, taken together, suggest the assault was in fact a premeditated terrorist attack, according to U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism officials not authorized to talk to the press.

In one of the calls, for example, members of Ansar al-Sharia bragged about their successful attack against the American consulate and the U.S. ambassador.

It’s unclear why the talking points said the attacks were spontaneous and why they didn’t mention the possibility of al Qaeda involvement, given the content of the intercepts and the organizations the speakers were affiliated with. One U.S. intelligence officer said the widely distributed assessment was an example of “cherry picking,” or choosing one piece of intelligence and ignoring other pieces, to support a preferred thesis.

2. Via DirectorBlue, CNN sources say White House lied about Benghazi attack

3. Libyan Consulate bombed twice already this year:

In the five months leading up to this year’s 9/11 anniversary, there were two bombings on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and increasing threats to and attacks on the Libyan nationals hired to provide security at the U.S. missions in Tripoli and Benghazi.

Details on these alleged incidents stem in part from the testimony of a handful of whistleblowers who approached the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in the days and weeks following the attack on the Benghazi consulate.

4. Prior to 9/11 attack and after "long line of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya", U.S. Embassy requested more security ... and was turned down by Washington:

... multiple U.S. federal government officials have confirmed to the Committee that, prior to the September 11 attack, the U.S. mission in Libya made repeated requests for increased security in Benghazi,” Issa and Chaffetz added (my emphasis). “The mission in Libya, however, was denied these resources by officials in Washington.”

The committee noted 13 “security threats” in Benghazi, including an attempt to assassinate the British ambassador to Libya.

5. FBI asked for military security detail to provide perimeter support for their investigation... and was turned down.

6. White House response to whistleblowers' allegations: "No comment".

7. "RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!!!"

Doesn't look good, does it? Do us a favor, though: don't take your eye off the real danger facing America.

Priorities, people.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:51 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Down's Syndrome Voters Have Opinions, Too

The blog princess has linked to Kirsten Powers several times when she bravely spoke out against a position held by her fellow progressives. Now Ms. Powers is surely not the only progressive ever to do this, but on the times we have linked to her, she has done it particularly well. Her arguments were sound, and not only because we happen to agree with them.

They were sound on the merits.

Today we link to another women speaking out against a position held by her fellow pro.... err... conservatives. We do so, not because we happen to agree with her (quite honestly, this is not a question we had considered in any focused way), but because - on reading her impassioned arguments - we found them to be sound and well reasoned.

It takes courage to buck your own side, especially close to an election when the stakes are so very high. None of us wants to lose. But this kind of courage is admirable and deserves fair consideration. We have purposely not linked the most compelling parts of her argument. Please read it yourself - in its entirety.

You'll be glad you did.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:38 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

October 01, 2012

L'Hypocrisy! Le Outrage!

Via Doug Powers at Michelle Malkin's place:

In 2007, Democrats led by Sherrod Brown, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton proposed the Forewarn Act, which would have strengthened the WARN Act by expanding the number of companies under the law’s jurisdiction and requiring 90 days’ notice. The bill didn’t go anywhere. Now, apparently, the president not only opposes the principles underlying legislation he himself supported, he opposes WARN entirely.

And whilst we're capering about on our collective high horse, l'irony!!!

For too long, employers have failed to notify workers that they’re about to lose their jobs due to mass layoffs or plant closings even though notice is required by the WARN Act,” then-Sen. Obama said in a July 17, 2007 press release. “The least employers can do when they’re anticipating layoffs is to let workers know they’re going to be out of a job and a paycheck with enough time to plan for their future.”

Holy Obamagasm, Batman!

Posted by Cassandra at 05:07 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Fascinating Chart of the Day

The yawning gulf between how Democrats and Republicans perceive the state of the economy:

Hmm... what could possibly account for such widely divergent perceptions of reality?

...Valentino Larcinese, Riccardo Puglisi, and James M. Snyder Jr. counted economics-related stories published by major American newspapers from 1988 to 2005 (for big-circulation chains) and 1996-2005 for the others.

....The authors ... found a clear and strong effect in the 102 papers they studied (all the newspapers in the NewsLibrary archive, plus the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times). "When the unemployment rate was one percentage point above the average," they write, "newspapers with a strong propensity to endorse Republican candidates reacted with 15 percent per month more articles under Clinton than under Bush. For the same one percent increase, newspapers with a strong pro-Democratic endorsement policy have 9 percent less news on unemployment under Clinton than under Bush."

Another study with similiar findings:

Our results suggest that American newspapers tend to give more positive news coverage to the same economic news when Democrats are in the Presidency than for Republicans, and a similar though smaller effect is found for Democratic control of Congress. Our results reject the claim that “reader diversity is a powerful force toward accuracy.” When all types of news are pooled into a single analysis, our results are highly significant. However, the results vary greatly depending upon which types of economic data are being reported. When newspapers are examined individually the only support that Republicans appear to obtain is from the President’s home state newspapers during his term. This is true for the Houston Chronicle under both Bushes and the Los Angeles Times during Reagan. Contrary to rational expectations, media coverage affects people’s perceptions of the economy.

No wonder the NYTimes,WaPo, et al, are so threatened by the existence of a single conservative-leaning news network. Message discipline is so much easier when you control the microphone.

The Business and Media Institute analyzed broadcast network news references to gas or fuel prices between Jan. 20 and Feb. 20, 2012 and from March 24 and April 24, 2008. BMI found that in the 2008 period there were more than 4 times as many gas prices stories, news briefs or news headlines on ABC, CBS and NBC as there were in 2012 (97 to 21).

Coverage during the time periods differed not only in quantity, but in tone as well. During Bush’s tenure, gas prices were a huge economic threat and cause of suffering. The networks also used the high gas prices to attack the administration. In 2012, the networks aired mostly matter-of-fact stories on the rising gas prices, and worried primarily that they would hinder the economic recovery, not that they are making people suffer.

Dismal broadcast network reports about “skyrocketing” gas prices filled the newscasts in 2008. There were reports about businesses closing, airlines struggling and truckers protesting -- all because of the high prices. One ABC report said families were facing the “tough choice” between food or fuel. Others said that “wallets were running on empty” and consumers were told over and over that there was no relief in sight. But by the end of November 2008, prices had collapsed to $1.82.

The networks weren’t simply reporting the painfully high gas prices in early 2008 though, in many cases they were exaggerating them. NBC’s “Today” focused on Redwood City, Calif. on March 6 where regular gasoline cost $3.99, according to the photograph NBC aired. The national average for gas that day was $3.19 a gallon. Ann Curry also failed to tell viewers that California has the highest state gasoline tax in the nation, a whopping 45.5 cents a gallon at that time.

On gasoline specifically, reporters have routinely showed photos of extreme pump prices despite lower national averages. The Business and Media Institute documented this trend in 2007, 2006 and 2005.

When you stop to consider that most people seek out news sources that confirm their pre-existing biases, this result isn't all that surprising. But perhaps more importantly, it illustrates the dangers of assuming that people who don't think like conservatives will be persuaded by the same arguments that conservatives find persuasive. What is self evidently self evident to us, isn't to progressives.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:39 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

The Incumbent as Underdog

When in this world the headlines read,
of those whose hearts are full of greed,
Who rob and steal from those in need,
To right these wrongs with blinding speed comes....
UNDERDOG!!!

It doesn't get any weirder than this, folks:

As part of his week-long effort to lower expectations ahead of Wednesday’s first Obama-Romney debate in Denver – an obligatory ritual even the campaigns find tiresome – the president informed a crowd of 11,200 here Sunday night not to expect too much.

“Governor Romney is a good debater. I’m just okay,” said Obama, who is not known for his humility in competitive activities ranging from golf to cards to elections.

Obama took a cue from his traveling press secretary who earlier mocked reports that Romney was prepping one-liners. “Folks in the media are already speculating on who is going to have the best zingers, who is going to put the most points on the board,” he told the audience, adding that he was much more interested in delivering “serious” answers to policy queries.

The former Massachusetts governor, clearly the most polished performer in the GOP primary debates, has been poor-mouthing himself in hopes of scoring the he-did-better-than-we-thought crown Thursday morning.

But wait... we spoke too soon. It can get even weirder:

It's a further lowering of expectations ahead of the first debate in Denver next week. Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse tells Fox News he thinks Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will win.

Woodhouse says Democrats are "trying to be realistic about expectations" because the president is "lucky to be able to devote three consecutive hours to debate preparation."

Woodhouse also paints Romney as a good debater and gives him credit for "dispatching Newt Gingrich" who Woodhouse considers a pretty good debater.

A few thoughts:

The "don't expect too much" fits in well with Obama's favorite theme: the "I inherited the worst [fill in the blank] since [fill in the blank]" serial excuse-a-palooza. But it doesn't fit so well with with his pre-election hubris (promises to heal the planet, restore a state of global comity that never existed in the first place, and bring us out of the worst economic downturn since The Great Depression).

The President would have more time to prep for debates if he wasn't spending so much time making silly guest appearances on shows like The View. If Obama thinks the nation deserves a "serious talk about policy issues", shouldn't be be spending more time prepping and less time appearing on frivolous talk shows that do everything BUT seriously discuss policy issues?

We keep thinking of the Bush/Kerry debate in 2004. You know, the one where President Bush prepped for the debate by spending the day touring hurricane-stricken Florida and John Kerry spent the day getting a manicure? We'll never forget how Bush was savaged by both conservative pundits and the press for not being on top of his game that night.

Bush's visible exhaustion was evidence of his dull witted verbal and mental incompetance and Kerry's relative freshness (not to mention tidy cuticles!) were taken as proof of his amazing mental superiority and grace under pressure. The standard seems to have changed somewhat.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:57 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Obama Administration's WARN Act Chicanery Update

Which of the three exceptions to the Labor Department's WARN Act requirement that federal agencies warn employees of possible layoffs applies to sequestration? If you guessed, "none of them", a stuffed marmoset may be coming to a mailbox near you:

That guidance provides only three exceptions to a WARN Act notification. The exceptions are: 1) a faltering company that is actively seeking capital or business and believes notification would prevent it from obtaining such capital, 2) a natural disaster and 3) unforeseeable business circumstances. Unforeseeable business circumstances are defined as “a business circumstance that is caused by some sudden, dramatic, and unexpected action or conditions outside the employer’s control, like the unexpected cancellation of a major order.” None of these three exceptions seem to apply to sequestration. Therefore, at least according to the Department of Labor’s guidance for employers, WARN notifications would be appropriate in light of sequestration.

Of course, if that doesn't work, a misleading headline or two can be extremely useful. Can you reconcile the headline of this article with the first sentence?

Headline: White House Moves To Head Off Sequester Layoffs

First sentence: The White House moved to prevent defense and other government contractors from issuing mass layoff notices in anticipation of sequestration, even going so far to say that the contracting agencies would cover any potential litigation costs or employee compensation costs that could follow.

Preventing actual sequester layoffs and preventing advance warning of same would seem to be two different things, no es verdad?

Posted by Cassandra at 05:26 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack