Sunday, November 20, 2005

Another good comment

Another good comment, by "dhartman" from the


[I'm giving this one "equal time" at the top. --Doug]

"lucky is misguided with respect to spending money on schools. There is little correlation with spending money and pupil achievement. That is the big lie of the NEA. The primary correlation for student achievement is parental interest and participation. As long as education is denigrated and kids drop out (44% drop out rate in the Santa Fe Public High Schools) in Northern New Mexico, there will be no improvement. If the parents don't care, then neither will the students. Paying higher salaries to the same teachers will have no effect on student performance."

[Especially within the confines of the infamous "No Student Left Behind", or, as they are referred to by teachers, the "No Teacher Left Standing" policies of the current administration. Throwing money at the educational system won't help much until a lot of what is dysfunctional there is repaired. Listening to reports of the paperwork morass the teachers in the Los Alamos school system find themselves buried under is more than just a little bit mindful of the present LANL work environment. However, for those bitching about LANL pay raises in recent time, stop for a moment and look at what the teachers have been getting. --Doug]

It amazes me that society has not come to this conclusion already.

"There is little correlation with spending money and pupil achievement. That is the big lie of the NEA. The primary correlation for student achievement is parental interest and participation. As long as education is denigrated and kids drop out there will be no improvement. If the parents don't care, then neither will the students. Paying higher salaries to the same teachers will have no effect on student performance."

This not only goes for education but also pertains to the nations social programs such as welfare or people that get social secuity and yet have never worked their forty quarters. As long as we continue to cater to these systems the problems will never be resolved. It basically all starts at home. It's as simple as spare the rod and spoil the child along with getting liberal pinhead politicians out of office along with their lawyers.
In fairness, the situation with schools in Santa Fe is so anomalous in so many ways that it's probably counterproductive to take virulently partisan positions ("liberal pinhead politicians", "No Teacher Left Standing") on what will and will not work there.

Now tell me: what does all this have to do with what's going on at the lab?
Gross receipts tax on $79 million per year from the new contract for running LANL. Money that will go to the state, some of which will likely go to education.

Doug has a vested interest in this topic since his wife is a teacher in Los Alamos.
Fair enough. And it's certainly reasonable to think about what the local schools are going to be like under the new contract. Can we do it without the venom, though?
"Doug has a vested interest in this topic since his wife is a teacher in Los Alamos."

"Academic" interest, is more accurate. She will only be working there a year more, or so.

I must admit, I am unclear on how spending more on education in NM would yield much of a return.

After being named "Dumbest State" for 3 straight years, it has moved up 2 spots, ahead of Mississippi 49, and Arizona 50. (According to the articles below, the factors in the ranking methodology were changed this year.)

STATE 05-06 04-05 03-04 02-03
Alabama 43 44 46 41
Alaska 44 45 23 25
Arizona 50 48 45 44
Arkansas 37 36 38 38
California 46 43 44 29
Colorado 23 21 35 27
Connecticut 2 2 3 1
Delaware 25 27 19 43
Florida 36 39 40 47
Georgia 40 38 36 40
Hawaii 42 42 43 45
Idaho 28 29 30 22
Illinois 32 24 27 33
Indiana 26 17 13 9
Iowa 14 8 8 11
Kansas 13 15 15 14
Kentucky 35 37 37 28
Louisiana 45 46 47 49
Maine 5 11 6 5
Maryland 19 18 18 30
Massachusetts 3 1 1 7
Michigan 27 31 20 20
Minnesota 6 7 12 12
Mississippi 49 47 48 48
Missouri 21 26 28 31
Montana 9 10 4 3
Nebraska 12 13 11 13
Nevada 47 49 49 46
New Hampshire 15 14 26 19
New Jersey 4 4 5 4
New Mexico 48 50 50 50
New York 10 6 10 26
North Carolina 22 25 21 24
North Dakota 20 19 24 21
Ohio 31 20 22 41
Oklahoma 39 40 39 32
Oregon 38 35 32 23
Pennsylvania 11 9 7 15
Rhode Island 16 23 16 10
South Carolina 29 32 41 36
South Dakota 18 22 31 34
Tennessee 41 41 42 39
Texas 24 33 34 16
Utah 33 28 25 17
Vermont 1 3 2 2
Virginia 7 12 17 37
Washington 30 30 33 35
West Virginia 34 33 29 18
Wisconsin 8 5 8 6
Wyoming 17 16 14 8


Well, let's get back to brass tacks (tax?), folks, shall we?
The REALLY BIG money spent by the Feds or the States is on our paranoid, delusional, overseas military adventures and our very wealthiest citizens.
If you worry about the pittance we spend on schools and teachers, look how well our tax dollars have been spent on...Halliburton, Lockheed-Martin, Bechtel, the perpetual War on Terror, on torture, on secret Black Site prisons, and on the War in Iraq.
My vote for The Best Political Slogan of the last five years is:

Leave no billionaire behind.
If money doesn't matter, how come Los Alamos gets at $2,000 per child subsidy; some $8 million per year? This allows them to pay their teachers more, and allows them to hire some of the best "valley" teachers. Which makes the plight of the "valley" schools even worse.

End this stupid subsidy to the Los Alamos schools, and us the GRT from the new contract to address the needs of Northern New Mexico schools. If we take away the Los Alamos subsidy, they might even be interested in helping to do something sensible.

Claiming that "money doesn't matter" while demanding, and getting, a subsidy is pretty revolting.
Lucky, don't you think the GRT should be split among all NM schools?
One could make the case for using the GRT windfall for all NM schools. My big concern is that it not just disappear into the NM pork barrel. The Northern NM schools are in bad shape and they need more funds. That is my first concern; and Los Alamos should support this. It would help Los Alamos to focus their attention if we remove their subsidy; and let them join in the fray. Los Alamos has a lot of clout in the Legislature and could help to get this sorted out, if they stop focusing on their own selfish interests.

For those who say that "its not about money", there is some truth to that. So, lets give the subsidy to the "valley" instead of Los Alamos and check back in five years. Paying LA school teachers over $6k per year more than valley schools can afford certainly makes it hard for valley schools. Ask your friends who live in the valley.

The current subsidy from the LANL Foundation to the schools is a joke; at about $200 per year vs. LA schools $2,000. But, it does establish a precedent for subsidies to Northern NM schools. All the same arguments are valid for the GRT, which is one heck of a lot more money.

The time to get on this is now, before all the vultures show up and carry off the GRT money for pork.
"The REALLY BIG money spent by the Feds or the States is on our paranoid, delusional, overseas military adventures..."

History revision is a fun game for the whole family, but the internet has been shown to ruin family fun. Google "Clinton Iraq 1998".
Lucky, quoting from a previous post of yours, "If not for heavy LANL lobbying (illegal by the way) of the state legislature, the GRT would have been collected a long time ago."

So am I to infer from your 4:26pm comment, you now advocate this illegal LANL Lobbying for keeping the potential GRT windfall in Northern NM?
Get off of Clinton, my "dear" Neoconservative "friends."
He never brought us anything like the War in Iraq.
And while you study your history, study Vietnam. We haven't seen the like of it for 30 years. (Try Googling the relative numbers of wounded, for example.)
No, Clinton never did follow through on his threat of war in Iraq. He (and most of his lieutenants) just kept saying it needed to be done. Instead, he maintained an 8-year "infidel" military presence in the Muslim holy land, probably the single largest factor provoking bin Laden to attack the US.

But what use is reasoned analysis when the quagmire meme is so much more immediate?

Quagmire. Quagmire. Quagmire. Quagmire.
Quagmire. Quagmire. Quagmire. Quagmire.
Quagmire. Quagmire. Quagmire. Quagmire.
Quagmire. Quagmire. Quagmire. Quagmire.

Re: quagmire.

Contains all the letters in IRAQ, plus some.

(P.S. Clinton talked for 8 years, but you're a results-oriented kinda guy, right?)
Re: letters in Iraq

"Quagmire" also contains the sound of a duck, plus some.


Re: results-oriented

"Do, or do not. There is no talk about it." - with apologies to Yoda.
While we're making comparisons to past wars, it seems more fun to compare Iraq to the First Crusade. I'm not sure who the new Knights Hospitalier would be, but there's plenty of letters for an anagram.
And now, let's take another run at the stats, just for history's sake.

In Vietnam, there were 50,000 deaths over 10 years, or 5,000 deaths per year. With about 3 times as many troops in Vietnam compared to Iraq, we are allowed to divide 5,000 by 3 to get 1600/yr. in Vietnam vs. Iraq's 1000/yr., a factor of 1.6 higher for Vietnam, compared to Iraq. Thus, you might conclude that we are WAY AHEAD of the deadly game in Iraq.

Oh, but then, there are at minimum, about 7,500 seriously wounded (at least one limb lost) in Iraq each year, compared to 15,000/year in Vietnam, which we are allowed to divide by 3, as before. So, in Iraq the rate of seriously wounded is about 1.5 times greater than in Vietnam.

The conclusion is that, in the 30 years since the Vietnam War, we have traded seriously wounded for dead. The good news is that we now have better triage. But the bad news is that we are building up a coterie of young people who will have to be cared for--FOR NO DAMN GOOD REASON WHATSOEVER!

(Even if Operation Iraqi Liberation has not been about OIL, it's been a disastrous adventure, and costly in more than just money.)
That's a neat little statistical trick. Ordinarily the fact that modern technology allowed Iraq to be won with 1/3 the troops of Vietnam would count as a plus, but you've used it to play percentage games. Well, I can do that too. Last year, approximately 375 times as many Americans were injured in automobile accidents as were injured in Iraq.

Further, hardly any Iraq casualties are combat casualties. They're terrorism deaths of the kind we've seen for decades. In 1983, 241 marines were killed by a truck bomb in Beirut. Troops getting killed by bombs didn't start in Iraq, nor will it end there.

Unlike Clinton's numerous military adventures in the 90s, we've gained solid benefits from liberating Iraq, including a democratic constitution approved by a huge majority in a popular vote. That, more than all the humanitarian aid ever given, has the potential to improve the human condition in the third world.

I don't exactly share your hatred of Clinton, though he's not anyone's shining example of a progressive. Yet, you fail to give him "credit" for helping organize eight years of sanctions against Saddam Hussein, which resulted in the deaths of at least a half a million Iraqis by starvation ("worth it," according to Madame Albright), and the nearly complete disintegration of the Iraqi army. (During that time, all the weapons of mass destruction were themselves destroyed, too, thanks to the UN weapons inspectors.)

So, the fact that it took a month to overthrow Saddam (a felicitous event for all concerned) with 1/3rd the number of troops we had (for 10 futile years) in Vietnam is not too surprising.

All things considered, it would have been far better to keep the spider in the bottle, seeing as how the "best and brightest" of the Neo-conservatives have botched the Occupation of Iraq so badly. As to whether or not the future Iran-style Shiite theocracy in Iraq will prove to have been worth all the "humanitarian aid" given to Halliburton and Bechtel to "rebuild" Iraq, we'll just have to see.
I don't know which side you're arguing. Maybe you're not arguing a side and just heaping cynicism on everyone. Clinton failed because Saddam pushed the consequences of the sanctions onto the weakest, sanctions that were unnecessary because the WMDs were already destroyed (a hypothesis rejected worldwide due to evidence to the contrary and Saddam's long history of deceiving the inspectors.) Bush failed for ending the sanctions regime and for setting up an Islamic government. (Setting up a non-Islamic government would, of course, have been criticized as imposing Western values.) Now, Democrats seem to long for the days of thousands of children starving just to avoid the evils of Halliburton, Halliburton, Halliburton, Halliburton, Halliburton.

And did I mention Halliburton?

It's a decently performing stock, btw, and ownership carries with it the moral advantage of being invested in a company that is making life better for Iraqis. In a time when all the wrong causes are lauded, when people buy "organic" foods for fear of science, when people trust their witch doctor more than their physician, where success is distrusted and rage is mistaken for authenticity, where people hide in crowds to be alone, where feigned concern for the dead hides a stealth invective...this is my small act: owning a piece of the future.

You can't see which side I'm arguing?
Are you in such deep denial?
If this is the "future" you hope for, then join the 20% who worship Bush, pray for Halliburton and its stock price, praise the benighted privatization of LANL, and view the world through the eyes of FOX News and Rush Limbaugh.

I guess I can't be of any help.
In nearly two decades of online discussions, I have been asked to hate or fear an endless list of things: artificial sweeteners, pesticides, fluorine, chlorine, the Republicans, the Democrats, Christians, non-Christians, modern Bible translations, modern medicine, technology, corporations, politicians, rich people, poor people. Since it is impossible to accommodate all the interested pleaders, it becomes necessary to ask for reasons why I should believe what I am asked to. And sometimes, people indulge me, after a fashion, for a little while, with sensational media reports, baseless rumors, scandalous innuendoes, glib aphorisms, and factoids of questionable provenance. When it becomes clear that I'm politely insistent upon having a response with a bit of intellectual rigor, the manipulation games start.

Due to my course of life, I've been forced into an uncomfortably close acquaintance with the techniques of manipulation. I've learned to smell it from afar and it always evokes the sentiment: "This person talking to me does not respect me enough to let me come to me own conclusions." Some people desperately need the consensus of others to be comfortable in their own beliefs. Some are just lazy or unable to explain their positions. Some hope to use belief to force others into a subordinate status. As someone who enters into a discussion to learn, to explore, and to share, I dislike it when people engage in intellectual aggression.

So, I'm disappointed that so many of the discussions I've had on the internet end in some form of "you just don't get it" slogan--the one that implies, "there's something wrong with you or you would have agreed with me by now." Sometimes people are superficially polite at first, saving the condescension for when all attempts to convert have failed. Eventually, though, the hook lands: either some overt threat, or, where that isn't possible, some form of condemnation: extreme, highly distorted, and cathartic for the attacker.

What I don't understand is what the attacker could possibly get out of doing this. Do people look back fondly on all the times they've accused strangers of being a sinner, a sellout, "a pawn of The Man," or worse? Does personal authenticity count for nothing anymore? Do people regard others as nothing more than marks for conversion to some cause?
One last try, "dug". (And you don't have to reply substantively, if you don't want to.) Maybe your inability to track the thread leads your adversaries to feelings of ennui, rather than something as complicated as condescension.

[By the way, 375,000 Americans did NOT die in automobile accidents last year. Maybe from lung cancer due to smoking cigarettes, but not in cars. -You're off by an order of magnitude; sorry.]
"Maybe your inability to track the thread leads your adversaries to feelings of ennui, rather than something as complicated as condescension."

Perhaps half of this "thread" is rooted in the subjectivity of people of a given political class. I don't have the same set of "givens" as you do (such as "Everybody who 'worships' Bush praises the 'benighted privatization' of LANL"). I submit that my "inability to track threads" is more a refusal to accept question-begging assumptions. Rational arguments are always favored over bald assertions, even if they are more ennui-provoking. Of course, I did digress on a point of discursive process to try to draw attention to the futility of finger-pointing arguments. ("You're on Halliburton's side!" "No, you're on Osama bin Laden's side!")

"By the way, 375,000 Americans did NOT die in automobile accidents last year. Maybe from lung cancer due to smoking cigarettes, but not in cars. -You're off by an order of magnitude; sorry."

You are attacking a claim I did not make. I said "Last year [2004], approximately 375 times as many Americans were injured in automobile accidents as were injured in Iraq." [emphasis added] I derived this figure by taking USDOT figures on total motor vehicle injuries for 2004: approx. 2.8 million [Source] and dividing it by your number of annual Iraq war injuries [7500], which yields a number of 371.7, which I rounded.

Incidentally, the same source gives a motor vehicle fatality rate of approx. 43 times that of the Iraq war.

Having established this point, I am content to end this response without any dismissive coda, such as "Sorry." I like discussions without theatrics.
You are absolutely right; my proofreading skills are clearly not 100%. INJURED, not KILLED. Got it. Now it's my turn to say, "Sorry," and mean it.

Now, where were we? -Oh, yes. Injuries and deaths on American highways--they would have carried on at the same rate, more or less, whether or not we were in Iraq. So, they are really beside the point. And they do not tear at the heart and fabric of our country, because we all are out there on the road, like good Americans should be.

Let us therefore return to the main point of the thread, namely, the waste of tax money on schools vs the waste of money and other resources (like people) on our present military adventures. Do you believe that control of Iraqi oil and our 15 military bases there are worth $200 billion (or more) that has been spent? How about the 2000 or more American soldiers killed? And the 15,000 or more American soldiers seriously injured? (Iraqi deaths and injuries are not at the top of most people's list here, though you could well argue that they don't help win hearts and minds for America.)

Hmmm. Looks like everyone else left the room. So, go ahead. Tell me what you really think. It's just us here. You and me.
While we're at it--us two--the question about "Halliburton, Halliburton, Halliburton" comes up, and one is forced to conclude that paying billions of bucks to them has yielded a pittance compared to what might have happened if the Neocons had been just twice as "smart" as they seem, by giving $200/month to every man, woman, and child in Iraq to repair, clean up, and rebuild their homes and businesses (remember the Republicans' former love of "small businesses"?). Let's tote that up: $200/month x 12 months x 25 million people = $60 billion/year. When we multiply by two years, we get about half of what we've spent.

So, I say again, "Halliburton, Halliburton, Halliburton...QUAGMIRE, QUAGMIRE, QUAGMIRE!!!"

Now, for some more news:

"If Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney believe they were truthful in the run-up to the war, it's easy for them to make their case. Instead of falsely claiming that they've been exonerated by two commissions that looked into prewar intelligence - neither of which addressed possible White House misuse and mischaracterization of that intelligence - they should just release the rest of the President's Daily Briefs and other prewar documents that are now trickling out. Instead, incriminatingly enough, they are fighting the release of any such information, including unclassified documents found in post-invasion Iraq requested from the Pentagon by the pro-war, neocon Weekly Standard. As Scott Shane reported in The New York Times last month, Vietnam documents are now off limits, too: the National Security Agency won't make public a 2001 historical report on how American officials distorted intelligence in 1964 about the Gulf of Tonkin incident for fear it might 'prompt uncomfortable comparisons' between the games White Houses played then and now to gin up wars."
-Frank Rich (The New York Times--no liberal-leftist rag, but rather, the Voice of the Power Elite)

-Vietnam, Vietnam, Vietnam.
Brad, you asked if our "military adventures" in Iraq are worth it. Here are a few considerations that come to mind.

* Saddam attempted to conquer two major oil-producing nations (Iran and Kuwait) and had designs on others (Saudi Arabia). If he had succeeded, the United States would be at the mercy of a very dangerous man with ambitions of dominating the Middle East.

* Maintaining the post-Gulf War sanctions on Iraq required an expensive long-term US military presence in Saudi Arabia. Continued US military presence in the Muslim holy land was offensive to many Muslims and was providing a recruiting tool for Al Qaida. Further, international support for the sanctions was quickly eroding, opening up the possibility of Saddam being freed from all restraint.

* Saddam's genocidal actions invite comparisons to the Holocaust. He destroyed an entire ecosystem trying to eradicate the Marsh Arabs. He was killing people at a rate of about 80,000 a year. [Source] Each US soldier death in Iraq corresponds to about 40 lives per year saved. For comparison, Hitler's and Hirohito's wars killed about 61,000,000 people over 14 years (1931 - 1945) -- an average rate of 4.3 million per year. 295,000 US soldiers died to stop this [source], with each US soldier's death corresponding to about 15 lives per year saved. This neglects large numbers of allied fatalities. As a proportion of humanitarian benefit to blood shed, the Iraq War is far more efficient than World War II.

* The Iraq War is less than 1% of the GDP. The entire military budget is about 3-4% of the GDP. Compare this to the approximately 10% of the GDP the federal government spends on social programs each year, with far less tangible benefit.

"...what might have happened if the Neocons had been just twice as "smart" as they seem, by giving $200/month to every man, woman, and child in Iraq to repair, clean up, and rebuild their homes and businesses"

The government hands out far more in Compton, and I don't interstates and electrical substations built by spontaneously-arising neighborhood work parties. But maybe you're on to something. Who needs national laboratories when the government could hand out hundred dollar bills to citizens to "do science"?

"The New York Times--no liberal-leftist rag, but rather, the Voice of the Power Elite"

The New York Times has acquired a well-deserved reputation as a liberal-leftist rag. They even appointed a "public editor" to deal with this perception. His conclusion was that the paper's left-wing bias was the product of its "cosmopolitan" base. Your attempted distinction between liberal-leftists and the "power elite" is curious, considering that most of the "power elite" are liberal-leftists. How else would they claim that Red Staters are a bunch of ignorant country bumpkins?

"Instead of falsely claiming that they've been exonerated by two commissions that looked into prewar intelligence..."

It really takes chutzpah to claim that Bush was lying about what Clinton, Albright, Dean, Berger, Pelosi, etc. were saying on video a few years earlier. Political opportunism knows no limitations.
Wow. One thing in your list here really jumps out at me, and it may define why we talk way past each other:

You say, "Most of the 'power elite' are liberal-leftists."

The Radical Right (including Christians and multinational corporations in the mix) control the Executive Branch, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, the Federal Judiciary (starting from "liberal-leftists"--!?!--appointed by Ronald Reagan), most governorships (including some so-called Blue States, like California), and most state legislatures. They also control the airwaves (hate radio, with that mild-mannered "liberal-leftist" Rush Limbaugh, and television, including the "fair-and-balanced" FOX News), not to mention most of the newspapers in the country (Chicago Trib, LA Times, etc.), and now, even the meek and timid public radio and TV, where getting rid of Bill Moyers has been a prime focus of the Bush machine. The "power elite" (Cheney and the Big Oil Boys) would scoff loudly at your calling them "liberal-leftists."

Let me just repeat the famous line uttered by David Brooks (Neocon columnist in the NYT) after the 2000 election:

"What's everyone so upset about? The people who own this country now run it again."

One other thing that struck me was your statement that, in essence, the people who live in Iraq are less competent to repair the damage done to their country by our invasion than Halliburton and Bechtel, whose competence is limited to pocketing billions for NOT doing the job. You then compare this with giving $100 to every American to "do science," rather than funding the national labs. Wow, what a really breathtaking stretch! You must be in heaven, now that either LockMart or Bechtel will take over LANL.
Brad, it's strange that you skip over all the hard fact items in my article to dwell on the one sentence generalization about leftist control of the elite institutions of society. If that's really what strikes you as important, I will nail that item down too.

When you used the phrase "power elite," I assumed you meant those influential institutions in society that command respect and control the direction of the culture. I'm not sure many (any?) Americans think of Rush Limbaugh as part of the power elite. The fact that conservative commentary is banished to the fringes of AM radio rather than occupying the central space of the mainstream media tends to prove my point that the power elite are mostly leftists.

It will do no good to address the question of leftism among the "power elite" if we start from one individual position. Left and right are relative terms, and to someone who falls politically between Ralph Nader and Mao Zedong, even the New York Times might appear as a centrist media outlet. (And if one neglects to mention the majority of the columnists at the Times, like the hard-left Krugman and Dowd, and points out the token conservative, Brooks, one can give a misleading impression of the paper's lean.) While judging bias is a tricky business, I think the most objective measure is by comparison with the American middle. Does the power elite "look like America" politically?

America as a whole is nearly balanced between Democrats and Republicans, with Democrats holding a slight advantage in voter registrations. Considerably more Americans self-identify as "conservative" than as "liberal." But, how does the power elite identify itself? has collected a large number of surveys spanning several decades, and the data are quite startling. In 1992, 88% of White House Press Corp reporters said they voted for Clinton (vs. 43% of the general population). In 2004, a survey of 300 journalists nationwide found that, of those who disclosed their choice, 73% voted for Kerry (vs. 48% of the general population). Journalists are almost 3 times more likely to identify themselves as liberals as the general public. According to one survey, only 4% of about 2000 members of the power elite identified themselves as Republicans. Surveys of several top educational institutions have found in excess of 90% of professors identifying themselves as Democrats.

The Republican Party's current tenuous control of the elected branches of the federal government reflects the fact that politicians are not appointed by the power elite but elected by the general public. Liberal domination of the educational system guarantees that judicial appointees have experienced much greater exposure to leftist ideas than conservative ideas, with the conservative ideas usually painted with the colors of quaintness or even menace. This ensures that while Democratic presidents don't have to worry about their judicial appointees "growing" into Republicans over time, Republicans frequently find themselves burned by justices in the pattern of Souter. Most liberals express satisfaction with the decisions of the federal judiciary, while conservatives typically express regret, casting considerable skepticism on warnings of "right-wing" incursions on the bench.

The echo-chamber effect of the media, and its attempts to wield greater influence in the political process have caused great embarrassment for once-respected institutions. In attempting to damaging President Bush's chances for reelection, CBS publicized a collection of forged National Guard documents. A long refusal to admit error even when confronted with unanimous expert opinion ended only in an admission of inability to authenticate the materials, but an internal investigation came to a more blunt conclusion: a newsroom culture driven by a desire to substantiate a pre-developed narrative, even in the face of growing contrary evidence. Part of the problem could have been the fact that the Board of Directors of Viacom, the owner of CBS, largely overlapped John Kerry's campaign committee. Mary Mapes, the journalist who obtained the documents, still insists that they are genuine, but if they are fakes, it was certainly Karl Rove who forged them. Whether this is willful self-deception or deliberate distortion is hard to tell, but for those who concern themselves mainly with playing the full pipe organ of leftist buzz-phrases, the truth doesn't seem to matter. Just say Halliburton, Cheney, Enron, Vietnam, quagmire enough times and hope Pavlov was right about association and conditioning.
If I may observe:

It is refreshing to see a young fart and an old fart keeping each other on their toes, intellectually speaking. And doing so in a relatively polite
comportment, to boot.

Keep up the good work, this post is all yours.


It really all boils down to: Power of ideas vs power over people's lives.

Trick question: Does the PATRIOT Act come from liberal-leftists?

(Careful before you answer, "dug". Hint: my views are much closer to Barry Goldwater than to Karl Rove. Much closer to Teddy Roosevelt than to Dick Cheney. Much closer to Dwight Eisenhower than to Don Rumsfeld. So, in your view, am I a liberal-leftist?)
And now, a comment about the Iraq fiasco (quagmire, morass, debacle...) and a bit of history. (I learned long ago when I was young and brash that, if you hadn't lived history, you had better have read up on it, or else you wouldn't hold your own in a debate with the elderly.)

Korea lasted two years and cost 50,000 American soldiers their lives. At the end of two years, the American public was sick of the whole thing, in spite of the fact that there was hardly an antiwar movement to speak of.

Vietnam lasted ten years and cost the lives of 50,000 American soldiers. After about six years, including two years of Nixon and Kissinger's "peace" with "honor," the American people had turned against the war, led by a significant peace movement.

Now, in Iraq, after only two years and 2000 Americans lost, the American public has turned sharply against the war, with only a rather timid antiwar movement led by one dead soldier's mother, and in spite of the steady drumbeat for war by New York Times reporter Judith Miller and the FOX News team. One has to wonder, "dug," have the American people gone soft, do you think?

The Big Guys who are promoting this whole Iraq business in the Bush Administration are known as "chickenhawks," because of their amazing unanimity during the Vietnam war of staying away from combat, while loudly supporting the war--like Dick ("I had other priorities," a.k.a. "Five Deferments") Cheney and George W. ("I served 'honorably' in the Texas Air National Guard by having some dental work done") Bush. The Republicans do have John McCain as a singular counterexample among their otherwise "chickenhawk" ranks. On the other hand, large numbers of Democrat leaders have served in the military (including John Kerry and John Murtha); their lonely counterexample is Bill Clinton (though, to his credit, he at least was not a hypocrite, having been on record at the time as opposing the war).

My next question for you, "dug," is this: Judging by the picture you post on the blog (and the utter lack of gray hair therein), you are obviously too young to have served in Vietnam. But have you served in the military, and especially, have you been to Iraq? If so, tell us what you saw there with your own eyes: Are we winning the "hearts and minds" of the Iraqis?
Everything I ever needed to know about anti-conservative propaganda I learned in Ju Jitsu. Never meet force with force. If your opponent is pushing right, you pull him right, adding your energy to his to throw him. If he reverses direction to prevent being thrown, you adjust to take advantage of this new dynamic and throw him left.

What is expected in martial arts is deceptive in the media or in political discussion, where people expect information without spin, not endless attempts to throw the other guy on the floor. Yet, Bush's critics have been doing this since the beginning of his presidency.

The latest example of this, just emerging, surrounds Bush's pending jury summons. The media is moving to take advantage of this to damage the President:

* If Bush reports, he will be cast as irresponsible for leaving the country leaderless during wartime and disrupting the operation of a local government with the Secret Service presence.

* If Bush doesn't report, he will be accused of shirking a civic duty, with comparisons made to the (unsubstantiated and mostly falsified) accusations of his not fulfilling his National Guard duty in the 1970s. Reporters will cite the ability of the nation to tolerate his absence from the White House during vacations.

The original title of the article (currently still present in the window title) was "Will Bush heed his call to (jury) service?" suggesting an attempt to take advantage of a planned refusal. The article had to be reworked after the White House announced Bush will serve this year. Start watching for the media to shift to the opposite attack.

Another form of this is in Bush's adapting the War in Iraq to changing circumstances. Depending on what's happening in a given week, the media either:

* Accuses Bush of being stubborn in "staying the course" despite "clear" failure of his plans, or

* Accuses Bush of changing his story, thus admitting his plans were a failure.

Notice the invariant element? Notice that it's "proven" no matter what really happens? This is how most of the memes concerning the President got started: Katrina, Valerie Plame, global warming, Iraq "quagmire," etc. This is not information gathering, it is propaganda dissemination. It's the reason why the media's trustworthiness rating is a lot lower than the President's.

Ordinary people expect some measure of sincerity from others, and that is not in evidence when someone is always crying "quagmire" without concern for what is actually going on. Anyone with a memory can recall that the "quagmire" talk started roughly four hours into the ground invasion. First, we were told the military would be stymied by the refusal of Turkey to allow us to stage on the northern border of Iraq, then they said the military would be bogged down in the desert unable to take the cities, then we were intimidated with stories of long-term urban warfare and civilian deaths in the millions, then it was the unreliable power grid, then the fact that we hadn't caught Saddam, and on and on ad infinitum. The media and the left wing made more false predictions of the eschaton than the Jehovah's Witnesses! When every one of these failed and Saddam's government quickly deposed, some of the media spun around and said, "We always said the country would be subdued in 15 minutes. Why is this taking so long?"

The preoccupation with Vietnam is rather tedious. General Honore's remarks before Hurricane Rita to the media, "Don't get stuck on stupid!" seem applicable. I suspect it has something to do with the Boomer generation's narcissistic desire to live forever in a past where they thought they were the light of the world. They "discovered" that war is terrible, and they were going to enlighten the world as if the light of God's wisdom shone only upon them. Maybe it has something to do with the "when all you have is a hammer, every problem is a nail" phenomenon. But, Iraq is not Vietnam any more than it's Kosovo or Bunker Hill. The inability to see a new situation for what it is, rather than another retelling of the same ancient myth is a form of blindness. John McCain and John Murtha gained no more unique perspective on the current situation from fighting in Vietnam than John Lennon gained from singing about it. And selective citation of political leaders' military records does not change the fact that Republicans outnumber Democrats in the military by more than 4 to 1 [Source].

So, my question back to you, Brad, is, will you blow an aneurism if you admit that many tangible benefits have accrued due to the Iraq War, and that, quite possibly, our country chose the best available option by invading Iraq to depose Hussein?
Sorry, forthcoming will be neither an aneurism nor an admission that there have been significant improvements from this unjustified and ill-advised invasion. All things considered, the perpetual War on Terror initiated by the Neocons has been a total bust, and the War in Iraq is just the latest proof thereof. Do you really feel safer now that the PATRIOT Act is in place? And that we have a color-coded level of fear alerts?

If a country doesn't learn the lessons of its past mistakes, then alternating generations will re-learn them. Now, THAT is tedious. Battles that were fought and won by unions a century ago for the rights of workers will gradually fade from memory, and eventually won't even be taught as history. The rich guys have the money, the greed, and the stamina to wear the working people down, like a silt-filled river. You can take that to the bank with you.
"All things considered, the perpetual War on Terror initiated by the Neocons has been a total bust, and the War in Iraq is just the latest proof thereof."

Does it mean nothing to you that: Al Qaeda is scattered into small groups that have trouble communicating with each other, instead of the tightly integrated group that had safe training grounds in Afghanistan; the Taliban is no longer blowing up cultural artifacts and keeping women ignorant; Saddam Hussein is in jail instead of killing civilians by the hundreds of thousands; terrorists who were mounting bold attacks on US warships are now reduced to planting bombs in shadows hoping to kill random passersby; Afghani and Iraqi citizens are now participating in their governments rather than living in fear of them; and US diplomacy now means something instead of being endless unproductive talk? Most Americans do not agree with you here. I find this one of the most significant improvements in the world since the fall of communism. And I'm old enough to remember all the hand-wringing and panic-selling the media did over Reagan's efforts to bring that about.

Sometimes the "lessons" of prior generations have to be unlearned, because they are either erroneous or outdated. As Abraham Lincoln said:

"The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."

Leftist activism is a rag-tag collection of groups that don't understand this. They linger on, protesting past sins (perhaps because it's safer than protesting current sins), trying to form a franchise out of solving non-problems. A civil rights movement that destroyed segregation now tries to claim a raison d'etre by finding racism behind every rock. Unions, a distinctly 20th Century phenomenon that peaked in the 1950s, have become nearly extinct by killing off the companies where they operate, much the way deer tend to overpopulate an area and deplete the food supply. Unions were not crushed by tenacious rich guys. They killed themselves. An economy cannot function on the premise and management and workers are enemies. Studies have proposed that the overall effect of unions on the buying power of American workers was negative--the result of business inefficiencies (and concomitant price increases) caused by union inflexibility. ("The contract says I only paint red things. Tommy paints the blue things, and he's not here today.") Similarly, Wal-Mart has a beneficial effect on working class buying power by allowing the same money to buy more goods.

And what would liberalism be without a bogeyman to fight, such as, say, the Patriot Act? The conspiracy theories I've heard about this one are almost as bad as "Bush hates black people," and "Whitey blew up the levee." Most of the things criticized in the Patriot Act are either imaginary, or refer to laws that have been on the books for decades. The things that bother me about law enforcement relate to the nanny state (like Santa Fe cell phone laws and the 10-mile-long school zone they've just created on route 502, an opportunistic ploy to siphon money from "rich" LANL employees to the reservations) and reliance on pseudoscience (psychics and polygraphs), not the fact that the FBI does not have to warn terrorists that they are being watched. Clearly the Left is upset that the emergence of global terrorism is wrecking their political plans (like gun control), but mocking preparation as engineering an environment of fear is not going to bring back the idyllic past.
"Idyllic past"... Right.

OK, "dug," I see in you myself from about 40 years ago. I, too, was hard-eyed and full of theory. (Pause to let sink in.) Since that time, I've learned to see working-class people, not as lazy bastards sucking off the capitalist that organized the factory, but most often as hard workers, doing difficult jobs, who may not be as fortunate as I have been, and who are struggling to just get by--sometimes holding down three jobs to make one-third of what I do. In the intervening years, I've also done some reading. Dickens is a good start, and then you could progress to Sinclair Lewis. There are other excellent books about the early union movement, and a more recent story of the Arizona miner's strike from the 1980's in a book by Barbara Kingsolver.

Of course, it is a constant of conservative commentary to point out the obvious calcified Mafia types that gradually took over some of the unions; but it is also true that fat-cat capitalists used Mafia-style violence to crush workers who were just trying to get the kind of working conditions we take for granted today. (Even the sainted hero of capitalism, Henry Ford, did his dirty part, the fascist pig.)

And if you want to earn your libertarian stripes, you'll insist on your right to own a gun (I do), just in case the Feds come knocking at your door by mistake. They're probably reading this thread right now as we speak, as part of their PATRIOT Act duties. As we used to say in my Berzerkely days when answering the phone, "F*ck you, J. Edgar Hoover!" Today, there's a new guy in charge by the name of Gonzales, so I'd probably add for good measure, "-And the pig you rode in on!"
As to the Perpetual War on Terror (a.k.a. The Use of Fear to Make Republican Rule Perpetual), here is a recent quote from Carl Bernstein of Woodward and Bernstein (you may, or may not recall Watergate--sorry, but it's part of that Vietnam history that needs to be dusted off at times and re-read):

"At a juncture in history, when the United States needed a president to intelligently and forcefully lead a real international campaign against terrorism and its causes, Bush decided instead to unilaterally declare war on a totalitarian state that never represented a terrorist threat; to claim exemption from international law regarding the treatment of prisoners... Instead of using America's moral authority to lead a great global cause, Bush squandered it."
"I see in you myself from about 40 years ago. I, too, was hard-eyed and full of theory."

Since we're getting into self revelations, and lest you think my point of view is rooted in callousness, I'd like to point out that I did not get my acquaintance with working class life from the literary perspective of Sinclair or Dickens. I am not one of those professor's sons whose pre-destiny pointed to Los Alamos. My parents, a metal-worker/firefighter and an office admin, made clear their opinions that the only honest work for a man involved heavy lifting. Their contempt for my preferring a life of the mind was evident. In fact, it cost me any hope of a relationship with them. Dinnertime conversation frequently involved talk of how evil managers and business owners are, sharpened by the fact that my dad's boss (the fire chief) was an S.O.B. who eventually destroyed his own career by picking a fight with the police chief in an office under video surveillance. Getting my undergrad degree was a constant drama of wondering whether I'd be allowed to finish school or whether my parents' fear that I was going over to the dark side (non-manual labor) would prevail over their intuition that a better life was not something to be despised.

Approaching my 33rd birthday next week, I think I can make an authentic claim to a lifetime's worth of pain. I've been through treatment for depression at a severity level just below that at which you start hearing voices and seeing people who aren't there. My eyes are not hard nor my theories certain anymore. I have no motivation left to join any "holy causes" against either "lazy unionists" or "fascistic capitalists." Despite what you may believe, my views are a bit more nuanced than that. Maybe it's postmodern of me, but I reject this dichotomy in toto.

The relative beneficence of modern life does not belong to man as his right, and it does not come without effort. It's certainly not the result of political activism, as if luxury for the working class was something the Roman Senate could have procured if it only tried. The Bible gives a vignette of ancient life that involves workers hiking to the center of town each day in hope of procuring employment by a land owner for that one day, with the wages paid each evening. There was no such thing as a steady job. For most of history, humanity has lived on the threshold of life and death, forced by necessity to work in conditions that would cause street riots if they existed in America today. Every time I go hiking or mountain climbing, I get a faint reminder of what this must have been like. This was Henry Ford's and John D. Rockefeller's world. Union strikes were not the harmless cliche they are today. They were a form of mutually assured destruction, a declaration of war.

So, my view of Dickens' and Sinclair's worlds is modified by my familiarity with colonial American life. Life without weekends and steady income was a reality of frontier life, not the diabolical creation of the Industrial Revolution. I rather like modernity by comparison, with its artificial fertilizers, genetically engineered crops, fossil fuels, antibiotics, artificial sweeteners, artificial elements, and shopping malls full of teenagers on cell phones. I'll gladly endure cranky supervisors, smog, lines at the airport, and suspicious investigators to avoid a world of starvation, infection, and predation. Every time I see some cocksure leftist railing about how modern life is taking his soul, I think that 15 minutes in the 12th Century, if it could be arranged, would do just the trick for an attitude adjustment. The checker at Whole Foods who tells me that organic foods are the only way to go has no idea that chemical fertilizers are the one thing preventing starvation from dropping the world's population by a billion or two.

That being said, I don't think I'm "settling" for a world where the rich few dominate the masses. Technology and mobility are great levelers. No longer does the massive industrialist have an insurmountable advantage over the "little guy." The internet era is an age of small mammals, not an age of dinosaurs. Once the small shopkeeper realizes he cannot compete with Wal-Mart on a price or volume basis, and adapts to a quality or service basis, he can thrive and even live higher on the food chain than Wal-Mart. Life is change, and the whole union premise tries to defy gravity and fails. This does not mean that life is not and cannot be rich and fulfilling for everybody, if one chooses to deal with the world as it is instead of the artificial constructs of ideology.
And just what would be so bad about 1-2 billion fewer people in the world? I grew up in the 50's with about half the population in the world that we have today, and it was pretty sweet going up into the mountains of Wyoming in those days. What is your idea of the upper limit on population of the planet? How about Santa Fe County? Twice what we got now? Three times?

It would otherwise appear to me that we are nearing some kind of convergence--hard though that may be to believe. If you like hiking in the mountains, and you like clean air, and you can even remember when you could dip your hand into a mountain stream and drink deeply without worrying about getting giardia, then you cannot be very blind and deaf to the need for us to protect, for ourselves, not to mention our children, or in my case, my granddaughter, the patrimony of our wild America.

The main source of potential disagreement seems to be diminishing, at least somewhat, since we both are embedded deeply into the middle class. My father was a high school teacher, who, after WWII decided that teaching wouldn't support a family, and so became a bookkeeper. In one of his jobs, the boss, who was a fellow Mason, asked him to cook the books, and he refused, thus becoming unemployed for several months. As a gradeschooler at the time, I was scared shitless about what would happen to our family. When the older son of the boss threatened to beat me up on the playground, I had some more worries, as you might say. Needless to say, my father and mother were staunch Republicans, and until quite recent times, so was I. When the Republican Party became the exclusive tool of the the monied elite, whose goal is apparently to destroy the middle class, using the misguided hopes of the Christian Right to change the country into some kind of theocracy, I abandoned all pretense of trying to defend their misbegotten agenda.

My suggestion to you is that, if you wish to bring the Republican Party back to the middle class, I cannot help but salute your efforts. Do not think for a moment that I am at all sanguine that the Democratic Party is any less committed to the corporate elite, except by a tiny, tiny epsilon. I take hope where I can, and I do occasionally see signs of resurgence among "moderate" Republicans against the tide of Bush/Cheney cryptofascism. (We can debate at a later time what I mean by that term, but suffice it to say that the middle class milieu I grew up in would be horrified at the notion of an American World Empire, crushing any underfoot who didn't see things "our" way. Remember, my father served in WWII, as did the fathers of all my friends, and while we were fervent anti-Communists, we stopped at the edge of dreaming about invading Russia--or China, for that matter. And the GI Bill of Rights meant that a whole generation of middle-class ex-servicemen got college educations, and could look forward to such "socialistic" guarantees that they wouldn't die of freezing or starvation in their old age, as was then provided by Social Security, a New Deal--Democrat--program stoutly confirmed by Dwight Eisenhower, Republican.)
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