Wednesday, August 31, 2005

When Everything Goes Wrong

Likely nothing could have saved Biloxi. Residential buildings are not made to withstand 140 mph winds and heavy flodding and even if new housing could there is no way to retrofit existing buildings . New Orleans is a different story. It was spared the worst of the hurricane. As of yesterday morning things looks fairly good. Then came the floods.

Last night on Nightline former New Orleans Mayor, Mark Morial admitted that they made a lot of bad assumptions in disaster planning. They thought that the levees would hold, that the pumping stations would continue to function, and that the Superdome would be usable indefinately. Most emergency planning was based on the assumption that order would be restored within a few days.

Instead, things are a mess. The city is flooded with water still pouring in. No one can say when the levees will be fixed. Power, water, and gas service will be out for weeks, maybe months.

The Superdome lost power Sunday night. The bathrooms stopped working some time ago. The roof leaks. The floor has water on it. The emergency generators are threatened by rising water. The arena is currently sheltering between 20,000 and 30,000 people. There are plans to move them to the Astrodome, possibly for the rest of the year. No one is quite sure how the evacuation will happen since the 450 busses cannot get near the arena. Possibly boats will have to be used.

No one knows how bad the death toll will be. With water reaching the rooftops, an unknown number of people could have drowned in their homes with more trapped in their attic. Current Mayor Ray Nagin estimates that thousands are dead.

Unfortunately, this was a disaster waiting to happen. It has long been recognized that New Orleans was a problem. They almost bragged about being below sea level. It took enormous effort just to keep the city dry in normal times. Disaster planning was mainly limited to picking up after a Category 3 or less storm. A half billion dollar, ten year project to shore up the levees was finished a few years ago. Immediately more money was requested to raise the levees. It seems that they subside so the work never ends.

Just a year ago it was officially admitted that the city could not survive a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. The Army Corp of Engineers wanted to do a $4 million, four year study to find ways for the city to survive.

Of course, the bloggers at the Huffington Post and the DailyKos blame Bush for everything. The budget for levee work was cut over the last two years and the study on surviving a major hurricane was never started, both due to budget cuts.

In assigning blame, we can discount the study completely. Even if it had begun a year ago nothing could have come of it until it finished in 2009. Add in a decade or so for implementing the recomondations. That gives you the minimum date that New Orleans could have been ready for Katrina.

As for the levees, they were pronounced solid but subsiding. The levee that broke was worked on this Summer.

Would a few hundred million dollars of work have raised the right levee in time for this storm? I don't know and neither does anyone at Huffington or Kos. They just want something else that they can blame Bush for.

Granted, Bush wasn't giving New Orleans much long-term help but we are talking about long-term projects. Katrina hit decades before New Orleans could possibly be prepared.

The real problem is New Orleans itself. Having a major city in a bowl between two large waterways is insane. The flooding was inevitable. No one wants to tell an entire city that they are living in a disaster waiting to happen.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


I started on a post last Friday comparing the anti-war movement in 1968, 1972, and now. I'll finish it one of these days but the oncoming threat of Katrina changed my priorities. I've been to New Orleans twice in the last five yeas and I really liked it, especially the French Quarter.

At first it looked like the city would be spared. Then the levee broke and the city flooded. The governor ordered everyone remaining in the city to evacuate.

No one is counting bodies yet but it s likely that hundreds or thousands of people are dead. The city will be uninhabitable for weeks. Cleanup will take months or years.

This might be the time to ask an important question - should New Orleans be rebuilt? It is so vulnerable to flooding it might be better to abandon most of it. Leave the French Quarter and the Garden District. Both of them were built on high ground. The rest of it is too low to be safe.

There is no good reason for New Orleans to stay were it is. It was originally built on the Mississippi but the river keeps trying to move. That is what the river does. It moves. That is how the Delta was created in the first place.

As it is now, large portions of New Orleans will need to be leveled. They are sitting submerged in an unknown mixture of sludge, sewage, and toxic chemicals. There is no way to safely clean a house that has soaked in this mess for days. Probably people will try and become sickened.

A lot of businesses will never re-open. Those that survived the hurricane and the flood were looted. If they survived all of that, their market was wiped out. This is a vicious cycle. If too many businesses are closed then unemployment will dry up the money needed to keep other businesses open. The tourist industry will be dead for months or years, especially with the highways in ruined.

Normally I have little sympathy for people who build in a flood plain or on a cliff and get hit by the inevitable natural disaster. I do feel bad for New Orleans. But is it wise to rebuild a city in a bowl between a lake and a river?

In the meantime, the New Orleans Times-Picayune is blogging current events.

Note to the goofballs at the DailyKos - a hurricane is a force of nature, not an act of George Bush. Mobilizing the National Guard on Sunday would not have helped. The plan to evacuate to the Superdome was hatched by a black mayor, not Bush as a plot to kill n_____s and being anti-Red Cross doesn't win points.

Friday, August 26, 2005

War Protests - Then and Now

Note - I started this post before Hurricane Katrina while Cindy Sheehan still dominated the news.

There is a strong desire to recreate the 60s in today's anti-war protests (actually to recreate the period from 1967-1973 when the war protests were at their peak). Many of the same leaders are weighing in. For example, Joan Biez has been singing at Camp Casey.

Since the Viet Nam War ended, every conflict that the US enters into is examined to see if it will become another Viet Nam (or a "quagmire" which is used interchangeably). This has become a knee-jerk response for all conflicts. The bombing attacks on Kosovo were described as a quagmire after a month. Journalists started questioning if the initial attack on Iraq was turning into a quagmire two weeks into it, just days before Baghdad fell.

The infamous Powell Strategy was supposed to be the antidote to the Viet Nam Syndrome (VNS). The VNS proposes that Americans do not have the fortitude for a long bloody conflict. Accordingly, we will not attack a country unless it is with such overwhelming force that the conflict was short and casualties were negligible. It also calls for an "exit strategy" meaning that an international force will move in to handle the messy part after we are done.

This in turn feeds the war protesters. One of their original complaints was that Bush did not have an exit strategy for Iraq. The fact that Bush's exit strategy which consists of creating a stable government and a trained army that can keep the piece resembles Nixon's exit strategy from Viet Nam further enrages them.

There are a lot of differences between the current protests and the ones from the 1960s. Some are in the nature of the war, some are in the nature of the protests.

A big one is with the age of the protestors. The current face of the movement, Cindy Sheehan, is old enough to have marched in Viet Nam protests. In the 1960s it was a given that war was something that older people did, possibly for financial gain. The slogan, "Don't trust anyone over 30" was common. There was also the general feeling that war was not natural to human nature. If we could just get everyone to stop fighting for a while, war would never happen again. Think of John Lennon's song "Imagine."

A lot of the anti-war movement was self-interest. The first protesters were draft-age men. An early slogan was "Hell no, I won't go." To the protesters, the cause was insufficient. Communism scared the over-30 generation but many in the under-30 crowd embraced it. At worst, it seemed that South Viet Nam was as corrupt as North Viet Nam. Many protesters felt that the Vietnamese would be better off under the communists. The domino theory (that the fall of Viet Nam would encourage communist revolutionaries elsewhere until everyone was communist except for the NATO alliance) was dismissed as paranoid.

Another difference was that the protesters were originally apolitical. One of the biggest protests in 1968 was against the Democratic Party national convention. This degenerated into a "police riot" with policemen clubbing civilians seemingly at random.

The anti-war movement took place at the same time that the civil rights movement was at its height and overlapped with the women's movement. These movements fed on each other and gave a general feeling that society was about to undergo a fundamental shift. As soon as the hippies were in charge, peace and toleration would reign.

By the 1972 election the war had gone from being "Johnson's War" to being "Nixon's War". The left wing of the Democratic Party courted the various movements and nominated a candidate, George McGovern, who swore that his first official action would be to recall the troops.

He lost by a historic landslide. Not only were the protesters he represented in the minority but he also ran an historically incompetent campaign. In addition, support for the war had grown as a reaction to the protests.

Jump forward three decades. What has changed?

The protesters haven't. Many of them are the same people who protested in the 1960s and 1970s. The focus of the protests has moved from the campus to symbolic locations. Students are no longer afraid of the draft (despite MTV trying to scare them). Every soldier volunteered. Some may not have realized what they were signing up for but none of them were taken involuntarily.

The protesters are very political. All of them are left-wing and hate Bush intensely. Many object to anything he does reflexively. Some of the original protest organizations such as Not In My Name have a strong anti-American bias and oppose any war that the US engages in. Ironically, some of the people who protested the invasion of Afghanistan were protesting the Taliban's treatment of women in 1999 and 2000.

This also leads them to sympathize with anyone who opposes Bush. Michael Moore called Baathists "freedom fighters". Cindy Sheehan uses that term to describe the foreign terrorists who kill more Iraqis than Americans. To these people, Bush is the ultimate source of evil. Unlike the 1960s and Communism, there is no little domestic interest in Islam. While t-shirts of Che are still found you do not see (many) Americans wearing Saddam or Osama shirts.

We have learned a couple of things since the Viet Nam protests. Hardly anyone in a position of power thinks that Iraq would be better off if we pulled out immediately. This was not true during Viet Nam. By the early 1980s many former protesters admitted that would not have protested in favor of North Viet Nam if they had known how brutal the fall of Saigon would be.

We also know that the other side is listening. I doubt that the Vet Nam protesters ever considered that the VCs knew about the protests and were holding on until internal pressure forced the US to withdraw from the war. Now we have Osama quoting Michael Moore.

It is now a week into September as I finish this post. Cindy Sheehan packed up her protest and started a bus tour. The press has forgotten her. As of this date, the August anti-war protest has all the importance of the 2001 shark attacks. A poll showed that Cindy failed to influence most Americans and the ones she did influence are evenly split - as any now support the war because of her as oppose it.

So there is no real anti-war movement. There is just a short-lived news story and a lot of anti-Bush sentiment.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Hillary and Cindy

By all accounts, Hillary has a lock on the 2008 Democratic presidential candidacy. The power brokers love her. She has managed to be a leader in the Senate, taking moderate positions and working on her foreign affairs credentials. There are still a few potential problems for her. As Kerry found out, is it hard to run from the Senate. You not only leave a voting trail behind but you don't get a chance to demonstrate much leadership. Candidates from both sides have already announced themselves. Hillary will have to choose between waging a real campaign for re-election or bowing out gracefully.

None of these are insurmountable.

A bigger problem is that Hillary drives many people crazy. Some of them are on the right and will fight hard to stop her I don't think that this will turn into the white-hot rage that Democrats have for Bush but it will not be pretty. This too is surmountable.

Hillary's biggest challenge will come from the left. When Bill was president they were outraged by his triangulation. His presidency was far more moderate than they expected and they have not forgiven him for that.

The groundswell for Howard Dean was an attempt to turn the party back to the left. This continued when they made Dean the party chairman.

If you read the comments from Cindy Sheehan's supporters, they are furious that Hillary voted for the war and even more furious that she is not leading the fight against it (they feel the same about John Kerry).

In 2004, around half of the anti-Bush money came from Soros-funded organizations like These are Cindy's biggest supporters. Camp Casey went from a lonely woman's protest to a movement because of backing from groups like MoveOn.

So what should Hillary do? Granted the poll numbers on Iraq right now show Americans favoring a quick pull-out but the mid-term elections are still fifteen months away and the presidential race is two years after that. If the peace movement wins, our troops pull out, and Iraq dissolves into chaos then anyone involved with the peace movement will be tainted. If the peace movement loses and we still have troops in Iraq in 2008 the peace movement will be furious.

Standard election logic says that Democrats have to turn out the vote in order to win but no matter what Hillary does, she is likely to alienate a good-sized chunk of voters.

Even worse, anyone embracing Cindy is going to get slimed. Cindy left her own trail of anti-American remarks. She has disowned the one about her son dying for Israel but she sent the original email to too many recipients. Several people have come forward and said that she did write it exactly as shown.

Don't think for a moment that Karl Rove doesn't know this. If Hillary or any other candidate is pictured with Cindy he will find himself disowning her. This is the worst thing that can happen to a campaign.

The best that the Democrats can hope for is that the war winds down, that the peace activists wear themselves out, and that the economy is the main issue in 2008. Any Democrat who has to choose between supporting Cindy and rejecting her will lose.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Questions for Cindy


When you get back to Crawford and find yourself sitting around waiting for the President to bike down the road to see you, maybe you could take a little time and answer some questions for me? I know that you are busy so I made them multiple choice.

You want an hour of the President's time to answer the question "What is the "noble cause" MY son died for." From statements you have made elsewhere, it sounds like you will only accept certain answers. Anything to do with ridding the world of a mass murderer and creating the middle east's first democracy appears to be unacceptable. Exactly what responses will satisfy you? Please circle all that apply:
  • The war in Iraq was for oil.
  • The war in Iraq for the jews in Israel.
  • The war in Afghanistan was for oil.
  • The war in Afghanistan was to pass the Patriot Act.
You have said that your protest isn't about "you" personally. You have also said, "How dare he go on vacation and live a normal life when he has ruined mine by his lies?" and in response to a news story that said "'I've met with a lot of families,' Bush said. 'She doesn't represent the view of a lot of families I have met with.'", you said "I never said I did. I want one answer: What is the "noble cause" MY son died for." How do you reconcile these statements:
  • Just because I'm the center of the universe doesn't make things about me.
  • I was wrong. It is all about me after all.
You wrote this statement, "People say Casey is ashamed of me and I dishonor his memory! I knew my son better than anyone on earth and I know he is appalled by the continued carnage in his name." Given that Casey supported the war right up until his death, do you believe that knowledge of his death would have turned him against it?
  • Yes, I know him better than anyone else and he was a hypocrite.
  • What he wanted doesn't matter. I know what he should have wanted.
How do you reconcile these statements: "Then bring our troops home." and "This is the biggest smokescreen from him yet. I didn't ask him to withdraw the troops, I asked him what Noble Cause did Casey die for."
  • I'm not asking him to withdraw the troops, I just want him to bring them home.
  • No blood for oil.
On what do you base this statement? "Too bad George didn't give them that option before he invaded and occupied their country resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people. I bet they would choose to live in a peaceful country free of foreign occupiers."
  • Even a mass murderer like Saddam must have been better than Bush, right?
  • I saw the scene in Fahrenheit 9-11 with the kids flying kites.
You do remember that Saddam was given the choice of cooperating with weapons inspectors or facing the consequences?
  • Saddam who?
  • Say what?
You wrote, "If he (George Bush) cares so much about an Iraqi Constitution, why doesn't he take some time from his busy vacation activities and read the US Constitution. He may find out that he started an un-Constitutional war in Iraq." Given that the Constitution gives Congress the right to declare war and that they passed a law authorizing the invasion of Iraq that means that every president in the last sixty years (except Carter) has conducted an unconstitutional war.
  • Impeach them all. Bwa ha ha ha!
  • George Bush ruined my life.
You wrote, "Does anyone else know what "democratic" means? It simply means majority rule. Not some high-minded, free-floating, pie in the sky ideal. It means 50 percent plus one. Up to 62% of Americans think our troops should be coming home soon. That is a majority, so why don't we force our employee, the president, to do what we want him to do?" Do you understand how a representative government works?
  • Polls count for more than votes.
  • I'm sure that Bush stole the election(s)
You wrote, "We know you had to "fit the intelligence around the policy" of invading Iraq. Do you realize that the quote was actually "fix the intelligence" as in "fixate"?
  • Yes, but I was hoping that you wouldn't know.
  • Oops, Freudian slip.
What are you really hoping for?
  • The impeachment of George Bush
  • The impeachment of Bush and Cheney.
  • The impeachment of every neo-con from the President down to the guy who cleans up the dog sh_t.

Note, all of the Cindy quotes are from her blog on Huffington.

Monday, August 22, 2005

President Al?

Nearly five years after the fact, Democrats are still fighting over the 2000 election. Eric Alterman says:
Really, it’s not controversial at all, unless facts have no meaning. The only counting method through which Gore would have lost was the one his profoundly incompetent legal team happened to choose to argue, not that it mattered. The media seized upon this coincidence to try to protect Bush’s legitimacy. But the fact his, Gore won Florida by any sensible standard.
What Alterman means is that, had the Gore team managed to convince the courts that "overcounts" counted, then Gore would have won. This is based on a count of all of the overcount ballots. Not mentioned is that at least some of these were probably "Gore/Nader" votes. Of the rest, some probably meant to show that they REALLY wanted to vote for Gore and some probobly hoped that their votes would be counted twice. Either way, this is traditionally a bad ballot so it would have taken a lot of talking to convince the courts to allow them.

Mickey Klaus has more detail on this but ignores the problems of getting the courts to accept overcounts.

Paul Krugman mentions:
Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida's ballots; both found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore. This was true despite a host of efforts by state and local officials to suppress likely Gore votes, most notably Ms. Harris's "felon purge," which disenfranchised large numbers of valid voters.
In fact there were complaints about the purge before the election and the most populous counties ignored it, allowing felons to vote. This one cuts both ways.

Regardless, this is exactly what Republicans were afraid Gore was going to do during the recount - keep counting until he found a way to come out ahead and insist that this is the only valid measure. In an election this close there was bound to be some way that Gore could win, it's just one that everyone at the time felt should not count.

More on voting here.

Even more here.
Krugman's second scenario relates to what the consortia studies found by reviewing overvotes (double or triple votes or multiple marked ballots ). Here Krugman overstates the results for Gore. Some of the scenarios did show Gore winning when overvotes were reexamined. And some of them showed him losing. Krugman says the consideration of the overvotes (what he calls a full manual recount, and which he believes should have occurred) would have produced a tiny Gore victory. Gore does win in a few of the varoius overvote scenarios which were examined, but not all of them. While not directly misstating the truth, Krugman misleads his readers by creating the impression that if overvotes are considered Gore would have been the clear winner
Again Krugman shows no care for nuance, if he can find any kernel of a fact he likes. Remember again, that nobody – not Bush, not Gore, not any court in Florida – ever requested a recount of the overvote, so who cares what it shows? I challenge Krugman to find for me the states that manually recount overvotes in close elections

Cindy the comedian

Cindy Sheehan may have left Camp Casey in order to care for her mother but she is still posting on Huffington. Her latest post shows that she is either suffering from an enormous ego or she has lapsed into self-parody.

I have received dozens of emails with this heading: Go Home and Take Care of Your Kids. I think of all the name calling and unnecessary and untrue trashing of my character, this one offends me the most. What do the people who send me this message mean?

First of all, it offends me because it is so blatantly sexist. Would anyone think of emailing George Bush when he is out and about (now he is going on a vacation away from his vacation to make speeches in Idaho and Utah defending his killing policies), telling him to go and take care of his kids? Does anyone write to ANY man and tell him to go home and take care of his kids. I have news for all of these people, my children are adults and their dad is home to take care of them if they need any taking care of.

Here is a woman whose only claim to national attention is her motherhood and she upset because someone told her to take care of her kids. (There may be some confusion about Cindy's other kids. She has three besides Casey - two girls and a boy.) Bush is not dictating foreign policy on the basis of his fatherhood. Cindy is.

Cindy still refers to her oldest as a "man-child", implying that even though he was nearly 24, had been in the army for four years, and had been in a combat zone, he still needed mothering. Given that, it's easy to assume that her younger kids still need their (adult) diapers changed.

This is right in line with Cindy's personality in general. She insists that the protest isn't about her yet she demands that Bush see her - not other parents, just her. She knows that her son supported the war and went willingly but she wants us to surrender in his name.

We as mothers need to stop buying into the load of misogynistic crap that our children need our constant presence in their lives so they can thrive and grow.
You are right, Cindy. So why can't you accept that Casey grew up and made his own choices? Yes, it led to his death, but he had been in Iraq. He knew what was going on there better than you or I do.

Or maybe she's doing a dry self-parody and we just haven't noticed it yet.

Over on ZDNews, there is a frequent poster in the talkback section named Mike Cox. He usually responds to some story about Microsoft by insisting that his shop only uses Microsoft products. This is followed by references to having meals with his Microsoft representative and some outlandish statement, things like
My rep showed me a study funded my Microsoft that said so. Of course, I have banned Google here anyway. Our ISA Servers block access to it. It then redirects you to MSN Search for a true search eXPerience. Several of our R&D guys were upset at this but I told them it was either my way or the highway. I rule this place with an iron fist. I am the only person who has the passwords for our servers. Nobody else knows them. If an MCSE needs to logon to a server, he calls me and waits until I am good and ready to log him in. Google is a very threat to the information technology ecosystem. My rep and MCS told me this over breakfast
The whole thing is an over-the-top satire but people often mistake his post for the real thing and write back incendiary responses.

Maybe this is what Cindy is up to - performance art on the foibles of the anti-war movement.

Or maybe she just needs professional help.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Lions and Tigers and Elephants - oh my!

There is a proposal to relocate nearly-extinct African animals to middle America. This has been done on small scale projects such as The Wilds in eastern Ohio. The proposed project is to be big enough to sustain a breeding population. The hope is that, while these animals may go extinct in their native habitat they will continue on in America. There is also some talk that they will replace the megafauna that used to exist in America.

This proposal is kind of strange. For years ecologists and naturalists have warned against introducing foreign species. This would be introducing them on a huge scale. The animals that used to live here might be similar to the ones being introduced but they are not the same. Will an African elephant occupy the same ecological niche as a woolly mammoth did in post-ice age America? Does that niche even still exist?

Then there is the introduction of large predators. In today's news there was a teen ager killed by a tiger in Kansas and a plan to curb lion attacks in Tanzania. You simply cannot fence in a large population of predators in a huge area and expect that they will not eventually escape. (Hey, we've all seen Jurassic Park.)

I suspect that proposed lands will turn out to intersect with Indian reservations which further complicates things.

For more thoughts, see here, and here.

Roberts and Women's Rights

According to an article in the Washington Post (picked up by MSNBC),
Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. Consistently opposed legal and legislative attempts to strengthen women's rights during his years as a legal adviser in the Reagan White House, disparaging what he called "the purported gender gap" and, at one point, questioning "whether encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good."

This interpretation of Roberts' record rests mainly on two things. One was an opinion he wrote about a White House staff member entering a Clairol shampoo contest for women who had changed their lives after 30. The woman in this case had gotten a law degree and "encouraged many former homemakers to enter law school and become lawyers."

Roberts' wrote that he did not see any conflicts with a staff member entering the contest but "Some might question whether encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good, but I suppose that is for the judges to decide."

This is a lawyer joke, not a statement that women are only fit to be homemakers. Anyone reading it any other way is deliberately trying to find fault (which is what a number of groups have to do in order to justify years of fund-raising).

The other main point has to do with comparable worth. In the late 1970s and 1980s, feminists could no longer complain about women earning less when doing the same job. Studies indicated that women's earnings were quickly approaching men's when comparing people doing the same job with the same experience. But women, on the average, were earning less then men.

Studies were done ranking professions based on specific criteria to identify jobs with similar requirements. They found that professions typically held by women such as health care, child care, and elementary education paid less than male professions such as truck drivers, parking lot attendants, and vocational educators.

Obviously (to them), discrimination was at work. They wanted the government to step in and force employers to raise women's wages. Roberts was against this.

Good! It was a stupid idea. It would have put all wages under government control on a level unseen anywhere except communist countries.

Also, the studies were flawed, or more precisely, the results were cooked. Jobs were ranked based on education, training, stress, customer or client contact, and responsibility. While education and training are objective measures, stress and responsibility are not. Also missing are flexible hours, physical effort, and danger.

Look at elementary educator vs. Vocational educator. At first glance these seem equivalent. Both are teachers. But a vocational teacher has to be qualified in a specialized trade, often automobile mechanic. These are in short supply so schools have to pay more to attract them. In contrast, what else can an elementary educator do? Plus, there is often a glut of elementary teachers. Paying them as much as auto mechanics will just make the glut worse and will not help with the chronic shortage of mechanics. That's how the free market operates.

Most women's groups such as the NOW are on the far left of the Democratic Party. They still would like a government takeover of wages. The rest of the country dismissed it in the 1980s.

Keep this in mind when evaluating Roberts' anti-women opinions.

Now, the real question: why would the Washington Post put such a pro-feminist spin on the story? Don't they realize how out-of-the-mainstream comparable worth is? Roberts' opinion is right in the center of current law.

Could the MSM be just a little bit biased?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Moral Authority, 9/11 and Iraq

I'm actually pretty sick of Cindy Sheehan. It seems like every newscast or news site has something prominent about her. Coming home from dinner last night I passed protestors who were part of her "vigil".

There are two parts of this movement that should be addressed. One is her "moral authority" as the mother of someone killed in the global war against terrorism. The other is the link between Iraq and 9/11. I'm going to address these in reverse order.

According to the 9/11 commission, there was no direct link between Saddam and 9/11. There were links between Saddam and bin Laden, mainly tentative, but they were in communication and Saddam had offered bin Laden shelter.

That was not the justification for the war. Saddam was a direct sponsor of terrorism and a destabilizing force. He had attacked two neighbors, used WMDs, and showed no signs of ever changing. The sanctions had killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and could not be continued. The only real options were to attack Saddam or to wait until he re-armed and attacked someone else.

But, if there was no link between 9/11 and Saddam, there is a very direct link between 9/11 and the terrorists in Iraq today. They are directly affiliated with al Qaeda. Just read their statements. They say so. bin Laden says so. The only one who says otherwise in Cindy Sheehan.

So what happens if we do as Cindy demands and pull our troops out right now? The terrorists win. If we stay and manage to build a stable democracy then they lose. If the terrorists win then everyone died for nothing.

Worse, it will prove to bin Laden that we do not have the heart for a protracted conflict. He was sure of this after we pulled out of Lebanon in the 1980s and Somalia in the 1990. This was a big factor in 9/11 - the conviction that we would simply collapse if he struck us in our homeland.

If we lose in Iraq we will be fighting the terrorists in America. Again, we have bin Laden's word on this.

This is what Cindy Sheehan demands. She is fooling herself that a US withdrawal from the Middle East and an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank would stop terrorism. It would encourage it. The intended victims would switch. Instead of armed and trained soldiers, the victims would be civilians. A lot more parents would be burying their children.

So where does Cindy Sheehan get the moral authority to demand this?

note: Recent revelations about Able Danger identifying three of the 9/11 hijackers as being in the US earlier than the official timeline calls the findings of the 9/11 Commission into question. The commission discounted reports that Mohemed Atta met with a high-ranking Iraqi official. Given that other data they discounted now appears to be true, the final word on any 9/11-Iraq links has not been written.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Meeting the President

After all the hype about Cindy Sheehan, here is a completely different account of a meeting between Bush and some grieving parents. In the Huffington Post of all places.

A few excerpts:

This just happened in February, he was already re-elected, so he didn't have to meet with us. The most powerful man in the universe still thinks of the families after being elected to 2nd term. It meant a lot, he impressed the living daylights out of me. He's a very strong character, very strong person, and explained a lot about his life, explained much of what he went through, and his wife and family, he was very down to earth.
It was the most amazing thing to see how compassionate the President was. He just walked in as if he was one of family, and walked right up, and hugged them. Adie was crying. He was wonderful with her. He was getting upset too. They sat on sofa and his attention to them was as if he had known them his entire life. He gave them twice the time allocated, which had been 15 minutes. He never rushed them. They talked about their families. The President tried to lighten the mood by speaking about how he met Laura and asked how Bill met Adie. It was the most personable meeting you could image. No invasion of their privacy. This was a very comforting, relaxing atmosphere, which was really special.

I asked the grieving father from Pennsylvania about the grieving mother from California who is now camped out in Texas.

"My heart goes out to her, especially when I see what my wife goes through. You live with this every day. The first year you still think that door is going to open and your son is going to walk through it. She deserves the right to say what she wants to say, thank God you can do that in this country, but do I believe in what she says, no I don't."

"When the President said our son, or any other son would not die in vain, that made me feel real good, because I certainly don't want this thing to end up the way Vietnam did, with American vs. American, and I felt really good he made that statement. The man sticks to his word."


For the past few days the news has been full of Israelis being forced to abandon their settlements on the Gaza Strip. While I feel saddened at these people having to leave their homes there are other considerations.

First we must consider why they are there. International law forbids a country from forcibly annexing conquered land. That was the cause of the first Gulf War.

As part of the peace process, Israel promised to withdraw from occupied land which will become a Palestinian state. The whole purpose of the settlements is to keep this from happening.

There are a couple of schools of thought on this. One says that Israel conquered these lands so it should get to keep it. The other says that the original boarders of Israel were too small and could not be defended. By keeping the occupied land as a buffer, Israel is safer. Neither of these is convincing.

There are also some realities. Gaza has 1.5 million Palestinians and a few thousand Israelis. The settlers are too outnumbered. Defending them is almost impossible and is a huge drain on the military. Also, the settlements have been a sore point in Israel's international relations for decades. They infuriate US presidents and incite anti-semitism in the rest of the world.

Keeping all of this in mind, it is easy to see why the settlers must go.

The only problem is that it appears to be a victory for the terrorists. Hamas is celebrating it as a great victory and it is hard to argue with this viewpoint.

So Israel will be easier to defend but the terrorists have proof that their strategy is working. Is this a good thing or a bad one?

About That Attack on Iran...

Seymour Hersh was just on the Daily Show. In the middle of a rant about the Bush administration, Jon Stewart stopped him and asked, "Wait a minute! Last time you were on you said that we were going to attack Iran by now." The fast-talking Hersh glossed over this and moved on.

But Stewart was right. Last winter the big buzz among liberals was that Bush had already given the ok for a June bombing raid on Iran.
On Iran, Ritter said that President George W. Bush has received and signed off on orders for an aerial attack on Iran planned for June 2005. Its purported goal is the destruction of Iran's alleged program to develop nuclear weapons, but Ritter said neoconservatives in the administration also expected that the attack would set in motion a chain of events leading to regime change in the oil-rich nation of 70 million -- a possibility Ritter regards with the greatest skepticism

On Jan. 17, the New Yorker posted an article by Hersh entitled The Coming Wars (New Yorker, January 24-31, 2005). In it, the well-known investigative journalist claimed that for the Bush administration, "The next strategic target [is] Iran." Hersh also reported that "The Administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer." According to Hersh, "Defense Department civilians, under the leadership of Douglas Feith, have been working with Israeli planners and consultants to develop and refine potential nuclear, chemical-weapons, and missile targets inside Iran. . . . Strategists at the headquarters of the U.S. Central Command, in Tampa, Florida, have been asked to revise the military's war plan, providing for a maximum ground and air invasion of Iran. . . . The hawks in the Administration believe that it will soon become clear that the Europeans' negotiated approach [to Iran] cannot succeed, and that at that time the Administration will act."
Maybe I blinked or something but I don't remember this attack happening.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Reporting Sheehan's Divorce

Michelle Malkin was one of the first to post about Cindy Sheehan's husband filing for divorce. I know I saw this listed among "attempts to slime Cindy" somewhere, probably in the Huffington Post, but I cannot find the reference. Possibly it was removed after the story went from unconfirmed to confirmed.

Malkin's post prompted this blogger to unload on her.

But this kind of bile coming from Michelle Malkin is fucking out of line, and spare me the ‘like it or not, this is news’ crap. It is goddamned disgraceful. Knock it off, take down that post, and then apologize. Cindy Sheehan’s marital status, her relationship with her husband- none of that is your damned business. Even if you think it ‘proves’ a point. If it proves anything, it proves that losing a son in war fucks up families. Thanks for the deep insight.

No fucking shame. I donÂ’t give a shit what even the nastiest folks on the left say about Malkin anymore. She brings this shit on herself, with vicious bullshit like this. No wonder she rushes to defend Karl Rove at every opportunity
Note - the "bile" was the link to the divorce story.

So, is Sheehan's marital status our business? Yes, I think so. Here is my reasoning:

1) She made herself a celebrity. This is just as much our business as anything Brad Pitt does.

2) This could be used by Cindy herself to prove her point - how much harm the unjustified death of her son caused her.

3) It can also be used the other way. If you believe, as I do, that Cindy has an unhealthy fixation on her son's death then this is evidence of that.

Is it hypocrisy to insist that Supreme Court nominee's John Robert's personal life be kept private while Cindy's is not? No. Roberts should be judged on his professional experience and qualifications. Cindy, on the other hand, has no qualifications to be spokesperson for the anti-war crowd except for her own experiences (does she even have a job?).

Speaking of Michelle Malkin - it is amazing how many people on the left feel free to insult her gender or ethnic background (Filipino). I thought that liberals eliminated this sort of hate speech.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Cindy Sheehan - Her Own Words

From Cindy's column in the Huffington Post.
George Bush took a 2 hour bike ride on Saturday, and when he got back, he was asked how he could go for a two hour bike ride when he doesn't have time to meet with me, and he said: "I have to go on with my life." (Austin Statesman, August 14) WHAT!!!!!????? He has to get on with his life!!! I am so offended by that statement. Every person, war fan, or not, who has had a child killed in this mistake of an occupation should be highly offended by that remark. Who does he think he is? I wish I could EVER be able to get on with my life. Getting on with my life means a life without my dear, sweet boy. Getting on with my life means learning to live with a pain that is so intense that sometimes I feel like throwing up, or screaming until I pass out from sorrow. I wish a little bike ride could help me get on with my life.
Someone please give this woman some grief counseling.

Update: Cindy's husband filed for divorce on Friday. She blames Bush for this, also.

VJ Day

Sixty years ago today Japan surrendered. This followed the dropping of two atomic bombs. Was this justified? Read the plans for Operation Downfall, the invasion of Japan before answering. Keep in mind that the Japanese forces were three times stronger than American intelligence estimated. The Japanese planned to use kamikaze planes to sink up to 400 troop transports. Even schoolgirls were given awls and told to kill at least one American.

The traditional modern arguments against the use of the bomb are that the Japanese would have surrendered anyway (Ha!); we needed to end the war before the Russians could get involved (after giving away major concessions months earlier so that they would get involved); or that we were racists, willing to nuke a different race but not Europeans (who we defeated with much less effort). I'm not buying any of these arguments. The Japanese were prepared to fight for every scrap of ground in the hope of making the victory too costly for us. It might have worked. There is no question that it would work today. Compared to World War II or Viet Nam, we have only had a handful of dead in Iraq but the Left has already declared it a defeat for the US.

We are not the people our parents were.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


Cindy Sheehan is getting a lot of press because of her campaign to talk with President Bush about why her son was killed in Iraq. The left is cheering her on. The Huffington Post, for example, is filled with posts about what a great American hero she is. Comparisons with Rosa Parks are frequent. Why are they so excited?

First some background. Like everyone else in the military, Casey Sheehan volunteered. He also reenlisted in August, 2003. When his unit was sent to Iraq he insisted on going along even though, as a HumVee mechanic, he did not have to go. He was killed April 4, 2004, around six weeks before his 25th birthday.

In June of 2004, Cindy met with President Bush along with other parents of soldiers killed in Iraq. The Reporter described it this way:
The meeting didn't last long, but in their time with Bush, Cindy spoke about Casey and asked the president to make her son's sacrifice count for something. They also spoke of their faith.

While meeting with Bush, as well as Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, was an honor, it was almost a tangent benefit of the trip. The Sheehans said they enjoyed meeting the other families of fallen soldiers, sharing stories, contact information, grief and support.

For some, grief was still visceral and raw, while for others it had melted into the background of their lives, the pain as common as breathing. Cindy said she saw her reflection in the troubled eyes of each.

"It's hard to lose a son," she said. "But we (all) lost a son in the Iraqi war."

The trip had one benefit that none of the Sheehans expected.

For a moment, life returned to the way it was before Casey died. They laughed, joked and bickered playfully as they briefly toured Seattle.

For the first time in 11 weeks, they felt whole again.

"That was the gift the president gave us, the gift of happiness, of being together," Cindy said.

Her happiness didn't last long. She now describes the meeting this way:

Instead of a kind gesture or a warm handshake, Sheehan said she immediately got a taste of Bush arrogance when he entered the room and "in a condescending tone and with a disgusting loud Texas accent," said: "Who we’all honorin’ here today?"

"His mouth kept moving, but there was nothing in his eyes or anything else about him that showed me he really cared or had any real compassion at all. This is a human being totally disconnected from humanity and reality. His eyes were empty, hollow shells and he was acting like I should be proud to just be in his presence when it was my son who died for his illegal war! It was one of the most disgusting experiences I ever had and it took me almost a year to even talk about it," said Sheehan in a telephone conversation from Washington D.C. where she was attending a July 4th anti-war rally.

Sheehan said the June 2004 private meeting with the President went from bad to worse to a nightmare when Bush acted like he didn’t even want to know her name. She said Bush kept referring to her as ‘Ma’ or ‘Mom’ while he "put on a phony act," saying things like ‘Mom, I can’t even imagine losing a loved one, a mother or a father or a sister or a brother.’

"The whole meeting was simply bizarre and disgusting, designed to intimidate instead of providing compassion. He didn’t even know our names," said Sheehan. "Finally I got so upset I just looked him in the eye, saying ‘I think you can imagine losing someone. You have two daughters. Imagine losing them?’ After I said that he just looked at me, looked at me with no feeling or caring in his eyes at all."

Dispite her dissatisfaction with her first meeting, Sheehan still wants a second meeting. This is being covered in the news as a reasonable request. After reading her open letter to George Bush published in a Not In Our Name newsletter in December, 2004 and her email about Nightline, we get a different picture of Cindy.

In the letter to Bush she starts out:

It has been two days since your dishonest campaign stole another election…but you all were way more subtle this time than in 2000, weren’t you? You hardly had to get the Supreme Court of the United States involved at all this week.
She also refers to her (nearly 2 year old son) as her "brave and honorable man-child".

When talking about Nightline she complains about them using parents who support he war and about the treatment that she got when she was on. It seems that Ted Koppel felt that she was emotional.

She goes on to say:
Am I emotional? Yes, my first born was murdered. Am I angry? Yes, he was killed for lies and for a PNAC Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel. My son joined the Army to protect America, not Israel. Am I stupid? No, I know full-well that my son, my family, this nation, and this world were betrayed by a George Bush who was influenced by the neo-con PNAC agenda after 9/11. We were told that we were attacked on 9/11 because the terrorists hate our freedoms and democracy...not for the real reason, becuase the Arab-Muslims who attacked us hate our middle-eastern foreign policy. That hasn't changed since America invaded and occupied fact it has gotten worse.
(note: PNAC the Project for a New American Century.)

After examining Cindy's own words it is obvious that 1) She is obbsessed with her son's tragic death; 2) She believes and repeats every conspiracy theory advanced by the far left; 3) She has no desire to have Bush explain anything - she simply wants a chance to yell at him; and 4) This would not satisfy her nor would anything less than Bush being forced out of office and arrested.

At the heart of it is an unhealthy fixation on her son's death. This woman needs to talk with a grief councilor, not the President. That's not the real problem here. The problem is that the left is egging her on. Michael Moore posts her column on his web site. She testified at John Conyers "impeachment hearing". I already mentoned the Huffington Post. Most of the left is reacting the same way.

And why not? She believes what they do but she manages to project a moderate image. None of them are going to suggest counciling as long as she advances their adgenda.

The thing is, if Cindy wins then we all lose. Iraq will be much more of a war zone than ever. Al Qaeda will have further proof that Americans do not have the heart for a protracted struggle. The end results will be disasterous.

And the death of Cindy's heroic man-child will have hurt the US for decades to come.

It is understandable that Cindy Sheehan cannot take the long view but the rest of us have to.

A couple of final points:

1) Great suffering does not impart great wisdom. Sheehan is subscribing to conspiracy theories that have no basis in fact. The biggest one - that the war in Iraq is being fought for Israel instead of the US - fails to explain exactly why Iraq was a bigger threat to Israel than Iran or Syria.

2) The anti-war protests started in 2001. Not In Our Name, which Sheehan is affiliated with, was protesting as far back as October, 2001 - almost before the dust settled from the first bombs dropped on the Taliban. Sheehan is simply part of a pre-existing movement. Comparing her to Rosa Parks who was a civil rights pioneer is rediculous.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Thomas Paine

For Eric Alterman's second book review he chose ON THOMAS PAINE AND THE PROMISE OF AMERICA By Harvey J Kaye.

For too long we have allowed the right to appropriate the nation’s history, define what it means to be an American, and corral American political imagination. It is time for liberals and radicals to recover their fundamental principles and perspectives and reinvigorate Americans’ democratic impulses and aspirations. And we must start by reclaiming, and reconnecting with, the memory and legacy of Thomas Paine and the progressive tradition he inspired and encouraged. Doing so will remind us of not only what we stand in opposition to, but, all the more, what we stand in opposition for…
The Wikipedia biography of Thomas Paine shows him to be a strange choice for the left's mascot. He was born and raised in England. He moved the the United States (he was the first one to suggest the name) just before the revolution and he moved back to England soon after the Revolutionary War ended.

He moved to France to avoid arrest for his book Rights of Man and was an apologist for the French Revolution. He could not stomach the terror and was imprisoned. He was supposed to be executed but the jailer made a clerical error when marking his door and he survived. He eventually moved to New York in 1802 where he died in 1809.

Paine was not so much in favor of separating church and state - he simply hated organized religion and considered Christianity to be a total fabrication. Instead he was a committed deist.

A number of his ideas were ahead of their time. He was against slavery and for minimum wage and redistribution of wealth.

Come to think of it - a European who is afraid of religion and wants to redistribute wealth... maybe he is a good mascot for the Democrats.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

What Went Wrong with Liberalism? Part III

I made two posts covering what I agreed with from Eric Alterman's review of Douglas S. Massey's book, What Went Wrong with Liberalism?. Now I'll look at the parts I disagree with and the parts that Massey forgot.

Massey sees the Niet Nam war this way:

The arrogance and self-righteousness of liberal elites manifested themselves in yet another way. The same liberal architects who promoted civil rights and social welfare also prosecuted a costly foreign war on the basis of lies, deception, and subterfuges that callously abused the faith and trust of the working class. As subsequent tapes and archives have clearly shown, liberals in the Johnson administration—including the president himself—manufactured an attack on U.S. warships in the Gulf of Tonkin to secure congressional authorization for military intervention in Viet Nam. Then they systematically lied to voters about the costs and consequences of that engagement and its ultimate prospects for success.

The Vietnam War forcefully underscored the fact that liberal elites made the decisions while working class whites paid the price, thus reinforcing a politics of class resentment manipulated so effectively by conservative Republicans. The soldiers who fought and died in Vietnam were disproportionately drawn from the America’s working and lower classes. The sons and daughters of upper middle class professionals—the people who held power, influence, and prestige in the Great Society—by and large did not serve in Vietnam. They avoided military service through a combination of student deferments, personal connections, and a skillful use of medical disabilities. Tellingly, once the system of student deferments was abandoned and the children of the upper middle class faced the real risk of being drafted through random assignment, direct U.S. participation in the war quickly ended.

To blue collar workers in the north and poor whites in the south it looked like liberal lawmakers favored the war as long as someone else’s children were serving and dying as soldiers, but as soon as their precious offspring were put at risk, they quickly ignored the sacrifices of the working classes, forgot about the 60,000 dead, and abandoned hundreds of POWs and MIAs in their haste to leave Vietnam. The ultimate result was the evolution of a working class mythology of sellout by unpatriotic liberal elites (“America haters”), epitomized cinematically by the movies and roles of Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, and Clint Eastwood, whose tag lines were appropriated to great political effect by Ronald Reagan.

To be sure, Viet Nam had a major effect on liberalism and the country but not quite the effect that Massey describes. Early in the war there was some resentment about college deferments making View Nam "rich man's war, poor man's fight". The college deferement was being scaled back years before the war ended - around half way through. Further, the deferment was not a "get out of war free" card. It simply delayed when you could be drafted. It also let college graduates enter the service as officers instead of as enlisted men. That is why John Kerry enlisted in the Navy and George Bush in the TANG - their deferments were up.

By the time Johnson's duplicity came out the country was distracted by other matters. This may matter to hard-core liberals but not to most Americans.

Besides, Nixon and Watergate were much bigger scandals (I wonder why?).

What the war did do was encourage a huge block of anti-war protestors to become anti-American. This combined with the civil rights campaign to convince people that, rather than being "a shining city on the hill," America was an imperial power bent on conquering the rest of the world. To these people, Viet Nam was not about stopping communism, it was about crushing a nationalist movement. This is where the blame-America first crowd came from. Since many of them started as college students getting a deferment from the draft, they flooded acedemia.

The question is, how did they end up dominating the Democratic party to the extent that they do?

There are a few answers to this. The Democrats have always been more open to communists and socialists. During Nixon's term, anti-communists such as JFK had been were effectively purged from the party. Instead the Democrats embraced the peace candidate, George McGovern, probably the most liberal major ticket candidate of my lifetime. This cemented the Democrats as the party of peace-at-all-costs and the party of socialism.

The war and Watergate had a very different effect on the Republicans. Many people came away from the early 1970s thinking that the problem was not the US government, it was government in general. The bigger it is and the further away it is the less it is to be trusted. This led to the rise of Libertarians and Libertarian-leaning Republicans (like me).

For the life of me, I cannot see how people who lived through the 1970s could have come away with the conviction that what was needed was more government.

But, forgotten in all of this is one of the biggest blocks of FDR's coalition - labor. What happened to it?

The AFL-CIO is in a bad way. Their biggest members just split off. The portion of the population belonging to unions is was down.

On of their problems is their past successes. Some of the industries they had the most success in have been devistated. Railroads are the classic example. Due to union demands the railroads could not compete with trucks for frieght. What had been one of America's powerhouse sectors now scrapes along with government assistance.

Unions have been squeezed from the left and the right. Globalization means that formerly union jobs have gone overseas. Environmental regulations have closed industries such as mining in the unionized east and encouraged it in the non-unionized west.

To make matters worse for big labor, a sizable percentage of their membership votes Republican. Between not trusting Democrats to defend the country and Democrats' rejection of traditional culture and anyone rural or poorly educated, this should not be a surprise.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

What Went Wrong With Liberalism? (part 2)

Yesterday I wrote about part of Eric Alterman's review of “What Went Wrong with Liberalism?” by Douglas S. Massey. I am continuing that today.

There is a section on the effects of the Viet Nam war. I am going to skip that part for now. I disagree with the chronology and the cause and effect given so I will save that for a rebuttal. For now I am expanding on the parts that I agree with.

Which brings us to this:
Economically, Johnson’s attempt to support guns and butter without raising taxes laid the foundation for inflationary spirals and stagflation in the 1970s. The 1973 oil boycott would have dealt a serious blow to the U.S. economy under any circumstances, but the fiscal excess of the Great Society combined with the Vietnam War turned what in Europe and Japan were severe but manageable recessions to a disastrous brew of inflation, unemployment, and long-term recession in the United States.

A particular challenge to liberals stemmed from the fact that high rates of inflation in the 1970s produced rising nominal wages but declining spending power in real terms, causing a serious problem of “bracket creep” in the federal tax system. In the course of the 1970s, more and more Americans were pushed by inflation into income tax brackets that were originally intended to apply only to the very affluent. Middle income Americans were working harder for less money in real terms, but were being taxed at higher and higher rates.

High inflation also brought about an escalation in the value of real assets, particularly housing. Families with modest incomes suddenly found themselves owning homes—and paying real estate taxes—far above what they could really afford. Rather than sympathizing with the plight of middle class families struggling to pay taxes in an era of stagflation, however, liberals viewed rising tax revenues as a source of easy money. Bracket creep and asset inflation offered liberal legislators a seemingly costless way to raise taxes steadily without ever voting to do so.

But there were costs. The unwillingness of Democratic legislators to adjust tax brackets or accommodate the inflation of housing prices set the stage for a middle class tax revolt. As is often the case, the revolution began in California. By a large majority, voters in that state passed Proposition 13 to cap property taxes permanently at unrealistically low levels. Riding the wave of middle class anger and resentment, won a landslide victory over the hapless Jimmy Carter in 1980, and one of his first acts was to cut tax rates sharply and to reduce their progressivity. When combined with a massive increase in defense spending, these actions shut off the flow of money that had financed the expansion of liberalism. Following a path that led from intervention in Vietnam to hyperinflation to bracket creep, liberal Democrats, through a remarkable combination of arrogance and self-righteousness, dug their own graves in the 1970s and created the political conditions whereby conservatives could achieve their cherished goal of “de-funding” the New Deal.

It was economics that really brought Reagan into office. The economy was poor under Nixon/Ford but it was intollerable under Carter. Inflation was in the double digits (by contrast, it has been running at less than 2% for years - 1/10 the rate of the 1970s). This was bad. Very few people received cost of living increases high enough to meet the inflation rate. Banks paid at best 5% which meant that the value of your savings were dropping. Many people tried investing in real estate, gold, and collectables as a hedge against inflation.

The progressive tax rate made things much worse. The top income tax rate was 70% with numerous steps inbetween. Almost any cost of living increase pushed you into a higher tax bracket which meant a larger percentage of your income went to the government. If the annual inflation rate was 10%, you had to increase your income by 12% just to stay even.

No one could keep up and nearly everyone lost ground in terms of real spending power. It only made matters worse that the government was part of the problem.

The late 1970s were an economic disaster. The only thing that saved many families was the number of women getting jobs. Prior to the 1970s, a family could easily exist with a single wage earner. By 1980, most women worked. In this case, an economic shift coincided with a social shift so it was not commented on much. Regardless, due to the inflation of the 1970s, a typical family with two wage-earners had less buying power than a typical family with one wage-earner in the 1960s.

None of this was a secret. Everyone knew that they were falling behind, year by year. At the same time, state and local politicians raised taxes citing inflationary pressures.

When Reagan proposed tax cuts, it was to a population that felt over-taxed. Although it passed a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, all of the opposition came from Democrats. Reagan also put through spending cuts to help pay for the tax cuts and this was also opposed by Democrats.

Reagan used the debate to label his opponents "tax and spend Democrats".

Interestingly, Democrats still have not figured this part out. Here is part of one person's reply:

... Rather than offer pros and cons on his arguments I feel compelled to comment on his statement concerning taxes and its affect on the support liberalism receives from the working class. Cutting to the chase: Americans are not overtaxed and I am sick of hearing this phrase repeated ad nauseum. In fact, the belief in over taxation is a red herring begun by anti-tax groups to drum up support for their beliefs. The main problem with taxation in America is that Americans see little direct benefit from their tax dollars. Considering how much we pay combining all forms of taxation, I think it fair to say Americans come nowhere close to getting their money's worth.
He totally missed that Massey was talking about tax policy 30 years ago and goes on to talk about today's taxes. HE also seems totally ignorant of how poorly "old Europe" is doing. Like many liberals, he only looks at the services that the government is currently providing, not things like the unemployment rate (several times ours) or the rate of economic growth (a fraction of ours). It's that sort of thinking that holds the Democrats back.

Monday, August 08, 2005

What Went Wrong With Liberalism?

Last week Eric Alterman reviewed the book, What Went Wrong With Liberalism by Douglas S. Massey. I only know of this book through Alterman's review (actually a synopsis rather than a review) but it got me thinking.

First, this is an actual look at why liberals no longer control the country placing blame on the liberals. This is in contrast to the popular view following the 2004 election that people were voting against their own economic interests because of irrelevant artificial hot-button issues (gay marriage) created by Karl Rove. Massey's book assumes that liberals have a real problem, one that they created themselves.

Here's one example:
As the civil rights movement shifted out of the south, liberal democrats naturally encountered resistance from entrenched social and political interests in northern cities. Rather than acknowledging the sacrifices that were being asked of working class whites and their political bosses, and attempting to reach a political accommodation that offered benefits to counterbalance them, liberal elites treated lower class opponents as racist obstructionists to be squelched using the powers of government. Rather than outlining a political argument to explain why desegregation was in their interests and providing money to ease the pain of transition, liberals turned to the courts and executive branch to force working class whites and local political bosses to accept whatever changes they mandated from above.
Civil Rights always had a troubled existence in FDR's coalition. Neither FDR nor JFK never really cared for it but during the 1960s it became a core principal of the Democratic Party. By itself, this should not have been a problem but, as implemented, it has been a wedge issue splitting off voters ever since. That is because this is a two-fold approach. One is to assure equal rights and the other is to address past injustices.

Examples of poorly qualified individuals winning jobs/college admissions/contracts/appointments are too numerous to quote. Probably everyone who is white has either been passed over or knows someone who was passed over because of race. This goes beyond simply explaining policy. The surest way to alienate a voter is to hurt him through a policy that benefits someone else.

A related issue is how school desegregation was handled. In the old South, black students were bussed past the good schools to poorly maintained schools. In effect, two different school districts existed. This was wrong. But, that is not what happened in the North. I remember the court hearings in Columbus from 25 years ago. It was proved that Columbus always assigned students to the closest school regardless of race and that all schools were funded equally. However, some real estate agents had steered blacks to areas where they "would be more comfortable living with their own people". On this basis, desegregation and school bussing were ordered.

Since the 1960s, Democrats have expanded their Civil Rights agenda to include such groups as illegal aliens. The idea that people who should not be here should get taxpayer-funded benefits is another wedge issue separating Democrats from regular tax-paying citizens. In recent months Democrats have started supporting the rights of foreign terrorists detained on foreign soil.

Increasingly, Democrats offer very little for white, middle-class, straight males and not much more for white, middle-class, straight women. They are seen as the party of special-interests. Granted, whites are declining in demographics but they are still far too large to be ignored.

This posed a special problem for such candidates as Howard Dean and Wes Clark and even far-left Ralph Nader. Their appeal is mainly to white, middle-class men but this is no longer a big enough group within liberals to elect a nation-wide candidate.

More on Alterman's piece later.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Republican Beats Iraq Vet

The Democrats ran Paul Hackett, a veteran of Iraq (including the battle of Fallujah), in a special election in southern Ohio. He lost. Now, what to make of it?

The Democrats claim to be happy because they were more competitive in this district than they have been in 30 years. They hope to reproduce this strategy elsewhere to better results. The Republicans are happy because they won.

There are extenuating circumstances. Every week brings out new reports linking lobbyist and coin dealer Thomas Noe with the possible theft of $4 million of public money. Hackett hoped to link his opponent with this. As a long-term strategy, this probably will not help the Democrats. It is limited to Ohio and will be in the distant past by the 2006 Governor's race.

While I am sure that Hackett had a platform, he didn't run on it. He ran on his war record. It almost seems unpatriotic not to vote for him. Again, this is not a good long-term strategy. Many Democrats dislike the military. Even if they were to retake Congress by running Iraq vets, they would not get along well with their new members.

I am still a little unsure about where Hackett stands. He is supposed to be anti-Bush. His web site says that he thought that the war was a mistake from the beginning yet he volunteered to go. Now that he lost, he is talking about volunteering to go back. Plus he seems to agree with Bush's current policies of replacing American troops with Iraqi security forces. Was Hackett as anti-Bush as he says?

On other issues, he is for hybrid cars and government assistance for trial lawyers. He skirts the issue on handguns, denies that there are any problems with Social Security, and proposes some sort of government help with health care. His positions could have been (and possibly were) written by a political consultant. There is no new strategy here.

Probably the Democrats were making a fuss over this election because they need a win. With the Ohio party looking worse every day, they had an opportunity. It didn't come through but they still have to keep the troops pumped up.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Living Up to Expectations

Some Republicans supported Howard Dean as head of the Democrats. They figured that Dean could not stop shooting off his mouth.

Recently he lived up to this expectation:
The president and his right-wing Supreme Court think it is 'okay' to have the government take your house if they feel like putting a hotel where your house is.
Ignoring the fact that it is not exactly Bush's right-wing court, he has not appointed a single justice yet, how do we reconcile this statement with the fact that the court's liberals voted in favor of Kelo and its conservatives voted against it. Dean has it backwards. I can think of three possible explanations. None of them reflect well on Dean:

1) Dean didn't check the voting record. He simply assumed that a horrible decision like this must have come from the conservatives.

2) Dean did know who voted but he forgot, assuming that a decision favoring big business must have come from conservatives.

3) Dean knew perfectly well who voted for what but he knew that this was a bad decision. Most people do not pay attention to who voted. Dean figures that by blaming conservatives he can turn this into an anti-Bush point. Dean is trying to Bork the entire court by blaming bad decisions on conservatives and giving liberals credit for good decisions, regardless of who voted how. This could work. A recent column by Tom Teepen "proved" that Bork "Borked" himself by being outside the judicial mainstream. Rather than relating facts, Teepen repeated the baseless accusations. Years later, the Borked version is being repeated as truth. If the Democrats keep twisting the Supreme Court's voting record, people will start believing their version rather than the truth.

This last possibility assumes that Dean is a shrewd political operative who is willing to lie about important points.