Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A Little More Hormatsian Wisdom

I just have to keep kvelling over some of the remarks made by Robert Hormats in that paper I last quoted. Here's a little more, where he goes on to say:

"In my judgment, the single most significant piece of economic legislation in the last 60 years was not a particular tax cut. It was the G.I. Bill of Rights. It provided, for a whole generation of people, the opportunity to go to college. "

I would not only ditto this remark, but go on to suggest that it was not just an economic and education bill, but also the most successful piece of social engineering, ever.

What should "social engineering" aim to achieve?

First, I have deliberately used provocative language in even mentioning that phrase. At worst, the term elicits images of Big Brother. At BEST it rouses notions of meddlesome, paternalistic liberals sticking their noses into everbody's business.

And yet, are societies not fantastic machines that deliver justice, opportunity and - through markets - things to nourish every need except those of the soul? (And a fair amount for the soul, as well.) Anyone who thinks that these vast machines have not been "engineered" is naive beyond belief. One of the chief purposes of politics is to mediate conflicting views over how to fine-tune their operation.

In fact, as we speak, some powerful groups are trying to re-engineer our society's basic format, from diamond-shaped (emphasizing meritocracy, open competition, small business and a vibrant middle class) back toward a more traditional pyramid shape, emphasizing interlocking directorates of inherited privilege. Again, find me a culture that had metals and farms, across 4,000 years, that did not see this kind of attempt happen. Generally successful.

It was exactly in order to counter that ubiquitous and ever-lurking trend that so many experiments in "leveling" have been tried over the centuries, for example, by seizing assets from elites and distributing them to those below. Often violent, these rebellions never achieved their utopian aims - though the European revolutions of 1789, 1835 and 1848 did incrementally help farmers and foster some movement toward a middle class. Far more often, such revolutions simply replaced one set of repressive ideologically-justified overlords with another, as happened when horrible Czars were replaced by horrible commissars in 1917.

Here is where the American Miracle has truly made a difference. Yes, it is reliable that some fraction (not all!) of any decade's aristocracy will try to find new ways to cheat, using their privileged position to grab more. (Instead of competing fairly by helping to create new and better products and services.) But each generation of Americans has found clever ways to stave off this relentlessly consistent behavior. And it has been mostly done without very much in the way of confiscature or simpleminded class warfare. Indeed, it can be argued that we have followed Jefferson's prescription of "a revolution every generation"... with only a few of them violent at all. Most weren't even seen as "revolutions" but mere waves of tweaking and reform

Above all, it is vital that "social engineering" must pass the basic test of do no harm. In other words, while trying to achieve some desirable rebalancing of forces within markets or democracy, etc. it is essential not to harm other parts of the machine that are working well. Especially the market based incentive system that spurs creative competition into a cornucopia of new goods and services, propelling a fecund economy. The goose that lays all the golden eggs. Including the taxes that arise from burgeoning wealth, a fact that liberals seem all-too often to forget

This is exactly what the GI Bill did, and it perfectly exemplifies modernism at its best. (And is it any surprise that it had George Marshall's fingerprints all over it?)

First off, it devastated the tight grip that elites formerly held upon higher education, sending millions of motivated, mentally disciplined, veterans to land grant universities, which in turn attracted many of the best professors away from the Ivy League. One result was a burst of creativity and small business so huge that the middle class, always America's pride, so burgeoned in size and confidence that the whole ideas of "class" began to vanish from public awareness.

This bill, at low cost, achieved all of the beneficial effects of "social levelling" without any of the usual nasty effects on market capitalism, because it was not repressive but stimulative.

For nearly all our lives, we grew accustomed to there being very little effective difference between middle class americans and the rich. Socially - and even economically - this was largely true. Only people in their 80s can today remember how things were back in the 1920s and 1930s, when it was not.

That is, till now.

Look around and recognize what's happening for the very simple thing that it is. All administration policies fall into place in light of a vast raid by kleptocrats. Not the brightest portion of the aristocracy, only the most rapacious part, willing to send us into war (stupidly) but unwilling (for the first time in US history, to tax themselves to help pay for it.

(At even a hint that anyone wants to discuss this, they shriek: "Class warfare!" knowing that Americans despise social levelling. All of us fantasize about joining the ranks of the rich, not cutting off their heads. But of course, this attitude won't last, if this goes on. Proving that these frat boys really are the stupid wing of the aristocracy. The Warren Buffets of the world - who look forward more than a year at a time - are not on their side.)

I could go on about the GI Bill, whose effects were too numerous to elaborate here. For example, I believe it directly caused both the incredible richness of musical creativity by the sons and daughters of GI's - back in the 60s and 70s - AND the incredible deficit in new melodies being written and performed today.

But enough for now. I'll add one more Hormat's snippet later.


For now, let me conclude with a few fun links!

Hey Verne! Hurry and have a look at: Maybe that Rutan guy is barking up the wrong tree with his rockets and composite hull material. Giant cannons, that's the ticket!

An interesting commencement address given by Steve Jobs at Stanford University: More humble and reflective than you might expect, filled with things you never knew about a modern Edison.

See the sci fi futurist "Year 2056 edition" of the Onion humor magazine at:  The Onion is normally terrific. But this special issue is just wonderful. Try looking at the choices of languages you can view the document in (supposedly). And the sci fi author-bases horoscopes. Dang. I guess I don't rate. Yet.

(#$%$#! I only 'algored' the whole Web in Earth.! And check out page 206 of The Transparent Society! How good a prognosticator do you have to be!)


Rik said...

What about the future? What can you do to make this happen again? Not too long ago I was re-reading about the four functions of myth & how only one seems to be left. But with increasing regulation one might suggest that government (certainly the present admin) has taken over the functions for individuals & groups.

There is of course the Hayekian argument against social engineering, saying more or less that every attempts fails and we had better let things evolve. But one counter that many designs "evolve" in some quite unexpected directions and that there is no reason not to try again.

dmgggg said...

Fabian Bolger for President. I would vote for him.

You are right on re the G.I. Bill. But there is also another very important but little discussed aspect of WWII. The draft.

People bad mouth the draft and it definitely is politically unpopular. However, the draft and that war brought people together like nothing else could.

The draft does a lot more than supply cannon fodder. It only does that when allowed to. What it does do is get young men off of the block and out into the world. Exposure to things beyond their neighbors. A sense of a higher community even. You will find that most guys do not really regret their time spent in the military. Was an adventure and an eye opener for most. Plus the more draftees you have in an army the less chance for that army to be misused.

Frat boys. Greed is good. Once upon a time management was pulled primarily from the ranks. Then in the 70's and 80's management was hired out of colleges. Those MBA's went to college to get rich. Their college networking served them well when they started sitting on each other's boards and giving each other huge raises and golden parachutes. Why not, you had all of those public corporations to loot and plunder, and politicians to buy.

Yeah, I got into a rant. :-)

What I really wanted to do was ask what happened to the guys left on the planet in your first book with the porpoises. Read all of your books a couple of years ago, but forgot the specifics. So when are you going to finish that story, eh?


Anonymous said...

The reason they think they can get away with it is that people do have a sense of class, just not a very clear picture of where they sit in the class structure. For instance, my highschool biology teacher once told the class "I vote Republican because I don't like paying taxes." True, this was before der Gropenfuhrer got his paws on the state budget and teachers' salaries, but this teacher of mine was (and likely still is) in a bracket that's usually hit by any regressive tax reform.

Everyone knows that they're extremely wealthy by 1920's standards, and most just assume that they're at the top because of this. I think I heard a while back that (making up numbers I don't remember) 15% of Americans think they're in the top 5% of wealth in this country.

dmgggg said...

Since I just found this site, I am excited and just can't control myself. So while I am on a roll...

Remember the J. Edgar Hoover book about communism? Seem to remember something about how the communist party worked from the top down. Orders were given and the party followed along.

Well, that has me confused. Isn't that what the modern Republican Party became. A cadre of coporate elite. Firm believers that corporations, of which the Communist Party was sort of the archtype, was best at leading the rank and file.

So, are they now Fascist or Communist? Did they have a change of heart or something? Is it just the same old faces in quest of power in a new paradigm?

sure said...

Something else that has changed between the era that fostered the Montgomery GI Bill and the Marshall Plan is simple, but far-reaching: the number of Americans who served in the armed forces then and now.

Very few Americans currently serve in any capacity in the armed forces, or show any willingness to do so. Not only that, but the military is increasingly seen as somewhat sinister and vaguely disquieting to a number of my fellow countrymen. This concerns me greatly, because we may not always be able to leave all of our problems on the footsteps of GI Joe. It concerns me for two main reasons.

First, America may find itself in the position of having to defend itself against a foreign agressor in the future, one that requires the swift nationalization and training of able bodied men to combat such a threat. If many Americans are ignorant about what the military does and how it operates, then we may see difficulty in raising such an army in the hour of need. (which is why we still have a Selective Service office)

Second, and of much more concern, is the vitriolic attacks on our military and the people who choose to serve in it. Something that is seen in the movies, on TV, in the press and even among our own politicians, as evidenced by Senator Dirbin's abhorrent statements on the Senate floor. These negative views from all sides ultimately come from a vast gulf of ignorance about how our military works.

Again, these problems can be laid on the feet of the abysmal public school system that we now have. when I attended high school I learned about how our state (Washington) was settled and the historical background for the makeup of our fair corner of America. Which is fine and dandy.

Unfortunately, I did not learn how our state or federal constitutions operate, including the robust referendum procedure that we have in Washington, thank God. I did not learn how the three branches of government create (legislative), enact (executive) and interpret (judicial) the laws of our land at all levels of governement. I especially did not learn how the military works and interacts with their civilian overlords.

The remedy? Mandate a period of instruction to teach, at a minimum, how the federal government operates, including the military. I get tired of having to repeat lessons that I learned in the USMC and the Army to truly ignorant people, usually the same ones that have a ton of great suggestions on how to "reform" the armed service. Or denigrate the men and women who elect to serve in it.

Either that, or force people to serve in some regard with the government before they will become eligible to vote, a la "Starship Troopers".

In any event, it seems to me that there is a criminal amount of ignorance that most people have towards the military, mainly because most people now do not know anyone who is involved with it.

knucklehedd said...

OK, since being trounced by Harlan Ellison in my own since-deleted blog, I'm amazed to see Mr. Brin's openeness here. I'll be a casual witness to the goings-on here and will only rant when it's a good time to do so.

Mr. Brin: Drive on, Sir! You are a supernova.

Anonymous said...

My high school, which was in a comfortable suburb but not exceptional, had civics and history classes that taught about the branches of government and their functions.

(Interestingly, we didn't get a whole lot of local history.)

". . . the robust referendum procedure . . ."

Man, you could teach a whole course on that. Coming from New York, those booklets full of measures were a big surprise.

And, HEY, please don't equate dismay and disagreement with the highest levels of the DOD -- Rumsfeld, et al -- as disrespect for the guys in the field! I know a *lot* of people on the left who have a lot of respect for and support service people while totally disagreeing with the Commander in Chief.


David Brin said...

I have frequently made clear my contrarian disgust at both left and right, when it comes to oversimplification of countless issues. In no area is this worse than attitudes toward the military.

The new right and neocons are horrors for their rash behavior, committing us to war with stupid plans that overruled professional advice. They ignored the doctrines that brought us unprecedented success in the Balkans and in Afghanistan. Rumsfeld seems determined to recreate his role in Vietnam, as the secDef who slunk away from disaster, blaming others.

And the blame fest manifests in the worst purge of the US Officer Corps in a hundred years. The 3rd best educated clade in American life and the one most dedicated to sacrifice and defense of our Constitution, is under full throttle attack as we speak...

... and the $@(*&#! left won't do a thing about it! They are unable to PERCEIVE that it is going on, so reflexively do they assume that all military men must be neocons. And all church-goers must be apocalypts. And all white, bourgeoise people must be racists. And if you want some demure restraint around your kids, you must be a prude. And if you ask that gay civil unions find another name for their version of the Loving Contract than "marriage,"then you are a totally homophobic troglodyte, not worth listening to...

No. Our officer corps is suffering for us now - as our soldiers are - and the left won't lift a finger to save the one group that stands between us and the cold wind.

Do I call the left 'as dangerous' as the new right - at this moment? No.

Do I call them - in many ways - as disgusting? You betcha.

We are modernists... of help me find another word. We are sons and daughters of Ben Franklin, Abraham Lincoln and George Marshall. And if we lose this fight, the old romantic incantations will take over, plunging us back into a night of endless drivel and war.

Anonymous said...

On the other hand...

Might the G.I. Bill have been the beginning of the destruction of the American university system? By giving numerous men a free ride into the university system- and thus making future generations of the middle class feel entitled to it- did we ultimately end up degrading our educational system? Did this piece of social engineering ultimately serve to cheapen the meaning of a college degree? As was mentioned in the last comment thread, in the discussion on education, Europe- which never had a GI Bill- still has a more rigorous education system, and to some extent those who come out of a European high school don't need a BA in the same way that their American counterparts do. So, on balance, it could be said that the GI Bill merely paved the way for the student radicals of the 60's and 70's (who felt entitled to the privledge of their fathers) and the subsequent rape of the humanities by postmodernists (which I don't think is as widespread and destructive as many conservatives claim, but is still mildly disturbing).

I share with the neoconservatives a feeling that the liberal arts have been all but demolished in stature in the past century (with some exceptions- analytical philosophy and economics are still bastions of reason, mainly because both are based on the same solid footing as the hard sciences- mathematics), yet I'm not so sure about their underlying theory, or their proposed solutions. As a classical liberal, I'm left with a quandry- are the enemies of my enemies truly my friends- or in this case, are they simply new enemies waiting to happen? It's the same question libertarians in politics are facing right now...

Anonymous said...

I know that you hate oversimplifications, but allow me to post mine own:

The reason that many liberals and left wing activists see the military as an inherently conservative because it is.

It is unlikely that a modern-day socialist or a follower of the liberation ideology, especially post-Vietnam baby boomers, would be inclined to think of the United States of America as something special and worthy of sacrifice in its defense. For reasons of ideology and worldview, this is an unlikely event.

More importantly, the military is comprised of individuals who believe that volunteering to defend the US of A is critical to the success of the nation as a whole. Something that fits better into the modern definition of a "conservative" worldview than a "liberal" one.

It is also important to mention that many Americans who serve in the military are unwilling to buy the bill of goods that is being offered from the extremist wing of the Democrats (such as the idiots). Namely, the notion that America is evil, and that Americans are stupid because they do not buy into the extremist nonsense that is prevalent in far left ideology.

Travel to foreign nations, if one is lucky enough to do so in the service, exposes the idea of the US as an evil boogeyman. My own travels to Kuwait, Iraq, Thailand, The Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and other nations drove home the point of just how unique and wonderful our country really is. The sad prostitution prevalent in Asia, the horrid poverty in the Middle East and the horror that is "Freedom Villliage" in Pam Mun Jon in the DPRK forced me to accept this.

Another myth that was shattered was the idea that only people from my corner of America were smart or educated. We in the Pacific Northwet are smug in our belief that we are somehow more enlightened, somehow better than those of the "fly over" portions of the US.. If you serve in the military, then you will definitely be forced to see that there are many kinds of people in the US from many different backgrounds, but few of them are deserving of any kind of contempt.

If I may paraphrase Mr. Brin from "Earth", there was a passage in the novel where a young recruit is forced into a confrontation with a horrendous human being, one who dealt in assorted parts of rare species for profit. He was forced, unarmed, to confront this man and killed him, dying in the process. One of the ancillary characters saw the veteran soldiers honoring this man as they carried his lifeless form out of the room. She viewed this with disgust and contemplated the day when there would be no more need for their kind. At which point the voice of Mother Gaia told her that there would always be a need for heroes. Thank God David Brin gets it.

Finally, I would like to say, in the immortal words of Robert Heinlien: TANSTAAFL. There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch (hat tip to "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I hand out business cards with this little motto on it) Anything that is worthwhile is also worth defending. This is something that many folks who are left-of-center will never understand. Whatever form our government takes in the future, there will always be a need for a few brave men (and women!) to man the walls to keep the barbarian hordes from plundering our political, cultural and physical wealth.

Attacking people who volunteer for the defense of this nation for the sake of a few shabby political points is, well, and indefensible thing to do.

David Brin said...

Nicq... you speak very well and courteously. So it is with a friednly smile that I say that I cannot find a single statement in your two long and well-spoken paragraphs which touches even glancingly upon reality.

I lived for two years in London and two years in Paris, and it is true that upper crust europeans make a better show of intellectual erudition... and they actually know very, very little.

As do most Americans. So? Most Americans at least (used to) CLAIM less certainty about the world. They had a custom of mental agility. As expressed by you folks here.

There are few ways that the current national leadership is not trying to "europeanize" america... while heaping verbal abuse at Europe. Example. The GI Bill resulted in the vast majority of US millionaires having earned their wealth, while most in Europe inherited theirs. Exactly the system the neocons admire.

And then there is Strauss and the absurd notion he started preaching in 1946, that the horror drenched and failed and ravaged Europe that he had fled should LECTURE about the right way to run a society, to happy, successful, tolerant, agile and dynamic America?

That we should copy the platonist incantations and smug, classist domatic systems that made that continent a living hell... till we stepped in?

rgrgrgle (imagine a strangled sound of pragmatist rage.... ;-)

David Brin said...

Peter. I find little to disgree with in what you say, but deeply worry about the tilt that you display.

YES! I rant on and on about the calamity of leftism that threatens to take over the Democratic Party...

Thet THREATENS to take over.

But it hasn't. Not yet. The Democratic Party is the last and only major institution in America that is still... marginally and barely ... dominated by pragmatists and realists willing to negotiate and see a variety of points of view.

In contrast, the GOP is now thoroughly the tool of a seriously awful cabal that has Barry Goldwater spinning fast enough to power half of Arizona.

Yes, keep your worries and dark doubts about the "left".

But separate those "leftist" fools from pragmatist "liberals" for now. Because you need the latter people, man. They are the core of the alliance you need to join (albeit temporarily). Only they can oust the far worse neocon monsters. With the help of modern people of all kinds... like the retired officers who are now stepping up and speaking out.

Hold your nose. Stifle the urge to retch. Find the bearable ones and teach them to wean themselves of lefty rhetoric.

But notice which portion of civilization's wall is currently breached. It is over on the right.

sure said...

Nicq, I have an expansion of your previous idea about a university education being devalued since the GI BIll was enacted is close to the theme that you need to understand, but does not quite hit the mark.

No, the real problem that we face today is that of the feeling that most Americans now have. That is, a feeling of entitlement to everything. No one, with a few exceptions, seems to understand that anything great is difficult to achieve and therefore requires work.

Also, I believe that all of our precious institutions, from our hemogenous language and cultural zietgeist, to our universal suffrage at the polling stations is severely undervalued. Too many people seem to think that the rights we enjoy and the freedoms that we are garunteed come free and you don't need to work for them. The motto of our strange tribe seems to have changed from "Ask not what your country can do for you" to "Gimme!"

Wrong-headed thinking at its worst. Nothing good or worthy in life comes free. While everyone is entitled to vote (with a few exceptions) no one wants to take the time to truly understand the issues any longer, preferring to vote a straight party ticket or not bothering to show up to the polls at all because it is too much of a "bother". Too many people feel that their voice does not count (tell that to the people of Iraq with purple fingers!) TANSTAAFL.

Too many people see the government less as "Uncle Sam" and more as "Daddy Sam", who is willing to give them more and more. But who is going to pay the bill? Again, TANSTAAFL.

It is this sense of entitlement that is crippling our nation more than anything else, IMHO.

BZTV said...

Great discussion. My dad, who was the first in his family to go to college, did so because of the GI Bill, and he became an American History teacher, and because he did that, my life has been better and more informed. Anyway, great blog, keep it up.

Anonymous said...

You are right, I should have said "ultra-liberals". I do not think that all of the left has been captured by the hate groups...just that they have way to large a voice in their worldview. Whatever happened to the Scoop Jackson school of loyal dissent? I have heard someone say that liberalism is a mental disorder. Perhaps a better way of putting it would be to say that ANY kind of blind faith in any ideology is insane.

Yet another sad polarization of political messages in the world. I will admit that I voted for Bush a second time (WA would not allow me to vote the first time in 2000 through bungling beuracratic ineptitude, grrrr.) I will say that I had to hold my nose in doing so. the only reason I voted for Bush over Kerry in the last election was because I was appalled by the "Winter Soldier" investigation and the lies that Kerry told in them about his fellow soldiers.

If that makes me a single-issue voter, then so be it. But I have serious reservations about voting for any person who would express these lies.

After the recent preformance of "Dubya", though, I wish I had wrote-in Alfred E. Newman instead.

Anonymous said...

My grandfather went to college on the GI Bill, even though he had a full football scholarship to the U of W. In the depression. Which speaks volumes about the enormous size of the man.

My father went to college on the GI BIll.

Half of my cousins, about 50 (Catholic familiy) did so as well.

My other grandfather did the same.

Two of my aunts went because of it.

Most of my uncles, ditto.

Several of them went on to get advanced degrees in medicine, law, education, and so forth. All on the government's dime through the GI BIll.

Your main point about the GI Bill stands firm. Namely, that it is one of the few examples of social engineering that has stood the test of time and given dividends far out of proportion to its expense. At least, in mine own experience.

Anonymous said...

One more thing, and then I sign off swear to God...

The main reason that millions of veterans were so successful, and continue to remain successful, is because the GI Bill is NOT an entitlement but rather a benefit. Entitlements are given and received freely. Benefits are earned. This is the simple distinction that enables veterans to universally perform so well in school. See previous entry on the meaning of TANSTAAFL.

What is most interesting is that veterans' benefits are non-taxable. So, by the federal government's standards it is "invisible income".

BUT, it is "visible" when I applied for a Pell Grant and was told that I made "too much" money on the basis of my $1200 a month benefit. I guess that they do not understand how much it costs to live in Seattle nowadays. (rape with violence, or on par with Tokyo housing costs.)

So, two branches of the federal governement see my GI Bill in vastly different ways. Well, I think it is interesting at any rate.

Anonymous said...

The left/right divide is no longer useful except to those who are trying to be divisive. It is more important to see people as decent vs. corrupt. To want to make a good living for oneself is decent. To do so at the expense of others is corrupt.

It's not left/right that is the problem in this country. Different people will awlays have different ideas of how to address the various issues.

The problem is, pure and simply, the corruption.

Anonymous said...

Brin (Jan 7th - Dec 17th, retrograde):
You are condemned to write endless sequels to the latest sword & sorcery epic, Lord of the Potters, until Saturn enters your Carport.

dmgggg said...

Hmmm, people have a way of over-analyzing things. Something that comes from having life so good that one has the time to do such a thing. Doesn't happen in societies where one has to scratch for a living.

Ms Woodka is so right.

Ambition and greed. They are inversely proportional to ethics and integrity. Those are people that put all of their eggs in this basket, meaning this manifestation of life.

I've lived long enough to see not much difference between today's neocons and yesterdays' Kennedy/Johnson liberals. Different sides of the same coin. Ambitious and willing to spout and do anything to reach the top.

Then there are those who know how to use those coins to get what they want.

Looking over this blog I see that we still have the tendancy to have romanticized notions about the nobility of man. The simple fact is we tend to believe in that which makes us a living. Be it a particular religion or economic system or whatever. For the ambitious. Most people just want to eat, get laid, and have a little adventure in life, with the least amount of hassle and heartache.

Mr. Brin, I agree you with to a point about the officer corps. But there is some rot up there. The leaders are chosen by how they get along with the higherups. Corruption is there also. Ticket punchers.

I spent 7 years in the Army during the Vietnam era. I hate to say this, but there was not a single officer I encountered that I could trust. Yet, while stationed in Turkey I met two that I would go into hell with. Because they were true professionals. They also had very strong political views about preserving their constitution. That is why they had their coups on occasion. And then go back to being soldiers. One of the few places on earth where the army worked for the common good. America is too corrupt for that. That is why I am a firm believer in the draft. Citizen soldiers are what keep armies honest. Professional armies are made up of people unlike most of us. Mercenaries are not known for caring who is in charge or how they do it. As long as they get paid.

But this country and world will survive. Action, reaction. People will get their toes stepped on and then start reacting, and will get exploited by those with ambition and a plan and things will get rearranged and you start over again, following at least a slightly different path.

It has to be that way. Humanity has the idea that we are individuals. We are individual facets of a larger entity that at this time is suffering from amnesia and brain damage. Takes time for the neurons to grow back right. So, in the meantime we try to take care of the facets the best we can, and on the occasions when a cancer or a parasite is too threatening, we get rid of it for the time being.

It will all come out in the wash.

Anonymous said...

It's always refreshing to see debate, but I'm terrified at how we (the debaters) have allowed the terms to be defined by the agenda setters. Why have we permitted so many false dichotomies (because it's invariably an either/or proposition that's set out), instead of rejecting the paradigms and calling things as they are? Donna is sooooo right. This isn't a left/right thing. Abortion and Terry Schiavo aren't the greatest most society-defining issues of our time. I don't care about gay marriage, so why is it in my face all the time?

The treatment of the military -- that is a real issue and I applaud the fact that it is being addressed at all. Not the "support our troops or be branded an infidel-I-mean-unpatriotic-scumbag" issue, but rather that impalpable thing that defines the role of the military in a modern society (ours), and attracts (or repulses) certain members of that society. Military service is a class thing. It's a race thing. It's an alternative to part-time work at Wal-Mart. An alternative with benefits, potential advancement, a source of pride... for some. The folks who join have these expectations, but they haven't realized until recently that all this comes at the cost of being subservient to the frat class. The chicken hawk ideologues and divine right power-preservationists who would *never* send their own into harm's way, but don't hesitate when it's OPK (Other People's Kids).

There's a solution. Mandatory service. We need to stop idealizing (for better or worse) the concept of military service. It should be neither stigmatizing nor aggrandizing. The ability to use force is a necessary deterrent and policy-enforcing tool. It should be viewed from a strictly pragmatic standpoint. None of this false jingoistic crap we've been fed. I'm offended that people die because someone feels it's the "right thing to do" when he doesn't have a clue about consequences. It's all a game. This piggishness leaves families with the option of turning their backs on their own families or voicing support for positions they wouldn't have otherwise taken.

Mandatory service. Everyone in the country should know that there is a price to freedom, and everyone should pay that price. It's not death. It's service. It's perspective. It's a sense of consequence. There is no better way to understand violence as a solution of last resort than to be faced with the prospect of having to use it personally. In Fahrenheit 911, Michael Moore pointed out a pretty sad but telling fact when he revealed how few of our elected officials had children in the armed services. Mandatory service would cure this problem.

Charles Rangel (wasn't it him?) had a point with wanting a draft. We won't willingly send our own into harm's way unless it is absolutely necessary. We've gotten away from thinking all those "voluntary" (I use the term loosely because it's often like calling prostitution voluntary employment) are truly "our own" so we don't hesitate to send them off half-cocked into a morass of questionable need.

thordora said...

I would tend to place the reasoning on the changes to the social conciousness that WWII and the draft rendered on the general population. yes, I think the G.I Bill was important, but I think that wars that linger, and that truly represent some of the more basic moral and ethical standards for most westerners have a broad and definative impact on a culture, and today we see that deficit as we live with governments that take us into questionable wars, and a media overload that doesn't allow for simple patriotism (not necessarily a bad thing).
I've prattled on somewhere else (I can't remember where) about the lack of TRUE rights of passage in today's world. We don't feel like grown ups-how does that affect a culture, a country, when it's expanded? How do you engineer a group that has no true sense of itself, no passionate wrongs to right, no guiding coda?

I'm babbling myself into a hole here....just random thoughts on a very interesting discussion...

mapletree7 said...

I've lived in Italy, where there is mandatory military service. Most of the public seems to think it's just for fun, and only career military men should be exposed to actual action. I predict the same would happen in the U. S.

Yes, Marshall was the bestest. I highly recommend Dean Acheson's memoir of his years in the State Department, which I reviewed here, for a great portrat of Marshall. And David Shipler's 'The Working Poor' for the thorough kind of analysis that needs to be done to create any successful social engineering scheme.

Anonymous said...

@Eli Nelson:
Isn't a draft just what the *neocons* would want ? I mean, when they run out of soldiers to send to Iraq, a draft will probably be the first thing they think of. Do you really want them to get their way ? Do you have a choice ?

Besides, the powerful (who seem to be making all the decisions these days) will always find a way to protect their offspring, making sure that their kids will serve the nation far away from any battle lines.

dmgggg said...

"Isn't a draft just what the *neocons* would want ?"

No. Not at all. Scariest thing in the world to them. Anarchy in their quest of order with them at the top. Incessant questioning and leaking. Why would they want a power base that questions them?

But it isn't just the neocons that are "bad". Some of their ideas are very pragmatic and realistic. It's the detachment from the rest of humanity that this current crop of wannabe rulers that is scary and bad.

Up until recent decades it was an obligation for the ruling classes to go to war when necessary. Meaning sending themselves and their sons off to fight. Most rulers of old were fighting men at one time or another. Part of the tribal instinct of man. It is the mercantile class that has perverted things today. The bean counters.

Everyone in a tribe or a democracy has some voice. It may not count, but leaders in such usually become that by consensus.

As much distaste as I have for the crew in power now, they are fighting a real evil this time, and not just protecting the status quo and their positions in it. There is actually a worldwide battle going on fighting goons and thugs. Iraq is not about making profits from oil. It is about breaking the back of thugs and goons with guns imposing their will on others. The difference between being cajoled and tricked into getting things done and having someone do it by brute force. Don't tell me they are doing the same thing here.

Funny how things work out in the scheme of things. If it wasn't for Stalin, considered one of the great evil men, and his total ruthlessness, you wouldn't have had a second front and millions of bodies to absorb munitions and the personnel that used them, preventing them from being used on us. Over 20 million Russian bodies won that war by depleting material and personnel.

The lesser of two evils. It is easier to deal with our type of evil than guns in your face. You control that evil by joining them.

If everyone joined the Republican party, who would they have to point a finger at and call an enemy, distracting attention from their games? What would it do to their machinery?

Same goes for a universal draft. Everyone becomes involved and part of the process and shares in the responsibility and judgements. Thugs and crooks don't exist among empowered people.

Which brings up another rant.

When I was a kid if you did something wrong out in the world someone would discipline you right away and by the time you got home your parents would know about it and you would get your second dose of discipline.

Cops were called when needed. People took care of problems. Peer pressure. Then laws were passed telling you that only the government could protect you. Government became a separate entity from the people. And we all have seen what has happened since.

We were divided and conquered, and exploited.

You throw just about any group of people together into a new paradigm and they find their own level, and it usually doesn't entail the thugs running things. But when you setup a system where you are declared just a particular cog in the machinery that supports the top, then you allow the abuses to begin.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm gonna have to call bullshit on a few things people have said, no offense intended to them as individuals.


blandland said:
"Second, and of much more concern, is the vitriolic attacks on our military and the people who choose to serve in it. Something that is seen in the movies, on TV, in the press and even among our own politicians, as evidenced by Senator Dirbin's abhorrent statements on the Senate floor."

I'm gonna have to step up and defend Senator Durbin here. First, what he actually said.

Senator Dick Durbin Said:

" When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here -- I almost hesitate to put them in the record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:

On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold....On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.

If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners."

I am assuming the "abhorrent statements" you're referring to are when he mentions that if he didn't say it was an FBI agent reporting what American soldiers were doing at Guantanamo Bay, you'd assume it was something done by somebody like Nazis, or Stalin, or so on. If you read what he actually said, he in no way said "American soldiers are Nazis!" or any of the other ridiculous talking points spewing from people like Rush Limbaugh. He said that our actions are the kinds of actions you would associate with those kind of people, not Americans. Is this wrong? Would you normally associate torture with American soldiers? Of course not. But we're doing it. Not just Guantanamo. Not just Abu Ghraib. There's other prisions, like Bagram, and secret CIA prisions. The military has, with their own investigations, found at least 30 cases of prisoners dying that they have admitted were murder by guards. We are holding people without evidence, without trials, and beating them, hanging them from chains for days, leaving them in blistering hot rooms without water, shoving lightsticks up their asses, and what else we don't know, because the government won't let us know. This isn't "a few bad apples". Alberto Gonzales, who got appointed to be the Attorney General of the United States, approved memos authorizing torture. The general who presided over the first abuses at Guantanamo got sent to Abu Ghraib to "soften prisoners up." And then got promoted.

Most of our soldiers are putting their lives on the line and doing the best they can, but they're undermined up most of the chain of command by the people who allow torture to happen, which turns even more of the middle east against us and acts as the greatest recruiting tool fundamentalist terrorists could have asked for. And torture goes against all of our American morals and principles. Calling that out isn't "abhorrent", doing it and allowing it to continue is abhorrent. And did I mention, It doesn't work?

peter bland said:
"It is unlikely that a modern-day socialist or a follower of the liberation ideology, especially post-Vietnam baby boomers, would be inclined to think of the United States of America as something special and worthy of sacrifice in its defense. For reasons of ideology and worldview, this is an unlikely event."

Malarkey. One of the biggest reasons so many liberals "hate" Bush is because we DO value America, and find it special and worthy of sacrifice, and he's working against all that we hold dear. Putting our soldiers in danger for no good reason, making the world hate us more, trampling over rights here at home, pissing away the hard work of millions and giving it as gifts to his rich buddies, and lying about all of it. If there's any reason most liberals wouldn't join the military, it's twofold. First, a complete distrust of the leadership, up to and including the Commander In Chief. It's one thing to put your life on the line for something you believe in, that's important to you, it's another to put your life on the line for some war fought on trumped up reasons, with no plan, and directed by people who don't know or care enough to even listen to the people who're supposed to know what they're doing. And the second would be the culture of the military. I imagine you've heard of the religious discrimination at the Air Force Academy? I will happily admit that the military does a very good job, most of the time, on matters of discrimination, and religious tolerance, but things like the discrimination at the Air Force Academy (and the Tailhook scandal, and...) aren't unknown. Also, the military's regular firing of Arab linguists for being gay hardly motivate liberals to join.

And I say this with a surprising number of my friends being military or ex-military, and a good chunk of them being liberal. So it's not an absolute bar, but when it seems like the rest of the army is Evangelical Conservatives, it's not the first choice for liberals.

RoughTexas said...

Terrific. Thanks for that!


dmgggg said...

Let's have a reality check here.

You have individuals with mindsets that justify to themselves the dismembering and physical abuse of others, and of being very comfortable with exercising violence on others to make them see things the way you want.

Now, these are certain pathologies that are influenced by group think, such as perversions of some religions, in order to achieve the wishes of just a few. They would even kill themselves to kill you.

They would have no problem lopping off your head if you looked at them cross-eyed.

You don't influence these people very easily. Making them go to bed without their cookies doesn't just do the job.

These kind of people are not really tolerant of others, and seem to eventually want to run their lives.

What it boils down to is whether you feel they will leave you alone to do your thing and they do their thing, or whether they are an imminent threat to your health and happiness.

Everyone has a right to live. But not if they threaten my life. Or those of my loved ones. Or anybody for that matter.

Life is very plentiful on this planet. The population has doubled since I was a kid. I don't feel I should have to accomodate such personalities. I doubt if most people do.

You exterminate such mentalities. And the families that produced them, along with their progeny. Innocent victims? What about the ones they kill in their pursuit? When those close to them pay the price for their actions they may just start to understand something and fit in with evryone's pursuit of life, liberty, and pursuits of happiness. Brutal, but aren't they? You cut cancers out. Lose a little of the body to save the whole.

Personally, I see no reason for the brutality that has been exhibited by our own re the prisons. It is sadists on sadists. They need to be dealt with, also. If they want information from these people it is much easier and more reliable to use drugs on them. Get into their goody box. You can get them to spill their guts with some drugs and a little psychology.

Man runs this planet because he eliminated threats. Tolerance of ideas and beliefs are one thing, but when they turn to violent ations as being done today you need to get mean. Then you can go back to being nice. Man has done that for eons.

thinrim said...

Brin, I'd like to comment on the "American Dream", which to me was at the heart of your original topic. What is it? It's the widely held belief that anyone can make it in this country. Why is it important? It's what brings order and general contentment to most of the land. It prevents class wars because people are free to move around in the socioecon soup. If you buy that then obviously the American Dream is worth protecting and fostering. How to do that? Is it alive? Are we being good stewards of it? What is the future of the AD? That's for us to decide.

I think the biggest threat to the American Dream is globalization. WSJ, not exactly your leftist newsletter, reports today that many skilled workers with HS degrees are moving downscale. (,,SB111939582597865857,00.html mod=todays_us_page_one) Many skilled jobs are moving offshore, making it harder for many people to rise even to equality with their parents. Meanwhile, the mobile, agile and educated classes benefit from the additional specialization that globalization provides, not only earning more money but stretching those earnings over cheaper and cheaper goods. Sounds great for us lucky few right? Wrong! This will eventually end up bad unless we act. Most likely, we'll see electorate-imposed socialism which, ironically, just locks everyone in their existing strata.

How to avoid this? Should we just erect trade barriers? NO! Why? Because as 9/11 taught us, we are not alone on this planet. The American Dream is as essential to the worker in China and Dubai as it is to the one in Wisconsin and Michigan. Without it, there's no hope and without hope, there's no civilization. Trade is essential for peace.

So what do we do? Push education! The WSJ article quotes a study that 62% will get a college degree if either of their parents did, while only 19% get it otherwise. That has got to change. Most communities spend heavily on education but where I live, the system is so rigid that accountability lags and children ARE being left behind.

On the positive side, I have also seen some encouraging signs regarding the American Dream. Our company hired a young guy who was born in Viet Nam and came to the US via Hong Kong. He speaks four languages, was supervising a team of 45 workers, and has bachelor's degree in computer science even though he is only 21. Needless to say, he is excellent employee and will earn a fine living, probably as my boss someday!

Jay Denari said...

The reason that many liberals and left wing activists see the military as an inherently conservative because it is.

I'd agree, to a point. But there's a difference between conservative in the sense of trying to maintain the rights & privileges we as a society have and "conservative" in the sense we're seeing it thrown around today. Today's neo-cons are NOT true conservatives, although they've coopted the lingo of conservatism -- they seek major changes that largely benefit themselves and are willing to do anything to get them, including corrupt the military.

Here I make a distinction between the actual people in uniform (who SHOULD collectively be conservative in the sense I defined above, regardless of their personal political views; after all, who wants a military that believes it has the right to overthrow anyone it doesn't like?) and the largely civilian bureaucracy of the DOD, which has been semi-corrupt for some time.

The breach of that barrier is what's most threatening about the purge Mr. Brin talked about -- whenever the military is beholden to an ideology, freedom goes out the window VERY quickly. Such purges are exactly what happened in the early days of the USSR and probably in every other totalitarian regime that's ever existed. The last thing despots want is a competent armed force opoosing them from inside.

Of course, that leads the slightly paranoid corner of my mind to think.... maybe that's exactly what the neo-cons are trying to do: undermine public confidence in the armed forces specifically, and public service generally, as a force for equality, just as they're working to undermine the effectiveness of numerous other public programs that have promoted shared responsibility for the future. Personally, I have no interest in serving in the military b/c I don't like the hierarchal structure & suppression of individual questioning it requires. But I DO support the idea of universal service if it includes non-military options -- why not have a draft for the Peace Corps and other international efforts to promote education & human welfare?

blandland wrote:
Too many people see the government less as "Uncle Sam" and more as "Daddy Sam", who is willing to give them more and more.

There's some truth to that.... and the biggest violators are some of the corporations, who have been trying to get whatever they can from the US govt and people while avoiding their responsibilities (including moving their HQ overseas to avoid paying their share of taxes, not providing benefits, dodging cleaning up their ecological messes, etc.)

Sorry if this seems rambling...

Anonymous said...

If Dirbin has nothing to be sorry about, then why one earth would he apologize (well, kind of anyway)? I do not really believe that he is deliberately malicious towards our military and the troops. Not only would this be a career killer for such a view and a stupid thing to do, and Dirbin is definitely not stupid, it would also be a gross distortion to say such a thing at all.

It is one thing to be critical of the higher eschelons and their actions and easy to distance yourself from the notion that the troops in the field are nazis or communists. If he did not want this speech of his to target the troops, then why did he use the language that he did?

I truly believe that the august senator from Illinois is sorry for his remarks and did not mean to say the things that he did.

Unfortunately, his regrettable remarks were picked up by Al Jazeera and used for good propoganda effect. Somehow the editors of that Arabic speaking network see the remarks of a US Senator, 1 out of a 100 people representing 300 million, to really mean something. THAT is why I am so critical of his statements.

Either he got so carried away with his politics that he made a huge misstatement about the nature of our volunteer military or he is ignorant of the character of the people in the military. Something that is extremely hard to believe, given the fact that he is a Senator and has more dealings with real live troops than most other Americans.

He had a good cry about it. The Senate and the VFW has accepted his apology. Good enough for me, let's move on to other things.

Well, that was my original point to begin with. I meant "conservative" in the more narrow definition that you might find in the dictionary. Meaning someone who respects and tries to uphold "traditional" views and politics. The very nature of the work almost requires this worldview. Not to say that there is not room for those who follow a liberation ideology in the ranks, only that this political viewpoint is extremely uncommon. At least, I hardly ever saw someone who spoke of these beliefs in the military.

No, no one is censored in their politics. While you decidedly do NOT have the right to free speech as many civilians see it, if someone who was a card-carrying member of the ACLU or wanted to join the military, they could express their politics as much as they wanted to, so long as it does not impact on morale or unit readiness.

And now, for something completely different....

To me, the idea of a draft for military purposes is repugnant and I would oppose any sort of compelled service in the military or any use of slave soldiers. That's right, a military man is saying that. Why would I take this stance? Simple: you cannot legistlate or compel faith in our country or the idea that it is worth fighting for.

Not only that, but I would feel very uncomfortable indeed to fight next to a man (or woman) who does not want to be there. I would rather have an army of 10,000 dedicated patriots than an army of a million. The effectiveness, or lack thereof, that the Iraqi army displayed in Gulf War I and II should be ample reason to doubt the effectiveness of slave soldiers.

"But wait a minute, what about The Great War and World War 2? Didn't they use consripts?" Yes, they did. However, it is good to remember that these conflicts were relatively popular and the draft was really nothing more than a tool to better process these people into the armed forces.

IMHO, the conscription of men against their will into our war against the worst sort of anit-modernist thinking would be counterproductive. The admirable performance and overall high quality of our all-volunteer force would be almost instantly negated if we flooded the military with millions of unwanted slave troops.

Personally, I find it hard to justify the use of conscripts. I would be horrified to find out that the man on my left and the man on my right do not want to be there with me 100%.

I like the idea that Robert Heinlein put down in his book "Starship Troopers": that anyone who wanted to vote would be required to serve at least two years of federal service that did NOT involve combat unless they volunteered for it. He even goes further to suggest that anyone who did not want to go into combat had the absolute right to refuse to do so at any time. This is a somewhat radical notion that would have several clear benefits:

- first, it would ensure that everyone who chose to volunteer in the military wanted to be there in the first place, as they had to volunteer not once, but twice for any sort of military service

- it would do much to forstall the argument that troops in combat "don't want to be there"

- it would give the civilian community a shot in the arm when it came to faith in the military

- finally, it would force people to treasure their franchise, as it would be something that they would have to earn with years of hard labor or military service (but not both)

The last point alone is critical to this idea. I feel that too many people devalue their vote and toss it away on a straight party ticket. Worse, many people who are eligible to vote pay almost no attention to the issues at all. Too many elections today are three ring circuses, with all the sideshows and dancing girls, but little intelligent discourse. BOTH major political parties are guilty of this, big time.

dmgggg said...

Peter, the idea of a universal draft is not to fight wars. A universal draft always for what ever reason that would require a large mobilization of manpower.

Consider the time people spent in their youth in the military as a lesson in civic responsibility and obligation to the whole. Doing that service tends to make one feel a part of society, and gets one more involved. With the ultimate aim of putting the brakes on draft dodgers and others that want to run the show. Make everyone a warrior. It is all in how you present it. If you portray the draft as just being cannon fodder for the powers that be, then you will have attitudes. If you present it as a rite of citizenship, then people become more involved.

I've been spit at just for wearing a uniform. That was just because of the rhetoric and rabble rousing and emotion of the time. I see some of the same forces rearing their ugly heads now. People just flat out have to quit looking at the "government" and become part of it. Make things right the quiet way. Stop the exploitation of the military by being in it. Career types follow orders because that is their livelihood. Citizen soldiers are the checks and balances.

Anonymous said...

peter bland said:

Okay, first, it's Durbin, not Dirbin.

Secondly, as to your question here: "If Dirbin has nothing to be sorry about, then why one earth would he apologize (well, kind of anyway)? I do not really believe that he is deliberately malicious towards our military and the troops."

Maybe because there's millions of people who didn't listen to the speech or read what he said, and heard the same attacks you did, from Rush Limbaugh, the Republicans in Congress, the White House, Karl Rove, etc, which completely mischaracterized what he said, and decided that this was "abhorrent" and were apparently jamming his phone with hostile calls? Now, honestly, I DON'T think he should have apologized, because what he said is the truth. You can't back down in the face of screaming bullies, that just gives them more power. But he did, for whatever reason, and THAT lowers my opinion of him, somewhat.


"Unfortunately, his regrettable remarks were picked up by Al Jazeera and used for good propoganda effect. Somehow the editors of that Arabic speaking network see the remarks of a US Senator, 1 out of a 100 people representing 300 million, to really mean something. THAT is why I am so critical of his statements."

Maybe it's just me, but I somehow fail to see how Senator Durbin standing up and saying "Torture is bad. Nazis used torture. We don't want to be like the Nazis. We shouldn't be torturing people." is better propaganda than the fact that we, the United States of America, is tortuing people. Without caring if they're innocent or guilty, or if they have any information we could use, we're tortuing them, to the point, in many cases, of death. And it's truly warped if saying Torture is Bad is somehow a bigger crime than actually tortuing people, but that's how things seem to be going these days.

Let me repeat the important part again. The United States of America is tortuing people. Without trials, without evidence, and not caring if they're innocent or guilty. We are torturing people. And there are many people in power who'd rather focus on shooting the messenger when somebody says "Hey, torture's bad, we're the Good Guys, we shouldn't be torturing people," rather than stopping the torture. President Bush, as the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, could order today, or any time in the past three years, that "Hey, we're the United States of America, we don't torture people. We will treat all of our prisoners humanely." And if he actually wanted to do it, he could order it, and have it enforced. He hasn't. And that is the thing that has most destroyed my opinion of him. Either he approves of torture, doesn't care. I don't see any credible way he could not know it's happening.

dmggg: I'm afraid "They're evil and they'd do worse to us!" doesn't justify us being evil as well. Or justify us torturing innocent people, or even guilty people. If we start being evil because our enemies are evil, then eventually, how will we tell us from our enemies?

Anonymous said...

And this is how Senator Durbin should have responded. For the love of monkeys, why have all of the Democratic politicians forgotten how to fight back?

giordano bruno said...

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can you make your links link?
ie clue

That *is* the whole idea of html & the wild wild web...

Anonymous said...

I refuse to be taken in by partisan politics. There is too much of it out there already.

The Democratic Party is not well served by its current president. If this is the man who is supposed to be leading the DNC into a new, enlightened, bipartisan effort at reshaping the vision of America? Why is it that he chooses to attack and denigrate the very voters he wishes to attract to his cause?

In case no one was paying attention, insulting and vilifying your opponent's politics is foolish, and ultimately self-destructive. A better approach might be to admit that each political viewpoint has its merits and attempt to calmly discuss the pressing matters at hand.

Can anyone honestly tell me that the Democrats AND the Republicans have not been guilty of this recently? Carl Rove made asinine statements about Democrats recently, Howard Dean is, frankly, a screaming fool and Dick DURBIN is a preening ass. How can I say this?

Because they have taken political debate away from the principles of the founding fathers and moved it into the arena of Jenny Jones and Geraldo Rivera. They have decided that the party is more important than the nation. Collectively these people, and many others (far too many others) have debased politics so far that I fear there is little chance of pulling it out of the gutter. It is almost so that I have to hold my nose when I read the political section in the Seattle Times.

Here is a litmus test for you to see if you have swallowed the partisan Kool-Aid:

- if you believe anything Micheal Moore says

- if you believe anything Rush Limbaugh says

- if you read your favorite columnist for "perspective" to the news

- if you automatially defend anything a politico says based on their party affiliation alone

- if you start hating anyone automatically because they have a little "R" or "D" next to their name

- if you believe that what we need is more, not less, partisan bombthrowing

- if you think that getting your party into office takes presidence over the good of the nation

- if you vote a straight party ticket across the board on all issues

- if you cheer when a politician foolishly uses the word "nazi", "gulag", "communist", or other incendary remarks on the opposition

Anyone who answers "yes" to any of these things needs to take a deep breath, stand back from their politics and ask themselves: "are my actions uplifting to the nation as a whole?"

PS: fear not nate, the Democrats have an excellent attack dog in Howard Dean. If he keeps alienating conservative and moderate voters with his drivel, then there is little doubt that the Democrats will continue to lose abysmally.

Anonymous said...

Allow me simply to boggle at the misplaced outrage. Karl Rove, who regularly calls "liberals" traitors, smearing us with lies and distortions, and yet you say this: "Carl Rove made asinine statements about Democrats recently, Howard Dean is, frankly, a screaming fool and Dick DURBIN is a preening ass. How can I say this?"

Just, wow. I quoted Senator Durbin's remarks. Which were about exposing the fact that WE ARE TORTURING PEOPLE. And this makes him a "preening ass". I see.

And no mention of the fact that the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is TORTURING PEOPLE.

As for "the open arms of bipartisanship", you don't extend the hand of peace to somebody who's betrayed you the last twenty times, which the current Republican leadership has done over and over. They only compromise to use that as the point to drag the country even further from sanity. They aren't interested in compromise or bipartisanship or negotiation, so there is no reason to negotiate with them. You don't deal with somebody who's dealt with you in bad faith. And if you do, you don't expect them to suddenly deal in good faith. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting new results, and by that standard, the current Democratic party is clearly insane.

Anonymous said...

"Anarchy in their quest of order with them at the top. Incessant questioning and leaking."

When did this happen exactly? Can you give real examples from history? Or are you just speculating ?

"Thugs and crooks don't exist among empowered people."

I wouldn't call conscripts an empowered people, especially not during wartime.

"You cut cancers out."

That's actually very close to an extremist opinion. The only difference is the definition of what constitutes a cancer. At the moment muslim extremists are under the impression that the whole of the western world should be cut out of existence. It took a lot of social engineering to make them think that and it will take a lot of social engineering (not torture) to convince them otherwise. People are NOT cancer cells.

"Citizen soldiers are the checks and balances."

Again, give me some real world examples.

dmgggg said...

"Citizen soldiers are the checks and balances."

Frank, tyrannies and conspiracies depend on unwavering support and secrecy. Draftees are in today and out tomorrow. They put their time in and then go. They are young, and many are idealistic. Much better chance of information about and resistance to abuses.

You ask what examples. You won't get any perfect ones. There are a lot of factors involved. You can have draftees in an army and go to war and every one is in step, and you can have draftee resistance, such as Vietnam. It all depends on how the leadership handles it. But you have countries like Switzerland and Finland, and China even that aren't military adventurists.

The simple dynamic is that the more trained and armed men you have in a country, in or out of uniform, the more persuasive the leaders must be in rousing them to action against others.

Vietnam was a perfect example of how draftees can effect change. These were the sons of WWII vets. Discipline broke down. Officers were fragged, vets took to the streets and public opinion was swayed. Amongst many WWII vets also. This was because they heard from their sons what was going on. The whole scene also changed the attitude of the officer corp.

Would you be more comfortable with an outsourced Army? One with a lot of foreign nationals in the ranks? You have a lot of that now. We had them back then. They don't question what they are doing there, and wouldn't have the qualms that native sons would have taking action against there own people. Even China had a problem with that years ago.

It is not an intellectual exercise, or something you get out of a book. It is a real human dynamic.

There is a lot of name calling and pointing the finger at "the enemy" in this country. That is how you start and sustain wars against other peoples. The political climate is ugly in this country. Now ask yourself, especially if you are not in the mainstream, would you prefer the ultimate power in this country to be in lockstep with the current leaders and totally obedient to their orders, or would you prefer that ultimate power to have some in it that share your views?

Cutting cancer is an extreme? Yes. But why should most suffer because there are those that think they are the conscience of mankind and don't "approve" of it? I, like most people, like to sit on the sidewalk sipping my coffee without having to worry some lunatic with a pumped up moral superiority setting off a bomb. People, like viruses and cockroaches, occupy space. Let them breed and they wind up in your face. It boils down to who you are willing to share space with, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

There will only be a draft if Americans consciously choose to introduce one. Which will necessarily mean a continuation of the present war. Which the neocons and their 'War president' probably prefer to be perpetual. Maybe there would be fewer cases of abuse, but introducing a draft now would make it very hard to protest against this war.

"Cutting cancer is an extreme? Yes.But why should most suffer because there are those that think they are the conscience of mankind and don't "approve" of it?"

But the goal doesn't always justify the means. How about a more civilized solution, a more intelligent one? Cutting away the cancer is something even cavemen were capable of. Aren't we beyond that?

The Dating Doctor said...

Thanks for your blog! It is a great outlet from a long day at work!

Keep spreading the good word!!!

-- Kara

Anonymous said...

An interesting idea that I heard earlier was the notion that, as part of a broader and critical need to better patrol our southern border, we should institute a program that allows foreign nationals to make their way into our country legally through military service. This would in no way entirely replace legal immigration, but would put the volunteers for such a program on a "fast-track" to US citizenship.

Such a program could be modeled after the French Foreign Legion (which is the ONLY foreign military service that an American may join without automatic loss of citizenship by the way) and named the "American Legion". The inner core of the program could be staffed by career NCOs and officers who would build such a unit up from the ground.

Think of the benefits to such a program.

We would be able to say with certainty that these people believe enough in the American dream to fight for it would probably also have what it takes to succeed in our society.

It would immediately, and permanently, solve our manning shortfalls in the military.

It would provide an outlet for people from all points of the globe to come here legally, and would demonstrate beyond a doubt that they are committed to America.

It would provide an opportunity for millions of people from all over the world to see for themselves the untruth to the American boogeyman myth that floats around.

What do you think? Is this a good idea in the same line of thinking as the French Foreign Legion? Or is it doomed as the Abraham Lincoln Brigade?

Anonymous said...

OK, this may be a little off-topic (more like a lot), but I find this idea amusing:

Klingon should be adopted as the official language of the UN. Just think of all the advantages here!

Instead of keeping rogue nations in check with esperanto or french, Klingon would have the advantage of sounding much more forceful. "DO IT NOW OR I WILL DRINK THE BLOOD OF YOUR CHILDREN, Ha'DI bah!"

No one could possibly object on the basis of regional bias. (except perhaps for George Lucas, that useless t'ooho'mIrah!)

Proceeding would be infinitely more interesting, to say the least. If nothing else, the translators will have the very devil of a time translating the doublespeak of the UN into working Klingon. Think of the job creation!

If you want to study Klingon, here is the site to do it:

If you already know Klingon, then there is a job waiting for you in Multnomah County!
"Klingon-English Translators Wanted

Betterhumans Staff
5/12/2003 12:24 PM
Being a Trekkie may have practical applications. Speakers of the Star Trek language Klingon are being invited to apply for a translator job in the US state of Oregon.

The office that cares for mental-health patients in Multnomah County is seeking translators for about 55 languages.

Created for Star Trek, Klingon is a complete language with grammatical, syntax and vocabulary rules.

The Multnomah County Department of County Human Services, which serves about 60,000 mental-health clients, must provide information in all languages that clients speak.

"There are some cases where we've had mental-health patients where this was all they would speak," Franna Hathaway, the county's purchasing administrator, told The Associated Press."

Anonymous said...

@Peter Bland:

You want illegal aliens to help stop their friends from entering the country ? Isn't there a conflict of interest in that ?

Anonymous said...

I see. Humor. Ha. Ha.

Anonymous said...

Can you quote me when I said that illegal aliens should be allowed to serve in this capacity? No, if you read my idea more carefully I said that I thought is was a good way to welcome more LEGAL immigrants. Also, you may notice that I never said the military should be deployed to the southern border.

IF I had said these things and IF such a force were used in this way THEN it would be ironic. Please, please, please do not put words into my mouth.

About the Klingon thing...

Well, I feel that sometimes we take ourselves way too seriously and we all could use a good laugh. Or chuckle. I try not to take myself too seriously and I hope that y'all enjoyed it. It may be stupid humor, but it is mine own.

RK said...

You might think this is sort of off-topic, but please urge your readers to look at this post; very important:

Anonymous said...

I keep seeing talk about the draft. As I understand it, what stopped the draft and ended the war in VietNam was the loss of the local draft boards. When you had a local board, they made the decisions the community wanted, such as letting the mayor's son go on to college while the janitor's son goes to die in the jungle. Without the local board, the mayor's son could have gone to die, so the war ended. As Glen Cook likes to say, 'Privilege means private law.'

Anonymous said...

@Peter Bland:

Woops!! sorry, my bad. Maybe it's no excuse but it's 32 degrees celcius where I live and I'm not used to such temperatures. My brain is overheating and my vision is getting blurry.

I suppose an "American Legion" may be handy for evaluating poor immigrants since the rich ones get in anyway...

Anonymous said...

The thoughts on the GI Bill being responsible for the downfall of the university system were more or less shots in the dark- I don't actually believe that to be the case.

However, I do wonder what has brought about the cheapening of degrees in the Humanities. Hardly a day goes by when some conservative or classical liberal doesn't write a screed on how postmodernism and a fear of dead white men has raped the humanities of their meaningfulness. While our science departments are still first-class, can the same truly be said of our English, -blank- Studies, Philosophy, Theology, Sociology, Political Science, and other non-hard science or engineering based departments? I went to a fairly decent liberal arts college in the midwest- and just completed a Political Science and Philosophy degree- and still feel like I don't know a thing. Maybe I just have ridiculously high standards, but frankly, I have no idea how to use any of the knowledge I gained in the "real world". In fact, it seems to me that many of my friends in the hard sciences and computer science are just about as knowledgeable as I am in the fields I specialized in, while I have little more than a layman's acquaintance with their fields. Given that I'm in posession of the same level of intellect as they are, what's missing here? Have the liberal arts just become meaningless "sluff" degrees that are used to pass the time on the way to the MBA or the Department store?

dmgggg said...

"However, I do wonder what has brought about the cheapening of degrees in the Humanities."

Its called generating revenue. Piled on top of the rubble of the 60's-70's revolution.

Supply and demand. Diploma mills.

Check out the cost of student loans nowadays.

Anonymous said...

Blandland said:
No, the real problem that we face today is that of the feeling that most Americans now have. That is, a feeling of entitlement to everything. No one, with a few exceptions, seems to understand that anything great is difficult to achieve and therefore requires work.

This explains why the frat boys want to make the elimination of the inheritance tax permanent. They feel that the children of the wealthy are *entitled* to receive 100% of the inheritance without lifting a finger.

Meanwhile my two year old daughter's portion of our national debt is just over $50,000. Is this a great country, or what?