Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Sunday, November 19th, 2006.


Fun With Numbers

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Bush Administration

Let’s see if I can explain this in a way that even a wingnut can understand.

If you have ten apples and eat nine of them, don’t plan on baking a pie with what’s left. Your choices are to get more apples or do without the pie.

Let’s make it a little more complicated: If you start with two dozen place settings of china but break twice as many dishes as you replace, eventually you won’t have enough for a formal dinner party. Your choices are to replace the dishes or forget fine dining.

As math-impaired as I am, I figure that if I understand how subtraction works, anyone bright enough to use a fork ought to catch on. With that in mind, let’s look at a recent news story. Jerome L. Sherman wrote in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

A solid majority of American soldiers returning from the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan say that U.S. armed forces are stretched too thin, according to a poll released yesterday by a veterans group.

VoteVets.org , a group headed by an Army reservist based near Pittsburgh, found that 63 percent of veterans of both conflicts describe the Army and Marine Corps as “overextended,” while many soldiers also complained about encountering emotional and physical problems when they came back from active duty.

“We hope that this poll is a wake-up call for Congress,” said Jon Soltz , who served in Iraq in 2003 and is now a captain with a reserve unit at the Charles E. Kelly Support Facility in Oakdale and chairman of VoteVets.

Let’s look at some old news stores. This is a report by Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, March 9, 2004:

Today’s Army is under enormous stress. With ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and dozens of other military missions worldwide, there are more than 320,000 Army troops alone deployed in 120 countries overseas. That’s more than 60 percent of the entire Army.

Former Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who commanded U.S. troops in the first Gulf War, says the Army is being pushed to the breaking point. “We’re running these people ragged,” he said. “Many of them are being deployed three out of four years. They’re not going to stay.”

McClatchy Newspapers, November 1, 2006:

With the military stretched thin fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has lowered some academic recruitment standards and even granted waivers to permit the enlistment of people with criminal records that otherwise would disqualify them.


Jim Hoffer, WABC, November 2, 2006:

Last year, the Army fell short of its recruiting goals for the first time in years. While this year the Army is making its quota, it’s how they’re doing it that’s being called into question because of what we found undercover.

What he found was that recruiters are lying to the potential recruits, telling them there was little chance they’d go to Iraq. One recruiter told a student (secretly taping the conversation) that the war was over.

I bring this up because Rep. Charles Rangel, who in January will be chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, plans to introduce a bill to reinstate the draft.

“There’s no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded
Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm’s way,” Rangel said.

Rangel, a veteran of the Korean War who has unsuccessfully sponsored legislation on conscription in the past, has said the all-volunteer military disproportionately puts the burden of war on minorities and lower-income families.

Steve Gilliard writes,

This is a way to call the GOP’s bluff.

Rangel has two recruiting stations in his district [which includes parts of Harlem and the Bronx], the neighboring ones have none. When you look at who gets killed in Iraq, no one from Dalton and the Upper East Side is included. But immigrants from Queens, firefighters, and a bunch of working people
are.

He knows it’s shitting the punch bowl, both for the GOP and liberal advocates of national service. People seem the draft is good for other people, but a draft of people 16-42 would take people older than the WW II draft, which ended at 36. Let’s see what they do when a bill is on the floor, vote it down of course. So we need to stop talking about wars as if we’re willing to fight them.

Righties — by definition, people who are too stupid to figure out that if you eat all the apples you can’t make the pie — are hootin’ about it.

But it’s only because of Mr. Rangel’s concern for the troops of course. It has nothing to do with trying to foment an anti-war movement like we had for Vietnam.

“Days Of Rage” here we come!

Say, where is the “Rock The Vote” crowd? Weren’t they and the rest of George Soros’ stooges spreading the lie that the Republicans intended to restore the draft if they won in 2004?

The “youth vote” turned out in record numbers on election day and apparently voted very heavily for the Democrats. (Remember, Rangel was going to retire if the Democrats didn’t win control of the House.)

Do you think they’ll ever notice they were lied to?

For a lot of reasons there won’t be an antiwar movement like the one during the Vietnam era. The biggest reason is that the antiwar movement is working online and within the political system this time, and not on the streets. And it’s not the young people who need to think about what they’re willing to sacrifice, but the politicians who support the war and are running the Army into the ground, yet lack the moral courage to make the hard choices between their wars and the draft.

I don’t know what “George Soros’ stooges” were saying in 2004, but this is what I was saying:

Jonathan Alter writes in Newsweek that the Bush Administration has no plans for a draft. “He knows that a draft would vaporize any remaining support for his Iraq policy,” Alter writes. “This would be of concern to him even as a second-term, lame-duck president. One thing we’ve learned about Bush is that he has never taken a position that he knew beforehand would be politically unpopular, including invading Iraq.”

One thing we know about Bush is that he’s all about winning elections. The governing thing is just a prop. And if he wins in November, why would he care what we think?

And another thing we know about Bush is that he’s not being honest about Iraq. His statements on Iraq are hallucinatory.

But I suspect Alter is right. Bush has no plans for a draft. Of course, he didn’t plan for escalating violence in Iraq, either. He didn’t plan for the car bombs that injured soldiers near Fallujah today, for example.

We can’t be sure what Bush is planning, or even if Bush is planning. There is speculation that he plans a major offensive at the end of the year to pacify the insurgents. Bob Novak says there are plans to cut and run after the January elections. Whatever. Clearly, Iraq is spinning out of his control.

So there’s no point asking if Bush has plans for a draft. The question is, what if he realizes he needs soldiers to actually defend America, and there aren’t enough to go around?

I had forgotten that the Reptile had predicted Bush would get out of Iraq after January 2005. Here’s the quote, from September 2004:

Inside the Bush administration policymaking apparatus, there is strong feeling that U.S. troops must leave Iraq next year. This determination is not predicated on success in implanting Iraqi democracy and internal stability. Rather, the officials are saying: Ready or not, here we go. …

Well-placed sources in the administration are confident Bush’s decision will be to get out. They believe that is the recommendation of his national security team and would be the recommendation of second-term officials. An informed guess might have Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, Paul Wolfowitz as defense secretary and Stephen Hadley as national security adviser. According to my sources, all would opt for a withdrawal.

I guess the Reptile was wrong. Anyway, back in 2004 righties shoved their fingers into their ears and refused to listen to our warnings that, someday, somebody was going to have to make the tough decision between waging war without end and risking a political firestorm by reinstating the draft. And I personally didn’t think Bush would do it, because Bush is a moral weenie who lacks the courage to make decisions that he knows will hurt him politically.

Now, I don’t think the draft will be reinstated — yet — and I don’t want it to be reinstated. But the nation, and Congress, have to make the tough choice that the President won’t make — either end the war, or restart the draft. The obvious, sensible answer is end the war. Whichever way we go, however, the troops deserve an answer. They deserved an answer two years ago.

And do you think the wingnuts will ever notice they were lied to? I’m not holding my breath.

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Feel the Love

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Bush Administration

President Bush is greeted by enthusiastic crowds in Indonesia.

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Respecting Life

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abortion, big picture stuff, Religion, stem cells

Emptypockets has a long rumination about embryonic stem cell research at The Next Hurrah.

That subject of desecration and its relationship to organ donation is, I think, a more apt context for discussing embryonic stem cells than the abortion rubric under which stem cells are usually put. Unlike a fetus, which likely would become a person, an unimplanted blastocyst is terminal and the moral issues about how we treat it are closer to end-of-life issues than conception ones. At least, that analogy is more apt biologically — whether it is helpful politically, I don’t know.

What does emerge from this analysis is, for me, a better understanding of what may be on the minds of stem cell research opponents. The sanctity of life may mean, for them, not only the call to preserve life itself — something which is, for an unimplanted blastocyst, impossible — but the demand to treat the elements of human life with respect and dignity. Some opponents may be appalled not by the demise of a ball of cells, but by what they see as an undignified death, in the polished steel of a tissue culture hood with a lab-coated graduate student bearing a pipetteman in place of a funeral Mass.

Call it a desecration or just plain creepy, that cold alien-autopsy vision of life’s end may be what drives some segments of the opposition. It is partly relieved by shifting the view to patients the research might help, just as rabbis struggling with organ donation may yield most often when they confront the potential for saving another life. But it may also be partly relieved by writing into future stem cell legislation explicit language requiring the blastocysts be treated with respect, and by acknowledging in debate that scientists recognize this concern and are sensitive to it.

I doubt opponents of embryonic stem cell research will be appeased by promises to treat blastocysts “respectfully.” However —

I’ve gone on and on about life and the moral argument for embryonic stem cell research already, and I don’t want to repeat all that now. Let’s explode everyone’s head today and look at some undiluted Zen.

Living beings are the result of many factors and conditions. Some of these are the presence of sperm, an egg, the condition of fertility, and the presence of a being desiring a form. Once living beings are created, there are other conditions necessary for their survival, such as sunshine, warmth, air (or the absence of these) as well as water and food. Many of the things that make up our world were once alive and depended on these same conditions, like wood, paper, cotton, wool, and oil products. Even stones and diamonds, and the planet itself, are the result of many related factors. All causes and conditions are interrelated. Yet, because of our conditioning and our delusions, we are easily confused and distracted from seeing our true relationship to all things. I think the nature of delusion is that it makes us feel separate, giving the illusion of duality.

In Taking the Path of Zen, Aitken Roshi writes, “There is fundamentally no birth and no death as we die and are born. When we kill the spirit that may realize this fact, we are violating this precept. We kill that spirit in ourselves and in others when we brutalize human potential, animal potential, earth potential.”

Another facet:

In the first precept, the crucial section is, “In the sphere of the everlasting Dharma, Not nursing a view of extinction…” The Dharmakaya is complete, ultimate reality. It is selfless and empty and is the origin from which everything arises and to which everything returns. The Dharmakaya is never “born” into the world of appearances, so it cannot die. We arise, together with our world, as human beings. Each moment we arise from and return to unity with everything; we are all children of our common parent – the Dharmakaya. When we consider the questions of “killing” or “not killing” we have already divided our world into self and other. If we see our world only through human self-interest we will miss the underlying unity that is our common origin. When we are unaware of this underlying unity, the best that we can hope for is a respect for all life.

From this perspective, to deny the potential of a blastocyst to heal the sick — a blastocyst that would otherwise remain frozen until it had lost all potential — is not respecting life at all, but denying life. Belittling Michael J. Fox for the sake of keeping some cells frozen is not respecting life. Belittling, even lying about, the potential of embryonic stem cell research is not respecting life.

More:

The First Grave Precept is “Affirm life—do not kill.” What does it mean to kill the environment? It’s the worst kind of killing. We are decimating many species. There is no way that these life forms can ever return to the earth. The vacuum their absence creates cannot be filled in any other way, and such a vacuum affects everything else in the ecosystem, no matter how infinitesimally small it is. We are losing species by the thousands every year, the last of their kind on the face of this great Earth. And because someone in South America is doing it, that doesn’t mean we’re not responsible. We’re as responsible as if we are the one who clubs an infant seal or burns a hectare of tropical forest. It is as if we were squeezing the life out of ourselves. Killing the lakes with acid rain. Dumping chemicals into the rivers so that they cannot support any life. Polluting our skies so our children choke on the air they breath. Life is nonkilling. The seed of the Buddha grows continuously. Maintain the wisdom life of Buddha and do not kill life.

Treat the air respectfully, and the seas respectfully, and birds and bugs and everything else on the planet respectfully. And we should treat living beings respectfully. Picketing an abortion clinic while wearing shoes made with slave labor in a third world country is not respecting life. Opposing abortion by belittling the lives of women — screaming at women entering abortion clinics, for example, or calling them selfish — is not respecting life.

Making excuses for civilian deaths in Iraq is not respecting life.

More:

We can play around with the word “state.” “State” is a condition or manner of being. In Buddhism, mind-states determine our thoughts, words, and actions which in turn create karma and its fruits. In a worldly sense “state” means position or rank or class. It also means a polity or nation. America’s leaders point their fingers at an “axis of evil” states. As far as they are concerned, it is just fine to despise Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. They add other enemies like Cuba, Syria, and even France (without whom there would never have been a United States). Despising these states and the people who live in them goes against the spiritual reality that all beings are Buddha, all beings are God. They may as well be pointing at themselves. [p. 3]

Yes, of course we should treat the blastocysts with respect. This means freeing them from freezing and allowing them to be life — if not as an embryo, then as a treatment for a sick child or a crippled adult.

It’s all One.

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Why John McCain Won’t Be President

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abortion, Republican Party

Pimping for the religious right is so over, Senator.

Update: Scott L. has more.

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Old Dogs

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blogging, conservatism, Democratic Party, liberalism and progressivism, Republican Party

Following up the last post — a few rightie bloggers have commented on the Dean Barnett FAQ and the political effectiveness of the leftie netroots. On the whole my quibbles with their analyses are minor, but they all relate to one major point.

Alabama Liberation Front writes,

In the 2005-2006 election cycle, the three major GOP committees — RNC, NRSC and NRCC — collected more than $438 million dollars. How much of that money went toward cultivation of the blogs? Hmmm?

In context, he seems to be implying (without explicitly saying so) that the DNC, DCCC, etc. do give money to cultivate blogs. I assure you, they do not. However, I call your attention to the Garance Franke-Ruta article in the April 2005 TAP, “Blogged Down,” and her account of the Eason Jordan smackdown (emphasis added).

He was brought down not by outraged citizen-bloggers but by a mix of GOP operatives and military conservatives. Easongate.com, the blog that served as the clearinghouse for the attack on CNN, was helped along by Virginia-based Republican operative Mike Krempasky. From May 1999 through August 2003, Krempasky worked for [Morton] Blackwell as the graduate development director of the Leadership Institute, an Arlington, Virginia–based school for conservative leaders founded by Blackwell in 1979. The institute is the organization that had provided “Gannon” with his sole media credential before he became a White House correspondent. It also now operates “Internet Activist Schools” designed to teach conservatives how to engage in “guerilla Internet activism.”

Indeed, Krempasky could be found teaching this Internet activism course one recent February weekend to about 30 young conservatives at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington. “He advocated that people write from their experience — and not necessarily as conservatives,” a Democratic consultant who attended the seminar incognito told me. For example, Krempasky told “a conservative firefighter” that he should write about firefighting because that would be of interest to readers. Using that angle, he could build an audience. And if push ever came to shove, he could respond to an online dogfight from the unassailable position of being a firefighter — and not as just another conservative ideologue. Krempasky then offered to help all the attendees set up their own blogs. “We’re definitely in serious trouble,” said the Democratic attendee.

The tactics Krempasky promotes are directly descended from those advocated by the late Reed Irvine of AIM, whose major funder was, for the past two decades, Richard Mellon Scaife. “Many bloggers and blog readers might not even know who Reed Irvine was, nor understand the debt we owe him as conservatives,” Krempasky wrote upon Irvine’s passing last year. “But that debt is tremendous.” In the late ’80s, Irvine had started the campaign to “Can Dan” Rather, coining the phrase “Rather Biased,” which became a rallying cry for anti-rather bloggers. Last fall, Krempasky was operating the main anti-Rather site, Rathergate.com, and organized a vast letter-writing and e-mailing campaign “to contact CBS and express themselves,” as he put it in an interview with Bobby Eberle of GOPUSA, an activist Web site founded by Texas Republicans and merged with one now owned by Bruce Eberle (no relation), the proprietor of a conservative direct-mail firm. “Conservatives have operated through alternative media for 40 years, direct mail being the first one,” Krempasky told me, sitting in the food court of the Ronald Reagan International Building as the CPAC wound down. “As far as the Internet goes, conservatives have largely been ahead of the left.”

Also part of the Easongate.com team was La Shawn Barber, who writes a biweekly column for — again, the name pops up — GOPUSA and has written for AIM about “the Bush-bashing media.” Working alongside Krempasky and Barber was another site, RedState.org, “a Republican community weblog” registered with the Federal Election Commission as a 527. Krempasky helped found that site along with Senate staffer Ben Domenech, the chief speechwriter for Bush ally and Texas Senator John Cornyn; and former U.S. Army officer Josh Trevino, a conservative blogger who used to write under the name “Tacitus.” The goal of RedState.org? “[T]o unite … voices from government, politics, activism, civil society, and journalism” in service of the “construction of a Republican majority.”

Power Line, another conservative blog deeply involved in the Rather controversy, helped push the Jordan story as well. Described by Time magazine as “three amateur journalists working in a homegrown online medium [who] challenged a network news legend and won,” Power Line was voted Time’s “2004 Blog of the Year.” In reality, its three writers are all fellows at the conservative Claremont Institute who attended Dartmouth College in the early 1970s and now work as attorneys; two of them have been writing articles as a team for conservative publications such as the National Review and The American Enterprise for more than 10 years.

“As far as the Internet goes, conservatives have largely been ahead of the left.” The VRWC — the conglomeration of think tanks, media, and astroturf organizations that work with the GOP — made Matt Drudge a Somebody back in the 1990s, for example. I believe the VRWC was attached to the unseen hands of Rathergate that took an anonymous post on Free Republic into national media in only 12 hours. The top tier of the Right Blogosphere contains a number of bloggers with long-standing affiliation with movement conservatism — in media, in think tanks, in the GOP. Michelle Malkin, Hugh Hewitt, Andrew Sullivan (who has fallen from grace lately, I understand), in addition to the above-mentioned RedState, PowerLine, and La Shawn Barber, were never just disgruntled citizens blogging in their pajamas. They are for the most part establishment operatives. Not always, but often.

And this takes us to the blind spot in rightie analyses (see also Jon Henke and Riehl World View). They do not see the extent to which the Republican establishment co-opted the Right Blogosphere from the beginning. Mr. Henke suggests that the Republicans should “develop strategies and hire experts to engage the blogosphere quickly and bumpily as happened with the successful Democratic engagement of the blogosphere.” The problem is (as Chris Bowers discusses) that the Right Blogosphere already has been integrated into the right-wing message machine. This is much less true on the Left Blogosphere, mostly since the Dems can’t seem to push a message any more than a squirrel can sing.

All along many Republican Party operatives have been using the Right Blogosphere the way they’d use any other mass medium — as a medium to disseminate talking points and reinforce narratives. But like any other mass medium, the conversation goes only one way — from the top of the power pyramid to the bottom.

This doesn’t mean the rightie blogs never go off message. They do, far more than a lot of us on the Left give them credit for. On two issues in particular, immigration and pork, they have been solidly critical of the Bush White House and the Republican Congress. It’s also pretty obvious that the Republican establishment doesn’t care what rightie bloggers think.

Does that mean that the Dems care what leftie bloggers think? A lot of them still don’t, but this year some of the fog between the Dems and the bloggers has lifted, and I know that some people on Dem payrolls really do read us. I credit Peter Daou for much of this development, and the organizational skills of Kos and Co. and the bloggers of MyDD, Swing State Project, and others were essential, also.

This didn’t just happen. If you go back to, say, 2002, the Left Blogosphere was not only critical of the Bush Administration and the Republicans. We lefties also badmouthed the Washington Dem establishment robustly. We wailed when, in October 2002, too many of them paid no attention when we hollered don’t vote for that bleeping war resolution! In 2003 we supported non-establishment candidates, notably Howard Dean and Wesley Clark, for the Democratic presidential nomination. Even though our guys lost, we got our virtual toe in the water. Mostly, we saw that the Dems were sorely in need of a major shakeup. We also realized that if we were going to become effective shakers, we couldn’t do it by marching in the streets with protest signs. What was needed was good, old-fashioned politicking — raising money and volunteers for Democratic candidates we thought would represent our point of view, as well as fighting the rhetorical fight here on the web.

Basically, we figured politicians would listen to us when they understood it was to their advantage to do so. Thus, leftie bloggers took the initiative and worked independently from the Dems to set up ActBlue and various GOTV projects.

The Right Blogosphere, on the other hand … well, check out this MyDD post by Matt Stoller, from February 2006. On the Right, it just ain’t happenin’, and the GOP can’t do it for the bloggers without running afoul of FEC and campaign finance law. (And as Matt says, the GOP sometimes needs tighter message control.)

If the Dems are starting to pay attention to bloggers, it isn’t because the Dems just took a mind to do so or are somehow less oblivious than Republicans. It’s because a lot of bloggers worked their butts off (some since 2002) to make it happen.

It might be that rightie bloggers will begin to organize and go down this same road. If they do, I wish them well. But a little introspection might be in order first.

More minor quibbles: Alabama Liberation Front continues,

They [leftie bloggers] developed an advertising network that enabled more bloggers to go full-time. They got Mark Warner to drop a huge chunk of cash on YearlyKos. And there was not a single significant Democratic candidate in 2006 who began a campaign without first hiring at least one blogger, and sometimes making payments to multiple bloggers.

I doubt that the Advertising Liberally network, of which I am a charter member, enabled any bloggers to go full-time who weren’t already full-time. Certainly it more than pays for bandwidth and the occasional new pair of shoes, but it’s not a living. And yes, Mark Warner threw a big party for us bloggers at YearlyKos, but my understanding is that YK (or DK, for that matter) could not accept money from him directly. Maybe some rightie bloggers are succumbing to the “grass is greener” syndrome, but I can tell you the grass ain’t all that green on this side of the fence, either.

Alabama continues,

Karl Rove’s top-down, manipulative, control-freak style — which he learned from Lee Atwater — is simply incompatible with the New Media regime. A more open, flexible and responsive approach is dictated by the very nature of the multi-source feedback system that the Information Age makes possible.

Exactly, and this is more or less what Joe Trippi figured out during the Howard Dean campaign, but most of the Dem establishment was (and still is) slow to catch on. Karl Rove is not the only control freak in Washington; the DNC and satellite organizations are just as bad, but without Rove’s relentless shrewdness. The only thing worse than a control freak is a control freak with his head up his ass. Bottom line, politicians in Washington of both parties and their overpaid consultants know all about waging mass media, top-down campaigns, but on the whole they haven’t figured out new media. They’re a bunch of old dogs who won’t learn new tricks.

And the moral is, if you want new tricks, you gotta do ’em yourself.

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