« April 2013 | Main | June 2013 »

May 28, 2013

"Big Yogurt" Is Destroying Everything In Its Path....

And yet this administration does nothing:

Your Greek yogurt just might be harming the planet, according to a story at Modern Farmer (which you should all be reading). So, Greek yogurt. You see it everywhere, and you probably even eat it, too. It’s healthy and tastes enough like nothing that you can make it taste good. But to make it healthy-enough, there’s a menacing byproduct called “acid whey.” As Justin Elliott writes:
For every three or four ounces of milk, Chobani and other companies can produce only one ounce of creamy Greek yogurt. The rest becomes acid whey. It’s a thin, runny waste product that can’t simply be dumped. Not only would that be illegal, but whey decomposition is toxic to the natural environment, robbing oxygen from streams and rivers. That could turn a waterway into what one expert calls a “dead sea,” destroying aquatic life over potentially large areas. Spills of cheese whey, a cousin of Greek yogurt whey, have killed tens of thousands of fish around the country in recent years.

This would maybe be OK—or still terrible, just on a tiny scale—if Greek yogurt wasn’t now Big Business.

The scale of the problem—or opportunity, depending on who you ask—is daunting. The $2 billion Greek yogurt market has become one of the biggest success stories in food over the past few years and total yogurt production in New York nearly tripled between 2007 and 2013. New plants continue to open all over the country. The Northeast alone, led by New York, produced more than 150 million gallons of acid whey last year, according to one estimate.

Greek yogurt companies are paying farmers to take some of the acid whey off their hands, and the farmers will feed it to cows or mix it in with fertilizer—but they can only do so much. A Cornell scientist also believes that it could be used in baby formula, but the scalability of that, too, is unclear. Others at the University of Wisconsin are working on ways to turn the acid into fructose. And one farmer is converting the acid into methane to then be used for energy, but he’s lost over a million dollars in the process.

Now go read the whole story. It’s great and contains the phrases “Yogurt Summit” and “the yogurt industry is highly secretive and competitive.”

We just want to know: where is The Lightworker on this important news story? First we find out that "green" energy is responsible for the slaughter of a half million innocent birds every year and now this!

Kind of hard to heal the oceans with the Gaia raping back-to-nature set wreaking havoc on the environment 24/7/365.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:26 AM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

May 25, 2013

The Power of Symbols

A humbling essay about the American spirit:

OK.png

The first thing Kevin Gibson did after returning to his house, torn apart by a powerful tornado Monday, was pull an American flag and a temporary flagpole from the corner of his partially standing garage.

Neighbors forlornly picking through the rubbish of their lives stopped to watch Gibson’s nephew, Sean Pontius, stick the pole into the ground and hoist the Stars and Stripes.


The flag-raising seemed to hearten the neighbors, as if assuring them that they would emerge triumphant from this disaster.

With the remnants of their lives lying around them, Gibson recalled, the neighbors began applauding and chanting: “Yes, sir! Raise that flag!”

“It means we are still united, whatever happens,” he said, the flag flapping in the wind as his family helped him pore through the wreckage for salvageable possessions.

In many ravaged neighborhoods in this Oklahoma City suburb, where Monday’s tornado was its fiercest, American flags have been popping up amid the ruins. They are hung from skeletal trees denuded of leaves and bark, stuck in the doors of cars turned upside down and draped over pieces of twisted metal embedded in the ground.

The shot of red, white and blue flying in a landscape of ashen brown is startling and powerfully defiant, seeming to embody the mettle of the national anthem. Pontius said the flag in front of his uncle’s house reminds him of photos he has seen of the flag over the collapsed World Trade Center, or U.S. troops raising the flag on Iwo Jima.

“It represents our spirit as Oklahomans and Americans,” said Chris DeWitt, pointing to a flag a neighbor had planted on a basketball frame. “We’re here, we’re proud and we’ll be back.”

...Someone planted 13 small American flags before the splintered house of Jerry Woods and near the one remaining brick wall, where a neighbor wrote in black paint, “Thank You Jerry U Saved My Family’s Lives.” Woods, a disabled Vietnam veteran, sheltered 22 people and three dogs in his small underground storm shelter designed for 12 people. His Veterans of Foreign Wars post, 8706, is sending him $500 to get back on his feet, but he plans to endorse the check over to another neighbor, who wasn’t insured for anything but a car.

“It’s what we do as Americans,” he said as friends and relatives carted away debris. “The American flags here are what we do. It’s times like this when people pull together.”

The qualities that made this nation great may have fallen into disrepute in Washington, but they are strong where it counts: in the hearts of ordinary men and women who, faced with disaster, look first to what they can do to help others.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:51 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 24, 2013

Change

Petitioning the Lightworker: "Come back to us, and all will be forgiven!"

Journalists who covered the George W. Bush administration said they encountered arrogant attitudes toward the press but were usually able to engage knowledgeable officials in productive dialogue.

But reporters covering the Obama administration say more and more officials will no longer talk at all and refer them to uncommunicative or even hostile and bullying press aides. “The White House doesn’t want anyone leaking,” said one senior Washington correspondent who, like others, described a tight, difficult-to-penetrate inner circle that controls the administration’s decisions and micromanages its message. “There are few windows on decision-making and governing philosophy. There is a perception that Obama himself has little regard for the news media.”

Well, he did promise to change the way Washington works.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:43 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Finally, Women of VC!

A good reason to watch football:

...11 per cent of men ...were asked what situations they had rewarded their partner for in the bedroom. The highest scoring answer was for watching sport - either live or on television.

We knew there had to be one out there somewhere....

Posted by Cassandra at 08:19 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Surrendering Without a Fight

Via Grim:

There's no reason to lose fights like this except that our side has unilaterally disarmed. US soldiers, all of whom are trained with arms, and many of whom own private firearms and are licensed to carry them off post, found themselves prey for Nidal Hassan because regulations disarmed almost every soldier on base. British soldiers are having their heads hacked off with meat cleavers, because they -- also like people coming off of many US military bases, especially those run by the Air Force -- can't even carry a combat knife, or even a lengthy pocket knife.

First we're told that guns cause violence: take away our lawful right to bear arms and somehow, by some unexplained miracle, our enemies will simply lose heart and stop attacking us. If only the British Army had responded to "We'll never stop fighting you" with, "We'll never stop fighting back". Sadly, "common sense" prevailed.

They should have flooded the streets with uniforms. We're guessing there would have been no shortage of willing volunteers.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:55 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Surrendering Liberty

By inches. Elise offers a sobering thought:

The individual mandate means no one has the right to be left alone any longer.

Let’s say I work until I’m 50 and save my money. I then decide to retire and become a vagabond. I convert my savings to cash and keep it in a no-interest checking account. I live off the cash, never earning a salary or interest or capital gains. I have no reason to interact with the Federal government since I owe no taxes. I do not maintain a residence which means I have no reason to interact with State or local government. I can, if I want, legally step outside the grid.

Under Obamacare, that will change. I now must interact with the IRS. I have to tell them how much money I make and what health insurance I purchase. If I do not purchase health insurance, they will fine me. I can no longer legally step outside the grid.

That seems to me to be a terrible loss. I know that very few people want to take that step but I believe we have lost something precious by making it impossible for people to do so without breaking the law. How did we end up in a situation where my life is now subject to my government’s beck and call?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:24 AM | Comments (38) | TrackBack

BUSTED!!!

It would seem that the left hand has no idea what the left hand is doing:

Attorney General Eric Holder signed off on a controversial search warrant that identified Fox News reporter James Rosen as a “possible co-conspirator” in violations of the Espionage Act and authorized seizure of his private emails, a law enforcement official told NBC News on Thursday.

The disclosure of the attorney general’s role came as President Barack Obama, in a major speech on his counterterrorism policy, said Holder had agreed to review Justice Department guidelines governing investigations that involve journalists.

How gracious of him. Maybe the DoJ should follow the DoD's brilliant strategy: when you find out that the people charged with making sure subordinates know/follow the rules aren't following the rules themselves....

...clearly the answer is, "more training". Or an investigation, followed by more training, because nothing succeeds a public lack of resolve, followed by doubling down on failure. That said, we're not sure we agree with the President here:

"I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable," Obama said. "Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs."

This foolishness seems to be everywhere we look these days. "They're criminalizing ordinary reporting!" Well, not quite. This is only true if we define "ordinary reporting" as pressuring government employees to violate the law (as well as the express conditions of their employment):

1. To begin with, let me define the problem, and define it broadly: A wide range of laws that bars certain people from revealing certain information that they themselves learned in confidence, having given a promise of confidentiality. To give just a few examples,

Federal law (18 U.S.C. § 793) does this (among other things) for secret defense information.
Federal law does it for confidential income tax information, and many other matters.
Trade secret law does it for certain kinds of business information (some trade secret claims are civil and some are criminal, but this doesn’t matter for First Amendment purposes).
Nondisclosure agreements do the same for other kinds.
Professional regulations and related statutes do this for attorney-client, psychotherapist-patient, and doctor-patient confidences.
Court orders do this for information gathered through discovery in legal cases.

Relatedly, federal law bars people from electronic eavesdropping on cell phone calls, and also prohibits the illegal eavesdroppers from communicating this information to others. This isn’t exactly the same, because the original misconduct here consists not of illegally leaking information to which one has legal access, but illegally accessing the information in the first place. Still, downstream publication of illegally leaked information and publication of illegally accessed information are quite similar in many ways — they all involve information that by law ought not be communicatable, that the original leaker (or illegal gatherer) has no right to communicate, but that he does communicate to third parties who did not themselves illegally leak or illegally gather the information.

2. These laws are generally seen as constitutional, mostly on the theory that they enforce promises of confidentiality, express or implied, that were legitimately extracted as a condition of access to the information (see Cohen v. Cowles Media (1991) and Seattle Times Co v. Rhinehart (1984)), or, in the case of the cell phone interception law, that the underlying acquisition of the information was illegal. That’s an oversimplification, but it’s a reasonable first approximation.

And in any event, I think it’s pretty clear that it’s constitutional to outlaw leaks of government information by those who have promised to keep it secret. I know there are arguments that the government classifies too much information as secret. But for the government to be trusted, whether by taxpayers, sources of information, foreign governments, or other government employees, it has to be able to punish those government employees who promised to keep a secret (whether a tax return or a defense-related document) but then broke that promise.

3. But what about people who never promised confidentiality, and who just receive — without soliciting or prearranging this — information that they know was illegally leaked (or illegally gathered)? Say you’re a reporter, and you get an unsolicited e-mail revealing something important gleaned from a prominent person’s tax return, a copy of an important secret government document, a business plan to create a controversial product or close a plant or engage in a particular marketing strategy, or a tape of an illegal intercepted conversation in which union members are discussing what sounds like a possible plan to engage in violent crime against management. (“If they’re not gonna move for three percent, we’re gonna have to go to their, their homes .... To blow off their front porches, we’ll have to do some work on some of those guys. Really, uh, really and truthfully because this is, you know, this is bad news. (UNDECIPHERABLE).”) May the law bar even such disclosures by downstream recipients, who never promised confidentiality, never themselves engaged in illegal interception of information, and never solicited the breach of a confidence or illegal interception, or conspired in such an action?

There, the matter is not entirely clear. Bartnicki v. Vopper (2001), the illegal interception case from which the quote above is drawn, holds that revelation of the information by these downstream recipients would be protected by the First Amendment, at least if the released information is important enough and if the initial illegality consisted of illegal interception of cell phone calls. But United States v. Rosen (D.D.C. 2006) holds otherwise as to revelation by downstream recipients of classified defense information. Still, there are very serious First Amendment arguments in favor of protecting such further disclosures by these sorts of downstream recipients.

4. There is, though, an intermediate category of speakers. Part of it consists of those who actively solicit criminal or tortious leaks or information gathering, knowing that what they are seeking is information that the leaker has no right to reveal or to gather. “Could you send me this classified document / tax return / secret about your client? I’ll write a story about it that will promote truth and justice / help advance your ideological agenda / get back at your enemies / make you feel important.” “You know, if you illegally taped that phone call and passed it along to me, there could be a great story in it.” “I like the story idea you’re pitching to me, but I need more proof. Your boss probably has documents that demonstrate this; can you rifle through his desk, and send me a copy of whatever you find?” And part consists of those who actively conspire with the leaker to promote the leak, for instance by working out specific plans that would keep the leaker from getting caught, or by providing tools (physical or electronic) that can help the leaker get the information in the first place.

This is what the government is saying James Rosen of Fox News of did — soliciting the leak of classified documents, aiding and abetting the leak by working out means by which the leaker could leak the documents more safely, and generally conspiring with the leaker. (The government isn’t prosecuting Rosen for this, at least at this point, but it is alleging that he did this, since allegation of such criminal conduct by a newsgatherer allows the government to search the newsgatherer’s papers under 42 U.S.C. § 2000aa, the federal statute limiting searches of newsgatherers.)

And it seems to me that this behavior is rightly treated as criminal. Solicitation of crime (see United States v. Williams (2008)), aiding and abetting crime by providing instrumentalities for the crime, and conspiracy to commit a crime are rightly punishable, and I don’t think that the answer should be different when the crime is an illegal leak of information (however newsworthy that information might be).

The Editorial Staff have no idea why so many conservatives are mindlessly repeating the "criminalization of journalism" mantra, but we're pretty darned sure they weren't saying anything so foolish during the Bu$Hitler years. We understand the delicious irony of pointing out the present administration's hypocrisy on matters journalistique, but this is a dangerous line of argument we don't think should be embraced.

During the Bush years, we argued repeatedly that journalists should not get a pass on breaking the law. If we don't like the law (and we firmly believe the government should be allowed to go after leakers), then let's change the law.

But arguing for stricter enforcement when a Republican is in the Oval Office and then screaming bloody murder when a Democrat occupies that position is every bit as hypocritical as the President's suddenly renewed support for shield laws for journalists.

Feel free to point out our many errors in the comments section, knuckle draggers :p

Posted by Cassandra at 07:01 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

May 23, 2013

Comments....

...were broken earlier, courtesy of spammers bombing the site code.

They appear to be fixed now. Please let me know (my email is in the sidebar) if you experience any difficulties.

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

The Scourge of Global Elephant Inequality

In celebration of our well known love of all things pachydermal, the Editorial Staff offer up the best.virtual.field.trip.evah:

In April, Think Elephants, a Thailand-based organization that promotes conservation through education, published the results of a study that found that elephants could follow vocal commands telling them to find food hidden in one of two buckets. This suggests that elephants may navigate their physical world in ways that primates and dogs – prior subjects of animal cognition studies – can not. You thought your family pooch was smarter than an elephant? Think again.

Perhaps more surprising is that the academic paper’s coauthors were middle school students living and studying at the East Side Middle School in Manhattan. They had formed a relationship with the conservation organization half a world away via Skype, providing an outlet for students to interact with both the elephants and the trained professionals studying them. From there, the students helped formulate and execute their own experiments, which led to the study. The academic paper was published in Plos One, a peer-reviewed, open-access, online journal.

The closest that previous generations of students could have gotten to an elephant was by watching a documentary or visiting the zoo. But advances in telecommunications have changed all that and in the process influenced the way students can learn. According to Dr. Joshua Plotnik, Think Elephants founder and CEO, the camp in northern Thailand is wired for Internet through a wireless router. There’s a Macbook Pro on a wooden table, which is linked, via USB, to an external HD handicam. Using an external handicam means that he can zoom in and out, and bring the camera to the elephants. The group usually communicates over Skype (but have also used Google Hangouts) to link live directly with 12-to-14 year old students at East Side Middle School.

lephnants.jpg
Dr. Plotnik arranges for three to four elephants in the camp to hang out with the students while the handlers (mahouts) feed them. The students can ask questions, see inside the elephants’ mouths, watch an impromptu veterinary check, etc. The publication of the paper paper capped off a “three-year endeavor to create a comprehensive middle school curriculum that educates and engages young people directly in elephant and other wildlife conservation.”

We have often thought that every American middle school should have access to its very own elephant. This may even be a humyn right. We shudder to think of the teaming throngs of underprivileged schoolchildren who must somehow bravely soldier on, sans pachyderm, bereft of real time, wireless access to the world's flora and fauna, and plagued by the lingering shame of global Elephant Inequality.

Hopefully this bold new foray into interspecies telecommunication will include sensitivity training, because these kids totally need to check their elephant privilege.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:01 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Send In The Clowns

No wait - they're already here!

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,The Daily Show on Facebook

Posted by Cassandra at 07:48 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 21, 2013

Does Empathy Lead to Injustice and Discrimination?

During his first term, Obama talked a lot about the value of judicial empathy, and of empathy in general:

In 2008, Karina Encarnacion, an eight year-old girl from Missouri, wrote to President-elect Barack Obama with some advice about what kind of dog he should get for his daughters. She also suggested that he enforce recycling and ban unnecessary wars. Obama wrote to thank her, and offered some advice of his own: “If you don’t already know what it means, I want you to look up the word ‘empathy’ in the dictionary. I believe we don’t have enough empathy in our world today, and it is up to your generation to change that.”

This wasn’t the first time Obama had spoken up for empathy. Two years earlier, in a commencement address at Xavier University, he discussed the importance of being able “to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us—the child who’s hungry, the steelworker who’s been laid off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came to town.” He went on, “When you think like this—when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers—it becomes harder not to act, harder not to help.”

Is this really true, though? The connection between empathy, sympathy (fellow feeling), and willingness to help others doesn't actually work the way the President claims it does. Empathy, it turns out, is not broad based at all, but narrow and specific. People are more willing to help individuals than groups:

The key to engaging empathy is what has been called “the identifiable victim effect.” As the economist Thomas Schelling, writing forty-five years ago, mordantly observed, “Let a six-year-old girl with brown hair need thousands of dollars for an operation that will prolong her life until Christmas, and the post office will be swamped with nickels and dimes to save her. But let it be reported that without a sales tax the hospital facilities of Massachusetts will deteriorate and cause a barely perceptible increase in preventable deaths—not many will drop a tear or reach for their checkbooks.”

You can see the effect in the lab. The psychologists Tehila Kogut and Ilana Ritov asked some subjects how much money they would give to help develop a drug that would save the life of one child, and asked others how much they would give to save eight children. The answers were about the same. But when Kogut and Ritov told a third group a child’s name and age, and showed her picture, the donations shot up—now there were far more to the one than to the eight.

The number of victims hardly matters—there is little psychological difference between hearing about the suffering of five thousand and that of five hundred thousand. Imagine reading that two thousand people just died in an earthquake in a remote country, and then discovering that the actual number of deaths was twenty thousand. Do you now feel ten times worse? To the extent that we can recognize the numbers as significant, it’s because of reason, not empathy.

In the broader context of humanitarianism, as critics like Linda Polman have pointed out, the empathetic reflex can lead us astray. When the perpetrators of violence profit from aid—as in the “taxes” that warlords often demand from international relief agencies—they are actually given an incentive to commit further atrocities. It is similar to the practice of some parents in India who mutilate their children at birth in order to make them more effective beggars. The children’s debilities tug at our hearts, but a more dispassionate analysis of the situation is necessary if we are going to do anything meaningful to prevent them.

This is why politicians seek to personalize public policy proposals; we get the Lily Ledbetter Act, or Megan's Law rather than the Equal Pay for Women Act or the Sex Offender Registry Act. The deliberate invocation of a highly personalized narrative effectively short circuits critical inquiry and skepticism. What do you mean, you aren't sure an official list of registered sex offenders is a good idea? Don't you want to prevent what happened to little Megan from EVER HAPPENING AGAIN?

The Editorial Staff couldn't help thinking of this thoughtful critique of judicial empathy:

An Obama judge will not ask, “Does the ruling I’m about to make fit neatly into the universe of legal concepts?” but rather, “Is the ruling I’m about to make attentive to the needs of those who have fared badly in the legislative process because no lobbyists spoke for their interests?” Obama’s critics object that this gets things backwards. Rather than reasoning from legal principles to results, an Obama judge will begin with the result he or she desires and then figure out how to get there by what only looks like legal reasoning.

This is the answer to Dahlia Lithwick’s question, what’s wrong with empathy? It may be a fine quality to have but, say the anti-empathists, it’s not law, and if it is made law’s content, law will have lost its integrity and become an extension of politics. Obama’s champions will reply, that’s what law always has been, and with Obama’s election there is at least a chance that the politics law enacts will favor the dispossessed rather than the powerful and the affluent. No, says Walter Williams at myrtlebeachonline: “The status of a person appearing before the court should have absolutely nothing to do with the rendering of decisions.”

Or as the old saying goes, justice is - or ought to be - blind. For a guy who keeps saying that America should be a place where everyone plays by the same set of rules, a jurisprudence that allows easily manipulated emotions to place a thumb on the scales of justice - whose goal is more sympathy than justice - seems an odd prescription.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:28 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Intelligence: Use It or Lose It

Are prosperity and civilization making us dumber? Scientists ask, you decide:

...researchers say that a meta-analysis of simple reaction times recorded between 1884 and 2004 shows a substantial decline in general intelligence: "1.23 IQ points per decade or fourteen IQ points since Victorian times." While some dispute the notion that reaction time is an accurate measure of intelligence, Dr. James Thompson, honorary senior psychology lecturer at UCL told The Daily Mail that reaction times are "a real measure, with a reasonably large correlation with IQ, so this is an alarming finding and needs further investigation."

These findings contradict the so-called Flynn effect, which states that IQ rose three points every decade since the Second World War. So instead of humans getting smarter, these findings support another controversial argument put forward by the Stanford biologist Gerald Crabtree, which we wrote about this past December.

In an article called Our Fragile Intellect, Crabtree argued that human intellectual fitness has been on a slow but steady decay for 3,000 years, and it is due to our relatively easy lifestyle that has freed us from a state of 'survival by thinking.'

The Editorial Staff could find support for either hypothesis. Thanks in part to advances in technology and increases to the size, demographics, and structure of the social groups we live in the world is vastly more complex than it used to be. Technology acts as an accelerant, adding another layer of complexity to the unchanging human problems our ancestors dealt with. We can do so much more, but that means we have more decisions to make. Rapid travel and information transfer have reduced the amount of time we have to reflect before responding to current events. We find out about problems sooner and our ability to react quickly makes it harder to justify doing nothing.

Everywhere we turn, we're awash in sensory and intellectual stimulation. The average person is exposed to a constant barrage of graphic images, competing theories, news stories, scientific studies, and ideas. At some point all this input becomes counterproductive; we can't possibly make sense of it all so we deliberately screen most of it out.

What seems most at risk in the modern world is the capacity (or the inclination) to engage in deep thought. All this input is distracting. It makes it difficult to concentrate. Who wants to ponder abstract questions with no easy answers when the next Shiny Thing beckons from a flickering computer screen?

If our reaction time is slowing, that may well be because the problems we're trying to solve are more complex and the signal to noise ratio is growing steadily worse. In such a world, slowing down may well be the most rational of responses.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:20 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

UmbrellaGate

Grim makes an excellent point regarding Obama's Marine umbrella kerfuffle:

We can see the inequality inherent in the system in Marine Corps regulations on umbrellas:
Per Marine Corps uniform regulations, the men are not allowed to carry or use umbrellas while in uniform. Female Marines can carry “an all-black, plain standard, or collapsible umbrella at their option during inclement weather” but not with combat uniforms.

At their option? What kind of nonsense is this?

...If it's winter and your hands are cold, are female Marines permitted to put their hands in their pockets 'at their option'? If not, why the discrepancy in the pursuit of female comfort? After all, the new primary mission of the US military could reasonably be defined as ensuring the psychological comfort of female servicemembers. Why not their physical comfort as well?

At first glance, it's not hard to see reasonable justification for the disparity in umbrella regs. After all, women wear their hair longer than men even in civilian society and longer hair is harder to keep neat. Women also wear makeup.

For a male Marine, getting caught in a downpour while in uniform may make him wet and uncomfortable, but it will have little effect on his appearance. Most uniforms are wool or wool blends and they stand up well to water, and the ubiquitous "high and tight" haircut is so short that even a thorough soaking doesn't affect it.

For a female Marine, getting caught in a downpour while in uniform can result in mascara smudges/raccoon eyes reminiscent of Alice Cooper and bedraggled hair that is no longer neat and military looking.

But this raises a question: what is the justification for the high and tight required of male Marines? Certainly it carries practical advantages. In hand to hand combat, a shaven head offers no handhold to the enemy. Shaven heads are easier to keep clean than long hair, and make it difficult for lice (who lay their eggs about 1/2 inch from the scalp) to establish themselves.

These are unisex considerations: they apply equally to men and women. So what is the justification for holding men to a different (and more rigorous) standard than women?

This is the problem with the "only as equal as we wanna be" ethos. When it's not calling time tested restrictions on male soldiers and Marines into question, it creates the appearance (and the reality) of preferential treatment for female soldiers and Marines.

That can't be good from either a morale or efficiency standpoint.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:38 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

May 20, 2013

The Bard of Benghazi

The Queen's Henchmen
request the pleasure of your company
at a Lynching -
to be held
at 23rd and C Streets NW
on Tuesday, December 18, 2012
just past sunset.

Dress: Formal, Masks and Hoods-
the four being lynched
must never know the identities
of their executioners, or
whose sin required their sacrifice.

A blood sacrifice-
to divert the hounds-
to appease the gods-
to cleanse our filth and
satisfy our guilty consciences
...

CWCID

Meanwhile, the Editorial Staff are still wondering what kind of "thorough investigation" fails to uncover not one but three whistleblowers, or declines to interview the person at the top, declaring her "uninvolved".

Well, at least they got that last one right.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:28 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

"You're Despicable..."


Posted by Cassandra at 06:49 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 17, 2013

Who Could Have Predicted This?

"I am outraged that anyone would follow my example":

Was the White House involved in the IRS's targeting of conservatives? No investigation needed to answer that one. Of course it was.

President Obama and Co. are in full deniability mode, noting that the IRS is an "independent" agency and that they knew nothing about its abuse. The media and Congress are sleuthing for some hint that Mr. Obama picked up the phone and sicced the tax dogs on his enemies.

But that's not how things work in post-Watergate Washington. Mr. Obama didn't need to pick up the phone. All he needed to do was exactly what he did do, in full view, for three years: Publicly suggest that conservative political groups were engaged in nefarious deeds; publicly call out by name political opponents whom he'd like to see harassed; and publicly have his party pressure the IRS to take action.

Mr. Obama now professes shock and outrage that bureaucrats at the IRS did exactly what the president of the United States said was the right and honorable thing to do. "He put a target on our backs, and he's now going to blame the people who are shooting at us?" asks Idaho businessman and longtime Republican donor Frank VanderSloot.

Enlarge Image

Getty Images
At the White House, President Obama addresses the IRS scandal, May 15.

Mr. VanderSloot is the Obama target who in 2011 made a sizable donation to a group supporting Mitt Romney. In April 2012, an Obama campaign website named and slurred eight Romney donors. It tarred Mr. VanderSloot as a "wealthy individual" with a "less-than-reputable record." Other donors were described as having been "on the wrong side of the law."

This was the Obama version of the phone call—put out to every government investigator (and liberal activist) in the land.

Twelve days later, a man working for a political opposition-research firm called an Idaho courthouse for Mr. VanderSloot's divorce records. In June, the IRS informed Mr. VanderSloot and his wife of an audit of two years of their taxes. In July, the Department of Labor informed him of an audit of the guest workers on his Idaho cattle ranch. In September, the IRS informed him of a second audit, of one of his businesses. Mr. VanderSloot, who had never been audited before, was subject to three in the four months after Mr. Obama teed him up for such scrutiny.

The last of these audits was only concluded in recent weeks. Not one resulted in a fine or penalty. But Mr. VanderSloot has been waiting more than 20 months for a sizable refund and estimates his legal bills are $80,000. That figure doesn't account for what the president's vilification has done to his business and reputation.

Meanwhile the 501(c)4 application of Organizing for Action, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Barack Obama Perpetual Campaign, seems to have escaped the white-hot scrutiny of the IRS:

President Obama’s successful campaign apparatus is converting—for a second time—to an ongoing advocacy organization. After the 2008 campaign, the well-oiled Obama machine reformed as Organizing for America, a component of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The first OFA became a tool for organizing support for President Obama’s major first term agenda initiatives. In the aftermath of the even more successful reelection campaign, there will be a new OFA—a 501(c)(4) called Organizing for Action.

... OFA’s initial slate of board members is straight out of the Obama reelection campaign, including Jim Messina, Stephanie Cutter, Robert Gibbs, Julianna Smoot, and soon, David Plouffe. It is very separate from the leadership of the Democratic Party. It could be that OFA represents the Obama team’s limited faith in the Democratic Party or perhaps an analysis that something is needed to pressure Democrats to stay in line behind the president’s second term agenda.

The Obama campaign reportedly has an e-mail list of between 12 million and 13 million names, the basis of a remarkably powerful independent organization. The collection of Obama campaign loyalists in OFA suggests the creation of a group that, whatever its commitment to a political agenda, may be as responsive to Obama as it is to progressive politics.

The new OFA leadership pledges that the organization will not accept donations from lobbyists, but who needs lobbyists to front for corporate special interests when corporations can make unlimited donations on their own? As a 501(c)(4), even if the leadership makes commitments to disclosure, OFA can still be a politically allied social welfare organization camouflaging the unlimited corporate donations unleashed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Given OFA’s leadership by former Obama campaign staffers, how likely is it that OFA will be able to take the organization through small “d” democratic governance processes in any direction other than one supported by Messina, Plouffe, and other campaign operatives promoting the president’s agenda?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:41 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Incandescently Idiotic

The Editorial Staff are underjoyed to hear that fully integrating women into all military specialties won't have a deleterious effect on readiness:

"It is time we take on the fight against sexual assault and sexual harassment as our primary mission," Gen. Odierno wrote.

We hope that all you folks who kept nattering on about Congressional pandering and political correctness superceding sound military policy understand just how foolish you're looking now.

If only we could go back to the good old days when leaders understood the military's real purpose.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:19 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 16, 2013

The "Great Leap Forward"...

...over the cliff, that is:

When Takoma Park’s next Election Day arrives in November, the lines of voters ready to cast their ballots for the City Council will include a new set of voters making history.

During its Monday meeting, the Takoma Park City Council passed a series of city charter amendments regarding its voting and election laws, including one allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in city elections.

The other adopted charter changes include those allowing felons who have served their sentence of incarceration to vote and same-day voter registration.

With Monday’s vote, Takoma Park became the first city in the United States to lower its voting age — which was previously 18 — to 16.

We do declare - it's like having a tiny bit of New Hampshire, right here in the People's Republic of Maryland!

Takoma Park is the loopy maiden auntie of an already weird state. One has to give them credit - it's hard work, making the news in a state that is committed enough (pun fully intended) to tax rainfall.

Takoma Park has already extended the vote to non-citizens and has a long, proud history of being a sanctuary city where local law enforcement are forbidden to enforce federal immigration laws.

Now that the city has boldly struck a blow for the huddled masses yearning to weigh in on burning issues like zoning ordinances and leash laws, we can't help but wonder what new foray into clueless asshattery will next grace the hallowed pages of the WaPo. But wait! Surely their work is not finished? Kindergarteners are people, too! If you're potty trained, surely you deserve a voice in local government?

We long for the day when the City Fathers Persyns will go all the way and strike down all artificial barriers between people. Authority is, after all, a patriarchal construct and all these laws just get in the way of expressing our beautiful and natural right to do... ummm... something. Hopefully one day they'll abolish all these antiquated power structures and conduct the People's Business in the streets by human megaphone.

Some states import their nutbags from other jurisdictions. Here in Murriland, we like our political whackjobbery home grown.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:14 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

May 15, 2013

Unintended Consequences

Have faith: every problem has an upside:

The Obama administration is doing a far better job making the case for conservatism than Mitt Romney, Mitch McConnell, or John Boehner ever did. Showing is always better than telling, and when the government overreaches in so many ways it gives support to the conservative argument about the inherently rapacious nature of government.

The ability of human societies to right themselves should never be underestimated. Being human - and flawed - we learn best by experience.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:56 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Cruelty to Animals

All those trans fats and empty calories. Where is Mayor Bloomberg when we need him?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:50 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Accidental Administration

Energy in the executive is a leading character in the definition of good government. It is essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks; it is not less essential to the steady administration of the laws; to the protection of property against those irregular and high-handed combinations which sometimes interrupt the ordinary course of justice; to the security of liberty against the enterprises and assaults of ambition, of faction, and of anarchy.

- Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 70

The concentration of authority in the hands of a single leader with ultimate authority is the essence of the executive branch of government. The other two branches - the legislature and the judiciary - are characterized by diffused power and shared decision making. They act by consensus and compromise, but the executive branch alone places power in the hands of one man: the President.

To a position demanding forcefulness, energy, decisiveness and conviction, we have elected a man who is disengaged, unresponsive and defensive, unaccountable. When circumstances demand an active response, his first response is to hesitate; to stonewall, delay, obfuscate. To appoint a commission to study the options. To plead ignorance of what transpired under his watch, blame subordinates for not doing his job for him managing themselves, or blame his predecessor. Exhibit 1:

Over the last two years, government watchdog groups filed more than a dozen complaints with the Internal Revenue Service seeking inquiries into whether large nonprofit organizations like those founded by the Republican political operative Karl Rove and former Obama administration aides had violated their tax-exempt status by spending tens of millions of dollars on political advertising.

The I.R.S. never responded.

Exhibit 2:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her senior staff conducted a conference call with Gregory Hicks, deputy chief of the U.S. mission in Libya, in the early morning hours of Sept. 12, 2012.

Hicks was overseeing a chaotic scene in Tripoli, where his staff was busy destroying classified material with axes and whatever else was at hand and as the few security people left in Tripoli were preparing to evacuate to a safer location at dawn. (Think the opening scenes of the movie "Argo.") The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi had been stormed and the ambassador was missing.

In his testimony Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the inspiring and obviously fearless Hicks recounted that, at the end of the 2 a.m. call, Hillary concurred with his decision to evacuate, and the call ended.

An hour later, having received "the saddest phone call of his life," Hicks then relayed to the State Department in Washington that Ambassador Christopher Stevens was dead.

Hillary never called back.

In the President's twisted leadership calculus, the misdeeds of unit commanders or mid level officers are blamed on systemic failures in the Department of Defense. The responsibility for similar misdeeds by his own mid-level subordinates, however, lies with them alone. The proverbial buck stops with middle management. Unlike cream, it never percolates up to the top echelons who are charged with leading, supervising, and setting policy.

These are the people who said: "Elect us. Believe in us. We are going to change the world: stop the rise of the oceans, heal the planet, restore America's lost moral legitimacy." Close Gitmo on Day 1. Go through the federal budget line by line, eliminating duplicative and wasteful programs. Instead, as the size of government expanded, deficits remained unaddressed, and thousands of gallons of oil spewed into the Gulf, America got fundraisers and beer summits:

As oozing oil fouls Louisiana’s marshes, Obama has committed to maintaining the semblance of a regular schedule, adhering to his walk-and-chew-gum style of crisis management even as criticism of his administration mounts.

That includes a sit-down to talk hoops with Marv Albert, events touting the stimulus and Duke’s basketball team, a Memorial Day appearance in Illinois and a pair of fundraisers in California that roughly overlapped with a memorial service for 11 workers killed in the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon platform.

More than 4 years after his executive order was issued, Gitmo remains open for business. Unemployment is still at historical levels. More than 4 years later, the man who arrogantly upbraided outgoing President George W. Bush about "the false choice between our safety and our ideals" now openly boasts about personally approving presidential kill lists and conducts war by remote control. How must it look to poor, Third World nations when the world's largest superpower asserts the right to kill its own citizens without trial, waving away their Constitutional rights with a single sweep of the auto pen?

What became of the ideals this President claimed to hold so sacred a mere four years ago? What kind of leader, informed that one of his ambassadors has been murdered and two U.S. facilities abroad are under attack on the anniversary of 9/11, calmly reviews his options and decides that the appropriate action is to jump on a plane to Las Vegas for a fundraiser? What kind of leader breezily dismisses the sworn testimony of people - his people - who were on the ground during the attack as a politically motivated "sideshow"?

What kind of leader is not embarrassed to claim that he first learned of abuses of power in his administration from the newspaper?

At the start of Tuesday’s briefing, the AP’s Jim Kuhnhenn pointed out that in all the controversies of the moment — the Benghazi “talking points,” the IRS targeting and the journalists’ phone records — “you have placed the burden of responsibility someplace else. . . . But it is the president’s administration.”

President Passerby, however, was not joining the fray. Carney repeated Obama’s assertion that the IRS’s actions would be outrageous only “if” they are true. Never mind that the IRS has already admitted the violations and apologized.

The press secretary said repeatedly that “we have to wait” for a formal report by the agency’s inspector general before the most powerful man in the world could take action. By contrast, Carney didn’t think it necessary to wait to assert that nobody in the White House knew about the IRS activities until “a few weeks ago.” (They apparently didn’t tell the boss about the matter until Friday.) Tuesday night, Obama issued a statement saying he had seen the I.G. report and directed Treasury Secretary Jack Lew “to hold those responsible for these failures accountable.”

It's almost as though he doesn't understand that he's supposed to be paying attention to what happens in his own administration. That's what we hired him to do.

It's his job to know.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:01 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Accountability

On the sea there is a tradition older even than the traditions of the country itself and wiser in its age than this new custom. It is the tradition that with responsibility goes authority and with them both goes accountability."

"This accountability is not for the intentions but for the deed. The captain of a ship, like the captain of a state, is given honor and privileges and trust beyond other men. But let him set the wrong course, let him touch ground, let him bring disaster to his ship or to his men, and he must answer for what he has done. He cannot escape...."

"It is cruel, this accountability of good and well-intentioned men. But the choice is that or an end of responsibility and finally as the cruel scene has taught, an end to the confidence and trust in the men who lead, for men will not long trust leaders who feel themselves beyond accountability for what they do."

"And when men lose confidence and trust in those who lead, order disintegrates into chaos and purposeful ships into uncontrollable derelicts."

From a 1952 editorial in the Wall Street Journal.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:53 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

rubberducky.jpg

CWCID

There's a metaphor in there, somewhere.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:47 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 14, 2013

Finally!

An enlightened solution to the "military rape problem"!

The outspoken mayor of Osaka is under fire not only from the government but from members of his own party for saying that the use of “comfort women,” some of whom were forced into prostitution, during World War II was necessary for the morale of Japanese soldiers.

Toru Hashimoto, co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, made the comments during a news conference Monday.

“Whether it was of their own volition or against their will, the comfort women system was something necessary,” he said. “For military morale back then, it was probably necessary.”

Who says women don't have a role to play during wartime?

On days when we're tempted to despair, it's good to contemplate the fact that other nations have politicians who are even more clueless than ours.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:03 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

May 13, 2013

More Anedotal Reporting on Military Rape

Here we go again:

The incident she remembers most is an assault that took place July 2000, shortly after she had turned 18. She was a newly arrived Basic Training graduate at the Defense Language Institute. It was then that Driessel was successfully “sharked” within the first few weeks of arrival after accepting a dinner invitation from a prior-service soldier 15 years her senior. (“Sharking” was a term used by the male recruits; when new females showed up, it was like a bucket of chum thrown into the ocean.) He had badgered her relentlessly from the day she’d shown up, and despite her misgivings, she thought he might leave her alone if she agreed. (In a way she was right—he was never heard from again after that "date.")

Question #1: how did this young woman get through basic training without learning that the UCMJ explicitly forbids fraternization?

After dinner, he stopped by a convenience store and bought a soda in a big plastic cup. He dumped half of the soda onto the parking lot pavement and pulled a bottle of vodka from his backpack, replacing the soda he’d just poured out.

Let me get this straight: we're talking about a young woman who was "badgered" into going on a date "against her misgivings" with someone senior to her. She watches him dump half his soda out and fill the cup with vodka. She is 18, which is under the legal drinking age. She is clearly intimidated by her date (otherwise, she would have just said no and reported him if he kept after her).

And she accepts an obviously too strong drink from him and drinks it.... why???

In short order, Driessel was drunk. Consent wasn’t exactly an option because by the time they got back to his room, she was barely conscious. Floating in and out of awareness as he pulled her shoes off, she was lying on the bed, essentially immobile—she remembers him shifting her limbs around to take the rest of her clothes off. Driessel didn’t resist or say no. By agreeing to have dinner with him and then drink his alcohol, she felt that whatever was happening may not have been something she wanted, yet did not jibe with the definition of rape she’d had in her mind: gang rape, forcible rape, aggravated rape—in other words, “real” rape.

Driessel went back to her room the next morning. She thought she could just put it behind her, but ended up calling her mother in tears several days later. She was confused—she felt violated and ashamed. There was also the worry that reporting what had happened might have lead to disciplinary action against her, due to underage drinking. Concerned about her mental well-being, Driessel’s mother called the drill sergeant regardless. Driessel was called into the sergeant’s office the next day and recounted what had happened. After formally reporting the incident (which at the very least involved the crime of providing alcohol to a minor), she heard nothing more. Driessel was not referred to the police or any counseling services. The whole experience was if it had never even been reported.

The list of things that went wrong here is so long that it's hard to know where to start.

1. Senior NCOs should not be asking junior personnel out on dates. It's not as though they're unaware of the ban on fraternization.

2. Junior personnel should not be going out on dates with senior NCOs. It's not as though they're unaware of the ban on fraternization.

This scenario should have set off alarm bells in either the civilian or military world. If you're an 18 year old civilian, in what world is it smart to go out on a date with a 33 year old man who won't take no for an answer and hands you an industrial strength drink in the parking lot of a convenience store? What could possibly go wrong?

If you're a young recruit fresh out of Basic training, it only gets worse. In what world is it NOT painfully obvious that a senior NCO or officer (in other words, someone who gets paid to enforce the rules) who violates those rules by badgering you to break the fraternization regs and then illegally offers you a drink (violating both military and civilian rules) is not someone you should trust to observe the niceties?

3. Women shouldn't go out on dates with men they're not interested in who "badger" them, "despite their misgivings".

4. The notion that rewarding "badgering" will cause the badgerer to stop is delusional.

5. Underage people should be not be drinking. Amazingly, there are rules against underage drinking in the UCMJ. It's actually a punishable offense! We hear there are also laws in the civilian world against underage drinking. Ergo, the conscious decision to ignore both civilian laws and military regulations can only have been caused by insufficient training... and unwillingness to hold commanders responsible for the intentional off duty actions of every single person under their command:

Service members are adults. If we think they are incapable of making responsible decisions, then why are we giving them guns? It scares me because commanders already get blamed if soldiers break laws or just do dumb, immature stunts. My husband is a company commander so I have a bunch of examples, but here's my favorite: One of my husband's soldiers (new guy, from the National Guard, fresh off the plane) showed up drunk to work and got belligerent. MPs were called, he was given a breathalyzer, etc. My husband got asked by the Battalion XO "Did he get a safety brief? Has he been told not to show up to work inebriated?" Yes, I sh*** you not, my husband was specifically supposed to tell this soldier--who had been in the unit for about a week--"Don't show up to work drunk." Shouldn't that go without saying? Are commanders also supposed to specifically say "Don't drive drunk, don't beat your wife, etc etc"? Prevention and education are needed, but if people are too stupid to function, let's take their weapon away and get them out of the service and off the taxpayers' hand-outs.

6. When presented, weeks later, with an unsubstantiated charge of "rape" (for which there is no physical evidence), commanders should ignore the law and bring the "rapist" up on charges. Never mind that there's no evidence to prove the victim was incapacitated by the alcohol she chose to drink. Clearly, had this case been handed off to civilian authorities, arrest, trial and conviction would have swiftly ensued.

Remember, military rape is skyrocketing:

unwanted sexual contact over time.png

And the military doesn't understand rape (or do enough to educate service members about the dangers):

Just a personal anecdote, but I do think that the army has made some progress in terms of addressing a culture of sexual violence. When I first went to basic, we got a 'training' on sexual assault. The training basically advised women to avoid dark alleys, strange men, and alcohol. For the men, we were told to not be alone with women because things could be 'misinterpreted' and to fight off dark strangers from gang raping female soldiers. Basically, as clichéd a take on sexual violence as is possible. Just a month ago, we got another 'training' (yes, the army is huge on 'check the box,' soldier is now trained on subject, on everything from the law of war to suicide to boating safety). This training actually focused on acquaintance rape and the idea that fellow soldiers have a duty to stop in when they see problematic situations with alcohol and soldiers. The video shown produced some laughter, but it did at least somewhat realistically simulate an acquaintance rape at a party with alcohol. There was even a reference to male on male assault in the training, though it was fairly muted and mainly focused on not demeaning men who report (still, a positive step). Just some observations from a current 11B (army infantry).

Sure, there's that whole inconvenient report no one writing about this seems to have read, but....

13 YEAR OLD ANECDOTE!!!!

Don't get me wrong - no one should ever have to be raped. I don't agree this anecdote actually describes rape, though.

At some point, if we ever mean to be taken seriously, women are going to have to stop expecting Someone In Power to protect them against their own freely made decisions. Should we be asking whether the military has a rape problem?

Sure - and the fact that DoD spends a ton of money every year on education, training, counseling, and studies like this years' report show that they're asking the right questions. But when we get hysterical activists who haven't even bothered to inform themselves seriously suggesting that somehow, the military can prevent something that no civilian law enforcement agency has ever been able to prevent is just plain irresponsible.

Holding the military to a far higher standard than civilian law enforcement is just plain irresponsible.

Commanding officers cannot follow troops around 24/7 in hopes of preventing sexual assault. Rules do not prevent Bad Things from happening. What they DO is provide a way to address Bad Things after they happen. If sexual assault victims refuse to come forward, refuse to cooperate with law enforcement (as they do in too many civilian and military cases), report assaults but then give up the first time they encounter indifference or malfeasance, refuse to follow military regulations and civilian laws themselves, or refuse to take reasonable measures to protect themselves, how is the military to protect them?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:10 AM | Comments (71) | TrackBack

"College Is A Lot Like.... School"


Posted by Cassandra at 05:48 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 11, 2013

Military "Rape" Estimates: The Truth Behind the Numbers

Over the past few weeks, journalists and politicians have engaged in a virtual feeding frenzy over a recently released report on sexual assault in the military. Inexplicably, few journalists covering the story bothered to link to the report. Judging from their tone and choice of facts few of them bothered to read it, either. Central to the hype is a shocking number: the Pentagon reports that 26,000 sexual assaults (note: NOT rapes) are estimated to have occurred during FY2012.

This, we are told, is up from an estimated 19,000 assaults in 2010. What the press overwhelmingly chose not to tell us is that in 2006, that number was over 38,000.

The outrage centers around a supposed epidemic of "rape" involving "women". Absent from the coverage is any acknowledgment that the majority of military sexual assault victims are male or that the DoD estimates involve not rape, but "unwanted sexual contact" (which can include rape, attempted rape, and multiple forms of unwanted touching).

Here's a quick summary of what I found out while doing the work the press won't do reading through the report:

1. In the military, as in civilian life, women are more likely to be sexually assaulted than men.

2. But overall, more military men are assaulted than women. If we're tallying up the harm caused by sexual assault in the military, that number matters very much.

3. Estimated sexual assaults are up by 38% from FY2010.

4. But sexual assaults are down by 15% from 2006.

5. When age and marital status are controlled for, the risk of contact sexual violence for military and civilian women is the same. (page 16)

6. Military women are less likely than civilian women to experience stalking or intimate partner violence. (page 16)

7. With few exceptions, the past year and lifetime prevalence (occurrence) of IPV, sexual violence, and stalking in the civilian and military populations are quite similar, with no statistically significant differences.

8. Deployment history increases the risk of contact sexual violence.

That's a very different picture than the one painted by the media. To find out what's really going on, let's look at what's behind the media's cherry picked numbers.

How was the 26,000 estimate derived? I wasn't able to find a single media report that told me, but it's quite simple. DoD simply multiplied the percentage of male and female survey respondents reporting unwanted sexual contact by the active duty end strength numbers to get a "rough" (give or take a thousand) estimate of the "true" number of victims:

USCvictims.png

Notice anything peculiar about this chart? No matter how you calculate it, male victims outnumber female victims. Statistically speaking, military men are less likely to be sexually assaulted than military women but there are more of them. If we're at all concerned about the harm caused by sexual assault in the military, it makes no sense to ignore how many victims of each sex there are. Remedial and preventative programs that assume more female than male victims can't adequately address the real world consequences of sexual assault.

But there's another piece of missing context. According to CNN, the target audience for the survey was 108,000 active duty service members, of which 24% responded. That response rate seems very high, and it raises the question of sampling bias. Extrapolating from the survey sample to the overall population is only valid if the survey respondents don't differ from that population in any meaningful way. If, for instance, service members who have been sexually assaulted are more likely to respond than those who haven't, the extrapolation will overestimate the actual incidence of sexual assault. Likewise, if service members who have never been assaulted are less motivated to respond, the same will be true.

Of course the obverses of both these assumptions raise plausible questions as well. Another missing piece of information has to do with the demographic mix of respondents. Sexual assault risk varies by age, by rank, and by service. In comparing the results from different survey years (and extrapolating from these to the general population) differing demographics in the survey respondents should be taken into account.

Here's another piece of context. It has been fairly widely reported that actual reports of sexual assault for 2012 (3374) was up by about 6% from 2010. The DoD report cites the same increase on page 18:

In FY12, there were 3,374 reports of sexual assault involving Service members. This represents a 6 percent increase over the 3,192 reports of sexual assault received in FY11.

This is true mathematically (3374 is a 6% increase over 3192), but it also confuses the issue by ignoring changes in the size of the military over time. Did the number of reports rise in proportion to the size the armed forces in 2012 (things stayed the same), or because a higher number or proportion were sexually assaulted (things got worse)? Perhaps there were fewer sexual assaults, but more victims came forward due to better outreach (in which case things got better)? We don't know, but our context-less 6% increase sure sounds significant! To make things even more interesting, in 13% of the cited reports the victim wasn't even a service member:

The 3,374 reports received in FY12 involved 2,949 Service member victims.

And let's not forget that the majority of the survey's self reported sexual assaults were (incorrect media coverage to the contrary) not rapes. According to the DoD's report, about 31% of self reported "unwanted sexual contact" incidents were described by the reportees as actual rape. What this means is that if we want to extrapolate actual rape victims from this survey, the number we should be extrapolating from is 1.8%, not 6.1%. Is "rape" in the military really increasing over time? Slide 19 of the report briefing states that the differences are statistically insignificant:

There are no statistically significant differences [in the percent reporting actual rape] for women or men between 2012 and 2010 or 2006.

Put simply, there's no statistically significant evidence that self reported rape rates were any higher in 2012 than they were in 2006 OR 2010. Did you read that anywhere in the media coverage? I didn't. Instead, we read coverage like this, from Ruth Marcus (a pundit I've always respected for her evenhanded commentary):

Listen to [General] Welsh in his own words, quoted at length to provide the full context:

“It’s a big problem for our nation. It may be as big or bigger elsewhere. . . . Roughly 20 percent of the young women who come into the Department of Defense and the Air Force report that they were sexually assaulted in some way before they came into the military. So they come in from a society where this occurs. Some of it is the hook-up mentality of junior high, even, and high school students now. . . . The same demographic group moves into the military.

“We have got to change the culture once they arrive. The way they behave, the way they treat each other cannot be outside the bounds of what we consider inclusive and respectful.”

The hook-up mentality? Talk about not getting it. General, the hook-up culture is lamentable but consensual. Sexual assault is, by definition, not consensual.

So please explain, exactly, how one leads to the other. Indeed, please explain, exactly, how pinning the increase in sexual assaults on a willingness to engage in casual sex is not classic blame-the-slutty-victim thinking dressed up in 21st-century lingo. She hooked up, so she asked for it? She was already a victim when she enlisted?

“It’s beyond belief that those statements were just uttered,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “This is a violent act; this is not a date gone badly.”

Notably, Ms. Marcus linked, not to the full 2012 study but to the FY11 study fact sheet (an abbreviated executive summary that doesn't even mention the 26,000 estimate). We're guessing she didn't bother to read the full report either. But let me try to address her criticisms anyway.

As it turns out, having a high number of sexual partners or a history of casual/impersonal sex are risk factors for both victims and perpetrators of sexual assault. Another huge risk factor is a history of prior sexual assaults. As it turns out:

30% of women and 6% of men indicated experiencing unwanted sexual contact prior to their entry into the military

23% of women and 4% of men indicated experiencing unwanted sexual
contact since joining the military (including the past 12 months)

If we are to believe that the survey respondents are a representative sample, then it appears that both men and women are experiencing LESS unwanted contact in the military than they did in civilian life.

Does the military really have a rape problem? Certainly women (and even more men) are raped every year while on active service. But the report journalists are so avidly hyping doesn't support the conclusions they're drawing from their cherry picked statistics. In perhaps the most damning statistic of all, female survey respondents were asked how good a job the military does of sending a clear message that sexual assault will not be tolerated. The responses are impressive:

leadership_rape.png

Despite centuries of laws against rape, rape continues to occur in both the civilian and military population. For the life of me, I cannot understand how anyone expects to "end" rape. We can discourage it and punish it. We can teach young people that it is wrong and try to create a climate where victims will come forward. But sexual predators exist in all walks of life, and the only way to protect potential victims of sexual assault is to limit their freedom.

Noting that engaging in risky sexual behavior may well increase the risk of rape isn't "blaming the victim" - it's just common sense. Men and women who allow themselves to become intoxicated or have casual sex with multiple partners are putting themselves at risk. That doesn't mean it's their fault if they are sexually assaulted, but the connection between risk taking behavior and the likelihood of sexual assault absolutely must be taken into account in any serious study of rape or sexual assault.

The military draws from the surrounding society, and like the surrounding society it is influenced by changing views of what constitutes acceptable sexual behavior. The military is neither a lab experiment nor a test case for utopian ideas like the bizarre notion that rape can somehow be "eliminated". It can't.

And it's time the media pulled their heads out of the sand and faced reality. Military service is risky in a million ways that civilian life is not. One of these risks is that living in close quarters with large numbers of young people increases the risk of sexual assault. This has been shown to be true in colleges and universities and it's equally true in the armed forces.

Marcus closes by stating:

The Defense Department’s own study found that, though 26,000 people said they were assaulted last year, only 3,374 complaints were filed, in large part due to fears about the consequences of coming forward. And those fears were justified: In the survey just released, nearly two-thirds of those filing complaints reported suffering retaliation, either professionally or socially.

This simply isn't true. Out of a survey sample of 25000 people, about 1900 of them said they had experienced either unwanted touching, rape, or attempted rape. This number was extrapolated to arrive at an overall estimate of 26,000. This number may or may not (for reasons stated earlier) be an accurate estimate, but the conclusion that military sexual assault victims are any more afraid to come forward is refuted by the report Ms. Marcus and others declined to read:

Due to the underreporting of this crime in both military and civilian society, reports to authorities do not necessarily equate to the actual prevalence (occurrence) of sexual assault. In fact, the Department estimates that about 11 percent of the sexual assaults that occur each year are reported to a DoD authority. This is roughly the same pattern of underreporting seen in other segments of civilian society.

Somewhere, the truth is out there. But you have to read the report you're citing if you're serious about finding it.



Posted by Cassandra at 09:37 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 10, 2013

Politicizing the Intelligence

During the Bush administration, the rallying cry of the anti-war crowd was that the intelligence surrounding Saddam Hussein's WMD capability had been politicized after the fact to justify the invasion of Iraq. The 'evidence' was an uncorroborated, hearsay statement of opinion called the Downing Street memos:

Well, it would seem that in the case of the Downing Street Memos, the facts may have been fixed around the policy. (via Ed Morrissey)
The eight memos — all labeled "secret" or "confidential" — were first obtained by British reporter Michael Smith, who has written about them in The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Times. Smith told AP he protected the identity of the source he had obtained the documents from by typing copies of them on plain paper and destroying the originals.

How convenient. So now, instead of thirdhand, uncorroborated hearsay regarding meetings with unnamed sources, quoting the speculation of other unnamed sources about what George Bush may or may not have been planning (the memos themselves contradict each other on this point), we have:

...unverifiable thirdhand, uncorroborated hearsay regarding meetings with unnamed sources, quoting the [contradictory in places] speculation of other unnamed sources about what George Bush may or may not have been planning, contained in retyped documents whose originals have been destroyed.

Flash forward to the present day, where a Democrat who campaigned on the premise that his predecessor's actions had shamefully tarnished America's relationships with our allies and enemies has not only embraced those policies, but expanded upon them. Where are the Democrats who argued that such actions were war crimes?

Inexplicably, accusations of "politicizing the intelligence" (supported by opinions expressed in a destroyed document) are considered definitive, while actual emails examined by the media that show repeated revisions and distortions of the intelligence will no doubt be dismissed as "nothing new":

White House emails reviewed by ABC News suggest the edits were made with extensive input from the State Department. The edits included requests from the State Department that references to the Al Qaeda-affiliated group Ansar al-Sharia be deleted as well references to CIA warnings about terrorist threats in Benghazi in the months preceding the attack.

That would appear to directly contradict what White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said about the talking points in November.

“Those talking points originated from the intelligence community. They reflect the IC’s best assessments of what they thought had happened,” Carney told reporters at the White House press briefing on November 28, 2012. “The White House and the State Department have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points by either of those two institutions were changing the word ‘consulate’ to ‘diplomatic facility’ because ‘consulate’ was inaccurate.”

State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland raised specific objections to this paragraph drafted by the CIA in its earlier versions of the talking points:

“The Agency has produced numerous pieces on the threat of extremists linked to al-Qa’ida in Benghazi and eastern Libya. These noted that, since April, there have been at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi by unidentified assailants, including the June attack against the British Ambassador’s convoy. We cannot rule out the individuals has previously surveilled the U.S. facilities, also contributing to the efficacy of the attacks.”

In an email to officials at the White House and the intelligence agencies, State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland took issue with including that information because it “could be abused by members [of Congress] to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so why would we want to feed that either?

We are shocked.... shocked. But in the long run this is all utterly irrelevant. Certainly 4 men are dead, but they knew the risks. Yes, this President has repeatedly pledged to run the most transparent administration in history, but trying to hold him accountable to his own values is a shameless display of partisanship.

And politicizing intelligence has gone from a crime to a deft exercise of realpolitik.

Update: apparently, ignoring intel warnings is about to be added to the long list of things that were inexcusable under Bush but completely understandable under Obama:

Five days before two bombs tore through crowds at the Boston Marathon, an intelligence report identified the finish line of the race as an "area of increased vulnerability" and warned Boston police that extremists may use "small scale bombings" to attack spectators and runners at the event.

The 18-page report was written by the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, a command center funded in part by the Department of Homeland Security that helps disseminate intelligence information to local police and first responders.

The "joint special event assessment" is dated April 10. It notes that at the time there was "no credible, specific information indicating an imminent threat" to the race.

So on the one hand we have a report that identifies the time, place, and exact location of the threat. On the other, we have a vague warning that Osama Bin Laden was planning an attack "somewhere in the United States" at an unspecified time and location:

In the aftermath of 9/11, Bush officials attempted to deflect criticism that they had ignored C.I.A. warnings by saying they had not been told when and where the attack would occur. That is true, as far as it goes, but it misses the point. Throughout that summer, there were events that might have exposed the plans, had the government been on high alert. Indeed, even as the Aug. 6 brief was being prepared, Mohamed al-Kahtani, a Saudi believed to have been assigned a role in the 9/11 attacks, was stopped at an airport in Orlando, Fla., by a suspicious customs agent and sent back overseas on Aug. 4. Two weeks later, another co-conspirator, Zacarias Moussaoui, was arrested on immigration charges in Minnesota after arousing suspicions at a flight school. But the dots were not connected, and Washington did not react.

Imagine a world where these two presidents were held to the same standard! OK, you can stop laughing now.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:45 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

A Platoon Of Their Own?

Yesterday, the intrepid mr rdr (indefatigable charter member of the Oink Cadre and globally renowned head-exploder-in-chief) sent us this WSJ piece. Written by a Marine 1st Lieutenant, it proposes a creative solution to the thorny problem of integrating women into the combat arms MOS's:

In professional sports and in the Olympics, men and women perform separately. In boot camp and officer-candidate schools—the entry points for all service members—men and women also are separated, with placement into different platoons within the same company.

So why not mirror what society at large and the military already do: put men and women into their own teams, with female infantry platoons on one side and male platoons on the other?

An all-female infantry platoon would not suffer from many of the problems that detractors cite, such as a lack of unit cohesion caused by mixing the sexes. Like the Amazons, female-only platoons could build their own brand of cohesion, which may prove superior to the men's. The arrangement would also avoid putting male soldiers in the position of feeling obliged to compensate for an underperforming female.

While the all-female platoon solution would not compensate for physical and physiological differences and how they affect performance on the battlefield, it would be a good way to test that line of argument. If the female platoons showed that their combat performance equaled that of men, then the separated-platoon arrangement would merely be a step on the road to full integration. If the female platoons underperformed, then the idea of women in the infantry might need to be scrapped or the women-only platoons would be the final compromise, with their deployment based on battlefield needs.

A staged approach rather than rushing headlong into full integration in combat units may be the best approach. Once the right (or privilege) to serve in any military specialty is passed to women, it would be virtually impossible to change course, no matter the consequence or effect on combat effectiveness.

But who knows? Women running toward the sound of the guns may very well prefer fighting alongside other women—and their effectiveness may surprise even the most pessimistic. The Amazons certainly made an impression on the Greeks.

Let's start with what's right about this proposal.

Firstly, the all female platoon partially addresses a few of the most difficult issues associated with integrating women into designated combat billets (as opposed to billets in which combat exposure occurs, but is incidental to the job rather than being the main focus of the job). This is an important distinction. During the debate over women serving in combat, proponents of integrating women into the combat arms argued that women are already in combat. But that argument dishonestly conflates occasional combat risk/exposure with the 24/7 reality with which Marine and other military combat units must contend.

The health and hygiene concerns expressed by critics of the DoD's recent decision are neither insubstantial nor imaginary - several studies of military womens' health bear them out. Since I've addressed these issues before, I won't rehash them here. This document contains about as good a summary as I've seen. It's entirely possible that all female/female-run platoons would experience better medical outcomes than isolated women integrated into mostly male platoons.

What this solution doesn't really address is the standards and numbers problems. Since the Dept. of Defense announced the removal of the bar to women in the combat arms, the military hasn't exactly been flooded with applicants yearning to become grunts. And as the Lieutenant admits, the four women who have applied to IOC have failed to complete the program. It's possible his idea would encourage more women to apply, and this isn't trivial: a sample size of four doesn't tell us much about how likely it is that women in general can meet the same physical standards as male infantry applicants. But the early indications don't support the notion that large numbers of military women are dying to get into the combat arms.

What disturbs me most here is the underlying assumption that if women are to serve in combat billets or be successfully integrated into the overall force structure, special accommodations must or should be made for them. How do we get from the premise that there are no important differences between men and women to the premise that integrating women into combat billets will work better if we make accommodations for the differences we just claimed don't exist?

In a political climate where disparate outcomes are assumed to prove disparate (and discriminatory) treatment, how will the armed forces resist the urge to lower standards in order to get more women into the combat arms? If the dearth of women in combat billets was such an injustice, why aren't more women applying for admittance?

And finally, how do we justify spending more money for these special accommodations in an era of shrinking budgets and make-do-with-less demands on the armed forces? The author rightly notes that practical considerations (upper body strength, stamina, etc) have been dismissed or even ridiculed in favor of what he describes as "patriotism and human rights" concerns.

But patriotism doesn't entitle an otherwise unqualified applicant to serve in the armed forces. During the 3 years he was stationed with the Recruit Training battalions at Parris Island, my husband watched countless male recruits wash out of recruit training. They weren't bad people. They truly wanted to serve their country. But for a wide variety of reasons, they couldn't meet the physical or mental standards.

If gender doesn't matter, on what equitable or legal basis can the armed forces justify holding male candidates to a higher physical standard than their female counterparts? It's an odd argument for advocates of equality and fairness to make, and yet the only way things can truly be "fair" here would be for the military to lower standards and adopt the exact kind of special accommodations we were assured would not result from admitting women to the combat arms.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:49 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

May 08, 2013

Blogging

I seem to be saying this a lot lately but sorry for the lack of posts.

This week has been completely insane, both at work and on the home front. I doubt I'm going to get anything up today because my plate is pretty full. Will make sure I have something for tomorrow morning.

Mea culpa maxima. Mea maxima culpa. Thanks for the correction! See? Reading VC is educational.

Posted by Cassandra at 11:53 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

May 07, 2013

Wunderbar

The cecropia may startle you with its color and size.
- "Fun With Nature"

Somehow we suspected this was a big mistake.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:08 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

May 06, 2013

Feedback from The Field

It's almost enough to make one question the value of all these Awareness/Education initiatives:

The Air Force official in charge of its sexual-assault prevention program was arrested for groping, authorities said Monday.

Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski, 41, was removed from his position as head of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office pending an investigation, the Air Force said.

The incident happened just after midnight Sunday when a drunken Krusinski allegedly approached the woman in a parking lot in Arlington, Va., and grabbed her breasts and buttocks, according to a police report.

Police said the woman fought off her assailant and scratches can be seen on Krusinski’s face in his mug shot. He was charged with sexual battery.

Never fear, though - Congress is right on this:

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., a member of the Armed Services Committee, said the allegations were "extremely disturbing."

"It is clear that the status quo regarding sexual assaults in the military is simply unacceptable. Next week I am going to take this issue head on by introducing a set of common sense reforms," she said...

...seemingly unfazed by her own lack of common sense. What reforms are going to keep a grown man from getting drunk and randomly grabbing women in parking lots? Locking soldiers, Marines, and airmen in their rooms after dark? Not letting them drink? Oh wait - we know why this happened, don't we? Apparently, somehow this guy just didn't understand that Congress and the military leadership have taken a *firm* stance (heh... she said... oh, nevermind) against groping complete strangers in parking lots. I mean, it's not as though there were a law against that sort of thing:

"We have to reform how the military handles sexual assault cases and take on the culture that perpetuates this kind of behavior.”

Oh well. At least he wasn't witnessing to anyone. That would have been a far more serious offense.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:23 PM | Comments (35) | TrackBack

Scientists, Politicizing Science

The problem with wanting government to be guided by science is that scientists, being human like the rest of us, have trouble rising above their own political bias:

... He also rattles off a list of anti-science Congressmen, all Republicans. Excluded from his list are the 53 Democratic Congressmen and Senators (compared to only two Republicans) who wrote a letter to the FDA demanding labels on genetically modified food. This policy position is in direct opposition to that held by organizations representing America’s finest scientists and doctors – the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the American Medical Association (AMA).

Plait also failed to mention the group of Democratic Congressmen who support a resolution proposing a new hypothesis about global warming: That climate change will cause an increase in the number of hookers around the globe.

Also AWOL from Plait’s list is Tom Harkin, the quack-loving, homeopathy-pushing Senator from Iowa who is responsible for helping legitimize alternative medicine. Such pseudoscientific voodoo has done more to harm average Americans than any misguided teachings on evolution or climate change.

Plait goes on to lament how scientific reports were censored in the “Bad Old Days” of the George W. Bush administration. He conveniently leaves out that the Obama Administration purposefully withheld information from scientists during the BP oil spill and doctored documents to make it appear as if scientists agreed with the drilling moratorium they implemented. And he did not mention that the Obama administration interfered with the FDA’s approval of genetically modified salmon.

The biggest bee in Plait’s bonnet was the latest bill proposed by Rep. Lamar Smith, which orders the National Science Foundation to only fund research which is in the national interest. This is a very bad idea for multiple reasons, and Plait is correct to call for its defeat.

But Plait’s characterization that “Smith wants politics to trump science” Soviet-style is absurd. The NSF’s mission is to promote science, engineering and technology. The fact that fields like psychology and sociology receive funding from the NSF means that politics has already trumped science. The NSF should never have gotten involved in social studies, especially political science, and Smith’s bill – while poorly thought-out – is almost certainly aimed at them.

Finally, at the end of the article, Plait makes something of a confession:

I know I focus a lot on these attacks coming from the far right—because that’s where the overwhelming majority originate—but in truth they’re coming from all directions, and it’s up to us to do something about it. [Emphasis added]

Wrong. Plait focuses on the far right because he is a partisan. He ignores the equally massive volume of anti-science garbage coming from the far left because he sympathizes with that side of the aisle. It is confirmation bias combined with motivated forgetting.

This is why many Americans find the media so infuriating. There is barely even a pretense of giving both sides of the story. Instead, the media is divided into ideological camps, and each side only tells half the truth.

Too funny. I don't blame scientists for falling victim to the entirely human bias we all struggle with. But a little more self awareness and humility wouldn't hurt.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:18 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

For Elise....

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

The Protectors

Notice how many of them are men.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:16 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Stop "Spiritually Raping" Me!!!

So.... literally tens of you may be wondering where the Blog Princess hath gotten herself off to of late. In addition to some family things that momentarily diverted her from the extremely important job of boring you witless with her inane ramblings, she has a bit of a bombshell to drop on the blatherosphere. Last week, the Princess made an alarming discovery. Whilst idly surfing the 'Net, she discovered that over the last 30 or so years she has been repeatedly gang raped. Oh yes, peoples - you read correctly:

Religious liberty groups have grave concerns after they learned the Pentagon is vetting its guide on religious tolerance with a group that compared Christian evangelism to “rape” and advocated that military personnel who proselytize should be court martialed.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is calling on the Air Force to enforce a regulation that they believe calls for the court martial of any service member caught proselytizing.

President Mikey Weinstein and others from his organization met privately with Pentagon officials on April 23. He said U.S. troops who proselytize are guilty of sedition and treason and should be punished – by the hundreds if necessary – to stave off what he called a “tidal wave of fundamentalists.”

“Someone needs to be punished for this,” Weinstein told Fox News. “Until the Air Force or Army or Navy or Marine Corps punishes a member of the military for unconstitutional religious proselytizing and oppression, we will never have the ability to stop this horrible, horrendous, dehumanizing behavior.”

And you thought Republicans were the only public figures ignorant and insensitive enough to trivialize rape for political advantage! The Blog Princess is not quite sure how she can have been raped over and over and over again by so many without the trauma somehow penetrating her consciousness, but she is assured by An Important Expert named "Mikey" that this is indeed the case:

“If a member of the military is proselytizing in a manner that violates the law, well then of course they can be prosecuted,” he said. “We would love to see hundreds of prosecutions to stop this outrage of fundamentalist religious persecution.”

He compared the act of proselytizing to rape.

“It is a version of being spiritually raped and you are being spiritually raped by fundamentalist Christian religious predators,” he told Fox News.

He said there is a time and a place for those in uniform to share their faith – but he took issues with fundamentalism that he says is causing widespread problems in the military.

“When those people are in uniform and they believe there is no time, place or manner in which they can be restricted from proselytizing, they are creating tyranny, oppression, degradation, humiliation and horrible, horrible pain upon members of the military,” he said.

Perkins said the military regulations have “Weinstein’s fingerprints all over it.”

“It threatens to treat service members caught witnessing as enemies of the state,” he said, referring to a Washington Post article highlighting Weinstein’s meeting with Pentagon officials. “Non-compliance, the Pentagon suggests, even from ordained chaplains could result in court-martialing on a case-by-case basis.”

The Pentagon confirmed to Fox News that Christian evangelism is against regulations.

“Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense, LCDR Nate Christensen said in a written statement. He declined to say if any chaplains or service members had been prosecuted for such an offense.

...In an interview with the Washington Post, Weinstein called proselytizing a “national security threat.”

“And what the Pentagon needs to understand is that it is sedition and treason,” he told the newspaper. “It should be punished.”

Perkins said it was troubling the Obama Administration would place so much trust in someone like Weinstein.

“Unfortunately, it appears our military is on a forced march away from the very freedoms they are sworn to protect,” he said. “This language from Weinstein that Christians who share their faith or offer comfort to others from their faith in Jesus Christ is “sedition and treason” is a treasonous statement in and of itself.”

Well this is a fine how-do-you-do. Once we were taught that there are no atheists in foxholes. Apparently, there was no room for them because the foxholes were full of rapists!

Now that she's been sensitized to the undeniable truth that mere expression of beliefs she doesn't happen to share is tantamount to violent sexual assault, the Princess' mind is reeling with repressed memories of the thousands of times she has been brutalized by Amerikkka's shameful rape culture:

Those two Jehovah's Witnesses who lived next door to her in Yucca Valley? Rape-ity rape rape. It's shocking to think that two little old ladies in sensible shoes are capable of such things, but that's the world we live in these days.

All those fundraising emails from the Obama campaign? Can you say, "rape", boys and girls? We knew that you could.

Hare Krishnas handing out leaflets at airports and Gideon's bibles in hotel nightstand drawers? Do you even have to ask?

Muslims who want us to know more about their faith in the so-called 'belief' that somehow, this unwelcome verbal touching knowledge will foster tolerance and improve cultural understanding? Rapists, every last one.

Soldiers and Marines with Bible verses inked onto their arms? Tattoo rapists.

Every.single.commenter.at.VC who has dared to express opinions contrary to those advanced by the Editorial Staff is guilty of Comment Rape. You know who you are.

IS THERE NO END TO THE HORRIFIC RAPINE AND VIOLATION????

It's time to face a shocking truth: we have all been raped at one time or another. Fortunately, the human mind is capable of protecting us from recognizing that every day, we are penetrated in every mental orifice by people who want to tell us about what they believe - to persuade, cajole, entice, seduce. To spiritually rape us... with.their.words.

Fellow rape survivors, tear off your blindfolds!!! It's time to shine the white-hot spotlight of truthiness on this outrage. Feel free to share your rape stories in the comments section....

...unless, of course, they violate someone else's beliefs, in which case SHAME ON YOU!!!

Posted by Cassandra at 06:50 AM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

May 03, 2013

Portion Control

Via DL Sly, this made the Editorial Staff's day:

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was denied a second slice of pizza today at an Italian eatery in Brooklyn.

...Mayor Bloomberg, not accustomed to being challenged, assumed that the owner was joking.

"OK, that's funny," he remarked, "because of the soda thing ... No come on. I'm not kidding. I haven't eaten all morning, just send over another pepperoni."

"I'm sorry sir. We're serious," Benito insisted. "We've decided that eating more than one piece isn't healthy for you, and so we're forbidding you from doing it."

"Look jackass," Bloomberg retorted, his anger boiling, "I f***ing skipped breakfast this morning just so I could eat four slices of your pizza. Don't be a schmuck, just get back to the kitchen and bring out some f***ing pizza, okay."

"I'm sorry sir, there's nothing I can do," the owner repeated. "Maybe you could go to several restaurants and get one slice at each. At least that way you're walking. You know, burning calories."

When it comes to rules, everyone likes to think they're exceptional. The least they could have done was offer him a healthy alternative. Perhaps some baked kale chips?

We hear if you freeze it beforehand, the bitter taste diminishes considerably.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:49 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

May 02, 2013

Blogging

Sorry for the light fare of late. Have been dealing with some family medical issues.

Back when I can.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:09 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

May 01, 2013

Great Googly-Moogly!!!

We had no idea this sort of thing was going on amidst the peonies and daylilies:

Nothing sounds more harmonious than a virgin sisterhood all labouring to help their ageing mother, but everything changes in mid-summer when the females suddenly turn on each other and the nest is rife with cannibalism, infanticide and incest.

This ensues when the queen begins laying unfertilised eggs from which, by a quirk of bumblebee genetics, males are born.

All would be well if the female workers were happy to look after their new brothers but, although celibate, they are also able to lay unfertilised eggs and can thus have sons of their own.

The result is bumblebee bedlam as mothers, sisters and daughters battle over whose sons will survive, eating each other’s eggs and biting and stinging one another. Sometimes, the queen is even killed by her daughters.

The males who have survived the in-fighting go on to mate with new queens from other nests, but will also happily impregnate those from their own nests, including their sisters. Their sole purpose in life now served, they will soon die.

So, too, will the female workers, the only survivors of the nest being the new queens who, once mated, enter hibernation. They will remain dormant until the following spring, when they are ready to begin this fascinating cycle of life all over again.

Bee careful, peoples. It's a jungle out there.

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