“Cammy is the perfect woman,” says Dennis Hof, owner of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch. “Cammy has a value system that comes from the fifties. We were on an airplane, and a pilot – a lady pilot – introduced herself to me. When she went back into the cockpit, Cammy said, ‘I’d rather she be serving Cokes and peanuts, and let a man be the pilot.’
“She designed her life around, ‘How can I please a man?’ She went to massage school, cooking school – she bought a book on blowjobs. I wish more girls would do that. If more girls did what Cammy’s doing… my business would go down.”
And good Lord, I am filled to brimming with revulsion.
The thing is, I’m not revulsed by Cammy’s choice. If Cammy is content living subserviently, and that makes her happy, then I say “Go, Cammy.” (Even if I suspect Cammy is perpetuating an elaborate ruse to extract cash from gullible men’s pockets. They say the best salesman never appears to be a salesman. Cammy’s probably getting exactly what she wants, from men who probably deserve it.)
But I’d never want a woman whose whole job was dedicated to pleasing me. That has nothing to do with feminism; it has everything to do with the fact that ultimately, I think humans turn into monsters when they have all of their needs met without cost.
Maybe that’s because I worked in retail – where if you’re smart, the attitude has to be, “The customer is always right.” Because you don’t want the customer to feel dumb; nothing closes a customer’s wallet quicker than, “Gee, your concerns are stupid.” And they’ll tell people how they were insulted, spreading bad tales about you wherever they go.
So when they cram your mouth full of shit, you swallow it and smile.
Working retail, eventually you come to realize that “reasonable” is determined by past history. You think it’s reasonable that a cup of good coffee is $3.95 because you grew up in a Starbucks culture… but talk to a guy who grew up in the 1950s, when coffee was an inflation-adjusted dollar at best. You think it’s reasonable that drivers will give you the finger and honk at you in traffic, because you grew up in Manhattan. You think it’s reasonable that people smoke in restaurants, because you live in Europe.
The important point: that “reasonable” creeps up, depending on what people do.
As humans, we’re bounded by other people’s reactions. And if everyone acts like you’re completely normal and wonderful, you internalize that.. even if you’re completely awful. On some level, we all think, “Well, if we get out of hand, someone will tell me I’m too much trouble.”
Remove those blocks – and sure enough, you start becoming too much trouble.
Wanna know why celebrities implode? Because they’re swaddled in a culture that caters to their every whim because they’re a non-replaceable entity, and when normal people see them it’s usually in a gawking fawningness of “Oh my God, it’s you! I’m so pleased to meet you!” So their waiters go to extra miles that no normal person would get, and when they casually ask for a Diet Coke at precisely 45 degrees with a titanium straw in it, everyone just brings it to them. Nobody notes this is actually really a pain in the ass to do for them, or if they do, they agree that oh, you absolutely need a perfectly-chilled drink.
Eventually, you come to think that this is reality. That the 45-degree Diet Coke with the titanium straw is not just you, but universal and easy to do, it’s happened a thousand times before. And then a waiter forgets and you get the wrong drink – and for the celebrity, it’s like they got brought a cup of transparent coffee with broken glass at the bottom. It’s such a stupidly-done thing that it feels like an insult. How could they not know?
So: embarrassing shitfit in a public place. And to some extent, it’s not the celebrity’s fault – it’s the fault of all these people around them, nodding and agreeing and convincing them that yes, this is the way the world is. Sure, the celebrity went off the fucking rails, but all of their PR agents and fans and entourage quietly removed the rails months ago. In some ways, it’s astounding that they kept on the right path for as long as they did.
And you see that in retail, where people think, “Oh, I’m always right! So I’ll sit in the coffee shop and slop coffee all over this magazine I have no intention of paying for, then leave it sprawled on the counter in a pile of sugar and drool.” They think, “I’m always right, so when I bring back a tattered book with no receipt and want cash for it, the clerk who’s refusing me needs a good, solid yelling.” They think, “I’m always right, so why aren’t these clerks catering to my every whim?”
And yes: you get more money from these nitwits. But you do so by catering to their dysfunction. Which means you get richer off of exploiting people’s psychological weak points. (A point I make, in a somewhat more hammer-handed way, in my story Dead Merchandise.) You actually make them a little insane – and some of them a lot insane – to harvest their cash.
So for me, having someone eager to cater to my every need makes them, in a low-grade way, the enemy of my sanity. I want people who question, who remind me of the work this took, who tell me when I’m inconveniencing them. A woman like Cammy (or at least how Cammy presents herself) would undermine the integrity of the person I’m trying to be, give me an inflated sense of self-esteem I might not deserve, slowly push me towards the land o’crazy expectations.
She’s not the perfect woman, Denis. She’s a perfect servant, perhaps. But perfect servants come with hidden costs, and I for one would be very reticent to pay them.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/303879.h
Long-time readers will know: May is the time my Seasonal Affective Disorder usually creeps in. For a few weeks out of the year I’ll become a sniffling pile of self-hatred, sometimes skidding as far as self-harm, weeping and curling into a ball. This misery lasts for about three to six weeks, during which in lesser moments all of my suicide attempts have arrived, and when I emerge it’s a slow crawl.
This is where the sadness usually starts to tickle. And… it hasn’t yet. Which concerns me.
The thing is, if there’s any year when I might not have my usual SAD, this would be it. I’ve had major surgery in January, which my body is still recuperating from in some minor ways. I’ve changed my diet and exercise habits. And I’m on new medications, specifically a heavy dosage of Vitamin D in order to get my cholesterol and body chemistry back to proper levels.
So is it going to arrive? Maybe. I felt very sad on Saturday but then I ate a sandwich and realized my blood sugar was low, and everything went better. I’m feeling a little low now, but is that SAD or just a reluctance to charge ahead with a tedious work day?
No clue. Until then, I’m sort of waiting for the axe to fall – maybe it’ll show up late. (It used to arrive in June.) I’m on alert, trying to be careful about how I react, so I don’t take anything too much to heart.
But once a year, I usually have to endure a time of knives and anguish. That may or may not show up this year. In some ways, waiting for it to hit is nearly as bad as the depression itself, being tensed for a blow that may never arrive. On the other hand, I’m relatively content, and finishing up my novel.
A strange place to be.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/303809.h
gramina: I think it was someone in the middle ages.
housepet: They must have been bored.
wordweaverlynn: They didn't have reality TV.
housepet: How did they think up anything so convoluted? They must have been licking toads.
This entry was originally posted at http://wordweaverlynn.dreamwidth.org/585
If you were to log into StarCityGames about two years back, you’d have logged in with your username. And once you’d chosen your username, you could never ever change it. If you had, in a fit of pique, chosen “SirPoopyhead” as your user name, that was what you’d have to use forever.
The reason you couldn’t change it was because of a silly choice that had been made back in the year 2000, when we’d first purchased our shopping cart software. The people who had designed that shopping cart decided to use the login name as the unique way of determining who you were – and when we’d created our own customized shopping cart, we hadn’t changed that. So for all intents and purposes, that arbitrary string of characters – “SirPoopyhead” – was the single factor that made you you.
Problem is, that’s actually terrible design.
See, on the back end of an application, we have literally hundreds of places where we store the answer to the question, “What customer did this?” What customer placed this order? What customer tried to log in at 4:56:15 am? What customer ordered a Premium subscription? What customer has $14.15 in store credit? And the answer to each of those questions, each answer stored in a separate location, was “SirPoopyhead.”
The problem is that if we changed that string of characters to, say, “SirGalahad,” then we’d have to manually change that string in every one of the hundreds of tables that referenced it. If we forgot to update just one table (or something went wrong in the middle of all these updates), then somewhere lurking in our database there would be a bunch of records that referenced the now-no-longer existing “SirPoopyhead,” which means that we’d have lost data. This could be very troubling if we were asking the question, “What customer had paid us money?” when we needed to give you a refund.
And with every new feature we added, this problem got worse. We added gift certificates, so here’s yet another place we need to store “SirPoopyhead.” We added wishlists, each of which was duly recorded under “SirPoopyhead.” Hundreds, thousands, of locations each keyed to this arbitrary string of letters.
Worse, turns out logins are a terrible idea. Customers forget their logins all the time, having made them up to check out. If their login was associated with an old email address, they might not even be able to get access to their old login without manual intervention. We literally had, in some cases, customers who’d created twelve separate accounts because they kept forgetting what their login was supposed to be.
No, what we needed was a nice clean email login like Facebook. Everybody remembers their emails. But people change their email addresses a lot – and as noted, having to constantly change “SirPoopyhead@hotmail.com” to something else had a nonzero risk of something going wrong.
What you need, as it turns out, is a unique ID to reference each customer that never changes! You! SirPoopyhead! You’re now customer #123456, and every question we’ll ever ask about you now returns the answer, “Customer #123456.” Then you can change your email, you can change your login, you can change anything you want – all we’ll be doing is looking up the information for Customer #123456.
Come this point in our shopping cart’s development, we had literally thousands of places in the code that used the login name instead of the customer ID to answer questions. And it wasn’t as simple as a “search-and-replace”; some of these were complex queries that we’d completely have to rewrite from scratch. And then, because we’re responsible website owners, we’d want to test all of these changes thoroughly to make sure nothing got broken.
Yet if we wanted to do this, we’d have to do it soon. Because we were hiring more and more programmers, and adding new features daily, each of which referenced “SirPoopyhead.” The longer we put this change off, the more places we’d have to change the code.
That’s what’s called technological debt. Thanks to a bad decision made literally twelve years ago, we had a ton of code that caused us to have to jump through a lot of hoops for what seemed like it should be a simple thing. And every month that went by without changing this sprawling, underlying code was another month’s worth of updates that would also, eventually, have to be changed.
What followed next was a tedious and gruellng five-week project where I looked through each of the hundreds of thousands of lines of code that touched literally every page on StarCityGames.com, changing instances of “login name” to “customer ID.” You cannot understand how magnificently boring this was. There are fun things a programmer can do, usually learning new techniques or doing something flashy – this was basically me, being a smart search-and-replace, doing something a computer wasn’t quite equipped to do.
When it was done, we ran some conversion scripts, and then rolled it out. Zingo! To you, the customer, the only change was that there was now a notification saying, “Please log in using your email.” But to the back end, there was literally a whole new day.
That’s why it’s sometimes hard to change software. How difficult could it be to change your user name? Well, as it turns out, thanks to factors that are hard to explain to your average customer, it can be incredibly hard – an unpleasant task requiring weeks to fix, one that adds almost no new features whatsoever, one that can introduce bugs into stable sections of code that haven’t had problems in years…. yet one that ultimately needs to get done in order to make way for bigger changes later on.
That’s why programming is weird.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/303537.h
A friend recently told me about a self-help tactic that has become popular in the circles I move in: the idea of applying behaviorism to yourself (sometimes called “training your inner pigeon”). The idea is you give yourself rewards when you do things you want to do more of, and your brain works its magic and reinforces the activity.
When I first heard about this, my thought was “No way that is ever going to work”. I have always been under the impression that conditioning is kind of like tickling. You can’t tickle yourself. You’d be expecting it.
Let’s start by distinguishing a couple of possibilities:
1) This process doesn’t work at all
2) This process works by making you want the reward. Suppose you promise yourself a candy bar each time you do homework. You are hungry and want the candy bar, but you would feel bad if you ate it without doing homework. Therefore, you grudgingly do homework to get at the candy bar.
3) This process works by changing your urges and desires. After eating a candy bar each time you do homework, your brain associates homework with a nice, delicious-feeling, and you enjoy doing homework more from now on.
Let’s start with 3, the most encouraging possibility. This gains a little support from the Little Albert experiment. Here, a baby who had no particular fear of rats was exposed several times to rats plus loud, terrifying noises. Eventually the baby came to fear rats, even without the noise, presumably because the fear of the noise had generalized onto the rat through association. It’s easy to see how this could mean something like the happiness of candy-bar-eating generalizing to homework. Nevertheless, I believe this argument proves too much.
Every evening, I sit down at the table, get a plate and some silverware, and eat dinner. It’s usually something I really like, and it usually includes dessert, which I like even more. If eating good food isn’t rewarding, I don’t know what is, and sure enough I rarely skip dinnertime.
However, if for some reason I don’t have dinner – maybe I’ve promised my friends I’ll go out with a late dinner for them and so I can’t stuff myself first – I do not feel the slightest urge to sit down at the dinner table with a plate and sort of move my silverware around in the air making little eating motions, and when I tried it (empiricism!) I did not find it at all pleasant.
Take a second to think about how weird that is (the result, not me trying the experiment). Sitting at the table and moving my silverware, in conditions exactly like these, has been quickly associated with reward every single time I’ve done it in the past, for decades, ever since I learned to feed myself. But I don’t feel even a little bit of urge to do this. None at all. You may generate additional examples at your leisure, but the point is that just being consistently associated with a positive reinforcer in a low time-delay way does not make a neutral activity (let alone an actively unpleasant activity) become desirable.
What happened with Little Albert, then? First of all, he was classical conditioning and not operant conditioning. Second of all, Albert had no understanding or control over what was going on. Each time he heard the noise, he was very surprised – he was receiving a new fact from the Universe. But it wasn’t information he understood; he had no idea what the connection between the rat and the noise was and whether it would recur. He just knew that there was some mysterious rat -> noise connection.
Compare this to me eating dinner. The connection between sitting down and eating dinner is not at all a new fact fed me by the Universe; it’s something I plan myself. And it is not mysterious whether any given sitting and silverware-waving will reward me; I know it will reward me if and only if I am planning to eat dinner. Therefore the brain does not think of silverware-waving as an activity that might, who knows, lead to reward in the future.
(one might object that my inner pigeon – or lizard brain, to mix animal metaphors – doesn’t share my complex explicit knowledge of the reward structure of dinner-eating. But the little I know of the brain’s reinforcement mechanism suggests that reinforcement learning is based on surprise – technically the difference between predicted and observed values of some complicated Bayesian equation encoded in dopaminergic neurons or something – and that this system is actually quite good at predicting expected reward from an action, within certain limits)
So (3), the hypothesis that the reward will cause me to start enjoying homework, seems wrong. What about (2) – “I don’t like homework much, but at least I get some candy out of it”?
Here there’s a ceiling on how much the candy can reinforce your homework-doing behavior, and that ceiling is how much you like candy.
Suppose you have a big box of candy in the fridge. If you haven’t eaten it all already, that suggests your desire for candy isn’t even enough to reinforce the action of going to the fridge, getting a candy bar, and eating it, let alone the much more complicated task of doing homework. Yes, maybe there are good reasons why you don’t eat the candy – for example, you’re afraid of getting fat. But these issues don’t go away when you use the candy as a reward for homework completion. However little you want the candy bar you were barely even willing to take out of the fridge, that’s how much it’s motivating your homework.
Maybe you say “I will allow myself exactly one candy bar a day, but only if I finish my homework”. Even if you can stick to this rule, here the candy bar becomes an extrinsic reward motivating the homework. We all know what happens with extrinsic rewards – overjustification effect! You gradually start interpreting the task at hand as an annoying impediment to getting the reward, lose your intrinsic motivation, and as soon as the reward is removed, you’re even less willing to do the task than before.
So both (2) and (3) are pretty unlikely. That leaves us with (1) – don’t even bother.
Luckily, my friend helpfully clarified that this wasn’t what her class taught at all (I think maybe they originally tried this, but considerations like the ones I mentioned convinced them to change?). Their new policy is that you should reinforce yourself with a “victory gesture” – for example, pumping your fist and shouting “YEAH!” and visualizing an image corresponding to your success and trying to feel really good about yourself.
So for example, as soon as you sit down to start your homework, you make the victory gesture and imagine yourself graduating summa cum laude from school, and then you feel really good and have reinforced the behavior of sitting down to do your homework. And maybe you do it again when you finish, because peak end rule.
She claims a few benefits of this method. First, it’s very fast, so you can reinforce things right as they happen instead of with time delay which gives your brain enough time to lose the connection. Second, it’s intrinsic, so it’s not going to sap your natural motivation the same way the candy bar might.
I understand the claim that rewards delivered very immediately after a stimulus can work better for conditioning – I was referred to a couple of papers proving this, though I don’t remember them. But I notice I am confused. When we have good examples of real conditioning, immediate reward isn’t especially important. For example, people often use the language of behaviorism to talk about addiction, say alcoholism. But the chemical rewards of getting drunk don’t manifest until a little while after you’ve had your first beer – certainly not within a split second – and certainly alcoholism can reinforce even longer term behaviors, like leaving home and going to the bar. Pornography is another good example of effective behaviorism, but going to a porn site gives only delayed rewards – first you have to find a video you like, then you have to wait for it to buffer, then you have to sit through the boring part where the nice lady and the plumber are discussing the best ways to fix her faulty pipes, and so on. It seems that when we have a real effect that definitely works, immediacy is not required (indeed, if it were humans would have a lot of trouble learning anything but the most basic reflexes).
But okay. Ignore that. It would really really really really bad mind design to allow your own consciously generate-able emotions to feed back into the reinforcement mechanism.
Start with one obvious point. I said the candy bar couldn’t be much of a reinforcer if you otherwise left it in the jar without eating it. The same seems broadly true of a victory gesture. I don’t feel the slightest urge to perform a victory gesture, and having tried it empirically I don’t feel the slightest urge to repeat it. This bodes poorly for its ability to be a strong reinforcer.
And over several billion years of evolution, the brain has every incentive to get rid of that behavior if indeed it was ever possible. Imagine a world in which our own thoughts and feelings can be strongly reinforcing. You’re a caveman, encountering a saber-toothed tiger. You have two choices. You can either feel fear, which is an unpleasant emotion. Or you can feel happiness, which is a pleasant emotion. First you try feeling fear, but that’s unpleasant! You don’t like fear! The feeling of fear is negatively reinforced and your brain learns to stop feeling it. Then you try happiness! You like happiness! The decision to feel happiness is positively reinforced. Yes, you decide, saber-toothed tigers are wonderful things and you are overjoyed there is one in front of you getting into a pouncing position and licking its lips and…well, this caveman isn’t going to live very long.
From the little I know about the reward system, it seems to operate on a basis of predicting pleasure level, then upregulating actions that result in world-states that seem more pleasurable than predicted and downregulating actions that result in world-states that seem less pleasurable than predicted. I don’t think you can prevent the “I’m going to do my victory gesture!” part of you and the “I’m going to predict my pleasure at time t+1″ part of you from talking to each other, I don’t think internal pleasure is as reinforcing as external world-state results, and I don’t think the pleasure of making a victory gesture is strong enough to do much anyway.
…there were a lot of “I thinks” in that paragraph. Do we have any evidence here?
The literature on this is hiding under the obscure term “self-consequation”, and unfortunately it is all from Scientific Prehistory, ie the 1970s and 1980s before journal articles were uploaded to the Internet. I am able to find this full study, which does pretty much exactly the experiment listed at the beginning of this post – feed people candy in return for studying – and finds that it helps only if other people are there keeping them honest. But I am also able to find this abstract, which appears to be from a study showing the opposite – some kind of benefit – but is totally unavailable on the Internet. Both studies seem to refer to a long literature supporting their result and (sigh) neither seems aware of the other’s existence. However, I am more skeptical of the second, both because I can’t see it and because I worry that experimental protocols aren’t real self-reinforcement. That is, if an experimenter gives you their bag of candy and tells you to reinforce yourself by eating some when you do something good, that’s still different from using your own bag of candy and coming up with the idea on your own, even if the experimenter is out of the room when you’re working.
I will still try the technique, because it seems low cost and potentially high value. Really high value, actually. So high value that I would have expected the first person to get it right to take over the world. This is turning into another argument against it, isn’t it?
But yeah, as I was saying, I still intend to try the technique, even though it won’t be a very well-controlled experiment. And I’m glad I heard the idea for reminding me how little I know about behaviorism.
As those who have been following the news have probably noticed, the Obama Administration has recently been hit by three big scandals, coming all together. Of these, the oldest (and most severe in terms of his primary role as Commander-in-Chief) is the Benghazi Embassy terrorist attack, and his incredibly incompetent and dishonest reaction to this event. Two new ones have emerged, and they were entirely of the Administrations making.
The first of these is the revelation that Obama's IRS deliberately discriminated against conservative and insufficiently-liberal not-for-profits by demanding much more information about them than they did from moderate or liberal organizations. The second is that Obama's Justice Department seized the phone records of about 20 AP reporters, because the AP had leaked classified information regarding the foiling of a terrorist plot.
The first two scandals are the most worrisome in terms what they reveal about Obama's (lack of) strategic acumen and respect for the Constitution. The third may be the one which will sink him, because he's finally angered the Mainstream Media -- his most important supporters.
On September 11th, 2012, a company-strength (around 125-150 men) force of Al Qaeda guerillas attacked the American diplomatic mission in the city of Benghazi, Libya. Apparently, there had been days of warning that an attack was imminent. Ambassador Stevens had repeatedly asked for increased security, but the Obama Administration refused to deploy any additional forces to protect the mission.
In consequence, the guerilla force was able to overrun the mission, killing 4 and wounding 10. One of the dead was Ambassador Stevens. The attack took hours, during which Stevens and other local officials pleaded for military relief or support, and during which the Obama Administration apparently refused all such pleas. 2 of the dead were US Navy SEAL's who, against orders, attempted a rescue anyway. Because no US forces were dispatched, there was no effective pursuit of the guerillas -- none was captured and it is not clear if any were even killed or wounded (though with 2 US Navy SEAL's on the scene, one would imagine some were). To this day, none of the perpetrators have been captured by American authorities.
The Movie Flap
The immediate reaction of both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was to blame the attack on a trailer for a movie, called The Innocence of Muslims and made in America by an American citizen, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, which depicted the Prophet Muhammed (may suffering and violence be upon him) as a villainous war criminal. The Administration promptly had Nakoula arrested and imprisoned for parole violations, in an obviously-biased enforcement of parole which may be constructed as violating Nakoula's rights under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, the Federal Railways Minister of Pakistan, claimed to be offering a bounty for the murder of Nakouly. As far as I know, no effort is currently being undertaken by the United States government either to extradite or capture the Pakistani Minister for this clear threat to the security of an American citizen exercising his rights on American soil, nor have any actions been taken against the persons responsible for the judicial condemnations of Nakoula, Terry Jones and others in Egypt, despite the fact that these are also threats to American security, rising possibly to the level of an act of war.
Obama clearly either is afraid to defend the rights of Amercians against foreign oppression, or he does not really believe in the First Amendment. This becomes important with regard to one of the later scanadals, which is why I have digressed at length on this topic.
The Obama Administration has never been able to adequately explain just who refused the original requests for increased security, and who ordered US forces to stand down during and after the actual attack. President Obama never described his own decisions or gave reasons for them, and there are strong indications that this is because he made none: Obama simply chose to go to sleep during or immediately after the attack because he had a campaign stop the next day. As for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, after the attack she verbally claimed "complete responsibility" (which was of course a lie, as she wasn't the Commander-in-Chief and had no authority to dispatch or hold back US forces) and then blatantly claimed that the details didn't matter.
The House and Senate have both established committees to investigate the attack and its handling by the Administration. Some of these committees have issued reports highly critical of the President and his officials. New committees are opening, and in consequence this scandal is far from dead.
This is a bad situation both for President Obama and for Hillary Clinton. While Obama succeeded in distracting the public with his yammering about Nakoula's movie and a friendly media suppressed public interest in the affair before the November 2012 elections (where it might well have cost Obama the election had the details been more widely known), these details are coming out now, and it makes both Obama and Clinton look very bad.
Clinton claimed responsibliity for the events. She said this of course to shield Obama, who was facing re-election when she wasn't; and she probably figured that the whole thing would have died down by 2016, when she herself hopes to run for President. But the scandal isn't dying down, it's rising, and for the following readons:
1) Obama showed extreme fecklessness and weakness before the attack (in turning down the request for reinforcements) during the attack (in refusing to relieve the mission or call in air or naval support) and after the attack (in persecuting film-makers rather than hunting down the perpetrators). This fecklessness reached the level of going to sleep and making a campaign stop the next day, rather than doing his duty as Commander-in-Chief and making strategic decisions.
2) In the course of trying to distract the people with The Innocence of Muslims, he has directly violated the First Amendment rights of Nakoula by imprisoning him on charges of violating possibly-unconstitutional parole requirements; and he has refused to defend the First Amendment Rights of Nakoula, Jones and others by either neglecting or refusing to threaten or take action against Egypt and Pakistan for their direct attempts to kill or imprison Nakoula, Jones and others who are AMERICAN CITIZENS ON AMERICAN SOIL.
3) The MSM is mad at Obama and is starting to report these facts, which means that the American people are becoming aware of them.
This could possibly by itself be impeachable: if Obama really did shrug off an ongoing international military and diplomatic crisis to go nappies and then make a Las Vegas campaign stop, it's misfeasance -- possibly malfeasance taking into account that he did so to promote his personal political career.
Furthermore, the attention being paid to this crisis could torpedo Hillary Clinton's chances for the Presidency. Ironically, the "call at 2 am" that Hillary mentioned in her 2008 campaign ads did come -- and apparently both Obama and Hillary herself just slept through it!
I find it hard myself to comprehend Obama's motives for his handling of this affair. Arguments that he meant to do this because he wanted to humiliate America, endanger our national security, or transgress the Constitution, run up against the rock that he did this right before the 2016 Presidential elections, which would make him a political idiot even were he malicious (since he would be robbing himself of the opportunity to inflict Four More Years of himself on the nation). And, of course, he'd have to assume that he was so far above the law that he would never suffer any personal consequences for such malfeasance.
I can only assume that Obama's preconceptions about the benign nature of the victorious Libyan rebels, which he had actively supported in war, blinded him to the fact that they might contain anti-American factions; and that his general radical notion of rebels as inherently good led him to imagine that they would never attack his diplomatic mission -- and one led by an impeccably liberal diplomat, at that. He may have feared that sending in troops to secure the facilities, before there had been any attack or more than vague hints of trouble, would be seen by the Libyans as provocative and inflame anti-American sentiment. This fatuous hope would have been reinforced by "groupthink" within his circle of advisers.
Once the attack actually started, Obama would have of course been worried that American military intervention, either by way of rescue or retaliation, might have killed innocent Libyan citizens and would in any case have likely increased anti-American sentiment (yes, but it might also have saved AMERICAN lives and promoted fear and respect for American might, arguments which Obama would have been ideologically ill-equipped to examine). This would expalin the repeated refusal of military support and orders to forces in the region to stand down. Obama would indeed have imagined himself to be showing enlightened self-restraint here, and restraining our presumably ignorant and warlike military commanders in the region.
Once the attack was over -- and it became apparent what a disaster it had been for American diplomacy -- Obama would have been in full "Cover Your Ass" mode. Order Hillary to take responsibility for the bad decisions, presumably promising to shield her from any real consequences for such a confession. Blame The Innocence of Muslims -- and be seen to be punishing the film-maker, even if it involves twisting the law and possibly violating the US Constitution.
As for the attack, any attempts at pursuit or retaliation would just keep the issue alive, a possible millstone for the 2016 election. Better to just accept that it happened and move on to an electoral victory.
In all this, of course, Obama forgot -- if he ever knew or cared -- about his Constitutional responsibilities as President of the United States of America.
The IRS Scandal
In the United States of America, donations to issue-advocacy non-profit groups are tax-exempt, while donations to political campaigns are taxable. Consequently, the IRS has the mission to monitor wherer or not a not-for-profit corporation is engaging in issue versus campaign advocacy, when determining their tax status. This is normal, unexceptional and innocent.
What is abnormal, highly exceptional and downright tyrannical would be for the IRS to decide to "go easy" on not-for-profits supporting political positions with which they agreed, and come down hard with extra audits and requirements on those who supported political positions with which they disagreed. This is what has happened starting in 2010.
In March and April of 2010, the IRS decided to begin singling out 501(c) application containing the terms "Tea Party," Patriots" and "9/1" for special attention. In August they put up a Be On the Look Out (BOLO) listing telling agents to flag Tea Party case files. In consequence such organizations would receive extra scrutiny, be required to provide more information, and thus have more difficulty in gaining tax-exempt status. This policy was carried out by Sarah Hall Ingram, the commissioner of the Cincinnati office which oversaw claims of tax-exempt status nationwide. Remember her name -- you'll be hearing it again.
This politically prejudicial application of the IRS rules is highly illegal, and consequently every person I name here who knowingly participated in the policy has committed felonies. By this I refer to everyone from the lowest clerk who helped execute this act of oppression, to whoever it was, however high up, who ordered the policy or who -- in a position to end the policy and commence the prosecution of the guilty parties -- chose to shield them.
In June of 2011 the Director of the Exempt Organizations IRS group in Washington DC, Lois Lerner, was briefed that the criteria being used by employees include the phrases "Tea Party," "Patriots," "9/12 Project," "Government Spending," "Government Debt," "Taxes," "make America a better place to live," and cases with statements that criticize how the country is being run.
In January of 2012 the BOLO changed its search criteria to "limiting/expanding government," "Constitution and the Bill of rights," and "social economic reform/movement."
Note how incredibly broad the search criteria had become. Our Masters in Washington were now deeming that it was less than proper for ordinary people to organize around enforcement of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. And, since it was less than proper, such insolent commoners should find extralegal obstacles, put to them as if they were legal ones, strewn in their paths by the Master class.
To show how nakedly-biased were the applications of these illegal rules, in 2011 the conservative watchdog group Media Trackers filed for nonprofit status, and their application langished in limbo. In 2012, as a test they changed their name to "Greenhouse Solutions" and resubmitted their application. They received tax-exempt status in 3 weeks. (This also shows how incompetent were our would-be Stasi oppressors, as a simple name change was apparently sufficient to fool them).
And it went farther than merely making conservative organizations jump through more hoops in order to gain tax-exempt status while the applications of liberal ones sailed right through. The IRS asked the conservative organizations incredigbly intrusive questions, including regarding their detailed political positions, future planned activities, and demanding lists of donors.
(In one case a religious organization was asked to describe the contents of their prayers, meaning that the IRS had managed to leap back 460 years to pre-Elizabethan England: Queen Elizabeth the Great famously declared that she did not aim "to make a window into men's souls." No worries, Your Grace, Sarah Hall Ingram already put in the glass!)
What is worse is that this information was not even kept confidential. There is evidence that it was leaked to Democratic campaign organizers, which means that strategic political information obtained involuntarily from one side of a political controversy was made available to that side's political opponents, giving them an advantage in the elections.
And Richard Nixon's men tried a burglary to accomplish the same end. How unsophisticated. But then, Nixon was President in a time when Americans still took the US Constitution seriously -- Obama, closer in time to the Republic's final fall, can get away with a lot more than could poor old Tricky Dick.
In March of 2012 the poop first contacted the propellor. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), in a rare display of arrogance even for the US Senate, wrote IRS Commissioner Shulman along with six of his Democratic colleagues, calling for the agency to impose a strict cap on the amount of political spending by tax-exempt nonprofits. 12 Republican Senators then told the IRS not to let politics play a role in actions taken regarding the non-profit 501(c)(4) groups. IRS Commissioner then testified before the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee that there was "absolutely no targeting" of conservative groups.
If Shulman knew what was already going on, he had just committed perjury.
In late April of 2012, Steven Miller, the Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement sent a response to the Republican letter. In his response he did not acknowledge that the IRS had inappropriately targeted Tea Party Groups. On May 3rd, Miller was formally briefed that the IRS had indeed targeted conservative groups. Later that May, Commissioner Shulman was also formally briefed and on and became aware of this fact.
On August 9th 2012, 10 Republican Senators again wrote to Shulman again regarding the apparent harassment of conservative groups by the IRS. On September 11th, 2012, Miller sent his response which did not acknowledge any such targeting.
Miller had now just knowingly lied.
On November 9th, 2012, Shulman ended his term and Steven Miller was named Acting Commissioner of the IRS. On May 15th, 2013, Steven Miller resigned.
And what happened to Sarah Hall Ingram? She's been put in charge of the IRS enforcement of Obamacare.
This spring, we have seen admissions from the IRS that this targeting occurred, and even an apology. The IRS is claiming that it was formulated and carried out by low-level officials, which seems incredibly unlikely for a highly-illegal policy with such obvious political implications, which may have affected the outcome of two important elections (2010 and 2012).
Obama, of course, is claiming to have only just heard about the affair, which also seems extremely unlikely unless he has been paying absolutely no attention to anything going on around him, or all his aides have conspired to keep knowledge of this scandal from him. Keep in mind, as you watch Obama protest his innocence and ignorance, that the IRS is part of the Department of the Treasury, which is to say it is part of the Executive Branch. All these people who clearly believed that there was something wrong with Americans organizing around issues of the Constitution and Bill of Rights were Obama's subordinates under our triune system of government -- he had direct authority over them, and has direct hire-and-fire power over them right now.
The funny part of this scandal is that in 2010, when the IRS began to target the Tea Party organizations, the Republican establishment at first approved of the action. After all, the Tea Party organizations were running candidates in the primaries against particularly RINO (Republican In Name Only) politicians, some of whom were at the core of that very establishment. It was only when the Republican Congresscritters began to realize that the harassment was being targeted so widely as to also aim at many of the PAC's supporting themselves that they suddenly realized that this was a highly immoral and illegal action!
An interesting though not much reported aspect of the scanadal is that the IRS seems to have also specifically targeted Jewish organizations. One of the events which helped first bring the IRS crimes to light was when the Jewish pro-Israel group Z Street filed a lawsuit in 2010, alleging that the IRS was directing unusual degrees of scrutiny at Z Street and other pro-Israel lobbying organizations. This shows just how anti-Semitic has become the modern Left, even in America.
Oh, and Sarah Hall Ingram, whom we know has committed serious felonies with the intent of restraining legitimate political discourse? She's not only not been fired or even demoted, she's been put in charge of IRS enforcement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- aka "Obamacare."
That's right. This corrupt, felonious ruthless enemy of the Constitution of the United States of America has now been put in a position where she can deny people she doesn't like medical coverage.
How long will we be safe, if she -- and her masters -- remain free and holding high office.
Think about it.
This is a very serious scandal because it strikes at the heart of representative democracy -- the IRS was clearly hoping to squelch the debate on one side of a variety of issues. The persons who carried out this polciy were knowingly engaging in felonious actions, and any and all of them could be prosecuted and imprisoned under exsiting laws. Not that I expect the openly-biased, bigoted and corrupt Eric Holder to enforce the law in this manner, but we should keep in mind as we see these little tin Stalins go prancing away with nothing worse than forced resignations (if so much!) that this is another consequence of having failed to vote Obama out of office in 2012.
If this is allowed to stand, our democracy is in serious danger. The Executive Branch would now have a very powerful weapon which, weilded with even moderate political competence, could block the organization of any loyal opposition through legitimate means. The IRS high officials, emboldened by their escape from prosecution or even administrative reprimand, would gladly continue to serve their political masters. This would block the normal safety-valve effect of being able to "vote the rascals out" and could lead to coups and civil wars down the road.
If Obama ordered or even knew about this harassment, this was highly-illegal on his part and is a clearly-impeachable offense. This is of course why Obama is taking such pains to claim that he only just heard about it last week. Keep in mind that the composition of the Congress will likely change after the 2014 elections, and the new Congress will sit in 2015, less than two years from now. It is quite possible that this scandal could lead to impeachment hearings which would conclude under the new Congress, a Congress which due in part to this and the other two scandals discussed herein could be significantly more conservative and Republican. Obama, in short, may be facing the same dilemna that Nixon faced in 1974 -- and for one of the same reasons.
Obama of course claims complete ignorance of these IRS crimes-- the ones which have been going on for three years as standard policy in an agency of which he is the ultimate boss. The ones which have been openly debated in the US Congress for a year. It seems highly improbable that Obama is telling the truth -- but if he is, he must be, bar none, the most lazy and incompetent President in American history. Note that this is exactly what Obama himself is implicitly claiming.
Hopefully, this is the beginning of the end for the Obama Administration: if the scandals catch hold and lead to serious Congressional action, the rest of Obama's second term will be completely occupied with the Obamessiah desperately flailing around to avoid becoming the first President of the United States to wind up in prison. He might be impeached or resign in 2014 or 2015, and President Biden then lose the 2016 election to a Republican challenger (Hillary Clinton's reputation having been toasted by the other major scandal -- Benghazi.
If not, our Republic is heading toward an "extraconstitutional excursion."
Oh, there will still be a Presidential election in 2016. And Obama won't be one of the candidates -- he would anger too many people, including hopefuls in his own party, if he tried to just ignore the 22nd Amendment, and I don't think he has time to organize that Amendment's repeal, with all the other problems he'll have. But sometime after 2016 -- perhaps around 2020 or 2024, it will really register on the opposition that it's now impossible to lawfully organize against and defeat the incumbents, and that this means that the incumbents aren't really the legitimate government any more under the US Constitution.
And from that point you will begin to see serious attempts at coups and revolutions, and quite possibly assassinations and civil wars, until (at best) some Man on Horseback "restores" the Republic. Scare-quotes because the restoration is unlikely to last for very long, since the secret will be out that one can make a President by primarily unlawful means. From the end of Sulla's first dictatorship to Actium was but 50 years -- on that timescale, we'd see the American Empire by the 2070's or 2080's.
Let's hope this doesn't happen. Let's hope that Obama's fall comes before he can complete his second term -- and that it happens lawfully.
The AP Phone Records
In April and May of 2012, the Justice Department secretly seized by warrant the telephone records for some 20 Associated Press phone lines serving some 100 Associated Press staff. The apparent reason was that some AP reporters were involved in leaking infortmation about the American investigation of a foiled terrorist plot. The unusual thing is that the Justice Department didn't first try negotiating with the AP for the desired files, as is more normal when dealing with influential media organizations. Instead, they moved secretly, and didn't even inform the AP after the fact.
This got the Administration in trouble, because this time the victims were members in good standing of the liberal mainstream media establishment, whom the Justice Department had treated with utter contempt. Gary Pruitt, the President and CEO of the Associated Press, sent a strongly-worded letter of protest on May 13th 2013, demanding the return of the phone records and the destruction of all copies.
This scandal has just begun. Already, we've seen Attorney-General Eric Holder trip all over himself in an open hearing explaining that he recused himself from the leak probe in April 2012, but didn't know to whom he had delegated the authority. When he was informed that, by definition, he would have to know to whom he delegated the authority, he named the Deputy Attorney General, James M. Cole. I don't know yet how thrilled James M. Cole is about having become the designated scapegoat for this affair.
Ironically, this third scandal involved the least actual wrongdoing on the part of the Administration, but it may be the one to bring that Administration down.
Why do I say that involved the least actual wrongdoing? Because the Justice Department, as far as I can see, acted lawfully. The AP leaked classified information regarding the foiling of a genuine terrorist plot which, had the plot succeeded, would have cost American lives. They leaked this in advance of the government's planned revelation of the foiled plot, and in doing so may have put the lives of American agents and their contacts in jeopardy -- and made it more difficult to foil the next attack.. The US Government, in consequence, had a legitimate national security interest in learning just whom had leaked the information to the reporters.
And the Justice Department went about obtaining permission to seize the phone records in a lawful manner. Not the traditional manner, to be sure, which would have involved first asking the AP for the records, then negotiating with the AP if the AP didn't immediately comply, but that traditional manner is itself only a concession to the political influence of the press. There is no requirement, neither Constitutional nor statutory, that the Justice Department behave in such a deeply respectful manner. Pruitt's assumption that there is such a requirement stems purely from his own arrogant assumption that the media constitute some sort of fourth or fifth governmental branch.
Pruitt just got a taste -- a very mild and relatively harmless taste -- of how the Obama Administration's been treating everyone else who gets in their way.
And Pruitt didn't like it.
However, because of the poltiical influence of the mainstream media, this may have been Obama's most fatal error. Since the AP phone records scandal broke, a lot of information about the Benghazi and IRS scandals, which was previously only being reported by the conservative bloggers, and sometimes by Fox News, is now being seen all over both national and local news stations and papers.This is because the AP is one of the main newsgathering agencies in the United States of America -- most of the MSM gets their news right off the AP feed.
Obama has just made an enemy of an organization which can plaster every one of his acts of oppression and petty tyranny all over the country.
What's worse (for Obama), I don't know if Pruitt can take it back, even if Obama moves to mollify him.
Because the stories are out there now. It's not just being run on Fox or rumored by bloggers like me any more. The vast bulk of the American people -- including those who don't pay all that much attention to politics or get their news from alternative sources, now know that Obama put politics before American lives and put his own political ambitions before the US Constitution.
The myth of the Obamessiah is broken -- the myth of Obama as even a well-meaning normal President may soon be broken -- and once a myth is broken, it's hard to make whole again.
So the Republic may wind up saved, not by the reaction to the worst of Obama's villainies, but by a reaction to one of the rare cases in which Obama was actually trying to do something good (though he handled it badly). This looks like a hairsbreadth-lucky coincidence, though actually it's not all that coincidental. Obama, after all, is an arrogant man who does not consider himself to be fettered by the same legal and moral limits that bind others -- he tries to rule like a King rather than administer like a President. In a Republic, this attitude was bound to cause him to come to some grief. The only real wonder is that it's taken so long.
I emphasize that the Republic may wind up saved. It's hardly over yet, and Obama could still manage to wiggle out of trouble, the more so because Pruitt will probably relent when Obama makes even an attempt at apology to him, or when it looks as if the liberal dream that Pruitt presumably shares is now in trouble. And even if Obama does go down, there is the problem of just how far he got. Obama has done many things which in a healthy Republic would have have legally and politically-doomed him long ago -- the fact that he got re-elected after repeated and contemptuous breaches of the Constitution is a worrisome sign.
For the next time, the Man Who Would Be King may not be such a fool.
- Current Mood: optimistic
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
As soon as I saw the lines, I visualized particular shades of red and purple, which I'm sorry to say don't clash all that horribly.
What's more, they're the default medium-dark purple and slightly orange red seen here. There seems to be a second default purple, sort of a medium lavender.
I'd say most of the women are wearing hats that suit them.
When I am old, I shall wear some other colors. And not form a club about them.
This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/100887
My poly bureaucracy creeps slow. Very slow. This is for my wife and girlfriend’s protection, because I am a dumbass.
See, I have a tendency of assuming that emotional intimacy == compatibility. Yes, it feels wonderfully cozy that we share all of these fears and concerns and relationship patterns, and finding your most sensitive feelings reflected in someone else is a beautiful thing.
The problem is that I’m fucking crazy. So finding someone I really resonate with immediately? It usually means they’re as bad as I am, and that we’re actually going to exacerbate each others’ issues.
I’ve been known to dive head-first into relationships without checking for compatibility first, just sort of assuming that because we have A Connection it’s going to work out. Then, after months of daily fights, me wringing my hands 24/7 about WHY WON’T SHE UNDERSTAND, and an eventual slow death by slices, I’ve learned that I need to spend more time getting to know people before I start getting committed…. if only so my wife isn’t obligated to play psychotherapist for me when things turn sideways.
So there’s a six-month cooldown time in place, where we can make out but not have Teh Sexx0r… and usually that cooldown time stretches to nine months, or even a year, as we just take it slow and not rush getting permissions.
The big question is, why don’t I find this limitation confining?
Part of it is, of course, is that I chose this lifestyle. This isn’t an externally-produced ruleset, created in a process tantamount to blackmail; it’s one I helped shape, because after a series of four disastrous relationships that imploded messily across my poly web, I took an honest look and said, “Okay, that’s a bad pattern, what’s a potential fix?”
But more importantly, sex is the least important bit for me.
Don’t get me wrong; anyone who’s ever made out with me will tell you that I’m passionate as hell. But sex is something that’s common; particularly in the kink communities, it’s not particularly difficult to get. If you’re open about your desires, reasonably personable, and are sapiosexual as I am, you’ll have a lot of options.
What I can’t get elsewhere is you.
Sure, maybe I’ll spend nine months hanging out with you on our once-a-month dates, getting to know each other… but that’s the best part. For me, “getting to know people” is an activity I find desirable in and of itself. Chatting, snuggling, dining out… that’s all stuff I like. And the level of flirtation/innuendo is a beautiful spice for that.
If and when we eventually hook up, that’s gonna be a wondrous new layer to what we share, and not the entirety of it. So I’m perfectly okay waiting for that to happen, since that is far from the whole reason I’m here.
I’m in no rush.
So yeah, it’s a long time. It’s not a process I’d recommend as standard for most poly groups. But that’s the glory of poly relationships: there’s no objective set of rules. What would be insanely restrictive for one set of people is actually a wise and stabilizing force in ours, just as what would be joyous freedom for some couples would actually cause harm if I tried it at this time in my life.
But does it matter if my rules would work for you? Lemme repeat: if it’s working for you and the people you’re dating, then it’s great.
This glacial proceeding helps me to choose better partners, and keeps my wife and girlfriend happier (even as neither of them are bound by this six-month rule), and hopefully the people I’m dating in this slow process are still happy to see me even if I’m not whipping out Little Elvis yet.
It’s an approach. Because there’s no the approach. And there never will be a the approach as long as humans are varied creatures with differing needs.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/303286.h