Saturday, January 29, 2005

Return to the Days of Darkness

The future looked bright. The Cold War was over. The threat of mutual destruction was no longer in the back of everyone’s mind. Those bomb shelters and movies of atomic bomb drills now look quaint. Also, here at home, one needn’t fear that their lives would be ruined by a misstatement or injudicious youthful decision. Now, “pinko” may refer to one’s sexual orientation or just a color but certainly not a career ending political slur.

While containment and the threat of war kept the Cold War from going hot, free markets is what slew the dragon. Once again: Free markets perform better than planned economies. Not freedom by force, but freedom by example undid communism. The two Germanys, the two Koreas, the difference became obvious to anyone and everyone: communism as a form of government had no future. Marx has no clothes, and everyone could see what was exposed.

The booming economy for which Clinton gets the credit may have been the peace dividend. Finally, the U.S. had climbed out of the debt from fighting the Cold War and the hot war in Vietnam. The threat of war was gone; a thaw in the ridged mindset of ever vigilance was occurring; spring was in the air. The possibilities were seemed boundless. Having been born at the start of the Cold War, I had come to think that war with the USSR was inevitable and only a matter of time. And then, I came to believe I would live out my remaining years with no threat of WWIII. We had dodged the bullet. My son would not have to make the decisions I did or as my father had done before me.

But now, I believe the shades of darkness are descending on us once again. Nothing in this world is more destructive or blood thirsty as a people who think they have God on their side and they are doing His work. Bush’s inaugural speech sent a chill up my spine. What have we done? Pray God protect us from a faith-based government – especially one that is on a mission.

The one area of the Bush’s administration that most needed change is the one going into the next four years unaltered. The Necons remain in control of foreign policy. When does a political show of strength become a realistic display of a lack of common sense? The Necons were so fatally wrong about Iraq that anyone with any dignity would have quit in disgrace, but they are continuing to go on, planning more strategic blunders – given their past performance – and pulling the rest of us with them.

War is not something to be taken lightly. Once initiated, it has a life of its own. History has a list of aggressive leaders who thought their war would go their way, only to be educated otherwise about war’s own agenda. Rather than the naive assumption that with our invasion we would set up a democracy in Iraq to stabilize the Middle East, events seem to be pointing to a destabilization of the Middle East. A greater conflagration appears possible. Have we started WWIII? Not 9/11, not Afghanistan, but our obviously unjustified invasion of Iraq.

And the name calling and finger pointing has returned: to criticize the government is to criticize America, to mention the shortcoming of the Neocons is to belittle those in the army. And now, if you are against Bush, you are against God.

Duck and cover in the darkness again.

By the way on a lighter note, Red Word / Blue Word has been updated.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

CBS and Right Wing Bloggers

I was over at the Vodkapundit and left this comment on CBS punishment for their memo story. I liked my opening ‘graf so I’m posting it here. I have expanded on my previous comments

The big red right bloggers’ feelings of victory over the firing of four news producers at CBS reminds me of the same response of bleeding heart liberals on the firing of some cops because they did not follow procedure and a known criminal was allow to go free on technicalities. But of course, BHL don’t have the fanatical fixation on cops as the right wing bloggers do on MSM, and Bush is no harden criminal.

However, regardless of whether the memos were fakes or not, anyone who thinks Bush did not have a family connection in getting in the Guard or did not receive preferential treatment while he was in the Guard, is suffering from such as excessive level of hero worship, they are in no position to judge anybody else’s objectivity. Home cooking is as much a part of the Guard as the Minute Men, civil unrest, and natural disasters. Another term associated with the Guard is “First to Fight”. Entitlement to that term was rather dubious during Vietnam, but they have certainly earned it in Iraq. No doubt Gore, a senator’s son, got special treatment in the Army and was never allowed in harm’s way. That's the way of the military, special people get special treatment.

How ever it happened, Bush got in the Guard and served his time and that is all that matters. Vets don’t slam other vets – that is unless you’re certain swift boat Republican vets – to them party politics is more important than the honor between vets. John McCain displayed the honorable course, and the one I choose to follow.

But back to CBS and their supposedly liberal bias: You know, if you are far enough to the right the center will appear liberal to you.

I don’t give a shit about what happen to the folks at CBS. Those who use unnamed sources get what they deserve. Use of unattributable sources is not good journalism. News based on unattributable sources should go in the society or gossip section of any news organization.

Also, I fully believe that if CBS had gotten just as juicy bit of fake news on John Kerry they would have rushed just as hard and fast to broadcast as they did on Bush. It’s not liberal bias; it’s the overwhelming desire to get a scoop. Scoops are rare and greatly prized by reporters; it’s their Holy Grail.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Location, Location, Location

Read Jay Rosen’s opening statements for some conference called “Blogging, Journalism & Credibility.” His title: “Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over.” Elements on the right never turn loose of something, once it’s set, so I don’t agree with his title, but the text of his message was interesting and made me start thinking of blogging’s role in journalism – especially MSM.

I believe of all the terms he used for journalism through blogging, self-publishing journalist and J-blogger are the best and I may use them in the future. Blogging is the most excited use of my Journalism major I have ever had. Writing like any other skilled endeavor, takes practice. Runners run, musicians play, and athletes train, and journalist should write. My blogging has greatly refreshed by writing abilities – although I know I need an editor or at least peer review. Spell checker is great but it’s no editor. At any rate, the blogging experience has come in great where I work, the text of bureaucratic memos and reports seems to flow much easier now that I blog.

Journalism students should include web page design in their studies. (They should also be force to read “Today’s Papers” at Slate, but that’s subject for another blog.)

Rosen’s link to Rebecca Blood’s essay on what a journalist is and isn’t was so interesting, I’m getting the book on blogging. If there is one thing I learned in school, it was to respect the etiquette of any medium.

Bloggings role in journalism reminds me of the time in America’s early history when we were still a colony of Great Britain. Pamphleteers flourished then, and bloggers are like them by self publishing. Coming up through the ranks from paper boy to editor or publisher is one of the great American stories, until like other professions mentioned in Rosen’s post, journalist positions could only obtained by college graduates. This phenomena was recently illustrated by the story of Watergate by Woodward (degree but not in journalism) and Bernstein (some college) beating the MSM journalist. (How ironic that two guys who had no degree in journalism swelled the ranks of journalism majors. I majored in journalism years before Watergate – I thought I wanted to be a writer. My education was interrupted by an invitation from Uncle Sam to attend a little thing he had going on in Southeast Asia. Damn! I’ve strayed from my subject again – see why I need an editor.)

One point I noticed in Rosen’s post was the comment on how J-bloggers can not be controlled in the same way MSM journalism is, but the comment on credibility is valid, and I think, swings much weight. When I got into reading blogs after I read about them in MSM and the undoing of Trent Lott, I read the instapundit almost every time I got on. Glenn was getting a lot of coverage from MSM. However, Glenn lost credibility with me by harping on MSM liberal bias, frequently. I could take this from some uneducated boob, but Glenn has a law degree and teaches at U of Tennessee. (If it’s true what they say about MSM liberal bias, then it must be true what they say about lawyers: They are leeches on society who only live by profiting excessively off the misfortunes of others.)

I don’t believe that about lawyers and I don’t believe that the MSM has undue liberal bias. There is biasness to be sure, but nothing so noble as being liberal (or conservative, for that matter), the bias is toward print space, air time, readership or ratings – and the Holy Grail for reporters, the “scoop.” The scoop trumps political philosophy. Many a news story appears frequently that has no newsworthy value but will certainly attract reader or viewers. I’m hopping that J-bloggers will help curtail this from the news.

I am also hopping that J-bloggers will help rid journalism one of its worse practices: the unattributable source. The slap down of CBS for the “fake memos” would not have been as bad for them had they gone with a named source. Journalists who use unnamed sources get what they deserve. I know, I know, there would have been no Watergate had there been no Deep Throat. I prefer the example of Judith Miller of The New York Times running front page stories about the WMD’s in Iraq from an unnamed source while Knight-Ridder was saying there was no truth to the stories based on an unnamed source. Maybe we need unnamed sources but I would like to see what it would be like with out them. If J-bloggers can rein in the use of unattributable sources, then by this alone they will have performed a great service.

Since getting into reading blogs, I have found one of the most important features in the various indices and their ranking of sites. I have read some of the best reports, essays and news reports thought the ranking sites at and Most have been stories in MSM, but I was pointed to them by so many bloggers linking to them. I feel I am more informed now than I have ever been before.

I believe these are exciting times for journalist as a new paradigm is beginning to form. Rather than being the undoing of journalism, J-blogging may very well be its redemption. The concept of objectivity may very well be dead, but it is a worthy goal: objectivity with context. “The Senator stated that he has a slip of paper with the names of Communist in the State Department. However, the Senator is big blowhard and full of shit.” This report would have been timely in its day, saved careers, and maybe even prevented our involvement in another loosing war.

I for one am not worried about blogging effect on journalism. I believe it may return journalist to the ideals that were hammered into me in school.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Whose Term is It, Anyway?

Jeffrey Feldman over at the Daily Kos or Frameshop (I’m still trying to figure out how they are organized over there.) has a most interesting post about a scam that the Democrats has been allowing to be run on them for some time. Basically, the Democrats are responding to the right wing Republican’s agenda on their terms. (While not always, currently “right wing Republican” is redundant since the right wing faction now seems to have total control over the Grand Old Party,) Anyway, the Democrats are playing on their field, and as long as they do so, they will never have a home field advantage.

Allowing the debate to be couched in their terms provides them with an undue advantage. The Liberals are supposed to be the smart ones. All those over represented liberal professors are not doing us any good. Maybe it’s the geek factor. Geeks are smarter and will have the greater potential earning power but the jock gets the girl. Maybe our geekyness is letting them get the best of us.

At any rate, as Feldman points out in his post, we need to change the terms we use when debating the Conservatives. To use their terms is to loose points right off. Feldman latest post deals with the terms being used to build up to the privatization of Social Security such as: crisis. While I believe we should embrace (steal) the Bushies’s initiative to fix Social Security, we nonetheless should not do it with their terms.

The best phase the self-righteous right-wingers have come up with is “partial-birth abortion.” That has got to be the slickest and cagiest terms with which they have ever come up. The hucksters on Madison Avenue would be proud of their accomplishment; the Flim Flam Man considers them one of his own. If you go to the term in Wikipedia, you see that it is not a medical term, it is political rhetoric. Point for the self-righteous right.

Liberals should never use that term and they should not let anyone else do so either – especially the MSM. Doesn’t MSM know they are supposed to be bias our way? Listen MSM, the faith-based party says your bias our way and if you don’t do what they say you’ll going to go to hell. Oh, Yea! Your journalist, you are already in hell.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Climb on that Halleluiah Bandwagon

Josh Marshall and Kevin Drum are gearing up to fight Bush’s big Social Security revival. This is the wrong approach to be taken, the wrong strategy, and the same old Democratic Party response to the Republican initiative. Take a play leaf out of the Clinton book on political maneuvering.

Embrace the move to revamp Social Security. Democrats would not be sailing under false colors; surely Social Security could use some tweaking. The Bush initiative is a great idea. Go the extra mile with the faith-based administration. Let's us climb on that halleluiah bandwagon. The Democrats are happy to see the Republicans finally acknowledging a grand old plank in the Democratic Parties platform: government’s responsibility to care for our senior citizens.

However, as anyone who works up high will tell you, when hanging that new device, don’t sacrifice rope from your safety net. Private management of retirement accounts may be a great idea. Private companies have been allowing this for years. The winning of the Cold War proved that free markets perform better than planned economies, so we should give any free market approach to Social Security some serious thought. But what happens if the person either willingly or at no fault of their own looses their retirement investment? Even in the private sector, if your personally invested retirement fails, there is always Social Security on which to fall back. It's the safety net, stupid.

I have a good retirement where I work, and I have thought Social Security would not be there for me for some time. One tweak to the system is to deny it to those who have an income of a certain amount through any other means. I've thought that would be one of the fixes to Social Security that was going to happen eventually. Whatever we decide to do, it is all part of the big fix when the Democrats embrace (steal, remember Clinton's playbook) the Republicans initiative and we all work together make a better retirement / safety net system.

By the way, Red Word / Blue Word has been updated.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Wolfowitz and Spam – Wolfspam

Over at Washington Monthly, Kevin Drum posted complaints about the Wolfman and spam. While they were in two different posts, I don’t think it was just a coincidence. Both are a plague on our society. While this blog does not have the traffic to rate comment spam, I do have to weed my incoming emails consistently if I expect to locate the legitimate emails I was not expecting. So, I am familiar with spam.

As for Wolfowitz the Neocons’ neo-conehead, I voted against Bush just to get him and his kind out of the Pentagon and foreign policy. Of all the positions in the Bush administration, DOD was left untouched. If this is faith-based government, God is playing another one of His jokes. Ha! Ha! Great One, You make me laugh until it hurts.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Liberals, Soft on Terror, A Winning Strategy

I’ve been following the arguments in the Beinart-Drum-Atois-Yglesias exchange. While I haven’t seen Moore’s Fahrenheit 911, neither do I watch Fox News, so I’m avoiding both extremes. I can say the same for, though I have considered joining the organization or some part or parcel of the Democratic Party – so I can say I’m “a card carrying member”. That term is loaded with innuendo for those who remember the Communist scare of the fifties and sixties.

And as a segue into my point, the argument over who is tough and soft on terror may find further meaning in the same argument over who was tough and soft on Communism. This seems to be the heart of the argument laid down by Beinart in his article in the New Republic Online and then commented on by the other bloggers listed above.

Peace was the worst enemy of Communism. While it is true that the use of military force for containment and the threat of mutual destruction kept the Cold War from getting hot, it did not defeat Communism. It was peace that brought down Communism. It could not measure up in the light of day that peace provided. In the last quarter of the previous century, if we had been at war or at an agitated state, there might still be a Soviet Union and a threat of Communist totalitarianism, today.

Any policy that was slanted toward peace (such as the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT)) benefited the countries that had free economies more so than those that had planned economies, because without the threat of war the Soviets had no excuse for not providing those conspicuous consumer goods we’ve come to love so much. But the waste and inefficiencies of central planning could not get the raw materials to the factories and then to the market. Long lines became the norm in the Soviet Union even during times of peace. The difference in the standard of living whether you measure it by per capita wealth or income or the conditions for the lowest ranks within in either society or the opportunity to move up the economic latter, it was always better in the countries with free markets.

Third world, developing countries took notice and choose to side with the west. The spread of Communism was not only contained by a succession of Presidential doctrines but by its own shortcomings. At first the Communist lost influence abroad and then they lost sway with those at home. Because there was world peace and there was no excuse to crack down for national defense, the people rose up and knocked down the wall and the Communist governments fell.

And as it turned our, we Americans had more to fear for our freedom from the anti-communist movement than from the Communist. The fear of the red scare and the charge of “pinko” or fellow-traveler could be a career ender. Blacklisting raised its ugly head and the country that brags of being the freest was not all that free for some.

The U.S. involvement in Vietnam was the result of the doctrine of containment and the political fear of being soft on Communism. A war for independence was labeled another domino in the Domino Theory of Monolithic Communism and a few troops went in. And then it escalated and more troops were needed. Unlike our current occupation of Iraq in which the State Department tried to warn what has come to pass, experts on Southeast Asia area had already been purged from the department’s ranks due to the red scare and the political cleansing of the 1950’s. The best experts were gone due to their red taint and the ones left dared not speak up for fear of being labeled “soft on Communism”, and thus, we became involved in a war in which we could never truly win.

While the Communists took over Vietnam and are in control, Communism as a form of any future government anywhere else is gravely in doubt. Free markets is the catch phase for future development. We lost that war in Vietnam but we won the greater war for the world. And while we stayed free because we were tough, we won because we were soft. We chose peace when we could, and peace is what defeated the red menace.

Now the question at hand is whether the war against terror is the same as the war against Communism. Should liberals declare they are tough on terrorism and disavow any connection to being soft on terror? If being soft on Communism is what won that war does that mean being soft on terrorism would win that war? I guess it depends on whether terrorism like Communism is subject to the same weaknesses. Could a peaceful, non-belligerent attitude toward terror defeat it in the long run? Does turning the other cheek and going the extra mile not only give you points for heaven but weakens and defeats terrorism eventually?

If terrorism suffers the same weakness as Communism, we could fight it on two fronts. First, containment: like Communism we must prevent the spread of terrorism. This is the tough on terrorism part. We will have to endure the tight security at airports and elsewhere, as weak spots are located. While I worry about intrusion into my privacy and the possibility that once the government gets its nose in my private life, I may have to learn to live with it from now on. And of course like the anti-communist forces in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the name-calling and finger-pointing may affect me more than any terrorist act. The paranoia of the right and their reaction to it has no bounds.

Included in the tough approach is the threat and use of military intervention. However, this aspect carries the heaviest burden of a major strategic error both for when it should be done and when it should not. If Iraq is a mistake, then we will be tied down for several years – if not even longer – and will be ineffective in containment in other areas. One theory of government policy is that once a policy is enacted, it develops a life of its own. While the invasion of Iraq may have been a pet strategy of the Necons in the Defense Department, now that it has occurred, they really no longer own it. It owns itself. They no longer control it but are responding to the situations as they arise like the rest of the world. They may become, if not already, like Lyndon Johnson’s description of his Vietnam situation: “I feel like a hitchhiker on the Texas plain during a hail storm – no place to run and no place to hide.”

Second, and the more difficult, the work toward a peaceful world will cause terrorism to weaken and hopefully die as a means of political statement. This is the soft approach and the means to a true mission accomplished. It means having faith in our way of living. While an open, free society benefits the individual, terrorist can move freely in carrying out their plots, but so too its short comings will be evident in the light of day that peace and freedom bring. Just as free markets was the actual defeater of Communism; free and open societies will eventually defeat terrorism. Remember be tough to contain, be soft to win.

The Offspring Survive By Eating Their Host

Matthew Yglesias has ref’ed a story in The New York Times about why the Democrats lost the recent election. They lost because it did its job in the previous century -- see Democrats: Mission Accomplished, You Loose. And if the curse of the second term holds true, an event for which Bush seems to be setting his administration up, the democrats may be able to move into the White House in 2008.

Of course that is a long time and a lot will happen before the election comes around. Liberalism is on the outs right now; care for the externalities of the environment has lost its cool; and cause for the disenfranchised has lost support when applied to gays. At this time in the previous century, did the struggle for a decent wage and working conditions cause the same animosity as the fight for the rights of a gay person or a woman to her own body? Riots and killings occurred then, and those in power feared the loss of position and wealth should the masses rise and take power. But the country was not brought down, the economy weathered the Great Depression and everyone benefited from a society of decent wages and working conditions. What was liberalism 100 years ago is now the status quo.

When the forces in power ignore and exploit enough people, the Democrats main regain the votes needed to win. In the up coming mid-term election, the cause for Baby Boomers’ retirement could be a winning issue. Looking at history, Democrats have never held power for long. The exception being the period of FDR’s presidency, which included the recovery from the Great Depression and the run up to World War II. My advise to Democrats is look around for a fair-haired, populist governor for any non-New England state. It may not be right, it may not be fair, but as the Bushies have reminded us, it easier to exercise you agenda from with in the administration.

No More Extinctions

My friends on the left want us to stop driving another species to extinction because of our modernization of the world. The lost of natural habitat due to housing development, commercial exploitation, or agriculture has driven many species to extinction. There is no denying it. Those with a naturalist bent have my admiration for trying to prevent the loss of so many species. They have made us consider an externality that once was totally ignored.

However, what bothers me is their belief in their own nobility and that they hold a higher moral ground. Extinction is a normal way of life. If there were no extinction, then evolution could not occur – there wouldn’t be enough room. Extinct species far out number living ones by such a large magnitude that the number of currently living species is insignificant.

The question that comes up for the naturalist is how do you tell which extinction is natural and which is man-made? If you keep a species alive that would have died out naturally, then haven’t you committed as an unnatural act as the man-made extinction. If effect you have disrupted the natural order. The all-inclusive or shotgun approach to the prevention of extinctions is no better than the degradation of nature with no regard of the environment. While you tree huggers may think you hold the higher moral ground, you are actually here in the gutter with the rest of us.