Tuesday, May 09, 2006

New Plan to Screw New DOE Workers

New Plan for Energy Department Contractors' Benefits
By Stephen Barr
Tuesday, May 9, 2006; D04

A new policy at the Energy Department will shift contract employees to "market-based" retirement and health-care plans in an effort to reduce costs, officials said.

The policy change will not affect the pensions and medical benefits for about 200,000 current contract employees and contract retirees and dependents. It will apply to future Energy Department contract workers, changing reimbursement rules for their medical coverage no later than July 26 and for their retirement benefits by March 1.

Under the new policy, the department will reimburse contractors for only the costs of defined-contribution retirement plans, similar to 401(k)s. Future retirement and health-care plans provided by contractors cannot exceed industry benchmarks for value and cost by more than 5 percent, according to the policy.

Pension experts are calling for a repeal of the new policy, which they say will undermine the ability of Energy Department contractors to provide guaranteed pensions to their workers. The agency's decision also goes against long-standing efforts to hold the government up as a model employer that supports pension plans, they said.

"This is just bad policy," said Donald J. Segal , vice president of the Pension Practice Council at the American Academy of Actuaries.

Segal told the department in a letter that the new policy essentially denies an Energy Department contractor the ability to choose the type of retirement plan it wants to provide prospective employees and does not responsibly address the department's concerns about costs and cost volatility.

Sylvester J. Schieber , director of U.S. benefits consulting at Watson Wyatt Worldwide Inc., said the department's decision raises "a fundamental equity issue" -- contract employees being left with only 401(k)-type plans and civil service employees retaining a guaranteed pension and a voluntary savings plan with matching contributions from the department.

"To say we will reimburse one legitimate expense but not another . . . is saying to employers that you shouldn't be providing that form of a benefit," he said.

Traditionally, pension policy is made by the Treasury and Labor departments, Schieber said. "If the federal government wants to do this, we ought to have a deliberate policy discussion around it," he added.

Eight Senate Democrats, including party leader Harry Reid (Nev.), Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.) and Barbara A. Mikulski (Md.), have sent a letter to President Bush asking him to roll back the Energy Department's new policy. The senior Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, George Miller (Calif.), also has criticized the policy.

Energy Department officials said they are not creating a two-tier system and are not interfering with contractors' rights to select retirement and health-care coverage for their next generation of employees. Officials hope to improve the predictability of contract costs for benefits and to ensure that taxpayer dollars are properly managed.

The department pays 100 percent of pension and health-care costs for its contract employees, through reimbursements to more than 30 contractors that manage and operate research labs and Cold War-era nuclear weapons sites.

As of fiscal 2005, the department had incurred $11.6 billion in unfunded liabilities for pensions and medical benefits, officials said.

Energy Department officials said they could not speculate about the impact of the policy change, in part because contractors offer a variety of benefit plans. They defended the new policy as fair, since it protects current contract workers and retirees, and in keeping with private-sector trends, which require employees to shoulder more risk through retirement accounts that hinge on how well Wall Street performs.

They suggested that new contractor hires who are young might be more interested in a portable retirement account, such as a 401(k), rather than a traditional pension, which can require vesting and many years of continuous employment to earn a decent benefit.

Energy Department officials said the policy change had been in the works for about a year. The policy change was not cleared at the White House budget office, an administration official said.

Stephen Barr's e-mail address isbarrs@washpost.com.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Comments:
How about it, you young workers? (Gonna keep on truckin' with the GOP?)
 
Without a doubt, a 401k is superior to a pension. I want a balance with my name on it, not a fungible promise of future benefits. Pensions are dinosaurs, with the same failings as Social Security. Unfortunately, LANS provides no way for someone with 4.5 years of service credit to get into TCP2 without forfeiting everything.
 
Get your 401(k) filled up with...ENRON stock. Or GM, or Ford junk bonds. Best of luck.
 
I admit you have me cornered. The Enron failure proves that capitalism is failing. All the corporations making up the near-record-high DJIA are just an illusion. The whole thing's about to come tumbling down like the house of cards it is, leaving only the rock solid Social Security system standing. How could we have been so blind?
 
Don't think the 3 stocks/bonds you mentioned are on the LANS 401k menu directly.

I believe Enron stock, however, was a holding in the UCRP pension fund. I believe the pension fund also holds some small amount of BB "junk" assets as well.
 
So, let's here the part about why somebody would want to go to work at a DOE laboratory. It is clear that the DOE is hostile to its contract employees. This is not a very smart way to treat people who deal with nuclear weapons and national security. Of course, those are things that the DOE managers know nothing about.
 
I've about had it with the "market-driven" pension and the "market-driven" health plan and the "market-driven" Kleenex purchasing. Last I checked, the various and sundry laws of the US still didn't allow me to hang out my own shingle and provide my knowledge of Certain Subjects(tm) to the highest bidder. That means I'm not operating in a free market, so don't bring me your "market-driven" blithering.
 
Don't worry unnecessarily about the economy, or "capitalism," or being treated stupidly by the government, guys. With the present Power Elite in control, it won't be long before all of us are in the same boat--Social Security, "pension plans," 401(k)'s, everything--we will be able to exchange rubles for dollars, one-for-one.
 
"With the present Power Elite in control, it won't be long before all of us are in the same boat...we will be able to exchange rubles for dollars, one-for-one"

I've decided to open a tracking ticket for this claim in the Dire Internet Predictions System (DIPS) so we can revisit it in 10 years to check its accuracy. The serial ticket ID is 96712348672134.
 
Isn't it about time that we make the benefits of DOE employees "market driven?"
 
I accept dug's challenge. IF the present Power Elite maintains its grip on this country for ten more years, I am sure that we will indeed be in dire straits. But there is hope: Maybe 2006 will signal a small shift in another direction, and maybe 2008 will expand upon this change of course. In that happy event, I will welcome the eventuality that my dire prediction failed to materialize!

(dug:
Please add this footnote to the ticket.
Thanks,
-Brad)
 
Brad, you put a lot more faith in politics than I do. I don't see anything that matters to the prosperity of the nation happening inside political circles. All politicians do is try to bribe us with our own money and feed our fears for their own benefit. ("That Democrat wants to hand over sovereignty to the UN." "That Republican wants to roll back environmental protections.") It's all theater, manufactured by and for the media, and is only as relevant as we allow it to be.

The power many people attribute to the government or to the President is irrational, bordering on magical thinking. ("The President could reduce the cost of gasoline if he tried." "The President didn't do enough to stop the hurricane.") Short of the too-obvious-for-Washington solution of opening the ANWR to oil exploration, the only effect Washington's activities will have is getting politicians' faces on television. Where things stand in ten or twenty years depends on the ability of corporations to innovate.
 
dug:

You put a lot more faith in corporations than I do. Especially corporations focused on next quarter's bottom line, who then bribe politicians (of both parties) to let them continue cutting corners. One such corner is the ephemeral hope of solving our oil crunch by drilling in Alaska's wilderness. (By the way, have you, dug, seen the photographs of that heartbreakingly beautiful, pristine place taken by a former LANL employee Subhankar Banerjee? They may still be hanging at Gerald Peters' Gallery in Santa Fe. If you can stand there before each and every one of those magnificent three-foot-by-two-foot photographs and not in the end be moved by their haunting beauty, so completely devoid of human destruction, then your soul must need some serious repair work.) There is so much we profligate Americans can do to conserve oil and gas that I see no sense in letting Exxon-Mobile loose in ANWR.

Baby, you gotta have faith in politics; it's a rocky road, but there isn't any other path we can walk down to turn this disaster around. No benevolent dictator will save our asses. Things may have to get worse before they get better, but a Hitler or a Stalin isn't the way out. And corporations have to be held accountable to society for their actions, since they are just blind, dumb legal constructs for making profits, not moral decisions. We, the People, are stuck with doing that, and that means booting out the evildoers like Tom DeLay. -Without delay.
 
Dug,

Without politics, blacks would still be denied seats at "Whites Only"
lunch counters, to be old would generally mean to be poor and without
proper medical care (no SSN or Medicare), and you, Dug, would have no
explicit rights of free speech, which are guaranteed by the force of
our US laws and the Constitution -- both constructions of the political
process. To imply that politics doesn't matter is extremely foolish.

Corporations can be forces for economic good, but beyond that, they
can do little to better our communities. Do me a favor during the
next round of elections, Dug. If you truly believe that politicians
have little power for good over the lives of Americans, then please,
DO NOT VOTE! Stay home like the 40% of fatalistic Americans who seem
to believe that politics never matters. The other 60% of us know
that it does. Oh, and if you have kids (God forbid!), try telling
them that politics doesn't matter when they are sent off to some war
which a future US President deems important enough for shedding the
blood of US citizens. I'm sure the bullets that may be whizzing by
their heads will only be a figment of their imagination. Politics
could never have enough power to put them in that type of dangerous
scenario.
 
good2go, Without politics, there would have been no American Civil War, no Gen. Sherman ripping his way through Georgia, no morbid civil religion of patriotism created to sanctify the killing of 600,000 Americans. The Industrial Revolution would have made slavery obsolete in a couple of decades, without creating long-standing resentment nor a constellation of macabre memorials to "glorious" battles where American killed American. There would be no KKK, no segregation, and no white-guilt morality plays put on by insincere politicians. Condi would be rightly viewed as a role model and Jesse as a parasite.

The right to freedom of speech you mentioned was added because the Founders did not trust politics to respect (pre-existing) individual freedoms. The First Amendment is effectively dead now. Do you think the government will protect your right to free speech if you say something a politically powerful group considers "offensive"? You have the right to say any innocuous thing you like, but the moment you say something controversial, the government will reframe the issue as a "public safety" matter, and you will get shut down. (Cartoon of Mohammed, anyone?) The main bastion of free speech today is the internet, which ordinary people have access to only because telecom companies got involved in providing access. What has politics done for free speech lately?

The problem with true believers in politics is that they are so focused on distant visions of ideological glory that they miss all the skeletons at their feet: those unfortunate individual eggs who didn't have a choice about becoming the Great American Omelet the politicians called for. Politics is a necessary evil, but I'll vote for epistemologically self-aware individuals who don't get enthralled by their own propaganda.
 
Dug,

You worship at the altar of the "Great Corporate Gods", yet
you work for a government owned and operated National Lab? If
you truly belief the hogwash in that first paragraph, then
why are you here? This place is directly controlled by the
politicians like St. Pete. and is dependent on the vagaries
of Congressional spending (ie, "politics"). And to propose
that slavery would have quickly been abolished if we had
no political process? And to then degenerate the ultimate
sacrifices made by brave American soldiers in defense of
their country (either North or South)? What do you do when
you visit US war memorials? Spit on them?
 
dug:

You are an all-too-typical victim of the way American history has been taught for the past 150 years. The South lost the Civil War, but they won the next 100 years' peace. A great Dark Age settled across the land within 10 years after the end of the Civil War--renamed the War between the States by Southern racist historians.

In fact, Gen. Sherman was joined by thousands of (Southern) Union sympathizers in Georgia as he "ripped" his way across the state; they willingly provided aid and comfort to the Union Army. In other words, not everyone in the South was a slaveholder nor sympathetic to the plantation system, but those who were had the wealth and the racist tenacity to transform even the Southern Baptist Convention into a force for re-instituting the system that kept blacks down for another century after the Civil War. The Republicans in the South (and the North) grew weary of the persistent resistance of Southern racism, justified by egregious distortions of the Bible, and the country fell back into the slough characterized by the growing violence of KKK lynchings of blacks and torchings of their homes. Only President Theodore Roosevelt (Republican) had the moral courage to denounce lynchings from the bully pulpit; after him, darkness descended once again under his former protege, William Howard Taft, and then under the white supremacist Woodrow Wilson (Southern Democrat). Things began, slowly, to change for blacks under that OTHER Roosevelt (Democrat) during World War II. And by now, the two parties have turned inside out from their pre-Civil War heritages.

Condi and Colin do not really care all that much about the well-being of anyone--black or white--other than the rich guys running and ruining our country right now. And if you think that the current Administration has any deep-seated respect for your civil rights, then I think you should speak out forcefully against warrantless wiretapping; I am sure they will hear you and back away from doing it any more.
 
Considering that the responses to my Civil War skepticism have been 1) to insinuate that I would "degenerate" the American soldiers fighting on both sides of the same war or spit on US war memorials, (if you get to demagogue my points, I get to make fun of your grammar and syntax) and 2) to try to read past the message to the author and speculate about my educational background, I might assume that there are no issues with my factual claims, just anger at my political incorrectness. If my inability to embrace fundamentalist zeal for a senseless war causes the two of you so much upset, you could always seek out a forum with more conformity of opinion.

Having had a previous exchange over the worthiness of sacrificing soldiers' lives for freedom in Iraq, I'm intrigued that I've finally found something Brad is willing to fight for. I think 2,000 fatalities in Iraq is justifiable (if regrettable) to prevent the murder of millions. Brad seems to think 600,000 fatalities in America is justifiable to speed up the (inevitable) end of slavery. That makes up some rather cynical arithmetic, in my estimation, even if one accepts the agitprop that the Civil War was about slavery and racism. The Civil War actually started over the need to maintain a unified nation in order to reach our Manifest Destiny. How would a divided country conquer all those tribal lands to the West? All the early war rhetoric was about the "Union," not slavery. That part was added on years into the war, as a crass exploitation of spirituality used to counter Northern fatigue with the endless domestic bloodshed. Even Brad's anger over the attribution "War Between the States" reveals what the war was really about: federalism vs. confederalism. For "War Between the States" to be an inherently racist label, there has to be something intrinsically inclusive about a universal empire.

The fact that the Civil War became a Holy War explains how reasoning came to be excluded from appraisals of the War, how "racism" became a thought-stopping verbal totem, and how a person asking if 600,000 lives lost were worth it is put on the defensive with regards to his objectivity. For the record, I was educated in Ohio, no known bastion of Confederate sympathy, and came to question the "righteous cause" of the North only after my civil indoctrination began to wear off. Yes, I'm a badthinker. I've defied the collective. They will be coming for me soon.

In the mean time, it's my opportunity to reflect back a common criticism of Bush's move into Iraq. Brad, there is vicious tribalism all over the world right now, especially in Africa. How many American soldiers should we commit to stopping these "distortions of the Bible," (is Christianity your province? or is your concern for the purity of the faith adoptive?) "lynchings," "genocides," etc.? Should we invade 5 countries to abolish racism? A dozen? More? If "territorial sovereignty" was only a racist excuse of the Confederacy, should the U.S. disregard similar claims from the "axis of evil" in order to push back the "moral darkness"? Should we reject the United Nations as only a "force for re-instituting the system"?
 
The American Civil War was REALLY about slavery. Period. And it was OUR business--all of us AMERICANS--North and South. Nobody else's. The States' Rights argument was a Southern sham to protect their economy, the slave economy. If slavery was so "doomed" by the Industrial Revolution (which, incidentally, began a century earlier--remember the steam engine?), then why was virtual slavery re-installed so successfully in the South until the middle of the Great Depression?

But on to your main point: Should we go overseas to spread our idea of democracy, religion, or culture by force? Most assuredly not. Our entry into the First World War was fully fraudulent, while our entry into the Second World War was initiated by an attack of a foreign country upon American territory. Since then, we have ever-increasingly used our military as a world police force, mainly for our own self-interest (Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Yugoslavia, and--skipping Afghanistan, since you will most predictably argue that that was in response to 9/11, though I have serious reservations about how that was all handled--dropping the search for bin Laden, for example), and finally, there's Iraq. Now, I can smell it coming; You're going to tell me that if we don't invade Iran, they'll be invading us over here. -So it always goes when Neocons get whipped up.

Every time America has tried since WWII to intervene in the affairs of other countries, we have backed the rich and the oppressive (both their indigenous ones and our own greedy corporations); we've gotten it wrong EVERY SINGLE TIME. Well, MAYBE Clinton did the right thing in Haiti, and on the other hand, MAYBE he should have sent some troops to Rwanda, but I look at our historical record and conclude that we ought to pull all our military back to our own borders and the oceans surrounding us. And try to be good world citizens for a change.

But don't worry about that happening for a moment, since we have so much tax money earmarked for the military-industrial brotherhood: Halliburton, Bechtel, Lockheed-Martin, Grumman, and the other cozy members of the Carlyle Group. -Just follow the monotonous path of the money, and you'll see what I mean. No problem. No worries--except the exploding national debt.
 
Brad, we can't have much of a discussion if you're just going to make fiat claims about what the Civil War was "really" about. For my share, I'll stick with the consensus of historians on what it was about. Your timeline of the industrial revolution should center on when it began to transform American society (1830-1860 time frame), not the time at which the steam engine was invented. (Otherwise, we should date the invention of the computer to the 19th century.) "Virtual slavery" is too vague to address; some people claim the prison system is comparable to slavery. And perhaps you could understand how Sherman tearing up the vital infrastructure of the South could have delayed industrialization by a couple of decades? In any case, human workers have been almost completely displaced for the kinds of work slaves used to do, and slavery died out in Europe without war, so why do you claim war was the only answer to slavery? I don't believe that war was the answer. (My turn with that slogan.)

I can't find any pattern to what kinds of U.S. military actions you would see as legitimate. The only war you seem to approve was on our own soil, and I don't know what to make out of that. Considering what Cambodia and North Korea became, I don't think your claim that we picked the wrong sides needs a response. (What a visionary, that Pol Pot.) I'm not in favor of attacking Iran. It's a dying society. If they want to waste their modest resources on nuclear waste disposal, let them drown themselves in it. And if they develop a nuclear weapon, they can't use it against Israel (too small a country) without killing millions of Arabs and wrecking Jerusalem (a holy city to them), so it's not strategic.

As far as your worries about military contractors, they seem to rely on presuppositions I don't share with you, and absent some kind of exposition on your part, they just sound like conspiracy theories. Extremist fundamentalists put forward a number of conspiracy theories concerning Jewish-controlled groups financing and instigating wars for profit (recycled Protocols of the Elders of Zion junk). Sounds like basically the same idea.
 
Well, dug, we've reached a chasm of catastrophic proportions. It's not unusual for two people who see things through such different life experiences and filters as we two. I'll give it one more try, however. See if you can make it through "Lies My Teacher Told Me," an excellent book on American high school history textbooks by historian James Loewen. You probably won't even make it past the Introduction, but it's worth a try.
 
Brad, there is always the possibility of trying a different set of filters. Admittedly, I have so many partially completed books in the queue that I may not get to read the one you cite (and it's not because I only read stuff I agree with. I'm reading a bunch of "heresy" at present.), but given the summary on Amazon, I'd probably enjoy it (and agree with most of it). I'm surprised you did. For someone as a priori devoted to the notion that, "The American Civil War was REALLY about slavery. Period," the Loewen book is rather deconstructionist. If you back up and consider, is it really incredible to question whether the Civil War was A) righteous, B) effective, or C) about slavery? Which one of us has to be the "true believer" for us to be at an impasse now?
 
The Civil War was about slavery. Having grown up in the South, I absorbed the lesson taught that it was about the nebulous States' Rights, but that's crap. There was one right that they cared about and that was preservation of the institution of slavery. Read the declarations of secession:

South Carolina:

"The ends for which the Constitution was framed are declared by itself to be "to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."

These ends it endeavored to accomplish by a Federal Government, in which each State was recognized as an equal, and had separate control over its own institutions. The right of property in slaves was recognized by giving to free persons distinct political rights, by giving them the right to represent, and burthening them with direct taxes for three-fifths of their slaves; by authorizing the importation of slaves for twenty years; and by stipulating for the rendition of fugitives from labor.

We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. "


Mississippi:

"In the momentous step, which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery - the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin."


Texas:

"Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery - the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits - a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slaveholding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them?

The controlling majority of the Federal Government, under various pretences and disguises, has so administered the same as to exclude the citizens of the Southern States, unless under odious and unconstitutional restrictions, from all the immense territory owned in common by all the States on the Pacific Ocean, for the avowed purpose of acquiring sufficient power in the common government to use it as a means of destroying the institutions of Texas and her sister slaveholding States. "


Georgia:

"The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property, and by the use of their power in the Federal Government have striven to deprive us of an equal enjoyment of the common Territories of the Republic."


Virginia:

"The people of Virginia in their ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, adopted by them in convention on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, having declared that the powers granted under said Constitition were derived from the people of the United States and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression, and the Federal Government having perverted said powers not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slave-holding States..."

One after another after another; their words mean more than what historians for the defeated choose to assert. The War was about slavery.

Not that this has anything to do with the screwing of DOE workers, mind you.
 
Jim, it's the job of a historian to dig deeper than public statements into the cultural basis for an event. The spin that official statements put on something is rarely germane to understanding what is really going on. As far as being on- or off-topic, what profound discussion about the "New Plan to Screw New DOE Workers" is being prevented by this one? ;-)
 
So, dug:

Ohio, eh? That's no excuse for racism. Sorry.

Dig deeper. Your last comments to Jim Hill aren't up to snuff. Jim's got the 'life experience' ribbon, and you've got...Ohio?...sad... Now you've got no excuse not to read "Lies My Teacher Told Me." Drop the others on your list; move it to the top.

-Brad
 
Brad, What little I could gather of your last is 1) a predictable, manipulative slur of racism, 2) a demand that I rearrange my reading list to suit you, and 3) some insult about my hometown and an incomprehensible relationship between that and Jim Hill's "life experience." Try as you like, your political incantations are having no effect. Historians do not believe the Civil War was "about slavery." Epithets do not budge facts.
 
Before he died, Barry Goldwater owned up to the biggest mistake of his life--his opposition to the Voting Rights Act of 1964. It shows that Barry had a big enough heart to admit when he had been wrong. At that time in the mid-60's, it took me a year or so to come to the same conclusion, namely, that Barry had led us young conservatives down the wrong path, away from Abraham Lincoln.
 
Brad, this isn't about voting rights. This is about rah, rah enthusiasm for sending 600,000 young men to die for Manifest Destiny, for "Union." If that many people killed isn't worth a moment of your reflection, I can only conclude your concern over those killed in Iraq is cynical. Before you conclude Ohio is some hotbed of racism, take a look at a map of the Underground Railroad. Notice anything interesting?
 
Dug, this Civil War business was deadly serious. Nobody who is serious does any rah, rah-ing about it. It would have been a shameful thing to lose more men in that war than all others combined, if it had only been about 'empire.' It was, instead, about ridding the Union of the worst institution ever brought onto our soil. The genocide of Native Americans in the 30 years after the Civil War was no less offensive to the cause of human rights, to be sure. But human slavery and the Declaration of Independence needed to be squared, and Abraham Lincoln did that. It was the right thing to do, hard though it was. To confound that sacrifice with Cheney's greed for oil in Iraq is nothing short of obscene.
 
Brad, a comparison between Operation Iraqi Freedom and the War of Northern Aggression is one I am only too happy to make. The Civil War took 3,000,000 soldiers, of which 600,000 (20%) died. Iraqi Freedom took about 150,000 troops, of which (let's extrapolate) 3,000 (2%) died/will die. The Civil War liberated 4,000,000 people. Iraqi Freedom liberated 26,000,000 people. The Civil War sustained 1 death for every 7 people freed. Iraqi freedom sustained 1 death for every 9,000 people freed. So, Iraqi Freedom was 1,300 times more efficient with American blood. This is not surprising. Lincoln sent young men into battle with Napoleon-Era tactics against Kaiser Wilhelm-Era weapons. The "vaunted" military-industrial complex did us good here.

Both wars generated powerful insurgencies (KKK/Zarqawi, etc.) which engaged in acts of terror from the shadows (lynchings/bombings). War opponents imagined conspiracy theories (Lincoln plundering the South/Cheney wanting Iraqi oil) and complained about violated sovereignty. The difference with the Civil War is that, if the South had been defeated quickly, slavery would likely have been left to wither on its own over a period of years. Lincoln's war declaration makes it clear that the war was to "maintain the honor, the integrity, and the existence of our National Union." Iraqi Freedom was about, well, freedom, from the very beginning. Freedom as a motivation was tacked on at the end of the Civil War, only after people in the North became tired of the war.

It makes sense to view these two wars together, as they were largely about the same issues: unilateral Federal intervention to promote our notion of civil liberties. I suspect you are not activist in this respect, but as the Civil Rights movement of the 60's grew from pragmatism to propaganda, anything, including incredible bloodshed became retroactively sanctified (and, hence, unquestionable) in the Cause of the True Believers.

It's too bad the justification of the Civil War is something you must treat as axiomatic, and the only response you have to the numbers of dead is to say slavery was a really really bad institution. For someone with a sense of perspective, at some point the numbers do become too high, even when a Cause is involved.
 
"Operation Iraqi Liberation" was the original name for the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld fiasco, at least for a few hours, until someone pointed out to Ari Fleischer, the White House Press Spokesman, that the acronym was all too appropriate: O.I.L.
 
Wow. That's, uh, really amazing, Brad. You should have been a co-author of The DaVinci Code. With a nose like yours, you can sniff out a conspiracy several light years away. Here, I've got one for you. Abe Lincoln instigated the Civil War. As you know, Texas and Louisiana were members of the Confederate States of America, but both also have vast oil wealth! So, Lincoln's war was really a scheme to dominate the vast oil resources of the South to power the North's Industrial-Military Complex! Seek the Codes, man!
 
OK, dug, here were are, barely visible across the vast gulf that separates us. You represent the new face of the Neo/theo/con Republican Party. It's clear to me that I will not be welcome back into the GOP, at least in my lifetime. You probably think you're having a great joyride in the car driven by your heroes, the Three Stooges--Shrub, Dick, and Rummy. Meanwhile, the rest of us who can see the wall you're headed for will just have to do what we can to stop you.
 
This conversation has illustrated how, despite liberals' self-evaluation of being more intelligent than conservatives, when it actually comes down to critical thinking, liberals quickly fall back into foot-stomping and psychological manipulation. One liberal I debated on a political issue become so angry that he burst out screaming in my face in front of Otowi Building (to the amazement of a dozen bystanders). Another person seriously mused about kidnapping me to prevent my voting in the 2004 Presidential election. It's pretty clear to me that when a discussion moves beyond the first level of slogans, a liberal has very few things to actually say. There's really no point to my getting into a tangle with Brad over ad hominem attacks (racism accusations), straw men (Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld are your "heroes"), self pity (I'm sure the Republican Party wouldn't welcome me, *sniff*), conspiracy theories (it's really about oil), spurious relationships ("Ohio" is no excuse for racism) and demagoguery (how can you insult the ultimate sacrifice...). It might be interesting to have a discussion on the moral justification (or lack of such) for the Civil War, but since Lincoln has reached apotheosis in Brad's mind, he must treat the entire subject with reverence, not criticism.

Brad, I don't think you need to worry about whether the Republican Party welcomes you back in this life, because it's probable that the next life will be more suited to your political intuitions. After all, 99% of the dead who vote in American elections vote Democrat.
 
-Whatever. (Whew!)
 
Brad, my advice to you is, whenever you're around a crazy guy (who probably hates dogs): keep your eyes firmly fixed on him and back...slowly...out of the room.
-Your pal, Pat.
 
What's not to love about the irony of having someone calling himself "Pat, the Dog" calling you crazy? For a connoisseur of human folly, this place is ideal, but I'd be happy to see a lefty, just one time, concede without theatrics.
 
YOU are the theater, dug! Keep shooting, John Wilkes! Ahhhh...ya got me!
 
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