May 24, 2013
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.
Finally, Women of VC!
...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....
Surrendering Without a Fight
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.
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?
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
May 23, 2013
...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.
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.
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.
Send In The Clowns
No wait - they're already here!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
May 17, 2013
Who Could Have Predicted This?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
May 15, 2013
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.
Cruelty to Animals
All those trans fats and empty calories. Where is Mayor Bloomberg when we need him?
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.
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.
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."
There's a metaphor in there, somewhere.
May 14, 2013
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.
May 13, 2013
More Anedotal Reporting on Military Rape
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???
"College Is A Lot Like.... School"