Benghazi Update: There Were Special Forces in Libya

2013-10-31 Benghazi

I have mostly left the Benghazi issue alone. It’s become a bit of a joke, unfortunately. The combination of right wing partisanship and the Administration’s ability to withhold embarrassing information made me think we probably wouldn’t know the real story until someone writes an obscure book about it around 2070 or so, the way that we’re still learning facts about Cold War nastiness this day that most folks don’t seem to care about very much anymore. (Example: the Verona project.)

But this story from the Washington Times seems to present some new facts. It turns out that the closest special forces troops were not stationed across the Mediterranean in Italy. There was a team of 8 (Delta and Seal Team 6) already inside Libya, but they were held back to defend the main embassy in the case of another attack instead of being sent to Benghazi. Two of the eight did actually volunteer to travel with the security team responding and got there in time to assist in the end of the battle, however.

What does this mean? The decision to hold back the forces to defend the main embassy is a tough call I’m not inclined to second-guess without more knowledge, and it’s doubtful they could have arrived in time to have saved Ambassador Stevens. So the right wing dream of proof that Obama let those men die remains unfounded. But this is further evidence that the Administration has lied from day one to save face. From the edited talking points to the false claims that no special ops were in-country, there seems to be clear and consistent evidence that the Obama Administration misled the American people, and probably did so for political gain.

It’s frustrating and disappointing, but I doubt much will come of it.

Another Post On Marriage and Social Mobility: This Time With Graphs

The Atlantic has a number of new articles jam-packed with data on marriage, divorce, and economic mobility. Drawing on a recent BLS survey, Derek Thompson points out that marriage is common across all levels of educational attainment. However, marriage remains unequal across racial divides, with whites marrying at higher rates than Hispanics and blacks. “In fact, blacks are three-times more likely to be unmarried by the age of 46 than the rest of the population.”

Read more

Mitt Romney Says “I Told You So”

Mitt Romney

That’s the gist of his recent status update, which is short enough to quote in its entirety:

In the years since the Massachusetts health care law went into effect nothing has changed my view that a plan crafted to fit the unique circumstances of a single state should not be grafted onto the entire country. Beyond that, had President Obama actually learned the lessons of Massachusetts health care, millions of Americans would not lose the insurance they were promised they could keep, millions more would not see their premiums skyrocket, and the installation of the program would not have been a frustrating embarrassment. Health reform is best crafted by states with bipartisan support and input from its employers, as we did, without raising taxes, and by carefully phasing it in to avoid the type of disruptions we are seeing nationally.

Oh, what could have been…


More Americans Lost Coverage in 3 States Than Gained Coverage in 50 States

2013-10-29 Obama Oops

Forbes has a very blunt piece describing the fact that (so far) many more Americans have lost their coverage thanks to Obamacare than have gained coverage from the program. That’s sort of the opposite of how this whole thing was supposed to work. Of course in time that trend may be reversed, but the folks who got the boot from the coverage they had picked sure aren’t getting it back. Meanwhile, NBC has a shockingly investigative bit of investigative journalism showing that, despite all the promises over the years, the Obama administration has known damn well that this would happen. They wrote the caveat to “grandfather” in existing plans, and they they immediately undermined it. “If you like your plan, you can keep it” has been a lie since day one.

Some observations:

1. It’s a good thing someone managed to shut the Tea Party Republicans up so that they could stop obscuring the train wreck that is the ACA roll out. (Although if that had been GOP strategy from the start, I wonder if we’d ever have seen coverage this honest.)

2. This isn’t a conclusive proof that Obamacare is doomed or even a bad idea. It goes well beyond website “glitches”, but there’s still time for the current shock and horror to be forgotten as a mere historical footnote if the plan works over all. Now isn’t time for anyone to be counting chickens.

3. It is a pretty good illustration of what the Tea Party has hated and feared all along, however. The policy intricacies of Obamacare are beyond casual analysis, but the overarching themes of government incompetence, dishonesty, and intrusion could not possibly be more clear.

The President lied to the American people so that his party could ram through a law that drastically increased the reach of the federal government into the lives of ordinary citizens, and then they promptly screwed the implementation up with truly epic levels of incompetence. All for the greater good, of course.

As a matter of theory: ACA continues to make a lot of sense and could certainly be salvaged. The Tea Party thesis has never been about theoretical policy, but rather about practical institutional behavior. In short: bigger is badder. Current events seem to be lending credibility to their claims, despite their own poor decisions.

These Anamorphic Illusions Blow Minds

So you’ve probably seen pictures of incredible sidewalk art that create the illusion of depth if viewed from the right angle. That’s an anamorphic illusion. Well the folks who made this ad for Honda took that principle to a whole new level.

It looks like CGI, but it’s not, as this making-of video illustrates.

It’s amazing. Read more at PetaPixel.

Fiction Reading Is Good For the Soul

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post over at Worlds Without End entitled “A Not-So-Novel Way to Read the Book of Mormon.” It reviewed the psychological benefits of reading fiction vs. non-fiction (i.e. narratives/stories vs. straight information) and applied it to reading the Book of Mormon, which Mormons are frequently encouraged to do by Church leaders. Research over the years has found those who read fiction compared to non-fiction tend to develop greater social abilities, changes in personality and emotions, and increased empathy. This is due to readers identifying and empathizing with characters in the novels. The novels act as a kind of social simulation for the mind.

A brand new article in Science continues the trend by demonstrating that reading literature helps readers understand the mental states of others. Such finds are very exciting, in my view. Makes me glad that I started reading fiction again (thanks, Nathaniel). Check out Reason‘s write-up on the article.

Final Hunger Games Trailer: I’m Excited

I don’t think I’ve been this excited for a movie in a long, long time. I can hardly wait. I think the movies really have a chance to be great in a way that the books missed.

(Come to think of it, the last time was probably for The Phantom Menace in 1999. The horror of that experience probably explains why it’s taken me over a decade to start feeling excitement about movies again…)

Monday Morning Mormonism: Children Like Ender


With Ender’s Game due out in the US this week (and already showing elsewhere), I thought I’d return to the story once more. In this morning’s post, I talk about how the depiction of children in Ender’s Game resonates with my belief that, in certain very real ways, all of us living on this earth are children. Even if we are sometimes good at pretending, to ourselves and others, that we aren’t.

Is California doing something right?


This Buzzfeed article starts out a little shaky, seemingly giving credit to a Democratic government for everything that’s going right in California, but then it mentions the reasons that current government exists is, at least in part, because of two election reform measures former Republican governor Schwarzenegger helped to get passed before he left office, one which enforces nonpartisan redistricting, and another which allows voters to vote in any party primary, no matter their party affiliation. Whether or not Schwarzenegger intended for a solidly Democratic government to be installed into the state House and Governor’s office, that’s what happened. The result, if not the idea itself, is not to give more power directly to the people, but indirectly to better choose their leaders. This could result in a “more effective” government that can simply more easily pass bad legislation, or it could result in a government that actually knows what needs to be done and how to do it.

I’m absolutely in favor of election reform, whatever the consequences, if it means more transparency and accountability in government. It seems California may be on the right track. This year, the state even is closing in on something near to a balanced budget, which could be another byproduct of these reforms. I’m very interested to see further results from such political experiments in California and elsewhere, and I’d be interested to see them spread around the country–particularly to Washington.