Monday, June 26, 2006

Another shocker: Repubs kill minimum wage increase!

The good news: Republicans in the Senate seem determined to provide their foes (read: all sane people) with all the evidence and substantial issues needed to defeat nearly every single one of them. The bad news: the vast majority of citizens in this country will continue to get screwed over repeatedly every time anything comes to a vote in this Congress. The latest crime against the populace: the Kennedy bill to raise the minimum wage was defeated last week by a vote of 52-46 in favor (it needed a supermajority of 60 to pass). The federal minimum wage--a paltry $5.15/hour--is adhered to in over 1/2 of the states in the country, in addition to most of our territories as well. The fact that a full-time worker making the minimum wage still falls below the poverty line (the gross pay would equal $10,712. Subtracting 7.65% for FICA leaves $9892.53, while the official poverty line is listed at $10,160) apparently means nothing to those who opposed the passage of the bill, but that anyone would actually fail to recognize the political message this sends the country is amazing. Unless, that is, you don't care what the country thinks, of course. And that is the real lesson here: the Republicans in power don't care about you or anyone else but themselves and their rich cronies and backers.
That they would make their ardent arrogance and apathy so apparent to absolutely anyone paying attention is a testament to their overweening callousness. Ahh, but there's the rub: who's paying attention? Surely those making the minimum wage must have had their ears to the ground on this matter, right? Unless, that is, they've been too busy working their asses off trying to get by. It's up to those of us who are privileged enough to only have to work one job to alert those dedicated (and most likely, very tired) Americans that the Republicans--and only the Republicans--are successfully keeping them poor, weary, ill-fed, and underinsured. It simply sickens me that hard working people, who truly believe in this system, are getting treated so shabbily, but it frightens me that these people have been sold on the fact that their voice goes unheard, or that their vote doesn't count (although they might have a point there. See Florida 2000 [among others] and Ohio 2004 [among others].), or that it doesn't matter who they vote for. Every Democrat, from Russ Feingold (who is, by the way, among those Senators who routinely give back their raises that Congress automatically receives as cost of living increases) to Joe Lieberman, voted for the Kennedy bill. Every. Single. One. A scant handful of Republicans, looking to retain their faรงades as the designated "moderates", joined them, but gee, not enough to actually come close to passing the legislation. I wonder how that happens, don't you?
Must. Overcome. Urge. To. Kill. Republicans. In. Power.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Quick hitter on who we're fighting

This post over at the firedoglake blog has a terrific overview of who the Republicans are. Not exactly what a librarian would call "authoritative", but seems accurate to me . . .

Connecticut follies

I've refrained from covering the fracas enveloping the Connecticut primary race for Senator, but the issues surrounding this contest are spilling over to the national scene. For those of you unaware, Joe Lieberman is facing a challenge within the Democratic Party ranks from a relatively unknown and more progressive candidate named Ned Lamont. Lamont has become a darling of the majority of those of us a bit further to the left of insane, and Lieberman seems to dislike being challenged. Lieberman's actions and words, chronicled daily (if not more often) on the Daily Kos site linked to on my sidebar, are becoming more and more unhinged. He is clearly taking this challenge as a personal affront, as if that Senate seat is his private property, instead of the Connecticut citizens'. The important thing to note for the rest of us is that Connecticut is such a Democratic stronghold that given a two-way race between the parties there, anyone gaining the Democratic nomination is virtually a lock to win the general election. What Lieberman seems to forget is that very fact; the vast majority of Connecticut denizens are pretty reliably Democratic and fairly left of what used to be center.
The fact that Lamont is getting as much play as he is (and Lieberman is still ahead of him in all the polls that have ever been run, although his lead is rapidly shrinking) is a testament to how dissatisfied Connecticutians are with Lieberman, but Lieberman has reacted to that news not by changing his behavior but by becoming more and more defensive. He (or more accurately, his campaign advisors) has tried to smear Lamont as both a closet Republican and also adored by radical leftists. Huh? Sadly, Lieberman has become so enamored of his job that he is willing to jettison his own party affiliation in order to keep it, rather than respect the wishes of his Democratic constituents.
Of course, it is this attitude that gave rise to Lamont's campaign in the first place. If Lieberman had shunned the spotlight that the rightwing media keeps shining on him--he's a favorite of both Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, let alone the stalwart William F. Buckley (and who can forget the Smirky kiss? Yeesh.)--and refused to criticize his own party publicly (see here for a recap of Lieberman's "unusual" concept of party allegiance), there wouldn't be nearly enough of a record to launch an oppositional campaign against him. He's not a bad Democrat because of his voting record, necessarily; he'd be a "better Democrat" if he were from a red state like Utah or Nebraska. The problem with Joe is that he's from a very blue state, and we should have someone more in line with mainstream Democratic Party ideals representing them. The fact that he's such an egotistical jerk makes it all the easier to root against him. If he truly does bolt the party and run as an independent, we can only hope that that act alone causes him to be forever shunned by the good folks in Connecticut. Maybe then he'll be forced to reassess his actual goals as a politician and more importantly, his true beliefs as an American. He sure ain't doing it now . . .

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Democratic Plan, part 2

Yesterday Nancy Pelosi unveiled the second policy statement of the year for the Democratic Party. (For the first, look here for my entry.) "A New Direction" focuses on domestic policy issues (foreign policy will be tackled in an upcoming statement), covering such topics as universal health care and a raise in the minimum wage. The most interesting item in "A New Direction", however, is an innovative call to eliminate the longstanding federal subsidies for the oil business, which represents the first time (to my knowledge, at any rate) that either of the major parties has even mentioned that little known budget-buster on a party platform. (For a pretty good online discussion of the extent and costs of those subsidies, see this.) The best part of "A New Direction", though, is the flip side of the document, a broadside blast at the Republican Party entitled "The Wrong Direction".
Each item listed is headed by using the word "rising", making it obvious to anyone what the Republicans have done to the costs of their programs for the average citizen. Rising college costs, healthcare costs, insecurity (both "Social" and "economic"); all of the Republican policies have been framed using the same linguistic trope--a marketing first for the Dems! Not only that, but "The Wrong Direction" also utilizes the Democrats' favorite weapon--facts and numbers. While apparently, most people are all too willing to assume (incorrectly) that the Republicans and the rightwing-controlled media are telling the truth to them with regard to how beneficial their systematic stripping of rights and money from them is, the Democrats are trying to educate the populace to the realities of our domestic ruin under Republican rule.
Most Dems have always been willing to try and use facts to bolster their appeal, unlike the Republicans who consistently use fear and fiction to stir up irrational voting behavior, but only rarely have they also been able to combine those facts and sensible analysis with clever marketing, or even comprehensible delivery. The first Clinton campaign, most notably, did so by declaiming loudly and often, "It's the economy, stupid!", but that was virtually stolen from Ross Perot, and besides, Bush the Elder was a pretty easy target to hit, given his complete lack of touch with anything close to the average citizen. Smirky, on the other hand, has cloaked his elitist policies and attitudes in his wholly disingenuous persona of "a regular guy". Why anyone has ever bought into that, I'll never know, since a relatively casual look at his background would quickly dispel that illusion.
But I digress; Smirky's not running for office anymore, and Democrats have to realize that no matter how low his approval ratings get, he's going to be around for awhile yet, and the rest of his Party shows few (if any) signs of either letting up or abandoning his rotting political corpse. This platform shows real promise as a means of giving people the true picture of what's going on in this country by focusing on issues that really matter to everybody--almost everyone drives and has seen gas prices rise precipitously, everyone knows health care is ridiculously expensive if you can even get it, anyone with children understands the costs of educating them. Everyone in this country is personally affected by at least one of the items in "A New Direction", so this platform should have universal appeal. Now let's see how successful we can be in staving off the inevitable lying and mudslinging about it from the ruling junta.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

This is what we have to endure, part four (the last!)

Continuing directly . . .
Senator John Kerry, in the debates and almost daily, makes 3 scary claims:
1. We went to Iraq without enough troops.
We went with the troops the US military wanted. We went with the troop levels General Tommy Franks asked for.

So? That makes it right? Franks was clearly wrong, although I would guess that he was hardly the final arbiter of that decision . . .

We deposed Saddam in 30 days with light casualties, much lighter than we expected.

I thought this was a 27-year war or some such thing. What does deposing Saddam have to do with anything? And how many Americans are you willing to sacrifice before saying they aren't "light"?

The real problem in Iraq is that we are trying to be nice - we are trying to fight minority of the population that is Jihadi, and trying to avoid killing the large majority that is not. We could flatten Fallujah in minutes with a flight of B52s, or seconds with one nuclear cruise missile - but we don't. We're trying to do brain surgery, not amputate the patient's head. The Jihadis amputate heads.

We're trying to be nice? Abu Ghraib ring any bells? "Nice" has nothing to do with this. We have no idea what we're doing there, so there's no way to do the right thing. You think it'd be better to "flatten Fallujah" regardless of casualties? What kind of monster are you?

2. We went to Iraq with too little planning.
This is a specious argument. It supposes that if we had just had "the right plan" the war would have been easy, cheap, quick, and clean.

No, it supposes that we would have known what we were doing in the first place. Who commits a nation to a war without having a plan? That's insane.

That is not an option. It is a guerrilla war against a determined enemy, and no such war ever has been or ever will be easy, cheap, quick, and clean. This is not TV.

We aren't fighting a guerilla war; they are. That's why we're not doing so well. The idiots who went into Iraq and the morons who support it didn't learn the lesson of Vietnam, clearly. When has an occupying, invading army ever subdued a native populace not willing to submit, and how does us being an occupying, invading army jibe with what America stands for?

3. We proved ourselves incapable of governing and providing security.
This too is a specious argument. It was never our intention to govern and provide security.

How can you tell? There was no plan, remember? At least, you didn't answer your question about it by saying we did.

It was our intention from the beginning to do just enough to enable the Iraqis to develop a representative government and their own military and police forces to provide their own security, and that is happening.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I thought it was WMDs. Or to make the world safe from Saddam Hussein. Or . . .

The US and the Brits and other countries there have trained over 100,000 Iraqi police and military, now, and will have trained more than 200,000 by the end of next year. We are in the process of transitioning operational control for security back to Iraq.

That's been the story for 3 years now, with no progress whatsoever. Would you like to change your story again?

It will take time. It will not go with no hitches. This is not TV.

What, is that some sort of magic phrase for you? And you're an attorney? That's a sad statement on our legal system . . .

Remember, perspective is everything, and America's schools teach too little history for perspective to be clear, especially in the young American mind.

Clearly, given what you've retained from your schooling.

The Cold war lasted from about 1947 at least until the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. Forty-two years.

And how many lives did we lose during that "war"?

Europe spent the first half of the 19th century fighting Napoleon,

The first half? HAHAHAHA. Waterloo was in 1815. Clue up, pal.

and from 1870 to 1945 fighting Germany.

Except for 1872-1914 and 1919-1939, that is. So let's see, that is 75 years minus 42 minus 20, give or take. How about 11 (although the Franco-Prussian war actually lasted less than a year, so that's another year less, and WW1 only lasted a total of 4 years and a couple of months, so there's another year less, so really, we're talking 9 years total)?

World War II began in 1928, lasted 17 years, plus a ten year occupation,

Not this again.

and the US still has troops in Germany and Japan.

Tell yourself up above.

World War II resulted in the death of more than 50 million people, maybe more than 100 million people, depending on which estimates you accept. The US has taken more than 2,000 KIA in Iraq in 3 years. The US took more than 4,000 Killed in action on the morning of June 6, 1944, the first day of the Normandy Invasion to rid Europe of Nazi Imperialism. In WWII the US averaged 2,000 KIA a week for four years. Most of the individual battles of WWII lost more Americans than the entire Iraq war has done so far.

Key phrase: so far. And besides, what does this prove, exactly? That this is a doable war, based solely on casualties? You are one cold-blooded mindless troll.

But the stakes are at least as high ... a world dominated by representative governments with civil rights, human rights, and personal freedoms . or a world dominated by a radical Islamic Wahhabi movement, by the Jihad, under the Mullahs and the Sharia (Islamic law).

Yeah, or not. Your interpretation of events, causes, and motivations do not support your beliefs. You might want to try reading some actual history books (written by professionals) before jumping to any other conclusions.

I do not understand why the American Left does not grasp this.

Because we actually deal in facts and reality. You might want to do this yourself, sometime.

They favor human rights, civil rights, liberty and freedom, but evidently not for Iraqis. In America, absolutely, but nowhere else.

Huh? Who said? And you said you want to kill them. That's not much freedom, is it?

300,000 Iraqi bodies in mass graves in Iraq are not our problem.

No, they're just our legacy as well, you butcher.

The US population is about twelve times that of Iraq, so let's multiply 300,000 by twelve. What would you think if there were 3,600,000 American bodies in mass graves in America because of George Bush? Would you hope for another country to help liberate America?

What the hell are you talking about? No other country in the world has the ability to do that to us, so propping up another straw man to knock down does not help your argument here.

"Peace Activists" always seem to demonstrate where it's safe, in America.

Really. Except for anyone living anywhere else in the world, that is. Perhaps you missed it, but millions of people all over the world are, and have continually protesting our war against Iraq.

Why don't we see Peace Activist demonstrating in Iran, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, North Korea, in the places in the world that really need peace activism the most?

Because those are oppressed people where demonstrating against the government would result in their deaths. And don't think for a second that there haven't been demonstrations there, either. We'd never hear about them or see them because the state owns the media. Kinda like here, where you don't see our demonstrations either. Hmmm.

The liberal mentality is supposed to favor human rights, civil rights, democracy, multiculturalism, diversity, etc., but if the Jihad wins, wherever the Jihad wins, it is the end of civil rights, human rights, democracy, multiculturalism, diversity, etc. Americans who oppose the liberation of Iraq are coming down on the side of their own worst enemy.

Liberation? Is that what you call what's going on? And for the last time, Jihadists have only gained power in Iraq since we invaded! We created this mess by trying to impose our will on their people.

If the Jihad wins, it is the death of Liberalism. Everywhere the Jihad wins, it is the death of Liberalism ........ And American Liberals just don't get it !

Sadly, it is you who doesn't "get it". "The Jihad" is incapable of "killing liberalism", because terrorists are not capable of destroying societies or governments without the cooperation of like-minded individuals inside those governments. If we left Iraq and pulled our financial and political support from Israel and Saudi Arabia (which has always been the foremost complaint against the US among Islamists), terrorists would have no reason to hate us any longer. End of Jihad, no killing necessary. Imposing our way of life on others is not American, which you would know if you had remembered any of your "schooling"; you are clearly willing to sacrifice our nation's ideals in order to exterminate a few thousand people. That sounds pretty sick and demented, let alone unpatriotic, to me. Fool.

Raymond S. Kraft is a writer and lawyer living in Northern California. Please consider passing along copies of this to students in high school, college and university as it contains information about the American past that is very meaningful TODAY - - history about America that very likely is completely unknown by them (and their instructors, too). By being denied the facts and truth of our history, they are at a decided disadvantage when it comes to reasoning and thinking through the issues of today. They are prime targets for misinformation campaigns beamed at enlisting them in causes and beliefs that are special interest agenda driven.

That's rich. This "history" is unknown to anyone because it's not "history". This contains so little that is factual or truthful, I am amazed this could be believed by anyone. Unfortunately, the author's low regard for Americans' ability to reason and think is simply proven by his own work. Ick.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Quick Hitter on Inheritance

The Estate Tax Repeal failed, but only by 3 votes in the Senate. Now we have to see how long it takes the Smirky Cabal to reintroduce a similar bill . . .

This is what we have to endure, part three

Continuing directly . . .
and an outpost for a stabilizing American military presence in the Middle East for as long as it is needed.

Why would we want to do that? Where has a permanent military presence ever been a "stabilizing" influence without the applied threat of force? How is that an American ideal? What Constitution have you been reading?

The European nations could have done this, but they didn't, and they won't.

Hmm. Maybe they know something we don't? After all, they are a lot closer to this area than we are; they might have some insight into the locale that we aren't privy to.

The so-called "Coalition Forces" are, in most cases, little more than a "Token Force" to keep face with the US. And once attacked, like the train bombing in Madrid, they pull their forces and run for home.

Exactly. They know a sure losing battle when they see it. Why don't we?

We now know that rather than opposing the rise of the Jihad, the French, Germans, and Russians were selling them arms - we have found more than a million tons of weapons and munitions in Iraq.

Over the course of the last 20 years, just like we were. Those arms don't melt away once we don't want them to exist, you know. And again, Iraq had no jihadist forces in control of anything until we invaded.

If Iraq was not a threat to anyone, why did Saddam need a million tons of weapons?

There's no argument that Saddam Hussein was a threat to his neighbors and his citizens. What you've been saying throughout this whole piece, though, is that he was a threat to us. That's simply untrue. Your argument has no internal logic.

And Iraq was paying for French, German, and Russian arms with money skimmed from the UN Oil For Food Program (supervised by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and his son) that was supposed to pay for food, medicine, and education, for Iraqi children.

So, they were selling their natural resources and spending the money in ways they chose? So what? Corruption exists. I'm stunned. Ask Duke Cunningham, Jack Abramoff, and Tom Delay about that . . . The money isn't the issue, the purchases are, and we're as guilty (if not more) than any of those countries in filling their shopping carts.

World War II, the war with the German and Japanese Nazis, really began with a "whimper" in 1928. It did not begin with Pearl Harbor. It began with the Japanese invasion of China.

See above in re: 1928. How is a military invasion a "whimper". I bet the Manchurians and the Chinese would beg to differ with your characterization. And second, Pearl Harbor? Who thinks that started WW2? What about the invasion of Poland and the ensuing 2 years+? What strawman are you trying to knock down?

It was a war for fourteen years before America joined it. It officially ended in 1945 - a 17 year war - and was followed by another decade of US occupation in Germany and Japan to get those countries reconstructed and running on their own again ....

I must have missed something. When, exactly, did our "occupation" of those countries end? We still have bases there with permanent garrisons, don't we? Get your facts straight before trying to draw conclusions from them, ok?

World War II cost the United States an amount equal to approximately a full year's GDP - adjusted for inflation, equal to about $12 trillion dollars, WWII cost America more than 400,000 killed in action, and nearly 100,000 still missing in action. [The Iraq war has, so far, cost the US about $180 billion, which is roughly what 9/11 cost New York. It has also cost over 2,300 American lives, which is roughly 2/3 of the lives that the Jihad snuffed on 9/11.] But the cost of not fighting and winning WWII would have been unimaginably greater - a world now dominated by German and Japanese Nazism.

So, why exactly are you quoting statistics at me? Your last sentence makes them moot, doesn't it? Not that I agree with your assertion anyway. (Oh, yeah, you might want to watch how you use the term "Nazism". The Japanese were a monarchy; there was no "state-owned" anything there. They didn't even have a "fascist" style of government.)

Americans have a short attention span, now, conditioned I suppose by 1 hour TV shows and 2-hour movies in which everything comes out okay.

Or their lack of focused reading or retaining, like you appear to have.

The real world is not like that. It is messy, uncertain,and sometimes bloody and ugly. Always has been, and probably always will be.

So why should we exacerbate that? Shouldn't we instead use our resources to improve the world and reduce the ugliness?

If we do this thing in Iraq successfully,

Where is your evidence we are capable of doing that?

it is probable that the Reformation will ultimately prevail.

Unless, that is, your Jihadists aren't in Iraq and are completely unaffected by our "occupation". How far away was East Germany from our base in West Germany? Our presence didn't do much there, did it?

Many Muslims in the Middle East hope it will.

Perhaps. Where is the evidence to support that conclusion, however, and why haven't they stepped up to "help us"?

We will be there to support it. It has begun in some countries, Libya, for instance. And Dubai. And Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Dubai? Um, they are not democracies, are they? And they are certainly not "Reformist", by any stretch of the imagination. All that besides, we didn't invade any of their countries and try to impose our way of thinking on them, either, so what's your point?

If we fail, the Inquisition will probably prevail, and terrorism from Islam will be with us for all the foreseeable future, because the Inquisition, or Jihad, believes they are called by Allah to kill all the Infidels, and that death in Jihad is glorious.

So our objective should be to isolate extremists and eliminate the sources of their discontent. Attempting to exterminate them, on the other hand, not only smacks of Hitler's "Final Solution", but also creates martyrs and implacable foes.

The bottom line here is that we will have to deal with Islamic terrorism until we defeat it, whenever that is. It will not go away on its own. It will not go away if we ignore it.

Who's arguing to do that? Anyone? Peddle your strawmen somewhere else.

If the US can create a reasonably democratic and stable Iraq,

Not very likely, given their short and radically unstable non-democratic history, is it? Name one other instance of a country created by Westerners drawing lines on a map in the 20th century ending up democratic that has the same discord as Iraq.

then we have an "England" in the Middle East, a platform, from which we can work to help modernize and moderate the Middle East.

Please. That is so obviously crazy as to be laughable. Besides, I thought the "rational and well-educated" Saudis already represented our "platform" there. You seem to think they are, at any rate . . . How many do we need?

The history of the world is the clash between the forces of relative civility and civilization, and the barbarians clamoring at the gates. The Iraq war is merely another battle in this ancient and never-ending war. And now, for the first time ever, the barbarians are about to get nuclear weapons. Unless we prevent them. Or somebody does.

Your description of what "history" is reveals your incredible ignorance, let alone your depiction of our aggressive pre-emptive strike against Iraq as being somehow "civil". Seeing history as having some sort of overarching "sweep" or narrative like this is a remnant of colonialist imperialism belief. It was used for centuries to justify the enslavement of Africans and the colonization of the entire world outside of North America and Europe (since we were bringing Christianity and civilization to uncivilized heathens), and no serious historian of any repute is left alive who thinks in those terms. We are not engaged in some endless struggle against "barbarians"--"civilized" people lived in Iraq for thousands of years before Columbus ever sailed anywhere, so who's really the barbarian, anyway?--only a bigot would think we are.

The Iraq war is expensive, and uncertain, yes. But the consequences of not fighting it and winning it will be horrifically greater.

Says you. How does your kind think Russia "lost" the Cold War? By spending their economy into a black hole trying to remain a military power on par with us, right? How will following them down that rabbit hole help the world, exactly? Our economy is already in a shambles--even you think that, as witnessed by your statements above--so how is spending even more on warfare going to help?

We have four options -
1. We can defeat the Jihad now, before it gets nuclear weapons.
2. We can fight the Jihad later, after it gets nuclear weapons (which may be as early as next year, if Iran's progress on nuclear weapons is what Iran claims it is).

3. We can surrender to the Jihad and accept its dominance in the Middle East, now, in Europe in the next few years or decades, and ultimately in America.
4. Or we can stand down now, and pick up the fight later when the Jihad is more widespread and better armed, perhaps after the Jihad has dominated France and Germany and maybe most of the rest of Europe. It will be more dangerous, more expensive, and much bloodier then.

I reject your options. You have omitted possibly the most efficient and certainly the least violent option, and the one most reasonable people would use: to help spread peace and prosperity through offering education, food, and other tangible aid to those who want it desperately, and reducing our dependence on the only natural resource (oil) these countries possess so as to eliminate the need for control over it. If we were the good guys you think we are, don't you think the jihadists would lose recruits pretty fast? If we don't give people a reason to hate us, they won't. Pretty simple, really. Sanctions work, if that fails. Ask Saddam Hussein (who had no WMDs and was not a threat to anyone outside his borders) or Qaddafi (who, by your own admission, is not so much of a threat anymore) if being isolated and unable to procure needed food, medicine, or anything else is a method of retaining power.

Yes, the Jihadis say that they look forward to an Islamic America. If you oppose this war, I hope you like the idea that your children, or grandchildren, may live in an Islamic America under the Mullahs and the Sharia, an America that resembles Iran today.

Right. And how are they going to do this, exactly? Only if our country collapses on itself through economic suicide. So what if they get a bomb. Even if they do (not a sure thing, by the way), they have limited means of delivering it (if any). Even if they bomb somewhere, even if it kills the President, what then? We surrender? Not likely. We are still the owner of most of the nuclear weaponry on the planet--by far. One bomb against our entire arsenal? Right. The threat of weapons is their true power, and our fear of that threat. The actual weapon itself is pretty puny by comparison to what we have. Get real.

We can be defeatist peace-activists as anti-war types seem to be, and concede, surrender, to the Jihad, or we can do whatever it takes to win this war against them.

Nice to live in your black and white world, is it? Sounds pretty bleak to me. Kill or be killed? Very "civilized" of you. We don't have to "surrender" to anybody, because nobody's asking us to, and what exactly would be the result of "surrendering"? The jihadists would then have no enemy to fight. Without an enemy, they would have a pretty hard time convincing young people to kill themselves for "the cause", wouldn't they?

The history of the world is the history of civilizational clashes, cultural clashes. All wars are about ideas, ideas about what society and civilization should be like, and the most determined always win.

Bullshit. Modern wars are about power and frustration. Your favorite war was one of geographical greed; Hitler thought Germany needed more "living space", and the Japanese wanted to create a supportive geographical base of operations ("The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere"). The problem was, other countries were in the way, and they had no intention of giving up their own sovereignty. Frustrated by this, both countries attacked their neighbors militarily to overpower them, and war ensued. Neither country was interested necessarily in ruling the world or changing the "culture" or "society" of countries not in their way geographically. Hitler thought Great Britain could be his ally, for example, even though both countries shared neither a common language or societal structure.

Those who are willing to be the most ruthless always win.

Really? Hitler won? Or were we "more ruthless"? Yikes! Wrong.

The pacifists always lose, because the anti-pacifists kill them.

How ridiculous. I thought you were trying to be serious.

In the 20th century, it was Western democracy vs. communism, and before that Western democracy vs. Nazism, and before that Western democracy vs. German Imperialism. Western democracy won, three times, but it wasn't cheap, fun, nice, easy, or quick. Indeed, the wars against German Imperialism (WWI), Nazi Imperialism (WWII), and communist imperialism (the 40-year Cold War that included the Vietnam Battle, commonly called the Vietnam War, but itself a major battle in a larger war) covered almost the entire century.

Um, the Soviet Union (not exactly a bastion of "Western democracy") fought against Nazism, too, remember? And pre-Revolutionary Russia fought--and lost--against "German Imperialism", too. Not only that, but in both of those cases, Germany was not the only enemy anyway, and in WW1, all countries on both sides had imperial/colonial holdings--Germany was one of the least invested in overseas possessions. As far as communism goes, aren't the Chinese still Communist? Have we defeated them? It seems to me that they are "winning", given the relative states of our economies . . .

The first major war of the 21st Century is the war between Western Judeo/Christian Civilization and Wahhabi Islam. It may last a few more years, or most of this century. It will last until the Wahhabi branch of Islam fades away, or gives up its ambitions for regional and global dominance and Jihad, or until Western Civilization gives in to the Jihad.

What an outrageously narrow mind you have. Wahhabi Islam is a minor faction within the religion, and there are many ways to coexist peacefully with it. Extermination is not an answer to anything, unless you think Hitler's (or Stalin's) methods were sound.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

This is what we have to endure, part two

Continuing directly . . .

and was saved from being overrun by Germany only because Hitler made the mistake of thinking the Brits were a relatively minor threat that could be dealt with later and turning his attention to Russia, at a time when England was on the verge of collapse in the late summer of 1940.

Prove it. Either of these assumptions are specious at best. Any sources for them?

Russia saved America's butt by putting up a desperate fight for two years until the US got geared up to begin hammering away at Germany.

I thought we saved them? "There were no other countries of any size or military significance with the will and ability to contribute much or anything to the effort to defeat Hitler's Germany and Japan, and prevent the global dominance of Nazism." Remember?

Russia lost something like 24 million people in the sieges of Stalingrad and Moscow, 90% of them from cold and starvation, mostly civilians, but also more than a million soldiers. More than a million. Had Russia surrendered, then, Hitler would have been able to focus his entire campaign against the Brits, then America, and the Nazis would have won that war.

Perhaps. But they didn't, and the Nazis didn't. We'll never know the answer to your counterfactual proposition, will we?

Had Hitler not made that mistake and invaded England in 1940 or 1941,

With what? They had little to no surface navy in comparison to the British, and little to no ability to convoy troops/materiel across for a sustained invasion. Do you honestly think an invading Nazi Wehrmacht, under those conditions, could have defeated the entire British populace? You're dreaming, pal.

instead, there would have been no England for the US and the Brits to use as a staging ground to prepare an assault on Nazi Europe, England would not have been able to run its North African campaign to help take a little pressure off Russia while America geared up for battle, and today Europe would very probably be run by the Nazis, the Third Reich, and, isolated and without any allies (not even the Brits), the US would very probably have had to cede Asia to the Japanese, who were basically Nazis by another name then, and the world we live in today would be very different and much worse.

Jesus; I don't know where to begin. We concentrated on the Nazis with the vast majority of our force because we wanted to. That was agreed upon at the Arcadia Conference, held between Churchill and Roosevelt in late December 1941-mid January 1942. We fought the Japanese at the same time because we could. You don't think we would have wiped the floor with the Japanese a lot sooner if we had chosen to fight them first? In any case, Hitler was planning on invading Russia sooner or later, so he would have had a 2 front war eventually, even without a GB to be kicked around by. Besides, the British didn't "contribute much" anyway, remember?

I say this to illustrate that turning points in history are often dicey things. And we are at another one.

Right. Your illustration is filled with counterfactual mumbo-jumbo, and completely irrelevant to what we are facing now. How is an industrialized, secular, hell-bent for land conquest Germany in any way comparable to the religious zealotry of the jihadists who want to convert heathens or at worst, get us to stop polluting their culture and economies through terrorist acts?

There is a very dangerous minority in Islam that either has, or wants and may soon have, the ability to deliver small nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, almost anywhere in the world, unless they are prevented from doing so.

They will not have the "ability to deliver" weapons "anywhere in the world", because they do not currently have the capacity to build missiles capable of doing so. Unless we provide them, of course. In any case, they would have no reason to do so if we stopped raping their lands of whatever resources we can get our hands on.

France, Germany, and Russia, have been selling them weapons technology at least as recently as 2002, as have North Korea, Syria, and Pakistan, paid for with billions of dollars Saddam Hussein skimmed from the "Oil For Food" program administered by the UN with the complicity of Kofi Annan and his son.

As did we, as long as these countries were helping us fight Communism. We are, by far, the most prodigious armers of the countries that now hate us. Try reading a book, bub. Here's one. And here's a link to the government data on arms transfers/sales to other countries.

The Jihadis, the militant Muslims, are basically Nazis in Kaffiyahs - they believe that Islam, a radically conservative (definitely not liberal!) form of Wahhabi Islam, should own and control the Middle East first, then Europe, then the world, and that all who do not bow to Allah should be killed, enslaved, or subjugated. They want to finish the Holocaust, destroy Israel, purge the world of Jews. This is what they say.

Where? Sources? Aside from your racist statement ("Nazis in Kaffiyahs" indeed), you offer nothing other than your word on these goals. Even if that were true, since these extremists are not a majority in many (if any) countries, a little properly applied diplomacy would do wonders, I imagine. If we could get out from under the thrall of rightwing militaristic nutjobs like yourself in our gov't, that is.

There is also a civil war raging in the Middle East - for the most part not a hot war, but a war of ideas. Islam is having its Inquisition and its Reformation today, but it is not yet known which will win - the Inquisition, or the Reformation.

Again, that is something we could do something about, quite peacefully. The Wahhabis hate us because of our policies (mostly having to do with Israel, to be sure, but also our greedy acquisition/theft of their natural resources). Change the policies and we deprive them of their greatest recruiting tools.

If the Inquisition wins, then the Wahhabis, the Jihadis, will control the Middle East, and the OPEC oil, and the US, European, and Asian economies, the techno-industrial economies, will be at the mercy of OPEC - not an OPEC dominated by the well-educated and rational Saudis of today, but an OPEC dominated by the Jihadis.

Rational Saudis? Like the ones who destroyed the WTC on 9/11? Or the corrupt ones we've kept in fine fettle over the decades by propping up their rightwing anti-Communist/leftist government with our cash?

You want gas in your car? You want heating oil next winter? You want jobs? You want the dollar to be worth anything? You better hope the Jihad, the Muslim Inquisition, loses, and the Islamic Reformation wins.

I've got news for you, guy. Gasoline is running out. Whether that happens this year, or next, or the next decade, or 100 years from now, it will happen. (Among the many books out now about this, see this one.) The Jihadists will have nothing to hold over our heads then. They wouldn't now, except we continue our stupid cheap oil addiction. And what on earth does our job market have to do with this? The dollar is plummeting because we don't offer anything the world wants to buy; we've outsourced almost all of our manufacturing base in the haste to lower costs. Jihadists got nothin' to do with that; that's simply good ol' American economic free market ideology bereft of any governmental oversight or restriction. Thanks, Republicans since 1981!

If the Reformation movement wins, that is, the moderate Muslims who believe that Islam can respect and tolerate other religions, and live in peace with the rest of the world, and move out of the 10th century into the 21st, then the troubles in the Middle East will eventually fade away, and a moderate and prosperous Middle East will emerge.

Just as they had been until we stepped in and "fixed" things there to fight off the Communist "menace" from the 1950s to the 1980s. Read this.

We have to help the Reformation win, and to do that we have to fight the Inquisition, i.e., the Wahhabi movement, the Jihad, Al Qaeda, the Islamic terrorist movements. We have to do it somewhere. We cannot do it nowhere. And we cannot do it everywhere at once. We have created a focal point for the battle now at the time and place of our choosing, in Iraq.

Not through violence against a stateless group of radicals we don't. Violence feeds on itself, and if you don't think so, you are completely deluded.

Not in New York, not in London, or Paris, or Berlin, but in Iraq, where we did and are doing two very important things.

Iraq, where your Jihadists have never been in power? Why?

(1) We deposed Saddam Hussein. Whether Saddam Hussein was directly involved in 9/11 or not,

"Or not"? Um, you must be an absolute troglodyte if you don't know that he wasn't. At all. Seeing as how Saddam was a secularist violently opposed to religious fanaticism, it is extremely unlikely that any government he was a part of would have been a party to any jihad.

it is undisputed that Saddam has been actively supporting the terrorist movement for decades. Saddam is a terrorist.

Bzzzzt. Wrong again. Unless your definition of "terrorist" means "despotic rightwing tyrant interested only in preserving or extending his own statist power". Terrorism is a tactic of political outsiders borne of frustration, and in this case, Saddam Hussein was the ultimate insider in total control of his country.

Saddam is, or was, a weapon of mass destruction, who is responsible for the deaths of probably more than a million Iraqis and two million Iranians.

Yeah, when we gave him all the weapons and money to do so. Remember that? Iraq was our ally right up until Saddam invaded Kuwait, because those nasty Iranians had kidnapped a bunch of our citizens. In order to protest our policies, by the way.

(2) We created a battle, a confrontation, a flash point, with Islamic terrorism in Iraq. We have focused the battle.

Really? Then why do Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and a lot of the 'stans from the former Soviet Union all hate us as well? We haven't focused anything except by our mere presence. Our soldiers get killed because they are there and they represent us. In any case, why is that a good thing? Shouldn't we want to minimize and diffuse hatred of the US instead of concentrating it?

We are killing bad guys there and the ones we get there we won't have to get here, or anywhere else.

What a load of rubbish. If we don't create bad guys, we don't have to kill anyone. How are all these jihadists supposed to get here anyway? We are providing them with easy targets, which is not my idea of smart.

We also have a good shot at creating a democratic, peaceful Iraq,

Right. And how are we supposed to do that? By forcing groups that have hated each other for millennia to simply stop doing so and behave? Sure thing. Let me know how that works out as it has in Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and the Balkans. I hear the Turks and the Armenians are having each other over for pie and punch this afternoon.

which will be a catalyst for democratic change in the rest of the Middle East,

How so? The domino effect in reverse? When has that ever worked?
To be continued . . .

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

This is what we have to endure, part one

My father-in-law sent me this email (sent to him by some rightwing acquaintance) asking for my comments. I thought I'd share them here as well. It's excruciatingly long, so I will break it up in installments. Feel free to ignore as many or all of them as you will, but this is the tenor and knowledge level exhibited by many of our opponents, so I thought I'd pass it along.

A California Lawyer's Perspective on Iraq War:
Sixty-three years ago, Nazi Germany had overrun almost all of Europe and hammered England to the verge of bankruptcy and defeat, and had sunk more than four hundred British ships in their convoys between England and America for food and war materials. Bushido Japan had overrun most of Asia, beginning in 1928, killing millions of civilians throughout China, and impressing millions more as slave labor.

1928? You might want to invest in a simple encyclopedia. Or read a book. Japan invaded China in 1931. (Manchuria, to be specific. Sources aplenty, try here and here.

The US was in an isolationist, pacifist, mood, and most Americans and Congress wanted nothing to do with the European war, or the Asian war. Then along came Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and in outrage Congress unanimously declared war on Japan, and the following day on Germany, which had not attacked us. It was a dicey thing. We had few allies.

Yeah, except for a very large, and very wrathful Soviet Union. Not to mention Great Britain. Germany, on the other hand, had Japan (little army to speak of at all, for the most part, and a navy we crippled within 8 months of Pearl harbor [at Midway]--heck, we only gave them secondary attention throughout the whole war!), Italy (sorry, Penny, but Italy has never had a world-class military), Finland, Rumania, Bulgaria, and the Baltic States. A pretty lame group. The Allies had more men, more industrial capacity, a bigger army, and a soon-to-be bigger navy than the Axis powers combined.

France was not an ally, the Vichy government of France aligned with its German occupiers. Germany was not an ally, it was an enemy, and Hitler intended to set up a Thousand Year Reich in Europe. Japan was not an ally, it was intent on owning and controlling all of Asia. Japan and Germany had long-term ideas of invading Canada and Mexico, and then the United States over the north and south borders, after they had settled control of Asia and Europe.

Uh huh. As had we, for the first 100 years of our existence. So what?

America's allies then were England, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, Australia, and Russia, and that was about it.

Jesus Christ, man, what more did you want? See above.

There were no other countries of any size or military significance with the will and ability to contribute much or anything to the effort to defeat Hitler's Germany and Japan, and prevent the global dominance of Nazism.

Clearly, we didn't need any more, did we?

And we had to send millions of tons of arms, munitions, and war supplies to Russia, England, and the Canadians, Aussies, Irish, and Scots, because NONE of them could produce all they needed for themselves. And we were well able to do so. All of Europe, from Norway to Italy, except Russia in the east,

And Great Britain, Sweden, and Switzerland. But who's really counting?

was already under the Nazi heel. America was not prepared for war. America had stood down most of its military after WWI and throughout the depression, at the outbreak of WWII there were army units training with broomsticks over their shoulders because they didn't have guns, and cars with "tank" painted on the doors because they didn't have tanks. And a big chunk of our navy had just been sunk and damaged at Pearl Harbor.

Wrong! No carriers (which were the main warships of WW2) were even there to be sunk, and all but 3 of the attacked ships were raised, repaired, and refitted by the end of the war, some as soon as February.

Britain had already gone bankrupt, saved only by the donation of $600 million in gold bullion in the Bank of England that was the property of Belgium and was given by Belgium to England to carry on the war when Belgium was overrun by Hitler - actually, Belgium surrendered one day, because it was unable to oppose the German invasion, and the Germans bombed Brussels into rubble the next day anyway just to prove they could. Britain had been holding out for two years already in the face of staggering shipping loses

Wrong. The Battle of the Atlantic was, at the very best for Germany, a draw for the first couple years. Unrestricted submarine warfare was not really effective until after the US entered (1942 was the best year for the Nazi subs), and after convoy tactics were adopted in 1942-3, the tide turned drastically against the Germans. (Source here.

and the near-decimation of its air force in the Battle of Britain,

Wrong. The Battle of Britain was a failure for the Germans, as they lost over 2 1/2 times as many aircraft as the British. Why else did they not invade? The Luftwaffe was supposed to destroy the British will to fight after destroying their shipbuilding and airplane making capacity, and they succeeded in doing neither. They then turned their attentions eastward in June 1941. "Their finest hour", remember?
To be continued . . .

The Boss

Somewhere out there on the horizon is a crossroads where folk, country, western swing, African-American spirituals, Dixieland jazz, and even rock and roll meet. That's where Bruce Springsteen is playing on his Seeger Sessions Band tour, which had its local stop at the Greek Theatre last night. He is clearly having a ball; maybe not having to shoulder the majority of the burden for performing (the Band consisted of 18 people for this show) is a relief for him. His energy and enthusiasm are undiminished, though, as he drove the band (and the audience) through the setlist at high throttle.
He is obviously a skilled bandleader and rehearser, even with such disparate components as a four-piece horn section, 3 rhythm guitarists (other than himself), and two violinists and keyboardists, because the band's timing was impeccable, whether they were stopping on a dime or reaching a crescendo. The songs themselves were half-reconstructed folk tunes derived from all ages of Americana, as filtered through Pete Seeger's (as the title of the album and band establish) or his own imagination (he performed 6 originals, radically reworked to fit the mood and sound of the band, as well).
Highlights (for me, at any rate): 1) A somber but razor-sharp rendition of "Mrs. McGrath", complete with Celtic-esque fiddle playing and singing. 2) A brittle, haunting "We Shall Overcome", sang with incredibly deep emotion by Springsteen, Patti Scialfa, and Mark Anthony Thompson. 3) The unreleased "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?", featuring standout horn blasts pyrotechnically punctuating the chorus in a virtuosic display of big band timing and coordination.
Springsteen remains the quintessential showman, but his playing of musical combination of these influences (many unexpected from him heretofore) prove that he wants to show that he understands how his music came to be intellectually as well. He was once labeled one of the many "new Bob Dylans", but he has never drawn upon the musical heritage that Dylan did in as clear or brilliant a manner as this (and he threw in some non-Dylan roots to boot!). Bruce Springsteen has usually been seen purely as a rock icon, leaving those folkies who fondly remember Dylan (let alone those who recall Pete Seeger or Woody Guthrie) as one of their own cold. With this album and these performances, though, Springsteen should be able to finally claim his rightful and deserved place as our foremost artist firmly rooted at that crossroads called America.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Inheritance wealth

Let me begin by saying that I've been afforded the luxury in my life to have had a father who sacrificed much of his life to providing for his family. I never went hungry (well, except for the times we had meals that had onions in them--which I can't eat), I always had clothes on my back (maybe not the cool clothes, though, making me the object of much ridicule at school), I went to college without having to work as well (an unalloyed bonus), and I had the continued and somewhat selfish ability to rely on my parents to provide me cheap shelter when I chose to go back to grad school. I also have the luck in having a mother who is as far from spendthrift as you can get; she seemingly wants to see how much money she can save over the term of her life, in order to pass on something to my sister and me, I presume. That is the way she was brought up, just as my father was brought up to provide for his family despite what personal crosses he might have had to bear.
That being said, and in full knowledge that this is quite contrary to my own economic benefit, I think the elimination or even reduction of the "estate tax", which the Senate will vote on next week, is a wildly anti-American, nearly immoral political move. Our nation was founded with a distinct interest in discarding inherited wealth as remaining the prime determinant in one's ability to pursue life, liberty, etc as it had been in Great Britain. Most of the Founding Fathers and successive generations of American leaders believed (aside from many of the relatively quickly discredited Federalists) in the leveling of class distinctions in our new nation--heck, even our President is called, simply, "Mr. President", instead of "Your Majesty", or "Your Excellence", or some other honorific. Wealth was supposed to be earned by individuals, not passed down in perpetuity from generation to generation, and even if that belief was soon to be made fairly unrealistic by the massive wealth created by the Industrial Revolution (which created fortunes so large that even splitting them up among many heirs did not truly eliminate them), the value gulf between the wealthy and the impoverished was not necessarily unbridgeable. The FFs consciously strove to create an "open" society (wherein a titled nobility did not exist, and where anyone could supposedly work hard/long enough to become a landowner--the mark of a successful person long into the 20th century), because it was in the best interests of a continuing democracy. Inherited wealth was seen as anathema to a democracy because it could engender in fact a nobility the FFs eliminated in name. One of the many ways we have historically been able to check the rise of a permanent wealthy class (although one would hardly be faulted for thinking that we've done a pretty poor job of doing so since the post-Civil War period) is through the taxation of inherited wealth.
Levying an inheritance tax is seemingly a no-brainer; it should be an easy sell to the vast majority of US citizens, since for the most part, an estate tax only affects a miniscule portion of the public. Our current law (passed in 2001) states that individuals can pass on $2 million to their heirs tax free, with any additional inheritance being taxable at a 45% rate. To illustrate, let's say my Mom has an estate worth $2,000,000. She decides to pass it all along to my sister and me, evenly split. She pays 0 taxes, and I inherit $1 million tax-free. If she owned $3 million, she would pay 45% tax on that 3rd million, leaving $2,650,000 for my sister and I to split, etc.
Seems like pretty light sledding, doesn't it? How many people have more than $2 mill to leave their heirs, after all, right? Not that many, apparently. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-partisan non-profit org, only .5% of the public have estates that large. That's right, 99.5% of the people in this country are completely unaffected by the estate law as currently worded, and that's down from just a touch over 2% when Smirky and co. jobbed the country with his tax cuts in 2001. And now the Repubs want to reduce or eliminate it entirely? What the f*&k for? And why would anyone sane even think this is a good idea in the first place? This is so obviously a case of the rich getting richer at the cost of revenue for the government--and nothing else--that it should have been laughable from the start. The law in 2000 was already a joke to begin with--how much money does one person need, especially unearned money? I would be ashamed to vote for a bill to increase the amount of money already rich people can inherit. It's simply obscene. Worse, it's unAmerican.
The estate tax needs to be raised, not lowered; inheritance shouldn't be used a method to perpetuate a class system that so many patriots devoted their entire lives to eliminate. Our nation used to pride itself on the fact that there was equality of opportunity, if not equality of means (which would constitute the ultimate open society). When the rich own so much of our system already, though, and work to increase their wealth by "gaming" the laws to their exclusive benefit, even that shred of our heritage is in stark danger of being lost.