Friday, November 24, 2006

Fuck the Draft

As a child in the Age of Aquarius, nothing seemed so self-evidently obvious as the fact that the draft was an unacceptable imposition on the freedom that is the birthright of all Americans.

The great Constitution of the United States safeguarded to us freedoms that included the right to express our attitude towards the draft in the pithy title to this post, according to Cohen v. California.

During World War II our nation imposed a draft because we were in an all-out war against Fascism, a war not of our choosing, but which, for better or worse, we sought to avoid. The draft took away the freedoms of some temporarily, so that the freedoms of all would not be lost permanently.

The internment of the Japanese proves that Americans were not fastidious about personal freedoms when it came to protecting the collective freedom of the nation. Along came the Vietnam War. The leadership of our country felt the familiar threat of totalitarianism, and as they say, the generals are always fighting the last war. The perceived threat to collective freedom again, overrode the commitment to personal freedom. Though we avoided the mistakes associated with internment camps, the draft was re-instituted.

But the war in Vietnam was not really a war to fight fascism. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was a response to phony evidence. It was, as we know, not the last time such a thing would happen.

In the ‘60s, the Chicago Seven and the Kent State Massacre revealed the fact that the harm that could come to us from our own government was greater than the threat to us posed by the pajama-clad Viet Cong. And as Mohammad Ali put it in 1966, “No Viet Cong ever called me ‘nigger.’”

Of course, with love-ins, sit-ins, teach-ins and moratoria we stopped the War in Vietnam, as well as the draft. Now, the former hippies, those who inhaled and those who did not, are in positions of power. And therefore, the idea of resurrecting a draft is a total non-starter.

And yet, part of this ex-hippy sees the wisdom of Charlie Rangell’s argument:
“There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm’s way.”

When Jim Webb, D-VA, joins Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Kit Bond, R-MO, in the new Congress, the number of Senators with “skin in the game” will increase by 50%.

For the most part, people are drawn to the military as a way of escaping circumstances that leave them with few choices. In the two Americas I spoke of in a previous post only one America must send their young off to war, and pray nightly for their safe return. Only one America has borne the pain of unanswered prayers. Is there anyone who doubts which America will draw down the ill-gotten gains of the war profiteers?

And so it is that I find myself torn in the argument about the draft. On balance, I come out against the draft, for the simple reason that I don’t trust the government to take control of young people’s lives and deal with them fairly. But I must make one observation:

In the past, we needed to institute a draft to protect us from the Fascism of the Axis powers. Later, we imposed a draft in the vain belief that we needed it to protect us from the totalitarianism of Chinese Communism and Soviet world domination.

Now, as Charlie Rangel argues, we may need to institute a draft to protect us from American fascism. He’s got a point there.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it.

According to Paul Krugman, the prices of pharmaceutical shares plunged after the election. I haven’t taken the time to confirm this, because Paul Krugman’s word is good enough for me.

He attributes the decline in equity values to the fact that the Party of Bush passed a Medicare bill which was intended not so much to provide medical coverage to people who have worked a lifetime to earn it. Rather it was intended to protect Big Pharma from the possibility that the Government of the United States might use its considerable economic leverage to obtain fair prices from the gatekeepers of health.

While I was busy not looking up the performance of equity shares of Big Pharma, I was also not looking up the profitability of these companies. Just for fun, I’m willing to bet that they are doing okay. Any takers?

If I am wrong, I am going to want to go double or nothing that regardless of how the companies are doing profit-wise, the CEOs have done a pretty good job of taking care of themselves. And their children. And their grandchildren. And the next 40 generations, assuming that they don’t choose to keep warm by burning crumpled up $100 bills. Should they indeed make such an obscenely profligate choice, maybe only 10 generations.

Such is the wealth they have extracted from a people whose founding document proclaims that it is self-evidently true that our Creator has bestowed on all of us an inalienable right to life, and that governments are instituted among men and women to secure that right.

In the defense of the stewards of capitalism who earn the big bucks, it must be observed that their job is difficult and not everyone can do it. I leave it to others to consider how this differs from doing backbreaking labor like digging ditches, which makes men too weak and tired to enjoy what life has to offer. (Big Mitch is a very healthy, strong 250-pound guy, and they haven’t yet printed enough money to tempt me into that kind of labor.) I guess it makes sense that a guy who works that hard with his back has no need for a Leer Jet, because he would be too worn out to go anywhere on the little time off he earns.

Now, we all know that a CEO's work is mostly indoors and involves no heavy lifting, to borrow Bob Dole’s famous description of the job of vice-president. It is assumed that in their domain, the Big Pharma’s CEOs are uniquely qualified on account of their brainpower, which is just as exceptional as the physical prowess of a world-class athlete. It’s a supply and demand thing. They must be geniuses.

And that’s what has me so confused.

If they are so smart, how could they not have seen the election results coming? How could they have figured that the gift of No Drug Company Left Behind would last for long past the election?

This was the mistake that Karl Rove made, too. And even though I am a bear of very little brain, I was able to call every Senate race and predict the Democratic takeover of the House, by the simple expedient of paying attention to the polls. This was the Lawrence O’Donnell technique, and it worked for me, too.

The inability of Big Pharma’s capitalists and other assorted Rovians to foresee the election outcome speaks volumes. What it says is that these people are totally out of touch with the reality of millions and millions or Americans. And when that happens, to borrow a phrase from one of the most astute of political observers, “a hard rain’s a-goin’ to fall.”

I give credit to John Edwards for his “Two Americas” stump speech, and for suiting his actions to his rhetoric in the years since the election. Now it seems that the message is beginning to resonate.

For example, consider Senator-elect James Webb, whom the media have dubbed a “conservative Democrat.” Here’s his take:
The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country.
To read more of what Jim Webb has to say, (with The Daily Kos’s snarky debunking of the “conservative Democrat” meme interspersed) visit Webb, conservative

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Truth and consequences

Remember that old riddle about the explorer who comes to a fork in the road and knows that the native he encounters is either from the tribe of Liars or the tribe of Truth-tellers? What question should he ask the native to find out which is the road to the city?

While you contemplate that, consider this: If Dumb George Dubya says he’s a liar, well, for once in his life he’s a truth-teller. Go figure. As Media Matters tells it:
During his November 8 press conference, President Bush announced Donald H. Rumsfeld’s resignation as defense secretary and nominated former CIA director Robert Gates to take his place, even though days before the November 7 elections, Bush had said he wanted Rumsfeld to stay on through the end of his presidency. Bush explained that the reason for announcing Rumsfeld’s resignation after the elections was due to the fact that he “didn’t want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of a campaign.”
There is so much here, that I don’t know where to begin.

Can someone please tell me why voters shouldn’t know before they vote, for whom they are voting? I realize that the Secretary of War was not strictly speaking on the ballot, but is there anyone who will deny that the election was inter alia a referendum on the war? Only one with total disdain for the electoral process would not be ashamed to admit that he had tried to mislead the public on this crucial matter. Someone with disdain for the electoral process like King George the Incompetent.

Sure, it sounds like a trivial breach of civility for Dubya to casually admit to being a liar, a fact which anyone who has been paying attention knew for some time. But lest we forget: The House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of Articles of Impeachment against Richard M. Nixon, for “making or causing to be made false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States…”

Now how are we to interpret the well publicized Republican extension of an olive branch to the Democrats who control Congress? I say, the best predictor of future activity is past conduct. These guys are stinkin’ liars. If you believe that they will not turn on the Democrats the second they get a chance, then you are a knucklehead. Any Democrat who trusts them doesn’t deserve a position of trust.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The people have spoken.

Democrat Marie Steichen, of Woonsocket, South Dakota, got 100 votes in the county commissioner's race in Jerauld County on Tuesday. defeating incumbent Republican Merlin Feistner, of Woonsocket, who had 64 votes. Marie Steichen will not be assuming her office, mostly on account of the fact that she has been dead for two months.

In the battle to turn red states in the heartland into blue states, Ms. Steichen had a convincing slogan: "Better dead than red."

One might think that Feistner would feel the sting of rejection, but, ever the optimomist, he is probably looking forward to be appointed Attorney General in a shaken-up Bush administration. After all, John Ashcroft did it!

"... and tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Time is running out

It’s election day, and you might think there is no time left for bad news to reduce the chances of the Party of Bush holding on to Congress. The military newspapers are calling for Rumsfeld’s dismissal, and King George says, “It’s Rummy as long as I am the decider-in-chief.”

Everyone from James Baker III to Joe Sixpack thinks the war in Iraq is going south, and Dumb Dubya says “We will not change course.” Meanwhile they are cutting and running on the rebuilding effort having milked it for all it’s worth.

They’ve put plans for nyuclear bombs on the internets, as part of a Republican led effort to keep us safer. They have shut down the intelligence operation to catch Osama Bin Laden but maybe King George the Incompetent will look for him on the Google.

One House member pled guilty to corruption charges but didn’t immediately resign from Congress. He claims he wanted to stay on to help his people get jobs while he prepares to go to jail. I guess being a convicted crook doesn’t cut you out of the Republican networking loop.

Another Republican quit the House because he was busted for being a gay sexual harasser of minors, but he couldn’t get his name off the ballot in Florida. Republicans are the gang that couldn’t shoot straight when it comes to policing their own. For fear that they might give Dems an election-year issue, they swept the matter under a Republican rug, until it emerged in October, giving the Dems an election issue that at a minimum means Denny Hastert is out of the Republican leadership.

Elsewhere in Florida, the candidate for Senate has seen her first name morphed from ‘Katherine’ to ‘Bat-shit Crazy.’ Many Republicans are running away from Bush metaphorically, but in Florida, they are doing it literally.

The Rovians have been counting on their base to turn out as directed by their religious leadership, although the most prominent religious leader of the Evangelicals recently announced to his mega-church that he is “a liar and a deceiver.” The militant anti-gay minister turns out to be gay, not that there is anything wrong with that. He claims to have bought methamphetamine and then flushed it down the toilet. His intended audience spent eight years mocking Big Dog Bill Clinton who famously said, “I did not inhale.”

Melanie Sloan, of the Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington had a beautiful rant on other Republican ethics scandals, literally too numerous to recount here.

Republicans all over the country are getting caught in the old dirty tricks business. I say old, even though they are using robo-calling to harass Democrats, which basically is a new low.

You can imagine Dumb Dubya saying to Turd-blossom, “Hell, what more could go wrong?” And along comes the Washington Note with an answer:
US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad is tired of being undermined by opponents in the White House and by elements of Iraq's unstable regime end-running him to influence rivals of his in the administration. He is reportedly on the verge of quitting.
“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Friday, November 03, 2006

An ole Sourdough remembers voter suppression in the good ole days.

I ain’t never been to rural Virginia, and I wonder what it’s like. It’s sure comfortin’ to traffic in stereotypes, but I won’t have none of it. I jes’ imagine it’s pretty, kinda like the open country we have here in Alaska but not no snow.

Like I been saying, I ain’t gonna figure them rustic Virginians to be no backwoods types, like some damn thing outa Deliverance. I reckon they got plenty technology in Virginia cause they got U.Va. down there, and that there was founded by none other than Thomas Jefferson. I ain’t a betting man, but if I were, I’d bet they got the very latest in voting machinery. Stuff that don’t need no paper cause it’s all done with that ‘lectricity, like that what them Democrats brought to the ole Tennessee Valley.

See, it would take some one a whole lot smarter’n me to figure out how to hack into those machines what’s supposed to count the votes. Up here in Alaska, we didn’t have no Thomas Jefferson, and we sure as shootin’ ain’t never had no University of Virginia.

Hell, when they had an election up here to move the Capital, all the ballots were on good old fashioned paper, just like the pages of a Gideon Bible. Now, them folks down in Juneau sure didn’t want the Capital of Alaska out in Wasilla, ’cause that would be like taking taters out of Idaho, or horses out of Virginny.

Betcha can just imagine that the folks down Juneau way, weren’t even going to let them yahoos up in Wasilla take the Capital away from them. Trouble is, they hadn’t invented them computified counting machines, and even if they had, back then folks in Alaska wouldn’t know what to do witha mini-bar key other than to have a good go at the Prinz-Brau.

See, if you wanted to steal an election in them days, you had to do real work. Not some sissified computer hacking where the heaviest thing you have to lift is a smart card, like the one some young stud lifted in Tennesee.

Back then you had to do stuff like open up a fire hydrant with a twenty-pound wrench. Oh boy, when I think of all them Wasilla voters slipping and sliding and blocking intersections, well, it’s a lead-pipe cinch they ain’t about to be voting to move no damn Capital to where they can keep an eye on them elected officials and all.

‘Course here in Alaska it’s cold, so a bunch of open fire hydrants sure goin’ to freeze up, and I guess them fancy pants politico scientists would call that “voter surpressin’.”

An like I was sayin, I ain’t never been to Virginny but I don’t figure you could count on ice to keep people from voting. But then again, I don’t know if an open fire hydrant would make a whole lot of mud in the Old Dominion, and I guess that could kinda get the votin’ bogged down, if you know what I mean. Especially in precincts where that George Allen feller is running so strong.

That weren’t all they done in Alaska to keep the Capital from being moved to where you would find the 60 or 70 percent of the Alaskans who live in or nearby to Anchorage. They had to take a big old chain, and drop it on a ‘lectric transmission line. ‘How did they do that?’ you might be asking, and hell, back them a lot of people asked the same question.

Turns out they used a whirly-bird heliocopter, which might could sound like going to a parcel of trouble just to drop a chain on a ‘lectric line. But somebody must have known something, because just about all of Anchorage went dark, and people started thinkin’ a lot less about where the Capital was gonna be, and a whole lot more about how they could keep their pipes from freezin’ up. I shutter to think what woulda happened if we had them modern ’lectric voting machines back then.

Well, that there was in the old days. Now in these modern times, Republicans steal elections just like falling off a log. And there ain’t hardly an old-timer around, who remembers what real work was. Or where to get a twenty-pound wrench. Or a damn whirlybird heliocopter. If you know what I mean.

If’n you do know what I mean, do me one favor. Don’t …

“… tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Thank you Channel 9 in Denver CO.

From the NBC affiliate,

A gay man and admitted male escort claims he has had an ongoing sexual relationship with a well-known Evangelical pastor from Colorado Springs.

Mike Jones told 9 Wants to Know Investigative Reporter Paula Woodward he has had a "sexual business" relationship with Pastor Ted Haggard for the past three years.

Haggard is the founder and senior leader of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. The church has 14,000 members. He is also president of the National Association of Evangelicals, an organization that represents millions of people.

Haggard is married with five children and an outspoken critic of gay marriage.

Jones broke his silence Wednesday morning on talk radio.

Read the entire story on the website ...

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”